§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ 1. £451,000, Works, Buildings, and Repairs, at Home and Abroad.
§ 2. £121,900, Medical Establishments and Services.
§ 3. £11,400, Martial Law, &c.
§ * MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
I do not know whether the First Lord of the Admiralty is in a position to say anything as to the extraordinary case which in a sense is still pending, with regard to the young man Thompson who was imprisoned as a deserter from one of Her Majesty's ships.
§ * THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Lord GEORGE HAMILTON,) Middlesex, Ealing
I should be very glad to make a full statement with regard to this case if judicial proceedings were not still pending. I may, however, just state one or two facts concerning it which I think are not known to the public. The main difficulty has arisen from the conduct of the young man himself, who stated, both to the police and to the adjutant of the Militia regiment which he joined, that he was a deserter from the Navy. There was also a remarkable identity between him and the actual deserter as regards tattoo marks on his left arm. While in prison he was visited by the chaplain 75 times, and neither to him nor to the visiting justices did Thompson make any complaint. While he was travelling to Lewes Gaol he stated to his escort that he was the deserter, but on arriving he informed the governor that he was not. The governor, on learning what the young man had said to the escort, disbelieved his story. I am not aware whether any punishment followed in regard to that statement. Thompson served his 90 days, and returned to the Duke of Wellington and then stated to Captain Woodward that he was not the deserter, and gave the name of his mother as a person who could testify to his identity. Captain Woodward at once communicated with the chief constable, and 128 received in reply a communication from the chief constable and Mrs. Thompson, which induced him to believe that the boy was not the deserter, and had never been in the Navy at all. Investigation followed, and, it being tolerably clear from the evidence that the young man was not the deserter, an order was sent to release him and hand him over to the Military Authorities. A statement to this effect was made to the clerk to the solicitor who had interested himself in the case, and it was not until after that that the solicitor applied for a writ of habeas corpus. The order of the Admiralty for the discharge of the young man was made two days before the writ of habeas corpus was issued. I am glad the hon. Gentleman has raised the question, because I desire to assure him that in my opinion every Department of the State, whether it be the Admiralty, the War Office, or any other Department, must comply with the very letter of an order of the court, and more especially so when the liberty of the subject is affected.
§ * MR. BRADLAUGH
I do not intend to make comments which might be shown in Court to be ill-founded or which might be suspected of being used for the purpose of creating an outside opinion when the matter is being dealt with by the Judges, but I think there are some points of the case to which the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty will have to be drawn later. It is very remarkable that we should be told of the identity in the appearance of the two men when it appears that Thompson was two inches shorter than the deserter. I am quite aware, however, that there may have been foolishness and recklessness on the young man's part.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will raise the question on the Admiralty Vote. I wish, however, to correct one statement. The boy was induced to make an affidavit that he was two and a-half inches shorter and seven years younger than the deserter. Both of these statements were false. He was only one year younger than the deserter and he was two and a-half inches taller, not shorter. An examination of the deserter's antecedents showed that he only grew half-an-inch between the ages of 16 and 17, and it is quite possible he 129 might between 17 and 18 have grown two and a-half inches.
Vote agreed to.
§ (4.) £71,900, Educational Services.
§ (5.) £31,900, Divine Service.
§ (6.) £147,500, Royal Naval Reserves.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL (York, E. R., Holderness)
Perhaps the noble Lord will recollect the discussion which took place last year with regard to the teaching of signalling to men of the Reserve. I should be glad to know whether the noble Lord has carried out his undertaking to make an inquiry into the subject?
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
We have not done much during the last twelve months to teach the Reserve men signalling, but we have taught signalling to more men in the Navy. I will look into the matter and try in some way to effect what the hon. Gentleman proposes.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL
I think that something might be done to teach signalling in the merchant service. The subject is certainly worth investigation.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 7. £1,619,300, Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, &c.—Personnel.
§ 8. £1,475,500, Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, &c.—Materiel.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
I should just like to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty what is being done to keep a proper check upon the stores? Some startling evidence was given by the late Director to the Public Accounts Committee last year as to these stores. He is now handing them over to his successor, and it is absolutely impossible for him or his successor, or for this House, to know what the value of the stores is. There is absolutely no control over the stores. Stock is taken by officials earning very small wages indeed, and under the control of the particular Department of the Admiralty from whose stores stock is being taken. The Director of Stores at the Admiralty cannot, on his own confession, exercise sufficient control over those stores, and I want to know how far any change in the Admiralty administration with regard to the control of these stores is being brought into play. It seems to me 130 a great anomaly, that, while we have the control, generally speaking, of almost every penny of expenditure, we have absolutely no control whatever over the enormous stores of this Department. This applies not only to the Admiralty but to the War Office. Do the Government intend to take any steps in order that the nation may be assured that the stores which have been paid for are really in the possession of the Government?
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (MR. FORWOOD,) Lancashire, Ormskirk
I can assure the hon. Member for Preston that the question of the control over the stores is one engaging the attention of the Admiralty very anxiously. He will be aware that some eighteen years ago the examination of the stores accounts was placed for the first time in the hands of the Controller and Auditor General in order to have a more correct record of the stores than formerly. The accounts had previously been simply records as regards quantity, but the system of stock value was then introduced. In addition to quantity we now keep a record of the stores as applicable to each different ship, and these accounts are kept under the Dockyards Expenses Account. As to stock-taking, a Committee, consisting of an officer from the Treasury, the new Controller and Auditor General, and an officer of the Public Accounts Department, has been appointed to inquire into the mode of keeping the stores account. We are awaiting until the Report of that Committee is received in order to see how best the system can be improved. The Report has not been officially received by the Admiralty, although it has, I understand, reached the Treasury. I believe it will deal with the question of stocktaking, which is undoubtedly a very important matter. It has hitherto been conducted in a not very satisfactory way, but we hope before many months are over to be able to put the question of stock-taking and checking the quantity of stores under a responsible officer quite independent of the Controller of Stores.
SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
I think it will be satisfactory to the Committee to know that this question has received the attention of the Public Accounts Committee. As soon as the Report of the Committee 131 of the Treasury has been received they will make a Report upon the subject. The Public Accounts Committee are quite alive to the great importance of putting a proper check upon the stores. I need hardly say that the Controller and Auditor General is also fully alive to the importance of the subject, and is giving to it much anxious consideration. When we have the Report of the Committee of the Treasury before us, however, we shall be in a much better position than we are now to discuss the question.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 9. £1,565,000, Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, &c.—Contract Work.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL
Would it not be proper to ask on this Vote whether there is any hope of raising the Sultan?
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
A salvage company did make proposals to the Government, the last of which was that if they brought the Sultan into dock, they should receive £50,000. As my hon. and gallant Friend is well aware, there are a number of valuable fittings on board the Sultan, and it is possible that the Salvage Company, though unable to raise the ship, may be able to save a portion of them, in which case the Company will receive a remuneration of 40 per cent of the value of the fittings saved. In the opinion of the most competent men at the Admiralty there is no chance of raising the vessel itself.
§ * ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
Will the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty tell us how many merchant vessels are included in the total Vote under the head "Royal Reserve Merchant Cruisers"? And can he tell us that in future the Admiralty will not recognise merchant cruisers as suitable vessels to be armed for Naval purposes, unless their engines are below the water line? I know that at present such vessels cannot be included in the list, as merchant ships have not been constructed on this plan; but it does strike us Naval men as an important point to be insisted on that in all future expenditure in this direction only such merchant vessels as have their engines below the water line shall be included.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
We have now 11 merchant vessels on our list, 132 each of them fitted so as to be utilised as Naval cruisers on the shortest notice, and several of them having their crews partly composed of Naval Reserve officers and men. We have made arrangements with the owners whereby these vessels would be armed and supplied with ammunition within eight days. The hon. and gallant Member desires me to lay down the rule that in future no vessel shall be recognised as a cruiser for Naval purposes unless it has its engines below the water line. Well, my hon. and gallant Friend will be glad to know that four out of the 11 ships I have referred to have their engines and boilers below the water line. These vessels are the new ships of the White Star Line. It is not felt desirable, however, to lay down an absolute rule upon the subject, although the example of Mr. Ismay of the White Star Line, to whom great credit is due in the matter, is one which other owners would do well to follow. It is possible in the case of large ocean-going steamers to put the engines below the water line and protect the vital parts with coal bunkers, but of course the case is different with small ships.
§ * MR. R. W. DUFF (Banffshire)
I wish to refer to one of the recommendations of the Committee upstairs, to the effect that in selecting the designs for vessels regard should be had to outside opinion. So far as I can understand, the outside opinion that the Admiralty have chiefly regarded has been that of Naval officers. I do not deny that Naval officers ought to be consulted; but I think that what was intended by the Committee was that regard should be had to the opinion of Naval architects, according to the view expressed by Mr. White in his evidence. In this scientific age I think it is necessary to consult the leading experts in ship construction before any new departure is made. Well, a new departure has been made in regard to the Blake and Blenheim, for up to the present we have never built ships of 9,000 tons without vertical armour. This sort of armour is necessary in order to resist the high explosives—such as dynamite shells—which are coming into use in maritime warfare, and the Government seem to me to place too much reliance on horizontal armour.
§ MR. ISAACSON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
I wish to point out that the two firms which now supply the Admiralty with armour plates have no kind of competition whatever, and we pay in consequence something like £100 a ton. I want to know whether the Admiralty have any intention of starting works of their own with a view of competing with these two firms? I think the question is one that is worth considering, and I believe that if something were done we should be able to effect a considerable saving of money. No doubt there was a time when we were not in a position to pick and choose where we should obtain our armour plates; but we are now building a large number of new vessels, and as there is likely to be a continuance of shipbuilding, there would be ample employment for any works we might establish ourselves. I do not say that these two firms act in collusion in order to maintain prices; but I do think that £100 a ton is a great deal too much money to pay.
* ADMIRAL MAYNE (Pembroke and Haverfordwest)
I should like to say a few words in regard to the question of what may be called outside advice. Certainly I do not see in what way such advice can be rendered more valuable than at present. The right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) has constantly urged the appointment of a Committee; but he has never yet told us for what purpose a Committee is to be formed, nor of whom. Is it to be formed for the purpose of deciding what number of ships are to be built? That would altogether relieve the Government of the day of responsibility. If it is to be for the purpose of deciding the exact sort and shape of the ships to be built, the Constructor's Department and the whole of the Executive Department of the Admiralty would then be relieved of their responsibility. The present Constructor, Mr. White, is a man who was not brought up at the Admiralty, but who made his name in merchant shipping yards, and he is in constant communication with naval architects of all sorts. The designs which he has prepared this year have been laid before naval architects, and approved generally by them and by shipbuilders in this House. Therefore, I cannot see what is to be gained by call- 134 ing in other constructive experts. It will be for naval officers to decide what ships they will have to fight in, and what armour and guns are necessary; and all the Naval Constructor has to do is to carry out their decisions so as to ensure the speed and safety of the vessel to be constructed. That is what was done when the First Lord called in experts from outside the Admiralty and took their opinion upon the matter. With regard to the question of vertical armament, the hon. Member for Banff was in this House when Sir Thomas Brassey took credit to himself for the armament of the Mersey. In the presence also of the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir E. Reed), who has of late said so much on this question, Sir Thomas Brassey held that the Mersey was quite equal to any of the Russian ironclads, because her 3-inch horizontal armour was equal to the 6-inch vertical armour which the Russian ironclads had. At present we have no new element of danger to compete with, whatever new ships may be laid down.
§ MR. CHANNING
May I ask the First Lord of the Admiralty if there is any possibility of altering the design of the protected cruisers in the new programme so as to maintain a somewhat higher rate of speed and also to increase the coal endurance of the cruisers? In regard to cruisers generally, the diminution of speed as compared with other vessels owing to the loss of coal-carrying power is a very serious drawback. To remove a ship from the range of highly explosive guns is essentially a question of speed; and the noble Lord in introducing the Naval Defence Bill admitted that speed is one of the most important elements in the strength of a cruiser. I hope we may have some assurance that in the respects I have mentioned the speed and rate of coal endurance will be something like those of the Blenheim.
§ * ADMIRAL FIELD
There is one other point to which I wish to draw attention. I think there would be much force in the remarks which have been made in regard to outside opinion if we could only get hold of that outside opinion. I entertain a great respect for the constructive talent of the Board of Admiralty; but I do not think they have a monopoly of all the talent, or that we ought to be confined to the opinion of 135 one man, be he ever so clever. I wish to press the noble Lord upon another point. A year has elapsed since I put a question to the noble Lord about it; but the officials of the House thought it right to scratch out a portion of it, because they thought I intended to make fun of the noble Lord. In my question I asked the noble Lord if he would adopt the plan of the French Navy, of sending our constructors to sea with the Channel Squadron in order that they might have an opportunity of studying the behaviour of ships when subjected to serious wave disturbance? It is an undoubted fact that we have had ships designed and passed into the Navy contrary to the opinions of the best officers of the Navy. Will the noble Lord take care that in future no Assistant Constructor shall be appointed to the post of Chief Constructor unless he has had practical experience at sea? I do not want to make him sea-sick; but I want him to be out in a jolly good gale of wind, so that he may thoroughly comprehend all that a sailor has to contend with, and have some experience of the tremendous strains ships have to bear in severe weather. If Naval Constructors had acquired such experience in the past they would not have designed battleships with the low freeboard of the Admiral class.
* ADMIRAL MAYNE
If ever there were naval officers' ships they are those of the Admiral class. It is perfectly well known that the late Sir Cooper Key, and the Lords of the Admiralty of that day, were mainly responsible for this class, and Sir W. H. Stewart, who was then Controller of the Navy, has lately stated in public that he was proud to father them.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
I will answer shortly the questions which have been put to me. It has been urged that a Committee should be formed of outside opinion to assist the Admiralty in considering new designs for battle-ships. Hitherto we have declined to call in constructors from the outside, who, it has been found, almost invariably adopt the designs of the Admiralty. At the same time, the Chief Constructor is in the habit of consulting experts outside the Admiralty and getting the best information he can, so that as far as possible a consensus of naval opinion as to the requirements of the various ships 136 that are built should be arrived at. The Chief Constructor considers the proposals submitted to him, and then states whether it is possible to comply with them. If he has any doubt upon the matter, or there is any point which requires outside opinion, he is at liberty to call in that outside opinion. But while this liberty is allowed, our object is to concentrate responsibility upon one man. I am of opinion that if it is desired to build a thoroughly bad ship the best thing would be to appoint a Royal Commission or a Committee to build it. The hon. Member for Banffshire (Mr. Duff) has called attention to the two largest cruisers, the Blake and the Blenheim, and suggests that they should have a certain amount of vertical armour. I, however, agree with my hon. and gallant Friend behind me, the Member for Pembroke (Admiral Mayne), that we are still in the infancy of the science of high explosives, and it is impossible to say how much protection steel plates will give. But I agree that it is essential that protection should be given to the men who serve the guns, and the Admiralty have accordingly given special study to the means of protection other than vertical armour; and I believe we have succeeded in designing an armour casemate which will give sufficient protection to each gun's crew. It is, however, impossible adequately to protect cruisers of the size of the Blake and the Blenheim, because the Admiralty have thought it inadvisable to detract from their speed or offensive power by unduly increasing defensive armour. I have been asked why it is proposed to build cruisers of less speed than these. The reason is that we think it better to multiply cruisers of a rather inferior speed, because of the cost. The Blake and the Blenheim, with 20,000 horse power, attain 22 knots on the measured mile, while only 12,000 horse power is required to enable the other cruisers to attain 20 knots. Thus in order to obtain two additional knots per measured mile it would be necessary to increase the horse power by 8,000. With respect to armaments the Admiralty have really no option, as there are only two firms which have the plant necessary to provide the requisite armour plates. When we proposed to lay our shipping programme before Parliament we thought it desirable to 137 make arrangements by which we should secure the services of these two firms, and we made contracts with them, by which we are to obtain whatever armour plates are required for vessels built in the dockyards at the same price as that which was paid for the plates of the Nile and Trafalgar. Notwithstanding the rise in prices the Government will be able to secure the plates on moderate terms. I am in favour of competition if it is possible. But there are great difficulties, owing to the large capital which would be required and the impossibility of obtaining guarantees of quality, in securing this competition. It is unlikely that any new firm would engage in such a competition; and, in the second place, there would be no guarantee that the plates turned out would be as good as those of the two firms by which they are at present supplied. Subject to these two objections the Admiralty would be glad to consider any proposal that may be made from the outside.
§ MR. ISAACSON
The existing firms are charging prices which are little less than exorbitant, and the noble Lord has said nothing about establishing works of our own.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
I am not in favour of extending Government manufactories, and persons who have had the control of thousands of Government employés know how difficult it is to conduct such establishments. In some cases it may be desirable, and may, perhaps, be worth consideration whether the Government should set up a factory of their own; but it is not a question upon which I should like to express a hasty opinion. The hon. and gallant Member for East Sussex (Admiral Field) has suggested that the Assistant Constructors might be sent to sea, in order that they might obtain some personal knowledge of the sea-going quality of our ships. I quite agree that experience of this kind is most desirable, and Mr. White himself had fully intended last year to be present at the manœuvres, but was unfortunately prevented from doing so, in consequence of having to give evidence before the Committee on the Navy Estimates. I trust that he will be able to be present at the autumn manœuvres, so that he may observe the behaviour of the ships, and be brought 138 in contact with naval officers. By this means he will be able to form an opinion as to the chief characteristics of a seagoing vessel; how it is likely to be affected as a war ship, and how it will be able to maintain its sea-way. The present practice of the Board of Admiralty is to endeavour to keep the authorities at the Admiralty in touch with the practical experience of the naval officers.
§ * MR. DUFF
I understand that sometimes when a ship was designed there was a difference of opinion between the naval architect and the Naval Department, and in such a case I think we should call in outside opinion. I have never presumed to say that the vessels to be built are designed on wrong lines; but I should be glad to have an assurance from the First Lord of the Admiralty that some outside opinion has been taken on that point, for when you have vessels of this great size, and involving so much outlay, it would be very desirable to have that opinion.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD
The point which I wish to press on the First Lord is that an Assistant Constructor to the Navy should go systematically to sea with the squadron, and be attached to the flagship. There are, I believe, several Assistant Constructors working with Mr. Froude at Portsmouth Dockyard; and if one of these young men in the Constructor's Department were to be sent to sea, I am sure the Service would derive much advantage from the adoption of that policy. I do not know whether I shall be in order, but I hope, Sir, you will be a little merciful with me, as I was not present when the last Vote—for coals—was discussed, and I wish to raise a point which I think may be fairly raised on this Vote, inasmuch as coals are necessary for propelling the machinery in the ships. One of the declarations made by the noble Lord was that great pressure had been brought to bear upon him by interested parties to use North Country coal for the Navy, and I am glad to understand that he has resisted that pressure.
* ADMIRAL MAYNE
Before this Vote is passed I wish to express a hope that the First Lord of the Admiralty will give his attention to the weight of machinery 139 and the nature of boilers in the new ships. I believe that half our breakdowns occur from the actual foundation of the machinery of our ships not being sufficiently heavy, and insufficient boiler space, and the tubes being too numerous and small.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
I was not present in the early part of this discussion; but I desire to say a few words in support of what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Banffshire, as to the expediency of the Admiralty taking advice from technical persons outside the Admiralty before commencing the construction of ships of a novel design. At the present moment we are about to commence the building of no less than eight vessels of the largest size that have ever been built in this country, and each of them will cost probably nearly a million pounds. In addition to that, we are to build two smaller vessels costing very nearly as much. In other words, ten vessels of enormous size are to be constructed at once, all involving a novel design. I do not think the present is a proper opportunity for raising again the question which we discussed at great length on the Naval Defence Bill. I accept in principle the decisions of the House and of the Government on the question; but there is one point in reference to it which I should like to allude to again, and that is the effect which this great effort of construction will have upon other countries. It so happens that in the course of the discussion on that Bill I ventured to point out that the great exertions which we are going to be called upon to make in reference to building these vessels would have the effect of stimulating other Powers to fresh expenditure in the same direction. During the last two or three days there has been a discussion in the French Chamber on this very point. Unfortunately we have not at present a full report of what took place there, because the French papers are somewhat behind in reporting the discussions of the Chamber, and we must therefore rely upon the telegrams which have been received. Now, I observe from one report that Vice-Admiral Dompierre d'Hornoy made an alarmist speech, and said that England was about to spend a sum of 23 millions on her 140 Navy. That is, of course, an exaggeration, for the speaker evidently took into his calculation the ordinary Estimates for the year. He went on to say that Italy was spending two and a half millions, and Germany over six and a half millions, and he pointed out that the French expenditure was quite insufficient to enable them to meet the forces thus to be called into existence. The Minister of Marine in reply said that an increase of the French Naval Estimates would be necessary, in consequence of the steps recently taken by England, Germany, and Italy, in increasing their Navies. It therefore appears that our action has already stimulated France to further expenditure. Now, I wish to call the attention of the House to the effect this may have upon our shipbuilding policy, and on the design of the vessels that we are about to lay down. I cannot but think it may be wise on the part of the Government, in view of the increased expenditure promised by the French Government, to delay for a short time the commencement of some of the proposed new vessels, in order to see what the French will do. I am afraid we may commit ourselves to the commencement of a considerable number of vessels, costing an enormous sum, that our dockyards will be supplied with work for a long time to come, while a few months hence the French will lay down vessels of a more advanced type, thus causing another alarm on this side of the Channel, and creating a cry for ships of a newer design. Thus we shall go on stimulating one another in our respective shipbuilding policies. Let me repeat, we are now about to commence ten vessels of very great size—eight of them of 14,000 tons—and steaming, I think, at a rate of 17 knots an hour. I have on a previous occasion discussed at great length the policy of building vessels of this size, and I have expressed my opinion that it would be better to have more vessels of a moderate size. I believe it would be quite possible to construct vessels which, though of a smaller type, would be capable of steaming at a greater rate of speed. But I do not want to press this argument too far. I only want to suggest to the Government, in view of what is likely to be done by other Powers, and especially by France, whether it would not be 141 wise to stay our hands somewhat before committing ourselves to the commencement of such a large number of vessels of the same type, and of the largest possible size. Ought we not rather to frame our policy with a view to what may be done on the other side of the Channel, for if the French do lay down vessels of an advanced type, and possessing a higher rate of speed, we may be compelled to launch out in the same direction. I, therefore, hope the noble Lord will stay his hand with regard to some of the proposed new ships. I have no doubt that in a short time, in pursuance of the policy indicated by the French Minister of Marine, we shall see what the shipbuilding scheme of the French Government will be.
§ Question put.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
Before the Vote is taken, I hope the First Lord of the Admiralty will give some reply to what I have said.
§ * LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
I did not rise to answer the right hon. Gentleman because I understood his speech was more in the nature of advice, and moreover the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman deal with a point which does not arise upon this particular Vote, and which has previously been fully debated and affirmed by repeated majorities in the House. With regard to the Debate in the French Chamber, to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, if the right hon. Gentleman looks at the telegram that he has quoted, he will find that the French Admiral is reported to have said that the French Navy should be equal to the Italian Navy and the German Navy; and, consequently, whatever addition may be proposed in the French Navy will not be proposed because the English Navy is increased, but because of the increase of the Italian or the German Navy.
§ * LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
And then the right hon. Gentleman went on to point out the unwise policy of committing ourselves to building these ships until we know what the French are going to do. But what is the position of affairs? At the end of the present year we shall 142 have only one ironclad in the last stage of completion, and the French have four or five. Therefore their hands are tied for some time to come, and if they chose to lay down a considerable number of new ironclads, either they must largely increase their establishment, which I do not believe they will do, or they must delay the completion of the vessels already laid down until they would become obsolete. I think that we may rest assured that the effect of our laying down a considerable number of ships of the same type will not be to have them rendered obsolete through anything that the French do this year or in the next few years. Not only next year, but for three or four years to come, the interval between the date of building our ships and putting them in commission will be much less than could be the case with the French; and if they attempt to emulate our example and to enlarge their shipbuilding programme, which is already too big for their financial resources, they will get that programme into a worse state than it has been in during the last few years.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
The speech which I quoted from the Daily News, and which was delivered in the French Chamber, as to the necessity of largely increasing the French naval expenditure, had reference to the increase in the English Navy, and not merely to the Italian and German Navies. The noble Lord has spoken of the French dockyards being heavily charged with shipbuilding work for some time to come; but the French might, if they chose, lay down an increased number of ships to be built by contract, and thus not interfere with the ordinary work of the dockyards. Immediately after we had committed ourselves to a programme which would take five or six years to complete, the French might initiate a large scheme for the reconstruction of their own Navy, and build vessels of an improved type as compared to our own. Remember that Naval designs now frequently change, almost from month to month. I have made my protest, and have pointed out that I believe the wiser course would be not to commit ourselves absolutely to commencing so many vessels at once.
§ Vote agreed to.143
§ 10. £1,463,500, Naval Armaments.
§ * MR. DUFF
This Vote is presented o us in a somewhat incomplete form, and I have complained about it on a former occasion. We are not given any details with regard to the number or size of the guns which we either have or which are to be provided. We do not know whether they are 9-inch guns or whether they are Nordenfelts, and it is quite impossible for the House to have any control over the Ordnance Department of the Admiralty, unless we get more information than is to be found in these Estimates. I give the present First Lord of the Admiralty credit for having afforded us more information with regard to the shipbuilding programme than we have ever had before. Now, I know that there exists an Estimate which is prepared by the Director of Naval Ordnance, and I consider that the details of that Estimate ought to be contained in this Estimate. I hope the Admiralty will be able to give us some explanation why this Estimate is presented in so extremely incomplete a form. There is another point I wish to raise. The First Lord has spoken of the serious deficiency of ammunition, yet the Ordnance Vote shows a considerable reduction, and I think the House would like to know how the noble Lord reconciles this state of affairs with his statement. With regard to the number of guns, I should like to know how we stand. According to a statement made by the First Lord of the Admiralty on the 5th os August last year, we then required 81 guns of over 9-inch diameter. Eleven have, I believe, since been delivered, and that, therefore, leaves 70 guns still required to complete the old programme. According to my estimate, there are 70 guns required in the old programme. Then I make out that you require 24 guns for the re-arming of old vessels, and you want over 70 guns for your new programme. That makes 164 large guns required for the Navy within the next four years. According to the War Office Return, dated the 5th of April, you require 107 guns for the Army, so that your total requirements in the four years are 271 guns. What has been the delivery of guns hitherto? In 1887-8 we delivered 20 guns, and last year we delivered 22 guns of over 144 9-inch diameter, so that if you are to carry out your programme, instead of turning out 22 guns in the year you will have to turn out 68 guns. Unless the rate of delivery is very much accelerated, I do not see that there is much probability of having guns stored awaiting ironclads. I do not wish to go now into the reasons which have led to the delay. On a former occasion I went very fully into the subject; but I am bound to say I did not receive much support in the House so far as the Vote was concerned, although everyone in the House, except the representatives of the Admiralty and the War Office, spoke in favour of the Motion. I do not think we shall have the ordnance system carried out satisfactorily while it remains under the dual control of the Admiralty and the War Office. The reason given by the First Lord of the Admiralty for not ordering their own guns is that it would prevent interchangability between the Army and Navy. That certainly does not appear to me a very conclusive reason. If the Ordnance Committee make up their minds what the design of the guns shall be, I cannot see why they should get them at a certain establishment, why they should not get them where they can get them best, cheapest, and quickest. If, however, the Government persist in carrying out the present system, they must take the responsibility upon themselves. I really cannot understand how it can be an effective system so long as money is put on the Naval Votes and its expenditure left to the War Office. However, I will not pursue that point; but if the Admiralty are unable in the future, as in the past, to carry out their arrangements and fulfil their programme up to time, the question will again have to come before the House. As to contracts, I should like to point out that on a former occasion the Secretary of State for War told us that the contracts for guns were to be open. I do not for a moment mean to say that the right hon. Gentleman intended to mislead the House; but I assert that the contracts were not open in the sense in which I understand the term. What happened was this. Certain specifications were sent round to a few firms, who were thus given an opportunity of being put in the same position as Messrs. Vickers are now in. That is not my idea of open 145 competition. My belief is that if we were to advertise for guns we should have many firms competing. Under the present system a large amount of capital is being taken out of the country. I know a British firm which is setting up an establishment at Bilboa; under altered circumstances the firms would have continued their operations here. I should also like some information respecting shells. I believe that in the case of the bombardment of Alexandria not one-fifth of the shells burst; and I should therefore like to know what supervision naval men have over shells, and who is responsible? The construction of shells is of very considerable importance, especially now-a-days, when shells are so much more largely used than formerly. I do not think I need trouble the Committee with any further remarks; but I do trust that in future, when this Estimate is presented to the House, details will be given in such a form that Parliament may really have some control over the system.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL
I wish to ask my noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he has directed his attention to the question of the life of large guns? A short time ago I tried to persuade the Government to undertake some experiments with a view to ascertaining what is the life of one of the new large guns. The Secretary of the Admiralty of that day gave me to understand that there were certain difficulties in connection with the adoption of my proposal, and he was unable to see his way towards carrying out my suggestions. Now I think an opportunity might shortly be given for testing one of the large guns—a 67-ton or a 43-ton gun. I know there are certain difficulties in the way, and of course the testing cannot be done on the testing ground at Shoeburyness, but it might be done on one of Her Majesty's ships. It is very unsatisfactory that we should be making so many large guns without knowing what will be their condition under circumstances such as would be met with in actual warfare; what will be the result of the heat caused by frequent firing, and what the result of the scoriation of the bore?
§ * MR. E. STANHOPE
The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Duff) suggested that we should adopt a system of open contract for heavy guns. I do not 146 think he has really seriously considered the enormous difficulties surrounding this question. If you invite public tenders for the construction of the guns the only result will be that a number of firms will tender who will say they will do the work at a certain price if we will give them an order amounting to so many hundreds of thousands of pounds. It is utterly futile to expect that any firm will lay down highly expensive plant without being certain of a large order from the War Office. We are satisfied that we shall be able to get sufficient gun-producing power if we encourage Messrs. Vickers to set up new machinery, and encourage Elswick and Whitworth's to increase their machinery. The system of open contract is in this case utterly inapplicable in regard to the large guns, or I should be happy to adopt it. Then the hon. Member reverted to the old question of the Admiralty making their own contracts for guns separately from the War Office. I said nothing about that in the debate the other day, because I confess there is a great deal to be urged on both sides of the question. The inter-departmental Committee recommended that for the present there should be no change in the existing system, by which interchangeable stores are purchased by the War Office, but that the consent of the Admiralty should be given to the purchase by the War Office of warlike stores for the Navy. That was on the 18th of October, 1886.
§ * MR. STANHOPE
I am aware of that, but it was an inter-departmental Committee which sat while the hon. Gentleman was in office and continued at work after he left office. No doubt some of the political Members of the Committee were changed, but the permanent officials remained the same. I do not say I myself very strongly hold the opinion expressed by the Committee, but I say it is impossible to blame the Government for acting on the Report of the inter-departmental Committee.
§ * MR. STANHOPE
The hon. Gentleman is giving us altogether the wrong date. [Mr DUFF handed the 147 Report to Mr. Stanhope.] There is nothing in this Report that has to do with the question.
§ * MR. STANHOPE
I am entitled to ask the hon. Gentleman to give me the quotation on which he relies.
§ * MR. DUFF
Certainly, I will give the quotation. The Report I quoted from is the last Report that is given. It recommends that the Admiralty shall annually furnish to the War Office notice of their probable requirements of warlike stores in order that the War Office may state the extent to which the requirements of the Navy can be met.
§ * MR. STANHOPE
I am justified in saying that there is not a single word in that Report which has reference to the subject we are discussing. On the 18th of October 1886, the inter-departmental Committee which included General Alderson, Mr. Knox, Mr. Fisher, Admiral Hopkins, and Mr. Fitzgerald, recommended that the two Departments should continue as before. I pass from that to another point, which is much more important. The hon. Member has asked whether under the arrangements which has been made, we shall be able to overtake the requirements of the Navy, and to supply the number of guns required by the Navy as well as by the War Office. In my statement on the Army Estimates I said we hoped to receive 23 guns before the end of the first quarter of next year for land and sea service, 32 during the second quarter, and 26 during the third quarter, making altogether 81 guns of over 22 tons weight. That will be more than are required to meet the demands of the Navy. The hon. Member says the projectiles were found to be defective at the bombardment of Alexandria. No doubt that was so. The difficulty in getting satisfactory projectiles has been in connection with the fuses. I have no doubt that at present we have a fuse as good as any possessed by any country in Europe, and I have no doubt we shall be able to improve even upon that. 148 Then my hon. and gallant Friend asks if experiments have been made as to the amount of erosion, and I may say that we have now had experience of guns from which a great many rounds have been fired, and are able to judge the effect. There is a certain amount of erosion we have to contend with, as is the case with foreign manufactured guns, but I hope, and I believe, that modern invention will tend to diminish the amount.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL
I am anxious to know if any of the big guns have been tested by rapid firing, and which.
§ * MR. STANHOPE
I am afraid I am unable to give any such results. It is clear that experiments of the kind would be very expensive.
§ * MR. STANHOPE
I should have considerable hesitation in undertaking such experiments without very good reason.
* ADMIRAL MAYNE
I merely wish to call attention to two points which I hope will receive the noble Lord's consideration. The first is the size of the guns now being constructed for the Navy. I hope the days of the 110-ton guns have passed, and that the days of the 67-ton guns are numbered. I trust that in the future in the armament of the biggest ships the largest guns carried will be such as can be worked by hand, as well as by hydraulic power. It is of the greatest importance to have guns that can be worked by manual labour, so that we may not be entirely at the mercy of machinery. The 43-ton gun, or at the most the 50-ton gun, ought to be the largest. The other point I desire to mention has relation to torpedoes. From experiments that have been made I am led to believe that the fears that were created some two or three years ago as to the effect of torpedoes are utterly groundless, and that it is a very overrated weapon. I am of opinion that ships that carry four or five torpedo tubes, carry two, if not three, too many. I hope both these points will have the attention of the Admiralty.
§ MR. GOURLEY (Sunderland)
I agree with my hon. Friend that the system of a dual control in the supply of guns is the cause of much delay and inconvenience. Notwithstanding the 149 fact that the Departmental Committee recommended a continuance of the existing system, I long ago arrived at the conclusion that this dual control is the reason why there has been such delay in the supply of guns for our ships as they are built. I have no faith myself in Departmental Committees; as a rule they are always Conservative, always anxious to keep things as they are, and to avoid undertaking any kind of reform. I hope the time is not far distant when the House will insist on this dual control being abolished. The Secretary of State for War in answer to what had been stated as to forms of tender, said no new firm would tender for guns unless guaranteed a certain amount of work. But even so, it is better to subsidise new firms, and thus increase your supply, than to keep ships waiting in the dockyard year after year for the armament necessary to enable them to take their place in the ranks of fighting ships. I think the House ought to insist upon open tenders for the supply of guns. We have open tenders for ships, why should we not have the same for guns? It is all nonsense to say that private firms will not tender. I know one firm in the North of England that would tender if they bad the slightest chance of obtaining a fair share of Government orders, and they are prepared to lay down the plant for gun manufacture. I am sure the Government are acting unwisely in not seeking to improve their supply by means of open tenders. We ought to have the guns for our ships, though we have to get them from Krupp. Foreign Governments never keep their ships in dock waiting for guns, but our Government seem to have an impression that ships can fight without guns. I do hope the Government will see the necessity of providing some better means of supplying our ships with guns than they have at present.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
One or two questions have been put to me, which I think the Committee will expect me to answer. The hon. Gentleman who opened this discussion complained of the lack of information given with the Estimates, but it must be remembered we prepare our Estimates at the end of January, when there are still two months of the financial year to run, and it is almost impossible to say how far 150 the contractors will be able to fulfil what they have promised, and therefore impossible to give with absolute accuracy the number and proportion of the guns to be finished within the year. Moreover we have to make provision for a considerable variety of guns, no less than nine different guns from 4-inch upwards, and several quick-firing guns, and if we were to ear-mark and proportion the expenditure on each, we should find ourselves in the position that, though contractors for any one class of guns failed to deliver their guns within the year, still we should be unable to transfer the expenditure to other classes, the production of which might have been accelerated, and we should have to surrender considerable sums at the end of the year, or be constantly asking the Treasury to sanction the transfer of expenditure of small sums from one class of goods to another. The whole of this Vote comes under the supervision of the Auditor General, so I think the Committee may be satisfied with this guarantee that the Treasury regulations are complied with. At the same time I shall be glad to see whether next year, when we have made further progress in wiping off arrears and when it will be easier to classify our requirements, we can go somewhat in the direction the hon. Gentleman wishes, and some way to meet his demands. The hon. Member (Mr. Duff) quoting from what I am reported to have said last year, in which there appears to be some inaccuracy, asks as to our requirements in guns for our present programme. I do not remember the statement to which he refers, but I may say that we require for the present and future shipbuilding programme 137 guns of nine inches and upwards, including 68 of nine inches for new ships, and 22 for ships in hand, of which a certain number have passed proof, and the balance for reserve. The Secretary for War has made a statement as to the output of the gun factories, and we have to consider, in communication with the War Office, how far the demands of the Admiralty can be complied with. We have made a calculation, and so far as we can foresee the contractors ought to be able to deliver all the guns in the time they have undertaken. Alterations made in a considerable number of guns and the failure in liners have caused much delay 151 and trouble to the establishment. The hon. and gallant Member (Captain Bethell) wished to know if the strength and duration of the guns had been tested by rapid firing. To this I may say that we have, as the guns are used year by year, reports of the effects of firing and erosion, and we have had the 45-ton gun this year fired, I think it was, four times in something like 15 minutes, and remarkably good practice was made.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
I am not aware that guns have been so tested except in the manner I have mentioned, but I quite agree that we should devote our attention to increasing rapidity of fire. I believe more in rapidity of firing than in size and calibre. I hope that in the course of a few months we shall be able to perfect the 6-inch quick-firing guns, so that the firing shall be four times as quick as the ordinary 6-inch breech-loader, and to that extent ships armed with the new guns will be more powerful than those armed with the ordinary 6-inch breechloaders. I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pembroke that, as far as possible, we should follow the principle of limiting the size of guns, so that if necessary they may be worked by manual labour. The 10-inch gun can be so worked. I also agree with my hon. and gallant Friend that undue importance has been attached to torpedoes, and since the development of quick-firing guns those who four or five years ago were prepared to arm ships with torpedoes only now find they were mistaken and that they greatly overvalued that projectile, valuable as it undoubtedly is for defensive purposes. Attention has been called to the fact that there is a reduction in this Vote, as compared with last year, but it must be recollected that a large sum of money is taken on this account in the ten millions outside the Estimates; and, adding this proportion to the sum in the Estimates it will be found that the amount is an increase on the sum taken last year by about £400,000. In my statement I alluded to the fact that there are still considerable deficiencies to make good so far as ammunition and projectiles are concerned. On 152 foreign stations I am glad to say our outfit and reserves are practically complete. On home stations the outfit for all ships ready for commission is completed, and I hope that by the end of the present year we shall have a second outfit in reserve. That will still leave deficiencies to be made good in subsequent years, but if we keep the Ordnance Vote at its present level, we shall be able to meet normal requirements and to annually reduce existing deficiencies. That I think will be a more satisfactory way of replenishing our reserves than to embark at once on a wholesale expenditure upon material. My right hon. Friend the Secretary for War has done, and will do, his best to meet the requirements of the Navy, subordinating the wants of the Army to those of the Navy. We have a system of which neither of us are enamoured, but until some better system can be devised, it is our duty to work the existing system to the best of our ability. The suggestions of the hon. Gentleman who opened this discussion would not relieve us from our difficulties. In any change of system that may be made, there is one principle that must be enforced, and that is the interchangeability of patterns between the Army and Navy. With our numerous stations for which supplies are drawn for both services this is essential, but if we have two Departments competing with each other in the manufacture of ordnance it is certain that each Department would indulge some predilection for a particular class of gun or projectile which would operate against the principle of interchangeability. It is for this reason that neither I nor my right hon. Friend can hold out any hope of the adoption of the suggestion that each Department should be left free to make it own contracts.
§ MR. R. W. DUFF
I am glad to hear the promise of further information as to these Estimates in the future. Distinction should at least be made between guns of 9 inches and those under that size. As to the last remarks of the noble Lord I may say that I never for a moment suggested that the Admiralty should make designs for their guns independently of the War Office, but that an Ordnance Committee should design for both, and prevent any difficulty about interchangeability of stores. 153 As to what the right hon. Gentleman said upon open competition for guns, any firm will set up plant if they get a Government order for 20 guns; and having once set up their plant of course they would supply foreign orders as well. In France, where there is less demand for guns than in this country, there are eight or nine firms competing for Government orders, and I do not see why that should not be done here. I am almost afraid to refer to the Report of the Committee again after exciting the wrath of the Secretary for War as I did just now. For the moment I could not put my hand on the passage I referred to as supporting my contention that the Board of Admiralty, to which I had the honour to belong, always advocated that the Admiralty should make their own contracts for guns. If the noble Lord will turn to page 109 he will see that Major General Alderson recommends that the Admiralty should make their own contracts. The Committee distinctly say they adopt his view, and it was upon this recommendation I made my statement. There seems to be a misprint of a figure in Hansard, owing to which the difference between myself and the noble Lord as to the number of guns is 27. He said he required 137; I put it at 164. But he has told us that hitherto the delivery of guns has not exceeded 22 a year, but he says now when we have one more firm to deliver—Messrs. Vickers—that he expects 80 will be turned out in the year. I hope it may be so, and I have no doubt a careful estimate has been made, but it is within my experience that hopes of this kind have been frequently disappointed. I remember that the Collingwood guns promised in six months were not delivered for two years. I think we ought to have some better assurance that faith will be kept, and I think we may well doubt whether the 80 heavy guns will be turned out as promised. It is not surprising that the country should look with suspicion on statements made by the Secretary of State for War, when we know that on no single occasion have the War Office succeeded in producing half the number of guns promised. Forty-five guns were to be delivered in the course of the financial year, but when I turn to the printed statement I find that only 22 guns of 94-inch diameter have been 154 delivered. I think, therefore, that the House ought to receive with some caution the very sanguine view of the Secretary for War.
§ * MR. STANHOPE
I do not think I have ever taken a sanguine view, and I have been very careful indeed to guard my remarks by pointing out that promises with regard to the production of guns have not been fulfilled, and that probably they will not be fulfilled again. But we have taken the best means at our disposal to promote the production of guns by a complete extinction of the whole circumstances of the case. Our Estimates are now based on a completed plan. It is quite true that the number of guns passed into the Service last year was 22 instead of 45, and the cause of that failure was that a large number of the guns had to be sent back in consequence of the failure of the linings. During the present year the ordnance factories have increased their plant—including Elswick, Whitworth's, and Vickers. In all these cases the supply will be increased. It is quite true that it is desirable we should have a great number of sources of supply. But the House will recollect that these firms have put down plant on the Government giving an undertaking that so long as they could turn out a good article at a fair price they should have Government orders. The guns have been distributed according to the best of our information, and we have good reason to expect that they will be delivered in ample time for the Service.
§ * SIR W. PLOWDEN (Wolverhampton, W.)
I understand the big guns are now to be used without liners. I rose, however, to call attention to the First Lord's remarks regarding ammunition reserves. He has stated that our outfits in our Foreign Stations have been brought up to standard. But not so at home. At home he proposes the very dangerous doctrine of completing our outfits by a course of action which will cause them to stand over for several years. Surely that is not a position in which the ammunition reserves ought to stand. I should be glad if he is able to put another colouring on his statement, and tell us that he is prepared to put his ammunition reserves into that position in which they ought to be at once. Such reserves as are absolutely necessary ought to be ready for use at the present time.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
In regard to the subject of the reserve of ammunition, the hon. Gentleman will see that there is a great difference between the various classes required. The 110-ton guns need a powerful projectile, which cannot be manufactured under some months. Therefore, when I looked into this question I had to take into consideration the time which would be occupied in producing the different projectiles. We have three or four guns of very large calibre, and it is necessary that there should be a considerable reserve of ammunition. Each year the producing powers of the country are increasing for the manufacture of the smaller class of ammunition; and it does not appear to be wise to accumulate a large mass of materiel which would deteriorate in store, seeing that we can depend upon an adequate supply in any possible emergency. I have, therefore, determined to limit the demand for ammunition reserve to the larger projectiles, which can only be produced slowly, and to encourage the manufacturers to increase their plant, so that not only in time of peace there should be greater competition as regards production, but in time of war there should be larger sources of supply. That is the practical principle I have gone on, and it is one which I know the hon. Gentleman will approve of.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 11, £128,800, Miscellaneous Effective Services.
§ * ADMIRAL FIELD
I wish to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he will consider the pressing necessity of bringing the coastguard stations at various prominent points into telegraphic communication with the Admiralty? I see there is a decrease of £2,000, and, if anything, that would make one fear that the matter is rather slackening in their hands.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I certainly desired to say something on Vote 10, and I have had no opportunity of doing so. No notice was given that the Vote was to be taken, and I think some explanation should be given.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
The explanation is simply this—there are a 156 certain number of public works which are urgent, and new works. The Treasury gave a provisional assent to their commencement on the understanding that the Vote should be the first Vote taken, in order that the House might be afforded an opportunity to discuss it. Of course, it is much better that the Votes should be taken in the order in which they are printed. With regard to the question of my hon. Friend, I have to point out that this item merely relates to telegraph messages. If he looks a little lower down in the Votes he will see there is a sum of £3,190 for the works to which he alludes.
§ * MR. CAMPBELL BANNERMAN (Stirling, &c.)
I think we have a right to complain that Vote 10 was taken without any notice whatever. When a Vote is to be taken out of its order the usual practice is to state it distinctly on the Notice Paper. That is very commonly done, and I think the noble Lord is somewhat to blame in not having given notice of the fact. I can easily understand that it was desirable to take the Vote out of its order; but I think we are entitled to protest against the proceeding, and to hope that it will not form anything like a precedent in the future.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I hope the noble Lord will at any rate give the House an opportunity of criticizing that Vote.
§ MR. GOURLEY
In regard to one of the matters connected with the item of £10,000 in this Vote, I understand the noble Lord to say that the officers of Her Majesty's ships are not in the habit of employing pilots in home waters, and I should like to know how much of the £10,000 applies to pilotage charges?
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
I am afraid I cannot give the hon. Member the explanation he asks for off-hand.
§ MR. BUCHANAN (Edinburgh)
I should like to call attention to Item D for the hire of ships in connection with the blockade of Zanzibar. We were informed both by the First Lord of the Admiralty and other Members of the Government that whatever might happen in regard to that blockade it would not cost us any extra money, and we were also told that the ostensible object of the 157 blockade was the suppression of the Slave Trade. I think we are now entitled to obtain from the First Lord some information as to the necessity for hiring ships in connection with that blockade.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
There is a charge of £2,300 for the hire of vessels in connection with the blockade of Zanzibar, and it arose in this way; the blockade extended along the coast, and it was found more convenient to hire vessels than to employ Her Majesty's ships for the work of keeping up communication between the Admiral and the various ships of the blockading squadron, which were at a distance from each other.
§ MR. HANBURY
I would point out to the Committee that this sum of £10,000 contains a number of charges which are lumped together without any proper sub division, such as miscellaneous payments for carriage and the maintenance of Royal personages, the travelling expenses of naval officers, and so forth. The Vote is one on which we should have more explanation than is given; and I, for one, object to matters like these being lumped together into one great mass like this. We have a right to ask for a few more sub-heads as to a class of expenses into which the House ought to look, and I trust that in future we shall find that the necessary information is given.
§ MR. FORWOOD
If the hon. Gentleman will turn to page 264 of the Estimates he will see that details are given of the miscellaneous expenses for the year 1887–88, which we have made the basis for the present Estimate. The items are there given as to travelling expenses under sub-heads.
§ MR. HANBURY
But that applies equally to all other Votes on other subjects. What I suggest is, that these items should be put down definitely, as it makes all the difference as to what we are to expend in the future.
§ MR. FORWOOD
It is an incidental expenditure that we cannot estimate with any exactitude, and we are therefore obliged to put down a general item to provide for expenses which we are unable to state in definite sums.
§ MR. GOURLEY
There is one item which I think the Secretary to the 158 Admiralty might explain, and that is the charge in connection with the launching of Her Majesty's ships.
§ MR. FORWOOD
The charge is one which does not involve any question of food or drink; it is merely for the erection of platforms, in order that those connected with the dockyards and engaged in the work of constructing the vessels that have been launched might have the opportunity of witnessing the launching ceremonials. The expense would be comparatively small.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 12. £57,900, Scientific Services.
§ * MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I should like to call attention to an item relating to the expense in connection with the photographic mapping of the heavens. It forms a new sub-head, which, with some humour, considering the subject it deals with, is placed under the letters D D. I have always had some doubt whether the maintenance of Greenwich Hospital or the Hospital at the Cape ought to be charged in the Navy Estimates at all; and as this item to which I have referred is a new one, I should be glad to hear some explanation of it from the noble Lord.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
I also wish to ask a question about another item in this Vote, in regard to the Hydrographical Department in the survey work of the Admiralty. Two incidents that have occurred lately may be said to have some connection with the Survey Department, and show that, although it may not be the fault of those in charge of the Department, as it may not have a sufficient number of ships at its command, there is some need of a closer system of survey. There has recently been the loss of H.M.S. sultan in the Comino Channel; and it is a singular fact that there has been no resurvey of the waters near Malta since about 1850. We have also heard of the alleged discovery on the South East Coast of Africa of a better navigable channel of the River Zambesi, and it has been urged upon the Admiralty that they should despatch a surveying vessel for the purpose of ascertaining whether such a navigable mouth of the Zambesi exists. The First Lord of the Admiralty has stated that there is no vessel at present available for the purpose, but that there is a ship at the 159 Cape undergoing refitting by means of which in a few months it may be possible to send to the point indicated in order to see whether there really is a better navigable mouth of the Zambesi. I do not think the Survey Department ought to be in such a condition that we cannot overtake such an emergency as this, nor do I think the Service can be effective if so important a station as that of Malta has not had a neighbouring channel resurveyed for a period of 30 or 35 years, especially when we have to consider the fact, or the alleged fact, that on certain other maps—not those of our own Admiralty—the reef on which the Sultan struck is laid down. There is another point I would mention in connection with this Vote. It is only a small matter, but it is one that I have brought before successive Lords of the Admiralty, and I think what I have suggested might be carried out without adding a single penny to the expense of the Department. We have for years been surveying the coasts of the British Islands, and especially the coast of Scotland, and what I have ventured on previous occasions to urge on the Admiralty is that the opportunity should be taken of the presence of a surveying vessel on the Western coasts of England and Scotland to do what is done by every other European country, and make a bathymetrical survey of the lakes of these countries. About 40 years ago the Admiralty did undertake the survey of two of our lakes—Loch Lomond and Loch Awe—and I put it to the Admiralty whether they might not permit the use of boats engaged in the coast survey to undertake the work of sounding the larger lakes of England, Scotland, and Ireland. The matter is one which has excited a good deal of interest in scientific circles both in England and Scotland, and I hope the noble Lord at the head of the Admiralty will take it into his consideration.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL
Enormous time is required to carry out these surveys, and until recently that of the Mediterranean has been going on for a considerable number of years. As to a survey of the mouth of the Zambesi, though, no doubt, it would be very valuable, I scarcely believe it to be so argent as to necessitate special haste and a special commission to carry it out.
§ MR. HANBURY
I should like to know how far the Hydrographical Department are to blame in this matter. If it is a question of the cost of a complete survey of the Mediterranean, there are large excuses to be made, no doubt; but I should like to know how it is that this rock upon which the Sultan struck is not marked on the map. I am informed that there is in the British Museum a map, prepared some years ago by Colonel Wilkinson, upon which this rock is marked. I think we should know how it is that, though marked on this old map, it is not marked on the more recent maps issued from the Hydrographer's Department. It looks like a case of gross negligence.
* ADMIRAL MAYNE
There does not seem to be much knowledge amongst hon. Members as to what is required for making a marine survey of a coast. To make a survey of the kind suggested so as to find out every rock within two cables' length of the shore of the Mediterranean, the distance at which the Sultan was steaming when she struck, would mean carrying out a survey on a very large scale. People are apt to forget when looking, say, at the figure 10 s on an ordinary chart, it covers, perhaps, a quarter of a mile of ground. Two lines of soundings were taken on either side of the rocky ledge where the Sultan struck, but there was no indication of uneven bottom. If there had been, of course there would have been a careful examination of the spot. In all ordinary surveys, if you find no indication of a rock or an irregularity in the bottom, you are content with lines of soundings such as were taken in this instance. I do not believe the officers who made the survey were to blame. It was carried out under Captain Spratt and other able officers, who devoted years to the work, and I believe the survey was as complete as it could be. As to the general question of extending the surveys, it is one for the House to decide. I do not suppose that the First Lord of the Admiralty would object to increasing the Vote for the Hydrographer's Department, and to have more men on the work of surveying if it is considered necessary. As to the survey of the mouth of the Zambesi, if the East Coast of Africa has a claim for work of this kind, I would put in a claim for the survey of the coast of 161 Borneo. The fact is that the necessities of the great trade routes have been of paramount importance heretofore. I am sure that the Hydrographer is most anxious to do all that is possible with the small though very efficient staff at his disposal.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
I am glad the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down has said a word for the Hydrographer's Department. Hon. Gentlemen, I am afraid, do not understand the magnitude of this surveying work. No other nation, so far as I am aware, does more than survey its own coasts, but our hydrographers survey the seas of the world. In the present instance, it must be recollected that the place at which the Sultan went aground was not the channel ordinarily used, and I am not aware that there is a chart anywhere in existence with the rock marked upon it. It is said that there is one at Malta, but I have ascertained that the statement is inaccurate. Where the hon. Member for Preston obtained his information I do not know.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
I cannot imagine how there can be other charts in existence besides those in the Hydrographer's Department. The Department now costs £100,000 a year. If the hydrographers had to make a microscopical survey, they could only do it in a very limited area; but the practice is to make a minute survey of entrances to harbours and trade routes, and to make a general survey of the rest of the coast and ocean. If it is thought desirable to have an extended survey I shall not object, but it must be understood that the cost will he great, and that neither the extra money nor men required can he taken from the existing supplies. Whatever observations can be made as to the stranding of the Sultan, nothing can be laid to the blame of the hydrographers. These officers discharge a very onerous duty, and the gentleman in charge of the Department is certainly overworked. As to the lakes referred to by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, the question is one for the Land Survey Department; and as to the item for photographing the heavens, it was decided at a meeting of scientists not long ago that these photographs should he taken and that the 162 heavens should be mapped. Certain nations undertook to bear the expense. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was bombarded on all sides with requests that he should provide funds for the work. Ultimately he consented, and as the Admiralty was the only Department which could undertake the work the Vote—which is an exceptional one—finds a place in the Navy Estimates.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
I am not certain of that. There may have to be a charge made next year, but I will look into the matter before the Report of the Vote comes on.
§ * MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I think it is much to be regretted that the Navy Estimates have to bear the charge for these scientific researches, which are of little direct benefit to the Navy. If it was necessary to undertake this survey of the heavens, I think the expense should have been charged to one of the Civil Service Votes rather than to Navy Votes. As to the Hydrographer's Department, we on this side re-echo what the noble Lord has said with regard to its efficiency. I would bear testimony from my own experience to the efficiency of the Hydrographer's Department, and the useful work which it has performed in the past under the different distinguished men who have presided over it, to whom the present head of the Department is in no way inferior. But the point is how it comes about that this rock is not marked on the Hydrographer's map. Is it the fact that there exists a map in the British Museum, on which this rock is marked? The hon. Member for Preston says that map was made by a Colonel Wilkinson, and that appears to point to the fact that it is a War Office map. If so, this affords a further instance of the want of communication between the War Office and the Admiralty—information as to this rock being in the possession of the War Office, while the Hydrographer's Department under the Admiralty is left unacquainted with the fact.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL
The point raised by the right hon. Gentleman is, no doubt, one of great interest. My impression is, that if there has been a survey made of the shore upon which 163 the Sultan struck other than that which is to be found in the Hydrographer's Department, and one made by a military officer, it must have been by a military officer attached to the ordinary survey. However, I should like the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty to clear up the point. I strongly suspect that the rock marked in the chart referred to by the hon. Member for Preston is not the rock upon which the Sultan struck.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
With regard to the statement of the noble Lord, that the survey of the lakes is a matter for the Land Survey, I would point out that the only survey which has hitherto taken place has been carried out by the Admiralty. If a survey of the kind I suggest is undertaken, it would, I think, be well to have it performed by the Admiralty. As to the Hydrographer's Department, nothing was further from my mind than to cast blame in that quarter; but I do not think that a re-survey, such as would discover a rock like that upon which the Sultan struck, would entail the re-survey of the whole of the Mediterranean. I believe it is the fact that our own coasts have been re-surveyed; and I think that looking at the fact that Malta is a British possession it is not too much to ask that the shores in the neighbourhood of the island should be re-surveyed. They should, it seems to me, come under the description of "home coasts," and should be more frequently surveyed than other parts of the Mediterranean. If any nation should be responsible for the survey of the Mediterranean, considering the important military stations we have there, I think it is this country.
* ADMIRAL MAYNE
I do not think that the fact of the discovery of this rock in the Mediterranean is an argument for a re-survey of the whole of that sea. The passage in which the Sultan struck was only a small channel very little used, and there was no reason to suppose that the old survey was not sufficient. The Mediterranean not being a tidal sea, the same necessity for constant resurveying does not arise.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
The rock in question is 300 yards west of the spot marked on the chart. It may be that the reef which is given on the ordinary chart is the spot marked on the map to 164 which the hon. Member for Preston refers.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 13. £217,400, Admiralty Office.
§ * MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I desire to raise a question on this Vote of some importance, mainly with regard to the instructions given to officers in command at the Naval Manœuvres last year. In the course of last autumn the country was partly amused and partly shocked by the reports which appeared in the newspapers with regard to attacks upon unprotected towns and forts in this country by vessels belonging to the squadron engaged in the manœuvres. I certainly was in hopes, and confidently believed, it would turn out that these performances were the irresponsible frolics of the officers engaged; and I did not think that they were encouraged and authorized by the Admiralty. I find, however, that in the instructions given by the Admiralty, the commanding officers were directed especially with reference to the expediency of making raids upon the enemy's coasts and unprotected towns for the purpose of levying contributions. Accounts of what took place were given as though they were serious performances. These Reports were made public by the Admiralty, and as far as I can discover, no adverse comments have been made upon them by the First Lord of the Admiralty. It therefore went out to the world that the present Board of Admiralty approves of the manœuvres and the transactions accompanying them. I will briefly describe what occurred. The Rear-Admiral in command of one of the squadrons engaged in the manœuvres—escaped from the enemy with four vessels—two ironclads, and two cruisers. They were first heard of after their escape on the east coast of England and Scotland. They visited Aberdeen, and within half an hour they are supposed to have destroyed all the shipping in that town and to have requisitioned the town for the sum of £400,000. They then made their appearance in the Firth of Forth and 165 are supposed to have requisitioned Edinburgh—though how they could have done that in actual warfare I cannot make out, considering the distance of Edinburgh from the sea. The vessels then separated. The Iris made its appearance off Leith and destroyed the shipping there. The Rodney appeared off Shields, and in a short space of time is supposed to have destroyed all the shipping in the Tyne and requisitioned Shields for half a million and Newcastle for a million. The Rodney then went off Sunderland, and is supposed to have destroyed all the shipping there in half an hour. In the meantime the Severn had made her appearance off Hartlepool, and had requisitioned the town for £500,000, and destroyed all the shipping in an hour and 25 minutes, had then proceeded to Scarborough and levied a contribution of £500,000, and was supposed, between Hartlepool and Scarborough, to have destroyed a fleet of fishing boats without even removing their crews—an action altogether without warrant in the practice of civilized countries. The Warspite is supposed to have appeared off Grimsby, to have requisitioned the town for £500,000, and entering the Humber is supposed to have destroyed 45 steamers and 53 sailing vessels. At the same time, vessels visited other parts of the coasts and opened their fire upon unprotected towns, such as Oban and Greenock. This seems to me somewhat of a burlesque, and I am surprised that the First Lord of the Admiralty did not give instructions that such proceedings should be stopped. So far as I can ascertain they are without any warrant in the practice of civilized countries. It has not been the practice for a hundred years for a civilized Power to make raids upon unprotected towns on the sea coast and to demand ransoms. There cannot be produced any case among civilized Powers where this course has been followed. The most recent case which I can find of similar action on the part of a civilized Power is that which occurred in 1741 under Lord Anson in Chili. Lord Anson, at that time, when the ransom was not given, fired into the town, and the naval historian of the time, Mr. Young, speaking of the occurrence described it as worthy of the most lawless pirate. This case I have 166 mentioned occurred at Chili. From that time forth I cannot find that it has been the practice among civilized Powers to take advantage of unprotected towns when ransoms are refused. In all the European wars of the present century I cannot find any case of that kind. I venture to say, therefore, that the universal usage among civilized Powers in naval war is not to fire into unprotected towns after demanding ransoms from them. I think the only case in that direction was the bombardment of Odessa, and there the Admiral gave instructions not to fire in the direction of the commercial port, but only upon the forts that protected the town. Apart from reasons of humanity, there are two great reasons why the course of firing into unprotected towns is not taken. One is, that it would not, on the whole, pay, and the other is that it would lead to reprisals. Such is the cost of projectiles in these days that it would be hardly worth the while of a Naval Power to expend the powder and shot necessary to destroy an undefended town. After all, these usages depend very much upon what opponents are likely to do. If French vessels in time of war fired into any of our unprotected towns, it would be very possible for our vessels to make reprisals upon such places as Dieppe, Nice, and others. At all events, whatever the case may he, it is undoubtedly the fact that for the last 100 years the usage of civilized Powers has not been in the direction which I speak of. On the contrary, the practice of vessels of war has been to avoid firing into unprotected towns in the manner intended by the Autumn Manœuvres of last year. I venture to hope, therefore, that the noble Lord in the Autumn Manœuvres of this year will avoid giving instructions of the kind that were given last year to the officers in command. I think it would not be wise on the part of this country that we should give a sort of quasi sanction to practices such as I have alluded to. My confident belief is that in time of war our officers would not be permitted to act in this manner; and it is unwise in time of peace that in the manœuvres that are to take place that even a simulated practice of this kind should be allowed to grow up in the manner which I have indicated. I venture to hope that the noble Lord will not repeat his instruc- 167 tions, and that we shall not have a repetition of intended raids upon unprotected towns in the manner they were carried out last year. I do not think these proceedings redounded to the credit of the Service, and I feel confident that they would not be carried out in time of war. Therefore, it would be wise on the part of our Government to give no sanction whatever to a course which might afterwards be taken as a sanction on our part to a practice of this kind.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
I was not aware that the right hon. Gentleman was going to raise this question.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
I have not the papers relating to the question which he has raised. But, at the same time, he cannot have read with very much intelligence the Report of the manœuvres. He has attached enormous importance to one feature of them, and bas altogether failed to appreciate the lessons which those manœuvres taught. I am not aware that any one of Her Majesty's ships would attempt to bombard defenceless towns. The right hon. Gentleman's supposition seems to me to be based on a mistaken idea of what the usages are in time of war. Is the right hon. Gentleman going to pretend that in time of war a great Naval Power would spare our ships—that our merchant vessels would have immunity from capture or destruction? Let us see what were the objects of the instructions of Sir George Tryon, whose squadron was supposed to represent the hostile Navy, stationed on the north and south of Ireland. A fleet was supposed to be defending the shores and commerce of this country. Sir George Tryon gave orders that certain vessels were to rendezvous on the north of Ireland, and the instructions were that they were then to go round our coast and create as much commotion as they could in harrying it. His deliberate purpose was to distract the attention of the Admiral who was defending the English shores. He succeeded. The result was that at a critical moment Admiral Baird felt it necessary to go round to the Downs to protect the coast, and then Sir George Tryon achieved his object, and Liverpool was left undefended and was taken. The right hon. Gentleman has not apparently read the 168 Report of the three Admirals, and the Report upon the proceedings of the Admirals employed in those manœuvres, for none of these vessels bombarded defenceless towns—not one of them. The right hon. Gentleman objects to these vessels requisitioning defenceless towns. If it is to be held that an army is to have that power and the Navy not, it is certainly putting us at a very great disadvantage compared with other powers. Generally speaking, it is not desirable that unprotected towns should be attacked; but it will be admitted that even in this country there are certain establishments which in time of war would be destroyed. Take Greenock, for instance, with its shipbuilding yards, large marine foundries and engineering factories, all of which would be of great assistance to our Navy in time of war. Would it not be rather hazardous to assume that it would be left free from molestation and requisition by the enemy? Such an assumption would be very unwise. The Report of the Admirals last year seems to me sufficiently to indicate what is legitimate and what is illegitimate. On the one hand, while we must be careful not to do anything implying our sanction to a departure from the usages of civilized nations, it would be, on the other hand, dangerous to pursue a course in naval warfare in which we should assume that all unprotected towns and commerce would be unmolested by an enemy. Such a view, I think, the right hon. Gentleman himself would be the last to advance.
§ * MR. CAMPBELL- BANNERMAN
The observations of the noble Lord display a spirit of concession to our view which I hardly expected, and, therefore, I am thankful for what the House-has just listened to. The noble Lord has, at all events, no sympathy with those raids which have been made on small watering places and coast towns in the north of England and Scotland, under pretence of simulating naval warfare. My right hon. Friend near me has made no attack on the Autumn Manœuvres; he has not said a word in depreciation of their value, nor has he wished to damage the importance of the lesson they have taught. What he did say—and in this I entirely agree with him—was that the proceedings at those manœuvres were most mischievous and. misleading, in so far as they lead to a 169 popular belief that to go round the coast attacking absolutely peaceable and defenceless towns is a proper employment for a naval force. Such action can only be intended by those who take part in it to create a scare in the country; and I submit that it is no part of the duty of our naval officers, either during autumn manœuvres or at any other time, to influence the public feeling of the country, in the discharge of their duties, in such a way as to give an exaggerated view of the real position of these matters. Then my right hon. Friend dwelt strongly on this point—that the fact of our naval officers proceeding in this way with the sanction of the Admiralty established a precedent which might be followed by other nations, who, if they took such a course, might say to us, "Why you, in your naval manœuvres of 1888, showed that what we are doing was what you expected would be done." Again, I think there is a considerable amount of fallacy in the word "requisition" as it has been used, and I would call the attention of the First Lord to what seems to be the vital distinction between land and naval warfare in this respect. With regard to land warfare, what happens is this. An army in an enemy's country has to get its supplies from the districts through which it advances, and therefore uses its power of requisitioning what it requires, giving a receipt for all it so obtains, which is settled for at the end of the hostilities. But ships of war carry their own supplies, and are not dependent on the enemy's coast towns; and, therefore, if such a thing as the bombardment of such places as Campbelltown, Rothesay, Oban, or Scarborough should ever take place, it would be simply in order to punish those places because they belonged to the enemy's country; or ransom would be exacted under threat of bombardment for the purpose of striking terror into the minds of the population. I know it is said by high philosophical authorities that the object of war is to make it as mischievous as possible for the enemy, and that the more distressing the circumstances the better will be the result. I do not agree with this theory; but, at any rate, we have departed from it. According to this view, when the Prussian Army invaded France they ought to have 170 seized every peasant they found on the roadside, taken from him the few sous he had in his pocket, and strung him up to the nearest tree. That would have been the way to strike terror into the hearts of the French people. But the Prussians did nothing of the sort. The fortified towns were attacked or besieged and dealt with in a military manner, and open towns were requisitioned for supplies. A fine may indeed have been imposed in cases where some reluctance was shown in furnishing the supplies demanded; but no such proceedings were taken as were the case during last year's autumn manœuvres at Campbelltown at the mouth of the Clyde, when, without any pretence of supplies being required, landing parties were sent out to arrest the Provost, or to capture the Post Office. The noble Lord has spoken of attacking our commercial seaports, dockyards, and shipbuilding yards, and I quite agree that they would be a fair object of hostile action on the part of an enemy who might wish to strike at the commerce of a country like this, which depends so much on its commercial relations with the rest of the world; but this is altogether a different thing from that of which I complain, and would affect only a few places on the sea coasts of this country. But if I wished to give an illustration of the state of mind aroused by the late manœuvres I would point to my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir G. Campbell), who is continually asking what steps are to be taken to protect Kirkcaldy from the attacks of an enemy's fleet. Of course, no enemy's fleet under heaven would go anywhere near Kirkcaldy; and even if one should, perhaps my hon. Friend would be there to strike terror into the enemy's breast; hut the serious part of the matter is the effect that the autumn manœuvres seem to have produced in the mind of men like my hon. Friend, who actually expect the Government to take special measures for protecting individual places circumstanced like the town of Kirkcaldy. This illustration is, I think, enough to show what ridiculous lessons are taught by the proceedings I have referred to. I have very little more to say. We have fortunately drawn from the noble Lord the expression of his opinion that the exaction of ransom from places like Scarborough and Aberdeen, under threat of 171 bombardment, was not a representation of anything that is to be anticipated in time of war. For my part I have no desire in any way to weaken or limit our power at sea; but I have thought it only right to protest against the idea that we should use our naval power, or expect that other nations should employ their forces, in such a manner as was indicated by the autumn manœuvres.
§ SIR W. LAWSON (Cockermouth)
I cannot but regard this discussion as what may be termed a sham debate about a sham fight; and I would point the attention of the Committee to the fact that there are somewhere about twenty Christians sitting in this House at the close of the nineteenth century actually discussing whether it is a proper thing to bombard defenceless towns. Such a fact surely is instructive in itself. I quite agree with my right hon. Friend who has just spoken that the manœuvres were carried on last year, and will be repeated this year, as a scare; though I do not think there is any necessity for the Government to scare the people of this country; they are quite ready enough to be scared without the help of the Admiralty Authorities. There is one point which I think has not been touched on in this debate. I remember seeing a report of a speech by one of the Naval Lords of the Admiralty—I do not recollect which—pointing out that these manœuvres were spoken of as showing the defenceless state of the country; whereas the real effect was forgotten—namely, that the defending fleet belonged to us as well as that which did the work of attack, and that in the event of war both of those fleets would be on our side. I think that this is sufficient to show the absurdity of drawing conclusions from such premisses. I hope my hon. Friend will not divide the Committee on this question. For my part, I think that the more we encourage the Government to continue these manœuvres the more discredit will be brought on our military and naval system.
§ * ADMIRAL FIELD
I hold in my hand a book entitled "The Corsairs of France," and I intend to read an extract from it. The right hon. Gentleman who initiated this debate said there was no record of an open town being bombarded. But here is a case, for 172 according to this book, on the 28th of September, 1794, a French squadron approached the town of Sierra Leone under the English flag, brought up in a position to command every street in it, then hoisted its own colours, and commenced a heavy cannonade; and even after the inhabitants had struck their flag, two frigates, regardless of the submission, continued firing for two hours, and raked the streets with grape shot. They then landed men who plundered what houses were left standing; they set fire to the church and to the company's warehouse, as well as to the houses of English inhabitants. They remained off the town till the 23rd of October, when, having filled their vessels with plunder, they set sail. Again, I have here an instance of the capture of Carrickfergus on the coast of Ireland after threats of bombardment, and also of the enemy having forced their way up the Clyde, and made requisitions on Scotchmen. I think the right hon. Gentleman would find the account of these raids instructive reading. The right hon. Gentleman was the first last autumn, when the manœuvres were going on, to pride himself on ridiculing what naval men were doing under instructions. I think, instead of having ridicule thrown on them for the manner in which they carried out the manœuvres, they deserve praise. The Admiralty did right in issuing the instructions they gave in regard to the manœuvres, in order that the people of this country might be roused from the sleepy condition into which they had fallen, and might see what they had to expect if we should be again involved in a naval war. History shows that open towns on our coasts are liable to be raided upon and plundered in time of war; and it is well that the danger to which we might be exposed should be brought home to the mind of the country. I therefore trust that the First Lord of the Admiralty will not be deterred from issuing instructions which will convince the nation how necessary it is that they should have a strong naval force; and I hope that he will issue those instructions in spite of the taunts of right hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
I think the discussion which has taken place has been perfectly justified by the important 173 declaration which has been drawn from the noble Lord, who said he did not approve of the bombardment of defenceless towns, and, so far as he could speak for the Government, they would do nothing in these Autumn Manœuvres which would depart in any way from the established usage of civilized nations. But before the Vote is taken, I wish to put a question to the noble Lord, if I am in order in so doing, as to the inquiry which has been going on into the loss of the Sultan. This was a special inquiry set on foot by the Admiralty to meet the especial circumstances of that particular case. If the inquiry is still pending, I, for my part, will not say a single word which would prejudice it; but I would remind the noble Lord that I put a question to him the other day, and that the answers which he gave to me are extremely difficult to reconcile with the evidence which has been published in the public Press. I will not go into the matter now; but I shall continue to feel it within my right to call upon the noble Lord to reconcile the statement he has made to me with the evidence which has been given. I have risen now to ask him whether the inquiry is still going on, and if the whole proceedings before the Court, including all the evidence taken, will be in due course laid before this House.
§ MR. HANDEL COSSHAM
I only wish to say this. I think it a most monstrous thing that the resources of this country should be wasted in such tomfoolery as we have had described to us to day The hon. and gallant Admiral opposite boasts of what has been done to defenceless towns. Why, of course, any ship of war is able to knock down a defenceless town, and if that is the object of a Christian nation, then, I say, the less we have to do with it the better. I trust that the electors of this country will realize that this expenditure of money is simply for the purpose of filching more cash from the pockets of the people in the shape of extra Votes for the Admiralty.
§ MR. HANBURY
I should like to know what at the present moment is the actual position of the Accountant General, about whom we heard a good deal during the sittings of the Committee on the Navy Estimates, and who also occupied a good deal of attention 174 at the hands of the Royal Commission when it was enquiring into Admiralty administration. I think this subject has been left open a great deal too long. We have an Accountant General under an Order in Council with certain defined duties. We have a staff on a large scale to assist him in doing those duties. But there is missing in the Admiralty an officer we ought to have in the shape of a permanent official, a Secretary, who should hold the threads of finance, and who should be a permanent official to carry on the duties from one Ministry to another. I know that now we are unusually well off in having the present Secretary to the Admiralty, who seems to have at his fingers ends everything connected with his Department; but should he resign, there is, I believe, no one who would be able to carry on properly his work. I therefore wish to know what decision has been arrived at in regard to this matter, and what is the actual position of the Accountant General? Then, again, as to the Director of Contracts, and as to the immense loss which apparently takes place every year from the way in which we dispose of obsolete ships. These ships cost an enormous sum of money, and yet they are practically sold for a mere song. There is no public competition; they are sold to the same firm year after year, and they go at a ridiculous price. Indeed, I am told that what we get for these ships is merely the value of the metal in them. It appears to me that there ought to be a great deal more open competition in these sales. I wish also to draw attention to the position of another officer—namely, the Engineering Chief. Now, this is a most important officer, and I fancy that the safety of our fleet depends largely upon the efficiency with which the duties of this office are carried out. We have hardly recognized in the Navy at the present moment the enormous importance of our engineers. We train up these men at great cost at our Royal Naval College, and yet some of them, having received their education at the public expense, leave the Public Service and are engaged by private firms. We have lately had the Engineering Chief (Mr. Sennett) leave us, and in his new appointment he is to receive, I believe, 3,500 a year, whereas he only received £1,000 175 at the Admiralty for practically taking control of the whole Engineering Department of our great Navy. I am not often found asking for an increase in the Estimates; but I think the whole of the Engineering Department, certainly the man responsible for the engines of our Fleet, is entitled to more than we pay at present. We ought not to grudge money being expended in this direction. I do not like to see these men being tempted away from our Service by private firms. When Mr. Sennett was examined before us, he complained of two things—he complained first of the vast amount of clerical work thrown on him at the Admiralty Office, saying that nearly three fourths of his time was taken up by duties of this description, and I do think that a man who has control over the vast machinery of the Engineering Department of the Navy should be, as far as possible, released from clerical work, which might be done by clerks receiving a much lower rate of pay. Another complaint he made was with reference to the repairs of the engines, and I should like to know how far that particular complaint has been met. It seems that no sooner has he designed the engines for our ships, and they have been put on board the vessels, than he practically loses all control over them, and he has nothing whatever to do with repairs done to the engines in the dockyards. It is a curious fact that we have an Engineering Chief at the Admiralty, nearly the whole of whose time is taken up by clerical work, while the responsibilities of his office are practically divided in the dockyards. It occurred to me that as a new appointment has been, or is about to be, made, some desirable change might be effected, and the First Lord of the Admiralty would be able to give us some information on these points.
§ MR. FORWOOD
With reference to the question of the sale of ships, may I point out that an old mercantile ship can be devoted to a great many useful purposes, but an old obsolete warship can be turned to little or no account whatever and must be broken up. My desire has been to extend the area of competition for old warships and increase the number of buyers. When a number of vessels are condemned as obsolete the list is advertised, and particulars are sent to every firm in the kingdom 176 known to be likely to deal in old ships and old materials, and in that way we have been able largely to increase the number of buyers. I do not think the Engineer-in-Chief has an unnecessarily large amount of clerical work to do. He could not possibly look over every vessel that requires repairs; there must be a division of labour, and that division is so arranged as to throw the more important work of designing the new ships and their engines on the Engineer-in-Chief, making him likewise responsible for re-engining vessels and all important works, but leaving the minor matters to his assistants.
§ * LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
With regard to the position of the Accountant General, we have endeavoured to make an arrangement by which a direct control over financial matters will be kept by a permanent official. I agree that the Admiralty and the country are much indebted to the exertions of the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty. The result of his untiring energy has been apparent in every branch of the Admiralty; and I hope that it may be possible that the Admiralty should continue to have the benefit of the arrangements suggested by his ability and energy, even if it should lose his services as Financial Secretary. With regard to the competition of private firms for the services of eminent technical officers, I am decidedly of opinion that everything possible should be done to retain the services of such officers for the Navy. In reply to the hon. Member for Dundee I may point out it would be contrary to practice to lay on the table the Report of the inquiry into the loss of the Sultan, and I cannot promise that it will be done in the present case. The proceedings, however, were public, the Press being present.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I agree that the question of the remuneration of high technical officers in Public Departments is one of great difficulty, and that the salaries which are granted to those officers cannot compare with the amounts paid by private corporations for similar services, but I doubt if we could hope to compete with those enormous salaries. At the same time, it is desirable that the salaries of these high technical officers should be such as to enable the Admiralty to retain the services of those officials; and I am inclined 177 to agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Preston that the position of Engineer-in-Chief with reference to the duties and responsibilities of the office does not compare favourably with other appointments at the Admiralty. On the contrary, the pay is very inadequate, and I hope that when on some future occasion the salaries are being discussed the First Lord of the Admiralty will bear this in mind. With regard to the Accountant General, I do not understand that the noble Lord has made any real change in what was the original design when the Order in Council was first framed. My impression is that it was intended that the Accountant General should be a permanent financial officer immediately under the Financial Secretary, with supervision and power to control the expenditure of every kind throughout the Admiralty. I am glad, at any rate, that the noble Lord has reverted to the original intention of the Order. With regard to the autumn manœuvres, I have nothing to say against them. I think the results have indeed been of a very valuable character, and I shall be glad to see the manœuvres repeated during the coming autumn. I do not wish the House to imagine for a moment that I have any objection to offer to those manœuvres.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 14. £78,900, Half Pay.
§ 15. £718,500, Reserved and Retired Pay.
§ 16. £757,700, Naval Pensions.
§ 17. £168,300, Widows' Pensions and Compassionate Allowances.
§ 18. £336,300, Civil Pensions and Gratuities.
§ MR. CHANNING
Upon this Vote, if I am in order, I wish to put a question to the noble Lord with regard to considerable services rendered by a distinguished naval officer. I would ask the noble Lord if adequate recognition has been made of the value of the flashing system of signalling, the invention of Admiral Columb in 1861, and adopted in Her Majesty's Fleet some five or six years afterwards? The value of this system of signalling at night during fog has been recognized by experienced men in the Navy and in 178 the Merchant Service, and there can be no doubt that it has been most useful in securing the safety of vessels in thick weather. In the recommendations of the Board of Trade Committee on Signalling at Sea a similar system was suggested for the Merchant Service. Has the Admiralty in any sufficient way recognized the value of the invention?
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
Personally, I willingly recognize the distinguished services rendered by the officer mentioned, not only in regard to the flash system of signalling, but in regard to other services rendered to the Navy. Certain compensation or remuneration was awarded, and whether sufficient or not it was the subject of long correspondence between the War Office, the Admiralty, and the Treasury, and we must assume the decision arrived at was final. But I quite admit that this is one of those cases where services rendered entitle the gallant officer to special distinction, and I will avail myself of any legitimate opportunity for the purpose.
§ Vote agreed to.