§ * MR. DUFF (Banffshire)
At the present moment the attention of the country is more directed to the new Naval Defence programme than it is to the details of administration. As that programme will be fully discussed on future occasions I shall not refer to it, except incidentally so far as it affects the Motion I have to submit to the House. But, Sir, the question involved in the subject I desire to bring forward is one of such vital importance, that I make no apology for raising it, and I am glad of an opportunity of doing so when naval affairs are receiving a more than usual amount of public attention. Sir, everyone at all conversant with naval affairs has 1673 known for several years that the delay in procuring guns and Naval Ordnance Stores has been the weakest part of our administrative system. Were it necessary, I could give the Committee endless statistics to prove that vessels, otherwise complete, have been kept waiting for their guns, but after the admission of the First Lord, on Thursday, "that ships have been kept waiting for months, and in some cases for years, for their guns," I will not inflict figures on the Committee in support of what I regard as the complete collapse of our present system. In reference to the delay attending the delivery of guns, the First Lord told us that there had been a block in the road, and that he and the Secretary for War had determined to widen the road. What we want, in my opinion, is not to widen the old road, but to make an entirely new one. Sir, dealing with the Motion I am submitting to the House, I desire to remind hon. Members what our present system is. The money for Naval Ordnance, since last year, has been taken in Naval Votes. But the contract for guns, and most Naval Ordnance Stores, continue to be made by the War Office. This creates a dual control, and a divided responsibility, fatal to efficiency, and most detrimental, in my opinion, to the public interest. If I am asked how this is to be remedied, I reply at once by saying the Admiralty ought to adopt the conclusions arrived at by the Conference between the Admiralty and the War Office, held in June, 1886, whereby the Admiralty undertook to take the entire responsibility of providing themselves with guns and Ordnance stores. Although they were only a short time in office, Lord Ripon's Board of Admiralty, with the full concurrence of the Director of Naval Ordnance, came to the conclusion that that was the only way out of our present difficulty. And although the change was not effected when the late Board went out of office, yet the principle, as I will presently show, had been adopted, and the change was in a fair way of being accomplished. But the present Board would not undertake the responsibility, at the same time they fully admit the weakness of the existing system. Here is what the First Lord said in introducing the Estimates last year— 1674Our difficulty, and I will be quite frank with the House, is not one of want of funds, or of want of shipbuilding power, it is one of gun-producing power.That we all know, but what I complain of is that the noble Lord's energy is not equal to his frankness. He takes no effective steps to improve our gun-producing power. Then, on the same occasion, the Secretary to the Admiralty, in reply to some remarks of mine, said—The hon. Gentleman suggests that we should take more money for guns and less for ships. They (the Admiralty) had taken as much money for guns as the manufactories could turn out, and in proof of that the War Office would have to return to the Treasury a very large amount of money which they had taken for naval armaments this year, and which they had been unable to spend. It would, therefore, be idle for the Admiralty to take an excessive amount, knowing the difficulty there would be in expending the money asked for last year.So here we have the First Lord of the Admiralty, and the Secretary to the Admiralty, coming down to the House, and telling us, while they are scandalously short of guns, and at a time when they have never turned out more than 15 guns above 9 inches in diameter in any one year, that although they have plenty of money, yet they do not know how to increase our gun-producing power. Sir, I must say, to me this is a pitiable, I might say a humiliating, admission. Here are we, the greatest mechanical and manufacturing country in the world, turning out guns for half the Foreign Navies in the world, yet when we want guns for our own Navy, the authorities of the Admiralty quietly fold their arms, and say, "Though we have plenty of money, yet we can't get the guns." This is what the administrative capacity of the First Lord and the commercial genius of the Secretary of the Admiralty have brought us to! Sir, there used to be a saying in my day in the Navy that there was no such word as "can't" on board a man-of-war. I fear the determination to overcome difficulties which that saying implies, though still retained in the Navy, is not to be found controlling the policy of the present Board of Admiralty. Now, Sir, the difficulties the Admiralty have to overcome are not, in my opinion, insurmountable—they involve some responsibility and require some administrative capacity, such as we have a right to 1675 expect in a First Lord of the Admiralty. All you have to do is to go into the market for your guns, make your own contract for them, just as you do for your ships and your engines. I do not suggest this on my own responsibility; it was the system which, as I have said, the late Board had agreed to adopt in accordance with the recommendation of the Conference to which I have referred, confirmed in its main principles by an Interdepartmental Committee on which the War Office, Admiralty, and Treasury were represented. The whole departmental correspondence which led to the Naval Ordnance Vote being taken in the Navy Estimates is contained in the Appendix to the 5th Report of the Army Estimates Committee of 1887. It is full of valuable information on this subject; and I do not think any work which the Committee so ably presided over by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington has done will be more useful in exposing, as this correspondence does, the hopeless confusion which prevails under the existing dual system. Whoever peruses these Papers impartially will understand the cause of the delay in the delivery of our guns and the disaster the present system would inevitably bring about in time of war. I must also say that, in my opinion, the War Office comes very well out of the existing muddle, as the Papers show that the entire responsibility for not adopting the Committee recommendation is due to the timidity of the present Board of Admiralty. The reasons for adopting the Resolution I am submitting to the House are so amply sustained in the Papers I have alluded to that I must briefly refer to them, and will, in doing so, give a short statement of what occurred. In December, 1884, the Director of Artillery, General Alderson, revives an old discussion as to the desirability of the Admiralty taking the responsibility of providing their own guns and warlike stores. He says—The great changes which have taken place since 1868, amounting to almost a revolution in our armaments, have tended to accentuate the importance of making the Admiralty entirely responsible (as indeed they are at this moment partially so) for the provision of all warlike material required for the Navy…It is high time that the system detrimental to both Services should be brought to an end, especially now the completion of naval armaments is becoming more and more urgent. The responsi- 1676 bility heretofore has been dangerously divided, and I can only repeat that such a division of responsibility is certain to lead to great inconvenience in any case, and to absolute disaster in case of war.General Alderson explains further on—That if the Admiralty take their own money they will of course make their own contracts.After this date there is a long correspondence between Admiralty and War Office, and partly on account of changes of Government the contemplated alteration in the system is delayed. In the spring of 1886 the Collingwood's guns burst, and that led to the revival of the subject. The matter was fully discussed at Lord Ripon's Board of Admiralty, of which I was then a member; a decision was arrived at that a radical change was required in the then existing system. This led to a conference between the Admiralty and War Office which recommended the change, only effected last year, of the transfer of the Naval Ordnance Vote from Army to Navy Estimates They further said they approved the views of General Alderson, I which have just quoted, that the Admiralty should make their own contracts. These views were approved by Lord Ripon and his colleagues. I should, perhaps, mention that my right hon. Friend, Mr. Hibbert, presided at the Conference—he is a gentleman well known in the House, and his approval of the scheme will I am sure be accepted by many hon. Members as an assurance that it was financially and administratively sound. Admiral Hopkins, then Director of Naval Ordnance, was prepared to take the responsibility of ordering guns directly from the trade. No doubt in sanctioning this change the Board did undertake a serious responsibility. But what was felt by Lord Ripon and his colleagues, was that there would be a still greater responsibility in continuing a system which had so conspicuously failed. The Conference I have referred to was followed by an Interdepartmental Committee, in which the Treasury was represented. They confirm the views adopted at the Conference. I will read the paragraph in their Report which to the Resolution refers—In regard to the provision of future supplies, it is agreed that the Admiralty shall annually furnish to the War Office notice of their probable requirements for warlike stores of all kinds, in time for the preparation of the Esti- 1677 mates, in order that the War Office may state the extent to which the requirements of the Navy can be met from the Government establishments at the date to be settled between the two departments for delivery; but it will be understood that the private trade may be resorted to by the Admiralty, not merely for articles which the War Office cannot supply within the required time, but on due notice to the office, for any articles which may be obtained by the requisite dates more cheaply from the private trade.So far as heavy guns are concerned the present Admiralty have paid no attention to that recommendation. In the correspondence every possible objection is raised by the Admiralty to carrying out the Committee's recommendation. It is quite clear to me that the present Board never realized the intention of their predecessors. What the late Board contemplated was this. They would go to the War Office in the first instance and say, we want so many guns by the end of the next two years, say 100 guns, how many can you let us have? Woolwich might reply. "We can let you have 20." These would be ordered by the Admiralty direct from Woolwich; but regarding the other 80 guns, the Admiralty would go into the market for them. Take in tenders for so many, not only from Armstrong and Whit worth, but from any firm in the Kingdom that was willing to compete and could satisfy the Director of Naval Ordnance that they were prepared to ful-ful the conditions of the contract. If it was found by experience that guns could be obtained cheaper and quicker from private firms than from Woolwich, then the latter, so far as naval ordnance is concerned, would be gradually dropped. I ventured to say something to this effect last year; the idea was received with ridicule on the bench opposite. I was told that if I understood the subject I would know that no private firm would go to the expense of laying down plant unless they received a continuous order. But what has happened since then? You have employed Messrs. Vickers, of Sheffield. Are you satisfied that there are no other firms that would undertake orders on the same conditions as Messrs. Vickers? I believe, from reliable information that has reached me, that there are many firms in the country that are equally capable and willing to undertake Government work. In my opinion, the country ought to have 1678 the full benefit of competition in the open market. Instead of that, your policy seems to be to create and perpetuate a monopoly. By going to the market, you keep a check on Woolwich and other Government establishments, just as by building ships by contract you keep a check on your Dockyards. But there is a far more important advantage than this. You develop the resources of the country, and you have an enormous and powerful reserve to fall back on in case of an emergency. In the correspondence between the Departments, the War Office are constantly urging the Admiralty to adopt the recommendations of the Committee; but the only letter which seems to have produced any effect is that of the 13th June, 1887, when the War Office remind the Admiralty that the Government have given pledges in Parliament that the existing system will be changed. This appeal to the Admiralty is of course irresistible, and consequently a change to a certain extent is made. The money required for naval ordnance is taken in the Naval Estimates in 1888, but the system of divided responsibility and dual control remains exactly where it was. The Admiralty will not make their own contracts. They decline to adopt the recommendations of the Committee which I have quoted to the House. In case anything goes wrong, they prefer to shelter themselves behind the War Office to taking the responsibility which really belongs to them. I alluded just now to the pledge given in Parliament, as the lever by which the Admiralty had to a certain extent been moved. It is contained in a speech of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, when he was War Minister in September, 1886. It must be remembered that he speaks with the authority of an ex-First Lord of the Admiralty. He says—I agree with all that has been said about making the Navy alone responsible for its own munition of war. I have urged that in and out of office for a very long time. For the future the responsibility will rest with the Navy for the supply of all materials of every kind which is required for its own branch of the service. They may go to Woolwich for such guns as Woolwich may supply, or to Whitworth Co., they will have a perfectly free hand.From this statement I at once came to the conclusion that the Admiralty were 1679 going to adopt the policy which Lord Ripon's Board had sanctioned, but which they did not remain long enough in office to carry out. I got up at once, and expressed my satisfaction that there was to be a continuity of policy in this important branch of naval administration. But the hope I entertained was soon doomed to disappointment, as the present Board, as soon as they got comfortably settled in office, continued the old custom of ordering their guns through the War Office, the results we know having proved the complete failure of the present system. Now I have quoted military authorities I am advocating, let me refer to a naval authority. Admiral Hopkins, the present Controller of the Navy, was examined before Sir James Stephen's Commission. He had been three years Director of Naval Ordnance. He is asked by the Chairman of the Commission—(2) Do you think it would be a better plan to have the supply of the two services separately provided for?—I think it is the only plan; I think in the event of war the amount of work that the Commissary General at Woolwich would have to do would be excessive.Then the Chairman says—He has in fact to do duties of a very different kind: he may be called upon at one and the same moment to send all sorts of stores to an army in the field, and also to a naval squadron in the Pacific Ocean?Quite so.They require very different things?—Yes, I may say that it is all in process of alteration. I was a Member of that Committee at the War Office lately which put before the Treasury very strongly that really the only way to insure what may be considered a respectacle system is for the Naval Authorities to take money in Naval Votes, and provide their own naval material, and then it would be in their own hands.My noble Friend opposite the Member for Marylebone has expressed himself in favour of that system. Admiral Sir J. Commerell, a very distinguished and experienced officer, lately a Member of this House, expressed himself very decidedly from the Benches opposite in favour of what he termed "Home Rule" at the Admiralty; and he gave an instance of the absurdity of the present system, by telling us of a vessel which had been sent to the West Indies, while her Ordnance stores were all despatched to the 1680 Mediteranean. Now, Sir, in this matter the Admiralty have taken up an isolated position. They are opposed to naval opinions; they are opposed to the recommendation of the Inter departmental Committee; they are opposed to the War Office as represented by the Director of Artillery; and they are opposed to the views expressed by the First Lord of the Treasury in the House. In some of their letters the Admiralty have put forward an alternative policy, and suggested the revival of the old Ordnance Department, common to both services. But this system has already been tried and failed. There was constant friction between the Admiralty and the Ordnance Department. The naval men and the Secretary of the Admiralty of the day, Sir John Barrow, were all opposed to it, as the Papers I have referred to will show. Now, I may be asked why I bring forward this Motion. My reply is, because I regard the failure of the Government to supply us with guns as one of the grossest administrative blunders of modern times, and because I entertain a sincere conviction that, if the policy I am advocating had been adopted in 1886, we should not be in the weak position we are in to-day. I may be told that this is a mere speculative opinion; but in support of that opinion I am able to appeal to the experience of a neighbouring country. Before the Franco-German War, France had a system analogous to ours. It completely broke down. They have now a system which works admirably. The naval authorities and the military are thoroughly independent. They each apply directly to the market for tenders when material is wanted, get supplied either with guns, or with the blocks of steel or finished material, as they think best. The Navy have an establishment at Rueil, the Army at Bourges, where material is taken and guns are finished. The Marine Department have Artillery officers attached, for testing the guns and material; but these officers are directly under the Marine Department. As open competition prevails, there is no limit to the number of firms that compete. I can give the names of the five principal ones—Le Creuzot, St. Chamond, Chatillon, Fives Lille, Forges et Chantiers 1681 de la Meditteranée. These are in addition to the two Government establishments. Contrast this with the three sources of supply we have hitherto relied on—viz., Woolwich. Whitworth, and Armstrong, and bear in mind that the two private firms make largely for foreign countries, and it is not surprising that France has less difficulty in getting guns than we experience. The encouragement given to the trade, as opposed to our system of practically subsidizing two firms, has largely developed the steel trade in France. The American Commission, sent to Europe by U.S. Foundry Board to report on the different systems, speak with unqualified approval of the French system. They remind us that France has been forced into the system of relying mainly on private firms, by the complete collapse of the Government establishments during the Franco-German War. The First Lord of the Admiralty is never tired of telling us how infinitely superior we are to France regarding the rapidity with which we can build our ships. He made an eloquent speech on the subject at Glasgow; when I read it I could not help thinking that our boasted superiority was entirely neutralized by our inability to supply the ships with guns. I believe in this respect France is three or four years ahead of us. Now, let me turn to the "statement" of the First Lord. It is almost superfluous to say that when I come to the Ordnance Department, I find he has to tell us that there has been a very great delay in the delivery of guns; of course, this statement, as usual, is accompanied by a hope—no; it was a hope last season—but that perennial spring is nearly dried up at the Admiralty; it is a "belief" that guns will be delivered more punctually in the future. We are then told that much of this delay is due to faulty liners. This may be the case to a certain extent, but when we have guns delayed for two years, as in the case of the Collingwoods, and the gun only takes one year to make, it is absurd to attribute the delay to the "liner." Now, let me ask the House to consider for a moment how we stand according to the Estimates with the promised gun programme and its fulfilment. On the 6th August last the First Lord told me in the House that we 1682 then required 81 guns over nine inches diameter, and that 45 of these would be delivered by the end of the financial year. According to the First Lord's statement, only 22 guns of the description I am speaking of were delivered in the course of last year. What our exact deficiency is at this moment is it is impossible for me to say, as I have no means of knowing the number of guns delivered since 31st December, and I do not know how many of the older armour clads it is proposed to rearm this year; but so far as I can form an opinion, our arrears of large guns, dealing with the old programme, must be somewhere about 70, and we are making that up at the rate of 22 a year. Now, from the statement of the Secretary of State for War on Monday, I am willing to believe that the rate of delivery will be accelerated; but as he did not distinguish between land and naval service, and I think included the 8-inch gun in his calculations, it is difficult to arrive at any definite conclusion as to when, even on paper, the lee way will be made up. But the Committee will bear in mind that the Secretary for War has to provide a very large number of guns for military ports and coaling stations; the heavy guns required for this programme cannot be less than 100, and these are drawn from the same source as the naval ordnance. If the new naval programme is carried out, we shall require, with reserves, 70 large guns for naval service, above the 70 I have already referred to; but even if it is not adopted in its entirety, we shall still require a considerable number of guns to arm the ships that would be required under the ordinary programme. I urge these considerations on the Committee, as a reason for taking advantage of the present moment, when a large supply of guns is required by both Services, to improve our system, and increase our gun-producing power. The mere addition of Messrs. Vickers to the firms who are to enjoy the monopoly of Government employment, which is all the Secretary for War promises us, is not a sufficient remedy for a deficient supply of guns, and a defective system of administration. I should like some information regarding the Ordnance Vote. In his statement the First Lord says there is a 1683 "serious deficiency" in ordnance stores this is accompanied by a reduction of £400,000 in the Vote, £288,712 of which occurs under the head of projectiles and ammunition. I think this requires some explanation, because even if we get the promised guns, it seems to me we shall be very short of ammunition for them. I have said I would not allude to the new programme, except in so far as it is referred to in the Ordnance Vote. The attitude I take up is this. Whatever the strength of our Navy is, and I desire to see it strong, let it be efficient all round. We ought so to frame our programme that the money granted by Parliament should be expended on all the requirements of the Service. There should be adequate proportion maintained between the outlay on men, on ships, and on guns. But we know we are short of guns, and, as I have said, deficient in ammunition. Would it not be more practical to make our existing Navy efficient before embarking, at any rate to the extent proposed, in the new shipbuilding programme. The cost of armaments has gone up enormously—far more rapidly even than the cost of ships. The armament and fittings of the Benbow, with her 12 guns, cost £207,000, the hull and machinery £617,000. Thirty years ago the Duke of Wellington's131 guns, including all their fittings, only cost £17,000. Looking to the enormous increase in the cost of armaments, and they are likely with the development of quick-firing guns to go on increasing, I think it would be a wise course to arm properly the ships we have and lay in a stock of ammunition, before we build more ships to join the large "expectant" squadron, now waiting for their guns, which the present Admiralty have so thoughtfully provided for the protection of our shores. On this matter I think the patience of the country is getting a little exhausted, and before the House grants the present Board of Admiralty a single sixpence, we ought to have definite information on three points—namely, what our calculated output of guns is in the year, the sources from whence the guns are to come, and the penalties to be inflicted on contractors for non-fulfilment of their contracts; and, above all, we ought to insist on a radical change in our Ordnance system. I believe so long as you 1684 continue this plan of divided responsibility in spite of the warnings of the ablest officers of both Services, you will be liable to the delays and failures of which you have already had so large an experience; and in addition to that, the Naval Service will be deprived the advantage it ought to possess, of being enabled in its hour of need to rely on the endless mechanical and manufacturing resources of this country.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
In seconding the Motion of the hon. Member for Banffshire (Mr. E. W. Duff), I would point out that his Motion naturally divides itself into two sections, and I am surprised that the Government do not accept the first of these at once, and declare themselves under an obligation to the hon. Member for bringing it forward in such a clear and simple form. The proposition that the First Lord, as representing the Admiralty, should be responsible for all the naval guns has very often been put before the House, and it has always been accepted by the Government in theory, but it seems that it is not acted upon in practice. This House and the country like to know who to hang in case anything goes wrong, and I am sure the First Lord would not object to the responsibility for supplying naval ordnance being definitely fixed upon the Admiralty. At present the responsibility is divided and complicated between the Admiralty, the War Office, and the Ordnance Committee, of whom the great majority are military officers, and when anything goes wrong you have to hunt all the way down, attacking first the First Lord of the Admiralty, who falls back upon the Secretary for War, who again retires upon the Ordnance Committee, who will endeavour to cast the responsibility on the Director General of Ordnance, then there will be an intermediate dispute between naval and military advisers as to who recommended the gun, and by the time responsibility is fixed—if it ever is—the country is tired of the whole question. There is truth in Solomon's maxim that there is safety in a multitude of counsellors, but it is safety for the counsellors, not for those who receive the counsel, for, of course, the counsellors can shift about the responsibility from one to the other. If he consults the safety of the country, I think the noble Lord should accept the 1685 first part of this Resolution. The difficulty with the First Lord is to know to whom to go for advice as to pattern and class of guns. You may say there are very few people capable of giving advice on the subject. Certainly an engineer, if he has studied the subject for eight or ten years and is an able man, may give an opinion and know more about the manufacture of a gun than the man whose business it is to fight the gun. There are very few of these men, and they are mostly connected with the trade, and so are not available to give advice to the First Lord. Then he must rely on military or naval officers. But the ordinary Naval or Artillery officer knows very little indeed about manufacturing guns; his business is to work the guns; and of the Artillery officer, I should say that he knows a great deal more about how a horse is groomed than he does of how a gun is made. In the Navy there is no great opportunity to obtain experience, but there are some officers who have gathered much experience and information from Shoeburyness and on board the Excellent. I may mention that the present Director General of Ordnance, quoted by the hon. Member for Banffshire, derived much of his information from Shoeburyness. There is another quarter where the knowledge can be obtained, and that is at the Gun Factory, Woolwich. There are only a limited number of officers employed there, not more than two or three at a time, I think, and probably there are not more than six or eight who have passed through the Factory, and are capable of giving advice as to manufacture. I do not know that there are any Naval officers who have been so employed, but until the First Lord can avail himself of the service of Naval officers, let him attach to his Department Artillery officers, who have the necessary knowledge acquired by experience on the Excellent at Shoeburyness and at Woolwich. It would be much better so than that the responsibility of the Admiralty should be weakened by passing through the War Office. As to carriages, Naval officers ought to be far better advisers than Artillery officers, because the naval gun-carriages are of an elaborate character, and worked by steam machinery, whereas there is nothing of the kind with land artillery. The supply of shot and shell is a much 1686 simpler matter, and hardly requires elaborate manufacturing knowledge. As to the first part of the Resolution, I have no doubt that all difficulties could be met. It is well to notice that, on any question between good guns and moderately good guns, the best must always go to the Navy. The reasons are obvious, the gun-carriages and arrangements on board ship are elaborate, and calculated to make the best use of the conditions existing on the ship, and it is not possible—as it is, as a rule, on land fortifications—to substitute, say, six moderately good guns for four first-class guns. The Navy must have the precedence in the supply of guns; but under the present system, if naval guns turn out badly, I defy you to say whose fault it is. The Admiralty, the War Office, the Director of Artillery, the Ordnance Committee, would have the blame amongst them; but such an elaborate correspondence would result from an attempt to apportion the blame, that it would require legal training to say where actual responsibility should rest. The second part of the hon. Member's Resolution, I am afraid, the Government will not adopt, for I pressed something of the same kind upon their attention quite lately. There are, no doubt, few firms now who are ready to produce guns, but I imagine if you tell them you are going to lay out a million or two on gun contracts, thrown open to general competition, there would be no difficulty about raising the capital to set up the necessary machinery, and anyone accustomed to working steel would, in a short time, produce good guns, though not perhaps equal to those of Krupp. I need hardly enlarge upon the advantages of open competition—how you would at once get rid of the suspicions and innuendos that it was influence brought to bear on officials that secured this or that contract; and how you would sometimes get guns even below market price, because there are times when it would pay a manufacturer, in order to keep his plant going and his staff together, to work at cost price. Of course the manufacturer will look forward to recoup himself when a large or sudden demand arises. But the idea of the manufacturer under the system of restricted competition seems to be that he is always to get his 15 or 20 per cent from a Government order, and when the 1687 pressure comes he may get over 100 per cent. This is not the usual practice of large manufacturers, who are content sometimes to forego their profits, seeing their gain in the long run from transactions over a long period. I hope the Government will even accept the second part of the Resolution, perhaps in a modified form, but as to the first part I do not see why they should not at once adopt it.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, "in the opinion of this House, the Admiralty ought to assume the entire responsibility of providing guns and ordnance stores for the Naval Service, and that the delivery of guns would be accelerated, and the gun-producing power of the Country developed, if the private trade, as recommended by the Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee, dated 11th November 1886, were more largely resorted to than at present for the supply of guns and ordnance stores,"—(Mr. Duff,)
§ * THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Lord GEORGE HAMILTON,) Middlesex, Ealing
The hon. Gentleman who opened this discussion used some very strong language about the present Board of Admiralty, while he used some complimentary epithets in reference to the Board to which he belonged. Now it struck me that although the hon. Gentleman used this strong language he did not display intimate knowledge of his subject. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who seconded the Motion does know his subject; he is a thorough artillerist and knows what the difficulties are. Let me state those difficulties in a few words. There have been many Committees, Commissions, and Conferences on this question of supplying warlike stores, but although there have been many different recommendations and much diversity of opinion displayed as to the administration of the Ordnance Department, they have been absolutely unanimous on this point, that all guns or stores, whether for the Army or Navy, should be uniform in pattern and interchangeable. That is the guiding principle that the hon. Gentleman ignores. He asks us to imitate France, where they have guns differing in design and not interchangeable between Army and Navy, and separate stocks of stores and ammunition for each 1688 service. This is what I think the House would never tolerate, that we, with our possessions and interests scattered all over the world, should have at our different stations two supplies of stores, one for our naval and the other for our land forces. No one disputes the fact that guns should be interchangeable, and it follows that there can be only one Designing Department, not one for the War Office and one for the Admiralty. The hon. Member, in moving his Motion, has censured the Admiralty because they have not adopted the decision of the Conference. Now, the decision of the Conference was to refer the matter of stores to a Committee.
§ * MR. E. W. DUFF
I must take exception to that statement. The Conference adopted the principle laid down by General Alderson that the Admiralty should make their own contracts for naval stores.
§ * LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
A Conference was appointed, and the Conference recommended that a Committee should be appointed, and the Committee arrived at the conclusion that the Admiralty should not make separate contracts so far as guns, gunpowder, projectiles, and other stores were concerned. In paragraph 10, page 4, the Committee distinctly recommends the very system now in force. The hon. Member laughs. Has he the smallest estimation of the quantity of stores which are not interchangeable. It is infinitesimal. What I have quoted is the result of the Conference appointed by the Board of Admiralty, to which the hon. Member belonged, and it is that at which the hon. Member laughs. I contend that the present Board has done identically what, if the hon. Member had been in office, he would have been compelled to do. The hon. Member went further and said there were certain members on the Board of Admiralty, notably Admiral Hopkins, who agreed in his view. The hon. Member is utterly in error. Admiral Hopkins is Controller of the Navy, and he entirely dissents from the hon. Member.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
The hon. Member may have referred to his evidence, but as against that I had 1689 myself the advantage of a conversation with the Controller of the Navy this morning, and he said he entirely dissented from the view advanced by the hon. Gentleman, and for the reason I have stated, that the Admiralty would not undertake to order guns unless they had a special department for designs. The fact is, there are very few persons in this country who can design heavy guns. The hon. Member has so little idea of the difficulties attending the manufacture of guns that he proposes to put them on the same footing as the hulls of ships and machinery but there is all the difference in the world between the cases. If your engines do not come up to test, you can make a reduction in the amount of money paid to the contractor, and you still have ships which will be able to drive at a certain speed. If a hull is not satisfactory, the result probably will be that the vessel will go a knot or two less. But if a gun does not work it will in all probability burst, and then what is to be done?
§ LORD G. HAMILTON
Yes, but the rejection of the gun affects all the guns made on this principle, and the hon. Member does not appear to understand that. There is an insuperable difficulty in the way of establishing two designing Departments, one for the Army and one for the Navy, and, as a matter of fact, there is no alternative between the present system and the establishment of a separate Ordnance Department. It seems to be a great reflection upon this country that there should be a considerable number of ships waiting for their guns, and I can quite understand the hon. Gentleman's wish to make some practical suggestion by which the difficulties can be obviated, but it is quite clear his recommendation would aggravate the evil. There is not much difficulty in obtaining small guns, but we cannot entrust firms, who have had no experience, with the making of the heaviest ordnance. They must learn their business gradually. To go into the market for great guns might be to put into the hands of inexperienced firms the manufacture of guns which it is almost impossible to assume they could produce. As to the second part of the proposition, I quite agree with the hon. and gallant Member that we ought to 1690 do everything in our power to increase the sources of supply; but that is a work which must be done gradually. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War has been very successful in getting existing firms to extend their works, and also in getting fresh firms to undertake the business, and by distributing the work amongst different firms he has been able to get a considerably larger amount of work done during the past year than previously. It may interest the House to know what has been the delivery of guns during the past three years. There have been delivered to the Naval Service during the three years ending 1st April, 1889, 594 guns above 4-inch calibre; of the guns required to be delivered in the year 1889–90 there are 235 over 4-inch, all of which have been ordered. In addition to that, there are 269 guns which will be required before 1st April, 1891, if the shipbuilding proposals of the Government are assented to. It is estimated that all will be practically completed within two years, leaving only 48 incomplete at the end of that time. Past experience, however, should not make us over-sanguine that they will be delivered to the exact date named. I can assure the Committee that the Board of Admiralty are not in the slightest degree inclined to shirk the responsibility which legitimately attaches to them of supplying the Navy with guns; but they could not undertake the responsibility of designing them. If we had gone into the open market, there would have been two of us—ourselves and the War Department—competing against each other, and, in all probability, driving up prices. Many of the difficulties which have hitherto attended the manufacture and delivery of these guns are being solved, and I believe that, if we continued on the lines we are pursuing, we shall gradually surmount these difficulties, and, at the same time, improve our guns. I dope the House will, by a large majority, reject the proposals of the hon. Member, which would only aggravate the trouble we wish to cure.
§ * LORD C. BERESFORD (Marylebone, E.)
I quite agree with the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty as to the immense difficulty of the question, but I do not see why the difficulty should 1691 not be faced. I think the remarks of my noble Friend have wandered away from the question. This state of things undoubtedly does exist—that we have many ships without guns—and the noble Lord is not over-sanguine that the demand which will be made for guns in time to come will be readily met. We want to know whether that demand will be met, and that is a point the country also wants to know. We ought to have, first of all, a sufficient number of guns for immediate use; then we want enough to re-arm the Fleet; and we want to know how many guns there are in the Reserve. The life of a heavy gun, nowadays, is very short, owing, probably, to the enormous explosive power of the new powder, and we have frequently to relieve the guns, which renders it necessary that we shall have an efficient Reserve. From a Return of the ships waiting for their guns, as at May of last year, I find that there are eight ships which, in the aggregate, are short of 78 guns. I wish to know how many of those ships are still waiting for their guns? On another point I will ask the First Lord if he has now any orders out to supply the place of the obsolete guns—the wrought-iron guns with steel linings. The new gun manufactured in this country since 1885 is a good gun—as good a gun as is to be found in Europe; but before 1885 the guns were neither good in material nor manufacture. In the matter of reserve of guns, the present system is wrong. For instance, when the Amiral Duperré burst a gun, its place was supplied in a few weeks; but when the Colossus burst a gun many months elapsed before she got another, simply because there is no reserve guns. Why is this? The right hon. Gentleman does as his Predecessors did—the best he can do under the present system; which is nothing. On the question of liners there is a generally wrong impression. The French, German, and Italian Governments do not use them—why I do not know, as the result will be that they will have to get rid of their guns before they are very old, which will cost an enormous amount of money; but the British Government do use liners, and, by putting them into guns to some extent disabled by erosion, we make the guns as good as new. This is a good system; and I do not understand 1692 the statement of the First Lord in regard to it—namely,The delay (in the production of guns) is due to the faulty principle adopted with regard to a number of the guns in replacing liners.That rather implies that he does not approve of liners; but we must have liners in the guns when they are eroded. I have seen recently at Woolwich a gun which is to have a new liner shipped with it; so that at sea the old liner can be blown out and a new one put in its place. This is a new system, and only shows what a great deal has to be learnt by our sailors nowadays. At one time our seamen were supposed to be useful to us on account of the smartness with which they could reef topsails, but in the present day they are to be distinguished for their ability in taking out old liners and putting in new ones. The present system of gun manufacture is very unfair to the manufacturer, largely on account of the financial year system. Guns, as well as ships, ought to be carried straight through to completion and paid for at once, thus assisting the manufacturer, and enabling the country to get what it wants. The manufacturer at present has to wait for orders, and then has to complete them within a certain date; and when the workmanship is hurried the result is apt not to be good. They cannot get continuity of orders, and accordingly, with such plant as they have, they cannot afford to take all the orders that the Government can give them. They are compelled either to discharge men or to work for foreign Governments. This brings about the condition of things in which British manufacturers are working very largely for foreign Governments, while the British Government is itself waiting for guns. This matter requires to be looked into; and I also think the matter of delivery should be worked out better. Krupp always guarantees to turn out his heavy guns, rnnning up to 14 in., at the rate of one month for every inch of calibre. That is not what we do in this country or anything near it. Probably remarks will be made on the opposite side of the House about the great expenditure on guns. But in reply I will ask, first, whether the country is to be defended or not? And next, I will point out that the steel gun manufactured since 1885 is a cheaper gun than any other 1693 heavy gun in Europe. The French guns of over 9-in. calibre cost £320 per ton; the Krupp guns cost £240 per ton; and the English guns since 1885 cost only £200 per ton. If the services are to have guns at all, the country cannot afford to supply such as will be inferior to those brought against them. As to the Committees to which the noble Lord referred, there have been no actual practical results from them, although, no doubt, a great many things have been inquired into. My noble Friend, I see, dissents from this statement, but if we have not sufficient guns for our ships, surely I am justified in saying that there have been no practical results. What I ask is, will the supply in future equal the demand? The noble Lord said he was not sanguine that he would be able to get guns up to date. That is all nonsense. We must get the guns up to date. If it takes longer to make them put the date further back; but have the guns up to that date. Every Committee which has sat to consider this question has come to the sound common-sense conclusion that we must have one pattern for the Army and Navy. That is necessary in order that we can transfer guns from ships to fortresses and vice versâ where necessary. The Committee of 1887 forming the subject of Paper 259 reported thatThe funds allotted by Parliament from time to time for the production of ordnance for the Navy have been diverted to other purposes;that,No organization has existed or yet exists by which the gun-producing resources of the country can be developed so as to meet the requirements;that the AdmiraltyHave no information as to the number of rounds of ammunition in store for the various guns or as to the available stock of tubes, &c., or how much the stock of warlike material has been increased or diminished from year to year;and thatThe Admiralty receives no account of the money spend on guns for the Navy.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE,) Lincolnshire, Horncastle
That has been altered.
§ LORD C. BERESFORD
I am glad to hear that. It came out most distinctly the other day in debate that the Admiralty ordered a large number of 1694 quick firing guns and refused to allow ammunition for them. This is the sort of thing that must be continually brought before the public if any alteration in the system is to be effected. Will the noble Lord kindly make a note of the point, as I should like to have an answer? Another remark made was that the late Financial Secretary to the War Office pointed out that either the Admiralty asked a great deal too much, or the War Department gave too little. Fancy such a thing as that taking place with regard to the supply of guns. The Committee in their Report also say that:The Administration as it now exists has been pronounced by most competent authorities to be one of 'dangerous divided responsibility,' which will probably lead to disaster in the event of war,andin the interest of the public service a radical change is imperatively demanded.I think the French system is the best that can be adopted, but I would be the last to recommend it to the House, because it would involve a very large expenditure, and I think it better to utilize what we have got; but on the other hand the system does not work well. There is a great deal of irritation between the two services, and I believe the thing will never work well until we get for the supply of guns a Department independent both of the War Office and the Admiralty. I would have the Department formed of soldiers, sailors, engineers, and others, but presided over by a civilian. Such a Department would see in a moment where the guns ought to be supplied, whether to the Army or the Navy, and somebody would always be responsible, whereas under the present system it is impossible to bring responsibility home to anybody. As far as the hon. Gentleman's Resolution goes I cannot agree with the first part of it, but I entirely agree with the second part, and I think the hon. Member has rendered a most valuable service in bringing the matter before the House.
§ * SIR W. PLOWDEN (Wolverhampton)
I cannot help thinking that the Resolution of my hon. Friend (Mr. Duff) has been productive of an extremely useful discussion. My hon. Friend expressed a desire that the Admiralty should assume the entire respon- 1695 sibility of providing guns and stores for the Naval Service, and upon that point we have received a very happy, practical suggestion from the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord C. Beresford). It is admitted that at present our supply of guns is insufficient. According to the Secretary of State's Memorandum, the amount of deficiencies of Ordnance Stores in the Naval service has been ascertained. The deficiencies are said to be serious, but it is hoped by the right hon. Gentleman they may be made up gradually in the course of the next three years. But, if we are to have the same system in force as hitherto, which is very likely, we shall be landed in a still worse dilemma. Dealing with this particular point, the Army Estimates Committee say in their Report,—The evidence as to the responsibility of the various officials for the design and manufacture of guns is somewhat conflicting, nor can it be positively asserted that there would be much more facility in the future for fixing the responsibility far the failure of the guns on any officials than has been the case in the past.Now that, I understand, is the system to which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War has just referred as having been the result of an alteration which has taken place. It is not a satisfactory system, and the sooner it is done away with the better. The proposal of the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone would meet the difficulty. We find there, at all events, an independent department which would meet the requirements of both the Services, and which would be responsible to the country for any deficiencies which existed in its work. The noble Lord observed that interchangeability was at the bottom of the present difficulty. The noble Lord forgets, I think, that if you once obtain a good design there should be no reasonable difficulty in securing interchangeability. It is essential that the design should be uniform, and then interchangeability must follow. If you once allow that your independent department shall be a department of design as well as of construction your interchangeability ought to be secure. The noble Lord also said that one of the great difficulties in the preparation and construction of great guns by private firms was that if one of the guns supplied was found to be 1696 faulty, the whole of the guns of that pattern would have to be rejected. Surely that is not the case. Each gun would depend upon its own test. Now, I should like to obtain from the First Lord of the Admiralty some definite information as to the question of deficiencies of Ordnance Stores. What is the amount of the deficiency; and when can the deficiency be made good? Further, is the noble Lord really satisfied that he can obtain the guns for the Navy by the time they will be required? If he is not satisfied on this point, would it not be well to make other arrangements than those he contemplates?
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
Mr. Speaker, I think the last two speeches show how inconvenient it is to discuss these matters on the Motion to go into Committee. It is perfectly obvious that the proper time to discuss these questions is when the Gun Vote is brought forward, but, nevertheless, I will endeavour to answer the remarks which have been made. The real question to solve is who is to be the authority responsible for providing guns for the Navy. It must be either one of the two Departments concerned, or the War Office acting as agent for the Admiralty, or a totally separate Department such as the noble Lord has suggested, and has often before been suggested, and as often rejected. The noble Lord said something with regard to the establishment of a separate Ordnance Department; but the mere description given of this Department by my noble Friend proves at once that it will involve an enormous increase of cost. If such a Department is desired the country will have first to consider whether it will be prepared to bear that large increase of cost; and, secondly, whether it will get better results than under the existing system. A good deal of difficulty will arise with reference to the relations of a separate Ordnance Department with the War Office and the Admiralty. Both of these Departments will have the privilege of ordering their stores from the Ordnance Department, and both Departments will in turn squeeze it. The Secretary for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty will be certain to find fault with what the head of the Ordnance Department does, and the position of the last-named official, whom the noble Lord says should 1697 be a civilian, will be an extremely difficult one if he is not a Member either of the House of Lords or the House of Commons, and able to defend himself whenever occasion arises. The establishment of such a Department will certainly not meet one of the greatest difficulties connected with the Department—namely, that the work supplied should be such as to receive the approval of the Service using it. It seems to me, therefore, that the House will be incurring a great risk if it attempts to establish such a Department as this, because it will not be a remedy for the difficulty in which we are at present placed. We must either have the Admiralty ordering its own guns or the War Office acting as the agent of the Admiralty ordering the guns for the Navy as well as for itself. The Committee of 1886 in their Report condemned the system under which the whole Vote for the warlike stores of the Army and the Navy was placed in the Army Votes, so that the demands put forward by the Government as necessary for the proper armament of the Fleet were afterwards cut down by someone who was not responsible. All the points against which the recommendations of the Committee were urged are now things of the past, and last year a system was substituted under which the responsibility for the Naval Vote has been shifted to the Admiralty. Something has been said as to the desirableness of fixing the responsibility for the failures of warlike stores. I think the Government have made themselves clear to the House on that point. There are several things which have to be thought of with regard to guns. First of all, there is the design, the pattern, the manufacture and the proof. The responsibility for the design of the gun now rests absolutely with the Ordnance Committee, a body of experts composed of military, naval, and civilian elements. When the pattern of the gun is decided upon the gun is put out to manufacture either at the gun factory or by a private firm. It is then inspected by the War Office, partly on its own account and partly on behalf of the Admiralty, before it is passed into the service; and if the gun does not pass the examination it is rejected and sent back to the manufacturer. The question has also been raised of giving to the 1698 trade more orders for warlike stores than hitherto. It is true that in 1880 the trade was exceedingly little employed for the manufacture of heavy guns and warlike stores. In 1880–1 the value of big guns given out to the private manufacturer was £4,812: in 1883–4, £23,000; in 1886–7, £67,000, and this all went to Elswick. I am not surprised that the Committee has recommended that it was exceedingly desirable steps should be taken to utilize more the gun-producing powers of the country. What has happened since? On the 13th of March last the value of the guns entrusted to Messrs. Armstrong is £387,000, to Whitworths £258,000, and to Messrs. Vickers £114,000. These figures shows that the Government have called upon the trade to an enormous extent for the manufacture of big guns. [An hon. MEMBER: It was not open competition.] Messrs. Vickers's contract was obtained by open competition. There are several other firms which supply the forgings of the guns, as distinct from the building and completing of them; and there are a large number of firms in the country which supply other warlike stores for the Army and the Navy. The orders for warlike stores in 1888–9 given to the private trade for the sea service alone amounted to £1,063,000. The House will, therefore, see that we have advanced enormously in the direction of entrusting this work to the trade; and, so far from desiring to give existing firms a monopoly of the work at present being done, I, for my part, say at once that the War Office are determined to get the guns made in the time in which they are required. Whether we give orders to those firms or to other firms, we are equally determined that the orders shall be carried out. I hope that in a year or two we may even be able to talk about guns waiting for ships; but I am, at all events, satisfied that we shall be able to make arrangements by which, with a reasonable amount of certainty, we shall be able to insure that all the guns now required for the service of the Fleet will be obtained within the specified time. I speak with full responsibility on this subject, because I am the person who has to take the full responsibility for putting out the orders, and taking care that they are placed in such a manner 1699 that they will be completed in due time. Passing from these special points, the noble Lord spoke of foreign and of English guns, and asked one or two questions concerning Messrs. Krupp's method and the time required in turning out a completed gun. Well, I have hope that we shall be able to better it here. We have every reason to believe that in our gun factories we can produce some guns, for instance the 9.2 inch, at a quicker rate than that mentioned by my noble Friend. My noble Friend asks several special questions about gun construction. He spoke of the erosion that occurs in our guns, and from which foreign guns are free.
§ * LORD C. BERESFORD
I beg pardon; I never said anything of the kind. There must always be erosion, no matter where manufactured. What I said was, we relieve our guns, which Foreign Governments did not do.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
Then I need not refer to erosion, as to which I have several facts that show that it occurs often more largely in foreign-made guns than in our own. I have given much attention to a comparison between the guns in our service and those of France and Germany, and I have had caused a most careful comparison to be made between the guns of similar calibres in different services, their power of penetration by projectiles, and the general power of the guns; and the conclusion to which I venture to come after very close examination is that our guns are distinctly better than those of the French Service, and equal at least to the guns of the German Service. The noble Lord has asked me a question with respect to the ships which have unfortunately been without their guns in the past, and I am perfectly ready to give my noble Friend the information I possess with respect to the ships which were waiting for their guns as presented to Parliament last year. The first ship was the Collingwood, which now has four 12-inch guns on board. I am glad to say that in the case of the Howe, her four 13.5-inch guns will be in course of proof next month, and, therefore, ought to be on board at the end of April or the beginning of May. The guns of the Camperdown will be all delivered this month. The Anson has all her guns on board. The Undaunted has her two 9.2-inch guns complete. 1700 The Australia has ten 6-inch guns on board, and two 9.2-inch guns have been received and are now probably on board. The Narcissus has ten 6-inch guns on board, and two 9.2-inch guns will be completed this month. In the case of the Galatea. I am sorry to say there has been a block. The 9.2-inch guns due from the Messrs. Whitworth and Cain have not been delivered, and I am afraid that they cannot be relied on till the 31st of August next; but ten 6-inch guns are on board. The Immortalité has all her guns on board. Therefore, all the ships which I have enumerated, with the exception of the Galatea, either have all their guns on board or will have them in a very short period. In addition to that, the Admiralty have brought forward two ships that were not on the above list—namely, the Victoria and the Sanspareil. In both of those cases we have had expedited the guns of the largest description—namely, the 16.25-inch. The Victoria's guns are ready and at proof; while those of the Sanspareil are mostly ready, and the biggest will be ready in April. I think I have now answered my noble Friend fully and satisfactorily as to all the ships which he has mentioned. If any additional questions are put I shall be glad to answer them also; but there is some difficulty in doing so until we get into Committee.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 109; Noes 51.—(Division List, No. 19.)
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
I have not much to say in reference to my Motion, which I am precluded from moving because I put forward my views at some length the other day on the Military Vote. The principle I then laid down and desire to press upon the House is, that we should have wholly in view the entire proposals of the Government and the expenditure the country will be called upon to incur for the whole system of defence proposed. I did not, on the last occasion, obtain that satisfactory answer I hoped for from Her Majesty's Government, and it seems to me all the more clear, since the debate the other night, that the Government are pro- 1701 ceeding, by way of increasing the Services, bit by hit, without showing all their hand. Take, for instance, the question of barrack accommodation. It seems it is absolutely necessary there should be a complete review of barrack accommodation, and a re-organization at great expense will have to be undertaken. But this has not been included in the Estimates laid before us. There also ought to be a better organization of the Auxiliary Land and Marine Forces, and these might reasonably claim the funds that are necessary to make them thoroughly efficient. We are called upon by a few Votes to increase the Regular Forces of the Army and Navy; but the Government have not taken the nation into full confidence. As regards the Naval Estimates, the immediate subject of our consideration, we know that in the ordinary Votes there is a large increase, and we also know that a special Vote will be submitted for contracts for a large addition to the Navy, but we have not yet learned from the statement of the First Lord how that Navy is to be employed. I know that it is a large subject, the protection of our Colonies and commerce all over the world, and this will involve a large dispersion of our Naval Force. Then we have not heard what is to be the expenditure incurred on coast defence to meet danger at home. Some suggestions, it is true, have been dropped; for instance, that we are to rely a good deal upon sub-marine batteries. This is all very well as one of the incidents of coast defence, but I do not believe that this will afford security. When the Government come to tackle this question of coast defence, rely upon it, we shall find ourselves involved in grave additional expenditure. I want to know, if we agree to this great addition to the Navy, whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to rely on the Navy alone as a means of defence for the British coasts, or whether it is to be only the first line of defence, and that further expenditure will be necessary on coast defences? The other day, when I referred to this subject, the exposure of our shores to naval attack, the Under Secretary taunted me with having the desire to make Kirkcaldy a first-class military port. Now, I suggested nothing of the kind. But this I do believe— 1702 that if our coasts are to be made secure, it is absolutely necessary that we should incur considerable additional expense in each locality, and for ports all round the coast, by placing guns in position to protect those ports against occasional marauding attacks of hostile vessels. Guns, men, and matériel are required to meet such an unfortunate contingency; and I am forced to the conclusion that this naval expenditure is but the first line of defence, and I am unwilling to vote this large increase until we know what is the whole of the Government plan of defence. An important question is to be raised by the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), which very much dovetails with the remarks I would make. The Motion of which the right hon. Gentleman has given notice, and upon which he is not here just now to speak, has relation to what took place in the course of the Naval Manœuvres last year. What I understand the right hon. Gentleman wishes to know is, do Her Majesty's Government, by the series of sham attacks on defenceless towns, mean to recognize that it is part of the system of legitimate warfare that towns should be attacked, bombarded, burned, and sacked, or laid under contribution? It seems very like it. We remember how the town of Greenock was subjected to a sham attack during the hours of Divine Service on a Sunday morning. I think, in relation to the subject of coast defence, we should know what are the views of Her Majesty's Government on this matter, and I think it is a little unfortunate that the Naval Authorities should by their action have suggested that this is the kind of thing to be done. If Her Majesty's Government are satisfied that, in the opinion of civilized Europe, these attacks on unprotected towns are within the rights of a belligerent, I do not see how large additional expenditure on coast defence is to be avoided, and I claim from the Government a complete exposé of the defensive scheme they would propose.
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ Supply—considered in the Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)