HC Deb 14 March 1889 vol 333 cc1703-44

(2.) 65,400 Men and Boys, including 14,000 Marines, for Sea and Coast Guard Services.

(3.) Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £3,201,700, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the expense of Wages, &c to Officers, Seamen, and Boys, Coast Guard, and Royal Marines, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1890.

* LORD C. BERESFORD (Marylebone, E.)

I desire to bring to the notice of the Committee a case in which I myself take great interest, and in which the whole Service takes great interest—that is to say, the case of the engineers of the Royal Navy. In the Naval Service it is very hard for any class of officers and men to get their grievances brought before the country and the Admiralty, as an instance of which I need only refer to the question as to the pay of lieutenants which occurred whilst I was at the Admiralty. The lieutenants in the Service knew that there was no way of getting their grievances brought before the Admiralty except by getting it mentioned in Parliament. No doubt these officers for a large number of years were suffering under a considerable grievance, and they had a right to expect that those whose duty it was to watch their interests at the Admiralty should take their case in hand. But years went on and nothing at all was done. I draw attention to this matter, because it is very likely that the same thing will happen with regard to the engineers, who merely ask that they shall receive the same pay as others of the same rank in the Service—as paymasters and doctors. No doubt the doctors are a very able body of officers, and no doubt also the paymasters perform a very useful function, but there is no parallel between these classes and the engineers. Every officer who takes his ship into action wants to win, and if there is one man more than another who can help him in his desire, it is the man in charge of the engine-room. In the old days it was the seaman that did the most for you, but now it is the engineer who has charge of the engines and in some cases who has charge of the heavy machinery which enables you to fire and load your guns. I certainly think the time has come when the case of these officers should be carefully thought out at the Admiralty. I am satisfied that those who belong to the medical and Paymaster's branches will be the first to acknowledge that their branches are not such as to enable a commander to win an action, and are not of the same importance as the duties of the engineer. Now the engineers in this matter have done nothing contrary to the regulations of the Service. They have awakened to the fact that their position is not what it should be, and I trust that their case will receive attention to-night, as it is one of great merit. I trust the time will soon arrive when ships' companies will be constituted in such a manner as to be adapted to modern requirements, and one of the first things to be done it seems to me is to put the engineers in their proper place—to pay them and give them rank according to their duties. If I do not receive a satisfactory answer from my noble Friend at the head of the Admiralty, I shall be obliged to take other measures to secure one.


I beg very cordially to support what has fallen from the noble Lord as to the engineers, and I must say I am very much surprised at no answer having been given the other day by the noble Lord at the head of the Admiralty to a question asked by the hon. Member for Portsmouth, who asked if he would grant a Committee to consider the case of the engineer officers. The noble Lord is reported to have said— I am not aware that great dissatisfaction exists among the officers of the engineer's branch of the Royal Navy as regards their rank and emolument, neither has any representation to that effect been made to me through the proper channels of communication. I am surprised at that answer, as I myself put a question of the same nature last Session. In regard to the statement that no representation has been made to the Admiralty through the proper channels of communication I am at a loss to know what more proper channel of communication there could be for the grievances of these gentlemen than that of bringing them to the attention of the Government through their representatives in this House. It cannot be to the interest of the Service that a large body of officers of this kind should have any grievance unredressed and uninquired into. The duties and responsibilities of these men have enormously increased during the last 20 years, and there is now scarcely anything connected with the management of a man-of-war in which their services are not absolutely indispensable. No doubt the duties of doctors and paymasters are important, but when you compare these gentlemen with the engineers it must be admitted that the latter have every right to equality as to rank and pay. I am informed that the maximum pay of an engineer officer of the Royal Navy afloat is 22s. a-day as against 33s. in the case of a medical officer of the same rank. If that is so, I think it is an inequality which should be redressed. As to rank there were certainly some concessions made in 1886, but I believe that the engineers feel it rather a worthless and invidious distinction, being allowed to rank with, but after, officers of the Medical Service.

* ADMIRAL MAYNE (Pembroke and Haverfordwest)

I think, looking at the numberless engines we now put into our ships, everyone must admit the immense importance of the functions of the engineers. Their case, and that also of the engine room artificers, should be considered by the Government, and I hope now that Her Majesty's Fleet is about to be so largely increased, that attention will be paid to these classes. Then with regard to another most valuable part of the Service—I mean the signal men—I am glad to see that some notice has been taken of them. The signal men of the present day may be said to be second only in importance to the engineers in so far as taking the ship into action is concerned. The Admiral and the Captain of each ship must depend upon the signalman, and nowadays the signalman has, for his class, to be a highly-educated man. I trust that when the school for the training of signalmen is established it will be started on a liberal scale, and that not only signalling, but telegraphy, will be taught, as it is extremely important that some of these men should be able to read off messages and transmit messages on shore—say in an enemy's country.

COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E. R., Holderness)

No doubt the noble Lord knows enough about the Naval Service to appreciate the importance of this subject of signalling. The method of signalling in the Navy at the present time is precisely that which was in use a century and a-half ago. It was an admirable method, no doubt, in former times, when fleets moved comparatively slowly, but I believe it is altogether inadequate to carry out the wishes and views of Naval Commanders at the present time when ships are in action. It may be said that it is little use pointing out a difficulty unless at the same time a method is suggested for getting over it. Well, my view is that semaphores placed at the mast-head might be very advantageously employed. Some attention was given to this matter in 1887, and I think the matter is worthy of closer investigation, and probably the noble Lord will be good enough to broach the subject to his naval advisers. Another point of some importance is that of the steaming lights carried to mark the ship's position at night. I am informed that in the merchant service the electric light is used with very good results, and I would suggest to the noble Lord that experiments should be tried in Her Majesty's Navy to see whether electricity could not with advantage replace the miserable oil lamps at present in use. Another matter I should like to mention is that collisions are often caused by the reluctance of young officers to alter the course of the vessel in good time, because altering the course is looked upon with great dislike by the captain, and is extremely inconvenient for the purpose of navigation. Therefore a young officer is very apt to maintain his course to the last possible moment. When I first took charge of a ship as first officer of the watch I did not know the simplest rule of the road, but as I happened by accident to answer correctly the simplest question in the whole code, which was the one put to me by the captain, I was allowed to take charge of the ship. That which occurred in my own case, I know, from my experience in examining young officers, happens now, and young officers are often extraordinarily ignorant of the rules of the road. I would strongly recommend the First Lord of the Admiralty to insist upon a stricter inquiry being made into their fitness to undertake responsible and important duties. It would be worth while, I think, to inquire also whether corrosion has taken place in the condensers of other ships beside the Thunderer. With regard to the personnel of the Navy, I would draw attention to the fact that a very large number of boys, who bear an excellent character up to the time of their reaching the age of 18, lapsed during the next four or five years, into the most indifferent character, and create in that time a very considerable percentage of the "crime," or rather offences in the Navy. They could be kept in better discipline if they were for a time rated as "second-class ordinary seamen." Boys in the Navy are kept under strict discipline, but men in the Navy are not, and I think it would be of great advantage both to men and boys if stricter discipline were maintained amongst the second-class ordinary seamen. That is one of the greatest blots on our system, as it is at the ages of from 18 to 22 or 23 that our young seamen stand most in need of strict discipline, and when a large percentage of the offences committed by our sailors are perpetrated. I have begun with the lowest class of our blue jackets—the boys—and will now turn to the highest. The difficulty we have experienced for many years is the difficulty of getting suitable men to rate as petty officers. During recent years I have not unfrequently seen men made petty officers who were not at all suited to the position, simply because there was no one else to take. In my opinion the real character of the petty officer comes out better when you see him discharging the disagreeable, slow, and monotonous duties he has to perform on board a man-of-war. It is that that tries the character of the man, and shows whether he is worth much or little; and not when he is under the exceptional excitement and advantages of active service. I must say that I think it greatly to be regretted that we cannot get, upon the whole, better men than we now have for such positions. In my opinion the advantages now held out are not sufficient, I will not say, to secure the best men, but to persuade the men to keep up to the standard required in those who are made petty officers. I would suggest to my noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty that it would, at any rate, he worth his while to take into consideration whether he cannot decrease the number of grades amongst the petty officers and at the same time increase the advantages held out to them. One of the attractions offered is a rating which is now totally useless. It was originally given to men who were specially superior in matters of seamanship; but there is no advantage in maintaining it now. They were not originally intended to be made petty officers, but owing to a certain superiority they exhibited they were called on to do duty as petty officers. My idea is that it would better if the grades were reduced to two, and the advantages were made more substantial than they now are Under existing circumstances, if we rate a man as a petty officer and he is found to be unsuitable, we cannot disrate him and put him back into his original rank without blasting his career; and this I regard as very unsatisfactory. It is always difficult to tell how a man will turn out, and captains are very slow to ruin a man's prospects by taking away a rating to which he has been promoted. There ought to be some method of trying a man before he is put into a higher grade, and I shall be very glad if my noble Friend can see his way, at any rate, to make inquiry into the matter. I scarcely know whether I should be in order in passing from this general survey to the question of rations. I think I notice that you, Sir, hesitate to permit this, and, therefore, I will reserve what I have to say on that subject for a future occasion. I will merely add that the four subjects I have brought under the attention of the Committee, and which I am afraid must be regarded as of a somewhat technical character, are matters which I trust will receive the consideration of my noble Friend.

* MR. E. W. DUFF (Banffshire)

I have only one or two questions to ask upon this Vote. I am glad to see from the statement that the First Lord of the Admiralty proposes to increase the number of stokers. The personnel of the Navy is apparently weak in stokers, and, therefore, it is well there should be an increase in that class. I see it is also proposed to add another 1,100 Marines, but I notice in the Estimate that only £18,000 represents the increase in the Marine Vote, and I wish to know if that amount will cover the cost of the proposed increase in the force? I also should like to know whether any of these Marines are to be added to the artillery branch?




Then we are told in the noble Lord's statement that the number of seamen has been increased, but I see that there is to be a decrease of 555 in the number of boys. I dare say that that is quite capable of explanation, but on the face of it, it hardly seems natural, for one would expect to find, with an increase in the number of men, a proportionate increase in the number of boys. I do not want to offer any opposition to this Vote, but I should be glad to have some information on these point.

* MR. DE LISLE (Leicestershire, Mid.)

I would like to say a few words in support of the request put forward by the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone, and supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke, that the Admiralty should give serious consideration to the claims of engineer officers. It seems difficult, I admit, for men having no practical experience or knowledge of the Navy to speak on this matter, but I take it that owing to the development of scientific warfare, the responsibilities of this branch of the service have greatly increased, and it is curious to note that the number of engineers has been diminished, while their pay is apparently not at all commensurate with the importance of their duties. I would like to ask how it is that there are 178 engineers down in the Effective Vote, and 220 on retired pay? I cannot understand that at all. I do not think it is a wise move on the part of the Government to reduce the number of engineers, and I have a shrewd suspicion that if the whole truth concerning the Navy could be placed before us—if we could have the evidence of responsible officers such as is placed before the Board of Admiralty, we should see that there is a very different state of things in the Navy, especially so far as its personnel is con- cerned, from that which is now laid before us, and we should see also that the condition of things is far from satisfactory. I have heard from a good many officers that the number of officers for Service in the Navy is far from adequate, and scarcely sufficient for its proper working; that, if some of our ships should be engaged in action, and there should be a considerable loss of officers, many of our vessels would, as a consequence, be hopelessly undermanned. In regard to the engineers, I think that the number should not only be ample, but that the pay should be sufficiently remunerative, and I hope that the First Lord of the Admiralty will give us an assurance that something will be done, not only to increase the pay, but to place the status of these officers on a satisfactory basis. At present, so far as I can understand, the seniority which they are supposed to possess is more fictitious than real, and, seeing that these officers practically have the working of the ships in their hands, it is time that this matter was attended to. In the mercantile marine these officers are especially well paid. I should like to know whether it is a fact that when the Russian scare of 1878 occurred, and it was found necessary to increase the number of our engineer officers, we were obliged to pay them higher rates than were received by the engineers already in the service of the Navy? If so, I think that is a most unsatisfactory state of things. I hope the time will shortly arrive when the First Lord of the Admiralty will be able to state to the country the actual opinions of his advisers, not only with regard to the Navy, but with regard to the number of ships and the necessary ordnance to make them effective. Comparing the statements which we have had from the Front Bench during the last three years with that which we had presented to us the other night, it seems to me impossible to believe that we have had before us an adequate representation of the knowledge as to the Navy which is in the possession of the representatives of the Admiralty. The statements of those three years are glaringly inconsistent with the one made this year. I desire, of course, to acknowledge to the fullest degree the admirable advances which have been made under the present administration of the Admiralty; but, bearing in mind the assurances we received a year ago, that the country was safely defended by the existing Navy, and comparing that statement with this year's, I think there is cause for the gravest suspicion that, if we knew the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, instead of our being asked to vote an extra eleven millions, which it really comes to and which we shall willingly do, we should probably find it necessary to vote an even larger sum, perhaps 20 millions besides the ordinary average yearly expenditure, to meet the requirements of complete and, humanly speaking, adequate national defence.


I can assure my hon. Friend that I and my colleagues do give the House the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and if my hon. Friend had reserved his charge as to this until we have the full discussion of the naval programme. I think he would have arrived at the conclusion that there is no discrepancy between what I propose now and the statement I made last year. An observation, which all who have ever been entrusted with naval administration will endorse, is, "do not attach too much importance to the outlay of individual years, but look rather to the results." It is not the expenditure on ships which are incomplete, or upon men not trained, which has an effect. When war breaks out, it is the number of ships that are complete, and the number of men ready for service, and if my hon. Friend will rear that little maxim in mind, I think he will find hereafter that there is no discrepancy between the statements I have made in the past, and those I hope the House will accept in the future. Now, there have been a number of questions put to me with reference to matter of detail. My hon. Friend the Member for Holderness made a very able speech on a highly technical point, and I have derived considerable information from the suggestions he has made. They shall have my very careful consideration. Almost every naval officer who has studied the subject of tactics attaches supreme importance to having an adequate and thoroughly efficient signalling staff, for in these days of rapid motion the great difficulty will be to obtain accurate information concerning the enemy, and to keep in touch with his movements. Therefore, anything that can improve our system of signalling and telegraphing is worthy of our closest attention. As to several other questions on smaller points, I am not prepared with the necessary information to enable me to answer them now. I may say, there is no doubt that a considerable proportion of what is called naval crime occurs among men between the ages of 18 and 23, and if we are able to substitute barracks for floating ships, I believe there will be a great improvement in discipline among these men. The main question, which has been raised to-night, has related to the status and pay of engineer officers. I quite agree with my noble Friend the Member for Marylebone in his estimate of the value of the services of these officers, and in his opinion as to the necessity of having a thoroughly efficient body of them, but my hon. Friends must recollect that I have to look at this question from two points of view. I am bound to see that the men are adequately remunerated; and I am equally bound to see if the Navy can be well supplied at existing rates, that an undue charge is not put on the taxpayer by more highly remunerating any one particular class of men. There is no question but that we can obtain any number of young engineer officers, and a remarkable feature about the supply is that a large, if not by far the larger, proportion of those who wish to enter the Service are sons of engineer officers, and that is sufficient, in my opinion, to justify our refusal to increase the pay. I have looked carefully into the matter of their emolument, and I must say it compares favourably with the case of those who occupy similar positions of responsibility in the Mercantile Marine; and while purely combative officers in the Royal Navy are not paid better than those in the Navies of France and Germany, the rate of pay of engineer officers is higher than that received by the engineer branches in these foreign Navies. With these facts before me, I feel justified in not assenting to this proposal for an increased rate of pay, and, in saying this, I am expressing the views of the Board of Admiralty. My hon. Friend who spoke last seemed to think that there were serious deficiencies in the personnel of the Navy. May I remind him of one fact, that at the time of the manœuvres every available ship was engaged, and all the vessels in the Navy which were commissioned at the time had their full complement, or ought to have had their full complement of men as in time of war. Therefore, whatever deficiencies there were during the manœuvres, they represented deficiencies which would exist in time of war, and so far as our ships were concerned, those deficiencies were not at all serious except as regards the stokers. We were somewhat short of them, and not only that, but many of them were badly trained. This is a matter we are looking into. A large number of men were brought in of somewhat indifferent physique and with but little knowledge of the duties they were called upon to perform. They were put on board new ships with complicated machinery, and under very trying circumstances had to perform their duties for the first time. I have not the slightest doubt that to this fact may be attributed the circumstances that during the first few days of the manœuvres many of our ships failed to reach the estimated speed which was expected from them. I propose to take on a considerable additional number of stokers this year, and if every year we have manœuvres on a large scale, it is clear that each year a large proportion of these stokers will have the best of training, because training in sea-going vessels is incomparably superior to training on board vessels in harbour. I hope in this way gradually to surmount the difficulty, and I hope also to be able, in the course of the next year or two, to largely augment the number of stokers belonging to the Naval Reserve. They are a class different from the stokers of Mercantile Marine, but they have the best of training, and if we can by the payment of a small maintenance fee get several hundreds, or perhaps two or three thousand upon our lists, we shall then have a valuable reserve of men, a large proportion of whom we should always be able to lay our hands upon in the case of emergency. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Banffshire asked me two or three questions. The first was with regard to the proposed increase of 1,100 in the marine force, and as to what he thinks is an insufficient provision in the Estimates for them, but I may explain that all these men are not to be added at once, and this fact will account for the small amount of money asked for for their pay. I think I have now answered all the questions which have been put to me.


There is the pay of the engineer officers.


I think my right hon. Friend will admit that there are conclusive reasons against increasing the pay.

* LORD C. BERESFORD (Marylebone, E.)

I am sorry to obtrude myself upon the Committee again, but there are a great number of important questions connected with the officers and men of the Fleet, and this is the only opportunity I shall have of discussing them. If the claims of the officers and men are not discussed now they will be put off for another year. Therefore I hope I shall not be considered obstructive if I call attention to some important points somewhat in detail. I think it is very hard for hon. Gentlemen who have been sent here as supporters of Her Majesty's Government—and for my own part I do support Her Majesty's Government—to be told at the last moment "There is no time to consider these matters; we want the money." I say that that sort of thing cannot go on. I do not care which Government is in power [Ministerial Cries of "Oh!"] Well, I do care which Government is in power, but for the sake of my argument it is a matter of indifference. Unfortunately it is the usual practice to slur these questions over, and to keep out of sight everything connected with the Navy. The mind of the public has been tremendously exercised upon the question of guns, but the strength and safety of the Fleet and the training of the men composing it are now intangible matters, and are, therefore, likely to be overlooked, although far more important questions. In the same way, the Secretary of State for War brings forward the question of barracks. We can see them, and know that they are unhealthy, but we cannot see the strength of the Army. It is necessary that they should say something about these matters, and I always like to say, in this House, what I think—not that I mean to maintain that I am always right. In the first place, there is the case of the signalmen. What we want are the very best signalmen, and the best arrangement for signalling we can possibly get. All nations, I am glad to say, are badly off in this respect, but other nations pay more attention to signalling than we do, devote a good deal more time to experiments and practice in signalling than this country. Signalmen form the line of communication, and upon the way in which they discharge their work the fate of a naval engagement may often depend. When I was at the Admiralty, the Board objected to everything. One member of the old Board is there yet, and I have no doubt that he still continues to object. The question of signalling is one which ought to be put to the fleet at sea, so that you should get their ideas. A signalman ought to be attached to every coastguard station, and he ought to be taught telegraphy, and placed, by means of the telegraph, in contact with the head of the Intelligence Department in Whitehall. More attention should be paid to the training of these signalmen, and they ought to be better paid and granted better rank.


That has been done.


My noble Friend says that has been done. What I want is, that men at sea should be instructed to send home their ideas. Prevention is better than cure, and you ought to have signalmen who will know exactly what to do whatever may occur. Then, again, there is the case of the stokers. I am sorry that I am compelled to bring these questions forward, and I can assure the Committee it is not with any desire of being obstructive. The whole of the engine-room department, in my opinion, wants reforming altogether. My noble Friend says, "You can get plenty of men; why, then, should you give more wages?" No doubt that is a fair argument; but what did the doctors do? They closed the whole of their schools against the Navy, and the result was that the Medical Service of the Navy was smashed up by the ring thus created. My noble Friend now proposes to do with the engineers what he did with the lieutenants. He says there is no necessity for paying these men according to the value of their work, because you can get plenty of them. I do not think that is a good argument. What is wanted is fair play, and the engineers should be put in position whether the supply is plenty- ful or not. I am sorry to think that the Government should unnecessarily invite the formation of a ring or a combination of discontented men in the Service. The stokers in the Navy have not been adequately trained. That was made manifest in the recent manœuvres, and my noble Friend has confessed that last year the Fleet could not do what it was expected to do, because stokers were not ready. It is necessary in this country that we should be ready for any emergency at a moment's notice. We may lose our Empire unless every little detail is attended so. Instead of the stokers being trained in other and less important matters, they ought in time of peace to be thoroughly taught to do what would be their work in time of war. The whole system of training both bluejackets and stokers requires to be entirely altered. While at the Admiralty I was continually pointing out the extravagance and inutility of training men in a time of peace to do what they would not be required to do in a time of war. The men you get are no fools. You have only to teach them what they have to do, and they will do their level best to do it. I do not know how my noble Friend will get over that argument. Then there is the question of the Marines. My noble Friend says that he is going to increase the strength of the Marines. I am glad to hear it. Our coaling stations ought to be under the Admiralty and garrisoned by Marines. This would be done more efficiently than by ordinary soldiers, and Marines being long-service men, it would also be more economical, saving the expense of chartering ships for the purpose of bringing home detachments of ordinary Line regiments. I should like to see a Committee appointed to inquire into this subject of the garrisons. I am afraid you would soon find out that things are not as you think they are. The hon. and gallant Member for the Holderness Division (Commander Bethell) has spoken of the trouble into which the seamen get who were between boyhood and manhood. I think he was a Little too hard upon them.


I did not blame them.


There was a time in my life when I was fond of a row. I would not give a fig for a man who has not the pluck to get into a row. The boys who had the pluck to be always in a pickle were the best in the school. I sincerely hope that the House will not regard the bluejacket as a bad character. If I was asked to pick out a gentleman I should select a bluejacket. He is one of the best men I can imagine. He may not wear fine clothes, but he has all the qualities that make a gentleman, and I am sure the First Lord will support me in saying that the personnel of the British Navy is better now than it has ever been in its history. No doubt there are bad characters on board ship as well as good, and the greatest trouble we have on the lower deck is in dealing with these bad characters. When we can get the services of bluejackets at an early age, and insure them a pension of £30 or more when they retire at the age of 48, we are able to secure the very best men in the country; and I do not see why we should burden such men in their messes with bad characters. Send all the bad characters out of the Service; or do as the German Army does. The Germans have a really splendid Army; but in Germany a man who has been in prison is not allowed to join the Army, but in case of war he is compelled to cart food about, and to do the dirty work of the Army. When I was in command of the Thunderer there were 18 habitual "break-leaves," who were nothing but a burden to their messmates, and were perpetually grumbling. I called them up and addressed them. They were treated kindly but firmly; and in the course of eight mouths there were only seven left out of the 18. That shows that the men will always support you if you show that you have their interest at heart. As to the seven men, I am bound to say that they were a curse to the ship; and no kindness or civility would do them any good. The best thing is to turn such men out of the Navy altogether. If my noble Friend will get rid of the bad men in the Navy, he will do a great deal to aid the officers in their work, and at the same time confer an enormous benefit on the men. I hope my noble Friend will be able to show that he is prepared to add to the Fleet the necessary number of officers, for, at the present time, there is a deficiency of something like 300 lieutenants. The present system of educating officers is very faulty. Both the German and the French systems are better than our own. In these days of steam and exact accuracy of the gun the first aim is to knock off the head of the captain you are fighting. [A Laugh.] That may sound somewhat laughable; but what will win an action is first, speed, then the helm, and third the head of the enemy's captain. The head of the enemy's captain is the most important; and in all foreign Navies that is recognized. It certainly ought to be the object. Consequently it is important that young officers should be thoroughly trained so that, if such a thing happens, they may be prepared at a moment's notice to take command of the ship. That ought to be one of the principal points in the education of a naval officer. I hope the noble Lord will think of the matters I have mentioned. I am certain they will have to be done eventually, and why should they not be done now, when the noble Lord is proposing this most necessary addition to the Fleet, of which I hope the House of Commons will approve?

* ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)

I only propose to trespass upon the attention of the Committee fur a very few moments, and I regret that I was unable to offer a few observations before the First Lord replied to, the first speakers. I should like, in the first place, to refer to the question of the pay of the engineers which has been alluded to. I think there is great inconvenience in bringing forward questions affecting the pay of individual classes in the Service. I do not regard it as part of my duty in this House to advocate increase of pay for any class. That responsibility belongs to the Admiralty. All that I can hope to do is to draw attention to the subject, and ask the Admiralty to consider it, and take the advice of some Departmental or outside Committee upon it. I regret that the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) drew a comparison between the case of the doctors and that of the engineers. My own object in rising is to draw attention to another class—the lieutenants. I feel strongly that their case is a very hard one. Their claim has been met with one hand, but taken away with the other. The pay of the lieutenants has been increased, for lieutenants of eight and 12 years' standing on condition, that the first named should have had three years' service in a ship of war at sea, and the latter six years. The Admiralty do not appear to have taken into account that it is hardly fair to double the sea service for four years' seniority only. If three years are sufficient for lieutenants of eight years' service, six years must be wrong for 12 years' service. Four or four and a-half years ought to be quite sufficient. I hope that the Admiralty will take the matter into consideration, and any relaxation of the conditions would be regarded by the older officers as a great boon. I really think it is worth while to make some attempt to satisfy this most deserving class of officers who are serving now as lieutenants, and in all probability will obtain no higher rank. There is another question which earnestly demands attention. Lieutenants are deeply distressed at the way in which they are treated in respect of leave. Many of them complain of the gross breach of faith committed towards them by those in authority. When a lieutenant comes home he is entitled, in the ordinary course of things, to six weeks' leave; but frequently, owing to the dearth of lieutenants, he is ordered off again in a fortnight. Leave is looked upon by lieutenants as of the greatest importance, even of as much importance as pay and rank. Certainly, if men are deprived of leave, as lieutenants are, they ought to be given consideration in the form of pay. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Holderness Division (Commander Bethell) has spoken of the rating of leading seamen. I look upon leading seamen, especially for small vessels, as most valuable men, and I do not agree with his proposal to abolish the rating. As to the question of signalling, I heartily concur in the remarks made by the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone. I believe that the question of connecting all the coastguard stations of the country with the Admiralty is now ripe for settlement. I trust that some effort will be made to bring about the connection. My attention has been called elsewhere to the importance of raising the status of engine-room artificers when in charge of torpedo or gun boats. I think there is something in their contention that when they are in charge of vessels, and absolutely doing the duty of engineers, warrant rank should be conceded to them. As to stokers, I think that it is extremely desirable that their training should be improved. You have already a school at hand. Why not double the number of stokers on the Indian troopers? That would be about the very best training ground you could; possibly have. Then, again, I share my noble Friend's view as to the garrisoning of certain coaling stations with Marines. I advocated this in the House last year, and I still think that there would be a great advantage in having Marines there under the orders of the Admiral in charge of the station. My noble Friend referred to the education of naval officers, and advocated a change in that education. I am fully in accord with my noble Friend when he says that the education of naval officers is a most important matter, but I cannot agree with him as to the advisability of changing it.


The Committee recommended it.


If my noble Friend is in accord with the recommendation of the Committee, then I withdraw my remarks. I will not trespass further upon the attention of the Committee, but will only, in conclusion, again draw the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty to the grievances, especially, of the lieutenants of the Navy.


Mr. Chairman, I desire to make a few observations as to the steam branch of the Navy, and am glad that the subject has been raised already by a civilian, inasmuch as we who are connected with Dockyard constituencies are often accused of partiality when we deal with these topics. My hon. and gallant Friend (Admiral Field) has taken the highly Constitutional view that the grievances of naval men ought to be examined by Departmental Committees. That is perfectly true, and that is exactly what has been done; but, unfortunately, the recommendations of Committees are not acted upon by the Admiralty. An hon. and gallant Friend who sits opposite asked a question the other day, and the answer he got was that various Committees had been ap- pointed to report as to the steam branch of the Navy, and that effect has been given to their recommendations. I traverse that statement entirely. I complain that the recommendations of these Committees have not been given effect to in many ways which I might mention. Now, I have known the engineer branch of the Service since 1855. I have seen its growth and development, and I have no hesitation in saying that its duties and responsibilities have increased enormously. Undoubtedly there have been improvements made in the position of the men; but neither the pay nor the position is by any means proportionate to the increase and development of the duties and responsibilities of this branch of the Navy. The engineers are greatly aggrieved that the recommendations of the various Committees have not been carried out in respect to their rank. Then there is the question of messing. The late Mr. Ward Hunt, when First Lord of the Admiralty, took the matter into consideration, and promised great improvement. Certainly great improvement has been effected, but as yet the engineers are not allowed the right of messing with the other officers of a ship at the Naval College at Greenwich. This is felt to be a great hardship. Allusion has been made to the rating of the engine-room artificers. The word "rating" conveys very little idea to the House of what is meant by it. Artificers are really not so much assistants to the engineer officers, but to a great extent substitutes for them. Some years ago we very largely reduced the number of engineer officers and introduced the rating of engine-room artificers, who do actually the very duties performed by engineer officers. For that reason artificers are in a position of great responsibility. My hon. and gallant Friend (Admiral Field) thinks that in some cases they might be rated as warrant officers. I go farther than he has gone, and think that after a certain term of service the rating of warrant officers ought to be granted to all these men. Now, with regard to stokers. It has been said that we are very short indeed of stokers, a most important branch of the Service. I think there is one way in which the number of stokers might be increased, and increased at very little expense to the Service. It has been remarked that there is a great difficulty found in forming a reserve of stokers; but I do not know the reason for it at all. Some years ago I had the temerity to suggest in the House a way of strengthening the Navy generally. I think, if it could be done, an interchangeability so to speak, between the Navy and the merchant service ought to be encouraged. The way in which we do that at present is to form a reserve consisting of men in the merchant service, who, when called for, are obliged to come for service in the Navy. The suggestion I made some time ago was that a certain number of bluejackets in the Navy should be allowed to go on leave into the merchant service, receiving, of course, their pay from that service. I do not wish to go into that matter now, because there are certain objections raised to it, but I do not think the same objections could be raised in the case of stokers. The stokers would be paid by the merchant service, and the only expense borne by the Naval Vote would be the prospective portion of pension, because it is necessary that the time the men spent in the merchant service should count in the fixing of the men's pensions. The result would be that we would have at least 500 men in the merchant service always available to be called upon in time of need. There is another matter connected with the discipline of the service which I desire to mention. It is a small matter, but nevertheless a sore one—namely, the question of saluting warrant officers. There are certain men in the Service who cannot attain to the rank of warrant officers—men in the position of ships' stewards and others—and it is considered rather hard that these men should be obliged to salute warrant officers when they meet them on shore. Practically warrant officers spring from the same rank in society as ships' stewards, and it is not the latter's fault that they cannot attain to the rank of warrant officers.

* SIR JOHN COLOMB (Tower Hamlets, Bow, &c.)

I should like to say I hope the Admiralty will press the Treasury to give them what is really necessary to establish a proper system of barrack accommodation for the Royal Navy. The very defect pointed out by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Holderness Division (Commander Bethell) with regard to petty officers is due, I think, to the fact that, as the Navy is at present situated and organized, the chain of discipline cannot be maintained as efficiently and as well as it is in the Army, owing to the want of proper barrack accommodation in which to train young men and petty officers. There is another matter to which I should like to draw the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty—that is the great cost of the personnel of the Navy. I need give, I think, only one illustration. We are about to sanction the employment of 308 commissioned officers of the accountant branch—men whose simple duty it is to keep the books of the ships in commission. To these 308 men the country pays as much as £87,000 a-year. Now, that is due to the fact that the Navy has never been organized upon the basis of a continuous service system. We are struggling on with a system adapted to an exploded state of things. To emphasize the fact of the costliness of this accountant branch of the Service, let me point out that these 308 accountant officers cost £3,000 a-year more than the whole twelve companies corps of Royal Marine Artillery, numbering 2,500 officers and men. I entirely and most cordially support the views that have been expressed with regard to the garrisoning of the coaling stations. I am sure that anyone who has studied the whole question of the work to be done in time of war must come to the conclusion that the whole of the forces at a distant naval station should be under the command of the Admiral of that station. By such a plan we should save a considerable amount of money in the matter of Transport and Staff. We would get real efficiency and economy, and we would not have dual control on our foreign naval stations. I also desire to say it is not right in these days to misapply, or rather not to employ, the Marine Artillery Force created at the cost of the country. I can speak from experience and personal knowledge, and am quite certain of this—that no other country in the world would tolerate that you should, at the cost of the country, educate, train, and turn out a Marine Artillery Force which you do not know what to do with when you have got it. We have Artillery officers who cost this country large sums of money to train, not one of whom is employed in artillery work, while at present we have to break up the Horse Artillery to find artillerymen for our coaling stations. I am persuaded that the more this matter is looked into the more it will appear that the organization of the Navy needs amendment, and adapting to the requirements of modern times.


The discussion has ranged over a very large number of topics, mainly of a very technical character, into which I will not attempt to enter. It might be supposed, from certain observations made in debate, that the Board of Admiralty is a body of laymen who have not the advantage of the advice of some of the most eminent naval officers as to the discipline and the general arrangements of the Service. The noble Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord C. Beresford) has again brought up the question of signalling, and has led the Committee to suppose that the Admiralty has not paid the necessary attention to that important work of the Service. But when I remind the noble Lord that seamen of the large sea-going experience of Admiral Bosanquet, Captain Clark, Captain Durrant, and Admiral Dowell, have been the advisers of the Board in this matter, and that the recommendations of the Bating Committee have also been concurred in by the Committee on Signalling, I think the noble Lord will admit that those gallant officers are qualfied to give such advice as my noble Friend the First Lord can follow. With regard, again, to the stokers, great attention has been paid in the past year or two to the object of obtaining in times of emergency the best-trained stokers in the world. The stokers in the merchant steamers are constantly at work; they have to keep their boilers at high pressure for the long voyages to the East and to America, and they are really the best men we can have as reserve stokers. Relaxations have been made in the regulations affecting the joining of reserve stokers which we hope will lead to a large accession of numbers. The question raised in regard to the engineers and their rank has been fully dealt with by my noble Friend the First Lord; but I wish just to say this—that in regard to the pay which engineers and others in the Service should receive, we must have some regard to the rates at which men in similar positions are paid in other employ—say, in the Mercantile Service. The highest pay in mercantile vessels for engineers and in ships that are continually crossing the Atlantic is £300 a-year, while engineers in the Royal Navy can rise in pay—including emoluments—to £600; so I think it must be said that the engineers in the Navy are reasonably and fairly dealt with. As regards rank there is a difficulty. At present engineers rank with, but after, lieutenants. If they were accorded equal rank absolutely with lieutenants a difficulty might arise which naval men will appreciate. It might so happen that a lieutenant might be called upon, through the death of a superior officer, to take command of a ship, yet if the suggestion of putting engineers upon an equality with lieutenants were followed out, we might find that the engineer, was the senior officer of the ship. That might be the ridiculous position in which the ship would be placed if the question of relative rank were pushed to its extreme limit as suggested. We are perfectly alive to the necessity of increasing the number of officers, and if my noble Friend will refer to the Estimates he will find that subordinate officers have been increased in number by 141, namely, 65 midshipmen, 18 clerks, and 58 Naval cadets. This increase will go in the subordinate ranks until they are sufficient. Then my hon. and gallant Friend (Admiral Field) has referred to the question of lieutenants. It will be observed that for the past 12 months the position and pay of lieutenants have been improved at the cost of something like £18,300 a year to the nation, and that I think is fair testimony to the consideration shown by the Board to lieutenants in the Service. I do not know that there are any other matters to deal with. I may just mention that communication between coastguard stations has been carried out to a considerable extent, and that considerable sums of money have been taken for putting up the necessary semaphores.

DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)

The noble Lord opposite (Lord Charles Beresford), to whom we all listen with so much interest on naval affairs, resigned his position in the Admiralty because in his opinion sufficient attention was not paid to the Intelligence Department of the Navy, and I wish to call attention to a point which illustrates the position he took. In other countries, I understand, and especially in Germany, there is to be found at the Admiralty, as at the War Office, an elaborate Intelligence Department, and in this Intelligence Department there are plans of campaign adapted to every variety of circumstances, and the consequence is, that if war breaks out, say between Germany and another Power, every captain of a German war ship sails with sealed orders giving him directions what to do under these or those circumstances, and it is possible for those at the head of affairs by simply telegraphing a single cipher word to all their stations to direct what steps should be taken, where vessels should rendezvous, and what they are to do. Nothing of the kind exists at our Admiralty. We are absolutely without any plans of campaign, and if war were to suddenly break out, we should rind our Fleet scattered over the face of the globe, and probably be unable to utilize it before the war would be over. This is what the noble Lord complained of. A question which I put the other day will illustrate the great importance of this to the honour and interest of the country, and it arises out of occurrences in Samoa. I called attention the other day by question to an account given by Mr. Stevenson, the well-known writer of events in that Island. I asked, among other things, if it was true that a British subject—an artist—had been forcibly seized on board a British vessel by German authorities, and taken on board a German war steamer, and had only been released after the commander of a British man-of-war in the neighbourhood had emphasized his demand by clearing his decks for action. I was told by the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs that it was quite true that a British subject had been so seized, but the right hon. Gentleman said he did not know whether if was a fact that the British commander had cleared his decks for action. Since I received that answer, I have been supplied with some further information, from which it appears that H.M.S. Lizard was at Samoa, and the captain in consequence of the adoption of certain high-handed proceedings by German authorities there, invited British residents to hoist the British flag as a protection for their property, but it appears that afterwards another British ship—the Royalist I think—arrived, and her captain refused to endorse the instructions of the captain of the Lizard, thereby snowing that the two captains had no instructions how to act in such cases. But the other matter to which I have alluded is of still greater importance. If a British man-of-war clears her decks for action preparatory to engaging with a German man of-war, under circumstances in which, I must say, I think her captain was right, I should imagine that is a matter of sufficient gravity to demand an immediate report to the Government of this country; and I think the representatives of the Government here, in the face of such a grave event, should be prepared to give us some information on the subject. But we have nothing of the sort. I have drawn attention to this lack of information in relation to other matters. We have had bombardments of native settlements all round the Pacific. Now and again we see in the Press a report that H.M.S. so-and-so has bombarded such and such an island, and whenever I have seen such accounts I have asked for Papers giving information on the subject, and I must say the noble Lord has admitted the reasonableness of the request, has consented without cavil, and sooner or later we have had the Papers, but not until long after the event has been chronicled in the newspapers. Now I do not wish to underrate the responsibilities of captains on far away stations. I know it is necessary to allow much freedom of action to them, but surely in regard to an occurrence which, if the account is correct, approached very near the verge of an act of war, the Commander should forthwith report all the circumstances to the Government, so that at the first available opportunity the Government might communicate its views on the subject. Now in regard to this seizure of a British subject at Samoa, it appears to me to be a matter of great international importance of which notice should be taken, and taken emphatically, in this House. It appears that this British subject—an artist—happened to have been sketching (among other places) in the camp of the chief whom the Germans are pleased to call the "rebel" chief, and he had gone on board the British ship Richmond. He was accused by the German authorities of being a spy. Well, it appears to me that according to International law, even if he had been a spy, he having got out of the territory where the Germans were carrying on warlike operations, and being within British jurisdiction on board a British ship, which is equivalent to British territory, the German authorities had no earthly right to drag him from the ship Richmond.


I do not see how the discussion of the action of the German authorities is relevant to the Vote.


I do not propose to discuss the consent of the German authorities. What I did mean to discuss is the manner in which the Admiralty, or the Government, as we were told the day before yesterday, had received no information whatever regarding an action of one of their naval commanders under circumstances of the utmost gravity—which might have involved a question of peace or war between this country and a friendly Power. So far from saying anything invidious against the German Government, I am a great admirer of Germany.


Order, order! This is not relevant to the Vote. The hon. Member is in order in discussing the conduct of an officer whose pay is concerned in this Vote, but he should not go outside that question.


I at once submit to your ruling, Sir. What I would comment on is this—the want of definite instructions, which, as I have said, exist in other countries as to how naval officers should act under certain contingencies, and the want of any arrangements which should compel an officer engaged in naval command at a distant station at once to communicate with the Admiralty in case a belligerent action should be imposed upon him. In connection with the Pacific Islands, there have been numerous instances illustrating what I mean, and when we have founded a question on information derived from the Press, invariably we have found that the noble Lord knew nothing about the matter, or he could not give the information off-hand. In many cases what have proved to be very highhanded actions have been performed in attacking these Islands, and what I complain of is that the Admiralty does not command all its naval officers on foreign stations at once to communicate any serious action on their part in order that they may receive instructions how to act. I am certain if that were done aborigines in different parts of the world would be spared a considerable amount of bombardment, and officers would think twice before they undertook actions which undoubtedly in some few instances have been conducted with considerable disregard to what calmer people would consider international rights. I have referred to Samoa because it illustrates the danger that exists not merely to poor islanders who never do us any harm, but to our relations with a great and powerful nation with whom we are on friendly terms, in not having an immediate Report submitted in order that the Government may take action. I think it is a matter which concerns the honour of this country that any Report of this sort should be at once made known to the nation. I believe it would greatly tend to lessen the danger of complications with any friendly Power if it were known that this House is jealous of the rights of British subjects abroad and determined that no insult should be offered without calling it in question.


Order, order!

* MR. W. M'ARTHUR (Cornwall, Mid, St. Austell)

I would just like to say a word or two with reference to Samoa and to the Pacific generally, and first I would point out to the Committee that getting information regarding events that take place in the Pacific—events which may at any time bring us in conflict with Germany and some other Power—does not depend altogether upon Consular information to the Foreign Office, because in most of the small islands which are sought to be grabbed, if I may use the expression, by various European Powers, there are no English Consuls, and the only information we can receive comes through the commanders of men-of-war, who call at these various small ports. At the end of last Session the noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton) gave me a very courteous answer with reference to a man-of-war being sent to Samoa, and he said the Royalist would proceed there for the protection of British subjects. That is all very well, and I do not wish now to enter upon any discussion as to how the commander of the Royalist discharged his duties; but I am entitled to think, and I believe also that the Australian Colonies will think, that there is a very singular want of information received by the Government as to the state of affairs at Samoa and other places in the Pacific, and as to the means by which, as it appears to me, English influence has been suffered to relax and to be degraded. I may point out that this is a matter upon which Australians naturally feel extremely jealous. It is English influence in the Pacific, after all, that is responsible for any civilization that is there. All civilization there has been due to Englishmen, to English ships, and to English missionaries, and not a single Power besides has done anything in that direction. I think, therefore, that the people of Australia have a right to complain of this want of information, and also that there do not appear to be sufficient instructions given as to what is to be done in case of certain eventualities in the Pacific. I would venture to say there is hardly a commander of a man-of-war on the station who has distinct instructions what he should do. In my short experience, and since I have interested myself in the affairs of the Pacific, I have known a number of instances where conflicts have arisen, and where there was no Report sent to England except by the commander of an English man-of-war, and I may say that I have never known an instance where the commander had a single definite instruction, or the faintest notion what he ought to do under a given state of circumstances. The result has generally been that the commander has done nothing, fearing to do something which would be contrary to the policy of the Government and so get rapped over the knuckles. I do not say he is to blame; probably I should act the same way myself under similar circumstances. However, English subjects have been left very much to their own devices, without any protection at all from their Government. I most strongly second the appeal of the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron), that in all cases the Admiralty should instruct their commanders to make a definite and immediate Report upon circumstances which come under their notice, and seem to tend against British interests. It could hardly do much to embarrass the Government, and it might be of enormous importance to all our commerce there, not only with Australia, but the whole Pacific, and British subjects should be able to feel themselves in the position of being sure of the protection of those from whom they might naturally claim it. I am quite sure that the noble Lord himself is most desirous that British interests should be protected.

MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)

After your ruling, Sir, to the effect that it is competent for any hon. Member to bring on any question affecting the conduct of any officer whose pay comes out of this Vote, I would ask whether I am entitled to bring on a subject, of which I have given notice in a Motion, but which I was not able to move? It affects the conduct of several officers employed in the Naval Manœuvres last year, and whose pay comes within the Vote now before the House. What I desire to bring under notice is the conduct of officers who went about executing pretended raids upon unprotected towns, and levying pretended requisitions upon the inhabitants of those towns.


I do not think that question is relevant to the Vote; it appears to me to be a question of policy, and the right hon. Gentleman's remarks should be directed to the Admiralty Vote.


Then I will take the opportunity to bring the question forward upon the Admiralty Vote, No. 13.

MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)

I will only detain the House a few minutes with the Motion of which I have given notice. A Conservative paper, a few days ago, challenged any Radical Member of Parliament to point out how a single sixpence might be saved in the Estimates for the Services. I am not unwilling to take up that challenge. I hold in my hand the Naval List for the current month. There I find the Royal yacht Osborne, 1,850 tons, has the following complement of superior officers—namely, a commander, 2 lieutenants, a staff commander, a staff surgeon, a staff engineer, and an assistant paymaster in charge. I find also that the Victoria and Albert, another Royal yacht, 2,470 tons, has the following complement of superior officers—viz., a captain, a commander, two lieutenants, a staff commander, a fleet surgeon, a fleet paymaster, a fleet engineer, an assistant paymaster, and an assistant engineer. This yacht has also two tenders, the Alberta, and the Elfin. The Alberta has, I find, for superior officers, a staff captain and a fleet engineer, and the other tender, the Elfin, has a staff commander and an engineer. In other words, these yachts have as large a complement of officers as a battle-ship of the first line. What the actual cost may be at the present time, of course, it is very difficult, if not impossible, precisely to ascertain; but I have referred to the last Return we have on the subject, presented in 1883, and I find there that the total annual cost of pay, allowance, and victualling for officers and crew of this fleet of Royal yachts was £34,480. Now, I think I should be perfectly justified if I moved to reduce the total cost by one-half; but I am anxious not to leave to hon. Members opposite any reasonable excuse for declining to vote with me. I have, therefore, selected two items, two especial and specific items, relating to these yachts, amounting together to £80—the allowances to the navigating lieutenant of the Osborne, and the staff commander of the Victoria and Albert for a charge for state furniture. Now, I submit this is absolutely indefensible in the first place, for it is ridiculous that a charge for state furniture should be put down especially for the Naval Service; and if it were necessary to establish an expenditure of this kind, it is clear that the navigating lieutenant and commander are not the proper persons to be trusted with it. When a proposition of this kind is brought forward, vested interests are generally urged against it. In this case, however, no vested interest can possibly arise; you cannot have a vested interest in a mere allowance. Of course, when the service is discontinued, the allowance ceases, and with it all claims for compensation. For these reasons I beg to move the Motion which stands in my name on the paper.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £3,201,620, be granted for the said service."—(Mr. Pickersgill.)


All the officers serving in Her Majesty's ships who are in charge of valuable stores receive additional remuneration and are liable for any deficiencies. The emoluments attached to those particular duties are—in the Victoria and Albert £25, and in the Osborne £30. These payments are made in accordance with the general practice in the service.


Does the noble Lord consider "state furniture" naval stores?


Yes, certainly; and far more valuable than most stores.


Will the noble Lord reply to the points I raised a few moments ago?

DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)

Before this subject is disposed of, there is another matter I should like to mention as requiring consideration. It is in connection with the appointment of a certain foreign nobleman to a certain post in the Navy. Of course, having been recently imprisoned—["Hear, hear!"]—yes; it is a circumstance of which I am proud—I do not know whether this foreign nobleman still holds his appointment in Her Majesty's Navy, but I presume he does. I should like to know how it comes to pass that, with such a patriotic Government in existence, we have these foreign noblemen placed in these positions—


Order, order! The hon. Member evidently does not appreciate the fact that there is a specific Amendment before the Committee which must be dealt with.


I understood that the Amendment had reference to the Royal yachts generally, and not merely to the furniture in them. If, however, the Amendment deals only with furniture, I would point out that the furniture of Prince Leiningen—who is neither ornamental or useful—


Order, order!


If I am not in order in going into this now, Sir, I will raise the point at a future stage.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 66 Noes 160.—(Div. List, No. 20.)

Original Question again proposed.


I would ask the First Lord of the Admiralty if he can now say whether any progress has been made with the construction of am effective Intelligence Department in connection with the Admiralty? The noble Lord the Member for Marylebone has rendered immense service to the country by pressing upon the Government the formation of such a Department, and I had hoped that the noble Lord's resignation would have secured the serious attention of the Government to the matter. I would ask the noble Lord to reply on that point, and also to tell us whether any information has been received from the Commander in Samoa as to the action he took against the German war-ships in connection with the forcible abduction of a British subject from a British vessel?


The Naval Intelligence Department is in a most efficient working condition. Every single officer in the Service has definite instructions what to do in these cases. The reason why the Government has not received such late intelligence from Samoa as has been received by private agencies is because the captain of the man-of-war there observed the well-known and universal rule of communicating all particulars to his Commander-in-Chief.

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

We really must take these two Votes together—the Army as well as the Navy. We find that there is to be an increase in the number of men for the Army, and the First Lord of the Admiralty told us the other day that when the new ships are built we shall have an increase of 3,000 men in the Navy. Now, I do object to all these extensions of our armaments. Everybody who raises such objections, I know perfectly well, is told that he is unpatriotic; but I do not favour the patriotism which is considered to be proved by the reckless voting of any proposal for increased expenditure. I am determined, always and invariably, to divide the House whenever I see these 30 millions sterling per annum, which we expend on the two Services, exceeded. Although I desire to see the country in possession of a strong and efficient Navy, I think 30 millions a-year is quite enough to spend on this species of insurance. If, at any time, you want more, take it from the amount spent on the Army, which, I think, will easily bear reduction. I think the country is determined that there shall be reasonable economy in our defences, and that these perpetual increases shall not continue. In 1848 the amount spent on the Army and Navy was only 18 millions. Have we been invaded since then—have we been conquered since that time? Not at all. We have been attacking other people, but have remained secure ourselves. I always distrust those gentlemen who "ask for more" in connection with the Army and Navy. When I heard the big Jingo drum being beat before Parliament met I knew what the game was. I knew we should have demands for more money, more men, more marines, more stokers. Things are not going well with the Government at home, and they want to draw a red herring across the trail. I am opposed to the whole thing, and I move that the Vote be reduced by £89,500, being the cost of wages, &c., for the extra 3,000 men.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £3,112,000, be granted for the said Service."—(Mr. Labouchere.)

MR. PICTON (Leicester)

I rise cordially to support the Amendment, of the hon. Member for Northampton, and do so on the ground that no reason whatever has been given for any increase of expenditure such as should justify a man of common sense increasing his household expenses. There ought to be some reason given. We have increased the expenses of the Navy enormously, and that in a year which we have been assured by Her Majesty in the Speech from the Throne is one of profound peace. Unless some cause is shown—some threatened danger to the country—I do contend that we ought not to allow a single shilling of increased expenditure to be paid for increased armaments. Hon. Members do not, I think, appreciate the enormous waste which goes on in matters of this kind. Were it not for the terrible drain on our industries necessitated by the immense expenditure upon our Army and Navy, I am pursuaded that the workers in the country would be far better off than they are. Our imports and exports are continually increasing; capitalists are making money still—perhaps not so fast as they desire, for they never do that—but still they are making money, whilst complaints are heard on every hand on the part of the industrial population. No one would grudge spending money on the Army and Navy if there were a common-sense probability of danger to the country; but what the working classes complain of is that money should be extracted from them on dreamy grounds of remote and improbable, and almost impossible, contingencies, which no man in his senses expects to happen. On these grounds I cordially support the Motion for the reduction of the Vote.

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

I have much pleasure in supporting the reduction, because I do not want to see any of that insane rivalry in fleets of which we see so much in regard to armies on the Continent. The expenditure on the Army and Navy in all countries is becoming heavier and heavier, because every one is trying to have more powerful forces than his neighbour. If we now increase our Navy, there will be some Jingo or other in Prance who will want to increase the French Navy; and when an increase is effected in the French Navy, there will be a demand made by the Jingoes in this country for a further increase of our Navy, and so on. As H.M.S. Sultan has gone to the bottom the Government will have the Navy strengthened by her full complement of men, so that the number of men and marines now asked for will not be required.

MR. COSSHAM (Bristol, E.)

We have heard a great many conflicting opinions on this subject, but one thing is clear—namely, that all gentlemen connected with the naval services want to get hold of more money. Though they cannot agree as to how it is to be expended, they all agree in this, that they must have more from the National purse. We are wasting to a large extent the National resources. Depend upon it that sooner or later these extravagant expenditure will come home to us. The poverty of this country—notwithstanding its wealth on the one hand—is increasing. [Laughter.] Yes; I say that the wealth is increasing amongst certain men, but poverty is increasing in larger numbers. [Renewed laughter.] I am speaking of what I know. The poverty of the country is becoming a sad scene of trouble to us, and a sad scene of danger to us, and I am sure that unless we look at the question carefully, before long it will become a matter of great danger to us. I hear our right hon. Gentleman very much exercised as to an increase of the Navy. Another is exercised as to the expenditure on the Navy; but there is far more danger from this increase of armaments than from anything else. The rivalry is continually going on, and the result is, we are bringing the whole of Europe into such a condition that there is danger for us all. If we increase our Navy on the one hand, another Power increases its Navy, so that the relative position is unchanged. I do ask the House to put a stop to this rivalry that is going on. I support with all my heart and might the Amendment of my hon. Friend, and I hope he will press it to a division. [Laughter.] Those who laugh to-day will have to appear before their constituents, and when they do—and my impression is that it will be much sooner than many of them expect—this effort to increase the national expenditure will be one of the things they will have to face. I believe the time is not far distant when the rule that is applied to those who are on the business of the House will also be applied to Members of this House who receive pay in the Services to which they vote money. There are so many Members of this House interested in this expenditure that when persons like myself, representing those on whom taxation bears heavily, try to call attention to it, they are laughed at by the very men who receive pay in the Military and Naval Services.

DR. TANNER (Mid. Cork)

, who rose amidst laughter from below the Ministerial Gangway: I like to treat that laughter with the contempt it deserves. Excuse me if I refer to the more important point which has been brought forward by the hon. Gentleman who sits on this Front Bench beneath me. I think that there are many questions connected with the Navy, and with the men who are employed in the Navy, that deserve some consideration from Members of this House. There is one point that I should like to get a specific answer upon from the First Lord of the Admiralty. I should like to know how it comes to pass that Catholics—and I speak as an Irish Protestant—are boycotted when they endeavour to enter the Navy. I should like hon. Members to look into this question, and ascertain how it comes to pass that in the South of Ireland, where we possess a body of fishermen, of men who are trained to the sea and to seafaring work, when these men come forward and try to get into the Royal Navy their services are rejected. I can tell the First Lord of the Admiralty that I have received information, not from any gentleman who sits on this side of the House, but from officers of the Royal Navy who belong to the same Party as the noble Lord, which is of a character such as to justify me in asking him to look into this matter. Let him see how many Irishmen or Irish fishermen—


Order, order! The hon. Member's observations are not relevant to the proposed reduction of the Vote.


I thought, Sir, that this Vote was attacked by my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, who moved a reduction of the Vote in consequence of there being already sufficient men in the Navy, and I wanted, if I might be permitted, to point out how it was that really we want a recruiting ground to make the Navy efficient and effective, if we want to continue true union—


I must again point out that the hon. Member's remarks are not relevant.


Mr. Courtney, I always accept your ruling, and, Sir, as long as I remain in this House I shall always do the same. Well, Sir, that point may not be pressed, but I shall take an opportunity of bringing it to the attention of the noble Lord. Of course, we can easily understand why Her Majesty's Government at a time like the present, when they have got their coercion and intimidation in force in England as well as in Ireland, come forward and try to promote, not the welfare of the men of the Royal Navy, not of the able seamen or the privates—no, no, Sir, it is not for that reason that money is to be spent—but in order to swell the salaries of the younger sons of aristocratic houses. Everybody knows that the major portion of the officers of the Royal Navy is composed of these sons of aristocratic houses—aristocratic to a degree. I sincerely hope this money will not be voted, and I trust hon. Members will inquire into the facts and endeavour by every means in their power to prevent money being spent in order to swell the purses of an impoverished aristocracy and a discredited Pigottist faction.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 73; Noes 186.—(Div. List, No. 21).

Original Question again proposed.


There is a rather, important question arising on this Vote in connection with Scotland, and that is the frequent employment of Naval Forces and Marines on expeditions to the Highlands. On several occasions I have protested against the men being thus employed, and on one occasion I obtained from the then Secretary to the Admiralty an undertaking that greater care should be exercised in sanctioning the use of the Naval Forces in this way than had previously been displayed. Now, Sir, I wish to point out to the noble Lord that the employment of the Naval Forces in that part of the country has a most injurious effect in rendering the Naval Service of Her Majesty unpopular, on a ground which, above all others, is eminently adapted for the purposes of a recruiting ground. In the Western Highlands there is a race of hardy seafaring men, who are only too anxious to join Her Majesty's Naval Service, and who do, at the present time, largely serve Her Majesty as Naval Volunteers. It is suggested that emigration should be promoted among these people, but they might, with more advantage, be employed in the Mercantile Navy, so as to take the places now filled by thousands of foreigners in our merchant ships. Among the recommendations made in the Report of the Crofters Commission was one that naval training ships should be established along the shores of the Western Highlands; but for some reason or other Her Majesty's Government have not paid any attention to that recommendation. I must, however, protest against the employment of naval forces in connection with matters which ought only to come within the functions of the civil authorities and the police. The question of the employment of the military in connection with such things was ably dealt with in the admirable memorandum issued by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt) when he was Home Secretary; but, unfortunately, since he left office the position he laid down has not been adhered to. I trust the noble Lord will be able to give us some assurance that none of the large increase which is proposed in the force of marines shall be employed in carrying out martial law and striking terror into the hearts of the Crofters in the Western Highlands; and that among his projects for strengthening the Navy he will avail himself of the recommendation made by the Crofters Commission for the establishment off the coasts of the Hebrides of training ships which would have the advantage of being fed by a population admirably fitted for Her Majesty's naval service, and who, as seafaring men, as soldiers, and as fighting men, are unsurpassed by any class of people in this kingdom.


I would also ask the noble Lord whether he will give us the assurance requested by my hon. Friend? If not, I shall be prepared to move a reduction of the Vote.


The hon. Gentleman the Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) has expressed a wish that a certain number of Highland Crofters should go into the merchant service, and for my part I think it would be a good thing if they did, because if they would only undertake that kind of service there would be no reason for sending the Marines into the Highlands to ensure the execution of the law. But I am unable to give the assurance asked for, because when the necessity arises the military force must be used in support of the civil power.


I wish to ask a question with reference to the gunboat stationed in Bantry Bay. Is it the intention of the Admiralty in future to utilize that gunboat as a sort of steam packet for the conveyance of the forces of the Crown on particular occasions, instead of making use of the existing steam packet service?


I believe it is true that the gunboat referred to is occasionally employed in the manner stated, and I do not see any objection to that arrangement.


Before the Vote is passed I should like to ask what will be the next Vote?


Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway have succeeded in protracting the discussion of this Vote until midnight, and therefore, in accordance with the promise made by the First Lord of the Treasury, the Supplementary Civil Service Estimates cannot now be taken. But there is now an end of the matter. In consequence of the discussion which has gone on for the last hour, the Civil Service Supplementary Estimates cannot now be taken. It was distinctly understood that the Supplementary Civil Service Votes would be brought on at an earlier hour; and if any inconvenience is now caused, owing to the days for which they are put down, the responsibility will not rest with the Government. The Civil Service Estimates will be put down for to-morrow.


I wish to point out, in reply to the lecture of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that if the Leader of the House had adhered to the pledge he gave on Wednesday night this difficulty would not have occurred.

Question put, and agreed to.

(4.) £1,061,100, Victualling and Clothing for the Navy.

* MR. W. J. LANE (Cork, Co., E.)

I wish to call attention to a matter connected with this Vote. I have just received three letters from gentlemen in the City of Cork who are staunch supporters of Her Majesty's Government. They have for many years been contractors to the Government for the supply of pork to the Admiralty, and they complain that the contracts have now been given to Danish firms. I need not say that such contracts are of the greatest importance to the whole community in the South of Ireland. They are important to the landlord because they enable him to get his rent from the tenant; they are of importance to the shopkeeper because they give the farmers more money to spend; and they are of moment to mercantile communities such as the City of Cork because they afford employment for so many people. I believe, in fact, that in Cork City, these contracts gave constant employment to fully 500 people. One of my correspondents writes— It is a great shame that the Government should give the best part of the Navy contract to the Danes. Up to the present time we in Cork have provided the supply for Haulbow-line—which was about one-third of the whole contract—but this year all the contracts have teen given to Copenhagen. The loss to Cork is about 3,930 casks, or, in cash, £25,000, and this all goes to a foreign shore. Surely the Admiralty ought to have very strong grounds for giving preference to the foreigner, and I believe that taxpayers and the community at large have great and just reasons for finding fault with the Admiralty Department in this matter. Another gentleman writes— The difference in price, is I believe, about 5 per cent, and, taking into account the quality, I think our pork would be cheaper in the end to the Navy. The third gentleman writes— I hope that your action may, in some measure, redress the wrong under which the South of Ireland is suffering. This shows what the loyal supporters of the present Government think of the action of the Admiralty in this matter. If it be true that the saving is only equal to 5 per cent, and that the quality of the Danish pork is inferior, I say there is no justification for taking £25,000 out of Irish trade channels and giving it to a foreigner. We hear a great deal about protection of home industries and of the desirability of encouraging the farmers of this country; but what is the use of all this talk on the Conservative benches if, when there is an opportunity of practically benefiting the agricultural community, the Government neglect it, and instead get their supplies from a foreign source? I have no desire, Mr. Courtney, to trespass unduly on the time of the Committee, but I think this is a case of great hardship and injustice, and I hope the First Lord of the Admiralty will see if it is in his power to give us some assistance and some share of the Navy patronage. I believe the Admiralty have never complained of the class of goods supplied by the Cork contractors, and I hope that in future our claims will have fuller consideration.


I agree that it is desirable, where possible, to foster our home industries. It has been the practice of the Admiralty to give a slight preference to home growers, but it was impossible for them to put aside the lowest tenders in favour of those which were higher. The difference in the price embodied in the tenders influenced the Department in refusing the Irish tenders. These are the main grounds for which the alteration has been made; but if the hon. Gentleman will get the merchants of Cork to take a little more trouble to improve the quality of their goods, I do not think they need fear competition from the Danes or from any country in the world.


I cannot take any exception to the tone of the noble Lord's reply, but I do wish he had given us some idea as to the difference in price between the successful and unsuccessful contractors, which, he says, justified the Department in refusing the Irish tenders. I should be glad if he will also state if there has been a specific case of complaint against the Irish contractors which would justify the Government taking the contracts from them? We ought certainly to be allowed to supply the stores at Haulbowline.


I am afraid I cannot give those particulars to-night; but if the hon. Member will hand me the correspondence I will inquire further into the matter.

COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E. R., Holderness)

I wish to call the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty to a small matter connected with rations issued to the Navy. I am not going to pass any general criticisms on the general rations served to the men; but occasionally we have to make exceptional demands on the men, and to turn them out at an early hour for very hard labour. Now, it has always been found that the work is done better if the men get some additional rations on these special occasions, and that it is better too for the men. The power to issue these extra rations is one we used to possess, and it was greatly appreciated by the men, as well as immensely beneficial to the work, and I think that it is an indulgence which might now be granted, under proper control.


I will look into the matter. It was before the Board of Admiralty some time ago, but somehow it has escaped attention.

Vote agreed to.

Progress reported.

House resumed.