HC Deb 17 March 1890 vol 342 cc1035-81

2. 68,800 men and boys.

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

On this Vote it will be in order to raise a general discussion on the Navy. I have received a large number of letters respecting the operations of last year, and some of my correspondents tell me that during those operations the newer vessels showed grave signs of weakness in construction. I am afraid that in some of these ships the tendency to lighten the hull has been carried too far. My noble Friend will see that a grave error has been committed if ironclads have been built so lightly that they are unable to use their full power. I am glad to see the Admiralty have recognised that it is a very essential matter to have large boilers, and boilers of very considerable weight. With regard to trials of speed, the noble Lord has very properly decided that he will have trials at sea extending over a considerable period. It is quite manifest that unless you have these extended trials you cannot have satisfactory information about your ships. At the same time, it is essential that the measured mile trials should be continued, because by that means alone can you obtain a common denominator by which to compare all the ships. One cannot, help observing that the noble Lord is not able to say for certain whether the amount of money voted last year will be sufficient to meet all the charges in connection with the additions to the fleet. Of course, one can understand the difficulties there are in estimating how much money will be required, but I think too small a value has been attached to the probable cost of materials if the large sums voted turn out to be, after all, insufficient for the purpose intended. Something will, no doubt, be said about the big guns. I have, year after year, pointed out that none of these big guns have ever yet been truly tested, and the noble Lord and his officers do not know what is the duration of the life of those large guns under the conditions of rapid firing. When a gun is fired as rapidly as possible time after time a great amount of heat is developed and the condition of the metal is altered. There is a theory on the subject, no doubt, but that theory is based on a very old experiment made with guns of completely different construction and of completely different metal. I am very strongly of opinion that we ought to test the duration of the life of one of our big guns. Let us know, once for all, whether these enormous weapons can be trusted to fire a good many consecutive rounds without playing false to those who use them. My noble Friend has always urged that the cost would be too great. But is it not worth while considering whether we might not advantageously risk something in connection with one of these guns in order to get valuable information with regard to the lines to be followed in making guns in the future. I would urge those who are interested in the subject to support me in this protest against the construction of enormous guns, as to the value of which under the conditions of actual warfare we know nothing, and can know nothing until these experiments are undertaken. I notice that my noble Friend is very fond of introducing little theories into his statements. He very justly remarks in connection with these great guns, that we do not really know very much about their destructive effect. He tells us it is generally assumed that the destructive effect of shells varies as the squares multiply. What he means is, that 20 tons of powder will have 400 times the destructive effect of one ton. Well, everybody knows that there are really no means of estimating what is the destructive effect of great shells, and, I am certain, there is no ratio which can be established as satisfactory. I would like to make now an observation or two upon torpedoes. Very little information is given in the noble Lord's statement about torpedoes. I am one of those who have always had great faith in the future of torpedoes, and I would like my noble Friend, if he speaks later on, to tell us what advance has been made in torpedo manufacture, what is their speed and their range, for example—what alteration has been made in the charge they carry? I believe in torpedoes, for the reason that they seem to me to be the answer that science has given to the ever expressed wish to be found right through history, that some means should be found of wounding our adversary below the water. I believe the torpedo is a weapon that must be improved, and become more dangerous as years go by. We have all heard of certain sub-marine guns. Whether they will ultimately be a success it is impossible to say; but I think we ought to spend some money in experiments in improving torpedoes. I have said before I do not believe that a torpedo school is a place where we got much invention: invention comes from other quarters; and I am desirous of seeing invention in submarine guns or torpedoes cherished and nursed by a wise system of expenditure. I very much regret the tendency there has been, both in the Admiralty and in the House, and in the Press, to substitute guns of a very large calibre for those of a moderate calibre, and, on the other hand, to attach too little importance to the most effective weapon—the torpedo. I pass from matters connected with ships, and guns to what is known by the hybrid word of personnel. Why my noble Friend has departed from the use of the good old Saxon word for the word personnel, which is certainly not Saxon, but a sort of bastard French, I do not know. One would suppose from the noble Lord's Memorandum that there are no blots in the manning of the Fleet to be removed. Speaking from many years experience, I assure the-First Lord that the great blot in the manning of the Fleet is, that while we educate boys for the Service there comes a period when the country loses a large percentage of the boys it has educated. This is owing to the want of proper overlooking and proper discipline. From 18 to 24 years of age young follows whose discipline is relaxed are rather inclined to go wrong. In the boys up to 18 the country have some very valuable stuff; but at that age a great part of the discipline is removed, and numbers of the boys go rapidly to the bad, and become valueless in the Service. I am sure they might be improved if a little consideration were given to the subject. We might easily exercise stronger and hotter discipline on the youths when they are emancipated from the condition of boys, and thus save a good many of them from going to the bad. Some years ago I served in one of the training vessels, and I was much struck with the physique and the general behaviour of the large number of boys there. Year after year I have seen this excellent material destroyed, or, if not destroyed, at any rate lessened in value by the want of proper discipline and care when they are transferred to sea-going ships. I do not think it is, on the whole, quite the fault of the captain and officers of the sea-going ships, because they have no power to employ the means that are necessary to grapple with the evil. I wish I could urge more strongly and more usefully on my noble Friend the necessity of inquiring into this matter. Will he not consult his Naval advisers? I hope it is not disrespectful to my colleagues in the Service who hold higher positions than I do to say that they have not the same means of finding out defects in discipline as those who come in daily contact with the men. Officers who attain high rank are not drawn into contact with the men of the lower ranks: it would not be right they should be. Information comes to them second-hand; it has been passed through a sieve. Perhaps my noble Friend will be good enough when he replies to notice what I have said on this subject. I have only one other criticism to make, and that is in connection with signalling. It has been repeatedly urged in the House during the last three or four years—by Lord Charles Beresford and by other hon. and gallant Friends of mine—that it is above all essential in modern fleets that there should be a vary rapid system of signalling. At present our signalling is done entirely with flags, except at night, when the semaphore is used. When there is wind, signalling with flags occupies considerable time. I have tried it over and over again, and I have always found that in wind throe or four minutes is occupied in sending a message. In these days, when fleets move with great rapidity, it is certain that the commander of a fleet will require to make almost instantaneous signals; and it is equally certain that if he has no better means of signalling than are at present at hand, many a golden opportunity will be lost. I do not profess to have any special cure for this particular grievance; but I have always thought we might very easily establish a semaphore at the mast-head. That system has never been satisfactorily inquired into nor properly tried. It has been tried; but owing to the arrangements on the ships on which it was tried not being sufficient to enable mechanical contrivances to be fitted, the system was considered to be only a partial success. I do not pretend that this system is the best; but surely this is a matter for inquiry. Why does not my noble Friend appoint a Committee of Officers to inquire into the means of improving the signalling in the Fleet? I know there has been a Committee sitting in connection with signalling, but I understand that Committee had not this particular question under consideration. As you increase the rapidity of movement, so you increase the necessity for rapid signalling. No man can fail to see the enormous importance of this subject. I do not wish to detain the Committee longer, and I am grateful to hon. Members for the attention they have been good enough to give me.


I desire to make some observations on these Votes, and especially in connection with their financial aspect. In the first place, I must enter my protest at being called on to discuss the Estimates without having had the detailed information respecting ships under contract which is usually provided. It is true that the information has been placed in my hands since the House met this evening; but it is absolutely impossible for any hon. Member to have read through the enormously bulky volume in which it is contained, and to have formed any opinion upon it in the short time during which it has been available. I do not recollect the Navy Estimates having ever been discussed on any previous occasion without fuller information being in the hands of Members. It is especially necessary on this occasion that we should have all the details before us, because this year a large sum, which, under ordinary circumstances, would appear on the Estimates, has been provided for out of other funds. We contended last year, when the Naval Defence Bill was before us, that the effect of that measure would be entirely to destroy the responsibility of this House, and to make absolutely useless any comparison between the past, the present, and the future. Anyone who looks at the Main Votes which appear on the Estimates would suppose that the total amount now provided for, namely, £13,780,000, being an increase of £100,000 on that of the previous year, represented what may be called the normal Naval Estimates, apart from the sums provided for under the Naval Defence Act. But I believe I am right in saying that is not the case, and that if there had been no abnormal increase of ship-building by contract under the Naval Defence Act, the Estimates would be increased this year by a very much larger sum than appears on the Votes. Advantage has been taken of the Naval Defence Act to transfer that larger sum to the special fund under the Naval Defence Act. The real increase of what may be called the normal expenditure has, I believe, been £300,000 above what it appears to be. This is an illustration of the unfortunate effect the Naval Defence Act has had on the finance of the Navy. I have been at some trouble to ascertain what has been the real expenditure on the Navy in the coming year, and I think it will be about £5,000,000 more than is represented by the Votes. The total amount will be £18,780,000. The increase of £5,000,000 is almost wholly due to the ship-building by contract. The amount provided for in the Estimates for new ships and their armaments is about £3,500,000, which is about 40 per cent, more than the normal amount which the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Forwood) told us recently in a public speech would be sufficient to repair the waste of the Navy.


What I said was the cost of the Fleet as it would be when completed.


Yes, the cost of the Fleet as it would be when completed. Of the £5,000,000 I have referred to, £4,700,000 is provided for under the Naval Defence Act of last year, £128,000 is the amount not spent last year, but which will be spent this year without having to be re-voted, and the remainder will be spent on ships for the Australian station, under the Imperial Defence Act of 1888. These facts prove that the Navy Estimates are now in such a confused state that it is almost impossible for anyone to ascertain what the real expenditure on the Navy will be in the coming year. The expenditure provided for by the Naval Defence Act will be on about 55 vessels, of which 46 have been laid down under the Act of last year, within the present year, namely, 21 in the dockyards and 25 by contract, including eight first-class battleships, eight first-class cruisers, 23 second-class cruisers, and other smaller vessels. Last year several of us made a protest against laying down at the same time such a large number of vessels, and paying for them, to a large extent, out of borrowed money. The time has not yet come for appreciating the soundness or otherwise of this policy; but I must point out that some of the predictions which some hon. Members on this side of the House made have been already verified. Among the principal objections which. I raised to what the noble Lord at the head of Admiralty has himself described as the spasmodic policy was that it would give a great stimulus to other Powers, and especially to France, to follow our example and to add to the number of their war vessels, and that in the end we might find our relative positions much the same. I pointed out from the experience of the past 40 years, that it has been the settled policy of successive Governments in France to maintain their Navy in a certain definite proportion to our own, namely, in the proportion of about two to our three, and that any advance on our part is invariably followed by a relative advance on their part. We were told that this was most improbable in the future; that France was already overwhelmed by its great military and naval expenditure, and would find it impossible to make any further increase. As a matter of fact, within a few weeks after the passing of the Naval Defence Act the Minister of Marine in France went down to the French Assembly and asked for an immediate credit of over 70,000,000f., of which 58,000,000f. was to be expended on new ships, and he gave as a reason the immense increase of expenditure on new ships in this country.


The Minister of Marine never mentioned England.


Well, I certainly understood ho did. At all events, it was generally understood in the Assembly that the real motive for this great expenditure was the correspondingly increased expenditure in England. The Assembly voted the credit demanded without a single objection, and the money was raised by loans. I believe I am right in saying that further large sums will be expended in the same direction in 1891, and that six new ironclads and several large cruisers have been laid down in order to keep pace with the efforts being made in this country. I need hardly point out, also, that across the Atlantic the Secretary to the Navy of the United States has submitted to Congress proposals for a large increase in the Navy of that country, and it is generally understood the reason for that large increase is the great increase in our naval expenditure last year. I am also informed that Russia has increased her naval expenditure, and that the Russian Government have laid down two additional ironclads of the largest type. These facts show that the effect of our entering on this large naval expenditure has been a great stimulus to other Powers to proceed in a similar course, and, probably, in a very short time our relative position to the Navies of other Powers will not differ from the position we were in before this great outlay. Another point which I brought under notice during the discussions on the Naval Defence Act was the inadvisability of putting on the ship-building market so many contracts for new ships at one time. I said the probable effect would be to raise prices in the ship-building market against ourselves. So far as I can ascertain, the total amount of contracts for new ships represent something like eight millions; but, in addition, large contracts have been placed on the market for armour plates for the ships building in the Dockyards, and also for steel, iron, and other materials. I think contracts for £3,000,000 have been entered into on this account in the financial year, making altogether contracts to the amount of about£11,000,000. Now, these contracts have been entered into at a time when the large ship-building yards on the Tyne and the Clyde are full of work. There has been an immense expansion in trade, and prices have gone up considerably, the increase being, I should think, from 25 to 30 per cent., or even more, in the mercantile ship-building trade; and it is certain that the vessels built under the Naval Defence Act have been already largely in excess of the amount anticipated at the end of last year. What the excess has been I cannot say, but there is an ominous passage in the statement laid before us by the noble Lord which bears on this— During the financial year 1889–90 the extraordinary activity displayed in shipbuilding and other industries for the mercantile marine has caused a remarkable rise in the price of the materials employed in shipbuilding and of labour on contract-built ships. Under the Naval Defence Act the estimates of the cost of the work to be done were so framed as to allow a margin for rise in prices and other contingencies. This margin has, in many of the contracts made for hulls and machinery, been more than absorbed in consequence of the inflation of prices during the past year. I gather from this that the expenditure will be largely in excess of what was con- templated in the scheme in the Nava Defence Act, and we shall probably find that the £10,000,000 proposed for the building of new ships will not be anything like sufficient for the purpose, and further demands will be made upon Parliament for the completion of the vessels. To what extent that may be I do not know; but, at all events, it must bring home to us that we have not been very wise in throwing these large contracts on the shipbuilding trade all at once on the top of the market when prices are high. As it is matter of knowledge that ships built within the last few years have been built at much lower prices than those now contracted for, so we may assume that in a short time prices will fall again. In point of fact, the effect of the present prices in the shipbuilding trade has been to stop all new orders; and, although the shipbuilding yards are now full of work, and will continue so for a few months, the outlook for the trade afterwards is extremely bad, and we may an ticipate a great fall in prices and that many men will be thrown out of work. Present prices are not a little duo to these large contracts being put out all at once, and it is said they have had considerable effect on the prices of steel and iron as well as wages. Although it is matter for satisfaction that work is plentiful and wages good, yet it is probable that at no distant date this will be detrimental to the people, and may result in one of those violent alternations of work and want of work so much to be deprecated. Experience, I think, has shown that the course pursued was not a wise one, and that it would have been wiser to have spread these contracts over a longer period, both from the shipbuilding point of view and the financial point of view. Another objection is founded on the impolicy of laying down an immense number of vessels of the same type all at once. No one has ever stated the objections to such a policy more clearly, more soundly, or more fully than the noble Lord himself and the Secretary to the Admiralty in 1888, when defending the Admiralty against the pressure put upon them to enter upon such a policy. Speaking in a previous year in reply to Lord Charles Beresford, who we regret is no longer able to take part in these debates, the noble Lord said— The Government was opposed to any wholesale building of ships at one time; so rapid was the change of designs and in the development of speed that they would probably be obsolete and useless in 10 years. He then deprecated any hasty and spasmodic expenditure, with the certain knowledge that a part of the expenditure would be wasted by the very haste required, and he added— There is no single instance in which ships laid down by the score have not shown defects common to all, which would have been avoided if they had been laid down gradually and continuously over a term of years. The Secretary to the Admiralty, in many speeches in the House and outside, spoke in the same sense. These were words of wisdom and prudence; but the noble Lord threw them over the next year and gave way to the alarmists. The time has not yet come when it is possible to test the predictions they made in 1888; but already there are indications that two of the classes of ships, of which we have built many samples in the last three or four years, are unsatisfactory—the M class of second-class cruisers of the Medusa type and the Sharpshooter class. There is also of late a distinct change of professional opinion against the use of the largest guns; and if that is right, there seems reason to believe that the largest class of ironclads, of which we have laid down eight, will be of questionable value. It has always seemed to me that the wise course is to lay down a certain number of vessels in each year, availing ourselves of the best experience of the moment, and not committing ourselves to large numbers of the same type. Before sitting down I must remind the Committee that the Naval expenditure ought to be considered in connection with our expenditure on the Army. Taking the two together, it will be seen that there is a corresponding great and growing expenditure in both Departments. For the 10 years preceding 1884 the average of Naval and Military expenditure was £25,000,000. In 1884 it rose to £26,700,000. The total of the Estimates on the Army and Navy in 1888–89 was £29,790,000; for 1889–90, £31,024,000; and for 1890–91, £31,503,000—an increase of nearly two millions in three years, and of six and a half millions as compared with the average of 1874 to 1884. But the expenditure is not by any means repre- sented by the figures I have given. During the last three years there has been a large expenditure out of moneys raised by loan. Including the sum of £4,000,000 now proposed for the barracks, there were four different transactions of this kind. For the purpose of fortifications and coaling stations £2,600,000 was borrowed; for the building of the Australian squadron £800,000, spread over 12 years; under the Naval Defence Act of last year, £10,000,000, also spread over a number of years; and lastly, for building barracks, £4,000,000 in the present year. Thus £18,000,000 in all will have been raised during the last three years over the ordinary expenditure, which itself has been increased by the annual sum of £1,800,000. Taking the Army and Navy Estimates together for the coming year, and assuming the £4,000,000 to be raised for the barracks, the real expenditure will be £37,870,000, and of this only £31,503,000 appear on the Votes for the Services; £1,800,000 is borne by the Consolidated Fund, the remainder being raised by loans payable in future years. Well, I must say these facts raise matter for most serious consideration. In a time of profound peace not only are Estimates being raised but money is being borrowed to the extent of £18,000,000 in three years.


I cannot speak about the Army Estimates now, but I entirely dispute the right hon. Gentleman's figures.


I have taken considerable pains to ascertain the amounts. The right hon. Gentleman will not deny that £4,000,000 for barracks are to be raised by loan!


I cannot discuss an Army Estimate on a Navy Vote.


I take the two Services, as I think I am justified in doing, and estimate the total expenditure. I believe these £4,000,000 are to be raised by loan, and we have four transactions in the last three years for raising an enormous sum by loan in addition to the large increase in the Army and Navy Estimates.


Not by loan.


In the case of the money for fortifications and coaling stations it was distinctly raised by borrowing, because it was not paid in the year. The money may be raised by annuities spread over a number of years, but that is essentially the same thing. You may not call it a loan in the ordinary sense, but, at all events, it is not expenditure paid within the year; it is spread over several years. It is, I say, a very serious state of things to throw this large expenditure on future years. If inquiry was made I believe that it would be found that in the European contest of military and naval expenditure Great Britain is not the least offender. The expenditure of this country for the coming year on the Army and Navy will be larger than the expenditure of any other European country.

An hon. MEMBER

So much the better.


I do not think that, for I do not believe the necessity. While we are pretending to be economists and to set example to other nations we are encouraging others by our increasing and spasmodic expenditure. I have always understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be a purist in these matters, but apparently he has given his assent to this practice of spreading payments over coming years. For my part, I believe the only real check upon extravagant naval and military expenditure is the principle that the expenditure for the year sdall be met within the year. Depart from that principle, and I see no limit to the expenditure. Three times within the last three years have we departed from that principle. Against this policy I make my protest and hope the day is not distant when we shall revert to the principle of true finance and a sound economic policy.

(7.15.) MR. H. F. KNATCHEBULL-HUGESSEN (Kent, Faversham)

I wish to express my entire approval of the general statement of the noble Lord upon the naval administration for the year, and I wish also, on behalf of my constituents, to thank the Admiralty for having fulfilled their promises to supply sufficient work for the dockyards. I am glad to say there is not only plenty of work now but; the prospect of plenty of work in the immediate future. I think all those who are interested in dockyard work will agree we have nothing to complain of. I congratulate the noble Lord on the reductions made in some high salaries of officials, and I believe several more steps might be taken in that direction with good effect, and in this way I hope the Admiralty will find it in their power to afford some increase in the pay of labourers and skilled workmen in the dockyards, who perform most arduous duties and have great reason to be dissatisfied with their present rates of pay. But while I am generally able to congratulate the noble Lord on the success of his policy, I think, perhaps, it will conduce more to the furtherance of business, and I shall best discharge my duty, if I call attention to some of the grievances in the dockyards as the particular Votes come on, and especially to the cases of the shipwrights and smiths, their rates of pay, and also the system of payment by cheque on tonnage, which creates great dissatisfaction, and also to the question of pensions, about which there is great complaint. Then there are other grievances connected with dockyard work, and I hope the noble Lord will give some attention to the position of writers in dockyards. I mention these matters in the hope that when I raise these points the noble Lord will have given them consideration. But there are two points to which I wish to call attention at the moment, and to one of these I would respectfully ask the noble Lord to give his attention as a matter of urgency and of a serious nature, and this is as regards the hospital accommodation at Sheerness. I may connect this with the accident that recently happened on board the Barracouta. I am told that there is at Sheerness a large military hospital hardly ever used, and yet will the Committee believe that whenever an accident happens the injured men are absolutely carried to Chatham. When those poor fellows were so fearfully burned by the accident on the Barracouta, instead of proper hospital accommodation being found for them at Sheerness, when they came in, they were landed and taken to the hospital at Chatham—a state of thing's I think absolutely shocking. If there is not hospital accommodation at Sheerness, it ought at once to be provided. I had occasion also to refer to the case of a man suffering from influenza, who was conveyed to Chatham in a cold east wind; and the answer I got was that the ward was full, but, if my information is correct, there is the military hospital at Sheerness rarely used. I hope the noble Lord will make inquiry into this matter, and that, if it is as it is represented to me, he will make such arrangements as to make it impossible such things can occur again. One other point I wish to ask the attention of the Committee to, is a grievance to which attention has often been called, and which I hope may be adverted to by some of my hon. Friends who may follow me; and Naval men are more able to touch upon it than I am. I mean the position as to rank and pay of the engineers of the Royal Navy. It is a very great grievance, and, speaking generally, it is a matter of astonishment to me that the claims of these gentlemen have been so long ignored. All they ask, and all we urge, is that their rank and pay shall be equivalent to the duties they are called upon to discharge. I need not remind the Committee that the duties of an engineer officer are very different to what they used to be; they are very much more onerous and complex; in fact, there is scarcity anything in connection with the management of an ironclad with which engineer officers have not duties to perform. They have under their charge the engines and boilers, all the machinery used for various purposes, gun mountings, torpedo carriages, &c, and, in fact, on board a large ironclad there are over a hundred engines performing- every sort of function. The position of these officers is something very different to what it used to be when seamanship was everything and standing machinery nothing: that position is now reversed. When this question came before the Committee last year several reasons were given by the First Lord, or the Secretary to the Admiralty, against the consideration we asked for being- granted. One reason was that there were plenty of candidates from whom the ranks of engineer officers could be filled. No doubt this is the case, no doubt the supply always exceeds the demand in matters of this kind, but I do put it to the noble Lord—is that an answer quite worthy of a Minister of this great country? Surely if these gentlemen perform duties that are worthy of more consideration in regard to rank and pay, to allege competition as a reason for ignoring their claims comes very near to that much condemned and pernicious system of "sweating." We have been told also that the pay is higher than in the Mercantile Marine, and that may be the case. I have, however, been supplied with one instance to the contrary. I am informed that on the City of Paris, a vessel of 10,000 horse power, the pay of the engineer branch is £300 per month more than the pay for the same branch on H.M.S. Trafalgar, a vessel of 11,000 horse power.


Surely that is not so.


So I am informed—that on the Atlantic liner City of Paris, £300 per month more is paid to the engineer branch than on the Trafalgar. Of course, if that is not so, my remark is beside the point. However that may be, can it be supposed there is a comparison between the duties of the engineers in the two cases? Where in the Mercantile Marine is an engineer officer called upon for such important and responsible duties as on board one of Her Majesty's ships? Upon the grievance in respect to rank I will not dwell, leaving that to hon. and gallant Members more conversant with the Service. I understand their special objection is to the rating which is called "with but after." It is unfair, and it is unwise, that these repeated representations should be ignored, for I do not think the best men will be attracted to the Service if this is the way they are treated.

*(7.25.) MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)

With reference to the point upon which the hon. Member has just addressed the Committee, I should like to point out that when last year the case of engineer officers and engine-room artificers was discussed, the noble Lord, answering Lord Charles Beresford, then Member for Marylebone, said the Admiralty could obtain any number of men for these branches, and that under the circumstances he was not justified in listening to what was urged by Lord Charles Beresford and other Members. But I think the noble Lord has had some experience during the past year that does not quite support the view he then took. I think the need for engine-room artificers has induced the noble Lord to send out a recruiting party to obtain men for this branch at a cost of something like £10 a day. I think it was so stated in one of the organs of the Government only a day or two ago, and that this recruiting party had only succeeded in getting one engine-room artificer, who could not pass the medical examination. Such is the statement that appeared in the Globe, and, if true, I think it requires a word of explanation from the Admiralty. One other matter I desire to mention, and it came under my personal experience. I travelled back from India on board the Britannia from Malta with a young gentleman who had only been sent out to join a ship there within the previous fortnight, and had been then ordered back to join another ship. Now, I cannot help thinking that with a little care the expense to the country of transport by P. & O. steamer both ways might have been saved to the country. I would also like to draw the attention of the noble Lord to the grievance urged by petty officers, who complain that they are liable after long service and just as they are becoming entitled to a pension to be disrated, even by lieutenants commanding, though the rating was conferred by higher officers; while in the Army officers of equivalent rank would be entitled to appeal to the judgment of a court martial from that of one who is at the same accuser and judge. There seems to me there is a real grievance in this, especially when we remember the extremely summary way in which commanding officers exercise their power, the exercise of which in one instance was attended with some cost. I mean in the case of the deserter Thompson. I do not feel that in reference to engineer officers I have sufficient knowledge to express myself with any degree of certainty upon the points urged, but I do think that seeing the development of machinery on board our ships has been such that the amount of skill and knowledge required in the Service—that some parts of the machinery are as delicate and complex as those of a watch and as liable to get out of order—implies technical instruction of a very high order, some consideration should be shown to the complaints of these men, at least to the extent of inquiry being promised into their representations. On these points I should be glad to have an answer, and especially I should like to know how it is that a young man can be sent to Malta and recalled in 10 days without it being known that he was to be transferred to another ship?

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

I think there has been some confusion between stokers and engine room artificers; there has been some want of stokers in the Navy, not of engineer artificers The engineer question must be looked at, not by itself, but as part and parcel of the whole organisation of the Navy. If approached from that point of view, the engineers have really not so very much to complain of. I think that is proved by their warmest advocate, the hon. Member for Faversham, for he said their strongest grievance, in point of fact, was that they are ranked" with but after. "Well, what do they want? Do they wish to be ranked "with but before?" The whole conditions of the Naval Service depends upon this—that the executive of the ship must have the command of all ranks in the ship. With regard to the speech of the right hon. Member for Bradford, the first part of it should have been delivered upon the Second Reading of the Naval Defence Bill. With regard to the second part, the right hon. Gentleman gave the Committee to understand that ho had made an extraordinary discovery—namely, that if the sums spent upon the Navy under the Naval Defence Act were on the Navy Estimates, these Estimates would have been heavier. That is a discovery which I do not think of any great importance. My own opinion is that the Navy Estimates laid upon the Table this year are the clearest the House has had for many a year. The last part of the right hon. Gentleman's argument was as to the undesirability of increasing our Elect, because if we did increase it the result would be to stimulate other nations to increase theirs. The converse of that argument is that we should give up our Fleet altogether in the hope that other nations would give up theirs. The strength of our Fleet must be measured by our geographical necessities. It is owing to the fact that the Fleet had been so much neglected by the right hon. Gentleman and his friends that it has fallen to the Government now in power to retrieve what has been so long mismanaged. It is perfectly natural, and was expected, that the United States should increase their Fleet in order to get rid of a great part of their surplus. Whatever other Powers do, the standard of our naval strength must be our geographical position and our commercial necessities. I will not dwell further upon the right hon. Gentleman's speech, but I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman would undertake almost anything, including the command of the Channel Fleet, but I am certain if ho hoists his flag on the good ship "Self Satisfaction" he will not find much of a crew. With regard to the proposal that guns should be tested, as suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend (Commander Bethell), it is too late to make such an experiment as he proposes now, and there would be no advantage in doing it. As to torpedoes and the observation he made, I would remark that the autumn manœuvres are placing the torpedo at its true value; you cannot give the torpedo additional value by appeals to history. The argument my hon. and gallant Friend used, that torpedoes should be lifted into the position of the principal armament of the Navy, in order to give effect to an historic aspiration to make a hole in the bottom of an enemy's ship, is of no avail, for the gun is to give effect to the historic aspiration, descended from Cain, that you should give your enemy a blow on the head. But I would rather discuss these matters from a broader point of view. I must congratulate the First Lord upon the business-like character of his Memorandum, and the total absence from it of the claptrap which appeals only to outside ignorance. This Government will live in history for having inaugurated the policy of contributions to the maintenance of the Navy, not only from India but from the colonies; but at present the contribution is very small. The total annual value of British commerce is 1,100 millions sterling. Of that, 650 millions belong to the United Kingdom, and 450 millions to the remainder of the British Empire, consisting of independent colonial interchange or commerce direct with foreign countries. Under the present arrangement the United Kingdom pays for naval protection £1 for every £46 of her commerce, while the outlying parts of the Empire pay only £1 for every £4,000 of independent commerce. I cordially approve of giving dockyard built ships a suitable start over contract built ships, for, as the noble Lord says, the fact of experience being gained in the dockyard will save a large sum of money in fitting and altering ships of the same type built by contract. I entirely agree that the designs for boilers and engines must largely depend on the service for which a ship is intended, and neglect of this has been a weakness in our past policy. I should like to know, however, whether the boilers of the ships building for the Australian Squadron are adapted to the burning of Australasian coal? As to the rise in prices, I do not think that is a reason for carping criticism. Rather, I think, we should rejoice that the trade of the country is so good under the confidence produced by the present Government, and we are in a better position to bear the carrying out the Naval Defence Act. I am very glad indeed that the arming of the Fleet proceeds satisfactorily. The Committee need not debate the question of ordnance when they know that the naval officers using the guns are satisfied with them; but I do not think we should be satisfied until there is a sufficient reserve of guns, not merely at home, but on every foreign station. Our strength used to be in our reserve of stores and ordnance. I know that changes have made it difficult to keep up our old standard, but I hope the Admiralty will not relax its efforts in this direction and provide an ample reserve. My hon. and gallant Friend near mo has taken great interest in the question of a dock at Bombay, so I will not touch upon that beyond saying- that it is one more proof of our unsatisfactory arrangement for meeting a war that we have a great Imperial necessity like this which everybody admits, and yet there is no system of co-operation for carrying out the work. And now a few words on mobilisation and personnel. It is most creditable that the Naval Intelligence Department has rendered such great services at so small a cost; but it is not satisfactory that only £9,000 should be expended upon that Department and naval attaches, while the Military Intelligence Department and attachés cost £14,000 a year. I trust that the First Lord of the Admiralty will look into the question of the Naval Intelligence Department, and will not be afraid to press for an increase of that Department, even if it entails some diminution of the Vote for the Military Intelligence Department. I congratulate the Admiralty also on looking ahead, and on the increase of officers and men proved to be necessary by the actual experiments of the naval manœuvres. Practically, however, that increase will only meet the necessary requirements of the ships now building; and I cannot see where the reserve of officers and men is to be found sufficient to provide for the casualties of war. I do not think we have the margin we ought to have, and I beg the noble Lord to consider that when we have the full complement of officers and men for the additional ships, there is still wanting the number to make up for losses in war time. The defect of the existing organisation of the personnel is the want of power of rapid expansion. There is no reserve of officers and men on foreign stations. I think that on every foreign station there should be a reserve of officers and men. There ought to be on every station behind the Fleet, on shore or in harbour, a sufficient reserve of officers and men. But it may be said that there is the Royal Naval Reserve. I do not think it should be simply a question of changing from a peace establishment to a war establishment on the basis of calling in the Royal Naval Reserve. The Navy should have some expanding power of its own before calling, on the Royal Naval Reserve. Naval Reserve men, for the most part, belong to the best ships of the Mercantile Marine, and if you take them, you take away at the beginning of a war men from ships which are most wanted. In one instance you count your Naval Reserve men twice over, for you provide a subsidy for armed merchant steamers, and you couple this with a condition that these steamers shall have a certain number of Naval Reserve men, so then in the event of war you must deduct these from the number of Naval Reserve men available for service men of war ships. Then you may say there is the Royal Marine Forces, and there is a reserve. But half this force is serving on board ship as an integral portion of the complements of war ships. Therefore, the only possible reserve is the number of men on shore; but they will be absorbed by the increase of the Fleet by commissioning the ships in reserve, so that you have nothing left but untrained men. I do think, therefore, that the expansion of the arrangements for the Navy proper is a matter well deserving the serious attention of the Admiralty. There is another matter. If you take the Marine Forces as part and parcel of your Navy, you have there a number of officers who are not naval officers. And you have a corps of Marine artillery with highly trained officers, but you do not use them. Every Marine artillery officer of captain's rank has cost the country £4,000. I say, when you approach the question of the organisation of the personnel of the Navy, you certainly will have to deal with that branch of the Service. You have 3,000 artillery under the Admiralty of all ranks, and you are misapplying that force. You are keeping them on board ship; you do not use them as artillery; and my position is that these are the men to keep more in reserve at head quarters of naval stations. The Marine Force, if it is to be used as a reserve, should be placed under the Admirals at head quarters, and at naval stations; and that would provide your first reserve in war. Is it not possible to have a system of more naval training for Marine and Marine artillery officers, so that they might be usefully employed on board ships, and in naval service when they are wanted? In the exigencies of war, I, myself, would rather have Marine artillery and Marine officers able to handle boats than that they should, as many of them have done, take the highest places at the Staff College. In respect of the organisation of the personnel of the Navy—since 1852 when continuous service was established—you have gone on tinkering the machine, and you are tinkering at it now. Take the simple matter of keeping the men's accounts. You will find it a very expensive affair. If you refer to the Navy Estimates, and take the Accountant General's Department of the Admiralty, you will find that costs £51,000. I am dealing with nothing but the Accountants' branches of the Navy. If you take the pay, the half-pay, and the retired pay of the secretaries, paymasters, and clerks, for the service of the Fleet, you will find that this costs £162,000 a year, and thus actually for only 58,000 men the cost is £213,000. The cost of the Accountant services of the Fleet costs nearly a quarter of a million a year. I think that is a very serious matter indeed. The pay and retirement alone for the Accountant services absorbs nearly a quarter of a million of money for keeping the accounts of 58,000 men. The total number on the Estimate is 65,000, but 6,000 or 7,000 of these are marines on shore. If you take the pay and retirement of the officers charged with keeping the accounts of the 6,000 marines on shore, you will find it is under £9,000 a year. That is at the rate of £1 10s. per head of the men whose accounts are to be kept. But when you turn to the Navy proper, and add to that part the marines embarked, you will find that you are spending at the rate of £2 15s. per head, a difference of £1 5s., or 83 per cent., as compared with the cost in connection with the accounts of marines on shore. You are then spending £70,000 a year more than I think you need.


Does not that include the accounts of stores in all the ships and war matériel?


The figures apply only to the pay of the officers of the Accountant brandies of the Navy. Nothing more. I do not include the petty officers. It is merely a calculation of the pay, half-pay, and retirement for Accountant officers, commissioned and subordinate, on the one hand in the Navy, and on the other hand in the Marine Forces. But in the Marine Forces, I do include certain other officers engaged in the account keeping of stores; in the Navy I do not. I trust the First Lord will really look into this question of the organisation of the Navy, and that he will keep his thumb well down upon the Accountant-General's Department, and the accountant branches of the Royal Navy.

*(8.10.) MR. CUANNING (Northampton, E.)

I do not intend to enter into the many details of the somewhat business-like speech of the lion, and gallant Member, but I wish to challenge one point on which he contradicted my right lion Friend the Member for Bradford, namely, as to the predicted results which would follow in other countries of our naval scheme launched last year. Our contention has always been that to launch the scheme in such an ostentatious way would be to provoke the competition of other countries. The hon. and gallant Gentleman entirely denies that. What are the facts? We have in America not a scheme to build 70 vessels at a cost of £21,000,000, but 227 vessels at, a cost of £70,000,000. The hon. and gallant Gentleman says this is simply due to the fact that the United States of America has a vast surplus to spend. That is true. But anyone acquainted with America will know that the result of our naval scheme has been to put a powerful weapon into the hands of the Protectionist Party in the United States by enabling them to use for 10 years to come the gigantic surplus of the United States in adding to their Navy. Our contention is, that we should have a Navy adequate to our Imperial necessities of defence and protection of our ever-spreading commerce. But we maintain that such a relative proportion of naval strength should always be maintained by the unostentatious policy of using our resources for rapid ship-building without challenging the competition of other countries—quietly stealing on and keeping ahead of the armaments of other countries. I venture to say that the weapon which we have placed in the hands of the Protectionist Party in America has enabled them to appropriate those surpluses, part of which might have gone to lowering the American tariff, and so have benefited the hard-working artisans of this country. I think everyone will be inclined to compliment the First Lord of the Admiralty on his exceedingly clear and impartial statement in explanation of the Navy Estimates. But in this statement we find the strongest confirmation of the points raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford last year, and again this year, as to the unwisdom of taking two or three types and building a large number of vessels according to each of those types at one time. Again and again we discover in this statement that even since last year the Admiralty have been obliged to modify, as a result of the manœuvres and to alter their proposals. For instance, they have introduced modifications with respect to coal transport, and the ventilation of engine-rooms beneath the protected decks. There is a still more important point, that the new cruisers are to have their speed increased to their full capacity. I ventured last year to draw attention to the defects in the speed and coal capacity of the new cruisers; and it cannot escape the observation of anyone interested in the matter that the alterations made in the designs of the cruisers of last year are mainly directed to the increase of boiler and coal capacity. At the bottom of page 7 of the statement issued by the First Lord of the Admiralty we are told that— In the cruisers of the 1st and 2nd class now building under the Naval Defence Act, the weights of the boilers have been increased by from 16 to 25 per cent. This will give increased boiler capacity and admit of beneficial alteraations in design. Again, on the next page, we are told that— The present policy is to increase the weights and the dimensions of the boilers, so that the higher powers occasionally required may be more readily developed and maintained. I have called attention to these points especially because I wish to express my satisfaction at the alterations that have been made in the cruisers. According to the view of many of the most experienced men in the Merchant Service, fast cruisers constitute, perhaps, the most important branch of the Naval Service at the disposal of the Admiralty for the defence and protection of our commerce. I call attention to these points in order to emphasise the fact that experience is coming in month by month and year by year, and that, therefore, the safest policy for our Naval Authorities to pursue is to utilise that experience as it is acquired; not to adopt at once and for all one particular type for the construction of a large number of vessels; but, having first constructed one or two, and having seen what are the advantages and defects of that type, to adapt the designs for the next vessel or two to the experience so gained. The enormous programme laid down by the United States Government, and the rumours we hear as to the proceedings of other Naval Powers on the one hand, and on the other the proofs we have in this very statement, that experience is necessary in deciding the designs of the Government, seem to me amply to justify the attitude which we on this side of the House assumed last year.

Vote agreed to.

3. £3,312,500, Wages, &c. of Officers, Seamen, Boys, Coast Guard, and Marines.


In reply to the various questions that have been put to me in the course of the discussion on the previous Vote, I may say that I quite agree with the hon. Member who has just sat down, as to the advantages that, would result from the increase in the boiler power and coal-carrying capacity that has been given to the new cruisers, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that these advantages have not entailed any additional cost in the construction of the vessels, inasmuch as they formed part of the original designs. The discussion generally has, I think, been favourable to the policy of the Admiralty; but my hon. Friend the Member for Holderness (Commander Bethell), who spoke about the guns, must remember that I am not responsible for the 110-ton guns, which wore ordered at a time when I was not in office. When, however, an attack was made upon those guns, and I saw that they had been unfairly attacked, I thought it right to state the facts with regard to them. It is an undoubted fact that if the vessels, armed with these guns, get within certain range, and shot from the 110-ton guns strike a hostile ship, she will not be very likely to give much trouble afterwards. The Admiralty, however, have thought it advisable to limit the supply of these guns to certain ships. The hon. Gentleman went on to suggest that we should test one of these guns by firing it continuously for some hours in order to see what would be the effect of rapid firing upon the interior of the weapon; but the erosion which is caused by the gases acting on the back part of the gun while they are in a heated condition is so great, and the temperature caused by the explosion is so high, that I do not think any advantage would be derived from such a test. In designing these guns there were two considerations to which scientists specially applied themselves. They tested the temperature and pressure of the gases, and by these means ascertained the strength of metal required and the temperature it would stand. As far as the Admiralty know, our guns are as strong—I believe they are really stronger than any guns made by a Foreign Power, and they are also unequalled for accuracy, rapidity of firing, and endurance. As I have shown in my statement, the total number of heavy breech-loading guns of 8-inch calibre and upwards, mounted in English ships, is 88, 22 of those being 13 inches and upwards, while 66 are of from 8 to 13 inches, whereas the French have mounted only 20 of 13 inches and upwards, and 22 of from 8 to 13 inches. I have been asked questions with reference to the personnel of the Navy, and my hon. Friend the Member for North-Fast Kent has called special attention to the position of the Engineer Officers of the Fleet. I gave an answer on this subject last year, and have since most carefully considered the matter, with the result that I can see no reason for changing the opinion I then expressed. It is quite true that the Engineer Officers perform most responsible duties, but it must also be remembered that there is an almost unlimited supply of material for making such officers throughout the country. The Admiralty can obtain any number of candidates for the engineering branch of the Navy, the advantages of that service being exceptional. They receive a most expensive education, three-quarters of the cost of which is defrayed by the country, and when once they become commissioned officers they are almost always upon full pay, while their promotion is not retarded from one grade to another by an exceptional block. Therefore, I do not think the engineer officers have established a case that would justify me in increasing the pay at present attached to their rank in the Navy. I am, however, anxious, as far as I can fairly do so, to improve their status; but I believe that the profession of Naval Engineer is one to which people of any station in life would like to send their sons, and that when the advantages of this branch of the Service are known we shall get quite as good candidates as we have had for other branches of the Naval Service. Well, Sir, another hon. Gentleman has stated that during the recent Naval Manœuvres certain vessels-developed signs of weakness; and in reply to that charge I may say that every officer commanding a ship at those manœuvres had to send in a Report, and to answer a large number of categorical and searching questions which were sent round by the Admiralty. The result was that although a number of complaints were made of want of boiler power and engine power, and so forth, in no case did any officer state that his ship showed any signs of structural weakness. It is not for the Naval Board to interfere with the designs, the responsibility for which must be thrown upon the designers; but, at all events, no reduction has been made in the standard of constructive strength of our modern ships of war. Then the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Sir J. Colomb) suggested that officers and men of the Marines should be more utilised for the purpose of forming a Naval Reserve; and, while I quite agree with him—though I only express my owns opinion—as to the ability of these officers, and the desirability of giving so qualified a body greater chances of distinguishing themselves, I think we must rely for reserve in time of war upon our Mercantile Marine. We have the question of pensions to consider; and it is impossible to think that the people of this country would tolerate a large establishment of reserves in excess of our requirements for ships in existence simply in order that in time of war we might have a full supply of officers- and men. The cost of maintaining such a large number of men on the Active List would be considerable; and, in addition, there would be such heavy non-effective charges that I do not think the proposition one that any Government would1 care to make, or that the House of Commons would be likely to assent to. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford made to-night by no means his first speech against the Naval Defence Act of last year. I am bound to say he said nothing very new. Ho always maintained that the probable result of the measure would be to increase the Naval expenditure of other countries. Other countries, no doubt, have increased their Naval expenditure; but, having watched the matter very closely, I have not been able to trace any increase in the case of America or France in consequence of what we have done. For years past Americans have called for an increase of their Navy, and very naturally, looking at the extent of the seaboard of their country and the extent of their commerce. They have a large surplus in their treasury just now, and could not put it to better purpose than the development of shipbuilding and the rehabilitation of their Fleet. As to France, I read very carefully the speech of the French Minister, and what he pointed out was that Germany and Italy had largely increased their expenditure, and therefore he thought it necessary there should be some increase of the French Navy. The addition is not very alarming. It amounts to about £2,300,000, and this is to be spread over five or six years. The right hon. Member said that the French Navy, as compared with the British, stands in the ratio of two to three; but I have seen the French Estimates, and find a very slight increase—nothing to sustain the ratio upon which the right hon. Gentleman founded his argument. I do not want to re-state the many arguments that may be urged on behalf of the principles that are embodied in the Naval Defence Act of last Session. The House assented to the measure by a large majority. With regard to the question of Naval administration, I dismiss the financial objections raised by the right hon. Gentleman and put them aside; but when the complaint is made that the head of the Navy is a civilian, whose knowledge of Naval matters must necessarily be small, I must say that, though that fact may have something to do with Naval administration, my experience is that a civilian of common-sense and industry can, if he properly selects technical advisers, discharge the duties satisfactorily. The greatest difficulty a civilian has to contend with is that imposed by Parliamentary administration. He has to be in constant attendance in the House; day by day questions are put down; and I suppose there is hardly a day in which the Director of Naval Construction, the Engineer-in-Chief, or the Director of Dockyards is not taken away from most important work in order to devote half an hour or an hour to the answering of a question put to a Minister in this House. I do not dispute the right of Members to put questions to Ministers. So long as the present system continues it is only reasonable that full information should be given by Ministers.

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,


When I was interrupted I was about to point out that under the old system of preparing the Estimates the time of the officials was occupied continuously for about three months. Numbers of small questions crop up time after time—such as the type of ships to be built, the number of ships, and matters affecting stores. All these things have to be considered, and the permanent officials have no standard up to which to work. In the future it will be possible to compress the consideration of the annual Estimates into at least one-fourth of the time required under the old system. The time saved can be devoted to the consideration of great questions of principle, and to the establishment of a system under which the various departments of the Navy can work up to a fixed standard. As the advantages of this system became more and more apparent I am certain that everybody, including even the right hon. Gentleman, will prefer it, and will admit that it promotes economy, organisation, and method, whereas the old system undoubtedly led to waste and confusion.

Vote agreed to.

4. £1,103,200, Victualling and Clothing for the Navy.

5. £125,200, Medical Establishments and Services.

6. £11,900, Martial Law, &c.

7. Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £71,800, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expenses of Educational Services, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1891.

*(9.15.) MR. DUFF (Banffshire)

I rise, Sir, to move that you report Progress. I do so for the purpose of asking the Government what course they intend to take with regard to the remaining Naval Votes? I think the Committee has been taken somewhat by surprise. I have been here myself the greater part of the evening; but at 10 minutes past 8 o'clock I went away to have my dinner, under the impression that Vote 1 would continue to occupy the Committee, and that we should be able to discuss any questions we wished to raise on that Vote. I knew that two hon. Members intended to speak. When I came back I found that the House had voted £5,000,000 of money. It really looks as if the House took no interest in the Navy—that would be a false impression. Strictly speaking I ought to have been here, but one generally relies on someone to keep the debate going. I hope the First Lord of the Admiralty does not propose to go on with the Shipbuilding Vote to-night, considering that the enormous volume dealing with it was not presented to the House until 4 o'clock this evening.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Duff.)

*(9.18.) ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)

I wish to say I thoroughly echo the sentiments of my hon. Friend opposite. I, like him, have been taken entirely by surprise. I do not desire to criticise the action of Ministers. Probably, they are perfectly justified in the course they have taken; but I think I may say that such a course is most unusual. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pembroke (Admiral Mayne) and myself had given way with great good nature to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Sir J. Colomb), who had to take the chair at a meeting in the East End, and during the dinner hour a snatch-Vote was taken. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, I will not call it a snatch-Vote; but it certainly is not usual to take a Vote of this kind during the dinner hour. There was no desire on the part of any of us to interfere with the Government in getting the Vote to-night. We are, however, not made of cast-iron, and cannot do without food. I hope no charge will be brought against us of having failed in our duty to the country in not having discussed these Votes.


There has been no snatch-Vote, and no attempt on the part of anyone to unduly push the Vote through. Very few Members were present in the House when the first Vote was put. A number of questions had been put to me, and I felt bound to answer them, although not one of the speakers was then present. I am sorry that the speech which my hon. and gallant Friend (Admiral Field) intended to make was not made, and I shall be very glad to assent to any reasonable proposition. What I propose is, not to take the Shipbuilding Vote, the Naval Armament Vote, or the Admiralty Vote.


I think my noble Friend has proposed a very reasonable thing. I entirely acquit the noble Lord of any desire to snatch a Vote. I hope ho will also acquit me of any want of courtesy in not having been here when he answered the remarks I had made. I left the House at 10 minutes past 8 for the same purpose as my hon. and gallant Friend (Admiral Field), and I was surprised when at half-past 8 I returned and found that the noble Lord had finished his observations.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question again proposed.

*(9.25.) MR. DUFF

I should like to ask the noble Lord what policy the Board intend to pursue in regard to the Britannia? Some time ago a very important Commission concerning Naval Education held an inquiry, which was presided over by Admiral Luard and consisted of very able men. After the Commission had reported I took occasion to draw the attention of the noble Lord to the Report. Since then I do not think the Admiralty have given any attention whatever to the Report with the exception of having made some alterations with regard to age of entry of naval cadets. After the trouble that Commission took, I think it is due to them that some reasons should be given by the Admiralty for net having carried out their recommendations. At present, naval cadets, after going to the Britannia at a very early age, are sent to sea generally for four years. While on hoard a man-of-war they have no opportunity of pursuing the most scientific part of their education. It is quite impossible to teach the higher branches of mathematics on board a man-of-war, and the Commission lay down the general principle that you ought to separate the technical from the scientific education. When these young men pass into the College at Greenwich, after having been four years at sea, they are not able to pass the examination they passed when they left the Britannia; and consequently, for all scientific purposes, the four most valuable years of their life—those between 16 and 20—are absolutely thrown away. I do not think much can be said in defence of that system. In these days naval officers are required to have a far more scientific education than in former years. The Commissioners recommended that you ought to enter your cadets at a much later age. Your cadets ought to be entered at a later age, say between 16 and 17. At the present moment first-class boys from Greenwich do not go to sea until they are 17, and I do not see it is too late for officers to get their sea legs any more than for the men. For four months they should go to sea and learn the strictly nautical part of their profession, and after that they should proceed with their higher studies, mathematics and foreign languages, in some place where there is opportunity for acquiring them, which we know there is not on board ship. You do not find any foreign nation following our system, and it stands condemned from the fact that four years afterwards the lads cannot pass the examination they passed on entering. The present system deprives them of the opportunity they should have of acquiring a scientific education and knowledge of languages, which they cannot get with equal advantage from a professional crammer. After this mature consideration they have given to the subject I should like to know what steps the Admiralty propose to take with reference to the recommendations of the Commission? I am quite aware that naval men are not at one in their opinion of the Report, but I know no naval men are satisfied with the present system. Some of my late Colleagues at the Admiralty were not prepared to go so far as the Report; but the naval Lords admitted that the present system is unsatisfactory, and there is no remedy in simply raising the age by a year.


I have looked very closely into the Report of the Commission which sat some four or five years ago, and I and my Colleagues are unanimous in our opinions of its recommendations. The proposition is that these cadets shall be selected at local Oxford and Cambridge examinations in the country at the age of 15, and that after that they shall be put through a special course of preparation for a further examination for another year, and at about the age of 16½ they should begin their professional duties. Now, as for entering the Service at a later age, if there is one thing clearer than another it is that there are considerable discomforts associated with a sea life, which boys do not feel, but which to a young man would be most disagreeable—

* MR. R. W. DUFF

At 17?


A young man sent to sea and compelled to sling his hammock among scores of others, with no accommodation but his sea-chest, would find his lot so disagreeable, as compared with that of his brothers and relatives on shore, that he would not take kindly to it. Experience is conclusive against the proposal. At one stage of their lives boys are gregarious in their habits, and it is then that they should be sent to sea, when almost any surroundings will be enjoyable. But three years later, when the boy is dawning into early manhood and appreciates the advantages of privacy, this life without early training becomes intolerable. The age of entering for the Britannia has been raised to 14½ years, and the entrance examination is made as general as possible, so that any boy of ordinary ability and of good training can pass it. It may well be that a cadet cannot pass again the more difficult part of the examination which he passed four years before; but the same thing can be said of a senior wrangler. The cadets while at sea receive an excellent moral training, together with enough education to keep their minds open. Other nations would be ready enough to adopt this country's system if they could thereby obtain officers as good. To have the men well trained it is necessary to have them at an early age; and the present system has resulted in producing a number of highly-trained, scientific officers, while never were the lower grades of officers so good.

(9.40.) CAPTAIN PRICE (Devonport)

The expense of training a cadet is to a very large extent at present borne on the Naval Votes, and I do not see why that training should not be supplied by the public schools. I am quite aware that the naval cadets are assisted by their parents, but the expense does to a very appreciable extent fall upon the Votes. The Commission recommended that boys should be selected at the age of 16, and then sent to a crammer for a year. I do not think that this is necessary, as any boy of good public-school education is quite capable of going to sea at once. When I entered the Navy (in 1856) boys were entered at the age of 16, and no difficulty was found in getting them. I entered very young, and, like most youngsters, I was mad to go to sea, but I very soon had the enthusiasm knocked out of me, and the first two years of my sea life were about as miserable as any period of my life. It is only about the age of 16 that a lad begins to understand the romance of the Service and to like the life. If a boy goes to sea at 16, he should not be called upon to go in for scientific subjects until entering the Naval College. Let him, from 16 to 19, add seamanship and navigation to his public school education, and then ho could spend at least two years in the Naval College, and thoroughly study all those scientific subjects which a Naval officer is expected to understand. I have no sympathy with the present system of training cadets, and I hope, in fact, that the Britannia may soon be done away with.

*(9.43.) ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)

I do not share the views of my hon. and gallant Friend, and I am thoroughly in harmony with the view of the First Lord. I am not, however, opposed to raising the age for entering the service to 15 years as a maximum. If you abolish the Britannia, as my hon. and gallant Friend recommends, your choice will be between sending the lads to sea straight from school or having a college on shore. Well, I think there would be considerable difficulty in keeping good discipline among some 200 young men of the ages from 16 to 19 in a college on shore. It would be far better that they should go to sea straight, and be brought under strict naval discipline. But the answer of the hon. Gentleman opposite is that the system he proposes has been tried and has failed, the present system being established in lieu of it. The late Sir Alfred Ryder, when he was private secretary to the Duke of Somerset, prepared a Return for the Admiralty, showing what became of the lads who entered at the age of 16, in comparison with those who joined the Britannia at an earlier age. The result was remarkable. I will not quote it from memory, but the Returns showed that a much larger percentage of those who joined the Britannia, remained in the Service. I myself joined at the age of 16 and found the life a most disgusting one for the first six months. It was most difficult to acquire any knowledge of my profession except seamanship, because there was no one to teach it. I remember my experience very well, but I need not trouble the House with it, I am entirely opposed to any drastic change, and I think the noble Lord is quite right in resisting it. If there should be any change this is not the time for making it. While you have ships of the type you have at present, better adhere to the present system until you can invent a better. Have Foreign Navies got a better staff of officers? No, I am sure they have not. Ours is not a perfect system any more than any human system, but it has worked well; it has supplied us with talented young officers, and I do not think yon will readily find a better system.


It is amusing to see how hon. and gallant Gentlemen will yield to the influence of myth. It would be well if attention were given to the explosion of some of the myths connected with the naval Service. I believe there is no greater mistake than to suppose a boy cannot become accustomed to sea life at a later age than 16. Some distinguished men have gone to sea long after 16. For instance, Captain Cook first went to sea at the age of 19. I agree with my hon. Friends the Members for Banff and Devonport in the main, but I concur with my hon. and gallant Friend near me that this is not a suitable occasion to raise a regular educational discussion. The system has been arranged by my noble; Friend, and whatever views we hold we have very little chance of impressing them on the present Board of Admiralty. I maintain, however, that of recent years the Admiralty have given undue value to what is called high mathematical and scientific training. Personally I never had any objection to these branches of study; they were never distasteful to me; but it is undoubtedly true of the officers who received high training on the Britannia and the Excellent that of a hundred not five could, six months after entrance, work out the problems they did when they passed their examination, without the assistance of books and formula. The simple reason is this, knowledge is not required in the profession. If my noble Friend believes, as I think he does, that the officers of our Naval Service are men of high scientific attainments, he is labouring under a complete delusion. No body of officers in the Service ever have been, and I might say ever will be, men of high scientific training, simply because it is not required, and a man will not fit himself with attainments not required in the course of his profession. For my part, I should like to see the whole system altered, and to see boys having had an ordinary education on shore proceed to sea. I believe they would readily accustom themselves to the hardships of sea life, for, after all, it is stuff and nonsense talked about this, there is no real hardship. There was in the days when my hon. and gallant Friend entered the Service, but I am quite sure that judging by the way in which young men crowd into the Navy, they are not considered hardships.


I feel very strongly on this subject, and I entirely agree with the last speaker. I happen to be one of the few examples of public schoolboys in the Navy, and I am convinced that it has been of the greatest advantage to me to have had two years at Eton before going to sea. I am opposed to the Britannia system from beginning to end. The necessity of entering boys at a very early age has been somewhat emphasised, but I believe if we entered boys in the Navy direct from the public schools they would turn out equally good officers as those we have now. As to what has been said about the disgust that arises at the discomforts of sea life, that applies as much to the age of 12 as it does to the age of 16, and all that a lad has to learn can be equally well learned if he joins the Service after receiving the ordinary education of a gentleman's son. It is probable that all the officers except those who join the torpedo service or special scientific branches know nothing about the subject they passed in two years before. In fact, when they leave college they close their books never to open them again. I would suggest that for any real advantage the education should be carried on for a much longer period. I should like them not to drop their books until, at any rate, they became captains. I do not see why you should not have some such system as the staff college, where officers may continue their education. It is my opinion that we learn little worth remembering until we are grown up.

*(9.55.) MR. DUFF

I think it must be pretty evident there is a difference of opinion on this point among Naval officers. We have what may be called the old school represented by the hon. and gallant Admiral (Admiral Field) who think that the old system is perfect and incapable of improvement.


I condemned it.


The preponderance of opinion certainly among Naval officers is in favour, if not exactly of the recommendations of the Commission, at any rate in favour of very great alterations in the system. I do not think the noble Lord quite remembers the recommendations of the Commission. There is nothing in those recommendations to prevent boys going back to a public school after the preliminary examination; it is not necessary that they should go to crammers. The proposal of the Commission was that we should do away with the rank of midshipman afloat; that the lads should go for a cruise for three or four months, and then return to a naval college on shore. My hon. and gallant Friend opposite has pointed out the falsity of the assumption that young men did not get on when they joined the Service late in life, and he mentioned the case of Captain Cook, who joined late. I can mention another case of a celebrated officer, Lord Dundonald, with whom I served, who, I believe, did not enter the Service until he was 18. Those familiar with the Autobiography of a Seaman will remember the description of Lord Dundonald when in the command of the Speedy, trying to shave himself, his legs in the cabin, his head on deck. He, as a young man, had to undergo considerable discomforts, but these in no way daunted his ardour for a sea life. The First Lord entertains a good John Bull opinion of British officers as the best in the world, and it is quite right that a First Lord should have that opinion, but as to the possession of scientific acquirements I should just like to mention the evidence of Captain Kane, of the Calliope, who says that unquestionably foreign naval officers have a better scientific education than ours, and he has also stated that he does not believe that one English officer in a hundred speaks any language but his own. I do not go as far as that, but I think you do not give your young officers the opportunity for learning that amount of science which is necessary in the Service, and which they ought to have in the same proportion as foreign officers have. I agree with a great deal that has fallen from the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Pembroke. If you do not have special training the best thing is to have naval officers educated like anyone else up to a certain age, and then take them on board ship and let them get their professional education there.

Question put, and agreed to.

8. £57,900, Scientific Services.


I should like to know whether instructions have been sent out to specially survey that part of the Torres Straits where it is reported a rock has been discovered en which the Quetta was lost?


I have no information on that point, but I will make inquiries.

Vote agreed to.

9. £152,100, Royal Naval Reserves.


I notice that some years ago the reserve number of stokers was 1,000. It was reduced to 600, and now the number is nominally 800; last year you only succeeded in obtaining about 600. I do not know whether the noble Lord will be able to get the number of men which he expects, because at the present moment the position of the naval stokers, as regards pay, is not so good as that of the stokers in the mercantile marine. It is quite true that a naval man can look forward to a pension, but I should like to ask the Admiralty whether they think what they are now offering is a sufficient inducement for men to enter the reserve Service?


When I first came to the Admiralty the system in force was to offer a retainer of £5 a year; that is to say, a man of good character and of certain experience as stoker could increase his wages by £5 a year, simply by becoming a man of the Royal Naval Reserve. I thought we should be able to obtain any number we wished, but the anticipation has not been fulfilled. Whether it is from want of knowledge on the part of the men I do not know. If this system does not answer we shall have to try other means. Whether we shall get more this year than last I cannot say, but my impression is, judging from the state of the labour market, we shall not get them.

Vote agreed to.

10. £415,800, Works, Buildings, and Repairs, at Home and Abroad.


On this Vote I beg to call the noble Lord's attention to a very grave deficiency, which he knows exists and has existed for many years, and which I know he and his Colleagues, are anxious should be rectified—I allude to the want of a dock at Bombay. The want of a dock at Bombay is a public scandal. The noble Lord in his Memorandum very properly refers to it. He says— Plans for the proposed naval dock at Bombay have been prepared by Sir J. Coode, under instructions from the India Office, but no funds have as yet been allotted for the purpose. Whose fault is it? I am told it is the fault of the Treasury. Everything, I believe, waits for the approval of the Treasury. But if the Treasury will not grant this money, surely Her Majesty's Government, which is all powerful in these times, can bring pressure on the Indian Government and make them do what they ought to do. The Indian Government spent close on £400,000 on a floating iron dock. That dock was sent across to Bombay, but I believe that not more than one man of war has ever been docked in it. The money has been entirely wasted. The dock has now been handed over to the Peninsula and Oriental Company at a nominal rent, and I do not suppose anything has been done to reserve the right to dock our ships in it. Another matter I wish to call attention to is the construction of the dock at Gibraltar. I am told that in his Memorandum the noble Lord speaks of a site having been selected. Are we to understand that plans are in course of preparation, and that the work will be undertaken before the summer passes? I should like to know, too, whether the lengthening of the dock at Malta, which was agreed upon by the Treasury, has been carried out? The work was approved of in May, 1888; it was to be undertaken in July, 1888, but I have not yet heard it has been finished. I earnestly trust the noble Lord will be able to give us an assurance that the dock at Bombay will be built—that if the Treasury will not make a grant, the Government, who have the power, will compel the Indian Government to do their duty in the matter.


I should like to know whether, in selecting the site of the dock at Gibraltar, regard has been had to its being placed out of the range of fire from the Spanish heights on the opposite side. I should like to know, also, the exact spot decided upon, its length, and general particulars, and whether it is to be a first-class dock, which will receive the largest ships of this country in the Mediterranean, and afford them the greatest amount of protection. Perhaps the First Lord will say whether the Mole is to be lengthened with the ground taken out of the excavations for the dock, and also whether the question of fitting up or rebuilding the stores at Gibraltar, so as to house the men who now live all over the town, has been considered by the Government. I quite agree with the observations of my gallant Friend about the dock at Bombay, but my hon. and gallant Friend suggests more drastic methods of dealing with Governments and others who do not find all the money required than I imagine could be carried out. I desire also to be informed whether anything is being done at Pembroke. If proper works were undertaken and completed, there would be an annual saving to the country of much more than the annual interest on the money expended, besides making the dockyard far more efficient. I believe the First Lord and all his Colleagues are strongly in favour of the work being undertaken. It is, I understand, merely a question of money. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, whom I see in his place, will, I am sure, raise no objection if it is properly put before him that the saving will be in excess of the interest of the money expended.

*(10.16.) MR. DUFF

I should like some information as to the item in the Vote for the coaling arrangements at Portsmouth and Portland. I presume the item is taken to carry out the recommendations of the Committee as to the necessity of improved coaling facilities for the Fleet. I am certain I shall have all the Naval Authorities with me when I say that the coaling arrangements for the Fleet in cases of emergency are very unsatisfactory. My hon. and gallant Friends opposite (Admiral Field and Admiral Mayne) have alluded to the construction of a dock at Gibraltar. That is a very proper question to ask, because the noble Lord in his Memorandum says— The Admiralty have been carefully considering the provision of a dock at Gibraltar, and have selected a site for it. They have every hope that the dock will soon be undertaken by private enterprise, with help and encouragement from the Imperial Governmet. I understand the Civil Lord has recently been to Gibralter, and I hope he will give the Committee the benefit of his investigation. The importance of the dock to the Navy it is impossible to overrate, and therefore I trust the Government will give every possible encouragement to private enterprise to carry out the object.

(10.20.) A CIVIL LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT,) Sheffield, Eccleshall

The Admiralty have recently had the question of a dock at Gibraltar under their close consideration, and it has been decided to make a dock at that very important station. It has practically been decided to make the dock on the New Mole Parade, and if the dock is made there it will enable the Mole to be lengthened as the Naval Authorities desire. Of course, if the Mole is lengthened it will be possible to devote a great portion of it to coaling. The site of the dock is protected from sea fire, but it is practically impossible to obtain a site which would be altogether sheltered from land fire. The question of the construction of the dock by a commercial company has not yet been settled. There is a consultation now going on between the Admiralty and the Colonial Office, and it is possible the two Departments may undertake the construction of the dock between them. As my hon. and gallant Friend will understand, there is some objection to a dock being constructed by a commercial company. I did not quite catch the object of my hon. and gallant Friend's (Admiral Mayne's) observations with regard to the stores at Gibraltar, but the stores houses are of a very superior character—very large and commodious. With regard to the dock at Bombay, I quite agree with my hon. and gallant Friend (Admiral Field) that there has been an unfortunate delay in the construction of the dock. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has observed very truly that it is duo very largely to the difficulty of the allocation of funds, a difficulty which I hope will be removed before very long. I quite agree with my hon. and gallant Friend as to the importance of a dock. The hon. Member for Banffshire referred to the coaling arrangements at Portsmouth and Portland. The item in the Vote concerning Portsmouth is merely a re-vote for the completion of the coaling arrangements there. As to Portland, the coaling arrangements are unsatisfactory. An entirely new scheme has been adopted, which involves the construction of a jetty, so that the coaling may be carried out in deep water.

*(10.26.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE

It was my intention to raise the whole question of Ascension Island under this Vote, but I did not imagine that the Vote would be taken to-night, and therefore I have not my notice with me. I hope some inquiry will be made before further expenditure is sanctioned with regard to Ascension Island. I believe I am right in saying that Ascension Island is rated as a ship; that it is not considered as an ordinary shore establishment, but that the officers and men who are there are rated as if on board ship, and are paid out of Vote 1. What is the cost of maintaining the island is extremely difficult to make out, in consequence of the expenditure appearing under various Votes. It is very questionable whether the island is of any real value to the Naval Service. No doubt, in former days, the position was an important one; but in these days of steam, the use of the island for any purpose is very small indeed. I know a very large number of Naval officers are of opinion that it is perfectly useless now, and that the Naval establishments there might be given up, or that only a very small force might be kept there. The island is nothing more than a cinder. The vegetation is not sufficient to support cattle or sheep, and the attempt at cultivation was made at very considerable cost. What I would like the noble Lord to do, is seriously to consider whether it is worth while retaining the establishments there any longer, or, at all events, whether the force should not be reduced?


I wish to ask a question with regard to the item for storehouses and buildings for the reception of Naval ordnance stores, for which there is a charge of £49,000 for the coming year, and a further expenditure of £13,000 debited to the year 1888–89. I ask on what ground, without the consent of this House, the noble Lord has consented to the building of these storehouses? Surely there was already in existence sufficient accommodation for Naval stores. Is it due to the effect of placing stores under Navy control which were formerly under that of the War Office? At any rate, I see no reason why separate stores should be built for the Navy if the existing stores were sufficient.


These storehouses were rendered necessary in con sequence of the increased quantities of stores provided for the Navy. One point, I may mention, has reference to the storage of powder. The existing accommodation for powder was not very good. The matter was discussed between the War Office and the Admiralty as to which branch should undertake the necessary buildings, and the Treasury, to whom the question was referred, decided that the cost should be borne by the Admiralty. With regard to the question put by the right hon. Gentleman opposite as to the Isle of Ascension, I can assure him that the expenditure referred to was not sanctioned until the Government were satisfied as to the desirability of retaining that island. It is deemed a most suitable place for a Naval station, and as the climate is salubrious it is regarded as an excellent sanatorium. Of all our Naval stations in the neighbourhood of North-West Africa that of Ascension is, perhaps, the most important.


I do not think many hon. Members are quite satisfied with the answer given by the First Lord of the Admiralty in reference to the Bombay dock. We know that the Indian Government refuses to pay more than a moiety of the cost, and we ask that the Government should press the Indian Government to pay the whole. I therefore hope we shall receive a more assuring answer on this subject than has already been given by the Civil Lord of the Admiralty.


I hope we may ere long be able to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion with the Indian Government as to the contribution they should make, but in the meantime a commercial company has undertaken to build a dock at Bombay.

*(10.38.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE

I should like to ask a further question with regard to Ascension. The noble Lord has said it is a satisfactory Naval station and useful as a sanatorium. As a Naval station I would point out that it is not a coaling station, and, moreover, the sea is often so rough that it is difficult to land for Naval purposes. Moreover, I would ask whether, in point of fact, a considerable number of men are sent there for sanitary purposes? but as I have made some notes on the subject, and should like to go into the matter more fully than I can do to-night, I will endeavour to obtain another opportunity of raising the question in a more formal manner.

Vote agreed to.

11. £133,400, Miscellaneous Effective Services.

12. £793,500, Half Pay, Reserved, and Retired Pay.

13. £933,400, Naval and Marine Pensions, Gratuities, and Compassionate Allowances.


I wish to call attention to the great dissatisfaction, which is felt among the chief petty officers in the Service with regard to their pensions. It is a great hardship on the senior petty officers that they receive no extra retiring pensions in acknowledgment of their rank. The chief petty officer has no recognition in the way of extra pension when he retires from the Service, and that is a very serious grievance. The staff-sergeant in the Army, who occupies similar rank to the chief petty officer in the Navy, draws extra pension when he retires. The chief petty officer, selected because of his knowledge and seamanship, gets no extra recognition for extra rank. Such a faithful body of men as these chief petty officers are deserving of recognition, and I hope their grievance will receive prompt remedy.


I support my hon. and gallant Friend in drawing attention to this grievance, for it does seem wrong that the chief petty officers should get no more recognition on retiring than first class petty officers who are of lower rank and inferior position. I hope the noble Lord will give this matter his attention.


I add my voice in support of my hon. and gallant Friend, for it is a practical grievance which has been pointed out, that officers of similar rank to these chief petty officers should receive full pension while the latter do not.


I rise for the purpose of supporting the appeal in favour of the chief petty officers.

*(10.49.) LORD G. HAMILTON

The matter is well deserving consideration. The chief petty officers are an admirable body of men, and I am quite prepared to give the matter my consideration.

Vote agreed to.

14. £330,700, Civil Pensions and Gratuities.

15. £1,200, Additional Naval Force for Service in Australasian Waters.


I understand the colony of Queensland has declined to make any contribution in aid of this particular Service. I wish to know whether, if that be the case, it will in any way affect the contributions of the other Australasian Colonies. I wish to know whether the £67,000 includes the proposed contribution of Queensland, or if it does not?


The original arrangement was that for certain services rendered the colonies should pay certain sums in return. Queensland has not sent a contribution: therefore, it only remains to distribute the expenditure amongst those who have assented to the scheme. The money is not payable until the ships are in commission in the autumn. Communications are being addressed to the colonial Governments in the meanwhile, so that there is reasonable prospect that before the close of the year some appropriation will be made.


What will be the contribution of Queensland?


I do not know. The colonies will supply the money themselves. They will decide pro ratâ what they shall bear.

Vote agreed to.