HC Deb 17 June 1891 vol 354 cc661-709

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

1. Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £1,145,800, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expense of Victualling and Clothing for the Navy, including the cost of Victualling Establishments at Home and Abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1892.

*(12.27.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)

I must enter my protest against the Navy Estimates being sprung upon us at so short a notice. In my opinion, such a course is totally unprecedented and very inconvenient to the hon. Members who take an interest in naval questions. I desire to raise the question of the retention of the Island of Ascension; but I do so, however, under great inconvenience, because some weeks ago I moved for a Return; and although that Return has been prepared, it has not been laid on the Table.


It was laid on the Table yesterday.


In any case, the Return has not been printed and circulated. The Committee will remember that I raised this question last Session, and that the discussion came to an unfortunate end very late at night in consequence of the extremely irrelevant observations made by an hon. Member sitting behind me. These irrelevant observations induced the Deputy Speaker to terminate the discussion before the noble Lord had had an opportunity of explaining his views on the subject. Under these circumstances, I think I am justified in renewing the question. Three years ago the First Lord of the Admiralty announced the intention of the Government to withdraw the establishment from Ascension and to fortify St. Helena. The fortifications of St. Helena were undertaken, and a large expenditure has since been incurred. No one would dream of fortifying both these islands—Ascension and St. Helena. They both lie in the course of vessels sailing between Sierra Leone and the Cape. St. Helena is equidistant from both points, while Ascension is 800 miles further northward, and somewhat out of the track of vessels. There can be no doubt that St. Helena is a much better place for coaling purposes than Ascension for vessels bound from Sierra Leone to the Cape. The Royal Commission on Colonial Defence, which sat in 1882 under the presidency of the late Lord Carnarvon, considered the rival claims of the two islands very carefully, and came to the conclusion that it would be wise to select St. Helena as a coaling depôt in preference to Ascension. In 1888 the Naval Defence Act was passed, and the question of the merits of these two places was again carefully considered. The question was referred to a very important Departmental Committee called the Colonial Defences Committee, and I am informed that that Committee came to the same conclusion that the Royal Commission of 1882 did; they recommended the expenditure of a considerable sum of money on the fortifications of St. Helena, and advised that the establishment at Ascension should be withdrawn. Apparently, the Cabinet, after considering the Report of the Committee, came to the same conclusion, for no less a sum than £50,000 was expended on the fortification of St. Helena. But no sooner had that money been expended than a change of policy took place at the Admiralty, and the naval advisers of the noble Lord determined to maintain the establishment at Ascension. The Colonial Defence Committee, on being again referred to, repeated their original recommendation that St. Helena should be fortified, and that the naval establish- ment should be withdrawn from Ascension. This, however, has not been done. The fortifications of St. Helena has been continued, and we are now saddled with both establishments. I understand that the War Office, in view of what has been done, propose to withdraw the small garrison at St. Helena, and to commit the defence of the fortifications to a Colonial Militia. But the people in the island have steadily refused to raise any Militia Force, and the result is that either the fortifications of St. Helena must be abandoned or we must continue to maintain a garrison there, as well as at Ascension. Apparently, it is the intention of the Admiralty to fortify Ascension and to increase the force there. Earlier in the Session the First Lord of the Admiralty said it was not intended to increase the force at Ascension, but I understand from people living on the island that orders have been issued for a considerable addition to the number of men there. I am also informed that orders have been given for the sending out of a considerable number of heavy guns with a view to the fortification of the island. I think everybody will admit that if we were to start afresh, St. Helena would be in every respect the better station. It is a fertile island, whilst Ascension is a bare rock. For the purpose of victualling Ascension it is necessary to keep up communications with the island every fortnight, and in the event of war it might be very difficult to maintain such communications. At present it is the site of a sanatorium and also a victualling store, but it is very little used; the total amount of stores maintained there is not more than £5,000, and the average number of men in hospital is only 5. Now, apparently the noble Lord has the intention of dividing the South African Squadron into two, making the West African a separate squadron, with Ascension as its head quarters; but I cannot help thinking that St. Helena is a much better place for the purpose. The island is healthier, it is further south, and, in most respects, convenient for the West African Coast. There is this further reason: It is absolutely necessary that the vessels on the West African Coast should go every now and then to St. Helena for change of air, and that the crews may have leave. I believe there is an order in force on the West African Coast that vessels shall every three months go to St. Helena, in order that the men may have leave on shore there, it being impossible to give them leave on the West Coast or at Ascension. I need not enter into the reason for this, but it is a well-known fact that vessels have to go to St. Helena every three months. I think, therefore, it would be a better place to make the head quarters of the divided squadron. And now a word on the economic aspect of the question. The expense of maintaining Ascension is very great. I have not had the advantage of studying the figures put into my hands by the Secretary to the Admiralty, but I should be surprised if the total expenditure amounts to less than £20,000 or £25,000 annually. The island is treated as a ship, not as a naval station; the men are rated as seamen, as if they were attached to a vessel; and as a kind of solatium to the men who are obliged to live in so dreadful a place they are given large allowances—in point of fact, the pay of the men is nearly doubled, and that of the officers is very large. Altogether the establishment is maintained at very great cost. It is, impossible to say exactly what it is for it involves not merely the cost of men there, but the expense of keeping up communication. I am informed that the Wye is almost always employed in keeping up communication. The cost of victualling, too, is very great. Meat has to be sent in the shape of cattle from the Cape, and the Wye also carries hay from England to feed the cattle on the island. I am also informed that the cost of meat is 3s. a pound, and, at that rate, it is charged in the accounts as between the hospital and other departments. The expense, then, of maintaining the establishment at Ascension is very great. On the other hand, the cost of maintaining the force at St. Helena is comparatively small for the reasons I have mentioned; the island is cultivated, and it has a civil population, and there is no reason for giving increased pay to the men on service there. It seems to me that the wise course would be to make St. Helena the naval establishment, and place the island under the charge of the Admiralty. I am told that the Colonial Office would be extremely glad if that course were adopted. The island of St. Helena is at the present moment in a very embarrassed condition owing to the failure of its trade, as vessels no longer call there for orders and for victualling. It would be a very good thing for the inhabitants if the Government expenditure could be maintained there instead of at Ascension. For all these reasons it appears to me that the course adopted by the Admiralty of fortifying St. Helena, and, at the same time, maintaining the establishment at Ascension is not a wise or prudent one. My firm belief is that if the policy originally adopted by the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty in 1888 (before this recent change), in accordance with which it was determined to fortify St. Helena was a wise one, and if it had been carried out it would have led to considerable economy in the Public Service. I should not be surprised to find there would be a saving in expenditure of from £10,000 to £15,000 a year, the War Office being relieved from maintaining a garrison there. The naval establishment being transferred to St. Helena from Ascension, it would be maintained at much less cost than at present. Nobody will doubt, I think, that if we are to maintain the establishment at Ascension we ought not to have spent £50,000 on fortifying St. Helena. No one in his senses would dream of fortifying both islands. If the Admiralty are justified in maintaining the establishment at Ascension, then St. Helena ought not to have been fortified, and the £50,000 expended there in the last few years is so much money thrown away. But that money having been spent, then the wise course would be to withdraw the Naval Establishments from Ascension. In this view I move the reduction of the Vote by £5,000, to raise the question and give the noble Lord an opportunity of explaining what has passed.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £1,140,800, be granted for the said Service."—(Mr. Shaw Lefevre.)

(12.50.) CAPTAIN BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)

I do not think the right hon. Gentleman quite appreciates the position. It is quite true, as the right hon. Gentleman says, that St. Helena is much better as a permanent coaling station, and he is quite right also in saying that St. Helena is a valuable sanatorium and well suited for the head quarters of vessels in those waters. But I do not understand that the right hon. Gentleman means, when he advocates the transfer of stores from Ascension that we should give up the island, scuttle away, and leave any Power to occupy it. Well, if we do not do that in time of war we should still have to defend the island, so that we may as well make use of it in time of peace. The use of the island is well-known in the Navy. As a sanatorium it is extremely valuable. The high land of Ascension has been the means of restoring to health numbers of men suffering from fever and diseases contracted on the West Coast of Africa. Without very strong reasons indeed we should not be justified in giving up the island. The point I wish the right hon. Gentleman to sec is this: The island has to be defended. It is true we cannot fortify it strongly, but it must be fortified sufficiently to repel any hasty attack in time of war not to withstand a long siege, and indeed, I doubt whether it could be fortified in that way. Ascension has only one place where a landing can be effected; it would be comparatively easy, therefore, to fortify it against what is commonly called a raid. Therefore, I think we should be unwise, knowing that we shall have to incur the difficult and expense of defending the island in time of war, not to make use of it as a coaling station now, seeing that we can do so at very small expense, and that though, not very much used, it is useful for that purpose and as a sanatorium. I think the noble Lord has done wisely in not accepting the recommendation of the Commission to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. I am inclined to think it will be very useful in connection with the division of the Atlantic and West Coast of Africa Stations. I forget the exact limits of the division, but I believe that Ascension forms the natural sanatorium for all the northern stations. I do not think that anybody who has served on the station, or has studied the subject, will deny that Ascension is especially suited as a sanatorium for our seamen in that part of the world. So far as St. Helena is concerned, it is essential, no doubt, that it should be fortified; nevertheless, it is well to remember that which is well said in a recent work by Admiral Colomb—I do not know whether the noble Lord is acquainted with it, but no doubt the hon. Member below me (Sir J. Colomb) approves it—an extremely interesting work showing how vain is the expenditure of very largo sums of money on huge fortifications to maintain such positions as St. Helena and Ascension. The value of St. Helena justifies the expenditure of a more considerable sum, but Ascension can be fortified at little expense, and it ought to be maintained.

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

I cordially endorse much that has been said by the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Bethell), but I do not concur with the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) on the ground of expense. I will not follow him through his argument in relation to fortification and strategic positions, but I think his argument was mainly based on the question of expense.


Not expense only, but general military considerations as well.


Upon the general military question I would say this: The arrangements and administration in time of peace are not always those that can be maintained in time of war, but the maintenance of the health of our seamen is of the first importance in either case. Without arguing against the importance of St. Helena in the event of a maritime war, it is outside the question of the value of Ascension in time of peace. I believe on the ground of expense, and that after all is the question we are now considering, the island is valuable as a sanatorium and place of resort for our squadron, which is not maintained for war but for peace purposes on the West Coast of Africa. It is almost certain that the class of vessels we have to maintain in time of peace for the duty of looking after our commercial interests on the West Coast of Africa, is not adapted for warlike purposes, would not be maintained in a great maritime war, and would probably have to be withdrawn. Of course, that being so, you must look to the needs of our West African Squadron in peace, solely from the point of view of convenience and economy. Now, I will not take up the time of the Committee by saying anything more on the suitability of Ascension as a sanatorium for our vessels, but I may point out that as Ascension is 800 miles nearer the places whore the ordinary duties of our West African Squadron are performed, the right hon. Gentleman really means that the ships of that squadron should steam 800 miles further when they have need to go to this sanatorium. Now, if the right hon. Gentleman will take pencil and paper he may calculate upon this basis what the additional expenditure in coal will be in traversing this distance twice.


This does not affect my statement. I mentioned that there are orders in force requiring vessels to visit St. Helena every three months. The question the hon. Gentleman puts does not, therefore, arise.


I think it does arise. I do not see that it affects my argument for this reason: The point I wish to bring home to the right hon. Gentleman is this, whether that is the case or not, the ships would have to use St. Helena for certain purposes, in addition to going to Ascension; and if the whole depôt is shifted to St. Helena, there is necessarily an increase in the expenditure for coal for the West African Squadron. If the right hon. Gentleman works it out he will find there will not be the economy he supposes.

*(1.0.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Lord G. HAMILTON,) Middlesex, Ealing

I am sorry that we were not enabled to give the right hon. Gentleman longer notice of our intention to take the Naval Estimates to-day, so that he might have given notice of his intention to raise this question in regard to St. Helena, for then I should have had the Papers with me to go into the matter more fully.


I long since gave notice of my intention.


There has, no doubt, been a change of policy, which can be justified on strategical and financial grounds. Some time back a Commission, presided over by Lord Carnarvon, did report that St. Helena was the island best worth fortifying, but that decision was based, I imagine, much more upon colonial than naval considerations, the same attention not being at that time given to naval and strategical considerations that since has been. It is very easy to arrive at a decision that you are to abandon the island where there is a naval establishment for stores; but, as has been pointed out, in time of war the island must be defended. You cannot withdraw all your establishment in time of peace, and suddenly reinforce the place in time of war; and you must, therefore, contemplate the possibility of the Island of Ascension passing out of our possession into the hands of the enemy, and in the hands of an enemy it is physically a position that could easily be defended. The financial effect of adopting the proposal of the Commission undoubtedly would be to put a heavy additional expenditure on the Naval Votes; that is a matter on which there cannot be two opinions. If St. Helena is made a naval station, and if, as the right hon. Gentleman contemplates, the troops are withdrawn, it necessarily means the maintenance of a large naval establishment, and the long-service men, sailors, and marines cost more than the War Office garrison. It would mean increased expenditure and the locking up of a considerable number of men who, in time of war, would be wanted at home. Another financial difficulty arises with the fact that at Ascension we have the necessary buildings, at St. Helena we have not. Considerable expense would thus be involved in the transfer. There is another objection in the fact that St. Helena is subject to the depredations of the white ant, and it would be impossible to keep a large amount of stores there without risk of rapid deterioration. On financial grounds there can be no doubt the arrangements we have made are the most economical. But, after all, what is the object of fortifying the Island of Ascension or St. Helena? To strengthen the Navy in the event of naval operations. Therefore we have followed the advice of our naval advisers. As my hon. Friend the Civil Lord of the Admiralty stated on a previous occasion, colonial considerations were not left out of view when the Admiralty determined on retaining Ascension, and he summed up the position in two sentences when he said that in point of health the island is not inferior to St. Helena, and for strategic and coaling purposes it is superior. It must be recollected that trade routes have gradually changed from old days, and while there is less trade round the Cape, there is more round Cape Horn; and Ascension now assumes a more important position. We have, as has been mentioned, decided on a separation of the South African Squadron, and one of the reasons that has influenced us is that the Cape, the head-quarters of the African station, is thousands of miles away from the West Coast of Africa, the only part of the station where the service of small vessels is required. In making this change we were led to the conclusion that Ascension was the natural headquarters of the new station, St. Helena being several hundred miles further off, so that vessels would have to traverse several hundred miles more each way to and from the West Coast than if they went to Ascension. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned orders that vessels should go every three months to St. Helena, but I have no knowledge of that.


I have it on high authority that is so. I will not pin myself to three months; but every few months they do so, because the men cannot have leave at Ascension or on the West Coast.


It is quite new to me. If there ever was such an order, I am sure it is not in effect now, and I think the right hon. Gentleman will see it would be absurd; for if vessels were every three months traversing hundreds of miles for pleasure purposes, apart from the expense, it would be impossible to carry on the duties of the station. Well, I admit the question is one that is nicely balanced; but with the evidence before us, and the opinion of our naval advisers, the Board of Admiralty had no option. As to the fortification of Ascension, I may say Ascension can be fortified and made secure against any light attack at small cost and the addition of a few guns, and this can probably be done without increase of the normal Vote. There has been a change of policy, but we are satisfied that the change is justified, and it would be a great mistake to force the Admiralty to substitute St. Helena for Ascension as a naval station.

*(12.59.) SIR E. J. REED (Cardiff)

The noble Lord has stated a number of facts which must, I think, influence the Committee; but, at the same time, I think he has shown the best possible justification for the remonstrance, for that is the aspect in which I regard the speech of my right hon. Friend against this large expenditure of £50,000. It follows, from the speech of the noble Lord, that this expenditure should not have been undertaken. The fact of this change of policy has involved the waste of £50,000 in the fortification of St. Helena, and that is a matter deserving of notice in the Committee. Of course, it is impossible for any member of the Committee at the moment to present any opinion in opposition to the statement of the noble Lord, to the effect that naval opinion demanded the change of policy; but, at the same time, it is difficult for those of us who remember the opinions expressed by Sir Alexander Milne, Sir G. Hornby, and other eminent and experienced naval officers, to see whence the superior and over-ruling naval opinion and authority came. My hon. and gallant Friend spoke of the defence of Ascension, and said it was in- capable of being defended so as to stand a long attack. That, I hope, will be borne in mind by the Government in restraining the new tendency to expend money on the defences. I take note of what the noble Lord said as to the limitation, but I do think that no large outlay should be sanctioned, and I hope that none will be asked for. I do not think it will be necessary to divide, as the question has elicited the best information the noble Lord could give.


I think my Motion was justified, and that when the explanation we have heard is published it will not be considered a satisfactory one. It shows that £50,000 has been thrown away on the fortification of St. Helena, but that subsequently a change of policy has taken place, and it has practically turned out that the money has been wasted. I do not hesitate to say that the pay of men in Ascension is at least double that of any ordinary station, and I believe that the same force in St. Helena would not cost more than half. In the present state of the Committee it will not be possible to divide, and I will, therefore, withdraw the Amendment.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question again proposed.

(1.14.) MR. H. T. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN (Kent, Faversham)

Before this Vote passes, I should like to make a few remarks upon the new scheme recently promulgated by the Admiralty for the increase of pay in the Dockyards.


That would more properly come under the eighth Vote.

*(1.15.) MR. DUFF (Banffshire)

I think that on this Vote we are entitled to a general discussion. I have to draw attention to a Return, numbered 203, respecting ships available in home waters at short notice. In the list you give the Northampton, the Black Prince, and another vessel, all of which are of a very low type, and all of which are armed with old muzzle-loaders. Then there is a list of ships in the Steam Reserve. No doubt many of these are very useful vessels, but about 10 of them are still armed with the old muzzle-loaders, so that in case of emergency we are not able to avail ourselves of the most efficient vessels. What I have chiefly to complain of is as regards the crews of these ships. In the case of eight of them the crews are not available yet, they are supposed to be capable of being got ready in five days. In the next column of the Return, out of 29 vessels, there are 24 which have no crews at hand. I should like to know where you are to get men to put on board these vessels in case af an emergency. I give the present Board of Admiralty great credit for the rapidity with which they have brought forward the new shipbuilding programme, but I think with regard to the crews they have hardly done what they professed to do. I think there are 20,000 available men in the First-Class Reserve, but a good many of them are abroad. I should like to know how many of them are available in case of an emergency. The general impression was that we were very short, indeed, of men for our Naval Manœuvres last autumn. I still have to complain that the Reports on the manœuvres do not contain any Reports from the captains of ships respecting the speed of their vessels and the efficiency of their crews. I do not think the Admiralty has behaved very well to the House in this matter. The House has certainly been very liberal in its supplies, but the Admiralty has been very stingy indeed in the information it has given us. I hope that if we have naval manœuvres this year the First Lord of the Admiralty will reconsider the decision of the Admiralty on this point, and give the House the benefit of the Reports which come from the highest naval authorities. I should like to know what the view of the Admiralty is with regard to the Sultan. The correspondence seems to show that the Treasury rather find fault with the Admiralty for the independent action they have taken. That is a matter I would rather not go into. For my own part, I would rather give the Admiralty credit for not waiting for the Treasury, who might have kept them waiting till Doomsday. But I should like to know what return we are to get for the £50,000 that has been spent on the Sultan. I see that in the list of the efficient ships given in the Navy List the Sultan does not appear. I believe we have spent—including expenditure at Malta—about £55,000 on her, and I should be glad to know what return we expect to get for this money. If the Sultan can be repaired and made an efficient ship, £50,000 has not been too much for her, but she is a vessel of a certain age, and, in some respects, rather obsolete, and I should like to know what the intention of the Admiralty is with regard to her. It will be gratifying to the House and the country to know that the programme of shipbuilding of the Government has been going on satisfactorily, but, at the same time, we should like to know a little more than we have in the Return as to the means they have of manning the new vessels when constructed.


I wish to say one or two words on this subject. I think the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty presented with the Navy Estimates exhibits in a great many paragraphs the anxiety that he and his Board have felt as to obtaining sufficient men for the enlarged Fleet when the programme of shipbuilding has been carried out. The Report abounds in suggestions on that subject, but I think it can hardly be said that the First Lord of the Admiralty has satisfied the mind of the House. I confess that, in reading the matter over, I feel great anxiety not only with respect to any one class of officers alone, but with regard to the general ability—or general inability—of the Admiralty to man the Fleet in the event of necessity arising after the enlarged programme of shipbuilding has been carried out. I had intended to draw attention to the engineering branch of the question—a matter with which I have frequently had to trouble the House—but I am sorry to say I have been put to disadvantage, in common with my right hon. Friend (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) and others, owing to the extremely short notice given to us that it was intended to bring on these Estimates. I cannot understand why Estimates of one de- scription and another are taken up and put down like this—a little bit of Civil Service Estimates to-day and a little bit of Navy Estimates to-morrow. I do not blame the Admiralty for taking advantage of the opportunity offered them of bringing on their Estimates to-day, for it is, of course, their primary duty to get the Estimates passed, in the general scramble of Public Business, as well as they can; but I do think the system is extremely disadvantageous. The First Lord refused a Return I moved for that would have thrown light on these two points, namely: First, the work thrown by the multiplication of machinery in Her Majesty's ships on the engineering staff; and, secondly, the inadequacy of that staff to deal with the work. The state of things we are getting into, in my opinion, is this, that we are thinning down the number of engineers in the Navy to too low a point, and in order to do the absolutely inevitable work of the ships we are building up a new class of engine-room artificers, from whom we shall have continually increasing claims, and in regard to whom we shall have to face the history of all the difficulties of the engineering service of the past over again. In the meantime we have no assurance that our ships will be efficiently worked in action. Well, I can understand the First Lord of the Admiralty being, possibly, a little inactive on this subject; but I can hardly understand how the Secretary to the Admiralty—himself engaged in commerce, and possessed of practical knowledge as to the necessity of having the machinery of ships well cared for and looked after—can for a moment acquiesce in the existing arrangement. One other point I want to mention, and it is with regard to the performances of Her Majesty's steamships. I think the Admiralty will acknowledge that at the time when Members of this House, if they had been so disposed, could have given great trouble in the way of adverse criticism on the performances of Her Majesty's ships, the House has displayed great consideration for the Government, and have refrained from putting unfair pressure on them. It is a very serious thing for us to know what is undoubtedly the fact, that a large number of Her Majesty's steamships are incapable of performing the services they were expected to perform, and for which the money was voted. I am speaking as to the failure of forced draught. Bat I fancy I see in the First Lord's statement an indication of a course which would perhaps seem natural to the noble Lord and his Colleagues, but which I should view with considerable apprehension. I notice the depreciation there is of the measured-mile test. In this matter there has been a strong contrast between our Navy and the Navies of other countries. Whereas we pass every ship through the standard test, other Navies do nothing of the kind, but trust to sea performances which are necessarily more or less indefinite. I remember a Commodore in the Boston Navy Yard, speaking with great disapproval of our measured-mile test. His contention was that the way to try a ship was to send her for three or four days out to sea and bring her back again, and see what she had performed in the interval. That is a trial I should never object to. It has many merits, and must produce a great deal of valuable information; but it will be admitted that when yon adopt this test you try a great deal more than the ship. You try the weather, and certain conditions with which the ship has nothing to do. You may send the same ship out under different circumstances, and may get different results. Now, the measured-mile trial for the British Navy is conducted, not for the purpose of finding out what would be the sea performance of a ship, but to ascertain what is the utmost performance that can be attained when the machinery is being driven at its utmost power, and under the best conditions, with the best coal, in calm weather, and with the best stokers. By those means yon get a standard result. Of course it is no use in making comparisons as to the sea performance of ships, but it gives a standard result between the performances of ships, under like conditions, and there is no other way of doing this. I would commend to the consideration of the Admiralty whether it is a right thing to put the country into the position of building ships and engines which they dare not try even on the measured-mile. It seems to me to be an extremely dangerous thing to put officers and men into steam- ships and send them on foreign service, telling them that the Admiralty dare not force the ships to full power, but that if necessity arises it must be done. I should be sorry if, to escape the inconvenience of telling the House and the country that ships built to go a certain speed cannot attain it, the only thorough test possible is to be done away with. There is one other question to which I will refer. The House has full information given to it in the Naval Estimates concerning number, &c., of the ships of the Navy; but there are no means provided for the House or the country to ascertain what are the results of the performances of the ships. About 25 years ago a most interesting Return was made of the speed of all the ships, which was of extreme service to the House and the country, and I ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he will consider the propriety of giving us from time to time in a convenient form the results of the trials of Her Majesty's ships.


Some years before I retired from the Navy, there was a considerable feeling among all classes in the Navy that there ought to be some change in the conditions of victualling. Under ordinary circumstances, I do not think there is much to complain of in the matter of provisions. The difficulty is that when the men have exceptional work cast upon them, the officers have no power to give them additional provisions. There used to be power vested in the captain of a ship to give a limited additional supply in the case of additional work. I believe that power was abolished because it was abused. I think it would be of immense benefit to the Navy, as well as to the service got out of the men when they work a great number of hours, and turn out all hours of the night, if some power rested in the captain of a ship to make some extra allowance to the men. I suppose my noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty hardly knows the extraordinary work undergone by the men engaged in the Surveying Service. It is continuous and steady. I want to know whether something could not be done for the men. The officers get extra pay, but the men do not, and they have to pull about in the boats continuously for 12 hours. I know that I worked 15 hours a day on the Red Sea Survey, and I can testify to the severity of the men's labour. I ask my noble Friend to give this matter serious consideration, as well as the other more general matter of the victualling of the Navy to which I have alluded.

*MR. GOURLEY (Sunderland)

I wish to obtain some information as to the increase in the number of men. From what source are the men and boys to be drawn? Our present system of training is exceedingly expensive, and if the Admiralty were to get more boys from the training ships in the various rivers, a considerable amount of the cost of training may be reduced. The number of boys, seamen, and potty officers is 39,000. I want to know whether the whole of these are A.B.'s, and have been trained to the sea proper, or whether any large proportion of the number consists of stokers and firemen. I should like also to ascertain what proportion of non-combatants, such as stokers and firemen, are trained for combatant purposes. I further desire to know what action has been taken in regard to the disbanding of the Naval Artillery Volunteers. I think if any change be made it ought to be in the direction of making them into a corps of engineers.

MR. H. GLADSTONE (Leeds, W.)

Some time ago, in consequence of there being no information by means of which anyone was enabled to make a comparison as to the number of ships lost at different periods, I asked the noble Lord at the head of the Admiralty for a Return, which he has been good enough to furnish to the House, and the results, as shown in that Return, have been, to my mind, most satisfactory and reassuring. The Return for which I moved was, however, intended to have covered a century, whereas the Return presented by the noble Lord only relates to the last 50 years. It appears from that Return that during the last 50 years 46 ships have been lost, but six of these ought not to be included, since they had been left in the Arctic regions. Therefore, we may say that there were 40 losses during that period. In the last 25 years the number of losses is only 24, and, dividing the period into decades, the numbers are—1841–50, 14 losses; 1851–60, 17 losses; 1861–70, 19 losses; 1871–80, 6 losses; and 1881–90, 8 losses. That, I think, is extremely satisfactory. I will ask the First Lord, however, whether he cannot add to the Return by giving one of greater antiquity? The present Return is very useful for practical purposes, but it does not throw any light on the comparative losses of vessels under steam and sail, and I am perfectly certain that that information would not only be very interesting, but also very useful. Therefore, if it would not occasion too much trouble and expense, I should be glad if the noble Lord could see his way to giving us a more ample Return by covering the losses during the whole of the last 100 years, and I am convinced that such a Return will be of great use to this House, and to those connected with our shipping interest.


I am glad to hear that the hon. Member for Leeds regards the Return that has been made as satisfactory. I will see whether further information of the nature he has suggested can be given, for I have no doubt that if it can be supplied it will be valuable from several points of view, especially because it enables us to contrast the different results that have been attained under different courses of training; but I would remind the hon. Gentleman that on another occasion he expressed a somewhat unfavourable opinion with regard to the officers navigating the ships belonging to the British Navy, as a result of the information derived from this Return.


I only said on the face of it, as far as we could appreciate the facts, it did not appear that the losses of the great Steamship Companies were so numerous as those incurred by the Navy.


At any rate, the hon. Member's observations were so understood by several naval officers. We politicians are somewhat pachydermatous in regard to statements of this kind, but it is very different in the case of those who have served, and who are still serving in the Navy. They naturally feel any reflections which are made on the Naval Service, and I have received letters from several naval officers, calling attention to the remarks of the hon. Member, and suggesting that I should embark in their defence. I think, however, that the best defence I can give is to be found in the information contained in this Return. A number of questions have been put to me, including one by the hon. Member for Holderness with regard to an increase of pay to men engaged in Surveying Service. I believe there are certain small compensations at present given to men engaged in such work, but, although I will make no pledge, I will look into the matter, and should do so with a perfectly open mind. The other questions relate mainly to the men and material of the Navy. The hon. Member for Cardiff has expressed the hope that the Admiralty will not altogether abandon the measured-mile trial. We have no intention of doing so, and I agree with the hon. Member that the trial is valuable as a test of the speed of our vessels compared with that of vessels of Foreign Nations. But we wish it to be understood that the trial by measured mile is only one test of a particular character, and that the real test of a ship's speed is only to be made by passage under steam for a considerable time in a sea way. It is perfectly true that considerable difficulty has been experienced in the past in trying some of our ships at high speed under forced draught, and that the Admiralty have been compelled to order that there should not in future be any trial under an extreme application of forced draught. All those difficulties have arisen through one cause—that the ratio of boiler power was not sufficient or equal to the engine power. I am glad, however, to be able to say that all the vessels building under the Naval Defence Act will have larger boilers, and that the maximum power at the measured mile under forced draught will be limited to a one-inch water gauge pressure. The natural draught is assumed to be pressure not exceeding half-inch, and in all new ships the contract is that the maximum power is to be obtained by forced draught of not exceeding one inch.


In all new ships?


They are all under forced draught; but forced draught is really a misnomer. There are no ships which have not a forced draught or, in other words, which are not artificially ventilated. In all new ships we employ an indicator which shows the pressure, and shows it not only in the stoke-hole, but above. We think we can obtain better results in that way. With that exception—vessels not being able to obtain full speed under forced draught—our recent vessels have most satisfactorily carried out their estimated performances. The shape and character of the new ships are in every way satisfactory; therefore, having rectified the mistakes in the design of the boilers made in the past, I hope we shall now have little trouble. The hon. Member for Banffshire has called attention to the fact that the guns on which we rely at home are chiefly muzzle-loaders, and he has referred to them as obsolete. But those guns cannot be described as obsolete, for in power and force of penetration they are quite equal to many of the older breech-loaders of foreign nations. The Return to which the hon. Member drew attention was prepared on the 1st April, but since then there has been a substantial addition to the Navy, the Sanspariel and the Nile having boon made ready for service. At the forthcoming manœuvres both these ships will be commissioned, and we shall add to the Channel Fleet the vessels in reserve—an addition, altogether, of about 20 efficient ships. The hon. Member also made inquiries concerning the condition of the personnel of the Navy. Now, it is estimated that it will take 20,000 men to man the ships building under the Naval Defence Act. It is proposed to increase the personnel by 12,500, which, added to the 62,500 engaged when the Act was introduced, will give a total of 75,000, including boys. From the number required to man the new ships, as there are a certain number that it is not necessary to provide by anticipation, we may make a deduction. We may deduct the complements of old ships, which in the interval between the introduction of the Naval Defence Act, and its conclusion will become obsolete and fall out. I admit that this question of manning needs close attention. At present, no doubt, we are somewhat hardly pressed, because a large number of boys who have entered are not sufficiently advanced for service at home. I must confess that I have been much struck with the small number of men out of the total in the force who are upon ships in the Channel or on foreign service, it being only 32,800 on ships in active commission, out of a total of 68,500 men and boys. Most of the remaining 36,000 are in training ships, or at all events, not in sea-going ships, but, of course, in time of emergency the large proportion of that number will be available for putting extra ships in commission. Thus it comes to this, that in ordinary times there may be considerable difficulty in finding reliefs for the ships abroad but on an emergency you would stop all your educational classes, strip all your harbour ships of their complements, call out your reserves, and so be in a position to man a large number of extra ships. I hope between now and next year to go more thoroughly into this manning question, and with the assistance of the Report of Sir George Tryon not only as to the Naval Artillery Volunteers, but also as to the Naval Reserves, to be able to lay down some principle as to the proper proportions between the men on the Active List and those on the Reserve, which will be accepted by Parliament and the country, and which the Board of Admiralty in future years will work out. The hon. Member for Sunderland asked me whether the additional number of men was not composed partly of men and partly of boys. No doubt that is so, for all persons who wish to join the Service in the ordinary way have to pass through the training ships —a system which has its advantages. It is, therefore, difficult to suddenly augment your numbers; but it must be borne in mind that when necessary you could pass men of good physique and good character, who are ready to serve, from the Naval Reserve to Her Majesty's ships. I fully recognise that it is of more importance to this country to provide men for the Fleet than material. With regard to the Royal Naval Volunteers, 55 per cent. consist of recruits of one or two years' standing. That shows that there is not much stability in the Force, and while I wish to pay every compliment to the patriotism of the men, and fully recognise their assiduity and zeal, I feel that their training is not such as to make seamen out of landsmen. I know there is a great deal of objection in many parts of the country against the alterations contemplated in the case of these men; but the Committee will appreciate the attitude of the Admiralty in the matter when it remembers that this country has in the past mainly won her actions at sea, not by the superiority of her ships or guns, but the superiority and training of the men who have managed them. We must not rely too much upon men who are really landsmen. I think now I have answered all the questions which have been put to me.


Not as to victualling.


We have given authority to captains to issue an extra ration of cocoa whenever it is thought desirable.


I did not allude to any specific article of dietary.


The Naval Lord of the Admiralty, who has charge of the Victualling Department, is quite as competent a man as there is in Her Majesty's Service, and he is thoroughly acquainted with the quality and quantity of the rations served out. If the hon. and gallant Member has any special point to which he wishes to draw attention it shall be considered, but I own that, so far as I am aware, there is no ground of complaint in regard to rations.


I do not object to the quality of the rations, but my point is that the commanding officers should, when they think it necessary, increase the quantity of any particular article served out.


His point is that we should give the officers the power over all the rations which we have given them over cocoa. I will consider the matter, although it is rather a large demand. The only other question I have not answered is that relating to the Sultan. The Committee will recollect that when I introduced the Naval Defence Act I gave a list of the ships we were prepared to re-engine and partly re-construct, and the Sultan was one of those. But she will only be dealt with according to roster, and will not come into the dockyard for four years from the time I was speaking. We took a number of vessels in hand at once, and the re-construction of these vessels has cost more, and taken more time than we anticipated. As they pass out of our hands, I think it will be the duty of the Admiralty to take the Sultan in hand and to engine her. The Sultan is an old vessel, but she has many merits, and there are a large number of officers who have a good opinion of these old free-board ships which could be fought in any sea. So far as I am competent to to give an opinion on the matter, I agree with them. With regard to the presentation of Reports we had not much to communicate last year, but I will take care for the future that all Reports that are not confidential shall be made public, so that those Members of the House who take an interest in the manœuvres will be able to obtain every information.


I am glad to hear what the right hon. Gentleman has to say as to the Sultan, for it would be a misfortune if, after having spent over £50,000 in raising her, and many more thousands on repairing her, it should be found that it was not worth while to put engines in her. I agree with the naval officers who think that there is considerable value in vessels of this kind, and I think it would be a great misfortune if the Sultan were allowed to go unrepaired. The noble Lord has devoted a good deal of his statement to the question of the personnel of the Navy, and he has informed the Committee that it is the intention of the Government to increase the number of men. We on this side always said that the large addition to the number of ships due to the Naval Defence Act would involve a corresponding increase in the other branches of the Service. So far as I understand the figures the proposed increase of the men in the Navy will be from 65,000 to 75,000 in order to carry out the objects of the Naval Defence Act. We should like to have a Return of all the ships engaged upon foreign stations, in order to form some idea as to the necessity for this increase. Such a Return was promised by the noble Lord some time ago.


Has it been moved for?


I do not know that I actually moved for it, but the noble Lord promised to lay the Return on the Table of the House. Without such a Return it is impossible to form an adequate idea as to the necessity for this increase of force—which will not be altogether an increase of seamen, but of stokers, antificers, and so on. I should deprecate adding very much to the number of ships on foreign stations—on which the increase in the number of seamen would very much depend. I trust there will be no large increase in this direction, especially in regard to small vessels, as it will tend to dissipate our strength. I hope the small vessels in foreign stations will, where possible, be replaced by large ones, which, in the event of war breaking out, would prove a substantial addition to our Naval Force.


We have done that.


I am glad to hear it. The actual addition to the number of men this year, I see, is only 764. These are stated to be seamen, but I imagine that only a small proportion of them are seamen in the true sense of the name, and that the great bulk of them are stokers. Then there are 412 who are described as pensioners. These are men who have passed through the service of the Navy, and have been pensioned off, and then brought back into the Service. That is an increase that I do not think at all desirable.


It is only temporary.


I am glad of it. There are 405 additional boys out of a total of 2,136, so that a very small proportion are seamen. I point these figures out to show how the numbers may grow up without being a substantial addition to the strength of the Navy. Next year when we have all the facts before us we shall be able to form an opinion as to what the increase in strength really is. I would point out that as we increase our naval strength in the Mediterranean, so we observe a corresponding increase in the strength of the French Navy. Our strength in those waters is so great that all the ships are unable to winter at Malta, and some have to be sent to the Levant, and I am not sure that this is desirable.


The noble Lord did not mention the drill which the non-combatants go through.


The stokers and other non-combatants of the Mediterranean Fleet all go through a course of cutlass and rifle drill.

Question put, and agreed to.

2. £122,700, Medical Establishments and Services.

3. £11,700, Martial Law, &c.

4. £75,500, Educational Services.

5. £61,300, Scientific Services.

6. £153,100, Royal Naval Reserves.

*(2.33.) MR. DUFF

I observe that the number of officers of the Naval Reserve is 695 and men 20,198. I should like to know what proportion are available. As to the Royal Naval Volunteers, I thoroughly approve of the Report of the Committee, which was dealt with last night in the other House. I think the Admiralty have adopted a wise policy in following up the recommendations of the Committee. It is somewhat ungracious to criticise severely services voluntarily offered; still, seeing that these men are largely made up of clerks, they are not fit for service in torpedo boats for instance, although they might be utilised as a force to augment the Marine Artillery.

*(2.34.) MR. GOURLEY

The number of Naval Reserve men is about 20,000, and I should like to know how far this force would be available in the event of war. I complain that the men are, to a large extent, trained on obsolete ships and ancient batteries with obsolete guns, and I would suggest that they should be trained on modern cruisers. I think that money spent, in the partial mobilisation of this force would be well spent. The men would not object to this, providing accorded the current pay in the Mercantile Marine. Another point that strikes me is that it is totally unnecessary that the whole of the ships in connection with the Naval Defence Act when completed should be kept in active commission. I should like to read an expression of opinion I have received from one of the rank and file of the Naval Reserve. In a letter to me he makes the following remarks:— We are at present drilled with obsolete heavy guns and obsolete pistols. After we have been at sea for SIR years, which is the time required for enrolment, we are compelled under present rules to go to sea continually for the next 10 years before we are allowed to work on shore. When I joined it was only five years, but it has been altered, and we think this is very unjust. I am also requested to ask you to put forward a question in favour of us receiving our pension at 50 years of age instead of 60, as at present, as there are many seamen who are unable to earn their living long before that time, and very few live to receive it at 60. The pension is only £12 a year, which, we think, might be a little more.

*(2.45.) SIR J. COLOMB

I wish to express the pleasure with which I heard the hon. Member for Banffshire cordially endorse the Report of Admiral Tryon's Committee as far as the Naval Artillery Volunteers are concerned. In view of the facts brought forward by the Committee, and speaking in the light of practical knowledge, I think the Committee came to a wise and right conclusion, and that the Admiralty, in adopting the recommendations of the Committee, did only what was right in the interests of the Navy, and of the State. As far as the Naval Volunteers are concerned, I know many of them feel very keenly upon the subject of the proposed change; but I think, when they come to consider the position they will occupy when the change has taken place, they will see it tends not merely to the interest of the State, but to the benefit and advantage of the Volunteers themselves.


The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Gourley) made some suggestions for the improvement of the Royal Nava Reserve. The Committee which reported on the question of the retention of the Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers also reported on the question of improving the efficiency and number of the Royal Naval Reserve. On that Report we must take action between now and next year. All the propositions the hon. Gentleman has brought forward are covered by the Report, and he will not, therefore, expect me to express any opinion on his suggestions. The hon. Member for Banffshire wanted to know the number of the Royal Naval Reserve we could rely on in an emergency. The total number voted is about 20,000, and it is estimated that about 16,000 are either at home or in near European waters. I think we may say that in a few months we ought to be able to rely on something like 16,000—that is to say, four-fifths of the force. The remainder, of course, would not be available till a later date.

Vote agreed to. (2.49.)

7. £1,751,800, Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, &c.—Personnel.


I desire to avail myself of the opportunity of making a few remarks on the scheme for increasing the pay of the workmen in the dockyards. In the first place, I must express my agreement with what fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), endorsed by the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir E. Reed), and the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duff), namely, that it is scarcely fair that the Government should spring the discussion of these Estimates on us as they have done to-day. Last year, however, they took a still more unfortunate course, and that was to postpone the Votes until the last days of the Session, so I am not inclined to judge them very hardly on this occasion. Now, I wish to very gratefully acknowledge on the part of my constituents the great pains taken by the present Board of Admiralty to ascertain the grievances which undoubtedly did exist in the dockyards; and I believe there can be but one opinion as to the great courtesy, patience, and tact displayed by the Secretary to the Admiralty in the inquiry he conducted during the past autumn in the various dockyards. Whatever opinion may exist on the merits of the scheme—and upon that I shall have a word to say presently—it must be generally admitted that between £70,000 and, £80,000 has this year been appropriated towards raising the wages of the workmen in the dockyards. By no previous Board of Admiralty has such consideration been given to the claims of dockyard men as by the present Board. My constituents at Sheerness are grateful for the work which is now done in the dockyards, and we are especially grateful for the assurance we believe we possess that at any rate if the present Government remain in power there is no danger as there was at one time that the dockyard at Sheerness will cease to be a Government establishment. I wish I could stop there. I wish I could conclude by saying that the scheme has been received with absolute satisfaction in the dockyards. There have been meetings at all the dockyards, I believe—certainly there has been one at Sheerness—at which resolutions have been adopted, in which the men have expressed dissatisfaction with the scheme as a whole. In the first place, the men do not like the method in which it is proposed to grant the increase of wages. They object to the classification, and to what they term selection by patronage. They would have preferred a rise all round, and they say that, if classification is to be adopted, it would be fairer and better that it should be based on length of service. These are views which are almost universally entertained by the workmen in the dockyard. There are, however, two classes of workmen who do not share these views. The labourers, a very numerous class, are satisfied with what has been done for them. The riggers, too, have obtained the concessions they asked for. The shipwrights, fitters, smiths, caulkers, draughtmen, and others have substantial grievances. In view of the position of the men in private yards, they do not think their claims have met with sufficient consideration. There is no doubt that the work in the dockyards has been done quite as well, if not better, than the work in private yards, and it is very unwise to discourage the efforts there made. There is one grievance complained of at Sheerness, and I am not aware if it arises elsewhere, among the smiths, which I have brought before the Admiralty before, and only mention now, by way of reminder, in the hope that the Secretary to the Admiralty will be able to deal with it. The men are very dissatisfied with what is called in the yard the "job and check" system. Under this system they complain that an account is taken of a day's work, and when it falls short of the fixed quantity they are not paid the full price, but when they earn more they are not told of it, and do not receive the payment for the excess. They complain also that their work is measured by those who do not understand the details of the work, and hence, as they imagine, they do not get justice done. Then I very much regret that the Admiralty have not seen fit to make an alteration in the system of pensions, whereby, if a man dies in the Service before he reaches the age of 60, the whole of his pension money is forfeited, his widow and children getting nothing. I am aware this is a question of some difficulty, but it does seem to me it ought to be dealt with. In this connection, too, I may mention a request by the hired men in the yards which seems to me reasonable. These men are not entitled to pensions, but from time to time a selection is made from them, and those selected are put on to the establishment. The men ask that when they are taken on to the establishment the time they have previously served shall be taken into account in estimating the pension. An additional reason for this is that the men who are taken on in this way are chosen for their good character, and it does seem hard that the good service rendered should not be considered for pension purposes. One other point arises, to which I have previously called attention, the Greenwich Fund Aged Pensions. The men complain that they are kept out of the 3d. a day to which they are entitled. I only mention the subject now. I trust the points I have mentioned will be taken into consideration by the Admiralty, and I trust that when the Navy Estimates come before us again next year the men in the dockyards will have still further cause to congratulate themselves that a Conservative Government is in office.

*(3.25.) MR. FORWOOD

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for the North-East Division of Kent for the way in which he has spoken of the trouble taken by the Board of Admiralty in reference to the inquiry into rates of pay and the various grievances complained of by the dockyard men. At the same time, I am bound to say I have felt some little shade of disappointment at the way in which the very large increment of wages has been received by a limited number of the men connected with the dockyards, and I rather attribute that want of appreciation to the fact that the scheme is not understood in all its details. The increment included in this year's Estimates of advance to the dockyard artificers and labourers amounts to over £77,000, and that will ultimately be increased to £90,000. I recognise the intelligence, ability, and skill of the dockyard men, and no one connected as I have been for some years with the Department and brought into close relations with the men, could fail to be impressed with the feeling that they are actuated with a desire to discharge faithfully their duty to the State. The Board of Admiralty recognise this, and I admit their representations deserve the consideration from the Board they will receive. When the question of wages was first mooted in the House it had reference to the rate of pay accorded to ordinary labourers in the dockyards. We sympathised, and I think the House has shown its sympathy, with those men who formerly were receiving only 2s. 6d. per day. Under the scheme, which has been approved by the Board of Admiralty and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, there are no longer men employed at the dockyards receiving so low a rate of pay as 15s. per week. The minimum now is 17s. This advance extends to 3,000 men of the lowest grade, who receive about £11,000 amongst them, so I think the Committee will appreciate why they are satisfied with what is being done for them. There is another important body of men in the dockyards to whom my hon. Friend has not alluded, the skilled labourers, men promoted from the ranks of the ordinary labourers. There are 4,000 skilled labourers in the dockyards, and their position has been benefited to the extent of something like £20,000 a year. When I allude to what was formerly the minimum wages paid in the dockyard it is right to mention that even at that minimum we had any number of applications for vacancies; but we thought that although the doctrinaire principle of supply and demand might justify the retention of the lower scale, it would not be right for us to push that doctrine to an extreme, but that we should accord fair wages for work done.


I mentioned that the labourers were satisfied.


I must ask the Committee to bear with me for a few moments before I reply directly to the questions raised by my hon. Friend, because I think it is desirable to explain the conditions of service in the Dockyards, so that we may more clearly understand the reasons why the Admiralty could not accept some of the sug- gestions proposed by my hon. Friend on behalf of some classes of workmen in the yards. We have two classes to deal with, the establishment men who are practically during good behaviour, sure of continuous work in the Dockyards and a pension on attaining the age of 60, and the class of hired men. It is said that certain trades, and amongst them the shipwrights, are dissatisfied with the scheme of the Admiralty. As regards these, every man received a minimum advance of 1s., while some are advanced 3s. There is a suggestion that there is too great a difference between the pay of the establishment men and the hired men; and no doubt in the past there has been a great difference, and an irregularity of difference. For example, a skilled labourer when put on the establishment, so that he might be entitled to a pension at 60, might sacrifice 3s. or 4s. a week. The hon. Member suggests that it is a hardship on the hired men that, when placed on the establishment, they should not have the advantage of their service as hired men in calculating their pensions; but I would point out that during their hired service they receive a higher rate of pay than the establishment men. I had the case represented to me by some of the workmen who had been a long time on the hired list, and I showed them that the additional money they received as hired men over what they would have received had they been on the establishment was quite equal to the difference of tension they would receive upon reaching the pensionable age. There is a very erroneous impression abroad as to the cost of pensions to the State. In the Dockyards an idea prevails that only one man in twenty lives to a pensionable age, but from figures taken out by the accountant to the National Debt Commissioners, we find that out of something like 150 men who left the Service during a period of seven years, no less than 359 actually became pensioners. A complaint has been made that the rate of pay of certain trades in the Dockyards compares unfavourably with that in private yards. I can assure my hon. Friend that before this matter of pay was finally determined, the Board made very careful inquiry as to the rate of pay prevalent in the ports where Admiralty contract work is undertaken. An average has been struck of the rate of pay and hours of work in private yards in 1886 and 1890 as being a fair average, seeing that in 1886 shipbuilding was at the lowest ebb, while in 1890 it was in a most prosperous condition. The rate between these was assumed to be a fair guide in considering the rate of Dockyard wages, having regard to the fact that in the Dockyards it is impossible that we can be changing the rates from year to year according to the state of the outside market. Taking the average of pay in five large yards in different parts of the country between the two years I have mentioned, and the number of hours worked as compared with the hours in the Dockyards, the rate of pay given in the Dockyards to hired men is fully up to the rate in private yards, while it must be considered that in the Dockyards work is continuous for the establishment men, and very nearly constant for the hired men, and if the principle of laying down a programme of shipbuilding over a series of years is continued, the men have the prospect of continuous work, so long as their conduct is good. Taking all the conditions into consideration, I think it must be admitted our rate of pay compares favourably with the average in private yards, and that we have taken not only a just but a liberal view of the situation. Workmen in the Dockyards are not liable to be turned off work in bad weather, or whenever materials are not to hand. There are no broken days; there is a gratuity on discharge, and various other advantages not offered to men in private yards. I claim that in the seheme adopted the Board is acting with great liberality towards the deserving body of men in the Dockyards. Another question that has been raised is that of classification. My hon. Friend says that the men object to classification by what is termed patronage, and that if classification is adopted it ought to be simply by length of service. Now, I think in this matter I shall have the feeling of the Committee with me. From inquiries I have made I am satisfied that as a body the men do not desire that every man should be paid at the same rate, whatever may be his merits, whatever may be his qualities or abilities. I consider that for the good administration of the Service it is indispensable to have some means of rewarding men who are extra diligent or show extra skill, and for this purpose a scale of pay arranged for each trade. For example, it is within the discretion of the Admiralty to pay shipwrights, among the hired men, from 30s. to 34s., per week or on the establishment, from 30s. to 33s., and I maintain such a system is desirable as a means of rewarding skill and intelligence. If we accepted the proposal of my hon. Friend that classification should follow length of service, there would be no incentive to the industrious, intelligent man, because to every man there would be the knowledge, that no matter what the character of his work, short of gross negligence, he would be in time entitled to an advance. I feel that no better course could be adopted than classification according to merit. I am quite aware that many men object to the system on the ground that it puts too great power in the hands of subordinate officers in the yards. All those subordinate officers have been workmen in the yards, and I should have thought that the men would have confidence in them. However, to prevent any feeling that there may be favouritism, a new regulation has been laid down to the effect that whenever a man is recommended for advancement, who is not the senior on the list, the names of the seniors shall be forwarded to the Admiral Superintendent, so that any man passed over will have an appeal to the Admiral Superintendent, and thus there will be a safeguard against anything like jobbery or an improper use by subordinate officers of the system of advancement by classification. With regard to the sacrifice of wages by hired men when placed on the establishment, that will be very-much less in the future than it has been in the past. Formerly, a hired shipwright, when placed on the establishment, might have to sacrifice as much as 2s. a week, and a fitter 3s.; but in future, a hired man receiving 24s. a week will, when placed on the establishment, receive 23s. a week, and a hired man receiving 30s. a week will be placed on the establishment at a loss of not more than 1s. 3d. a week, and so on in proportion. This, I think, will meet the point raised by my hon. Friend, and the grievance I know is felt by some of the hired men. I do not think there are any other matters that were raised by my hon. Friend. I can assure him that the adjustment of rates of pay in a large number of trades among 19,000 men was a difficult task, but, I think, it has been accomplished in an equitable manner, and on a system that will work smoothly in the future.


The job and check system?


My hon. Friend refers to the check system, and this I have before explained. If a foreman, or principal officer, is dissatisfied with the output of work in any shop or on any vessel where the men are paid by the day, the extent of the work may be measured so that it may be seen if a fair day's work has been done, and if it is found there has not, an abatement in the pay is made. It is only occasionally applied, it is not a system, and the chock is only applied when an officer thinks there is a want of ability or diligence in the performance of the work. It is not a system for payment, but a cheek for ensuring a fair day's work. A question has been asked about Naval Reserve pensions. Every man joining the Naval Reserve is entitled to a certain pension at a certain time, whether suffering from disability or not. The money has hitherto been charged on the Greenwich Vote. Last year, however, the Chancellor of the Exchequer consented that it should be charged on the Navy Votes, and the result is that there will be an additional sum of about £4,000 available for aged pensions from the Greenwich Hospital Fund. This will enable some 400 or 500 more men to enjoy the benefit of those pensions.

Vote agreed to.

8. £1,862,700, Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, &c.—Material.

*(3.48.) MR. DUFF

I have put down a notice to reduce the Shipbuilding Vote by £20,000, and my object in doing so was to question the policy of the Board of Admiralty in regard to the refitting of some of the smaller vessels. I have more than doubt as to the wisdom of this policy and really think it amounts to a waste of money. I think so, because many of these vessels I find on the list are practically obsolete. No Foreign Government, nor do we ourselves, now build vessels which have an average rate of speed of nine knots an hour. In the Naval programme laid down in 1889, provision was made for a number of small vessels of a useful class, and these old and obsolete vessels should be allowed to pass out of service. They would be of no use in time of war, and and I do not know that they are of much use in time of peace. I think the noble Lord himself said, in reply to the gallant Admiral the Member for the Eastbourne Division (Admiral Field), that, in his opinion, on foreign stations it was bettor to have a cruiser of a large type than two or three gunboats. The proportion of small vessels in the Navy is great, and we are building a number of new ones. We have, too, those ocean steamers of great speed, which in time of war would be of enormous advantage: they would be the eyes of the Fleet, keeping touch with the main strength of squadrons, and as, I think, the Naval Manœuvres have demonstrated, will be of enormous advantage. But why continue to spend money on the repair of small ships of a low rate of speed when there is some difficulty in properly manning the vessels we have? When the noble Lord explained the new programme of Naval construction, he gave us to understand that some 30 vessels would be removed, but these lame ducks are still kept on the active list—or most of them. I am sure it would be far better for the Service to sell these old small vessels, and if small vessels are required for Foreign stations, to employ those of the newer type. I shall not move the Amendment of which I have given notice, for practically it is too late to do so now. Among the larger vessels of an old type there are many useful ships, but I should like the noble Lord to tell us if these ships—such as the Thunderer, Devastation, Rupert, &c.,—are manned with breech-loading guns. The noble Lord, I know, on a previous occasion dwelt on the advantages of some of these muzzle-loading guns, but the enormous advantage of breech-loading guns, with the power of penetrating 28 inches of armour, instead of 16 inches, worked on on the upper deck, cannot be questioned. Another question I have to ask has reference to the trial of the speed of the Latona. The accounts that have appeared in the papers have varied a good deal. One report was that the vessel went 22 knots in an hour, and another said that she had travelled 400 knots in 24 hours, an average of 16½ knots an hour. It would be satisfactory to have an authoritative statement.

MR. THORBURN (Peebles and Selkirk)

I wish to ask the Fird Lord of the Admiralty whether he will undertake that when supplies for the Navy are required and firms are invited to tender, samples of the goods wanted shall be generally available. There ought to be several sets of samples. Real competition will then be ensured. Recently a Glasgow firm sent to the Director of Contracts for samples of glass required, and received the reply that none were available as the only two sets in existence were at Birmingham and Dudley.


The request of the hon. Gentleman is very reasonable. It is the practice of the Admiralty to increase the number of places where they show samples when it appears desirable, and we will undertake that Glasgow shall be one of the places where samples are shown. With regard to the remarks of the hon. Member for Banffshire, whilst I sympathise with him, I must point out that it should not be forgotten that the Navy has imposed upon it duties which it cannot forego in connection with Fisheries, Surveys, Coastguard Service, and International Obligations as to the Slave Trade. For large vessels to perform these duties would be sheer waste of power. Besides, the places where the vessels have to work are not always well surveyed, and the danger would be very great for large vessels. Therefore, so long as the Ad- miralty has these services to perform, it is absolutely necessary to have vessels which will not affect the fighting power of the Navy, and also absolutely necessary that they should be repaired. The Wrangler is one of the vessels to which the hon. Gentleman objects. The duty on which that vessel is about to embark is the protection of fisheries in these islands. Surely the hon. Gentleman would not wish that a torpedo boat should undertake that work, in which, I believe, he is specially interested. Others of the vessels to which he objects are on Surveying Service, Coastguard Service, Service on the West Coast of Africa or Relief Service. I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman that on foreign stations where it is desirable to show the flag, it is better that it should be done by large vessels. Therefore, I propose to replace three gunboats in the Chinese waters by a cruiser, and two gunboats on the West Coast of Africa waters by another cruiser. The hon. Gentleman suggested the re-construction and rearming of certain of our older ironclads. It is not practically possible to re-arm with heavy guns old broadside vessels. In the first place, the portholes adapted for shorter guns would have to be enlarged at very considerable expense, and a considerable number of mechanical appliances would have to be introduced. I am quite satisfied, therefore, that the result would not be commensurate with the expense. But these vessels are excellent for certain purposes. I have often asked hon. Gentlemen to define what they mean by obsolete vessels No vessel is obsolete, in my judgment, which is capable of fighting foreign vessels of the same date, and which is fairly efficient. The hon. Gentleman asked me what was the result of the trials of the Latona, the first of the 29 cruisers constructed under the Naval Defence Act. The Latona was taken out by the Controller to Malta, and he has given a most satisfactory account of her. She steamed 401 knots in 24 hours, giving an average of 16 knots an hour. I think that is the largest number of knots ever covered in a day by any war-ship. If that has been done without any exercise of the forced draught, I think it is eminently satisfactory. At any rate, I think the House should have full information, and I will, therefore, undertake to lay some Paper on the Table which will give all the information about it.


What is the horse-power?


The maximum horse-power under forced draught is 9,000, and under natural draught 7,000. The horse-power developed during the 24 hours' trial was 4,500.

*(4.10.) MR. DUFF

I am glad to hear from the First Lord of the Admiralty that it is contemplated to send a vessel to protect the Scotch Fisheries; but I hope that he will despatch a better one than the Wrangler. There is scarcely a trawler which cannot travel 12 knots an hour, and they will easily outpace the Wrangler, which can only do nine knots. With regard to the re-armament of old vessels, I may remind the noble Lord that he was the author of that proposal. He has, in fact, re-armed a good many, and that led me to think the work might be continued. Of course, I am aware of the difficulty of putting long guns into these vessels. I only referred to the guns carried on the upper deck. I still think it an open question whether it is worth while re-engining the vessels unless we modernise their armaments.

Vote agreed to.

9. Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £1,260,800, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expense of Contract Work for Shipbuilding, Repairs, and Maintenance, including the cost of Establishments of Dockyards and Naval Yards at Home and Abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1892

*(4.14.) MR. GOURLEY

I beg to move the reduction of this Vote by £60,350, the subsidy paid for merchant cruisers. I do not think this money is well expended. We are paying large sums to the owners of the vessels in order that we may be entitled to the use of the vessels in times of war. I hold that we have so large a number of fast mercantile cruisers in the Navy that it is not necessary to subsidise the owners of particular vessels. I believe we have a claim through this subsidy on about 11 ships; but there are fully 100 vessels capable of equal, if not greater, speed not subsidised. Again, we get nothing in return for the subsidy. I want to know, do these subsidised vessels curry guns, gunners, and ammunition? Otherwise they may not be of the least use to us in case of emergency; it would take too long to arm them. I am bound to say I think that this subsidy is a waste of money. In the event of war, on what terms are we to take the vessels? Have the rates been fixed, or will they be fixed when the emergency arises?

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item I., of £60,350, for the Royal Reserve of Merchant Cruisers, be omitted from the proposed Vote."—(Mr. Gourley).

*(4.17.) MR. FORWOOD

I am rather surprised that the hon. Member should object at this late stage to the subsidy. The policy of subsidising these vessels in order to command their services when necessary met with the warm approbation of the House and the country five or six years ago. I should like the hon. Member to name one of the 100 vessels which he says are equal in speed to the subsidised vessels, I believe one of the Union Line ships just completed is the only one which approaches them in that matter. In answer to his question, I may say that the vessels do not now carry their guns—not only is it desirable that the guns should be kept in perfect order, but if they were always on board they would be a great inconvenience in the passenger and freight arrangements. The guns are, however, ready to be put on board when required. The gunners will be trained men supplied by the Admiralty, and these vessels are bound to carry a certain number of trained Naval Reserve men. One condition of the contract is that the Government should have, not only the right of buying the vessels at a fixed price, but also the right of chartering them at a fixed rate. Their coal capacity is such that they can keep the sea for from 50 to 60 days, and will be able to carry large bodies of troops to distant parts of the Empire if necessary. The hon. Member must think it better to pay an annual subsidy to command those vessels than to spend the enormous sum of £600,000 in a panic, as was done in 1885.


What is the rate at which the vessels are to be chartered?


20s. per ton per month.

(4.21.) MR. SINCLAIR&c.) (Falkirk,

I agree that no part of the naval programme put forward a few years ago met with greater sanction in the country than the proposal to spend a sum every year in subsidising fast merchant vessels. Of course, if they were always to carry guns and ammunition it would be necessary to pay a higher subsidy. I have risen to ask whether the guns and necessary ammunition for these vessels are in store and ready to be put aboard in case of emergency?

(4.22.) MR. FORWOOD

That is so; and more than that, they are kept at the ports where the ships are most likely to call at a moment's notice.

Question put, and negatived.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

10. £1,528,700, Naval Armaments.

*(4.24.) MR. DUFF

I must apologise to the Committee for again addressing it. But for some reason the gallant Admirals who when in opposition generally criticise these Votes at length, disappear from the House when the Conservatives are in office. I do not think it a credit to the House that this largo sum should be voted without any criticism whatever. I have so frequently complained of the delay in delivering heavy guns that I daresay it has come to be regarded as a hobby of mine. There have in the past been some warm discussions on the subject. I can assure the House I do not approach the question from a Party point of view, but I may point out that year after year estimates are given of the number of guns to be produced, and yet in no single instance has the estimated production of heavy guns been fulfilled. In 1889 45 guns were promised, and only 22 were delivered; and in the next year the estimate was for 81 guns, and only 32 were produced, of which 11 were for the Army and 21 for the Navy. These figures only refer, of course, to heavy guns, those over 9 in. diameter. The delay does not occur in regard to the lighter guns. We are always assured that ships are not waiting for guns, but it is strange that the authorities are never able to produce half the promised number of heavy guns in any one year. I have always been of opinion that much of the delay in the production of guns is due to the want of system. Eminent financial authorities have complained of the irregularity of a system by which one Department takes the Vote and the other administers it. I may be told that it is necessary that this system should be followed in order to ensure similarity of pattern, but surely the combined Departments represented on the Ordnance Committee might decide on the pattern, and then each order what guns it requires. The naval ordnance will never be in a satisfactory state until the Admiralty take the whole responsibility of ordering the guns for the Navy. I shall be glad if the noble Lord will tell us what progress has been made with the larger guns, and if the Admiralty have fulfilled their promise as to production in the past year.


The hon. Member criticises the Admiralty and War Office because they do not make good their promises in reference to naval ordnance. But he should recollect that the calculations presented to Parliament as to the number of guns which will be produced in the year are in no way promises. The fulfilment of the Estimate depends, not on the War Office, but upon the contractors. The whole system of production has been entirely changed in character of late years. In the old times guns and ships were exclusively made in the national establishments, when it was easy to estimate exactly the producing capacity for any year. But now the work is transferred to contractors: the Departments are bound to take the estimates of the contractors as to the work they will be able to get through; and the progress made by contractors depends on many circum- stances, such as the amount of work in hand and the condition of the labour market, over which the Government cannot exercise control. We have now, to a great extent, remedied the cause of complaint. As to the supply of heavy ordnance to the Navy, until a year or two ago there have always been ships waiting for guns. Now there are guns waiting for ships. There is no ship waiting for a 110-ton gun, and on the 1st of September this year we estimate that there will be one of these guns in reserve. Of the 67-ton guns, that is the 13.5in. gun, there are 20 in reserve; of the 9in. guns, 14; and of the 10in. guns, of which a very much smaller number are now required, 1. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman will see that we have made very satisfactory progress. There is no likelihood in future of any ship having to wait for guns, because, as the different calibres of the naval guns are fixed in number, and as there is a reserve of guns of every calibre, the reserve can be drawn on in case a gun assigned to a particular ship is not ready when wanted. I should like to mention a remarkable achievement by the Woolwich Ordnance Factory. That factory has succeeded in constructing and delivering four 67-ton guns in 18 months, and they are now waiting at Portsmouth for the Royal Sovereign. The Royal Sovereign has made more rapid progress in construction than any modern battleship ever before built, and there is good reason to believe that hereafter the construction of guns and that of ships will proceed simultaneously, and that we shall not again have the scandal of ships awaiting guns.


We settled some years ago the question of the policy to be pursued in regard to guns, and it is not worth while fighting it over again. I am, as the Committee know, not favourable to very large guns, but the House has approved their use. I do not think we know sufficiently the work of these guns in order to criticise the methods which are pursued in turning them out. There are many difficulties in carrying out the construction of these heavy guns, and I think that the hon. Member for Banffshire has been rather too hard on the Admiralty. The First Lord of the Admiralty will do a great service if nest year he will supply more detailed information as to the smaller guns, especially the rapid-firing guns, the construction of which is being greatly increased. I should like to know to what extent the new rifle has been supplied to the Navy.

(4.39.) SIR W. PLOWDEN (Wolverhampton, W.)

I think it would be more satisfactory to the Committee to have more detailed information as to the supply of heavy guns. Have all the arrears which have been mentioned by the hon. Member for Banffshire been made up? When the noble Lord said that, in case guns designed for special ships were not completed in time, it might be possible to make up the deficiency from the Reserve, I think he indicated the possibility of further delay in gun construction. On the whole, however, I think the statement a satisfactory one. I only want to know if the deficit of 1890 has boon made up.


Am I correct in supposing that there are heavy guns for all vessels which are now on the stocks?


When I spoke of guns in reserve, I referred to those which are over and above those required. Not only are there guns now for all the vessels requiring them, but there is a steadily - increasing reserve of heavy guns. As to the magazine rifle, it is not proposed to issue it to the Navy in the present year. It is desirable that the Army and the Navy should be armed with a rifle of the same calibre; but there is not the same necessity for a magazine rifle in the Navy, and it is believed that by waiting the rifle can be obtained more cheaply.

Vote agreed to.

11. £417,600, Works, Buildings, and Repairs at Homo and Abroad.


Will the First Lord of the Admiralty inform me what alterations have been made to the house at Devonport, and what has boon the total cost, and why the expenditure is not accounted for in the usual way.


The house was in a very bad sanitary condition, and new drainage was required. Not a penny expenditure was unnecessarily incurred.


What was the amount?




Has any addition been made?


A small addition.

Vote agreed to.

12. £140,400, Miscellaneous Effective Services.


On this Vote I think it right to inform the Committee that under this head it is proposed to pay £4,000 to Admiral Colomb for his inventions in connection with flashing signals. That is in excess of the Vote, and I think it right to inform the Committee.


I am very glad my noble Friend has been able to state that the claims of Admiral Colomb have been recognised, and I think that the money was very well earned. I would like to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty the reason of the increase of the cost of exchange where money is paid in currency. This is an old grudge of mine, and I would like some explanation.


I agree that the sum of £4,000 to be paid to Admiral Colomb was very well earned. There is an increase, I observe, of £100 in the Vote for Naval Attachés; I would like to know where they are?


We think it advisable to have Naval Attachés. This increase is in connection with an Attaché in America. It has been considered advisable to have one for the United States, as in the Navy of that country they are introducing all the most modern scientific improvements. There has also been an increase in the Navies of the South American Republics. With regard to the question of the loss on exchange, an extra loss of £1,900 has been caused this year by the fluctuation in silver. The old arrangement was to fix the rate once a year; but that has not been found to be quite satisfactory, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has agreed to an alteration by which the rate is fixed every six months. That arrangement gives greater satisfaction.


With regard to the charge for lightships, beacons, &c., I see there is a decrease of £50,400, while under Head E there is an increase of the allowances to officers on Her Majesty's ships.


I wish to have some-explanation regarding the annual charge for the removal of office and other furniture in connection with commanding officers; whether any of it eventually becomes the property of the commanding officer? I wish also to know how much of the £13,000 for pilotage was for pilotage in home waters, and how much for pilotage in waters abroad. Then I see there is a charge of £1,400 for the entertainment and conveyance of Royal personages Inasmuch as the country maintains four yachts for the use of Royal personages, I think that is a charge which ought to be avoided.


In the case of Naval Comrnanders-in-Chiefccrtain furrture and attendance is provided, and the expense is constant year by year. Much of the charge for pilotage is in connection with the Suez Canal. The erection of coast semaphores, for which £3,300 was provided last year, and with which substantial advance was made last year, has been postponed to next year, as there are more pressing necessities. In reply to the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Gourley), it has always been the practice to convey a certain portion of the Royal Household and equipages to Scotland and elsewhere by Her Majesty's ships. With regard to the officers of the Royal yachts, an allowance is given to them to pay exceptional expenses in connection with the presence on board of distinguished Royal personages.

Vote agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £221,100, he granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expenses of the Admiralty Office, which will come in course or payment daring the year ending on the 31st day of March 1892.


I should like to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty what action has been taken on the recommendations made by Lord Hartington's Commission? I should also like to ask the noble Lord what change, if any, has been made in the duties of the First Naval Lord of the Admiralty?


There are a number of Committees which are really Joint Committees of the War Office and the Admiralty. The recommendations of Lord Hartington's Commission, so far as the Admiralty is concerned, are very small indeed. They made no recommendation as to the way in which it should be conducted. They did make a recommendation that the First Naval Lord should be relieved of a certain portion of his duties. I have already stated that the First Naval Lord has been relieved of a substantial portion of his duties, but I do not propose to make any other change, and I do not think anyone acquainted with the present system at the Admiralty will consider it necessary to make any further change.

MR. JENNINGS (Stockport)

This Vote is a very interesting one, and requires discussion. Owing to the want of notice that these estimates would be taken, it has been impossible for anyone to be prepared to go into the details of the Vote. In previous Sessions I have put down a notice with regard to this Vote, but it was put off to a late period, when everybody wanted to get away. Last Monday I was informed that this Vote would not be taken this afternoon. This afternoon, however, between £9,000,000 and £10,000,000 have been taken with scarcely any discussion. This is no doubt very conducive to what is called the swift despatch of Public Business. Whether it is conducive to the public interest and to economy is another question. I ask the First Lord not to take the Vote to-day, but to postpone it in order that there may be adequate opportunity for discussion. It affords ample material for discussion, inasmuch as some of the charges in it are of a very extraordinary character, and I trust that under the circumstances he will not press the Vote.


No doubt progress has been greater than had been anticipated. I should, of course, prefer to take the Vote now. At the same time, if hon. Gentlemen wish it postponed I hardly feel in a position to resist the proposal. I hope, however, that if I assent to the suggestion, inasmuch as the Admiralty Vote will enable hon. Gentlemen to raise any question they wish on naval affairs, the Committee will be good enough to pass the remaining Votes.

Motion, by leave withdrawn.

13. £779,200, Half Pay, Reserved, and Retired Pay.

14. £924,700, Naval and Marine Pensions, Gratuities, and Compassionate Allowances.

15. £319,200, Civil Pensions and Gratuities.

16. £34,800, Additional Naval Force for Service in Australasian Waters.

Resolutions to be reported to-morrow.

Committee to sit again to-morrow.