HC Deb 02 March 1891 vol 350 cc1985-2002
(7.20.) SIR JOHN POPE HENNESSY (Kilkenny, N.)

The Motion which I ventured to put before the House is in the following terms:— That the Ports and Coaling Stations held for naval purposes should be under naval and not military control. Some days after I had placed that notice on the Paper, the interesting statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty was distributed, and at the end of that statement I find the following passage:— There are officers of both Services who believe that measures should at once be taken by which the Navy should immediately undertake the defence of the great naval ports, and be, in time of war, responsible for the safety of the base of their own operations. "I admit," continues the noble Lord, that if such a change could be carried out, it would tend to secure unity of action and responsibility, and would, in an emergency, secure at the great naval ports the rapid utilisation of all available resources, for whatever movement the exigency of the moment might require. Well, that seems a powerful argument in favour of the Motion I had put upon the Paper; but immediately after wards the noble Lord goes on— But it is a proposal that involves so immense a charge that it is not under any conditions practicable in the immediate future. Now, this question has been for some time before Parliament and the country. The Hartington Commission in 1888 dealt with it conclusively, and in the Report of the Commission to which the noble Lord (Lord Hartington) himself made reference the other night the Commissioners take a very different view from the First Lord of the Admiralty as to the expediency or possibility of dealing with the subject at once. The Report of the Commission carries such authority that I venture to quote a passage— Two Departments are engaged in two branches of what is, or ought to be, one duty and one combined work. The first point which strikes us in the consideration of the organisation of these two great Departments is that, while in action they must be to a large extent dependent on each other, and while in some of the arrangements necessary as a preparation for war they are absolutely dependent on the assistance of each other, little or no attempt has ever been made to establish settled or regular intercommunication or relations between them, or to secure that the establishments of one Service should be determined with any reference to the requirements of the other. As illustrating the dependence of the Army on the co-operation of the Navy, it may be pointed out that a large part of the duty of the Army in time of war would be the defence of distant possessions and dependencies, such as India and the colonies. No perfection of military organisation, no completeness of military establishments, could enable the Army to discharge this function unless the Navy were, on its part, in a position to undertake the safe transport of reinforcements and of the necessary armaments and stores. The scope of action of the Navy in distant waters must mainly depend on the amount of confidence with which it can calculate on the power of self-defence of the principal coaling stations and reckon on finding there the necessary supplies. It has been stated in evidence before us that no combined plan of operations for the defence of the Empire in any given contingency has ever been worked out or decided upon by the two Departments; and some of the questions connected with the defence of military ports abroad, and even of those at home, are still, after much departmental correspondence, in an unsettled condition, and that the best mode of garrisoning some of the distant coaling stations is also undecided. In all these subjects a question of principle is involved, which no attempt has been made to solve by a final and definite decision. No wonder the Commission summed up all this by calling it a "dangerous condition of affairs." That was in 1888. What have we heard this year from the Chairman of that Commission? Speaking on the 23rd of last month on the Army Estimates, the noble Lord (Lord Hartington) took occasion to repeat the warning, and it is evident he does not share the opinion of the First Lord that these reforms should be indefinitely delayed. The noble Lord referred to the want of a combined naval and military plan for the defence of the Empire, and to the fact that the best mode of garrisoning the coaling stations was still undecided, and he added— Thus, some of the most vital questions are still left in a dangerously uncertain condition. The reply of the Secretary of State for War to some extent resembles the words I have quoted from the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty. The right hon. Gentleman said— When the Report of the Commission was brought before the country the Government watched to see the general drift of opinion with reference to the changes proposed.…. As to the transfer (of the coaling stations and fortifications to the Navy), it was a question of enormous importance, which could not be carried out until the lapse of a considerable number of years. Thus the two Members of the Cabinet most concerned concur in saying that a considerable period must elapse before the necessary reforms can be carried out Now, what is the actual condition of affairs witnessed by those who have for some years resided at these coaling stations? I remember that at one particular coaling station the Governor received a telegram from Her Majesty's Government asking to be immediately supplied with a Report as to the state of the submarine defences. The Governor accordingly wrote to the officer commanding the troops, and then accompanied him to the harbour to confer with the officer having charge of these submarine mines. On embarking for the fort the general-in-command makes an apology to the Governor: "I am sorry they are so clumsy; but, in point of fact, the soldiers are not accustomed to the oars." The General and the Governor are conveyed across the harbour to the fort where the Engineer officer is. On arriving there, the Governor asks the Engineer officer, "How many hours will it take you to lay out the whole of the submarine mines?" The Engineer officer says, "Well, Sir; unfortunately the chart I have is rather an old chart, and some of the officers of Her Majesty's ship so-and-so, told me when they were recently in harbour, that the coral reefs have increased. The soundings have altered, there is now a current in another direction, and on the whole, I am afraid I cannot tell you within 36 hours or three days when I can lay out the submarine mines." Of course, the House will understand that this military man cannot be blamed. He is put in charge of purely naval work, and is not a naval man. Who is responsible for this? Her Majesty's Government. Now, to take another coaling station. Hong Kong is described as a coaling station of first-class importance. I remember there that it was the duty of the Governor to have a conference with the General-in-command and the Admiral during a Russian scare. The Admiral decided to take his ships to sea and there attack the Russian Fleet. The General said that would not do; the Admiral must not leave us defenceless. I was appealed to, and I ventured to express the opinion that it must be left to the Admiral to decide what to do with his Fleet. Next day the Admiral left, and not many hours elapsed before I got a telegram from London to the effect that at the War Office a very alarming message was received from the Commanding Officer, who had telegraphed openly that the Admiral had taken away the whole Fleet, and "Hong Kong was absolutely defenceless." Within an hour of the sending off of the telegram by the General its contents were known to the Russian Consul and telegraphed on to Europe. Her Majesty's Government instructed me to inform the General that in future he should send his telegrams through the Governor, who had the Foreign Office cipher. Accordingly, that was done; but, in fact, the colony had not been left so entirely defenceless as the officer in command of the troops supposed, for the Commodore who remained in charge of the Naval Yard acted cordially with me in improvising an efficient torpedo defence. Similar misunderstandings were constantly cropping up between the Military and Naval Authorities. I mention this as an illustration of the difficulty which is created by the Government itself in maintaining a divided responsibility in the defence of coaling stations. Now, Sir, Her Majesty's Government are no doubt aware that there are Reports in the possession of every Government on the Continent of Europe from the officers of the Foreign Intelligence Department, and that those Reports, referring to the defence of the ports and coaling stations of the British Empire, are all to the effect that the scheme of defence is radically defective. Our allies on the Continent do not always confide to us these Reports of experts on our shortcomings. But I assert that such Reports exist, that they are all in one direction, and that they are unanimous in saying that our system of coast and coaling station defence is on a wrong basis, and imperils the safety of the British Empire. Fortunately, the United States recently published the Report of Lieutenant Colwell, of their Intelligence Department. It entirely supports the views we have heard expressed this Session by Lord Hartington. Writing to the United States Government in June, 1888, Lieutenant Colwell says— The coast defence of Great Britain is notably the most inefficient of any of the great European Powers. Owing to the divided control, lack of co-operation, absence of digested schemes for mutual support, and the mixing of naval and military duties, the defence is unwieldly in its administration, unprepared for sudden work, and labours under the disadvantage of placing military men outside their legitimate sphere of action. We have already heard indications tonight from both sides that the House does not agree with Her Majesty's Government. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), though he is not in the habit of saying much in support of what are called the Services, did say to-night that he was very anxious to see the coaling stations of England adequately defended, and he added that in his opinion the money laid out on the Navy was generally better laid out than on the Army. The coaling stations are not adequately defended. They are established solely for naval purposes. The Secretary of State for War himself, in addressing the Colonial Conference in 1867, called them "the Amiralty coaling stations." They are intended to resist a naval attack only, but they are garrisoned by the military, and are under the War Office instead of being under the Admiralty. If I may dare to touch again on the more or less trivial experience of an individual, I remember a case in which it became necessary for me to inspect some of the look-out points of one of our coaling stations. The men entrusted with the looking out were all soldiers. I asked one of them whether, when ships come above the horizon, he could distinguish the difference between a German cruiser and an English man-of-war? "Oh no, sir," he said; "not until the flag goes up I could not tell any difference." I need hardly say that a sailor could tell the difference of rig many miles off. I am, unfortunately, old enough to remember—and I suppose nobody present is in the same predicament, unless perhaps it is the hon. Baronet on my left (Sir W. Lawson)—the great Debates which occurred 30 years ago when Lord Palmerston proposed a costly scheme of fortification and military defence. I voted against it, mainly because I saw that it was opposed by the best naval opinions of the day. It was a contest between the Military and Naval Authorities. In a small minority of 39, I then voted for the naval as opposed to the military defence of our coasts. But the two Front Benches, and practically both sides of the House, voted an expenditure of many millions, now admitted to have been mostly wasted. Parliament yielded to the military opinion in 1860; and a common phrase accurately describes what occurred as regards the military works at Alderney—the £1,500,000 were "flung into the sea." The expenditure was absolutely useless; and at least £500,000 was similarly "flung into the sea" at Bermuda. The Navy was consulted too late. The real custodians of the waterways of the Empire were not consulted in time. The Secretary for War thought my proposal would involve increased expense. On the contrary, it would be true economy. If the Navy Estimates grew larger, the Army Estimates would be reduced in proportion. As to the increase of personnel and cost of administration at Whitehall, a trifling addition to Marine Staff at the Admiralty would suffice. The Public Works Department at the Admiralty was quite capable of looking after the forts. What said General Sir William Jervois, who had had more to do with our fortifications and coast defences than, perhaps, any other officer in Her Majesty's service?— I am confident that its adoption would be productive of economy through its intrinsic values of unity and simplicity. Nothing, it is well known, is more conducive to extravagance than the uncertain allotment of duty, division of responsibility, and departmental friction, evils from which the two Services have long been and still are suffering, to the prejudice of their own efficiency and the detriment of the British taxpayer. The truest economy consists in obtaining the best possible return for a given outlay. Another eminent military expert, General Sir Andrew Clarke, when occupying the responsible position of Inspector General of Fortifications and Director of Works, recorded his views in February, 1883, in favour of a Marine defence for our colonies. In discussing a paper of the hon. Member opposite (Sir John Colomb) on our Marine Forces, Sir Andrew Clarke said— In our smaller colonies, especially taking those colonies most valuable to us, and at the same time most difficult for us to control and defend—the whole of our colonies to the Far East, reaching up to China—I have always advocated and would advocate still that the garrisons should be entirely Marines. Regiments of the Line, constituted as they are, are not the most effective agents now for Colonial Defence, and they are most expensive in those positions, requiring, as they do, large Civil Departmental Corps to be attached to them to make them at all efficient. On the other hand, you can move the Marines at 12 hours' notice, or less than that, without all the necessary departmental arrangements which are involved in moving a regiment of the Line. That in the defence of the colonies is a point of great economic value. Their organisation offers another very great justification for their being employed in such a way. An Admiral, knowing every place where they are, on difficulties arising, whether amongst the civil population or by the approach of an enemy's fleet, could at any moment reduce his other garrisons and increase his forces at the menaced point. In our separate commands correspondence must take place, the case must be proved, and valuable time is lost before you can move any portion of the regiments, especially in parts of the world I have just spoken of. If there was one homogeneous command over the Marines stretching round the China Seas under one General or one Admiral, you would secure for the Empire a very efficient service, far more economical than the present one, and one which would especially meet the requirements of our Colonial Service. To me, at the present moment, having the responsibility of advising the Government in reference to the question not only of the defence of our commercial ports in England, because I can see the application of this very question of the Reserve of Marines to assist in the organisation of the defence of our commercial harbours as well as of our military harbours, but also in the question of the defence of our coaling stations abroad, I believe the Marine organisation offers a satisfactory solution of that question. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Treasury is as anxious as any man to see the public money properly spent; therefore I would earnestly commend to his attention not the last sentence I read from the Memorandum of the noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton), but the preceding sentences, and I would ask him and the Government to consider whether the time has not come, not for carrying out the whole of this great scheme, but for trying the experiment of beginning with the coaling stations on the China Sea. If the Government would do this they would have an opportunity at once of placing their coaling stations in that part of the world under the Admiral in command. They would then have an opportunity of practically testing the Motion that I put before them. I have no doubt that they would see that both in Hong Kong and in Singapore the Admiral-in-command would be able to raise a marine force, which would materially assist in securing a better defence for these coaling stations. And on this subject I would like to say to the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty and to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury that Her Majesty's Navy is very popular in the colonies. Whatever the cause may be the Army is not so popular. And of all the branches of that popular Service—the Navy, I believe the Marines are themselves the most popular. The Marines can be recruited in many of the colonies as well as the Marine Artillery. If you were to garrison coaling stations with the Marines and the Marine Artillery, you would have a body of men easily transferred from station to station, a body of men inexpensively relieved, and ready, if necessary, to cooperate with the fleet in an active attack. Suppose the Admiral, under existing arrangements, came to the conclusion that the best way to save Hong Kong was to attack Vladivostock. Suppose he should say to the military commanders of Singapore and Hong Kong—"I desire to make an attack on Vladivostock, for it is undermanned and I can now occupy it; but to do so I must take away the troops from Hong Kong and Singapore." What would be the answer of the military men? I have never known a question of that kind arise without there being a difference, and an irreconcilable difference, between the Military and Naval Authorities. For my part, I should be perfectly content if Her Majesty's Government would try the experiment I advocate on the China Sea by garrisoning those Eastern outposts with Marines, and placing the zone of defence under the Navy.

(7.47.) ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)

I think that all naval and military men—certainly all naval men—who read the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down, and who speaks with such great authority on this subject, will be deeply grateful to him for his observations. No one can speak with greater knowledge and authority than the hon. Gentleman who has so recently returned from those distant parts; and he has left us naval men nothing to say. He has exhausted the arguments. The hon. Member gives us a most humorous description of the miserable state of things which existed for years at our coaling stations before the present Government came into power. At the time of the Russian scare if we had gone to war with Russia all our coaling stations might have been captured, unless ships of war had been detached to protect them. I had occasion to look into this question when I went on a trip to Australia a few years back, and I am firmly of the opinion expressed by the hon. Member. He only presses the Government to try an experiment. The noble Lord alluded to this particular question, and it is perfectly easy to read between the lines of the memorandum and see that he is very much exercised about it. The noble Lord I believe desires to grapple with it in the direction favoured by naval opinion, but he is more or less powerless unless supported by opinion in this House to strengthen his hands. We naval men generally are modest men, and we do not want the Government to do great things at the beginning. We only urge that an experiment should be made. It would be a huge folly for us to take possession of every naval station. We do not want anything to do with the great fortresses like Gibraltar and Malta; but the outstanding stations are the important points, and if the noble Lord can only see his way to put on the Estimates an increase to the Marine Force, the thing can be done in a month. There are many advantages in such a reform, and they are so obvious that it is needless to waste words in explaining them. They must be apparent to the poorest mind, however little acquainted with naval and military affairs. If a Marine detachment were placed in charge of the defensive works of places like Hong Kong and Singapore the Admiral will know the force he has to rely upon, and his wishes will be scrupulously regarded; there will be no conflict of authority, and he can, if necessary, go on a distant expedition after detaching a ship to guard what he leaves behind. Again, in the event of sickness breaking out in a garrison, nothing will be easier than for the Admiral to change the whole of the men, and give the sick a three months' cruise. That cannot be done with soldiers. The House is indebted to the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley for having first directed attention to this matter. A Commission afterwards sat, and from that day to this the question has been occupying the attention of the country. The present Government have done a great deal in providing guns for our coaling stations, but it must not be forgotten that, though we have the guns, we want garrisons and barracks, and that sufficient money has not been taken for these. The question still sleeps. We want pressure from behind, and I think we have that in the Motion and the speech of the hon. Member opposite. The House owes a debt of gratitude to the hon. Member for taking up this question and trying to rivet public attention upon it.

(7.54.) MR. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith)

As a civilian, I am reluctant to intrude in this interesting discussion, but I regret that I find myself unable to concur with the two speakers who preceded me. I had the honour of being a member of a Committee which sat at the War Office for a considerable period, the result of our deliberations being that the House was pleased to vote a considerable sum of money to strengthen the military ports of this country and the coaling stations. Therefore, since that time I have taken considerable interest in these questions. I listened with the deepest attention to what fell from the hon. Member for Kilkenny, and it seemed to me that in quoting the case of Hong Kong, as he did, he really gave himself away. The lesson which I should draw from the case of Hong Kong, as cited by the hon. Member, is that it is absolutely necessary that the fortifications, so far from being placed under a naval commander, should be left in the hands of the Military Authorities. What did he tell us occurred? Why, that when it was possible that war might break out, the naval commander at once took away all his ships and all his men, and left the harbour defenceless. In order that a harbour should not be defenceless, the fortifications should be complete and the mine-field ready to be laid down by persons on the spot, and not by men under the Naval Authority. Sir Astley Cooper Key's words on this point are very instructive— Nothing has pleased me more than to know that foreign countries intrust the defence of their ports to the Navy. We may thus be assured that many of their best officers will be shut up in their ports, and must be withdrawn from the strength of the Navy in time of war. It seems to me that the defence of a port resolves itself into two parts —the active defence and the passive defence. The active defence would naturally be taken charge of by the Admiral in command; but it seems absolutely necessary there should be on the spot a passive defence in the event of sudden attack upon the port; and that that passive defence should be in the hands of the Military Authorities, because it is pretty certain the Naval Authorities would take very good care to take away every available man and gun for the purpose of active defence. The gallant Admiral at my side (Admiral Field) says he would leave the Marines behind; but I am by no means sure that he would not do exactly as was done in the case quoted by the hon. Member opposite, if he had the means of transport, and take away every available man. It seems to me, therefore, that the question ought to be left as it is. It seems to me that there is another side to this question, and I do not wish the erroneous impression to go forth that the House shares unanimously the views which the two hon. Members have put forward.

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

I think the hon. Member for Kilkenny has certainly brought before the House a most difficult question affecting military and naval administration, and one well worthy the attention both of the House and the Services. The hon. Member has put a correct interpretation on the language I used in my Memorandum. It is true that I am not satisfied. On the other hand, I feel the difficulties are enormously great, and I want the House and the Services fully to appreciate what the change advocated really means. I can quite understand the idea of making the Army responsible for everything relating to the land, and the Navy for everything relating to the sea. But the peculiarity of the passive defence to which my hon. Friend has referred is that every year it is taking more and more an aquatic shape. As science develops and the range of guns increases, the passive defence becomes more and more an aquatic defence. That being so, what is the position of any officer who is intrusted with the defence of a station? He needs gun boats, torpedo boats, submarine mines, and under-water communications. All that necessitates that there should be a certain appropriation of naval force for the purpose of participating in what is called passive defence. My attention was drawn to the matter some years back, and I went into it to see what it would cost. I want to show that any such change as is now proposed must involve a good deal of difficulty and a large increase of expenditure, and, moveover, if you once enter upon it you will not find it very easy to stop. I, for one, never would consent to any arrangement under which a naval force should be placed at isolated stations of an unhealthy character if they were not also to have charge of the more healthy stations; and if this were so it is estimated that to garrison in time of war all our coaling stations abroad, including Gibraltar and Malta, would require 35,000 men, who would need a reserve of 15,000 men at home, so that the transfer of the control of the coaling stations from the Army to the Navy would involve a transfer of something like 50,000 men from one Service to the other. That question itself is, therefore, a very grave one, because it would revolutionise the Force, would load to great alterations in the system of administration, and would make it very difficult to carry on the regimental system in many cases. In addition to the financial and administrative difficulties, a very large number of experienced naval and military officers are opposed to the change, among them nearly all my naval advisers. What they say is that if this change is made it will attach a large land force to the Navy. I want the House to appreciate the enormous difficulty of attempting any change of the sort; but speaking my own individual opinion, which is not that of my naval advisers, the present system is one of difficulty in time of peace, and might be dangerous in time of war. I have seen it worked under the most favourable conditions, for my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War, who has done so much to benefit the Army, has occupied himself more than any of his predecessors with the interests of the Navy. The right hon. Gentleman was the first man who was impressed with the necessity of armed forts for the purpose of protecting the bases of naval operations, and in many other instances he has cordially worked with the Navy, and the same spirit animates both the Naval and the Military Boards. There is, therefore, complete co-operation between the two Departments as far as is possible when two Services are placed in a position which I do not think they ought to occupy towards each other. The Army is called upon in time of war to protect the permanent bases of operations, a duty which everyone knows is always unpopular in time of war, because those who have to perform this irksome duty naturally desire to go to the front. But when a duty is put upon one Service which ought to be put upon another the difficulty is enormously increased. The hon. Member for Northampton has said that he did not object so much to the expenditure on the Navy, but he wanted to see that on the Army much reduced. Let us suppose that the Party of the hon. Member comes into power. They have already promised to squeeze the Army Estimates, but in the process of squeezing the those Estimates they would eliminate all the provision that ought to be made for the protection of the naval bases of operation. Military men would say, having already a difficulty in providing for the primary wants of the Military Service, that the secondary task in connection with the Navy must be subordinated. That is the difficulty in time of peace. Now, what would be the difficulty in time of war? Would anybody pretend that it was a right system to intrust all that relates to defensive operations to one man, one Service, and to one Department, and all that relates to offensive operations to another man, another Service, and another Department? The very anxiety which each officer of each Service would display in trying to carry out his part of the duty would make co-operation almost impossible. The House must recollect, too, that in the Army different trains of thought exist from those which exist in the Navy. The naval view is that at the outbreak of war the best protection to the commerce of the country would be to assume the offensive. I can understand that circumstances might occur when the naval authority might wish to take alt his available forces of men and material for offensive operations, and that the success of those operations might, to a certain extent, depend on his being able to do so. The fact is, the duty of the Navy is to prevent an attack being made, while the duty of the Army is to repel that attack when it is made; and what we ought to aim at is to get the two Services in such a position that the one which has to perform a secondary duty should not endeavour to impose impossible conditions on the other which has to carry out a primary duty. The question has been under the consideration of the Government for some time past. The Secretary for War would be only too glad to be relieved of this anxiety, but he cannot assent to any proposal which would largely increase expenditure without some corresponding benefit accruing. It will not do to say that the increase in the Navy would be counterbalanced by a decrease in the Army. The expenditure is certain; but the saving, especially where there are a number of officers and men with claims to pension and emolument is problematical. Now, in the Statement which I have laid before the House, I have pointed out that we shall shortly have to establish a new station in the South Pacific, probably the Falklands, and we shall make an experiment there on a small scale. That will be garrisoned by Marines. I shall look into the question as to whether it is possible to try the experiment further; if it is, the next place will be the China stations. I will further undertake that no change is made of a character which would increase the impediments or the obstacles to a transfer. I wish that the question could be discussed in no spirit of jealousy or rivalry between the Services; and I may add that the matter which at first made the most impression upon me was that the country did not get its full benefit from that magnificent force, the Royal Marines. With regard to the question raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Devonport—that of promotion from the ranks—every one will sympathise with the object which he has in view, but I do not think the hon. and gallant Member has quite faced many of the difficulties which such a proposal involves. In the Army the system is possible, and has worked well; but every essential condition, relating either to entrance, to pay, or to promotion, which exists in the Army is absent in the Navy. In the Army as a man rises from the ranks through the various grades of a non-commissioned officer to a commission, his pay continuously rises; but in the Navy warrant officers receive considerably higher pay than cadets, midshipmen, or sublieutenants. Therefore, it is not possible to promote from the ranks except by passing over a considerable number of commissioned officers who have entered in the regular way and who have complied with conditions which those put over them could not comply with. Then there is the difficulty of retirement. A warrant officer, as a rule, is 8 or 10 years older than a lieutenant on entering, so that at the age of retirement the State would get eight years' less work out of the former than out of the latter. There is also the difficulty of half-pay. I have a little personal experience of these difficulties. In 1887, which was the year we promoted the most capable warrant officers to the rank of lieutenants, I had the greatest difficulty in finding appointments for them which would not put too heavy a strain on their financial resources. As regards the social difficulty, I do not think it exists. Naval officers always welcome men of ability who are promoted to associate with them on terms of equality. Where the social difficulty does arise is in the standard of living. You cannot avoid that; therefore, I do not believe it would be to the benefit of the persons proposed for promotion or to the interest of the Service that anything like a wholesale promotion should be made from the ranks. But I sympathise with the wishes which my hon. Friend has expressed. There are naval men of great authority who think that if promotions were made for seamen, they should be made from smart petty officers, who could go to the lowest ranks of commissioned officers at an early age. If you promoted petty officers over the heads of warrant officers, you certainly would create a great difficulty. On the whole, I certainly think it better to leave well alone. Sailors, after all, form only part of the number on board ship. You have stokers and others; and there is no reason why a stoker should not become an engineer; and there is no reason why, according to that, if yon dispense with examinations, a steward should not become a doctor; so you could go right through the roll, with the result that you would land yourself in troubles from which extrication would be very difficult. I have answered all the questions put to me, and I hope the Speaker will now be allowed to leave the Chair, especially as hon. Members will have an opportunity of discussing these matters on Vote A and Vote 1.

(8.20.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)

Sir, I think the hon. Member for Kilkenny ought, on the whole, to be satisfied with the discussion. For my part, I am perfectly satisfied with the limited promise which the noble Lord (Lord G. Hamilton) has made. I understand the noble Lord is prepared, in respect of the Falkland Islands [Lord G. HAMILTON indicated assent], and other naval stations to which the hon. Member for Kilkenny adverted, to try this experiment. My hon. Friend did not at all contemplate its application at present to Gibraltar and other large and important stations, because there might be grave difficulties to such a scheme. But in the case of coaling stations of no great magnitude, I think the experiment might fairly be made, and I cannot doubt it would be attended with great success. It does not seem to me that any additional expense need be incurred, inasmuch as there would be about the same number of men to support, and it would be merely the transference of the duty from, the one Service to the other. I think the difficulty of that transference is one of the evidences of the want of harmony between the Services, and indicates that there is something wrong in the present system. The real fact is that a transaction of this kind ought not to be attended with an increase of expenditure. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord, in any change which he makes, will do his best to prevent any increase of expenditure. That there is difficulty in time of peace, and danger in time of war, under the present system no one can doubt. Nobody who has read the evidence taken by the Royal Commission presided over by the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale, and the Report of that Commission, can doubt that for a moment. I think, therefore, that at the earliest possible moment some experiment in the direction indicated by my hon. Friend should be made by the Government. For my part, I am satisfied with the statement of the noble Lord, and I hope the experiment will be made very shortly, and that every effort will be made to give it a good start. With regard to the other question referred to by the noble Lord, I cannot but think that it would be wise, having regard to the general condition of the Service, to give the warrant officers greater hope of promotion. I do not understand the noble Lord to raise objections to the principle, but merely to the details. He seemed to throw cold water on the subject, and said on the whole it would be better to leave well alone. I think, however, that it would be wise if some action were taken—not, of course, anything like wholesale promotion, but still sufficient to raise the hope of warrant officers that they would have an opportunity of rising in the Service. (8.25.)

Question put, and agreed to.

SUPPLY—considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)