§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
- 1. £1,215,700, Victualling and Clothing for the Navy.
- 2. £125,000, Medical Establishments and Services.
- 3. £11,400, Martial Law, &c.
- 4. £75,800, Educational Services.
- 5. £60,000, Scientific Services.
- 6. £159,000, Royal Naval Reserves.
§ *(4.5.) ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
One word upon this Vote. I wish to make another appeal to the First Lord of the Admiralty, and to ask him to give me an assurance with regard to a question of very great importance, which I alluded to in the discussion which I had the honour to take part in earlier in the Session—the question of the personnel of the Service. I wish to emphasise the remarks which I then made, and to call the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty to the subject. With regard to the efficient seamen service of the Fleet at the present time, there is a great waste, and there is no effort made by the Admiralty to prevent that waste. When the period of service of ten years or Twelve years has expired the men are allowed by the regulations to re-engage for a further period. They are allowed twelve months, during which time they may exercise the option of re-engaging or not re-engaging. But a great many of them are lost to the Service and disappear. It is with respect to this latter that I wish to press the First Lord of the Admiralty to give us some assurance. I do not want 590 in any way to harass or embarrass him at all, but simply to ask him to give us a pledge that this matter will be considered as it ought to be considered. Naval men feel very strongly that this waste ought not to go on; and it would be easy to prevent it by granting these men absolute liberty of action and holding out some inducement to them to remain in the Service. I asked the First Lord of the Admiralty to give us a Return of the men who had disappeared last year, but I could not get that Return, and I am obliged to make a rough estimate. Roughly speaking, I think we may take the waste of men at one thousand a year. Why should these thousand men be wasted—these men who have cost the country so much on their training, who are a most valuable body of men, who are ably trained, and who are good seamen and good gunners? If a suitable inducement were held out to these men I am sure they would join the Fleet Reserve of a superior class. When these men leave the Service they take engagements in civil employments; many of them take engagements in the Fire Brigade of London and other large towns. As I say, they are a most valuable body of men, and why should not some effort be made to retain them? If I might venture to make a suggestion it would be that at the expiration of the period of service, say of twelve years, they should be able to re-engage, or that they should undertake to serve so many years in the First Class Naval Reserve. That could be made a binding engagement; and thus these men might be tempted to join the Naval Reserve by offering them either short service pensions or some other inducement. All I ask the First Lord of the Admiralty to do now is to consider this whole question in all its bearings. I know that the First Lord of the Admiralty has done much with his colleagues to bring the Navy itself to such a state of perfection as to meet all the demands that may be made upon it. I know he is aware that naval men are not satisfied that the present condition of the personnel of the Navy is such as to meet the strain if war come upon us. I venture to ask him to give us a pledge that something will be done, whether by 591 requiring the parents of boys to give an engagement on their behalf that at the age of eighteen they shall re-engage in the new Naval Reserve or by some other means, to put a stop to this waste of valuable men.
§ (4.15.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Lord GEORGE HAMILTON,) Middlesex, Ealing
What my hon. and gallant Friend suggests practically amounts to this: that in the case of men who engage for the first term of service some inducement should be offered to them in order that they should enter the Naval Reserve. My hon. and gallant Friend will see that this is not a matter of which there can be an easy solution. If you make the terms so good as to offer a superior inducement to a man to go into the Naval Reserve after his first term of service, in all probability many men would decline to enter into a second term of service. Therefore, the matter must be very carefully considered; and the inducement held out must be such as not to interfere with the second term of years on the Active List. My hon. and gallant Friend states that practically the personnel of the Navy is not in as satisfactory a condition as he could wish. I only hope that he does not take for granted the statements circulated in the Press concerning the number of men available. The personnel of the Navy has been largely increased during the last three years. There have been 13,000 more men on the Active List, and 7,000 more men have volunteered for the Naval Reserve; and at the present moment, so far as our ships are concerned, if they were all to be put in commission, we have more men than would be sufficient to man them. However, I will bear in mind what my hon. and gallant Friend has said. As he has already suggested, the matter is one worthy of being carefully investigated.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 7. £1,866,100 — Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, &c.—Personnel.
§ (4.16.) MR. HERBERT KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN (Kent, Faversham)
I wish to express the great satisfaction which my constituency feel at the very high standard of work 592 which has been done in the Government dockyards. I believe there can be no doubt that the work performed there will compare very favourably with the work done in private yards. There is one class of workmen in the yards—namely, the riggers, who are very grateful for the additional pay which has been granted by the Admiralty. While admitting that much has been done to improve the condition of things, a great deal remains to be done with regard to increasing the pay of the workmen. There is one particular grievance to which I should like to call the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty, and that is with regard to the system of classification. The greatest dislike of the system of classification exists. There may be much in favour of the system of classification; but I believe I am correct in saying that it has been found from experience that it is impossible to introduce the system of classification into any private yards at all. I have been told over and over again that the men almost universally would prefer a less rise of pay, and that it should be uniform. What they ask is that if the classification system is to continue it should be by seniority, and not as at present—by selection. There is the greatest dislike and distrust of the system of selection; and if it must be continued, the workmen would prefer that they should be entitled to a rise of wages by seniority. There is another grievance felt by the caulkers, who are a small body in themselves, and whose services are not so much in demand now owing to the improvements which have been made. Their contention is that if there is to be a readjustment of wages they should be placed on an equal footing with the rest. I hope the Admiralty will see their way to favourably consider what appears to me to be the reasonable claim of these men. Then there is the grievance of the petty officers, who respectfully ask for an increase of pensions. I would also respectfully call the attention of the Admiralty to the claims of the engineers and artificers. Before sitting down I hope I may be allowed also to express the deep regret which is felt at the course which the Admiralty have taken with regard to ships built at 593 Sheerness. Formerly the ships built at Sheerness were commissioned there; but now I understand it has been decided by the Admiralty that they should be sent away and commissioned at Chatham. I may be told that that is necessary for the purpose of mobilisation. If that be so, it is probably useless to argue against it. But what I contend is that if such a measure is taken without due notice, and if there is to be such a disturbance of trade, there should be some compensation. I hope the Admiralty will see their way, if this policy is adopted, to do something, if not this year, on some future occasion, to make some adequate compensation for the injury which it will inflict upon such towns as Sheerness, which depend upon dockyard support.
§ (4.21.) CAPTAIN PRICE (Devonport)
I desire to remind the House that the number of Members who represent dockyard constituencies and who take interest in dockyard matters has been very considerably reduced. We have to mourn the loss of a gallant officer (Admiral Mayne), who sat for some years in this House and who look a great interest in all matters connected with dockyards and shipping. He always spoke with great intelligence on the subject, and was always listened to with great pleasure and instruction; and we are all exceedingly grieved that he should be taken from us in such a sudden manner. With reference to the remarks which have fallen from my hon. Friend who has just sat down, I wish to say that I endorse what he has said; and I want to make one or two remarks on the same subject. The subject is one of great importance in naval yards. As regards the question of the way in which the rise of pay has been distributed amongst the men, the two largest classes in the dockyards are those of the shipwrights and the joiners, and until the present time they have always been given a rate of wages which did not vary with length of service or in any other way. They have now been classified, and they strongly object to it. I understand that the Admiralty, in carrying out this large measure of reform, have taken the average wages given in the private 594 yards during the course of five or six years. Taking the average wages at 36s. 7d. a week for a certain number of hours worked, the Government provide that the men should work three hours a week less than they do in the private yards. That is, they work for one-eighteenth less time than they do in the private yards; and they therefore knock off one-eighteenth of the wages-One-eighteenth of 36s. 7d. is as nearly as possible 2s. 1d., so that that cuts down the wages to 34s. 6d. But they have again to deduct from that what represents the pension the men have to look forward to; and that is usually calculated at 1s. 6d. a week. Deducting 1s. 6d. from 34s. 6d. leaves 33s. a week. But, then, the Admiralty takes this singular course: They do not say that when a man has served his apprenticeship he shall be at once put on the average wages which are received in private yards, but he is to be put on lower wages. Instead of receiving 33s. a week, he is paid 31s. a week. I hold that that is a wrong principle. When a man has served his apprenticeship he should at once be put upon what is the average wages outside. Then there might be long service or good service pay, so that every shipwright or joiner in the yard should receive a uniform rate of pay, and a certain number, fixed by the Admiralty, by length of service, or by the recommendation of their officers, should be eligible to receive a small addition in the shape of service pay. I do not think that would cost very much money, and I think it would give satisfaction to the men in the yard. I quite endorse what has been said about the various other classes in the yard; but passing from that to another question of more national interest, I want to ask the Admiralty if they have again studied the question of making a large dock in the West of England which would be capable of taking in our ships at any time of the tide or weather? I think this is a most important point. I believe that plans for such a dock have been before the Admiralty for some time, but they do not seem to be inclined to ask for the money to carry it out. In case of war, no doubt great battles would be fought in the Channel, and especially in the 595 western part of the Channel, and ships of our Navy would have to run into Cork or to Plymouth; and if there is no dock ready at once to receive them at any time of the tide and weather, there might be a loss of some of our large and valuable ships. It can be done, and as it is a very important matter I hope the Admiralty may be able to say whether they have considered it, and whether they intend before long to ask for the money to carry it out?
§ SIR FREDERICK FITZWYGRAM (Hants, S.)
I wish to call the attention of the Admiralty to the position of the men at Priddy's Hard, Gosport. The men are classed as skilled and unskilled labourers, and the work which they do—filling shells with gunpowder—is rather dangerous on account of the chances of explosion. The circumstances of the case, which are very brief indeed, are these: The men, until lately, belonged to the Ordnance Establishment, but they were transferred to the Naval Establishment, and then, in consequence of a rise of wages in the Portsmouth Dockyard, two shillings a week were added to the wages of the skilled and unskilled labourers on that side of the water. The Admiralty, however, have consistently refused to give that increase to the skilled and unskilled labour at Priddy's Hard which they have given to the skilled and unskilled labour on the other side of the water. In consequence of representations made, a similar class of workers at Woolwich have been given this two shillings a week which the men at Priddy's Hard think, and which I think, they are fairly entitled to.
§ *(4.35.) ADMIRAL FIELD
I have considerable sympathy with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Devonport (Captain Price) and the hon. Member for the Faversham Division (Mr. Herbert Knatchbull-Hugessen). I am glad to say I am not embarrassed by having a dockyard in my constituency, and I assure the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of the Admiralty, who have taken some interest in this question of dockyard classification, that I do not share the views of the hon. Members who have spoken. I think the 596 Admiralty deserve to be supported in the proposals they have made for classification of work in the dockyards, and I hope they will adhere strictly to it. The whole Naval Service is based upon classification afloat, and I think the Admiralty are perfectly right on this question, and I hope they will stand as firm as rocks on the matter.
§ (4.36.) DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
I would like to press upon the Government the advisability of carrying out some of the remarks that fell from the hon. Member opposite. It is advisable at a time like the present, that these Votes should be got as soon as possible in order that we should get to our constituencies, and I understand that an agreement has been entered into not to debate these questions at any length. But I heard, with a considerable amount of interest, the remarks which fell from the hon. and gallant Member opposite, who said that, if a time of war should arise—and it is quite on the cards that such a time may arise, though I hope it will be as far distant as possible—and any naval engagements were to take place, they must of necessity take place in the English Channel and at the western end of it, and the hon. and gallant Member spoke of our vessels having to run into Cork or Plymouth. We know a good deal of money has been spent on the harbour of Cork—
Order, order! I should have interrupted the hon. and gallant Member for Devonport (Captain Price), as I now have to interrupt the hon. Member for Cork. The hon. Member's remarks are not in order on this Vote, but they may be addressed to the Committee on the Vote for Works, Buildings, and Repairs at Home and Abroad.
§ DR. TANNER
I daresay the Committee will pardon me being out of order if the hon. and gallant Member for Devonport was out of order. But I think any assurances which can be given should be given in order to help the Government out of their difficulty, and enable us to get to our constituencies.
§ *(4.38.) MR. JAMES ELLIS (Leicestershire, Bosworth)
I do not think, because we are not to take part in the Debate, it is understood we are not 597 entitled to receive any information which may be required. If we are not to debate the matter, we should not debate it.
§ MR. MORTON (Peterborough)
I do not desire to take up the time of the Committee on these Naval Votes, because I am anxious to get to the country, but I should like to ask why there is this large increase in the Vote of over £100,000? I should be glad if I can be told that you are going to pay the working-men connected with the Navy better; those at the top of the tree are well paid already—in the Navy as in other Departments. The real working men, even the officers who do the work, I do not consider are too highly-paid; and if this large increase is to go to those who do the work for the country, I do not say I am going to object to it. I want to know why there is this increased expenditure, so that we may be able to explain the position if we are asked. I trust we may have some explanation.
§ *THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. FORWOOD,) Lancashire, Ormskirk
If the hon. Member will turn to Page 3 of the Estimates he will see that no less than £96,000 goes to the increase of wages paid to the men.
§ *MR. FORWOOD
Partly increased wages, but chiefly more men. The question of classification, which two of my hon. Friends have alluded to, was brought before the attention of the Committee when the Naval Estimates were last discussed; and I then endeavoured to give the reasons which induced the Admiralty to adopt the system, or rather to continue the system, which had been in vogue at the dockyards for many years. As the hon. and gallant Member for Devonport (Captain Price) has stated, within the last two or three days I have had the benefit of having an interview with the men themselves in two of the dockyards—Devonport and Portsmouth—and I should like to mention to the Committee that when the question of the wages paid at the dockyards was two years ago brought to our notice by the ordinary form of a Petition from the men, the men themselves 598 then begged that the Admiralty would arrange a higher rate of pay, and that the higher rate of pay should be on a graduated scale. They positively asked that any arrangement we should make as to the pay of the men should have a minimum and a maximum—not a uniform rate of pay, but a progressive rate of pay. The Admiralty considered it would be very desirable to continue what had been the practice in all other trades in the yard except established shipwrights and established joiners—to pay progressive or graduated rates of pay. The difficulty which has arisen in the minds of many workmen in the yard is that the graduated rate of pay, the classification as they call it, is fixed primarily according to the merit and competency of the men, and not simply according to the number of years they may have been in the employ. I submit that no great establishment like a dockyard could be continued if every man was to consider that when he arrived at a given time of service, he should thereby become entitled to a higher rate of pay, without reference to his diligence or skill. I do not think it would be possible to conduct a dockyard upon the principle of seniority; but there is very great care taken in promoting the men from one rate of pay to another, and if there are two men one who has been many years in the dockyard, and the other only a comparatively few years—of equal competency and equal diligence, the preference is given to the man of longer service. I want to refer to the fact that there is a very material difference between the two classes—the established men and the hired men. With the hired men it is perfectly optional whether they remain or go. If they are not satisfied with the rate of pay awarded to them on entry, or whatever may be given to them from time to time, it is quite optional for them to remain. It is different with the established workman. The established workman has, in a sense, a vested claim for continuous service, and a pension at the end of a given number of years, or when he attains a given age. When the established men received one uniform rate of pay two years ago, both established joiners 599 and shipwrights complained to me when I visited the yard that they had no chance at all of promotion. There is not the same inducement to diligence for the man on the staff who is promised continuous work; there is not the same incentive for the man who, for the rest of his life, is promised constant employment as there is for the man who is on the hired list, who may be dismissed, and whose conduct, naturally, is more closely watched than that of an established man. Therefore, in his own interest, as well as in the interest of the State, it is a very wise plan to have a graduated scale of pay. The same remark applies to the joiners. The hon. Member for the Faversham Division of Kent spoke about vessels having removed up to Chatham for mobilisation purposes. I believe that, in order that the vessels may be efficient and ready for work at a moment's notice, it is decidedly better that they should be placed at Chatham. But compensation will be given to the district which my hon. Friend represents in the shape of a School of Gunnery, which I hope will at an early date be in full swing. In reply to my hon. and gallant Friend (Sir Frederick Fitz Wygram), in regard to the wages paid at Priddy's Hard, that matter is still under the consideration of the Board of Admiralty, and I hope a communication will be made in reference to the Memorial before the Board in a few days' time.
§ (4.47.) CAPTAIN PRICE
It is perfectly true the men did ask for a progressive rate of pay two years ago. They are just as anxious to have it now, and I am anxious that they should have it; the mistake is that the progress is downwards. The men wish to be paid uniformly the same wage as they get in private yards.
§ MR. HERBERT KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN
Will the School of Gunnery be established within the current year?
§ (4.48.) LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
It will be gradually developed, but I can assure my hon. Friend that it will be in full working order before the end of the financial year. In reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Devonport (Captain Price), I would point out that every single man on the 600 establishment is now better off than he was before the classification began. The essence of the controversy is that a certain number—a very limited number—of men who are inferior workmen want to be put on the maximum rate. If we, acting on the representations made to us, acceded to the request of the men by establishing a progressive wage; and if we took care that the men who were on the lowest rate got a certain advance, I think we went a good way to meet their wishes.
§ MR. MORTON
I saw that item of £96,000 in the Estimates. I should be glad if the Financial Secretary would tell us what proportion of that sum has gone to increase the wages of the men, and what proportion is due to the increase in the number of the men? Can the right hon. Gentleman also tell us what are the hours of labour in these dockyards?
§ *MR. FORWOOD
An average of fifty and one-third hours per week all the year through. Of the £96,000 increased wages, about £40,000 goes to make up the additional pay which, with the £40,000 voted last year, makes the £80,000 added to the pay of the men; and the balance represents increased numbers.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 8. £1,615,500, Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, &c.—Matériel.
§ 9. £1,289,400, Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, &c.—Contract Work.
§ 10. £1,398,700, Naval Armaments.
§ *(4.53.) ADMIRAL FIELD
I wish to ask for some assurance with regard to certain guns. I allude to the bursting of a particular gun on board the "Cordelia" in Australia last year. I should like an assurance that these guns have been withdrawn from the Service once and for ever. I understand that most of the ships of the training squadron that recently returned from abroad were armed with that class of gun. I also hear that these guns have been taken out and new ones of a superior character put in.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
The guns of this particular mark have all been withdrawn. The "Cordelia" is now in dock, and her present arma- 601 ment will soon be replaced by a later mark. The total number of guns we have had to replace is 56.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (11.) £448,000, Works, Buildings, and Repairs, at Home and Abroad.
§ DR. TANNER
I desire to call attention to this matter of Haulbowline. On many occasions I have mentioned the important fact that a great deal of time and a great deal of money have been expended in bringing about a condition of affairs in Cork Harbour which is absolutely the reverse of desirable. We find that in places like Devonport and Sheerness, where you have Conservative constituents, more money is being spent on men and works, and absolute bribery is taking place now that hon. Gentlemen opposite have to go to meet their constituents. But when we turn to this Vote, we find that all that is to be done for Cork Harbour is that £2,115 is to be expended in dredging. The dredging hitherto has been inefficiently done; and on the Haulbowline side it has filled in again and again till it is doubtful whether, at the present time, the channel you have been dredging would admit a good-sized gunboat into the dock. You spend a great amount of time in putting up dock gates at Haulbowline, and then you let the whole thing go derelict. The staff is too small, and cannot capably perform the duties which this large dock entails. You have to pump day and night in order to prevent leakage. The time may come when you will find that this is a strategical position of the utmost importance, and instead of wasting time and wasting money you ought at once to take this matter into your serious consideration. If the Admiralty officials do not spend a little more money on this work, they will, in process of time, allow the millions which have already been expended to be thrown away. The dockyard works have been proceeding at a tortoise-like speed, although I have taken every opportunity, in season and out of season, of urging upon the Admiralty officials the necessity of completing them. I hope that when the First Lord of the Admiralty is in Opposition—as he soon will be—he 602 will aid me in urging the new Administration to finish the work. The only way to get it done is to hammer away at successive Administrations until it is completed. Up to the present little or no progress has been made, but I hope the First Lord of the Admiralty will now be able to assure the Committee that no further delay will take place.
§ (5.3.) CAPTAIN PRICE
I cannot help rising to support the efforts of the hon. Member to get this work completed. It has certainly not been pushed forward as it ought to have been. It is most important that we should have sufficient dock accommodation in a time of naval warfare, and that we should be able, after an action has taken place, to bring out a second fleet in order that it may deal a crushing blow upon the enemy by picking up or destroying their disabled ships.
§ (5.5.) MR. MORTON
I find that there is a sum of money down in the Estimate for a racket court and an American bowling green. I should like to know whether any provision is made against gambling in regard to these matters?
§ *ADMIRAL FIELD
I agree with the hon. Member for Cork (Dr. Tanner) as to the importance of pushing these works forward. I thought the dock had been completed, and that everything was in a satisfactory state with regard to it. It is news to me to find that that is not the case. I hope no time will now be lost in completing it. There is another matter to which I wish to allude. Some two or three years ago I thought it my duty to impress upon the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for India the importance of providing a dock at Bombay. The Government of India and the Government at home could not then come to an agreement, although I understand the Bombay Harbour Trust took it up. A promise was also made at one time to construct a dock at Gibraltar. It is important that the coaling arrangements at Portland and Sheerness should be completed as soon as possible, because so much depends upon coaling in time of war.
§ (5.8.) LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
The short discussion that we have had upon this subject shows some of the difficulties that we have had to contend with in this minor branch of our expenditure. The Vote we are discussing only relates to docks at home, but we have had proposals from the hon. and gallant Member (Admiral Field) to build docks at Bombay and Gibraltar. If the whole of the expenditure which has been suggested by hon. and gallant Members were totalled up it would be found to represent something between two and three million pounds. I only mention this to show the demands which are made upon us in regard to this class of work. As to the matter to which the hon. Member for Cork has called attention, I may say that it is not being overlooked. The delay has largely arisen owing to the difficulties in the way of dredging, and the rocky character of the site of the dock. The amount asked for in the Estimate will, I think, be sufficient to enable the work to be completed, and I will undertake that it shall be pushed forward. I quite agree with the hon. and gallant Member that something should be done with regard to Gibraltar.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
It is necessary to provide some means of amusement for sailors, and it is not to be supposed that the officers would sanction any kind of impropriety.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 12. 148,000, Miscellaneous Effective Services.
§ (5.13.) MR. MORTON
I desire to ask the noble Lord whether the sum of £3,900, which is required for ministers of religion in connection with this Vote, will go only to the clergymen of the Church of England, or to other ministers as well? We know that the men in the Service belong to different sects. I should also like to have some 604 information with regard to the sum of £1,200 which is required for carrying and entertaining Royal personages at sea. I do not object to the voting of the money for the purpose, but to the way in which it is voted, because it is another mode of increasing salaries and allowances.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
The amount required for ministers of religion is for services to seamen and marines in Her Majesty's ships and at establishments at home and abroad. With regard to the £1,200, it has been the practice from time immemorial to convey by sea a certain portion of the Royal Household, and the expenses have always come under this Vote. It has also been the custom to meet the cost of conveying Royal personages between England and Scotland. The expenditure under this head sometimes varies, but the average of the last few years has been £1,200.
§ MR. MORTON
May I ask whether the amount required for ministers of religion is only for those belonging to the Church of England, or for those connected with other sects?
§ Vote agreed to.
13. Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £227,800, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expenses of the Admiralty Office, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1893.
§ (5.18.) CAPTAIN PRICE
I think something should be said with regard to this Vote. The Admiralty Board should be thoroughly representative of the various interests and classes in the Service. But there are two classes which are not represented on it. One is the steam branch of the Service, which is growing every year, and the other is the Marine Force, which is not represented at the Admiralty nor at the War Office. An important reduction has been made in the engineering staff on board our ships, the necessity for which I cannot quite understand. If there is an accident on board a ship it is at once attributed to the want of a sufficient engineering staff. If the chief of the engineering staff at the Admiralty were a member of 605 the Board he would be able to speak with authority in regard to this matter; he would also be responsible for the policy adopted. There is the same want of responsibility with regard to the Marines. I do not see why there should not be some representative officer at the Admiralty, or at the War Office, to deal with all matters relating to the Marines.
§ *(5.22.) ADMIRAL FIELD
I must express my strong disapproval of the suggestions made by my hon. and gallant Friend. They strike at the very root of the whole Naval Service. However distinguished the Engineer-in-Chief may be, he has no right to a seat on the Admiralty Board, which is responsible for the proper conduct of naval operations in time of war; and the same remark applies to the Adjutant General of Marines. Such duties can only be efficiently discharged by naval men thoroughly conversant with the Service. I, therefore, utter my strongest protest against the adoption of any such suggestions.
§ (5.25.) MR. MORTON
I notice that the Government are continually asking for money under one head of expenditure and spending it on another, although we were told the other day that it was illegal. I ask the noble Lord why the practice is still continued? It prevents the House of Commons from having any control over the expenditure. The special matter about which I rose to speak was the salary of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, which is £1,000. When it came up for consideration last Session it was in the middle of the night, and we had only a few minutes to deal with it. Therefore I did not then attempt to take a Division with regard to it. I now want to know what are duties of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty? I have been unable to ascertain what they are. So far as I can make out, his duties are to go about the country making electioneering speeches, and to play chess in the smoking-room.
§ Hon. MEMBERS: Order, order!
§ MR. MORTON
I do not object to his going about making electioneering speeches and denouncing his political opponents, but I do object to our paying him for it, especially as hon. Members on the other side so strongly 606 object to the payment of Members. I should be satisfied if Members were paid less than £1,000 a year, which is paid to the Civil Lord. If some information could be given as to the duties of the Civil Lord, I am sure it would be news to the Committee and also to the country. I will not further occupy the time of the Committee, but will move to reduce Item A, Salaries, by £1,000, the amount of the salary of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A, Salaries, be reduced by £1,000."—(Mr. Morton.)
§ DR. TANNER
I hope my hon. Friend will not trouble the Committee further with this trivial matter. I would remind him of that picture by Leech in which one servant asks his fellow, "Ham I engaged for use, or ham, I engaged for hornament?" Let my hon. Friend gaze at the Bench opposite, and he will at once understand that the Civil Lord of the Admiralty is engaged for ornamental purposes. He is, as we all know, paid £1,000 per year on the distinct understanding that while holding his tongue in the House of Commons he may outside speak to his heart's desire. I may say that the Civil Lord is the joy of the Primrose Dames; he is the delight of the ladies, and wherever he goes his path is strewn with flowers. We have occasionally had the pleasure of seeing him in the South of Ireland, but he journeyed thither in the interests of pleasure, and he pursued that mission to its utmost bent. He attends the House at a late period of the evening, when there is no Admiralty work to be done; and as to his Department, we have had no answer from him during the last eight or nine months. Thus his services are of the lightest nature; they are ethereal, and as they will not be required or desired much longer, it really would be better not to trouble the Committee with such a very insignificant subject. Some Members of Her Majesty's Government have important duties to discharge, others have not; but in connection with the Admiralty it is pre-eminently desirable that they should at least have a Civil Lord, and they have a most extraordinarily Civil Lord in the present appendage. When this Government is, 607 as it shortly will be, succeeded by another, I hope there will be an endeavour to secure as Civil Lord some Member of the House who is acquainted with the duties, so that the salary of £1,000 per year may not be thrown away upon tomfoolery in the country.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
This office has for some years past been brought to the notice of the House. The office of Civil Lord embraces important and onerous duties; and it is an office which has been held by Lord Brassey and by other gentlemen of unquestionable position in regard to naval matters. These gentlemen, I think I may say, have earned distinction, and distinction also for the manner in which they have discharged their duties. I know something of what goes on in the office, and I think that when this Government comes to an end—although I believe it will not come to an end so soon as some imagine—I think it will be found that the work done by the Civil Lord in respect of the Admiralty will contrast well with the work done by his predecessors. The fact is, my hon. Friend the Civil Lord is attacked not because he inefficiently discharges his duties, but because he has the power of making eloquent speeches, and I think it unfair that that should be the ground of attack upon any hon. Member of this House. I read a very effective speech he made at Peterborough recently, and therefore I can, in some measure, understand the Motion. The Civil Lord has so contrived to manage the business of the Works Department that it progresses quietly without attracting the attention of Parliament, and, consequently, that few questions are put in this House is much to his credit. I only rise for the purpose of protesting against those continued attacks upon the Civil Lord—attacks which I am certain are not due to any question of his ability to efficiently discharge his duties, but due simply to the fact that he contrives on the platform to powerfully illustrate the political creed which he professes.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
The hon. Member is head of the Civil Branch of the Admiralty—that is to say that all questions connected with pay, allowances, and pensions come before him. He has, in addition, the control of the Works Branch, the management of Greenwich Hospital, and of the School and all property connected with it. Therefore it is quite a mistake to say that because my hon. Friend acts outside and in different parts of the country that he does not adequately and properly discharge the duties of his office. I also desire to utter a word of protest against the doctrine laid down by the hon. Member for Devonport (Captain Price), who seems to think the Board of Admiralty is based upon the principle of proportional representation. I protest against the doctrine and maintain that each separate branch of the Navy stands equal, and that the work of the Admiralty is well divided. There is one Lord who is the chief adviser to the First Lord of the Admiralty, and head of the executive service, and under him there are three Naval Lords—one at the head of the personnel, one at the head of the matériel, and the other deals with the various subsidiary services connected with the naval work. Under these three heads every branch of the Service is properly and adequately represented. My hon. Friend suggests that the Engineer-in-Chief should be a member of the Board of Admiralty. He is a technical officer, and, however able a technical officer he may be, it is not advisable that he should be put in a position of the highest executive authority, because then he would have to judge upon his own specifications and plans. The present system has worked very well. Once only in the course of the last twenty years a very able expert was brought in from outside and made a member of the Board of Admiralty; but nobody cognisant of the working would say that his introduction tended towards efficiency. The Board of Admiralty exists for one purpose, and one purpose alone, and that is to maintain the highest standard of efficiency of the Navy practicable in conjunction with economical administration.
§ MR. MORTON
The noble Lord has pointed out the civil duties of these offices; and if these duties are so numerous I desire to know how a Civil Lord can, consistently with their proper discharge, gallivant about the country making speeches to dames, Primrose or otherwise. The First Lord of the Admiralty made some reference to a speech delivered by the Civil Lord at Peterborough as influencing me on this occasion, and in this connection it appears to me that we have made a discovery. The First Lord stated that he had read the speech, and hence I presume it is the duty of the Civil Lord to send his speeches, probably before delivery, to the noble Lord for his correction possibly. From this we may infer that speaking in the country is considered one of the duties pertaining to the office of Civil Lord. I do not propose to proceed to a Division, but I trust that the Government if in office any length of time, or another Government, will take care that the holder of the office will attend to the duties set forth to-day by the noble Lord instead of wasting his time in the country. I beg to withdraw my Motion to reduce the Vote.
§ DR. TANNER
I desire to say that when I have put questions to the Civil Lord they have been invariably answered by someboby else, and that, consequently, we have arrived at the conclusions we have expressed. I now ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether it is or is not a fact that the Civil Lord of the Admiralty is paid £1,000 per year on the explicit understanding that he does not attempt to open his mouth in the House of Commons?
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100 in order not to call attention to a grievous hardship which exists among our sailors, but to draw attention to another subject which has connection with this Vote. The Committee is probably aware that the Estuary of the Thames furnishes a most productive 610 fishing ground, and that the East End of London largely subsist on the fish there taken—whelks, flat fish, and mussels and cockles. Previous to 1888, the Metropolitan Board of Works, Municipalities generally, and private individuals were in the habit of discharging refuse of all kinds into the fishing ground. To use a colloquial expression, they simply "dumped" the refuse of London into the fishing ground at the Estuary of the Thames. In the Sea Fisheries Act of 1888 a clause was inserted by which Sea Fishery Boards were created with the power to bring actions and secure penalties against persons who infringed the Act by throwing rubbish into a fishing ground. The result of throwing rubbish into the Estuary of the Thames is that nets are torn, and that the fish are poisoned and leave the ground. That means that the fishers' occupation is taken away, and that the whole fishing district is practically ruined. That certainly is a grievance, but the one to which I desire particularly to call the attention of the Committee is that whereas the Sea Fisheries Boards are able to prosecute and obtain convictions against contractors, municipal authorities, and private individuals, the authorities at the Admiralty Dockyard are in the habit of discharging mud immediately into this fishing ground, thus destroying the fish, ruining the nets, and practically taking away the occupation of the fishermen. During the last six weeks I have been in communication with the First Lord of the Admiralty on this subject, and the noble Lord informed me at first that he thought the matter was one connected with the General Election. On another occasion he thought that the fish probably rather liked to have mud thrown at them than not. I could get absolutely no sufficient answer from the noble Lord on the subject. All we ask is that the Admiralty should be subject to the same regulations as are binding on private individuals. If the noble Lord will give me his assurance that the mud from the Admiralty Dockyard should be conveyed to the other side of the Nore I shall be perfectly satisfied, and if he cannot do so I shall have to press my Amendment to a Division.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A, Salaries, be reduced by £100."—(Major Rasch.)
A LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT,) Sheffield, Eccleshall
My noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty has asked me to reply to the hon. and gallant Member. I can assure him that neither the First Lord nor the officers responsible for the conduct of the removal of the mud have the slightest desire to injure the interests of the fishermen whom he represents. The hon. and gallant Member will recognise that in connection with the great Dockyard at Chatham dredging must go on. The entire carrying out of what he wants would involve the country in an increased expenditure of at least £30,000 per year. In consequence of the representations which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has made to the First Lord of the Admiralty upon this question, the officers of the Department who conduct the dredging have lately made further soundings and examination, and they discovered that a portion of this mud has been deposited contrary to instruction on certain shoals, where possibly it have done some injury to the fishing. The Admiralty, however, have the greatest desire to avoid this for the future. They have given instructions that these shoals are to be avoided—while I do not undertake that the mud shall be carried as far as the hon. and gallant Gentleman wishes—and the mud cast into deeper water. They have further given instructions that more complete soundings should be taken and the whole question considered. I hope the reply I have given will be considered satisfactory.
No, I am not prepared to say that now. The hon. and gallant Gentleman will have remarked that this question has already been investigated in consequence of his representations, and that certain advantages have resulted. Directions have been given to avoid certain shoals which are important to fishermen, and every endeavour will be made, consistent with the public service, 612 to avoid future injury to the fishermen he represents.
§ MAJOR RASCH
If I have the hon. Member's assurance that mud shall not be thrown on these shoals in future, I shall be glad to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. MORTON
The noble Lord has not answered my question with regard to money voted under one head and expended in connection with some other. I should be glad to have a little explanation.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
The hon. Gentleman does not quite accurately state the existing practice or law. The Admiralty and War Office both have power, when they have obtained sanction, to apply to another purpose a Vote obtained under a different head, but they cannot do so on their own authority. In some cases it is necessary to make formal application to the Treasury, and until sanction is received no such transfer is made. I am not aware in this connection that any reports have been made on the action of the Admiralty. The Auditor General, however, did on one or two occasions call attention to the fact that payments had sometimes been made a little in advance of contracts entered into. The hon. Member will observe that in carrying out so much business as is connected with the administration of the Navy it is impossible to meet every want during the year. If unforeseen accidents occur it would be necessary to meet the expenditure by a supplementary sum, unless the Admiralty can meet it out of other sections—a proceeding which does not, I think, in any way interfere with the control of public money by the House.
§ MR. MORTON
I have myself distinctly said that it would be impossible to carry on the business of the country without sometimes spending money not previously voted. In one case, I should like to point out that the Treasury or the Auditor General said that the matter ought to have been brought before Parliament. I object to the present system altogether, although I do not object 613 to the Government spending the money in cases of emergency. The system is bad. If you had to spend this money, and then brought it up in the form of a Supplementary Vote, the House of Commons could become acquainted with the circumstances.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ (14.) £764,200, Half-Pay, Reserved, and Retired Pay.
§ (15.) £941,600, Naval and Marine Pensions, Gratuities, and Compassionate Allowances.
§ *(6.0.) ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
I wish to allude to one or two points upon which the minds of warrant officers and seamen are exercised, and are likely to be until some satisfactory assurance is given by the noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton) that the matters will be dealt with in the way that is desired by them. With regard to the petty officers, let me say that their appeal to have their grievances redressed has not met with that encouragement which I think it deserves. One burning question with them is that, although a seaman may have served well and faithfully up to within one year of the time when he is entitled to his pension, yet, unless he can get a character marked "very good" for the last year, he is deprived of his gratuity and part of his pension. That seems very hard. What they urge is that the word "good" should be considered sufficient. Another thing asked is that when a man is entitled, on the completion of his time, to a gratuity, and he enlists to serve a further period, it shall be secured to him in the same way as his pension is secured. I come now to the vexed question of the chief petty officers' claim to have their position recognised by an increased pension. They respectfully urge the First Lord, through me and other hon. Members acquainted with their position, to have this matter settled once for all. There will be no peace on this matter unless the First Lord assents, because they have been already encouraged to hope for a recognition of their claim by the First Lord, who three years ago said that the matter had been carefully considered, and that the importance of 614 making a distinction in their case was fully recognised. I shall, perhaps, be told that there is a difficulty in adding to the pay or pensions of the non-effective force. That seems to me a most insulting term. These men are some of the most effective servants of the Crown. We can only get at the Treasury through the First Lord, with whom the decision of the matter rests; and I hope he will see his way to grant the concessions asked for. If I have the honour to be returned to this House again, I shall continue to press this matter upon whatever Government may be in power. Another grievance to which I wish to draw the attention of the Committee relates to the divisional officers of the Coastguard. These men are recognised as being on the same footing as warrant officers, but their pensions are not awarded to them on the same principle. The warrant officers' pensions are calculated on the basis of £4 for each year served, and 30s. for each year of seaman's time, whereas the divisional officers of the Coastguard get only £1 for each year of seaman's time. The grievance is that this extra 10s. is not granted to them. Another point is that the warrant officers obtain an increase of pay with every five years served; but the divisional officers of the Coastguard get no such increase, which is very unfair. Then the seamen of the Coastguard have another serious grievance, inasmuch as when they re-engage for a further period of service at the end of ten or twelve years they are not granted the extra twopence per day which is awarded to the seamen of the Fleet. This matter should be adjusted without delay; the country relies upon the Coastguard Service in time of war, and they ought to be treated in a just manner. And let me point out that in satisfying the divisional officers the House will be satisfying the men below them, who hope to rise to their rank. Anything that tends to give satisfaction to the seamen of the Fleet, or to the divisional officers of the Coastguard, in the way of removing a grievance is, in my opinion, worthy of the attention of the House, and I hope the noble Lord will give due consideration to these representations.
§ MR. MORTON (Peterborough)
I agree to some extent with the hon. and gallant Member (Admiral Field), who, having been defeated by the Salvation Army, has now turned his attention to the grievances of the seamen and others.
§ MR. MORTON
I think it is only right that the petty officers and others who actually do the work of the Navy should be properly paid and receive fair and reasonable pensions. But let me point out that there is a considerable number of admirals, captains, and others connected with the Navy who, although fully able to work, are receiving large allowances. I think, if we were to reduce their allowance—I will not say take it away altogether—we might obtain in that way a sufficient sum to recompense those men who have to do the real work.
§ CAPTAIN PRICE
With regard to this question of pensions for petty officers, I may say that I stated their grievances in a letter to the noble Lord a short time ago. I only now rise to say that I fully endorse all that has been said by the hon. and gallant Member (Admiral Field). The matter that has been alluded to with reference to the chief petty officers has now been before the House for a long time, and I think some way out of the difficulty should be found without further delay.
§ (6.15.) LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
Sir, I am anxious, as far as I can, to meet any grievance that may exist in the Service, and to do justice to all the men employed in Her Majesty's Fleet; but when the hon. Member for the Eastbourne Division of Sussex (Admiral Field) lays down the proposition that we should give satisfaction to all grades of the Service he is making a large demand. The hon. Member for Peterborough says you ought to reduce the pensions of admirals and captains, and so on, in order to pay seamen and petty officers better. I do not believe there is an officer of any position who does not do the actual work of the Navy, and I may remind him that if there is any branch of the Service whose pay is not increased it is the executive 616 branch. Let me also say that there are no retired officers who are fit for active work. If these men draw pensions, it is in consequence of their past service, and it would be a ridiculous thing to deprive men of pensions they have earned, in order to give pensions to others. To go back to the proposition my hon. and gallant Friend has advanced, I may repeat that I wish to meet, with due regard to financial considerations, all the grievances of any branch of the Naval Service. Let us take one of the various grievances which my hon. and gallant Friend has brought before the notice of the Committee. It is quite true that the chief petty officers are probably the only class whose pensions are not increased when raised, from a lower grade. Owing to that, they allege that they are subject to a disqualification which other branches of the Service are exempt from. But the fact is, the grade out of which they are chosen have pension rules of an exceptionally favourable character. We looked into the question of their pensions carefully, and we found it was absolutely impossible to increase them without at the same time dealing with the pensions of various other grades. I may add that if this one matter alone were dealt with in the way suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend it would add £40,000 a year to the Pension Vote. This is a serious consideration, and I want to point out that in these matters there is a limit beyond which the Government cannot go. Wherever there is the slightest infringement of any of the conditions upon which the men have enlisted, the State should act liberally; but I am opposed to giving a ready assent to all the propositions for additional expenditure for the purpose of giving satisfaction on all points. We have no difficulty whatever in getting the best possible class of men for the Navy, and that is not to be wondered at considering the advantages which are offered to a well-conducted lad. Let anyone compare the position of such a lad at forty with that which he would have held supposing him to have occupied the same station in life as his father. I think it will be seen that the balance of advantages is consider- 617 ably in favour of the lad who enters the Navy. This question which my hon. and gallant Friend has raised is a large one, and must be dealt with on its merits. I have had a good many representations made to me by hon. Members who represent dockyard ports and portions of sea counties; and I am bound to say that they have put before me the claims of those in the Service with great assiduity. But I have taken the best possible advice, and having looked disinterestedly into this matter, I feel bound to tell my hon. and gallant Friend that I do not think it is possible to move in the direction he has indicated, unless the question of naval pensions is dealt with as a whole. Then we might possibly be able to make a little concession here and there, but it might be attended by reductions in other respects. I know the difficulty in which my hon. Friends find themselves now that an election is approaching in which these questions will, in certain localities, assume undue prominence, but I wish to impress plainly upon them my own opinion, which is, that a great mistake will be made—whoever is in office—if they think that by the pressure of a General Election these concessions can be made. There is no other wish on the part of the House than to deal liberally with the Navy, but each question must be argued on its own merits, and I do not think it is reasonable for the House to give its assent to propositions of the kind advanced by my hon. and gallant Friend, one of which involves an increased expenditure of £40,000 a year, without dealing with the whole question in the way I have indicated.
§ *ADMIRAL FIELD
I should like to ask the First Lord whether any decision has been arrived at with regard to the Report of the Committee as to the old-age pensions at Greenwich Hospital?
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
My hon. and gallant Friend in his speech alluded to the present rules, which require the character of chief petty officers for the last year of service to be marked "very good," in order to ensure the full pension. I omitted to refer to that point, but I think that is a matter I might look into. With regard to the old-age pensions at Greenwich Hospital, 618 I may say that the Select Committee to whom the interpretation of the conditions was referred interpreted them in a sense favourable to the pensioners, and I feel we are bound to give effect to their recommendations. The first proposal respecting the payment of £5,000 per annum rent for Greenwich College will be carried into effect at once, and that will be an indication of the spirit in which we propose to deal with the pensioners, but the other will require legislation, and cannot be carried out this year. It will, however, be soon taken in hand, and then I believe this long-standing controversy as to these pensions will be set at rest.
§ *ADMIRAL FIELD
I wish to assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that I am entirely free from all dockyard and pensioners' pressure. What I have said I have said as an honest man, and not from any ulterior motives.
§ MR. MORTON
I gathered from the noble Lord opposite that there were no officers in the Navy who were not at work. I should like to ask if that is the fact? Are there no men, like Prince Henry of Battenberg, for instance, who do no fighting?
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 16. £313,700, Civil Pensions and Gratuities.
§ 17. £60,300, Additional Naval Force for Service in Australasian Waters.
§ MR. MORTON
I do not know if we get this money back again or not, and I should like to ask the noble Lord how the matter stands.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
I do not think the hon. Gentleman was a Member of this House at the time the Act dealing with this matter was passed. The arrangement was simply this:—We undertook to build a certain number of vessels at a cost of £850,000, which were, for ten years, to be in Australasian waters, and the Australasian Colonies undertook to pay for the cost of their repair and maintenance during that time. They also agreed to pay five per cent interest on the cost of construction, which sum amounted to £35,000. In order to repay the 619 £850,000 which was advanced from the Consolidated Fund, an annuity of £95,000 was added to the Navy Estimates for twelve years; but there is an appropriation in aid against that which reduces the net amount chargeable upon the Navy Votes to £60,000. Last year the amount we had to pay in the form of annuity was considerably less than £95,000, because the amount charged to the Consolidated Fund had not reached the maximum of £850,000. This year the annuity is calculated on the whole amount, which accounts for the increase of £25,500. The arrangement with the Colonies is one beneficial to both parties. For ten years they get additional protection, and at the expiration of that period the vessels come back to the Imperial Government.
§ Vote agreed to.