Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £1,797,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expense of the Personnel for Shipbuilding, Repairs, and Maintenance, including the cost of Establishments of Dockyards and Naval Yards at Home and Abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1894.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON (Peterborough)
said, he was well aware of the fact that they could not expect the Government this year to find adequate time for the discussion of the Estimates, but he 1363 trusted that they would be allowed to debate matters of emergency. Personally, he had no desire to take up much time. He wished on this occasion to continue the remarks he was making when interrupted by the Rules of the House on the previous evening, and to call attention to the subject of money-lending in dockyards on which the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury) dwelt in his speech, and as to which no answer had been given by the Secretary to the Admiralty. The County Court Judge at Sheerness had animadverted very strongly on the practice of lending money which prevailed in the dockyards, and he was sure the Committee would agree that the Government ought to put an end to an abuse of this nature. They had endeavoured to stop gambling in the Army and in the Navy, and now he hoped they would prevent money-lending in the dockyards. To pass to another subject, he wished to say it seemed to him that the office of Admiral Superintendent at Portsmouth, Chatham, and Devonport respectively was a great scandal. He had intended to move a reduction and to take a Division in regard to this, but, owing to the lateness of the Session, he would not now do so. He trusted, however, that the Government would take steps for the abolition of the office at all three places. Economies should begin by getting rid of the idlers at the top of the tree, and not by discharging a few poor workpeople whose wages averaged perhaps 15s. a week at Portsmouth, Devonport, and Chatham. He was told that they had Admirals as well as Admiral Superintendents, and, in his view, the Admirals at the three places named might well be left to discharge any duties which now fell to the lot of the Admiral Superintendents; or, if there really were work to be done, Captain Superintendents, at about half the salary of the Admiral Superintendents, could do it equally well. An Admiral Superintendent cost £1,883 per annum as well as allowances; a steam launch with its crew was provided for this official, who thus became very expensive to the nation. The only excuse he could imagine for having the two officials at Devonport arose during the time when the Duke of Edinburgh held the command there. At that time there were great complaints locally that His Royal Highness was not doing his 1364 duty, and no doubt in such a case it was desirable to supply an Admiral Superintendent to do the work for him. But he ventured to say that in the case of all three dockyards the work now performed by the Admiral Superintendents could just as well be done by Captain Supertendents at salaries of £1,125 per annum and residences. A close examination of the Estimates showed that a great deal of money was wasted in this branch of the Service, and it was time that useless expenditure was knocked off. He hoped the Government would do something to reduce it. He was of opinion that the Admiralty should take steps to find out what was wrong with the construction of the Victoria, for it was evident that her officers had no idea that she was going to "turn turtle" and go down so quickly. They had, in fact, no idea of the un-seaworthiness of the vessel of which they had charge. The discussion last night was a Jingo Debate, for it really was a demand for more money. They were told by a gallant Admiral that the Treasury was to blame for refusing to grant more money; but he was very glad that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had the courage to say "No," and to put a stop to the reckless expenditure claimed by some Departments. They were, in his opinion, already spending money enough, and he would like the Government to turn their attention to arbitration rather than to the. further expenditure of money on the Navy and Army. He was glad that the present Government were spending more on elementary education. On the whole, the Government were to be congratulated on studying the wants of the people instead of recklessly squandering money on the Navy. In his view, the heads of all the great spending Departments ought to be in that House, and not in the House of Lords, though he did not, under the present circumstances, intend to move an Amendment to that effect. There was another matter which he desired to mention, however. He had heard that a launch was being built from public money for the Duke of Connaught, the late Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth. That item was not put fairly and squarely upon the Estimates by the late Government. It was dishonestly concealed. He wanted to know what had become of that launch? Was it a perquisite of the late 1365 Civil Lord, or did the present Civil Lord expect to get it? He also wished to hear why horses and carriages were supplied to the Admiralty? Were they required, as he had once suggested, for the Horse Marines? Surely some explanation should be forthcoming in regard to these items. As one of the guardians of the Public Purse he claimed that he was entitled to put these questions, for it was his duty and the duty of the Committee to see that the money of the taxpayers was properly spent.
§ THE CIVIL LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. E. ROBERTSON, Dundee)
I assure the hon. Gentleman I have no expectation of any reversion to the steam launch to which he has referred. In fact, I do not know anything about it, but I will make inquiries.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
I cannot say, but I will find out. With regard to the Admiral Superintendents, the hon. Gentleman is not, perhaps, aware of all the advantages which these officers confer upon the Service in the matter of economy, and also by the reason of their experience. So far as I know, the Admiral Superintendents are most excellent officers, and any inquiry might be made without impeaching their conduct. As to the third question raised by the hon. Member for Peterborough, I have to say that the statement of the County Court Judge at Sheerness with reference to the money-lending which appears to prevail at that dockyard has not been brought officially to the notice of the Admiralty; but we will take care that the facts alleged are inquired into, and, if the system exists, will do our best to find a remedy.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
But was it not the duty of the Admiralty to inquire into such statements by the County Court Judge without waiting for the matter to be brought formally to its notice?
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
I cannot accept the view that we ought to act upon the obiter dicta of a County Court Judge, or even of a Judge of the High Court. If we did our hands would soon be full. I repeat we will do our best to find a remedy for any evil we discover to exist. I think it would be convenient if 1366 I were now to make my statement upon the revised scheme of wages.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
The Debate last night was concentrated on the question of shipbuilding. I desire to speak on that subject also. Would it not be more convenient for me to do so before the hon. Gentleman makes his statement?
§ SIR J. GORST (Cambridge University)
I think it would be convenient for the Committee to dispose of the first item before this statement is made. I understand a great many hon. Members wish to discuss the second item.
The Civil Lord of the Admiralty is perfectly in Order. The Amendment moved yesterday dropped last night by reason of the interruption of Deflate.
MR. EORWOOD (Lancashire, Ormskirk)
But, the next sub-head being for wages, can shipbuilding matters be discussed on that?
§ COMMANDER BETHELL
Shall I be able to make my speech after the Civil Lord has dealt with the wages question? Can I re-open the discussion on shipbuilding matters?
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
I have to move a reduction on Sub-head A, and I understand the hon. Gentleman proposes to speak on. Sub-head B.
The Civil Lord is in possession of the House. No fresh Amendment has been moved since last night.
The hon. Member did not rise to move it. Of course, the Civil Lord can give way if he chooses.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
I am sorry I cannot give way, as I think many Members of the House desire that I should make my statement now. I think I ought to remind the Committee of one or two preliminary facts. On March 6 last the Government accepted the pro- 1367 position that in dealing with these questions regard should be had to the fact that the Government, while not attempting risky experiments, are nevertheless bound to be in the first line of employers; and, in the second place, they realised that they were dealing not with their own money, but with the people's money, which was largely subscribed by working men. But, while the action of the House thus gave the line to the Admiralty on certain topics, that was by no means the beginning of the matter. Long before that time the Admiralty had instituted and completed a most exhaustive inquiry into all the grievances of the dockyards. My right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty visited with me every one of the dockyards, received more than 300 Petitions, and hoard more than that number of deputations from the men. We listened to the statements which were made with the greatest interest and the deepest sympathy, and both of us parted from the men with, if possible, increased respect and sympathy for them. The evidence so obtained has been printed, tabulated, and analysed, and submitted to a strong Departmental Committee, which included Mr. Bowles, one of the officers of the Admiralty, whose knowledge on this question is probably greater than that of any man living; and Mr. Burnett, the Labour Correspondent of the Board of Trade, whose special acquaintance with labour questions is equally eminent. On the Report of this Committee the Admiralty formulated a scheme, a copy of which has been laid before the House. Two years ago the late Government carried through a scheme of wages revision, the principal author of which was the late Secretary to the Admiralty. I do not intend now to say anything of that scheme, except that the result was an addition of something like £90,000 a year to the wages of the dockyard labourers. The number of men who will be affected by this change, so far as the Admiralty is concerned, is something like 20,000. That is a large army of labour, no doubt, but I would like to point out to my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mr. A. C. Morton) that he and others individually represent a number of working men not much short of that total. I am not going to go through the whole scheme, which Members will find for 1368 themselves in the Papers which have been issued, but I must remark on two great questions which overshadow all the others. The first is the question of the wages of skilled workmen. There are 4,022 of these men in the employment of the Admiralty, and, with the exception of 147, they are all hired men. The wages of this class of men may be taken at from 17s. to 18s. a week; but I am bound to tell the Committee that, besides these wages, there are incidental advantages which ought not to be lost sight of. I am not going to attempt to put a money value upon these dockyard privileges, because that would only lead to controversy, but I will tell the House what they are. On the whole, the men work shorter hours than men of the same class outside; they have holidays on full pay which men outside have not; they have deferred pay and medical attendance when injured, which workmen of the same class outside do not have; and such of them as choose to stay long enough have a gratuity of £1 a year for each year's service. Another privilege which working men will esteem more highly than the others consists in the fact that their service is practically continuous, and they are not displaced by bad weather or other accidents. I am sure all those who know the feeling of the working classes in this country will agree with me when I say that working men attach importance not so much to low wages as to the uncertainty of having any wages at all at certain seasons of the year. I am bound to say that there is no lack of men suitable for the work required applying for these posts on the present terms. It is, therefore, not because we have to enter into competition with other people that we are induced to formulate these new proposals. We have, however, taking into consideration the principle laid down for us by the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), and more fully carried out by the Committee to which I have referred, come to the conclusion that to maintain the present wages would not be in conformity with that principle. We therefore propose that, instead of the present rates, whilst all other privileges shall be retained, the new main rate for unskilled labour in the dockyard shall be 19s. I call it the main rate, because it will be 1369 subject to certain variations. There will be a probationary rate of 17s. for new men, who will, after a certain period of service, stop into the standard rate. We had in contemplation the possibility of establishing a special rate for particular localities, having regard to the circumstances, and especially the cost of living, in those localities. My right hon. Friend and myself were most careful in each case to examine into the cost of living, and more particularly into the rent, and nothing could be more pathetic than some of the details we hoard from the men, especially at Woolwich and Deptford. We do not see that the circumstances vary enough to entitle us to charge a main or standard rate except in one or two cases. Two of these cases are those of Woolwich and Deptford, where we were satisfied that the circumstances were such as to justify us in giving an additional rate. It ought to be known that the additional cost of house rent charged in these places was a most important element in the consideration of the question. Some of the witnesses told us—and I was shocked and grieved to hear it—that increments previously given to men of their class had immediately been absorbed by landlords in the shape of rent. The Committee will naturally ask whether the rate we have adopted is a fair rate. As I have said, it will be 19s. in general, and it will be £1 a week at Woolwich and Deptford in view of the special circumstances of those localities. It is calculated that the mean rate for outside labour of this sort is 19s. 7d., and I think the rate we have adopted compares well with that, considering the advantages which the dockyard employés possess. The evidence we obtained from the Board of Trade through Mr. Burnett shows that the rate we propose to establish is quite as good and fair a rate as that which prevails in other parts of the country, and particularly in dockyard towns. The total changes we propose under this head will cost £13,700; and we propose, in view of the special condition of the class affected, that the new rate shall begin practically at once—that is to say, on the 1st of October next. I hope and believe that the Committee will agree with us in the standard we have arrived at. I am sure that, on the part of the Government and the House, I 1370 may say that this money is given most gladly and ungrudgingly, and with the sincere desire that it may find its way to the quarter for which it is intended—that is to say, to the families of the working men concerned—and that it will not be diverted as an unearned increment into the pockets of anybody. I come now to the second great question with which we have had to deal, and it is a much more difficult Executive question than the last. I allude to the burning—and I may say blazing—question of classification. I do not know whether hon. Members know what classification means. It means that members of a trade are sub-divided into classes who receive different rates of wages, the selection and classification being made by the dockyard officials on the grounds of ability, economy, and service. That system has prevailed in many important trades in the dockyards with general acceptance. I suppose it was for that reason that the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Forwood), in 1891, fell in love with the principle of classification. At all events, he introduced it or gradually extended it in trades in which it was previously practically unknown. That was the fons et origo malorum. The right hon. Gentleman could not, however, when he introduced it, have anticipated the effect it would produce. The outcry against the system was instantaneous, and it has been continuous. I will not deal in detail with the various trades that were affected for the first time by classification; but I will take one trade which maybe regarded as typical of all—namely, the great trade of the shipwrights, who number at present something like 4,000 men. These men are nearly equally divided between the establishment and the hired class. A man on the hired list of the shipwrights may be subject to five rates, varying from 30s. to 34s., or, in other words, a given group of five shipwrights, doing the same work, may one of them be paid 30s., another 31s., another 32s., another 33s., and the fifth 34s. The shipwrights may be said, to be unanimous, and vehement in their unanimity, in condemning this system. Many of those who came before us did not hesitate to declare that it was more a matter of principle than of wages with them, and one bold man who was at the top of the list himself went so 1371 far as to say that he and others would gladly have their wages reduced if a mean rate were established which everybody would agree to. Their objections to the system are that the same men, employed on precisely the same work and producing the same results, get different rates of wages. They say it may be that a better man, producing better results, gets the lowest rate of wages, whilst an inferior man, producing inferior results, obtains the higher rate. Then, again, they advert to the impossibility of accommodating the work to the system. In point of fact, they declare that the system amounts to a personal rating, or a classification of the men and not of the work. Another point which everybody who knows working men will at once see the importance of is that they say the system opens the door to favouritism on the part of the Superintendents. Of course, the mere possibility of such a thing is most objectionable. They say there is no system of the kind in the trade amongst private firms. I am bound to say that I do not think their statements are unfounded, and, in my opinion, there is substantial justification for the line they have taken. Over and above everything else, we have to face the fact that in this great and important trade, which has been described as the backbone of the dockyard system, you have the men prejudiced against the system of payment and utterly discontented with it, the broad result being that if you are going to have peace in the dockyards you must do away with the classification. However perfect may be the theoretical result of the system, there is no good in forcing even a perfect theoretical system down the throats of the men. We have, therefore, decided to put an end to the system of classification. Now I come to the question of the uniform rate which is to take the place of these varying rates, and I will tell the Committee how we proceeded. The hired men are the men who are most on a level with outside workers, and we first fixed the rate for them, and then deducted from that rate a sum of 1s. 6d. a week for established men, 1s. 6d. being the admitted and acknowledged value to the men of the advantages of the Establishment. We thought it would not be wise to disturb those figures.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
It is irrespective of age. The moment a man goes on the Establishment he will get, not his previous wage of 33s., but that amount minus 1s. 6d. We believe that the proper mean for standard rate for hired men amongst the shipwrights is 33s. a week. Here, again, the Committee will have to consider whether this is a fair standard rate for hired shipwrights. I would again remind the Committee that they must not lose sight of the advantages of dockyard employment, which are probably more applicable to the case of men of this class than to the case of unskilled labour. I think the rate we propose is fair, judged by various standards. The mean of the present rates has been determined by calculation to be 32s. 3d. a week, and I would beg attention to the fact that the objection to the present system is based not on the ground of complaint as to the amount of wages, but on objections to the principle of classification. The rate we propose is a generous rate compared with those which, according to our information, prevail in the districts where the dockyards are situated. You may say that shipwrighting is a special business which you cannot expect to find flourishing in ordinary conditions in dockyard towns. I am willing to take that into account; but still it is the fact that men of that class in the dockyard towns are not receiving anything like as much wages as we propose to give them. You must take into account the shorter hours, and then we are advised by those who have made the calculation that the corresponding rates in dockyard districts will be from 25s. 11d. to 29s. 9d.
§ MR. KEARLEY (Devonport)
Is the hon. Gentleman referring to shipwrights employed locally outside the yards?
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
In the dockyards they are 51, and outside they are 54. As to the prices paid in Chatham and Dcvonport, shipwrights receive there from 31s. to 32s.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
We are advised that the same class of men—shipwrights—throughout the United Kingdom receive an average of 34s. 1d. for 51 hours of work a week, which is the time worked in the dockyards. I make a present of that statement to the hon. Member for Devonport. In some cases there are rates considerably above the dockyard rate, as, for instance, in London. On the Tyne the average is 35s., on the Clyde the average of the last statistics is 36s. a week. I think, even taking these figures into account, and considering the advantages of dockyard employment, the rate we propose is a fair rate, and one which carries out the intention of Parliament and of the Government in accepting the Motion. Having got the hired rate, the established rate follows automatically, as it will be 33s. less 1s. 6d.—that is to say, 31s. 6d. Then we propose what has been called, to us, a not very happy phrase, a probationary rate of 31s. for one year. As to the men now on the Establishment, we propose to give them, not a minimum of 31s. 6d., but a special minimum of 32s. The established men are 200 strong, and we think it would be fair to give them 32s.?
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
Yes. The main rate is to be not 31s. 6d., but 32s. for a man now on the Establishment.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
I am just coming to that. Both in the cases of hired men, and in those of established men, all who receive wages under the standard will 1374 be raised to the standard, whilst anybody having higher wages than the new standard will be lowered. Another point of detail in connection with the scheme is that we propose special rates of pay for special and defined work, as is indicated in the Return I have before me. I shall take care to have these special rates strictly defined in the Schedule, so that the men will know what they are doing. All that I have said, except about special rates of pay, applies to all the trades in which classification is to be abolished. The Committee will find them enumerated in the Return. As to the cost of those alterations, the abolition of classification will cost £7,400 a year, which will go into the pockets of the men. The special rate for shipwrights will cost £'3,300 a year, and we propose that these changes should take effect from the beginning of the next financial year. Just one observation further I want to make, and that is with reference to an argument which was submitted last night by the noble Lord the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord Gr. Hamilton), and afterwards by the late Financial Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Forwood). They argued that our shipbuilding programme is so arranged that next year there must probably be great discharges from the dockyards. I do not follow them into the calculations on which they base that statement; but I must say I thought at the time, and think still, that it was a statement which had an oblique application. It was not a direct challenge to our shipbuilding programme, but an indication to the dockyard towns that we were embarking in a shipbuilding policy that might end in the men being discharged next year. I will toll the Committee that this shipbuilding programme has been arranged with special regard to the maintenance of continuous employment in the dockyards, and with a special regard to the avoidance of the discharges which the two gentlemen who were lately responsible for the Admiralty, on their own responsibility in this House, indicated must follow. There is not the smallest intention of doing anything of the kind. There have been distinct instructions given to the officers responsible that everything of that kind must be avoided, and the shipbuilding programme has been arranged with a view 1375 to carrying out that purpose by the very officials who aided and assisted the two right hon. Gentlemen; and if they have any confidence in these officials they are bound to accept the assurance I give to the House, that the dangers, anticipated and even threatened by them are purely illusory, and that the dockyards will be maintained in full employment without any of those discharges with which they threatened the House, and more particularly, I expect, the Dockyard Members. I have now finished my statement, and I have to thank the Committee for the attention with which they have listened to me.
§ *MR. KEARLEY (Devonport)
In congratulating the hon. Gentleman the Civil Lord of the Admiralty on the grasp he has shown of the complex subject with which he has only become so recently associated, I desire at the same time to congratulate him upon the skill he has exhibited in avoiding the most germane points in the Motion brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Sir J. Gorst) in March last, upon which this Debate must hinge, and which embraced two principles. One was—That no person working in any of the Government Departments which employ labour should be engaged at wages insufficient for a proper maintenance;and the other—That the Government, as an employer, should so regulate the conditions of its employment as to make itself a model employer of labour.Some of us who took part in that Debate regretted that there was a lack of definiteness in the Motion; but before the Debate closed, it was clearly forced upon the Government what the effect of the Motion would be. The Secretary of State for War, in accepting the Motion, said—That with regard to the question of setting an example, we mean that the Government should show themselves to be amongst the best employers of the country, and that they should be in the first flight of employers.And later on in his speech the right hon. Gentleman said—I accept in the fullest sense the principle that the terms of Government employment should be beyond reproach.On that occasion the Secretary of State for War gave a definition of what he 1376 termed a proper maintenance, and said very correctly that it depended on the circumstances of the individual to be maintained and the locality in which he resided. I agree with this generalisation, but prefer to put it to the House a little more definitely. What is a proper maintenance? I contend that there cannot be a proper maintenance unless the wage is sufficient to enable a man to house in a sanitary manner—to find in a sufficiency of food and clothing himself, his wife, and family. I do not raise the question of comforts or provision for a rainy day, but simply urge that the Government will not have satisfied the conditions of a proper maintenance unless it meets these vital points. Men should not be compelled to merely subsist, nor to herd in dens of wretchedness and squalor. According to the Government, they had abandoned that policy which is termed by some as that of "The Devil take the hindmost." The Secretary of State for War said that the Government were alive to the spirit of the times. He said—We have ceased to believe in what is known as competition, or starvation wages. We have convinced ourselves that starvation wages mean starvation work.The hon. Gentleman was also candid enough to say—it is not a question of generosity or even of humanity, but a question of efficiency, for we cannot get a full day's work unless we pay a full day's wage.Well, the practical outcome of all this fine talk is that we are asked to accept as a solution of this proviso a standard wage of 19s. weekly. I wish to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that this proposal is not such as it looks on paper. We are to have employees on probation for the first year at 17s. weekly, rising in the second year to 18s. Now; I urge that there must be something wrong somewhere in these conditions, for you contend that 19s. is the wherewithal necessary to provide a proper maintenance, so where is the justification to subject a man to 17s. and 18s. for the first and second years respectively? I declare it to be a case of the horse starving while the grass is growing; and I may say, on behalf of the men, that we shall not listen for one moment to this probationary proposal. Take the ordinary private employer of labour who engages a workman. He 1377 does not require to look at a man for a year or two years to find what he is worth, and keep him that time on starvation pay. If a man is worth anything at all he ought to be worth his full wages from the start. I am perfectly sure that your leading men or foremen ought to be able, at the end of a fortnight, to say whether a man is competent or not, and your proposition is simply ridiculous, not only as regards unskilled but skilled labour also; and I urge upon Government to at once abandon the suggestion of probation, which I unhesitatingly term as monstrous. As regards the present Established man, to whom it is proposed to give 18s. a week, I would like to point out to the Government that there are only 70 ordinary labourers on the Establishment, and would therefore suggest that, as it is hot your intention to establish any more ordinary labourers, the cost of raising the wages of these Established men to the present rate of 18s. only amounts to £167 per year. So you could, for a similar sum, make a minimum of 19s. weekly everywhere. This would certainly be an improvement on your present proposals, which you can scarcely expect will allay the dissatisfaction, as being practically nothing better than the old arrangement, and it will still be a case of starvation wages. Seeing the small number of men whom you have on the list, the 1s. would make very little difference, and surely you could show your generosity and forego that amount. The Government say that the standard rates may be raised to meet the circumstances of particular localities. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentlemen who will follow me will speak for their own localities, and I desire to speak for mine. You have made an exception on behalf of Deptford and Woolwich, but you have overlooked the fact that Devonport stands in as much, if not more, need of those exceptions. I declare that Devonport is as much in need of relief on the score of rents as anywhere. Are you aware that Devonport is a landlord's town; that it is leased on a plan known as "life leases"; that all the houses are tenement ones? If you are not aware of that fact, I venture to bring it under your notice, and to submit that you ought to give Devonport the same preference which you have shown Wool- 1378 wich and Deptford. I am perfectly convinced that it deserves your favour as well as those towns. I urge that as regards Devonport 19s. will not by any means satisfy the proviso contained in the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University. The minimum wage for unskilled labour should be sufficient to provide proper maintenance for the men, and not to force them to live in misery. I also raise another point—that the wage of 19s. weekly is not equal to the local minimum of the district. I have in my hand the agreement of the Masters' Builders' Association with the Three Towns Labour Union, which was entered into between these two Associations. The first clause is—"That the wages shall be at the rate of 5d. an hour." The week is composed of 54 hours, and, therefore, a man receives 22s. 6d. weekly. At this rate a man in the dockyard working 50⅓ hours per week should receive 21s. The men claim a minimum of 20s. weekly, and yet that reasonable demand is not granted. I repeat again that in Devonport the rents are fabulous. One room costs 4s. a week, and two rooms cannot be obtained under 5s. I speak from experience, for I have visited the houses and seen for myself. Now I come to the second portion of the light hon. Gentleman's Motion, which reads—That the conditions of labour as regards hours, wages, insurance against accident, provision for old age, &c., shall be such as to afford an example to private employers throughout the countryThis bears on an important part of your proposals. I take wages first. The only possible way to satisfy this proviso would be to pay the equivalent rate of the Trades Union scale of wages throughout the country. That is the only way you can redeem your pledges. Are you going to do so? The Government must be alive to this fact. Where the employment is not common to the locality, we ask you to pay the full Union rates, making a reduction for those privileges which accrue to those who enjoy the benefit of the Establishment. Those privileges are fully appreciated at their correct value. I shall refer to them later on. With regard to the skilled labourers, these men, in my opinion, are misnamed altogether. They 1379 carry out very important work, such as rivetting, drilling, painting, iron casting, and have the care of drilling, screwing, and shaping machines. In private shipbuilding yards these men are classified as "minor trades," and receive a minimum rate of 25s. weekly. But you pay 75 per cent, of your men who are similarly engaged from 20s. to 22s. a week. I consider that their claims should be far more favourably considered, and that they should not receive less than 6d. per hour, which would give them a minimum rate of 25s. weekly. If outside firms recognise their worth, why should not this be done in the dockyards? Now I come to the question of classification. You have said in your proposal that you have decided to abolish it and give a uniform rate of wages, and I was prepared, before I studied the details of your scheme, to congratulate you on having accepted the contentions of practical men rather than the speculative theories of those officials and right hon. Gentlemen who desire to maintain a burden which does not touch them. From the examination of the right hon. Gentleman's proposals I do not think he can have investigated the scheme which he wishes that the Committee should adopt. If he will allow me I will investigate it for him. The Established shipwrights1 pay ranges from 31s. to 33s. weekly. It is now proposed to have a standard wage of 32s., and yet you say—The existing rate of wages will not be disturbed in the case of men who are now receiving more than the proposed rates.This means continuance of the rate of 33s. weekly to those who now receive it. The standard rate for those below this figure is to be 32s. This only applies to men already on the Establishment. Newly-Established men are to be entered at 31s. 6d. weekly. It is stated in the scheme that classification will be abolished, but I will prove that nothing of the sort will take place, but that there will continue to be many rates. ["Hear, hear!"] [Mr. E. ROBERTSON: Only temporarily.] There are 1,100 men receiving 33s. weekly, and their average ago is 40 years. These men will not be retiring to pensions, under the Superannuation Act, until they are 60 years old. Do you call this a temporary arrangement? I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman can- 1380 not have considered this question. There are three rates existing at the present time; but if his scheme is adopted, there will be three new rates added, which will make six rates in all. You propose to give 3s. a week extra for special work, but now with regard to these six rates: New men will receive 31s. 6d. weekly, those already on will receive 32s. and 33s. on the higher standard. 31s. 6d. engaged on special work will make 34s. 6d.; 32s. will make 35s.; and 33s. will make 36s. On this ground alone I contend that your statement that you have abolished classification is a mistake, and is not a fact. I tell you plainly, if you think by these means to still the agitation against the classification scheme, you are reckoning fallaciously. The men have been held in check by the belief that you were going to solve this question thoroughly and satisfactorily, and I shall be glad if the hon. Gentleman will throw some light on these criticisms, and if he can prove in the face of them that his proposals abolish classification I shall be indeed surprised. What the men demand is one uniform rate of pay, with no probationary period. Why should there be a probationary rate for shipwrights? I consider that such a proposal is unfair to the trade. Is it not enough that the men have on entry to produce their indentures, go through a practical examination testing their skill, and have to pass the doctor? Yet you ask these men to subject themselves to a probationary term in addition. Doubtless the author of this scheme will have something to say on the subject; so that I desire to put forward my objections, and give him an opportunity of confuting them if he can. The right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary to the Admiralty has always claimed that his scheme was framed to recognise and reward merit, but it has altogether failed to do so in practical working. This scheme has been applied to men who are working at trades in which the work is common to all, and who have been exasperated through receiving different rates of pay. Now I will give an instance: In laying the deck of a battleship every man is bound to do his equal share, and yet under the system in vogue they receive payment varying from Is. to 4s. a week. This system has never been applied to men working in private yards, and the 1381 employés object to its being introduced into the dockyards. The Government has no justification for endeavouring to force down the throats of men a thing which they do not care for. The right hon. Gentleman the late Financial Secretary is a fanatical lover of the scheme. He was the author of it, and I do not suppose that he will easily renounce his child without offering some justification in support of its existence. But the facts are all against him. Take the shipwrights at Devonport. They number 850 men, but all save 28 of that number have signed a Petition protesting against the continuance of such a system. There are 4,100 shipwrights employed at the various dockyards throughout the country, and of that number 3,650 have signed Petitions in a similar strain. I should have thought that the practical protest against classification at the last General Election would have convinced him, and even at the eleventh hour, when we are assisting at the obsequies, I do sincerely hope that before this Debate closes we shall be able to open the eyes of the right hon. Gentleman to the weakness of the scheme. As a last hope of so doing, I am going to quote the opinions of two of his political friends. The first is that of the Conservative candidate for Devonport at the last General Election. Seeing the time at which this opinion was expressed, no one can urge that it was actuated by any hostility towards the right hon. Gentleman. Writing to The United Services Gazette, on the question of classification, this gentleman said—Although the rise in pay conceded has been welcomed, yet the whole system of classification which has been introduced has led, and is leading, to universal discontent. Of the First Lord of the Admiralty it is impossible to speak in too high favour, as Lord George Hamilton is a most painstaking and persevering official; but it is against Mr. Forwood, the well-known Liverpool man of business, that the chief complaints of the workers are directed. Mr. Forwood has always been a reformer, and as Mayor of Liverpool some of his reforms were the very reverse of popular with the workers in the city; in the same way, although no doubt his untiring energy and restless mind have begotten schemes of reform and progression in what he believed to be the interests of the workers, they have one and all been disapproved by the mass of the men.I will now quote from a speech from a Member of Parliament who is a colleague of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. For- 1382 wood), and was a Member of the last Government. Speaking at a jubilation gathering, the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth (Sir E. Clarke), who I regret to see is not in his place this evening, as many of his constituents are deeply concerned in the matters we are discussing, said—I think I have good reason to believe that the majority, instead of being short of 200, would not be short of 600 or 700—(hear, hear!)—and I know perfectly well what was the cause of the reduction of that majority. It was the same cause which lost them Devonport and Pembroke Boroughs, and two seats at Portsmouth. I met many of my old friends who have worked for me in political matters, whose political friendship for me is not in any degree diminished, whose general sentiments are not in any degree changed, but who said they could not vote for me because in voting for me they would be voting for Mr. Forwood and Lord George Hamilton, and that reduced our majority greatly in the borough. I am sorry that, they have lost the five seats alluded to at the Election, but I confess that we deserved to lose them. I am convinced that the course which was taken by the Representatives of the Admiralty in the late Government was a mistaken and an erroneous course, and that it was not a fact that their action was due to discontented and incompetent workmen, but was a sincere and reasonable expression of dissatisfaction on the part of those employed in the Government Service. (Hear, hear!) The Election has taken place, seats have been lost, tint the question of organisation and arrangement is not yet settled, and Whether I am supporting a Government who are in opposition I shall not lose an opportunity of pressing for the abolition of that system of classification among the shipwrights in dockyards, which is a mistaken system in its invention, is unfair in its conclusions, and which I believe will have to be removed before the difficulties in the dockyards can be got rid of. (Applause.)Now, Sir, I do hope that this additional evidence which I have given will be sufficient to convince the right hon. Gentleman. I have carefully studied also the statements made by him before the Royal Commission. I can only find two arguments adduced by the right hon. Gentleman in favour of classification that are at all worthy of consideration. The first is that by his system of annual promotions all deserving men can attain higher ratings. The second that the demand for the abolition is not unanimous. I think I can, however, easily clear away those two points. With regard to annual promotions, the Government Returns show that to November last 191 men only, out of a total number of 4,193, received promotion, 1383 and a simple rule of three will show it will take something like 21 years before the men can gain anything like the benefit to which they are entitled. The other argument, that the demand for the abolition of the scheme was not unanimous, was the chief one raised before the Royal Commission. It is perfectly true that there are certain trades which have always been classified, and which wish to continue so, but the vital distinction is this—In those trades which have been always classified the work is of so diversified a character and the skill which has to be displayed so varying that it is absolutely necessary to have rates of pay in accordance with the skill required. But these trades in which classification has always existed protest strongly against limited classification, which means that you allow no promotion to take place until a vacancy is caused by death or retirement. This the men the most competent to judge object to, and they say that it is but fair that a man should be allowed to progress according to his ability. Now I come deliberately to the wages of mechanics and artizans. I would remind the Committee that I submit that I am justified in discussing these on the basis of a Trades Union minimum. I shall show my justification for doing so by referring to a passage from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Gorst) in March last, on which occasion the Government undoubtedly committed itself to pay the Trade Union wages. The right hon. Gentleman who, it will be remembered, initiated that Debate said—That the Government ought to pay then workmen the current rates paid in private establishments.The late Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Forwood) later on in the Debate said, in referring to this declaration—The Secretary of State for War complained that the Amendment of my right hon. Friend (Sir J. Gorst) was not specific. Well, Sir, I think that the Amendment is open to that criticism, but I think that the speech of my right hon. Friend was open to no such criticism. My right hon. Friend was very clear. He said that the rate of wages in the dockyards should be Trades Union wages, the hours of work Trades Union hours. And then he added to these Trades Union wages and hours that the Government ought to provide some machinery for insurance and old age pensions. Now, I think my right hon. Friend was very specific and fair in what he wanted and what he meant by this Resolution.1384 I think I am justified in pointing out this fact—that it was only owing to the right hon. Gentleman's superior experience of Parliamentary procedure that he secured priority on going into Committee of Supply for his somewhat indefinite Motion, for on the very first night of the assembly of this Parliament those of us representing dockyard constituencies and other Labour Members met together and decided to force this question of the Government paying Trades Union rate of wages to its employés before the House; but with our innocence of the Rules of Procedure we were groping about the recesses of the ballot box, taking our chances of securing a favourable position for our intended Motion. But, nevertheless, I believe the right hon. Gentleman to have intended by his Motion that the Trade Union rate of wages shall be paid. I take fitters first. The Amalgamated Society of Engineers—the Trade Union to which the best men belong—distinctly lays down in its rules that no member of the Association shall enter dockyard employment at a lower rate than 34s. a week. That is the minimum wage. I think it will be generally understood that all the best fitters are members of this Trade Union. By way of leading up to my point, I had occasion to call attention some few weeks ago to the considerable amount of overtime which has been worked in the Keyham Factory, and I suppose that the Admiralty have endeavoured to diminish that overtime. I do not admit, though, that it has been reduced, but that it has been continuing in a most flagrant form. I mention this here because they have been entering men lately; and although they are aware that the minimum wage fixed by the Amalgamated Society of Engineers is 34s. a week, they have been scouring the "sweating shops" of Devon and Cornwall to enter men at 30s. and 32s. a week. My point is in this question. Are you or are you not prepared to accept the minimum for this trade fixed by the Amalgamated Society of Engineers? And now for shipwrights. We have? been told to-night by the right hon. Gentleman that he justifies the new standard rate by the standard of local employment. Who are these men by whom the standard of local employment is judged? Are there any shipbuilding yards in these localities of any 1385 magnitude? There is not such a thing existing as a local shipbuilding firm worth considering. If you really wish to get to the bottom of the whole matter inquire at the great yards where battleships are built what is the pay for performing similar work. The chief places where there are shipbuilding yards, and where battleships are built, may be said to be seven. They are the Tyne, Clyde, Mersey, Hull, Thames, Belfast, and Barrow. At all events, that is a very representative assortment. What do you find is the average weekly pay at those places? I have it on the authority of Mr. Wilkie, the Secretary of the Associated Shipwrights, that the average for the past 10 years has been 37s. 6d., and yet you come hero and ask us to accept for those skilled men wages at the rate of 32s. a week. You have the—yes, I will say it—audacity to ask us to justify you in setting up the standard of a few "wasters" existing in dockyard towns. I never heard such a monstrous thing. If you really ask us to accept such a standard, all I have to say is that you must think us very simple individuals. I absolutely decline to take the ipse dixit of any occupant of the Front Bench as to what is a fair rate of wages, unless you can prove that it is as you say—a fair approximation to the amount paid by private firms throughout the country. If you fixed on that standard you would then arrive at a minimum of 36s. a week. They are fairly entitled to that amount; but to satisfy the, existing discontent they will accept a settlement of 34s. a week, with no probationary period. As regards the 3s. a week for extra work, the men do not want it, for it will only cause jealousy and favouritism. All they ask for is a uniform wage, assessed by the Trades Union standard. There are the joiners. You proposed to give hired men 30s. 6d. a week, and you state again that you have arrived at your conclusions by the local rates of pay. I think that you will admit that the local building trade of the Three Towns pay their men 7½d. an hour, and as they work 54 hours a week their weekly earnings are 34s. How can you say, I wish to know, that by giving these men 30s. 6d. a week you are placing them on the same rate as outside firms? 1386 You cannot make black white. This trade has always been most unfairly treated by you. It claims justly to be on an equal footing with the highest branches. The Chief Constructors are in sympathy with the demands of the trade for a higher footing. I do hope that when this proposed scheme is considered again, as it will have to be, due consideration will be given to their application that they shall be advanced to a first-class trade, and take the same position as the workers do in outside yards and receive a relative pay. I cannot go into a lengthy examination of all the rates, but I must point out that although the Secretary of State for War undertook that the dockyard service should be without reproach, very many reforms will be necessary before that satisfactory condition of affairs is reached. Answer mo these questions: Do you intend to abolish that sweating system of job and task work under which the scale of pay is arbitrarily fixed, and the men are kept in the dark with respect to it? You expect the men, in fact, to exert a supreme effort, as men do when on piecework, and to thankfully accept at the end of the week whatever you like to give them. Let me remind you that you frequently fix the rate so low that, although the men may have been working extremely hard, they frequently do not obtain sufficient money to cover their weekly wages. Then, again, if your money is getting short, you get frightened, and think that it is flowing away too quickly. What is the result? Why, you put the men on what is known as check measurement. By this system the man's work is also measured by the officials on some unknown scale. If less than what you consider by your "Star-Chamber" scale to be a proper amount, he is checked; but if over, as must necessarily occur, he receives no extra pay. He is expected to work at piece-work speed. You claim to be "model employers." Before you can justify such a title you must abolish such systems as these altogether. There is one more matter to which I should like to draw attention. At Bull Point, when the Ordnance Store Department was transferred to the Naval Ordnance, it was understood that the men should retain their original privileges, and yet when the men received a rise in 1387 April last it was made a condition that all their privileges were to be confiscated. I took steps at once to question my hon. Friend the Civil Lord in this House on the matter, and he stated deliberately that this was in exact accord with the agreement into which the men entered at the time of their transference to the Admiralty. I have, however, produced for his edification a copy of the original agreement which they signed, and I ask him now whether he is prepared to maintain the attitude he assumed on the occasion I referred to?
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
If the hon. Gentleman will permit me, I will clear this matter up at once. The information on which I acted, and which I am sure was tendered by the officials in good faith, on re-examination proved to be incorrect; and, as I have already informed the hon. Gentleman privately, the privileges will not be interfered with.
§ MR. KEARLEY
I now wish to draw attention to those privileges which it is urged the men receive through being in the Government service. The men pay at least 5 per cent, of their wages towards their pensions. A labourer at 18s. a week loses the Is. a week for Establishment, and you must remember that only 25 per cent, of the total employment get pensions. The sum checked from wages really pays for one-half of a man's pension, which, on the word of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Forwood), costs the Government loss than 10 per cent. Now, in Germany, the State pensions are managed very differently. In that country the workmen contribute one-third, the employer contributes one-third, and the State contributes a third; and as the State and the employer in dockyards is one and the same person, I contend that the Government should bear two-thirds of the cost. Now, about the four days' holiday these men get. Two of the days are ordained by the State Church—which, unfortunately, continues to exist—to be Sundays, or, at any rate, their equivalent. I mean, of course, Christmas Day and Good Friday. These holidays are not really worth 6d. a week. Much has been said about the continuity of employment, and how that if the men are injured during work they have free medical attendance and half-pay, and if permanently disabled they got compensation. Now, Sir, I do 1388 not know if this is so very generous. I should be ashamed to think that I did not pay a man in my employ full wages during his illness. I do not believe that men like Armstrong are any less liberal in their terms. There is another question with regard to the hours worked. At present they are about 50 hours a week, and the men are anxious that they should be reduced to 48. If these demands were granted it would not cost the Government 1d. more. It would not be necessary to employ any more men, for the men would be able to work for the shorter period with more sustained energy, and the Government would have the credit of having brought into existence this satisfactory state of things. In conclusion, I must say that the Government have no possible excuse to refuse to carry out the undertakings which they have given. They cannot say that there is not time to introduce a, Bill. They have not the excuse that their Parliamentary time is already mortgaged. They have simply to place the money on the Estimates and the House will readily vote it, and I do say that unless you do that you stand convicted out of your own mouths as men who come here and give your Parliamentary word and pledge, but when the occasion presents itself for their redemption you show the worthlessness of your professions.
§ MR. FORWOOD (Lancashire, Ormskirk)
said, he desired to make a few observations in answer to the remarks which had been submitted in support of the proposed abolition of classification in Her Majesty's Dockyards, and in defence of the action of the late Government. Anyone who had heard the speeches of the Civil Lord and of the hon. Member who had just sat down would suppose that the late Government had done a grievous wrong and injury to the dockyard employés. But what were the facts? After a careful inquiry, they had made additions to the rates of pay to the men in the dockyards amounting to something like £72,000 a year. The proposal now made by the present Government was to further increase that addition to some few trades by the sum of £31,000. The benefits given by the late Government were conferred on every trade. The hon. Member who had just sat down had said that the late Government, in 1389 distributing the increase, adopted, in the case of certain trades, the principle of classification, which existed in nearly every trade in the dockyards. Now, at the outset, he (Mr. Forwood) wanted the Committee to realise the marked distinction there was between men employed in Government establishments and those who worked for private firms. Apart from the advantages pointed out by the Civil Lord, the former had regular employment and a practical assurance of continuous wages. Moreover, in the private yards, if men did not behave properly, they could he discharged without anyone to question the action of the employer. But that was not the case at the dockyards. A man must commit himself to a very considerable extent, and show a great want of diligence, before it was reported by the officer at the dockyard that he was inefficient and ought to be discharged. Under these circumstances, there ought to be in the hands of the officials of the dockyards a power to reward diligence and merit. Such a power was more important in Government yards than in private yards, where more drastic measures could be taken as regarded the cessation of the employment of any individual. The advantages of the Government service, striking as they were in connection with the hired men, were doubly so in connection with the men on the Establishment. When men were placed on the Establishment they were assured for the rest of their workable days, or until they were 60 or 65 years of age, of continuous employment and a pension unless they were guilty of gross misconduct. There was no inducement whatever to a man, if put on uniform pay, to strive to emulate his fellow working men and do better work. When he first had to do with them it was one of the grievances of the shipwrights that they got to 30s. a week, and there remained; but the present proposal was going to continue that system, merely increasing the amount to 31s. 6d. He felt that there was a strong case to be made out for placing those trades in the dockyards that were not classified before under the system which had prevailed for so many years in connection with other trades. He was going to call one or two witnesses in evidence of the principle adopted by the late Administration in connection 1390 with this wages question. The first witness he would call was the hon. Member for Devonport himself. On the 9th May, 1891, the hon. Member made a speech (reported in The Western Daily Mercury) in which he used these words—Mr. Forwood, in addition to being the Secretary to the Admiralty, has large interests, I believe, in private yards in Liverpool.That statement he (Mr. Forwood) had denied most emphatically. He had no interest whatever in shipbuilding, and the statement had clearly been made to injure the Hoard of Admiralty of which he bad been a Member. The hon. Member had gone on to say—Well, I would like to ask him whether he would dare to classify his private labour on a similar principle to the limited and unjust classification as employed in Her Majesty's Dockyards. What his reply might be I will not venture to say, but it has been well said that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander also. What you are demanding and what you will, I hope, continue to insist upon, and what we, as your Representatives, if you return us as such will work for is that the advance in the wages of all dockyard employés in all branches should be a general and an all-round one, estimated and based on the wages which are generally recognised as being the accepted standard of the mechanics and labourers employed in private yards. There should be a general percentage rise all round, and not individualised. I am an employer of labour myself—a large employer—paying wages weekly to between 1,000 and 1,500 employés. What is the basis upon which my firm proceeds in appraising a man's worth for promotion? We first of all lay down the principle of; a fair field and no favour,' and we wish it to be generally understood that a man's preferment and advancement will be dependent on that. In the first place, merit backed up, secondly, by length of service.
§ MR. KEARLEY
said, if the right hon. Gentleman would excuse him interposing, he would point out that the men in his own employment who were rewarded on the conditions referred to were not engaged in work common to all, but in work which varied according to the necessities of the business. The argument that the right hon. Gentleman was endeavouring to raise was altogether inapplicable. It, in fact, tended to disprove the right hon. Gentleman's contention and prove his (Mr. Kearley's).
§ MR. FORWOOD
said, the colour the hon. Member now sought to give to his remarks was not to be found in the re- 1391 marks themselves. He had put in the forefront the simple proposition that merit, backed up by length of service, was the principle on which men should be paid in the dockyards. Well, the late Board of Admiralty had given instructions for the foremen in the shops to recommend for promotion those men who deserved it through competency and diligence, regard also being had to length of service. It was stated, further, in the instructions that when the Admiral Superintendent recommended men for increase of pay over the heads of men who had been longer in the service he was to give the names of those whom he passed over, and the men passed over should be at liberty to state their case to the Admiralty. Every effort had been made to insure that the best men should be promoted, and that there should be no favouritism shown. The Civil Lord said he appointed a very strong Committee to consider the evidence which he had taken; but he limited the action of the Committee, and said their object must be to do away with classification. He (Mr. Forwood) did not wonder that, as the hon. Member had said, instructions were necessary. As the hon. Member had very properly said, they appointed a strong Committee. Admiral Fane—Admiral Superintendent at Portsmouth—was the Chairman, a Member of the Committee was Mr. Wildish, Civil Assistant or Constructor—he was not sure which—at Devonport; Mr. Barnaby, Chief Civil Superintendent at Chatham, was another. One would have thought that the opinions of gentlemen practically concerned in the work of the dockyards would have been asked on such a matter as the abolition of classification unfettered and without instruction, and he was surprised that they should have undertaken a duty which he thought must have been against their own convictions. These gentlemen certainly knew much better the circumstances connected with Her Majesty's Dockyards and the practical working of them than the Lords of the Admiralty. But the dockyard men had votes, which was a potent factor in all dealings with dockyard questions. These matters were not approached in the House in the fair way in which they should be approached. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Kearley) was the avowed advocate of the interests 1392 of the dockyard men; therefore, his appeals for increased benefits for those men must be discounted. He had quoted the hon. Member. He would now proceed to give other evidence. Mr. Williamson, Director of Dockyards, before the Royal Commission on Labour, was thus examined by Mr. Dale—Q. Is it your experience that the wages in the dockyards range lower than those paid in other districts?A. I think not. They now compare favourably with such places as the Clyde and Belfast, &c., the revised scheme of wages having been based upon a fair average wage of the private shipbuilding and engineering trades.Then he was asked—Q. As regards the classification of skilled and other labourers, have you formed any opinion or not?A. Yes, I have. The so-called classification of skilled labour is as essential in that as in any other body of workmen, not only in the interests of the Service, but in the interests of the men themselves.Mr. Wildish was asked by him (Mr. Forwood)—Q. Would you make the higher rate uniform, or would you have it on a graduated scale to certain classes?A. Most certainly a graduated scale; I should say the numbers in the higher scale being limited according to the requirements of the work mainly.Mr. Stanier, Civil Assistant at Portsmouth Dockyard, was asked—Q. You indicated that you preferred a graduated scale of pay to an uniform rate of pay?A. Undoubtedly so; that has been my experience and opinion for many years, and I have had no reason to alter it.Mr. Barnaby was asked—Q. Do you approve of a uniform rate of pay, or would you prefer a classification?A. I should much prefer a classification.Q. How would you put men in the classes—would you put them according to merit, or upon what rule?A. I have said in my Report.—'This would enable specially expert workmen being rewarded, advancement to higher rates being generally considered due to ability and servitude.'Q. Would you lay down as a rule a definite term for a man to remain in each class before he was eligible for promotion, or would you leave that an absolutely open question for the officers of the yard to determine?A. I should leave it open. We should soon find out what a man was worth. I should not like them to be bound to any term. Sometimes, for instance, we know when we get a workman that he is an excellent man and worth 1393 more than a man to whom we are paying 5s. a day.That was the evidence given by persons who were responsible for the good administration and discipline of the dockyards—for the quick carrying out of the work, for the proper employment of the men. That evidence, coupled with what the men themselves represented, fully justified the principle adopted by the late Administration in paying each man according to his ability. And in their scheme of classification they took care that a man who did his work properly and diligently had not to wait for a vacancy caused by death for preferment. The instruction to the officers of the yard was that the list to be submitted from each dockyard of men deserving promotion was to be absolutely unlimited. The scheme of the late Government had been in operation. Under the classification scheme 426 men had been promoted up to the 27th of June, 1892, and if the hon. Member for Devonport complained that the number was not larger the fault lay with the present Government. To come more particularly to the proposal of the Civil Lord, as representing the present Board of Admiralty, he (Mr. Forwood) did not for a moment grudge any further advance that was given to the ordinary or unskilled labourer at the yards. Formerly the rate of pay to those men was only 15s. a week. The late Board thought that that was not a fair wage for any man to exist upon, and they increased it to 18s. a week after a probationary period, and the present Board, he understood, were going to increase the amount to 19s. a week. He thought, however, that it was a mistake to make a further special allowance of 1s. a week to the labourers employed at Woolwich and Deptford because of the higher house rents they had to pay. He did not think that they should differentiate between the men at Woolwich and the men at Devonport, for they were as worthy of consideration at one yard as at the other. If the Government gave one yard the 19s. a week they must extend that 19s. to every one of the other yards. They could riot differentiate, and, at the same time, give a feeling of satisfaction to the men. This attempt to undo what was done on the best and strongest of evidence had been described by the hon. Member 1394 for Devonport (Mr. Kearley) as in every sense unsatisfactory from the point of view of the men. He (Mr. Forwood) was not surprised at it. Whereas the joiners received from 28s. to 30s. those already on the Establishment were to receive under the scheme 29s. 6d., and men who came on the Establishment in the future were to receive only 29s. In other words, the joiners were to be docked of 1s. a week in order to abolish classification. He did not think the joiner class would be pleased with such a proposal. The other great class was that of the shipwrights. To-day the maximum pay of an Established shipwright was 33s., and in future his maximum pay was to be 31s. 6d., so that the shipwrights wore in future to lose the chance of obtaining the extra 1s. 6d. a week. The hired shipwrights were to be docked 1s. There was an anomaly, because the hired shipwright, whose maximum pay in future was to be 33s. a week, would, when placed on the Establishment, obtain only 31s. 6d., so that he would forfeit 1s. 6d. a week in order to gain the benefits of the Establishment. Under the scheme approved by his noble Friend (Lord G. Hamilton), an experienced man—and only experienced men ought to be Established—only forfeited 1s. a week on becoming Established. The Government were, therefore, not only going to reduce the maximum pay, but were going to penalise those who went on the Establishment in order that they might undo what their predecessors had done. There was only one other word he wished to say on this matter; he wished to call attention to the numbers affected by this proposal, and perhaps the Civil Lord would tell him if he wore right in the inference he drew. The idea was that 10,800 of the men should be paid on a uniform basis, and that the remainder of the men in other trades in the yards, numbering 8,000, should continue in the classification list. That was the effect as regarded numbers. The shipwrights undoubtedly, as he had said before, and now said again, wore the backbone of the yard; and if the hon. Member for Devouport (Mr. Kearley) had been in his place he could have assured him that no remarks he had ever made were intended to or meant in any way to detract from the high opinion he had of their character as skilled workmen, or their conduct 1395 in the discharge of their duties in the yard; but the shipwrights were the class who made this demand on Her Majesty's Government, and they had made this demand on the Government because the leaders of the Trades Unions of the country had more influence with this trade than with any other trade in the yard. They heard to-day from the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Kearley) a demand that the Admiralty should no longer regulate the rates of pay in the Naval Establishments, but that they should be regulated by the Councils of the Trades Unions of the country. He did not know what answer the Civil Lord (Mr. E. Robertson) was going to make to that demand; but that was the demand that was made, and it was a very plain and simple one, that the Trades Unions should fix the rates of wages in Her Majesty's dockyards. These rates would have to be fixed, from time to time, according to the fluctuations in the labour market of the country. He did not grudge any Board of Admiralty the task of having constantly to be adjusting the pay of the men according to the fluctuations of the labour market. The shipwrights had undoubtedly been a class very prominent in this agitation. But why should such bodies of men as the engine-fitters and ship-fitters be left out of consideration? These men were not to receive a single sixpence of extra pay. His opinion was that the engineer and iron ship-fitter was a class of trade certainly not second in importance to that of the shipwrights; but they and other important trades were left out of all consideration, and only attention was paid to the shipwrights, because, he supposed, they were a little more clamorous. He supposed, also, their votes were given under circumstances at the last Election—admitted by the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Kearley)—which required that the promises then made should be fulfilled. So much for the plan as regarded the classification and the labour question of the yards. The Civil Lord, in the concluding part of his remarks, dragged in another matter which seemed to him (Mr. Forwood) quite outside the matter they were discussing; the Civil Lord brought in the question of the shipbuilding programme, and he challenged certain observations made by his noble Friend (Lord G. Hamilton) 1396 last night as to the effect of the distribution of labour and the commencement of new ships in the dockyards. As to the effect upon labour the Chairman ruled him out of Order last night, so that he was unable to proceed into that matter, and he was sorry again to have to attempt to go into it; but on that point the Civil Lord used rather more vehement language than in other parts of his speech. The Civil Lord stated that he (Mr. Forwood) and his noble Friend (Lord G. Hamilton) had threatened the House with discharges, and that that was the intent and meaning of the observations they made. The intent and meaning of their observations were absolutely contrary to that. What they desired was to give the Admiralty the experience of six years' work at the Admiralty, and warn them that unless they took a certain line of policy those discharges would be inevitable. If they had wanted to obtain any advantage in the matter they would have held their peace and not given any word of warning, because then next year the Government must have inevitably discharged a number of men, and undoubtedly their political opponents would have got the benefit of such discharges. In a few words he must give the Civil Lord the figures, which he thought he would find it impossible to gainsay. The Civil Lord said—"I assure you that there will be no discharges next year." Very well; he did not want any discharges in the dockyards next year; but he could assure the Civil Lord that if he went on with the programme as at present laid down there must be discharges, or a very large increase in the Votes for material and contract labour. It was inevitable, and that was the reason they mentioned this matter. He would now give the Civil Lord the figures as to labour. The Estimate this year was £831,000. If the Civil Lord wished to keep the workmen in employment it would require £135,000 to complete the old programme. Then, if the hon. Member wished to make good progress with the ships in the new programme, he would have to expend on labour £366,000, making a total of £501,000; therefore, next year he must find employment, if he wished to keep the same number employed as were employed to-day, representing £330,000. What was the case with regard to materials? By the Government figures it 1397 involved £150,000 to complete the old programme; to proceed with new battleships would require £891,000, and for contract work the material for their new cruisers would come to £300,000. They would, in addition, require for unappropriated labour, £1,076,000; and the total of these figures summed up to £3,250,000 against £1,900,000, the Construction Vote this year. Therefore, to keep these number of men employed, unless the Admiralty made a complete and drastic change in their programme on new ships—and he was afraid it was too late for them to do that—they would have to increase their Construction Vote by £1,300,000.
§ MR. BAKER (Portsmouth)
protested against Dockyard Members being described in the way in which the right hon. Gentleman referred to them.
§ MR. BAKER
said, the statements made by the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Kearley) were not acquiesced in by other Dockyard Members. But the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury) last night anticipated the argument, and made very similar remarks; in fact, it was not at all an uncommon thing to hear such remarks made; and, as a Dockyard Member representing one of the largest of Her Majesty's Dockyards, he entirely resented such an imputation that Dockyard Members were unduly pressing the claims of their constituents. The duty of a Representative was to attend to the interests of his constituency; and in this particular dockyards were not different from any other constituency. What interest was there in the country that was not directly represented by those elected for the purpose? More than that, the great trade interests, the great Church interests, railway and other interests were all directly represented; but no imputation was passed on the Members that they were unduly pressing claims, or improperly putting forth arguments and statements for and on behalf of their constituents. He could convince the right hon. Gentleman that the constituency he represented was quite free from any such oscillation or taunt as suggested. In 1885, before the scheme came into operation, the constituency was represented by two Liberals. In 1398 1886 a political wave passed over the country, and two Members of a different colour were sent to Parliament. But a recurring wave subsequently sent in Liberal Members, and that, he thought, disposed of the accusation that they were unduly pressing their claims. It seemed to be considered by Members, and especially by Members of the Government, that men employed in the dockyards were treated better than other workmen, both in regard to their wages and their position. That, he thought, was an impossible position for the Government to take up, and it must be remembered that the Government brought these men to the localities, and removed them from all the advantages which they might enjoy in other districts where employers were more numerous. He looked upon the rate of wages suggested in the new scheme of classification as an instalment towards a settlement which should be satisfactory to the workmen of all classes. He did not think that the Government had treated the men with that amount of generosity which they deserved, and next year there would have to be a further instalment paid on that account. The men ought to receive to the full what the same class of workmen received in any other part of the country. Shipwrights throughout the country received an average wage of 36s. 6d. per week: but the shipwrights employed in Government Dockyards would take 34s. and be satisfied, which would mean that the men would each give 2s. 6d. a week for the supposed advantages they now obtained under the Government. The Government seemed to have overlooked the solemn proposition made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir J. Gorst), that the Government would show to the employers of the country an example, and that they would at least start upon the scheme for improving the condition of the working men. If a contractor employed a labourer upon Government work he was obliged to pay 4gd. an hour; but the Government themselves did not give that to their labourers. What the Government proposed to do was to pay their workmen wages 5 and 10 per cent, less than the current rate of wages paid for the same labour in the market outside the dockyards. As to the question of probation it was out of date, and no other employers engaged their 1399 hands in such a fashion. He hoped, therefore, there was still time for the Government to make a modification of their scheme in that respect, so that no man should receive less than the average wages paid in like employment throughout the country.
§ SIR J. GORST (Cambridge University)
The hon. Member for Portsmouth (Mr. Baker) complains of the imputations liberally cast upon Dockyard Representatives when they intervene in Debates on the Naval Estimates. I have great sympathy with that complaint. I represented a dockyard constituency for 17 years, both when my friends were in Office and when my opponents were in Office, and I do not think I ever got up to make a speech in one of these Debates on this Vote without being sneered at by somebody or other because I was a Dockyard Representative. It is the common lot of the class, and so long as the hon. Member has the privilege of representing a great dockyard constituency I am afraid the sceptical and cynical spirits in the House will indulge in these sneers. I gave notice a short time ago that I would, on the occasion of this Vote, invite the Government to state what practical steps they have taken to give effect to the Resolution which was adopted by the House in March last; and I have to acknowledge my obligations to the Civil Lord of the Admiralty for having, in his Memorandum and in his speech this evening, so clearly and fully explained all that the Government has done. For what they have done I must tender them my most grateful thanks. The hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Kearley) seemed to be afraid that I was not going to stand to my guns, and that I would recede from some of the sentiments expressed by me last March. I can assure the hon. Member and the Committee that there is no such danger. It is only the Members of the Government who are allowed to make the same speech twice over, otherwise I would repeat exactly what I said in March. But, as time is very precious, I do not want to go over the whole ground again, or to attempt anything like the elaborate criticism of the Government proposal which has already been made by the hon. Member for Devonport, in a great deal of which I concur; but I would like to look at the matter from the point of view 1400 of the interests of labour generally throughout the country, which are very much involved in this question, and I would like also to point out in what respect the Government has, in my opinion, failed to give effect to the Resolution of the House. I say that the workers in the country generally are very much excited over this question. There was a time, not very long ago, when dockyard workmen were considered to be rather favoured individuals, and when the working classes throughout the country generally felt no very strong sympathy with them; but I think that time has gone by, and that workers generally perceive that they have a most vital interest in seeing that the relations between employer and employé in the dockyards are of a satisfactory character. The workers are really the employers in the dockyards. Their money is being spent; and they control the election of this Parliament, which has the Admiralty under its control, and consequently, if the treatment of the dockyard workmen is not perfectly just, it is the masses of the people of this country who are ultimately to blame. We should look upon the Government, whether they like it or not, as to a great extent a model employer of labour, for the views they enforce have a wide-reaching effect upon the action of private employers, and upon the conditions of workmen in every industry in the country. Therefore, the great mass of the electors of the country really feel a very great interest in this dockyard question. In the first place, I cannot accept as satisfactory the conclusion at which the Government have arrived as to what wages are sufficient for maintenance. I think it would be impossible for the House of Commons to lay down the rate of wages which employers should give so as not to be guilty of the ofience of sweating, and I do not know whether the House is in a position to critically examine the figure of 19s. to which the Government have arrived as a minimum weekly wage. I should like to know whether the hon. Member for Battersea considers 19s. is in accordance with the Trade Union rate, and whether it is free from the imputation of a sweating wage? As a Member of the Labour Commission, I know what the wages of the men down the river are, and I should have thought that 19s. is rather a low figure; but I 1401 have no data upon which to dispute the figure. But having come to the conclusion that 19s. is the wage they ought to pay to redeem themselves from the accusation of being sweating employers, I cannot understand by what process of argument the Government have been induced to adopt the system of probation. The probationer must commence in the yard at 17s. a week, which is raised in another year to 18s. I noticed that the Civil Lord of the Admiralty was a little ashamed of that part of the scheme. I hope that indicates that there is a certain amount of dissatisfaction amongst the men with the action of the Admiralty. I am sure it would have been wiser if the Government, having come to the conclusion that 19s. ought to be the minimum wage, were able to tell the country that, except in a very brief period of probation, there was no man in their dockyards who had less than 19s. a week wages. I will not dwell upon the question of classification at any length, for I consider that, although it is a very important matter, it is outside the scope of the Resolution passed by the House in March last. I may say, however, that when I represented a dockyard constituency I expressed a very strong opinion against classification, and now that I am not returned by such a constituency and can hold a perfectly independent opinion on the subject I see no reason to withdraw from that opinion. It seems to me that in introducing classification into their service the Admiralty are going a little beyond making themselves model employers, and are making themselves experimental employers. The mere fact that the system is unknown in private yards is a sufficient reason for the Government to abstain from making the experiment. It is quite clear that the system will not work, and that it is unpopular with the workers. I come to a point on which I am very much disappointed with the action of the Government, in face of the pledge given when the Resolution of March last was passed, and that is the question of hours. I should have thought that with a Government in Office which is generally favourable to an eight hours day, and which has voted in block for it in the mining industry, there would have been a chance of seeing the experiment of an eight hours day introduced into the dockyards. 1402 I hoped and believed that after my Resolution the Government would have reduced the hours of labour in their dockyards to 48 hours a week, especially as the hours worked in the dockyards very slightly exceed eight hours per day, being only 51 hours per week. I, therefore, feel the strongest disappointment that the Government have not seen their way to make this slight and salutary change; and I hope that next Session more pressure will be put on the Government to induce them to make the change. But I regret most that no change whatever has been made in the direction of providing for the old age of workmen in Government establishments.
§ SIR J. GORST
But it is relevant to this Vote. The great complaint which I made in March last, and the complaint which has been made in every Dockyard Debate in this Committee for the last 20 years, is the extraordinary difference which every successive Government keeps up between the Established and non-Established men in their service. No one has ever been able to give a satisfactory reason for that distinction. In the dockyards there are men working side by side, some of whom can look forward to a pension and others of whom will have nothing but a gratuity on retirement. I would not say that every man should at once become entitled to a pension. There might be one or two years' probation established, to see whether the men are really fit for the service, and whether they are the class of men you want. But at present more than half the men employed, though they may have worked for 20 years in the dockyards and arsenals, I have no provision for their old age. I have discussed this matter with the men, and I can say that they do not ask for anything unreasonable. They admit that the wages they receive should be lower than the wages given outside for the same work in consideration of the superannuation allowance; they have often asked that a reduction should be made from their wages and carried to a separate fund, and that an actuarial calculation should be furnished to them, in order to see how exactly it was with them and what they got for the reduction. To those demands, which I consider modest and reasonable, no Government 1403 has yet acceded. During the Debates on the subject in March last, it was stated that the Government contributed half of the amount towards pensions. I showed that the Germans gave one-third, and that, therefore, we were less generous to our workmen than the Germans. But what I contend for is, that all the permanent servants of the Government should have a provision made for the time when they are no longer able to earn a living by work; that that provision should take the form of a deduction from the wages an outside worker would receive; that it should be clearly and specifically stated how much was deducted for that purpose; and to what extent it was supplemented by a contribution from the employer, which in this case is Parliament, and that there should be no mystery and confusion between the employer and the employed in the matter. The Government will probably adhere to the old clumsy method of Established and non-Established men. They will continue to give the superannuation in the most inconvenient form in which it can be given; and that in the case of the premature death of a man who had been subscribing to the fund for 40 years, not a single penny will be returned to his widow or children. I must say that in all these respects I have been much disappointed with the Government. I hope before the Debate closes we shall have some assurance from them that the matter is engaging their attention, and that if not now, at some no distant date, this most necessary reform in the employment of the workers will be made.
§ MR. J. BURNS (Battersea)
said, he wished to say a few words from a general labour point of view upon the Wages Vote of the Naval Department. He had to express in part his approval of the action of the Admiralty in giving £30,000 of an increase in wages spread over a few thousand men; but he regretted that they had not, whilst they were about it, gone the whole hog, by ignoring entirely the advice of the permanent officials, doing away with classification altogether, and establishing Trades Union rates of wages. In this matter they had to be frank to the labourers, who asked for an increase of wages, and, at the same time, to be fair to the ratepayers. That was the position he wished to take up. It had been said 1404 by hon. Members on the Opposition side that they were practically allowing the wages and the hours of men employed in the dockyards and the arsenals to be regulated by the Trades Unions, and that that was a condition of things which would be subsequently regretted. He did not share that view. He considered that when Trades Unions brought pressure to bear upon the Government or upon Members of Parliament they were strictly within their legal and constitutional rights, provided that they were not insisting on iniquitous conditions or privileges for dockyard workmen; and if they were to choose between the labour conditions of dockyards being determined by Trades Unions or by Party politicians, he would prefer to see the dockyards dominated by the Trades Unions rather than to have the Army and Navy put up at a Dutch auction for the two political Parties, and knocked down to the highest bidder for dockyard votes. After all, the Trades Unions had a restraining influence, for they were restricted in their demands by the fact that they could not go beyond the market wages and hours prevailing outside the dockyards, and fixed in healthy rivalry; whilst nothing in the world would prevent a Party politician, anxious for place, and privilege, and power, from going as near to Tammany Hall as it was possible for human ingenuity to proceed. He assumed that the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, in fixing the rates of wages, had acted in deference to the strong views of a deputation of workmen who waited on the Admiralty nine months ago, and on the representations made by Members of the House in March and May last. The scandalously low rates of wages which arsenal and dockyard men received were exposed on those occasions. He had in his hand four specimen cases from Chatham. A labourer earned 17s. a week; he paid 4s. 6d. for rent; 1s. 3d. for fuel; clothing, 1s.; club, 6d., leaving 10s. for food for himself and his wife and four children. That, in his opinion, came within the scope of a sweating wage. It was true that the Government had increased the wages to 19s., but having taken the advice of the permanent officials, who went on the principle of starving subordinates for the purpose of keeping up their own extravagantly large salaries, the Government 1405 had set up a system of paying only the permanent men the 19s., and putting the others on probation, giving them only 17s. to begin with, with increases of 1s. a year till 19s. was reached. If 19s. were a fair minimum wage, why not pay it graciously at once, and not compel some men to wait for 18 months or two years before they received 19s.? He intended to call the labourers as well as the Government to account in this matter. He found that many of the labourers, both unskilled and skilled, who got these low wages got up at 4 o'clock in the morning and worked for two or three hours for private contractors before they commenced work in the dockyards, or, after breaking off at 5 o'clock in the evening, worked for local "jerry builders," in order to get their earnings up to the current Trades Union rates of wages. That was a system which the Government should not tolerate. The Government should pay a fair day's wage, and provide that the men were fully qualified for the work they had to perform by insisting that no work should be allowed before or after the day's work in the dockyards for outside firms. He, therefore, appealed to the Government to abolish the provisional policy, and give the Trades Union rates of wages right away. Now, as to the question of skilled workmen, he was under the impression that a man in a mechanical industry received in wagss what he had proved his capacity to earn. In turning out war material they wanted the best and most efficient labour that could be secured; but they would be unable to secure that labour so long as they refused to pay Trades Union rates of wages. In his own trade, for instance, the 76,000 men of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers were the best men, and they were all Trade Unionists, and if the Government only paid 32s. a week in the dockyards whilst 36s. was the rate outside they would only get glorified handy men to work for them, instead of competent engineers who had served a genuine apprenticeship. Then, as to classification, he was entirely opposed to it, root and branch. He believed that classification had been adopted in the arsenals by permanent officials with a view to diminish that amount of supervision that in the absence of classification they would have to give in 1406 looking after the men and seeing that they did the proper work. It was contrary to the private yard system, which was, generally speaking, the best system of building vessels. The best plan was to give the men a maximum wage—let it be a Trades Union wage—to demand from them a minimum day's work, and to have no fancy classification which placed in the hands of a foreman who had a house to let the power of promoting his tenant to a higher scale in order to secure his rent when dockyard employment got scarce. He believed that if emoluments, pensions, and bonuses were abolished altogether, and the Trade Union rates of wages paid, the men would be better pleased. He was convinced that these emoluments, about which the men did not trouble themselves a bit, were kept up by the higher officials in order to justify the the big emoluments they obtained for themselves. He would suggest that the men employed in the construction of war material should he placed on the same footing as men employed at the same work outside. This would save the House from being worried every year by those details which a Departmental Committee ought to consider and settle. Generally speaking, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University and himself agreed on labour questions; but he would ask the Government not to follow one piece of advice which the right hon. Gentleman had given them. The right hon. Gentleman had said that he was in favour of the abolition of the distinction between non-established and permanent men. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that the abolition of that distinction meant that emoluments, privileges, pensions, and bonuses must go by the board at once. But the right hon. Gentleman asked the Government to bring in a scheme of pensions. He sincerely hoped the Government would do nothing of the kind. Let the Government pay the men Trades Union wages, and then the men could go to their own Sick and Benefit Societies to make provision for their old age, or join with their fellow-workers throughout the country in demanding a national system of insurance based on some scheme of taxation, which they could claim as a right and not as a favour from the Government which incidentally employed 1407 them. He could not understand why the Government hesitated to establish an eight hours day, especially as they had the example of eight or ten large employers of labour on their own side of the House who had shown them how to do it with profit to their workmen and advantage to themselves. He, therefore, hoped that the Government would screw up their courage to the sticking point, and go in for an eight hours day. There was another matter to which he wished to direct attention. He found that in the Government dockyards there was an interchange of trades in all departments and in all classes of work. Shipwrights did engineers' work; boiler-makers did shipwrights' work; and carpenters did engineers' work. That was not the way things were done on the Clyde, Tyne, and in Belfast. In these private dockyards the engineers did engineering work and the shipwrights shipwright work. In some of the arsenals and dockyards they had got men who were jacks of all trades and masters of none. He would like to see the whole system of the supervision of the dockyards overhauled. The fact that a man was on the Front Bench did not imply that he was an embodiment of all the virtues, an Admirable Crichton, fit to run the universe. It was not always so. For his part, he thought that a Committee of 15 or 20 men should have power to visit these dockyards whilst the men were at work, not to interfere with discipline, not to interfere with the permanent officials in their successful administration of these large concerns, but in order to see if there was anything that would improve the condition of the workers and the character of the work they turned out. But such visits to these arsenals and dockyards were not allowed, with the result that some of the best engineers in the world—men who had established and maintained the English supremacy for engineering—were compelled to take statements from discontented workmen at second hand, and had no practical experience of the truth of the complaints. In fact, the House of Commons was behind every Corporation and other Public Bodies which recognised the principle of Trades Union wages, and possessed the right to see, and overhaul, and supervise, and criticise the work of every one of their Departments. He 1408 asked the Government to consider this proposal, whether the ratepayers, through their Members of Parliament, should not get some grip of the administration of the Departments, which spent annually £36,000,000 or £37,000,000? He asked the Government also to make no further bones about establishing an eight hours day in all Government workshops, and. they would find that it would be one of the strongest points in their favour amongst the working classes when they appealed to the country.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
I should like to notice some of the points which have arisen in the course of this discussion, and I will take as my starting point the very excellent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, who has alluded to most of these points. He concluded by a reference to the 48 hours week. There is no difficulty in the way of our establishing a 48 hours week in the dockyards. We are now so-close to the mark, there being only two hours or an hour and a half difference in. point of time.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
We have not lost sight of the question. It is now under consideration, and we hope, if we take the step, to be able to bring other Departments with us. I would point out that this question has not been urged on our attention by the working men themselves, because I presume they are so close on the 48 hours a week that the matter does not touch them closely. The hon. Member for Battersea also alluded to the technical matter of the interchange of trades in the dockyards. The most important case of the kind is a contest between the shipwrights and the fitters, and hon. Members will understand that it is a very delicate matter to interfere in a contest of the kind between two trades. We have, to some extent, acceded to the claim of the fitters so far as the ships are concerned; but we hope to inquire more fully into the matter. The one fact that has impressed itself most strongly on my mind as the result of these discussions is the unanimity with which the principle of approbation has been condemned. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University has suspected that I was not myself in favour of it. 1409 He said, indeed, that I was ashamed of it. I cannot make such an admission as that; but I would remind the Committee that I specifically stated that my view was that it was not to be a compulsory but a permissive arrangement. I am much impressed by the arguments which have been urged against it, and I need not say that they shall have due consideration. There has been a general discussion about the rates of the various trades. I will not attempt an answer, but I am half-inclined to think that due justice has not been done to our proposals. We have got the best information that was available as to the rates of wages paid outside for the same class of work as is done in the dockyards, and, acting on that information, we believe we have established what my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea said was the thing we ought to establish—namely, rates of wages in the dockyards corresponding to the rates of wages fixed by competition in the open markets. As to classification, I can only say that we have taken up that position and must abide by it.
*MR. EGERTON ALLEN (Pembroke, &c.)
said, that the dockyard men looked upon the House of Commons as their paymasters, and as the final arbitrators between them and the Admiralty; and as the point of view of the Admiralty, had been very plausibly put before the Committee by officials of the Admiralty it was only fair to the dockyard men that their point of view also should be stated by their Representatives. He did not care whether a Dockyard Representative sat on the Government side or on the Opposition side; he believed that every one of them would deem it his duty to call attention to the grievances of the men, and, so to speak, submit to the arbitration of the House of Commons the difference between them and the Admiralty. For himself, he felt he was in honour bound to place the grievances of the men before the House, and he meant to discharge that obligation. What he asked the Committee to do was to pass a judgment, if possible, on the general principles which ought to govern the relations between the Admiralty and the dockyard servants, and he only brought forward particular grievances in order to illustrate the question of this general principle. The Admiralty, impregnated 1410 as they were by a conception of implicit obedience in the Naval Service, wished to carry on their engagements and their relations with the men as if it was one of the services spelt with a big S in which discipline and order were all in all, and the responsibility of the superior to the subordinate was never for a moment thought of. The men, on the other hand, looked upon their relations with the Admiralty as one of an industrial contract between employers and employed. There should be no more secrecy, no more arbitrary conduct and discipline employed by the Admiralty in their relations with the men in the dockyards than was employed by any private employers of labour. He admitted that there must be discipline, regulation, and, of course, order. But what the men claimed was that there should not be more of it than was found necessary in the case of a private employer. The Secretary to the Admiralty had said the Committee that had been appointed had come to the best possible conclusion in the interests of both parties. He recognised the undoubted ability of the gentlemen who served upon that Committee; but it was a pity that there was not some direct consultation with the men as to any terms to be offered to them before those terms were finally stereotyped. He could not believe that in any great dispute between a private employer of labour and his men any decision could be come to unless the men had the opportunity of putting their views forward on equality with their employer, in the case of private employers, the men were able to kick against injustice; they were able to put the employer to great inconvenience, and to force on him that consideration which they thought was their due. But that power was utterly shut off from the men in Government employ. It was absurd to talk about a strike against the Government; they could not injure the Government by striking against them, as they could in the case of a private employer. Besides, the Government had force at their disposal, which it was utterly impossible to oppose or to grapple with. Again, many of the Government employés were under a system of deferred payment, which crippled them in standing out against the wishes of the Government. Therefore, the Government were all the more bound to take just measures to ob- 1411 tain a knowledge of the views of the men. He had received telegram after telegram expressing the dissatisfaction of the men with this new scheme. The last he had received from Pembroke Dock was put into his hands half-an-hour ago, and was as follows:—Great dissatisfaction with proposed scheme among shipwrights Maximum rates of present scheme alone will satisfy. Men determined to oppose proposed scheme, which establishes classification and prevents men from obtaining higher rate, which is a great injustice and most objectionable.What the shipwrights wanted was a wage of 34s. a week for hired men as the pay all round. The probationary period had been so much attacked that he need not trouble to attack it any further. The men wanted the scheme brought into force at once. They could not see why, if it was fair to raise their wages, it would not be fair to do so at once, and he could not see what the answer could be to that except the difficulty of finding money. But that was not the difficulty which the Government had themselves accepted as a sufficient answer. They had admitted that they ought in fairness to the men to spend at least £30,000 on a new scheme. The obligation being present ought to be discharged at once. The men complained of supercession. After passing examinations which were to secure advancement by an absolute engagement, they found men put over their heads who, in some cases, had not passed an examination at all, or had not passed so well, and in some cases had passed subsequently, and got a priority to which they were not entitled. This was a special grievance with foremen of yards and draughtsmen. There was another point with regard to the rates of pay and retiring allowances. The regulations as to retiring allowances had been prejudicially altered without any warning, and without any saving of the rights of men who had worked under them. Drillers and rivetters had been specially affected by a sudden change in rates of pay. Then there was the ignorance of the rates which would be paid for task and job work, and he was glad to find that the Civil Lord had said that that grievance would no longer exist, for hitherto men had been treated as if they had no right to ask questions on the subject. There was another matter of very great 1412 importance, and that was the question of what might be called acting service. Men were working permanently on certain jobs, yet they were not rated as doing those jobs. If they left the Service they would not be given the credit of the work they had been doing, but would be discharged as having been employed on work inferior to the work they had actually done. Men worked as skilled labourers but were rated as ordinary labourers acting as skilled labourers. Then, again, skilled labourers acted as stokers, machine men &c., and part of their pay was cut off because they were not rated for the work they did. The equality of the trades was also a matter of great importance to the men. The shipwrights had an advantage over both joiners and fitters, and, of course, the latter did not like it. The leading men of the shipwrights were called Inspectors, but the leading men of the other sections were not allowed the title or the privileges. The Inspectors were allowed sick leave and casual leave without loss of pay, which the leading men of the joiners and fitters were not allowed. The joiners were worse off than either shipwrights or fitters, because they had no high priest at the Admiralty. If these grievances were shown to be valid they ought to be remedied. It would be a great improvement if the attempt to enforce the present discipline over the men in the dockyards was abandoned. He asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty to consider this point: that all regulations relating to the men's labour and pay and retiring allowances should be codified and published, and that they should not be altered without full warning to the men and consultation with their Representatives. The men should be allowed to have a real voice in criticising any proposed alteration or new scheme put forward, and he would ask that The Labour Gazette should be used by the Admiralty for the purpose of publishing proposed regulations, and that its columns should be open to the complaints of the dockyard men by allowing reasonable letters by them to appear therein.
§ MR. WOLFF (Belfast, E.)
said, of the many speeches that had been made in this Debate the one that struck him most was that of the hon. Member for Batter- 1413 sea (Mr. J. Burns). He was a Representative of the working men. For himself, he (Mr. Wolff) was not a Representative of employers of labour, but he was a large employer, and it was, therefore, unlikely that he would take the same view as the hon. Member on all the subjects touched upon by him. He was bound, however, to say that, so far as his speech was concerned with the management of the dockyards, his observations were of a character with which he (Mr. Wolff) thoroughly and entirely agreed. The question of the management of the dockyards could not have been criticised in a fairer or more practical spirit. He had not yet been educated up to the views of the hon. Member for Battersea on the eight hours question; but he agreed with the hon. Member that, if an eight hours day was to become compulsory, and if it was to be introduced into the land, there was no place in which it ought to be introduced sooner than in the Government Service. If there was anything which ought to distinguish the management of Government Establishments it was that they ought to be ahead of private firms, not only as to the work they turned out, but also as to the relations in which they and their employés stood to each other. The more he thought of it the more he was persuaded that the Government Dockyards ought to be conducted on the same principle as private yards. He was convinced that before long the Trades Unions would force the Government into that system, and he thought it would be better that they should move in that direction. The system by which men were employed to do everything—and made, so to speak, jacks-of-all-trades and masters of none—was not satisfactory; the Government might by such a system get a quantity of work done, but they would not get the quality that they should get. Besides, the system of classification and differences in rates of wages produced very bad feeling. The labourers employed on the system adopted at the dockyards was against any man so employed becoming a proper skilled tradesman. The probation system had been so fully discussed that he would not delay to speak upon it. It had been fully condemned. There might be something theoretically good in the distinctions that were drawn, but they could not work it in practice. It would be much 1414 better, as he had said, for the Government to adopt the Trades Union principle at once than to wait, resisting it and having to yield in the end. Let them pay first-class men first-class wages, just as a private employer did, and sweep away all pensions and allowances, which, when they came to be put into money, amounted to very little. A certain number of men only enjoyed these extras. Would it not be better to commute or compound them, following the example set in the Irish Church case? Let them, then, keep each tradesman to what he had been taught and trained to. The system of extra pay for extra work was another source of grievance; there was sure to be an outcry while it lasted, just as from experience he could say there used to be in private yards. Another point made by the hon. Member for Battersea was that of having a Committee of Experts appointed by the House to visit the dockyards. He (Mr. Wolff) thought that was very desirable. The opinions of such a Committee would be of great value to the House, to the Navy, to the permanent officials, who, though as he knew were thoroughly efficient men, were apt, through lack of supervision and control by the House, to get into a groove from which nothing would move them. In all respects the yards should be as well managed as those of private firms. There might be some reason for the existence of defects in the system of management in private yards, owing to considerations of which they were all aware—the state of trade in the future and uncertainties that constantly arose; but in the case of the Government that did not apply, as they had their plans laid out for years ahead, and there was no ground for defence if the yards were not properly and efficiently managed.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
said, he had seldom listened to a speech more full of common sense than that delivered by the hon. Member for Battersea. The point he raised was—Were they going upon the old false system by which practically the wages in the dockyards were put up to auction for contending parties to bid for them, or were they going to set up a fair and legitimate standard of wages for the men? Time after time it had happened that this system had been resorted to. He remem- 1415 bered that during the Government of his own Party in 1879 large numbers of men were put upon the Establishment immediately before a General Election. That was the sort of thing that must be put a stop to. He did not speak from Party motives in this matter, but from patriotic motives, and he said there was no Party bias in connection with it. If they were not going to put this question up to Party votes and influences, then the only thing was to have a fixed standard. The House had gone a long way towards the view of the hon. Member for Battersea by its acceptance of a Motion by the present Under Secretary for the Colonies (Sir E. Grey), to the effect that the workmen in these establishments should be paid the current rate of pay. They did not go much further in asking for the Trade Unions standard. That standard ought to be the Trades Union standard, and when they had got that they would put a stop to what had been the great curse of these establishments. There were certain difficulties in the way, he knew, as there were classes of work to which Trades Union rates did not apply—he met it in considering the Army and Navy Estimates—such work as that of accoutrements or military harness work. But they should, as far as possible, adopt private firm rates. But the dockyard men could not both eat their cake and have it; and if the Trades Union standard were adopted they must sweep away all the minor privileges. He did not know what value was placed upon their privileges; but if they were not swept away, they could not have a proper calculation. The course of the whole Civil establishment and dockyard system was that they were not able to dismiss inefficient men in the same way as private firms did. He knew the difficulties in that respect from having been on a Royal Commission which dealt with the question. If they had the Trade Union standard established, they would be able to let the men take the good with the bad, and they would be able to get rid, he hoped, of incompetent men. If political pressure was carried further, and if they did not get a definite standard like the Trades Union standard adopted, a strong feeling would arise that the only way to put a stop to such pressure would be to disfranchise both the Civil servants and the dockyard 1416 workers. That would be the inevitable result. At the present moment pressure was brought to bear by the Civil Service and the dockyards which the House ought not to tolerate. Another question was that of pensions. When a hired man went on to the Establishment 1s. 6d. per week was docked off his wage; but, unless the man lived to the age of 60 and got his pension, the 1s. 6d. never went back into his pocket at all. He did not care so much for the amount as for the principle; and he said that that deduction ought to be treated as deferred pay and go back to the benefit of the man or his family. There could be no doubt it was the man's own money, and he was entitled to it. He had mentioned the age of 60. What became of the man if, at the age of 50, he found he was unable to do any more work! Was the pension in his case the same as in that of the other man?
§ MR. HANBURY
said, he only wanted to make sure upon the point. The hon. Member for Battersea told them they were arguing this question without adequate knowledge. Experience told them what occurred in the private yards; but one out of 50 of them had no practical knowledge of what occurred in the dockyards. They should have better information. They had had only one Committee that had gone into the question, and they would never have adequate knowledge if they did not have a Committee of some sort. His idea was that they should have a Select Committee of the House once every five years—or more frequently, if necessary. This Committee should go into questions affecting the Army and Navy, and he thought the result would be that Members of the House would be kept au courant with what was going on in their great spending Departments. Millions were voted in the House to these Departments, and, with the exception of a few gentlemen, they were all in ignorance of the importance of the subject. Members sometimes took no interest—for the most part, they took none. There was one other point in regard to the increase in wages which he would mention. It was said the men did not get the advantage—that the money went into the coffers of the landlords. He was quite sure that 1417 was so at Woolwich and Deptford; but he did not see how they could make any distinction between those and other places. There was only one other remark he had to make. He was convinced that the classification system, however pretty it might be in theory, in practice was thoroughly unworkable. They had now a new system which would load to a new agitation. As the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Kearley) said, there would be no satisfaction until it was altered again. Why could they not put the matter on the same footing as private firms? Until they put into practice in the arsenals and dockyards the system recommended by the hon. Member for Battersea they would not only run the risk of perpetuating the present evils, but of having rival politicians bidding against one another, and then they would have the wages in those establishments higher than those paid under Trades Union rules by private firms. By adopting his suggestion they would have a better system—a suitable system. There were family cliques in these dockyards. There were too many uncles, cousins, and brothers all working side by side, and able to bring greater pressure to bear on the Admiralty even than Trades Unions. That system had to be broken up, and she should cast his vote for Trades Unionism in opposition to it. The sooner the Trades Unions were brought into the dockyards the bettor.
§ *MR. KEARLEY
I think it is necessary for me, in justice to the reply given by the hon. Gentleman the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, to let him know the way we regard it. I understand the hon. Member to say that the probationary period, not only to labourers, skilled or unskilled, but as to the other trades, is to disappear. That clears the situation very considerably, and leaves open only the solution of the question as to the varying rates of pay of mechanics. The Government say that the wages should compare favourably with those prevailing in other parts of the country. I and my friends contend that that means Trades Union wages. The Government said that they had made au exhaustive inquiry, and ascertained what were the varying rates. They put forward the results of their inquiry, and we disagree with their figures. They say it is a fair solution, but we say that it does 1418 not compare with the Trades Union rates. I do not wish to delay the Committee by dividing it on this Vote, although it had been my intention to do so all through. If the Government will be reasonable, and will give us the opportunity of proving that their figures cannot be supported when compared with Trades Union rates of wages throughout the country, we shall be perfectly satisfied. The increase of labourers' wages comes into force at once. I take it that it is settled that the probationary period is to disappear, but as to the mechanics' rates, they are not to come into operation until April next. There is au intervening period during which amendments to the proposed scheme may be considered. I hope they will allow us to place before them evidence to show that their opinion is not in accordance with facts. As to classification, we make it perfectly clear that the men will not tolerate any differentiation of pay to exist, and will insist on there being a uniform rate of pay for all Established and hired men, subject to reductions in the former case for the benefit which the Establishment confers. If the Government wish to get rid of classification, I do not think that they will find us unreasonable in dealing with the question. We do not wish to make this House a cockpit for the contentions of conflicting interests. We are most anxious to get rid of these grievances. I, myself, have some 40 letters a day dealing with them, which is a proof of the hostility to the existing state of things.
*SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
said, that after the reply of the hon. Gentleman, he would make an appeal to the Committee. They had already spent a day and a-half on Section I. of the Vote, which dealt with labour. There were yet the two Sections for material and contract work to be discussed. It was desirable that some time should he devoted to those questions, and yet that money should be voted to the Public Service at the present Sitting. In consideration of the other work which had to be done he would appeal to the Committee to allow the present discussion to come to an end. On the section in Vote 8, bearing upon material, questions affecting shipbuilding could still be raised, but if an undue proportion of the time of the House was occupied on this subject 1419 sufficient could not be devoted to other subjects. He did not wish to press the Committee unnecessarily, but he really would put it to hon. Members whether the time had not come to proceed with the next portion of the Estimates?
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
said, the only other Amendment, so far as he knew, in the first section referred to naval yards abroad, and, undoubtedly, there were some important questions to be raised on that Amendment. A great many of the naval yards abroad were not in the condition in which they ought to be, and he imagined that the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. Dilke) and the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Arnold-Forster) had both a great deal to say about Gibraltar alone. That was a distinct question from the question now under discussion, and he did not suppose it could be raised on the item for material. If it could be raised on Section II. of the Vote then, as far as he was concerned, he should be willing to see it and other questions so raised.
§ LORD G. HAMILTON (Middlesex, Ealing)
said, he thought the Government might fairly expect to obtain Vote 8 tonight; but this section of the Vote was really an important section, and there was hardly a question of any kind that it did not invite discussion on. He did not think that anything would be gained by trying to prematurely conclude the discussion of the section. So far as he was concerned, he had practically nothing further to say, except to ask one or two questions which would not occupy more than a few minutes. If the Representatives of the Admiralty were to allow the discussion to run its natural course nothing would be lost.
SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
thought that what the noble Lord had said was said in the fairest possible spirit, and he accepted it in that spirit. The Government could fairly claim Vote 8 to-night.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said that, in acknowledgment of the fact that they had had a considerable discussion on Section I., he should withdraw his two Amendments on Sub-heads A and B. There were other matters 1420 upon which he should have liked to raise discussion, but he would refrain from doing so. The time had come for something to be said on Gibraltar, Malta, and Jamaica. He would only now add that it was clear the question of dockyard labour could not remain where it was. He agreed with what had fallen from the hon. Members for Preston (Mr. Hanbury) and Battersea (Mr. J. Burns) on the matter. The position of the dockyard labourers must cease to be sport of the political partisan. If it did not, they would come to the American system under which assessments were made on wages to keep a Government in power, or to the Roman system, under which the position of Emperor was set up to auction by the Prætorian Guards. The system advocated by the hon. Member for Battersea was that there should be no pensions or incidental advantages given to the Government workmen, but that labour inside the dockyards should be treated in the same way as labour outside the dockyards, the men being called upon to give a fair day's work for a fair day's wage. He acknowledged the fair spirit in which the right hon. Baronet opposite had treated the Committee, and he was sure there would be no desire to push the Debate on the remaining items further than the public interest demanded.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
asked if it would be convenient now for him to say what he had desired to say on the general question when it was discussed last night?
§ COMMANDER BETHELL
said, he was anxious to say a word or two on the subject; for though not an expert in the matter of construction, he had for many years taken a great interest in the subject, and might be able to express the views held by his Colleagues on the subject. Some three or four weeks ago he had asked the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty a question as to the loss of the Victoria. His hon. Friend had said, in reply, that he could not give a definite answer to the question, because the Minutes of the Court Martial had not then been considered by the Admiralty, and they could come to no conclusion on the matter. The question he had asked was whether there would be 1421 an inquiry not into the loss of the Victoria, but into the reasons which caused the Victoria to capsize after the unfortunate accident had occurred. He was very glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty that their Lordships had come to the conclusion that some inquiry ought to be held into the causes of the capsizing of this ship. The right hon. Gentleman had not specified the nature of the inquiry. He admitted that the inquiry would be a very difficult one, which could only be properly investigated by experts, but for that reason he was certain it would not be satisfactory either to the House or to the country if it was conducted only by a Departmental Committee. Experienced persons from outside should be called in to make the inquiry in order to allay public anxiety with regard to other ships of a similar construction. The hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir E. J. Reed) on the previous night had said something on this subject, and he was afraid the Secretary to the Admiralty had rather misunderstood the position of the hon. Member. It was to be regretted that the hon. Member had read out a list of ships which he held to be liable to a similar accident to that which had occurred to the Victoria. The names were familiar, of course, to himself as a naval man. They had been before the public some years, but the hon. Gentleman's reference to them might cause unnecessary uneasiness in the minds of many people serving in the ships. Still, he thought the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty had misunderstood the hon. Gentleman's position. The hon. Gentleman had said that which he had contended for many years—namely, that certain ships, if wounded in a particular way, would be unstable and liable to capsize. The Secretary to the Admiralty, in reply to that, had produced the Minutes of the Committee of Inquiry into the Inflexible, and had pointed to some conclusions which had been arrived at by that Committee. He ought on the strength of that hold that the accident to the Victoria was no proof of the point for which the hon. Gentleman had been contending for so many years. The criticisms of the right hon. Baronet on the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff were not very fair. Sure was he (Commander Bethell) that a 1422 very complete inquiry by competent persons was absolutely necessary, and he would again impress on the right hon. Gentleman that it was of great importance, on every ground, that the persons who made the inquiry should not be confined to officials connected with the Admiralty. That was all he had to say with regard to the Victoria. As to ships of the new construction, he was very doubtful whether at present the opinion of any person as to the relative value of large and small ships was of any value. We had little or nothing to go upon, and it was extremely difficult—in fact, impossible—to form an opinion on the matter until there had been an opportunity of trying the ships for war purposes. Personally—and he gave his opinion for what it was worth—and he was bound to say he did not think it was worth much—he had always held the view that very large ships were a mistake; but he was bound to remember that the bulk of the profession to which he belonged were undoubtedly of opinion that large vessels were essential, for the reason that a high rate of speed was necessary at war. He was inclined to doubt that. It seemed to him that for purposes of battle they ought to sacrifice something, even speed, to get greater turning power for our ships than they now possessed. That was a technical question which he would not go into more fully at present. What was the reason of the construction of these large vessels? He was inclined to think that in this respect they were guided and influenced too much by what foreign countries were doing. We saw foreign countries building large ships, and it required a certain amount of obstinacy to persuade oneself that a large and formidable man-of-war could be successfully opposed by a vessel which seemed less formidable. Years ago the prestige of rams and torpedoes was greater than it was now. Then he thought we were too apt to give preference to large guns. In the first speech he had made in the House he had taken that view. The evolution of naval science would, he believed, be more in the direction of doing damage to vessels by torpedoes, and possibly by rams, than by means of guns, even of the more rapid-firing description. He would pass this criticism on the Admiralty—not only on the present, but on 1423 past Boards of Admiralty—namely, that he did not think they were solicitous and anxious enough about spending money for the purpose of experiment. He did not know how far it might be true, but he was informed, for example, that one or two foreign countries had recently been making largo experiments in relation to submarine boats and weapons of war of that sort. We had done nothing in that direction at all. We must remember that if we did not advance in this direction someone else would. In the work of improving machinery and getting vessels to go at great speed, not only were our own Admiralty and other Admiralties engaged, but the whole Mercantile Marine had the same object in view. The result was, that we got the best ship that could be built in regard to speed and machinery. But that was not the case in many branches of naval science. The whole of the brains of the Mercantile Marine were not engaged in trying to elucidate these questions, and he was convinced that our Admiralty ought to set on foot greater investigations and inquiries into these weapons of war which were now so little known to us, and which he strongly suspected indicated the direction which the evolution of armaments would take in the immediate future. France and, he believed, Russia for some time made considerable investigations in regard to this matter of submarine boats. Great improvements were possible, and if they could be introduced and made effective a revolution would at once be brought about in naval warfare. The nation, therefore, which first succeeded in overcoming the difficulty in the way of constructing these boats would have a great advantage over all other countries which had not arrived at that point. He thought, therefore—as he had said in 1886—it was eminently desirable that money should be spent in making experiments in this direction. With regard to turning ships, we were using to-day the very same method that was in use centuries ago. The turning was a trifle quicker now than formerly, but beyond that there was no substantial difference. No naval officer would contest this position: that whoever was fortunate enough in battle to have a vessel that would turn rapidly would have many points in his favour. We should not put the question of rapid turning on one side as out of the 1424 range of practical possibility because other countries had not seriously taken it up yet. We ought to aim at being the first in all developments of this kind. The tendency in this country hitherto had been to follow rather than to lead. He did not think that naval officers were always better judges on naval matters than civilians. Civilians had sometimes given hints which had led to the winning of great battles and to the institution of systems which had never been adopted before. But in some matters, no doubt, the opinion of naval men was most valuable—for instance, as to the size of ships, and what ships could do. In these matters naval officers had actual experience to guide them. But the opinion of naval officers on some subjects—eonstruction, for instance—was of no special value. The advice of naval men ought to be followed on the question of the size of a ship. He had never noticed, however, any keen desire on the part of the Admiralty for naval opinion on these matters. The Admiralty did not reflect fairly the opinion of the Navy. It was partly composed of civilians; but, more than that, the officers who formed the naval portion by no means reflected the opinion of the younger men of the Service. They would do well to listen to the views of the younger generation of officers—men who had not yet risen to the top of the profession, but who might be said, in a sense, to possess the more active minds. There was something to be said for this view. When a man had risen to a high place in his profession his position was secure. Without intending it, perhaps, he lost that extreme desire to follow modern developments, which characterised the younger man. Do not let it be thought that he wished to disparage the ability of the senior naval officers on the Admiralty Board. The Secretary to the Admiralty, he thought, had rather misunderstood the speech of the hon. Member for Belfast, which was not to be wondered at, having regard to the technicality of the hon. Member's speech. The hon. Member had pointed to the fact that at present ships were built with rams which, if used for ramming purposes, would bring destruction to themselves as well as to the vessels rammed. The hon. Member had explained that it was quite possible to construct a ship which would be 1425 effective for purposes of ramming without receiving serious damage itself in the process. He (Commander Bethell) did not know how that might be, but this question of ramming was one which should not be lost sight of by the Admiralty. It had of late years been too much pushed into the background, owing to the development of torpedoes. It was said that a ship would hesitate to come to close quarters with an enemy for fear of torpedoes. No doubt that, to some extent, was true, and no doubt the position had been made stronger by the introduction of quick-firing guns. But he was inclined to think we should do well to construct a smaller class of vessels for the purpose of ramming and also for carrying torpedoes—vessels which might carry light quick-firing guns—and from this it would be seen that he was in favour of the construction of small vessels. He was afraid Admiralty officials got into deep grooves from which it was difficult to escape, and that we were liable to be exposed to disaster from following too closely the example set by other countries. There had been some discussion on the previous evening on the question of torpedo catchers. He would not detain the Committee for any length of time on this question, for all he had desired to say had been said by others. He would only remark that the information he had received confirmed what had been said already—something was wrong with the torpedo catchers. They had shown themselves inefficient, and there ought to be careful inquiry before new ones were constructed. A little confusion had arisen in consequence of the nomenclature used in connection with these vessels. Some persons spoke of them as torpedo gunboats, and others as torpedo catchers or torpedo destroyers, and it would be well if the Admiralty adopted a uniform nomenclature. He would express a hope that the Secretary to the Admiralty would go further than he had hitherto gone in altering the nomenclature of the various classes of vessels. So much for the technical part of the discussion. He naturally felt inclined to join in the attack upon the Admiralty for their programme, or rather the absence of a programme, for the next two years. It was said they had one, or were going to have one, and their critics would like to be 1426 taken into the confidence of the Government, and to be told what it was going to be. It was clear from the speech of the Secretary to the Admiralty that the miserable little addition they proposed to make to the Navy in the course of the next year or two was not all they intended to propose. There were three battleships to be constructed, two cruisers, and some torpedo catchers. The total sum which the Secretary to the Admiralty spoke of as being set aside for the year had to be reduced by £560,000, which was really used last year. On the question of the increase of the Navy they had a right to press the Government. M. Thiers was credited with having said that a vessel lost to the English Navy only meant another vessel laid down, and the more valid that tradition was the more valuable it would be. It was an idea well worth cherishing and nursing. The idea attaching to it was valuable, and people were largely governed by ideas of that sort. He agreed with those who criticised the Admiralty, and said that they might very well set to work and lay down another vessel to take the place of the Victoria. It was no doubt very difficult to make an effective and true comparison between different Navies. There were so many different characteristics in the ships. They were made in so many different ways and their armaments were so different; but the English Navy had undoubtedly since 1885 been raised from a position of inferiority to a position of superiority over any other, and possibly to a position of equality with any two. But for the sake of a few hundred thousand pounds we ought not to go back from a position that had been acquired with so much difficulty. For some reason or another—he believed it could only have been because the Conservative Party proposed it—the Government had placed themselves in opposition to the principle of borrowing money for a short term of years in order to build vessels. But he was sure the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he turned the matter over in his mind quietly, would admit that, even if there was some objection, from his point of view, to the plan of spreading the cost of ships over a term of years, it was an immense advantage, if only as a motive for the Admiralty insisting on the building of a ship by a certain time. 1427 Under the old system there were long delays, and money voted for one purpose was frequently devoted to another. He hoped, therefore, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be disposed to favour the view adopted by the late Government, and would, when the complete programme was placed before the House next year, tell them that he intended to follow that example. He would only add, in conclusion, that he thought there was a tendency shown this year by the Admiralty not quite to appreciate the advantage and the necessity of a steady flow of shipbuilding and new construction. It was so easy to fall behind, and so difficult to regain lost ground; and though the Secretary to the Admiralty had told the Committee that a programme would be produced in the course of next year, meanwhile a certain amount of valuable time would have been lost, a loss which to the present Government would entail, as he thought, great difficulties. He had occupied a considerable amount of the time of the Committee with these observations, but he did not often intervene on naval construction. The last time he had done so was in 1889. He was interested in seeing this country possessed of a large and efficient Navy, and he did not think that at the present moment civilians could fairly charge naval officers with demanding more than there was any necessity for. He did not think they were open to the charge that the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. A. C. Morton) Drought against them—that of making Jingo speeches. He thought they were doing what their duty called on them to do—that was to say, to spur on the Admiralty to keep the Navy up to that standard to which it had been brought within the past few years, and by no means to allow it to fall back to the position in which it was in 1886–7.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
said, he desired to say a few words on a point connected with the combatant branch of the Service. He wished to call attention to Sub-head E of the Vote, which related to Gibraltar. He was sanguine enough to believe that what was said tonight would go even further than the Committee, because the matter was a very important one—far more important than any that had been discussed during 1428 the two nights the Vote had been under discussion.
I am unwilling to interrupt the hon. Gentleman; but I must draw his attention to the fact that the sub-head to which he refers belongs to the second division of the Vote. The Question before the Committee relates to the expenditure for personnel, shipbuilding, and maintenance, including dockyards at home and abroad.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said, he was under the impression that, according to the arrangement which had been assented to by right hon. Gentlemen on the two Front Benches, the discussion of the whole Vote might be proceeded with in order that it might be taken before 12 o'clock. If he were in Order, he would proceed on that understanding. In this matter he was not speaking on his own authority alone. What he was about to say he believed accurately represented the opinion of those who were best qualified to speak on the question throughout the Empire. He held in his hand the opinions of men which carried great weight in the matter. The argument he wanted to propound to the Committee was one based not only upon authority or technical knowledge, but upon common sense. They were asked to give two Votes in respect of Gibraltar, and he contended that the amount asked for was either too much or too little. They were not, he submitted, voting an effective sum of money for any public purpose. They got no value out of a half completed work; it was of no use expending nine-tenths of the necessary money and leaving one-tenth of the work undone. Gibraltar was primarily a naval base for the Empire. It had long ago ceased to be a factor in the military disposition of Europe. Gibraltar was not a depôt for our troops. If we withdraw troops from it, they had to be replaced by other troops from home. It no longer controlled the Straits.
*SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
I rise to Order. I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend, but I must point out that the Vote relates entirely to salaries and materials for shipbuilding, and I submit that the hon. Member is-raising the general question of works at Gibraltar, which would properly arise on Vote 10.
I think the hon. Member is bound to confine himself to the subject-matter of the Vote now before the Committee.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
submitted that he was dealing with matters involved in the Vote—namely, the salaries of the officers in the dockyard of Gibraltar, and he maintained that the expenditure was altogether wrong unless the port and dockyard were adequate for the required purpose. He proposed to show that it was not capable of performing its proper duties. There was a small dockyard at Gibraltar which was supposed to transform it into a naval base, and he had been trying to explain why it was of no value as a naval station. It would be used by the English Fleet to prevent a junction between the Fleets of Toulon and Brest in the event of war with France. Instructions had already been given to the Mediterranean Fleet that in the event of war it was to withdraw to Gibraltar until it could be reinforced by the Channel Squadron. It was inevitable with such a disposition of our Fleet that a general action would be fought in the Straits, and if an English ship were injured she would be obliged to return to Gibraltar. But at present, as regarded repairs there, it would not be possible to drive a bolt into a jolly-boat below the water-line, and it was absolutely certain that a great part of the injury to our ships would be inflicted below the water-line. It would be absolute madness to send injured ships either to Malta or to Devonport in time of war; they would have to remain at Gibraltar, and we might see our Mediterranean Fleet, which was worth £12,000,000 sterling, stuck there like barges on a mud bank. The injured vessels would have to be put under the guns of Gibraltar in reliance upon such protection as it might afford. Again, there was absolutely no protection from torpedo attack.
*SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
I rise to Order. The hon. Member is calling attention to the absence of a harbour of shelter at Gibraltar, and that question can be raised on the subsequent Vote, on the item for the New Mole.
I think the hon. Member is not in Order. He must keep to the subject-matter of the Vote.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said, he was dealing with the condition of the dockyard at Gibraltar and the personnel of that yard. He really could not see how he was out of Order in pointing out that the yard was not capable of doing its primary work. It could not perform any useful work at all, and every farthing we spent on salaries and material in connection with it was absolutely wasted. Was it wise and right to pay a considerable sum of money for the salaries of officials to perform a duty which they could not perform with any advantage to the country? He would prefer to see the money asked for in this particular Vote devoted to really effective purposes. By sanctioning this expenditure they were positively deluding the public. In all the wide world they could not find another naval dockyard worthy of the name in which, as in the case of Gibraltar, there was absolutely no dock. With an honest and earnest desire to keep within the ruling of the Chair, he could not understand why he was debarred from commenting on the fact that there was no dock.
*SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
I must point out for the third time that the question of adding a dock at Gibraltar can be distinctly raised on Vote 10—on the item in regard to the Mole.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
I cannot find that item. There is no mention whatever of a dock in Vote 10. When we reach it I shall probably be told that I cannot discuss the question of a dock on an item referring solely to the Mole.
That is so; I have no doubt upon it. We are now on the Shipbuilding Vote, and the hon. Member must confine his remarks to that.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said, he, of course, bowed to the ruling of the Chair, and he would therefore conclude by again calling attention to the common sense aspect of the question, and ask the Committee was it right to expend a considerable sum of money for work which it was clear could only be very imperfectly performed? He moved the reduction of the Vote by £2,000.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give an ample and sufficient opportunity for discussing the matters proper to be raised on Vote 10, which were of the highest importance to the country, and not meet the Opposition with the Closure. The question was, were they to be able to use the Mediterranean in time of war? and on that certainly the discussion ought not to be unduly limited. On the present Vote there was an item of £983 for the naval officer in charge of the dockyard. Now Gibraltar was a station where, as everybody knew, ships arrived after a long journey, and there had been put up on the summit of the rock a time-ball. When he was last at Gibraltar the time-ball was not at work, and vessels could not correct their chronometers by it, simply because no proper provision for working it had been made by the naval officer who was in charge of it. Of course, if the right hon. Gentleman opposite could inform him that the time-ball was being worked now he would say no more about the matter.
SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
That subject will be more conveniently discussed when Vote 10 is under the consideration of the Committee.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
submitted that he was perfectly justified under this Vote in raising questions as to the nonperformance of his duties by the naval officer in charge of the yard. He had also to complain that neither coils of rope, spars, nor any other naval stores which were continually being required by the crippled ships which came in from the Atlantic could be obtained at Gibraltar. Of course, he might be told that these things could all be obtained at Malta, but it was too much to ask such vessels to proceed 1,000 miles further up the Mediterranean to obtain such stores.
§ MR. FORWOOD
said, he wished to put a question to the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the amounts asked for for the repairs of old ships. The repairs of the Sultan had very properly been taken in hand, and the amount to be expended on her was estimated at £66,000; but no allusion was made in the Estimates for re-engining her, which would cost another £70,000. Surely some steps ought to be taken to have the engines ready for her by the time they were wanted. Large sums had been 1432 spent in repairing the Northumberland and the Agincourt, both of which were armed with old muzzle-loading guns, and could only attain a comparatively slow speed. He thought the money might have been better appropriated. Then the old Warrior had turned up again, and £10,000 was asked for repairing her this year, and £35,000 more was to be asked next year. She, also, was armed with old muzzle-loading guns. Another obsolete vessel, upon which it was proposed to spend £23,000, was the Comus, which was armed with 64-pounder guns. It was a mere waste of money to spend these large sums in repairing obsolete vessels.
*SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
I may say at once that we are not solely responsible in the matter of the Warrior and the Agincourt, because the repairs had been ordered to be executed by the Board of Admiralty of the late Government, and we are acting strictly in accordance with what has been decided on by my predecessors.
§ MR. FORWOOD
quite admitted that fact, but asked whether the present Board intended to replace the old armaments of these vessels with modern guns?
*SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
In the case of the Hercules, it was decided by our predecessors to retain the muzzle-loading guns on account of the enormous expense which attended total changes in the character of such a ship's armament, and we have simply adopted a similar policy in the case of the vessels mentioned by my right hon. Friend. As to the Sultan, the wishes of the right hon. Gentleman have been anticipated, and tenders have been invited for engines. With regard to the repairs of vessels of the C class, like the Comus, the subject was very fully considered during the time the right hon. Gentleman held office in connection with the Champion and the Cleopatra, and a strong case was made for the necessity of repairing them on account of the great value of that kind of vessel on foreign stations, and of the fact that they were building no more vessels of that type. If my right hon. Friend did not succeed in dissuading the Board of which he was a Member; I fear he cannot expect to be more successful with the present Board.
§ SIR C. W. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
asked whether any experiments were being conducted in this country with submarine boats? The Navy ought certainly to be ahead of all the Navies of the world in regard to these new inventions. He feared that, as we were falling behind in the use of high explosives, so also in regard to submarine boats we were not attempting to utilise what would be sooner or later a very important method of naval warfare. He knew it was said that some of the French submarine boats were failures; but the French were navigating submarine boats for a much greater sea distance than was believed, and much secrecy was being observed with regard to them. It seemed to him the time had come when they should see that this country was not left behind in the race for new inventions.
§ MR. HANBURY
called attention to the case of Fort Royal, Jamaica. Time after time attempts had been made to get some information about the naval yards abroad, but without effect. On the Public Accounts Commission recently the question was raised, and it was found impossible to get anyone at the Admiralty to give the desired information about these foreign dockyards. It seemed that in the case of Fort Royal, Jamaica, although there was very little work to be done there, the same establishment was maintained now as existed when, in the days of the Slave Trade, the station was one of great importance. A receiving ship with 90 men was stationed there, but he had been told that no work had been done by that ship for at least two years. Then there was a hospital with three doctors, though there were seldom more than two patients, a statement which he had on the authority of a letter to The Times by Lord Brassey, who had recently visited the place. He held there was no justification for keeping up these establishments. He was sure the Secretary to the Admiralty would not be able to give him any reply, simply because the right hon. Gentleman knew nothing of the matter. The right hon. Gentleman had no information to give. It was, indeed, ridiculous that those things should be put down on the Estimates year after year, although there was no official at the Admiralty who knew anything whatever about them. Unless some explana- 1434 tion were given he would move to reduce the Vote.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
said, that the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury) had carefully refrained from drawing attention to these various matters when the late Government was in power. The hon. Member's action was absurd and ridiculous, but quite worthy of him.
§ MR. W. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick's)
asked why greater use was not made of Haulbowline Dockyard? The total expenditure on Haulbowline last year was only £3,550, while the total expenditure on other dockyards was £367,225. That was a matter that ought to be explained.
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES
pointed out that the cost of the dockyard at Jamaica, to which he had called attention by a question some months ago, was £12,149. Naval officers had informed him that no use was made of the yard, and in reply to his questions the Admiralty had avowed that last year only six ships entered it, and that only 84 men visited the hospital. The cost per man was, therefore, £144. That expenditure could not be justified, and it was high time attention was drawn to these worm-eaten, moss-grown abuses.
*SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
said, that Admiral Hopkins had recommended that Port Royal should not be continued as a dockyard, and a local Committee was to report on his proposal. The medical staff was retained at the hospital in case of yellow fever breaking out. Since 1888 the late Director of Dockyards had visited Vancouver, Halifax, and Bermuda, and the present Director had visited Gibraltar and Malta, so that the Admiralty were in possession of full information about the naval yards at those places, and he could assure the Committee that the important points which had been raised would not be lost sight of.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
asked whether any experiments were being conducted in the Navy as to the use of liquid fuel in lieu of coal? The matter was very important, both in regard to the question of storage and the amount of work to be got from fuel. Oil was now largely used by the Russian Government as fuel in place of coal.
SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
said, he was not prepared to answer that question without notice; but the hon. 1435 Gentleman might be sure that such an important matter would not be overlooked.
§ LORD G. HAMILTON (Middlesex, Ealing)
I wish to call attention to two questions under the heads of "hulls of ships building by contract" and "the reserve of merchant cruisers." The sum of £260,000 is asked for in order to enter into contracts with private firms for the building of hulls of new ships, and of that amount £57,000 is taken for two cruisers which the Admiralty proposed to lay down. But, in a Circular issued on Saturday last, we are informed that it is the intention of the Admiralty to abandon the idea of laying down the second cruiser.
§ LORD G. HAMILTON
And to devote a portion of the money to the building of 14 torpedo catchers. I object on principle to any great Department such as the Admiralty changing their minds upon such an important question after their plans have been laid before Parliament, and after the Estimates have been six months under consideration. I think the decision would be unfortunate in regard to the relations of the Department with the Treasury, because the Treasury, very naturally from their point of view, dispute any expenditure forced upon them; and unless the Admiralty can show a good reason for the expenditure, probably they will not succeed in their demand. Yesterday the Financial Secretary said that one of the reasons which induced the Admiralty to alter their mind was the fact that a number of vessels of similar type, for which the late Board were responsible, had not fully complied with the expectations of their designers in the speed which it was hoped they would attain. Under the Naval Defence Act 18 vessels embodying an improvement of both these types were laid down, and so far as was known the form of those vessels was perfect. They were laid down in successive batches, and had fully attained the speed for which they were designed. But I also understand that during the recent manœuvres a certain number of them failed under certain conditions. Unless there is any special reason against presenting a full Report on the behaviour of these vessels, I think 1436 it is desirable the Committee should know all about them. If the form is right, and the horse-power sufficient to drive the vessels at the speed specified, it seems to me to be clear that if there is any defect it must be due to the construction of the boilers. Of all questions with which the Admiralty has to deal, none is more difficult than to obtain the highest boiler power out of the least possible weight. Last year, for the purpose of testing the various forms of boilers, six experimental torpedo catchers were ordered, and they were given to three of the best known private firms in the country. It was hoped that these vessels would be completed some time this summer, and that the result of the trial would place the Admiralty in possession of data, upon which they might be able to proceed in the construction of the other 14 vessels of the same character which Lord Spencer speaks of in his Memorandum. These torpedo boats have to attain a guaranteed speed of 27 knots an hour. To get 27 knots an hour out of a vessel of 200 or 300 tons is a remarkable development of speed, requiring a rare combination of excellence in the boilers and machinery. It was anticipated that in their armaments and speed-going capacity these vessels would be superior to any built, and it was proposed to complete and try these first examples in the summer, and subsequently to order 14 other vessels of the same class and type. I understand, however, that none of the experimental vessels have been delivered; and, therefore, it appears to me that the Government would be somewhat anticipating the result of the experiments in embarking upon the construction of 14 more before these six vessels have been completed and tried. I expressed, yesterday, some scepticism as to the possibility of spending all the money which was originally to have been devoted to the new cruiser on these torpedo catchers. The right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty in reply, so far as I can recollect, said that arrangements had been made with private firms for the purpose of placing these 14 vessels as soon as possible, and that the condition of the contract was such that if subsequent experience showed that any modifications were required in the specifications they could be intro- 1437 duced into the contract. I have had some experience in placing contracts with private firms. The late Financial Secretary and myself had to deal with contracts of probably greater dimensions than fell to the lot of any previous Board of Admiralty. If there is one thing more than another on which the Admiralty ought to insist it is that the specifications should be made so as not to be broken, and to attempt to enter into contracts with private firms on the understanding that the specifications are to be afterwards modified by experience or data subsequently given to the Admiralty is an entirely wrong business principle.
§ LORD G. HAMILTON
The fact is admitted that there are six experimental vessels which are to have boilers of different types, so as to judge which are the best suited for the purpose. I advise the Admiralty not to embark on the other experimental vessels until they have data to go upon as to the form of boilers most suitable for such vessels. These vessels are to be built very rapidly—I suppose 15 months hence will be the extreme limit of time required for their construction; and, both on the merits of the question as well as on principle, I hope the Admiralty will reconsider their decision, and adhere to their original proposition to lay down these two cruisers instead of these torpedo vessels. I am sure they enter into a risk by ordering 14 more vessels of an experimental type, before they know what particular boiler will give them the exceptional speed they require. I trust, therefore, the Secretary to the Admiralty will reconsider the decision which he announced yesterday. I do not ask him to give mo a definite reply to-night; but perhaps he will be able to do so on the Report. The second question I wish to call attention to is the diminution in the sum for the Royal Reserve of merchant cruisers. Last year this item stood at £60,000. This year it is only £22,000. It may be that the original contracts with the owners of merchant cruisers lapsed, and consequently there is a saving in the interval before fresh contracts were made. I believe there was no part of the 1438 policy of the late Board of Admiralty which the House of Commons was more interested in, and favoured more, than the attempt we made to acquire a reserve of merchant cruisers. The idea occurred to me to try and get the merchant cruisers when some six or seven years ago, by open competition, a foreign firm got a great postage contract to run to America, and that contract was nothing more nor less than a subsidy to a foreign firm which possessed a certain number of fast passenger steamers. It seemed to me, therefore, that if we could utilise the money spent by the Post Office in making contracts with the owners of vessels, whereby they would be liable to place such vessels at the disposal of the Admiralty in time of emergency, it would be a good thing for the Admiralty, whilst at the same time it would effectually prevent foreign vessels getting an annual grant out of English funds. The result of the arrangement has been that for the past five or six years there has been at the disposal of the Admiralty six of the finest merchant vessels in the world, capable of attaining a speed in a sea-way which no other vessels can attain; and if the country is ever landed in an emergency, the value of these vessels will be inestimable. The Majestic and Teutonic, for instance, will carry 3,000 or 4,000 men at such a rate of speed that it would be hopeless for any cruisers to attempt to pursue them, and if used as scouts by the Fleet they would be almost invaluable. I hope there is no intention on the part of the present Board of Admiralty to reverse the policy of the late Board in this respect. I think the Committee will be interested to know what is the reason of this reduction, because I may say that one good result of the policy of obtaining a certain number of these merchant cruisers has been not only to bring the Merchant Service into closer contact with the Navy, but also to establish a much closer association of the officers and men of the Mercantile Marine with those of the Royal Navy than has ever existed before. These are the two questions I would like the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty to answer—First, whether he would not undertake to revise the decision of the Admiralty to postpone the commencement of building the large cruiser; and, secondly, the reasons for the reduc- 1439 tion of the sum taken by the merchant cruisers of the Naval Reserve?
*SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
I take notice of the fact that the noble Lord says he would prefer that I should not give an immediate answer as to the torpedo destroyers. I would, however, point out that while the arrangement made by the Admiralty is that the torpedo boat destroyers shall be commenced at once, we shall have experience of the working of the boilers in the boats now being completed in good time to utilise it for the others before the latter are far advanced. As I stated last night, the Admiralty are impressed with the imperative need of this class of vessels, in order to meet the swarms of torpedo boats which exist in foreign ports. Coming to the merchant cruisers, I think my noble Friend has forgotten for the moment the very wise arrangement entered into during the latter part of the period in which he held Office. In the earlier part of the noble Lord's tenure of Office it was customary to pay the subsidy on the merchant cruisers year by year; but owing to the transfer of two of these cruisers to a foreign flag it was felt that it would be wise to keep a year's subsidy in hand. This is the only reason for the reduction in this year's Estimate. A year's subsidy has been kept in hand, in accordance with the new form of contract. I will also mention this. On coming into Office we found that the late Government had, on the eve of leaving Office, entered into further agreement with two great companies with regard to merchant cruisers, and we are carrying out the arrangements then made by our predecessors, so that I think the noble Lord has no ground of complaint. What we shall do in the future depends very much upon some points which I cannot enter into at this hour. I may mention that there is a scheme in connection with troopships which is under the consideration of the Admiralty, which may afford a very efficient new class of cruisers to the Admiralty, and which may, to some extent, take the place in a more efficient form of some of these merchant cruisers. I do not enter at all into the question of the policy of merchant cruisers now, and I only point out that the cause of this reduction this year is as I have stated, and that we are carrying out the arrangements made by our predecessors.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ 2. £1,656,000, Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, &c.—Material.—Agreed to.
§ 3. £1,266,000, Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, &c.—Coutract Work.—Agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £1,315,200, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expense of Naval Armaments, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1894.
§ MR. HANBURY
moved to report Progress, saying that it had been agreed to report Progress after Vote 8 had been obtained.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again,"—(Mr. Hanbury,)—put, and agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow
§ Committee also report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.