§ 1. £1,260,700, Victualling and Clothing for the Navy.
§ LORD G. HAMILTON (Middlesex, Ealing)
I am sure everybody who takes part in this discussion will feel that we are speaking under the shadow of the heavy catastrophe of Thursday last. But I think that the consequence of that catastrophe, so far from releasing or exempting us from criticising the Estimates, imposes upon those who, like myself, think the Estimates insufficient, the extra duty of being somewhat critical of our analysis of these Votes, which we think fall short of the naval requirements of the year. On the discussion which took place on the Navy Estimates generally, I stated my opinion that the sum taken is insufficient to adequately cover the Services of the year, for it is proposed to increase the number of men by 2,600, to keep the shipbuilding programme to the same dimensions as last year, and yet to perform all this extra work at a reduction of £100 as compared 62 with the Estimates of the preceding year. If there is a suspicion in the minds of Members of this House of a tendency to vote insufficient funds for the Services of the year, there should be a careful examination made of these Votes which deal with stores, because they are in a some what different position to the other Votes. The Votes dealing with stores only provide a certain sum of money which is expended in stores which go into the storehouses. The purchase of stores for the service of the Navy for the year need not necessarily correspond with the issue of stores to the storehouses, and there is, undoubtedly, a tendency on the part of the Admiralty—sometimes with reason—to deplenish this cost of stores, and in proportion as they are deplenished so the Estimates of the year take relief. Vote 2, so far as the victualling is concerned, has two duties to perform: It has to provide the foods and provisions for all the men who are borne on Vote 1, and the number on Vote 1 is 2,600 more than last year. The first duty which this Vote has to perform is to feed 2,600 more persons than last year, and there is a second and equally important duty which the Victualling Vote has to perform. For every ship not in commission, but which is reserved and capable of being commissioned, there should be in the Victualling Yard provision and foods for three months' commission, because if it should be necessary to suddenly increase our Naval Force in time of emergency that can only be accomplished rapidly if the stores for each ship are available in the storehouses. But if those Members of the Committee who have Estimates in their hands would be kind enough to turn to page 244 they will there see a list of new ships and vessels which are estimated to be passed into the Fleet Reserve during the years 1893–4, and if they look down that list for 1893–4 they will see that seven first-class battle-ships will be passed into the Reserve; six first-class cruisers, three second-class cruisers, and 10 smaller vessels, and this total of 26 vessels represents in tons a displacement of 170,000. It is by far the largest addition ever made in times of peace to the Fleet, and is being carried out under the Naval Defence Act of 1889. The Committee will, therefore, see that this Victualling Vote, in addition to victual- 63 ling 2,600 extra men, has to provide stores for the three months commissioning of practically all these vessels which are to be added to the Reserve. That being the duty which this Vote has to perform, I would ask the attention of the Committee to two sub-heads under which the provisions and allowances are made to the seamen—namely, Sub-head "G," which deals with stock, and Sub-head "H," which deals with cash. Sub-head "H" provides cash by which those who do not take their full rations receive money compensation for the rations not so taken up, and the compensation thus paid is infinitesimally less in money value than the rations which are not taken up. If the Committee will look at these subheads they will see that, notwithstanding the greatly-increased amount of provisions which are required this year, the amount proposed to be taken is £14,800 less than last year, and I am sure the Financial Secretary will excuse me if I give my reasons for thinking this is a sum altogether inadequate. These two Sub-heads "G" and "H," as I have said, deal the one with stock and the other with cash. There is no cash balance which can supplement Sub-head "H," but there is a cash balance which can supplement Sub-head "G." If there is an increase in the sub-head which is to be made up by cash, there is then a reduction in the amount which has to be issued from the stores, and I assume that that deduction is made good by a corresponding deduction from the amount of stores in stock at the commencement of the year. I quite admit that there may be times when it is permissible to deplenish stores. I do not think it a wise or sound policy to accumulate enormous quantities of perishable materials, especially if we have reason to believe that in times of emergency a considerable amount of such stores could be rapidly provided for. But the stock when I left the Admiralty was certainly not too high. Two years ago we did reduce our Votes for all stocks. We bought considerably in advance of the close of the preceding financial year with the assent of the Treasury, and were able to raise these stocks to a high level, and at the end of the financial year we reduced them. But both my right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury and 64 myself thought that at the close of the financial year 1890–91 the stocks were too low, and, consequently, we raised them last year. Last year, when we had to provide for an increase of 3,600 men, we took on this sub-head an increased sum of £78,000. This year the Admiralty, when they have to provide an increased number of 2,600, reduce the Vote by £14,800. I think that wants a full explanation. Last year, taking Sub-heads "G" and "H," the extra amount which we had to provide in order to adequately victual the extra number of 3,600 was £104,000; but this year the Admiralty, although providing 2,600 more men than last year, actually propose a less Vote by £8,000. One explanation is that there has been a fall in prices. I daresay there has been, but there was a fall in prices last year and the preceding year; and every man of business knows that from the year 1890 there has been an almost continuous fall in the price of provisions required for the Navy, and, therefore, it seems to be altogether unreasonable to suppose there has been any fall in prices which could justify a reduction of Sub-head "G." For the past five or six years we have given great attention to the rapid commissioning of ships and the speedy mobilisation of the Navy in times of emergency. Year by year we go through manœuvres and the preliminary steps connected with the manœuvres to test the adequacy of the various dockyards for commissioning ships. Some five or six years ago it was a matter of notoriety that we could not commission what ships we had in reserve because of the insufficient supplies of ammunition. That deficiency has been made good, and under the Naval Defence Act there are adequate supplies of ammunition and of guns for every ship likely to be ready for commission for some years to come. In the same way attention has been given to the necessity for supplying adequate numbers of men to fill up all the different ratings which may be required for ships to be rapidly commissioned. All this, which has been the work of years, and has taken an enormous amount of time and trouble, will be frustrated if the victualling and stores are not put upon the same level and made adequate to meet the same demands as are the Ordnance stores. We should 65 like to hear a full explanation from the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty on these points. There are one or two minor matters on which, perhaps, he will be kind enough to give me some information. There is a considerable increase in the Vote for seamen's clothing. That, I have no doubt, is due to the fact that a certain number of new patterns of uniform have to be issued and in stock. Last year we postponed this matter until the old stock of uniforms had been somewhat exhausted, and I have no doubt that the increase is due to the fact that the material thus bought is in stock, and will be in stock for the year, and the payments which are made by the seamen and marines for this material will not come into the Admiralty Exchequer until next year, and consequently there is this vast increase. A particular point on which I want some little information is as regards the dress of the Naval Reserve. Some two or three years ago a proposal was made to dress the Naval Reserve in a somewhat different uniform to that to which they had been accustomed, and to substitute jerseys for the costumes they wore. It seemed to me a reasonable proposal; but Sir George Tryon, who was well acquainted with the feelings of the Naval Reserve men, said that, whatever inconvenience the new dress might cause the Naval Reserve men, they would certainly resent not being dressed similar to seamen of the Royal Navy, and I am bound to say that I found that Sir George Tryon was perfectly accurate in this, as he was in other matters. The men have resented this proposed change; and I should like to ask the Financial Secretary whether or not the uniform to be issued this year will be the same as before? There is another matter to which I would like to draw his attention, and that of the Committee. It has reference to the meat supply. The Committee is aware of the large quantities of cold meat supplied to this country. I took an interest in this question during the last three months I was in Office, and it did seem to me that we should consider the expediency of utilising refrigerated meat to a larger extent than we do at present on stations where our men are concentrated, or at Gibraltar, Malta, Singapore, and Hong Kong. There would be a saving of cost if this were done, and on tropical stations, where it 66 is very difficult to obtain good meat, the advantage to the men would be great. Several companies supply the meat, and, as their steamers pass Malta, the experiment might be tried. One other matter, the last I have to mention, is one that I might have raised on the general discussion, but I think it is better to raise it here—I mean the question as to India's contribution to the Admiralty for services rendered by the Navy. Two or three years ago the existing arrangements were disputed. The amount for the last three years would in no sense cover the expenditure, and I think it is desirable we should arrive at the general principle, and propose, as we did propose, to charge the Indian Government at the same rate as the Australian Government for work performed in their waters. I would like to know whether any satisfactory conclusion has been arrived at upon that question? I suppose the Financial Secretary will be able to tell us how the question stands. I know it was referred to arbitration, but I never heard whether any meeting of the arbitrators was held. There are many Members of the House interested in Indian finance. I am aware that there is a general desire to not press unduly upon the finances of that country, but to make arrangements favourable to India. I am sure, however, there is no desire to give relief to India at the expense of the Naval Votes. If India is to pay a less sum to the Admiralty than the actual cost to this Department of the services rendered by the Fleet to the Indian Government, the difference ought to be made good by an extra Vote. It would be most unwise to proceed in any other way. Those are the four questions I wish the Financial Secretary to deal with. I merely recapitulate them—the question as to stores, the question as to the uniforms of the men of the Royal Naval Reserve, the question as to the supply of refrigerated meat, and the question as to India's contribution to the Admiralty for services rendered.
SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
I will reply to the last question of the noble Lord before dealing with the others. I regret to say that the arbitration between the India Office and the Admiralty has not made any progress. The Earl of Rosebery, who had consented to be the arbitrator, preferred not to act in that capacity 67 when he became Secretary for Foreign Affairs. He was succeeded by the Duke of Devonshire, who kindly consented to undertake the arbitration. Points of difference have arisen between the Treasury and the India Office, the result being that the arbitration has not yet commenced. The Admiralty are, of course, very anxious that a decision should be arrived at with as little further delay as possible, and repeated communications have been made to the India Office and the Treasury. I am glad the noble Lord has mentioned the matter here. The sums received in respect of these services are very unsatisfactory, amounting to only £50,000, while the sum anticipated by the Estimates is £117,000 each year. I hope the remarks that have been made will hasten the action of the Treasury. With regard to the use of refrigerated meat, that question has been under consideration, but we have not got very far. I may, however, tell the noble Lord that some experiments in the direction of his suggestion have been made at Malta at the instance of the late Sir George Tryon. A large experiment of the same kind is being made by the War Office, and we shall watch its development with great interest, in the hope that further steps may be taken. With respect to the Naval Reserve uniforms, a change will be introduced on October 1.
SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
The present uniform is: Blue serge frock, No. 2 cloth trousers, check shirt, cap, ribbon, black silk handkerchief. The new uniform will be: Blue jumper, two flannels, two collars, black silk handkerchief, blue tartan trousers, cap, and ribbon. There is no increase in the Vote for the clothing of these men, although the value of the kit is increased. This absence of an increased Vote is due to the fact that the number of men who will be due to receive a new kit under the Regulations which come in force on the 1st October next will be less than the number who would have been entitled to a new kit during 1893–4, if the Regulations had remained unaltered. Some of the second-class men will not be entitled, getting only a suit twice in five years, instead of annually; while, on the other hand, the first-class men, on enrolment, 68 will get a suit, instead of a cap and ribbon as heretofore. The noble Lord has called attention to the striking fact that, although the Admiralty nave this year to provide for an increased number of men, the amount of money asked for in respect of provisions and allowances in lieu is less by £14,800 than the sum previously voted. The real cause of the decrease in the Vote is the very remarkable fall in prices coupled with the increase in savings taken up. By these causes the Subhead is diminished by £21,800. This sum, however, is reduced by an addition to be made to stocks in the present year of the value of £7,000, so that the sum of £14,800 is the amount by which the Vote is reduced. With regard to what are known as authorised stocks, when the present Board came into Office they found that the stocks were short of what the Regulations required. The noble Lord is aware that a proposal was before the Admiralty early last year to make a considerable addition to the stocks, but it was not made. After the present Board came into Office they resolved to augment them to the extent of £15,000, which was done; so that, instead of being in a worse position than last year, we have actually increased the stocks of provisions to the amount of £15,000, and as I have already intimated, the Admiralty propose in this year's Estimates to further increase them by £7,000. I think the Committee will acknowledge that I have answered the noble Lord's questions.
§ MR. KEARLEY
said, he desired to ask his right hon. Friend whether the official inquiry with regard to the wages paid in the various Public Departments was approaching a close? Under the present Vote there were large bodies of men in the service of the country whose wages were utterly inadequate. There were many labourers in the victualling yards who were in receipt of 16s. a week. These men did not participate in the general augmentation of pay made in 1891, and they were justified in asking that their case, a very hard one, should be taken into consideration by the Admiralty. There were many complaints in regard to the clothing of the men of certain ratings in the Coastguard. The sum of £5 was granted to chief petty officers of the Navy 69 towards the cost of their uniform, but the men of analogous rank in the Coastguard were not granted anything in similar circumstances. It was hardly fair they should have to provide an expensive uniform, and he thought they should be treated as were the men of a corresponding rating afloat. Again, warrant officers in the Navy received a gratuity of £25 towards the cost of uniform, but the officer of analogous rank in the Coastguard did not receive any allowance at all of the kind. Obviously that was very unfair. There was dissatisfaction among the mechanics in the Navy because they were not allowed to have a distinctive uniform, which, as skilled men, they contended they had a right to expect.
§ MR. KEARLEY
said, he would tell the gallant Admiral, if he would wait for a moment or two. In the first place, the uniform was of blue serge, and was entirely unsuitable to the work they had to do. It greatly impeded the work, as anyone would understand. How could they expect a man to work comfortably at bench, forge, or lathe in a loose jumper, with 'kerchief and lanyard? In the second place, the garb did not befit their rank, for it was to be remembered that these men joined as tradesmen or skilled mechanics, and the fact that their rank was not recognised as it ought to be prevented many from joining. The Government had already granted a concession to skilled shipwrights, who wore a blue cloth jacket uniform and white working suits. It was regarded as an anomaly that one mechanical branch should have a distinctive uniform, whilst others had to put up with serge. His remarks applied to painters and plumbers, torpedo artificers, and armourers' ratings and coopers and smiths. Again, the naval mechanics complained of the inadequacy of their present mess accommodation. Was the right hon. Gentleman aware that the chief boatmen in charge since 1891, who went afloat on cruise drill or active service, had to mess with their own subordinates? That system tended to destroy discipline. There were complaints that the men had to mess in view of other men dressing and washing. This was disgusting, and should not be allowed to continue. He next wished to speak of a body of men 70 who were rarely mentioned in the House—the Royal Marines. He thought the Marines had strong and serious grounds for complaining of the manner in which they were treated. The men were first decoyed into the Service by false promises in regard to pay, free rations, and a free kit. To both their food and their clothing they had to contribute largely out of their scanty pay, and even then their food, especially when on shore, was insufficient. The meals consisted of: Breakfast, ½ lb. dry bread and pint of coffee; dinner, ¾ lb. meat, including bone; supper, ½ lb. dry bread and pint of tea or cocoa. The men were charged 4d. per day for bread and meat; l½d. for tea, coffee, and groceries; and 1½d. for vegetables with dinner—7d. per day, reducing their pay from about 8s. 9d. per week to 4s. 8d. Nor was this all. The "free kit" was a delusion, and the result was that the Marine was continually under stoppages for clothing. And then the supply was insufficient, and the result was that the pay was further diminished. A man got two pairs of boots when he joined—only one pair yearly after that; he got three pairs of socks, and no more for his 21 years, save at his own expense; two towels on joining, and no more; one forage cap, and no more. Even pipeclay and blacking had to be provided at the bidding of the superior officer, and the cost was deducted from his pay; while, for foreign service, white clothing had to be provided at each man's own expense. The married men were also badly treated. He believed the Royal Marines, notwithstanding their splendid services, were the worse treated body of men under the Service of the Crown. He earnestly hoped that this matter, and the other points to which he had drawn attention, would be early taken into consideration by the Admiralty, for the grievances of which he had complained were real and deeply felt.
§ MR. FORWOOD (Lancashire, Ormskirk)
said, he had tried to follow the Financial Secretary to the Navy in the figures which he had given to the noble Lord (Lord G. Hamilton) in reply to his comments as to whether there was sufficient money provided for the Victualling Vote, having regard to the increased number of men and also to the increased number of ships that would be passed into the Reserve, and victuals for which 71 ought to be put away. He Lad understood the right hon. Baronet to account for the fact that this year a smaller sum was required than last year by two main causes—one that there was a net saving of £14,800 in prices.
SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
said, that there was a saving of £14,800 this year under Sub-head "G;" but the increased savings due to decreased prices and savings taken up this year was altogether £21,800.
§ MR. FORWOOD
said that, in addition to that, last year purchases were made to the extent of £15,000, making a total available sum of £36,000. The Government anticipated or extended their purchases last year by £15,000, and the stocks were greater by the 1st of April this year than they would otherwise have been. He could not, however, make the figures tally with the known cost of victualling seamen of the Fleet. The addition to the number of men had been 2,600; and as the men cost £20 per head per annum to victual, he should have expected that the addition to the Vote would have been £52,000. But in addition to that, as his noble Friend had pointed out, regard ought to be had to the large number of ships that were to be added to the Fleet in the course of the coming year. The right hon. Baronet had said that there were many stores which could be obtained at a moment's notice, and that there were other stores which it was undesirable to stock in large quantities. He (Mr. Forwood) agreed that there were some stores which deteriorated when stocked, and he thought it would have been of great advantage to the Committee if they could have had in connection with the Victualling Vote a stock account, prepared in the same way as the account under the Stores Vote. The late Board of Admiralty had initiated an entirely new scheme by which a statement was furnished to Parliament every year of the value of the naval stores as ascertained or estimated at the commencement of the year, the value of the stores to be purchased during the year, and the value of the stores to be used to enable them to see if due provision was made for the Service. He admitted that any argument founded upon this might have been urged against the late Board of Admiralty. Well, the late Board of 72 Admiralty did make many important changes in connection with the Estimates, and he believed they had carried that system of stock account and statement of expenditure as regarded naval stores to a very satisfactory conclusion. If they had had the advantage of remaining in Office for a longer period he believed they would have developed the system still further, and would have furnished a stock account in regard to provisions and victualling stores. He would recommend the matter, however, to the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. The rates of pay in connection with the Victualling Yard at Deptford had been referred to by the hon. Member who had last spoken. The Secretary of State for War, in reply to a question on June 8, had said they had found in certain Departments of the Admiralty and the War Office that the minimum rates of wages were too low; and, in a reply to a further question, the right hon. Gentleman had said that the decision of the Government had special reference to unskilled labour, and they intended to lift the standard of minimum rating. He should like to ask what changes had been made in accordance with that answer? According to the reply given to a statement by the hon. Member for Devonport, it appeared that the minimum rate of wages established by the late Board of Admiralty was raised from 15s. a week, at which they had found it, to 17s., or, after 12 months' probation, to 18s. There was another matter to which he wished to call the right hon. Baronet's attention. There was a considerable sum put down for the victualling of seamen employed on board the Indian and Imperial troopships. Sow, he held a very strong opinion as to the policy of continuing the system of employing our seamen on these troopers. He did not consider it a good and satisfactory training. Moreover, by 1894 every man in the Navy would be required. If they were to continue the system of allowing any of our seamen to be employed on Indian troopships, they would have by so many more to increase the number of men for whom the House had to make provision under the Victualling Vote. The policy of the present Board of Admiralty in this matter seemed to him different to that of the late Board. In 73 reply to the hon. Member for Sunderland, the Civil Lord of the Admiralty had said that the present troopship system was neither dilatory, uncomfortable, nor expensive; that it compared favourably in all those respects with the hired transports; and that there was no intention of abandoning the use of Government vessels for the movement of troops, supplemented to a considerable extent by hired transports. He knew that the naval feeling as regarded expenditure in connection with any work not directly and immediately relating to the Navy was not altogether as friendly as he could wish it to be. He quite understood the origin of that feeling. Naval men believed that this House in voting money for Fleet purposes scrutinised the Votes closely, and they were anxious that the money should be devoted entirely to Fleet purposes. Now, his own feeling was that in times of emergency they would have to look to the Mercantile Marine as an important auxiliary for men and ships, and he was anxious to draw together the bands which bound the two Services as much as possible in time of peace. Of the seamen provided for in the present Vote, 1,100 were employed on Indian troopships and 700 were employed on Imperial troopships. And the Civil Lord of the Admiralty had said that the service they were engaged in was neither dilatory, uncomfortable, nor expensive. With regard to dilatoriness, an Indian troopship took 27 days to go from Portsmouth to Bombay. Now, they all knew that a few days longer on board a vessel going down the Red Sea could not be called "comfortable." Whatever extent that voyage could be reduced added to the comfort of all concerned. Well, if the vessels, say, of the Peninsular and Oriental Company, were used, the voyage would be completed in 20 days, and our sailors could be learning their duty elsewhere. This afforded a sufficient answer to the argument of the non-dilatoriness of the present system. Then the troopships carried as many as 1,700 soldiers, whereas a vessel of similar size in the Mercantile Service would not be allowed to carry more than 1,150, and that was an argument against the assertion that the troopships were satisfactory from the point of view of comfort. They were overcrowded, and, of course, where 74 there was overcrowding there must be less comfort. As to the cost of conveying troops to and from Bombay, it was reckoned under the present system at £8 14s. 2d., and it was stated that in the future it would be £9—and this was exclusive of any calculation in regard to the large capital sum laid out in the purchase and depreciation of the vessels. One of these vessels, which some 25 or 30 years ago cost £211,000, was sold the other day for £8,500, which would give the Committee some idea of the depreciation of the ships. If this depreciation were added to the interest on capital and the ordinary cost of transport, it would bring up the expenditure to £12 10s. per head; whereas the Indian Government could get vessels of the Mercantile Marine to carry troops at from £6 10s. to £7 per head, in that way effecting a saving to the Indian Revenue of from £140,000 to £150,000 a year. But what was of more importance than the money saving was the fact that the adoption of the vessels of the Mercantile Marine for this service would set free 1,100 men who, if placed on men-of-war, could be rendered a much more efficient body of men than they were at present. Another element in connection with the matter was this: these 1,800 men employed on Indian and Imperial troopships had cost something like £128 per bead to train. To train what for? Surely not to sail about to and from India, but to work our vessels of war. The right hon. Baronet opposite questioned whether this was strictly in the Vote, but the victualling, and, to a certain extent, the pay, of the men was included in the Vote. The same remarks he had made applied to the Imperial troopships, but not to the same extent. Our seamen should not be called upon to perform service other than that for which they were enlisted and trained and kept up to the mark. He would not move any reduction in Sub-heads G and H; but he had been induced to call the attention of the Committee to the matter through the evident change of feeling which existed now in the Admiralty with regard to it, and because it would soon be necessary to spend some £200,000 in putting these troopships in order.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON (Peterborough)
said, he did not know whether the Debate between the two Front Benches had been arranged. It looked very much 75 like it. So far as he could understand it, the Front Opposition Bench was asking for more money. It was difficult to say which Party was the worst so far as the spending of public money was concerned, and he did not regard either of them as bent upon pursuing an economical or saving policy. If the statements of the hon. Member for Devonport were accurate as to the food given to sailors, they revealed a scandalous state of things. He did not know whether there was any explanation to be offered—he hoped there was—but, certainly, the food and wages, as the hon. Member described them, were insufficient, and not what the defenders of the country had a right to expect. If this was the way the men were treated, he was not surprised at so many of our vessels being upset and lost. He wished to call attention generally to the Appropriation Account. In the last account furnished there was £31,000 recorded as having been spent in excess of the amount granted, and in another case £45,000. These items were met by savings in other directions, and that was what he wished to object to. The Department asked for a great deal more money than they wanted under the supposition that they would spend more in some cases than they had put down, and that there would be an excess in others; and, to his mind, that system was not fair to the House of Commons. The Departments ought only to ask them for the money they wanted; and if they found that more was needed, they should obtain it by means of Supplementary Votes. On going through the accounts he found that this money was spent on all sorts of extraordinary things. Some of it was spent on entertainments—on luncheons given by the late First Lord of the Admiralty at the launching of ships. The noble Lord opposite (Lord G. Hamilton) looked surprised.
§ Several hon. MEMBERS: Withdraw.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
said, he would specify the instances to which he alluded later on. He had seen attention drawn 76 to several matters by the Auditor General—and he was glad the country had such an official as he was; the only man who seemed to take an interest in economy.
§ LORD G. HAMILTON
Do I understand the hon. Member to say that he will produce figures to show that luncheons given by me at the launching of a ship were paid for out of public money?
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
said that, other entertainments were given to the French Fleet; he did not object to that, but the money ought to have been voted.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
said, the Chairman was quite right. This subject did not come under the present Vote; but he was going into this matter as an illustration of the way in which money was spent out of excesses saved under this very Vote, and spent without asking the House of Commons to vote it. He did not say that the objects—even the luncheons—were improper objects for the expenditure of public money; but he maintained that the House ought to have been asked to vote the sums required. Then there was a case in which a house and wine cellars had been done up in the most extraordinary way at Devonport. That might be very good, but Parliament ought to be asked to vote the money. It might not be very useful to criticise these matters at the present time; but the time was coming when Parliament would insist upon being consulted in regard to such expenditure, and upon having everything done by the Departments in a straightforward way. He desired also to be informed whether the increase of £45,000 in excess of the Vote of last year was owing to an increase in the number of men, or increased cost otherwise? He also wished for an explanation of the item "Tithes." He should like, further, to know what the chapel allowance meant, and why clerks with the maximum salary received allowances of £100, £50, £25, 77 and so on above the maximum? If the maximum salaries were not right, let them be put right. Then there was an item for "House Duty." What did that mean? How was it that gallant officers did not pay their own House Duty like other citizens? He did not wish to be offensive to the Secretary to the Admiralty. He made these inquiries and criticisms solely in the interests of economy, and trusted that the right hon. Baronet would favour him with an explanation. He quite understood that the difficulty did not lie with the right hon. Baronet, or with the First Lord of the Admiralty, but with the Department which was constantly asking for more money, and which, having got as much as it could, spent the excess on anything that happened to turn up. He hoped the Government would be able to give the Committee some information on these subjects, bearing in mind that he (Mr. Morton) was not opposing him, but assisting him in carrying out economies in regard to expenditure, which would be closely inquired into by the democracy of the future.
ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
said, that no naval man could rise to take part in the discussion of the Navy Estimates without expressing sympathy in regard to that terrible calamity which had just befallen our Navy and the country. He could not allow that opportunity to pass without making a few observations in regard to it. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister and the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty had feelingly expressed the deep loss which the country had sustained through the untimely death of Sir George Tryon in the discharge of his duty; but no one could realise the extent of that loss so well as the naval men who knew him personally. He spoke on behalf of the Navy when he expressed the great grief which they felt at the loss of that distinguished Commander, who was esteemed and admired by every rank in the Service, who was one of the brightest ornaments of his profession, and whom it would be very difficult to replace. The Service also deplored the loss of so many gallant officers and men who had died in their country's service. Passing away from that painful topic, he desired to offer a few observations in regard to the Vote 78 before the Committee. Although a large sum was returned to the men in the Navy under the head of savings on provisions, still some £25,000 per annum, which properly belonged to the men under that head, had been for the past 40 or 50 years paid into the Treasury. It properly belonged to the men. Why was it not set apart for them? If it had been set apart for them from the first, there would by this time have been a fund accumulated amounting to £1,000,000 sterling which could have been applied to the benefit of the widows and orphans of seamen, and would have rendered it unnecessary to make so many appeals for outside help. With regard to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Devonport, the hon. Member would excuse him for saying that some of his remarks naval men would not at all thank him for. The hon. Member had raised a grievance of the mechanics of the Fleet who wished to be dressed in a different manner to the seamen. Were they too proud to wear the dress of the seamen? What did they want? Did they desire to have gold buttons on their coats and to wear Wellington boots and cocked hats? These men had to go aloft, and a costume such as that would hardly be the most convenient for the purpose. The complaint was all nonsense. What better costume could they want than the blue tunic? Had the hon. Member himself never worn it on board a yacht, and, if so, had he not found it a delightful piece of clothing? Then the hon. Member said the engine-room artificers wished to have better accommodation. Did they all want cabins? The complaint was ridiculous, and the hon. Member who made it did not at all gauge the feeling of the Naval Service in the matter. In the existing condition of things in the Navy, the difficulty of finding the necessary accommodation was enormous, and it was hardly desirable to complicate it by attending to the hon. Member's fancied grievance. Furthermore, as to the complaint about washing in the sight of other men, how could that be considered a grievance? The midshipmen did it, and he himself had for years washed in sight of the men of the lower deck. No sailor was ashamed of it. As a matter of fact, there was nothing in the complaint, and be hoped no attention 79 would be paid to it. To come to another subject, how was it that the pledge that had been given to him personally by the late Secretary to the Admiralty, that the position of the second-class stokers should be improved, had not been redeemed, and how was it that their complement had been reduced? These men were required in every ship, and they had rendered faithful service in their class. Their great grievance was that they did not receive the extra 2d. a day that they ought to be entitled to on reengagement. This was a monstrous shame, and a crying injustice. The 2d. a day was as much a right of the stoker as it was of the ordinary seaman. They were an under-paid class, and had not been treated fairly, and he trusted that the First Lord of the Admiralty would take the case of this class into consideration. The late Secretary to the Admiralty had touched upon the burning question of the abolition of our great troopships. The right hon. Member wished to abolish a class of vessel which had done most valuable service both to the Army and the Navy, and to abolish them in the interest of the Mercantile Marine. Those vessels in their voyages to and from India through the Suez Canal formed the best possible school for marine stokers, and he objected to their abolition. The question was too large a one to go into exhaustively at the present moment, but he could assure the late Secretary to the Admiralty that he did not represent his (Admiral Field's) feeling in the matter. No doubt the P. and O. and the other large Steamship Companies would like to carry the troops to and from India, but it was necessary to consider the efficiency of the Service; and seeing that the present system had worked so well for the country, it should not be disturbed. However, he would not labour the question, as it was not at this moment properly before the Committee. If ever the right hon. Gentleman brought his proposal forward in a proper shape naval men would do their best to crush out his idea of abolishing the Indian troopships in the interest of the Mercantile Marine. Our seamen existed for the good of the Public Service and not for the good of the Mercantile Marine. Let them keep in touch with the Mercantile Marine by all means. He had only risen to offer an humble 80 protest against remarks made on one or two points in the course of the discussion; in fact, he did not think he should have troubled the Committee at all if it had not been for the mischievous speech of the late Secretary to the Admiralty.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said, he wished to accentuate the point made by the gallant Admiral who had just sat down with reference to the persistent and unblushing robbery of the seamen by Her Majesty's Government. He found that a witness before the Committee on the Estimates in 1888 stated that the annual amount of which sailors was robbed was £60,000. This was a transaction which would bring a blush to the face of the honest footpad, and would disgrace the ancient and honourable profession of brigandage, because even the vilest brigand would not rob the common sailor. The witness to whom he referred said, in the course of his evidence before the Committee of 1888, that he did not know that it would be quite wise to show in the Estimates how appropriations in aid were dealt with as compared with the sum taken in the Estimates, because, he said—We make a large sum of money out of seamen's tobacco, and I think it would be a bad thing for them to know that.Such meanness was almost incredible; and if the statement did not appear in a Blue Book, he should be loth to believe it. The system was a fraud and a cheat. The Government said to the seamen, "In case you do not want your provisions or your clothing, or all of them, we will pay you its value;" but instead of paying them the value, they paid them £60,000 less than the value. He quite admitted that there might be reasons for diminishing the amount to a slight extent, although he could not imagine that it was necessary to diminish it to this enormous extent, which amounted to about 25 per cent. of the whole savings. If the Government thought it necessary to carry on the system at all, at any rate let them give Jack back his £60,000 in some other shape. The present state of things was a crying wickedness and injustice, and a discredit to the Government.
§ MR. BAKER (Portsmouth)
remarked that the sailors of the Navy were by no means satisfied with the arrangements now in force with regard to their food. Between 4 o'clock in the afternoon and 81 6 o'clock the next morning a sailor got no provisions of any sort. He put it to the House whether it was reasonable that seamen should be kept all these hours without any nourishment? It was also, he believed, the case that the Admiralty were continuing a system which had existed for half a century without making those changes and improvements which were accepted as reasonable in all phases of life. He hoped the Admiralty would keep abreast of public opinion upon this question, and not allow themselves to be led astray by the Executive officers.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
requested the right hon. Gentleman (Sir U. Kay-Shuttleworth) to make clear his statement with regard to the reduction of the item for provisions. According to the statement of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Forwood), there should be, in view of the increased number of seamen, an increase in the item of £52,000. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty had stated that there had been a decrease in price of £21,000, and he had also mentioned a sum of £7,000, without, however, making it clear what it related to. There was apparently a sum of £32,000 to be accounted for. The right hon. Gentleman also said that the stock of provisions, when the present Government took Office, was found to be sufficient, and accordingly the present Board of Admiralty spent £15,000 to increase the stock. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will state from what source he obtained that sum of £15,000.
§ MR. BURNS (Battersea)
said, it was stated on page 36 of the Estimates, under the heading "Hired Artificers and Labourers," that in 1892–3 there were 371 artisans and labourers employed, whilst in the following year 373 were to be employed, or an increase of two men. This implied that the amount of work to be done by hired artisans and labourers was fairly regular and permanent. The total amount of money paid to these hired men, he supposed through contractors, was, roughly, £16,000. He would suggest to the Government that in future the Admiralty should do what every private firm and every Public Body in London and elsewhere had done for some time, and eliminate the middleman in relation to contract labour altogether. 82 He believed it would be profitable to the taxpayers to do so; that it would remove many obstacles to discipline, and would put an end to many an objectionable practice which now permeated the official staff. He was certain that if there had been no contract system in existence it would have been impossible for the state of things to have arisen which was recently disclosed at Deptford in connection with the suicide of a man employed by a Government contractor. Many of the temporary labourers who were supplied by contractors had been working in Government establishments for 18, 20, 25, or 30 years. These men frequently had the most dirty and unpleasant, and always the most precarious, conditions of employment. When holidays and other privileges were given to the permanent staff the temporary men were always excluded from them. He would suggest, in the interests of the men as well as in the interests of the taxpayer, that the Admiralty should get rid of the system of employing day labourers at contract prices. The contractors looked upon contract day labour as an orange to be squeezed, of which they themselves got the juice, and, unless the Admiralty seriously considered his suggestion, he would oppose every Vote under which the subject could be raised.
§ THE CIVIL LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. E. ROBERTSON, Dundee)
said, that on this specific question of contract labour at Deptford, he desired to say a few words. He had thought that the question would be raised in connection with Vote 10, but he did not complain of his hon. Friend's observations, especially after the example set him on the Front Opposition Bench. The matter had been brought to his notice by the Petition about which so much had been said. It appeared to him that certain changes were necessary, but he found that what the petitioners really wanted could not be effected without making them the servants of the Government. The petitioners themselves had not made that request, but it had certainly appeared to him that the relief they sought could not be conferred except by putting them on the footing of actual Government employés. The result was that communications had been opened by the Admiralty with the War 83 Office and the Office of Works, where the same system existed, and representatives from the various Departments were now considering what changes could be effected, and he hoped those changes when made would be satisfactory to his hon. Friend. The question of the wages of the men engaged in the Victualling Yard, which was another question the hon. Member had referred to, was also under consideration. This was a very much larger question, and included within its scope workmen employed in other yards. He had answered inquiries upon this subject on many occasions, and he could not now make any positive statement, further than that when the Committee which was now sitting, almost from day to day, working out the question submitted to them by the Admiralty—that was to say, the labour question in all the dockyards—had presented their Report, the Admiralty would further consider the matter. He hoped the Report would soon be ready; and when it had been approved by the Admiralty, he would state in the House the conclusion arrived at. He trusted that the matter would soon be settled to the satisfaction of all concerned.
§ MR. J. H. WILSON (Middlesbrough)
said, he wished to offer a protest against the way in which the men were fed in the Royal Navy. He had served five years in the Naval Reserve, and had come in contact with a large number of seamen of the Royal Navy, and he could assure the Committee there was great dissatisfaction existing amongst the men on board men-of-war as to the large proportion of their wages which they had to spend in providing themselves with food. They were provisioned now under the system adopted 30 or 40 years ago. If there had been any alterations, they had been very slight indeed. Well, he maintained that it was not right for the men to be obliged to spend a part of their wages on food. It was the duty of the Government to provide for them sufficiently. He trusted, therefore, that the matter would be taken into consideration by the Government, and that they would see whether they could not effect some alteration in the provision scale. There was not sufficient variety. The men were allowed pork, beef, biscuits, but the variety was extremely limited. There 84 were many things which could be used—tinned meats, for instance. The men were very much dissatisfied, and they had not the same means of ventilating their grievances as other men had. He did not know whether he would be in Order in referring to the men of the Royal Naval Reserve.
§ MR. J. H. WILSON
Then I will simply content myself with this protest against the way in which the sailors are fed on board Her Majesty's ships.
SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
If the men have spent money on victuals it has been mainly out of the "savings" which they have taken up by not using the rations served out in the ordinary course. They desire a greater variety, and that is one of the reasons which make the system of "savings," to which the hon. Member for Lynn referred, so popular. It has been alleged that the Admiralty make an enormous profit out of the seamen under this system of "savings." This is a very old system, and one which, as I have said, is very popular with the men of the Royal Navy. It is a very peculiar system, and it would be very difficult for an outsider, without special study, to understand it. Still, it is popular in the Service, and that is a great point in its favour. The facts stated to have been given in evidence before the Committee of the House of Commons relate, as the hon. Member for Lynn said, to the year 1882, since which time the prices of provisions have altered very much. Consequently, there is a very great diminution in the amount of money which accrues to the Government, owing to the fact that the men prefer to take up the savings. That reduction in prices, and consequent diminution in profit to the Government, is going on from year to year. With regard to one very important class of savings—namely, the savings on rum the seamen get more than the value of the rum which they do not consume. The savings price of rum is 3s. per gallon. The contract price is under 1s. 2d., and on savings in rum the seamen get the whole of the difference between the 1s. 2d. and 3s.
SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
The seamen get the benefit of that in money, which they can speed on nourishing food, if so minded. I am happy to be able to state that the quantity of rum consumed in the Royal Navy is diminishing year by year, and that temperance is increasing; in a most remarkable manner. As to Sub-head "G" and the criticisms of the late Civil Lord of the Admiralty, and of my right hon. Friend, the broad facts are these: The present Board of Admiralty are spending money, under this Vote, in Sub-head "G," for a great augmentation in the amount of provisions, not only for the increase in men by 2,600, but also for the increase of stock to the extent of £22,000. Before the end of the last financial year we had increased the stock to the extent of £15,000, and now we are adding £7,000 more, so that we are providing more fully for the victualling of the Navy than has ever been done before. By the end of the year we hope to approach, if not actually to attain, the authorised average limit of stocks, which we found so considerably depleted. No provision has yet been made for the increase of wages in the dockyards. But my right hon. Friend is mistaken in thinking that, in his time, all labourers were raised to 17s. He left those in the Ordnance Wharves at 16s. The Government believe that wages of 16s. or 17s. a week are too low, but the whole question of the wages of labour is now under consideration. A Committee is sitting almost de die in diem under certain instructions from the Board. On receiving their Report, the Board will decide what changes shall be made. I can only assure the Committee that we intend to be "in the first flight of employers," as was said by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, and that we shall deal with our ordinary labourers in no stingy or niggardly spirit. I do not know whether I ought to follow the right hon. Gentleman opposite into the whole question of the Indian troopers, as I think that is travelling a little beyond the question before the Committee—though the right hon. Gentleman managed very ingeniously to raise it here on the plea that the men are victualled under the Vote. But I must say that the right hon. Gentleman, when 86 he based his remarks upon the theory that we had brought about a change of policy, based them upon an insufficient foundation. I do not admit that any answer of the Civil Lord has indicated a change of policy. The Naval Advisers of the Government are the same as during the late Board of Admiralty, and their general views are not likely to have undergone any great change. The Indian troopers, however, are wearing out, and the question of policy is becoming urgent; but the future policy as to the Indian troopships is now under the consideration of a Departmental Committee consisting of two Lords of the Admiralty and two representatives of the India Office. I will, therefore, not go further into the matter now. The hon. Member for Devonport will excuse me if I do not go fully into the question of the uniform of coastguardsmen, the messing arrangements of the engine-room artificers, and the Royal Marines. I should like to get before me more specifically than it would be possible in Committee of the House the precise points on which the hon. Member thinks that the men are aggrieved. I will only assure him that the points are new to me, and that I cannot give him an answer at this moment without their having been previously carefully considered at the Admiralty. The rations of bread and meat are provided daily, and for them each Marine pays 4½d. a day, although they cost the Admiralty considerably more. I cannot agree with the hon. Member that the Marines are the worst-treated service in the world, seeing that they are a most popular branch of the Service. Their numbers have been increased this year by 500 men in addition to the increase last year, and no special difficulty is experienced in enlisting men. Coming to the hon. and gallant Member for Eastbourne, I do not think that there is anything to answer except with respect to the alleged promises to the stokers, and as that question is not on this Vote I will reserve it. In answer to the hon. Member for Peterborough, I would state that tithes are paid for the Royal Clarence Yard at Gosport and the Alexandra Yard at Haulbowline. We pay tithe like other occupiers of land.
SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
We pay like other people, and I do not know that there is any direct return. As to chapel allowances, I am afraid I cannot give the hon. Member any answer, but I will do so if he will put a question on the Paper. As to beer money, Marines on shore are not allowed any alcoholic liquor as part of their rations, but each private receives 1d. a day. In regard to allowances, they are made especially for colonial service. You cannot expect that men will go out from this country and serve abroad without additional allowances, and it is a well-recognised practice to give such allowances. With reference to the payment of House Duty in respect of official residences, that is a remnant of the old system that has now been done away with. The House Duty is now paid by those who occupy the houses, except in a few old cases. In conclusion, I must a little complain of the hon. Member for having lumped the Admiralty with the other Departments, of which he has complained that they are always asking for more money. That is a poor encouragement to a Department to practise economy, whose Estimate is £100 less than the Estimate of the late Board of Admiralty.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
said, he would now give the noble Lord opposite (Lord G. Hamilton) the details for which he asked. He did not complain of the way in which the money was spent on luncheons and so on, but that, having been voted for one purpose, it was expended for other purposes. He found on the 28th March, 1891, in connection with the launch of the Renown, afterwards called the Victoria, by the Duchess of Connaught, £440 was asked from the House for providing accommodation and refreshments. There was a note in the Estimates after this item, "which will be met by savings in other directions." That was what he objected to. There was another item of £2,800 and another of £1,900 in connection with the launching of first-class cruisers.
§ LORD G. HAMILTON
The statement the hon. Member made was to the effect that luncheons given by me were paid for out of public money. He has not said one word to justify that statement. It is true, I gave a private luncheon at a launch and invited Mem- 88 bers of both Houses of Parliament, including the hon. Gentleman himself; but I paid for that luncheon myself. When the Queen or a Member of the Royal Family launches a vessel it is necessary to make preparations on a larger scale than in ordinary cases, because a large number of people are present.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
said, he might not object to the payments, but he said distinctly that the consent of the House should have been obtained for all these expenditures, whether for refreshments or otherwise.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 2. £133,000, Medical Establishments and Services.
§ MR. FORWOOD
said, he thought it would be information to most Members of the Committee to be told that they had at Great Yarmouth a lunatic asylum. At the beginning of this century, at the time of the French War, a hospital was built in the town of Great Yarmouth alongside the river that flowed through that town. It covered a considerable area of ground, was well built, and in every respect was a good building; but he believed it was never used for the purposes for which it was intended, and of late years it had been adapted and used as an asylum for naval lunatics. Some years ago it was first so used, and at that time there was not that accommodation for men suffering from mental disease as there was now throughout the country, and the result had been that the patients in this asylum had gradually diminished, until now he did not believe that any patients were sent from the naval side, so that the cost of maintaining naval lunatics under Vote 3, became very excessive, being something like £130 or £140 per head per annum. As no sufficient use was being made of the establishment for naval purposes, the question arose whether it could be turned to other purposes, or whether its use as a lunatic asylum could be increased? The consequence was, as they would see in the Vote now under discussion, the Admiralty had turned what he might call lunatic asylum keepers, for they had consented to receive patients from the India Office. [Cries of "Order!"] He did not think there was any doubt about his being in Order, as this Vote covered 89 up in a marvellous way the cost of this establishment. He had tried to discover something about the cost of this establishment, the number of patients, and the circumstances connected with it. The Committee was asked to vote £133,000 for the Medical Services of the Navy, and one would imagine that represented the medical men on board ship, and the patients received at the Naval Hospitals—Haslar, Stonehouse, and elsewhere; but, as a matter of fact, there was spent a considerable sum of money, amounting to £8,000 or £10,000 a year, in connection with this lunatic asylum at Great Yarmouth. It was not a bad arrangement that the expense of this hospital should be reduced by receiving patients from the India Office; but he hoped it would only be a temporary arrangement; that it would only last so long as they had any naval patients at this hospital, because the patients could be better cared for elsewhere, better arrangements could be made for them, and he had an idea that at the proper time this establishment at Great Yarmouth might be utilised to much better purpose in the naval interest than it was now. It was in a splendid position for an educational establishment, whether for youths such as were educated on the Britannia or otherwise; it was between the sea and the river, was in a very healthy position, and much better use might be made of it than it was put to at present, namely, the care of a few naval patients and some patients received from the India Office in whom the Board of Admiralty had no interest or concern. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman if he could give the Committee any information as to the annual cost in connection with this Great Yarmouth Hospital, how many patients it contained from the Navy, and how many were received from the India Office?
§ MR. MOORSOM (Great Yarmouth)
said, he was not in the House when the right hon. Gentleman began his observations; but he gathered that he desired to abolish the Royal Naval Hospital at Yarmouth, and he (Mr. Moorsom) was there to say a word in its favour.
§ MR. FORWOOD
said, he would abolish it as a lunatic asylum, as it could be turned to better account for naval purposes.
§ MR. MOORSOM
said, the right hon. Gentleman had not stated what those purposes were, and he did not know what better purpose it could be turned to than taking care of officers and men who were, from mental and physical causes, incapable of performing services for their country any longer. But he desired to say a word on behalf of the attendants who waited on those unfortunate persons. There were 32 of these attendants, and they had, as he thought, a genuine grievance in respect of pay and pensions. No person was employed who was not carefully trained for the purpose, and who possessed rare patience. The pay of these men was not high, being 2s. 2d. a day, which, with the uniform and provisions, was calculated to be about 22s. 6d. a week. The six senior attendants got 2s. 6d. a day, but none of the juniors got that unless there was a vacancy. The men asked—and surely it was a modest request—that after a few years' service, say five years, they should get 2s. 6d. a day, instead of having to wait many years for a vacancy for this small increase, and they did not ask for it unless they were qualified to the satisfaction of the Superintendent. In regard to pensions, it was formerly the custom to establish these men. Out of 32 employed 13 were established, and there were now eight vacancies. Yet, curiously enough, in the Estimates for 1893–4 a Vote was asked for 21 established men, whereas there were only 13. These eight vacancies had existed for some time, and the Admiralty would not allow them to be filled up; but perhaps his right hon. Friend could give them some explanation of that. What these men asked was that they should all be established after one year's service, provided they were duly qualified. Let them compare the position of these men with that of the messengers of the Admiralty. The pay of the messengers was considerably higher, and they had easier hours and lighter work than the attendants at this establishment. The attendants began work at half-past 6 in the morning, and did not leave off until 8 at night, and they only went home upon alternate nights. One who knew these men well told him—"The attendants here are a fine body of men, who do their duty well, and are worthy of every consideration. Were I sick or insane I should like to be cared for by 91 men such as these, with their endless patience and kindly forbearance." They could and did minister to minds diseased. He did not suppose in that House they had a single friend but himself—certainly not in the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Forwood). The Commissioners in Lunacy in their Reports—not specially with regard to these men, but in reference to attendants upon the insane generally—recommended that pensions should be given to such attendants. It was well known that after attendance for some time upon the insane these men were rendered incapable of taking other employment, and the Superintendent at Yarmouth had more than once pressed the claims of these men upon the Admiralty, but without result. He begged that the right hon. Gentleman and the Civil Lord of the Admiralty would pay attention to these matters, and that one or other of them would visit the establishment, and see for himself the care, love and devotion with which these men did their duty.
§ MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
thought it seemed undesirable that the Institution should be kept up as it was at present. He knew something of the Institution, and knew that the patients there were well treated and cared for, but the numbers maintained in it were so small; there were 32 attendants, and he doubted whether the patients exceeded that number. The contribution from the India Office towards its maintenance was £5,560, and, as the number of patients was so limited, it was quite clear that the bulk of naval lunatics were sent to some other Institution. He should imagine that Great Yarmouth would be a very inconvenient place to send naval lunatics to, as it was away from the ports used by the Navy; and he doubted whether it was wise to take these people from surroundings they were accustomed to. He thought, in the interests of the taxpayer and good economy, the suggestion of his right hon. Friend (Mr. For-wood) should be considered, as he believed good would result from abolishing the Institution as a lunatic asylum. In Lancashire they had large Institutions that were carried on very successfully from the fact that they were large, and because arrangements could be made by which the attendants could be properly proportioned and the patients carefully 92 looked after. He hoped the subject would receive careful attention, because there was no advantage in having a small number of naval lunatics in an establishment, when they could be equally well looked after and be quite as happy in other large Institutions.
looked upon the proposed abolition of this Institution with great regret, and he was sorry it emanated from the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary to the Admiralty. He had looked upon the right hon. Gentleman as an advocate for naval rights, and now they found he wanted to abolish a Naval Institution. He remembered that when it was proposed to send naval lunatics to the Naval Hospital at Great Yarmouth naval men were grateful to the Admiralty of that day, and no reason was given for abolishing it except the dirty reason of economy. The great difficulties in regard to most county Institutions was the difficulty of providing sufficient accommodation for lunatics, and here they had accommodation for naval lunatics who did not wish to be mixed up with lunatics from other counties, with mechanics, labourers, and ploughmen; sailors were a class apart from any other class, and they wished to remain so, even when they became lunatic. If he lost his head in that House—and some of them were likely to do so before the Home Rule Bill was through—he should be glad to be sent to Great Yarmouth. The question of economy ought not to be considered, and if there were not sufficient patients now that they took them from the Indian Office then they might get some from the Army, and charge them to the War Office. It was an admirable Institution, and they ought to keep it, especially in these days of floating batteries called ironclads in which men turned grey in a single night, and it ought to be maintained. It was erected for good reasons, and it should never be abolished except for good reasons overweighing those for which it was established. He protested against these proposals to abolish everything that was naval because they might thereby save a few dirty pounds here and there.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
thought it would be a good thing to take the sailors away from Great Yarmouth asylum and send the Naval Lords there, and, for his part, 93 he would sooner see them there than the sailors. He might make the same remark on this Vote as upon the others respecting the use of money put down for one purpose for an entirely different purpose; but he would raise the whole question on the salary of the First Lord, and take a Division upon it. The only item he wished to refer to was on page 50, Sub-head G.—" Funerals by contract or agreement, including coffins and compensation for loss of burial fees." He wanted some information as to "loss of burial fees." This had been a burning question in this country for some years. They found the clergymen took the fees and did not do the work, and he wished to know whether any clergymen, or other persons, were getting fees on account of sailors lost at sea? He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would tell them how much was paid for burial fees, and whether the clergymen really did any work for it?
SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
I will reply first to my right hon. Friend opposite. The total number of patients in the establishment at Great Yarmouth is about 140 naval and 60 Indian, and the cost of the establishment is about £12,000, to which India contributes £5,560. I will not go into the subject fully, because I have not had myself any facility for studying the question upon the spot. Before the present Board of Admiralty form any conclusions on a, subject of this sort, they would like to visit this Institution. I must remind my right hon. Friend that the Board of Admiralty of which he was a Member decided in favour of maintaining this Institution, and before we could say they were wrong we should need an opportunity of considering the question. Unfortunately, seamen are particularly exposed to mental diseases, especially in the form of general paralysis, which comes upon them because of their rough life at sea and the anxieties and hardships to which they are subjected; and, under these circumstances, it is very natural there should be an Institution such as this. I cannot, therefore, undertake, either to my right hon. Friend opposite or to the hon. Member for Preston, that we will necessarily share the views they have expressed, nor do I make any statement or promise on behalf of the Government; but we will do our best to form a just conclusion on 94 the facts of the case. With respect to the matter which my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Moorsom) has brought forward, I may say that the present Board have not had the question of wages at Yarmouth Hospital specially brought before them. The late Board received a Petition in the year 1891 from the medical attendants in Yarmouth Hospital. It was considered, but no increase of pay was given. Among the mass of Petitions which the present Board received in November last there was none from Yarmouth. Any representation from Yarmouth Hospital will receive the same careful attention that has been and is being given to representations from other Naval Hospitals, and we shall endeavour to do justice in each particular case. I will look into the matter which has been raised by my hon. Friend.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
said, the Secretary to the Admiralty had given no information with regard to compensation for burial fees.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
said, the explanation of this rather mysterious item was this: Seamen dying in naval ports were buried by the naval chaplains, who, of course, charged nothing for this duty. [Mr. A. C. MORTON: They get their salaries, of course?] They, of course, got their salaries. By this course the clergyman, of the parish, who would otherwise be entitled to his burial fee, was thereby deprived of it; and, under an established and antique rule, it was provided that a clergyman whose duty was taken by a naval chaplain was entitled to compensation for the burial fee he himself would have received if he had performed the Burial Service. He could promise his hon. Friend that the matter was one which should be carefully examined into.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
would not like to cause any hardship to present incumbents, but he considered that when the present incumbents died or ceased to hold the livings there ought to be an alteration of the system, which seemed to him a most unchristianlike system of men taking money who did not do the work.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
noticed from this Vote that for 76,000 men the Medical Service cost £133,000, which was about £2 per man for physicking and doctoring. If £2 per man was spent on 95 this purpose he wondered how the men could survive; and it seemed to him their health would be improved, and the Service improved also, if the amount could be reduced to something like £1 per head, which was far more than he spent himself, and he thought that strong active young men in the Navy could very well do with 15s. per head.
SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH (interposing)
said, the hon. Gentleman was making an entirely wrong calculation. This Vote was for the services of medical officers who were employed in the hospital, the medical attendance to seamen being provided for in another Vote. The particular Vote to which the hon. Member alluded was for making provision for Hospitals like Haslar, Stone-house and others, where some of the highest and most skilled men in the Naval Medical Service were employed to look after the serious cases which had to be sent to hospital.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
remarked that, that being so, it made the matter rather worse than he thought. Not only was there this £133,000, but there was another Vote for medical matters. If the amount spent in physic could be decreased and the difference added to the money expended on pay and allowances it would be an improvement. He desired specially to utter a word of warning against the inordinate pretensions which were set up by the medical men in the Navy in general. They seemed to suppose they were a kind of high priest. He had two sons on the Britannia, and he was proud that they should be there. First of all, before they could be taken on that ship, they were examined as to their health by the Board in London. Each boy was examined to see that he was perfectly sound, and was found to be so; but what was the result? In the course of ascertaining if his boy was perfectly sound he was brought into contact with another boy who gave him the measles, and his boy went back to school and gave it to 40 other boys. This was the result of submitting his son to an ordeal which was supposed to insure that nothing was the matter with him. There was another little incident to which he wished to refer. When they sent a boy into the Navy they had to give a long account of his birth, parentage, and history, and then they were 96 called upon to sign it, and very properly and naturally to have their signature attested. But this attestation was not by a Magistrate or person of some importance or consideration, but by a medical man. What virtue was there in a medical man attesting a signature? It was because the chief medical officers of the Admiralty desired to add to the importance of the medical profession generally by hoisting them up to the position of Magistrates. He hoped the Board of Admiralty would reduce the amount spent in physic and would also do something to abate the inordinate pretensions of the medical officers of the Admiralty.
§ MR. J. H. WILSON (Middlesbrough)
disagreed with the hon. Member as to the advisability of there being a reduction of the medical staff of the Navy. The hon. Member seemed to think the medical men were on board ship simply to administer physic. That was not so. In time of an action they should require the doctors to attend to the wounded men, and they were, therefore, obliged to have them there always, so that they might be prepared for any emergency.
§ MR. KEARLEY
desired to enter another word of protest against the scale of pay that the Admiralty deemed it fitting to pay to its employés. He referred particularly to the attendants in the medical hospital at Stonehouse. These men only received 2s. 6d. per day; they had to work seven days a week, and go on night duty at least once a week. They had no extra pay for Sunday work, and their duties were of a very responsible nature. They had charge of stores, of the receiving and despatching of medicines, and he understood that, under the superintendence of the foreman of the stores, they were called upon to take part in the preparing of the medicines. If a catastrophe were to happen on board one of the ships by which a number of men were to be poisoned, it would be a sad state of things for the Admiralty to have to admit the incident was caused by the mistake of a man who was paid the beggarly sum of 2s. 6d. per day. They were called upon to do very unpleasant duties, such as carrying out dead bodies, and it was high time this sweating was put an end to. These men had protested and petitioned for years past; and when the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. 97 Forwood) was Secretary to the Admiralty, he paid a visit to Devonport with a view to inquiring into the grievances of the men. He at that time made an appointment with the men at Stonehouse and received their Petition; but he was unable, probably through want of time, to keep the appointment, and consequently their claims were overlooked. He would remind the right hon. Gentleman that in his speech in Liverpool he took credit to the late Government for seeing that no labourer would be asked to work in future for the mean wage of 2s. 6d. per day, but these men at Stonehouse still continued to be paid this miserable pittance. It might be urged that the men had pensions; but he thought the day was rapidly passing away when a Government would be able to maintain that because men, after years of service for the State, had obtained a pension that therefore they should be required to accept an under-paid rate of wages. He hoped the Secretary to the Admiralty would give them some assurance that this question should receive the earnest consideration of the Admiralty.
§ MR. FORWOOD
said, the hon. Member was under an entire misapprehension in stating that the men who received the rate of wages to which he had referred had in any way any responsibility in regard to the preparation or distribution of the medicines of the Navy. He had himself inquired into the grievances of the men on behalf of whom the hon. Member spoke, and he found that their work consisted principally in carrying boxes of coal up to the wards. Having regard to the general rate of wages and the interest of the taxpayer, he thought these men were fairly well paid for the position they held and the work they had to do. There was one point on which he should like to have some information. Representations were made to the late Board of Admiralty by workmen of all the yards, who pointed out that, although they had excellent medical officers at each of the yards to attend to any accidents, yet accidents frequently occurred to the eye by the use of steel chippings, and they desired to have 98 specialists appointed to attend to such cases. The late Board granted a sum of 250 guineas to be paid to the institutions of the different yards so as to retain the services of specialists as oculists at the yards, and they also made a grant of a sum of money to be paid to a certain London hospital so that extreme cases to injury to the eye might be brought of London. He did not find any provision for this matter in the Estimates.
SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
could assure his hon. Friend the Member for Devonport that the matter to which he called attention was receiving the earnest attention of the Admiralty. He himself spent some time at the Stonehouse Hospital, and he confessed his opinion somewhat differed from that of his right hon. Friend opposite. Some of these men, probably including those who had extremely disagreeable duties to perform in removing the bodies of those who had unfortunately died in the hospital, were not paid very liberally. In answer to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, he would find the contributions to which he had referred provided for under Sub-head "A." They were not omitted from the Estimates.
§ Vote agreed to.
3. Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £10,900, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expense of Martial Law, including the cost of Naval Prisons at Home and Abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1894.
§ SIR J. GORST (Cambridge University)
said, he desired to call attention to the proceedings in connection with the stranding of the Howe. The story of the stranding of the Howe was a very simple one. The Channel Squadron, of which the Howe was part, entered Ferrol Harbour on the morning of the 2nd of December. The Royal Sovereign led the way, and the Howe was the second ship in the line. Before coming to anchorage the ships had to make a considerable bend to the north-west in order to escape a shoal upon which the Sultan grounded some years ago. In making this detour the Howe went some distance 99 further to the north than the Royal Sovereign, but she had turned when she suddenly struck upon an unknown rock where the chart marked seven fathoms of water. This, of course, led to a Court Martial according to the Rules of the Service, to try Captain Hastings, the Commander of the Howe, and his navigating officer, Commander Dixon, for the loss of the ship. The Court Martial sat on the 29th of December and the following day, and after hearing the evidence which was adduced before it, and which was of a very satisfactory and exhaustive character, the Court came to the conclusion that the ship stranded on a rocky shoal at the entrance to Ferrol Harbour, which shoal was unknown at the time, the Admiralty chart showing seven fathoms of water where the ship struck, and they acquitted the officers of the ship of all blame and returned their swords. There was an end of the Court Martial so far as Captain Hastings and Commander Dixon were concerned, and in accordance with the ordinary principles of justice, a person who has been tried and acquitted could not be put upon his trial again. But for some reason or other the Admiralty were dissatisfied with the finding of the Court, and had attempted in a Memorandum laid before the House to give some reason why. They said that no bearings were taken, and that no use was made of the twin screw to get the ship back into the channel. The Court had found that the accident had happened because, at a point where the ship struck, there were seven fathoms of water marked upon the chart, and that was a perfectly sensible, clear, and satisfactory explanation. He did not see how anybody was to blame, because the Admiralty had furnished the ships with the best charts they possibly could. It was not possible for the Admiralty themselves to survey foreign harbours. Ferrol Harbour was well-known. It was true the original chart was an old one of about 1783, but it had been revised as recently as 1873, when the Sultan met with the accident, and some alterations had been made as late as 1886. The Admiralty, therefore, having furnished their Captains with the best charts they were able to procure, he did not think any blame attached either 100 to the Admiralty, or the Admiral, or Captain Hastings, or anybody else. It seemed to him that after the Court had fully acquitted Captain Hastings it was a pity the Admiralty did not let the matter alone. But they put the Admiral commanding the Fleet on his trial, which was a most unusual thing to do. In following such an unusual course they ought to have taken great care to act in a strictly regular manner and according to precedents of the Naval Service. As Admiral Clanwilliam had sat on the first Court Martial, it was reasonable to pass him over. The second Court Martial ought, therefore, to have been presided over by the Duke of Edinburgh; but he was abroad on duty at the time. The next officer in order was Vice Admiral Sir A. Heneage; but, instead of appointing him, the Admiralty selected Admiral Sir N. Salmon from the half-pay list. He had not a word to say against Sir N. Salmon, but it was not in accordance with precedent to select for such a post an officer from the half-pay list. This was a selection utterly repugnant to the usages of the Service. Then he could not make out what it was the Admiralty put Admiral Fairfax on his trial for. The only hint of a charge was that he selected the time of a high flood tide for entering Ferrol Harbour. But he did not select it; it happened to be high tide when he arrived there. The reason given for the holding of the second Court Martial was that, as Captain Hastings had been acquitted, it had been thought necessary that a further Court Martial should be held on the Vice Admiral for the conduct of his Squadron, in order that all the circumstances might be fully brought out and justice done to all concerned. The second trial was, therefore, a "fishing" inquiry held in the hope that something might turn up to justify some kind of charge. The Court found the charge assumed to have been made not proved, and, therefore, aquitted Admiral Fairfax of all blame. Unfortunately, the Court took the unusual course of adding a rider to its verdict, and the rider was an expression of opinion that the reduction of the speed to four knots while the Squadron was in the channel was inexpedient. That had never been hinted at as any charge against Admiral Fairfax; and the reason for his doing it was that 101 when he turned to go round Pistol Point he was near his anchorage, and he slowed down to four knots in order that he might not run over it. After the second Court Martial were led to express that pious opinion as to the inexpediency of slowing down to four knots, they went on to state, however, that the stranding of the Howe was not due to that act. If that were so, why did the Court add the rider expressing either approbation or disapprobation of it? They attributed the accident to the inaccuracy of the chart and to the fact that the Howe diverged from the course taken by her leader. The latter statement was self-evident; for if the Howe had followed the course of the Royal Sovereign, which reached her moorings safely, she would not have grounded. The finding of the second Court, then, acquitting Admiral Fairfax, was quite consistent with that of the first. The sole cause of the accident was the fact that the rock on which the Howe foundered was not shown on the chart. The Admiralty ought, therefore, to have rested satisfied with the finding of the two Courts; and it was scarcely fair or decent that they should have done anything afterwards which implied blame. They might have addressed confidential Minutes to the officers of the Service warning them of the dangers disclosed by the inquiry into the grounding of the Howe, but to publish a Minute to the whole Service and to the whole world, arguing against the decisions of the Courts Martial after the officers tried had been acquitted, was to hold up the Courts to ridicule and contempt. The Admiralty stated in their Minute that the findings of the two Courts were conflicting—which, however, was not the case—and that the divergence of the Howe from the course of her leader was a contributory cause of the accident—a fact which, as he had shown, was obvious. The Admiralty were making a very monstrous assumption in saying that, because the divergence of the Howe was a contributory cause of the accident, therefore the finding of the first Court Martial was wrong. The Admiralty could not get over the going into Ferrol on a flood tide, but this should be judged by authority. They were not all qualified to deal with the question in a technical 102 sense. The gallant Admiral below the Gangway (Admiral Field) could not; but he (Sir J. Gorst) could not, and he did not think there was anyone on the Treasury Bench just at the moment who could deal with the question except on authority. Well, let them see what authority they had. Turning to the evidence—he was not going to do more than refer the Committee to the names—they had Admiral Hornby. This was at the second Court. Admiral Hornby was one of the most distinguished naval officers in the Service. He had taken a squadron into this harbour himself, and he now said that there was no special difficulty as to the navigation of the harbour, and that the state of the tide necessitated no pains of consequence, as the harbour was entered upon arrival at it. Admiral Hornby did not see where the risk lay in this instance, and he declared that there was no want of skill or seamanship in the reduction of the speed. Then they had the late Controller of the Navy, who said he brought three ships into the harbour. He had been there twice, and he would go in at any time of the tide without fearing danger. Indeed, if he was in command of the Channel Squadron, he gave it as his view that he would rather take the vessels into this harbour than into any harbour in Spain. He did not think any want of skill or seamanship had been displayed. As he had said, he was not going through the evidence at length. He would simply remind the Committee that then they had the statements of Admirals Hornby, Seymour, Vesey-Hamilton, and Fitzroy that it was perfectly safe to take a fleet into Ferrol upon a flood tide, and, further, that the speed of six knots was quite right, and that the slowing down to four knots was right also. But the Admiralty were so eager to condemn a man who had been acquitted that they dragged these matters forward again. The issuing of a Minute of this kind, after the two findings, was calculated to bring Courts Martial into contempt. If Courts Martial were of no use, by all means let them be abolished; but, while they existed, the Admiralty should treat their findings with respect and submission. The Admiralty, by issuing this Minute, had dealt a deadly blow at the findings of Courts Martial in general. He might 103 say that he had not the honour of the personal acquaintance of either of these officers, and that he had not been asked, either directly or indirectly, to bring this matter before the Committee. He had merely done so in the interests of the service. He was quite impartial in the matter; and, being impartial, he read with indignation the sentence in the Minute, which he considered to be the worst in the whole document, and which ran thus—Their Lordships are unable to reconcile the evidence given by Captain Hastings at the second Court Martial with the line of defence adopted by him at the first Court;This was, he felt, the most deplorable sentence in the Minute. Here was an officer honourably and fully acquitted by the Court Martial, and the Admiralty were not content to say that they disagreed with the finding and considered that officer culpable, but they put in a sentence which was an insinuation against his honour as a gentleman. He was utterly at a loss to conceive what the Admiralty meant by that sentence, though he had read all the evidence given at the two trials. He could not defend Captain Hastings from the imputation, because he did not understand it. The only thing he could conjecture that it meant was that Captain Hastings was not only further in the bay than the position taken up by his leader, but that he was also somewhat out of station just at the time the accident took place—he was rather nearer the Admiral's ship than he ought to have been, and he had before the Court to defend himself from both those irregularities. In defending himself he attributed his being out of station to the circumstance that the Royal Sovereign had reversed one of her screws for the purpose of assisting her to turn. That was what Captain Hastings stated at the first trial; but at the second trial other evidence might have been forthcoming to show that the reversal of the screw would not have the effect Captain Hastings supposed it would have, and he might have come to the conclusion that his first statement was erroneous. There was an attempt made at that second trial to ask him questions about that. The prosecutor asked—Did you not say at the first trial that this circumstance had brought you out of station?104 And he was proceeding to answer, when the prisoner intervened and protested against leading questions being put, in consequence of which the prosecutor withdrew the question, and declined to ask anything further on the point. He (Sir J. Gorst) had searched the evidence, and that was the only thing he could find to show what the Admiralty were driving at in this sentence to which he referred. He believed that wag the only reason for an insinuation which he hoped the right hon. Gentleman opposite would disavow. He thought the Committee would admit that the conduct of the Admiralty in issuing this Memorandum or Minute, in which they took on themselves to reverse the judgment of the Court Martial was a matter which ought to be explained, because if Courts Martial were to be treated in that high-handed manner by the Admiralty it would be better to reduce the Vote. He begged to move the reduction of the Vote by £1,000.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £9,900, be granted for the said Service."—(Sir J. Gorst.)
said, he rose with much hesitation to reply to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman. He was very sorry, speaking from a naval point of view, that the right hon. Gentleman had thought proper to disturb these dry bones. He had hoped that they would have been allowed to sleep. It was some time since the Court Martial was held, and the subject had almost faded from the public mind. His brother officers would have preferred, under the circumstances, that it had been left alone. Much might have been said in favour of discussion at the time when the Admiralty Minute on the subject was issued, but not now. But the right hon. Gentleman was a clever man, who loved these legal disquisitions. He (Admiral Field) hated them. With regard to the composition of the Court Martial which had been complained of, he considered that the Government had simply discharged their duty in the matter. They were perfectly right in appointing a senior Admiral to 105 try a Vice Admiral. He was not going to defend the Minute line by line and clause by clause, but in the interest of the Service and of discipline it was not desirable that a discussion of this kind should take place in the House. As it had been raised, however, he would do his best to answer some of the points which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman. He did not quite understand why the right hon. Gentleman challenged the right of the Admiralty to issue the Minute. If the right hon. Gentleman challenged the right of the Admiralty to review the sentence of the Court Martial the whole Service was against him. It was the undoubted right of the Admiralty to review sentences of Courts Martial. The Admiralty, it was to be remembered, was not a Court of Appeal; they could not alter a sentence passed by a Court Martial, but they could issue a Minute upon the finding of a Court Martial, and call the attention of the Fleet in their own way to that finding. It was owing to the old law, which did not give the Admiralty power to review a sentence, that Admiral Byng had been murdered. It was after that that the power was given. After that officer was shot there was a great agitation in favour of giving the Admiralty power to review sentences, and in the course of time that power was conferred on them under the 53rd section of the Naval Discipline Act. If the exercise of this power on the part of the Admiralty was questioned he could easily show how advantageous it was for the Service, especially where excessively severe sentences had been passed; but whilst he did not complain that the Minute was issued, he did complain that it was laid on the Table of the House. It ought to have been treated as a confidential document. The hon. Member for Preston had asked for precedents for the issue of this Minute on Courts Martial, and in reply the case of the Conqueror had been referred to. That precedent was dead against the laying of the Minute on the Table of the House. In the Conqueror case the Court Martial had acquitted the Captain in command of the ship and had reprimanded the navigating officer—a ridiculous sentence—in reply to which the Admiralty issued a Minute which showed that the Captain of a ship could not divest himself of 106 responsibility for the safety of that ship. Sir James Ephinstone came down to the House and moved for Papers, but Lord Clarence Paget was Secretary to the Admiralty at that time—an Admiral who knew his business—he (Admiral Field) only wished there was an Admiral on the Treasury Bench now—and the Minute was refused, Sir J. Ephinstone being defeated on a Division by a majority of 25. It was not to the interests of the Services or of discipline that shortcomings or mistakes on the part of individuals should be proclaimed to the whole world. Naval officers were accustomed to very rough communications from their superior officers, but they did not want those communications to be laid upon the Table of the House and made the subject of Debate. They were used to plain speaking; they were accustomed to strong signals being flown from the mast-head, but they would not like the fact of such signals to be given to the country at large. At least, the First Lord should have toned down the statements of the Minute before allowing them to be published excepting to the Fleet. He suspected, however, that the Minute was like some British spirits—manufactured for home consumption. There was a certain amount of irritation in the public mind, and they took steps which they thought would allay that irritation. He regretted that a reflection had been cast on the Court Martial that first sat, because that Court included three Admirals, and every Captain on it, save one, had commanded ironclads. That Court tried Captain Hastings and acquitted him—finding that verdict as a just deliverance according to their oaths. They took into account what the Minute did not take into account. The Minute treated the Port of Ferrol as though it were unknown; but, as a matter of fact, it was the Portsmouth of Spain—the port from which the great Armada sailed. The chart was naturally relied upon, especially in view of the fact that there had been a re-survey after the grounding of Her Majesty's ship Sultan. The Admiralty declared that the want of knowledge of the rock on which the Howe struck was inexcusable ignorance, but he (Admiral Field) maintained that it was excusable ignorance. And when the Admiralty complained that 107 the Howe was taken within 50 yards of a known danger it must be remembered that the channel was only 150 yards wide, which only gave a passage of 50 yards between known dangers on either side, or, if the ship could be kept in the middle of the channel, only 12½ yards from the course on each side, which would be within 50 yards of a known danger. As a matter of fact, there was scarcely a harbour in the world where a ship entering would not pass within 50 yards of a known danger. In Portsmouth Harbour it would do so; also in Sydney Harbour, but so long as the dangers were known it did not matter. If Captains were not to go within 50 yards of known dangers on entering ports they would have to remain outside, and if no confidence could be reposed in the latest charts of a port like Ferrol Captains would have to resort to the old-fashioned practice of sending boats ahead to take soundings wherever they went. It was possible that the first Court Martial might have found a different verdict if they had had before them all the evidence which was submitted to the second Court Martial. But they had not that evidence before them, and Captain Hastings was entitled to an acquittal. He objected entirely to the second Court Martial. He objected to putting an Admiral on trial at all, except, in time of war, unless he had compromised the national honour. Their remedy was to supersede him. By trying him unnecessarily they lowered his prestige and struck a blow at his power to maintain discipline. In olden times the Admiralty dealt with Admirals with velvet gloves. In the case of the Agincourt, which struck on the Pearl rock, the Admiral was not tried, and the Admiralty expressed regret at having to transfer him to another command. They also transferred the second Admiral, without trial in either case. Why was that precedent not followed in the case of the Howe? Because the matter occurred too near home, and it was thought the public desired a trial and a victim. The Naval Lords were not in favour of the second trial: it was forced upon them. He thought the Foreign Office ought to have made a friendly representation to the Foreign Office of Spain, because, as was 108 well known, the Spanish Authorities were aware of the presence of this rock in their own harbour. The chief naval officer of that port was actually watching the entry of the ships with his glass, and was surprised that the leading ship did not strike on the rock herself. Why were not the British naval officers warned of the existence of the rock, so that they might have engaged pilots? This was very rough treatment by a friendly Power. The fact was that the Spaniards looked upon that rock as part of their torpedo defence, and a very good defence it was. Naval men felt very much annoyed that the accident should have happened when it might so easily have been avoided, and thought the Spanish Authorities had been guilty of a very unfriendly act. He was not going to pass criticism on the essence of the Minute so far as it reflected on the Admiral or the Captain of the ship, and all he wished now to do was to draw attention to the wording of it. The Admiralty were within their right in issuing the Minute, and in issuing it they had only done their duty. Naval men would not have found fault, even with the wording of it, if it had not been laid on the Table of the House.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
said, he rose to reply to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, or as much of it as the hon. and gallant Admiral who had just sat down had not disposed of. The Admiralty did not complain of the right hon. Gentleman for bringing this matter forward; but they objected to the way in which he had imputed motives to them in regard to the issue of the Memorandum. The right hon. Gentleman said they had seemed to be eager to overrule the Court Martial, to discredit it, and to cast imputations upon everybody. He assured the Committee that the Admiralty were actuated by a spirit very different from that. The circumstances of the sinking of the Howe were not so materially different from those they had just had to deplore—not so materially different, but that they approached the subject of the Howe in somewhat of the same spirit as the entire House regarded that more deplorable catastrophe which had overtaken 109 the Victoria. In reply to the attack which had been made cm the Government, what he had to do was simply to vindicate the Memorandum of the Admiralty. In regard to the regularity of their procedure, the Admiralty considered that the defence of the Captain of the Howe impeached the Admiral of the Squadron, and they referred the Minutes of the Court to him. They did not dismiss him at once, as the hon. and gallant Member, suggested they ought to have done.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
said, he had understood the gallant Admiral to say that the officers should have been superseded. But the sense of justice of the House of Commons would have condemned the Government if they had done that. Then followed a matter which the right hon. Gentleman had carefully ignored—namely, a letter from Admiral Fairfax; to the Admiralty. That letter was one of the main facts in the case. It complained of the action of the first Court Martial. The Admiral complained of the defence set up by Captain Hastings. He said Captain Hastings had "hedged" in his defence, and that he tried to cast the whole blame upon him. Then the Admiral set up a theory of his own as to the disaster, which threw the blame on Captain Hastings; and directly impugned the correctness of the finding of the first Court Martial. The Admiralty ordered a second Court Martial. He rather understood the right hon. Gentleman to dispute the regularity of that; but if he wanted a precedent he could be furnished with it. There were precedents in the cases of the Narcissus and the Endymion in 1874, in which the Captains were first tried and the Admiral afterwards. The second Court Martial acquitted Admiral Fairfax. Thus the first Court Martial acquitted the Captain, and it was intended apparently to cast the blame on the Admiral, and the second Court Martial positively acquitted the Admiral and as positively threw the blame upon the Commander of the Howe, finding that the divergence of the Howe from the course of the flagship was the cause of the disaster. It was all 110 very well to say that this did not carry with it the full legal results of a verdict of guilty; but there it was. The Admiralty most carefully considered the findings of both Courts, and they thought it to be their duty to place on record, for the instruction of the Service, the nation, and the House, the conclusion at which they had arrived. That was the genesis of the Minute. The Minute he would divide into two portions. In the first place, it censured and reprimanded the men acquitted; and, secondly, it expressed the opinion of the Admiralty on the various matters discussed at the two trials. He (Mr. Robertson) had to defend both these parts. As to the last, was it credible or conceivable that he should be called upon to argue as to the advisability of the course adopted? Did the right hon. Gentleman, when he attacked the Government, contend that the finding of a Court Martial was conclusive? If so, he could confront him with scores of precedents to show that the course the Admiralty took was entirely in accordance with practice. He believed it was true to say that there was never a finding of a Court Martial that was not either quashed, confirmed, or commented upon. The result of the Admiralty's consideration of the finding of a Court Martial was always made known to the Service for the information of the Service. The most valuable part of the case of the Government was, no doubt, that the Minute censured officers who had been acquitted by the regular tribunal of a Court Martial. On that point he had expected that the right hon. Gentleman would have made out a much stronger case than he did. The right hon. Gentleman had not adduced any real argument to show that the Admiralty had been guilty of any irregularity in censuring men who had already been acquitted by Court Martial. Section 53 of the Naval Discipline Act had no application to this case, because that section simply prohibited the increase of a sentence of a Court Martial, while permitting it to be diminished; but here there was no sentence. Therefore the section had no application. Now, how had the Admiralty been in the habit of dealing with these cases? It could not be expected that there would be many precedents on a matter of this peculiar 111 character; but there were several which more or less bore upon this case, and one which covered it completely. That was the precedent in the case of the Conqueror, which had been alluded to by the hon. and gallant Member. In that case the Captain had been tried by Court Martial, and acquitted. He was afterwards made the subject of an Admiralty Minute exactly as Admiral Fairfax was, and was censured in it for not having taken proper precautions. The propriety of the action of the Admiralty was challenged in the House of Commons, and Lord Palmerston said he could quite understand that hon. Members might take an interest in the individual Captain—the subject of the discussion—but he trusted the House would take an interest in the ships of Her Majesty's Navy, and he went on to express the opinion that the Admiralty had performed their duty to the country in making the statement contained in the Minute. All that could be repeated in the case of the Howe. The question was submitted to the judgment of the House, and the action of the Admiralty was sustained by the House. He maintained that the line followed by the Admiralty on that occasion, approved as it was by the House of Commons, became a precedent for the guidance of subsequent Boards of Admiralty. He turned now with much more diffidence to what he might call the merits of the Memorandum. Here he found the right hon. Gentleman was not unnaturally singularly deficient in material. He elaborated the constitutional or legal part of the argument; but he had not left much to answer with reference to the substantial justice of the statements made in the Memorandum. The Admiralty did charge Captain Hastings and Commander Dickson with unskilful management. The unskilful management consisted, in the first place, in having got their ship into a position which was within 50 yards of water marked in the chart as three and a-half fathoms only. This was admitted, and, indeed, there was no denying it. At the same time, there was no justification of, and no attempt to justify, it. The Howe was 100 yards out of the mid-channel course, which she was directed by the sailing directions to 112 follow. She was also within 100 yards of a known rock.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
said that, as a matter of fact, she was 100 yards out of her course at the bow, and 150 yards at the stern. He wished to answer the ridiculous contention that the inaccuracy of the chart was the cause of the accident. Of course, the accident would not have occurred if the seven fathoms of water marked on the chart had been there; but if the ship had been where she ought to have been, there would have been no danger. It took both the inaccurate chart and the divergence from the proper course to make the accident. The second point on which the Admiralty imputed want of skill or want of proper management to these officers was that they disregarded the sailing directions with reference to the currents. This imputation had not been attacked by either of the gentlemen who had spoken, and he would not, therefore, waste the time of the House by defending it. The great point on which the Admiralty said Captain Hastings and Commander Dick-son showed want of proper seamanship was in neglecting to take the bearings that would have insured their safety. Nobody had ventured to say that they had done so. The charge which seemed to excite the indignation of the right hon. Gentleman more than any other was the statement that the Admiralty could not reconcile the evidence given by Captain Hastings at the second Court Martial with the line of defence adopted by him at the first. What Captain Hastings said at the first trial was that he was hampered by the motion of the flagship. ["No, no!"] That was, at all events, the colour put upon the defence by Admiral Fairfax. At the second trial Admiral Fairfax questioned Captain Hastings on the point. He asked him whether the movements of the leading ship in any way hampered. his movements, and the reply he received, was "No, not hamper." Admiral Fairfax further asked— 113Did anything that was done or left undone by me in your view contribute to your striking upon this unknown rock in what you believed was a perfectly secure position?The answer given by Captain Hastings was—It being an unknown rock, nothing you did contributed to my striking.
§ SIR J. GORST
asked when Captain Hastings had said that the movements of the flagship hampered him?
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
said, such statements were scattered all over the defence at the first trial. In one place Captain Hastings said—The movements of a ship astern are largely governed by those of her leader.He (Mr. Robertson) did not say Captain Hastings used the word "hampered." That was the word used by Admiral Fairfax, and it was a perfectly fair word to describe the line of defence taken by Captain Hastings. He appealed to the common sense of the Committee as to whether, under the circumstances, it was easy to reconcile the two lines of defence? The last of the subjects dealt with by the right hon. Member related to Admiral Fairfax. The Committee would see that the Admiral was censured very lightly in the Memorandum. All that was said about him was that the increased risk caused by taking the Squadron into Ferrol on the flood tide was not sufficiently considered by the Admiral. He thought he might almost leave that statement to stand by itself. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had quoted authorities to show that it was perfectly safe and prudent to enter Ferrol on a flood tide, and had said, amongst other things, that the Admiral did not choose the flood tide. If the right hon. Gentleman would look at the evidence of Captain Hamill he would see that the Admiral did chose the flood tide. Rather than wait for a less convenient season for the purposes he had in view, he took the risk of the flood tide. The question of the prudence or imprudence of waiting till slack water or ebb-tide was just one of those technical points on which he (Mr. Robertson) confessed he had no right and no desire to dogmatise. He was, however, entitled to as much liberty 114 of opinion on the point as the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman had pointed to expert opinion in favour of Admiral Fairfax's contention. He (Mr. Robertson) could point to an equal weight of expert opinion in a contrary direction. He thought he might appeal again to the common sense of the Committee to say whether it would not strike the average man that, when the Commander of a ship or a Squadron had to go through a rocky, tortuous channel like that at Ferrol, with the tide setting strongly against the opposite shore, it was better to wait till slack water or ebbtide? It was patent on the face of these proceedings that, although British ships and Squadrons had often visited Ferrol, no British Squadron had ever before gone in on a flood tide. Sir Geoffrey Hornby said he had taken a Squadron in. once on a flood tide; but the Admiralty had a table of all the entries of British ships into Ferrol, and could prove that he was mistaken. Admiralty Minutes, in so far as they expressed an opinion on naval technicalities, must, of course, be based upon the opinion of their Naval Advisers. In one of the cases that had come before the House he remembered being very much impressed with the felicity with which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Goschen) put the point. The right hon. Gentleman said—In professional matters the First Lord of the Admiralty was under a most serious responsibility if he refused to be guided by the opinion of his Legal Advisers.As far as naval opinion had been expressed in the Minute, it was the opinion of the First Lord's Naval Advisers. By that the Admiralty were bound to be guided, and by that they had been guided. The House of Commons was neither a Court of Law nor a Court Martial. It was a Court of far higher jurisdiction; it was the supreme tribunal of the nation, before which they were on their defence. It was to the common sense of the Committee that they appealed, and he claimed that in the serious position in which they had found themselves they had not shirked responsibility; and for that, he was sure, the Committee would never condemn them. There was one word more, in justice to their Naval Colleagues, 115 that he ought to say. Painful as the duty was to others, it was doubly painful to them—painful to condemn men who had been their naval comrades, their friends, and superiors. He did not know a duty that could be more painful than that, but it was not flinched from. Something had been said about discrediting Courts Martial, but nobody believed that this case would have that effect. Condemnation of their conduct would result in tying the hands of future Boards, and they would be afraid to express an opinion such as that which they had been compelled to form respecting a grave and deplorable national disaster.
§ LORD G. HAMILTON
Before the discussion on the Vote is concluded, I should like to say a few words upon this subject. My right hon. Friend beside me raised this question, and spoke with ability and acuteness upon various questions which have been brought before the Committee; but I am bound to say that the conclusions at which he arrived I do not share. The Board of Admiralty were placed in a position of very great difficulty. I myself had on more than one occasion to deal with almost similar questions; and, looking at the circumstances in which Lord Spencer and the Board of Admiralty found themselves, I think it my duty to say here publicly that if I was in the same place I should have done exactly the same. Let us consider it a moment. A very serious disaster occurs to one of the best ships in Her Majesty's Navy. The ship ran aground in a harbour the entrance of which was well known. We find in this harbour one of the largest of Her Majesty's vessels stranded in the immediate vicinity of a rock that is known. It is perfectly true that the shoal on which the ship stranded is not marked on the chart, but the shoal was near the known rock. Why was the ship there? In this case I never from the first thought that the defect in the chart was the primary cause of the stranding of the vessel. The primary cause of the accident was that the ship was out of her station—in a place where she ought not to have been—and that constitutes bad navigation. It is perfectly clear to me that as soon as this case was investigated the Admiral would be 116 blamed for the orders he had given or the Captain for unskilful navigation of the ship. A Court Martial is held, and the Captain is acquitted. Admiral Fairfax then, in a letter to the Admiralty, severely censured Captain Hasting's defence and allegations. What position was the Admiralty in? Here is a public document from the Admiral commanding the Channel Squadron in which he brought grave charges against an officer who had recently been acquitted by a Court Martial. If that Court Martial stood, it seems to me clear that the Admiralty could not have allowed Admiral Fairfax to have remained in command of the Squadron. Would it not have been a monstrous thing to have superseded him in his command? The Admiralty was bound to re-try the case and form as powerful a Board as possible. I am bound to say the Admiralty did not exceed or misuse their powers. I believe that substantial justice has been done, and that the Admiralty could not have acted otherwise. I am bound to say, although Admiral Fairfax and Captain Hastings are my personal friends, I believe the Admiralty has throughout adopted the best course. I sincerely hope that, in the circumstances in which the House now finds itself, it will not, by supporting the reduction of the Vote, pass a censure upon the Admiralty. What constitutes the glory and one of the merits of our Naval Service is the personal responsibility of every one for his own actions. I am surprised it should be suggested that because a man is an Admiral he should be treated differently from others.
§ LORD G. HAMILTON
If Admiral Fairfax had been superseded the Admiralty would have been guilty of an act of injustice. I say if responsibility is to be brought home to individual naval officers do not let this House adopt the theory that because a man is high up in the Service he is to be treated differently from those who are lower down. We are in the presence of a far graver disaster than that connected with the Howe. I know there are many hon. 117 Gentlemen in this House who, whenever an accident takes place, are disposed to treat it leniently and to say it was an error of judgment. But the profession of war is a serious one, and errors of judgment cannot he condoned, although they are committed in times of peace. The House and the country expect the Admiralty to express its opinion plainly upon complicated and difficult questions in which it is their duty to apportion the blame. It is much to the credit of the Naval Advisers of the Admiralty that they have in no way shirked or evaded an unpleasant duty for which they were responsible, even although it affects their personal friends. The House expects the disaster which has just occurred to be probed to the bottom, and therefore do not let us do anything to weaken the hands of those responsible for these investigations. Looking at the case before us in a proper sense, as men of business, I say I think that the truth has been ascertained and substantial justice has been done.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. ASQUITH, Fife, E.)
On the part of the Government, I desire to acknowledge the admirable manner in which the noble Lord has expressed the general opinion of both sides of the House. It would be the worst thing that could happen if it should go forth to the world that the Admiralty, which, in the long run, is responsible to the House and the country for the safety of Her Majesty's ships, and the maintenance of a high standard of discipline in the Navy, is in any way hampered in the responsible discharge of that most important duty by the sentence of this or that Court Martial. It has been always recognised, and there is abundance of precedents for it, that it is the duty of the Admiralty, as the authority supremely responsible for the safety and discipline of the Navy, to pronounce its opinion, in the last resort, as to who is or is not to blame for great disasters. It would be a bad day for the Navy and the country if, whenever you have a state of facts such as you have in this case, two Courts Martial, one absolutely acquitting a 118 Captain and the other absolutely acquitting an Admiral, and pronouncing upon the same facts two irreconciliable findings, you had not a Supreme Court of Appeal which, with a full sense of responsibility to the House of Commons and to the country, should pronounce upon them, and declare who is, in fact, to blame. It was impossible for the Admiralty, after the finding of the first Court Martial, to allow the matter to rest, and not to challenge further investigation. It may be that entering the harbour on the flood tide had nothing to do with the loss of the Howe; but it had a great deal to do with the conduct of the Admiral, not merely in relation to one vessel, but in relation to the whole squadron, for the safety of which he was responsible. The second Court Martial would not have discharged its duty if it had not gone beyond the loss of the Howe, and pronounced an opinion on the whole conduct of the Admiral in relation to all the ships committed to his charge. Having carefully followed the course of these Courts Martial, I think there are two practical conclusions to which they distinctly point. The first is, that the superior efficacy of the second tribunal, as compared with the first, was due largely to the fact that it was assisted professionally by a gentleman who took the position of prosecutor, and it was not left to the Court itself to investigate what had taken place. In proceedings of this kind it is of the utmost importance, for the elucidation of the facts, that the Admiralty should always be represented by a professional adviser appearing distinctly as a prosecutor, just as the other side should be represented by someone appearing for the defence; because in that way only could you have adequate security for the bringing out of the whole truth. Secondly, in all these questions when they arise the Admiralty for the time being has a responsibility to the country which it cannot shift nor rid itself of. Another disaster has just occurred, and another great ship in Her Majesty's Navy has been destroyed, with the loss of a large number of valuable lives, under circumstances which undoubtedly call for the most minute and careful scrutiny. I am perfectly certain that this Committee, representing not 119 naval nor expert opinion alone, but embodying the opinion of the country at large, will say that no investigation of the kind under discussion can be satisfactory which does not probe the facts to the bottom, and give the country, as well as the House, the amplest means of ascertaining how they stand in relation to the conduct of the Navy. I venture to think the Committee will come to the conclusion that the Admiralty were acting not only within their rights, but in strict conformity with their duty, and that the Minute which has been laid on the Table of the House is the accurate judgment of a competent tribunal.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
said, that no worse doctrine had ever been laid down in this House than that propounded by the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, the late First Lord, and the Home Secretary, for they had laid down that the Admiralty should exercise extra-legal powers and pass beyond the authority given by Act of Parliament. In civil life how many men in this House would not rise, as he now did, and repudiate such a doctrine? He ventured to rest his case now, as he rested it earlier in the Session, upon a broad ground. When it was brought forward the Civil Lord of the Admiralty appealed to the House not to discuss it, because the Minutes of the Court Martial were not before the House. Those Minutes had nothing whatever to do with the broad features of the case. The great and important question was, had the Admiralty any right to upset the sentences of two Courts Martial? His claim was that they had no right to do such a thing; in so doing they acted almost illegally, certainly extra-legally. The Civil Lord had admitted that the Admiralty had censured certain officers who had been acquitted by competent Courts, and he maintained that the Admiralty had no right whatever to review those verdicts, and substantially to increase the sentences. Everyone familiar with the discipline of the Service knew that if the Commander-in-Chief or the Admiralty expressed censure on an officer they substantially punished him, because they held in the hollow of their 120 hand the career of every officer. That was why they complained so bitterly about this action of the Admiralty. The short defence made by the Civil Lord was the only defence they could make. He hoped on Report to have the opportunity of elaborating this matter.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again To-morrow.