§ The House went into Committee of Supply on the Navy Estimates.
§ Mr. MELLOR occupied the Chair.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ On Vote A, for 88,850 men and boys,
§ THE CIVIL LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. EDMUND ROBERTSON,) Dundee
said: In rising to submit to the Committee the Naval Estimates for the year, I wish to express my deep regret for the continued absence of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of the Admiralty, which renders it impossible for him to 895 fulfil this duty himself. I have a selfish reason for this regret, because it was only on Thursday night last that, I knew for certain that I should have to take my right hon. Friend's place; and, as a large portion of the matter dealt with in these Estimates does not come within my own official cognisance, I have had plenty to do in the interval. I mention this because I know that the House will be indulgent, on that account, to the necessary imperfections of my performance of this duty. I propose to-night to deal both with the Supplementary Estimate of last year, and with the Naval Estimates as far as they can be alluded to under this Vote; and I shall ask the House to let us have to-night the first Vote for this year, and the Supplementary Vote for the past year. The first point to which I direct attention is the Naval Defence Act. This Act finally expires this year, and it will be my duty and pleasure to take a last good-night of that measure. I will not say a single word about it which can be construed as a hostile criticism. I wish to point out first how it stands. The original scheme was this. The ship-building to be provided by the Act was divided into two parts—a dockyard part and a contract part. For the former, a limit of £11,500,000 was provided by the original Statute, and for the latter a limit of £10,000,000 was provided, and the period fixed was five years. By an amending Statute, passed in 1893, the reasons for which are familiar to the House, the dockyard limit was extended to £12,850,000, while the contract limit remained the same, and the period of time was extended to six years. The net result of this great enterprise is this: In the dockyard portion of the work there has been an excess of £750,000 over the original limit, and a saving of £600,000 on the amended limit. In the contract section there is a further excess of £7,000, but that is not real excess. Certain things, such as gun-mounts, were charged to the contract part of the work, and, on re-adjustment, it will be found to be part of the dockyard expenditure, so that there will be no real excess. On the total the original Estimate has been exceeded by £750,000 and lessened by £600,000, and the actual expenditure has been £22,241,000. This excess, so 896 far as it exists, is represented by increased size, by increased power, and improvements in other ways in the ships built under the Naval Defence Act. Finally, all the ships, all the 70 ships included in the programme, are either in the Service or ready for service—a result upon which all connected with the Act may fairly congratulate themselves. I hope it will not be thought amiss on my part if I say a word or two of criticism on the Act. I was never an embittered opponent of its policy, but I did recognise in the Act two defects, and the first of these was that its eyes were directed more exclusively to ships—and I mention this as leading up to what I may have to say afterwards. It had this defect also, that it was conceived in a spirit of distrust: distrust of the Treasury—at which, perhaps, I ought not to be surprised— distrust of the Admiralty as a corporation, and distrust of this House as an Institution—how little deserved, however, every subsequent year has shown. Finally, of its finance—and I may say this without reflection on anybody—the difficulties of its finance are indescribable, and it is matter for congratulation that these difficulties have no longer to be encountered. Notwithstanding all its great performance, those who were responsible for its inception, and those who carried it to its close, may be allowed to congratulate each other, and for my part—well, "I come to bury Cæsar, not to praise him." I am going to follow in the main line adopted by the First Lord in his Memorandum submitted to Parliament, and I shall deal with only a few topics outside that Memorandum. I may venture to say that it is fortunate for myself, finding myself in this position, that the conspicuous feature of the Estimates which distinguishes them from previous years is the immense development of the works programme, for which I am more especially responsible. I come then to the points dealt with by Lord Spencer; and, first, as to the numbers. A few figures will show the extent of the increase. Two years ago the total called for was 76,700; in 1894–95 we asked for 83,400, an increase of 6,700 in that year; and, in the present year, we are asking for the enormous total of 88,850, a further increase of 5,450. The net increase in two years is 12,150 to the 897 number of men in the Navy. Under this head there are one or two items I will deal with briefly. It will be noticed there is no increase in the number of marines this year, and it will be observed that the total increase in the number of marines in the two preceding years was 1,000. Then, in connection with this subject, it may be noticed that the First Lord mentions the failure of the attempt we made to recruit from the Mercantile Marine last year. We thought we should get some 800 men by direct invitation, but, as a matter of fact, only 50 responded to the invitation or complied with the conditions, and so we had to look elsewhere for recruits. I do not know what explanation can be given of the failure—possibly the qualifications were too high. At all events, adult seamen did not come forward, and so we were obliged to resort to the expedient of commissioning a special ship, a new kind of training ship, the Northampton, and we sent her round the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland for the purpose of recruiting boys a year older than the average age of boys in training ships. That experiment, I am glad to say, has been a success. I do not think that any proceeding of the Admiralty has excited more interest in the House, judging by the questions put to me on the subject, than the cruise of the Northampton. Among the ports there have been many competitors for a visit from the ship. I not know whether hon. Members who pressed me for the privilege of a visit from the ship to some port in which they were interested are here now, but in the competition I may here say that I think those ports which responded best in the last cruise ought to have some, kind of preferential claim in the future. Among the numbers of recruits, I may mention that Portland supplied 13, Torbay 27, Queenstown 32, Dunmore 14, Campbeltown and Greenock only three and two. The success of the recruiting cruise of the Northampton, I may say, was greater in Ireland than elsewhere. The only other item in con-Election with the numbers I think I need refer to is the engine-room artificer. My colleagues arid myself had the honour to receive a deputation from Members of the House interested in this question, and they adopted this way of making known to us instead of asking questions 898 here on the Estimates. I can assure hon. Members that we have kept in mind their recommendations, and, though I cannot say all have been acceded to, I can at least say this—that my colleagues and myself will be delighted to see these, gentlemen again and hear their further views. In the engine-room officers there is an increase from 785 to 828, and there is an increase in artificers of 174, making a total increase in two years of 524. The number of stokers will be increased by 1,750, and of this class I may remark that, while 10 years ago there were 5,000 stokers in the Service, there are now 15,000 required. I may just mention a small reform we have been able to make in the interest of engineer officers. We have been reminded of a social grievance which existed at the Royal Naval College at Greenwich, where the engineer officers were relegated to a separate mess from other officers of the Royal Navy, and we have decided to abolish that distinction. In future both classes of officers of the Navy studying at Greenwich will mess together, as they ought to do. Then, in respect to engineer officers, we have in hand, though the matter is not complete enough to allow me to make a definite statement, a proposal for a large addition to the pay of these officers, and also large improvements in their retiring allowances. I forget at the moment what the amount is we take—something like £9,000—and this will relieve to some extent the grievances engineer officers conceive they suffer. As to engine-room artificers, we have made certain modifications so far as we can, for the better accommodation on board ship for this excellent class of men, and this I may be allowed to say, because it corrects a false impression—that engine-room artificers are eligible for admission to the rank of engineers for temporary service alluded to in the First Lord's statement.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
I cannot say if it is new. I know that the illusion existed, and to dispel it is new. Now I come to the shipbuiling, and the amount to be expended on new construction. First, lot me call the attention of the Committee to the progress made in new construction during last year. In order to make this perfectly clear to the Committee I ask Members to make a 899 distinction under three classes. In three divisions the ships in course of building last year fall—those under the Naval Defence Act now about to close, those which are called the further programme; and that further programme, again, is divided into two parts—thoseships begun before last year's programme, and those begun under the programme. The first portion was authorised by our predecessors at the Admiralty. The Magnificent, Majestic, Renown, Powerful, and Terrible were ordered by the present Hoard. The second part may be called Lord Spencer's programme. It was a programme intended for five years' shipbuilding, and we laid before the House and the country only the first annual instalment of the programme, keeping the rest of the programme to ourselves. This was our procedure, and we were subjected to some criticism then, though not, I think, in the year since elapsed. The Committee would keep these facts in mind in relation to the new construction for the year. Under the Naval Defence Act there was for the year a total of new construction in dockyards and by contract of £337,588, and the further programme is intended to take an expenditure of £4,333,771. That makes a total expenditure of £4,671,000 upon construction. It is largely in excess of the Vote we took last year for new construction—namely, £4,500,000; but the amount by which that sum has been exceeded, about £150,000, has been devoted to new construction. That amount, of course, is met out of the Supplementary Estimate now before the Committee, which we propose to treat as part of the new Estimate. I consider, and I think the House will consider, that this statement shows a complete fulfilment, and more than a complete fulfilment, of the promises we made last year. But those promises have been fulfilled under circumstances of great difficulty. There was, for instance, the Scotch coal strike, which paralysed the industries on the Clyde; and although men were waiting for work, yet they could not get on with the building of one of our cruisers in consequence of it. Then, again, there was the comparatively smaller strike of the moulders and pattern-makers, which paralysed the north east coast of England, while a further 900 difficulty was the severe and long-continued winter we have experienced, but which, I hope, has now passed by. All these things interfere with a shipbuilding programme; but, in spite of them, we have done all that we said, and more than we said, we would do. Another part of the work which has been interfered with is that in connection with the torpedo-boat destroyers, but even in this case 78 per cent, of the expenditure provided for will actually have been earned by the end of the financial year. Since my noble Friend's statement was laid before the House, I have obtained some additional information which shows that at the present moment 10 of the 42 torpedo-boat destroyers have successfully passed their trials; two others are undergoing their trials, and the rest will be pushed forward to completion as early as possible. I should like the Committee to go through what I may call the financial history of the building of a great battleship, and I will take the Magnificent, because; a good deal of criticisms and allegations have been made as to our slow progress when she was begun. That vessel was laid down on the 18th of December 1893, and she was floated out on the 19th of December 1894, and here is the way in which a ship built under these conditions comes into actual existence. The expenditure for the first year, that is 1893–94, was £60,000; and for 1894–95 I may take it to be £485,000, which is the probable expenditure down to the 31st of March. The expenditure of the coming year, 1895–96, will be £321,000, leaving only at the end of the next year £43,000 to be spent upon her. That vessel has been pushed forward with unexampled rapidity, and the years upon which the expenditure falls most heavily are the two middle years, the first and the last involving comparatively little outlay. I refer to that as an example of the rapidity of construction, which is most creditable to the dockyards concerned; and I may say that similar efforts, equally creditable, have been made by those private contractors by whom so large a portion of the work of the Admiralty is done. That is all I propose saying with regard to the progress made last year, and I now come to the forecast for 1895–96, which is to say, the second instalment of the new programme. 901 In Lord Spencer's statement it will be seen that there are to be several first-class cruisers; but, although I cannot give particulars about them now, yet I will undertake that full particulars and information respecting them shall be laid before the House before we reach Vote 8. With regard to the second-class cruisers which will be laid down, I have one observation to make. The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Ormskirk yesterday called attention to the dimensions of these cruisers, but I must say that the vessels have been designed with a view to certain specific services in which great manœuvring power will be of great value, and in order to increase that power their length has been somewhat diminished and the beam increased. I may remind my right hon. Friend that belted cruisers of the Orlando type, which are giving much satisfaction in actual service both as steamers and sea boats, are approximately of the same displacement as the new vessels, and have a proportion of beam to length of about five in the old to five and a half in the new. The 20 torpedo-boat destroyers, which are to be ordered during the coming year, have not yet had their designs settled, but I want to say that we fully recognise the services of those firms which have hitherto executed our orders, and that we hope again to avail ourselves of the special enterprise, experience, and skill which they have shown. The total for new construction for 1895–96 is £5,393,642, as against £4,500,000 for 1894–95, but the increase for new construction for the coming year will be explained, as in the case of the Magnificent, to the advanced stage in which various battleships will be in that year. There have been some criticisms on the progress proposed to be made with battleships, and the right hon. Gentleman opposite has complained that that progress is not rapid enough. But I have taken out figures showing that of the total for construction—over five millions—one-half will be spent upon the ten battleships, and while enormous progress is made on the two ships which stand at the head of the list, I may say that the progress upon the slowest in construction will be at a higher rate than on any ship in any foreign yard. Now I come to the dockyard administration of 902 the Admiralty. Lord Spencer's memorandum calls attention to two experiments which have been made. As to the introduction of the eight hours day, although I have not been able to satisfy the curiosity of hon. Members as to the general result of that system, yet I can only repeat what I have said before—that so far it is satisfactory. But there is another reform of almost greater social interest than that of the eight hours day—namely, the introduction of a new mode of paying the allotment of seamen's wages to their wives or other relatives, and I hope the dockyard Members are present to hear what I have to say about it. This is a dockyard question, because the wives of our sailors live in the dockyard towns, and under the old system they had on certain days to go to the yard gates to get their money. In Devonport perhaps will be found the largest number, and they would go in thousands, waiting to be paid, and not infrequently would have to go more than once at grave inconvenience. Hon. Members representing dockyard towns brought to the notice of the Admiralty evils which might arise from such a practice as that, and at their instance I took the matter up, but never had much doubt as to what the remedy should be. A Committee, however, was appointed to inquire into the subject, and we have now decided to make these payments by means of post office orders at the post-office nearest which the wives live, so that the old system, with all the evils which perhaps accompanied it, has now been swept away. Hon. Members for dockyard towns always have a great many questions to raise. I do not know that I shall be able to deal with many of them at this stage; they are generally questions that belong to Vote 8, and there will be plenty of time for discussing them on that Vote. The normal way in which the men approach the Admiralty is by petition; the proper and respectful way of dealing with their grievances is on their own petitions; at all events, that is the way we propose to deal with them. These petitions came in about a fortnight ago; I regret that in the interval I have not been able to look into them; and, therefore, I shall not be able to make any statement about them now. But there is one question that has reached such a point that I am compelled to 903 allude in it; and it is one that interests not only Members for dockyard towns, but also every town in which there is a large engineering firm. A delicate and difficult controversy is now raging between the two most important trades employed by the Admiralty—I refer to the dispute between the fitters and the shipwrights—as to the demarcation of the work between them. That dispute has spread from the dockyards to allied interests outside—they have taken up the cudgels for one side or the other. We have repeatedly had petitions from dockyard men on the question. More than that, last year engineers or fitters in outside yards, introduced by various Members I see before me, had interviews with my colleagues and myself. More recently the shipwrights in the outside trade had a similar interview. Both deputations made suggestions or proposals tending to a compromise or settlement; but, as those proposals are not in a final form, perhaps I ought not to allude to them specifically. Substantially the same suggestion comes to us from both quarters; and the effect of it is that the Admiralty should settle this question by one of its own officers, and that he should have such assistance as may be necessary to enable him to ascertain the real truth. These suggestions are still in an informal shape, and therefore I will not say more about them. But, speaking for my colleagues and myself, I will say that we have no desire whetever but to see this thorny controversy settled in such a way that the members of the two trades shall work in harmony in the future, and, further that certain smaller trades that have similar grievances should have their grievances considered and settled at the same time. The Admiralty, as such, has no preference for one line of demarcation more than another; all that it desires is to see this question settled; and any feasible plan for such settlement will have our sympathy, and, as far as we can give it, our support. But it must be distinctly understood, with reference to some petitions, and also to what has been written in private letters, that the Admiralty have no fault whatever to find with their existing staff of ship wrights. It is due to them to say that, because it would be a reproach to us if we kept men in our employment who 904 were not fit for their work. In the next place, while I have expressed our indifference or impartiality as to the future line of demarcation, it must be distinctly understood that, whatever line of demarcation may be agreed upon for the future, it shall not be put into execution at the cost of the discharge of any of our existing staff. We must hold by the principle by which we have held so far, that when we have good men we want to encourage them by making their employment permanent, because permanent employment is more valuable than high wages without permanence. Finally, whatever settlement is arrived at should be a complete and final settlement, settling the controversy once for all and with reference to all the men concerned. I will now proceed with what I have described as the most conspicuous feature of these Estimates—I mean the great programme of works, which we submit with the fullest sense of responsibility. Will the Committee permit me to make a few comparisons with the object of showing that works have been comparatively neglected while the Navy has been expanding in all other directions? I am not complaining of that; but an impartial critic would say—This you ought to have done, but you ought not to have left the other undone.What I want to say is that, while men and expenses and capacity have increased, the Works Department has not increased. In order to be quite impartial as between Party and Party, I have taken a period which covers four Administrations—a period of ten years. Ten years ago the total Navy Estimate was just over £12,000,000, and we are asking this year for £18,000,000, an increase of 50 per cent. Ten years ago the number of men was a little over 58,000, this year we are asking for 88,850. Finally, ten years ago the tonnage of ships afloat, building, or completed for service was 692,000 tons, and this year the corresponding tonnage is 1,300,000 tons, showing that in that respect the Navy has doubled in the 10 years. I take no account of the £10,000,000 not in the Estimates for contract work under the Naval Defence Act, and in which the Works Vote had no part. What was the state of the works all this time? Ten years ago the 905 Works Vote was in all respects about one-half of what it is now—it was £517,000. In succeeding years it went on meandering to £468,000, £451,000, £417,000, £448,000, £380,000, till it took a leap last year, when the Works Vote, higher than it had been for a quarter of a century before, was £650,000. It is quite impossible that a stagnant and stationary Works Vote should be adequate to the requirements of a fleet expanding in all directions. Our ships have increased in size, and the Works Vote has to provide for docks, harbours, waterways, and for barracks for the men. When the Works Vote has been almost stagnant while the fleet has gone on swelling enormously, a prima facie case is made out for some fresh proposal. I have omitted to mention the introduction of a new weapon of naval warfare, the torpedo, which has changed many things. One very important fact is that the torpedo has made the ancient anchorages of the British fleet no longer tenable, and provision is now demanded for closed harbours—harbours closed by impassable physical barriers where torpedoes cannot be used with safety. For obvious reasons I may not go into actual particulars of possible changes, but at least it will be admitted that we must provide safe anchorages, otherwise our men will be worn put with continually watching against this insidious enemy. I have indicated some of the things that are to be dealt with in this new part of our programme. We want more docks—a point made by the hon. Member for Gateshead, who now cheers my statement. While the fleet has shown enormous expansion during the last 10 years, in the essential element of dockage there has been very little increase. We have tried to find out what new docks could be forced into the account for the 10 years. One at Devonport was finished in 1886; another at Haul-bowline was finished in 1888. One at Malta was finished in 1892. This small percentage of new docks is all that we have to balance the enormous increase of the fleet. ["Dry docks?"] They all are. The scheme submitted provides for docks, the completing of harbours, the completing of waterways and barracks—in other words, the programme to which I ask the attention of the Committee is intended to provide for the better 906 housing both of the ships and of the men. Last year we felt it to be our duty to lay certain proposals for new works before the House of Commons, and they were sanctioned by Parliament. The First Lord of the Admiralty told the House and the country of the Loan Bill which will be introduced as soon as these Estimates are disposed of, and which is intended to carry out this Programme. I think it will add to the clearness of my statement if I ask the Committee to bear this in mind; the works we propose to provide for by loan fall into two classes. There are first the specific works sanctioned by Parliament last year, which are enumerated in the Parliamentary Paper, presented to the House last year, No. 216. Although the works have been already sanctioned, very little was said about them last year, and therefore I may be permitted to say a little more about them now. The second class of works consists of works not mentioned hitherto and now put forward for the first time; but both these series of new works we intend to provide for by the financial method stated by the First Lord. I will take these works in turn. The following are the works we propose to deal with. First of all there are the docks at Portsmouth. There are two docks now building at Portsmouth, which will be of the largest size and capable of accommodating the largest ships. The date of the completion of these docks will be the end of 1896, and the work is being done by private contract. The total amount to be provided for the Portsmouth dock is £245,000. I am now describing the loan programme, those new works which are to be provided for by the financial method described by the First Lord—that is to say, by annual Bills for loans. The next item is the Gibraltar mole and dock. With regard to Gibraltar, the works contained in the Parliamentary Paper to which I have referred include two things, the further extension of what is called the new mole and a new dock. This new mole, about which so much has been heard, is a very old mole indeed, much older than many people have any notion of. I have looked up its history, and I find that the new mole was begun just exactly 275 years ago. It has been gradually extended to its present length of 1,400 feet, but the work of extension 907 was stopped, I believe, in 1880. Those who have read the proceedings of what is called the Gibraltar Committee may remember a statement made by Lord Brassey, who then held my office, that he bitterly regretted that he had, as civil Lord, advised the discontinuance of the extension of the mole. The work, however, was resumed in 1892, when a contract was made to extend the mole by 700 feet, and that work is now going on by private contract. Last year we obtained the sanction of Parliament to a further extension of 1,600 feet, and, in in order to push on faster, this addition of 1,600 feet is to be carried out by local labour under Admiralty officials. The cost of this will be, I think, £85,000. This is the Gibraltar item, including the proposals sactioned by Parliament last year. I have, however, further proposals with regard to Gibraltar which are totally new. I have divided the new works to be covered by loan into two classes—namely, those sanctioned by Parliament and those which have not been before Parliament; and as to Gibraltar I am giving those actually sanctioned by Parliament. The next thing I have to mention is the item for deepening the harbours and approaches at Portsmouth, Devonport, and the Medway, which has been rendered necessary by the increased size of ships and the increased need of harbour accommodation. The cost of this will be something like £80,000. The next item is a small one—namely, the Extension of the Engineer Students College, with a view to providing more accommodation for students. That will cost about £35,000. Then there are the Marine Barracks at Walmer, where additional accommodation for 500 men is to be provided at an estimated cost of £20,000. Then there are the Naval Barracks at Chatham. What we propose to do at Chatham is to build new Naval barracks, at a cost, I think, of about £360,000, on the site of the old convict prison, providing accommodation for 3,500 officers and men. In doing that we are making such use of the existing buildings as may be practicable. Designs have been prepared, but the plans for the designs are not yet complete. Now as to the question of policy in this matter—the policy, I presume, of the late Board and the policy of the present Board is that 908 those men should be housed in barracks rather than in hulks, for the following reasons. First of all, on sanitary grounds, I may also say on social grounds and on the ground of the men's comfort, it is better that they should be housed in barracks rather than in hulks. Another reason is this, that we want the room of the hulks; we want to employ for actual service ships the room in the harbours now occupied by the hulks. The last item of last year's programme is an enormous one. It is the Devonport Quay and Dockyard extension at a cost of £2,000,000. This great enterprise has long been before the Admiralty, and the conclusion they have come to is that, having regard to the important position occupied by Devonport, to the enormous number of ships now resorting to it, and to the deficient accommodation for them, it is absolutely necessary that the dockyard should be extended. We propose to effect a great reclamation work. A great deal of land is to be reclaimed, and in the space so reclaimed there are to be one great dock—three ordinary docks with entrances into two basins—and another dock of a smaller size. There will be a tidal basin on the right-hand side of eight acres, and a basin on the other side, the four docks lying between, the area of which will be 33 acres. The total areas of the new basins will therefore be 41 acres. Then provision will be made for the coaling jetty, which is really an old work, and on the land reclaimed new shops and buildings will be erected. This is the work which the House generously sanctioned after a very imperfect speech made by me last year just before 12 o'clock. I have here a plan of the work, which I promised the noble Lord opposite (Lord G. Hamilton) should be placed in the Tea Room of the House. My right hon. Friend near me (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) calls my attention to the fact that this plan provides an area of 35½ acres for the back basin instead of 33 acres. These seven heads constitute the works programme of last year, and now I come to new works for which we have not yet received the authority of Parliament. The first of these new works is the proposed breakwater at Portland Harbour. What has taken place there is this. We ordered to be laid down a line of dolphins between the two sides 909 of the harbour, and the dolphins are now almost completed, there having been a little delay in consequence of bad weather. What remains to be done will be merged in the new programme. The plan of laying down dolphins was adopted because it was compatible either with the construction of a continuous breakwater or of boom defences between the piers of dolphins. But further consideration led to the conviction that Portland Harbour could only be protected against torpedo attack by a continuous, insuperable, physical barrier, and not by a mere boom defence, which might be mistaken for narrow waters, The construction of a continuous breakwater between the two shores is, then, our policy, and it will cost £700,000, and we propose to complete the work in 1905. I will now complete the story of Gibraltar. I have already spoken about the extension of the mole and the new dock, and what we now ask the Committee, to assent to is a further extension of the mole. It is not to be a continuous but a detached mole, and there will be an opening for ships into the harbour. The new mole will have a length of 35,200ft., and the expense is estimated at £700,000. The object is to construct an enclosed harbour at Gibraltar like the enclosed harbour at Portland. The area is to be 260 acres at the five-fathom depth. That is the proposal as it exists in the minds of the lords of the Admiralty at the present moment, but we leave the matter open to some extent. What we do, then, is to make provision for a breakwater 6,910ft. long, with an interval between the two sections of it. The northern limit of the area which we propose to enclose will, according to the present plan, be protected by lines of dolphins with boom defences. That is estimated to cost £50,000, but may not after all be necessary, for there are projects now before the authorities at Gibraltar and the Colonial Office for the construction of a new coaling pier, which, if built, will close in the northern position of the area which I have described, and so make it unnecessary for the Admiralty to incur the cost of laying down dolphins. I trust that I need not state again the general reasons why an enclosed torpedo-proof harbour at Gibraltar is necessary. The next item in the programme is one 910 of possibly still greater interest to the House and country—I refer to Dover Harbour. The policy of the Board of Admiralty is the same here as at Portland and at Gibraltar, and it is conceived to be necessary to provide a torpedo-proof harbour at Dover also. The subject of a harbour at Dover is, as was said last night, an old story. In 1844 a Commission reported in favour of the construction of a harbour which should partake of the nature of a harbour of refuge, and the suggestion that such a harbour should be built was linked to proposals for the erection of a convict prison. There have been various vicissitudes in the history of this scheme, but the crowning disappointment which its promoters suffered was in 1886, when the patriotic intentions of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer were frustrated by the unwillingness of the House of Commons of that day to entertain the proposal. I cannot make out what became of that Motion. I only find Progress was reported on it, and nothing more seems to have been heard of it. Now my right hon. Friend has the great privilege, nine years after, of being able to find the money for the scheme. I will not go into the strategical reasons why a harbour at this place should be necessary I think it desirable to avoid statements touching foreign nations, which must be kept in mind though they need not be expressed. I would assume that the Committee understand the reasons why this great work should be necessary. Now, we propose to follow the line of the Commission of 1844 in the plan of the harbour. Part of the work may be said to be already executed in the Admiralty Pier, with which hon. Members are doubtless familiar. The Admiralty Pier extends to a length of 2,150 feet, and the extension we propose to make will be 3,100 yards, or 9,300 feet. [An hon. MEMBER: "Additional?"] Additional. Of course before the Loan Bill comes on ample information will be given to hon. Members.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
The total space will be about 320 acres, but at the five-fathom depth of about 270 acres. All the works I have mentioned—those 911 that were enumerated in the Paper last year, and those that have never been enumerated before till I mentioned them on this occasion—all these will be in the Loan Bills, but they will not be in the first Annual Loan Bill; and, as at present advised, it will not contain the name of Dover Harbour. We do not take money for Dover Harbour in the first Loan Bill, because we believe we shall be able, out of the ordinary resources, to undertake the preliminary surveys, which would require a large amount of time in any case, so that I hope there will not be any delay at all. I may be asked, Why do you not put Dover Harbour into your first Loan Bill? How do you distinguish between that and other works you are going to put in? I distinguish it in this way. Dover Harbour, Portsmouth Barracks, the Hong Kong Extension, are all absolutely new in this sense, that we have no works going on at these places—Dover, at all events, we have no works of this sort going on at the present moment—whereas elsewhere we have always works of some sort or another going on. The three items which do not appear in the first Annual Loan Bill are distinguished from all the others by the features I have mentioned. Now I come to Portsmouth Barracks. At present progress cannot be furthered on that scheme because there are certain difficulties and delays. We are going to take over the Anglesey Barracks from the War Office and convert them into Naval barracks. We are going to provide for the War Office new barracks in substitution for the Anglesey Barracks. The War Office will build them and the Navy Votes will pay the expense. The cost of this work is put down at £615,000. The last item of all is Hong Kong. I totally despair of being able, from the plan before me, to convey an idea of the nature of the improvements that are going to be made. That part of the world has been conspicuous for some time past, and recent events have certainly not lessened the importance of Hong Kong as the only Naval station belonging to Great Britain on that side of the North Pacific. We propose to reclaim about six acres. In that space we have a small basin area, which I estimate from the plan at about 912 two acres. Then we shall have a deep-sea jetty—that is to say, a jetty with 30 feet depth of water—and a pier, so that the biggest ships in the Navy shall be able to come alongside. We do not propose to build a dock at Hong Kong, as there is a dock suitable for our purposes only about a mile and a half away. Now I have finished the enumeration of the works.
§ MR. ROBERTSON
The proposals previously sanctioned by Parliament are roughly about £4,500,000. The new proposals which I have just enumerated are about £4,200,000. The total which we propose to meet by way of loan in the manner specified is about £8,700,000, or very well on to £9,000,000. All the works I have named—those which were sanctioned last year, and those which I hope will be sanctioned this year—have, I maintain, the character of permanent works. They are all, in our opinion, absolutely essential to the defence and security of the Empire. Moreover, they are works which are not subservient to the period of their construction, and on all these grounds we have decided to ask Parliament to consent that the expense of these works should be provided for by loan. The loan has special features. In the main it follows the precedent of the Fortifications Act of 1860 and following years. It will be provided for by annual Bills. The first of these will be introduced in a few days. The annual Bills will provide for the instalments required for the work anticipated during the following year. The charge will be made a distinct charge upon the Navy Votes, so that year by year, this item of Naval expenditure will be open and obvious to everybody,
§ MR. ROBERTSON
That is the last point. We propose that the loan should be paid by terminable annuities for a period not exceeding 36 years. I have only one word to say in conclusion. I alluded, I hope, in no spirit which may be taken amiss by the noble Lord (Lord G. Hamilton) and hon. Gentlemen opposite, to the Naval Defence Act, for which they were responsible, but there has always seemed to me to be a great defect 913 in that Act—it is a defect of spirit rather than of structure—namely, the distrust and want of confidence at the policy displayed in the House of Commons. Sir, I have never been one of those who doubted the House of Commons. If I had been, the events of this short Session would have reassured me. Already this House has read, in the great Indian Debate of two or three weeks ago—which I refer to with no party animus whatever—a memorable lesson to all its detractors. On that occasion, neglecting Party interests, neglecting Party considerations and provincial interests, it rose to the full height of its Imperial responsibilities. Sir, it is in reliance on that sound and, I believe, abiding instinct, that I now beg on behalf of the Admiralty and the Government, to submit these Estimates to the favourable consideration of the Committee.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
I am sure that I may, on behalf of the Committee, congratulate the hon. Gentleman personally on the statement which he has made. Not only has he given us a clear and comprehensive statement, showing full knowledge, and marked by lucidity, which I am sure the Committee will appreciate, but I go a little further, and, accepting for a moment the financial ways proposed and means by which the expenditure is to be met, I take that statement as an entirely satisfactory one. It is to my mind, of all the three statements made by the present Board of Admiralty since they came into Office, the one most characterised by comprehension, by prescience, and by thoroughness. I propose to follow the hon. Gentleman through the points he dealt with. Speaking of the Naval Defence Act, he said that Act implied distrust of the House of Commons. The hon. Gentleman has made a complete statement as to the intention of the Government in relation to the works necessary, as to docks and so on; but when he is asked to tell us the intentions of the Government as to providing ships to go to these docks, he declines, because, he says, if he were to do so, he should imitate the bad practice of the Naval Defence Act, which betokened distrust in the House of Commons. But if a Government produce their full Programme, if they give the whole feature and design of every ship they propose to build for five years, 914 and if they submit that Programme to the exhaustive criticism of the House of Commons, and embody it in a Bill, that, so far from showing distrust, shows complete confidence in their scheme and in the House of Commons. If your scheme is to be carried out by your annual Bills, and is to be on the lines of the fortification schemes which, 30 years ago, were submitted to Parliament, let us hope the same untoward result will not attend the expenditure upon the docks which attended the expenditure upon the fortifications. For over 20 years these forts were without guns, and it was not until my late lamented Friend, Mr. Stanhope, took the task in hand, that these forts were in any way made capable of defending the coasts of this country. That only shows the danger of entrusting to the fluctuations of public opinion the prosecution of great works of this kind. Lord Spencer, in his statement, assures the House and the country that the five years' scheme, one year of which only has been announced, remains unchanged. Why is it necessary for Lord Spencer to give this assurance? The presumption is that there was an attempt made to change the scheme during the past year, and I congratulate the Admiralty on the success with which they defeated that attack. But it is inevitable, so long as we follow the practice of invariably selecting the Prime Minister and Leader of this House from one Department of the State—namely, the Treasury—and giving them supreme control over the spending power, that they will try and squeeze the spending department in times of financial depression. So long as that practice remains, so long is it necessary that those who wish to insure stability and consecutiveness in our Naval programmes should let the whole scheme for shipbuilding for a period of years be known to the public and be put in Acts of Parliament. What we are afraid of is not that the House of Commons will refuse any money a Government will ask for, but that the underhand interference of the Treasury will prevail in times of popular excitement, especially when a Party is on the verge of a General Election, and its fortunes are a little on the wane, and the opportunity presents itself of making a popular Budget, by reducing expenditure. 915 It is not fair to contrast the results of the system established by the Naval Defence Act with the shipbuilding which is now going on. What we have to compare it with is the system which it superseded. What was the position of affairs before the introduction of that Act? Our dockyards were more or less in a state of disorganisation, our battleships took five, six, and seven years to build, constant alterations were made in their structure, and the average excess in the cost of the ships over the Estimates was between 20 and 25 per cent. In many cases the ships, when completed, were not provided with guns, and when the guns were provided there was no ammunition. By the Naval Defence Act an attempt was made not only to do all that was necessary for building ships, but to arm and equip them. This great scheme had been carried out in the short period of five years. True, it is said there was an excess over the Estimates of £700,000; but two deductions have to be made from that excess. There was an increase of wages during the period in the dockyards which accounted for £200,000, and we were also compelled to add the cost of steam launches and pinnaces and include them in the equipment of the ships. The ordinary votes were relieved by the amount then added to the expenditure under the Naval Defence Act. If we deduct these two extra sums we find that the excess under the Naval Defence Act was a little under half a million, or less than 2½ per cent. over the original estimate. I think the Committee will therefore admit that the result of that experiment has been eminently satisfactory, and the rapidity of the building which characterised that programme was the origin of the remarkable progress which during the past three years has attended the building of ships that have succeeded those built under that Act. To the manning Vote I give unqualified approval. There is a great addition to the number of officers and men, but I am afraid, large as that addition is, an increase quite equal to it will be found necessary for three years, and I will say why. The total number required to man the ships under the Naval Defence Act was 21,500, and it was calculated that there would be a relief of 5,000 men from crews of vessels which 916 would have become obsolete at that period. But as we went on we found it necessary to increase the Estimates to the original complement, and many vessels we thought would be obsolete we renovated and re-armed, and the total number of 21,500 was required. The increase made during the five years to the estimates of men was 15,000, and therefore at the conclusion of the Naval Defence Act the ratio with which trained men stood to the ships which they had to man was about 7,000 worse than at the commencement of the Act. There was a large addition made to the Naval Reserve. That was our position, and I calculate that the ships which the late and the present Board have laid down, up to the commencement of the present financial year, will require just about 12,000 men to man them. It is a curious fact that the addition which the Admiralty have made for this year and the next year to the Manning Vote is just 12,150. Therefore we shall be at the end of this year still 7,000 men to the bad compared with what we were some 12 years back. I calculate that the ships proposed to be laid down this year will require 6,000 men, so that, looking to the future, I think it is clear that at least for three years to come an addition of 5,000 or more will have to be made to the Manning Vote. If that is done, and the Naval Reserve raised from 27,000 to 30,000, at the end of three years we shall have approximated our resources in men to the ships they have to man. Fortunately we shall have a certain breathing-time in which we can make these increases. I find in 1892–93 there were 115,000 tons in the way of completed ships added to the Navy; in 1893–94, 170,000 tons; in 1894–95 only 25,000, and this year only 6,000 tons will be added, exclusive of the torpedo boats. The amount of tonnage for last year and this year will not be great, and the Manning Vote ought slowly to creep up and approximate to the requirements of the materials. These figures illustrate what I said yesterday—namely, that the increase which is made in one year in the shape of completed ships for the Navy cannot, in any way, be judged by the expenditure of that year. Two important difficulties with which the Admiralty have to deal are the shortness of the engine-room complement and 917 the deficiency in the number of lieutenants. The number of additional stokers is 4,000, and in that respect I think we stand in a fairly good position. I should like, however, to know whether steps are being taken to create a reserve of engine-room artificers. I am confident it can be done by either offering facilities to engineers working in the factories of the country to place themselves on the reserve list, or by making it necessary for engineers in the dockyards to go afloat for short periods of sea service. But the chief difficulty arises from the shortness in the number of lieutenants, which was seriously aggravated by the reduction which took place 15 years ago. It takes 10 years to make a lieutenant, and it is not easy to say how we are to make good in the immediate future the existing deficiency. I should be very reluctant to suggest that men should be brought in from outside, for such a step would doubtless give rise to much objection on the part of those who devote so much time and study to qualify themselves for the position. At the same time, if the step were advised by naval officers of great reputation I should be ready to acquiesce in it. But if the number of lieutenants is increased, it will be necessary to increase in proportion the number of officers superior to that rank, and I am glad to see that the Admiralty have recognised this point. I observe with satisfaction that there is to be an increase in the number of warrant officers and chief warrant officers. I hope the Admiralty will be able to associate with this increase of chief warrant officers, some name in rank which will indicate that these officers are commissioned officers. I know there is some difficulty in finding a suitable name, but I think the difficulty may be overcome, and I am sure such a step would give immense satisfaction to the Navy. With regard to the recruiting for boys, I believe the Admiralty have done right in trying the experiment of sending the Northampton round the ports of the United Kingdom, and I hope, if that experiment is a success, it will be continued. I also approve of an additional training-ship being stationed in Ireland. I am glad to find that the experiment of naval barracks has also proved satisfactory, and that experience justifies the observations which have been made by the Civil Lord 918 on the matter. Passing to the votes for material, the progress that has been made with our battleships has been not only remarkable, but phenomenal. I observe, however, that, whilst a large additional sum has been spent on the vessels building at Portsmouth and Chatham, there has been a considerable reduction in the sums proposed to be spent on the two vessels at Pembroke. I cannot understand the reason for delaying the progress of the Renown at Pembroke, for I regard the Renown as one of the most effective ironclads we are building. In regard to the 10 ironclads that are on the programme for this year, three of the ten were on the building programme of the late Board of Admiralty in 1892–3, and since then we have lost the Victoria. If these are deducted, we have, therefore only six remaining, or an average of two per annum since 1892–3. I do not think this is sufficient to keep up our naval supremacy over the other two leading navies of the world. I estimate that they have 28 first-class battleships to our 26. Besides this, they have a considerable number of effective coast-defence vessels. I would therefore suggest that in place of the four first-class cruisers which it is proposed to build we should build two battleships of the type of the Renown, three of which could be built at the cost of two Majestics. This question of battleships has become more important in the light of the experience of the engagements between the fleets of China and Japan. I believe that many taught have missed the real lessons critics by the battle of the Yalu. The Japanese had every advantage in the shape of faster vessels, heavier guns, officers better trained, and more efficient men; notwithstanding which, the Japanese cruisers were unable to put out of action two Chinese ironclads of only moderate dimensions, while a single shell from an old-fashioned Chinese gun, in one of the oldest ironclads, struck the Japanese flagship, killed and wounded 30 men, and put the ship out of action. The lesson taught by that battle was that, however efficient a cruiser may be for attack, it cannot stand the hammering of an ironclad. Whatever great naval battle is fought in the future, the nation which has most ironclads will have the advantage, and, therefore, it seems to me to be necessary that all 919 quarters of the House should press on the Admiralty the advisability of reconsidering their programme, and of substituting battleships for cruisers. Turning to the question of the designs of the vessels it is proposed to build, I fear I must express dissatisfaction. There are to be four first-class, four second-class, and two third-class cruisers. My objection to the first and second class cruisers is that their design is distinctly of a retrograde character, inasmuch as they are to be shorter and broader than the vessels that have preceded them. If one fact has been established more clearly than another it is that the increased length tends to increased speed. There had been a steady increase of length in proportion to beam of recent years, but now we are going to build more cruisers of the Blenheim class. The hon. Gentleman explained this retrograde design on the ground that the vessels were to be special-service vessels. I protest against special-service vessels. Our great danger, if ever we become involved in a great war, will be that we shall have to operate over an enormous area, and that no human ingenuity can foresee the suden concentration of forces which in different places may occur; and the only method by which we can counteract such dangers is by keeping our fleet homogeneous and mobile. But special service means that a vessel is told off for duty in a certain locality, and that means a deduction from the general sea-going power of the Navy. We have given up building coast-defence vessels for that reason. Some years back the Hero and the Conqueror, vessels of light draught for shallow water, were built. They have taken part in naval manœuvres, and have been associated with first-class battleships, and on one or two occasions they upset the whole plan of the Admiralty, because they could not keep pace with the first-class ironclads with which they were associated. Therefore, it seems to me a great mistake to build these short vessels on the ground that they are intended for special service. The first function of a cruiser is speed, and I do not believe that these short, stumpy vessels can develop great speed. Moreover, it is essential that a large gun or two guns of moderate calibre should be placed well forward, but a vessel with a 920 fine end has not the necessary buoyancy. I make a proposal to which I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will give attention. The cruisers are to be built by private firms. My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast (Sir E. Harland) last year made a remarkable speech attacking the Admiralty designs. I have as great a belief in the genius of Sir William White as any living man, but my hon. Friend speaks as one of the most successful shipbuilders of modern days. He was the pioneer of that particular form of vessel known as the Atlantic liner. If these cruisers are to be built by private firms, I would suggest that firms of the standing of that of my hon. Friend should have a free hand in the design. Nobody at the Admiralty can obtain the information which the owners and builders of these Atlantic liners possess as to the various conditions under which they have to be forced against a head sea, for these vessels are compelled to proceed at full speed in all weather. These private firms being the repositories of this special knowledge, why should we not apply to them and give them a free hand under a schedule of prices if you like? I believe the result would be most valuable. We should be able to test one vessel against another; and although it might cost a few more thousands of pounds, I think the result would be of the greatest possible benefit. I venture to make that suggestion because it seems to me a practical one, and, inasmuch as these designs are not complete, one that can be adopted. I should like to say a word as to the question raised last night by my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead. My hon. Friend attacked the Admiralty for having adopted water-tube boilers. If anybody was responsible for the introduction of these boilers it was myself, and I will state my reasons. An extraordinary improvement has taken place in marine engineering in recent years. But the improvement in boilers has not in any way corresponded to the improvement in machinery. Various experiments to get increased boiler power into torpedo-catchers have not been successful, and therefore it seemed to me that when a firm of high repute guaranteed efficiency for three years it was worth while making the experiment, and the ship entrusted to this firm has been a very great success. My 921 hon. Friend drew a pathetic picture of the terrible dangers to which anyone was subject who went on board a vessel with water-tube boilers. I have been on board such vessels, and I believe a water-tube boiler is just as safe as any other boiler, provided it has been properly manufactured and is properly managed. The mistake made in this matter arose because the Admiralty had to put out a very large number of torpedo-boats all at once, and they were compelled in consequence to distribute them over many firms who had never built a torpedo-boat before. All the accidents that have occurred were in the work of firms who had no experience of this particular class of boilers. Therefore, I cannot blame the Admiralty. I think they were right in continuing experiments as regards water-tube boilers. They have put them into two of the largest cruisers ever built, and if the result justified that experiment no fault could be found. The hon. Gentleman did not allude to Lord Spencer's statement concerning the work of the Ordnance Department during the past year. That seems to me to be one of the most satisfactory features in this statement. I gather that the whole of the ships built under the Naval Defence Act, with one exception, are now provided with quick firing guns. If that is the fact it reflects the greatest credit on the Ordnance branch of the Admiralty, and proves that it is immeasurably better that this branch should be under the Admiralty than that it should be under the War Office. I hope, in considering future proposals to transfer from the War Office to the Admiralty those duties that belong to the latter, the House will remember that every such transfer that has hitherto taken place has been followed by good results. I now turn to the Works Vote, and I must say that the proposals of the Government are not wanting in audacity. But there are two works that ought to have been included. The first is the continuation of the buildings of the Admiralty themselves. If it be necessary to provide increased accommodation for ships and men at distant parts, it is much more essential to provide that the brains of the Navy have a fit and proper habitation. If we were engaged in a serious war to-morrow, one of the great difficulties that would be 922 encountered would be the dispersion of the officers of the Admiralty all over the West End of London. Surely, if we are going to spend all this money at distant out-ports, we should at least take care that the officials responsible for the administration of the Admiralty are properly housed.
§ MR. ROBERTSON
I would point out that the Admiralty has nothing to do with expenditure for Admiralty buildings.
§ LORD G. HAMILTON
No. But I think the House of Commons has. If it is necessary to provide so large a sum for public buildings on the ground of urgency, we are entitled to point out that this matter is equally urgent. There is another omission—unless Pembroke is to be shut up, it ought to be made a general fitting and finishing yard. The utility of Pembroke would be great in time of war. I am certain that a good deal of the work sent from Pembroke to Devonport to be completed is badly done. It is for this reason I would make Pembroke a finishing and fitting yard. It has the advantage, at any rate, of being impregnable from the sea. I will reserve till another occasion the observations I have to make as to the financial expedients by which the money is to be raised. It does not matter to the Admiralty one straw from what source the money comes so long as they get it. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer has enjoyed himself in the past in mounting to high altitude of financial purity—I might say, of financial prudery—and in holding up to us poor sinners who proposed to spread a small portion of a very large sum over a few years; whereas, it is now proposed to raise by loan a sum of something like £9,000,000 or £10,000,000, and to spread it over a period of 30 years. It is curious to note some of the "permanent works," the expenditure of which is to be raised by loan and repaid by instalments. One of the largest items is "dredging." I thought I would find out what dredging had cost in the past, and what it was going to cost in the present year. I find that in 1893–4 it cost £41,500. That was the year in which the Estimates were reduced to the lowest point. Last year it cost £196,000; while this year it is down on the Estimates for only £9,000, the balance of the cost of this 923 item being transferred to loan account. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, on a former occasion, ridiculed the advice which the late Chancellor of the Exchequer and I gave him, but I think our method of meeting the increased expenditure was preferable to his. I reserve to myself the right, whenever the Loan Bill comes up, to make further observations upon that point. I can only say, in conclusion, that, however much some of us may differ on other questions, we are all united in desiring a strong and progressive Navy. The Admiralty, in the statement they have put before the House, have given us an earnest of their determination to do their duty. I only wish they would take us fully into their confidence; but, feeling that the Admiralty are acting with that determination, we, for our part, will readily co-operate with them in their laudable and, I trust, successful efforts to raise the British Navy to a higher standard than before.
§ SIR E. HARLAND (Belfast, N.)
thought it incumbent upon those who might fairly claim to have a little knowledge of nautical matters, either to state their approval of the programme placed before the Committee, or to give their reasons for differing from the programme. He would not trouble the Committee, at the length he did last year, in going into the details of his objections to various classes of vessels sought to be constructed; but, as the vessels now proposed were much of the same class in their relative proportions to those which he then criticised, he felt that he ought to again enter his protest against a continuance of construction of what he felt to be a very faulty class of vessels. He did so from a very considerable experience in dealing with vessels which fulfilled seven-tenths of the qualifications recognised as essential in a battleship, be it an armourclad or a cruiser; and he asked the Committee and the Admiralty to pause before committing the country to becoming the owners of ships which, he was certain, would, before three or four years, be found to be very deficient, and inferior to the vessels which might then be constructed. The Majestic and her sister ship were a decided improvement upon some of their predecessors, but, at the same time, they seemed to be deficient, not only in 924 economy in regard to the amount of machinery put into them, but also by reason of their coal endurance being very deficient. In war time our battle-ships and cruisers would require to carry many days' supply of coal, not only for themselves, but for the numbers of torpedo boats and torpedo catchers which would accompany them, and which would need to be supplied almost daily with coal from the larger vessels if the fleet were required to proceed at any great speed. He regretted that no experiments were made in last year's naval manœuvres in coaling the smaller vessels form what might be termed their parent-ship in a seaway. Such experiments would have been invaluable. In time of war, operations of that kind might have to be performed in very heavy weather. It was essential that our war-vessels should be of such length and so modelled and designed as to be able to carry not merely their own supplies of coal in their bunkers proper, but that they should also have coal holds for at least 1,000 tons to supply the small fry which must necessarily follow the larger ships. He contended that they could not ensure anything like that quantity in ships of the proportion which were contemplated. He regretted that some second-class cruisers were to be even shorter and broader than their predecessors. That was a step backwards. The Admiralty should have sought further evidence as to the desirability of constructing vessels of greater proportionate length, and he thought they seemed to undervalue the qualities which had been found so essential in the merchant service. He was certain that the constructors of our warships had a great deal to learn from the mercantile marine, not only in the modelling of vessels, but also in reference to the machinery put into them. He had felt great interest in listening last night to the remarks of the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Allan) upon the subject of underboilering and other deficiencies in machinery. He believed that one of the chief reasons why not only the war vessels of to-day, but the merchant ships of 20 years ago, failed in having sufficient boiler power applied was that the vessels were too short. To-day, in the Navy, they were too short to give sufficient accommodation for satisfactory boilers. Therefore, 925 they had not only a deficiency of space in the vessels of the Admiralty type to-day for giving such vessels suitable boilers, but also suitable machinery. If they added to that the extremely defective arrangement of the bunkers, compelling them to have watertight doors through one bulkhead or another they would see the danger to a vessel at sea. He thought that was another defect resulting from the war vessels being too short. Everything was so cramped up for want of length that the bunker arrangement was not only insufficient, but it rendered it impossible for the Naval architect to arrange the bulkhead divisions so as to reduce the chances of the vessels sinking to a minimum. He would only refer, in a word, to the sad case of the lost Victoria—a loss which arose entirely from her defective dimensions. If the Naval architect had 100 feet more in length to deal with, he would have been able to arrange the bunkers so that there would not have been that difficulty which was experienced as to the closing of the doors when the catastrophe occurred. When they read an account of one of the new battleships or cruisers being launched, they were told that they were minutely subdivided, but on examination they discovered that all these minute sub-divisions were simply a network, or, in other words, that the subdivisions were run into each other, and were of such a nature that the doors must be constantly kept open. He considered that such minute divisions were a complete fraud. He was also convinced that on this question of sub-divisions the present Board of Admiralty and the constructors had now data before them that they had not before them a few years ago, but he was sorry to find they did not avail themselves much thereof. He was glad the Mercantile Marine had availed themselves of the information, and he now took the opportunity of pointing out to the Admiralty the importance of far more complete and perfect sub-division of the battleships with a view to the safety of the vessel. He thought that before they proceeded farther they should have some assurance on this point. He was very pleased, indeed, that at that hour of the evening (7.10) so many Members were present to take an interest in nautical matters, 926 When they considered the vast sums of money cheerfully granted to the Navy in order to strengthen their first line of defence, it was evident that every year the importance of the question would increase. Last year he was told that these were technical points. Well, they certainly had a technical speech last night from the hon. Member for Gateshead. Nine-tenths of the time of the House were taken up in discussing purely legal phraseology, and he thought the remainder might be given up to what were called technical matters. They often heard of hon. and learned Members, but there were many ways of being learned besides learned in the law. The Navy was year by year growing in importance, and considering the vast sums annually voted, and then the country committed to the ownership of the vessels for 20 or 30 years—if they were not sent to the bottom—the question could hardly be looked upon with disfavour. He was glad to support the remarks of the noble Lord as to the 42 torpedo boat catchers. He thought it was beyond human power and beyond engineering capabilities to produce one vessel so perfect that it would be wise at once to repeat that 42 times over. If there was one class of vessel which required to be protected—as they had learnt from the war in the East, where the Japanese had shown marvellous pluck in manœuvring these vessels—it was the torpedo boat and the torpedo catcher. He thought that greater care should have been exercised before the order for the 42 torpedo boats was given. He was very much disappointed as to the second-class cruisers, which were to be 320 feet in length by 57 in breadth. He thought that this was decidedly a step backwards. With reference to repairs, he said that a point had been called to his attention in going through one of the dockyards the other day. He found that the Sultan, which was being repaired, had actually seven inches of timber bolted on to her sides in order to make her stiffer, and to enable her to stand up to her guns. In his opinion that was about the most backward step which it was possible for any dockyard to take. If the vessel had been lengthened 50 feet, say, as an experiment, he was convinced 927 that they would have found the experiment of immense advantage. In connection with the graving docks, he asked for information as to the length of the dock at Portsmouth as well as at Gibraltar. He maintained that the size of the graving docks in future should be made not only with a view to accommodate the vessels of Her Majesty's Navy, but they should also be sufficiently large for the naval cruisers. Arrangements had been made by which the Government could have the use of some of the largest ocean-going steamers in case of war. The House should remember that these steamers, when they came into the service of the State, were not armour-clad, and were likely enough to be injured, necessitating repair. Even their propellers might be disabled, and in his judgment, therefore, the graving docks should be constructed by the Admiralty at least as large as would accommodate the largest existing cruisers, and probably the merchant cruisers of the future. He should be glad, therefore, if the Civil Lord would tell the House what was to be the proposed size. In order to simplify the matter, he had no hesitation in saying that such a dock should not be a foot less than 800 feet in length—probably 700 feet would supply the wants of to-day—and 90 feet in width, and there should not be less than 35 feet of water. The great advantage of a long graving dock was, that they could dock two ordinary proportioned vessels of to-day at the same time; and as the cost of the graving was due to the breadth, the general entrance to the dock, and the pumping of it, more than to the length, he thought the making of it 200 or 300 feet longer was a small matter compared with the dock as a whole. It would be a mistake, therefore, to construct a graving dock less than the dimensions he had indicated. In this connection he might refer to the Mersey Docks, and other docks for the mercantile marine; and if hon. Members examined those docks they would fine that the length he had indicated was by no means an extraordinary length. Most docks were of that length, and he could not too strongly impress on the Admiralty the desirableness of making the dock at Gibraltar of the dimensions he had suggested. He was pleased to 928 hear his noble Friend (Lord G. Hamilton) refer to the raising of the standard of engineers and the engine-room artificers. He was also glad to hear the very favourable view entertained by the Civil Lord on that question. He was convinced that just in proportion as we heaped duties more and more on the engineers of the Navy, so must we place within their reach the posts of honour and the posts of dignity. The time was coming when the Navy could afford perhaps to lose one of her captains sooner than one of her engineers. On this subject he should like to express a practical view which he entertained with reference to the training of young engineers. He had observed at Keyham that there was a method of training young men in one shop, and under the superintendence of one man. He advocated rather the separation of these young men, one from the other throughout the different shops, because by their separation they became more associated with the workmen from whom they were to derive all their instruction. Their knowledge of the work was not imparted by the foreman to these young men, but rather by the workmen with whom they, for the time being, were allied. In his judgment, therefore, these young men would be better trained, and be rendered more proficient workmen if they were scattered through the shops and separated from each other—if they were allowed to see more of the various classes of engines made, and were allowed to mingle more among the workmen themselves. With reference to the types of ships, he was convinced that, looking to the number of vessels designed for various purposes, we possessed a sufficient variety of ships to be told off for different classes of work without our voluntarily building them for a special service. In his judgment it would be an error to build a vessel shorter or broader in order that it might be enabled to go through some extra class of evolution, because even in the merchant type of vessels the twin screws obviated any difficulty in manœuvring them. If the Admiralty were to build now a short and broad ship in order to enable it to be more easily manœuvred he thought it would be casting away all the value of the longer vessel. He hoped, therefore, that we would not continue to 929 design our vessels as if they must be handled with a single screw, as if we had yet to learn of the marvellous facility with which the twin screw vessel could now be manipulated.
§ MR. H. E. KEARLEY (Devonport)
expressed the great appreciation felt by the wives of the seamen and others who were now enabled to draw their allotments in a more satisfactory manner. It was also satisfactory to have the explanation which had been given as to the new works and the carrying out of works in hand. He wished to know how long it would take to complete the students' college at Keyham. It necessarily happened that until Keyham was extended the Admiralty would not be able to get an adequate supply of trained engineers. He believed that great advantage accrued from having Naval barracks instead of depôt ships, the sanitary condition of which was not satisfactory. He was glad that the Admiralty had undertaken to provide a suitable dock at Gibraltar, the necessity for which had been urged on the Government by several deputations. With regard to the harbour at Dover, the Civil Lord congratulated himself that he was the first to begin this work. But this work was not to be begun this year, and no one knew what would happen to the right hon. Gentleman politically next year. He thought it was suspicious that this work had been put off at all; and he did not see why it could not be taken up at once. The statement which had been made as to the increase of the pay of engineer officers was very satisfactory; the proposed addition of £9,000 to the Vote seemed to be a handsome contribution. Though the great grievance of the engineer officers in respect of the separate mess at Greenwich was removed, there still remained another grievance in respect of their rank. The assistant engineer was promoted to be engineer at the age of 26 years; and then he ranked with, but after, the lieutenant, whose promotion was given at the age of 22. There had never been social equality between the engineering and the executive branches; and some consideration should be given to this question of rank. It was not until the engineer had reached the age of 30 that he attained the full status of the lieutenant. As to engine-room artificers, the Admiralty had been 930 endeavouring to attract engineers by advertising and by reducing the qualifications; and they had, in consequence, introduced men who had not, in the opinion of competent judges, the qualifications which many of the engine-room artificers possessed. There should be some improvement in regard to the rating of these artificers. The claim was stronger now than ever, because the Civil Lord had told the Committee that the chiefs were now to have the advantage of jumping from petty officers' to officers' rank. He thought that the best of the engine-room artificers ought to be able, after 10 years' service, to obtain warrant rank by examination. The weakest branch of the engine-room staff were the stokers. The stokers were grossly underpaid, and their work was excessively hard; and the Admiralty had had considerable difficulty in even filling up their numbers. But the Admiralty were rather inclined to say now that the stokers could have no great grievance, because their numbers had been filled. This was not a question of quantity so much as of quality. He had noticed in a railway waiting-room an Admiralty advertisement for stokers, inviting boys of 18 to enter. The life in the stokehold required very strong physique indeed; and, seeing that men were asked to enter at 1s. 8d. a day, it was not surprising that well-seasoned and matured men were difficult to get. During the last 25 years the pay of the chief stokers had been 2s. 5d.; and only in the last year had an increase of 1d. a day been made. The quality of the stoker was not what it should be, and the result would be that when, in time of war, ships were worked at full speed for several days, the engine-room must break down. Besides, the complement of stokers was far too low; and to keep the engines continuously at full speed would require watch-and-watch work for the stokers. The time had come for the case of these men to be taken into consideration. It was useless to increase the attractions to the Service for the engineer and the engine-room artificer unless the stokers were of the right quality. With regard to the status and pay of the warrant officers he pointed out that these men got their warrant rank at 27 years of age now, on an average; and 931 there was no other step of promotion open to them until they reached 50 years of age. They asked that promotion should be quickened by enabling them to get the rank of chief at 37 years of age, and after a further ten years' service, at 47, there should be created a new rank which they themselves suggested should be called Fleet rank. The noble Lord the Member for Ealing, when he was at the Admiralty, made a statement which was generally considered by the warrant officers as indicating an assent to at all events some of the suggestions that had been put forward, and he believed he was in sympathy with their demands. He, when First Lord of the Admiralty, after a careful consideration of this question, was strongly in favour of granting this Fleet rank and quickened promotion, and they had been given to understand—not by word in the House, unfortunately—that this would be granted. But there was no reference to it in the Estimates, and he wanted the Civil Lord to state whether he meant to meet this legitimate demand. By granting this he would be benefiting not merely this class of men, but everyone in the Navy, from the boys upwards. There was another matter to his mind, of special importance, and that was as to the manner in which certain skilled trades employed in the Navy were treated. There was by no means an equality of treatment meted out, as there should be, to those possessing an equality of skill. He would illustrate his complaint by mentioning the position of Naval Shipwrights. These men were recruited from shipwrights outside, either from the employment of private firms, or from the Government Service itself. In civil employment they were recognised as one of the highest and most skilled branches, but on entering the Navy they descended to a level altogether below that which their mechanical status and skill justified. Whereas an engine-room Artificer entered the Navy with a rating of Chief Petty Officer and 5s. 6d. per day, the Naval Shipwright was entered as a leading seaman with 4s. per day. The holding of this inferior rating subjected him to work and association which he felt to be derogatory to his status as a skilled mechanic. For example, he messed with those who were on no footing of equality with him, so far as 932 mechanical training and proficiency were concerned. He had to assist in his turn in cooking, also in cleaning the mess, and what was far worse, he had to take his share in the work of scrubbing decks. Surely these were not fitting duties for a skilled mechanic to perform. He hoped that his hon. Friend, the Civil Lord, would see his way to removing this anomaly by giving Naval Shipwrights improved status and pay. Another subject to which he would refer briefly was that of the Pensioners employed in the Reserve. There were those of the Dockyard Reserve and those of the Fleet Reserve. The first of these received as wages a sum amounting to 16s. 11d. per week, which included an allowance for provisions: but the men in the Fleet Reserve were in receipt of 1s. 6d. per week additional pay. But they were practically engaged upon the same class of work, and frequently working side by side. The grievance had been represented to the Admiralty more than once by the Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth and Devonport. However, the Admiralty in reply said it ought to be taken into consideration that the Dockyard Reserve Pensioners were in receipt of higher pensions. But the pensions were gained by years of youthful service to the country, and in his opinion it was distinctly dishonest for the Government to make this a pretext for subjecting these men to a lower and inadequate wage. With regard to the white clothing of Marines who embarked for foreign service to tropical countries, he desired again to draw attention to the inequality of the new Order. Under it those men who embarked for the first time were provided with a free supply, which previously was not the case. But, strange to say, this concession was not made to apply to those who were embarking for a second period of foreign service. He contended that such a distinction could not be upheld, and he understood the Admiralty were favourably inclined to meet him on this point.
§ MR. G. WYNDHAM (Dover)
said, in regard to the works at Dover he had, the previous night, been able to put a question, thanks to the courtesy shown him, before the Civil Lord spoke, and he did not abuse the opportunity then given him. The Civil Lord, in speaking that afternoon, had dropped the phrase "as 933 the Government are at present advised." He had already heard one piece of advice on the subject from one of his supporters, and he hoped similar advice would be tendered again and again to him. The Civil Lord had offered no argument whatever for excluding Dover, and, he might add, Hong Kong, from the scheme of the Government, The hon. Member had told the House that there was a distinction—namely, that no works were at present being conducted at Dover, but that works were being conducted at Gibraltar and at Portland. He saw the distinction, but he could not see what argument the Civil Lord founded on it. The Committee might not remember that the House passed a Bill—he believed in 1892—authorising the construction of a harbour at Dover, and that harbour was in process of construction. It was quite true that in England we had a great deal of capital and enterprise, but he did not think we could afford to waste the one or discourage the other by springing these plans on the House of Commons, and then not proceeding with them. It was only fair to the people at Dover, and the capitalists who had embarked money in this scheme, that they should know whether or not the Government was really going on with this harbour. He should like to know if this question was again indefinitely postponed. As it was, it was postponed sine die, and he felt almost tempted to move a reduction on the Naval Estimates, on the ground that they ought not to increase the value of their property so long as they did not complete an insurance which they thought it wise to make in order to protect that property; but he was so thorough an admirer of these Estimates that he would not do so. But on an early occasion, he should have to urge upon the House the advisability of including not only Dover, but Hong Kong, it might be for a nominal sum, but in order that the sanction of the House might be obtained to the scheme as a whole.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
thought the schemes of the Admiralty would require a great deal of money, but the hon. Gentleman and those associated with him should be congratulated for having so boldly undertaken what was an essential and a necessary task; and their boldness almost 934 amounted to audacity when one considered the means being taken in order to provide for the payment of that work, and recollected the criticisms which of late years had been passed upon the method of obtaining money. No doubt all of the works which had been indicated were of great importance; but for his part he attached the most importance to those which were to be undertaken at Portland and Gibraltar. The extension of the mole at Gibraltar was of primary importance, and he was inclined to think that second to that work was the enclosure of the bay at Portland. The Admiralty had been wise in reconsidering the position they took up last year in regard to the latter, because it was capable of being made one of the finest harbours in the country. He, however, did not intend to go closely into the details of that work, but should pass on to the question of ships and men, which was more applicable to this vote. There was nothing more satisfactory than the change which had taken place all over the country in the opinions of people with regard to the position which our Navy ought to occupy. Ten or 12 years ago it was an extremely difficult thing to excite interest either inside the House or out of it on Naval questions, and that was at a time when the Navy had reached one of the lowest points it had reached for years. Now, however, both Parties vied with one another in the endeavour to place our fleets in a better position for meeting those of other countries, and putting the Navy generally on a better footing for performing its duties in case of war. Still, he should never be persuaded to believe that we could obtain the best possible value for our money until we adopted a somewhat different course from that which was now adopted. He was not one of those persons, however, who thought that every question connected with the Navy could only be discussed advantageously by Naval men. On the contrary he held the opinion that in all great Naval questions civilians who had given their attention to the matter had opinions quite as valuable as those of Naval men; but as regarded purely professional questions, he should naturally prefer to accept the opinions of Naval officers as being more valuable than those of civilians. In his judgment, we ought to settle 935 questions of this kind by first of all coming to an agreement on the general idea of the kind of vessel most suited to our needs, leaving out all minor details; and this could be done only by obtaining a consensus of professional opinion. Last year he pointed out mistakes that might have been avoided if professional opinion had been more largely consulted. Again, the need for consulting professional opinion was manifest. To enable the Naval Lords to get the best ideas of what was required they should be assisted by a larger number of men drawn from different ranks in the Navy. When a general idea had been in this way arrived at, then it would be for the constructors to say how far that general idea could be carried out. From the fact that neither last year nor this year was it proposed to build any of the smaller ironclads, it almost seemed as if that class of vessel was about to disappear from the Navy. But there were times in war when it would be exceedingly desirable to have the smaller sort of ironclad, in the construction of which we must abandon some of the qualifications of a larger vessel. This was a question that might be considered by a Committee of professional persons; and the country would be more satisfied if the question was decided with such assistance. We were going to build some more second-class cruisers, which were to have high speed and great coaling capacity; but they were to have an increased draught of a foot and a half; and that was a serious matter considering how often in our history we had been placed in difficulty owing to our ships drawing so much water. A Committee of Naval officers might well consider whether the present draught of these vessels was not too great. Again, in the Estimates provision was made for torpedoes; but we did not know exactly what the design of the vessels was to be; and we required professional opinion to decide what the size of these vessels ought to be. From the nature of the case, civilians could not appreciate the difficulty and danger of driving these light vessels at a high speed in rough weather. Many ship-builders failed to remember that in the Navy alone you require to have ships not only handy and swift, but ships that will turn in a short space and with 936 great rapidity. One of the most important functions of a man-of-war was turning power and rapidity of manœuvring; and this was too much left out of account by Naval architects. One reason why we did not excel in these points was, that they were not required in the mercantile marine, and therefore, did not receive much attention.
§ SIR E. HARLAND
asked how the hon. and gallant Member accounted for the marvellous manœuvres which the Hornet and other vessels had been able to go through although their length was ten times their breadth?
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL
said, he did not profess to argue a technical question, but simply looked at the matter as a civilian and argued that the country ought to have the satisfaction of acting on the best professional opinion that could be obtained. On the question of boilers, too, the Admiralty ought to have the best advice that engineer could give. It was natural in such a Debate, to turn to the Naval actions in the war between China and Japan. Frankly, he did not think we could learn much from them from a Naval point of view. As regarded strategy or tactics he doubted whether we should discuss them very much. As to the behaviour of modern ships in action, it might be said that ironclads stood an immense amount of hammering from comparatively light guns without being seriously damaged; and heavy ironclads fired away with heavy guns, inflicting, as he understood, very little damage. In general action torpedoes seemed scarcely to have been used at all. A ram, if it had been used at all on one occasion, had left it doubtful what had happened to the vessel attacked, and it appeared that in this general action three or four ships got on fire. There was another fact which was particularly interesting. The ironclads engaged were, he believed, armoured amidships only, with a protected deck, and he understood that the superstructure of these vessels, fore and aft, was fired into a good deal, and their stability did not seem to be at all affected.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL
said, that if that was so, it certainly made a difference. Still it was a fact that these unarmoured 937 vessels were hit by a great number of projectiles, and still retained their stability. There had been much discussion as to the usefulness of torpedo boats, but it was perfectly certain that that had taken place in real warfare which mimic warfare had shown might be expected to take place, namely, that torpedo boats could attack large vessels at night with every chance of success, though in the daytime men-of-war seemed to have been able to pursue and overtake them. These facts were of undoubted value as far as they went, and it had seemed to him desirable to mention them. He turned now to comment for a moment upon the statement of the First Lord. In the earlier part he found a paragraph which was very satisfactory, seeing that it dealt with a matter that had been raised by Naval critics year after year; and that was that in the Mediterranean and elsewhere the supply of coal and ammunition had at last been increased. There was no doubt that the supply had for some time been so narrow that it was doubtful whether there was more than enough to fight a single action. That was a very bad state of affairs, and it was very satisfactory to know that it had been remedied. Turning to the final subject he wished to mention, namely, the manning of the Navy, it was quite obvious that in consequence of the great extension in shipbuilding in recent years, the question of the manning of the Navy had come into prominence. Last year an experiment was made, by which it was hoped to get a certain number of men direct from the Merchant Service. He regretted to find that that experiment had failed. He had heard one or two gentlemen, in the course of the Debate, say that it was doubtful whether that experiment, carried to any extent, would be satisfactory. He thought that was a mistake. The fact was, that in a war of any duration we should have to go outside for men, and he wished they could know why that attempt had failed. He must own that he did not know whether he might presume to criticise the part the shipowners played in this connection; but why was it that men would not join? Was it because there was not a sufficient number of men? He had heard shipowners complain over and over again that they could not get Englishmen to serve in their ships, and 938 he had asked himself how this unfortunate state of affairs had come about, and he had been forced to wonder whether the fault did not to some extent lie with the shipowners themselves. Had they no responsibility in that matter? That was all he would say on that subject, and even that was drawn from him by the failure of the experiment of last year. He was extremely glad that the experiment of getting boys of an older age into the Service had been found practicable. What was the number of men required at present for the Navy he was unable to say. It was said last year that all our Coastguard, and all the men employed elsewhere, would be about sufficient to man the ships we then had, and he imagined that the number of men now put down in this year's Estimates would be barely sufficient to man the ships we now had. It seemed obvious, then, that for some years we should have to go on increasing the number borne on the books. He was glad to see that the Admiralty did not seemed disposed to let this matter slide. There had been a good deal of discussion about engineers and artificers. The hon. Member for Devonport was anxious to persuade the Civil Lord that the engineers suffered a great grievance at this moment from the fact that they had not precisely the same rank as the executive officers. The hon. Member said that it was absurd that skilled men like engineers should not rank with the executive officers. He would remind the hon. Member that the very seamen themselves were skilled men. There must be an Executive in the Navy to command, and surely those persons who by degrees were climbing up to the command must, by the very nature of the case, rank above the rest. It was perfectly true that the engineers had great responsibilities, and ought to be encouraged in every possible way, but that was no reason why the position of other officers should be prejudicially affected. Was a knowledge of navigation, of torpedoes, of gunnery, nothing? It was absurd for hon. Gentleman after hon. Gentleman to get up and say that the whole business of the Navy depended upon the engineers. He was most anxious that those officers should receive just and generous treatment, but he could not allow the observations respecting them which had been heard that 939 night to pass without comment. The hon. Member for Devonport had spoken of engine-room artificers and shipwrights as being skilled men as compared with ordinary Naval men. That was not fair to the latter, for the men in the Navy were highly trained in the use of weapons and in other respects. It was not fair to say that, because a man came under the designation of skilled artificer, it was beneath his dignity to associate with men who had equally good, although different, qualifications. In conclusion, he congratulated the Admiralty upon their programme of public works, and assured the Civil Lord that the Estimates submitted would receive his general support.
§ SIR JOHN BAKER (Portsmouth)
thanked the Civil Lord, and the Admiralty, on behalf of many thousands of Service men for the extreme care and attention which they had given to the representations made to them. Within his recollection the legitimate demands of the Civil and Naval Services had never before been responded to more generously than during the past three years. Very courteous attention had been given to the suggestions made, by the representatives of Naval constituencies, and he wished specially to thank the Civil Lord for the extreme fairness with which work had been distributed between the Naval ports and dockyards. Employment in those great centres of activity would now be secured to the workmen for some years to come. The announcement made by the Civil Lord respecting the payments to seamen's wives had given him very great satisfaction. The difficulties in the way of effecting improvements in matters connected with the administration of the Navy were not caused by the political officials, but were mainly raised by the permanent officials of the Admiralty, who had stereotyped views as to what was essential for the Service. He thought he could easily show why it was difficult to obtain engineer officers at the present time. He had met hundreds of chief and petty officers, and they had convinced him that while there was nothing like disloyalty to the Service there was discontent among them. The case of warrant officers had been brought to the attention of the House year after year and yet their 940 grievance had not been met. One reason for this was the extreme indisposition to change felt by the executive officers of the Service, who thought that if the warrant officers' wish to attain a higher position were granted the prestige and discipline of the Service would be jeopardised. There was, of course, no ground for such an idea. In the Army men could rise from the ranks and obtain commissions, and why should not the same legitimate ambition be permitted to men in the Navy? Then the chief petty officers were discontented, because neither in respect of status nor pension were they in as good a position as sergeants in the Army, and because they were subject to the punishment of being deprived of their rating at the will of the Commander of a ship. The average pension of a chief petty officer was £33, whereas a sergeant's pension was £36. Then the sergeant in the Army attained his rank in three, four, or five years, while the petty officer rarely reached his position in fewer than 10 or 12 years. He was, therefore at a disadvantage as compared with the holder of the equivalent rank in the sister Service. But the disrating question caused the most dissatisfaction. At the mere caprice of an officer, who might be neither good-tempered nor judicially minded, a petty officer might be punished for some trivial offence in a way that affected him for life. In case of alleged offence let there be suspension for a short time, and then let the man be tried by Court Martial, as in the Army. They might be told that this course could not be adopted, because it was necessary to maintain discipline, but experience proved that discipline could be maintained without severe punishments. There was another cause of discontent. A petty officer after 19 years of very good service forfeited 1d. a day off his pension if the last year of his service was only "good," and another 1d. for not having the medal. In these cases a man had no appeal, and yet might suffer life-long loss merely because he was not appreciated by his commanding officer during the last year of his service. In regard to seamen pensioners in the dockyard, they had a grievance because, in consequence of their having a pension, their wages were reduced 1s. or 1s. 3d. per week below the regular rate. That was a grievance which rendered the 941 service unpopular. If there was a reason for a difference in wage for dockyard work as between seamen pensioners and ordinary labourers, the difference was all in favour of the pensioners, because a man who was an "A. B." was one of the most skilled workmen that could be employed, and there was on justice in reducing his pay because he happened to be a pensioner. There were other classes of men employed under the Admiralty that he entreated the Civil Lord to give some attention to, such as painters and those employed in the stokeholds of Her Majesty's ships. He knew dozens of cases in the last year in which good men had suffered grievously in health and their prospects of life shortened by reason of the nature of their employment. Their wages were too low. Painters in the Navy during the last 20 years had only had a rise of 3d. per day in their wages. It was no answer to say that these men had willingly accepted the conditions of the service. The question was, what was the risk of danger and suffering which they incurred? The stokers should be paid according to the work which they gave; yet they received 2d. per day, on re-entering the service for a second period, below that which ordinary seamen received. The petty officer received an advance upon re-entry of 2d. per day. Why was that denied to the chief stoker? There should be equal advantages and equal pay and position for these men, who were as essential to the service as any class in the ship.
§ MR. G. W. WOLFF (Belfast, E.)
said, that in view of so many Members wishing to speak, he should confine his observations to the part of the programme which he best understood, namely, the shipbuilding programme. A great deal, however, had been said about the engine-room artificers not being put in a proper position, and his hon. and gallant Friend seemed to think their case was being pushed too far. He did not think so. He thought that the education given to 942 the engineer officers as distinguished from the other officers in order to fit them for their professional duties, ought to fit them socially for the higher rank to which they aspired. He was exceedingly pleased to hear of the enormous increase in the stokers and artificers in the Navy. It seemed to him the number of these men must have been very short hitherto, seeing it was necessary to get so many in one year. But taking into account, not only the want of extra ships, but the extra engines and machinery on board each ship, he did not know that even now the number of stokers and artificers was sufficient. Stress had been laid on the fact that the class of ship ought to be determined by professional advice. He supposed that his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Holderness by that meant the naval officer, and not professional shipbuilder or engineer.
§ MR. WOLFF
apologised. He was going to say that so far as concerned the class of ship wanted, the guns required to be carried, armour and coal endurance, these were questions that ought to be settled by naval officers; but when it came to a question of how that ought best to be done, the naval officers ought to stand aside and let the engineer come forward. With regard to the length of ships, the great difficulty about the construction of ships now for the Navy was to build them so as to carry the enormous and ever-increasing weight put upon the ship. From that point of view he thought it very unfortunate that the Admiralty should have thought it necessary to shorten the second-class cruisers instead of lengthening them. The same laws as to carrying capacity which governed a merchant ship applied to a man-of-war, and he knew that the shorter they made their ship the less she would carry. As to the question of tubular boilers, so far as his professional knowledge went, they had no advantage over the ordinary boiler, except that 943 they were a saving of weight. He was far from sharing the alarm of the hon. member for Gateshead that the Belleville boilers would blow up, but he would like to impress on the Navy the unwarrantable experiment they were making with these boilers. He never heard of any merchant company that would at once apply these boilers to the whole of the ships they were going to build. But every one of the ships mentioned in the naval programme—second-class cruisers, third-class cruisers, torpedo-catchers—every one was to have the Belleville boiler. Surely this was risking too much. He thought the Admiralty were making a most hazardous experiment in putting one particular boiler, recommended by a French company, into every one of the ships in their naval programme. The only reason given in favour of these boilers was that they saved a certain amount of weight. He had been told that they possessed one advantage, which was the easy manner in which they could be repaired. But that was really a very trifling advantage, as they were constantly getting out of order, and it would be far better and cheaper at the outset to put in a boiler that did not want such frequent attention. He hoped that the Admiralty would not too rashly make an experiment with these boilers on a scale so large as to practically mean ruin to the efficacy of the Naval programme. Turning again to the question of the length of the vessels, he remarked that the hon. and gallant Member for Holderness assured them that a short ship was able to turn much quicker than a long ship. That was true of old times, when ships used to fight broadside. But in the first place they had now got twin screws, which made it very much easier to turn a ship than formerly; and in the second place, when they had fired the guns in one direction, they did not then need to turn the ship because the turret in which the guns 944 were placed could be turned. A long ship which had twin screws was quite capable of turning as quickly as was necessary. He was aware that this would be heresy to the hon. Member for Cardiff, but still, this was his own conviction speaking from his knowledge of the subject.
§ SIR EDWARD J. REED (Cardiff)
, observed that he was sorry the hon. Gentleman who had last spoken, had rather challenged him, because having spoken the previous night he felt indisposed to rise to-night. He thought however, after the very able manner in which the Civil Lord of the Admiralty had acquitted himself under unexpected circumstances, it was only fair he should receive a little technical and professional support in opposition to some of the criticisms which had been so freely made. With reference to what had been urged by the two hon. Members for Belfast, he was a little surprised that they should be quite so ready to judge of the work of the designers of the Admiralty from their own experience in designing ships which were of such a totally different character to those of the Navy. He thought that the Admiralty showed, by the Minute of the First Lord, that they were just as capable as his hon. Friends of appreciating the value of the length of a vessel when they were able to resort to great lengths for the purpose of speed untrammelled by other considerations. In the statement of the First Lord, particulars were given of certain classes of vessels. The first-class cruisers, they were told, were to be generally similar to the Blenheim type, which was not short but a ship of not very great proportion of length to breadth. The second class were to be exceptionally small in their proportion, but then the Admiralty gave them another class in which the length was to be 300 feet and the breadth only 36½ feet. He doubted whether either of his hon. Friends would take any exception to that class of vessel 945 or if they did, whether they would take it wisely. This illustration clearly showed that, when the Admiralty had no other thing to consider than the attainment of great speed, they were as ready as his hon. Friends to give a large proportion of length as compared with the breadth; and with all deference to then and their experience, he believed then was more than one officer in the Admiralty who knew equally as well as they why great length should be resorted to, and when. What astonished him was to observe how completely his hon. Friends dropped out of their minds the immense difference between a Transatlantic liner and a first-class cruiser. The first-class cruiser had to do that which the liner had not to do at all, namely, to carry a very large amount of weight poised up high above the water. The Admiralty had to seek and provide the necessary stability to carry these upper weights consisting of guns and other cumbrous things. The Atlantic liner had to carry very little weigh above the water. There was no one who appreciated more highly than he the splendid services which had beer rendered to the Mercantile Marine, by the large firm represented by the two hon. Members, but he ventured to say that if they were to put these upper weights which a first-class cruiser carrier on to one of their ships, she would topple bottom upwards and be lost. The hon. Members allowed the question of stability to fall completely out of their consideration. Of course, he knew they could design a very long ship, and enable it to have stability and do all that a first-class cruiser had to do; but what he said was, that they could not, because of the length get rid of the breadth, and if they had the long ship which the hon. Members desired, coupled with the breadth which the upper weights rendered necessary, that meant that they must have a much larger and much more costly ship than was necessary for the purposes of the 946 Admiralty. The question of handiness had been referred to, and he had heard, not without astonishment, the statement of the two hon. Gentlemen as to the handiness which twin screws gave to a long vessel. Had his hon. Friends forgotten that a warship must keep moving whilst she kept turning? But with twin screws they would have one screw bringing about the turning by driving the ship ahead, and the other by driving it astern, and so far as the head-motion was concerned, the one would neutralise the other, and they would get no speed at all.
§ SIR E. J. REED
said, he had designed a number of warships in his time, and he did not know of any twin-screw ship which corresponded in the degree of handiness under the helm—except she derived it from the rudder—to the handiness of the single screw ships of the Navy. He had even heard of ships built by the firm of the two hon. Members which were very far from possessing the handiness which was absolutely essential in a ship of war. This might be the last occasion upon which he should take part in a general discussion upon the Navy Estimates. He agreed with the suggestion of the noble Lord opposite, that, with the object of bringing all possible knowledge and experience to bear upon the construction of Her Majesty's ships, the Admiralty might very well call upon his hon. Friends the Members for Belfast to submit designs from their point of view of a ship which should do all that a first-class cruiser was intended to do. He would ask the Committee, however, to give their confidence to the designers at the Admiralty in those matters until it had been shown that better designs than theirs could be produced to fulfil all the Conditions and objects the Admiralty 947 had in view in the building of Her Majesty's ships. He had been much surprised to hear the hon. and gallant Member for Holderness speak as if the designs of Her Majesty's vessels were really produced in some hole-and-corner way, and that the experience of naval men was not brought to bear upon them. He did not know what was the practice now, but he knew that when he had the privilege of designing vessels for the Navy, the designs he prepared were submitted to the naval officers at the Admiralty, and were sometimes sent out of the Admiralty and submitted to eminent naval officers at Portsmouth. The hon. Member for North Belfast had spoken about the desirability of greatly subdividing the torpedo destroyers, and he put the matter before the Committee as if he was propounding a very important and novel doctrine. He therefore implied that those boats were not subdivided. But they were subdivided, and it would be necessary to refer the hon. Member to a single instance to convince him how much he had failed to acquaint himself with what the Admiralty had done and were doing in those matters. He would doubtless remember the case of the boat Lynx, which, while on its way round from the builders to Plymouth, went aground on the rocks near Land's End in a fog. He believed three-fourths of the bottom of this long boat were penetrated by the rocks; but, however that might be, it was a fact that no fewer than three of her compartments were thrown open to the sea by the accident. Notwithstanding, when the vessel was got off the rocks, she steamed round to Plymouth, and so little did she appear to be injured, that no one perceived, as she entered the port, that she was at all injured. If he had not referred to this matter, the Committee might have supposed that the vessels of this class had been very negligently designed, and were exposed to unnecessary risks. But the instance he had just 948 given was a clear and convincing proof that the Admiralty had not neglected the question of subdivision in this style of ship. He thought it was to be almost regretted that competent and cultivated men in the profession of shipbuilding and engineering did not avail themselves of the facilities open to them for learning what was done, and what happened, in regard to Her Majesty's ships, so that injustice might not be done to the Admiralty and their designers in the course these Debates. He wished to refer briefly to a question which had received a good deal of notice, and which was introduced the previous night by the hon. Member for Gateshead in a vigorous speech. Now the hon. Member who spoke last had actually stated to the Committee more than once that he did not know what was the value of water-tube boilers as compared with the ordinary cylindrical boilers, except in one particular. There were, he thought, good reasons for the adoption of water-tube boilers. An ordinary double-ended cylindrical boiler would contain from 30 to 35 tons of water, and was ready to explode with terrible violence in the event of any disturbance from outside. Water-tube boilers, on the other hand, would not contain more than a tenth of that quantity of water. Surely that was an intelligible object to accomplish in a ship subjected to the blows of torpedoes and of guns. Then experience and science pointed to the necessity for increased pressure if they were to have greater economy. They had, however, gone as far as they could go with regard to pressure in the case of the cylindrical boiler, but in the case of the tubulous boiler they could resort to a much higher pressure. Still, he must say he was a little startled on reading the passage in the First Lord's statement that "it is proposed to adopt boilers of the water-tube type in the new ships to be laid down in 1895–6." That meant that the cylindrical boiler had already been laid 949 aside in favour of a boiler of which they had not had very much experience. The hon. Member for Gateshead, with a forcibleness of delivery which would make any man believe almost anything, had spoken as if boiler accidents were unknown prior to the introduction of the water-tube boiler. But there had been many cruel explosions with cylindrical boilers, both in and out of Her Majesty's Navy. Then it had been represented as a terrible thing that the tubes should wear out so fast. He admitted that if that was permanent, it would be objectionable, although he did not think that the more rapid destruction of the tubes than of cylindrical boilers would of itself be a reason for giving them up. If they obtained advantages in other directions, they should be prepared to renew the tubes more frequently. He did not wish to express any strong or decisive opinion on the matter, but he believed the Government could not have avoided making a considerable and extended introduction of these boilers into the Navy. There might be difficulties, and even accidents, but they must make their tubes as they made everything else—competent for the work they had to perform.
§ SIR EDWARD J. REED
I have not the smallest doubt that the tube burst because it was unable to bear the pressure.
§ MR. W. ALLAN
said the tube was tested at 1,000lb. per square foot, and afterwards at 290lb. The pressure at which the boiler worked was 200lb., and it did not register that pressure when the tube burst almost from end to end and the fatal disaster occurred.
§ SIR E. J. REED
remarked that it was a common thing for a tube which had stood a very high hydraulic test to give way under heat. His contention was that if one had a good object to accomplish 950 one must not try to carry it out by insufficient means. He had no doubt that the remarks of his hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead would have great weight at the Admiralty. It was not a pleasant thing for a public Department like that to have such speeches directed against them; but at the same time they should not be unduly alarmed on account of the statements that were made last night, or because accidents had happened. His hon. Friend the Member for the Holderness Division had raised the question of small ironclads. When at the Admiralty he (the speaker) had designed small ironclads, but, so far from being idle like those mentioned to-night, his vessels were always in commission, and proved most useful. The argument would always remain that two small ironclads, while they could do something which one large ironclad could not do, would fail to do the work which the larger one could. The Government laboured, and would always labour, under difficulties in these matters. The noble Lord the Member for Middlesex complained that we had not enough of the large ironclads, though it was true that he favoured the Renown class in preference to the somewhat larger vessels. Other hon. Members favoured small vessels. Thus the Admiralty were between two fires. The matter resolved itself, then, into a question of expenditure, and depended on the judgment of the Admiralty and its advisers. Having spent many years in the House and borne great pains and affliction of mind in past times, through seeing the public money very improperly expended on vessels excessively imperfect and bad, he had applied his mind to the vessels now proposed, and he was thankful to say that, although he had taken exception to the first designs of Sir William White, he had, nevertheless, viewed with great satisfaction the course of his designs of late. He would defer any further remarks until the Shipbuilding Vote came 951 under the consideration of the Committee.
§ Mr. A. B. FORWOOD (Lancashire, Ormskirk)
said that the Committee contemplated with regret the approaching loss of the services of his hon. Friend in these discussions. No one contributed more to the guidance of the Committee on the Navy Estimates than the hon. Member who had just sat down. If there was one thing more than another in which he felt a deep interest, it was that our ships of war in the future should not get into the same trouble as those in the past had done, and the matter which had caused most trouble was in regard to boilers. They had gone through a very serious ordeal in connection with the locomotive type of boilers. They then followed the Mercantile Navy in the Naval Defence Act, and there had been no trouble either with natural or forced draught in regard to them. Now the Admiralty were taking a great and new departure, and were doing so not on a small but on a large scale. Even the last speaker hesitated to pronounce a decisive opinion in favour of the Belleville boilers. Surely, then the Admiralty ought not to make this tremendous plunge into a thing which they had not tried themselves by placing them in these two large cruisers, each of which was expected to develop 25,000 horse-power, and also to place them in two other cruisers as now proposed. He should certainly raise this question again at the proper time. His hon. Friend said that in cylindrical boilers they had got almost to the maximum of thickness of metal. He gathered that the inference which he wished to convey was, that the Belleville boiler would give a higher pressure. He thought his hon. Friend omitted this point that, although the Belleville boiler did work under higher pressure at 220 to 250 lbs., yet they dare not compress that into the engine at a higher pressure than 200 lbs. Therefore all the rest was lost. It was admitted that if they passed 952 it into the engine at a higher pressure they would have cleared the boilers out of water at the same time, such was the small amount of water that they contained. Until they had been fairly and properly tried, he thought it would be a great mistake for the British Navy to rest on the efficiency of these boilers. There were one or two other points with regard to which he wished to say a word or two. It was said that the great factor in this programme was the Works Vote, which amounted to no less than nine millions of money. They were asked to devote that to works largely connected with harbours. Was there any one subject more than another upon which greater diversity of opinion existed than with regard to the planning and designing of great harbour works? He thought before the Committee was pledged to the great works, which were embraced in that programme, they ought to have before them very full particulars of the plans and sketches of the different proposals. They should also be informed by whom these new works were designed, and what advice had been taken with regard to their position, location, and general arrangements. He took the case of Keyham Dockyard. He thought as regards the dry docks, the depth of water on the sill, the particulars would satisfy the Member for Belfast. The details as to size had been well thought out, but it struck him that the position in which the docks were placed, compared to the workshops, was not advantageous. He thought it might well be considered whether the docks should be at the north instead of the south end. Then, again, the shape of the basin did not lend itself to the mooring of vessels beyond eight or nine fair-sized craft; others would have to lie off in inconvenient positions. He did think that, before they embarked in a great work of this kind, they ought to have the fullest plans, and also understand the different points recommending them. As to the large 953 expenditure over Dover Harbour, this was only another illustration of the uncertainty of the Naval mind. So remote was the contingency considered of having a Naval station or harbour there that sanction was given to a railway company to make a harbour there. Only a few months passed by and then there came quite a change over Naval opinions, and they were now launched in an expense of a harbour at Dover costing £2,000,000. He did not say it was not right, but he did say that they should give to this right-about-face, involving so large an expenditure, the most thoughtful consideration. There was one other work he should like to mention. He referred to the expenditure for the barracks at Portsmouth. He thought he caught the figures £615,000. It was proposed to take the barracks inventory, and give them to the Navy, and erect new barracks for the Army at the cost stated.
§ MR. FORWOOD
accepted that figure. He did not know how many seamen were to be provided for in the Anglesey Barracks, but the barracks for 800 men had been constructed for some thing under £60,000. That being so, he was very much taken aback by the statement that the new barracks were to cost something like £600,000. The hon. Member did not make any reference to some suggestions which he made the previous evening, particularly as to the policy of the Naval Reserve. The First Lord had said that the list at present was closed. He, on the other hand, had pointed out that the cost of the Naval Reserve men was exceedingly small, that the Reserve had now become popular, and he saw no reason why they should not open the list, and allow an increase to be made. It was much better in view of the large growth of our Fleet to take as reasonable a number of men on the Naval Reserve as they possibly could. 954 Questions had been raised as to why there had been failure in securing enlistment. Last year he had pointed out that he did not think the pay of the Navy was half the pay of the men in the Merchant Service, and that men reared in the Merchant Service were not inclined to give up half their pay in order to join the Navy under a rigid and closer discipline. He should like to hear something more about the Northampton, and the object of sending her round the coast. He had been led to believe that the Navy could get any number of boys to fill their training ships at the ports. If that was the case, then what was the advantage of cruising around the coast in order to try to pick up boys who were a year older than at present? It would be far better to go on with the excellent system of taking the boys younger and educating them. As to the diminished amount taken for coal, he said that if there was one matter in the Navy which should be enforced, it was that the offcers and men should be practised in the movements of their ships. What the Navy lacked was sea-going experience, and sea-going experience at full speed. It was idle to say that 8¼ hours were sufficient to give men on board a vessel a proper experience of the manœvring of a vessel at full speed. He believed that the House could not do better than grant the money which was to be expended in coal. Instead of the coal bill coming down, it ought to go steadily up. There should be more liberality with regard to the quantity of coal, and more liberty given to the Admirals at the different stations to keep the ships at sea in order to exercise them at full boiler power. He did not see any reference in the Estimates, moreover, to the contributions from India this year. In the last three or four years £100,000 had been taken as an appropriation in aid expected to be received from the Government of India as part contribution 955 towards the cost of the Fleet which this country maintained in Indian waters. It had always appeared right and proper to him that the Indian revenues should contribute a reasonable sum towards the protection of the shores and the revenues of India. He had enquired into this matter, and he was satisfied that the Government of India would be obtaining the services of the ships on the Indian station at a very moderate cost for the £115,000 or £120,000 claimed by the Imperial Government. This subject was under friendly arbitration three years ago, and he thought that plenty of time had elapsed to allow the subject to be concluded, and to let it be known what the Indian Government were to pay towards the cost of the Fleet.
§ MR. GEORGE HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)
thanked the Civil Lord for some concessions which had been granted, with reference to the accommodation of the engine-room artificers, and expressed a hope that it would be clearly understood that they were not only to be permitted, but encouraged, to compete for the highest posts. The Navy were here dealing with a class of men who were admirably fitted for the higher posts, and every encouragement should be given to them to enter into the competition. He thought that some modification of the age limit should be considered, and urged that age and experience in the discharge of duties ought to stand for something in the examinations. Indeed, the experience these men had acquired ought to be the initial qualification for a higher post. The number of stokers was disproportionately large to that of the engine-room artificers, and there ought to be a full complement of the more competent men. He urged that the Admiralty should offer every opportunity and encouragement to these skilled men to compete for the highest posts open to them in the Navy.
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE (Plymouth)
said that one statement of the Civil Lord had surprised him. The hon. Gentleman appealed to the Committee to leave until Vote 8 the discussion of certain questions of pay and promotion. That invitation was not very tempting, because Vote 8 might not be reached until the end of the Session; but the hon. Gentleman said that the petitions sent in by the men of different ranks had only come under his notice about a fortnight ago, and that he had not given attention to them. These petitions, as a rule, were sent in in October in order that they might be considered when the Estimates were being framed; and if they were not to be looked at by the Admiralty authorities until the Estimates had actually been prepared, there could obviously be very little use in arguing the questions with the Admiralty. The men ought to know whether there had been a departure from the usual practice in this respect, because they were under the impression that their petitions were considered before the Estimates were framed. He entirely agreed with the hon. Member for Portsmouth with regard to the hardship to officers in being liable to be disrated without any appeal or any trial by court martial. He also agreed with the hon. Member as to the hardship involved in the regulation that the men who had served as petty officers for 19 years with good conduct, and who only got a G. instead of a V. G. in their 20th year, were liable to have their pension reduced. He hoped the Civil Lord would consider the two points which had been raised with respect to the engine-room artificers and the special rank for warrant officers. The concession made in allowing the artificers to compete for certain appointments would no doubt be appreciated; but it showed how little justification there was for refusing the concession which for years they had been asking for—namely, to have a warrant rank of 957 their own. In 1888 there was a Committee which considered this question. There was no intervening rank between the artificers and the engineers, who were officers; and if a warrant rank could be given, it would be a great satisfaction to a body of men whose services were becoming more important every year. As to the warrant officers, the question of granting them a special rank came before the late First Lord in the last year of his administration, when there was no time to fully consider the question. But the noble Lord had expressed his sympathy with the desires of the men in this matter, and his opinion that some title could be found. They could not be called "Chief Officers," but they might be called "Fleet Officers." That title would be something to look forward to, and while boys were encouraged to enter the service, the men would not be disheartened by knowing that no further step could be taken by a warrant officer. If the petition of the men were not considered before the Estimates were framed, the men would be more likely to look for that public support in the House which had been referred to more than once, and which in many respects was not so satisfactory as the calm consideration by the Admiralty of the claims made.
§ MR. E. J. C. MORTON (Devonport)
said, that he strongly dissented from the view taken by the hon. Member for Holderness, and agreed with the hon. Member for Portsmouth in respect to the position of the engineers of the Royal Navy. We had now got a mechanical Navy; and to put the engineers in an inferior position to the executive branch of the service, was to cast a slur on the former which was not warranted by the actual work. There was one point, the national importance of which he did not think the House realised, and that was the treatment meted out to the warrant officers of the Navy. It took less time to build 958 a first-class battleship than to make an able seaman. We had got an adequate scheme for the building of ships, and we had already a considerable Navy, but we had not got the men to man them. It cost £300 to turn out an able seaman after being trained as a "boy" he joins as an "ordinary seaman" at the age of 18, and at the end of his 10 years has the option of re-engaging at once or rejoining within a year. A return dated 28th June last showed that in 1887, of the men who had served their 10 years, 24.2 per cent. did not re-engage at all; in 1888 the number was 32.4 per cent., in 1889 33.2, in 1890 32.4, and in 1891 33 per cent. This represented a grievous loss to the country, as the second 10 years of a man's service was of more value to the country than his first 10, and they might say fairly, considering that a man was not a full seaman till he was 21, that if they could induce a man to re-engage who otherwise would not have done so, we should have saved at least £150 a year. A few years ago, he would remind the House, the Secretary to the American Navy said that it was totally unnecessary to establish training ships for boys for the American Navy, because they could get any amount of the very best trained material out of the British Navy from the men who had not rejoined after 10 years' service. He did not think it could be doubted that one reason why these men did not rejoin was that we offered no career to a boy who entered our Navy. The highest point that a boy could hope to reach before he was 50 years of age was the rank of warrant officer, which he reached on the average at about the age of 28, and he could then go no further. There were certain appointments which might, he thought, be given to men in the Navy, and he would point out that the First Lord of the Admiralty in the last Government, in a speech made in the House, had said:—I think we might fairly consider whether 959 we could not adopt some name to denote their position, and also whether we might not increase their number, and thus cause additional promotion. In addition to that, we ought to do our best in connection with the Ordnance Store Department and other departments, to comply with the warrant officers' request. There are a certain number of appointments held by commissioned officers at present which might fairly and legitimately be given to warrant officers of a certain standing. If, however, we cannot go so far as my hon. and gallant Friend would wish, he will see that we are prepared to look into this question in a kindly spirit, and to do our best to meet the wishes of this most respectable class of officers.Since the delivery of that speech by the late First Lord practically nothing had been done, except the proposal had been made in the coming financial year for the appointment of 100 additional warrant officers, which would not get over the difficulty—it would only allow warrant rank to be reached quicker; but still they would meet that wall in front of them, the chief grievance they had. There were posts in the Naval Ordnance Department at Sydney, Simon's Town, Ascension and Bombay, now held by warrant officers without any increase of pay, although positions of the utmost responsibility. There were similar posts at home, where men had duties of the most responsible description to discharge, besides those the late First Lord had in his mind when he made that speech, and who only received the status and pay of warrant officers or chiefs; there were posts at Devonport, Portsmouth, Chatham, Esquimalt, and Pembroke, to which a similar remark would apply. Compare the position of such men with that of men under the War Office. An extremely striking instance was afforded. In October 1891, the Naval Ordnance Stores Department was taken over from the Army. There were at the time men in the Department who had entered the Army as privates, who had been promoted from the ranks—to the position of quartermasters, and these men were transferred to the Admiralty, so that actually under the Admiralty they were enjoying the rank and pay of lieutenants 960 and captains in the Army simply because of this transfer from the Army to the Navy. Under their War Office appointments these men would attain to the pay of £350, with the addition of £50 house allowance. These men who were taken over had subordinate positions under naval officers; and there were naval warrant officers in charge of Naval Ordnance Depots abroad with responsibilities much greaterthan the Army men he had referred to, in sole charge and in each case performing their duties abroad, not at home, on rates of pay £100 or £150 less. Surely there was a good case for putting these warrant officers on the same footing, and offering them the same opportunity for a career, as men of a similar position had in the Army. But the warrant officers petitioned for a far larger, or, rather, a more complete reform. The Army men had a line of promotion by way of quartermasters and paymasters, rising step by step to the rank of lieutenant and captain, getting the pay and status of such rank. He believed there was no case in which a man had risen to be major, but there were cases in which a man retired with the rank and pension of a major in the Army. The warrant officers asked in their petition that a similar career should be opened to them in the Navy. What they wanted was a line of promotion—fleet gunners, boat-swains, carpenters—analogous to the positions in the Army, by which the rank and status of lieutenant would be reached. That demand had been made in the House over and over again for six years, and repeatedly in the present Parliament, by himself and other Members. It had been pressed upon the First Lord and the Financial Secretary, who were not opposed to it—everyone was in favour of it; "our only Admiral" opposite (Admiral Field) was in favour of it, and he believed the bulk of naval officers, even those of the Admiralty, were in favour of it. What, then, was the reason it was not conceded?
§ MR. E. J. C. MORTON
Exactly, and so he would make an appeal to the Treasury, and by that show that they were following a "penny wise and pound foolish" policy, and that by concession they would establish a saving. The senior Member for Devonport had estimated the cost at £3,000 a year, but some officials had asserted that this estimate was too low. He was prepared to take it at £6,000, and then what did it amount to? For this £6,000 many men would be induced to go on for their second term of service. The number of men leaving at the end often years was about 1,050 a year. If 40 more men could be induced to re-engage for a second ten years the whole value of the £6,000 would be realised in one year. If a line of promotion were offered they might reasonably expect that 40 out of the 1,050 men would be willing to re-engage, and that would be a wise, economical step. He hoped the Civil Lord of the Admiralty would see whether he could not concede this reform, which, he believed, would result in a saving of money to the country as well as doing justice to the men.
said, he believed the Board of Admiralty were in favour of carrying out the promises which his hon. and learned Friend had alluded to, but he presumed that the Treasury stood in the way, as it had done before. It was very unpleasant that time after time they should have to bring these small Naval matters forward on the floor of the House. He asked that a Departmental Committee might be appointed to investigate the various grievances that had been referred to. They might not be of great value, but they were thought a good deal of in the Service at large; they had a far-reaching effect, and possibly had a great deal to do in checking the re-engagement of men at 962 the end of their first 10 or 12 years. The only chance of drawing attention to these matters was when the Estimates came round. Naval men would be much pleased with the statement the Civil Lord of the Admiralty had placed before the Committee, and entertain respect for his abilities. He had had a difficult duty to discharge, but Naval men would admire the way he had discharged that duty at short notice. No doubt he would take note of the points that had been raised. But that had been done on former occasions; the notes had been taken to the Admiralty, but had borne no fruit. He was glad to see civilian Members representing dockyard constituencies, because they had to bend their minds to the requirements of the Navy in the dockyard ports. It was urged that warrant rank should be conceded to engine-room artificers. He had always said he could see no objection to warrant rank being granted to those in charge of engines in gunboats and torpedo-catchers. Naval men would not object to warrant rank being conceded to them. But he ventured to urge that if warrant rank was conceded to engine-room artificers the chief stokers should not be forgotten. The duties of engine-room artificers were important from their point of view, but those of the chief stokers were equally important, and if warrant rank were conceded to one class a claim would have to be put in for the older class. An hon. Member laid stress on the position of engineers. He was not aware of any grievance on their part. He had not heard that warrant officers were dissatisfied, but they had a grievance in the fact that hopes had been held out to them of the attainment of commissioned rank, and that the concession had never been made. He hoped the Civil Lord would make a note of the point, with a view to seeing that the grounds of that grievance were removed. The Naval Lords, he believed, were in favour of a proposal of that kind, but no 963 doubt the Treasury blocked the way. The hon. Member for Devouport had referred to the loss, after 10 or 12 years service, of 33 per cent. of men, but that percentage could hardly apply to seamen only, and must include all classes.
§ MR. E. J. C. MORTON
said, the Return from which he quoted specified that the 33 per cent. applied to seamen only.
was glad that some one had been able to obtain a Return on this matter. He had tried to get one for years, but had not succeeded. The high percentage, however, must be accounted for by the fact that attractions on shore were held out to the men, and no doubt a number of them had the desire to run loose after 12 years' service. Of course the fire brigades in London and elsewhere snapped up many of them. But what would prevent such a large number being lost to the Service would be the granting of re-engagement money to the Coastguardsmen, as was done in the case of men serving afloat who received an extra twopence per day; but the Treasury, he supposed, blocked the way against any such arrangement as that. He had called attention to the matter over and over again, and the late Admiral Tryon had also said that the grievances in this direction were substantial. He did not think that the manning of the Fleet was altogether satisfactory, and it must be remembered that the number 88,800 included something like 4,000 boys in training, who could not be counted as seamen. The number, therefore, must be discounted, because a great many lads were included in it who could not take their places as fighting men in the Service. It was a matter of regret that the Royal Marine Force was not to be increased. That was one of the cheapest forces of the country, and gave a much larger return for expenditure than any other. An excellent Marine could be turned out in 964 the course of twelve months, while it took five years to turn out a full-blown seaman; and seeing that the Marines were a most valuable corps, and a great stand-by in case of war, the decision not to increase it would lead to general regret. He wished to draw the attention of the Civil Lord to a grievance which he had pointed out on previous occasions, namely, that Majors of Marines suffered under grave disabilities as compared with officers of the same rank in other branches of the Army, by reason of their having to wait two years before they obtained their extra pay. The disability was offensive to the corps, and he hoped the hon. Gentleman would now see his way to remove it. We could get in abundance men who were untrained, without bounty as a rule, but certainly with bounty; but officers could be got only by hard training and careful nursing. He was much concerned to find no mention made of the increase of lieutenants. It was said that the increase in all ranks must be proportionate. He approved of bringing in officers of the Naval Reserve for whom he had every respect; but it would not be fair to put them on the lieutenants' list, give them seniority, and allow them to displace the men on that list. If they were incorporated with the service—and they ought to be—they should be kept on a separate list, and not incorporated with the lieutenants, because that would alter the flow of promotion and interfere with the just rights of officers trained in the service from boyhood. He observed with regret that the repairs to the Sultan and the Monarch were not yet completed, although they were to be in 1895; but they had certainly been a very long time in hand. He was delighted to find that the Admiralty recognised the importance of quick-firing guns. But with respect to these what was our position on the Mediterranean? Take eight of our battleships and eight of our rivals, the French—long might 965 we be friends together! We had ten to eight; but take eight ships of each nation; how stood the armaments? In heavy guns the French had 95 quick-firing guns to our 22, and in secondary armament they had 25 to our 38, making a total for the French of 120 quick-firing and ordinary guns, and for the English of 60 quick-firing and ordinary guns. Let four rounds a minute he fired from the quick-firing guns, and one round a minute from the others, and the French Navy would be able to fire 405 rounds in a minute to our 126. It was impossible for us to have victory under these conditions, and therefore it was time to bring public opinion to bear on the Admiralty. Some of them had been invited to write to the papers, but he thought it better that they should call attention to the facts on the floor of the House of Commons. The matter was very important, because the proportions were so unequal; and, even if the totals were halved for broadside firing, 202 against 63 would simply reduce conflict to a shambles on one side. Our ships ought to be relieved in detail, one at a time, and their armaments changed. The Civil Lord laid stress on the Works Department. He might inform the Committee that at Devonport Dockyard there was only one dock that could take a first-class ironclad, and the situation was such that a vessel could go in and out only at certain conditions of the tide. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty seemed to make an apology for not including Dover Harbour Works in the first Loan Bill. The same Government were in power when this matter was mooted in 1886, when like proposals were submitted, but the Government withdrew them because of an insignificant opposition. We had gone on for nine years without this necessary accommodation at Dover, and we were to wait another year before the Government faced the situation. Well, they would not be here next year, and he supposed they would 966 hand this matter over to their successors, with other items in this wonderful programme. There was a little harbour on the south coast admirably adapted for a torpedo station, namely, Newhaven Harbour, and he should be glad to hear that the Admiralty had its capabilities in this regard under consideration. The late Government established a Gunnery School at Sheerness, but hitherto the necessary appliances had been withheld. He hoped an assurance would be given that the money would be spent, and not handed back to the Treasury. The range which was needed was a purely Naval range, and it should not be held in joint ownership as a Military and Naval range. He should like to see adequate measures taken to secure that the Naval Reserve should be a proper Reserve, and not incorporated in the active service of the Fleet, for, then, it ceased to be a Reserve altogether. He alluded last year to a magnificent source to draw upon for the Naval Reserve, and that was the Scotch fishermen, but nothing had been done to enrol these men. A distinguished Admiral—now on the retired list, who, as captain commanded a ship in the Russian War, sent a lieutenant to Scotland, who enrolled 200 Scotch fishermen, and they were brought south to join the ship. The Admiralty, however, ordered the men to be drafted elsewhere, but in the end his gallant friend succeeded in having his own way. He was glad to see that a new training ship was to be established at Queenstown, and to learn that the Northampton was finding no difficulty in recruiting men in Ireland; but he wished to know what the complement of the Northampton was, and how many of these so-called adults over 18 years of age she was supposed to train. It was a good thing that dockyard and marine schools were to be placed under the inspection of the Education Department, and he trusted that the Commandants over these schools would no longer be allowed to 967 turn boys out, and to send them to parish schools, merely because parents failed in their duty, and took no trouble to make their children attend the classes regularly.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
thanked the Committee for the valuable Debate which had taken place. He had no wish to curtail discussion, but he desired to appeal to the Committee to allow the Vote under consideration, Vote 1, and the Supplementary Vote, to be taken now. If those Votes were agreed to that night there would of course be further opportunities of discussion at the Report stage. If his request were acceded to the Government would be able to introduce the Loan Bill—which was the most important part of the programme—two days earlier than they otherwise could. If the Votes which he had mentioned were postponed until Thursday it would be all the longer before they could approach what, after all, was the real kernel of the question.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, that he had no objection to the Vote for the men being taken now, because he thought that the statement of the hon. Member respecting that Vote had given general satisfaction. But upon the Vote for the money a number of hon. Members wished to speak, and it would, therefore, not be unreasonable that it should be put off to another day. Then the Supplementary Vote raised important questions of policy, including one affecting the Estimates of future years, namely, the amount that India should contribute for the services of the Navy in Indian waters. He suggested that there should be a compromise, and that the Committee should agree to the Vote for the men, but adjourn the Vote for the wages to a future day.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Progress reported, and the House resumed.