HC Deb 02 September 1895 vol 36 cc1464-90

On the Resolution, That a sum, not exceeding £217,200, be granted to Her Majesty to complete the sum necessary to defray the expenses of the Admiralty Office, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1896,

* MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)

said, there were various matters he wished to place before the First Lord of the Admiralty for his consideration during the Recess. And, first of all, he should like to know what position the Admiralty and the Navy occupied in the new Council of Defence. Was the Admiralty to go on as before, doing its own business and making its own plans, or was it to be treated as in subordination to the new Council—in short, was there anything now taking place, or in contemplation, in connection with the new Scheme which would interfere with the independence of the Admiralty as hitherto understood. That independence was, perhaps, less now than was commonly believed, for, if he was right, in the official hierarchy the head of the Navy was the War Office. The War Office was the primary official to put in movement all warlike action. If, in addition to that, the First Lord of the Admiralty was to be put under the iron heel of the new Council, then an entirely new set of conditions would arise, and the House and Her Majesty's Government would have to consider the new position that would thus be created for the Navy. Coming more closely to the Navy itself, he was aware it had always been the custom of the Admiralty, and especially the Sea Lords, to treat any criticisms and suggestions with the most profound contempt. He thought the Naval Lords were wrong to take up that position. He thought, indeed, they must have forgotten the teachings of their own department, and the history of their own achievements. They might fairly be reminded that there was not one of the tools they used that had ever been invented by a Naval Lord. The steam they were so proud of, the electricity they so much laud—all came from the outside. The conversion of the wooden ship into the iron ship, and the iron ship into the steel ship—none of these things came from the Admiralty. The only work on tactics that for years was in existence was written by a layman who had never in his life been to sea. Therefore the Admiralty were not justified in rejecting with scorn criticism from the outside, seeing it was to the outside they were indebted for every valuable invention they ever had. It must be remembered that these Naval Lords were sailors for the greater part of their life, locked up in small vessels with few men, and these always the same, and consequently they had a tendency to be narrow-minded and arrogant. With this preface he invited the right hon. Gentleman to give renewed attention to the strategy of the questions raised by the new works now in course of construction. The present Naval Lords, or the First Lord, had quite recently discovered the torpedo. Why, the torpedo was in the year 1805 brought almost to perfection in its essence, but it had never been a success, and he believed never would be a success, except under circumstances of the greatest possible disregard of precautions on the part of the ship attacked. He remembered well Sir Hastings Yelverton telling him that in the old war, somewhere about 1803, when the British fleet were blockading Brest harbour, he was sent, in a fog, to fasten a torpedo to a French vessel inside the harbour, and in the fog he rowed around and fastened it to his own vessel. Already, he believed, the torpedo was beginning to decrease in estimation, its terrors were beginning to be less than they were. Yet this was the moment chosen to make out of it a great scare. If he might venture one word, and one word only, to the captain of a vessel in regard to the torpedo, it would be this—never anchor. The Admiralty had invented a scheme of breakwaters at Dover, Portland, and Gibraltar, and what they said to the captain of a vessel was—do anchor, and we will give you a breakwater which shall keep out those torpedoes. Whether it would not be found, on the contrary, that these breakwaters exposed the vessels of the Navy to other dangers he did not pretend to say. He also invited the right hon. Gentleman seriously to consider the situation created by the piling on of armour upon our ships. In his opinion this piling on of armour meant the abandonment of the offensive for the defensive, and the throwing away of armament for armour, of the sword in order to take up the shield. Of course it also involved the surrender of a great deal of seaworthiness. With regard to big ships it seemed to him they were misled in the same way, and for the same reason as they were misled by the torpedo. He believed that this exaggeration of the size of ships was altogether a mistake, and he quoted one of the ablest and greatest authorities we have, Professor Laughton, in support of that view: On no point," said Professor Laughton, "is the teaching of history more positive than this, that, beyond a certain limit, the force of a ship of war does not increase in proportion to an increase of size; and, again, that within, of course, reasonable limits, two small ships are superior to one large one; and yet again, that in a general action victory depends on superiority of numbers. When it came to a question of another programme of naval construction, he hoped a greater part would be given to the smaller ship, and a smaller part to those monstrous and costly vessels which by their draught of water were debarred from a considerable proportion of the service which some British ship or the other had to do. One other point he wished to suggest, and that was the question of fuel. Oil fuel was a practical success, not merely on ships but on railways, and he only put it as one of the items to which he trusted the Admiralty would give its earnest attention. The Admiralty were afraid of the coalowners and the Coal Vote, and had never therefore been able to entertain this question of oil fuel, but really the moment had arrived when it should be done. If they could use oil fuel it would double or treble the fuel-carrying capacity, not only on the large ships, but on the torpedo-catchers and torpedo-boats. He must say a word, too, about cordite ammunition. He was appalled on Saturday to hear the Under Secretary of State in the late Administration say that the reason we had not an adequate supply of small-arm ammunition was because some competent persons held that under certain conditions it was "possibly treacherous and unreliable," because in short we could not trust cordite as safe ammunition. Now it was on board ship that unsafe ammunition was the most dangerous and most unsafe. It was on board ship that cordite ammunition was most exposed to the variations of temperature and climate which aggravated its treacherous character. At Ceylon they had a temperature of 100 degrees day and night on the deck of the ship, and what would happen if anything went wrong in the magazine he left the House to imagine. Turning to personnel, he had seen with great apprehension what seemed to him the beginning of a system of saddling responsibility upon the wrong shoulders. He had heard it preached that the person to be held responsible was not always the captain of a ship, but the admiral or somebody else, and he took as an illustration the T. A. signal, according to which the admiral alone was to know what manœuvre was to be performed, and everybody else was to play a game of "follow my leader" without knowing what was in the admiral's mind. He invited the First Lord to return to the old practice of the sea in this respect. A smaller point was the question of leave. A naval officer at home got six weeks' leave, but one serving abroad, when he came home, was entitled only to two weeks per year. Thus, when he came home at the end of three years, he found himself entitled only to such leave as the home man had every year of his time. And that was not all, for though he came home entitled to six weeks' leave he did not get it. He was ordered away constantly in a week or a fortnight. He did not only not get it, but it was not saved up for him. Surely they ought not to refuse those men who were doing the work of the Navy abroad the small modicum of leave which they were entitled to. Again, as regards the question of hospitality, it was a great hardship upon naval officers to be called upon to extend an expensive welcome to officers of foreign nations for national purposes. This official hospitality ought not to be paid for out of their private pockets; they ought to have a table allowance, just as the admiral had. He now came to what was the most pressing matter that arose upon this Vote, and that was the Order in Council issued on 26th July with reference to the supply of extra lieutenants for the Navy. In reply to a question the right hon. Gentleman informed him that there were in the Royal Navy 884 naval lieutenants, but of these there were 153, or 1 in 6, who he submitted were not naval lieutenants at all; they were naval lieutenants who had been allowed to withdraw themselves from the proper Naval Service and were allowed to take up the position of torpedo and gunnery lieutenants. These torpedo and gunnery lieutenants were in fact withdrawn from the work of naval lieutenants. They did not keep the usual watch. When he asked a question on this matter a few days since he received the answer, in carefully-chosen words, that these officers were not exempt from the duty. No, they were not; but he then asked whether they did, in fact, keep watch and he was informed that they did. What he understood by keeping watch was taking watch in turn during the cruise or voyage, and in this sense no torpedo and gunnery lieutenant did keep watch in turns with other lieutenants. True, on an emergency the torpedo and gunnery lieutenant might be called upon to do so, but it was an exceptional thing and, generally speaking, he imagined the keeping watch was mostly limited to taking charge of the deck while the officer in charge went below for half-an-hour or so. The result was these officers lost touch of the work, becoming torpedo and gunnery men, and being no longer naval lieutenants in every sense of the term. To the extent, then, of 153 from 844 the staff of naval lieutenants was reduced, and it was found necessary to adopt some means of bringing up the strength of this class of officers, because a certain number of them were set to do work which might be equally well done, and, indeed, he believed it would be better done, by the Marine Artillery. He invited the Admiralty to make the experiment. He would undertake to say that captains of the Blue Marines would be found perfectly competent to take the position of gunnery lieutenants on board battle ships. Would the Admiralty accept volunteers for the Service? If the First Lord would allow the experiment to be made of putting two or three captains of the Blue Marines on board sea-going battle ships as gunnery lieutenants, on condition of giving up their Army positions, he felt sure they would perform the duty to absolute satisfaction. The First Lord of the Admiralty would agree that for gunnery work naval lieutenants were not required, the work would be done just as well by the Blue Marines, by the Royal Naval Artillery. Again and again the Government had been told, when proposing to enter on some great programme of shipbuilding, that the first thing to be done was to prepare the men. You can make a ship in twenty months, but you cannot prepare a first-class seaman or an officer in that time; and, consequently, whenever you have to make an increase in ships and guns the first thing to be done, in common prudence, should be to increase the number of boys on board the Britannia and the St. Vincent. This had not hitherto been done, or it was only just beginning to be done, while it should have been done years ago. Therefore, in two ways, a scarcity had been produced: first, by taking away a sixth of the naval lieutenants for other than naval purposes and for work that could as well be performed by the Blue Marines—he had referred to gunnery work, but he would include torpedo work with a very little training; and, in the second place, the number of boys on the training ships had not been increased. Face to face with the difficulty that there were not enough naval lieutenants, the question was, how to get them. He submitted that the Admiralty had taken the most unfortunate way of filling up the vacancies. Nobody appreciated more than he did the very fine qualities of mercantile marine officers; they were invaluable, and it would be of the greatest advantage to have those qualities of a somewhat different character to those of naval officers in the Navy. But, first, he asked himself, would the scheme proposed secure the best officers of the Mercantile Marine? It was proposed to take an officer for a short period and then to get rid of him, never, except under special circumstances, giving him promotion to the rank of Commander. This offer would not attract the most valuable men to the Service, because they were offered no career, but only temporary employment; and not the best men of the Mercantile Marine would avail themselves of the offer, but only those who had not found appointments and a career on the great lines. That was one of the vices of the scheme, that it would not secure the kind of Mercantile Marine officers he wished to see on board Her Majesty's ships. As he understood the Order in Council, the Admiralty retained the power of promotion to the rank of Commander of certain Mercantile Marine officers they were about to bring in, but it was only to be applied in cases of gallantry in action. That he could not but regard as a foolish regulation. Obviously many good officers would never get the chance of displaying gallantry in action, though it was to be presumed that every officer would show gallantry if he had the opportunity. Officers of the Navy knew, moreover, that promotion for gallantry had not always been successful, because gallantry in action was not the greatest, but indeed one of the last qualities that should lead to promotion. Then what was going to be done in regard to present naval officers in comparison with Mercantile Marine officers? A boy was now taken to the Britannia at the age of 13, and his father was called upon to provide him with an allowance, an outfit, and to incur heavy expenses. The boy could not be sent to a public school or to college, and he was under various disabilities, which were necessary for his training. He had, himself, two boys under such conditions, and he in no way complained of the conditions. But what he did complain of was that, after a boy had been subjected to these conditions, and at the age of 21 became a sub-lieutenant, then in effect the Admiralty said: "All this was useless; we shall bring in a man who has fulfilled none of these conditions, but is just as good, and we shall call him a lieutenant." That was so under the right hon. Gentleman's new scheme.


Not mine.


said, the right hon. Gentleman would be responsible for the appointments. He was sure the right hon. Gentleman would acquit him of any desire to embarrass the present Board of Admiralty—he was only putting forward what seemed to him a cogent argument against the scheme. These appointments would be made over the heads of sub-lieutenants who had been seven or eight years in the Service. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman would say this was only a temporary arrangement, and promotion to the rank of Commander would be only in certain cases, but it was one of the vices of the scheme that it would inflict a wrong upon sub-lieutenants in the Navy, while it was not calculated to secure the services of the best men in the Mercantile Marine. Then, again, naval lieutenants who had gone through the mill would be at a disadvantage as compared with the men brought in. He was very much afraid that this plan would not work very satisfactorily either for the gentlemen who were to be brought in from the Mercantile Marine or for the Naval officers themselves. There was considerable discontent already existing at the mere prospect of this arrangement, on the part of the Naval officers, and it was more serious to have discontent among Naval officers than among any other body of men in the service. There was a way by which, without bringing in anybody from the outside, they could supply themselves with the extra officers they required. He had never ceased to plead the cause of the warrant officers. It had always seemed to him that, in the interests of good service, they should open the door to quarter-deck rank to these officers. But, in the most foolish and purblind way they had imposed upon themselves the condition that they should never give to warrant officers this promotion except for gallantry in action, which was a mere affair of luck and chance. This hour of emergency, when they wanted lieutenants, gave them an opportunity of re-considering the case of warrant officers, a considerable number of whom were fit to become lieutenants. His belief was that the hundred men required could have been obtained from the ranks of the service; first of all, by promoting to the rank of lieutenant a certain number of sub-lieutenants; and secondly, by promoting to the rank of sub-lieutenant a certain number of the most competent, able, and capable of the warrant officers. It was absolutely useless to think of building ships or bringing forth guns, unless they had previously taken the precaution to have their men in such a state of training that they would be ready for the ships and guns. The men made no show; their training made no show. Big guns and big ships did make a show; and, therefore, whenever any effort had to be made in favour of the Navy, it took the form of big guns and big ships, and the men were left to take care of themselves. He brought forward these important subjects in the confident hope that during the Recess the right hon. Gentleman would take them into consideration, and that when next year came he might have a better account to give of his administration as translated into Estimates than he had had the advantage of doing in any Estimates hitherto presented.


hoped he was deceived in the impression he gathered that there was a desire on the part of the First Lord of the Treasury to minimise the importance of the communication which had been made to the country with regard to the position of the Lord President of the Council in the Committee of National Defence. Certainly, no announcement gave more satisfaction to those who, like himself, had desired to see the arrangement, for the defence of the Empire put on a proper footing. It was not desirable to subordinate in any administrative way the heads of the two great Departments to any colleague however distinguished; but what they had hoped and believed was that this Committee would ensure the performance of duties which were neither exclusively War Office nor Admiralty duties. The feeling amongst those who had studied the question was that the enormous potentiality of the Empire for defence had never yet been utilised. He had, with others, been labouring to bring about the recognition of this fact, and to obtain a body who would be able to deal with such questions as the contribution of the colonies and the actual distribution as between two Departments of the resources which the great power of this Empire placed at their disposal. He was most anxious to believe that the Government were not in any way going back from the full significance of the statement made with regard to the institution of the Council of Defence. He desired to take this opportunity of reminding the House how great and enormous was this change. He was most anxious that it should not be thought, either in the House or outside, that the House was divided into two sections, one composed of irresponsible and irrational persons of small grievances on Army and Naval matters, and the other of immovable officials who took the opposite view. It was a matter of satisfaction to feel that there had been a response, not only on the part of the present Administration, but on the part of its predecessors in these matters, and it was a matter of congratulation to him and those who worked with him to know that they had not been labouring on the wrong lines, or making proposals that were absolutely unreasonable. With regard to the reply which he received the other day from the First Lord of the Admiralty, as to the entertainments which Naval officers were to provide, he wished to make a suggestion. It would not be desirable, and was not the wish of the Naval officers, that, in all cases where hospitality was given, the cost should be borne by the nation; but he thought, when ships were sent to perform some national function, as they were recently at Kiel, at Portsmouth, and at Havre, where the essence of the service was hospitality, the expense should not be thrown upon the officers, but should be borne by a public grant. In many cases these officers were poor men, and if relief could be given without interfering with the sound sentiment which the right hon. Gentleman had laid down, a very great boon would be conferred upon these officers. With regard to the question of recruiting the ranks of the officers of the Navy from the mercantile marine, he was positive that such a step would not have been taken without the concurrence and approval of the Naval officers themselves, but he hoped that this step would be regarded as a temporary and provisional one, justified only by the existence of an emergency, and that no attempt would be made to set it up as a precedent. The system under which we obtained our naval officers had not a commercial basis. They were paid sums which were absurdly small, and the chief consideration for their services was the social prestige which attached to the Navy. The officers' society on board one of Her Majesty's ships was very select, and discontent would very likely be caused by the indiscriminate introduction into that society of men from the Mercantile Marine, even though they were men of the highest class in their profession. The family relations, habits of mind, and subjects of conversation among the officers of the Royal Navy were probably all different from those of the men whom it was proposed to introduce into their society, and if this new scheme were put into operation to any large extent the naval officer would almost inevitably feel that he was not obtaining what he had contracted for when he entered the service. The result might be a serious difficulty in obtaining naval officers from the social ranks from which they now came, and that might lead to the necessity of awarding commissions according to some totally new plan. He trusted, therefore, that the appointments which were to be made from the Mercantile Marine would not be regarded as constituting a precedent, and that they would be made in every case under the supervision of some responsible officer at the Admiralty.

MR. F. G. BARNES (Kent, Faversham)

said, that it was his duty to draw the attention of the First Lord to the grievances of a large and important class of his constituents. He referred to the skilled and ordinary labourers employed in the dockyard at Sheerness. The skilled labourers were a very intelligent and highly trained body of men, and were employed as machinists, rivetters and drillers, and in other occupations. They complained that although the rate of wages in the dockyard ranged from 21 to 27 shillings a week, the majority of the skilled labourers were actually receiving less than 24 shillings. That, they considered, was not sufficient remuneration for the kind of work which they had to do. The position of the ordinary labourers had, no doubt, been materially improved of late, the wages having been raised to 19s. a week. But owing to the high prices of commodities in dockyard towns, and the high rate of house rents, ranging, he believed, from 4s. to 6s. a week, it was next to impossible for a labourer to live and bring up his family upon the low weekly wage which he received. Another subject calling for attention was the burning question of pensions, gratuities, and deferred pay. Under the existing system, an establishment man got a pension on reaching 60 years of age, and he believed that the pension was calculated on the basis of one-sixtieth of the man's pay for every year of his service as an establishment man. But this pension was really deferred pay, a weekly sum having been deducted by the Government from the man's wages. If he died before reaching the age of 60, his widow and children got nothing, although there had been this weekly deduction from his earnings. The hired man also complained. A man might work as a hired labourer for 15 or 20 years and then be put on the establishment, but his service during those previous years was not taken into account in calculating his pension. Then a hired man was entitled to a bonus on his reaching the pension age, but if he came on to the establishment he lost that right. He was glad to know that the First Lord had agreed to meet the dockyard Members to discuss these and other questions, and he trusted that in the interval before that meeting took place, the right hon. Gentleman would give careful consideration to the subjects to which he had drawn attention, and might arrange some plan for the improvement of the lot of these meritorious and hard-working men.

MR. H. E. KEARLEY (Devonport),

referring to the Order in Council providing for the introduction of 100 officers of the Mercantile Marine into the Royal Navy, asked how the appointments to the ranks of lieutenant and sub-lieutenant were to be divided. The Order in Council contained nothing to indicate how many officers were to be appointed to each of these ranks. He regretted that when the Admiralty determined to introduce these mercantile officers into the Navy they did not decide to confine their selection to the class of Royal Naval Reserve officers, a large percentage of whom had merits which would recommend them strongly to the officers of the Royal Navy. On the reserve lists there were 270 lieutenants, 400 sub-lieutenants, and over 300 midshipmen, and many of these had served 12 months on commissioned ships and held certificates in gunnery and torpedo practice. He feared that the scheme propounded by the Admiralty would prove to be a failure, for it was not viewed with favour either in the Navy or in the Mercantile Marine. Naval officers would have legitimate ground for complaint if they found that the men introduced were men of inferior calibre, for that might lower the status of the naval officer. The hon. Member for King's Lynn had pointed out that it was unreasonable to suppose that the best men in the Mercantile Marine would respond to the invitation of the Government, because a permanent career was not offered to them. The ablest men would not give up permanent positions good pay, and satisfactory prospects to accept temporary service in the Royal Navy under the conditions proposed. The probability, therefore, was that the invitation would only be responded to by inferior men who had not the qualifications required for the highest positions in the Mercantile Marine. Even supposing the Admiralty were in a position to offer such attractive terms as would induce men to come into the Navy, it would be almost a breach of faith with the shipowners who have so thoroughly co-operated in making the Naval Reserve a success. It was very evident that some scheme was necessary to meet this dearth of lieutenants. He did not think the Admiralty could be exonerated from blame for this state of things. They had been warned time after time that it must happen. There was one source upon which they might draw which they had altogether ignored, namely, the warrant officers. The warrant officer joined the service at the age of 14 or 15, and if it was an essential condition that officers should be trained up from their youth in the service, that condition was certainly fulfilled in the case of the warrant officer. More than that, he was accustomed to naval discipline, and was accustomed, not only to obey himself, but to enforce obedience. He was told that the knowledge of navigation possessed by the Mercantile Marine officer outweighed the other qualifications of the warrant officer, but since 1889 warrant officers had been instructed in navigation, and were frequently appointed for navigation duties to gunboats and surveying ships, and he was sure that they would readily submit themselves to any examination that might be necessary. It was said that there was a general feeling amongst Naval officers against the admission of warrant officers to commissioned rank. He did not admit that that was so. He had received a letter from a Naval officer of some distinction who was at present in command of a first-class battleship, in which he declared that it was a monstrous shame that warrant officers, born and bred to the trade, should be ignored, and that if five or 10 lieutenants' commissions could be offered annually to warrant officers, it would remove a grievance that was growing more rapidly among the rank and file of the Navy than many people dreamed of. "It is absurd to say," the letter went on, "that we Naval officers should not welcome them as well as we should welcome Naval Reserve men." That was the opinion of a Naval officer, and he was sure he expressed the opinion of very many others. He knew that some Naval officers in the House, like the gallant Admiral opposite, could not bear the idea of the warrant officer getting the opportunity of advancing himself, but he thought they were very much behind the age, and he would prefer the opinion of an officer who was now serving to that of the gallant Admiral, who had been out of the service so many years. The Navy was the only Crown service in which the men could not rise to the highest position. And what was the result? It was to be seen in the returns of the number of men who quitted the Navy at the expiry of their first term. As many as 33 per cent. did so, and declined to re-engage. That was very disadvantageous to England but very advantageous to other nations. When it was suggested that a naval training school should be established in the United States, the Secretary to the Admiralty said that it was altogether unnecessary, because they had a continuous flow of splendid men who had left the British Navy. An opportunity was now at hand to remove this anomaly. The First Lord in the previous Conservative Administration promised to give some attention to the desires of the warrant officers. During the term of office of the late Government the House was assured over and over again that the question was receiving every consideration, and the present First Lord the other day, in answer to a question as to whether the Committee that was appointed to deal with the question had reported, said that the question was still under consideration. He hoped that the claims of the warrant officers would be attended to before the question was finally settled. If the Admiralty could only see their way to opening the commissioned ranks to a few warrant officers, it would be of the highest advantage to the Navy, would pacify the vanity, if he might so call it, of the lower deck, would prevent men from quitting the service at the end of their first term, and diminish the evils which arose from that cause.


said, he wished to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether, during the Recess, he would consider the case of two classes of men serving in the Navy. He referred, in the first place, to the coastguardsmen, from whom much more was demanded than formerly. When he first joined the service there was hardly a man among them who understood the semaphore, but now they were required to be trained signalmen, and when afloat had to do duty in any part of the ship to which they might be appointed. Under these circumstances, he thought the conditions under which they joined the coastguard might with advantage be reconsidered. The coastguardsmen only asked to be put on the same footing as their comrades afloat. They asked for the additional 2d. a day given to seamen on re-engagement, and that their pensions should be calculated on the same scale. He pointed out that any petty officer on joining the Coastguard had to forfeit his rating, and was thus placed at a considerable disadvantage as compared with those who remained afloat. He hoped this matter would receive consideration during the coming Recess. The other class to whom he wished to call attention was the Royal Naval Reserve. It was a well known fact that the number of British seamen serving in ocean going vessels had decreased, therefore that source of supply for the Naval Reserve was inadequate. He might point out that they had a large number of men serving in deep sea fishing boats and trawlers who would form the very best material for the Naval Reserve, but at present the inducements held out were insufficient as they could only serve as second class men. He thought the Admiralty should give this matter their consideration, and allow these hardy fishermen to become eligible for the first class Reserve. When serving with the Coastguard he had experience with these men. Seven hundred of them drilled annually at a battery under his command, and a better class of men could not be found. When the battery was inspected he never heard a word, other than of approbation, as regarded the efficiency of the men; and as to their conduct he would only point out one fact—that during the five years he had to do with the battery, there was never one single instance of a man who was at drill being pulled up before a magistrate. Considering that they were nearly all serving away from their wives and families, he thought it was a clear proof that their conduct was all that it should be. He did not intend to follow hon. Members into their criticism on the question of officers. The hon. Member for King's Lynn referred to the gunnery lieutenants, and suggested that captains of the Royal Marine Artillery were well qualified to perform their duties. The gunnery lieutenant was not only a skilled artillerist but he also had to be efficient to discharge his duty in every part of the ship, and to take command at any time if necessary. He thought it would be a retrograde step to put it in the power of any one to say that the executive officers of the Navy did not understand their own guns. The hon. Member for Devonport referred to the promotion of warrant officers. He should be as glad as anyone to see them promoted to commission rank, but there were difficulties in the way, particularly in the matter of age; the average age at which a warrant was obtained was 27. Suppose a warrant officer obtained a lieutenant's commission at 29, he would be 6 years behind a lieutenant promoted from the sub-lieutenants' list. He did not think the proposal would benefit the warrant officers, most of whom were married men and would find themselves worse off as commissioned officers than at present.

MR. E. J. C. MORTON (Devonport)

said, the most serious objections taken against the promotion of the warrant officers was that it would cost money. He believed it would be the reverse, that if the demands of the warrant officers were granted, money would be saved to the country. He did not think sufficient stress had been laid on the figures with regard to the number of men who did not rejoin at the end of their first ten years' service. The return made in June last for the three years 1889–90–91 showed of the number of seamen who left, 33 per cent. in 1889, 32 per cent. in 1890, and 33 per cent. again in 1891 did not rejoin. That was one-third left after the first ten years service. To make an ordinary seaman cost the country £300. If he joined at 18 he did not become an able seaman until he was 21. It was obvious that if at 28 he rejoined for a second ten years, the latter term was more valuable to the nation. If they could do something to make men join for the second term, there would be a considerable saving to the nation on each man. There was a demand not only from the warrant officers but from others that a career should be opened up to them in some way or other. After 30 the warrant officer found a brick wall across his career, and he must go on to 50 when he became a chief warrant officer. He thought something should be done, by reserving positions for these men, to quicken promotion all the way down. This matter had been repeatedly brought before the late Government, and on the 18th of March last the then Civil Lord of the Admiralty gave them reason to believe that the matter was approaching consummation, and although he would pledge himself, he certainly spoke in a way that made them believe that the Board of Admiralty had decided to adopt this plan. He hoped the right hon. Gentlemen would be able to say that matters were left by the late Government in a condition sufficiently far advanced for him to express an opinion on the matter, and, in effect, to give them what they wanted. In regard to dockyard matters, it was within his knowledge that the right hon. Gentleman's previous administration at the Admiralty was remembered with gratitude by Government employés in Her Majesty's Dockyard. He was extremely glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman promise that he would personally consider the objections sent up from the dockyard before the Estimates were prepared. He suggested that a minimum wage of 19s. a week was not enough for ordinary labourers in places where they could not hire a single room for less than 3s. 6d. The question of classification was an important one; the men disliked the system by which some men who did exactly the same kind of work received a higher rate of pay than others simply because they were in a different class, the reason being that they feared favouritism. There was the question of the shipwrights also, who as artisans objected on trades union grounds to being put to the ordinary work of seamen, such as cooking, and washing down the decks when on board ships.

MR. W. O. CLOUGH (Portsmouth)

desired to emphasise what had been said about that class of labourers who were confined in a small space while on board ship, and received an extra allowance of 1d. on account of the nature of the work. They desired that allowance to be increased to 1½d., which did not seem to be unreasonable. In regard to warrant officers, a good many Members had overlooked the fact that, although there might be difficulties in the way of promotion for these men, they were left to suppose that their case was being considered, and that their demands would be complied with so far as the Admiralty could do so. That impression had been given at a very recent interview, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would see his way to add his own assurances on the subject.

* THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. G. J. GOSCHEN, St. George's, Hanover Square)

I think the House will see that I have got my work cut out for me during the Recess, because there are so many topics connected with the Navy for which my anxious consideration has been asked. Hon. Members have spoken of various branches of the Service and various classes of men, and I can assure the House that I, with my colleagues at the Board of Admiralty, will give these matters our continued attention, with the greatest anxiety to do right by the Navy. Fortunately I am aided in my efforts by the presence on the Board of a number of Naval officers of great experience and ability. My hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn was not just to the Lords of the Admiralty. Those who have known the officers who in succession have filled these responsible posts, must know their great authority and experience, and the affection that is felt towards many of these. I may say, great men by Naval officers. I need only mention the names of Sir Geoffrey Hornby, Sir Alexander Milne, and Sir George Tryon, to remind the House that these are not the class of men who have only served on out-of-the-way stations, not such men as the hon. Member described.


said, he had not intended to convey that meaning.


I do not call such men as the Commander-in-Chief of a squadron, with some 30 vessels, many officers, and many thousands of men under him, narrow-minded men. ["Hear, hear!"] There are many persons who think that the whole administration of the Navy ought to be confided to professional men such as these, and believe them more competent than simple civilians to perform all the duties which we now share with them. That may be going too far, but to ignore or minimise the value of such professional assistance is most unfair. ["Hear, hear!"] And when my hon. Friend thinks that we have only taken counsel with Naval Lords, I can assure him that we are in constant touch with other naval officers of all schools. In the Naval Intelligence Department we have admirable officers who bring us in touch with all that goes on abroad, and, besides that, there is a general practice that, whenever an Admiral comes back from a foreign command, he sees the First Lord, and is cross-examined by him with regard to his command, the officers under him, the ships and their crews, and so on; and, therefore, we are not cut off, as it were, and restricted to consultation with two or three elderly men, but we have every opportunity of ascertaining what the views of the Navy really are. Those are the remarks which I think it is my duty to make in regard to the men with whom I am associated and upon whose judgment I must and I shall rely during the time that I hold my present office. ["Hear, hear!"] Then my hon. Friend spoke, as it was perfectly natural that he should speak, with reference to the new arrangements as regards responsibility for the Army and Navy. The main idea, as I understand, is that those matters which concern both the Army and the Navy together shall be considered by a Committee of the Cabinet, with the President of the Council at its head. But there is no idea whatever either that the Secretary of State for War or the First Lord of the Admiralty should be "put under the heel" or under the authority of any other person or body of persons. If the Committee of the Cabinet were of opinion that any Estimates for the Navy were inadequate, I might protest that I was right, but accept more. On the other hand, if they were to decide that less should be done, then I should have to consider my position and responsibility. That is what I say about the personal position of the First Lord. The Board of Admiralty is as responsible under the new arrangement as it was before. But there are a number of subjects, as it has been pointed out both in this House and outside, where both the Army and the Navy touch, where there are joint operations that may have to be performed, or where a joint distribution of duties should be fixed. For instance, take the cases of Ascension and St. Helena. It may be a question how much the War Office ought to do and how much the Admiralty ought to do. Again, there might arise a question in regard to defence of the ports as to how much the Army should do and how much the Navy should do. Such questions might well be referred to the Joint Committee, presided over by an independent person—a Minister not connected with either Department. Since the Report of the Hartington Commission, an immense deal has already been done. There has been sitting a Naval and Military Defence Committee, who have studied a vast variety of these questions, which, if not studied, might in time lead to friction, particularly in case of war. A good deal of ground has been covered go far as professional opinion is concerned. Upon that Committee, under the presidency of the Parliamentary Under Secretary for War, sat the First Naval Lord, the Adjutant General, the Admiral Superintendent of Reserves, the head of the Naval Intelligence Department, the Director of Military Intelligence, the Inspector General of Fortifications, the Director of Naval Ordnance, and the Director of Artillery, and great work has already been done. That work will now receive Cabinet sanction by being brought before the Committee of the Cabinet. The Committee now submit their recommendations, and many of them have already been carried out. The Cabinet examination and Cabinet sanction which will be given in future will offer to successive Governments records of the decisions arrived at, which is another object of the new arrangement. I am not sorry that my hon. Friend has asked the question with regard to the responsibility of the Secretary of State for War and of the First Lord of the Admiralty, because I am glad to have the opportunity of stating that our respective responsibilities are not diminished by one iota. [Cheers.] It is now 20 years since I was at the Admiralty, and the extraordinary contrast between then and now is as astonishing as it is gratifying. ["Hear, hear!"] The preparations which have been made, the way in which every contingency has been thought out—all this has been executed with great diligence, and with great scientific knowledge of all the considerations involved. Thus it is the crowning work of what has been done already, rather than anything entirely novel, that we are now undertaking; and I do not think that any departmental responsibility will be lessened thereby. For my part, I may say that I am desirous that the responsibility of the First Lord of the Admiralty and of the Secretary of State for War should be absolutely retained and kept unimpaired. I now come to the strategy of my hon. Friend, and he must excuse me from following him into any detail. My hon. Friend does not, I think, sufficiently realise—or has, perhaps, forgotten—the enormous development of torpedoes on the coast of France. There is no reason why that should not be mentioned. My hon. Friend speaks of the year 1805; but that situation has entirely changed. He has forgotten the immense development of the torpedo system in France; there are now countless nests of torpedo-boats all along the French coasts; and against these torpedoes preparations must be made, different from those which were formerly needed. Nor had such boats the extraordinary speed which they now have. I do not, however, stop to argue the question further with my hon. Friend. I believe that, costly as are the preparations, they must be incurred; and great would be the responsibility if every precaution were not taken. Then my hon. Friend spoke of the size of ships, and held that we ought not to build such immense vessels as the Majestic and Magnificent, and ships of their class. I am not defending the past programme of the Admiralty; in a new programme it will be proper for me to defend what I myself propose. But I think my hon. Friend gave a wrong impression in the idea that Captain Mahan agreed with Professor Laughton that a number of small ships would be able to contend with larger ships, and that, therefore, the construction of the larger vessels ought to be abandoned. I do not read that Captain Mahan argued that way. On the contrary, in America they are continuing to build large ships, with the support of Captain Mahan. One vessel, for instance is being built of 11,400 tons and 11,000 horse-power, and there are others building nearly as large. Captain Mahan has done a great deal in the way of leading public opinion in this country in the right direction with regard to naval warfare; and we are under great obligations to him for the admirable book which he has written. ["Hear, hear!"] Then my hon. Friend spoke of cordite, and quoted a phrase of the hon. Gentleman opposite. I am not, however, informed that cordite is of a dangerous character on board ships, or that there is danger of explosion with it, though this is of course a matter which must be taken into careful consideration. ["Hear, hear!"] Certainly, if there is one subject upon which the whole anxiety on the part of the Admiralty ought to be centred, it is the question of ammunition generally, and particularly cordite powder; and we ought to spare no pains and investigations to insure that we are on the right tack. [Cheers.]


May I be excused for saying that I cannot recollect anything that I have said that would justify the danger apprehended, either on Saturday or on any other occasion.


As to the personnel of the Navy, I agree with everything that has been said by the hon. Member as to the uselessness of all the efforts the Admiralty are making respecting guns and ships if the officers and men are inferior in any degree to those who have gone before them. ["Hear, hear!"] I am bound to say, however, that, in my opinion, the present system of training officers and men is a great success. That training is, no doubt, extremely costly. but I think that the result attained by it has warranted the expenditure that has been incurred upon it. Of course, the question with regard to leave, which is an extremely delicate one, is one well worthy of consideration, and it will have my best attention. ["Hear, hear!"] I come next to the question of the new Order in Council, respecting the employment in the Navy of lieutenants entered from the mercantile marine. That Order is not the work of the present Board of Admiralty, but I may say that, having looked into the case as it was discussed by the late Board and their naval advisers, with the greatest anxiety and with the greatest wish to do justice to all parties, I consider that it is clear there was no alternative for the course they took. ["Hear, hear!"] The plan has been attacked from several quarters in this House, and I must say that I regret that the vigour with which some hon. Members in this House have assailed it, should have supplied arguments for dissatisfaction where dissatisfaction did not previously exist. ["Hear, hear!"] It has been said that there was general dissatisfaction on the matter in question, but I have taken means to inquire into the subject at gatherings when great numbers of officers have been assembled together, in order to ascertain what their views with regard to the Order were, and I have been assured that there were no signs of dissatisfaction expressed by those officers on the question. ["Hear, hear!"] The matter was, perhaps, misunderstood in some cases when the order was first made, but I now understand that no prejudice exists in the minds of the officers against the scheme, they knowing how their interests have been safeguarded. ["Hear, hear!"] Some hon. Gentlemen opposite have said that the plan would not succeed, and that we should not get the best men, inasmuch as the best men would not come forward. The answer to that objection is, that already applications have been received from 51 officers belonging to the best lines, whose record is unimpeachable, and the majority of whom have actually served for more than a year on board men-of-war. I am certain that if we can secure 100 good men who can perform the duties which will be required of them, we shall have done something at all events to meet the present emergency in a satisfactory manner. ["Hear, hear!"] The scheme is only a temporary one, and it is so regarded by every officer who is connected with the Admiralty. My hon. Friend thinks that a difficulty may arise as to the term of service of the sub-lieutenants. Of course, that matter was considered by the Naval Lords, but the term of service of sub-lieutenants has already been reduced to a minimum, and the Admiralty are not prepared further to reduce the number of years which sub-lieutenants have to serve before undertaking the highly responsible position of lieutenants. ["Hear, hear!"] In making appointments, the Admiralty consider that the members of the Royal Naval Reserve have preferential claims over those who have not been connected with the Navy. They have some knowledge of the Navy, and the Navy has some knowledge of them. The introduction of a considerable number of warrant officers into the executive branch of the Navy would clearly interfere with the promotion of sub-lieutenants and lieutenants, which the latter have a right to expect. Officers in the Navy have a just respect for the warrant officers, but if considerable promotion were to take place from their ranks into the ranks of commissioned officers, much difficulty might arise, and I am satisfied that if such a step could have been taken safely, it would have been taken long ago. The hon. Member asked at what stage the late Government left the question of the position of warrant officers. That is a question on which I am not sure that I ought not to speak with reserve. When the late Government left, their responsibility ceased and ours began, and I am not certain what is the departmental practice with regard to a question of this sort, and as to whether I can properly say to what point our predecessors have carried the matter. At least I should not care to say it without their sanction, and would rather they made the statement themselves. May I say here, I much regret that the exigencies of health or holidays have prevented our predecessors from being here to defend their own Estimates and their own Order in Council? The late Financial Secretary (Sir U. Kay-Shuttleworth) was here on Saturday, and I should have been glad, as he would have been glad himself, if he had been here to-day to defend the Estimates and the Order in Council. However, I am not prepared to say to what point this matter has been brought by our predecessors. Unfortunately, it has not been brought to the point of being communicated to the public or the service, and therefore the responsibility for whatever is done must rest on the present Board. I know that a Committee has inquired into this matter, and its Report is either completed or is on the point of completion, and it will be for the present Board to deal with this extremely difficult question; and it is a difficult question apart from its present emergency, because when hon. Members opposite advocate the promotion of warrant officers they advocate it not as a temporary expedient, but as, in their judgment, of permanent interest to the service. One point of Gentlemen opposite is that they believe that if more chances of promotion were open to warrant officers it would diminish the large number of men who leave the service at the end of 10 years. One hon. Member said these were 30 per cent. I would point out that 10 years' service in the Navy is a considerable time, and I am not sure but that the Navy compares favourably with the Army in length of service performed and the number of men who remain long in it. But I am entirely in favour of doing everything to encourage men to engage for a second period of service. I agree with the hon. Member entirely that I would rather train a man at the expense of £300 for 20 years than for 10 years, and apart entirely from the question of money I should like to see as many seasoned and older men in a ship as possible, giving a tone to the ship's company. Most captains like to have men who have served a good many years in their ships. Therefore, every inducement is thrown out to warrant officers, compatible with the interests of the service, and whatever more can be done it will be a pleasure to me to be able to do, but I do not wish to raise any hopes. The information I have received differs from that given to the House by certain hon. Members. I am told that, while warrant officers are extremely anxious for certain of the points mentioned, there is not that general desire for promotion and admission to the ward-room which has been suggested. That may or may not be so. It is extremely difficult to arrive at what is the real opinion of a body of men on such a subject. Lately I am told the general body of warrant officers have begun to see the difficulties themselves, though, like every other body of men, they would like to see their prospects improved. I hope I have now said enough to show that the experiment made by the new Order in Council, unpopular as it may be among certain classes, was absolutely necessary, and that of several courses, all of which presented difficulties, the late Board and their advisers considered that they chose the least difficult. I have dealt at some length with the point because it has formed the chief subject of discussion this afternoon amongst those who have criticised the Estimates. Comparatively few other points were raised. At Sheerness, Portsmouth, and Devonport there are demands for additional pay. Those matters will have to be considered, but I tremble to think of the immense ground that would have to be covered in considering all these grievances. I can only conclude by saying that our best efforts will be devoted to the solution of these difficult questions. Many differences of opinion exist, not only between civilians and Naval men, but among Naval men themselves, which illustrate the difficulty of the problems with which we have to deal, but to the solution of which we shall devote our best energies. [Cheers.]

Resolution agreed to.

On the Resolution, That a sum, not exceeding £907,900 be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Expense of Naval and Marine Pensions, Gratuities, and Compassionate Allowances, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1890,


complained that Greenwich pensioners to the number of 500 or 600 were not included in the £16,000 voted in connection with the Greenwich aged pension scheme, men in every way as qualified as those who were included. He hoped that the matter would be considered when the next Estimates were being prepared.


pointed out that there was a suspicion of favouritism in the way in which those who were given pensions were selected. It would be better to have a rota and give every man his pension in turn.


said, there seemed to be an impression among those who thought themselves entitled to pensions that the pensions were given as a matter of right. This was not so. The number of pensions was limited to the amount devoted to the Pension Fund. The greatest possible consideration was given to the selection of candidates for the pensions, and from his own personal knowledge he could assure the hon. Member for Devonport and the public that there was not the slightest foundation—he was sure the hon. Member did not impute it—for the suggestion of favouritism or unfair selection. He would consider whether it would be possible to adopt a rota.


said, the bulk, if not all, of those who had been excluded from the Greenwich Pension Scheme entered the Navy before 1878, and, therefore, ought to have been included in it.

CAPTAIN BETHELL (Yorks, E. R., Holderness)

said that, a Committee appointed last Session to consider the whole question had taken a great deal of evidence, and before long would present its Report.

Resolution agreed to.