3. Motion made, and Question proposed,—
That a sum, not exceeding £5,440,000 (including it supplementary sum of £230,000) be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the expenses of the Contract Work for Shipbuilding. Repairs, etc., which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1898.
§ * THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
It may be remembered that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean complained of the fact that I had not made a sufficient statement in the original discussions on the Naval Estimates as to the materiel of the Fleet. But the postponement of the discussion on this Vote has had this advantage—that I am now able to give sonic information to the Committee which it was not in my power to give then. Since the Naval Estimates were introduced we have, of course, carefully considered the types of ships which, as Shown by my statement, we proposed to build. We have gone very carefully into the designs, and perhaps it will interest the House if I give briefly some of the particulars. ["Hear, hear!"] The Committee will remember that we propose I to lay down four battleships in the course of the present financial year. Of those four battleships, one is to be built by contract and three in the dockyards. The ship to be built by contract we propose to be precisely of the Canopus class. We have five ships of that class building, and this will make sir of that class. As regards the three remaining ships, we propose that they should he very similar to the Majestic, 1267 but with some improvements on the Majestic. The Committee may remember that the Canopus class was designed to have somewhat lighter draught than the Majestic. It was considered that we might want some ironclads in waters which the Majestic would not be able to penetrate, and waters to reach which the ships would have to go through the Suez Canal. For these purposes we shall he building, then, six ships of the Canopus class. For the remainder of the four battleships to be laid down we think that we cannot do better than go to the Majestic—a design of ship which has fully realised all the expectations formed of it, and which has been generally considered as a model of shipbuilding—in fact, we may claim that it stands pre-eminent—["hear, hear!"]—a view which has been endorsed to a. certain extent by our rivals in other lands. There was a movement in this country for building smaller ironclads. On the contrary, on the Continent they are abandoning the smaller ironclads and are going to ships of the Majestic class; and there is, indeed, one country where there was an intention of building a ship of 8,000 tons, but that ship is now to be replaced by one of 12,000 tons. I will now submit to the Committee the dimensions of the proposed ships as distinguished from the Majestic. The three battleships to be commenced at Portsmouth, Chatham, and Devonport are to be, as I have said, of an improved Majestic class, their displacement being 14,900 tons, which is identical with the Majestic; mean draught 26¾ft., or 9in. less than the Majestic; they are to be 400ft. in length, or 10ft. more than the Majestic; their mean speed (with natural draught, on contractor's trials) is to be 18 knots, or 1½ knots more than the Majestic; and they are to have 16½ knots estimated average continuous speed in smooth water and with clean bottoms. The ships are to be fitted with water-tube boilers. Their coal supply and bunker capacity will resemble the Majestic class, where the arrangements have given entire satisfaction. Their armament. is to be identical with that of the Majestic, but new and powerful types of 12in. and 6in. guns will be provided, and improved mountings will be introduced. The hull armour or citadel will be of the same extent and thickness as 1268 in the Majestic, but the quality of the armour will be superior. The Committee may be interested to learn—those who pay special attention to the subject arc well aware—that there are improvements now in armour-plates by which we are enabled with the same thickness of armour to resist projectiles of much greater weight and penetrative power than the armour which was used before. [An HON. MEMBER: "Is it the same sort of armour?"] No. The material used is a nickel steel, and the quality of the armour is so superior that the protection of the buoyancy and stability of the vessel will be sensibly increased. A new feature in these ships is that before and abaft the citadel armour the sides will be protected by thin armour, as in the Canopus class. The protection of the barbettes containing the 12in. guns and the protection of the 6in. quick-firing guns will be equal to that of the Majestic class, and the arrangements for the stowage and transport of ammunition will resemble those of that class. The Committee will therefore see that in no single feature will these vessels fall short of the Majestic, while they will have a smaller draught of water and they will have more powerful guns—["hear, hear!"]—besides which, for their protection we are using new armour of a quality more efficient than that of the Majestic. ["Hear, hear!"] Then the Committee will remember that in our last programme there were some light-draught boats for rivers. More and more we feel the need of this class of boat, not only for the Nile, but also for the Chinese rivers and other rivers where our interests have to be protected; and we have got the ships building now. They consist of six vessels of 100ft. length, 2ft. draught, and a maximum speed of nine knots; two vessels of about 145ft. length, 2ft. draught, steaming 13 knots; and four twin-screw river gunboats of 180ft. lengths, 8ft. draught, and a maximum speed of 13½ knots. We consider that this will be a most useful class of vessels. ["Hear, hear!"] There was another item in our programme, which the Committee will remember was a new Royal yacht. I will now state the general dimensions of that vessel:—Length, between perpendiculars, 380ft.; breadth 50ft.; mean draught, with keel, 18ft.; displacement, about 4,600 tons. 1269 The hull will be of steel, with minute sub-division into numerous water-tight compartments, and a cellular double-bottom as an additional security, and for the purpose of maintaining speed at sea for considerable periods the steel hull will be sheathed with teak planking covered with copper. The vessel will be propelled by twin screws actuated by vertical triple-expansion engines, and the maximum speed on the contractors' eight hours' trial will be 20 knots. With reference to this yacht I will only further say that the speed of 20 knots will not equal the speed of one or two yachts of other Sovereigns. But the question has been raised and carefully considered. I need not say that our designers at the Admiralty are perfectly capable of building a yacht that would have a 21 or 22 knots' speed, or a 23 knots if desirable. But those who are not acquainted with these matters can scarcely appreciate the enormous difference in engine-power and boilers which is required for the extra one or two knots—I think the power varies roughly as the cube of the speed. Therefore the question arose whether in a vessel of this kind it was more desirable to have more accommodation or to have one or two knots more speed simply that it might be said that we had a Royal yacht equal in speed to that of any other Sovereign. The matter was really one more for those who will have to use the yacht than for anybody else; and it has been decided to adopt a design which gives more comfortable accommodation and in every other respect a superior yacht, rather than to give extra knot in speed, which would be seldom, used, which would involve a great space in the ship for extra boiler-power and extra, engine-room, and for extra stokers and engine-room complement. I have made these remarks because it is so easy for criticisms to be made to the effect that it is really a scandal that in this country Her Majesty's yacht should be inferior in speed to that of any other Sovereign. The matter has been carefully considered, and the wishes of those who are most concerned have been carefully consulted.
§ * THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
We cannot estimate it exactly; but I should say about £250,000. I 1270 cannot bind myself to that, but that is the general estimate we have made. The design is not yet complete. I may say that the decorations, the electric lighting, and matters of that kind will be carried out by the best firms that can be found for that class of work. The Committee will bear in mind that in the Budget speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer he stated that he had banded another half-million to the Admiralty for additional work. The Committee may remember the general circumstances under which that addition was proposed and accepted by the Government. In my original statement on the Estimates, I said that if foreign countries made any exceptional efforts we should naturally follow suit, although not regarding any extra effort of another country as a menace to ourselves. The Estimates have been constructed upon a knowledge of the forces that might be brought against us, and that is the proper way, I think, of constructing the Estimates. ["Hear, hear!"] When we saw a modification which would have a very considerable influence upon the situation we thought it right also to modify, I hope in a very moderate manner, our Estimates. I think it was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean who said he was not aware of any action on the part of any other foreign power that would justify a modification.
§ * THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
I was going to state the right hon. Gentleman's position exactly. He said that this step of mine was rather an act of penitence on our part than that it was due to our taking note of what was going on. Surely the right hon. Gentleman must know that that is not the case. I hope the Committee will relieve me of the necessity of going into details. Of course the Committee may challenge me, and ask me to count ship by ship, and so forth; but I should not like to do that. ["Hear, hear!"] It has rarely been our custom here—certainly not in the case of those who have occupied responsible positions—to count ship by ship in regard to what we are doing. I will therefore simply say that the movement which we see in other 1271 countries—without specifying any particular country — is in the direction of building very swift, large cruisers, which in the case of war would threaten our communications, and in such an event these ships should certainly be met by cruisers equal in power on our side. We have the Diadem class, which is a very strong class, but we do think that a further effort should be made in the direction of very large swift cruisers. Another point is that foreign nations realise the extreme utility of our torpedo destroyers, and torpedo destroyers in much larger numbers than was anticipated are being added to foreign fleets. I will now state to the Committee how I propose to allocate the half-million which the Chancellor of the Exchequer places at my disposal. There are two ways of proceeding—by beginning the additional ships at once, or by so accelerating the ships which we have in hand as to leave us in the coming year and the year after freer for our new proposals. Both ways would have the same effect, as we still excel in rapidity of construction. What I propose to do is to lay down four armoured cruisers [cheers], in addition to those which are now in hand. These cruisers are to be very powerful. The Committee will understand that the cruisers have a double duty to perform—the duty of acting with fleets and the duty of acting on lines of communication. No fleet can act without cruisers, and last year a regular computation was made of the number of cruisers required to act with fleets. The idea of cruisers is like that of frigates originally — cruisers are to the battleships of to-day what the frigates used to be to the battleships of old. We have considered whether the new cruisers might not be so constructed that in most actions with battleships they might not be obliged to retire from the action, but might be able to take part in that action under the general conditions, while at the same time they would have a speed and other arrangements which would enable them also to act upon our line of communications and of food supplies. We also considered whether these ships might not be built so as to be more powerful as fleet cruisers than the Diadem class, so that that class might be set free. These cruisers will therefore be able to perform 1272 both functions of a cruiser, and they will perform the function of fighting with a fleet better than any cruiser, I believe, that has yet been devised either in this or in any other country. I will state their character. The length between the perpendiculars about 440 feet; the extreme breadth, 69½, feet; the mean draught with keel, 26 feet; and the displacement 11,850 tons. Armament—two 9.2-inch and 12 6-inch quick-firing guns, these being of a new and more powerful type; 14 12-pounders, three 3-pounders, and two submerged torpedo-tubes. The protection of the 9.2-inch and 6-inch quick-firing guns will be equal to that of the Powerful class, but the quality of the armour will be superior. Arrangements for the supply of ammunition will be similar to those in the Powerfull and Diadem classes. Protection to the buoyancy and stability will be secured by vertical armour of the same thickness and quality as in the Canopus class of battleship. The protective decks will be similar to the Canopus class. The steel hulls will be wood-sheathed and coppered so that the vessel may keep the sea for long periods without serious loss of speed. The measured mile speed, with natural draught, on an eight hours' trial, will be about twenty-one knots. Water-tube boilers will be adopted, and the continuous sea speed in smooth water and with clean bottoms will be about 19½ knots. The coal bunker capacity will be about 1,600 tons, half of this being carried at the above-stated draught and displacement. The Committee will see that we have a ship whose armament and protective power will be superior in many ways to the older ironclads, and which will be perfectly fit to take its place in line of battle against many of the ironclads of an older kind. That being the case with regard to the armoured cruisers, the Committee will see that this is a large addition to our programme. All four ships are to be built by contract. The designs have to be worked out, and the tenders have to be secured, so that this year we shall not be able to make the progress upon them which the Committee might desire, but we shall make a start, and everyone knows the great importance of making a start with ships of this kind. ["Hear, hear!"] We shall not be able to spend more than £120,000 on the hulls, 1273 but at the same time we must provide guns, and, therefore, we take £100,000 to make progress with the guns at the same time that we make progress with the ships. That absorbs some £220,000 out of £500,000, which is the additional Estimate. Then we propose to do something in the way of acceleration. We propose to hasten the contracts for the battleship of the Canopus class, which will he called the Vengeance, and to put that out to contract immediately- instead of later in the year. That will absorb a further £50,000. Then we propose, in connection with new construction in the dockyards, to spend £130,000 upon labour and £40,000 upon materials. The Committee will see that that proposal is all the more important in view of labour troubles. I hope most sincerely we may be able to get on as we expect with our contract ships, but I am sure that the Committee will agree with me that if we can push on further in our dockyards it will be wise to do so, having regard to our liabilities. The only item which remains is an item of £60,000 for four torpedo-destroyers. Therefore £50,000 will be spent for the purpose of hastening the Vengeance, £170,000 in advancing the work in the dockyards, £120,000 on the cruisers, and £60,000 on the torpedo destroyers. In the dockyards there has been a certain wastage in consequence of the policy adopted with regard to the workmen, and I should not wish to take more money than I have mentioned for the dockyards on account of the difficulty of the continuous employment, of the men. Notwithstanding what has been said al tout the wages paid by the Government, we find it infinitely easier to get men into our dockyards than to induce them to leave us. [A laugh.] Notwithstanding the discontent that we have heard about, we find that the workmen are extremely anxious to stay at the rate of wages assigned. There is extreme difficulty, I will not say about discharging the men, but about their leaving us, although they have engaged to come to us for a limited time only. Well, I do not think that a better method could be found of spending this £500,000 than in strengthening our naval service as we propose. ["Hear, hear!"] I must conclude with one word of caution. As we produce tins additional programme now, 1274 we must not be expected to have a large programme in a few months' time when we meet again. Our object is that there should be real progress. I think that immense progress has been made during the last few years, and that progress we wish to keep up by the Estimates which we present. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
thought the Committee had some cause to complain that the information now communicated to the Committee had not been supplied at an earlier period. He had nothing lint satisfaction to express at the statement of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the four battleships mentioned in the original programme for the year. He was rather surprised to see how little interest, had been taken in the item for tile Royal yacht by him. Members below the Gangway on his side of the House. Time was when such a proposal as this would have been received very differently. He would venture to repeat what he had said earlier in the Session — namely, that a yacht for the use of the Sovereign might be built which would be serviceable as part of the active fleet of the country. He believed his view was confirmed by the experience of foreign countries. He had always believed in a strong Navy as a primary necessity for the defence of the country, and he judged all the items provided for in the Navy Estimates by the amount of service that they were capable of rendering to the fighting capacity of the country. Judged by that standard, the proposal to make a pleasure yacht could not be strenuously defended. He would not pursue the subject further. He would only venture once again to call attention to the perfect reasonableness and possibility of his own proposal, and again express his regret that the Government had not seen fit to combine utility with ornament and pleasure in this new item. He wished to seriously direct the attention of the Committee to the circumstances under which the new programme was submitted. On the original Estimate the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean and himself maintained that although it was not stated on the face of the Estimates, and was not acknowledged in the First Lord's statement, there was a diminution of £250,000 in the cash provision for new construction. This contention had not 1275 been answered to this day. Now it appeared that the provision for the new construction contemplated when the Estimates were framed was £500,000 less. Later on the Chancellor of the Exchequer placed £500,000 at the service of the First Lord, and now he had added £500,000 to the Estimates for the year. By itself that was a perfectly sufficient justification for the addition to the Estimates. But the First Lord unnecessarily disclosed his justification for the extra expenditure as being a sudden abnormal increase in the programme of foreign nations. That was a serious statement to make.
§ * THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
But it was the truth. He distinctly stated that if there was any abnormal addition to foreign naval shipbuilding programmes he should act. He saw there was such an addition and he acted, but not in disguised assent to the views of the hon. Member.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
said he did not say that the right hon. Gentleman proposed an additional expenditure of £500,000 because it was proposed from that side, but he proposed what had been suggested from that (the Opposition) side. His statement as to what he would do if there was an abnormal increase in foreign programmes was made in answer to statements on the Opposition side.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
said the right hon. Gentleman had now made a certain explanation, but had given no details. He defended the extra expenditure on the ground that there had been an abnormal addition to unnamed foreign programmes which he could not now divulge. The new programme was the beginning of an important development in the Navy. Apart from mere acceleration, which covered £50,000, the most important feature was four new cruisers to be laid down this year. Obviously no large expenditure could be made on these cruisers during the present year, but he desired to ask the First Lord what, as far as he could judge, would be the estimated cost of each cruiser?
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
That is a total of nearly £3,000,000 to be spent 1276 on first-class cruisers. He had no objection to it. He was prepared to accept from the Admiralty, manned as it now was, their deliberate judgment as to what was necessary for the requirements of the Service, and he did not believe this item would provoke any hostile criticism from the Opposition side of the House. ["Hear, hear!"]
* ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
said the views of the hon. Member regarding the Royal Yacht were absurd, and he did not believe a single naval man would be found to agree with him. We were on the eve of marvellous changes and great developments in the building of warships, owing to the recent discovery of the value of nickel in the composition of armour. Instead of blaming the Admiralty for delay in unfolding their programme as to building the new cruisers, it should be a matter for satisfaction, because we should now have the advantage of the recent wonderful discovery in the building of these armoured cruisers and of all armoured vessels in the future. He was glad to find these cruisers were to be more powerfully armed than other cruisers laid down. Instead of having 6-inch guns only they were to have 9.2-inch guns forward and aft. The Brooklyn of the United States Navy had 8-inch guns, and he thought that was what was really wanted. However, these matters would no doubt be carefully thought out. There were other points he desired to allude to, but as he understood two other Votes would come on with regard to dockyards, he would defer his remarks.
§ * SIR C. DILKE
said he had nothing but congratulations to offer to the First Lord of the Admiralty in the policy he had propounded. He thought the discussion between the two front Benches had been a little sterile, because the Committee was not able fully to discuss the question, the First Lord because he was not able to say what he knew, and hon. Members because they did not know it. The facts with regard to the Russian programme were very little known to Members of the House, and, therefore, speaking as they did in ignorance of it, it was impossible for them to discuss this question on its merits. What they had to deal with was the particular manner in which the first Lord of the Admiralty proposed to spend the additional money 1277 he proposed to spend in the course of the year. He believed the right hon. Gentleman had met the main criticism passed on his programme in February last. At that time many hon. Members ventured to express a doubt as to the strength of the country in cruisers, and he thought the First Lord had done very wisely in putting that first in his programme. With regard to the reservation as to the manning programme, he might express the hope that next year the Treasury screw would not Ire applied in such a way as to cause any falling off in the proposals to be made. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
also congratulated the right hon. Gentleman in his policy. He would, however, like to remark with regard to the armament of cruisers that he could not help thinking that there was a great consensus of opinion that their armament was not heavy enough. He had listened with great attention to what the right hon. Gentleman had said with regard to this question, and he gathered that there was not going to be any great increase beyond what they were accustomed to. He went on board the foreign ships assembled at the Naval Review, and he found that they were very powerfully armed indeed, and he certainly believed in the opinion of naval officers that in the case of ships of the Blake class and the Eclipse class the armaments were notoriously inferior to what they might and to what they ought to be. He had endeavoured to find out what was the justification for their extraordinary absence of artillery in those ships, and the explanations that were given he could not think conclusive. It was said that it was absolutely necessary to provide great coaling capacity as well as very large communication storage capacity. But the Brooklyn, the United States Cruiser, carried 50 rounds per gun, and that meant that before she came to the end of her supply she would have fired away hundreds and hundreds of rounds. Thus it was clear that there was ample ammunition storage in the Brooklyn. This country spent enormous sums of money in providing coaling stations all over the world, and therefore the question of coaling and ammunition storage was of less importance than the question of armaments. He was not altogether without hope that 1278 a change in this respect might be made. He thought there was some justification for raising the point, for when he raised it on a former occasion a great change was made in the armaments of some of the smaller cruisers. That was, of course, a great step in the right direction. No British captain would dare to refuse an engagement with a ship of equal power, and it would he no consolation to a captain to know that he had more coal in his hunkers than his adversary if his armament was not so powerful. He hoped the First Lord of the Admiralty might see his way to consider the question as to whether the armaments of the ships could not be increased.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL (York, E. R., Holderness)
, did not think the matter of increasing the armaments was quite so clear as the hon. Member seemed to imagine. For his part he was of opinion that if there had been any fault in this matter the Admiralty had been driven into it by the House of Commons, for during the last dozen years they had over and over again insisted that the ships did not carry half coal enough and 'the increased coaling capacity could not be obtained without sacrificing something, and in pursuance of that policy demanded by the House, too much had been sacrificed in the way of gun-power, and perhaps too great a radius of action had been given the ships. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman had the matter under Ins notice, and the various opinions would receive very careful investigation and report before the armaments of the ships were finally decided upon. He agreed with the hon. Member for West Belfast that it was well worthy of consideration whether it was not possible in the case of the Powerful and the Terrible to put a larger number of guns into them. Although' he agreed that the class of battleships they were now fitting was an effective vessel, symmetrical and beautiful to look at, and that their fleets were becoming more homogeneous, that was more concentrated as to speed and the working together as the vessels were like one another—still he never did feel quite satisfied that they ought to be content with constructing these very great vessels alone. It al ways seemed to him it would be wise if they had some provision for smaller ironclads for the various circumstances of a naval war, which would 1279 sometimes necessitate the employment of small vessels which could go into shallow waters. Again, there were many small naval powers who contented themselves with building excellent ironclads, but which were on a small type with a little water draught. This country ought not to be provided merely with great vessels with a big draught of water, as in the event of any trouble with a small power it would be difficult for a big warship to do what was required against the smaller battleships of these nations. From that he went to another favourite doctrine of his, which elicited no sympathy from his right hon. Friend. He did not believe that they really could be sure of getting the type of vessel most suited for war if they relied only upon the limited amount of efficient opinion that they got from the Admiralty. He believed—not for the purposes of construction, but merely to sketch the nature of vessel that would be useful in war—they should have some sort of council—if they liked to call it so— or some sort of assembly of naval officers in order to try and arrive at what was the naval opinion on the subject. He should be one of the last men in the world to say that in all these naval questions naval opinion was the best, hut he thought that on a purely professional question as to what should be the nature of the ships to meet other vessels, professional opinion was of the highest value. Even if the right hon. Gentleman did not agree with him on this subject, still he thought he would be disposed to admit that something might be said against the system which had landed them in some of the expensive mistakes which had been made in the course of the past thirty years. He did think the Admiralty were most extraordinary people in the manning of ships. The Vengeance was an historic name but there were other historic names in the Navy which might be usefully used and perpetuated.
After the usual interval the Chair was taken by Mr. GRANT LAWSON.
§ * SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
said there was one point which the First Lord did not mention in his very satisfactory statement, though he quite recognised that it might not be desirable to mention it. The point was what was 1280 the estimated total cost of each of these four new armoured cruisers. He did not press for an answer, now for he fancied that the plans were not far enough advanced to enable an accurate estimate to be made. He rose more for the purpose of offering his opinion on what had fallen in the course of the Debate. His hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Holderness Division expressed some regret that they were not building a smaller class of ironclads, and more of them. To emphasise his argument, his hon. and gallant Friend alluded to the experience of the Great War, when small classes of ships were very often, necessarily, used for in-shore operations, and he seemed to think that they were departing a little too much from the policy dictated by experience. He thought his hon. and gallant Friend overlooked one new feature in naval warfare, and that was the effect produced by the torpedo and submarine mines. He thought they must recognise that the effect of the torpedo on the course of a future war would be necessarily to force ships more and more away from the shore altogether. He did not altogether agree with his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Holderness in his contention that the Admiralty would be wise to pay more attention to the provision of a large number of a smaller class of ironclads. He thought the whole tendency of modern torpedo development was to force ships to keep further and further away from the shore. That was not the case in the old days when in-shore operations were common, and a lighter draught of ship was required. He sympathised to a certain extent with what had fallen from the hon. member for West Belfast with regard to the question of coal-carrying capacity. They had, in the past 20 years, very much developed the coal-carrying capacity of their ships, but he agreed that they must be careful not to give undue weight or exaggerated importance to it. When they came to consider that question as against armament, he thought a great deal was to be said in favour of British ships sacrificing something of coal-carrying capacity if that were necessary to secure increased armament. He believed that, looking at the question broadly, it was apparent that coal-carrying capacity was a factor in the 1281 strategical problem, while armament was a potent factor in the tactical problem, and in vain, he thought, would they pursue a policy of getting at the perfection of the strategical qualities of a ship if they unduly sacrificed her tactical qualifications. Looking at the strategical problem of their command of the sea, they had to remember that they had an advantage over all the other nations of the world as regards coaling stations, and therefore he must say that there was a good deal of reason for the supposition that it would be better to sacrifice a little coal capacity for that increased armament which, he believed, the working officers of the Navy felt to be of considerable importance. He did not wish, however, to push that argument too far, because there were other considerations that entered into the question. He did not suppose the Admiralty, who seemed to so nicely balance the coal-carrying capacity and the armament, had overlooked the fact of what was going to be their policy as regarded the protection of their commerce. He did not agree with those who thought that one ship was an answer to another, unless, indeed, the conditions of the two Powers were precisely similar; but in their policy with regard to cruisers he thought they had to be quite clear upon this point—how were they going to apply these cruisers, in the event of war, for the protection of their enormous commerce and their long lines of communication? To his mind there were only two possible policies. The popular idea that one ship had to chase another about the world, to find and search her out, was one policy, which in his opinion, was absolutely founded on fallacy. The other policy was that of "shadowing"—of accurate information at all times as to the position of every possible enemy, of readiness, and of complete arrangements for shadowing every possible depredator of their commerce from the very moment that war was declared. That, he admitted, was an argument against sacrificing coal-carrying capacity too far, for, if they were going to pursue that policy, they must, pursue it from the beginning to the end, and, if they had not the staying power which arose from coal-carrying capacity, it would 'wove ineffective. He did not wish to delay the taking of the Vote, but he did desire upon this 1282 occasion to refer to the policy of subsidising merchant ships. At its initiation in 1887 by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Ormskirk Division, he strongly opposed that policy, and he heed since seen no reason to alter the views he then held. In all we had spent about £400,000 upon these ships, and he thought there was little to show for it. £22,000 of the total had even been spent upon two vessels which had been transferred to a foreign flag. What was the object of subsidising the vessels? It was that they were to be at the disposal of the Admiralty in time of war. The vessels were not built with great coal-carrying capacity, and if it be true that great coal-carrying capacity was necessary for a cruiser, and if the Admiralty really did intend to use them, the ships failed in that very principle to which the Admiralty attached so much importance. Last year he certainly understood the First Lord of the Admiralty to convey that we did not get a sufficient return for our money, but that at present the Admiralty's hands were tied in consequence if the existing. contracts. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to give the Committee to-night some indication as to what, the future policy of the Admiralty was to be with regard in the subsidising of merchant ships.
§ SIR A. FORWOOD
said that before he referred to the statement of the First. Lora of the Admiralty, he wished to advert to the question raised by his hon. and gallant Friend in his concluding remarks. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had remarked that during the last ten years about £400,000 had been distributed amongst various companies owning fast vessels. A year or 18 months before the Admiralty initiated the policy of sub-sidising merchant cruisers there was what was generally called a Russian scare. The Russian Government were anxious to obtain possession of all the fast merchant steamers this country possessed, and they entered into negotiations for the acquisition of some of them. In order to prevent the ships passing to a possible enemy the Admiralty rushed in mid chartered the vessels for periods of two to ten and twelve months, and paid away during that time something like £600,000 or £800,000. One vessel was armed and made a short cruise in the Channel. Since then the Admiralty had very wisely made 1283 contracts with the owners of the vessels under which they could have the service of the ships when necessary. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had said the vessels were not built with great coal-carrying capacity, and therefore they could not have a large radius of action. In reality the coal-carrying capacity of the ships was extraordinarily large. The Teutonic could carry 5,000 tons of coal, and could steam from England to Bombay without coaling at a high rate of speed, and carrying 2,000 troops. It was true the bunker capacity was limited, but the cargo capacity could also be used in times of emergency for coal. For the three vessels on the Pacific waters we paid something like £7,700 a year, which did not approach the cost of repairs to a comparatively small sloop or gunboat in the Royal Navy. ["Hear, hear!"] In short, we paid for these ships less than the average annual amount paid for repairs to vessels of war, while at the same time we had in them excellent ground for our Naval Reserve. No vessels in the service were better adapted for conveying messages from ship to ship, and steaming long distances at a regular high speed, and he hoped the Admiralty would not reverse a policy which had been most acceptable in the country, and which had never been questioned except by the last speaker. As to the additional naval programme explained by the First Lord, he congratulated the Admiralty upon their action. He was glad the idea of reducing the size of the battleships had been abandoned, and that instead of building vessels of 13,000 tons displacement, they had decided to build three of 14,900 tons displacement. There could be no question as to the handiness of the latter ship, because with the extra 2,000 tons they got additional speed, additional power, more coal capacity, and better armaments. With respect of the armament of our warships as compared with that of foreign ships, he would point out that a given displacement would only provide for a given rate of speed and a given armament, and it was a question which was to give way. Our vessels always carried a large quantity of reserve ammunition—the increase of the number of quick-firing guns necessitated that—and he would prefer being on a vessel which had 200 or 30 rounds left after the 1284 opposing vessel with less reserve had exhausted its supply. Referring to the water tube boilers, he pointed out that there were fitting and to be fitted vessels representing half a million horse-power with these boilers. He should have no objection to the boilers if there had been any long and complete test of them, but they were committing the safety of the nation to vessels fitted with boilers which had only been tested in very short and inadequate trials. This was a serious and important question, and he would suggest to the Admiralty that as the Terrible or the Powerful was shortly to go to China she should be sent by the long sea route, via the Cape, without calling anywhere, in order that the boilers might be thoroughly tested. ["Hear, hear!"] She would not carry enough coal to be sent out to China at full speed. But to test the staying power of the boilers let her go out at 10 or 12 knots, keeping the same boilers constantly in use at never less than two-thirds of the power they were- designed to indicate. To make the Royal yacht a yacht and war-vessel combined would be to spoil her for both. But as she- was to be capable of a speed of 20 knots an hour, in an emergency she could be used as a dispatch vessel from ship to ship. The First Lord said the battleships were to be put out at contract. But it was a curious fact that battleships were much more cheaply built in dockyards than by contractors. One vessel was built in a dockyard for £846,000; a sister ship built by contract cost £902,000. A cruiser cost £543,000 by contract; another was built in a dockyard for £516,000. In another case a cruiser cost £250,000 by contract, and £275,000 in a dockyard. These facts were taken from the dockyard expenses account for the current year, and it must be gratifying to all who had taken an interest in dockyard work to find that, in spite of changes of administration and additional pay conferred by the former Board of Admiralty, everything then done had been held to, and the cost of ships' repairs compared satisfactorily with those of private yards. But there were two vessels built in 1887 at a cost each of £87,000. Since 1889, £17,000 had been spent on repairs to these vessels; yet it was proposed to spend no less than £41,000, or nearly 51 per cent. of their original cost. Whatever money 1285 was spent on them in repairs these ships would never be satisfactory when the work was done. The money would be better spent in building new ships than in patching up these old ones. Take the case of the Salamander and the Sheldrake. These cost £53,000 each, and it was proposed to spend on them in contract work and repairs £31,500. Their boilers were undoubtedly unsatisfactory, and their engines were too light; but before £31,500 was spent upon them the Admiralty should pause and consider Whether the money would not be more usefully spent in building ships capable of 28 or 30 knots. There was always an inclination to patch up old vessels, but shipowners knew that money spent in trying to rejuvenate old ships was nearly always money wasted.
§ * SIR EDWARD GOURLEY (Sunderland)
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whet her merchant vessels subsidised by the Admiralty were so constructed as to receive guns in the event of their services being required. If so, where were the guns?
§ * SIR E. GOURLEY
contended that when merchant ships wore subsidised they should be so equipped that in an emergency they would at once be ready for work. Then, if armed with guns, what use would the ships be unless there be at once put on board a sufficient number of gunners to work the guns? He congratulated the First Lord on his new departure in regard to armed cruisers. It was first advocated by the present Lord Brassey when a Member of the House, and he himself was glad the right hon. Gentleman opposite was the first to adopt it. He maintained that the policy of building huge ironclads was a mistake on the part of the Admiralty. It would be much wiser to build ships of a smaller size. Two small ships in the event of war would be of greater service and utility than one of those huge battleships. He went further and declared that those huge battleships were neither more nor less than death traps. He was glad to find, however, that the right hon. Gentle-man had taken a new departure with regard to armed cruisers. Our future sea battles would be fought, not. by huge ironclads, but by cruisers. As to the enormous amount of money to be ex- 1286 pended on a new yacht for Her Majesty, he was of opinion that if the Queen was to have a new yacht it ought to be constructed at once, and the expenditure should not be spread over so long a period as three years. [Mr. GOSCHEN: "It will be built as soon as possible."] The Royal Family had four wooden yachts in use, and their annual maintenance was £23,500. This expenditure was enormous and unreasonable, and ought to come to an end. The cost of the crews, and the victualling came to another £18,000, bringing up the annual expenditure to £41,000 a year. It was an extravagant policy to build another new yacht of 4,000 tons; and he hoped the question would be reconsidered.
CAPTAIN PHILLPOTTS (Devon, Torquay)
disagreed with the hon. Member as to the Royal yachts. The Victoria and Albert was constructed in 1854, and it was now an old vessel which had done good service. He did not think, however, that a satisfactory result would be attained by combining the two essentials of a yacht and a fighting vessel. The distribution of weights on the fighting vessel was a matter of the most accurate and nicest calculation, and for that reason it was impossible to provide the necessary accommodation if a yacht was to be equipped as a fighting ship. As to the cost of the Royal yachts, he pointed out that the officers and crew were all trained men, liable to be called out in the event of war. The cost of the crew of the yacht could not therefore be credited to the benefit of the Royal Family. With regard to the question of the employment of water-tube boilers and construction, be considered that the Admiralty and their advisers were far more capable of judging those matters than Members of the House of Commons. There was a tune when the professional advisers of the Admiralty were chosen simply for their readiness to endorse the programme of the First Lord of the Admiralty. But it was different now. The improvement in the Navy was due to the selection by the Admiralty of competent advisers; and of the Admiralty acting on their advice. He regretted that the Admiralty were about to lose the services of one of the most capable officers in the Service, Sir John Fisher, as Comptroller, but they had got in his place Admiral Wilson, an officer second to none in the profession.
§ * THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
said he proposed to reply to a few of the questions which had been put to him, after which he hoped the Committee would come to a decision on the Vote, as there were a number of other Votes connected with the Navy, besides the Civil Service Votes, to be considered. With regard to the question of subsidising mercantile cruisers, as he had said last year, he was not satisfied with the present condition of things, and he would consider the matter when the proper time came. He was not against the general principle of utilising mercantile cruisers in time of war. Our foreign neighbours spent large sums in subsidising those vessels, and thereby had at their disposal a great reserve on occasions of emergency. The hon. Member for Sunderland was in error in supposing that no provision was made for supplying our subsidised mercantile, vessels with guns and men in the event of war. There were guns at several naval stations abroad ready to be placed on board those vessels if the necessity arose; awl the commanders. at the naval stations would, in addition to putting the guns on board, make the best arrangements possible for the manning of the vessels. He did not, however, say that he was satisfied with the existing arrangements for the subsidising of mercantile cruisers, and he was not sure that more could not be done in that direction. The chief contracts would lapse next year, and that would be the time for a full consideration of the whole subject. The next point in controversy was the utility of water-tube boilers. It had been said that instances of the test of water-tube boilers in our ships had been few; but if they had been few they were such as had led to absolutely scientific conclusions, and the Admiralty was supported generally by naval officers in the opinion that the introduction of water-tube boilers meant a great advance in the general capacities of our ships. He had himself passed through some of the heresies—from the Admiralty point of view—which had been uttered in the course of the Debate. Before he had the opportunity of consulting with the naval advisers with whom he was now brought into contact at the Admiralty, he considered that small ironclads were extremely useful. But professional opinion was now dead against the small ironclads, 1288 and the Admiralty, who had considered the matter again and again, were convinced that their policy was the correct policy. The hon. Member for the Holderness Division of Yorkshire had suggested that the Admiralty should have professional opinion on that question, that there should be a sort of council of advice. He thought that in France they had such a council, but he did not think the results had been superior to those attained by our own system. ["Hear, hear !"] But, as a matter of fact, they had professional advisers; and that was what he wanted to impress in the fewest possible words on the Committee. It was not only that they had scientific constructors, but he (the First Lord) was surrounded by naval officers, before whom the plans of ships were laid, and sailors saw and examined the plans all day long. [A laugh.] They had not only the naval Board; they had a director of ordnance, and various other officers, all of whom brought their special skill and knowledge to the examining of different parts of the ship. So that there was no ground for the impression—and ire wanted to remove it—that sailors had not enough to say as to the construction of our warships. [" Hear, hear ! "] The only other question he would deal with for a moment was that of armaments. The hon. Member for Belfast had contrasted the Brooklyn with the Edgar. The official reports showed that the weight of the guns and ammunition on board the Brooklyn was much less than on board the Edgar. The difference was accounted for by the ammunition. Would the hon. Member prefer to run short of ammunition? The Brooklyn carried 50 rounds per gun. But that appeared to them an extraordinarily small supply. He frankly confessed that he should not be prepared to send any British ships over to the United States or anywhere else with so small an amount of ammunition as 50 rounds per gun. ["Hear, hear !"] Then, take the ammunition for the smaller guns. As had been stated by an hon. Member, in ten minutes' action the whole supply would be fired away; and in what position would a ship find herself then? Of course, we were handicapped to a certain extent by the fact that we should probably have to operate at a distance from our reserve stores. We had to seek the enemy elsewhere, and, therefore, there was an obligation 1289 to carry a liberal supply of ammunition. It was said that every officer wished for more guns. Yes, but could they get more guns without sacrificing the necessary amount of ammunition? And then, of course, there were the questions of the coal supply and the radius of action, upon which he would not enter. All he had to say was that he hall pressed his naval advisers upon the question of guns, and they had considered it over and over again; and he could not find amongst them any hesitation whatever as to the course the Admiralty should pursue. After all, the question must be settled by compromise; and he could assure the House that it was only one among the many questions that must disturb every shipbuilder who was called upon to perform the difficult task of meeting the ever-increasing demands that were made upon hint. He had now dealt with the main points raised in the course of the Debate. He appreciated the way in which the Admiralty programme had been accepted by the Committee, and he should be glad if they might now be allowed to come to a decision upon the Vote. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. DILLON
asked what had caused the increase in the item of coal for steam vessels? Last year the Vote was £500,000: this year it was £525,000. Was any of it due to the blockade of Crete?
§ * THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
I think not, because the blockade of Crete was foreseen. We have a larger number of ships in commission, and the experience of the former year has shewn that it is necessary to make some larger provision. Possibly the position at Crete may have increased the consumption of coal; but it must be remembered that if the ships of the Mediterranean squadron had not been at Crete, they would have been tit sea elsewhere.
§ MR. HENRY LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
had always been surpised that so level-headed a man as the First Lord of the Admiralty, who thoroughly understood finance and was an excellent Chancellor of the Exchequer, should have allowed himself to be captured by naval cranks, and experts—[laughter]—and should be persuaded to play this ridiculous game of beggar-my-neighbour at the 1290 expense of the taxpayer, against the civilised world. But he had himself explained it by saying that he was "always surrounded by naval captains." Let him venture to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that, instead of being always surrounded by naval captains, he might do well to be surrounded by taxpayers. [Laughter] Then he would probably take into his consideration not only all these fads and fancies, but also- the fact that they had got to be paid for. Now, so far as he had been able to discover from the statistics given in that House, we had not advanced one inch in regard to the Navy during the last 15 years. [laugher and cheers.] Yes, he expected hon. Gentlemen would say that. [Laughter.] What was the meaning of the strength of the British Navy? It was It matter of comparison with other navies. No sooner did we build ships t ban other nations built as well, and he very much doubted whether we were, relatively to other Powers, any stronger now than we were before we commenced what he contended was a foolish game. He wanted to know how long this was to go on? The right hon. Gentleman said that if Other nations built, we must build too. ["Hear, hear!"] Well, he saw that the German Emperor had urged his Parliament to build a considerable number more ships; and if the German Emperor succeeded in obtaining the money to build five battleships, were we to build ten? ["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Gentlemen said "Yes." Well, he had seen in the newspapers that the United States contemplated the annexation of the Sandwich Islands; and if the United States did what he ventured to think a very foolish thing, they would have to build a. strong navy. It must be remembered that when the United States went into a business they did it thoroughly; and in this matter of naval power they would try to beat us if they could. If then we having built ten ships because the German Emperor had built five, the United States were to proceed to double their naval strength, were we to go on and double our naval strength too? [Laughter and cheers.] The whole thing appeared to be perfectly absurd. He yielded to no one in his desire for a strong and effective Navy, but he wanted a Navy purely for defence. He had observed that the more ships we got the 1291 more we meddled with other countries. Sir Robert Peel once told that House that it was the greatest mistake to have a war expenditure in time of peace. We ought not to spend all our money in this ridiculous system of insurance. He did not believe there was any country that wished to attack us. Whilst we had engaged in many wars during the present and the past century it had never once been because we were attacked. If they were always preparing for war the result was to foster a military spirit in the country which might lead to war. He was not going to Divide the House on the whole of this Vote, although he should be delighted to do so if he could carry it. He got no assistance from the Front Opposition Bench—[laughter]— on the contrary, there seemed to be a competition between the two Front Benches to encourage this wild expenditure. What was the contribution of his hon. Friend to the Debate? He had said that he judged all salaries, from the salary of the First. Lord of the Admiralty down to that of a cabin boy, by their fighting capacity. What was the fighting capacity of the right hon. Gentleman—[laughter]—or of the Secretary for the Navy, or of the Junior Lord of the Admiralty? Why should the Junior Lord have only £1,000 a year, while the First Lord got £5,000 a year, if it was only a question of fighting capacity? That was the contribution of their Front Bench to the Debate. He believed his hon. Friend behind him was going to move a reduction.
§ * MR. J. G. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
congratulated the First Lord of the Admiralty on his statement. He begged, however, to move the reduction of the Vote by £1,000 in respect of the expenditure on the Royal yacht. He considered that Her Majesty was entitled to the finest and best of everything that the country could produce, but a line must be drawn somewhere. The right hon. Gentleman did not even assure them that £250,000 would cover the cost of this yacht. The yacht, doubtless, should be built with all the best improvements, and in the best style, but still a quarter of a million was a very large sum. He pointed out that the sum which was to be voted for this yacht would provide 1292 50 cruisers to protect the interests of the line fishermen on the coasts of England, Scotland, and Ireland against the depredations of trawlers. He protested against this enormous expenditure.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
agreed with the hon. Member for Dundee that it might be possible so to build the new Royal yacht as to render it serviceable in time of war. He did not know much about yacht s himself, because the mere sight of one made him seasick—[laughter]—but he believed that a very fine yacht could be built for less than £250,000, which was a very large sum. The right hon. Gentle-n man could not even guarantee that the new yacht would not cost more than £250,000, and he should not be surprised if it cost nearly double the sum mentioned. He did riot suppose that Her Majesty used her yachts on more than five days in the year, and if the Victoria and Albert, on which very large sums had been spent, was seaworthy, she might, he thought, suffice for the requirements of the Crown. Radicals were quite prepared to say that the Queen ought to have a fine big yacht, but economy ought not to be wholly disregarded by the Admiralty in the matter.
§ * THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
said that he could not guarantee that the cost of the yacht would not exceed £250,000, but he did not suppose for a moment that it would cost any such sum as the hon. Member suggested, and he hoped that the expenditure would be within the sum he had named. It was almost incredible, but nevertheless true, that the Queen, of all persons, had been using a yacht 40 years old. All the four Royal yachts were old, and ho thought the majority of Her Majesty's subjects in this country would be of opinion that the time had come when the Royal Family were entitled to have a new yacht built upon the lines on which Royal yachts were now constructed. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. J. C. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
held that £250,000 was a most extravagant sum for the yacht. He was not a strong supporter of monarchic institutions, but he recognised that a monarchy while it existed ought to be main-tamed suitably. The demand of the First Lord of the Admiralty, however, exceeded the limits of reason. Was the Committee to understand that this extraordinary expenditure was to be 1293 incurred for a yacht which was to be used for only a few days in the year? He was not one of those who believed in a cheese-paring policy on a question of this kind; if they were to build yachts for the representatives of monarchy, certainly do it in a proper and even luxurious manner, but £250,000 was out of all reason.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
complained of the Admiralty having, as he understood, refused a continuation of the Parliamentary Return showing the expenditure on the Royal yachts, because, if ever there was an occasion when Parliament ought to be made acquainted with this item of naval expenditure, surely this was the occasion.
§ * THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
said his memory was not certain on the subject, but if the Return was refused it was because it was considered that to run up all the items, necessarily numerous, for repair of old yachts was a roost misleading method of stating, statistics. It was like when a man said he ate one pound of beef a day, the calculation was made how many oxen he would have eaten in the course of his life. Subject to the reservation indicated, however, the hon. Gentleman should certainly have his Return.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
was much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, who had made a wise concession. As he had already suggested more than once, he thought this ship should be made, not only a Royal pleasure yacht, but at the same time a vessel capable of being made serviceable in war.
§ MR. DILLON
thought the present demand was a gross waste of public money. There could not be a better illustration of the reckless character of this demand than to recall the fact that Irish Members had been fighting in the House of Commons for ten years to get an unfortunate dock in the south of Ireland put into a condition suitable for naval repairs being carried out, and that the Admiralty, as an enormous boon, had consented to expend. £60,000 upon it in the next five years. That fact furnished an instructive contrast as to the intelligence and fairness with which public money was distributed.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £5,439,000, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 41; Noes, 143.—(Division List, No. 336.)
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
4. Motion made, and Question proposed,—
That a sum, not exceeding £2,126,000 (including a supplementary sum of £130,000), be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the expense of the personnel for Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, etc., including the cost of establishments of Dockyards and Naval Yards at home and abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1898.
§ MR. KEARLEY
desired to draw attention to the case of the employés at the Devonport dockyard, contending that the rental conditions which prevailed in that town were such as to justify the minimum wage of the Government servants being raised. The late Government had given pledges, which had been confirmed by the present Government, to the effect that where rental conditions were exceptional, the wages of their employés should be amply sufficient to compare favourably with those of other places where the rental conditions were not so onerous. In Deptford and Woolwich, where the rents were high, the Government had made some concession by giving increased wages, but the rental conditions were much more exceptional in Devonport than in either of the two places he had mentioned. In his census returns of 1891 the Registrar General showed that the overcrowding in Devonport was higher than in any other city or town in England. He pointed out that in England and Wales, taking the period of 20 years, the average population was 5 per house; but in Devonport there were 60,000 people living in 5,000 houses, or a population per house of 12 people. Again, the Registrar General showed that the percentage of people in England and Wales living in tenements of one room only was 47 per 1,000. In London, of course, the number was large, amounting to 184 per 1,000, but in Devonport the 1295 number reached the total of 244 per 1,000, this being the only town with a higher ratio than London. He would like to call the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty to the statement made by the medical officer of health. The actual population of Devonport was 60,000, but with the suburbs it amounted to 86,000, the medical officer's duties extending over the whole of this population. This gentleman stated, in his report, that out of these 86,000 people, no fewer than 51,000 lived in tenements. The hon. Member proceeded to give statistics showing the overcrowding of the population in Devonport. There was nothing like it anywhere else. He gave particulars as to the numbers of people in different tenements, and the rent paid per week. He challenged the Civil Lord of the Admiralty to justify the statements he made last year on this subject. He asked for an independent inquiry, when he could produce much stronger evidence as to the state of affairs in this unfortunate town, far worse than anything in London or any other part of the country. In Devon-port the population was very thick indeed. He invited the Civil Lord to justify the statement he made last year. Last week there was a meeting of the Devonport Borough Council to consider the question of the housing of the working classes, the medical officer made his report and an official condemnation was passed on the state of some of these habitations, and he understood a good many of them were to be pulled down. Deputations from the local branches of various trade societies gave evidence from experience in Glasgow, Bristol, Nottingham, Barrow-in-Furness, showing how unfavourably the condition of Devonport compared with other towns with four-room tenements at £24 a year, built for one family, but inhabited like rabbit warrens. The facts should be sufficient to induce the Government to give an undertaking that a local inquiry should be held. This was the extent of the moderate demand he had made in previous years and now repeated. He would not be satisfied with a pleasant and plausible reply from the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, he desired a definite answer, would the Admiralty undertake that a local Inquiry should be held into the circumstances? Evidence was available, much had been collected by the municipality, 1296 and there was the evidence of the Medical Officer, and he was perfectly satisfied that if such an Inquiry were honestly carried out, in the result the Admiralty would admit that the local conditions of the town were such as to entitle the men employed in the dockyard to favourable consideration of their claim to a higher minimum rate of wages than they had hitherto received. Another question he had to mention, not by any means a new one, the classification an long the various trades. This was a novel system introduced in 1891 by the right hon. Gentleman who had had a great deal to say tonight about the importunity of Members who represented dockyard constituencies. If evidence were wanted m the undesirability of perpetuating this system, he appeal to the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Robertson) who, upon experience obtained ill his official position at the Admiralty, had declared that the system had proved unworkable. He hail professed to have abolished it, but like many other Government assurances it resulted in a mere nibbling at the question, which still remained unsettled. What the men asked for was that there should be a uniform rate of pay for work of equal value in particular trades. They pointed out that in private shipbuilding establishments where Government contract work was carried out, there was this uniform rate of pay, and they asked that in the six trades—the right hon. Gentleman was well acquainted with the circumstances and he would not particularise there should be a uniform rate. He might anticipate the reply he would receive, a reply often made, that if there was to be a uniform rate then it would be a question of levelling down, but in this connection he commended to the attention of the Admiralty a Return which he had put before Lord Spencer, which showed that in. all the private shipbuilding yards, and taking- into consideration all the advantages of Government employment, the wages averaged 2s. or 1s. a week higher than was paid in Government establishments for similar work.
§ GENERAL LAURIE (Pembroke and Haverfordwest)
said he also, like the hon. Member who laid just spoken, had from year to year since he hail had a seat in the House put before the First Lord of 1297 the Admiralty grievances of which certain workmen in the dockyards complained. He would not go over the arguments again, it was a substantial grievance that men received different wages for doing the same work. The First Lord might consider that he had dealt with it, mind he did go a long way towards it, as did also the Board of Admiralty under the late Government, and yet to a certain extent the grievance remained. He felt it was a duty to his constituents to press that that grievance might be removed, thereby giving satisfaction to a body of workmen whit did good work. That they did good work would be realised when they contrasted the work done in their yards with that done by contract. The cruiser Andromeda was built in their yards £27,000 less than the Diadem, which was built in Glasgow: while the battleship Hannibal, built in their yards, cost £24,000 less then the Mars, built at Laird's yard at Birkenhead. It seemed to him that the men who did Work more cheaply for the nation were worth some consideration, and he did hope that that consideration might be shown. Of the proposed additional grant towards increasing the Navy, only £170,000 were to be spent in the yards themselves. That seemed to him hardly enough, when they realised that they could build more cheaply there. The argument was that this was a temporary pressure, and that by-and-bye it would be necessary to discharge men. But was it a temporary pressure? He believed the temporary pressure would go on. They would have to continue to build, and, whether it was in private or public yards, build they must, and surely it was better to build where they could do the work more cheaply, where they had the men under heir own control, and where, in case of war, they could be used immediately for repairing purposes. He hoped that the First Lord in framing his future Estimates would give more consideration to the yards, and less, comparatively, to contract.
§ * SIR J. BAKER
trusted that they would hear that night that the same measure of consideration would be meted out to the dockyard labourers as had been meted out to those under the War Department. Their present treatment was a species of mild sweating, which was not consistent with the promises which had 1298 been made in that House in regard to their wages—namely, that they should receive the rate of pay that was received in the locality. He had to remind the First Lord that in very few, if in any, cases had the petitions which had been presented this year been replied to. That was a considerable disappointment to the employés in the dockyard. He would give one illustration. In the borough he represented there were 1,600 shipwrights employed in the dockyard. Nine months since they presented a petition of a character so moderate that it was totally different from any which they had presented before. They asked for a uniform wage of 33s. per week for established men, and 34s. for hired men. To that they got no reply whatever. The Government had professed to promise to abolish classification. The men asked, and had a right to demand, that that promise should be fulfilled, bat classification continued. They had also a complaint to make with regard in the wages paid to the established man, and to the hired man, and though the difference between what they received awl what they demanded might seem only small it was of importance to the men. If the Admiralty would only meet the moderate demands of the workmen they would find that their action would lead to contentment and satisfaction, which would be greatly to the advantage of the dockyards.
§ * THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
said that the Admiralty received hundreds of petitions in the course of the year. Every consideration was paid to them, and he did not think that even the workmen themselves expected immediate answers to them. Last year considerable concessions were made, and he believed they gave some satisfaction to the workmen by what they did. In reference to classification, the hon. Member and others complained that they had not had what they were promised. They had had in ample measure what they were promised. It appeared to him that there had been too many professions, too much veiled language which hon. Members could interpret according to their own desires, or the advantages of their constituents. The hon. Member for Devonport hoped there would be no professions and no niggling. He certainly would satisfy 1299 the hon. Gentleman. He would make no promise, he would make no profession. He intend to look at these matters as a man of business and to rectify what he thought needed rectification. The hon. Member for Devonport remarked that his constituency was much overcrowded. The proper deduction from that statement was that workmen ought not to be attracted to Devonport, but that more work should be given to Chatham and other places. Did the hon. Member think for a moment that if they were to give an extra 6d. or 1s. it would remove the terrible state of things to which he had called attention?
§ * THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
remarked that he was not responsible for the last Government. If they had made the promise attributed to them they had landed the Admiralty in great difficulty. If rent were to be taken into consideration they would have to diminish wages in those places where there was an excess of cottage. accommodation. It was not merely a question of money; if it were, it would be easy. It would be very popular to make the money fly—possibly the Government might win back Portsmouth and Devon-port if they did. But it was necessary to have content not only in one spot but throughout the service; and the discrimination asked for would set the whole of the establishments in a ferment. Would Portsmouth and the other dockyards be content with a lower wage than Devonport? And if the increase were given to the labourer, why not to all the servants of the Government? [Mr. LOUGH: "Give it all round!"] That would result in the Government doing less building at Devonport than at other places. How would an additional 1s.a week do away with the difficulty of overcrowding? In Deptford the wages were raised, and the rents of cottages had actually been put up. Devonport ought to see how far they could build artisans' dwellings.
§ * THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
asked how this increase in wages would remedy that state of things. Devonport must concentrate the whole of its attention on getting better housing for the working classes. That was a better solution of the difficulty than making thousands of men in other yards discontented. The conditions could not be so very hard, because even when higher wages were being paid in private yards the Admiralty were still able to get all their work done. He did not wish to disturb that content by holding out expectations which no Government could possibly fulfil.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
said that no one knew better than he the difficulties of the situation. But when the wages of the dockyards were inquired into and settled five years ago, the Admiralty certainly admitted the principle that in the lower ratings the wages should he determined by the circumstances of the locality, of which rental was the chief. He was bound also to say that the late Board considered at the same time the case of Devonport, but they decided against it because they did not think the same special circumstances applied. It appeared that in Deptford the advance had been swept into the pockets of the landlord. That was a possible result they foresaw and tried to deprecate, and he could only regret that such had been the result of the well-meant effort of the late Board.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Rochester)
called attention to the grievances of the riggers in the Royal Dockyard at Chatham, who complained that they were not as well treated as other departments of the dockyard either as regards wages or superannuation. It might he said that the grievance was accounted for by the fact that after all the riggers were not engaged in anything like so skilled a trade as, say, the carpenters. That might have been the case in former years but as time had gone on and steel rigging had been substituted, as a matter of fact the business of rigging had become extremely skilled, and there was great responsibility attaching to it, part of their duty being to manœuvre great ships in and out of the dock. 1301 These men had to obtain a certain status before they became riggers; and it had been represented to him that they were not being properly treated by the Board of Admiralty as to the condition of their services.
§ MR. MORTON
agreed with the observations of the last speaker as to the riggers, but he desired to call attention to the case of labourers engaged in the dangerous and unhealthy work in double bottoms. These labourers were receiving an exceedingly low rate of pay. He agreed that the principal element in determining the cost of living of those men was rent. But in reply to the statement of the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty that any increase in wages would go into t he pockets of the landlords in the shape of rent, he would paint out that rents in Devonport had been increased to the furthest limit; and the only result of any attempt to raise them still higher would be to swell the number of labourers who were going outside the manor of Devonport to live. Rents in Devonport were for all practical purposes economically fixed, and any increased pay would not go into the landlord's pocket, but would go to improve the condition of the workman by enabling hint to live in noire rooms than tit present. He was sure that if he could take the right hon. Gentleman into some of the streets of Devonport and show him the scenes be had witnessed—whole families, in some cases three generations, living in a single room—it would soften even the proverbially hard hearts of the Government officials and lead them to consider this matter in a different light. He still trusted that the Admiralty would make special inquiry into the state of things at Devonport, for he was persuaded that if they did so in an unprejudiced way, the case he had put would command attention, and would he effectually dealt with.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down may rest assured that the Admiralty are ready, as they ever have been, to give consideration to any legitimate grievances. I will not traverse the arguments he has used. In any case, I am not sure that anything would be gained by discussing the matter at the present moment. Nor do I rise for that purpose. I rose to make an appeal to 1302 the Committee; but before doing so, some answer is due to my noble Friend the Member for Rochester in reference to the brief speech he made a few minutes ago. Both he and the hon. Member for Devonport who has just sat down raised the question of the riggers. While the riggers have shared in every one of those advantages recently given to workmen in the Government yards, and while their superannuation is calculated on precisely the same principle, no doubt the fact remains that their wages are less than the wages of the joiners. My noble Friend specially compared the two. But while that fact is undoubted, it must be remembered that the same fact occurs in every private yard in the kingdom, and that in none of these private yards do the riggers earn the same wages as the joiners. There would be an obvious ho-propriety, I think, in the Government adopting a different system in their yards from that which prevails in private yards; and under the circumstances I do not know, as at present advised, that the Board of Admiralty are in a position to meet the views of my noble Friend and the hon. Gentleman opposite. So much for that particular question. I rose rather on a matter which is more within my special province, and that is to make all appeal to the Committee to conclude this Vote and the other Admiralty Votes; because there is a Report of Supply which some Members are very much interested in, and there are also some Bills which must not be forgotten if the Session is to he brought to a close when we contemplate. I have always thought it advisable, and still think so, not to put too great a strain upon the House in the matter of long sittings. ["Hear, hear!"] We sat eleven hours yesterday, and we have to meet at twelve o'clock to-morrow; and under the circumstances, I hope the Committee will consent to bring this Vote to a- conclusion, and also the remaining Admiralty Vote, on which I believe no question will arise. As soon as that is done, I will move to report progress, and we can then proceed with other business.
§ MR. DILLON
asked if the right hon. Gentleman would give the Committee some indication of his idea of the amount of business he was going to do. He hoped the practice of not taking Bills on the days allotted to Supply, a practice 1303 which had been observed throughout the Session, would not be departed from.
§ MR. LOUGH
said the First Lord of the Admiralty had promised to look into the admitted overcrowding at Devonport, and if he would promise that an Inquiry would be held, it would not be necessary to divide on the Vote. The right hon. Gentleman had showed them a book of petitions, which he said was an abstract, which was surely proof that there was need of an Inquiry.
§ * THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
said he had not promised anything more than that he would look into the petitions, as they did every year, and beyond that he would not go. He had not promised any Inquiry into the situation at Devonport.
§ MR. KEARLEY
, being dissatisfied with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, moved to reduce the Vote by the sum of £100.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £2,125,900, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 29; Noes, 112.—(Division List, No. 337.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. DILLON
proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again, in order to elicit a statement from the First Lord of the Treasury as to the remaining business on the Paper."
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said that the rule that had always been adopted on Supply nights since the new Standing Order was passed was that Bills should not be taken. He thought himself that some relaxation of that Rule might be made with advantage after Twelve o'clock at the end of the Session, but he was quite ready to give way and meet hon. Gentlemen on that matter; but he hoped hon. Members would give the Government such Supply as they could without unduly prolonging the sitting. No Bills would therefore be taken that night, nor Report of Supply (July 23).
§ MR. DILLON
said it was quite two years since he raised the question of the supply of Catholic chaplains in the Navy. He did not wish to press that 1304 night for a final answer on the subject. He only wished to remind the First Lord of the Admiralty that he promised that the matter should be looked into.
§ * THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
was understood to say that he had not forgotten the promise he had made. The matter was still under his consideration.
Vote agreed to.
§ 5. £2,064,000 (including a Supplementary sum of £40,000), Shipbuilding Repairs, Maintenance, Etc.—Materiel.—Agreed to.
§ 6. £85,600, Educational Services.—Agreed to.
§ 7. £66,700, Scientific Services.—Agreed to.
§ 8. £100,000, Naval Armaments (Supplementary).