§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
The hon. and learned Member and the gallant Admiral have raised a good many points, and, as some points also remain over from the last Debate, it may be convenient that I should reply now. I will begin by dealing with the final part of the speech of the hon. and learned Member. The Works Bill will be a Loan Bill, but it is not yet in such a state that I can name any date for its introduction. Sundry surveys are still under consideration, and that makes it impossible for us to arrive at any final enumeration of the various items which will be included in the Measure. With reference to the works at Gibraltar, we have decided upon the commercial mole, which we consider to be far better than the plan of dolphins which formed part of the first proposals of the late Board of Admiralty. This commercial mole will be undertaken jointly by Her Majesty's Government and the Colonial Government as far as expenses are concerned, and the matter will be dealt with in the new Bill. With regard to the Naval College at 590 Dartmouth, we are not yet able to put before the House of Commons final designs, but we shall do our best to give full information to the House as soon as we are in a position to do so; and I shall then also gave information, possibly in the form of a memorandum, with regard to the changes which have been made in the system of education for the Cadets, who in future will inhabit the College. I pass now to the first part of the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman. The Committee expects some further information with reference to the programme of shipbuilding which we have placed before them. As the Committee know, that programme includes four battleships, three third-class cruisers, four twin-screw gunboats, and two torpedo-boat destroyers. With regard to the character of the battleships, I will undertake that before these ships are begun the House shall have full information as to their designs, and the opportunity for supplying such information would probably arise on the consideration of Vote 8. But there are reasons why, when we propose to build battleships which are to be commenced some time hence, it is undesirable to pledge ouselves in advance. It is better to have as long an interval as possible, because that gives one the opportunity of watching the development of shipbuilding elsewhere, which may have some influence and bearing upon our own plans. At the same time, I would say generally that we mean to have four powerful battleships, and that there are two classes to either of which they might belong. I mean the Majestic class or the Canopus class. We know at this moment what we intend, but these intentions might be modified, and I trust the Committee will not press me to give more information on this subject now. ["Hear, hear!"] We think it very important that these ships should belong, if possible, to one of the classes which already exist. ["Hear, hear!"] We have not arrived at a point which to us is very satisfactory. We have got ships, which, though criticised to some extent in certain quarters, satisfy public opinion and realise the intentions of their designers, and upon which no serious or large improvements are at present proposed. I believe there is nothing which impresses foreign critics more in connection with our Fleet than the fact that we are able, in a greater degree than any 591 other country, to put into line a number of ships of precisely the same speed and design, forming a thoroughly homogeneous squadron. The advantage of this is felt by all classes of seamen. The men who are passed from one ship to another understand all their duties on the vessel to which they are transferred almost as soon as they get on board. There was an occasion lately when men were transferred from one battleship to another, and within one week every man knew exactly his post, the character of the vessel being familiar to him. I attach great importance to that state of things, and I think that my view is shared by the great majority of the Committee. ["Hear, hear!"] The same observations apply to the third-class cruisers. As far as we can ascertain, the Pelorus class fulfils precisely the intentions of the designers and the duties which it was meant to perform. I have no hesitation, therefore, in saying that the new third-class cruisers will be constructed on precisely the same lines, with perhaps some minor improvements. Then the next point is one not without interest, and that is that Her Majesty's present Government, and probably their predecessors, have found the want when the occasion arose of sufficient light-draught vessels that would navigate those many rivers where there are so many difficulties, and where it is most desirable to give effective support to our representatives. Hitherto it has generally been necessary to build special boats; and I take the case of the Nile. When the Nile has to be navigated there are special boats for the Nile, and the same observation holds good with reference to the Niger and other rivers. We have held that a supply of gunboats should be kept ready to put on the spot where they are wanted on an emergency. That will account for eight light-draught boats under construction now in the programme of 1896–7, and for the four new twin screw gunboats which are down in the present programme. They are stern wheelers. There is considerable curiosity among some of our neighbours to know what we are doing in this respect, and I do not wish to make any statement before our designs are finally approved. Then the Committee will see that we ask for two torpedo-boat destroyers, and for this reason. Practically we have completed 592 our programme of 92 torpedo-boat destroyers, which was the number which, looking to every station at which we should have to place them, would be necessary. We have kept over these two torpedo-boat destroyers with the view of utilising any further improvements that can be made in this most useful class of vessel. Possibly the designers of this kind of craft will be able to produce still more rapid boats, boats with some improvements which we should be able to utilise in those two torpedo-boat destroyers which are in our programme. I do not mean to say it may not be necessary to increase the number of this most useful craft. They answer the purpose not only of catching torpedo-boats, but their speed is such that they form most useful dispatch vessels, carrying at enormous speed information from one spot to another; and I believe that they quite realise the hopes of the Admiralty. With regard to the ships to be built there is one point in our new programme which I probably should refer to—that is the question of the Royal Yacht. The hon. Member asked whether it would be made a man-of-war and fitted as a cruiser. After mature consideration, the comfort of the inhabitants of the dock would be interfered with by constructing it as a cruiser to a much greater degree than would be the value of the cruiser. It would be very difficult to make an effective cruiser in any case, and it means occupying a great deal of room. There are great inconveniences of various kinds, and we have come to the conclusion that it would not be expedient to build the same type of yacht for narrow waters. With regard to the cost, the design is not yet complete, so that I am unable to give the total sum of money. But I should like to give to the Committee the dates of the building of the yachts which are at present at the disposal of the Royal Family. The Victoria and Albert was launched in 1855, the Osborne in 1870, the Alberta in 1863, and the little Elfin in 1849. I think the Committee will see that it is not lately nor often that any member of the Royal Family has appealed to the House of Commons to supply a yacht. [Cheers.] I am certain that this proposal, notwithstanding what the hon. Member has said, may be accepted with some cordiality by the majority of the House of Commons. [Cheers.] 593 I now pass to the question which was dealt with by the hon. Member, and I think by some other Members the other evening, with reference to the adequacy of our proposals and the time those ships are to be laid down. I demur to the principle that when you have made an effort such as that of last year to increase the Estimates by £2,300,000, that necessarily forms a standard which must be followed for two or three years consecutively. It must depend on the amount of work done, on the ships you desire to build; and I think it would be unwise to say that the expenditure of one year must necessarily follow the expenditure of the previous year. Last year we frankly told the House that we were making not only a great effort to increase the fleet, but to expedite and hurry on the construction of certain ships. The natural result of such a course was to throw on that particular year a particular burden. I informed the House that we knowingly lightened this year by £600,000, whereas last year it was burdened by the same sum. If it were otherwise, if the Government had the fear to reduce its expenditure in any year subject to the kind of criticism I was prepared for, it would then shrink from taking steps one year to perform a certain special work and to expedite business lest it should be a form of complaint next year that it had done nothing. Suppose we had pursued the opposite policy and had spent £600,000 and left it for this year. Then in this year we should be perfectly free from the charge that we were increasing our Estimates, yet in the two years we should not have done an atom more than we have done. I ask the Committee to look at the two years together, and I think they will consider our expenditure adequate to the demands which are required. The hon. Member will see that it is difficult to follow the precise figures put before me with reference to the Supplemental Estimates, but I think he did not reckon in them the amount of the new construction in this year. The new construction is £6,791,000. Possibly the hon. Member has missed the point that £150,000 comes from stores. The hon. Member adds on the Supplemental Estimates, but we cannot tell what the Supplemental Estimages might be in this year. If in this year we were to find that we have made inadequate provision for 594 the point we should not hesitate to come to the House of Commons for the purpose of increasing the expenditure. But what I put before the Committee is this—that you have not only to look at the expenditure but at that which is being done by the expenditure, and to see whether what we are doing now is not a vast undertaking. In this year there will be completed 66 ships; there will be 108 under construction. The liabilities from last year, when we undertook so large a programme, are £6,200,000; and, of course when you have under construction so large a figure it must necessarily follow that the construction of new ships laid down cannot equal in amount to those laid down in previous years. The question is—is the programme in itself sufficient, looking at the matter as a whole, not merely from one year to another, but the programme of last year with the programme of this year? Is it not an immense programme, and is it not an immense amount of work which will be undertaken? How has that programme of ours been settled and on what principle? It has been settled on the principle generally of seeing what force we might be likely to have to meet. It has been formed looking at the normal shipbuilding of the various countries. We took a survey, and the result of that survey is embodied in the Estimates we propose. But there is what I may call a balance of power in the navies of Europe; and we should watch with some anxiety that that balance should not be disturbed by any abnormal efforts on the part of any other Power. [Cheers.] I am not frightened by programmes. You have programmes of all sorts—political and naval programmes—and they are not always excellent. Some of the largest programmes of foreign countries have never come into execution, and therefore when a programme is first launched to the world we cannot take it too seriously, because, like other programmes, it may be for home consumption, or it may be for foreign consumption. I make these remarks in order to assure the Committee that though we may not take into consideration any particular programme, yet if any abnormal efforts are made or any abnormal programme is actually put into execution that would seem to disturb the general amount of naval power which would belong to different countries, 595 certainly I should think it to be my duty, and the Government would think it to be its duty, to reconsider its position; and they would be perfectly certain, whatever happened, if it were necessary in consequence of abnormal efforts on the part of any other Power to make corresponding efforts here, to receive the support of the House of Commons. [Cheers.] Now I come to the point of time of laying down these ships—the point raised by the hon. Member for Devonport the other day and continued by the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken; and with this question the subject of discharges of men from the dockyards has been coupled. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean Division said that practically the ships were not to be begun in the next financial year; but everybody who knows anything about the beginning of ships knows how important it is to have your designs ready and your forms of order and tenders prepared, and that by this preparation you may save months in construction. Well, the money we have obtained will allow for four months of actual construction; therefore, I demur to the suggestion that our programme does not include the building of any ships at all in the year. But why, we are asked, defer the construction of ships? I think Members of the Committee would not desire that men should be taken off from the work of completion of ships in hand, delaying this work while new work is commenced. Such a course would weaken our power, because we are less strong with a larger number of unfinished ships than if we devote ourselves to the completion of those we have in hand. But, it may be said, you may take on fresh men; and there is the difficulty, for if you do that you will have the question of discharges to meet. Our object is to have as little of the zigzag policy, as it has been called, as possible. If we commence these ships far in advance of the time we have proposed, and take on men for the purpose, next year we should have to discharge a number of workmen; and our object is to keep the number of men employed at as even a level as we can. Last year we entered a number of men for specific work, and now the discharge of these men is made the subject of complaint against us. These men knew perfectly well that they were being engaged solely for a particular business, and yet when 596 the time for their discharge comes it is held to be a reduction of the normal strength of the dockyards. The hon. Member for Devonport implied that as we are taking less money there must be discharges; but hon. Members should be aware that every year there is a certain amount of waste, a certain number of men who leave the establishment; and a considerable proportion of the reductions will be due to wastage by deaths, superannuation, discharges with gratuity on account of age, and voluntary retirement. The discharges are about 180 men in the whole year, and the hon. Gentleman need scarcely trouble himself about that, for it is impossible to foresee, with such an immense amount of work in hand, how precisely the building in the dockyards will proceed side by side with the construction by contract. From strikes and other causes contract work may not make the progress anticipated, and in consequence the balance of the money voted for construction would return to the Treasury, but, with the consent of the Treasury, we transfer the money not used for contract work to yard ship building. It is impossible to say how much progress may be actually made with contract building and how much in the dockyards. There will always be a certain amount of elasticity, and the Committee will understand how difficult it is in these enormous labour transactions to adjust the amount precisely. We have a large number of men in the dockyards, and we wish to employ them economically, and at the same time we wish to have a sufficient margin, so that we can, in case sufficient progress is not made with ships building by contract, find employment for men who would otherwise leave our yards. This is the principle upon which we act. I know there is a desire that we should take on fresh men rather than work overtime; but when there is special work to be proceeded with we give a small amount of overtime, the men working an extra hour a day, and so avoid fluctuations in the number of men employed. If we take on fresh men instead of working overtime, it will probably next year be necessary to discharge the men again; and so we meet that difficulty with which every man who has had anything to do with the Admiralty is so well acquainted. 597 There is no real diminution in expenditure; our programme is constructed on the basis of seeing what ships are required and what repairs are required, and we have arranged the dates of the ships in the manner most economical for the yards and causing the least fluctuation in the personnel of the establishments. And now I come to the questions raised by my hon. and gallant Friend, among which that of armaments stands out conspicuously. A modification is proposed by the introduction of quickfiring guns for the Diadem class of cruisers, and the question is whether, from the point of view of the duties the cruisers have to perform, it is better to have guns which will fire six times to the one fire of heavier guns. In action, which would my hon. and gallant Friend prefer, six shots from a 6in. gun or one discharge from a 9in. gun? We have not yet reached the point of having quick-firing 9in. guns; the highest quick-firing gun is a 6in. In considering this question of armament, the most important requirement is that the gun should do the duty required, and if a 6in. gun fired six times is sufficient to disable any ship with which a cruiser will have to deal, it is surely better to have that gun than a 9in. gun that will not do better work than a 6in. gun. It is, I admit, a matter of great importance. The armament to be given to these cruisers formed the subject of very extended discussion and conference before it was finally decided. My hon. and gallant Friend has alluded to the captain of the Excellent; but he will remember we have an Ordnance Committee, and that our Controller, Sir J. Fisher, has been in command of the Excellent. My hon. and gallant Friend's allusion to officials keeps out of view their naval character; but this question has been decided by naval men giving their best judgment to it, and whose sole business it is to consider this question of armaments from one year's end to another. Now, the alternatives considered were—an armament resembling that of the Powerful and Terrible, with 9.2in. bow and stern chase guns and 6in. broadside quickfirers; secondly, a similar broadside armament, but associated with 8in. bow and stern chasers; and, thirdly, a uniform armament of 6in. quick-firers. These were the alternatives, and the decision was for 6in. quick-firers. The 598 ammunition is all of one kind; you have no separate reserve ammunition; your guns will be homogeneous, and you will have more protection for guns and crews. Then there is the safeguarding of the ammunition, to which great importance is attached. These are advantages which are not counterbalanced by omitting the heavier guns. Experience of quick-firers shows that, in power of attack as well as in accuracy and rapidity of fire, they are most powerful weapons against all cruisers and some battleships. These cruisers are not intended to fight battleships; but if they are able to meet any foreign cruisers with which they may be confronted, our object will be accomplished, and we believe that that is accomplished by this armament. As to the water-tube boilers, they have been a great success, and reflect the greatest credit on the Engineer-in-Chief, who has carried through this system against very great opposition. ["Hear, hear!"] The results have now been generally accepted.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL (York, E. R., Holderness)
asked what was the duration of the trials at full speed which the vessels with water-tube boilers had undergone?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
They have had three trials. The first was eight hours and the second was 30 hours at 18,000-horse power. That is at the normal sea-speed of the vessels, which is 21 knots. At 25,000-horse power the trial was for four hours, and at the end of that time they had worked up to 26,000-horse power, at which steam was blown off. The trials are admitted to show clearly the value of these boilers.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
Yes. These boilers have been submitted to greater trials than any others in the Navy. I have now dealt with most of the questions connected with the matériel of the fleet. Some other points will be raised as to the personnel, which I might deal with at a later stage of the evening. In conclusion, I wish to say that the criticisms so far, though dealing with a good many details, have been friendly to the Estimates, and that I thoroughly appreciate. As usual, both as regards matériel and personnel, it has been suggested that I have indulged in undue official optimism. I am not conscious of having done so, 599 and I should be sorry if I had, for I am aware that we have not reached any ideal standard in either respect. We are in a period of transition, and we are labouring with very great difficulties, which prevent us from reaching so high a standard in many respects as we would wish. I am perfectly concious of all the shortcomings which still exist; but I can assure the Committee that my naval colleagues and myself will devote our best energies to dealing with these knotty points. [Cheers.]
§ SIR C. DILKE
said that the Committee was somewhat astonished that this year they had not had the First Lord's usual statement. There were many points which were not covered by the right hon. Gentleman's interesting and valuable speech of the other night, nor by the printed statement.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
Since the printed statement has been introduced it has been the custom not to make any further statement.
§ SIR C. DILKE
said that about a month ago he asked whether a statement would be made this year showing the amount expended in the year, both from taxation and from loans, on the Army and the Navy. A promise was made, but no such information had yet been given. The Committee could not have the least idea of what the expenditure on the Navy had been last year. They knew the amount of the Estimates and the Supplemental Estimates, but that was all. They did not know how much had been spent under the Naval Works Acts, 1895 and 1896. The Government had power to spend considerably over £3,000,000 under those two Acts alone. The First Lord had explained that the new ships were not to be described on this occasion, for reasons which were adequate. But the right hon. Gentleman had prepared the Committee for the prospect of these ships belonging to one of the classes at present in existence. There were signs in the Estimate which pointed to the extension of the Canopus class. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Canopus class "satisfied public opinion." After discussing that question with many competent persons, he was a little doubtful whether the right hon. Gentleman's statement could be accepted. There were serious objections to the thinness of the 600 armour—6in. instead of 9in.—and the two very thin decks which had been introduced had been the subject of severe criticism. He had a high opinion of the present naval advisers of the Admiralty and of the constructors; but he thought it could hardly be said that the Canopus class satisfied public opinion. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to the building of three third-class cruisers in the present year, and had defended the excellent Pelorus class to which they belonged. He wished to point out that another Power was building rapidly some large commerce destroyers which, according to the statement of the Minister of Marine, were specially directed against this country. He had heard it said that we were not replying to these ships because they were themselves only an answer to the Powerful and the Terrible. That was obviously a mistake; for these new ships were unprotected and quite unable to cope with the Powerful and Terrible.
§ SIR C. DILKE
said that he thought it was 23 knots. It was a disappointment to find that the only new cruisers were three of the third class. The right hon. Gentleman had defended his battleship programme against the criticism which had been made. The First Lord had said that four months' work could be acomplished on the battleships in the course of the next financial year. He understood these ships were to be built on slips at present occupied by ships which it was expected to launch in December, so he could hardly see how it was probable that four months' real work could conceivably be done on the ships in the present year, and the fact that only £40,000 odd was taken for one, and £50,000 odd for another confirmed his view that those ships belonged, not to the next financial year, but to the next financial year but one. The First Lord said one reason he could not build battleships faster was that the armour was not ready for them. There were, he said, only three firms who could supply the armour. The diminution in the programme in the present year was marked by a decline of 1,500 or 1,600 men employed in the dockyards. The First Lord had made a defence of this which 601 was intended for the consumption of dockyard Members. But he was not a dockyard Member, and it was no answer to him to say these men were mostly to be got rid of by means of the ordinary wastage. He regretted that men were thrown out of employment, but there were important national considerations involved. With regard to the difficulty in getting armour, foreign countries like France, Germany, the United States and Belgium had relatively made greater progress in constructing armour during the last 20 years than had been made in England. That we could depend on three firms only, and that the production of those firms should not be adequate to the possible interests of the country, seemed a grave state of things. The three firms did not wholly depend on the Admiralty, but executed orders from abroad. We ought not to be dependent on three firms only unless those firms largely increased their plant. The distinct decline in our shipbuilding was not warranted by the present state of Europe. The First Lord gave an extraordinary reason last week for not making larger manning proposals. He used a curious phrase when he said we must have a reserve of ships as well as of men. There had been repeated discussion in books written by naval authorities, and discussions at the Royal United Service Institution, as to the necessity for a reserve of ships, and naval opinion undoubtedly admitted that there ought to be a reserve of ships. That had been accepted, and there had been a great deal of discussion as to what should be the extent of the reserve, what class of ships it should consist of, and where those ships should be stationed in time of war. But we had not sufficient complements of trained men for the ships of the reserve. What the First Lord seemed to mean when he spoke of a reserve of ships was that the ships existed and were in port. Circumstances might arise in which all our ships which were not obsolete would have to be sent to sea rapidly, and it was impossible to defend any shortness of men on the ground that there should be a reserve of ships in port when there were not for those ships sufficient crews of trained men. The First Lord had used another unfortunate phrase. He had said that after next year we should reach our maximum as regarded active 602 service men. It might be wise to limit the total number of active service men, but it was a little unwise for the First Lord to commit himself to the definite statement that next year we should reach our maximum. How could the Admiralty really know unless they knew what the position of the other Powers would be? He admitted that a time might come when the Admiralty would be unable to keep on adding trained men, and would have to fall back on some other system. There was to be an increase of a thousand men of the Reserve, and a new system had been undertaken and the First Lord said it was impossible to predict whether it would be a failure or a success. To say we should reach the maximum of active service men the year after next, and to make only a tentative proposal with regard to Reserves, was to commit the Admiralty to a kind of promise to the House which would increase the difficulties of the First Lord himself or his successor in two years' time if he found he had to make other proposals than he had now told the Committee to expect. The First Lord had suggested that he was in favour of short service in the Navy. All he had done was to point out certain difficulties, and he had quoted Commander Honner's remarkable paper that had won the gold medal at the Royal United Service Institution. He pointed out that the Commander said just what he himself did about the difficulties, and that this had met with the approval of a large amount of naval opinion. The Admiralty had only a choice of evils before them. It was admitted that the long-service system could not be carried beyond a certain point, which would not give a sufficient number of men to man the Fleet. Then the Admiralty fell back on their tentative proposals, and if they were not a success they must look forward, whatever might be the difficulties, to the infusion of some short-service element. He hoped the short-service system might be avoided, but, unless there was a great increase in the active service list and success attended the new system of Reserves, it would be necessary to adopt in addition some form of short service for a fraction of the men. As far as the manning programme went he should like to ask how certain services were to be performed if the men who now performed them were to be sent to sea. 603 For instance, if the coastguard were sent to fill the battleships the pensioners would be the persons to take their place in the performance of coastguard duties. These duties were more important in time of war than at any other period, and if both their coastguard and their pensioners were to be sent to sea they would have to have new men to discharge their functions. The coastguard were the eyes and ears of the Admiralty; they could not do without them and they certainly could not send them to sea as well as the persons who were the most fitted to take their place. ["Hear, hear!"] As to the Reserve proposals, the First Lord virtually admitted that he hoped, perhaps, to rely less in the Reserves on the increase from the able merchant seamen class, and make up the Reserve from the fisherman class. The difficulty about the able merchant seamen was that if they went beyond a limited figure a number of mail steamers which ought to be running in time of war would be laid up, their men having been taken from them. Again, there were well-known difficulties about training the fishermen and employing them as had been suggested. A great deal of friction would arise between the regular seamen and the fishermen who were called out in this way. These difficulties existed in all systems which were partly made up by drafts from men of that description. There was another difficulty about fishermen reserves, which was that, if they pushed the figure beyond a certain point, they might be cutting off an important food supply of the country, which would be more necessary than ever in time of war. ["Hear, hear!"] The drift of his mind lay in the direction of the suggestions made by the hon. Member for King's Lynn, who made the best defence of the Admiralty and the present programme that he had heard. The hon. Member had dealt with the system of training, and pointed out the steps which might be taken towards improving the system which at present prevailed so as gradually to bring in a much larger trained element to their support. That was also the element which he should like to see strengthened. ["Hear, hear!"]
CAPTAIN PHILLPOTTS (Devon, Torquay)
congratulated the First Lord of the 604 Admiralty on his very satisfactory statement. He desired, he said, to call attention to one or two points which had exercised a considerable amount of attention among Naval men. The first of these to which he would refer related to the leave of officers, and especially sick leave. It would hardly be believed that if an officer was invalided from foreign service for disease contracted in that service, and came home, that though he might be received in a naval hospital, and under certain circumstances might be granted a month's leave on full pay, that was an exception. The rule was that if an officer was invalided from foreign service he was surveyed on arrival in England, and had to go and pick up his health on half-pay. That was, he thought, a manifest hardship, not to say injustice, to the officers of the Navy. Naval officers were not, as a rule, well off, and many of them were tempted to report themselves fit for service when they still ought to be on leave recovering their health. In respect to leave under other circumstances, he believed that no officer of or above the rank of Commander in the executive list got any leave at all on foreign service. He could not see why that should be. He thought officers—Commanders, Captains, and Flag officers—on their return from foreign service, were entitled to leave. It was true that no officer, no matter what his rank might be, got much leave, but those to whom he had referred to got none at all. He also alluded to the question of the harbour services, pointing out that many young lieutenants were selected for this work, which though harder than that on board a sea-going ship, actually penalised them, as they were considered to be on harbour and got on sea service. As to the warrant officers, they were very grateful for what had recently been done for them, but there were two points in regard to which they thought some further concessions might be made in their favour. The one was that of giving senior warrant officers superior rank, corresponding say to that of quarter-master or riding-master in the Army. Again it was felt that promotion to the rank of chief warrant officer was somewhat slow, and some relaxation of the present rule on this hand ought to be made. Then there was the 605 further question of compassionate allowances to orphans of warrant officers, which he felt was deserving of consideration, as such allowances would often enable a widow to pay a premium for apprenticing her son to some good business. On the question of rations, it was a well-known fact that newly raised men, when they got over the first pangs of sea-sickness were much larger eaters than those who had been at sea for a time, and, in fact, so much was this the case that the new comers rapidly outgrew their clothes. [Laughter.] As a result, the older men were apt to suffer somewhat, and he thought some additions might be made to the rations of the men of the Fleet. He urged that cocoa should be served to the men in the night watches. It would cost very little, and though it was now issued under exceptional circumstances, it was not the rule. It was considered a great boon where it was served, and it was conducive to the health of the men. He did not agree with the senior Member for Portsmouth in desiring that petty officers and seamen should be put on the same footing as regarded pay and other conditions of service as the Marines and the Army. He did not for a moment say the conditions of service in the Navy were too favourable, but he should be sorry to see them assimilated to those of the Army. The grant of warrant rank to the senior engine room artificers would, no doubt, be appreciated by those officers, who well deserved the concession, the effect of which would be beneficially felt throughout the service. Whilst the coastguardsmen were pleased at the concession that had been made of a slight increase of pay to the chief boatsmen, they regretted that the other petty officers and men of that force were still left out in the cold. They had for years petitioned for the twopence a day re-engagement money, and he hoped that this year their petition would meet with a favourable answer. He was glad to see that an Expert Committee was proposed to be appointed for dealing with the question of the training of their officers. The increase in the Royal Marines he warmly welcomed, though he should have wished to see the number raised to 20,000 men. He hoped the grievances felt by the stoppage of the rations of the Marines would be remedied. 606 As regarded the reserves, he thought the new rules would have a most beneficial effect. He did think, however, that in some batteries the numbers would fall off, because, from the information he had received, he fancied a good many of the men, especially in the North of Scotland, would not be willing to embark for six months' training. He believed that by allowing the fishermen to qualify for the higher ranks they would get as large a number of men as they required. But there was another important source of supply. That was the body of men who left the service on the completion of their 10 years. He was sure that the offer of a pension, small though it was, at the age of 60 would induce those men to join the Reserve at the termination of their service. He had heard that the expenditure of coal in the boilers of the torpedo destroyers was 3lb. per horse power per hour. That was very high; but perhaps there were compensating advantages. In regard to construction, he thought that, after the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty, no further information was required. The programme of construction was so drawn up that it would be worked on that gradually and slowly; and no First Lord of the Admiralty would be able to depart from it and allow the service to get into that state of weakness from which it was rescued 10 years ago.
§ MR. WILLIAM ALLAN (Gateshead)
expressed his gratification with the lucid and clear manner in which the First Lord of the Admiralty had made his statement. He approved of all that had been said by the right hon. Gentleman in regard to the increase that was about to take place in the Navy, and more especially the announcement of the right hon. Gentleman that cruisers were to be designed with the greatest possible similarity. The right hon. Gentleman had also said that two torpedo-boat destroyers were to be made to complete the number of 92. But he should like to know how many torpedo boats there were lying rusting in harbours or dockyards. Where were all the torpedo boats? He failed to see any provision in the Estimates for the maintenance of those torpedo boats. But he was glad to find by the Estimates that the advice he gave last year in regard to the necessity for increasing the salaries of chief engineers had been 607 adopted by the Department. He regretted, however, that he saw no increase in the salaries of the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary to the Admiralty. He thought that, considering the great and important duties of the Admiralty and the amount of money it spent, that the Ministers in charge deserved higher salaries. But he was glad they were content with their salaries. He would not be were he in their place. [Laughter.] He would like to know how many reserve engineers the Admiralty had got. He could tell them that they had no reserve engineers at all. They had not got firemen even. The Department was advertising for firemen in all the provincial papers, and they could not get them. Why could they not get those men, who were the real heart of the vessel? Because they were not paid well enough, and did not get proper accommodation on board ship. One of his apprentices had passed the examinations and had gone as an engineer. The lad's father had to spend, even for his uniform, a sum of £70. That was not the way to encourage engineers to join the Navy. ["Hear, hear!"] He came now to a statement to which he took exception. They had been told by the First Lord of the Admiralty and by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, who represented a defunct Administration, that the water-tube boilers were a success. He denied that. He had said two years ago that to put those boilers into the Powerful and the Terrible was a mistake. It was said that there had been a trial trip; but it was a most unfair trial trip. All the coal was actually hand picked. The firemen were all picked firemen, and the engine rooms were crowded with artificers and workmen. There was not a firm in Great Britain that would say that was an honest trial. What was the consumption of coal? They were told that this was a great success, and they were satisfied with a 30 hours' run! Would any shipowner take a vessel costing three-quarters of a million after a trial of thirty hours? The consumption of coal was about 50 per cent. more than in an ordinary steamer. He would challenge them to run these two vessels across the Atlantic and back with every boiler at work and a normal complement of firemen and engineers and 608 1,500 tons of coal on board, which was the amount they were designed to carry. What an absurdity it was to call it a great success when a vessel had only been run four hours at full speed. He would like the Secretary to the Admiralty to say how many bent tubes had been taken out of the boilers already since they had been tried. Why were they fitting super-heaters into the bottom of the chimneys and why did they lengthen the chimneys? He could tell them this, that these vessels became so heated between decks that they were lining them between decks with three inches of a preparation of copper, and the chimneys became red hot. Why did the chimneys flame at the top? Why did they want so many coals? Why did they not send the ships across the Atlantic? He would be quite willing to go on such a trial trip. If these ships did not go full speed when called upon they could not depend on them in war time. It would be better to design a ship for 18 knots than for 22 knots when they could not get that speed out of her. That was not engineering, and the trial was not a success. He was very much disappointed that these Estimates were incomplete and misleading. They did not give a true statement of the money that was spent in this country for ships. He wanted to know what had been the cost of the repair and maintenance of every ship in the Navy for the last twelve months. About two or three years ago there was at the end of the programme a statement giving the cost of repairs and maintenance of various ships, why was not that given in these Estimates? If they were not prepared to restore that table he would ask the Government to supply the House with a return of the cost of the repairs and maintenance for each torpedo destroyer. He wanted the House to know where the money went. He wished to know the amount of money which had been spent on training stokers in instruction vessels, and what had been spent on artificers and firemen. This information was of great value to him in his business, and he wanted to find it out. [Laughter.] These Estimates were very befogging, and were not got up with simplicity and exactitude. He went with the First Lord entirely in this expenditure, but he did not think the Government had got the best article for their money.
§ MR. JOHN PENN (Lewisham)
said he should associate himself with the hon. Member opposite on the question of the number of engineers we had in the Navy. The Secretary to the Admiralty had said the previous day, in answer to a question, that next year they proposed to add 30 more men, but from the First Lord's statement it appeared that in the next financial year there would be 66 extra ships, and he did not think that the addition of 30 men would go far to meet the requirements for these ships. He knew there was a strong opinion that in the event of an emergency or a war a large number of men could be obtained from outside by the offer of a bounty, but he very much feared that such men would not be able to discharge satisfactorily the duties which they would be called upon to undertake. In the event of such a case of emergency it would be very disastrous if they were short in the engine room or boiler room, and ships were constantly put out of action in consequence. There was another point on which they could not accept full service from the outside man. Coming from the Mercantile Marine, they would certainly have no acquaintance with the very large amount of auxiliary machinery that was found in men-of-war but was unknown in the Mercantile Marine. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member for Gateshead went into the question of the water-tube boilers, and the trials of the Powerful and Terrible, and said that the Secretary of the Admiralty held a brief for the Admiralty in carrying out these trials. He felt he should have to defend himself for, for a very large number of years, he had carried out trials of very much the same kind. It was impossible for a contractor to undertake to get the large results he was called upon to get, unless he made every provision against accident. It anything went wrong below during the trial and he was responsible, he had to pay the money for a fresh trial. That was a very strong argument why he should take every precaution and care to run the ships through at the first time, and, therefore, he spared no expense to obtain that result. There was nothing abnormal in that. It had been the custom of the service ever since engineering was introduced, and there was nothing in it to justify the attack of the hon. Member for Gateshead. He thought, too, that the 610 hon. Member was not sound when he said that the consumption of coal ran up to 50 per cent. higher in the case of the Powerful and the Terrible than it did in the ordinary steamer. The consumption as given in the engineering papers on the trials of these two ships was 1.83 in the case of the Powerful, and in the case of the Terrible 1'7. In the trials of a ship with which he had a great deal to do, and which corresponded much more in an ordinary way to a merchant steamer, the Magnificent, they burned 1'7. He did not think, therefore, that the charge of excessive consumption was borne out. He had been told by his hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, that the ordinary consumption in a run across the Atlantic was between 1.5 and 1.6. They did not differ very largely from the recorded results obtained in the Powerful and the Terrible. He hoped, too, that as experience was gained in the use of these boilers, the expenditure of coal would be reduced. He was borne out in that hope by the results of the progressive trials already made. He thought, too, that the hon. Member for Gateshead was not quite accurate in his reference to the super-heaters. The new, arrangement, he understood, was not a super-heater, but something in the nature of a feed-heater, an altogether different thing for the contrivances he described. That fresh arrangement was being fitted into a large number of ships, and the only question, as far as he knew, was whether it had had any sufficient trial, and whether its results would be as satisfactory as the Admiralty had every reason to hope. With regard to the fact that the Admiralty had raised the salary of the Engineer-in-Chief from £1,300 to £1,800, he very much regretted to see that this increase was to be made personal to the present holder. He said that because he considered the work the holder of the office, whether present or future, had to discharge was well worth all the £1,800 a year. ["Hear, hear!"] He did not know whether the success of the boilers in the Powerful and Terrible had anything to do with the recognition of the services of the Engineer-in-Chief, but he would venture to point out that it was scarcely a wise thing on the part of the Admiralty to give a large premium to what undoubtedly was heroic engineering, because they might be in the position of finding their engineering advisers so 611 anxious to cut out a new departure, not only for the sake of the honour and glory but also for the loaves and fishes, that they might find some difficulty in restraining the ardour of those advising gentlemen at the Admiralty. He did not think the country need be anxious as to the failure of the boilers in the Powerful and Terrible, though he sincerely hoped the Admiralty would accept the challenge of the hon. Member for Gateshead and run the ships across the Atlantic at 18,500 indicated horse-power. He had not the slightest doubt that the ships would perform the run with credit, and that there would be no trouble with the boilers. He should also like, if such a run were undertaken, that the complements should be those which the ships would carry in ordinary service, because he had always held the opinion that on the long runs the complements in the engine-rooms were somewhat attenuated. If this experiment were carried out he was perfectly certain the results would be quite satisfactory.
§ MR. FORTESCUE FLANNERY (Yorkshire, Shipley)
said he should like to associate himself with his hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham in his references to the somewhat exaggerated attack of the hon. Member for Gateshead. With reference to his allegation that in the trials of the water-tube boilers of the Powerful and Terrible there were picked coal, picked stokers, and other selected instrumentalities, he ventured to remind his hon. Friend opposite that that was done on the trial trips of all Her Majesty's ships, so that they might compare the performance of one ship with the performance of another at the same standard of perfection. In that respect the trial trips of the Powerful and the Terrible had been identically the same as those of every other of Her Majesty's ships. He went a considerable way with his hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead in regretting that the First Lord of the Admiralty should have so far committed himself as to refer to these water-tube boilers as a proved success upon comparatively short trial trips. It was not the custom for a trial trip of 30 hours to be regarded as absolutely decisive of the performance of new and comparatively experimental machinery, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to accept the suggestion, which he cordially supported, 612 that one of these vessels or both of them should be sent upon a lengthened sea voyage for the purpose of making quite sure that there was no mistake about their boilers or about the success which was promised by their present performances, and which, he believed, would be ultimately realised. As to the question that a great deal of expense had been incurred in modifications of these vessels, as alleged by the hon. Member for Gateshead, the Estimates showed that the original contract for the propelling machinery of the Powerful was £196,000, and that the actual cost was £201,000. That was a difference of £5,000, and that applied approximately to both the Powerful and the Terrible. So that if the hon. Member for Gateshead would furnish himself with the figures rather than with rhetoric, he thought it would be better for the discussion of these most important questions. ["Hear, hear!"] A point of great public interest had been named by the hon. Member for Dundee—that was the combination in the new Royal yacht of fighting qualities with the provision for her duty in conveying the Royal Family. It was the fact that Royal yachts belonging to foreign sovereigns had these fighting qualities, but anyone who had examined these vessels would have perceived that no amount of fighting quality had been obtained by the sacrifice of any of the accommodation, and that what amount of fighting quality remained after full accommodation for the Royal personages had been provided with just sufficient to justify the official statement to the people of the country. ["Hear, hear!"] He complimented the First Lord, when he had ascertained that such a combination was not practically possible or of any real value, on frankly telling the nation that fact, and that the vessel would be built for the intended purpose and that purpose alone. The distinguished feature of the Naval Estimates this year was the recognition of the comparative efficiency of the manning and officering of the Fleet. That was to say, they had proposed an increase of manning altogether larger than the progress in shipbuilding. That was necessarily the result of the larger amount of shipbuilding which had gone on during the last few years, because while they could construct a battleship in three years, they could not train even the humblest man or officer in much less 613 than twice that time to make him efficient. It was perfectly clear that more prevision and more foresight were necessary in connection with manning than with building, and he ventured to say that the step taken by the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues was one that ought to have the sympathy and support of everyone who took an interest in naval affairs. Since the introduction of these Estimates the Minister of Marine of a foreign Power had declared that that Power would no longer be content to be one of the first military Powers in the world, but that she must now become one of those who held the balance of power in naval affairs in Europe. That statement probably did not take their Admiralty by surprise, though it was new to the people of this country. If it had had any effect at all the effect had been to consolidate and crystallise public opinion in support of the great truth which was now so wisely recognised that the Navy of this country must be absolutely paramount, without any doubt or suspicions, or even room for discussion. ["Hear, hear!"] It was almost new to the engineers to find approval of improvements in rank coming from executive officers. The bestowal of warrant rank upon the engine room artificers removed practically the whole of the grievances upon which those men had dwelt now for a considerable time. No one could deny that every year the responsibilities of the engineer branch of the Navy increased. The statistics which were given last year by his hon. friend the Member for Lewisham (Mr. Penn), showing the great increase in horse-power under the charge of each individual engineer of the Navy, had not been continued, he was sorry to say, in the same form this year. The figures as to horse-power in the Navy which he had taken out were something like these. In 1883 there was in the Navy about 500,000 of indicated horse-power; in 1892, that was to say nine years later, there was 1,500,000 of indicated horse-power; and at the present time there was about 2,500,000 of indicated horse-power. That was to say that in 14 years we had increased the indicated horse-power by something like five times. Not only was there that increase in regard to propelling machinery, but there was the steam, hydraulic, and electrical machinery throughout the ship also 614 under the charge of the engineer. Why, the big guns and the small guns to which reference had been made were under the mechanical charge of the chief engineer. That officer had become every year more and more important, and more and more indispensable to the good of the Navy. He did not put forward the claims of the engineers simply on the grounds of justice and philanthrophy, but ventured to say that any defect in the skilfulness and in the numbers of the engineers afloat would form one of the most vital dangers to the Navy that it was possible we could encounter. At the present time there was a considerable amount of discontent on the part of the engineer officers of the Navy. They were doing their duty loyally, but their discontent arose not so much from a feeling that their pay was not as it ought to be, but from a feeling that they had not the relative rank and position in regard to executive officers that they ought to have. Why, the chief engineer of a ship had charge of something like one-third of the vessel's complement; in some ships of more than that proportion. The men under the chief engineer were trained to take their places in fighting, but the engineer himself had no such training. He was given a sword and a commission, but no part of his official duty was to learn how to use the sword, or to do honour to his commission by taking part in actual fighting. That was more than a sentimental grievance, for it produced a lack of respect on the part of the large number of men whom he had to control. The engineer of the ship had no power to administer even the slightest punishment. He must go like a schoolboy telling tales to the commanding officer of the ship, and must complain that so and so under his charge was doing something of which he did not approve. The effect of that system was that the men did not respect the engineer as he ought to be respected. The engineers felt strongly that at some critical moment this state of things might constitute a national danger. What he respectfully suggested to the right hon. Gentleman was that the position of the engineer officers should be ameliorated in much the same manner as the position of the Marine officers was improved. The Marine officer could administer minor punishment without necessarily referring to the commanding officer. That 615 amount of power given to him was sufficient to enable him to maintain ordinary discipline, and to make secure his position and authority in relation to his men. If such power were given to the engineer officers, and if executive rank were conferred upon them, there would accrue great advantage to the Service, as their position would be improved and they would be able to maintain proper discipline in the engine room. A few years ago there were no Royal Engineers. There were, it was true, a body of civilians attached to the Army known as sappers and miners. Their position was improved. They were made into a body known as Royal Engineers, and the officers were given the same relative rank as officers in other branches of the Army. The result was that we had a splendid body of men, as scientific and as practical as they were whilst they were civilians, and who, having military position, were able to take their duty along with the rest of the Army in a thoroughly efficient manner. What he pleaded for was that the engineers of the Navy should be treated in the same manner as the sappers and miners of the Army were treated, by being organised in military fashion, their officers receiving executive rank. If that be done he believed that the difficulties which existed in finding a sufficient number of engineer officers for the Navy would gradually disappear. We had not enough engineer officers, and a very large number of those we had were juniors. There were many in charge of machinery afloat who were exceedingly young and inexperienced, and notwithstanding that there was a stagnation as regarded promotion, because the policy of the Admiralty had been to place a junior engineer in a position of responsibility and authority, but not to promote him to the relative rank that such a duty would ordinarily require. When an executive officer was placed in command of a torpedo-boat destroyer he received the rank of acting comander, and he had an increase of pay, and his time counted accordingly; but if a junior engineer were placed in charge of the machinery of a torpedo-boat destroyer he did not get the acting rank, and his time did not count. These were grievances which the engineers felt might be removed. He believed the right hon. Gentleman would admit there was a difficulty in obtaining sufficient 616 engineers to complete the complement of the ships now in commission. With regard to the Royal Naval Reserve, he asked if there was no prospect of engineer officers for the Royal Naval Reserve having training at sea? Was there really any reason why what had been done as regards seamen officers should not be done as regards the engineer officers of the Royal Naval Reserve? Why was it that engineer officers were to have instruction at home ports and not the opportunity of being sent to sea in Her Majesty's ships for the purpose of training? The fact was that there was a Board of Admiralty that was clinging to the traditions of the old days of the sailing ship. There was no representative on the Board of Admiralty of the engineer branch or of modern science as applied to mechanism, and it was a matter of great praise to the present political officials of the Admiralty that they had been able to override the prejudice which the system necessarily produced and been able to introduce such reforms as they had made, and he hoped they would go in the same direction.
§ MR. HUDSON KEARLEY (Devonport)
observed that the increased rapidity with which ships were now being built in Government dockyards raised a very important point as regards personnel; and that was the greater demand on the resources for manning the ships. He should be glad of information as to whether they were unduly sanguine in supposing that it would be possible to put these battleships into commission within 18 months from the laying down of the keel. If such were possible, an increased entry of men would be imperative. He wished to know the number of engine-room artificers to whom it was proposed to give warrant rank; further, what difference the acceptance of this rank would make to the servitude of engine-room artificers; and, finally, how was it proposed to select those men? The feeling of the men was that they would sooner secure the position by examination than by capricious selection. One disqualification which Marine officers felt very much was their inability to sit on Naval Courts Martial when afloat, although they could do so on Courts Martial ashore. Already there had been a definite promise given by an ex-First Lord, the present Secretary of State for India, to remedy this 617 disability. In 1891 the question was raised by Sir John Pope Hennessey, and the present Secretary of State to India replied:—A good many naval officers object to the proposed change, but I, personally, cannot see why the change should not be made, and I will undertake to consider the matter and propose an Amendment to the Naval Discipline Act with the object of carrying it out.Yet nothing had been done. His hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Eastbourne had called attention to the treatment of the Marines in regard to rations. These men, in the first place, were badly paid, and if they had to rely on the rations provided by the Admiralty, they would be almost half-starved. It became a greater hardship when they had to pay for them. For the rations supplied to them they Lad to pay 7d. a day out of a pay of 8s. 9d. a week. There were, in addition, perpetual stoppages for clothes. He raised the question last year, and the First Lord said that it was under consideration, and that he would give a decision later on. He raised his voice year after year against mulcting these men. There were other similar anomalies, but he did not propose to discuss them in detail; there was, however, the case of the married Marines, whose wives suffered considerable hardship when their husbands embarked. Directly the Marine embarked his ration and lodging money stopped, and all that could be allowed his wife was a miserable sum of 25s. a month. The result was that the sweating tailors took advantage of the condition of these women. Separation allowance ought to be made for married men. They recognised separation allowance on shore, but as soon as the Marine embarked the Admiralty seemed to acquit themselves of what becomes of the man's wife and family. Then on board, though able to take his share in working a gun with the bluejacket, the advantage enjoyed by the latter was not given to the Marine. That was a hardship, and it was felt to be one. So long as the Marine was on board of the ships, so long as he worked the guns, he ought to have open to him all the advantages which were open to the bluejacket. He hoped these questions as to pay and separate allowances would receive the consideration they deserved.
THE EARL OF DALKEITH (Roxburgh)
thought that anyone who looked impartially into the Naval Programme this year would feel a large amount of satisfaction with it. He confessed with regard to the programme for new construction he was disappointed. It was a policy some years ago to have a large number of ships building, but it was of very little use to the country to have a large number of ships a very long time in the hands of the constructors. The building of these ships must become more costly to the country every year. They had increased the number of ships in commission, and he considered the money well spent. He was in favour of training the men into a state of efficiency. However, they might feel assured, from the statement of the First Lord, that in the event of any foreign Power laying down a large number of ships, endangering our supremacy, he should not hesitate to demand supplementary Estimates. He was grateful as to the new yacht. He was very pleased to hear the First Lord's references to the training ships. It was a great hardship upon naval officers that after three years' service on foreign stations they were only entitled to six weeks' leave. He trusted that greater power would be given to the Admiralty to grant additional leave to naval officers who had been serving at unhealthy stations. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ On the return of the CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS, after the usual interval,
§ MR. EDWARD MORTON (Devonport)
observed that in the explanation that had been submitted to the Committee by the Admiralty, it was stated that, while the numbers coming forward for most of the ratings had been very satisfactory, some difficulty had been experienced in maintaining the necessary number of engine-room artificers and artisans. The statement also that a grade of engineer officers of warrant rank had been established as an encouragement to engine-room artificers who had rendered meritorious services, and as a step which was desirable in order that the growing requirements of the Fleet might be met. He knew that for six years at least the engine-room artificers had been demanding warrant rank. It was only when it, had become a pressing necessity of the 619 interests of the service that they had succeeded in getting it. The demand was made by the warrant officers for a rank similar to the quartermaster rank in the Army—a rank of promotion by which they might succeed in getting a commissioned rank. They maintained that a great number of men who left the service at the end of the first ten years' service was an abnormally large one, and it was so large owing to the fact that there was no career under the present arrangements offered to men in the Navy. According to the last Return, issued in 1892 or 1893, covering, he believed, five years, it was shown that almost exactly, year by year, one-third of the men who were entitled to leave at the end of ten years' service did so. It was obvious that the second ten years of the lives of seamen were more valuable to the nation than the first ten years. It should also be borne in mind that it cost the nation about £300 to make an able seaman; therefore, the initial cost was largely lost if a man left the service at the end of the first ten years. He should like to see something done whereby they could induce men to re-engage for a second term of ten years who would not otherwise re-engage. By this means they would save half the initial cost in making him a seaman. It had been estimated by the Admiralty that the cost of these demands for line promotion analogous to that of quartermaster rank was about £3,000 a year. According to the last Return the number of men leaving at the end of the first ten years was 1,200 men a year. If they could induce 30 of these men to go on for a second term a saving of £150 each would be effected, or the whole amount of money which would be involved in creating this new line of promotion. Could the Admiralty say whether the figures of the last Return were at all altered? Was the proportion less than 33 per cent. of the total number of men who had a chance of leaving, or was that state of things remedied? That was the crux of the whole matter. Ten years ago there was an agitation in the United States to start a training ship for boys in the American Navy. The Secretary stated that there was no need for a training ship, because they could get the best material in the world out of the men who had joined and trained under the British Navy, and who had left the service after 620 their first ten years. Had any alteration taken place in the proportion of men who left at the end of the first ten years? This demand on the part of the warrant officers had existed for many years, and it had not been opposed by naval Members of the House; yet for some reason or other the Admiralty had not granted it. What was the reason which prevented the Admiralty from giving this line promotion, to which they thought the warrant officers in the Navy were entitled? It would not only affect the warrant officers in the Navy but it would quicken all the ratings below the warrant rank, and it would offer a career to which they considered that they were entitled, while at the same time putting a stop to this wasteful leakage of men trained at the expense of the taxpayers.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said this was an old question, but he submitted that the suggestion made by the warrant officers was not one for their good. What was proposed was that they should retain the lower-deck status, and have quarter-deck pay. Special rank was in his opinion out of place, and he was convinced that in making this demand a few warrant officers had gone off the line. There was a grievance of the warrant officer which was easily remedied. At present there was between the lower deck and the quarter-deck a watertight door. That door could only be opened by the Lords of the Admiralty themselves on condition that the warrant officer had performed some service of exceptional gallantry in action. That was a question of accident, and his proposal was that the watertight door should be broken down, and that the Lords of the Admiralty should have power to promote any officer to quarter-deck rank for any excellence, even other than that of gallantry. Nor would he fight the battle of engineers who wanted to leave their most important and vital duties, in order to look out for the ship, who wanted to navigate a ship without knowledge of navigation, and fight a ship without knowledge of guns. They wanted executive power, and that meant, he supposed, to stand on the bridge. In his opinion engineer officers had all they were entitled to have, even in social consideration and gold lace. The task of an engineer officer was a most important one, and he should be content to keep to 621 it and not assume to undertake duties for which by training and knowledge he was in no way fitted. Let executive officers do the executive duty and engineers the engineers' duty. He was as anxious as anyone that engineers should have their proper recognition, and he believed that at this moment they had this recognition. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean made some remarks complimentary to him which he was afraid he did not deserve, for undertaking the defence of the Treasury Bench; for he had not done it of set purpose. If the Front Bench came within any truths he might have stated it was probably by inadvertence, and he was glad it he had had that good fortune; but certainly he never set out to defend the Front Bench. One other remark of the right hon. Baronet had reference to the reserve of ships, that they were not adequate, and never would be, and that the reserve of men engineers to man those reserves was insufficient. In that the right hon. Gentleman was mistaken. He meant, it was to be supposed, the immediate reserve and the men to man those ships. We have at the present time in the Reserve some of the latest and some of the best ships we possess. As a matter of fact, there would be found navies in rows in some of our ports. For instance, at Plymouth and Portsmouth there might be seen the latest things in ships lying in rows ready to go to sea; and that they were ready was amply proved by the experience of the Flying Squadron. That squadron was fitted out for sea, and included some of our best ships, in six days, one of the days being Sunday, showing that, at that time, we had the ships and the men to man them. Whether the Reserve ought to be increased was another matter. Then he turned to the most important question—the personnel. Of the number of men on the active list—100,050, of whom 62,000 were seamen—he did not complain. It was adequate, if the men were the men they ought to be, and had the training they ought to have; and he thought the system that maintained that proportion between the number of men and the number of vessels we were likely to have would be a proper one, providing—and it was a large proviso—the men 622 got their proper training, which he believed they did not get. But even if the men were adequate for all the requirements, they were still subjected to what he could not but think was a most lamentable misuse under the present system. We had at that moment in Africa a large number of sailors on land, marching through swamps and jungles, and doing not sailors', but soldiers', duty. Now, a sailor was a highly-trained man, and cost to himself a great deal of time and to the country a great deal of money. He was trained to a special task, which nobody else could perform; and if that man were taken from his proper task which he was trained to perform an injury was inflicted on that trained man, and a greater injury was done to the public service by putting him to an inferior duty. The sailors who were doing soldiers' duty amid the swamps and jungles of the Bight of Benin were an illustration of the system. Their employment in that way would disorganise and ruin the squadron to which they were attached. That was present to the mind of every naval officer. However large the number of their men, if they continued to misuse them for purposes for which they were not appropriate, for which they were not entered, for which they Were much too valuable, and for which an inferior man in training would do equally well, they largely decreased the number available. To the Naval Reserve he attached the greatest importance, and he confessed that he looked with the greatest misgiving at the proposal of the First Lord, which, he was afraid, would result in a serious disappointment and a diminution in the number of the effective Naval Reserve. There were two classes, the first and second Naval Reserve, and the First Lord proposed to keep the divisions, but to change their names, the lower being the "seamen" class, and the upper the "qualified seamen" class. Now, what had produced the success of the Naval Reserve? That seamen had been able to join the Reserve, and to do a comparatively short period of training every year without interfering with their ordinary methods of earning their livelihood. To that was added the charm of a possible prospect of a fight; and so a man was induced to join the Reserve, and undertake an engagement, which he was sure every 623 man would be ready to fulfil, in the grand and solemn event of war, to go straight into the Navy, there to finish his career. That had been the inducement to join the Naval Reserve. But the proposal of the First Lord seemed to him to entirely alter the conditions of service, for he proposed that a man joining the lower or seamen class shall be forced to spend six months of his first year's service at sea.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said that was a very different thing, and that being so, his objection did not apply. The statement was:—Men enrolled in the 'seamen class' will be entered under the same conditions as to age and service, and with the same rate of pay and allowances as the present second-class men. They will be called upon within their first term of enrolment to enter upon a period of six months training in the Royal Navy.He now understood that the six months' training must be within the first five years, and might be in the fifth year. He had no objection to that proposal. If the proposal had been to serve six months at sea in the first year it would have knocked the Reserve on the head at once. He was relieved to have elicited that it was not six months at sea in the first year of service, but during the five years; that arrangement had some chance of succeeding. Then he turned to the consideration of the resources upon which the Admiralty could draw for its supply of men for the Navy. He had quoted figures the other day, and, as to these, doubts were expressed at the time to an extent that bred a certain amount of doubt in his own mind as to the accuracy of the figures. He had not stated them with great certitude, because they were Board of Trade figures, and, except a woman, he knew nothing more uncertain than Board of Trade statistics. But he had found that, when that Department compiled figures for one purpose he was pretty safe if he used them for another purpose; they made statistics for all purposes, and, like the pieman in "Pickwick," flavoured them according to the taste of the market. As the figures were not furnished for the purposes of a Naval Debate, he had 624 thought they might be used for the purpose; and, since their accuracy had been challenged, he had made specific inquiries of the Board of Trade, and found that he was practically right, but that he had not made a relatively small deduction in the number of men available. The Mercantile Marine contained 240,000 men, and of these 21,000—and this was the deduction—were fishermen, so that, in round figures, the net number in the Mercantile Marine was 220,000; to this add the number of fishermen, 114,000, and the Navy, including pensioners but not including the Reserve, 106,000, and the total was 440,000 men in the Mercantile Marine, fishermen, and in the Navy, and nobody told twice over.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said they were taken from the last annual Return of Navigation and Shipping for the year 1895, and dated April 1896, pages 266 and 285. So, adding to this figure of 440,000, based on this Board of Trade Return, classes which were not included—beachmen, yachtsmen, bargemen, crews of vessels permanently abroad, and others engaged in river navigation—it was not too much to say that the water-going, seafaring, web-footed population of the country was not less than half-a-million, and of these only 32,000 were not British subjects, not more than 6 or 7 per cent. of the whole, Lascars being counted as British subjects. This was a large and very sufficient mass upon which, on occasion and under proper conditions, the Admiralty could draw for naval services.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES,
to make his meaning clear, repeated the figures making up the total of 440,000. There was a total population, of which the Navy formed a part, of nearly half-a-million men, upon which the Admiralty could draw. Then he came to a very serious, he would not say charge, but suggestion of a mistake, on the part of the Board of Admiralty. The charge he made was this: that the present Admiralty had shown, and was showing, a very dangerous tendency to rely upon ships and upon guns rather 625 than upon qualified men. It had shown a desire to rely not merely on ships and guns, but upon bricks and mortar, stones and mud. It pinned itself to the instrument too much without thinking of the hand by which alone the instrument could be worked, and reverted to the practice of all the enemies whom we had always beaten at sea. This was the error of the Spanish Armada. Their ships, guns, and appliances were perfect; it was their men who were wanting in training. This was the error of the French in the last war. Their ships were so good that we never had a good one unless it was taken from the French. Their guns were admirable, their methods of mobilisation were perfect, but their men were deficient in training. It seemed to him that the right hon. Gentleman and the Admiralty of the present day had departed and were departing from the old, sound, practical traditions of looking rather to the man who was in the ship and behind the gun than looking to the ship or the gun itself. He was afraid this rested upon another error, namely, that we were indulging in this tendency because the foreigner did it. There was scarcely a mistake made in modern times in the British Navy which had not been made because we had chosen to run after the example of the foreigner. Was the foreigner to teach us any thing about the sea? We could teach him a good deal, and in this matter we ought to rely upon our overt traditions and knowledge and work out our own Navy in our own way. It had not been so. Because the foreigner had a big gun we took a big gun, and we only now had tardily recognised that it was a failure. Because the foreigner had a big ship we must have a big ship. But we could not copy the foreigner. The foreigner's position was undoubtedly different from ours. The ship the foreigner required was different; the service performed was different, and he only alluded to these examples because it seemed to him that in this respect we were exaggerating the importance of the ship and the gun and the instrument generally, and in depreciating the importance of the hand to use them, we must in this respect be following the foreigner. Ho could conceive no other excuse for it [The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY: "No, no!"] To sum up his indictment, what he said was that the 626 Admiralty of the present day was relatively, to a large extent, neglecting the training of the men, which seemed to him infinitely more important. They had shortened the training at both ends. They took the boy in later and finished his training earlier, and put him down on the Fleet as a finished article whereas Ids training had scarcely begun. Formerly a boy was 20 months on a training ship, but the right hon. Gentleman last year reduced the period to 16 months. In addition to that the Admiralty had invented a system of sending a cruiser like the Northampton—to which were to be added two more—round the coasts of the country to take boys at a greater age, thus further shortening the period at this end. These vessels were to be those on which the boys were trained, not for 20 months or even 16, but for 6 months. They took the boy later, gave him less training, and turned him into the Navy as though he were equally as good as the boy who had had 20 months' training. That was a grave and serious mistake, and it was not the only one. From the training ship the boy went to the training brig, where he learned the practical part of his profession. But he was only left there six short weeks, whereas he should be left there at least thirteen weeks. Coming to the training squadron, he admitted that the training the officers and men got was admirable, but there was not one in ten of the seaman class able to get that training, for the simple reason that there were not ships enough in the training squadron to take the men who required to have training. He was not one of those who thought there should be nothing but seamen in the Royal Navy. He believed that the seamen they were to have were required to be as good seamen as ever they were, and perhaps better, because they were fewer—but he did not think they required so many in the ship and they might have a large infusion of red marines and blue marines for working the guns and doing a good deal of the work which was done in the old ships by the seamen class. But that did not affect what he was saving as to the training of the seamen class. They must have them for their ordinary seamen's duties. He came now to the training of the officers, and he considered it a great mistake that the first training should not be conducted on board ship where the young 627 officer, while yet a boy, might learn the habits of ship life. He believed, however, the college had been decided upon. He reproached the First Lord with having raised the age of the boys joining the Britannia by one year. They were now to join a year older, and as they were to be lieutenants at the same age as heretofore, they would get a year's less training, although the former period, instead of being too long, was really too short. Instead of passing, 23 months on the Britannia, they would now spend 16 there. That was a serious infringement on the time passed in the necessary preparation for the active duties of sea life. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the raising of the age had been adopted in order to get boys from the public schools. They could take no worse boy for an officer in the Navy than a boy from a public school. When a boy was brought into the Navy, from the age of 13 to 19 he experienced an entire absence of privacy, which a boy who was older and had been indulged in the luxury of a public school for a year before he had entered the Navy could never break himself into. He would rebel against all absence of privacy, and in no long time would endeavour to leave the Navy. Another reason which had been given for the change was that it would destroy the nefarious work of the crammers. The examination was to be altered and the standard raised because the age was raised. But if they took a boy a year later, what would happen would be that they would give the crammer an additional year in order to put an additional year's cramming into the boy, and they would find the public schools would not be prepared to take a boy for a year or two who would then leave them. The headmasters of public schools stated that it was impossible for them to receive boys who shortly after admission would leave them. The two months' training at Greenwich was also too short. When cadets were admitted a year older and their period of training shortened, how could it be pretended that they were sent into the Navy efficient officers? He regarded it with the greatest misgiving. It was no answer to say these cadets were to be put into torpedo boats or sent to sea in sea-going ships. Unless a man had received previous training he did not understand what he saw on board ship. Sea- 628 manship did not come to a man like the smallpox. [Laughter.] It reminded him of the story of the man who, when asked if he could play the fiddle, replied, "Get me one and I'll see." [Renewed laughter.] Ships and guns were the mere creatures of men, and however good they were in themselves, they were useless unless men were trained to use them well.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
, replying on the discussion, said the hon. Member for Lynn Regis had referred to the raising of the age for the admission of cadets for the Navy. In future, the course of study on the Britannia would be more closely and entirely devoted to purely naval education. The Admiralty had taken the best advice on the subject. Their action had the approval, not only of Naval officers, but the general assent of the Navy, and they were assured that the best results would attend the alteration they had made. When his hon. Friend said the boy from a public school was the worst recruit for the Navy, he must remind him that, in modern times, from Eton, at all events—and from other public schools which might be named—Admiral Sir George Tryon, one of the most distinguished Naval officers this century had produced, the captain of the Vernon, the captain of the Britannia, and other distinguished Naval officers had gone straight into the Navy. With regard to the Greenwich course, personally he sympathised with a good deal that his hon. Friend had said. But the Admiralty had appointed a Committee to inquire not only into the Greenwich course, but the subsequent examinations and course of education of Naval officers, and the points he had raised would be fully considered by that Committee, and the Admiralty would give close attention to the evidence and any recommendations the Committee might make. His hon. Friend seemed to be under the impression that the admiralty had gone abroad for their models and relied more on guns and ships than on the personnel of the Navy. But they studied first the efficiency of the Navy, regardless of what might be dune by any other navy or any other country. His hon. Friend had alluded to the training of boys in the Navy. He did not set his opinion against 629 that of his hon. Friend, but the Committee should understand that on the question of the training of boys and officers, both in the training squadron and brigs, there was a considerable difference of opinion among officers in the Navy, and he was quite within the mark when he said that a large proportion of the opinion, certainly of the present generation of naval officers, was not in favour of the views his hon. Friend had expressed. They preferred that the training of seamen and young Naval officers should take place on what they believed to be the typical vessel of the future—namely, the destroyer. Of course that was founded on the supposition that in future the personnel would rather be that of a seaman gunner than that of a seaman of the old description. They had received the most favourable reports as to the boys entered on the Northampton from the officers of all the ships among, which they had been distributed. As to the percentage of loss on re-engagement, there had been a considerable diminution, and they had no reason to believe that that loss was in any way owing to the question of what were the prospects of the warrant officers in the Navy.
§ MR. KEARLEY
asked whether the hon. Gentleman could state the difference of percentage between stokers and seamen.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said there was no difficulty about the supply of stokers either on the first entry or on re-engagement. Generally speaking, the diminution of those who did not re-engage was most reassuring. As to the artificer engineers, they would be in the same position as the warrant officers. The questions relating to their promotion had not yet been definitely settled. As the result of specific inquiries, he was able to state that the Marines had no grievance in regard to the supply of boots. He was assured of that by the responsible authorities. It was true that there was a distinction between the Army and the Marines in regard to separation money, but the Marine was in a very different position to the soldier, and was not liable to be shifted all over the country from one barrack to another. If he could see his way, however, to make the allowance to the Marines which was made in the Army, he should be very glad to do so, but he must reserve his 630 judgment on that point until he had further considered the matter. The hon. Member for Devonport also complained that naval shipwrights were not placed on an equality in regard to position with the engine-room artificers. It was not correct to say that both classes passed the same examination.
§ MR. KEARLEY
What I said was that when shipwrights were in the civil employment of the Government in the yards they passed the same Civil Service Examination as the fitters.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said that the naval shipwrights were entered either from among the naval apprentices in the Government yards, or they were entered from the outside, and there was no comparison between a naval shipwright and a shipwright on shore. In the shops at Devonport, shipwright apprentices and engine-room artificers worked side by side.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said they might not work all their time together. The shipwright apprentices were required to pass an entirely different examination from the examination of the engine-room artificers; and he could not admit that there could be in fairness any comparison made between the two classes of men. Again, the prospect of advancement held out to naval shipwrights was not so poor as had been presented to the Committee by the hon. Gentleman. There were about 319 naval shipwrights on board Her Majesty's ships, and they had opportunities of rising to the rank of warrant officer, which was held by 207 different individuals. He also denied that there was anything menial, as it had been called, in the character of the work the shipwrights had to perform. The hon. Member also complained that the number of stokers had fallen off, and that the physique of the men was inferior.
§ MR. KEARLEY
I made no statement as to the insufficiency of the numbers. I said the quality was bad.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said the hon. Gentleman was misinformed. The hon. Gentleman had also said that the stokers inspected by the First Lord of the Admiralty had been selected for the purpose. That was a mistake. His right hon. Friend and he had seen 690 stokers, and 631 most of these were not of the first class but of the second class. He assured his hon. Friend there was nothing in the physique of the stokers to be dissatisfied with. The hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Havelock Wilson) had said Her Majesty's ships were insufficiently victualled, and that in consequence it was impossible for us to get a sufficient number of men to enter the service. The hon. Member had displayed a great amount of ignorance on the subject. The ship in the service was victualled upon salt beef and pork when fresh provisions could be got. The hon. Member said that the men of the Navy were obliged to spend a large proportion of their wages in supplying themselves with food. The hon. Member might be surprised to learn that the privilege of taking up their savings was one of the highest-prized privileges of the bluejacket, and that the amount of the savings was increasing every year. If the bluejacket chose to spend his savings in provisions not supplied according to regulation, he was at perfect liberty to do so. He did not think the hon. Member would get any crew to agree with his criticisms, which he had based on a complete misapprehension of the system of victualling the service.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said the hon. Member for the Shipley Division of Yorkshire (Mr. Flannery), was under a misconception of the power of engineer officers with regard to inflicting punishment. The Gentleman seemed to think they were in an unfair position as compared with Marine officers. [Mr. FLANNERY: "Minor punishment."] But that power of Marine officers was strictly confined to matters which arose on inspection. The Marine officer had no power to deal with an offence against general 632 discipline, but when one was committed he must, like all other officers on board ship, go to the commanding officer of the ship. Nor was the hon. Gentleman right as to the executive officer in command of a destroyer. The executive officer was not given any increased rank. The hon. Member for Lewisham (Mr. Penn) had expressed a doubt whether in the event of war the engineers of the Mercantile Marine would be competent to do what was required of them in the engine rooms of Her Majesty's ships. It was not proposed by the Board of Admiralty, and it did not enter into their calculations for the manning of the ships, that these officers should be put in a position of great responsibility in any of the new class of ships. His hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Mr. Allan) returned to his charge in respect to the water-tube boilers. He would not go at length into the question, but there were one or two points which the hon. Gentleman placed before the Committee which he must notice. The hon. Member for Gateshead, in his criticism of the water-tube boilers, had assumed that the trial trips of the Powerful and Terrible took place under conditions which were peculiar to the ships of the Royal Navy, and were not shared by ships of the Mercantile Marine. He wished to say emphatically that neither the Powerful nor Terrible, nor any other ship in the Navy, was submitted to trials except under conditions which were shared by every ship in the Mercantile Marine, where trials for high speed were insisted upon in the case of ships taken over from shipbuilders. The conditions of skilled stokers and picked coal were regarded as of the utmost importance, both by the shipbuilders and the Admiralty. It would not be fair to test the boilers or the engines with inefficient stokers and inefficient materials. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member for Gateshead also spoke of the stupendous alterations which were carried out in the dockyards after they had taken over the ships. The stupendous work in alterations with regard to the Powerful and the Terrible was practically very small. This was a fact which was well known to every Member of the Committee. Every farthing spent not only in relation to the Powerful and Terrible, but also in relation to every ship taken over by the Admiralty from 633 the contractors, was to be found set out in the Dockyard Expense Accounts. The hon. Member also asked why they had put in super-heaters, and what good did they derive front them? As a matter of fact they had not put in super-heaters in either the Powerful or Terrible, nor had they put in feed-heaters, as was suggested by his hon. Friend the Member for Lewis-ham. The hon. Member for Gateshead also asked how many tubes were taken out of the Powerful or Terrible. So far as his knowledge went, and the knowledge of the officials of the Admiralty who were specially responsible for the boilers, not a single tube was taken out. His hon. Friend the Member for Torquay raised the question of officers generally, and of invalided officers especially. He could assure his hon. and gallant Friend that this was a question which had always had, at least in his experience, the sympathetic attention of the Board of Admiralty, and would continue to receive their sympathetic attention in the coming years. With regard to the coastguard, he was afraid he could only say that the coastguard was such a popular body that there did not appear any reason for holding out any further inducements to men to join; they had simply to select from amongst the multitude of candidates. It was true that there was a difference between the pay of the majors in the Royal Marines and those in the Line regiments, but he could not agree hat this was a burning grievance, and the reasons which justified the alteration in the case of the Line regiments did not appear to hold good in regard to the Royal Marines. There was no major in the Royal Marine Artillery who would get the additional pay which was given by an Order in Council to majors in the Army. As to the rations of the Marines he was again obliged to point out that on his Whole service the Marine was five-sixths of a penny a day better than the private soldier. The Marine service was a popular service, there was no lack of recruits, nor was there any reason to think that the recruits they got were in any way deteriorated. His hon. and gallant Friend had cited the opinion of some anonymous ex-First Sea Lord, but he could assure the Committee that, having 634 looked over all the papers, and especially those with regard to the rations, there was no previous Sea Lord or any other Lord who had neglected his duties in the way his hon. Friend asked the Committee to believe, and if they had not dealt with the matter in the way desired it was because there was no sufficient reason for it. He hoped that, as he had now gone over the various points, the Committee would within a reasonable time allow the general discussion to terminate and let the Government get the Vote.
§ SIR C. DILKE
asked if it was the intention of the First Lord of the Admiralty to make any further statement tonight, for instance, on finance?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
I think I mentioned that we were going to have a Loan Bill, but it is not possible to state the precise amount at present.
§ SIR C. DILKE
said that last year, the Army Vote and Navy Vote, the Committee was told they should be given estimate of the loan money which, in addition to tax money, was to be spent in the financial year, and also in the next financial year.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
It would be exceedingly difficult at present as we should have to get the expenditure from Gibraltar and other foreign stations. However, the wish of the right hon. Gentleman is a natural and proper one, and, in answer to a Question, I will satisfy the right hon. Gentleman as to the expenditure.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
said the right hon. Gentleman made another promise. He confined his answer to two points only, shipbuilding and works, and he said he intended to defer to a later hour in the evening what he had to say about manning.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
said his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty had dealt with the points which had been raised with regard to manning. As to the differences between the statement and the Estimate, referred to by the hon. and learned Member for Dundee, the former was an approximation to the actual figures, and the latter gave the exact amount.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
said that he had suggested that explanation of one of the discrepancies, but it would not apply to 635 all. There were three different sets of figures in regard to men before the Committee. They all added up to the same total, thought varying in details, and this was confusing. He believed that his estimate of the decrease in new construction at £11,000 was correct, in spite of the right hon. Gentleman's answer that he had omitted the item of "cash new construction." He would not, however, press these questions now, but would put down a question to the right hon. Gantleman so as to get the matter cleared up.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
said the Secretary to the Admiralty seemed to think that he did not know much about the food supplied to the men in the Navy. He knew more of the men than the right hon. Gentleman, at any rate, though his knowledge was derived from forecastle and not quarter-deck sources.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
It is not a question of forecastle and quarter-deck at all, It is a question of victualling.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
said that he knew what food was supplied to the men. At 6.30 in the morning they had a pint of cocoa and biscuits; at Twelve o'clock they had the allowance of beef or pork; and in the evening they had their tea and biscuits. Whatever they had over and above that was paid for out of their own pockets. The hon. Member for Lynn Regis talked of the men being over-fed. Well, it was at their own expense.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
No. The men are allowed certain rations, and if they do not take them all up, they get an allowance. That they spend in delicacies. But all the food is either supplied by the Admiralty or out of the money given in its place.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
insisted that the men spent a large part of their wages in food. All that the hon. Member had to do was to make his inquiries from the seamen if he doubted what he said. He was not surprised that the officers should tell him a tale of that kind. With reference to the Naval Reserve, the figures of the hon. Member for Lynn Regis were altogether wrong, even with regard to the men employed in the Mercantile Marine. He had the returns for 1891, and the total number was 54,000.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
said that it would be found that his return was more reliable. Where did the hon. Member get his additional seamen from? They lost annually as many as they gained in apprentices and seamen. The hon. Member said there were over 400,000 in the Navy, Mercantile Marine and the fishing industry, and that left 300,000 outside the Navy. He said there were no such numbers. There were thousands of foreigners engaged on board British ships with discharges which were not their own. They claimed to be Britishers, although they could not speak a word of their language. He contended that it was a very poor outlook indeed for their Naval Reserve. There was no reason to believe, as alleged by the hon. Member, that the British-born sailor was spoiling for a fight. There was no reason why he should be anxious to fight. In the time of peace he was denied employment. ["Oh!"] It was so. He had seen them denied employment on board their ships on the ground that they were Britishers. Foreigners were preferred because they were cheaper and worked longer hours, and these rejected men were the men who were supposed to be spoiling for a fight. He should like to know what the Admiralty intended to do with the two classes of Naval Reserves which they proposed to form? Did they intend that the competent merchant sailor should be placed upon the same footing as the ordinary fisherman. If so, that would not be at all a satisfactory arrangement to the merchant seaman. He should have liked to have heard something more satisfactory from the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the Naval Reserve pensions. The Naval Reserve men had been asking that their pensions should commence at 50 instead of at 60 years of age, and he should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would give the Committee some information as to what he intended to do in the matter. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ GENERAL LAURIE (Pembroke and Haverfordwest)
said that he desired to refer to a subject that had been mentioned last Friday, but which he had not 637 then spoken to, as the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty had asked that the Speaker should be allowed to leave the Chair. The subject was that of the employment of the Royal Marines at naval stations abroad. The Marines were now doing garrison duty at Vancouver's Island, and as the employment of them for such purposes was merely tentative, this was an opportunity to say how it had worked. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty had stated more than once this Session that in case of war he should not see his way to relieve our garrisons abroad. In that case the right hon. Gentleman must also not see his way to reinforce our squadrons abroad. If, however, the Marines were employed in garrison duty at our foreign stations, they would be ready at once to reinforce the squadrons in case of necessity. It might be asked, who were to take their places in the event of their being required to reinforce the squadrons? In the cases of Esquimalt and Halifax—two places with regard to which he had himself had some experience, as he bad commanded the local forces at both—he could say that there would be no difficulty in replacing the garrisons by the local forces. At Halifax he had been able to relieve the garrison by local forces at three hours' notice when required for active service, thus leaving the garrisons free for other work. ["Hear, hear!"] He trusted that the admiralty would consider his proposal, and would not dismiss it as an impracticable suggestion. Considerable difference of opinion appeared to prevail with regard to the number of seamen available for the Naval Reserve. The hon. Member for king's Lynn appeared to think that it consisted of a very large body of men; but other speakers believed that it consisted of only a small body. He could not see why we did not obtain powers to enrol and train a Naval Reserve to our colonies. As regarded Canada, she had over 70,000 deep-sea fishermen, and in the constituency he represented in the 638 Dominion Parliament there were between 4,000 and 5,000 deep-sea fishermen, who were as thorough seamen as any who were to be found in the world. ["Hear, hear!"] The question was raised whether, if these men were enrolled in the Reserve, we might not be training men who would carry the knowledge they gained into another navy; but that was a risk the country must take, even in the training of a reserve in England. At any rate, he could guarantee that there would be no more risk of Canadian Reserve men going to another navy than of English Reserve men doing so; and the Canadian Government and people would look with the greatest interest upon such an experiment, and would give their best assistance to make it a success. ["Hear, hear!"] He had received a letter from the Finance Minister of the Dominion, in which that gentleman said that the project was one that would be received with hearty approval by the Government and people of the Dominion.
§ GENERAL LAURIE
said he was not able to say what they were prepared to do in that respect. That was a matter in which they should be approached. If a reserve of 25,000 men was established for the British Navy, he took it that they were paid for by the British Government, and drilled under the British Admiralty, and he did not know that any Government would be prepared to pay for men in the service of the British Admiralty, though he believed the Canadian Government would be quite prepared, as they did now with their Militia, to raise the men and pay for them if they could drill them in their own way.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
said he would not have taken part in the Debate had it not been that he had no opportunity the other night of saying anything as to the First Lord's Memorandum. He would, however, confine 639 himself to one or two points on the personnel. In that connection he saw great evidence of confusion growing up in the organisation of the Navy. There had been a new departure. On two points with regard to the training of men the answers of the First Lord to precise questions put to him had not appeared to him to be accurate. He had himself put one question to the First Lord with regard to the requalification of Marine gunners after disembarking and before they embarked again. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to state the number of gunners who had embarked in 1896 having passed all the artillery drills, and the right hon. Gentleman replied that 17 per cent had done so. That meant that 83 per cent. had not passed. He had also asked what percentage of marine gunners re-embarking during 1896 had requalified in artillery gun drill, and the right hon. Gentleman had replied that there were no regulations. He knew, however, that there were regulations on the subject, and that the custom used to be that no man re-embarked until he had been re-qualified. He doubted whether the Admiralty were now alive to the necessity of the general training of these men. Then there had been a change of policy. Why was it that the Admiralty now kept so much less a proportion of Marine forces to the Navy than they used to? Down to very recently the consistent policy of the Admiralty was to keep a certain portion of the whole Navy Marine forces. In 1866–67 24 per cent. of the whole were Marine forces, and in 1876–78, the percentage was 23; but this year it was only 15 per cent. The principle of naval organisation up to a few years ago was to keep the blue-jackets at sea, and to keep the larger proportion of Marines on shore, care being taken to make them efficient by giving them a proper training at sea. There were now 69,000 seamen and boys, but only about 16,000 Marinces. The proportion of the 640 latter to the former used to be much larger. In the last two years a point had been reached which had never been reached before in peace. He alluded to the fact that there were more of the Marine forces at sea and fewer on shore. In the Estimates the number provided for afloat was 8,873, and the number on shore 6,957. Therefore the Admiralty contemplated keeping more Marines afloat than on shore. A statement made the other day by the First Lord had surprised him. The right hon. Gentleman, he understood, had said that there were 10,000 seamen and Marine pensioners who did so many days' drill every year. That statement surprised him, because the Admiralty had no power under statute to call on these pensioners for drill.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY,
who was indistinctly heard, was understood to say that he had been misrepresented, and that the men alluded to by him as being called out for drill were the pensioner reserves, as distinguished from pensioners merely.
§ MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
said that he Wished to discuss the naval policy of the Government in its broad outlines. The Committee, he thought, had a right to complain of the way in which the right hon. Gentleman had introduced these Estimates. On the last occasion when the subject of the Navy was before the House, the Debate was opened by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, and the greater part of the First Lord's reply was devoted to answering the precise points which the right hon. Baronet raised. That afternoon again their expectation of hearing a general statement from the First Lord had not been fulfilled. The right hon. Gentleman had merely replied on points raised by the gallant Admiral opposite, and hon. Gentlemen representing dockyard constituencies. The Committee had not even yet been told what the total 641 cost of the Navy was to be this year, although they gathered from the statement that had been issued that the amount was about £22,000,000. How much more had been appropriated from loans? It was the most tremendous expenditure they had heard of in this country; but not a word had been said that evening in deprecation of it. His right hon. friend the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. Dilke), thought that more money should be spent, that we had not enough of strongly armoured ships, and that we were not strong as compared with other countries in Europe. That might be the opinion of the House of Commons, but there were many persons outside who felt nothing but the most intense alarm at the facility with which these burdens were thrown on the taxpayers. In the Estimates which had been presented there was a table of very great interest. In the appendix there was a statement of the cost of the new ships for the last 20 years. During the last ten years he found that the country had spent £48,000,000 on new construction; during the previous ten years they spent £15,000,000, or a total of £63,000,000. This year the cost of new construction would be £7,500,000; yet not a single voice had been raised in the House in favour of proceeding more slowly or more cautiously in undertaking these great works. In his judgment the First Lord of the Admiralty had made a very bellicose speech. The right hon. Gentleman said there were two things that might occur—(1) probably the Admiralty would not be satisfied with the expenditure of £25,000,000; and (2) in a certain eventuality he would be prepared to sanction large Supplementary Estimates. That was a most serious statement to make, and he for one protested against it. The expenditure was high enough for one year. The Committee had been unable to learn the amount of money that would be taken under the Naval Works Bill, and he should like to ask:—Does this great expenditure make us feel safer in face of the other nations of the world than we did before?The right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean said that he did not feel satisfied because we were not so strong as France and Russia. But lately Germany had entered into competition with us, and 642 was it suggested that we should be as strong as all the navies of the world combined? It looked as if we were going to enter upon that policy. To what could they trace this competition? Surely to the policy adopted without protest by the House of Commons. The more we built the more we had to build, and he said that it was time we adopted another policy and returned again to the good old policy of peace, retrenchment, and reform. He believed that we should find a great deal more safety in returning to it than in sanctioning this great expenditure the Committee had been dealing with. Complaining of the way in which they had been treated, he appealed to the First Lord, even at that late hour, to make some more satisfactory declaration than could be found in the inflated bellicose policy faintly adumbrated at an earlier hour of the evening. ["Oh, oh!"] The taxpayers of the country did not find this subject so amusing as apparently hon. Members opposite did. There were parts of the kingdom suffering under the crushing agony, he might almost say of the fast-growing weight, of taxation, and even the people of London and the richer parts of the country were beginning to look askance at these proceedings of the House. Why should we not return to the old policy of the country, and believe a little more in the rectitude of our purposes among the nations of the earth. There had been sneering reference to "unctuous rectitude," but better that than no rectitude at all. Had we as a nation lost belief in the blessings of peace? In the Queen's Speech at the opening of the Session, stress was laid on the fact that we had entered into a Treaty of Arbitration with one of the greatest nations of the world, and our Sovereign was made in the Speech to express the hope, founded on that fact, that other nations would enter with us on this peaceful policy. But these words were the only acknowledgment of the blessings of peace associated with the proceedings of this Session. Enormous sums voted for the Army and Navy seemed to anticipate a policy of war, and he firmly believed that the policy the Government were pursuing constituted the greatest menace to the peace of the world that existed at the present time. It was sad to think that a Statesman of the great reputation of the First Lord should have lost all sympathy with the 643 old ideas in which he used to believe. The more was spent the less satisfaction followed, the further we went in this shameful race in expenditure the further we would have to go. We could not hope to equal the rest of the world in armaments. He appealed to the First Lord to say something in a more moderate spirit, upon which to found a hope that expenditure would not be increased, and that there would be an attempt to return to the more moderate Navy Estimates of fifteen years ago. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. J. GILHOOLY (Cork Co., W.)
took the opportunity to call the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty to a grievance in connection with the paying off of Irish sailors. It was the practice when one of Her Majesty's ships put in at an Irish port, and the time came for paying off the men, to transfer the men to an English port. This was reasonable where the great majority of the men were British, for it was desirable that the men should take the money home to their families, but where a great number of the men were Irish it was only fair that they should be paid in an Irish port, so that they might spend their money at home. Another matter to which he claimed attention had reference to the illegal trawling in Bantry Bay. For the prevention of this illegal trawling a gunboat was stationed in the Bay, but, notwithstanding this, the illegal trawling by steam trawlers was carried on at night and on Sundays. He hoped the First Lord would have attention given to these matters.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
I hope the time has now arrived when hon. Members will be content to let us have Vote A and Vote 1. [Cries of "No, no!"] We have had a long and interesting discussion, ranging over many subjects, and if I have not dealt with all of them, I may remind hon. Members that there will be an opportunity on most of the Votes—on all of them in fact—to raise these questions again.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
As regards the general policy of the Admiralty upon which the hon. Member has addressed me, may I venture to remind him that from no quarter of the House have there been more reproaches, if I may say reproaches, that I have not done enough, than from the quarter where the hon. Gentleman himself sits. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean Division was one of those who criticised our proposals, not unkindly, in that spirit, and upon several points doubts have been expressed from the other side of the House whether we have gone far enough, and whether we ought not to have increased our Estimates this year. I can assure the hon. Member, who spoke with so much feeling on the subject, that our one desire with this expenditure is to preserve peace, and I am firmly persuaded that the country would condemn us if we did not put ourselves in a position to insure peace, by showing we are prepared to defend ourselves. There is no aggressive or provocative policy in these Estimates, we have not gone beyond what we believe is necessary for the safety of the country. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ CAPTAIN PIRIE (Aberdeen, N.)
complained that a fair share of the shipbuilding work was not given to the Scotch yards. He thought more care ought to be taken to see that the work was more evenly distributed into the three kingdoms. He did not see why Admiralty inspectors should not be sent round, especially to the east coast of Scotland, to see if repairs could not be carried out at some of the smaller yards. He expressed great regret that the First Lord of the Admiralty had not seen his way to meet the request which had been made that the Royal yacht which it was proposed to build should be a first-class battleship, thus combining utility with what was really wanted, as was done in the case of the Royal yachts of the German and Russian Emperors. He warned the First Lord that unless he could take some steps to meet this view, he must expect opposition on the Estimates. He also supported the 645 suggestion which had been put forward of obtaining recruits for the Navy from the colonies.
§ MR. PATRICK M'HUGH (Leitrim, N.)
desired to call attention to the case of a Naval pensioner now confined in the Sligo Lunatic Asyulm, named John Devine.
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
I think that discussion should properly be raised on the non-effective Vote.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork, Mid)
supported the demand which had been made by his hon. Friend near him (Mr. Gilhooly) that seamen should be paid when the Fleet might happen to be in Irish waters. Many of the men were of Irish birth, and if the money due to them for their services might be paid to them when they were in Irish waters, instead of sending them back to England, Ireland would then have some share of the amount which was expended on the seamen. He trusted the First Lord of the Admiralty would give an answer on this point.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
remarked that if the hon. Member would be good enough to put some question on the Paper, he would give an answer to it.
§ Resolution to be reported.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding —4,696,000, be granted to Her Majesty to defray the expenses of wages etc., to officers, seamen, and boys, Coast Guard, and Royal Marines, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of Mardi 1898.
§ And, it being midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
§ Resolution to be reported upon Monday next; Committee also report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.