1. 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, coastguards, and Royal Marines, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1898.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
said it would be in the recollection of the Committee that when the Vote was last before the House the First Lord of the Admiralty refrained from dealing with many questions that had been raised respecting the personnel of the Navy. To one question he wished to recur. He alluded to the demand made for the telegraphic instructions sent by the Admiralty to the Admirals in Cretan waters, and to the reasons given by the First Lord of the Treasury for refusing to produce those Instructions.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
said he was not going to discuss it. He proposed to refer to it because they were dealing with the salaries of the Admirals, and he thought it would be relevant to ask for the Instructions given to the Admirals in Cretan waters.
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
said the Admirals simply carried out the instructions of the Admiralty, and the Admiralty were responsible for the issue of instructions, and, therefore, any criticisms—[Mr. ROBERTSON: "No," and cheers]—must be made upon the salary of the First Lord of the Admiralty, by whom the instructions were issued.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
said that when he said "No," he did not mean to contradict the Chairman, but merely to suggest that he had not perhaps correctly 1039 apprehended his point. He did not propose to criticise the instructions to the Admirals, but merely to protest against the alleged rule of the Service that the instructions to the Admirals on active service could not be disclosed.
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
That would not arise upon this Vote, for obviously the Admirals who carry out the instructions are not responsible.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
said that he would postpone what he had to say until the Admiralty Vote was reached. There was only one other question to which he would refer—that of the conduct of one of the Admirals; and he deprecated any attempt to make the officers or men of the Navy responsible for the policy they were carrying out, either by insinuation, accusation, or defence. Therefore, it was only right anything tending to impute, conduct not in accordance with the regulations of the Admiralty to any one of its officers should be brought to the notice of the Admiralty, and that they should have an opportunity of making such explanations as were possible. He wished to refer to a telegram in The Times of March 11, purporting to be from its correspondent in Canea, and the substance of which was this. He said:I have seen Admiral Harris, who has made a statement to me regarding an official visit paid by him to certain persons described as insurgent chiefs.The Admiral told how the insurgent chiefs received what were called the autonomy proposals, and the Chiefs told him they never received the Proclamation of the Powers forbidding them to attack the towns, and never heard of the orders issued by the Admiralty to send doctors after the bombardment. The Admiral concluded by saying that these two Notes had been by him intrusted to the Greek Admiral, and his conclusion was that the Greek Admiral had failed to notify these facts to the insurgent Chiefs. The point to which he desired chiefly to call attention was this. The telegram concluded as follows:—"The Admiral particularly said that he, wished this to be communicated to The Times." He wished to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether, if this telegram were true, the conduct imputed to the Admiral was consistent with the regulations of 1040 the Admiralty, and in particular with Regulation 682, which was made by the Admiralty for the conduct of all persons in the Fleet, from the highest to the lowest:—All persons belonging to the Fleet are forbidden to write for any newspaper on subjects connected with the Naval Service, or to publish, or cause to be published, directly or indirectly, in a newspaper or other periodical, any matter or thing relating to the public service.He believed this to be an operative regulation at the present moment. He submitted that if the statement in The Times were true, the action of the Admiral in sending a message to a newspaper in this country, through its correspondent, was inconsistent with that regulation, the wholesome character of which the House would admit. He asked whether the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty had been called to this, and whether he had made any inquiry regarding it?
§ MR. JOHN DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said the message must have been sent on the Admiral's personal responsibility. Some time ago he complained of the fact—which he believed to be a fact, judging by the accounts of eye-witnesses—that during the recent bombardment shells were dropped into the garden of a convent and some women were killed. He brought the matter before the House at the time, but the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, from the lofty eminence on which he posed, treated with supreme and absolute contempt all information given by newspaper correspondents, but unfortunate individuals who had not access to the telegrams received by the Foreign Office, except such as the Under Secretary read to them, must base some reliance on newspaper correspondents, especially when the correspondents of different newspapers concurred. When the correspondents of such newspapers as The Times, Standard, Daily News and Daily Chronicle substantially agreed in their statements, they could not expect the ordinary Members of that House to treat such statements with absolute contempt. Had the Admiral or the Foreign Office inquired whether it was a fact that without notice a number of shells were fired from a British vessel into the garden of a convent, and whether 1041 any women in that convent were injured or killed? He thought they were entitled to ask whether Admiral Harris did take what would be considered by the Admiralty to be satisfactory steps to assure himself that those upon whom he opened fire had adequate warning. He did not think that a message sent to the Greek Commander was sufficient notice.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
hoped the First Lord of the Admiralty would not accept the version given by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down as representing the real facts. He very adroitly sailed near the wind, and did not state that the correspondents of The Times, Standard, Daily News and Daily Chronicle had asserted this fact.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
asked if the hon. Gentleman said that there was a unanimity of opinion among these correspondents?
§ MR. DILLON
said he took the statement from The Times, and he believed the Standard and Daily News bore out the statement.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said that no correspondent, as a matter of fact, could have been on the spot at the time, and the statement must therefore have rested very much on hearsay. ["Hear, hear!"] There was no such consensus of opinion as to the bombardment of this convent as was supposed. He believed this convent was a very strong building, and was occupied by the insurgents for defensive purposes. He understood that one woman was wounded. An attempt had been made to represent our Admiral as not having taken sufficient pains to inform the insurgents of his proposed bombardment. It must be recollected that all the Admirals had been in constant and friendly intercourse with the Greek Commander. The Greek Commander was in communication with the insurgents, and it was exceedingly natural that the British Admiral should communicate with the insurgents, who were of a wild and ferocious character, through the Greek Commander. They heard from all the correspondents that there was a most deplorable lack of interpreters. Much of the mischief that had happened was caused through this, 1042 and he trusted the Government would see that the difficulty was removed as soon as possible.
ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
thought the hon. Gentleman opposite had put a strained interpretation on the regulation which he had referred to. This was not a question of disclosing information about the public service. He took it that our Admiral spoke on behalf of the other Admirals associated with him, and probably he sent this infortion, by their desire, to correct the statements which had been sent not only to this country but to Europe. The hon. Gentleman, he was sure, would admit that The Times was the foremost journal in the world for conveying public information, not only to this, but to any other part of the world. He should have thought The Times would be received as the first organ of public opinion in all parts of the world, and, therefore, he thought the Admiral, instead of being blamed, was to be commended for his action. If the hon. Gentleman went so far as to say that when local correspondents were attached to fleets they were not to get information, that raised the whole question of the system by which special correspondents were so attached. It was public opinion that required this source of information. The Army as well as the Navy would no doubt be happy enough to do without correspondents, but as long as correspondents were approaching an Admiral in command of a squadron for information, he would be more than human if he did not endeavour to correct some false information, which all the Admirals must have felt very keenly.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
I think the hon. and gallant Member has stated the case of Admiral Harris extremely well. I do not think Admiral Harris has done anything whatever against the spirit of the regulation to which the hon. and learned Gentleman referred. This is not information containing secrets of the service, and there is nothing in his action which at all contravenes that question of discipline which, I believe, is at the bottom of the regulation. If the Admiral were to be censured for sending this particular telegram, the whole question of furnishing information to war correspondents 1043 would have to be reconsidered. I am sure some hon. Members on the opposite side of the House will feel that it must have been extremely galling for the Admirals to have seen all the strictures cast upon them without being able to say one single word in their defence. [Cheers.] Accordingly, I should certainly not feel it my duty in any way to reprove Admiral Harris for the action which he took. [Cheers.] The hon. Member for East Mayo asks me what were the facts of the case referred to by him, and he again asserts that it was a convent that was fired upon.
§ MR. DILLON
said he did not know the facts; he had only said what was reported in the chief newspapers.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
I do not know whether the hon. Member is aware that the place fired at by the Admirals was the headquarters of the insurgents. If, therefore, they fired at a convent it was because the insurgents had established themselves in a convent, and had raised their flag at that point. The British Admiral states that it was a homestead with stone walls round it. It was a strong place, and it was there that the insurgents flew their flag. With regard to the question of notice, it seems to me to have been as proper a precaution as could possibly be taken by the Admiral to communicate with the Greek Commodore, and for him to communicate with the insurgents. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member knows the Admirals state that these notices were given, and I do really not see why the word of the Admirals in this respect should not be taken against any anonymous evidence. ["Hear, hear!"] The important question of interpreters has been raised. No doubt it would have been better if the ships had had a proper supply of interpreters, but hon. Members will, I think, see that there would be some difficulty in providing interpreters. A famous case was lately before the House in which the question of an impartial interpreter played a considerable part. It may have been that any Greeks or Turks taken as interpreters would be likely to be open to suspicion, and of course that is a very important point. It is very desirable that all ships of war should be furnished, as far as possible, with men capable of speaking various 1044 languages; it is a matter which has occupied my attention, and I am not surprised that attention should have been called to it. [Cheers.]
§ MR. HENRY LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said he was surprised that the First Lord of the Admiralty should say that Admiral Harris had acted in accordance with the spirit of the regulations.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
What I said was that he had not acted contrary to the spirit of the regulations.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
replied that if Admiral Harris had not acted contrary to the spirit of the regulations, he must have acted in accordance with it. ["Hear, hear!"] It came to the same thing. The Question was whether or not the Greek Commodore had communicated certain facts as to whether the International Fleet would fire on the insurgents or not. Admiral Harris appeared to have considered that the Greek Commodore had not communicated with the insurgents; and he then calmly made an accusation of bad faith against the Commodore. But the Admiral did not write home to his own Government on the subject, and thus enable the Greek Commodore to reply; but he sent for the correspondent of The Times newspaper, and put into his hands this accusation against the Commodore, and asked him to send it to his newspaper. Nothing more objectionable, unfair, or contrary to the spirit and the letter of the Admiralty regulations could be conceived. [Cheers.] It now appeared that Admiral Harris in making this accusation against the Greek Commodore was absolutely wrong, and that the Greek Commodore did, as a matter of fact, communicate with the insurgents. Therefore it was obviously a case in which the Admiral, who had violated the regulations, ought to be blamed. Then as to the point in regard to the firing, the complaint was not that the Admiral had fired on a convent, but that he had fired at all. He did not say that Admiral Harris should be turned out of the Service, but he thought the First Lord of the Admiralty should inform the Admiral that when he had an accusation to make against a fellow Admiral, he would do well to forward the accusation home to his Government, instead of sending for The Times Correspondent and, without 1045 communicating with the Greek Commodore, have the accusation published to the world at large.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
said be did not think the hon. Member for Northampton was correct in stating that Admiral Harris had accused the Greek Commodore of not having transmitted the message to the insurgents. All that Admiral Harris had said was that certain chiefs who had been interviewed stated they had not got the message. He did not suppose that Admiral Harris had any intention of accusing the Greek Commodore of having betrayed the trust reposed in him, and whether the Admiral was technically right in having communicated with the correspondent of The Times he did not profess to say, but he joined his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East-bourne in defending the Admiral for the action he had taken, considering the provocation he had received. [Cheers.]
§ MR. J. H. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
said there were two points in dispute. The first was—did Admiral Harris violate the Admiralty regulations in communicating with the newspaper correspondents; and, secondly were sufficient precautions taken before the order to fire on the insurgents was issued? In regard to the first point, this was not a case of the Admiral having offered or sent fresh information to a particular newspaper—for the explanation appeared in all the London daily papers the same morning; but it was a case t he Admiral taking the quickest possible way of making his position and the position of his brother Admirals clear to the world in regard to a certain false report which had been circulated against them—[Ministerial cheers]—and, taking that view of the matter, he should be very sorry if the result of the Debate should be to make it more difficult for newspaper correspondents to obtain information front naval and military sources during the grave crisis through which Europe was now passing. ["Hear, hear!"] In regard to the second point, he was not convinced that Admiral Harris had taken the necessary precautions before the order to fire was given. Admiral Harris admitted that he was now convinced that the insurgents had not received the message sent to them by the combined Fleet, and before giving the order to fire he ought to have satisfied 1046 himself that those on whom he was about to open fire were aware of what was required of them.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
said he did not make any accusation against Admiral Harris. All he desired was information. He had hoped that the First Lord of the Admiralty would have been able to say that the telegram was incorrect. But it now appeared that the telegram was correct, and that the Admiral had sent the message to The Times.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
I am sorry if I conveyed that impression. I am absolutely ignorant about this telegram to The Times, and whether the communication was made or not.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
said that was the whole point. His complaint was not that The Times or any other newspaper should have obtained its information in this way, but that Admiral Harris should have expressed the wish, as the telegram said, that this information should be sent to The Times. Such action appeared to hint to be entirely inconsistent with the regulations; and he therefore sincerely hoped that there was some mistake, and that no such message had been sent by Admiral Harris. But there was one thing the House should take a note of, and that was the way in which the First Lord of the Admiralty appeared to be inclined to fritter away the most prominent, wholesome, and universal of the regulations of the Service. [Ministerial cries of "No, no!" and Opposition cheers.] If the plain words of the Admiralty regulations forbidding any person in the Fleet to publish or cause to be published, directly or indirectly, any matter relating to the public service, were to be treated in this way, it would be bad for the Service and bad for the House. ["Hear, hear!"] The First Lord of the Admiralty had said that Admiral Harris had acted under extreme provocation. Surely that was no excuse for any officer for violating—as he believed, or as he hoped, Admiral Harris dill not violate—the perfectly clear regulations of the Service. The consideration that newspaper correspondents would not find their enterprise as easy as they did now was not one which ought to weigh with the Admiralty or the House. The regulation was clear and specific, and he, for one, would not believe, without further information, that Admiral Harris did communicate this 1047 message, in the way described in the telegram, to a newspaper correspondent.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said that hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to have misapprehended one fact. Commodore Reineck declared that he did deliver the message to the insurgents; but Admiral Harris's assertion was that he gave two notes to the Greek Commodore which were not delivered to the insurgents. As to Admiral Harris's communication to a newspaper correspondent, there was a broad distinction to be drawn between the use which Admiral Harris made of the correspondent—for he must assume that the telegram to The Times was true—and the suborning of a correspondent to write up a particular officer and particular views. The former act was in the public interest; the latter, though it was often done by naval officers, was most obnoxious. ["Hear, hear!"] A certain discretion should be allowed to an Admiral as to the manner of communicating news to the public. As to the Admiralty regulation against any officer writing or publishing any matter connected with the public service, that regulation was carried out in a most partial and mischievous manner. ["Hear, hear!"] It was notoriously not always enforced. Officers were every day writing to the newspapers; and officers and officials of the Admiralty as well were constantly writing to the Press anonymously to write up particular projects. On the other hand, the Admiralty would sometimes forbid an officer to publish articles of the utmost public importance. He had called attention to the case of a naval officer who was forbidden to read a paper before the Royal United Service Institution on the strategic interests of England in the Mediterranean. If the regulations were to be enforced against the smaller people, officials and officers should be forbidden to write to the papers anonymously. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. DILLON
said that he did not complain of the statement of Admiral Harris. But when a question was asked as to this bombardment—an event which shocked the public opinion of the country—it was stated that Admiral Harris had given ample warning to the insurgents. That information remained unchallenged for a fortnight, until there appeared in The Times this telegram—as to the authenticity of which he had no doubt—stating 1048 that the Admirals had learnt in an interview with the insurgent chiefs that their warning had never been received by the latter. Before Admiral Harris fired on the insurgents he ought to have satisfied himself personally, without the intermediary of the Greek Commodore, that the insurgents were warned. Commodore Reineck was not acting with the allies, and had been treated by them with every sign of hostility and want of confidence. ["Hear, hear!"] But, on his own statement, Admiral Harris did not satisfy himself, but trusted to the action of the Greek Commodore. [Cheers.] It was his business to satisfy himself. [Cries of "Oh," and "How?"] By the same means that he afterwards took to communicate with the insurgents. [Cheers.] He might have met the insurgent chiefs on the shore before the bombardment just as well as after. Admiral Harris made a communication to The Times Correspondent at Canea shifting all the blame on to the Greek Commodore, who by this time had gone back to Athens. Commodore Reineck then called on The Times' Correspondent in Athens, and submitted to that Gentleman the documents on which he founded his contradiction of the Admiral's statement, and the Correspondent telegraphed to The Times that he had examined the documents and was satisfied that Commodore Reineck had done his best to warn the insurgents. The facts were these. The Greek Commodore sent on to the insurgents the Admiral's warning. The insurgents sent back a remonstrance stating that they were only on the defensive, and that the Bashi-Bazouks were the aggressors; but this did not reach the Admirals in time to stop the bombardment, and accordingly the insurgents were fired on while they were under the impression that they were still in negotiation with the Admirals. Because the British Admiral was in such a hurry, and sent his message in such a roundabout way, he opened fire on men who had no reasonable ground to expect the attack. ["Hear, hear!"]
MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
said that he had never listened to a more extraordinary line of argument. [Cheers.] How was Admiral Harris to satisfy himself personally that the insurgents had received his warning?
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
said that in that case the hon. Member would have at once asked whether the officer understood Greek. [Cheers.] The Admiral gave two written notes to the Greek Commodore.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
said that Sir A. Biliotti had performed, at great personal risk, an act of the greatest gallantry, for which he had been sneered at by the hon. Gentleman. [Cheers.] Sir.A. Biliotti's time was fully and nobly occupied, and it was most unreasonable to expect him to be employed in delivering these notes. But Admiral Harris did commit one slight indiscretion. He ignored what he should have known on high authority—that the Cretan chiefs might not always be persons whose word could be closely relied on. [Cheers, cries of "Oh," and an HON. MEMBER, The devil quoting Scripture," followed by laughter.] Mr. James Lowther went on to say that there was one thing which had come out clearly in the Debate. As the First Lord had told them, the "women and children" argument, which raiders were very fond of, was untrue in this case, as it was in another with which the House was familiar. [Irish cheers.] It was plain that word was conveyed to the insurgents, and, under these circumstances, the House might be perfectly well satisfied that the British Admiral had faithfully discharged his duty.
MR. J. C. FLINN (Cork, N.)
thought Admiral Harris might very well exclaim, in Shakespearian phrase, "Save me from my friends." The right hon. Gentleman had not followed the sequence of events at all. There was no desire on that side of the House to be severe, let alone unjust, to Admiral Harris, but they were determined to probe to the bottom a matter which concerned the lives of Christians who were struggling to free themselves from abominable tyranny. Of course Admiral Harris would naturally be indignant that a false construction should be put upon his conduct; but were they to have no regard for the feelings of the Greek Commodore and the Cretans because they were Greeks? Commodore Reineck, in the most categorical and clear manner, to the satisfaction of The Times' Correspondent, and not by verbal expressions but by the strength of documents sent by the insurgent chiefs, had proved 1050 first of all that he had conveyed the message of Admiral Harris and the other Admirals. [Cries of "No!"] He conveyed, at all events, the Warning.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
What he did not do was to convey the Notes. He might have conveyed his own view, which might have been a very different view from that of the Notes.
§ MR. FLYNN
retorted that if the Commodore conveyed the substance of the communications no one could say that he had not conveyed the warning. They were entitled to assume that he knew the contents. These unfortunate insurgents were entitled to be heard just as much as the Turks were. He believed Commodore Reineck had been most unfairly treated, but it was most desirable that the facts should come out, and if the statements which had been referred to were made by the insurgent chiefs, and were conveyed by the Greek Commodore to the Admirals of the allied Fleet, it was their duty to have satisfied themselves whether those statements were true or untrue.
§ MR. T. W. LEGH (Lancashire, Newton)
pointed out that the hon. Member for East Mayo had cast a greater aspersion upon Commodore, Reineck than Admiral Harris or anyone else. The hon. Member asked, Why did not Admiral Harris take steps to ascertain whether the message was delivered? For his own part he had been under the impression that if a brother officer and colleague and gentleman undertook to deliver a message, it would be delivered. ["Hear, hear!"] Evidently the hon. Member was under a different impression, and was of opinion that the British Admiral ought to have taken steps beforehand to ascertain that his Greek colleague would do what he had promised.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
thought it unfortunate that hon. Gentlemen opposite, in discussing this matter, should find it necessary to cast strong imputations upon everything connected with the Greek people and the Greek race. ["No!"] The Member for Sheffield had suggested as clearly as anybody could, without saying it directly, that Commodore Reineck had been guilty of mendacity, and the right hon. Member for Thanet had cast reflections on the character of the whole Greek people. [HON. MEMBERS: "No; Cretans."] Were not the Cretans Greeks? Did they not speak the Greek language?
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
was glad to take as a compliment the suggestion that he, an Irishman, was able to speak the English language. Undoubtedly the Cretans were of Greek race. The complaint he had to make of the First Lord of the Admiralty was this. The correspondent of The Times in Athens, having been shown all the documents in the business, had expressed his strong conviction that Commodore Reineck had vindicated his own good faith. In face of that, would it not have been a courteous and almost necessary act on the part of the right hon. Gentleman representing the Admiralty to have also stated that in his opinion Commodore Reineck had vindicated himself and his nation from what, after all, was a very serious, and, if true, a very foul charge? Some complaint had been made of the action of the Admiral in communicating with The Times' correspondent. His hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy, who was a journalist, had naturally great sympathy for anything which extended the facilities of journalists. So had he. He did not blame the special correspondent for getting information either from the naval or the military commander. That was his business; if he did not do so, he would have rather a rainy day when he came back to his newspaper. With regard to Admiral Harris, no doubt, he was smarting under what was a serious charge, and felt bound to vindicate himself. He did not blame him for that. Were there not other channels and organs by which commanding officers could indicate the character of their defence except the newspapers of the country? There was, for example, the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Foreign Office. If Admiral Harris felt aggrieved his business was not to go to a newspaper correspondent, but to telegraph to the First Lord of the Admiralty and then to let the right hon. Gentleman make the statement. He thought that Admiral Harris had gone against the spirit of the orders under which he acted. His communication was to a large extent an intervention in what at the moment was a very fierce political question—namely, the responsibility of this country and the responsibility of the Greeks. That was a question in which naval and military offi- 1052 cers should mix as little as possible, and Admiral Harris had adopted the wrong way of defending himself.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said that as so much depended on the wording of this telegram, he asked permission to read it. The hon. Member for Northampton repeatedly said that Admiral Harris sent for The Times Correspondent. That was not borne out by the telegram, which said:—I have seen Rear-Admiral Harris at Suda. He says that, having been assured that the combat yesterday was provoked by the Bashi-Bazouks, he wished to confer with the insurgents. With the French and Italian Admirals he landed at Akrotiri this afternoon, saw six of the chiefs, and discussed the autonomy proposal, which was favourably received. In the course of the discussion he unexpectedly elicited the fact that the chiefs never received the proclamation of the Powers forbidding them to attack the towns, and never heard of the Admiral's offer to send doctors after the bombardment. Both these Notes were intrusted to the Greek Commodore Reineck, the Admiral trusting to his brother naval officer to communicate them to the insurgents. The Admirals were all convinced that the Akrotiri insurgents were not communicated with on these occasions. Doctors are to go to Akrotiri to-morrow. The Admiral particularly said that he wished this to be communicated to The Times.A more extraordinary and monstrous idea of the duties of commanding officers than that apparently held by the hon. Member for East Mayo it would be impossible to imagine. According to the hon. Member the commanding officer had personally to satisfy himself—["No, no"]—that the insurgents had full notice. These insurgents had previously fired on the officers who had tried to communicate with them, and to suppose that the Admiral should land and go up two or three miles from the town to a high position in order to communicate with wild insurgents was ridiculous. It was equally absurd to say that he should send his flag-lieutenant or one of his officers when he had one of the most natural means of communication at his hand in the person of the Greek Commodore, whom he knew well and whom he naturally trusted. Hon. Gentlemen were placed in a most ridiculous dilemma, because if the insurgents were communicated with, as they said, then the whole charge against Admiral Harris fell to the ground. If they were not communicated with, the responsibility clearly rested on the Greek Commodore, who undertook the duty of communicating with them. A very un- 1053 just attack had been made on Admiral Harris on this occasion, as on previous occasions; and when hon. Gentlemen found fault with the Admiral for communicating the information to a newspaper correspondent who visited him, let them remember the attacks they made night after night, not on the Government, but on the Admiral, for bombarding the Akrotiri heights. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
moved to reduce the Vote by £279,545, in order to call attention to the great increase in this Vote as compared with past years. Ten years ago the amount of this Vote was £3,000,000, and it had gradually grown by £300,000 a year until the present amount of 4¾ millions had been reached. The £3,000,000 in 1888–89 provided for 62,000 men, while the asked for last year provided for 93,000 men; therefore in the ten years there was an increase of 60 per cent. in the amount of the money and 50 per cent. in the number of the men. Those were very grave figures. For the last ten years we had been steadily strengthening the Navy, and he thought they might at least stop for a few years instead of going forward at the rapid pace shown in this Vote. The Vote this year was the largest increase that had taken place in any year except 1893–94, and it was the amount of one particular Vote that ought to arrest the attention of the Committee. A very grave policy was involved in this, because the increase in money and men had not been defended. He had paid the greatest attention to the two former Debates, and beyond the information given in the Paper which had been distributed, the Committee was furnished with no reason why this Vote should be enlarged. In the Paper it was shown that the officers, seamen, and engine room artificers were to be increased, and that there should be 2,000 stokers added to the Navy. That seemed to him to be an extraordinary proposal. Some interesting figures had been quoted by the hon. Member for King's Lynn, and he thought that we could very easily provide for the necessities in reference to the number of stokers that might be required without having this burden thrown permanently on the country.
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
said that the House had already decided to increase the number of men employed in the Navy. It was open to 1054 the hon. Member to move that their pay should be reduced; otherwise he did not see how he could cut down the Vote by three-quarters of a million without reducing the number of men.
§ MR. LOUGH
had noticed that the maximum number sanctioned by the House hail not been fully taken advantage of. He wanted to keep down expenditure, and he thought that the amount voted last year was sufficiently large for the purpose; he therefore objected to the increase. He did not think that there was anything in the condition of affairs which could justify such an increase as this.
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
again pointed out that the House had already decided to increase the number of men. If the hon. Member could show that the same number of men could be maintained out of the reduced sum he was entitled to do so; but the general question could not be raised a second time.
§ MR. LOUGH
said that, broadly speaking he objected to this increase, believing that it would lead to further expenditure later on; hence his Motion to reduce the amount. He was strongly of opinion that the burdens thrown on the people by this constant increase in the expenditure of the Navy were greater than they had experience of in time of peace; and he did not think that they should be increased in the rapid way which had been shown during the last ten years.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
said he rose out of courtesy to the hon. Member, but, as had been pointed out by the Chairman, the House had already decided to make this increase in the number of men, and thus the Admiralty now asked that the necessary pay should be provided. The only effect of the Motion of the hon. Member would be to indicate to the Admiralty that a reduction should be made; and he trusted that the hon. Member would withdraw his Motion or proceed at once to a division.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
said there had been nothing this year in the nature of an ordinary statement as to the Navy. The First Lord referred them to a printed statement, but that did not give the information which his hon. Friend wanted, and which he thought he had a right to ask. He said 1055 that, although he did not agree with his hon. Friend. The taxpayer had a right to know, whether he took his hon. Friend's view of the matter or not. They had, he repeated, no statement this year, and if they did not get it on the Navy Estimates they should expect front the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the Budget a much fuller statement as to the Army and the Navy. His hon. Friend, he must say, had had no proper opportunity of raising this question of general expenditure on the Navy. As for himself, through the courtesy of the Admiralty, he had been able to work out, a statement for himself. He thought he had a knowledge of what had been spent this year, and also some idea of what would be spent next year. He found that it was very difficult, however, to arrive at the information.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
said the right hon. Gentleman had said that the usual statement had not been made this year. Last year he followed the usual course, which he did not follow this year. The right hon. Gentleman gave notice of a Motion, which really covered the whole subject of the naval policy, as to men and shipbuilding. He was obliged to follow him. If the right hon. Gentleman had not made that Motion he should have made his statement in the usual way; but in his reply to the right hon. Gentleman he went fully into the whole subject. After that he did not think it necessary to make any general statement. Next year he would undertake to make the usual statement, hoping that the right hon. Gentleman would not intervene with a Motion.
§ SIR C. DILKE
said the point to which he referred—and he was not blaming the right hon. Gentleman as to the men and shipbuilding—was the question of expenditure. His hon. Friend had wished to take objection to the expenditure, and he had no opportunity of doing so. More and more money was being taken, but the total amount of the expenditure was not shown. It was clearly their duty to see what was the amount of expenditure. Up to the present they had had no opportunity of discussing that point.
THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIIIAITY
said at the time the point was raised before, the accounts were not complete. He promised that either on the Loan Bill or on some other occasion a full statement would be made as to the cost of the Navy.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said that on the point of the training of men he would quote from a remarkable article in The Journal of the Royal United Service Institution, contributed by Captain Baron Von. Lüttwitz, of the German Grand General staff. He said,Our Navy must be so strong that, after the withdrawal of the cruisers sent to watch foreign coasts, it can successfully cope with the English squadrons which may be in home waters.He said, further, that in long periods of peace they were apt to exaggerate the importance of numbers; it was the spirit that inspired armies or a fleet. It was useless to have a large number of men on the Vote and large amounts for their pay unless they secured that the men were adequately trained. With regard to the item for certain officers at Jamaica, he utterly condemned the dockyards and hospital there. The hospital should be abolished as utterly useless. Ample notice should, of course, be given. He would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to give hint some assurance that both the dockyard and the hospital would be abolished.
§ SIR JOHN BAKER (Portsmouth)
said he wished to call attention to the case of chief and petty officers in the Navy and their complaints and grievances, which had been before the Admiralty for at least l2 years. When the present Secretary for India was First Lord of the Admiralty he gave an assurance to the then Members for the constituency he now represented that these matters should be favourably considered. The Admiralty he had the honour to support gave the same assurance, and yet the claims of this large body of men still remained neglected. It was very remarkable that, while for the corresponding ranks in the Army and Marines pecuniary advantages were easily obtained, the Navy seemed to have been very badly treated in that particular. Probably that was accounted for by the fact that the Army and Marines had been so largely represented in the House. He hoped the First Lord would give an assurance that 1057 he would rearrange the whole scale under which chief and petty officers were employed. All they asked for was 1s. 2d. per day for each year of a second period of service, and that chief petty officers should be placed on a higher scale of pension than the first-class petty officer.
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
The question of pensions should be raised when the Pensions Vote comes on.
§ SIR J. BAKER
said there was another matter which caused a very great grievance in connection with the marking of parchments. A man might have served 19 years, during which his marks had been "very good," but for his last year he only got a "good" mark. The penalty for that was that his pension was reduced to 8d. a day. He hoped the First Lord would look into that matter and devise some remedy for it. ["Hear, hear!"] If these grievances were remedied, it would add largely to the popularity of the service, and would induce men who now refused to enter for a second period to remain in the service. That, he would point out, would be an absolute saving to the Government, seeing that it cost £200 to train a man. Moreover, the men who re-entered formed a steady, reliable body of men, and the loss by the withdrawal of trained men could not be over-estimated. ["Hear, hear!"] He would also ask the right hon. Gentleman to give some attention to the case of the stokers. The difficulty of obtaining men in this capacity arose from the fact that they were not Offered sufficiently good wages. All the stokers asked for was to be put on the same footing as other men. They asked that, on re-entering for a second period of service, 2d. a day should be given to them as it was given to men of the seamen class, and leading stokers asked for the a day after four years which petty officers received. He knew the enormous difficulty the Admiralty had with the stoker class, and he was sure that many of the obstacles in the way of their reentering would be removed by a slight addition to their pay. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. W. E. MACARTNEY,) Antrim, S.
said that the grievances to which the hon. Member had alluded had been fully considered by previous Boards of Admiralty. He could not say that he thought that to put the petty officers on an equality with what were called the 1058 corresponding ranks in the Army and Marines would really be to their interest. The opinion he had formed coincided with that formed by previous Boards. The hon. Member had referred to the assessing of character on parchment certificates. That might occur in regard to any rating in the Navy, and he could not give him an assurance that any alteration would be made in the direction he desired. It would be very difficult to make a distinction in the case of one particular rating, and it would certainly not be conducive to the maintenance of discipline or beneficial to the men themselves. ["Hear, hear!"] There was no doubt that the increasing number of men who left the Navy with a certificate of the highest class was due to the fact that the regulations with regard to this matter were extremely strict. With regard to re-engagement, the hon. Gentleman seemed to think that the figures upon that point were not favourable, but he would point out that of every 100 seamen win, completed their first engagement, 55 per cent. re-engaged at once, and 12 per cent. after more or less short periods on shore, and the Admiralty had no doubt that the percentage would increase year by year. As to the supply of stokers, he could assure the hon. Gentleman that there was no difficulty whatever in obtaining an ample supply of men who in every way satisfied the conditions laid down, and the figures with regard to the re-entry of stokers were even more favourable than those with regard to seamen. Of every 100 stokers who completed their first period of service, 72 per cent. re-engaged at once and 72 per cent after a short period on shore. Therefore there was no reason why the Admiralty should invite the country to go to any further expense, as the pay of the stokers seemed quite sufficient to attract the requisite class of men. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.