Motion made, and Question proposed—
That a sum, not exceeding £795,100, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expense of Works, Buildings, and Repairs at Home and Abroad, including the cost of Superintendence, Purchase of Sites, Grants-in-Aid, and other Charges connected therewith, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day "of March 1900
Motion made, and Question put—
That Item C be reduced by £9,000, in respect of Works at Wei-hai-Wei."—(Mr. Buchanan.)
§ MR. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)
I should like to ask the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty to give us 1142 some information in regard to the proposed expenditure at Wei-hai-Wei. A year ago, when the annexation of Wei-hai-Wei was first announced in the House: of Commons, the First Lord of the Treasury stated that it was impossible for him to make any statement in regard to the expense necessary, owing to our having taken possession of Wei-hai-Wei, but in the course of the Debate on the-very day of the annexation, of Wei-hai-Wei, the noble and gallant Lord the Member for York made a very distinct statement as to what he would like to be done at Wei-hai-Wei. Ho was supporting the action of the Government in taking Wei-hai-Wei, and he stated on that occasion that it was a very good thing that we had taken Wei-hai-Wei, but that it was no good for us to take it unless we determined to make it a naval base; and that it was no use as a naval base unless we placed there a garrison and constructed docks for repairing, the fleet, stores, and other necessary works. Shortly after that we had a discussion in the House as to what were the works, that should be carried out at Wei-hai-Wei, and various opinions were given, expression to both here and elsewhere; but the noble Lord's statement may be-considered as representing the most advanced view as regards the expenditure-on the defences of Wei-hai-Wei. The-other extreme of the pole was represented by the view that any expenditure at Wei-hai-Wei would be so much money wasted, and would be a hindrance to the defence of the Empire rather than a help. Then there was a medium view, which set forth that Wei-hai-Wei should be made a secondary naval base of a mobile character; that we should not spend money in raising permanent fortifications, but only such defences as would be serviceable for the Fleet in time of war. From that time to this we have not heard any statement from a Minister -in authority as to what we actually intended to do. In the China Blue Book issued a few weeks ago there was contained a dispatch written in May last to. Admiral Seymour, in command of the Chinese Station, in which he was asked to send a report home as to the capabilities and capacities of Wei-hai-Wei. He 'was particularly requested to inform the Admiralty, not only as to the capabilities of Wei-hai-Wei as it at present exists, and 'as to the condition of its 1143 defence works, but as to its value as a naval base, and the character of the naval attack against which any provision should be necessary. I should like to know from the First Lord, or the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, what report has been obtained from Admiral Seymour, and what is the nature of his recommendations as to the defence of Wei-hai-Wei, and the amount of money to be spent upon it. When the Motion was made for petting the Speaker out of the Chair on the Navy Estimates, the First Lord of the Admiralty said that a certain sum of money would be asked in his estimate for Wei-hai-Wei. I observe that there is a sum of £9,000 in these Estimates, £4,500 of which is to establish a naval base and £4,500 for dredging. There is also a small sum in the Army Votes for a garrison. This is the first occasion on which the House has been asked to spend money on her new acquisition of Wei-hai-Wei. The First Lord of the Admiralty has told us that we are going to make Wei-hai-Wei a secondary naval base, and to fortify it "sufficiently." I should like to ask the First Lord what sort of a secondary naval base he proposes to establish there, and what he means by "sufficient fortifications." I do not pretend to be a naval? expert, but, as I understand it, a secondary naval base is an expression which embraces a great variety of meanings. It is said, for instance, that Malta and Hong Kong are secondary naval bases; but there are other places on which a very much smaller expenditure of money has been made which also rank as secondary naval bases. Does the First Lord of the Admiralty propose to make Wei-hai-Wei a secondary naval base in the sense that Malta or Hong Kong is a secondary naval base? If he does intend to embark on this expenditure in that sense, then I say this is the beginning of expenditure, not of thousands of pounds but of millions of money, and it is only right and proper that the House should take cognisance of the beginning of such expenditure.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
I am glad that the right honourable Gentleman agrees with that, because we are often told that since we have not objected to the initial 1144 stages of expenditure, we have no right afterwards to object to consequential expenditure. We want to get some information as to what kind of secondary naval base Wei-hai-Wei is to be made. I am further induced to ask this question by the First Lord of the Admiralty's remark that he was going to fortify Wei-hai-Wei "sufficiently." For what purpose are we going to raise fortifications on land, and supply a suitable military garrison there J Are we going to make Wei-hai-Wei a place where our Fleet should lie under the sufficient protection of fortifications on shore? There, again, we would be justified from our experience at Gibraltar and Malta to expect an enormous future expenditure of money. One other observation I wish to make on this subject. This surely is not a very opportune moment for embarking on a large expenditure at Wei-hai-Wei. What was the confessed object under which the Government first took possession of Wei-hai-Wei? It was stated by the First Lord of the Treasury in the House of Commons a year ago that that object was to redress the balance of power in the Gulf of Pechili, and that because Russia had taken Port Arthur we were going to take Wei-hai-Wei. More than that, in the Treaty which we have concluded with China as to the lease of Wei-hai-Wei, it is stated that we take that lease for the same period as Russia takes the lease of Port Arthur. That was an instance of what I have described as the kind of political and diplomatic game that was being played between the British and Russian authorities in China, particularly as regards the Russian control of Manchuria. I do not think it was a very wise policy for our Government to adopt at that time. At present we have had assurances from the Government that they have altered their policy in China, and that they look forward to an agreement with Russia with regard to these matters. It was only two or three weeks ago that the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs told us that the Government are impressed with the extreme desirability of coming to an arrangement with the Russian Government. I hope that a certain understanding may be come to. But if there has been a change of policy in regard to Northern China, and if there is a prospect that this Government and the Russian Government may come to an 1145 agreement on the various outstanding questions between them there, it is not very desirable in the interests of the success of that agreement that we should begin spending large sums of money on regular fortifications at Wei-hai-Wei, and embarking on a species of rivalry with what has been done by Russia across the water at Port Arthur. I have one further observation to make, and it is this: Looking to the enormous naval and military expenditure of the country at this moment, we ought to take immediate notice of the initial steps that are taken to embark on another new scheme of naval rivalry. We have been told over and over again that the large increase in our expenditure has been due to the rivalry between the great Powers in naval armaments. But here we are evidently embarking not only on a scheme of naval armaments, but on a scheme of rivalry in taking possession of and fortifying naval bases and military positions in various parts of the world. Here, again, what was concealed in the breast of the Government was let out by the noble Lord the Member for York when he stated what he considered was the right policy of the Government. He told us in Debate that whenever any Power took possession of any position of advantage we ought to balance that by taking possession of another position. If we are going to embark on a military and naval rivalry of that kind, there is no end to the amount of expenditure that will be incurred. We have had some experience of what took place in the past, when Cyprus was taken possession of. We sent there a large number of troops, and it was said we were going to make of Cyprus a great place of arms. We shortly afterwards discovered the futility of making Cyprus a place of arms, and the futility of the policy of taking possession of that island as a counterpoise to the military position of another Power.
§ * SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
I do not think that I have ever listened to a more absolutely illogical and inconsequential speech than that just made by the honourable Member who has just sat down.
§ * SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
The honourable Member for Northampton has his views; perhaps he will allow me also to have mine on this subject. What is it that the honourable Member for East Aberdeenshire has said? He spoke vaguely about setting up our position at Wei-hai-Wei, and making it a secondary naval base as a mere matter of rivalry with another Power. If the remarks of the honourable Member had any meaning at all, they meant that no Power, great or small, which is ever threatened by the naval or military encroachments of another Power, is to take steps to fortify itself against these encroachments. If he does not mean that, he was simply using words which have no intelligent meaning whatever. The question is, are British interests in the north of China so greatly and so gravely threatened by the recent aggressive movements of Russia in that part of the world as to require counter preparations for defence on our part? No one who looks at the encroachments of Russia in North Eastern Asia can doubt that if ever defensive operations are necessary on the part of this country, such defensive operations are necessary there. No one who realises what the importance of China is, what the value of the trade with China is, and what the potentialities of Chinese commerce are to us, will doubt that it is our duty to safeguard the great British interests in that part of the world. The honourable Member for East Aberdeenshire makes statements as incorrect as his arguments were illogical. He talks about Malta being a secondary naval base. Why, Malta is a great naval arsenal, and one of the most important ports of defence in the line of our communications with India, and China, and Australia—a base possessing three dockyards, a place which is strongly fortified, and the centre of our great naval and military forces in the Mediterranean. To talk of Malta as a secondary naval base, therefore, is most incorrect. Gibraltar is also a position of great importance, and gaining in importance every day. What have the Government done with regard to Wei-hai-Wei? They have erected works there under the best advice of the official advisers of the Board of Admiralty. These experts have declared that Wei-hai-Wei is an excellent position for the purposes for 1147 which it was taken, that it is easily defensible, and that it is a good harbour.
§ * SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
I am going to tell what that purpose is. I have already partly replied to that question in my statement about the importance of Northern China to this country, both from a trade and political point of view. If the honourable Gentleman wishes a further reply, I might go into the encroachments made by Russia on the northern portion of the Chinese Empire. Port Arthur has recently been occupied by force and by fraud of the very strongest character. I use the word fraud deliberately, because no one can read the Blue Books without knowing that Russia has over and over again broken her solemn pledges in regard to Port Arthur. She first of all used her influence as a great Asiatic Power to turn Japan out of Port Arthur on the plea that its possession by a foreign Power was a danger to the independence and integrity of China. No one knew that at that very time Russia contemplated getting possession of Port Arthur for herself. Then, throughout the various stages of the negotiations in regard to Port Arthur, our Government received over and over again assurance from Russia that the Russian fleet was merely at Port Arthur for temporary purposes, and for shelter during the few-weeks of winter.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Mr. Lowther, is this in order, for, if so, it seems to me we shall be allowing a Debate on the whole Chinese and Russian question?
* THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES
I was just going to point out that the honourable Gentleman's remarks were irrevelant on the discussion of the Navy Estimates. But I am bound to say that the honourable Member for Northampton himself brought on this discussion.
§ * SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
The honourable Gentleman challenged me to give a reason for the occupation of Wei-hai-Wei, and his trap was rather ingeniously laid. I do hold that it is impossible to answer the question in regard to Wei-hai-Wei without considering the Russian occupation of Port Arthur. To deal with it in general terms—only 15 months ago Russia distinctly told us that she would 1148 not permanently occupy Port Arthur, but in spite of these assurances, she took possession of Port Arthur, and that breach of faith has rendered the occupation of Wei-hai-Wei necessary. The question is as to whether Wei-hai-Wei is necessary to us as a secondary naval base in dealing with the Russian encroachments in Northern China. I believe that our nearest naval base to the Gulf of Pechili is 1,000 miles or 1,500 distant; and if it be necessary to deal with further attacks by Russia on the independence and integrity of China, we must have a naval base north of Hong-Kong. We must have a place where our Fleet can take shelter, and such a place is Wei-hai-Wei. The honourable Gentleman talks as if it were a mere desire to rival Russia which led the Government to go to Wei-hai-Wei. If the whole of Northern China becomes Russian, or if even the two great northern provinces became Russian, it would be practically impossible for us to defend our interests. For instance, in the great province which borders on the Gulf of Pechili, the province of Chili, which has a population of nearly 20 million people, and in which the capital city of Pekin is situated, we could not effectivelv act without such a base as Wei-hai-Wei. What would happen in the rest of China, what would happen in the Yangtsze Valley if Russia——
* THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES
The honourable Member is not in order. The question is not whether we ought or ought not to have taken Wei-hai-Wei, but it is, having taken it, what are we going to do with it. That is the only question to which the Debate can now be addressed.
§ * SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
That was not the question asked by the honourable Member. He distinctly took exception to the taking of Wei-hai-Wei at all, and talked about our embarking on a course of rivalry with Russia. I was showing that the effective occupation of Wei-hai-Wei is necessary to save the independence and integrity of Northern China. If that argument is ruled out of order, I am not going to press it. I bow to the ruling of the Chair. But while I follow your ruling, Mr. Lowther, I do respectfully protest against it on this occasion. When the question is narrowed down to what forti- 1149 fications are to be erected at Wei-hai-Wei, I hope that subsequent speakers will meet with the same restrictions that I have met.
§ * SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
Is the honourable Gentleman rising to a point of order? The question of the fortification of Wei-hai-Wei will be settled by the expert authorities of the Admiralty, no doubt, in conjunction with the War Office. I hope Wei-hai-Wei will be so fortified as to constitute a useful and effective secondary naval base for our Fleet in the Gulf of Pechili, and which will enable our Fleet to find a harbour of refuge there, and receive supplies in the way of provisions and naval stores. I trust that as- long as the Russian occupation of Port Arthur lasts our effective occupation of Wei-hai-Wei will also last, and that the occupation of this important position will serve the purpose which the Government has in view, namely, of checking the encroachments of Russia in Northern China.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I do not understand the question that has been raised. It seems to me that this is a proposal to have a coal shed at Wei-hai-Wei, to build a pier, and to spend a certain amount of money in dredging.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
The other night when the First Lord of the Admiralty was taking on the Army Votes a Vote for £300 for the garrison at Wei-hai-Wei he suggested that we should take the whole discussion on the Naval Vote, so as not to have a discussion again on the Army Vote. The First Lord of the Admiralty told us that he was going to make Wei-hai-Wei a secondary naval base, and to fortify it "sufficiently."
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
So far as I understand it, this Vote is for a coal shed, and a pier, and a certain amount of money to be spent in dredging. If the First Lord of the Admiralty will say that in granting this money there is no question of the fortification of Wei-hai-Wei involved, and that he does not contemplate during the coming year to commence great fortifications, and that we shall have full opportunity to discuss the question of great fortificattions—then we might allow the Vote to 1150 pass. There would be no particular harm in having a coal shed at Wei-hai-Wei. Of course, they always begin by calling these works coal sheds. What I want to know from the First Lord of the Admiralty is, do we understand, if we agree to this Vote, that we in no way prejudice the question as to the fortification of Wei-hai-Wei, and of making it a secondary naval base for engineering works, dockyards, and works for the equipment of ships and so forth. If so, we may accept this small Vote. But it makes a very great difference whether we are to understand that we are giving a general assent to Wei-hai-Wei being made a great naval base or only giving an assent to the erection of a coal shed there.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR (Forfar)
I may point out that there is further money being spent in the shape of pay for a regiment of Chinese troops now being raised for garrisoning Wei-hai-Wei. When the question of Wei-hai-Wei was raised on the Army Estimates, it was agreed on all sides that it would be advantageous and that we would be at liberty to discuss, not only Wei-hai-Wei as a naval base, but the question also of the fortifications to be raised there.
§ * SIR J. COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
You, Mr. Lowther, have ruled that on this occasion we must not discuss how we came to take Wei-hai-Wei. You very properly say that having got it we may discuss what we are going to do with it. I do not think I should be out of order if I recall the circumstances, so far as concerns the Vote before the House, in its relation to the whole question. I am going to strictly confine myself to the details of the Naval Vote. When it was announced that we had acquired this port of Wei-hai-Wei, we were all anxious to know for what purpose it had been acquired. I put some questions to the First Lord of the Admiralty, and he answered me that it had not been surveyed, so that if you have gat a naval port that had not been surveyed, obviously you could not say what the functions of that naval port were to fulfil until it was surveyed. But, meantime, before the naval survey had even been commenced the War Office proceeded to send out military officers to determine what are to be the land defences.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
The Admiralty and the War Office are acting in conjunction, and in order to lose no time the War Office sent out these military officers to inspect the land defences. There is a perfect union between the Departments of the War Office and the Admiralty.
§ * SIR J. COLOMB
Quite so; they are working in perfect harmony, as I hope and believe the Departments always do. But what I want to emphasise is, that it is true that before the naval survey was completed the War Office were taking action in connection with the land defences, by having dispatched military officers there, even before the surveying ship had left Tasmania. That, I think, is very unsatisfactory. I would point out to the House that, as far as the information before the House goes, the idea of using Wei-hai-Wei as a secondary naval base was an afterthought. It was not at first intended to use that position as a secondary naval base. Wei-hai-Wei was simply taken possession of, and then the question arose what we would do with it. The result of that peculiar system is this, that we have now a Vote to be taken for this port, and we really do not know where we are in discussing this question. You are going to begin works there, and you have got no total estimate for the works. I think we have a right to know. You are compelled now to bring before the House a Vote of £4,500 for establishing a naval depot, and a Vote for £4,500 for dredging, without being in a position to tell the House what is the total amount to be expended at Wei-hai-Wei. Is £4,500 to be the total cost of the naval depÔt? That is my first question. My second is, is £4,500 to be the total cost required for dredging to make this port efficient as a secondary naval base? These are specific questions, and I really think we are entitled to have answers to them before proceeding with the Debate. Here is another point. I thought it was generally acknowledged that if we had to begin our system over again with regard to naval bases, that the whole arrangements in connection with these would be thrown on the Admiralty. By our procedure in conducting Debates of this kind, instead of dealing with the 1152 whole question, we deal first of all with the question of naval works, and by and bye you will have to deal on another Vote altogether, with the military aspects of the question. What I want to know is whether this dredging work is on account of the necessities of the harbour of Wei-hai-Wei pure and simple, or whether it is as a result also of any communications from the War Office on the report of military officers that the dredging of certain portions of the harbour is necessary to suit the land defences. I want to know from the First Lord of the Admiralty if the War Office is going to establish a, military depot there. I have ventured to point out to the House on more than one occasion, and so has the right honourable Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, the great loss of money which takes place by the duplication of the staff in this way. On the one hand, you have got the Admiralty spending money with an independent staff entirely to that of the War Office. Of course, I cannot discuss the personnel of this matter because we are not upon it, but I do point out to the House that you now have an opportunity of establishing a cheaper system, and I should like some indication from the First Lord of the Admiralty whether that matter has been fully considered by him. My point is this—that if you are going to have a naval base at this port it would be a great deal more economical to deal with the necessities of the place as a whole, and whatever accommodation depots may be necessary, the building of them should be done to accommodate both Service's, if you will insist upon leaving the arrangements in the hands of both the Army and Navy authorities. Under the head of Singapore you will see that there is a charge to be taken on this Vote for an able ordnance store accommodation, and in the foot-note you will see that the War Office is to pay part of it and the Admiralty is to pay the other part. Therefore, you are going to continue the system of having two Departments dealing with one small place at a remote part of the world, and we have a duplication of staff which I do not think is at all necessary or satisfactory. I trust that the First Lord will give us a full explanation of what we are to take as the full meaning of this proposal. Is this the beginning of an unknown ex- 1153 penditure? Is this the total sum which is required to establish this naval depot I If it is nut, why is there not an Estimate in the usual column? I hope the First Lord of the Admiralty will give us full information as to what this proposal means, why it is being undertaken, and what the ultimate extent of it will be.
§ LORD C. BERESFORD (York)
As I have very lately been to Wei-hai-Wei, perhaps the Committee would like to hear my views upon it as a naval officer. I think that it is as good a naval base as we could have anywhere—that is to say, if it is made into a proper and efficient naval base. I mean that the capabilities of the harbour are excellent. It is about the best deep water harbour in the whole of China, and it is the only harbour, with the exception of Hong Kong, where a battleship can lie close to the shore. It does not want a, large expenditure of money to make it perfectly efficient. The embasements which the Japanese left there are in good order. There are three forts on the island, and one more fort ought to be placed there to make it thoroughly efficient. There is a fort near the west entrance on the mainland which should have guns put into it, and then it would be an excellent place to prevent raids by cruisers, or any other hostile action. It is an infinitely better place than Kiao-chau, which will require a, very large expenditure of money to make it an efficient naval base at all. The honourable Member for Aberdeenshire has raised some very important questions with regard to Wei-hai-Wei, and he wanted to know what the expenditure would be in the future. I rather sympathise with him on that point, but I think that when you do a thing at all you should do it thoroughly. My own view is that Wei-hai-Wei will not require a very large sum of money spent upon it to put it in order. It will require dredging, and the Admiralty, in their wisdom, have already taken steps in that direction. It has been surveyed, and I hope the Admiralty will elect that it shall be a naval base on the lines suggested by the honourable Member for Yarmouth, which will be much cheaper, and that is, to make it essentially a naval base without having the military there at all. In these days, 1154 naval bases are very much more important than they were in the old sailing ship days. In those days men-o'-war were self-supporting; they carried their own spare spars, and enough timber to patch up the sides, and extra canvas to make sails. But in these days if a ship gees into action and survives at all, if she is damaged, she must go back to the naval base for repairs, and your naval base should be thoroughly efficient to enable such repairs to be executed as quickly as possible. You are also very dependent upon coal supplies and engine-room and other stores, which are very important, for fresh stores are absolutely essential to enable ships to fight, and accommodation of this kind should also be provided at Wei-hai-Wei. The Admiralty, in my opinion, were very wise in taking Wei-hai-Wei. I was reminded just now by the honourable Member opposite that I had stated that if other countries took up a position of naval advantage in China we should do the same. I would remind the Committee that we live and exist by the superior strength of our Fleet, and that our nearest naval base is many hundreds of miles away from Port Arthur. During the time I was out there I tried to get to Port Arthur. The Russians invited me to go to Port Arthur, and offered me a ship, but some difficulty was raised at home, and, as I did not want to create any difficulties that might occur if I went. I did not go. I was sorry that I did not go there, because I got on remarkably well with the Russians in China, and no doubt I should have been allowed to see as much as I was allowed to see in other places, and perhaps a little more. Now, Port Arthur is only 85 miles from Wei-hai-Wei, and that is not a very great distance for a torpedo-boat or catcher to go; therefore, we certainly should put Wei-hai-Wei into such order as a naval base proper ought to be put into. The First Lord of the Admiralty has distinctly stated that Wei-hai-Wei is to be a secondary naval base. I do not think that the Government would be wise to incur a very large expenditure of money upon Wei-hai-Wei, but I think they would be very wise— in fact it is their duty—to put the place in the position of a strong naval base by building the stores which are necessary, and we ought to have sufficient 1155 guns mounted which are requisite in order to defend it. There are no guns mounted at Wei-hai-Wei at present. On the other hand, when I was in that part of the world, I ascertained that at Port Arthur the Russians have already mounted 71 guns. I do not know what they are mounted there for, but, as they are mounted, I think we ought to mount guns at Wei-hai-Wei. As regards stores, there is an. excellent coal store there now, and I hope the Admiralty are going to increase it. There are capital barracks on the mainland, which the Japanese left, and which I hope we shall soon occupy, and I trust that we shall begin to drill some troops there in order to efficiently garrison that part of the country. I do not think that I can inform the Committee any more about Wei-hai-Wei, except to say that I think the Government did their duty when they took it over, and I hope that they will still further do their duty by making it a thoroughly efficient secondary naval base. I do sympathise with the view expressed by honourable Members on both sides of the House that an Estimate should be made out as to what the total expenditure' will be altogether for placing Wei-hai-Wei in the position which every naval officer would like to see it placed in.
* SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
I am sure that we are all glad to see my honourable and gallant Friend back again in his place, and to hear his voice once more in this House. For my part, however, I may say that, if we were rather in the dark before as to what is going to be done with Wei-hai-Wei, or what in the future we should wish to be dene, we are not very much more enlightened after his speech. The honourable and gallant Member told us that Wei-hai-Wei was a very good naval base, or rather that it would be when it was made into one. He went on to say what in his opinion was necessary, and he practically said that whatever the Russians did at Port Arthur we must follow by doing the same thing at Wei-hai-Wei.
* SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
Well, at all events, he said that the Russians have mounted guns of a certain calibre at Port Arthur, and that therefore we should do the same thing at. Wei-hai-Wei. I will not pursue that point any further, but I think that the Committee are under a debt of gratitude to my honourable Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire for having put some very pertinent questions, in a very lucid way, to the Government. It is not necessary for me to repeat those questions, but I wish to call the attention of the Committee to the fact that the reason why those questions are asked is that we have before us at the present time no precise information whatever in regard to expenditure at Wei-hai-Wei beyond the fact that we are asked to vote £4,500 for a naval depot and £4,500 for dredging purposes. My honourable and gallant Friend the Member for Yarmouth called the attention of the Committee to the fact that under the column set apart for the total Estimates for works which are likely to cost more than the actual sum voted within the financial year no sum is put down whatever. The question naturally arises, are we to conclude, as usual, from that fact, that the column is left a blank because this £4,500 proposed to be spent is a final expenditure, or are we not? That is the first question. I confess that I am not very sanguine about this, because I see that the expenditure is under the head of sub-head C, "Dockyards abroad." Now the word "dockyard" is used in connection with Wei-hai-Wei. That, I think, has not been pointed out to the Committee yet, and I should like the honourable Gentleman, in his reply, to inform the Committee how far it is really intended to make anything like a dockyard at Wei-hai-Wei. Then there is the passage already quoted from the First Lord's speech, and that has naturally given rise to some exalted ideas as to the amount of expenditure which it is intended to incur at Wei-hai-Wei; and there are words in his statement in which he says that we are to begin the establishment of a naval depot. Upon this question we want some definite and precise information of which the House is not yet in possession. I would remind the Committee—although we cannot go into this subject now—of a very large expenditure which is being 1157 commenced at Hong Kong, and an expenditure which is absolutely necessary, either at Hong Kong or on the mainland at Kowloon, in view of the requirements in the Far East. I wish to ask, in this connection, for some definite information from the Government as to the time when it is intended to introduce the New Naval Works Bill. It may seem strange that upon this Vote, which used to be a very important Vote, my honourable Friend and myself and other Members of the late Government have no other questions to ask. But the really great and important questions in connection with naval works arise not on this Vote, but on the Bill, and, therefore, I should like to know when shall we have an opportunity of discussing it, and shall we have an adequate opportunity of doing so?
§ THE CIVIL LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN, Worcestershire, E.)
In reply to the question which the light honourable Gentleman has put to me, I am afraid that I am not prepared at present to say when the New Naval Works Bill will be introduced, but I think it will be obvious to the right honourable Gentleman that there must be adequate opportunity afforded for the discussion of a Bill of such importance; and certainly, as far as the Government are concerned, we have no desire to shirk any examination of what has been done, or any criticism of what we have done under the Bill. I think the time has come when I should make some statement— I hope it may be a short and clear one —as to what are the intentions of the Government with regard to the works to be executed by the Admiralty at Wei-hai-Wei. We certainly do not regret that the honourable Member for Aberdeenshire has brought this subject before the Committee, or the inquiries that have been made upon the question. I understand you, Mr. Lowther, to rule that we are not now to discuss whether the Government ought to have taken Wei-hai-Wei or not, but only that having got Wei-hai-Wei, what use we are going to make of it. Therefore. I will not attempt to traverse all the previous speeches, and I will not enter into any long exposition of what I believe to be the merits of Wei-hai-Wei as a naval station. I shall be satisfied 1158 by saying that I entirely agree with what my noble Friend the honourable and gallant Member for York has said about the natural capabilities of Wei-hai-Wei for that purpose, and I think I shall be able to show the Committee that the course which the Admiralty intend to pursue will take advantage of those natural capabilities. My right honourable Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, as the Committee has been reminded, has already informed the Committee that we intend to begin with the establishment of a naval depot at Wei-hai-Wei, and to make it a secondary naval base. The honourable Member for Aberdeenshire inquired as to what is contemplated by the phrase "a secondary naval base." He also asked if we intended to do at Wei-hai-Wei what we have already done at Malta; or whether we intended to do at Wei-hai-Wei everything which the Russian Government might think fit to do at Port Arthur. Now, Sir, the works which are to be undertaken at Wei-hai-Wei will be decided solely with reference to the conditions of that place itself, and with reference to the use which we intend to make of it, and not by comparisons of the kind which the honourable Member has suggested. Nor is it contemplated by the Admiralty to establish at Wei-hai-Wei a dockyard of anything like the capacity of the dockyard which now exists in the Mediterranean at Malta. The right honourable Gentleman thought he saw some peculiar significance in the fact that this item appears under the heading of "Dockyards abroad." But "Dockyards abroad" has always been used to cover all the naval depots which were in our hands. The idea which we have in regard to Wei-hai-Wei is that it should be for the Chinese station something like what Gibraltar was, before the present great extension, for the Mediterranean station; that it should occupy the same kind of relationship to Hong-Kong that Gibraltar before its large extension occupied to Malta. We accordingly propose to proceed with the establishment of a coal station and store houses for a portion of the stores of the squadron in Chinese waters, with magazines for a portion of their reserve stores of ammunition, and we propose to have a stock of coal there with facilities for landing and for shipping coal. We also pro- 1159 pose to improve the anchorage, which is already a very good one, for the future by means of gradually dredging out the shallower part's to a greater depth. There is one other connection in which Wei-hai-Wei will be, I believe, of very considerable use to the Fleet in Chinese waters. Wei-hai-Wei has the advantage of being by far the healthiest station we possess in that part of the world, and we accordingly propose to establish a naval 'hospital at Wei-hai-Wei for the treatment of invalids from the Fleet. I think that what I have said will have been sufficient to show the Committee that whilst we are going to make a commencement with the money we have received this year, the funds which the House is now asked to provide are not sufficient to cover the whole cost of the works contemplated by the Admiralty at Wei-hai-Wei. We propose to proceed by degrees, and we have taken in the present year's Estimates such an amount of money as we thought we should be able to spend within the year. My honourable and gallant Friend the Member for Yarmouth made a complaint that we had come to the Committee to ask for a Vote of money before we have given any total estimate of the cost of the proposed works. Now I think that my honourable and gallant Friend will see that, having been so short a time in possession of Wei-hai-Wei, and having had to frame these Estimates even before we had in our possession as much information as we have now, it would not have been possible—and it would not be possible even now —to give the Committee an accurate estimate of the cost of the works to which I have already referred. We have had before us the reports from the commander-in-chief about which the honourable Member for Aberdeenshire inquired, as to the capabilities of Wei-hai-Wei, and as to what he would recommend should be done there. We have had the Report of a civil engineer whom we sent out, and we have had also the advantage of receiving the Reports made by the military officers sent out by the War Office. In connection with that matter my honourable and gallant Friend the Member for Yarmouth is under some misapprehension, for he seems to think that the War Office have endeavoured to steal a march upon the Admiralty, and that even before the 1160 Admiralty's surveying ship could reach Wei-hai-Wei the military officers of the War Office had arrived there.
§ * SIR J. COLOMB
My honourable Friend is misquoting me. My point is that you had two sets of officials making separate inquiries without any common instruction from the central authority.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
If that was my honourable and gallant Friend's point, then he is labouring under a great misapprehension. As a matter of fact, the officers sent out by the War Office and the representatives of the Admiralty acted in common under instructions agreed upon between the Admiralty and the War Office, which were sanctioned by the Government, and there has been from the very beginning to the end of the inquiry the fullest agreement between the two Departments as to the objects and as to the methods they have proceeded upon between the two offices concerned. There has been no competition whatever between these two Departments; there has been no such thing as doing the work twice over where once would have been sufficient, for the War Office inquiries have completed and supplemented our own, just as ours have completed and supplemented those of the War Office. I think there were very good reasons for having both the Army and the Navy represented in an inquiry of this kind, and I do not think it is necessary for me to say anything more about it. The honourable Member for Aberdeenshire and the honourable and gallant Member for Yarmouth inquired as to the garrison and fortifications at Wei-hai-Wei. We have, at the present time, a small garrison of marines temporarily stationed at Wei-hai-Wei, but it is intended that as soon as possible the War Office should take over the land defences of Wei-hai-Wei and relieve the Marines who are now stationed there; and that being so the War Office would also be responsible, as they are in other places, for the fortifications and the guns on shore at Wei-hai-Wei. My honourable Friend wanted to know by whom the dredging operations which are now in hand had been directed. They are being carried out under the directions and guidance of the Commander-in-Chief subject to 1161 directions which have been dispatched to him from home. It is intended to proceed by degrees with the deepening of the shallower portions of the present anchorage, and I think there is sufficient work to be done in that respect to last considerably beyond this year unless we send out more than one dredger. I think that is the only point I have to odd in order to make the position of the Admiralty clear upon the matter. I may say that we have at the instance of the Commander-in-Chief authorised him to purchase, and he has purchased, certain land in the neighbourhood of the old Chinese naval depot for the use of the Admiralty shore establishment. The money for that purpose was obtained out of last year's Tote with the sanction of the Treasury, and we are, therefore, in the possession of a compact naval establishment, including not only the piece of land devoted to that purpose by the Chinese when they were in occupation of it, but also of a further piece of land which our officers on the spot considered would be necessary at the time of such extension, as I have already indicated to the Committee would probably be required in the future. These are the proposals indicated in this Vote, and which will be proceeded with gradually in the course of this year. I hope that by next year it will be possible to put the Committee in possession of a full and complete estimate for the whole cost of the works. But in providing, in the meantime, for what is possibly sufficient to carry on the work during the present year, we are acting strictly in accordance with precedent, and with what has been done in other places of a similar character.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON (Dundee)
I do not think that exception can be taken to the amount for works at Wei-hai-Wei, which have been explained to the House. I conclude that that is all that is intended.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
My right honourable Friend reminds me that I did not specifically mention that there would be small workshops where the artificers of the fleet can make small repairs, similar to those which are at Gibraltar. There will be no docks.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
I quite understand. That being so, I do not know that there is much left of interest in this item except the financial procedure, which appears to me to be somewhat unusual. My right honourable Friend and other honourable Members called attention to the fact that, contrary to the usual practice, no amount appears in column 10 for the purpose. That explanation is, that when the Estimates were drawn, those responsible' for them had not the information before them which was required to fill in this amount. In our time, at all events, the procedure has been this with regard to the relations of the Treasury and military works: The Treasury always objected to the Admiralty dealing with any new works of magnitude—that means works which cost more than £1,000—until the Vote had passed this House. That is the only reason given for Vote JO being taken as early as possible, because there are always new works of magnitude to be done as early as possible. I understand from the right honourable Gentleman that part of this work has already been begun. I think I am entitled to refer to the First Lord's own statement—that both the dredging and the other work have already been done. If that be so, it is contrary to the Treasury rule, which we understand to be the invariable rule.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Such expenditure as we have already incurred was expenditure of an urgent nature, and only undertaken with the special sanction of the Treasury. As the honourable Gentleman no doubt knows, the Treasury give their consent very reluctantly to expenditure which is not sanctioned by Parliament, and only in very urgent cases. We have spent money besides the purchase of land, upon a marine barracks, for the accommodation of a marine garrison, and for dredging. There has been nothing else.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
I do not know whether the Committee understands that that was, and still is, the Treasury rule. I should be inclined to think that the stringency of that rule has been relaxed in recent times, because Vote 10 is especially put forward early, in order that matters which are urgent can be dealt with. 1163 But the Treasury last year apparently gave consent to works of larger magnitude than they had previously. It seems rather inconsistent that they should require an Estimate of £1,000 to be passed by Parliament, while they allow millions to be spent before the Estimates are laid before the House. I am glad to know that the First Lord has assented, and I recognise that the work is necessary. There is only one question which I should like to know about. We are quite in the dark as to the total expenditure contemplated in the programme which the right honourable Gentleman has announced to-day. I do not oppose it in the least, but it does occur to me to be possible that some of the new works required at Wei-hai-Wei may be required before the Appropriation Bill. I do not know whether that is so or not.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
If that be so, then the honourable Gentleman has satisfied all the questions I had to put, and I have nothing further to ask.
§ MR. GIBSON BOWLES (King's Lynn)
The statement, Sir, of the Junior Lord of the Admiralty has somewhat disappointed me, because it has left us without any information whatever as to the nature of the establishment to be made at Wei-hai-Wei. The First Lord of the Admiralty told us that he was going to make it a secondary naval base, and that it is to be fortified against raids. That being so, it becomes of the greatest importance and of the greatest interest to know what the fortifications against raids are to be, and—what will be a most interesting question with regard to Wei-hai-Wei is this—how far our fortifications are to extend. In other words, what sort of a base are you going to make? Are you going to make in secondary base, or what I might call a primary base? Or, in two words, are you going to make a place where our ships are going to be defended by soldiers, or a place where the soldiers are going to be defended by ships? That is the question which lies at the root of our treatment of Wei-hai-Wei, as I am sure the right honourable Gentle- 1164 man will acknowledge. Upon that point I am sorry to say we have no information whatever. He has dealt with the matter as though it were improving the harbour communications at Sheerness, or some such place as that. All that he has told us is that there are to be coal houses and store houses and some dredging, but as to the military works that are going to be there and the strategical considerations which have guided the Admiralty he ha3 said nothing, nor has he said in what way Wei-hai-Wei is going to be used. Are we going to use it as a naval station? I thought we should have begun this discussion with the advantage of having some information as to the manner in which it was going to be dealt with, and the means by which the idea was going to be carried out. But before going into the matter, might I make a remark upon one statement which the Junior Lord of the Admiralty made? The right honourable Gentleman said it was proposed that Wei-hai-Wei should be for China what Gibraltar is for the Mediterranean. That is to say, as it was before it was altered. But the conditions are so entirely different that I cannot conceive any strategist comparing the two. The whole advantage of the situation of Gibraltar is that it lies between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I did not use the illustration in regard to any strategical considerations. I used it merely to give an illustration of the shore works at Wei-hai-Wei. It was with regard to the buildings which it is proposed to put on shore that I used that illustration.
§ MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I quite understand what the Junior Lord of the Admiralty meant to convey, but that does not get rid of my criticism, because I wished to point out that the treatment of Gibraltar in its own situation may have been properly applicable there, and not applicable to Wei-hai-Wei. Gibraltar is on the middle line of communication. Wei-hai-Wei is at the end of the line of communication, and there is an enormous difference between the two, and they require an entirely different treatment one to the other. I quite understand that the illustration 1165 was given as to the importance of the works that are to be carried out at Wei-hai-Wei, but what I wished to point out is, that what would be applicable at Gibraltar would not necessarily be applicable at Wei-hai-Wei, and upon that I hope I may be allowed to quote the views of a naval expert. Sir, first of all it is pointed out by Vice-Admiral Hamilton, under date of 1st June 1896, with regard to the proposal that we should occupy Port Hamilton, unless the naval establishment was on such a basis that it could protect itself in the absence of the ships, the tendency would be to cut up the squadron, and expose it to the danger of being attacked in detail, and he says: "It is no use having such a position and thinking it will not be a costly one." That is the first principle I lay down with regard to Wei-hai-Wei. Wei-hai-Wei occupies, with regard to the rest of our stations, very much the situation of Port Hamilton in point of distance; I do not say it is of no other or different strategical value, but as regards the main body of the Fleet that is the position.
§ MR. GIBSON BOWLES
If, of course, the honourable Member for Sheffield will deduce some argument from Sheffield, or out of his own experience, to show that it is not so, the Committee, I am sure, will be charmed to hear him; but in the meantime I may be allowed to attach some importance to the opinion of Vice-Admiral Hamilton. Another point that the vice-admiral dealt with, also in regard to Port Hamilton, was the protection of our commerce by the Navy, and he pointed out that that could not be done if the Navy was compelled to guard its own base. There is another most important suggestion, that is to say, if you are to have a naval base it must be such a one as shall give protection to the ships, and to give confidence to them that they shall go to sea and do their proper work and be able to return to their base. The question we have to settle as to Wei-hai-Wei is this: Is this to be a base so strongly defended that our ships will always find 1166 security there, and which will be able to maintain itself when they are not there? Or will it be dependent upon the ships for its protection? It is a most important matter, and, so far as I can see, we have had no information as to that. Wei-hai-Wei is entirely commanded, or nearly so, by the surrounding land; on that land there are a number of forts, which fell into the possession of the Japanese during the war between them and China, while the Chinese squadron was in the anchorage. The consequence of those forts falling into the hands of the Japanese, coupled with the fact that they had a squadron outside, was the complete destruction of the Chinese squadron in the harbour, and the most reliable map that I have seen is marked with the wrecks of four ironclads. Now, that is a great warning to us. I believe you must have the forts on the land surrounding the anchorage manned by a strong garrison. If you have not, there must be a strong force on the anchorage, and I think you will require at least 15,000 men, in order to put the place in such a condition that it will be able to protect itself in the absence of the Fleet; and if you have not 10,000 or 15,000 men there you will find that you are exposed to very considerable danger. Now, I want to know is that the object of the War Office? I quite agree that the War Office will be charged with the land forces, whether the land defences are in the way of naval or military works. I believe that is the arrangement; but if the soldiers are there at all, they are there as an aid to the Navy, and the question is what soldiers-are there to be? That is a question entirely for the Navy. Now, I want to remind the First Lord of the Admiralty of what ho knows, no doubt, far better than I do, and has thought over far more than I have, and that is that Wei-hai-Wei is in a most peculiar situation. It is at the end of a long line of communication on the other side of the world, it is at a great distance from our coaling stations and ports, and it is very close to a possible enemy, whom we may have to meet. These are very serious facts, and they suggest to me that Wei-hai-Wei instead of being treated as a secondary naval station, requires to be made into one of the most important naval stations that we have, because it is more distant and isolated and far away from 1167 succour from home than any one of our other naval bases. I do not know what other sort of development it is proposed to give to Wei-hai-Wei. Of course, we understand that we are not to be allowed to drive a railway into the interior at all, but to be isolated from the interior. But with regard to the position of a naval station, it does certainly seem to me that unless Wei-hai-Wei is strongly fortified and occupied by a strong garrison it may be subject to the same criticism which was made by the vice-admiral with regard to Port Hamilton. Malta has been referred to, but Malta, strong as it is, must depend in the last resource upon the aid of the ships of the Fleet. When it has been in the past destitute of ships, it has fallen into the hands of the enemy; it fell into the hands of France, and when the ships came home it turned them out. Is Wei-hai-Wei to be merely a secondary naval station, or is it to be left in such a position as will enable it to stand its ground. If it is not in a position to resist any attack, then it will be very dangerous to us, because it is at the extreme end of a long line of communication, and it will be a great source of weakness, as it will be at the mercy of any bold attacking squadron.
§ * SIR C. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
I should like to ask one or two questions of the First Lord before he comes to speak upon this question. The harbour of Wei-hai-Wei has three entrances; one is very narrow and two are very wide indeed. In the whole entrance there are nearly four miles of water to protect. This is situated 85 miles, as the Civil Lord has said, from Port Arthur, which it is supposed to balance, and from which it is supposed it may be attacked. It is now the policy of the Admiralty to defend the entrances to all our harbours and anchorages by very costly defences, in the nature of breakwaters or bars and booms against the night attack of torpedo boats. But this harbour cannot be defended in such a way, as the Admiralty now admit, without great cost, because this place is only 80 miles away from the point of possible attack. Do the Admiralty say that Wei-hai-Wei will be safe as a naval base with an anchorage, with an entrance four miles wide, undefended against torpedo attack 1168 in the way found necessary for other harbours at a similar distance from a possible attack? The other question which I wish to ask is with reference to the supposed balance of strength between this new base and the Russian base at Port Arthur, and it raises a rather important question, which has twice been raised before. When this port was first occupied the Duke of Devonshire stated in another place that the Government's policy was to offer the use of this base to the Chinese fleet, and in the correspondence it appears that the Chinese made a stipulation to that effect, which was granted. The Duke of Devonshire made out that that would support our policy of occupation, if we brought about such an understanding between ourselves and the Chinese. Is that policy of offering the use of Wei-hai-Wei to the Chinese to be continued? There is the fact that at Port Arthur there is a large dock, ready and in actual use. There is a basin in addition to the dock. This station of ours has nothing of the kind, and they cannot be made without great expenditure is incurred, and we shall also have to make this place secure against torpedo attack at night. We understand from the dispatches laid before the House that the Russians have offered the use of Port Arthur to the Chinese fleet in the same way, with the condition that the superior officers—who are Europeans—of the ships which go in there must be Russian. I think this is a proper moment to be informed by the Government whether that policy is still in the mind of the Government, and whether, without dock or basin, there is much probability that we shall be able to make Wei-hai-Wei a base for the Chinese fleet?
* ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
I only want to say one word in reply to the honourable Member for King's Lynn, who quoted Admiral Vesey Hamilton, and he might, I think, have continued his quotation a little further with regard to Wei-hai-Wei. He laid it down directly the Government had taken possession of it that Wei-hai-Wei was an admirable secondary base, because it was nearest to our objective.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
Upon a point of order, Sir, I have put down a Motion to reduce this Vote, and, with your leave, 1169 I had better move it before the honourable and gallant Member makes his observations.
* THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES
I will put the Question when the gallant Admiral has concluded his remarks.
* ADMIRAL FIELD
If there are defects in the fortifications the noble Lord the Member for York has done signal service in pointing out what those defects are. I understand from this personal visit of his that all we want is one more fort at the western and one more at the eastern entrance. These are matters, however, for experts, and I understand that a Royal Engineer has been sent out there by the Government to act in concert with the naval authorities, and that his Report is in the hands of the authorities, so I leave the matter in the hands of the Admiralty. Now, I want to say one or two words on another matter. I find I am debarred from attending to the points connected with Gibraltar, because they will be attended to in the naval works, but I want to ask a question or two of the Civil Lord, who has, I think, charge of this Vote. I notice in the Works Vote 125 there are items as to rifle ranges, and I hope some assurance will be given upon that point. It has already been too long delayed. Then there is another point under the head of rifle ranges, to which I desire to refer. I do not see any allusion, except in the First Lord's Memorandum, to the promised rifle range at Plymouth for the Marines. Here, I must call the attention of the Committee to the statement of the First Lord in his Memorandum. He said, "There are rifle ranges at all divisions except Plymouth." At Plymouth there is still no range. That is what I complain of. Now, I want to call the attention of the Committee to what the right honourable Gentleman said last year in his Memorandum—The question of acquiring the necessary land for the Plymouth ranges is now under the consideration of the War Office, and meanwhile the Marines of the Plymouth Division are still carrying out their firing at the Army ranges at Browndown.Well, that is not a pleasant state of affairs, and I would suggest to the First Lord who, I know, is as anxious as I am to get this matter settled, to exercise 1170 such influence as he may possess to impress upon the War Office the importance of getting this matter expeditiously and satisfactorily dealt with. It seems to me extraordinary to go on spending a very large sum of money in taking the men of the Plymouth Division to Gosport and then back again, when a range ought to be provided at Plymouth itself. Now, Sir, I also wish to ask another question of some importance. I drew attention to it last year, and we had some encouraging assurances. I allude to the question of providing grants-in-aid in respect of works in which naval interests are concerned. I am glad to see that Vote down. I should be very glad if my honourable Friend the Civil Lord of the Admiralty could give me an assurance that would encourage the hope that he will include the grant which I asked him to give in support of the Harbour Board who have made such an admirable dock at Auckland. Naval men are all agreed that that dock is a most useful addition to naval facilities, and I believe the Harbour Board some time since sent a deputation to say that they were very anxious to get recognition in order that the necessary works at the dock might be satisfactorily completed. Looking at the Vote as a whole, I think it shows that the Admiralty have had most admirable expert advice on all points. There does not seem to be a single dockyard, small or large, that does not come-within the purview of this Vote. There is another point in connection with the various supplementary works, namely, the subject of magazines. It is a very large question, but I do not wish to trespass upon the attention of the Committee beyond pressing earnestly and strongly on the First Lord that this matter may not be lightly taken in hand. I know there are rumours that the Admiralty or the War Office contemplate some important changes, but I hope experience will cause them to hesitate before they undertake any work of that kind. With the memory of the Toulon explosion in mind, and with the storage of new explosives of which we have had little experience, I hope there will be some assurance from the right honourable Gentleman on the subject. These are all matters of very great importance, and I am quite satisfied that the right honourable Gentleman will give us some assurance with regard to them.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
I beg to move the reduction of the Vote by £9,000 in respect of the works at Wei-hai-Wei.
§ MR. ALLAN (Gateshead)
Mr. Lowther, I am not at all satisfied with the entry in the Estimates of this £9,000. In the first place, I think the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty would have been well advised to have given the Committee an idea of what he meant by making Wei-hai-Wei a secondary naval base. What is a secondary naval base? My contention is that the phrase is misleading. You may make Wei-hai-Wei a coaling station, but you cannot make it a secondary base. It must either be one thing or nothing. You are far away from Hong Kong, with all its equipment in the event of war, and where are you going to be with a secondary naval base? I repeat the term is misleading. The honourable Gentleman the Civil Lord of the Admiralty spoke of it as being for small repairs. What do you mean by small repairs'? Does this include making good such damages as a ship may sustain in action? Wei-hai-Wei ought to be made cither a first-class naval base or nothing at all. If you only make it a secondary base, it is not worth fortifying Then there is the item of £4,500 to make a naval depot. I should like to know the items that that £4,500 represents. There is also another point in connection with these Estimates to which I should like to draw the attention of the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty. In going over these papers I found a great lack of information——
* THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES
Order, order! A motion having been made to reduce a certain item, the Debate must be confined to that item.
§ MR. ALLAN
I beg your pardon. If I must confine myself to Wei-hai-Wei I would press the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty to give us a complete statement of the whole of the expenditure that will be required at Wei-hai-Wei. I do not agree with the statement that has been made in respect of the proposed expenditure, but having got the place we must make the best of it, and it is for that reason that I venture to make a suggestion to 1172 the right honourable Gentleman that the Admiralty should submit an estimate for a first-class naval base, including, besides a coal depot, machine shops and appliances, graving docks, and the means for overhauling vessels.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR (Forfar)
I agree with the honourable Member who has just spoken that it would be more satisfactory if the Committee had more information as to the intentions of the Government in developing their new position, but not having that full information we can hardly complain of the Department proceeding cautiously and not spending a large sum on these first Votes. But my point, Sir, in rising is in very brief words to draw attention to one omission in the statement which I hope the First Lord will be able to supply. He has not referred to the £21,000 to be spent upon a Chinese garrison. It was agreed that on this occasion we should be able to discuss as one question all the Votes of money spent upon this new station, and it is therefore obvious that while £9,000 is an important sum, £21,000 is a more important sum. No stranger listening to the Debate, however, would be able to gather that there was any more money being spent in connection with this station than the £9.000, or that it was in contemplation to place a garrison there.
* THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES
Order, order! That cannot be discussed on this Vote, because the Committee has already assented to it on the Army Estimates.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR
Quite so; but I think it is within the recollection of the House that on the Army Vote it was arranged that discussion on the money spent on Wei-hai-Wei could more properly be gone into on this occasion. I remember that being pointed out before the Easter Recess, and various arrangements were made as to the time at which the Vote on the Navy Estimates would come before the Committee so as to admit of that discussion.
* THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES
May I point out to the honourable Member that I was not in the Chair at the time? It is, however, impossible for the subject to be further proceeded with at this particular stage.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR
I do not wish in the least to depart from your ruling. But at the same time I regret that, because no one can for a monent contend that the military garrison has nothing to do with the fortifications of Wei-hai-Wei, the subject we are now discussing. I would, however, appeal to the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury that he will, in the statement which I believe he is going to make presently, not leave out of sight anything that will enable us to see what part the Chinese Regiment is to play in the fortification of this place, and what provision will be made for the station in the Army Estimates.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Stafford, Lichfield)
There are two or three objections which I have to this Vote. In the first place, I think it a most inconvenient matter to take the Vote in the dark. We have absolutely no reason to hope that this Vote will not be increased year by year, and come eventually to an enormous sum. A primary base means a large expenditure. It is true that this is apparently a small item. The real item, however, is the enormous amount of money that will have to be spent to make Wei-hai-Wei as a fort of any use to us. This is the beginning of the expenditure. Only the small sum of £9,000 is on the paper, but it may be £9,000,000 before we have done with it. I think it is our duty, therefore, to protest against the enormous expenditure we are going to lavish on this place. Moreover, our Army and Navy are already so strained in coaling existing stations that the new position will be a weakness to us instead of a strength, and I hope this Vote will receive a considerable amount of opposition. Now, as to the value of the place. The Government have found a supporter in the noble Lord the Member for York who said that these naval stations were most useful, and indeed absolutely necessary, and pointed out that the use of them was that when a ship went into action she would have a naval base to go back to when required. He also said that it was absolutely necessary to have a dock. But that is exactly the thing which is not going to be provided. Wei-hai-Wei is going to be a place without a dock, and, therefore, it will be a naval base in that sense of the word. Another ex- 1174 pert, my honourable Friend the Member for Gateshead (Mr. Allan), said that it would be absolutely useless as a secondary base, and I believe that is a pretty correct statement. We have had the evidence of two experts, but I think there are several other honourable Members, with great knowledge of naval matters, who would bear me out in the view that if this place is to be of any use at all a great deal more will have to be done than has been suggested. The profession of the Government is that they are going to spend £9,000 this year to make a useless place useful. I submit it is the duty of the Government to stop while they can, and I therefore protest against the expenditure of even £9,000 so as to prevent spending more money in the future. It seems to me that we are committing ourselves to a large expenditure for a place which is of no use.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
There have been two courses proposed to the Committee. One is that we ought to do a great deal more than we propose, and the other that we ought to do nothing at all. I think I may take the Motion of the honourable Member for Aberdeenshire (Mr. Buchanan) to mean that ho wishes nothing at all to be done at Wei-hai-Wei. I do not know whether that is the personal view of the honourable Member, but it is, I think, the meaning of his Motion. Then the honourable Member for Gateshead (Mr. Allan) presented a vista to the Committee of docks, basins, and breakwaters, which would involve enormous expenditure. That is not the policy of the Government.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
The Government are not proceeding with anything ambitious. They must feel their way-gradually, and act on the information they get from the other side. For instance, as regards a breakwater—a breakwater is a matter of 1175 very great expense, and it would be a question of how far local facilities in the way of labour, stone, and other appliances would render it possible to construct a breakwater at a moderate cost; but the Admiralty do not hold that a breakwater is necessary. The Government maintain that the proper naval strategy in these waters must always be a vigorous offensive. We cannot rely on Wei-hai-Wei in the same sense as, for instance, the Russians do on Port Arthur. It is a secondary naval base in the sense that it is an outlying place where we could have stores of coal and ammunition, and it will have facilities as a station, not only in time of war, but in time of peace, while there will be means of repairing, not perhaps the largest damage, but of putting us in a better position than now, when Hong Kong is the nearest point where we can dock our ships. With regard to the remarks of the honourable Member for King's Lynn, the squadron at Port Hamilton has been largely increased, and the conditions there are totally different from those prevailing at the time when the objections to Port Hamilton existed. If Great Britain were weaker at sea than she is, Wei-hai-Wei would be a danger and not a support. But an outpost of the kind is of great value to those who have the supremacy at sea, and it is from the point of view that we have the supremacy at sea that we should approach what has to be done with reference to Wei-hai-Wei. The station will be a great convenience to the Navy in the time of war and peace, and it is more necessary now than in former years, because our position in China has changed, and the North requires more attention from us than it formerly did. Owing to political events through the establishment of Port Arthur, the attitude of the Chinese, and our interest in commerce in the North, the visits of our ships to the Gulf of Pechili will be more frequent, and in greater numbers than hitherto. Under these circumstances it stands to reason that to have a moderate establishment there, where our ships might coal and supply themselves with ammunition, and a safe and good anchorage, and a salubrious climate, is to have an advantage which we must be glad to possess, and which we should secure by such moderate ex- 1176 penditure as may be necessary. I hope I have made myself clear as to some of the advantages we intend to derive. We do not intend to make Wei-hai-Wei a strongly fortified place to which our ships are to fly in case of need. If I had suggested the uses to which Wei-hai-Wei should be put, I come to the point how far it is necessary to defend the place. We have to defend it up to the point that there should be no surprise, that no raiding ships should be able to take it, that no cruisers should be able to annoy it or to destroy it, or to take the coal we had there; but we do not think it necessary to fortify it to the extent that it would be a protection to our big squadrons, and, above all, we are most anxious it should not be so used, and that it should not tie our Fleet in any way. I would go so far as to say that if in time of war any great operations were in progress, if the Russians, French, Germans, or any possible enemy were to escape with their Squadron or their Fleet from, for instance, Port Arthur, of from any naval bases which they might have, and we were in pursuit, it is intended that Wei-hai-Wei shall be able, in the absence of our Fleet, to hold its own against any small or sudden attack that might be made upon it. Therefore, the word fortification must not be strained. We must have there a certain number of batteries with good guns, but not upon any extensive scale, and we must have a moderate garrison there to fight the guns, and we should require barracks for the troops. But the Committee are aware that there are a considerable number of buildings already to our hand at Wei-hai-Wei which make it much more easy to provide the necessary accommodation. We certainly wish to proceed cautiously with our expenditure, and not to place a great scheme at present before the Committee which might prove to be unnecessary, and which the Government themselves do not desire. We have approached the matter from the moderate side, and not from the more ambitious side. Various plans have been put before us by our naval advisers, and we have come to the conclusion that we must maintain our supremacy in the Gulf of Pechili and in Chinese waters generally by our Fleet, and that Wei-hai-Wei is to be a convenience to us, but not, as I have said, any great protection which is to be 1177 looked to as a refuge for our ships. The very natural criticism has been made that the present Estimates do not show the total cost. We frankly admit that we do not know the total cost; our plans are not sufficiently advanced to enable us to know it. Then what does the Motion of the honourable Member for Aberdeenshire mean? It means delay. What expenditure is going to be incurred! The chief expenditure is for dredging. Wei-hai-Wei was leased to us for 99 years, and it is an anchorage which has been employed already, an anchorage to which our ships constantly go. Even if another penny is 'not spent on fortifying it or upon constructing a dock, or building even coal-sheds there, the improvement of the waters around Wei-hai-Wei will be an object which will be well worth the £4,000 which we ask the Committee to vote, and much more. I put it fairly to honourable Members opposite that the Government have not got a, great scheme. But whether we have a great scheme or not, the House of Commons will have the option of voting any further money which may be asked for, either by Bill or through the Estimates. As I have said, this money will be well spent on dredging, inasmuch as greater convenience will be afforded to our ships which repair to these waters. And it will conduce to the health of the ships' crews if they go there. I ask the Committee to allow the question of the total cost to stand over, but I urge them not to reject the very moderate demand which the Government now make, because I may say almost the same with regard to the coaling of the ships as I have said in respect to dredging—it will be a convenience, and possibly even a saving of expense, in time of peace as in time of war, if our ships could coal there. It would be an economical arrangement if colliers met the ships there, and it would be more convenient to coal there than in any other Chinese port, or in a Japanese port. The Committee will not commit themselves by this Vote, but by it they will, under all the circumstances, add to the convenience of the Service, and to the health of the sailors on that station.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
This discussion shows what a very good thing it is that the House is not composed entirely of innocent and 1178 simple-minded persons like myself, and that we have in our midst honourable Gentlemen like the Member for Aberdeenshire, who can see a little further than the actual words of the Estimates. Originally, I thought that, as this was merely a proposal for dredging and coal-sheds, we might allow it to pass; but the explanations of the First Lord of the Admiralty and of the Junior Lord of the Admiralty go much beyond that. The First Lord himself has told us that this is only a step towards considerable expenditure.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
I must have conveyed a wrong impression to the honourable Member. I said that various plans were put before us, but that there was no pressure put upon us as to the necessity of greater expenditure hereafter.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I did not suppose that the right honourable Gentleman was laid upon the rack, but the fact that his naval experts put before him plans for greater expenditure is a suggestion, we may suppose, that those naval experts think an additional expenditure ought to take place. This is one of the most extraordinary modes of wasting money that could well be conceived. The right honourable Gentleman wants to have fortifications on this secondary base in order to defend the stores, and a garrison to defend the stores; but Wei-hai-Wei is not to be strong enough to resist the attack of a formidable enemy. It seems to me we should do much better to concentrate our efforts on a naval base which can be defended against all reasonable probabilities of attack if we are to spend money at all. If once the Committee consents to the establishment of this naval base, and admits at the same time that Ave cannot defend it if it were attacked, such pressure would be put upon the Government that they would have to make it a primary basis. Under all the circumstances, my honourable Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire would be well advised if he goes to a division.
§ SIR E. GOURLEY (Sunderland)
There is one question I should like to ask: Seeing that the Admiralty 1179 propose spending upon dredging operations £4,500, will the right honourable Gentleman state when operations are to begin, and also whether the dredger has already been sent. If so, I should like to know of what value and engine capacity it is, and what depth of water the Admiralty anticipate obtaining in the channel from the sea from the proposed dredging?
§ Malta, was sent out last year, and she is to dredge to a depth of 30 feet at the lowest tide cannot give the value of he dredger from memory, but it was not purchased specially for his purpose.
That Item C be reduced by £9,000 in respect of works at Wei-hai-Wei."—(Mr. Buchanan.)
§ The Committee divided: —Ayes 65; Noes 167.—(Division List No. 75.)1181
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Lewis, John Herbert||Roberts, J. H. (Denbighs.)|
|Barlow, John Emmott||Macaleese, Daniel||Robson, William Snowdou|
|Blake, Edward||M'Dermott, Patrick||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Burns, John||M'Ghee, Richard||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Burt, Thomas||M'Kenna, Reginald||Souttar, Robinson|
|Caldwell, James||M'Leod, John||Spicer, Albert|
|Cameron, Robt. (Durham)||Maddison, Fred.||Steadman, William Chas.|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Mappin, Sir Frederick T.||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Colville, John||Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand||Thomas, D. Alfred (Merthyr)|
|Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardigan||Morris, Samuel||Ure, Alexander|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Morton, E. J. C. (Devonport)||Wallace, Robert (Berth)|
|Duckworth, James||Moss, Samuel||Warner, T. Courtenay T.|
|Ellis, John Edw. (Notts.)||Moulton, John Fletcher||Weir, James Galloway|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||Nussey, Thomas Willans||Whittaker, Thos. Palmer|
|Fenwick, Charles||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||Williams, J. Carvell (Notts.)|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||O'Connor, J. (Wicklow, W.)||Wilson, H. J. (York, W.R.)|
|Hayne, Rt. Hon. C. Seale-||Oldroyd, Mark||Wilson, John (Govan)|
|Hogan, James Francis||Pease, A. E. (Cleveland)||Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough,|
|Holland, W. H. (York, W.R.)||Birie, Duncan V.||Young, S. (Cavan, E.)|
|Horniman, Frederick John||Provand, Andrew Dryburgh|
|Jacoby, James Alfred||Reckitt, Harold James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Labouchere.|
|Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'land)||Richardson, J. (Durham)|
|Leng, Sir John||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm||Finlay, Sir Robt. Bannatyne|
|Allan, William (Gateshead)||Chamberlain, J. Austen (Wor.)||Fisher, William Hayes|
|Allen, W. (Newc.-under-Lyme)||Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Fison, Frederick William|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||Charrington, Spencer||FitzGerald, Sir R. Penrose-|
|Arrol, Sir William||Clare, Octavius Leigh||Folkestone, Viscount|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis||Clough, Walter Owen||Foster, Col. (Lancaster)|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. E.||Galloway, William Johnson|
|Baker, Sir John||Coghill, Douglas Harry||Gedge, Sydney|
|Balcarres, Lord||Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Giles, Charles Tyrrell|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Gilliat, John Saunders|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r)||Cranborne, Viscount||Godson, Sir Augustus Fredk.|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. G. W. (Leeds)||Cripps, Charles Alfred||Goldsworthy, Major-General|
|Banbury, Fredk. George||Cross, H. Shepherd (Bolton)||Gorst, Rt. Hn. Sir J. Eldon|
|Barnes, Frederic Gorell||Curzon, Viscount||Goschen, Rt. Hn. G. J. (St.Geo.'s|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Goschen, Geo. J. (Sussex)|
|Barton, Dunbar Plunket||Dalziel, J. Henry||Goulding, Edw. Alfred|
|Beckett, Ernest William||Davenport, W. Bromley-||Gourley, Sir Edw. Temperley|
|Beresford, Lord Charles||Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fred. D.||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Donkin, Richard Sim||Gunter, Colonel|
|Blakiston-Houston, John||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Haldane, Richard Burdon|
|Bolitho, Thomas Bedford||Doxford, William Theodore||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord G.|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-||Drage, Geoffrey||Heath, James|
|Bowles, T. G. (King's Lynn)||Duncombe, Hon. H. V.||Heaton, John Henniker|
|Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin)||Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph D.||Helder, Augustus|
|Cavendish, B. F. (N. Lancs.)||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn E.||Hickman, Sir Alfred|
|Cecil, E. (Hertford, E.)||Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir (Manc'r||Hill, Sir E. Stock (Bristol)|
|Chaloner, Capt. R. G. W.||Finch, George H.||Houston, R. P.|
|Howard, Joseph||Milward, Colonel Victor||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Howell, William Tudor||Monckton, Edward Philip||Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch)|
|Hudson, George Bickersteth||Monk, Charles James||Smith, J. Parker (Lanarks.)|
|Hutton, J. (Yorks. N.R.)||Montagu, Hon. J. S. (Hants.)||Spencer, Ernest|
|Jebb, Richard Claverhouse||Moore, William (Antrim, N.)||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Jeffreys, Arthur Fredk.||More, R. J. (Shropshire)||Stewart, Sir M. J. M'Taggart|
|Johnston, William (Belfast)||Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)||Strauss, Arthur|
|Jolliffe, Hon. H. Geo.||Muntz, Philip A.||Strutt, Hon. Chas. Hedley|
|Jones, D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Murray, Rt, Hn. A. G. (Bute)||Sutherland, Sir Thomas|
|Kenyon-Slaney, Col. William||Murray, Chas. J. (Coventry)||Thomas, A. (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Laurie, Lieut.-General||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Lawrence, Sir E. Durning-(Corn)||Newdigate, Francis Alex.||Tomlinson, W. E. Murray|
|Lawson, J. Grant (Yorks.)||Nicholson, Wm. Graham||Tritton, Chas. Ernest|
|Llewellyn, E. H. (Somerset)||Nicol, Donald Ninian||Valentia, Viscount|
|Loder, Gerald W. Erskine||Northcote, Hon. Sir H. S.||Warde, Lieut.-Col. C. E. (Kent)|
|Long, Col. C. W. (Evesham)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay||Webster, Sir R. E. (I. of Wight)|
|Long, Rt. Hon. W. (Liverpool)||Percy, Earl||Wharton, Rt. Hon. J. Lloyd|
|Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller||Phillpotts, Capt. Arthur||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset)|
|Lowles John||Pilkington, Richard||Williams, J. Powell- (Birm.)|
|Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Willox, Sir J. Archibald|
|Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks.|
|Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Priestley, Sir. W. O. (Edin.)||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath)|
|M'Arthur, C. (Liverpool)||Purvis, Robert||Wolff, Guslay Wilhelm|
|M'Calmont, Col. J. (Antrim, E.)||Quilter, Sir Cuthbert||Wortley, Rt. Hn. C. B. Stuart|
|M'Iver, Sir L. (Edinburgh, W.)||Rankin, Sir James||Wyvill, Marmaduke D 'Arcy|
|M'Killop, James||Renshaw, Charles Bine||Young, Com. (Berks, E.)|
|M'Laren, Chas. Benjamin||Russell, Gen. F.S. (Cheltenham|
|Maple, Sir J. Blundell||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Martin, Richard Biddulph||Rutherford, John|
|Maxwell, Rt, Hon. Sir H. E.||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)|
Original Question put, and agreed to.
Motion made and Question proposed—
That a sum not exceeding £1,606,700 be granted to Her Majesty to defray the expense of victualling and clothing for the Navy, in-eluding the cost of Victualling Establishments at home and abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1900.
That Item B be reducd by £100 in respect of the wages of labourers at Deptford."—(Mr. A. H. A. Morton.)
§ * MR. A. H. A. MORTON (Deptford)
In moving this reduction, very few words will be required from me to lay the question at issue before the Committee. There are three great Government establishments connected with the Army and Navy — the Pimlico Clothing Factory, the Woolwich Arsenal, and the Deptford Victualling Yard. Early in the year 1897 the War Office gave an advance of 1s. a week to the labourers employed in the Pimlico Clothing Factory, and in the Woolwich Arsenal. Whether that increase of wages was wholly agreeable to the Admiralty authorities, or not, it is not for me to say, but no corresponding advance was made at that time to the Admiralty labourers at Woolwich or at Deptford. But in 1898 1182 an increase was given to the labourers in the Woolwich Arsenal of 1s. a week, so that they were placed on a similar footing with their more fortunate brethren under the War Office. A request was made early last Session that the wages of the labourers employed in the Deptford Victualling Yard should be increased by the same amount, but that request did not meet with success. A Motion to the same effect was made later in the Session, but with a similar result. I must confess that I had hoped that during the Recess this small concession to the labourers might have been made, and that the Estimates of this year would have contained a provision for giving an extra 1s. a week to the labourers at the Deptford Victualling Yard. I am sorry that this has not been done, and I would now plead for this act of justice—and I believe it to be a bare act of justice for these men. It is not contended for a moment that the condition of the Admiralty labourers at Deptford is in any way more favourable than the condition of the labourers in the Pimlico Clothing Factory and in the Woolwich Arsenal, and I cannot conceive why the advance should have been granted to the Woolwich men and withheld from the Deptford men. I can only presume that my powers of eloquence and persuasion have failed where those of more eloquent or more per- 1183 suasive Members have succeeded. I think the First Lord of the Admiralty last year, in refusing this increase, said that, if it were granted it would open the flood gates, and that a considerable advance would have to be made all over the country, which would be a serious matter from a financial point of view. I wonder why this reason did not prevail with the First Lord of the Admiralty when he granted the advance to the Admiralty labourers at Woolwich. House rent at Deptford is higher than at Woolwich, and in no way are the Deptford labourers more favoured than the Woolwich men. I will not detain the House with any lengthy remarks, but I am quite at a loss to know why there should be this difference of treatment; and as I want an explanation, I move the reduction of the Vote by £100.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)
I am glad that my honourable Friend the Member for Deptford has taken this subject in hand, because, having addressed the House on more than one occasion with reference to this matter, and more especially to cognate questions as regards Woolwich and Pimlico, I do not wish it to be supposed that I am the sole champion of these employees in this House. I think I shall be able to show to the Committee that a more disgraceful state of affairs than that which exists at Deptford could not be conceived. We passed in 1891 a Fair Wages Resolution, and the present Leader of the Opposition then stated that the Government of the day should be in the first flight of employers. The right honourable Gentleman made an important advance in that direction, increasing the rate of wages of the War Office employees at Woolwich by 2s. a week. I shall be prepared to show that at present the Government are not in the first flight of employers as far as Deptford is concerned. What is it we ask for on behalf of these men? We ask that they should receive a fair minimum rate of wages. I know it will be asked, what is a fair minimum rate of wages? There can be no doubt about the question so far as the area of the county of London is concerned. It is acknowledged on all hands that a fair rate of wages is more than 20s. a week, and it has been admitted that that is a 1184 rate upon which a man cannot support his wife and family decently. I put a question to the First Lord of the Admiralty some time ago as to whether it was the intention of his Department to raise the minimum wage of the unskilled labourers employed in the Royal Victualling Yard at Deptford to that of the unskilled labourers employed under the War Department at Woolwich and elsewhere. The First Lord of the Admiralty replied that it was not intended to raise the minimum wage of the unskilled labourers at Deptford. In Woolwich, he said, where our workmen are doing practically the same work side by side with the workmen under the War Office, the concession had been made. But the right honourable Gentleman said a change could not be made at Deptford without taking into consideration the rate of wages paid to labourers in the other dockyards and other establishments. The right honourable Gentleman further said that in 1893 it was decided to give the men at Deptford an additional 1s. a week, which appeared justified by the careful inquiries then made, but he was not prepared to still further widen the difference as compared with the large number of our labourers in other parts of the country. There are some 374 of these labourers at Deptford, and as I have already dealt with the subject on previous occasions, I need not now go into the details, but I must point out that the class of work done by these men is very heavy. In the case of the Customs watchers I was met with the argument that they were not able-bodied men, and that a certain proportion of their work necessitated their lying in wait, so to speak. Now these men at Deptford do general dock work which is paid at 6d. an hour, and stevedore work, which is paid at 8d. per hour. There are a certain number of them employed at other forms of work, such as chocolate making, but I am not going into that now. I wish to deal mainly with the men employed at what I will prove to be a wretched rate of wages. I know it will be advanced that a certain number of these men are employed at coopering and carpentering, and get a certain advance, but I find on inquiry that they get it only for a certain number of days in the year, and that it would not advance their wages by 6d. a week. In the Surrey Dock the 1185 men get from 24s. to 30s., with a pension, sick pay, medical attendance, and holidays. They get much better wages than the men at Deptford. Then it will be asked: Why do these men take work under the Government? They take it as a makeshift, as is proved by the fact that about a fourth of the total number of labourers leave the yard every year. Again, many men are passed into the yard under the age of 20, a proof that the Government is not able to hold the best class of labour. Therefore, we, as taxpayers, have a right to complain that we are not getting value for our money. The answer to these arguments, which is always trotted out, is the advantages given by the Government to their employees. I put a question to the First Lord of the Admiralty with reference to these advantages, and the Civil Lord replied that the chief advantages enjoyed by unskilled labourers at Deptford, in addition to the pay, were as follows:— Half-pay while absent on account of injuries received on duty; half-pay when compulsorily absent on account of infectious disease in family, as well as half of any extra allowance they may be receiving at the time the disease breaks out. Four days' leave with pay during the year and extra pay ranging from 6d. to 1s. per day when employed upon special duties. With reference to the four days' leave with pay, every employer gives that. The extra pay for Special duties only applies to about 20 men for about 40 days each year, and is, therefore, not a very strong argument. With regard to pensions and gratuities, they amount to only about £1 for every year after 15 years' service. That privilege can be procured by any man who pays 4d. a week to the Post Office, and he would have the further advantage of being able to withdraw the money at any time. So much for the advantages. Now I come to the social aspect of the question. The average age of these labourers is about 35, and from a half to two-thirds of them are married, the average number of each family being four. It is stated that the rule which obliges the men to live within two miles of the yard is not strictly carried out. I am aware of that fact, but I am also aware that the men who do not live within two miles of the yard are compelled to go 1186 further afield to Eltham, for instance, where they can get a few small rooms at a lower rental. These men are obliged to walk six miles morning and evening. Now, I ask whether taxpayers of this country are getting fair value for their money when they employ men who, in addition to severe labour at dock and stevedore work, walk 12 miles per day? I do not think it can be argued that they do. What is the state of affairs, at Deptford? I find that the increase of wages in the past seven years Las, been 20 per cent., whereas rents have increased 50 per cent. Small houses at 6s. a week are replaced by badly-built six-roomed houses at 12s. These are generally occupied by two families, and a lodger occasionally pays 7s. 6d. a week. The South Eastern Railway is now building blocks in the locality to replace property pulled down, and the prohibitive sum of 3s. 6d. per room is being charged. What has been the result? I hold in my hand the notice paper of the vestry of the parish of St. Paul, Deptford, dated 2nd February, and I find the following motion—That in the opinion of this Vestry it is undesirable that any adult in the employ of the Greenwich District Board of Works should be paid any lesser sum than 24s. weekly for a full week's work, and that the representatives of St. Paul, Deptford, be recommended to take the necessary steps to secure the fixing of such a minimum in the wages of the Board's employees.That motion was carried, which is clear proof that in one of the poorest parishes in London the vestry found it incumbent on them, owing to the high rents, not to employ any man at a lower rate than 24s. a week; and yet we have the Government, after the Fair Wages Resolution passed in this House, employing labourers at 19s. and 20s. a week. It may be said that it is all very well to make general statements without reference to particular cases. But I have provided myself with definite cases, and can vouch for their accuracy. Here is one. An established labourer employed at the Deptford Victualling Yard, receiving 19s. per week, has a wife (sickly) and five children, whose ages range from two to nine years. He resides at the present time in a small four-roomed house in James Street, Deptford, the largest room being 11 feet by 8 and he pays 10s. 6d. a week rent. It may be asked why does he pay 10s. 6d. 1187 a week rent? Because the state of affairs is so grave, and the working man positively dreads to leave his dwelling. He is precisely in the same position that the wretched cottar was in Ireland before legislation was passed in this House The landlord holds him in the palm of his hand, and he has to choose between being thrown out on the roadside and paying the rent demanded of him. I can speak with knowledge of the subject, because by recent legislation the Government robbed me of property I possessed in Ireland. The same thing takes place in South London. The number of removals in South London is now very much smaller than in years past. The labourer whose case I have just cited recently received notice from his landlord that the rent would be raised to 12s. a week. At present, after paying the rent, he has a margin of 8s. 6d. a week, and out of that he has to provide food and everything else for his family. Let the Committee take note of this. He has one single man lodger, who pays 3s. a week for his bed and washing. This family are in such desperate straits that they have to have an utter stranger in their wretched rooms living with them. The man himself tries to earn a little money by mending boots after he leaves his work in the yard. And all this difficulty arises because the Government go behind a Resolution of this House and object to pay their employees What is known as the minimum rate of wages in the district. This is only one of many cases I could bring before the House. Here is another. A man earning 20s. per week has two rooms, for which he pays 7s. 6d. per week, leaving 12s. 6d. wherewith to purchase the necessaries of life for six persons! And, in addition to that, these houses are in an insanitary condition. The authorities of the district are powerless to enforce the Sanitary Acts, inasmuch as if these people are driven out of these dens they have no other places to go to. I will not trouble the Committee with other cases, although I have several here. What does the Government compel contractors to do? It compels them to carry out the spirit of a Resolution passed by this House, although it does not act upon it itself. Now, the contractors, Messrs. Martin and Wells, have paid their labourers employed on similar work to our men for 1188 several years the sum of 26s. per week for a 48-hour week, and last Christmas, knowing as they did the state of affairs which existed throughout Deptford, they raised the men's wages to 7d. an hour, thus giving them 28s. for a 48-hour week. This is the state of affairs which exists under a Government which obtained power mainly upon the plea that they were going to investigate the question of Old-Age Pensions. In the name of common sense, what is the object of offering an old-age pension to a man who is obliged to live and support an entire family upon 8s. 6d. per week? Would it not be better for the Government to begin at the beginning, and give these men a living wage? Then, again, there is the question of the housing of the working classes. I believe the present Government has some scheme for enabling working men to purchase their own homes. That may be a very useful thing in certain remote parts of the country, where men earn a fair rate of wages, and where land and houses are comparatively cheap. But as to any such Measure being of the smallest value to working men in the area of the county of London, and more especially to those who have to move about in search of employment, I say the idea is simply preposterous. If ever there was a Government which ought to deal fairly and generously with its employees, and to give them a living wage, surely it is the Government which climbed into power on the plea of granting Old-Age Pensions and securing better housing of the working classes. I should like to know what grounds there are for denying to these men the standard rate of wages in the area of the county of London. It has been said that it is necessary to consider this question in connection with the subject of hired labourers employed in the various dockyard towns. Now, in these places the rents vary considerably. In Devonport, for example, owing to certain conditions as regards the tenure of the land, the rents are extravagantly high, but they are nothing like so high as in Deptford and Woolwich. At Pembroke Dock a man can get better lodging for 3s. 6d. or 4s. 6d. a week that he can get at Deptford or Woolwich for 7s. 6d. or 8s. 6d. There would be nothing unjust in the smallest degree in the right honourable Gentleman deal- 1189 ing with the men at Deptford in the same manner as he dealt with those at Woolwich, and giving a proportionate advance to the men in the various dockyard towns. Indeed, that would be quite logical. I feel certain the right honourable Gentleman is about to advance the argument that if the rate of wages is advanced, rents will immediately go up. That is not absolutely the case. We know perfectly well there is a tendency for such a thing to occur on the part of a certain number of sweating house proprietors, but in the main, as we know at Woolwich, the increase of wages by 2s. has had a most marked effect on the district, and has been of the greatest benefit, not only to the men, but to the whole locality. I have authority from the rector of Woolwich, and other people who understand this matter, for stating there has been a marked improvement in the conditions under which the people live, and that a much better state of affairs has been brought about socially. I do hope that the right honourable Gentleman will see his way to make some advance to these unfortunate men.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
I am sure the Committee will believe me when I say that if I thought it would be consonant with proper administrative principles to make this advance I would most cheerfully do so. I can assure the Committee that it is a most difficult and disagreeable duty to have to take the line I have taken on this question on previous occasions. Let us clear up this point. It is not the small amount of money which is involved. That, of course, is infinitesimal, but I have to look at general administrative principles, rather than to the amount of money which would be spent. There can be no possible object in resisting this proposal for the sake of the few extra pounds a year. But let me point out how the speech of the honourable Member proves the connection between wages and rent. If the position of these labourers is such as has been described, it is rather due to what has been called the sweating landlords than to the rate of wages paid. It has been shown that the wages have risen 20 per cent, during the last 10 years, and that house rent has risen 50 per cent.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
So far as I have been informed, this feature has been constant in those districts—namely, that the improvement in wages to a great extent leads to a larger proportion of the wages going into the pockets of the landlords, who are already receiving very high rents. It has, moreover, been alleged in many cases—although I do not apply this specially to Deptford or Woolwich —that those who are loudest in calling for justice to the working men in the shape of an increase of wages from the Government were themselves chiefly interested in cottage property, and that these persons have no hesitation in raising the rents of the labourers at the expense of the general taxpayers of the country. Is it not clear from the manner in which the honourable and gallant Gentleman has put his case, that the great difficulty at Deptford is not alone the wages paid to a very few—I believe the total number is 150—Government workmen? Where rents of 10s. or 12s. a week are charged the addition of 1s. to wages would not place the labourers in anything approaching to a prosperous condition. This is evidently, to my mind, a question of housing the poor in those districts, a question which has reached a point which is, socially and economically, to be deplored, and is loudly calling for remedy. There is a difficulty in getting moderate rents, and I wish that the authorities would set themselves to work to clear out all the bad house property, and that an effort could be made to house our working classes better. I will even go so far as to say that in the last resort I would prefer to see whether the Government itself could not make arrangements for the housing of the 150 men.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
Yes, but a portion of these receive considerably higher wages. I am not prepared, on the ground that house rent is rising continually in a particular locality, to lay down the principle that wages must be increased proportionately. The honourable Member is no doubt aware that in Deptford and Woolwich the labourers already receive 1s. 1191 more than the labourers receive in other dockyards. That concession was made a short time ago. This question, therefore, small and narrow as it is, has an immense bearing on the wages of over 30,000 men employed by the Government. There is the graduation principle to be borne in mind. So soon as you increase the rate of wages of one set of men in a dockyard the others claim an increase, so as to maintain the difference in scale previously existing.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON
I am afraid I failed to make myself understood. I did not base my argument on the fact that wages were necessarily to be raised because of the increase of rent. My main argument was that public bodies, vestries, etc., throughout the area of the county of London did not pay less than 24s., that that was looked upon as the lowest living wage. I fail to see why the Government, irrespective of the question of house rent, should not do the common justice that is done by all public bodies and by all fair-minded employers to their labourers.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
Because the Government are in a totally different position from other employers. They employ 30,000 workpeople all over the country. Employers of labour in London have only to look at the position of their London labourers and the rate of wages to be paid; but if the suggested advance were conceded it would mean a revision of the whole of the wages paid to men in the arsenals and dockyards. The honourable Member talks of "justice"; I am afraid I am myself too old-fashioned a politician to see that justice requires that taxpayers whose wages perhaps come to 13s. or Ms. or 16s. a week should suffer increased taxation in order that Government employees in London should receive 24s.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
The honourable Member should listen to the arguments and not interrupt. I have given the reasons why I considered myself forced as regards the Arsenal men to give the concession; they 1192 were working alongside men who were getting the higher wage. It may be a question whether it would not be worth while to move the Victualling Yard further away.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
I am not sure Deptford would approve that. The removal would lead to great remonstrances on the part of the local authorities who are now endeavouring to persuade us to raise the wages. The real difficulty is this, that, while the honourable Member wishes to be guided by London, I, having to administer an establishment in which there are 30,000 men employed in all parts of the country, have to look at it from the point of view of the country at large. Much as I regret the high rents at Deptford, what security have we that if the wages are raised the rent will not also go up? This is not a matter, then, which can be dealt with by raising the wages. I do not think it is the case that the men are rapidly leaving the yard. According to figures which I have before me, in 1897–98 there were only 14 men who were discharged on their own request, and in the following year 23, these being mostly men who were engaged on special work. And there are now 150 applicants for admission. That reminds me that a large percentage must be added to the value of the Government wage by reason of the continuity of employment and certainty of work which Government work affords. That has been calculated at 3s. on a weekly wage of 20s. There are a number of higher grades open to these men in which they get better wages. I am sorry, for the administrative reasons which I have explained, that I cannot assent to the Motion.
§ * SIR C. DILKE
The right honourable Gentleman did himself an injustice in speaking of himself as an old - fashioned politician. In naval matters we do not regard him as such. We recognise in his administration at the Admiralty that he advances with, and even keeps in front, of the times. But in this particular matter the right honourable Gentleman puts himself in a position which is rather different from that of his colleagues. He has failed 1193 altogether to follow the policy adopted by the War Office, which also has employees all over the country to deal with. Indeed, he places himself in a worse position than another Department which is attacked in this House upon labour questions—I mean the Post Office. The right honourable Gentleman said that this only affected directly a small number of men, but has he shown any sufficient reason for not dealing with the case of those men? Exactly the same defence which the right honourable Gentleman makes in this particular case was made by the War Office—by the Financial Secretary to the War Office—three years ago, with regard to their men at Woolwich; but, after careful examination, the War Office gave way owing to the sheer strength of the case, although the question was one which only affected a small number of men, and their wages were raised. The difficulty is this. The Government and their contractors hold wholly different positions. The contractor has to pay the standard rate of wage in the place where the work is being done. Now, it is not the policy of cither side of this House to raise wages all over the country. As regards London, an attempt has been made to arrive at some approximation to the contractors' wages scale by raising the War Office minimum from 19s. to 20s. The right honourable Gentleman has made an appeal to honourable Members. I am quite certain that the working classes of this country generally do have regard to the cost of living in different places, and that they are willing that the rate of wages should vary accordingly. The right honourable Gentleman tells us that he has some thousands of men who are more or less in the same position. He calls them labourers; but I have looked into this matter and I find they do a certain amount of work which can hardly be looked upon as ordinary labourer's work. It certainly is work for which the contractors pay a higher rate of wages. Again, there is the question of continuity of employment. But I understand that these men are not permanent men enjoying the same privileges as the established men in the dockyards. The right honourable Gentleman has spoken upon this subject in a good-tempered spirit. Last 1194 year we had a somewhat heated Debate upon it, and strong things were said across the floor of the House. But now the right honourable Gentleman has thrown out a suggestion, and he did so as if he had considered the matter. I understood him to say the Government might be tempted to deal with these cases in a different way from that in which they deal with general cases. He said, as I understand, that sooner than raise the wages he-would in this case deal with the matter as a housing question, and that he would rather, in fact, house these labourers-himself.
§ * SIR C. DILKE
Still this matter has been actively under consideration for four or five years, and I think the time has arrived when it should be dealt with. I should have liked to have had a more definite statement with regard to what steps the Admiralty are prepared to take in regard to the housing of these labourers. I do maintain that, cm the general principle which we apply to our contractors, it is a disgrace that 19s. per week should still be paid by the Government in the area of the County of London.
§ * MR. A. H. A. MORTON
The point I endeavoured to lay before the Committee was this: why should there be any difference made between the Deptford labourers as compared with those employed at Woolwich and in the Clothing Factory? That is the question to which I would bring back the Committee. I sincerely trust that the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty will regard this as a question of pure justice. I can see no reason why these men, living in the same metropolitan area,, should be treated differently from the labourers at Woolwich, and have less wages given to them for performing precisely the same kind of work. It has been well said that "hard cases make bad law," and I trust that the First Lord of the Admiralty will see his way to reconsider his decision, for the Deptford men have certainly been hardly treated.
§ MR. STEADMAN
The speech delivered this evening by the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty was a much more favourable speech than he delivered twelve months ago on this question. But, after all, he cannot see his way to increase the wages of these men, and he bases practically the whole of his argument upon the fact that if the wages go up high rents go up in proportion. But whether wages decrease or increase the fact is, that the rents are regulated like everything else, even labour itself, in accordance with the law of supply and demand. It is because the population is rapidly increasing in the City of London itself; hence, you have got a great demand for house accommodation, and the landlords, whether the men get good or get bad wages, do not take that into consideration at all, but the moment they find there is a large demand for house accommodation, they clap on an increase of rent. These men have had no rise in their wages for years past; they have only this miserable 19s. per week; but rents have gone on increasing, not only in Deptford, but in all parts of London, by something like 50 per cent. My honourable Friend the Member for Newington stated that the Government were not in the same position as private employers of labour. I am sorry to say that the Government is to-day, as it has always been, one of the worst employers of labour. The right honourable Gentleman says that there will be something like 30,000 men all over the country affected by this proposed increase. But there are 20,000 men employed by the various local authorities in London alone in cleaning the streets, taking away the refuse, and so forth. There is not a local board in London that pays its road sweepers the miserable rate of? wages of 19s. or 20s. per week, which the Government pays to its labourers at Deptford. On the south side of the river, not far from Deptford itself, one local board pays its labourers 29s. per week, with other emoluments as well. In my own parish the labourers are paid 27s. per week, with half-pay during sickness, besides the weekly holiday, and all other holidays without deduction of pay. The right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty says that the Government is in 1196 an entirely different position from the local boards. What is the difference? It is this: that while the local boards have to pay out of the local rates the Government has an unlimited amount of capital whenever they wish to raise it. The right honourable Gentleman referred to the fact that it would be an act of injustice to increase these men's wages when there were men in other parts of the country only receiving 13s. or 14s. per week. I do not want to enter into any contentious matter, but I wonder if they had that in their consideration when they voted to the landlords of the country £2,000,000 sterling per annum. After all, the chief reason, in my opinion, why these men are entitled to an increase of wages, not merely of a 1s. per week, but of a minimum wage of 24s., is the rate of wages paid to other men in similar employment. The work these men do is what is called handy-men's work, and it commands a wage of 30s. per week in private employment. There is not a man who is not in receipt of a minimum of wages of 24s. per week with constant employment. Stevedores are paid 6s. a day, which is 36s. per week, with 1s. per hour overtime. That being so, I consider that these men at Deptford have a just claim to the consideration of this House. We commence the business of this House by prayer, which I am in cordial agreement with. One of these prayers is the Lord's Prayer, and part of the Lord's Prayer says, "Give us this day our daily bread." I wonder if the honourable and right honourable Members who are present in this House when prayers are being read, and listen to that petition in the Lord's Prayer—I wonder if they take it into their serious consideration how these poor men have to struggle with their wives and families for their daily bread. If they did so, I feel certain that they would have more sympathy with the question now before the House than what they seem inclined to have. These poor men may secure a 4 lb. loaf out of the 19s. a week, but it is very few chops or steaks that come to their share out of such a wage. We are told that the constant employment the labourers at Deptford have is equal to 25 per cent, on their wages. Well, I worked for 19 years as a journeyman at my own trade, and during the whole 1197 of that time I was only unemployed 10 weeks, although all my work was in the open air. These men at Deptford are not the only men in constant employment, and I know that private employers pay their men altogether differently from what the Government treat their men down at Deptford. It is quite true that there are a few trades which are known as season trades, in which the men are sometimes out of employment; but the great majority of the working classes are in more regular employment than out of employment. The great army of labour today consists of what is called unskilled labour, and hence when a man is unemployed, and his wife and children at home are wanting bread, he is glad to accept a day or week's work, irrespective of what the rate of wages is, rather than see his wife and family starve. Personally, I do not appeal to the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty in the name of charity, but in the name of justice and right, because I consider that while we compel our contractors to pay the trade union rate of wages, we are acting inconsistently as a large employer of labour if we do not pay our own workmen the recognised rate of wages. What, after all, is the pension referred to by the honourable Member for Newington? It is nothing but deferred pay; for 1s. a week is stopped out of the wages, and that is more than sufficient to raise the capital required for the pensions, should the men be fortunate enough to live to the age when they will be able to retire and draw a pension. I would make an earnest appeal to the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty on behalf of these men, among whom I have lived all my life, and whose struggles for existence I know so well. After the favourable remarks which the right honourable Gentleman made in addressing the House, I make an earnest appeal to him to try and see his way clear to give some slight increase in the wages of these unfortunate men.
§ MR. MADDISON (Sheffield, Brightside)
I wish to back up the claim that has been made on behalf of the men at Deptford and Stepney. I really think that there ought not to be this constant appeal for justice to these men. I am 1198 one of those who would not make a claim on behalf of Government workmen for better treatment than is admitted to be fair by the trades unions. I represent a constituency where a large amount of work is done for the Admiralty, and therefore there is no reason why I should stand here to-night to plead the cause of Government workmen simply because they are Government workmen. But when we know that these men at Deptford and Stepney work at these absurdly low wages—wages which it is utterly impossible for men to keep themselves and their families decently on—I say, when that is the state of affairs, I do think an appeal made from any part of the House ought to be received, not merely with courtesy—we always receive that from the right honourable Gentleman—but he ought to use his influence to increase the wages of these men. Why, Deptford is London, and I would like any honourable Member to ask himself this question: How he could keep a wife and one or two children and himself on a wage of 19s. a week? Really, it is a disgrace to this country, with its almost unlimited capacity for meeting taxes, and its enormous wealth, as was expounded to us yesterday afternoon by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that there should be men actually employed by the Government at a rate of wages which does not allow them to subsist in anything like a decent fashion. Now, I submit that this is how it must be regarded. It is not a demand for a fancy wage but for a living wage, and they make that demand in a very practical sense. I am right, I believe, in saying that at Woolwich the labourers doing similar work get 1s. or 2s. a week more. If that is correct I would ask the First Lord of the Admiralty what reason can he urge why the men at Deptford —which is really more London than Woolwich—what reason can he urge for this difference of treatment, and how can he possibly justify the payment of a rate of wages that would disgrace the sweater in some of the worse parts of London? I am sure that this is a question which must appeal to every fair-minded man in the House. I do want to disabuse the mind of the Committee, if I may say 1199 so, from the impression that we are making any attempt to force a fancy rate of wages for men simply because they are Government workers. Personally I have no great love for centralisation, except where it is absolutely necessary. These men at Deptford are employed by the Government, and it is absolutely necessary that they should be State workers. That being so, I think it is a reasonable thing to ask that these wages should be increased by a few shillings per week, so that it will be impossible to say—and I will apply this remark to any other Department—that in no single Department of the Sate are we employing them at a rate of wages which does not allow them to live decently, to say nothing about comfort, and as for luxury it is a mere mockery to mention it. I know that the First Lord of the Admiralty has infinite resources in Debate, and by way of reply.
§ MR. MADDISON
It is not my intention to keep honourable Members from the Division which they seem so anxious for, or probably it is the dinner which they long for still more. I only wish again to say that this is a question which is a very vital one to the poorest of the community. We
§ are not now urging that skilled mechanics who are getting 38s. a week shall have £2. It is a question of the miserable labourers that you are giving 19s. a week to, and then you expect them to-be patriotic and sing "Rule Britannia" every other day. What is the lot of the labourers in this great country of ours about the wealth of which you boast so much? What does it matter to them whether the Navy is strong or not? I believe these men are better patriots than a good many people who talk about their patriotism. I quite agree that these men will do their duty faithfully and well whether you give them 19s. or 21s. a week. The First Lord of the Admiralty will be the last person, I am sure, to deny them the 21s. a week or whatever might be asked because they will do their duty for duty's sake. I think the First Lord of the Admiralty ought, as I am sure he could, to make such an advance in these men's wages that the most wretched economist could not object to, and which would remove a great blot from State employment.
That Item B be reduced by £100 in respect of the wages of labourers at Deptford."—(Mr. A. H. A. Morton.)
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 42; Noes 121. (Division List No. 76.)1201
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale-||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Austin, M. (Limerick, W.)||Hogan, James Francis||Thomas, David A. (Merthyr)|
|Burt, Thomas||Horniman, Frederick John||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Caldwell, James||Jones, W. (Carnarvonshire)||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Cameron, Robert (Durham)||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumberland)||Ure, Alexander|
|Carmichael, Sir T. D. Gibson-||Lewis, John Herbert||Wallace, Robert (Perth)|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Macaleese, David||Wedderburn, Sir William|
|Clough, Walter Owen||M'Ghee, Richard||Weir, James Galloway|
|Colville, John||Maddison, Fred.||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Davies, M. Vaughan (Cardigan||Morton, E. J.C. (Devonport)||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Moss, Samuel|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||Moulton, John Fletcher||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Captain Norton and Mr. A. H. A. Morton.|
|Fenwick, Charles||Oldroyd, Mark|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||Souttar, Robinson|
|Gourley, Sir Edw. Temperley||Steadman, William Charles|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||Barnes, Frederic Gorell||Brodrick, Rt. Hn. St. John|
|Arrol, Sir William||Bartley, George C. T.||Chaloner, Captain R. G. W.|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Barton, Dunbar Plunkett||Chamberlain, Rt Hn J. (Birm.)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Beresford, Lord Charles||Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc'r)|
|Balfour, Rt Hn A. J. (Manch'r||Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry|
|Balfour, Rt Hn G. W. (Leeds)||Blakiston-Houston, John||Charrington, Spencer|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Bowles, T. G. (King's Lynn)||Clare, Octavius Leigh|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Helder, Augustus||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Hill, Sir E. Stock (Bristol)||Pease, Herbert Pike(Darlington|
|Cook, Fred. Lucas (Lambeth)||Houston, R. P.||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur|
|Corbett, A. C. (Glasgow)||Howell, William Tudor||Pilkington, Richard|
|Cox, Irwin Edwd. B. (Harrow)||Hudson, George Bickersteth||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hutton, John (Yorks, N.R.)||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)||Jebb, Richard Claverhouse||Purvis, Robert|
|Cross, Herb. Shepherd (Bolton)||Johnston, William (Belfast)||Rankin, Sir James|
|Curzon, Viscount||Jolliffe, Hon. H. George||Renshaw Charles Bine|
|Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Keswick, William||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
|Davies, Sir H. D. (Chatham)||Laurie, Lieut-General||Rutherford, John|
|Donkin, Richard Sim||Lawrence Sir E. Durning-(Corn||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hn. A. Akers-||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks)||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Doxford, William Theodore||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Skewes-Cox, Thomas|
|Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V.||Llewellyn, Evan H. (Somerset||Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch)|
|Elliot, Hn. A. Ralph Douglas||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Fellowes, Hn. Ailwyn Edward||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter(Liverpool)||Stewart, Sir M. J. M' Taggart|
|Fergusson, Rt Hn Sir J.(Manc'r||Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Finch, George H.||Lowles, John||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Strauss, Arthur|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Fison, Frederick William||Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier|
|FitzGerald, Sir R. Penrose-||M'Arthur Charles (Liverpool)||Sutherland, Sir Thomas|
|Folkestone, Viscount||M'Calmont, Col. J. (Antrim, E.)||Tomlinson, W. E. Murray|
|Foster, Colonel (Lancaster)||M'Iver, Sir L. (Edinburgh, W.)||Valentia, Viscount|
|Galloway, William Johnson||M'Killop, James||Warde, Lieut.-Col. C.E. (Kent)|
|Godson, Sir Augustus Fredk.||Massey-Mainwaring, Hn W. F.||Webster, Sir R. E. (I. of W.)|
|Goldsworthy, Major-General||Milward, Colonel Victor||Wiliams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|Gorst, Rt Hn Sir J. Eldon||Monckton, Edward Philip||Williams, Joseph Powell- (Birm|
|Goschen, Rt Hn G. J. (StGeorge's||Monk, Charles James||Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arcy|
|Goschen, George J. (Sussex)||Moore, William (Antrim, N.)||Young, Commander (Berks, E.|
|Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire|
|Hamilton, Rt Hn Lord George||Murray, Rt. Hn. A.G. (Bute)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Heath, James||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)|
|Heaton, John Henniker|
Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ 3. £176,600, Medical Establishments and Services.
CAPTAIN PHILLPOTTS (Devon, Torquay)
On this Vote I wish to call the attention of the Committee and the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty to what, I think, will be admitted to be a defect in our naval administration in respect of the provisions of instruments and surgical appliances for the medical service at home and abroad. Now, the practice is that naval medical officers have to provide themselves with the necessary surgical instruments which are required by them in the exercise of their profession. I will briefly explain what the rule is. Every medical officer on joining the service has to provide himself with a case containing certain instruments, and on promotion he has to provide himself with other instruments, and the scale and pattern of them is laid down as to what they are to consist of. I will only give one or two instances to show how badly this system works. I remember not so many years ago seeing a most delicate and difficult operation performed by a dis- 1202 tinguished medical officer. Now, if that medical officer had only been in possession of the instruments as laid down by the Admiralty regulations, he would have had very great difficulty in performing that operation; but, fortunately, he and his assistant had provided themselves with additional instruments, and he was able to perform the operation successfully. Now, medical officers have to send their instruments periodically to be inspected at a naval hospital, in order that it may be seen whether they are according to regulation pattern. I remember upon one occasion hearing of a medical officer who had provided himself with a particular sort of syringe frequently used in medical practice. It was not one strictly in accordance with the Admiralty's regulations, but it was, nevertheless, one of a new and improved kind. Now, that officer could not obtain his certificate, but he had to hunt round at a good many second-hand shops before he could get an instrument in accordance with the regulation pattern. I do not think there is any other service where the medical officers have to provide their own instruments, and I think 1203 some alteration in this direction should be made. I do trust, therefore, that the right honourable Gentleman will take this matter into his favourable consideration. When we come to the naval hospitals the case is somewhat better, because in our naval hospitals the Admiralty have provided certain instruments, but they are not—unless I am very much misinformed—up to date: and I believe if any of our well-known London surgeons were asked to undertake an operation at either Haslar or Plymouth they would be perfectly astounded at finding that several instruments which they were in the habit of using were lacking in those establishments. I do not believe that there is a single apparatus for the RÖntgen Rays in any naval hospital. I believe when they require this apparatus it has to be borrowed, and I submit that this is not sufficient, because the officers who intend to use that apparatus cannot be expected to be familiar with the working of it. Therefore I think there is room for improvement in this direction. Then, again, though I believe our naval medical officers are second to none as a body of men devoted to the zealous performance of their duties, they experience very great difficulty in keeping in touch with the members of their profession and the advances made in the practice of medicine, because they are constantly abroad for long periods. Provision was made years ago to enable medical officers to attend courses of lectures in our large metropolitan hospitals, but owing to the fact of their continuous employment abroad this provision is almost a dead letter. I think it would be for the advantage of the service and to the advantage of the medical officers themselves if this plan was earned out, because it would improve their knowledge and enable them to discharge their patients quicker from the sick list if they were afforded better opportunities of studying, and keeping in touch with the experience of their professional brethren in all our big cities. My remarks will also apply to the provision of proper surgical instruments and appliances, and I think it would distinctly tend to the advantage of the Navy, because as long as a man is on 1204 the sick list he is a source of expense to the Government, and the sooner you can cure him the sooner he goes to work again. Therefore I hold that it would be true economy to provide these improved instruments and appliances. I do not expect that the right honourable Gentleman will be able to give a complete answer to these questions, but I do trust that he will take this matter into his favourable consideration before the next Navy Estimates are prepared.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I can give the honourable and gallant Member an answer to his questions which I think he will consider perfectly satisfactory. For some time past a Committee at the Admiralty have been sitting to inquire into the various questions raised, and amongst others those connected with the medical service. I think I can safely say that the Committee will probably make a recommendation, both in regard to the supply of instruments to the medical officers in the Navy, and in regard to affording those officers better facilities for further study in their profession at different periods of their career after they have entered the service. My honourable and gallant Friend will see that there is an additional sum of £12,000 provided under sub-head H of the Vote of this year, which is mainly for the provision of an increased number of instruments in store, and we are also making provision for the supply of RÖntgen Kay apparatus at the Halsar and other hospitals. We are also arranging for instruction in the use of the RÖntgen Rap apparatus to be given at Halsar, so that the officers throughout the service may know how to use it, and take full advantage of it. I think the honourable and gallant Member will see that the matters to which he has called the attention of the Committee have already been before the Admiralty, and that they have given them every attention.
§ Vote agreed to.1205
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That a sum, not exceeding £12,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the expense of martial law, including the cost of naval prisons at home and abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1900.
§ * MR. J. G. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
I notice in this Vote an increase of £800. Now, we pay a higher rate of wages to these men, and we treat them well, therefore we ought to get a better class of men. Instead of court-martial and naval prisons increasing they ought to diminish if it be true that we are attracting a better class of men to the Navy. We have not yet had any information as to what class of men our recruits are drawn from. With regard to the Army, statistics are given showing the class from which men are drawn, but in the case of the Navy we have no information whatever. We can only come to the conclusion that the class of men we are getting now are worse instead of better, notwithstanding the higher remuneration and greater inducements which are offered to the men who join the Navy. I hope the right honourable Gentleman will give some satisfactory explanation of this increased expenditure.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
The sole explanation of this increase is that the personnel of the Navy has increased very largely during the last 10 years, for during that period the number has gone up from 66,000 to 100,000 men, and, of course, the proportion of punishment in the case of so large a number of men must necessarily increase also. I can assure the honourable Member that there has been no deterioration whatever in the character and physique of the men who have joined the Navy, and there is no reason at all for assuming that this small increase in the expenses of martial law and naval prisons indicates any increase in crime, or detracts in any way from the character or class of the men who have joined the Navy.
Motion made, and Question put—
That a sum, not exceeding £12,100, be granted for the said Service"—(Mr. Caidwell.)
§ MR. CALDWELL (Lanark, Mid)
I do not think that explanation is at all satisfactory. We do not require to go back for 10 years, for we need only go back a few years in order to see what the increase was. We are only dealing now with last year.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
The honourable Member appears to think that the creation of court-martials are confined to the increase for one year. The increase has been necessitated by a series of years, because no particular year would necessitate this increase in our court-martial expenditure.
§ MR. CALDWELL
My point is that the expenditure for court-martials here for the current year are increased over last year, and there is no particular increase in the number of men. This increase bears a very large proportion. Then, again, you have for the conveyance of prisoners an increase of £100. From that I think it is pretty evident that what is being brought out pretty clearly is that there is a different class and character of men being attracted, or else this expenditure would not be required. Now, there is another point which I want to bring forward in connection with these court-martials, which, of course, will deal with the question of punishment to a certain extent. I would like to know whether in the case of punishment for these various offences the Admiralty intend to adopt in their methods the principle which has been adopted very largely now by the Home Secretary in the prisons of this country, where there has been very considerable modifications in the punishment. We had this matter brought forward in the discussion on the Army Estimates, when it was stated that the Government were making investigations into this subject, and they expressed the hope that there would be a considerable amount of reform with regard to punishment in the Army 1207 Naturally, when we are dealing with court-martials we want to know whether the Government are considering, so far as the Navy is concerned, the question of mitigating the punishments, or making the punishments more in accordance with the plan which has been practically adopted by the Home Secretary. Perhaps we shall be able to have some explanation upon that point?
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. W. E. MACARTNEY, Antrim, S.)
I am not aware that there is any intention or any necessity for any variation in the practice carried out in our naval prisons. The honourable Member has raised a point to which the attention of the Admiralty has never before been called; and I am sure if, on further examination, it is found necessary or considered expedient to make any alterations in the punishments imposed in naval prisons, such alterations will be made.
§ MR. CALDWELL
I do not think that reply is at all satisfactory. We know perfectly well that the matter has been before the notice of the Army authorities, and the punishments were somewhat similar in the case of the Navy as in the Army, for both were placed on very similar footings so far as the punishments in the prisons were concerned. Of course, there might be a little variation with regard to the detention of prisoners on board ship, but as regards all other things the punishments are practically upon the same lines. Now, as regards the civil prisons of this country, we have had a distinct pledge, and we have also had an assurance that the Army authorities are considering the matter, and the representative of the Army in this House, I think, will quite recollect that promise. Now, it does seem to me, with regard to this increase of £250 in the case of court-martials, and £100 for the conveyance of prisoners, that you are not getting the same class of men that you used to have, and it seems to me that that is the reason why you are making provision for greater punishments. Now, all our experience shows that the better you treat the men, the lighter the punishments, and the more they are treated in a proper and humane spirit, the better is the class of men whom you attract, and conse- 1208 quently you will not require to expend the increased amount which you are here asking for in the case of court-martials and the conveyance of prisoners. Therefore, in order to emphasise the fact that this increased expenditure is being asked for without any explanation, and having regard to the fact that we have received no promise with regard to the mitigation of the punishments, which would have a great effect upon the character and the class of men whom you will attract, I beg to move that this Vote be reduced by £100.
§ * MR. WEIR
I think the answer of the right honourable Gentleman is extremely unsatisfactory. I never asked the right honourable Gentleman to go back 10 years; I wanted him to go back one year only. I cannot see what 10 years has to do with the question at all; the expenditure last year amounted to only £946 1s. 7d. Now, when we come to this year, it shows clearly enough that the character of the men is not of the same standard as in the years gone by. Then, again, the right honourable Gentleman gave no reply to my question as to the necessity for furnishing some statistics showing the source from which these men are drawn, and he did not state why the Navy had not adopted a similar plan to that adopted by the Army in this respect. I cannot help thinking that if the men for the Navy were drawn from the fishing villages, you would get a better class of men, and it would not be necessary to expend so large a sum in connection with martial law. I hope the Navy will not adopt a system of undue severity. If the men are fairly treated you will get a good class to join the Navy, and these expenses will be diminished. I have no desire to prolong this discussion. My honourable Friend has moved the reduction of this Vote, and if he had not done so I should have moved it myself, as a protest against the increasing expenditure.
That a sum, not exceeding; £12,100 be granted for the said Service."—(Mr. Caldwell.)
§ The Committee divided:—Ares 30; Noes 102.—(Division List No. 77.)1209
|Austin, M. (Limerick, W.)||Jones, W. (Carnarvonshire)||Steadman, William Charles|
|Cameron, Robert (Durham)||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'land)||Sullivan, D. (Westmeath)|
|Clough, Walter Owen||MacAleese, Daniel||Thomas, D. A. (Merthyr)|
|Colville, John||M'Dermott, Patrick||Ure, Alexander|
|Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardig'n||M 'Ghee, Richard||Wedderburn, Sir William|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||Maddison, Fred.||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Fenwick, Charles||Morton, F. J. C. (Devonport)||Williams, J. Carvell (Notts)|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Moss, Samuel||Wilson, H. J. (York, W.R.)|
|Gourley, Sir Ed. Temperley||Oldroyd, Mark|
|Hogan, James Francis||Provand, A. Dryburgh||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Caldwell and Mr. Weir.|
|Horniman, Frederick John||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hn. John||Fison, Frederick William||Monk, Charles James|
|Balfour, Rt Hn G. W. (Leeds)||Flower, Ernest||More, Robt. J. (Shropshire)|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Folkestone, Viscount||Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)|
|Barnes, Frederic Gorell||Foster, Col. (Lancaster)||Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute)|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Galloway, Wm. Johnson||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Barton, Dunbar Plunket||Goldsworthy, Major-Gen.||Pease, Herbt. P. (Darlington)|
|Beresford, Lord Charles||Gorst, Rt. Hn. Sir J. E.||Phillpotts, Capt. Arthur|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Goschen, RtHn G. J. (S. Georg's)||Pilkington, Richard|
|Blakiston-Houston, John||Gray. Ernest (West Ham)||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Bowles, T. G. (King's Lynn)||Heath, James||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Chaloner, Capt. R. G. W.||Holder, Augustus||Purvis, Robert|
|Chamberlain, J. A. (Worc'r)||Hill, Sir Edward S. (Bristol)||Rankin, Sir James|
|Charrington, Spencer||Houston, R. P.||Renshaw, Charles Bine|
|Clare, Octavius Leigh||Howell, William Tudor||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Hudson, Geo. Bickersteth||Rutherford, John|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Hutton, John (Yorks, N.R.)||Samuel, H. S. (Limehouse)|
|Cook, F. L. (Lambeth)||Jebb, Richard Claverhouse||Sharpe, Wm. Edward T.|
|Corbett, A. C. (Glasgow)||Johnston, Wm. (Belfast)||Skewes-Cox, Thomas|
|Cox, I. F. B. (Harrow)||Jolliffe, Hon. H. George||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Keswick. William||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir J. M.|
|Cross, Alex. (Glasgow)||Laurie, Lieut. -General||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Cross, Herb. S. (Bolton)||Lawrence, SirF. Durning (Corn)||Strauss, Arthur|
|Curzon, Viscount||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks)||Strutt, Hon. Chas. Hedley|
|Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Sturt, Hon. Humphry N.|
|Davies, Sir H. D. (Chatham)||Llewellyn, E. H. Somerset)||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Donkin, Richard Sim||Loder, Gerald W. E.||Valentia, Viscount|
|Douglas, Rt Hn A. Akers-||Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Liverpool)||Warde, Lt.-Col.C.E. (Kent)|
|Doxford, Wm. Theodore||Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller||Webster, Sir R. E. (Isle of W.)|
|Duncombe, Hn. Hubert Y.||Lowles, John||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset)|
|Elliot, Hn. A. R. Douglas||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Williams, Jos. Powell-(Birm.)|
|Fellowes, Hn. Ailwyn F.||Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arcy|
|Forgusson, Rt Hn Sir J (Manc'r)||M'Arthur, Chas. (Liverpool)||Young, Commander (Berks, E.)|
|Finch, George H.||M'Calmont, Col. J. (Antrim, E)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Finlay, Sir Robert 15.||M'Iver, Sir L. (Edinburgh, W.)||Sir Wm. Walrond and Mr. Anstruther|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Monckton, Edward Philip|
§ Upon the return of the CHAIRMAN, after the usual interval—
§ 5. £90,600. Education Services.
§ MR. CALDWELL
On the last Vote we divided on the amount of the increase, because on that Vote there was an increase. Now, we are told, in the case of martial law, it is necessary to increase the expenses there, and the First Lord of the Admiralty told us of 1210 the large increase of seamen during the last 10 years. This is the Educational Services Vote, and while I notice that there is an increase in the martial law expenditure, there is practically no increase in the educational service expenses under this Vote. If you turn, for instance, to the training schools— that is Vote E—you will find that the amount there is £2,218 for examinations under the Superintendent of Naval Colleges, and when you turn be that and compare it with the amount last year, 1211 you will find that last year it was exactly the same amount—£2,218— neither more nor less. It is strange that we should be told that we require an increased expenditure for martial law and there is no increase whatever in connection with this Vote. I think we are entitled to some explanation upon that. If we turn to the next item, the dockyard schools at home and abroad, what do we find? We find there that the amount is reduced by £20. The amount last year was £3,0–16; the amount this year is £3,026; so that in that case we find there is a reduction. Now, we must assume, from what we are told by the Admiralty, that the number of men is largely increased, and if we had been complaining of the increase of these schools we should have been told that the Navy had enormously increased during the last 10 years, and we find with all this increase that the education service is low. It is somewhat remarkable that the amount required for schools in five different places is £3,571, whilst the amount required last year was £3,779. We want to know why, if you want an increased sum for the other Votes, you have a decrease in this. I presume if the number of men has increased the number of men in the schools has also increased. Yet I see that you give the total number of adults and children in the schools at 3,000; last year there was a remarkable uniformity, because the number was 3.000 then—not one more nor one under. Now, I should like to know whether these 3,000 adults and children include those at the dockyard and Royal Marine schools, or exclude them? I notice it does not say here. One observation I wish to make with regard 10 these schools in connection with the Navy in these different centres. I do not think it is good for the children. If you look at Chatham, for instance, there you have teachers with salaries averaging about £135. and in the case of pupil teachers £60. You have a large number of children attending those schools, and I do not think the staff there is proportionate, considering the expense and the amount of education imparted to the children. I find the salaries are much upon the same scale as under the old principle, and are not revised in any way. Now, you have got five different places—you have got Chatham, Plymouth, 1212 and three other places—and I want to know why you do not send these children that are in these barrack schools to the ordinary schools of the district. I venture to say that it is much better for the children. That their fathers are connected with the Navy is no particular reason why they should not be sent to the ordinary schools of the district. If you keep them together you do not give them an opportunity of mixing with the general public as they ought to do. And you give them a particular character, which is not advisable, because the children there have to fit themselves for all trades connected with the country. It is not wise. There are 1,560 boys and 1,500 adults in these schools, and I venture to say that if you were to educate these children at the ordinary schools of these different centres it would be not only greatly to the benefit of the children, but to the district as well. It would enable these children to mix and become familiar with the general public. We have had this matter brought up before. I daresay it will be remembered that in the case of the Poor Law schools we were opposed to having the children educated differently to the rest of the community. We found it was to the interest of the children educated at the expense of the parish authorities to educate them at the ordinary public schools, because then they mix with the general public instead of being segregated and having a particular training instilled into them. Now, I do nut find any provision made for inspection. Are these schools inspected by Her Majesty's Inspectors, or who inspects these schools; and are they open for the children to take the usual certificates! Then, with regard to the amount of money. I find the contribution from parents and guardians towards the cost of the training ships brings in £18,500. I would like to know what are the numbers that are claimed there, and whether the numbers have increased. If the numbers have increased, then I would like to know how it is that the amount of the contributions has not increased?
§ * MR. TREVELYAN (York. W.R., Elland)
I merely wish to bring one small question before the Government. I want to know whether they cannot, comparitively soon, think of extending the ex- 1213 aminations for cadets to some of the leading Colonies, and not confine them entirely, as at present, to England? Of course, a Colonial is able to send his son to England for examination, but as a matter of fact the children of the Colonial gentlemen are practically excluded from entering the British Navy. It is true that there certainly are a few Colonial officers in the Navy, but they are very few and far between, and the reason for it is pretty obvious. The father, being in Australia, say, is naturally unable to send his son in most cases to England, not only because of the expense, but because it is very difficult to send quite a small boy over to England, where he is quite away from his parents, in order that he may get the necessary education. It may not be quite so small a matter as it first appears, because although few parents might take the opportunity of sending their children to such examinations if they were held in the Colonies, still, ultimately, it is a matter of great importance to our Empire. We are all in this House, of course, in favour of Imperial Federation, but hardly any one of us has any particular scheme of uniting our Colonies more closely to ourselves, on which federation must mainly depend, though we all admit at present that sympathy and sentiment may do something. But there may be ways in which the Colonies and the mother country may be drawn more closely together, and one of the ways of doing that is by attempting to draw the Colonies into taking some share in the Imperial Service. I have recently been in the Colonies, and I had some conversation with people of some position upon India. And there is a very real feeling among the more intelligent portion of the Australian colonists upon the subject of sending their young men into the Indian Service, and there is a general feeling that it would be more desirable if more of the officers of the British Navy came from the Colonies, or, at any rate, the Colonies had the opportunity of sending the boys in for examination. Now, of course, it is clear that it is somewhat difficult to hold simultaneous examinations in Australia and in Eng-land, but that is not an insuperable difficulty. You can regulate the various examinations so that they shall be practically of the same value, or you can send out the Papers some time 1214 beforehand, so that they may be actually answered on the same day. I think difficulties of that sort are not insuperable, and I think, if the Government could see its way to hold simultaneous examinations, it would ultimately tend to the advantage of the Empire. The Civil Lord and the Colonial Secretary might talk the matter over at breakfast some day, and see if something practical could not be done. We know the interest the Secretary of the Colonies has in the Colonies, and I think that he is doing a good deal in a quiet way to draw the Colonies and Great Britain together, and I suggest that this is one of those little things which may in the future develop into something very greatly to the advantage of the Empire.
* ADMIRAL FIELD
I have much sympathy with the views of the honourable Gentleman who has just sat down, and I am sure that there is not a Naval man who would object for a moment to our having more Colonial officers in the Navy: we do receive a certain number, and no doubt it is difficult for gentlemen in the Colonies to send their sons to England to prepare for examination. But the difficulties are not difficulties of the Administration, or of any Naval Department; they are difficulties of the position of the Colonies with regard to the rest of the Empire. It is difficult to make greater facilities for the sons of these gentlemen to go into the Navy, although I think it might be a very good thing if the First Lord would increase the number of those whom we now receive. But the honourable Gentleman would not wish, I presume, to see that number so increased that the sons of gentlemen here in this country were excluded from entering the Service?
§ * MR. TREVELYAN
Supposing the sons of the Colonial gentlemen are better than the worst of the cadets of Great Britain, I see no reason why they should not exclude them.
* ADMIRAL FIELD
The difficulties here are physical, and not to be got over by making a sentimental speech. No doubt if the Admiralty saw their way, and they must be the best judges of the number of applications they receive from the sons of English fathers and those in the 1215 Colonies, I quite conceive, if they thought proper, that they could have an examination in the Colonies; I see no difficulty in having a provisional examination on board the flagship, but it would be only a provisional examination. It would not be final. But those who pass a provisional examination on board the flagship would have no difficulty in passing the examination over here. But I rather demur to there being any special arrangements made for accepting gentlemen's sons from the Colonies, because they are Colonials, to the exclusion of the sons of gentlemen of this country. This is the seat of naval power, and it is more convenient that only the sons of gentlemen of this country should enter the Navy. Let me remind the honourable Gentleman that the Colonies have no grievance so long as they contribute so small an amount for naval defence. They do give us something, but not very much, although the Cape has now set an example. We have built some five ships and two torpedo boats for Australia, for which they only pay a very small annual contribution. But I am with the honourable Gentleman, and I thank him for the sympathetic way in which he has put this matter before us.
* CAPTAIN PHILLPOTTS
Upon this Vote, I wish to ask the First Lord whether he is satisfied so far with the change effected in the regulations for the entry of cadets into H.M.S. "Britannia"? I notice with pleasure that a former pupil of Harrow took first place in the examination this week, and I hope the record of other boys educated at our public schools has been such as to encourage the governing bodies to institute special classes for the Navy.
§ MR. CLOUGH (Portsmouth)
There is going about the public Press at the present time a statement that there is something insanitary about the "St. Vincent" ship, which is used for educational purposes. I should like to have some explanation as to that; and I should also like to know what has been done in that respect?
§ MR. MACARTNEY
With regard to the last question addressed to the House, I may say the accounts appearing in the Press were somewhat exaggerated. There has been an outbreak of 1216 influenza on board the "St. Vincent," but the ship has now been thoroughly disinfected, and, in the case of that ship, the reports received by the Admiralty are not such as to cause anything like a feeling of alarm or anxiety. I need hardly assure the honourable Member that the Admiralty will take every precaution to insure that the ship shall be kept in a sanitary condition. With regard to the question of my honourable and gallant Friend the Member for Torquay. I can assure him that the alteration in the regulations for the entry of cadets into the "Britannia" is entirely satisfactory. The alteration made with regard to the age has been justified, completely obtaining the end in view, and the supply of cadets for examination is ample—in fact, larger than it has ever been before. In reply to the honourable Member for Mid-Lanark—he alluded to the training colleges for engineering standards. They are not altered this year, and that accounts for the very small increase. With regard to the establishment, he has raised several other questions. The whole question of Marine schools was subjected to very careful examination by a strong Committee some years ago, and the result which the Committee arrived at was that it was for the benefit of the Service and the children themselves that the schools should be maintained. The evidence was not confined only to those connected with the Service, but was evidence taken from clergymen from all denominations, and other persons interested in education in the question of these schools; and their opinion was that it would not only be detrimental to the children attending the school, but to the neighbourhood in which the school was situated, if they were abolished. I cannot for one moment assent to the proposition of the honourable Gentleman that the maintenance of these schools in any way segregates the children from communication with their fellows. These schools are under inspection, and are visited by the Inspectors of the Local Government Board: and are on the same footing as all other schools. With regard to the dockyard schools, there is a small diminution, which is not caused by any diminution hi the number of the pupils attending the school, but by the fact that there had been a slight diminution in the salaries on new appointments being 1217 made. I cannot concur with him that it would be a benefit to the Service for these children to be educated at other schools than those provided for the education of the sons of the Service, who afterwards enter into positions in the dockyards. In Chatham the schools outside the dockyard do not afford the facilities which these dockyard schools derive from the competent staff which attends to them. I think that I have now answered all the points which the honourable Member put to me. With regard to the question raised by the honourable Member for the Elland Division, I am sure every honourable Member sympathises with the expression of the views he put before the House. The Admiralty would be naturally disposed to do anything it could to facilitate a closer connection between one of the great defensive forces of the Crown and the Colonies. But I am afraid that the difficulties in the way of carrying out his suggestion of having almost simultaneous examinations here and in all our Colonies are insuperable, but I am bound to say that the number of applications which we received from the Colonies for those sadetships which we place at the disposal of the Colonies are not sufficient to warrant the Admiralty in establishing simultaneous examinations, even if there was a possibility of carrying them out. The average number are very small indeed, and differ from year to year; and I cannot think that there is a legitimate grievance existing in the Colonies relating to this matter. The difficulties in the way of carrying out the suggestions of the honourable Gentleman, I am afraid, are insuperable.
§ MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I should like, first of all, to call attention to the educational arrangements that have been made with regard to foreign languages. There are definite instructions with regard to interpreters in the Queen's Regulation. But the arrangements are such in the Navy that there is no opportunity of becoming an interpreter, except in Swahili—an extraordinary language— which our officers learn on the Coast of Africa. There may be some reason for it, but to my own personal knowledge those who are eminently qualified amongst our officers to become interpreters have no opportunity of doing so. 1218 I have two sons—they were both in the Navy; they both took all the prizes of the Navy; but when the first, who I may say has since taken his hat off to the Navy, applied for leave, in order that he might qualify, he could not get it. He was only a sub-lieutenant, and the Navy cannot afford to give a sub-lieutenant the necessary leave to qualify as an interpreter. If you cannot give that leave to a sub-lieutenant, you cannot give it to a higher officer; you cannot dispense with his services, and, therefore, the result is, you cannot get any interpreters at all, except, as I say, in this extraordinary language—Swahili. I should like to ask the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury whether he has considered the existence of this state of things, and whether he has considered what steps can be taken to remedy it? It almost amounts to a scandal—that in an English Navy you can hardly find a single officer who can speak any language but his own. My belief is that there are an exceedingly small number of officers in the Navy who are qualified in any language for interpreters. I doubt if you have as many as three who have passed the several examinations. It was a matter of remark some years ago by the Service Examiners that they never had any naval officers come up for examination. I hope the right honourable Gentleman will be able to tell us that he is taking some measures to enable English officers to have an opportunity to qualify. With regard to the Naval College of Greenwich, I believe the examinations there are conducted by independent outside examiners. I should like to know how those examiners are appointed, and what sort of control there is over them. It is within my knowledge that a short time ago a most extraordinary and disgraceful mistake was made by one of the examiners. That mistake was that every candidate had 100 marks less than they were entitled to, owing to some mistake in. the mind of the examiner as to the maximum number of marks allowed. My son was one of the candidates, but it did not matter to him—he, of course, took a first class—but another sub-lieutenant was affected by it, and in consequence of that mistake he would have been left out of his first class altogether, whereas when the mistake 1219 was rectified he got his first class all right. Now, I want to ask how these mistakes occur, because I have reason to believe that this is not the only occasion on which these mistakes have occurred. I believe it occurs owing to the gentlemen not being acquainted with the colleges, and who, therefore, do not know the arrangements of the colleges with regard to these matters. I should like to know what sort of- system there is, in order that these gentlemen might at least know what the maximum mark is. One other point, Sir, and it is one that I have drawn attention to more than once in this House. It is this question. I should seriously urge upon the First Lord of the Admiralty to consider the propriety of establishing a system of practical tactics; a school, in other words, of tactics which might be worked practically, say at Portsmouth, with a lecturer to comment on the result achieved; to enable naval officers, not admirals, to practice these tactics. Captains and others have told me that they would be extremely glad to brush up their tactics, and I think that suggestion is not unworthy of consideration. The last question which I wish to remark upon is the age at which cadets enter the Navy. The Secretary to the Admiralty has told us about the raising of the age, and he told us that with regard to the "Britannia" it has been a great success. I do not know how he can tell us that, because the proof of the pudding is in the eating; and until we see what sort of officers the cadets make we cannot say whether it is a success or not. My own conviction is that it is the most unfortunate thing that it was found necessary to raise the age on the "Britannia," for one of the most important elements in the making of the naval officer is that you train him young, and you breed an officer who is both a man and a boy. That is the feature that most strikes the officers of a foreign fleet when they meet ours. The one thing which most strikes them is the youth of our officers, and the readiness with which our boys take upon themselves responsibilities. I read with interest the other day some remarks of a French admiral, in which he said that what struck the foreign officers most, was that our post officer was 40 years of age about, and that there was no officer of that rank in their navy 1220 under 50. It is the difference, Sir, of those 10 years—between, the ages of our officers and theirs—which makes our Navy so effective. I have always regretted that the honourable Gentleman has found it necessary to raise the age, though I believe he has always felt that he was unable to help himself. I think it is a most unfortunate thing; and I trust he will be able to say that he can see his way to returning to the younger age. I am not alone in thinking it is best to take our boys as young as possible, and the Navy as a whole agree with me in that respect, though they do not agree with me in many others.
§ MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I thought I heard the gallant Admiral say "No," and I am bound to admit that an admiral who always speaks of the Navy as "we," should know everything. But, it is just conceivable that he has fallen out of touch with the officers of the present day. I give my experience, and I have received a number of letters which show that I am not alone in my opinion, and that many officers agree with me in that respect though not in others; and, therefore, I hope we shall revert to the earlier state of things.
* AUMIRAL FIELD
I hope the Secretary for the Admiralty will listen to nothing of the kind. The Admiralty Lords do not agree with him; and it is not necessary that the boys should be younger than at the present; and it is far better that they should have those two years at home learning morals at their mothers' knee before they come to us and have to be educated in those principles which make life almost intolerable. I rose with the object of challenging some of the statements of the honourable Gentleman. He drew a deplorable picture of the ignorance of our naval officers in foreign languages. I call the honourable Gentleman's attention to a case which I had the honour to bring to the knowledge of the House, where two officers—a military officer and a marine officer—both passed their examinations in Russian, and the military officer got his £150 and his interpreter-ship, and the marine officer got nothing but commendation. I brought the case 1221 here, and made an appeal to the right honourable Gentleman opposite, to which he kindly listened, with the result that the marine officer got his £150 and his interpretership, and is now in the Naval Intelligence Department doing good work. The right honourable Gentleman the late Secretary of the Admiralty got regulations passed which opened the door to the lieutenants in the Navy and the Marines to study for these examinations, so that it is not true, as the honourable Gentleman has stated, that no opportunity is given to them; and the honourable Gentleman, with all his belief and smartness, and he has a great deal of both, was wrong to make this statement. I know as much of the naval service—although I may be somewhat ancient, and although he has two sons to whom he may go for information—as he; and I am willing to make a bet with him for any amount he likes to name that he would have no difficulty in finding a great many lieutenants who were qualified in French; he would probably find a few also who could speak that horrible language—German. [Cries of "Order."] Horrible to learn, I mean; and some who were qualified in Russian. I myself qualified for Spanish, not for the purpose of an interpreter, but I have forgotten it now. Plenty of seamen qualify themselves, and it is all nonsense to put forward this question in this way. The first duty of the naval officers is to learn their profession, and the second to qualify themselves in languages if they can be spared to go abroad. But they are much better employed in following their own profession than skittling in the boarding houses of Paris learning French. [Cries of "Order."] I merely rose to enter my strong protest against the statements which have been made by the honourable Gentleman with such an air of superiority.
§ Question put.
§ 6. £69,500, Scientific Services.
§ * MR. WEIR
I should like to ask the right honourable Gentleman a question or two on this Vote. There is a sum 1222 of £1,000 in item E, page 74, for the hydrographer, and £800 for an assistant hydrographer. Will either of these gentlemen be at the service of the Hydrographical Conference next June? I should also like to call the attention of the right honourable Gentleman to the fact that off the west coast of Scotland sunken rocks have been discovered that are not shown on the charts. A few days ago, in the Minch, there was nearly another "Stella" disaster in the case of the "Claymore." I only ask that arrangements be made to have a survey of that part of the coast, and that the Admiralty see that the charts show the rocks. During the summer season thousands of people travel along that coast for pleasure, and if steps are not taken to render the charts accurate there may be a very serious accident.
§ MR. WARNER (Stafford, Lichfield)
As more than half the Votes show increases, I think some explanation ought to be given regarding them. There is an increase in the Vote for the Observatory at Greenwich of £300; for the Observatory at the Cape of Good Hope of £334; for contingencies, of £530; for the Hydrographic Department of £715; and for the expenses of preparing charts, of £600. This last item is one which, of course, we cannot object to, as expenses must vary from year to year, but with regard to the other Votes I think some explanation is required.
* ADMIRAL FIELD
Wth great respect to the honourable Gentleman, I deprecate any criticism on this Vote, for if there is a Vote in the whole Navy Estimates which demands absolute confidence, it is this, because you get a better return for your money than in any other Vote. I myself welcome the increase. The Scientific Service, especially in the Survey Department, has been starved and cut down. The Survey Department has to discharge very responsible work, and no other charts in the world are so trustworthy, and the Mercantile Service is navigated by them.
* ADMIRAL FIELD
I will allude to only one item, simply in order to ask the right honourable Gentleman if he would be good enough to get an error rectified in the Nautical Almanac. It is purely an omission, and the Astronomer Royal of course knows of its existence. I have been written to by an eminent astronomer, who asked me to draw attention to it. It is a very learned question, but, of course, all Members understand astronomy. Owing to the precession of the equinox it is no longer identical with the first point of Aries. In time a very serious error arises, and no notice is taken of it in the Nautical Almanac, and my correspondent requested me to draw attention to it. I have taken the trouble to collect the opinion of experts, and they agree that the first point of Aries is no longer identical with the equinox, which is now in Pisces. Such an error should not be permitted to remain in the Almanac without a footnote, and I hope the First Lord of the Admiralty will take the necessary steps to draw the attention of the Astronomer Royal to the matter, for the sake of accuracy, and in order to gratify the amour propre of astronomers. I would ask the right honourable Gentleman to pass the word along to the Astronomer Royal.
§ MR. GIBSON BOWLES
It is extremely satisfactory to learn that the Navy, as represented by the gallant Admiral, has a grievance on this Vote—not that it is too high, but that it is too small. I have listened to his learned exposition that the first point of Aries is no longer the first point of Aries. It is not a ram, but two fishes. But, surely, the gallant Admiral must know that that is merely an astronomical convention, and that, whether you call it the first point of Aries, or anything else, the right ascension is always measured from it. It is an insignificant matter, though it affords the gallant Admiral another opportunity of representing the Navy as "we." The Nautical Almanac is, I believe, as perfect as it can well be. It is a most admirable work; and it is plundered and stolen by every other nation in the world. We do all the work for other nations; they take the profits and pirate our property. The only remark 1224 I wish to make is that I should like, if possible, to have it published in a smaller edition. The Admiralty might leave out the figures which are not required for ordinary mariners, but which, of course, are extremely useful to astronomers, and publish a smaller edition for the use of mariners, at a smaller price. That would be a most useful thing. I should like to add my testimony to that of "we," the gallant Admiral, as to the great excellence of the Hydrographic Department. I really think, when one looks at the charts and uses them, one is filled with great admiration for the work which is done, and for the fidelity with which the charts are prepared. Of course, the Hydrographic Survey is not quite perfect—there is only one perfect thing and person that I know of, and that is the gallant Admiral—but it is as near perfection as it can be brought. I have been a little disturbed recently by observing that the charts appear to be no longer engraved by zincography The figures do not appear quite as clear. I do not know whether it is because I am getting older, but I hope nothing: will be done to interfere with the beauty of our charts, and the manner in which they are engraved. It is very necessary that there should be no interference with the manner of reproduction. The work is most excellent, and it would be a great pity if anything were done to render the method of reproduction less perfect.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
With regard to the last question, I am not aware myself that any alteration has taken place in the method by which the charts are reproduced. I will bear in mind what my honourable Friend has said on the matter. I am sure I need not assure him of the great pride which the hydrographer of the Navy takes in the work he turns out. With regard to the-matter mentioned by the gallant Admiral, I think it is far safer for me to draw the attention of the Astronomer-Royal to it, and he can determine whether the alteration is necessary or not. I concur with my honourable Friend in his suggestion that the publication of a cheaper and smaller edition of the Nautical Almanack is worthy of consideration, and I will bear it in mind. With regard to the sunken 1225 rocks off the coast of Scotland, I am much obliged to the honourable Member for drawing my attention to the matter. I will have it looked into, and I have no doubt, if required, the necessary steps will be taken to mark them on the charts. The honourable Member for Lichfield asked me to explain the difference in the items, which are extremely slight. To do so fully, it should have to go into a number of small details, but generally, I may inform him, the increases are principally due to increases in salary, and to the addition, say, of a hired labourer or a hired charwoman here and there. It is to items of that character that the small increases are due. I hope the honourable Member will not require me to take up the time of the Committee in dealing with them at any great length.
§ Question put.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 7. £271,000, Royal Naval Reserves.
§ LORD C. BERESFORD
I should like to ask whether any alteration has been made in the armament of the batteries used in connection with the drill of the Royal Naval Reserve? I got a return presented to the House last year, from which it appeared that no quick-firing guns of greater calibre than six-pounders were used. There were some five- and six-inch guns, but they were not quick-firing guns, and seven of the batteries had only muzzle-loading guns, and two had no range, and therefore no practice in firing at all. I think this is a most important point, particularly with regard to reserve men, who will have to go on board in moments of emergency, and who should be most excellently well-drilled. They should know their drill as well as possible. In every other country, when a new gun is introduced, it is always sent to the artillery schools for the purpose of drill. In our Navy the system of training the reserve men with obsolete guns is still clung to. I hope my right honourable Friend will be able to tell us that there is an improvement with regard to the Naval Reserve. I should also like to ask if the report he has had with regard to the new system in the Reserve is satisfactory. The 1226 suggestion to get as many fishermen as possible into the Reserve was a, good one, and I should like to know whether the Captains of the Fleet have reported to the Admiralty whether they are or are not satisfied with the class of men they get?
§ * SIR C. DILKE
On this Tote I should like to strongly support the suggestion made by the honourable and gallant Gentleman the Member for York with regard to these batteries. We discussed the matter in this House three years ago, before the noble Lord came back. It is one to which considerable attention has been called by a great number of Members, and although we are always making some improvement, some of us cannot but think that we still lag behind. There has been a constant but slow improvement, but we think we are still behind in the supply of ordnance and batteries for the purpose of drilling men and officers. With regard to the Reserve generally, the new system was adopted last year, and that new system we were told was a success. It is very necessary that it should be watched carefully each year, as the Reserve under the old system was never admitted by the Admiralty to be the pronounced failure we thought it was, and it is always a very long time before we get the actual results of any particular year in the Appropriation Account. The actual Returns show a very great falling off, as compared with what we were led to expect. The last Account which is now issued, for the year ending 31st March 1898, states that there was a large surplus. So it was each year for the four preceding years—a surplus returned to the Exchequer from the Reserve Account, and the Auditor-General reported that the reason was because the number of officers in training had fallen off, and that the number of men who embarked for six months' training was considerably less than had been anticipated. If that occurred in one year, it might be that it was a mere temporary difference between one year and another, and not a matter of much importance; but when it occurs in four years in succession, and is reported on to the House by the Auditor-General, I think it is a 1227 matter which the Committee ought to take notice of. The last Appropriation Account which I have deals with the beginning of the new system. We are told that the working of that system is satisfactory and successful, and we have to accept that statement, and I hope it is not based on undue optimism. For four successive years we have been given statements on the subject which were more or less optimistic, and when we see money not spent, we cannot but look with a certain amount of suspicion on the working of the present system. Of course, the new system has made no change with regard to officers. But there is a shortness of officers at the present moment in proportion to the number of men—in fact, we are terribly short of lieutenants in the Navy, and, of course, the number of Reserve officers is a matter which must be taken into consideration in manning the ships for war. I do not know what efforts the Admiralty are now making to increase the number of Reserve officers. Of course, the best officers, as a general rule, are no doubt those employed on first-class liners; but they are constantly at sea, and in time of war we could not lay up the first-class ships on which they are employed. They would be wanted very likely for Government purposes, and we could not really count on their officers for the Navy. I do not know whether the Admiralty would agree to take the precaution of having a, look at those Reserve officers. There has been a certain difficulty caused by the great difference of quality of officers. Some are extremely good, others are not. I do not know whether it is worth suggesting that more personal communication should be held between trusted Admiralty officials and Reserve officers when they are first placed on the list. I cannot but think that if men were taken less on paper qualifications, and more after conversation with the Admiralty officials, the average might be somewhat improved, and some very excellent officers might be added to the Reserve.
* ADMIRAL FIELD
I wish to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty whether the difficulty complained of last year with 1228 reference to drill ships and batteries being in possession of quick-firing and six-inch guns has been removed. I went aboard one of these ships, and found the six-inch guns were dismounted on the deck. I asked why they were not mounted, and the answer was that it would cost £150, as they would require appliances from the neighbouring docks to mount them. It is absurd to supply guns if they are not to be mounted, and other ships may be in the same condition as I found that one I visited. I want to know what has been done. Are the guns still on the decks unmounted and disused? If that is the case with the reserve ships, are there any other ships in the same unhappy condition? Because, if so, it is little short of a scandal. I am delighted to see that the Naval Reserve officers have been increased by a hundred, all told, including engineers, and I am also glad to see one thousand men added to the Reserve. It is most satisfactory. It is not the officers connected with the Reserve who are to blame for its present condition. If there is any blame lying round it, it is somebody higher than they are who is responsible, and I should like an explanation.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
As regards the armed batteries, I can inform my honourable Friend that, in addition to the supply of more modern guns completed last year, the Admiralty have now undertaken to provide guns of modern type for all the Royal Naval Reserve batteries. That will be proceeded with immediately. We have undertaken this in view of the new scheme for the Royal Naval Reserve. The incident to which the honourable and gallant Member for Eastbourne alluded must, I think, be one absolutely singular. I will, however, make inquiries into it. With regard to officers for the Royal Naval Reserve, we have a large number of names on the list waiting for any vacancies which may occur, and I can say that the appointments are not made wholly on paper recommendations, careful inquiry being made in every case. The number of seamen who embarked for the six months' training in the financial year ended March 31st last was 2,009, and the number serving on that day was 720, 1229 while the entries of the last two months have been fairly regular.
* ADMIRAL FIELD
Is there a gun-boat at Bristol to take the men out into the Channel to fire? That was promised last year.
§ * MR. WEIR
I believe there was a sum of £22,000 unexpended in this Estimate last year. I hope that that will not occur again, but that every effort will be made to spend the money voted this year. I am glad to find there is a larger number of men volunteering to cruise for six months, but may I point out that the Stornoway district is not being well treated by the Admiralty. There are plenty of splendid seamen there who would be glad to have a chance of joining the Royal Naval Reserve, and to take a six months' cruise. Perhaps the honourable Gentleman will inquire into that.
§ Question put.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 8. £2,710,800, Naval Armaments.
* ADMIRAL FIELD
By way of friendly criticism, I wish to ask an explanation of some of the items in this important Vote. I wish to draw the attention of the First Lord to the fact that some years ago a pledge was given that naval ordnance appointments should be given, as opportunity offered, not to military officers, but to naval men, either retired naval warrant officers or retired lieutenants. We do not wish to displace any Army men who now hold the appointments, but we do say that as vacancies occur they should be given to naval officers. But from information which reaches me, I gather that naval men who are doing the work have been superseded, and the duties handed over to military men. That is a real grievance, for we hold that naval stores should be under the charge of naval men who are in sympathy and touch with the Service. I should like some information as to how the facts stand, and I earnestly 1230 press the First Lord to give future vacancies to naval men. I have also to ask an explanation on a question on the manufacture of guns. I understand that a new 12in. breech-loading gun has been introduced, and there are rumours that this gun has disappointed expectations. It was anticipated that with the larger chamber and increased cordite charge there would be a greater velocity and power of penetration, but that has not been secured to a slight extent, and as against these there is a larger amount of erosion, which is so enormous that the metal flies out like water. The excessive charges, in fact, do not give results corresponding to the increased expense. I notice, too, that there is a diminution of no less than £77,350 in the charge for ammunition and projectiles, while there is an increase of £78,975 for guns, as well as a decrease in the charge for small arms. Surely, that is somewhat strange. I have no doubt it is open to explanation, but I am afraid there may have been a cutting down of the Vote in defiance of naval opinion, so as to lessen the expenditure on this item, and enable money to be voted for some other purpose.
§ MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I certainly understood there was to be an increased allowance for projectiles and ammunition, particularly for prize firing and targets. We cannot, therefore, understand how it is that the Vote is smaller. I notice at the same time that there is an almost exactly corresponding increase in the sum put down for torpedoes and gun cotton. I believe in the gun cotton, but I do not believe in the torpedo. I am sorry to think that there should be a decrease in the amount of ammunition issued for target practice. It is said that great improvements have recently been made in the torpedo by the introduction of some new machinery. But I have never believed in that particular weapon, whereas I have always believed in the big guns.
* SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
On Vote eight, which deals with shipbuilding, repairs, maintenance, etc., we have been accustomed to get a great deal of detailed information by which it is possible to trace the expenditure on 1231 various ships. No such details appear on this Vote. The information in Vote 9 is inadequate. We should have details as to the expenditure on puns, for what services they are intended, where the guns are manufactured, and which are obtained from Woolwich and which from private firms. I would suggest whether the Vote could not be improved and made to convey more information to the House of Commons than it does.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
In reply to the right honourable Gentleman opposite, I would point out that the Admiralty have to consider whether it is expedient in the interests of the Service to give more details with regard to guns than appear in the Vote. During the last two years we have amplified the information given in response to an expression of opinion which was made in this House in 1896–97, and I am not prepared to say that it would be in the interests of the Service to give more. As the right honourable Gentleman has drawn attention to the matter, I will promise him that it shall be considered again, and if what he asks can be done, I can assure the right honourable Gentleman that there will be no objection. Attention has been called to the fact that the Votes show a decrease for ammunition and an increase for guns. That arises from the adoption of the usual practice in relation to these matters, by which the heaviest portion, which is required for guns, falls upon the earlier years over which the Naval Programme is spread. The reverse, of course, is pursued with regard to ammunition, the heaviest amounts being provided in the latest years of the period over which the programme is spread. There is no ground for the suspicion that due provision will not be made for the supply of ammunition for the ships under construction. We intend that every ship, when she is ready, shall be immediately supplied with guns and ammunition. As to the new 12-inch gun, I am not prepared at the present moment to give my honourable and gallant Friend any details. It is true that the gun has not turned out as satisfactory as was expected, but I am 1232 not in a position at the present moment to tell him what is the final judgment of the Admiralty in regard to it. With reference to the appointments in the Naval Ordnance Department, it is not intended to depart from the general principle laid down, that where possible naval officers and men in the Service should be selected for these positions.
§ LORD C. BERESFORD
I consider that the Ordnance Stores should be in the charge of naval officers, and I should like to know whether the Admiralty intend that positions in the Ordnance Department, which can be taken by gunners and boatswains, as they become vacant, shall be filled up by men of the rank of warrant officers. I have seen some very serious mistakes made by military officers in charge of these stores. Wrong ammunition was in one instance supplied to my ship, and if that had happened in war time it would have been a very awkward and serious matter. These mistakes would not occur if the positions were held by men from the Fleet, who would understand these matters,
§ MR. MACARTNEY
I can assure my noble and gallant Friend that that is the intention of the Admiralty. But in certain outlying posts it is better, in the interests of the Navy and the Service generally, that the inspection of the officer in charge should be undertaken by the War Department, where the amount of the Ordnance Stores is not sufficient to justify the Admiralty in keeping up a special Department for their survey and inspection.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
I notice there is a large increase in Item K for inspection, but owing to the conciseness of this Return it is impossible to understand that increase. I should like to know if it means that a great many more guns have been produced.
§ MR. BURNS (Battersea)
The amount for inspection is very large this year, and I would appeal to the Civil Lord of the Admiralty to give the Committee some satisfactory explanation of 1233 this large amount. Personally, I should like to see the Reports of the inspections made available to Members of the House of Commons, so that we can ascertain the number of rejections of guns, engines, and machinery, under the contract system as compared with the system by which the work is done by the Government itself in its dockyards, arsenals, and engineering works.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
The increase in question is almost entirely—I may say entirely—due to the amount required for the important tests conducted in regard to armour plates. With regard to the suggestion of the honourable Member for Battersea that the Reports of these inspections and tests should be made public, either to Members of this House or to experts other than those who act on behalf of the Admiralty, I do not think it would be in the interest of the Service, and certainly not in the interest of the country, that the results of the inspections, which deal with matters of high importance and very technical and scientific points in connection with the defences of this country, should be given any publicity whatever. The honourable Member must rest assured that the Admiralty have a very strict eye upon all that takes place.
§ MR. BURNS
I am not at all satisfied with the reply which has been given by the Secretary to the Admiralty. Newspapers often make indiscriminate attacks on the firms doing Government work, firms turning out good work thus suffering for the shortcomings of firms turning out bad work. This would be avoided if the cost of inspection was set out in detail, and we should then not have armour plate manufacturers and gun manufacturers being unjustly blamed for the defective work of some other firm.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
I should like to know whether the increased cost of experiments is due to trials of armour plates or to trials of guns?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
It is due to both. The guns rae brought to trial on the armour plate, and a very interesting competition it is. The cost of the inspection as well as experiments is put down in this Item.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
May I suggest that in future some difference should be made between inspection and experiments, in order that we may know the number of guns that are being turned out complete?
§ Question put.
§ Vote agreed to.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That a sum, not exceeding £248,200, be granted to Her Majesty to defray the expenses of various Miscellaneous Effective Services which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1900.
* ADMIRAL FIELD
I wish to draw attention to two matters of importance which can only be brought up upon this Vote. I complain of the enormous demands that are made upon the private means of the Commander in the Mediterranean for the entertainment of Royal personages, and I contend that he should be authorised to send in an account for these heavy charges. Otherwise only men with large private means can undertake that command, There is a similar grievance in regard to the Senior Officer at Gibraltar, unless it has been remedied by the grant of some extra allowance. The First Lord of the Admiralty nods, and I am glad to learn that an extra allowance has been granted, because I know cases where the command had been offered to excellent naval officers who had been compelled to decline on account of the great demand which would be made upon their private purse.
§ MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I wish to call attention to a small point which is not without importance. For many 1235 years the Admiralty have been charged with the maintenance of a floating light ship at the Warner. It is absolutely necessary to keep the lightship there, and I cannot understand how it is that the First Lord of the Admiralty has so long endured this expense, which ought to be charged to the ordinary Light Fund. I trust the First Lord of the Admiralty will refuse, on behalf of the Navy, to be saddled any longer with this expenditure.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
I will do what I can to get rid of this charge on the Navy Estimates, but I hope my right honourable Friend the President of the Board of Trade will not retort that the Navy ought to pay light dues. That has been a burning question between the Board of Trade and the Admiralty in past years, and it may be dangerous to raise the controversy my honourable Friend has suggested. With regard to the point raised by the gallant Admiral, the case of Gibraltar has been dealt with. The question of the hospitality exercised by naval officers is a difficult one. The naval money of commanders is arranged on the assumption that they have to bear the expense of these entertainments.
* ADMIRAL FIELD
Though they have to entertain foreign officers it has never been assumed that they should entertain Royal personages. The charges for these Royal personages ought not to come out of their private means. I once had the honour of entertaining Royal personages on my vessel, but unfortunately we had a heavy gale of wind and they could not eat the food provided for them. It was consumed by the officers, as those for whom it was in tended were sea-sick. However, I took care to charge it.
§ Question put.
§ Vote agreed to.1236
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That a sum of money, not exceeding £774,700, be granted to Her Majesty to defray the expenses of half-pay, reserve, and retired pay, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1900
§ MR. HARWOOD
I had intended to raise on this Vote the question of the Greenwich Age Pensions, but I understand it would be convenient to the Admiralty if this matter is not raised to-night. It may be raised upon Vote 12 with the consent of the First Lord of the Admiralty, and, if he will allow me to raise it then, I am quite willing to do so.
§ Question put.
§ Vote agreed to.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That a sum, not exceeding £1,116,000, be granted to Her Majesty to defray the expenses of naval and marine pensions, gratuities, and compassionate allowances, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1900.
* ADMIRAL FIELD
I should like to know whether anything has been done for the relatives of the brave man, Stoker Lynch, who, at the risk of his own life, rescued other stokers when a torpedo catcher stranded at Devonport, and ultimately died in hospital?
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The Admiralty have been most anxious to recognise the conduct of Stoker Lynch and provide such compensation as money can give for his relatives, although he did not die until after he was retired from the Service. For that purpose a special Order in Council was required, and the necessary steps have been taken.
§ Question put.
§ Vote agreed to.1237
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That a sum, not exceeding £341,500, be granted to Her Majesty to defray the expenses of Civil pensions and gratuities which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1900.
§ Question put.
§ Vote agreed to.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That a sum, not exceeding £60,300, be granted to Her Majesty to defray the expenses of additional naval forces for Service in Australasian waters, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1900.
§ Question put.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next; Committee to sit again upon Monday next.