HC Deb 09 February 1899 vol 66 cc315-6

I beg leave to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he can now add anything to his statement made in June 1898, that the Admiralty would consider the suggestion then made, that at the Admiral's periodical inspection of ships the inspection in respect of gunnery should include an inspection in marksmanship to be carried out by target practice at sea; whether, as Rear-Admiral Sir Robert Harris, the Commander-in-Chief at the Cape, adopted and carried out this suggestion at his first inspection of the ships under his command in or about August of last year, and has issued a memorandum stating his intention to continue the practice, there is any objection to laying a copy of that Memorandum upon the Table of this House; whether Rear-Admiral Palisser, the Commander-in-Chief on the Pacific Station, has since adopted the same practice; whether it is proposed to take steps for the pursuance of a similar practice at all naval stations; and whether he is able to give any general statement of the steps taken and to be taken in order to maintain the marksmanship in the Navy at the highest attainable point of efficiency?

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

What I said in June 1898, with reference to this particular suggestion was that the Admiralty were giving their most earnest attention to the best means of improving the standard of marksmanship in the Navy and were carefully considering whether any further regulations on the subject were necessary. Some further regulations have been framed and are at this moment before me for consideration. In reference to the second Question, it would not be convenient to lay such memoranda on the Table of the House, but I may say that I cordially approve of the steps taken by Sir Robert Harris. In answer to the third Question, Rear-Admiral Palliser has not sent in a similar report to that of Admiral Harris. It is not proposed to issue a General Circular on such inspections. The circumstances of the various Naval Stations are different, and what is possible and convenient in one case may not be possible and convenient in the other. But I have no reason to believe that the Commanders-in-Chief on all the stations are not keenly alive to the necessity of taking all possible steps for maintaining good marksmanship in the Navy. In answer to the last Question I cannot, at this moment, make the general statement which the honourable Member desires. I will, if possible, take an opportunity on the Navy Estimates to state what we have done.