§ 1. Motion made and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £6,601,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the expense of the Contract Work for Shipbuilding, Repairs, etc., which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1900."
§ * MR. WILLIAM ALLAN (Gateshead)
In rising to move the motion which stands in my name for the reduction of this Vote by £1,000, I must say I am impelled to take this course for two reasons; the first mechanical, and the second monetary. In regard to the first, I do not intend to traverse the ground I have gone over this last four or five years in respect of the 1555 machinery which is fitted on board Her Majesty's ships. It would weary the House to go too much into detail, and a purely mechanical discussion would be out of place in this Committee. But at the same time events which have occurred in the fleet during the last twelve months have shown that there must be something seriously wrong in the mechanical arrangements of our splendid vessels. When I read of the trial trips which have taken place, and of the mobilisation of the fleet now in operation, I see there are grave grounds for dread as to what would he the condition of our ships in war time. I find that two of our first-class cruisers, the "Europa" and the "Argonaut," which performed their trial trips in a highly satisfactory mariner, are now wounded ducks, and cannot keep up with the fleet. And when I turn to other vessels, I find the "Perseus," the "Pactolus," the "Pegasus," the "Niobe," and the "Pelorus," are all more or less in a very bad condition. The general complaint is simply this: that the boilers of these vessels are insufficient for the work required of them. I think that is pretty well proved by reports received from independent sources. This is a matter of national interest. Our ships ought to be the best in the world. We pay the best money, and we ought to have the best ships. But what do I find? We are brought face to face with a very serious state of affairs indeed. Let me give the House one illustration to show the peculiar condition in which our Admiralty places itself. Take the case of the Royal yacht. Here is a splendid vessel built, practically, to carry passengers. She is fitted with Belleville boilers. Mark this point. Had that vessel been fitted under the supervision of the Board of Trade instead of by a Government Department like the Admiralty, this yacht would not have been given a longer warranty for her boilers than three months. The Board of Trade was instituted to insure the safety of life and property in ships. Its engineers are the best in the country. The head Surveyor of the Board of Trade is a man who, I believe, has not his equal in practical experience in engineering. The engineers of the Board of Trade are first-class practice men with seagoing and shore experience. These are the men who control the Board of Trade, and, practically, the Mercantile Marine of this country in 1556 the boiler and engine department. The Admiralty engineers say that these boilers of this new yacht will last two commissions, yet the Board of Trade would not pass them for more than three months. Here is an anomaly to which I want to direct the attention of this House. We have two Government Departments differing as to what is the life of a boiler. I now come to the case of other ships fitted with the Belleville boilers. I sympathise with the First Lord of the Admiralty very much. He was left a legacy by the former government, and he is now endeavouring, by all the means in his power, to make a success of the work bequeathed to him. The fates, however, are against him. Take to-day's news of the fleet. We have here the report of the Admiral. What do I find in it? I find that the Admiral signalled "Too much smoke." Now, of all things the one most calculated to defeat the object of a fleet is that it should issue too much smoke, because it shows the enemy where you are and what you are doing. What do the engineers say about these boilers? The engineer of the "Europa" says he wishes he had no Belleville boilers at all. Take another phase of the question. The "Argonaut" and the "Furiouss" are only one-third of the size of the "Majestic," yet they consume more than double the quantity of coal.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover square
What are you quoting from?
§ * MR. WILLIAM ALLAN
From an article by a correspondent on board a warship in which he embodies information which he got from the engineer. It is a well-known fact that these boilers do consume double the quantity of coal that the boilers of an ordinary merchant ship would do. Again, they must always be fired with Welsh coal. The First Lord of the Admiralty told us that, and I would like to know what these vessels are going to do when they are at a place at which they cannot get Welsh coal. The question conies to be very serious from this point of view. Then, again, we lave the condemnation of these boilers by the Board of Trade in a Report issued the other day under the Boilers Explosions Act. The Report of 1557 the head surveyor of the Board of Trade on this point is simply startling. He says the failure of the tubes of water-tube boilers is known to be of common occurrence, and that the bursting of a tube not only disables a boiler entirely until repairs are effected, but is a source of danger to human life. These boilers are condemned by men of all ranks, from the admiral down to the stoker. We want to have men on hoard our ships, men who will not only stand up before the enemy's guns, but who will stand in the stoke-hold and engine room and serve steadily while the vessel is under fire. I have letters from firemen and engine-room artificers complaining of the nervous dread they feel when they go into the stoke hold in case one of the tubes should burst. I have here a letter from a man on board the "Diadem," which I think, if I read it, would startle the House. He says they fear to open a furnace door. Why should all this occur when it could easily be avoided Without the necessity for all this danger we could still ensure that our ships should be the first and finest in the world. I do not believe that there is a marine-engine builder in this country who would not condemn the present system of hollering Her Majesty's ships. And, what is more, that system brings us face to face with fearful expense. Take, in fact, the case of the "Terrible" itself. She is being re-boilered at an expense of I do riot know how much. You are converting the dockyards into repairing shops for your ships, and I have here some figures showing the enormous cost you are incurring for minor repairs. On the "Benbow," practically a new ship, in 1895–96 there was spent £5,939, in 1896–97 £5,200, and in 1897–98 £10,028. On the "Empress of India" £10,146 had been spent, and on the "Magnificent" in 1895–96 £975, in 1896–97 £6,666, and in 1897–98 £10,233. Remember all these were "minor repairs." On the "Blake," a first-class cruiser, £1,180 was spent in 1895–96, £10,503 in 1896–97, and in 1897–98 £9,990. On the "Blenheim" in 1895–96 the repairs cost £6,280, in 1896–97 £5,953, and in 189798 £8,659. The "Powerful" in 189798 cost £6,900 and the "Terrible" £6,579. I am only trying to show the House how the money goes. We vote the money willingly, and we expect to have a strong and grand fleet. Now I come to the case of sonic of the torpedo boats which have been built lately.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I want this to be made clear. The hon. Member is not merely referring to vessels fitted with water-tube boilers. The impression of my right hon. friend is that these ships are all fitted with water-tube boilers. I am afraid that some hon. Members do not quite understand the fact. That is not the case.
§ * MR. WILLIAM ALLAN
Some of them are, and the figures show something is wrong. Now, I find that in the case of the torpedo boat destroyers £778 was spent on the "Hardy" in 1896–7, and in the following year £2,000 for minor repairs. On the "Bruiser," in 1895–6 £600 was spent, and last year £2,000 odd; on the "Havoc," £1,501 in 1895–6, £1,361 in 1896–7, and £770 in 1897–8. In the same three years respectively the expenditure on the "Hornet" was £3,736, £2,122, and £983. Surely this list shows conclusively that you are converting your dockyards into nothing else but repair shops. Another point to be borne in mind is that you are making your engines of such light scantlings that they come back to your dockyards practically as wrecks. There is no single ship you have hollered lately that you can take the trial trip speed out of a week after it has completed its dockyard trials. You dare not steam all your boilers at once, nor can you go at full steam for any length of time. What is the use of having a ship purporting to do a certain number of knots per hour when you cannot get them out of her? Yet that is the condition to which you are reducing your Navy. Independent investigation is necessary. The country is beginning to see that a foolish policy was hastily determined upon without due experiment. No shipowner with business instincts would have adopted these boilers without giving them a more thorough trial. You are brought face to face with the fact that our ships are easily crippled, and I tell the House that the men engaged in the engine-rooms do not know from one moment to another when four or five of these tubes may burst. I say it is a shame that such a state of things should prevail. I therefore appeal to the First Lord of the Admiralty to accede to my modest request and take this matter into his own hands. Let him appoint an independent committee of experts to make an honest investigation as to the 1559 true condition of our ships move.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £6,600,000, be granted for the said service."—(Mr. William Allan.)
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I think the best opening I can make to the few remarks it will be my duty to offer to the Committee in reply to the hon. Member will be to state the position of the water-tube boiler question, not only as regards this country, but as regards its adoption generally. The hon. Member continually raises this question, as if this country has entered upon some dangerous experiment without any opinion or experience to guide it, and in this way has adopted a policy which cannot command the approval of the people. I may tell the House that whatever this country may do in the matter of the water-tube boiler, that boiler as an engine of war has been adopted by the world at large; and we have to consider not only how we stand in the abstract, but how we should stand with reference to any possible enemies if we should go back from the water-tube to the cylindrical boiler. The water-tube boiler has been adopted by France, Italy, Russia, Holland, and Japan. Eight of the old French ships are to be reboilered with the water - tube boiler instead of the cylindrical boiler. The United States are also fitting the boiler in a number of their vessels. Would all these countries have so acted had there not been strong strategic military and naval reasons for the adoption of these boilers? I do not know whether the hon. Member is aware that in the Mediterranean six first-class French ironclads are all fitted with these boilers. This country did not embark in the use of the water-tube boiler as early as France. In consequence the Minister of Marine was able to state to the Chamber of Deputies that the ships of the French Mediterranean squadron were faster than the English battleships there. That is a statement I am not prepared to deny. It may be that they have not got any real advantage, but on the whole possibly it is on their side. Supposing in this state of facts we had gone on rejecting the water-tube boilers, what would have been said of the British Admiralty and the way it was neglecting the naval 1560 interests of the country? This country-has been twice behindhand, once with the breechloading system, and again with armoured ships. My predecessors in office who had to deal with the question were not prepared to allow a state of things to continue under which the same state of things might have happened in regard to boilers as happened in regard to those other most important conditions affecting the Navy, and consequently they took the responsibility, and I believe the right responsibility, of introducing water-tube boilers. Half of the difficulties which have been pointed out by the hon. Member are due to this—that when you change your cylindrical boilers to water-tube boilers there must come a period during which the experience of the new boilers is not sufficiently great to avoid a number of small defects and small difficulties. But it has been proved over and over again that the longer a ship with water-tube boilers is in commission the more quickly all those difficulties vanish, and the vessel, without any trouble whatever, runs at a greater speed than any British warship has ever done before. The "Powerful," which has been denounced by the hon. Member, has been two years in commission, and we never hear now of any defects or any difficulties; on the contrary, we hear of runs which she has made superior in speed to any which have been accomplished by any cruisers with cylindrical boilers or any other men-of-war.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
There was one successful run of the ordinary kind a man-of-war has to perform—from Hongkong to Manila—and there was another from Wei-hai-wei. There was one run of 24 hours at which the speed was 20 knots the whole time, making 480 knots in the 24 hours. When hon. Members compare these performances with those of mercantile ships they ought to remember that mercantile ships are constructed for totally different objects—for long voyages at the same continuous speed, whereas the chief duty of our men-of-war will not be to cross the Atlantic at the highest possible speed. What they have to do is to keep in touch with the enemy and overhaul it if possible. Therefore, 1561 what they require is not long continuous steaming, but the power of very rapid steaming for a certain number of hours, and during periods when naval operations and tactics would take place. Now the "Terrible," for instance, has made runs to Gibraltar faster than any ship of her size has ever done. The hon. Member fixes his mind upon two or three ships early in their commissions, but such ships as the "Niobe," "Diadem," and "Argonaut" have been attached to the Channel Squadron, and they have been doing the same work as the other ships of the squadron. A number of ships with water-tube boilers have been sent to foreign stations, and there is no reason to believe that they are not performing the functions required of them. But one thing I frankly and freely acknowledge, and that is that ships with water-tube boilers require more careful and disciplined stoking than vessels with cylindrical boilers, and therefore, it is frequently not at the commencement of the commission that they can be expected to show their best features. Indeed, they often show defects which are quickly remedied when once the ship has settled down to work. The hon. Member has alluded to two ships in the maœeuvres. Now, I wish to say with regard to all those ships that the Admiralty has put them to much severer trials than any ships previously have been put to. The former shorter trials have been lengthened into sixty hours' trials, and the "Terrible" has already steamed 20,000 miles. She performed the sixty hours' trial with perfect success. The two ships mentioned, the "Europa" and the "Argonaut," have only been a few days in commission. There are crews in them the majority of whom have had no experience of Belleville boilers at all. That in itself is a severe test, and we have every confidence that the slight difficulties which have occurred will be successfully surmounted. There has been some leakage in connection with the boilers, and so far as I know, the same experience happens in vessels with cylindrical boilers at the beginning of the ship's commission. There is nothing whatever to alarm the country in what has taken place. With regard to the torpedo-destroyers, if we want to have them of 30-knot speed, they must be equipped with machinery so light that defects will occasionally be exposed. 1562 Accordingly, in calculating the number of torpedo-destroyers allowance must be made for a certain number having to go into dock. But as we get more experience those defects vanish, and from the fact that other Powers are following us in building this particular class of ship, the Admiralty believe that we have in those torpedo-destroyers a very valuable fighting machine. The hon. Member spoke of the defects of the "Terrible." I believe there are some 7,600 tubes in the "Terrible," yet, during her two years' commission, I think only about 250 have had to be renewed.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Other tubes had to be cleaned. The hon. Member probably knows that rust gets into the tubes, and it was in connection with this rust that a deplorable accident took place recently. This has taken some time, and there were some matters connected with the auxiliary machinery to which attention was being paid, and in which improvements were possible. As to the question of coal consumption, it must be borne in mind that in new ships there is a good deal of auxiliary machinery for which coal has to be provided, and which is not to be found in the old ships. There is the apparatus for electric lighting, and for condensing purposes, for instance. With reference to what the hon. Gentleman said about the stokers, I am not prepared to accept the view that British stokers are more nervous than the stokers of other countries, who have for some time past successfully kept these ships at sea. It is absolutely necessary to introduce these boilers, and it will be necessary to maintain them for the reasons I have recently explained. Water-tube boilers can get up steam almost at once, while cylindrical boilers cannot, and that is one of the strategic reasons which have influenced this country in adopting them. But we must pass through a period of transition. Stokers require to be trained in the use of these boilers, and until they are trained perfection cannot be expected.
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY
The hon. Member for Gateshead has attacked 1563 the Belleville boiler as if it had no redeeming feature. The water-tube boiler was a novelty introduced into the Navy by hon. Gentlemen opposite on the recommendation of a Committee. That Committee recommended that one ship should be fitted with water-tube boilers, but instead of only fitting one ship several were fitted, and the succeeding administration brought this novel type of boiler into the Navy wholesale, and new ships are not now fitted with any other type. The question of importance is what is the reasonable expectation of the endurance of these boilers at sea. It is true they have the advantage of getting up steam very quickly, but can they he relied on? The Admiralty have been challenged for years to send a vessel fitted with these boilers on a long ocean trip. The "Terrible" was sent on a trip, but the record was not such as to show that the boilers were capable of long endurance at sea.
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY
The right hon. Gentleman is quite right; there was nothing wrong with the boilers, but were they proved to be effective? The engines broke down and it was impossible to test the boilers to their full power, and although there was nothing wrong with them there was nothing to prove that they were capable of prolonged endurance at sea.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
There were two sixty-hour trials. In the first there was a speed of 19½, knots, and in the second 20.7 knots for over 1,200 miles. My hon. friend will surely admit that that is a good performance.
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY
That is a most encouraging performance, and I am exceedingly glad that the right hon. Gentleman has given us the figures, because I understood from him that the best result he could look forward to was speed of 20 knots for twenty-four hours, and I am delighted to learn that such an important ship as the "Terrible" can steam 20.7 knots for sixty hours. May I suggest that there is still 1564 something the Admiralty might do? The right hon. Gentleman expressed a few moments ago the hope that hon. Members would show more respect for the technical opinion of the Engineer-in-Chief to the Navy than the hon. Gentleman opposite had shown. I give the fullest deference to the skill, experience, and knowledge of the Engineer-in-Chief, but I think he would be well advised, after the very satisfactory and encouraging experiment with the "Terrible," if he went further, and advised the Admiralty to order a very much longer trial at full speed. In my opinion, this is the most vital question connected with the steam branch of naval machinery at the present time, because unless we can depend absolutely on the endurance of the boilers in our ships, all our preparations with regard to armour and the training of men will be quite futile. There are no other means of making our ships live engines of war, and we should thoroughly test any doubt which may exist regarding the sufficiency and enduring quality of our boilers. While congratulating the Admiralty on the excellent results they have obtained on this question of endurance, I must say they have yet some distance to travel, and I hope that when the subject is discussed next session the right hon. Gentleman will be able to say that perhaps half a dozen of our powerful cruisers fitted with water-tube boilers have been tested from port to port across the ocean at high speed. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on what has been already achieved.
SIR U. KAY - SHUTTLEWORTH (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
A debate on this, subject is necessarily of a technical character, and I feel some diffidence in interfering in such a technical subject. But as reference has been made to the Board of Admiralty to which I and my hon. friend belonged, and which did take the grave responsibility of introducing water-tube boilers into Her Majesty's. Navy, I may state that the credit belongs to the technical advisers of the Board of Admiralty for the new departure. I hope the time will never come when Members of the House of Commons in debating a subject of this kind will discourage the officers and officials of the Admiralty from such courageous action as that displayed by the Engineer-in- 1565 Chief in taking the great responsibility of urging the adoption of a new invention like the water-tube boiler in Her Majesty's Navy. As we have been reminded by the First Lord, we have dropped behind in this country on more than one occasion, owing to our reluctance to undertake the introduction of new inventions at a sufficiently early moment. I hope the House of Commons will shrink from taking any attitude which would check the scientific advisers of the Board of Admiralty or the War Office in their readiness to advise that new scientific instruments should be tested.
§ MR. WILLIAM ALLAN
Why did the right hon. Gentleman go against the recommendations of his own Boiler Committee?
SIR U. KAY-SHLTTTLEWORTH
It is not correct to say that the Board of Admiralty went against the recommendations of the Boiler Committee. We acted in accordance with those recommendations, but we went further, and we carried them forward at a very much bolder pace. What were the circumstances? In the French navy all ships to be constructed, with the exception of one cruiser, were to be fitted with water-tube boilers. That was a very important fact, because the French hail had greater experience in this particular invention than we had, and they had decided to fit all their new vessels, except one, with these boilers. We had the experience of the Messageries Maritimes, and we had the advantage of the views of an engineer who had made a long voyage in one of the ships in that company, and observed the working of the water-tube boilers. We had the clear advice of Sir John Durston. The present Board of Admiralty has gone forward more rapidly than the late Board of Admiralty in regard to these water-tube boilers, because they have decided to put them into battleships. The adoption of water-tube boilers by all the maritime nations of the world has encouraged the Admiralty to adopt them. I hope the Committee of the House of Commons will at no time make the mistake of putting a brake on a public Department when they are inclined to act boldly, and to adopt a new invention.
SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
I will not quarrel with my hon. friend about whether it is a new invention, or a new application; my argument remains good. If an advantage is to be obtained by the adoption of a new system or from a new advance in science, my hon. friend and others ought not to discourage the Department from giving the country the advantages of these.
SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
Is it not a great advantage that steam can be raised from cold water in one hour instead of six to twelve hours?
SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
What is the consequence of that upon the coal endurance of our ships? A ship, for instance, is in harbour, and she receives a signal to proceed to sea to meet an enemy. Is it not a great advantage that she can go out of harbour in one hour instead of six? There is another advantage in the engines stopping at full speed, and there is also greater control over steam pressure. Then, in action, if damage is done to the boilers, there is much less danger to the stokers, than in the ease of cylinder boilers. I might go on pointing out other advantages, but I will confine myself to two other great advantages. In anchoring a ship, or entering harbour, she can be cleaned out in three hours, and be ready for service again. Then, if it is desired to repair or renew a cylinder, it is not necessary to wreck a large part of the ship almost, as was the case with cylinder boilers. It is a comparatively small matter in regard to water-tube boilers. I need not detain the Committee any longer. I cannot congratulate my hon. friend on having built up any argument against the adoption of the water-tube boilers by the Board of Admiralty, and by the other Boards of Admiralty in the world. We are face to face with the fact that after 1567 full inquiry the Marine Department of the United States Government have decided to introduce water-tube boilers in all the ships they are now building, or are going to be built. We must have the very best ships and the very best boilers in those ships, and I am sure the House of Commons will not be content that this country should remain behind in that respect.
§ Motion by leave withdrawn.
§ Original question again proposed.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD (York)
The hon. Member for Gateshead is no doubt supported by a considerable number of people in the country, who are in a state of some anxiety about these water-tube boilers. And no wonder, when they know that these boilers alone represent two or three millions sterling, and when ships to the value of fifteen or twenty millions sterling are entirely dependent on these boilers. Now, as a naval officer, I have the most complete faith in these boilers. Not many years ago I was Captain of the Dockyard Reserve, and had seventeen torpedo catchers fitted with these boilers under my charge, and not one of them broke down.
§ MR. WILLIAM ALLAN
I never spoke about torpedo catchers. What I objected to was fitting cruisers and battleships with these boilers.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
It is the same principle whether you have the water-tube boilers in torpedo catchers or in battleships. You get nervous men in every class. I have even seen nervous men in this House. I have no doubt that when you are driving a 230-ton boat, with 6,000 horse-power, 3001bs. pressure of steam, and at 3,000 revolutions, it is enough to upset any man. We have always got to remember what the other people are about. There are nervous men in other navies. We do not want to treat men-of-war as you do merchant steamers. What we want is to get a full head of steam on the shortest possible notice, and that can be done with the water-tube boilers much better and quicker than with the cylindrical boilers. The point I want to press is that it is a very bad 1568 thing for this country if any class in the community has any doubts as to these boilers, for it affects the efficiency of the fleet. It is no use sending one ship across the Atlantic. If she broke down it would be said that our whole fleet would break down. What I propose is this: that my right hon. friend the First Lord of the Admiralty should send across the Atlantic a squadron of six or eight ships. That would be a proper test of the water-tube boilers, arid it would relieve the public mind very much.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
My hon. friend referred to accidents. I have been in the service forty years, and during that time one hundred men were killed on board ship through accidents; but during the time that we have had these most difficult and intricate machines, we have only lost one man by boiler accident. These water-tube boilers are a new experiment, and I believe that when the men are properly taught to use them they will be found satisfactory. We cannot allow other nations to adopt these boilers, and our ships to remain without them. I took particular trouble when I was in America recently to consult many of the naval engineers in the American fleet, and I found they were unanimous in favour of the water-tube boilers. The hon. Member spoke about coal consumption. No doubt when we began to use these boilers the consumption of coal was very much larger. It was 2.3 tons per hour; we have now brought it down to 1.5. The first Lord of the Admiralty mentioned that in a man-of-war they would get 126 auxiliary engines. Some captains are cleverer than others in saving steam. Another-point which the hon. Member brought forward in regard to minor defects is, I think, very important in these days. Of course we have enormously increased the mechanical power, by engines, pipes, tubes, and so on, of our man-of-war, so as to make them additionally efficient ships. But we have not been able to increase the number of artificers and engineers in our ships. The consequence is that repairs of defects and maintenance, which ought to be conducted on the ship, have now to be done in the dockyard. The result is that the nation really pays a great deal more 1569 than it ought to pay for repairs and maintenance. I know that the Admiralty have great difficulties, and I am not finding fault with them. I daresay my right hon. friend will agree with me that the bill for repairs and maintenance is increasing enormously every year because the ships' crews do not undertake that which they would and could do if they had the proper number of mechanics on board. I hope that my hon. friend will see his way to the necessity of sending such a squadron as I have suggested across the Atlantic, because I believe it will settle this question of boilers, and reassure the nation as to the efficiency of our fighting ships.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
There has been a slight confusion in this Debate, both in the attack and in the defence. The hon. Member for Gateshead is here to attack water-tube boilers in general, and the Belleville system in particular. The great weight of authority has been in favour of an improved system of boilers, such as all the Foreign Powers have adopted. When the First Lord of the Admiralty answered my hon. friend, he spoke as if all the Foreign Powers had followed our example. Now, what I want to ask is this: Are not the newest ships, with the exception of those of Japan, which are being built by Foreign Powers, being provided with a new English type of boilers, as contrasted with the particular Belleville boilers which we arc using in this country? I have seen reports by American and Russian Commissions on this point, and they throw a particular doubt on the particular type of boilers we are using.
§ MR. PENN (Lewisham)
I think it is pretty well recognised that the water-tube boiler has conic to stay. The only question is as to what is the best form of water-tube boiler. The two points to be considered are: the endurance of the boiler, and the consumption of coal. So far as we can make out, Sir J. Durston said that the Belleville boiler would last two commissions; but that the life of the small tube boiler was very much shorter. If that be the case, it seems to me that the Belleville boiler has a distinct advantage over the small tube boiler. Only the other day I attended the trial of a cruiser, with 7,000 horse- 1570 power, and small tube boilers. I asked the engineer his opinion, and he said he would go anywhere with the ship. He sent me a note afterwards to say that the "Pactolus" had arrived from Arosa Bay to the Nore, 857 miles, and had done it in thirty-two hours, and that the vessel was perfectly ready to go anywhere. I am perfectly certain that the experience gained would be of very great value. I do not think the water-tube boiler is the extremely tricky and dangerous thing it is frequently made out to be. I am glad to know that the Admiralty have decided that the third-class cruisers, fitted as they are with various types of boiler, are to have a rough-and-tumble trial like the rest of the service; and I am perfectly certain that the experience gained by this experiment will be of the utmost possible value. I am strongly of opinion—I may be wrong, or too hopeful—that we shall come in the future to some combination boiler which will prove effective. I had an interesting conversation the other day with the hon. Member for West Hull, who has not been a friend of the Belleville boiler. He told me he had put into seven or eight of his ships a boiler which was a combination of the water-tube boiler and Babcock and Wilcox boiler; and that he was contemplating putting this form of boiler in his largest American ships. This shows that this boiler is of considerable endurance, and I hope that the trials will be carefully watched. Take a 7,000 horse-power cruiser: the old cylindrical boilers would weigh 400 tons, but the small tube boilers would only weigh 188 tons. The difference is enormous. But if you get a combination such as I suggest, we would have the endurance of the old boiler, and the strategical advantage of the light weight of the water-tube boiler. It would be an interesting experiment if two vessels of exactly the same size and power were sent on a cruise together. They would be subject to the same conditions, and have the same work to do. When they came back we would be able to see what the endurance of the boilers and engines was, what the coal consumption was, and what the general condition of the ship was. These matters would be reported upon, and light would be thrown on these questions. But whatever may happen, I am perfectly certain that a water-tube boiler of some type must be adopted in the service; and I only hope 1571 that the advisers of the Admiralty will select the best type, and that it will come triumphantly out of the ordeal through which it is now passing.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
I do not think the Committee is prepared to extend this discussion. The noble Lord the Member for York made the observation a few minutes ago that it is most important that no encouragement should be given to the nervous fears which, it is said, exist in regard to these water-tube boilers. I hope that will be taken to heart by some of those who have used language calculated to excite nervous fears. My hon. friend the Member for Gateshead has withdrawn his motion, and I am not surprised that he did so. He has made these attacks on the Belleville boiler for five sessions, and I should have expected that by this time additional information had come into his possession. The right hon. Gentleman frankly admits that if any new facts had been brought forward showing the danger or unsuitableness of these boilers, the subject might have been referred to a Select Committee or Commission. No information, however, has been laid before the House this evening in addition to what has been before the House during the last five years. I hold in my hand a copy of a pamphlet in regard to this matter. Let me quote a single sentence from that pamphlet, for it undoubtedly tends to increase that feeling of nervousness to which the noble Lord alluded. It condemns the action of the Admiralty in spending so much of our money upon a French system, which it describes as highly unpatriotic and liable to sudden disaster. I ask the Committee whether anything which has been laid before us to-night in the smallest degree justifies the statement made in that pamphlet. There are only two points of detail upon which I should like to put a question to the First Lord of the Admiralty. The First Lord has given a perfectly correct account of the reasons which induce the Admiralty to adopt this innovation on a large scale. We always understood that we were not to be committed to the Belleville or any other type of boilers, and the question I desire to put is whether any other type has been considered by the Admiralty. There is one point made by the hon. Member for Gateshead which appears to me to deserve some attention, and possibly the First 1572 Lord may be able to give an explanation. My hon. friend says that the official surveyor of the Board of Trade thinks so little of the water-tube boilers that when he finds them in the mercantile marine he refuses to give the ships containing them a longer life than three months. From that I take it that the ship must come into dock again at the end of three months, and this is because he has no confidence in water-tube boilers. These facts have been stated and have not been noticed, and I think a fact of that sort is one that might arouse a suspicion which ought to be dispelled. I hope the representative of the Admiralty will be able to say whether the facts alleged are correct or not, and if so, what is the reason why this divergence of opinion exists upon a matter so essentially important to the well-being and safety alike of the mercantile marine and of the Royal Navy.
§ * MR. DAVID MACIVER (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
I do not think it is possible for the First Lord of the Admiralty or anybody else to name a single instance of a British-owned trading steamer fitted with the Belleville boilers which has been a success. The conditions of cross-Channel service approximate to some of the Admiralty requirements, but none of the vessels engaged in those services are fitted with-water-tube boilers. I cannot help thinking also that the experience of such people as the managers of the White Star Line, or of our other great shipping companies, might prove to be just as valuable as that of the Messageries Maritimes. It was quite a new departure for the Admiralty to go to France for mercantile experience. But while I have been speaking in favour of cylindrical boilers for all ordinary purposes, that is quite a different story from what was put forward by the First Lord of the Admiralty in reply to the noble Lord behind me, as to the special circumstances under which the fighting ships of Her Majesty's Navy may have to work. It is really and truly the fact that with the common types of cylindrical boilers in the mercantile service to treat them fairly you must not raise steam too rapidly. I think every member of the Committee, whether in favour or averse to water-tube boilers for ordinary use, will agree with the First Lord of the Admiralty that the conditions under which Her Majesty's fighting ships 1573 may have to work, go far as regards such vessels to justify putting in water-tube boilers, which possess special advantages for getting up steam quickly. Possessing as I do some experience in this matter, I feel warranted in saying that I think the Admiralty go too far in adopting water-tube boilers for all purposes, although I do not think there is any reasonable ground for the country being alarmed at what we are doing in this respect, as regards our fighting ships, because other nations are doing the same.
Mr. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
I go a little beyond what has been said upon this subject, for I think there is much more blame on the side of the Admiralty than on the side of the hon. Member for Gateshead. I think the hon. Member who has just spoken has a little under-appreciated the extent to which these Belleville boilers are being used in the mercantile marine. The hon. Member for Hull uses the water-tube boilers—though not of the Belleville type—to a large extent on his vessels; and they are also in use on the service between Newhaven and Dieppe, where they have been used very successfully. I think our experience is in favour of water-tube boilers—I do not say of Belleville boilers in particular, because I think there are probably better types of water-tube boilers than the Belleville. I think the Government have also shown that they are of this opinion, because the Admiralty are now trying six or eight different kinds of water-tube boilers. That fact, I think, shows that upon this subject at any rate Her Majesty's Government have an accessible mind in regard to the various kinds of water-tube boilers. Upon this point even the President of the Board of Trade seems to have given way to the Admiralty in reference to water-tube boilers. The business of the First Lord of the Admiralty is to get a good thing and work it; but the business of the President of the Board of Trade seems to be to get a good thing and say it is bad, and his object seems to be to fix the absolutely irreducible minimum of possible existence. With regard to coal consumption, that is a point upon which I am not thoroughly satisfied. I heard my noble friend say that it was possible to manipulate these returns so as to show a smaller consumption. 1574 Then there is another point, and that is as to the very great increase—which I believe is undoubted—of smoke production with the water-tube boiler. That is very serious, because it indicates incomplete combustion of fuel. I should very much like the First Lord to be able to reassure us about that matter, because it is very serious on two grounds. It is serious, in the first place, that it should be possible for men-of-war to he followed about and seen by a column of smoke along the horizon, and it is serious in the second place from the point of view of the consumption of coal, because the greater amount of smoke suggests a large increase in the consumption of coal. One point has not bear mentioned which ought to be taken into account in considering the merits of the water-tube boiler. I believe that without the water-tube boiler it would have been impossible to increase the speed of the torpedo boat destroyer from 25 to 30 knots. I do not think we should pay the slightest attention to the prejudiced opinion of the President of the Board of Trade and his advisers as to the durability of these boilers. I think there is force in the suggestion which has been made by my hon. friend behind me (Mr. Penn), viz: that certain of these boilers might be used in combination, and I would join in urging upon the right hon. Gentleman the very great desirability of making a far more extended trial of these boilers than has yet been made.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
With reference to the remark of my hon. friend behind me (Mr. MacIver) that the Admiralty have gone to France for mercantile experience, I beg to say that that is not the ease. What happened was this. The French navy introduced Belleville boilers, and are using them. We could not ask for a passage in a French man-of-war for an officer to study the working of the boilers, and so the Admiralty despatched one of their staff in order to study the working of the boiler on board one of the Messageries steamers. With reference to the question asked by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Edmund Robertson), we are trying various kinds of boilers, especially the small water-tube boilers. In an article in the Morning Post it was stated that the Yarrow boilers are being imported into Russia. We have no information to that 1575 effect. On the contrary, our information is that all the Russian ships now being built are to have Belleville boilers, except one, which is to have Nicklausse boilers. With regard to the small-tube boilers, it is absolutely necessary to be satisfied that the life of boilers of that class would be long enough for use in a large ship before they are adopted. It would, again, be unwise to sacrifice the homogeneity of a ship, as regards boilers, as it is of great advantage that a man should be able to go from one stokehold to another without finding that he has a different class of boiler to look after. The Admiralty are not in the least bound to the Belleville boiler, though we are anxious to see what advantages it possesses as compared with other boilers. The Department is al so watching with great care the comparative advantages of introducing the small water-tube boiler to a greater extent in the larger ships than has hitherto been the case. It has been suggested that there should be a squadron of ships fitted only with the water-tube boiler, and that there should be two ships of about the same dimensions where the test might be applied of one against the other. It is probable that in the course of time these events may happen, but supposing you were to run two ships in the way suggested, there would not he found anything in the cruise which would afford an opportunity to test the comparative advantages which each ship would have. The distinguishing characteristics would remain—namely, that the water-tube boiler would be able to get up speed quicker than the other, while the strategical advantages of the water-tube boiler would remain also. We are also bound to ascertain what disadvantages would be forthcoming, and these disadvantages might be such as to create an impression against the water-tube boiler. Still, its strategical advantages, for which, after all, the ships are built, are such as to need very strong evidence indeed to justify a new departure. Although the coal consumption is somewhat larger and the difficulties somewhat greater, nevertheless I think we ought to stand by the water-tube boiler. The non-adoption of the water-tube boiler by the mercantile marine Makes no impression on me. In the first place merchant ships do not require the strategical advantages which the water-tube boiler gives to the Navy; and with the cylindrical boiler there is no need 1576 for that extreme care and discipline in the stokehold which is one of the requirements of the water-tube boiler. The question of minor defects needs constant and careful watching, and, of course, the Admiralty are paying continuous attention to the subject.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
The, right hon. Gentleman has not said anything as to the divergence in the views of the Board of Trade and the Admiralty on the question of safety.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The Board of Trade look upon the matter from a totally different point of view. That Department, has not had the same experience generally as to the employment of water-tube boilers, and it is perfectly right, until further information is forthcoming, to take precautions as to safety.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
I have looked at the Act of Parliament which is the authority for the action of the Board of Trade, and I find they are authorised to give certificates for twelve months, and I am informed that they do give such certificates. The allegation made by the hon. Member for Gateshead was that the granting of the certificate for three months instead of twelve, on account of ships having water-tube boilers, was due to the fact that the Principal Surveyor of the Board of Trade disbelieved in the safety of this class of passenger ship. I am sorry we cannot clear up this matter any further, and I will therefore pass away from it. The other matter I wish to refer to is one that I raised two years ago, and which relates to the unfortunate dispute in the engineering trade which caused so much disturbance in the proceedings of the shipbuilding department of the Admiralty. Without going into details, I may say that early in the struggle I tried to get from the right hon. Gentleman a declaration of what his policy would be in respect of penalties provided for in the form of contract under what is called the strike clause. I wanted him to declare while the strike was still in progress, for the information of all parties, whether the word "strike" would include the "lock out" which was the cause of the disturbance. The right hon. Gentleman did not answer my queries, and down to the beginning of this year I 1577 had really not been able to ascertain what the view of the Admiralty was—whether they regarded "lock out" as being in-eluded in "strike," or whether, as was once suggested, they had been advised hat it was illegal to exact penalties at all. I had to leave the matter there, but I do not think it was a satisfactory position in which to leave it. I believe I was right in my contention that a "lock out" was not included in the terms of the strike clause, and that the penalties were legally enforcible, and that the parties ought to have been told at the beginning what the policy of the Admiralty would be, because it had a very powerful and important bearing on the matter. The Committee of Public Accounts have had this matter recently before them, and I want to call the attention of the Committee to the language that they use. They refer to specific cases which I need not mention in detail, and say:The instalments paid to that date amounted to within £33,000 of the full contract price. The penalties already incurred to that date exceeded this issued balance of purchase money. The Admiralty propose to waive the penalties.Then they go on to say:Your Committee felt themselves called upon last year to observe upon similar illustrations a administrative policy which appear to reduce the penalty clauses of contracts to little more than an empty form of words.'That is the declaration in two successive sessions of the Public Accounts Committee. They go on to say:Your Committee deem it prudent to withhold for the present any definitive judgment on the matter; but the question is so important (involving as it does not only considerable sums of public money, but also the relations of contractors to a spending Department) that it ought not to be lost sight of in the Reports upon future Appropriation Accounts of the Navy; and in the opinion of your Committee it is desirable that the Comptroller and Auditor-General should he in a position to report fully upon all penalties incurred by, and all penalties waived in favour of, the several contractors.That is a very important deliverance on the part of the Public Accounts Committee, and I think I am entitled to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty what line of policy he intends in future to pursue with reference to this question. On this hangs another small question. Some two years ago, shortly after the 1578 commencement of this trade dispute, and when attention had been called to the terms of the strike clause which appeared to exclude lock-outs, the Admiralty set about re-drafting the common form of contract. More than a year and a half ago I asked the Secretary for the Admiralty if he would let me have a copy of the new form of contract. I put that question again three or four weeks ago, but from that time to this I have not been able to obtain from the Admiralty for the satisfaction of the House a copy of the new form of contract, which they have adopted or are about to adopt. Possibly I may be informed now what is the exact stage of that instrument, whether the new form of contract has been settled, and if so, whether the Admiralty will lay a copy before the House. In the same connection perhaps I may call the attention of the Committee to another deliverance of the Public Accounts Committee. In reference to the same state of affairs they referred to the fact that:Owing to the dispute in the engineering trade in 1897–98 the contractors for certain hulls of ships were unable to earn payment of the full instalments, such instalments being due only upon the completion of defined portions of work, and they applied to the Admiralty for advances on account. The circumstances appeared to the Admiralty to justify such advances, and upon a total of instalments amounting to £43,645, which would have been payable if the conditions above stated had been fulfilled, sums certified to be within the limit of work actually done were advanced to the amount of £28,450. Although these advances were not legally claimable, no provision was made for charges of interest upon them.The Committee appear to have protested against advances being made without having anything charged upon them, and upon this matter also perhaps the Admiralty representatives will be able to tell us what position they intend to take with reference to this deliverance of the Committee on Public Accounts.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL (Yorkshire, East Riding, Holderness)
Although it is perfectly true that of late years there has not been much criticism on the general field of shipbuilding, as to the types of ships, there are one or two questions which seem to me to be of some interest. I quite agree there is not much room for criticism on the general types of ships, 1579 because all the world is practically agreed that certain types must be used for men-of-war. Battleships of certain sizes of different countries are substantially the same. In fact, we may contrast two ships nowadays by their tonnage, which is a great deal more than we used to be able to do. During the last three or four years we have had three new different types of battleships—types, that is to say, the same, but the sizes are different. I should rather like for a minute or two to call the attention of the Committee to the apparently small advantage we get from the very largely increased size of battleships. I take the "Canopus," one of the smallest battleships we make, and contrast it with the "Formidable," which is one of the largest class, and I find that the small ship compares so favourably with the large ship that, except in the matter of armour, in all the great characteristics of fighting ships they are equal. The smaller ship has a slightly superior speed, the same storage of coal, the same ammunition, and the same draught, but the depth of armour is, of course, stronger and thicker and of greater resisting power on the larger ship. Except for that I think there is no advantage. One might also contrast the lighter type of ship in the same way. Owing to modern inventions the armour upon the lighter types is of greater resisting power than formerly was the case, and the real difference between a 14,000-ton ship and a lighter one is much less than it would otherwise have been. This brings up the interesting question which I should like to suggest, viz., whether this difference in thickness, in the resisting power of the armour, is of such importance as to make it worth while so very largely to increase the size of battleships. Obviously, the Admiralty are very naturally uncertain about this, because they have built the class of 13,000 tons, the "Formidable" of 15,000, and have now gone back again to the 14,000. The difference of 2,000 is very considerable in a battleship, and it would be interesting to know whether the Admiralty, after further considering the question, are inclined to think it advisable or not to go on increasing the battleships of these large types. I am not at all sure whether too much may not be sacrificed to very great speed. I believe that view is entertained to a certain extent. I have never been able to satisfy myself that sacrificing much to speed in battleships is 1580 likely to give that advantage which is anticipated over another fleet of somewhat slower speed, but of greater armament—a greater armament than is generally considered to be the case. If I pass from battleships to first-class cruisers, an entirely new question presents itself. We discussed this matter very briefly last year, and I may point out that the question of cruisers has been very largely modified by the fact that the resisting power of armour has been so largely increased. I may remark that the Admiralty while they are building armoured cruisers protected with outside armour of very high resisting power, are also building the same size of ship—what is called the protected ship; that is to say, with protected decks—without any armour at all.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL
Well, within 1,000 tons. But the point I should like to suggest is, is it worth while, now that we have got these means of protecting our cruisers, to build "protected" cruisers of approximately the same size as the armoured cruisers, seeing that armoured cruisers have such an immense advantage with such a small additional size and weight? Obviously the two ships are intended to do practically the same work. It is a question of policy to consider whether it is worth while building these two classes of ships to do substantially the same work, when one is so infinitely superior to the other in every characteristic of vessel, whether it be built for battle or for cruising. I am glad to hear that the Admiralty have practically decided not to build vessels of the "Niobe" class in future. I have no special criticism to make either as to the vessels now being built or any suggestion as to the type of the ships in general, but I would ask my right hon. friend whether we are not building a considerable number of small vessels slow of speed for the work now to be done. Looking through the Estimates it does appear to me that we are building rather a large number of very small cruisers which cannot be expected to undertake the duties of vessels which have to keep at sea for long periods. I also desire to point out that it would be a great advan- 1581 tage if we were given information about armour. We know what guns and armaments our ships carry, but we have no means of knowing what armour is placed on their sides or its nature. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will also be able to tell us that the Admiralty will take into further consideration the question of the size of battleships, which seems to me to be highly important.
§ MR. C. H. WILSON (Hull, W.)
I did not know that my hon. friend the Member for Gateshead intended to make his annual attack on the water-tube boiler so early in the afternoon, or I would have been present. Perhaps it may interest the Committee to hear the experience of my firm in connection with water-tube boilers. It really has been the same as that of the Admiralty. These boilers require more skill and care in their management, though not perhaps to the extent mentioned by the First Lord of the Admiralty. One vessel which we fitted with a water-tube boiler six or seven years ago is still doing the ordinary work of a merchant cargo steamer without any trouble, and has been working very successfully. We thought we would give the Belleville boiler a trial, and we fitted one steamer with it, but I must say it was not successful in any way, and we had to take it out and put hack the old boiler. Almost every year since 1895 we have fitted one or more steamers with water-tube boilers, and we should not have done that if the consumption of coal had been excessive. I think the difficulty in connection with these boilers has been solved, for every Government almost without exception engaged in building warships now fits them with water-tube boilers. I think, therefore, that the Admiralty are quite right in the steps they are taking to fit their ships with these boilers. At the same time I believe that experience is teaching them the weak points, as it taught my firm. In a life-long connection with shipping I have found that every improvement in machinery has to go through grades of experience and difficulty. We have had steps forward, from the engine with two cylinders to the compound engine and the triple cylindrical engine, but boilers have made small progress up to the present. My own feeling is that in course of time the 1582 present boiler will be a thing of the past, and that water-tube boilers of some description will come into general use for the benefit of steam navigation. I had an opportunity of having a long conversation with the chief engineer to the Admiralty only last evening, and his view agrees with mine that the Admiralty are perfectly right in the steps they have taken, and that they have no reason to fear criticism. Of course greater care must be taken in the management of a water-tube boiler, as it is as different front an ordinary boiler as a race horse is from a cart horse, but with experience and the discipline of the Navy that ought not to be difficult. I cordially agree with the policy of the Admiralty in this general adoption of the water-tube boiler.
§ * SIR J. COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
I think we have been too much inclined in this country to sacrifice armament to coal-carrying capacity. As we have coal depôts all over the world, and thus differ from all other nations, I am of opinion that the Admiralty would be wise to cheek the tendency to which I have referred. I rise, however, mainly to ask a question about the reserve merchant cruisers. I wish my right hon. friend would next year place against the name of each vessel on the list given in the estimates the date on which it first received a subsidy. I find at the bottom of the list three vessels which have been receiving a subsidy for twelve years, while several Cunard and P. and O. steamers with every modern requirement are not subsidised at all. The reason why these old steamers are receiving subsidies is that they are the property of the Canadian Pacific Company, and it is supposed that these subsidies improved the relations between our colonies and ourselves. But if we wanted a cruiser in the Pacific tomorrow, we would take a P. and O. steamer from the China side of the Pacific in preference to these twelve-year old steamers which are worn out and non-effective. I hope therefore my right hon. friend will supply us in future with the information for which I now ask. We ought not to continue to pay subsidies to vessels not up to date simply because we once did it to please a large colony.
SIR U. KAY - SHUTTLEWORTH
On the subject mentioned by my hon. 1583 and gallant friend, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us what the new arrangement is which he informed us had been entered into with the merchant cruisers. I do not press the right hon. Gentleman, but the information would be of great interest if he were able to give it to us. There is another matter on which, if the time is considered suitable, I think we ought to have some information, and that is with regard to the new armoured cruisers, not only the dockyard, but the contract cruisers also.
§ SIR ELLIOTT LEES (Birkenhead)
I desire to direct attention to the delay in the delivery of armour plating. Last year we had a short supply, and the First Lord himself drew attention to the subject in Committee. It is lamentable to see ships waiting for months simply because the contractors cannot obtain the necessary quantity of armour plating. I think it would be desirable if the First Lord in his reply would reassure the Committee and the country on this matter.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
I should like to ask my right hon. friend a few questions on the Shipbuilding Vote. The Americans are now using electricity to a great extent in all their new battle ships and cruisers. One of the first things we have to look after is the health of our men, and we ought to reduce the number of steam pipes which cause so much heat on a ship. I do not see why we should not use electricity more than we do for hoists and many other things. I saw an electric engine on the "Wisconsin" which could turn the turret perfectly easily. In all the auxiliary services on that ship electricity is used, and I hope my right hon. friend will be able to inform us that the Admiralty will look into the matter. I should also like to ask if the Admiralty are taking any steps to get rid of the muzzle-loading guns. Another question I would ask is whether orders have been issued that all 6-inch guns are to be made quick-firing guns. I would also like to know whether the Admiralty have reduced the number of watertight doors in the new vessels. I pointed out last year that no ship of any sort that had been hit by a ram or a torpedo had been able to keep afloat as a result of her water-tight doors. I would suggest 1584 that the doors be placed higher up in order to stop the first influx of water, and I believe that the "Victoria" would have been saved if the doors had been fitted in that way. On the financial question I think the Committee and the country imagine that the Admiralty are spending a great deal more on the Navy than they really are. In 1896–7 and 1897–8 the Admiralty made out a programme which allowed 7¼ millions to be spent annually on shipbuilding. In 1897–8, through no fault of the Admiralty, there was a deficit of £2,270,000. The First Lord last year stated that he was going to make up £1,400,000, which still left short by £800,000 the amount which the Admiralty concluded ought to be spent in shipbuilding. I ventured to tell the First Lord that he was counting this £1,400,000 in two ways, first by making up the deficit, and secondly by including it in the ordinary shipbuilding Vote of the year. I was called to order and did not pursue that subject, but I still maintain that the First Lord counted that sum twice. After that the House was alarmed at the Russian programme, and when I asked repeated questions on the subject the First Lord said he did not believe the information I submitted.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
Of course, I accept my right hon. friend's version, but I told him at the time that I had information, and the Government ought to have, before a private member, information on such a serious matter. Eventually, as the Committee knows, the First Lord admitted that my information was accurate. Then the First Lord proposed an increase of four battleships, four cruisers, and, I think, twelve torpedo-boat destroyers. Now this is the point I wish to make. If the seven and a quarter millions programme, which was based on what foreign countries were doing, had been adhered to in 1896–7 and 1897–8 we would be exactly in the same position as we are now without this two millions, which the First Lord lays down as an extra shipbuilding Vote. We are really not adding anything because of the Russian programme. I think, however, 1585 our shipbuilding Vote is enough. I think we are going on very well indeed, and that the Admiralty are doing extremely well, but I hold we are not devoting this two millions because of the Russian programme. We are only making up the ground we have lost. The Naval Estimates look large, but after all they are only an insurance on what we have to defend. I should be very much obliged if my right hon. friend would clear up this matter of the Russian programme, and also answer my other questions.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
I wish to say a few words in endorsement of what has been just said by the noble Lord with reference to the Russian programme. I think the Admiralty ought to tell us, if they fairly can in the interest of the country, what that programme is. Our programme for the present year is to some extent elastic and depends to a large extent on the Russian programme. We know pretty well the state of things with regard to the Russian contract ships, but we know nothing about the ships being built in the Russian yards. Every private slip in France where a battleship or a cruiser can be built is occupied for Russia at the present time, and Russian ships are also being built in Germany. With regard to cruisers we know something about what is being done in America, but we were informed that five large cruisers and two battleships were to be built in Russia, and whether they are being rapidly proceeded with or not will decide whether there is to be an addition to or subtraction from our programme. I think the First Lord will admit that our programme depends to some extent on the Russian programme, and we cannot vote this money without being told what is in the possession of the Government with reference to the rate of progress of the Russian programme or else being asked to trust the Admiralty on the ground that the national interests are opposed to a statement on that subject. We know that some of the representatives of this country at the Peace Conference are of opinion that it will produce a retardation of the Russian naval programme, and I would ask the Government whether that is the case or not.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Nothing has occurred since the Naval Estimates were 1586 introduced to show any change of programme on the part of Russia, The situation is exactly where it was then, and therefore there is nothing to induce Her Majesty's Government to change their programme. We stand precisely where we did, and there has been practically no change. The situation is this. The Russian programme, under what is called the nineteen million roubles vote of credit—that is roughly about nine millions sterling—included eight battleships, and of this number four have been commenced.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I cannot say that. I expect the Russian view of completion is very like our own—it depends very much on a variety of circumstances. The Russian Government have begun these ships, and there is no reason to believe that they are not going to proceed with them in the ordinary way. One of these ships is being built in America, another in France, one at the Baltic works by a private firm, and a fourth ship has also been laid down. These four battleships correspond with the four battleships for which we had authority under the supplementary programme of last year. In reply to my noble friend, I look rather to the shipbuilding programme than to the actual money that has been spent. We are precisely where we intended to be so far as the commencement of ships is concerned. Early in the year it was thought that the French would introduce another battleship which might be begun quite late in the year, but for which they took no money. Therefore at that time there were five battleships pending which we should require to meet. Most of them are, so to speak, still in the air, and it is not contemplated that the French will commence their battleships during the present year. With reference to the four Russian battleships, there is every reason to believe that two will be commenced at St. Petersburg in the course of the present financial year, but the Russians do not tell us in advance whether they are going to build ships or what ships they are going to lay down. Sometimes private information may ooze out and may be communicated to persons in this country, but it is very difficult to get official information. There are slips 1587 available for the commencement of the ironclads I have spoken of, and it is likely they will be commenced. Therefore I am not prepared to recede from the position I took up in April last, but I should be sorry to part from this subject without saying that I see in the Russian programme no menace at all against this country in particular. There is another strong Power in Pacific waters, which is armed very heavily, and I hope the Committee and the country will not misunderstand me when I put these ships against each other. It is our bounden duty, as has been laid down over and over again, to maintain equality with the two greatest naval Powers, and therefore there is no indiscretion in speaking of the preparations of these naval Powers, but in doing so it is not in the slightest degree because we wish to enter upon a race for naval supremacy with other nations. We are simply acting up to the policy that we have acted on during the last few years. We see no menace in what foreign countries are doing, and I hope that they on their side will not see the slightest menace in what is being done in this country. With reference to the question of armour, the manufacturers are making great efforts. They are introducing new machinery, but they have not been able to come up to the standard they themselves hoped for about a year ago, and there has been no doubt a retardation of some of our ships. But we hope and believe that the manufacturers are doing their best to make up for delays in the past, and will produce more satisfactory results in the future. My hon. and gallant friend the Member for Holderness raised an interesting point with reference to the building of cruisers and also of battleships. The "Canopus" class was reduced in armour in order that the ships might have a lighter draught and he able to pass through the Suez Canal. The group of ships of this class will all be able to pass through the canal, and for that purpose we deliberately sacrificed a certain amount of armour. We, however, attach great importance to the thickness of the armour on our battle-ships, and we have determined that point with reference to the ships to which our ships might be opposed. With reference to the third Class in the programme, I am not yet in a position to state the design, but we are giving the greatest possible 1588 attention to the subject. There is some advantage in the delay which has taken place, because there are other Powers who would like very much to know what these third-class cruisers are going to be before they finally embark on their own programme. My hon. and gallant friend also spoke of the degree to which first-class cruisers should or should not be armoured. The "Niobe" class is not armoured, but when a type of armour was discovered which admitted of its being placed in the sides of first class cruisers without imposing too much weight, then it was decided by the Admiralty to armour our first class cruisers. The "Niobe" is a fine class of ship, but I think now we should build no first class cruiser without the protection of armoured sides. My hon. and gallant friend also said we should pause in the construction of small ships, but we must always have a number of small ships to do station and other work.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL
Am I right in supposing that the size of the first class battleships is governed mainly or solely with reference to the thickness of the armour? In all these last ships there has only been a difference of three or four inches.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
It is those three or four inches that make just the difference. I can assure my hon. and gallant friend that this matter has been most carefully studied over and over again. It is a matter upon which opinions may differ, but on the whole we have proceeded on the principle that our ships must be built and armoured so as to cope with the great battleships they may have to meet. My hon. and gallant friend the Member for Yarmouth spoke of the merchant cruisers. We are revising the whole of the contracts with those firms whose core tracts have expired or are expiring, but the negotiations are still pending, and I am unable at present to make any statement on the subject. With regard to the application of electricity to ships, the Admiralty are certainly giving their best attention to the question. We have now Naval Attaches specially appointed to the United States and Japan, which possess 1589 navies of great efficiency, ingenuity, and power, and an officer specially competent to deal with electrical subjects will be appointed to the United States, so that he may be able to report on any improvements that may be introduced in that respect. The noble Lord the Member for York wishes that certain ships should be struck off the list now that a number of new ships are getting ready for commission. I myself would prefer to keep on these ships until we have ample new ships to take their place. I think some of the inferior ships might, towards the conclusion of a naval war, play a very important part, if there happened to be many disasters among the finer and better ships. The noble Lord seems to think that these ships are kept on the list in order to impose on the public. That is not the case. They are kept on the list that we may have some reserve, even of a second-class character, until we are able to dispense with them altogether. With reference to water-tight doors, I am not able to argue with my noble friend. I know there has been great controversy in regard to the matter, but the Admiralty authorities believe that they have answered all the arguments of the noble Lord. As to quick-firing guns, that is a technical question, and I must ask the noble Lord to repeat his question another time. I may, however, state generally, that the policy of the Admiralty is to turn all guns capable of conversion into quick-firers, and we have done a great deal in that direction. In some of the ships on the China Station we have taken out guns of low calibre and put in guns of larger calibre.
§ * THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. MACARTNEY,) Antrim, S.
The hon. Member for Dundee asked what the policy of the Admiralty would be in relation to the enforcement of penalties. The hon. Gentleman cannot, I think, plead successfully that he is in such ignorance in regard to one material fact. We stated last year in the Committee of Naval Estimates that we had boon advised that the interpretation of the penalty clause included a lock-out in the same way as a strike. And if the hon. Gentleman would turn to the report of last year's debate he will find that my right hon. friend the Attorney-General confirmed that opinion. The hon. Gentle- 1590 man also asked me whether I can state now what our policy has been in relation to the engineering strike.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
What I asked was the general principle of the Admiralty in dealing with penalties.
§ * MR. MACARTNEY
I cannot state how the Admiralty may deal with individual cases which may come up under the penalty clause. Every case will be considered on its merits, and I cannot go any further than that.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
This is serious. The policy appears to be to reduce the penalty clause to an empty form.
§ * MR. MACARTNEY
All I can say is, whether the policy goes as far as the hon. Gentleman says, it is precisely the policy carried out by all previous administrations at the Admiralty. If the hon. Gentleman doubts that, I can show him that when he was at the Admiralty cases were treated exactly as they are now. There has been no new departure. I think if he makes inquiry he will see that the Committee on Public Accounts themselves have suspended judgment in the matter.
§ * MR. MACARTNEY
I regret I am not in a position to give a more satisfactory answer in regard to the new form of contract than I gave the other day. It was only the other day that the revised form of contract was before the Board of Admiralty, and a contract like this cannot be dealt with in a hurry. My hon. friend knows that those who are advising us on this matter have been much engaged on other questions of great importance, and we have not been able to command their attention continuously, but every effort will be made to come to a decision soon. As to whether we were technically right in the specific case to which the hon. Gentleman alludes, it is not necessary for me to detain the Committee. The whole question is before the Admiralty, and I 1591 have no doubt that we will concur in what the Treasury lays down in the future. It would have been inequitable in the special case if we had not agreed to waive the payment of interest.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ 2. £3,799,000, Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, etc.—Matériel.
§ 3. £2,417,000, Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, etc.—Personnel.
§ MR. E. J. C. MORTON (Devonport)
I want to say a few words on a matter that comes under this Vote—namely, the classification amongst the larger trades in the dockyard. I know that this question has been brought up year after year, and I am entitled to point to this fact that year after year the question becomes riper for settlement. These men complained eight years ago of the introduction of a system by which men doing identically the same work are receiving different rates of pay. As the prosperity of the country increases and the national income increases, it ought to become easier for the Government to remedy this grievance. I am informed that while the slight increase of wages of the men necessary to bring them all under the highest rate of pay has not been conceded, an increase of expenditure has been incurred, entirely unnecessarily, by the appointment of more officers to take the place of inspectors. As long as expense of that kind is incurred it seems to me that we have a stronger case to ask that the classification should be abolished.
§ MR. KEARLEY (Devonport)
I wish to ask a question of my hon. friend in regard to the scheme introduced of the payment of apprentices in the yard who are ultimately intended to be shipwrights. I understand that the scheme was introduced at the commencement of the year owing to the inability of the Admiralty to get men to join as in years gone by. I understand that 150 entries were invited. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will say: How many out of the 150 applicants were taken on? I am informed that the scheme has been a failure. It is necessary that skilled workmen should be in the yards from seven years to fourteen. As regards the point my hon. friend has raised about classification, I agree with him that the matter is one which ought to be settled. It does not require a very 1592 large sum to settle it, and it still remains, as it has been for years, a great point of dissatisfaction among the men. It seriously affects the well-being of the Navy, because it prevents so many skilled men joining the naval service who otherwise would do. Naturally they object to going to do work side by side with men who are getting an inferior rate of pay. The tendency of all this is that inferior men are being taken into the Government service, and these inferior men have been entered as skilled workmen. There is the case of a man at Devonport who was taken on as a skilled workman, who had previously been a mason's labourer, a coal porter, and prior to that a deck hand on a dredger. It is well that this kind of thing should be set right. This man had never worked as a shipwright at all before, and a protest was raised by the trade, but it received no consideration, and has been of no avail. Hon. Members who represent naval constituencies about the country will agree, I think, with me when I say that the Government have no right to introduce inferior workmen simply because they cannot get the best skilled men in consequence of their system and their low rate of pay. I will give another case where the Government have acted in a manner which cannot be in accord with the general treatment of employers of labour. I am told that they have opened their door to runaway apprentices, and recently they took a young man who was bound to a trade for a period of seven years. At the end of five years' service he left his employer, and presented himself to the chief instructor at Devonport. His qualifications were found satisfactory and he was taken on, and when his master found out where he had gone he made the strongest representations he could to the chief instructor, but the Admiralty simply replied that the man was fully qualified and that they meant to stick to him. I think it is a very dangerous thing to encourage young fellows to leave their employment in this way. The Government, through their system of classification and pay, are not encouraging the right sort of men to come into their dockyards. I know they can pick the very best labour in the country if they will only make their conditions satisfactory. There is one class of labour which I think ought to be considered, and that is the lowest paid class of labour. To-day it does 1593 seem a poor wage for a labourer to get 18s. or 19s. a week. I will not go into the details, because my hon. colleague has mentioned them upon many occasions. I would, however, like to refer to a remark made by the First Lord of the Admiralty a few months ago. He pointed out that even supposing he was disposed to increase the wages of these labourers the money would not reach them, but it would go into the pockets of the landlords. All I can say is that I do not think this is a fair way to meet the question. What I say is that these men are underpaid, and the Admiralty really ought to sift the matter with a view of treating the men on a better footing. I do not wish to delay the Committee, but this is the first time for seven years that the Naval Vote has been restricted to less than an hour's discussion, for we have always had at least one evening for the discussion of this important Vote. I think we are entitled to express our dissatisfaction with the policy of the First Lord of the Treasury in this direction, and I hope this will not form a precedent to be repeated next year. At all events, I hope that Vote 8, which affects dockyard labour, will not be brought in at the end of the discussion when we shall have no opportunity of adequately expressing our views upon it.
§ SIR J. BAKER (Portsmouth)
In reference to the circular recently issued by the Admiralty, there are one or two points to which I should like to call the attention of the Committee relating to a deserving class of men, more particularly the chargemen, who have been promoted to inspectors. The statement made in the circular is that the leading men, who naturally had expectations of promotion, in the future are to be abolished. For some years now these leading men have been looking forward to promotion. As my hon. friend has said, the Admiralty seemed disposed to increase the expenditure on superior officers and to decrease it in reference to the subordinate officers by abolishing the leading men, and thus they are striking a blow at the expectations of these men, and they are disappointing a very important class of workmen who have for many years been waiting for a readjustment and reorganisation of the work in their particular sphere. From the information which I have received, I have no doubt whatever that the circular just issued will create among the shipwrights generally a large amount 1594 of dissatisfaction and disappointment. I am aware that in other trades the leading men are fewer in number. With regard to the other important class of workmen I agree with the hon. Member for Devonport in saying that the Admiralty are guilty of a very serious omission in not doing something for the labourers employed in the various dockyards. The War Department within the last year or two have given a slight increase in the soldier's pay, and in view of that fact I think it is very hard that the Admiralty should issue a circular of this kind, which affects many thousands of workmen. I would like to ask if the Committee considers that 18s. a week is sufficient for a labourer. I believe the Government employ between 8,000 and 10,000 of these labourers, and they are employed at a wage upon which they cannot live, although rents are constantly increasing. Why should the Government issue a circular stating that the wages paid to the labourers are in accordance with the current wages generally paid, when such a statement is not in accordance with the facts? The average wages for a labourer are between £1 and 24s. a week. We urge upon the Government the necessity of doing something for these men, instead of confining their generosity to the superior officers. These men have been entirely forgotten and overlooked year after year, and they are not able to live comfortably on 18s. a week. I fully endorse the remarks winch were made in regard to the very short time allowed us to urge upon the Admiralty the various grievances in connection with our constituencies, and this will compel us to take other opportunities of making our views known to the proper authorities.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Rochester)
With reference to the compensation given to workmen under the Workmen's Compensation Act of 1897, I want to know if my hon. friend can give us any information as to whether there has been any difficulty in administering the Act in regard to the workmen employed in the dockyards, and what procedure has been adopted in cases of dispute as to the amount of compensation.
* MR. BARNFS (Kent, Faversham)
wished to mention a question he was entitled to raise on this Vote, and one affecting the interests of all classes of dockyard employees That was the question of pensions and deferred pay. 1595 Under the existing regulations an established man obtained a pension on reaching 60 years of age, and that pension was calculated on the basis of one-sixtieth of the man's pay for every year of his service as an established man. But the men really looked upon this pension in the light of deferred pay, a weekly sum having been deducted by the Government from their wages. He drew attention to the fact that if a man died before 60 years of age his widow and children got nothing at all, although this weekly deduction had been made from his wages. He acknowledged the immense boon conferred by the present Government in allowing half hired time to count for pensions, and hoped that the Admiralty would give serious consideration to the question he had raised, which was one of great importance to the families of those employed in Her Majesty's Dockyards.
§ THE CIVIL LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN,) Worcestershire, E.
I think it will be more convenient for me to deal now with the various matters which have been raised in this discussion. The question of classification has been mentioned by the two hon. Members for Devonport, and I can only say in reply that the question has been considered most carefully by the Admiralty, for we went into the matter most fully, and the decision we then came to must be taken as final. As regards the question of pensions and deferred pay the hon. Member who has raised this question must remember that the cost of the present system to the country is very much greater than the contributions or deductions which are made from the wages of the men. It is perfectly true that those workmen who do not live to earn a pension get back nothing for the deductions made from their wages, but still the total deductions made from the wages of workmen in the yard are not equal to the total amount returned in the form of pensions to members of the same class. As regards the question of classification, I think I explained that matter to the House very fully upon a previous occasion. In order to find a fair rate of pay the Admiralty took the mean between the lowest and the highest on the graduated scale, and in this respect our generosity appears to have been mistaken, for the complaint now made is entirely founded upon our generosity to the higher class. Surely, because the Ad- 1596 miralty were too generous in the case of the men promoted to the higher ratings, it would not be considered proper to reduce those men, and we ought not on that account to raise the rate of everybody throughout the yard. The senior Member for Devonport addressed to me some question in regard to the entry of apprentices for the service under the new scheme. I cannot give him any figures now upon that subject, or any very definite information. I think probably that when we have had a little more experience of the new system that will be a better time, to see how the scheme promises to work. As far as my information goes, up to the present there is every reason to suppose that we shall get as many apprentices as we want. At some of our yards we have not been able to get as many as were required, but other yards have provided more than the required number.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I am sorry that I cannot say off-hand in which yards there has been an excess. The hon. Member opposite complains of the general character of the workmen engaged in our dockyards. I must repudiate as strongly as I can his suggestion that we are largely entering inferior workmen in our yards, or that the general standard of work and skill is not as high as it is anywhere else.
§ MR. KEARLEY
I made no such statement. What I said was that the Admiralty were employing inferior men, and I quoted two cases. I hope the hon. Gentleman will confine himself to those two cases.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Member has forgotten what he did say. He cited two cases, one of which he gave in detail, and he made a general charge that the character of the men we were getting was not satisfactory. I think I can recall what his argument was. I should like to ask why he came to speak on the question at all. He was speaking on the subject of classification, and our refusal to accede to the demand he had made, and he said the result was that we did not attract the right men, and we were obliged to take on inferior men.
§ MR. KEARLEY
I want to make my point perfectly clear. I said that this was the tendency, and I supported my point by two illustrations showing that you 1597 were not getting the best labour in the country. I gave two illustrations which I can elaborate into as much detail as the hon. Gentleman wishes to have.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Member says that the tendency is that we cannot get the best men, and I presume that what he means is that under those circumstances we are not getting the best men, and that the men we are getting are inferior to the general level of workmen throughout the country. I deny that assertion, for I believe we are getting a perfectly well-trained set of men in our dockyards. In regard to the cases which the hon. Member has quoted, if he will supply me, in a letter, with the full statements of the facts, I will make inquiries into them. As to the case of the runaway apprentice to which he has alluded, I do know something of the facts. This man who has been described as a runaway apprentice came to the dockyard and applied for entry at Land's End. He was fully up to the standard required, and was accordingly entered. It subsequently transpired that he had made an agreement to serve for an extra term with an employer, but that agreement was not a binding agreement which the employer could enforce by law, and it was one which he could riot compel this workman to carry out. There are two other questions, and one is the question raised in regard to classification of inspectors, leading men, and chargemen. It will be within the recollection of the Committee and Members interested in the matter that for some time past there has been great complaint in regard to this subject, and an inquiry has been instituted by the Admiralty to see what arrangements could be made to simplify the present complicated position, and to remove some of the grievances of which these officers complain. The grievance has been exactly that which the hon. Member for Devonport put in regard to the existing classification, which is that officers performing the same work were paid different rates of pay. The Admiralty have now framed a scheme which will gradually eliminate the class of leading men, and cause inspectors to be appointed from other trades besides the shipwrights, and this will place them in a position superior to that of the chargemen. At the same time the position of the chargemen will be slightly altered, and I think they will find that they will receive some 1598 benefit under this new scheme. A good many of the leading men will be promoted to inspectors, but the positions of others will be gradually allowed to die out. I think the hon. Member will find that this new system, when it has had a fair trial, will meet to a very large extent the grievances of which his constituency complains. As regards the other question of the rate of wages paid to labourers, I may say that I have nothing to add to the statement which was made by the First Lord of the Admiralty and other Members of the Admiralty Board on a previous occasion. We have made careful inquiries into the whole rates of wages paid in dockyards elsewhere, and, taking a general view of the whole case, we see no reason whatever to alter our scale of pay except in one or two specific instances which have been mentioned in our reply to the dockyard petition. The information placed before us does not justify any general rise in the rate of wages throughout the whole of the dockyards. The noble Lord the Member for Rochester asked me a question about compensation, and as to the procedure that would be followed. Up to the present we have had to deal with some accidents since the passing of that Act, and they have been dealt with, I am happy to say, without any dispute arising between the injured man and the Government pending the arrangement of a scheme of contracting out, which has already been submitted to the Registrar of Friendly Societies; he, I believe, has now certified the scheme, and in a very short time it will he sent down to the dockyards. We first gave the dockyard people an opportunity of expressing their opinion upon it, and it will be for the men to say whether they will come under the scheme or not. If they do not accept the scheme—which scheme I think will he to their benefit—they will come under the ordinary Compensation Act, and will receive no exceptional treatment.
§ MR E. J. C. MORTON
I do not think that the two cases which have been quoted can be held to support such a general statement as that which has been made by the senior Member for Devon-port, that the tendency was to employ an inferior class of men. I think the hon. Gentleman has entirely left out of account the far more important part of the case to which my hon. friend alluded when he 1599 was referring to shipwright apprentices in the dockyard. A new lot of apprentices were taken in to supply the vacancies when the Admiralty were in a great difficulty. We have been for the last six or seven years pointing out the special grievances of which the naval shipwrights complain. It was absolutely notorious that the Admiralty could not get enough shipwrights, and they confessed that they could not get enough, for they had to start an entirely new system of applying for boys who should, after a period of apprenticeship in the dockyards, pledge themselves to become naval shipwrights. The point was that the period of apprenticeship and the conditions under which the boys were to be educated implied a distinctly lower standard of education, and therefore would ultimately supply a lower class of article, so to speak, in the shape of naval shipwrights than the class which the Admiralty asked for and could not get. Our point is that by lowering the standard you are not only injuring the trade, but you are getting a class of article for the Navy which is inferior to what you otherwise would have had and which you ought to have had. Our complaint is that you have lowered the standard of one particular class of workmen, and not that the general body of workmen in the dockyard has deteriorated. I have been informed that the Admiralty wanted forty-one of these boys to join, and they only got fourteen, arid so far as I understand, other dockyards are in a similar condition. If that is so, you cannot only not get the class of men you asked for previously, but you cannot even get the class of men which you were getting, which proves that the only way in which you can get an efficient class in sufficient numbers is by turning your attention to the specific grievances of which the shipwrights complain.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Might I ask that we might now have this Vote as soon as possible, because there is a discussion to come on upon Vote 12, when I understand an hon. and gallant Member is going to move a reduction of my salary? I do not complain of the length of the discussion in any way, but it occurs to me that it would be an advantage to the House if we passed to the discussion upon Vote 12.
§ MR. MADDISON (Sheffield, Brightside)
After the reply we have had from 1600 the Civil Lord I cannot help thinking that both the skilled and unskilled labourers have grave grounds for doubting the sympathetic attitude of the Admiralty. I am not an enthusiastic supporter of any addition to the Navy, but when we have a Navy it ought to be as perfect as possible, and the only way to have that is to keep up the high standard of excellence of craftsmanship which we had in the past. The Civil Lord could only identify one case where it was sought to lower the standard of the skilled labourer, and perhaps it was as well, because that broke down. We cannot expect the hon. Gentleman to understand the industrial conditions, but I would urge the Admiralty to keep up the standard of craftsmanship, and obviously that cannot be done by reducing the number of years of apprenticeship, as is now proposed. The reason that the Admiralty have failed to get skilled shipwrights is not because they do not exist. Private firms have no difficulty in getting the most highly skilled artisans who are prepared to serve them well. There is one point I am utterly unable to understand with regard to the Navy, and that is the meagre wages paid to unskilled labourers. Why does not the hon. Member for the Eastbourne Division of Sussex, who is such an enthusiast, point out that if you neglect to give a wage which will permit a man to live decently——
§ MR. MADDISON
That is just my complaint—the hon. and gallant Gentleman ought to speak. Let me ask the Civil Lord whether he thinks a labourer with 18s. a week in a dockyard town can keep himself decently. The Civil Lord said that what the First Lord of the Admiralty had said upon the subject was the last word. I can only say, of all the Ministers who have shown no indication of the principles we are raising, the First Lord is the one. These very labourers when employed by private yards which have to compete with the Government yards are paid 4s., 5s., and 6s. a week more than they are by the Admiralty. We are face to face with the fact that in our national shipbuilding and repairing yards we are employing men at what would be universally regarded as a sweating wage.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £261,600, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the expenses of the Admiralty Office, which will conic in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st March 1900."
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
I desire to say a few words upon a subject which I have frequently brought to the attention of the Committee and the Admiralty Office. During the last three or four years I have raised this question of the great injustice done to Roman Catholic clergy in Her Majesty's Navy. Four years ago it was admitted that fifteen years before a promise had been given that this matter should be looked into, and that justice would be done. A year ago the First Lord gave a very sympathetic answer, and promised that the matter should be settled. Since then I believe that negotiations have been entered into, and something has been done; but, for my part, I am not satisfied with the change that has been made. What I complain of is that the Roman Catholic chaplains in the Navy——
§ MR. DILLON
On a point of order, Sir, I have had some experience in this matter, for I raised it on the Vote for the Chaplains on a previous occasion, and I was then told it would he better raised on the question of the Admiralty Office, and I raised it on this Vote and it was debated on this Vote. I would here direct your attention to a remarkable fact that, in the index to the Votes, the Vote for the Chaplains is scattered over a great many Votes. There is no specific Vote for chaplains upon which this point could be raised. My point is not a question of a grievance of the chaplains on the established but quite a different point.
* THE CHAIRMAN
I remember the question being raised on a previous occasion, but I am sorry to say my memory does not carry me back, but I give the hon. Gentleman the benefit of the doubt, as I see that "Chaplains" in the index is not in any particular Vote, but in various Votes.
§ MR. DILLON
Thank you, Sir. I shall be very brief. There are a hundred chaplains on the establishment who have the status and pay of officers, and I first of all wish to ask whether any of those chaplains are Roman Catholics. There are 10,000 Catholic seamen afloat in the Navy at least, and there may be many more now that it has been so much increased. After a good deal of agitation, the Catholic chaplains in the Army were put upon the same status as those of the Established Church, and I have heard no complaint arising out of that. That being so, I want to know on what kind of logic you deny that status to the Catholic clergy in the Navy. I will give one instance of the hardship to which I refer in the case of a Catholic priest whom I know. He is a priest belonging to the Capuchin Order, and with the consent and kind encouragement of the captains of Her Majesty's ships from time to time, this poor Catholic priest had been invited to officiate on board different men-of-war. He did so. Through some error on the part of the naval officers no allowance was made, not even the small allowance which is permitted to be made for this purpose, and year after year this poor priest, out of the moneys of his Order, for of course he has no means himself, has had to pay the expenses of the boat hire to take him on board. Although he has letters from various captains thanking him for his services, he has, so far as my information goes, received nothing in return.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
It would appear that some payments have been made on behalf of this priest. Sums of money were sent to the vice-consul, but they do not appear to have come to the priest. It was paid by the vice-consul to a person who applied on the priest's behalf, but who has disappeared and whom we are now endeavouring to trace. I may say that I believe the priest is not anxious to have this matter ventilated, but we think it is our duty to find out who the person is who took that money.
§ MR. DILLON
After that explanation I will not say another word upon it. But that is not the way in which the Catholic seamen ought to be treated, and means ought to be taken for the especial benefit of these men, so far as circumstances will 1603 permit, and the Catholic chaplain ought to be put on the same status as the other chaplains of the fleet.
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY
There is one very important question with regard to the engineering officers to which I desire to refer.
* THE CHAIRMAN
I had some doubts as to the last question raised. I have no doubt as to this. This ought to be raised on Vote I.
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY
Upon a point of order, may I point out that the question raised by the hon. Member for East Mayo was allowed on a question of general policy, on the ground that it had been included in several Votes; but if this question which I raise has only been put into one Vote, it is surely none the less a question of policy.
* THE CHAIRMAN
I had some doubt in the case of the hon. Member for East Mayo, because the index in that case was not clear, but I am quite certain with regard to this case that the question ought to have been raised on Vote I. It was raised on Vote I. at an earlier period of the session, and, therefore, clearly cannot be raised again on a different Vote.
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY
If you are still of opinion that that is so, of course, Sir, I must bow to your ruling.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
On a point of order, I understood, Sir, there are certain points which could be described as grievances, and could be raised on this Vote. If that is not so, I wish to point out to the Committee that there are these grievances, and they ought to be brought out.
* THE CHAIRMAN
Order, order! The noble Lord is not now addressing himself to the point of order before me. All I have ruled is that the Vote for the Board of Admiralty is not the proper place to raise the question.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
But it was certainly understood that we should be allowed to raise this question—that an opportunity would be afforded.
* THE CHAIRMAN
Even if there were such an understanding it could not bind the Committee, and certainly would not bind me. I cannot set aside the rules of 1604 order because hon. Gentlemen enter into an arrangement. My duty is to observe the rules of order.
* ADMIRAL FIELD
I will not detain the Committee long, and although I move the reduction of the salary of the First Lord of the Admiralty, of course I know it cannot take place, and only do so to call attention to a matter of great importance to which I also called attention ten days ago, and that is to the disastrous explosion which took place a short time ago at Toulon and the policy of the Admiralty in the face of such disasters in erecting new stores into which they propose to put high explosives, among others cordite. I asked a question as to this of the First Lord, and the answer he gave was not satisfactory. He gave no information at all, and public opinion was very much exercised upon this question, and I venture to say I am only fulfilling a duty when I press the right hon. Gentleman to give the country and this House more information than he gave me in answer to my question. Not one naval officer whom I have consulted outside the Admiralty is a supporter of this policy of their Lordships, and the hon. Member for King's Lynn ventured to put a supplementary question to the question to which I alluded, in reply to which he got no information whatever, but was merely asked to have confidence in the Admiralty. Of course we have all got confidence in the Admiralty, but it is not a question of that kind: it is a question in which the unofficial Members of this House have as much right to an opinion as the Lord of the Admiralty. It is a question of the safety of the dockyard and of the huge population in the neighbourhood that we have to consider in connection with this new departure. I asked for the opinion of the Committee; I could get no information, but I know that they were not unanimous. From the silence of the First Lord I also draw my own conclusions as to the opinion of the naval officers.
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY
May I ask whether my hon. friend is in order in bringing forward the question of the storage of explosives in dockyards on this Vote?
* THE CHAIRMAN
I am inclined to agree with the hon. Member that the question ought not to be raised at this 1605 stage. The point raised by the hon. Member for Eastbourne ought to be discussed on the naval armament stores or building Votes.
* ADMIRAL FIELD
On the point of order, the new departure had not been taken then. The Toulon explosion is my justification for raising the subject, and if I had been Member for Portsmouth—I make no reflection on the present Members—I would have moved the adjournment of the House on the subject.
* THE CHAIRMAN
Order, order! The hon. and gallant Member is not entitled to raise the question on this Vote.
§ Mr. CLOUGH
I should like to hear your ruling, Mr. Chairman, upon the question whether the Greenwich Age Pension Fund may be raised on this Vote. In asking for your ruling I wish to say that when the Pensions Vote was raised in the House it was very late in the evening, and the Admiralty were very anxious to get the Votes which were before the House on that evening. I saw the Civil Lord, and said, "I must raise the question of the Greenwich Age Pensions now unless you can assure me that it may be raised on some other Vote." The Civil Lord most courteously met me. He went to the First Lord, and he and the First Lord stated it might be raised on their salaries by way of a motion for the reduction of the Vote. In view of your ruling this evening, I wish to ask whether, that arrangement having been made—and I believe there is a perfectly honourable desire on the part of the Civil Lord and the First Lord that it should be carried out—I might not raise that topic upon the Vote now under discussion.
* THE CHAIRMAN
I am afraid I cannot make any exception. It is clear that if we once begin to discuss Votes in their wrong places there will be no end to the discussion on the Naval Votes. It would be impossible for hon. Members to know what subjects would be raised, and what would not be raised. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman has been led to believe that he could discuss that matter on this Vote, but I, as responsible for the rules of order, can be no party to it, and I shall be obliged to rule it out of order.
§ MR. CLOUGH
May I be allowed to say, with due deference, that I could understand your ruling where two private Members of the House enter into an agreement one with the other; that is something not within your cognisance, and ought not to influence your ruling; but when an arrangement is made with a responsible Minister like the First Lord of the Admiralty, I hold that I have just ground to ask you to make an exception to your ruling.
§ MR. E. J. C. MORTON
On a point of order, may we not, by special agreement, discuss certain questions on Votes which we have not immediately to deal with?
* THE CHAIRMAN
I do not think a special agreement made with even so important a person as the First Lord of the Admiralty can possibly upset the rules of order.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
desired to draw attention to the reception by the First Lord of the Admiralty and the President of the Board of Trade of a deputation with regard to the manning of the Navy. The First Lord had practically invited the discussion of the subject by the public at large, stating last year that he would be prepared to increase the strength of the Naval Reserve. His reception of the deputation, however, was inconsistent with what he had said in the House, and scarcely encouraging to those in the country who had given time and attention to the question.
§ * SIR J. COLOMB
I wish to make a few observations upon this Vote. In the first place, I hope the First Lord will have no hesitation in coming to the House and asking for more money in order to make the Naval Intelligence Department more efficient. I find, for instance, there is an expenditure of over £9,000 a year for military attaches, and an increase this year of £2,400, which is more than the total paid for naval attaches altogether. My right hon. friend has spoken of the instruction of naval officers in sea strategy, but there is also the question of tactics. Senior captains of a fleet are never called upon to handle the fleet, nor are commanders ever called upon to handle ships in fleet and squadron evolutions. It appears to me that the Admiralty have no test of the fitness of captains to be admirals, and when, moreover, we come to look at the enormous responsibility 1607 which may be cast on senior captains suddenly in war, I think there should be some system by which they might have the opportunity of handling squadrons and ships occasionally in manœuvres. The other point to which I wish to refer has reference to artillery practice of fleets. In the prize-firing returns I find that there is no mention of the light quick-firing guns. I should like to know whether these guns are left out altogether or included under machine guns. Then I see that there are no prizes awarded for heavier guns than the 13.5 guns. Is that because no prizes have been offered, or is it because the shooting is not good enough? Passing to the next size guns, namely, 13.5 and 12in., I see blue-jacket gunners only competed. Why are the marine artillery gunners out of it? In competition at these two guns I see that the prize-money return is under 36s. per crew. Next in order comes the 10in. gun. Here there was competition between the blue-jacket gunners and the marine artillery gunners, and I find the blue-jacket gunners only won £1 14s. 2d. per crew, while the marine artillery won two guineas. Coming to the 9.2 gun, I find that the blue jackets only won £1 13s. 10d. per crew, while the marine artillery won £4 12s. 6d. Then, if you take the 6in. gun you will find the blue-jacket gunners won only 15s. 7d. per crew, and the marine artillery gunners 6s.3d. The importance of these figures is contained in the fact that the return shows, even in its incomplete form, that at all heavy guns where there was competition between the blue-jacket gunner and the marine artillery gunner, the latter beat the former and proved themselves the best gunners. If this prize-firing be any test of artillery efficiency, it goes to show that the fire of a fleet, the guns of which are maimed by marine artillery gunners, would be more effective than if the guns were manned by blue-jacket gunners. If the prize-firing be no test of relative artillery efficiency, why waste money on it? But it is, and therefore I must press my right hon. friend for a specific answer to this specific question. As the prize-firing test shows that marine gunners win more money than blue-jacket gunners, why is the Admiralty excluding them from manning any gun larger than the 10in. gun? If a particular class of man, trained in a particular way, produces the best results at the 10-inch or the 9.2 1608 gun, why do the Admiralty rule that this particular class of man trained in this particular way shall not even be tried at the 12 or 13.5 gun? Again, this return shows that some 27 per cent. of marine artillery of the Fleet are not quartered at any gun at all. How is that? The facts I give are emphasised when we remember that the form of the return is misleading. In many ships no marine artillery are carried. In these ships blue-jacket gunners compete only against each other. The return lumps together all ships, whether they carry marine artillery or whether they do not. It does not show results of competitions between an equal number of blue-jacket gunners and of marine artillery gunners, but between a few marine gunners in a few ships against the pick of the whole number of blue-jacket, gunners afloat. I trust the First Lord will promise that an annual return of prize-firing, in a better form, shall be laid before Parliament. The question of sea supremacy is largely a question of sufficiency and efficiency of heavy gun fire, and without such annual return in a comprehensive and comprehensible form. Parliament is in the dark. So far as the present return goes it shows that the-naval changes of ninety-five years justify and corroborate the opinion of Nelson, with his matchless experience of naval war, that the duties of blue-jackets are so manifold and various that for the artillery service of the Fleet a special and distinct corps of artillery is needed. The marine artillery came into being in 1804. It was Nelson's creation, but this return shows how far from that view the Admiralty have drifted by excluding the corps from duties it was intended to fulfil, though, as shown by this return, the artillery service: of the fleet would be more effective were Nelson's teachings adhered to.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I will endeavour to meet the views of my hon. and gallant friend with regard to the return he has. mentioned. The right hon. Gentleman opposite spoke of the deputation received by my right hon. friend the President of the Board of Trade and myself on the subject of the manning of the Fleet, and I gather that the right hon. Gentleman was not satisfied with the manner in which the deputation was received. I may say that I was not at all satisfied with the composition of the deputation. I had been led to expect a number of 1609 gentlemen representative of the shipping interest with whom we might have had an interesting discussion as to their views on the Reserves. If my memory is not mistaken, all the representatives of the shipping trade were conspicuous by their absence; those who were present were simply members of the intelligent public who take a considerable interest in the general question, but they are not a body with whom the Government can expect to discuss such very important questions as the Reserves. I regret that I should have left an impression of discourtesy on the deputation. I fully recognise the importance of the subject, and therefore regret that the deputation was not more representative.
§ MR. STEADMAN (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
I rise for the purpose of calling the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty to the unsatisfactory position of the shipwrights in Her Majesty's Navy. At the present time boilermakers, coopers, smiths, and all other mechanics on entering the Navy commence at a minimum wage of five and sixpence a day.
* THE CHAIRMAN
Order, order! The question the hon. Gentleman desires to raise should be raised on Vote 1.
§ MR. STEADMAN
I bow to your ruling, Sir. I was given to understand that I could only raise this question on Vote 12; but in future I shall consult you, Sir, and then I shall know whether I am in order or not.
§ MR. HARWOOD (Bolton)
I desire to direct attention to a matter of general policy with regard to the Navy which I mentioned before, but regarding which I have not received a satisfactory answer. It is as to making the Navy better known in manufacturing districts, one of which I represent. I think the Admiralty does not recognise the alteration which has taken place in the manning of ships. In the old days all that was required was that a man should he able to dance a hornpipe, hoist a sail, mid hitch up his trousers, but the Navy now requires a different kind of man altogether—it requires an engineer and a mechanic. Formerly recruiting for the Navy was chiefly confined to the ports, the population of which were accustomed to sea faring habits, but now I venture to think that the centre of gravity is changed. 1610 The noble Lord the Member for York called attention to the fact that ships have very often to go into port to be fitted because they have not a sufficient supply of engineers and mechanics on board capable of keeping them in order. One fact is very well known, and that is the wonderful hereditariness of habit. In seafaring places people inherited a love of the sea, but ships are now completely altered. They are complicated conglomerations of intricate machinery, and the corollary to that fact is that we require as recruits engineers and mechanics. It is more important for a man in the Navy nowadays that he should have inherited, not a capacity for the sea, but for mechanical engineering. I represent a constituency which possesses this hereditary capacity. There are two grounds upon which I press this question on the attention of the Admiralty. One is that the increase of the Navy makes it wise to extend the field of recruiting, and the second is that the particular field most required is the field which would supply the Navy with men specially qualified to suit the altered conditions of warships. I do not think it is sufficiently understood how little the Navy is known in Lancashire, for example. It must be remembered that we have all over England a hereditary love of the sea, which breaks out in the case of many young men, and in the manufacturing districts this love of the sea is combined with an inherited engineering capacity. Young men have often asked me how they should go about entering the Navy, amt I do not know how to advise them. I doubt whether the Civil Lord himself knows.
§ MR. HARWOOD
I think the hon. Gentleman will agree with me that it is not generally known, and I am sure that the Navy misses hundreds and thousands of excellent recruits because they do not know how to enter it. Hon. Gentlemen know how timid of trouble people are, and when they meet a difficulty how they desist. What I suggest is that there should at least be as much information given to the public as to how to enter the Navy as there is in the case of the Army. I have been told that post offices supply such information, but I have applied and find that it is not so. 1611 This question has been taken up with some interest in the manufacturing districts. The people there say, "We contribute our fair share to the Navy, and we have a right to have a naval career open to our children if they care to enter it." Many believe that men in the Navy are not treated very well, but nevertheless the people have a right to have this career open to their children. The second point I wish to make perhaps trenches upon delicate ground. Not only have the working classes a right to have this career open to them, but other classes have a similar right. I met a youth recently who had a great desire to enter the Navy, and after being trained at a well-recognised establishment he made an application, only to be met by the barrier of nomination. I do not understand it. I do not see why this career should not be open to our young men just as much as the Army. What does nomination mean? I find that if a youth's father was an admiral or his uncle a captain he could get in. I object to the Navy being treated as a preserve for officers' sons. The nation pays for the Navy, and the nation has aright to share in it, and I protest most strongly against this system of selection. I do not know how the Civil Lord is going to justify it. I think he will not deny that it is personal selection, not selection on the ground of ability or training. I maintain that a candidate should only be asked whether he is prepared to go through the examinations and fill the social necessities of the case, and then let the best man win. It is an advantage to the Navy that it should enlarge its recruiting sphere, and recruit engineers and mechanics, and, with regard to officers, it is a matter of common justice that the Navy should be open to the nation.
§ MR. POWER (Waterford, E.)
Enormous sums have been devoted this year for naval expenditure, but as far as Ireland is concerned, we have very little interest in this expenditure, though we pay more than our quota towards it. As far as England, Scotland, and Wales are concerned, they have large industries to protect, but unfortunately we have little or no trade to protect, and we get no advantage from the gigantic expenditure in the Navy yards. This is a state of things that has been frequently drawn attention to in this House, and I 1612 regret to say that the Admiralty have taken no steps to redress our grievance. But, even in other respects, when we ask for a little we get little satisfaction. Last week I put a question to the Chief Secretary in regard to illegal trawling which obtains off the Irish coast, and the right hon. Gentleman answered me that he had frequently applied to the Admiralty for a gunboat to enforce the carrying out of the bye-laws in regard to trawling, but that his applications had met with no results whatever. I think that is a state of things that ought not to be. When the Steam Trawling Act was passed the First Lord assured the hon. Member for North Louth that our interests in Ireland would be protected in the matter. That law did not apply to Ireland, and now steam trawlers come off our coast, and do a great deal of injury to the Irish fisheries, and the Admiralty turn a deaf ear to our application for gun-boats to enforce the local bye-laws. Ten years ago the Leader of the House gave a distinct pledge that our fisheries would he protected by the Admiralty or some other board; but he has failed to carry out that pledge. I may be told that it is not the business of the Admiralty to enforce local bye-laws; but that is just the way in which Irish interests are jobbed from one Department to another. I have a suggestion to make to the right hon. Gentleman to which I hope he will give his favourable consideration. The Bill dealing with agriculture and other Irish industries will be before the House next Monday. It will be a long time before the new Department has arranged matters, but in the meantime a great deal of injury is being done to the Irish fisheries, and I would ask the First Lord whether he will place at the disposal of the Irish Government, or the Inspectors of Irish Fisheries, two or three gun-boats to enforce the bye-laws, which are at present a dead letter.
§ * MR. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
I would ask the First Lord of the Admiralty to see that the commanders of the gunboats off the North Coast of Scotland attend to the work deputed to them. These gun-boats lie too much in harbour, instead of looking after the trawlers. We have a great fishing industry in the North of Scotland, and that is being seriously affected by these gun-boats not performing their duty as they should. There 1613 ought to be more gun-boats for police purposes. I wish to thank the First Lord for the promise he made to send the training ship "Northampton" to Stornoway. The first time she was there she only remained a few hours. That is not sufficient time for boys to travel some thirty or forty miles across the island.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
As to the Irish fisheries, the Admiralty are under no obligation to enforce local bye-laws. Our duty is rather to protect native fisheries against foreign trawlers; although, when occasion offers, our gun-boats afford other assistance. However, I will take into consideration the suggestion of the hon. Member.
§ MR. POWER
When the Steam Trawling Act was passing through the House the First Lord of the Treasury said, in reply to my hon. and learned friend the Member for Louth, that the interests of the Irish fisheries would be safeguarded, and on that assurance we let the Bill pass. In compliance with that promise a Bill was introduced prohibiting steam trawling within three miles of the Irish coast, but for sonic reason that Bill never was passed. The Irish Secretary has now a very important Bill before the House, and he says that under that Bill he will be able to protect the Irish fisheries. But it will be some time before he gets his Department into working order. What I wish is that, pending that time, the Admiralty will give us a few gun-boats to enforce the local bye-laws.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I do not think that this is primarily an Admiralty matter. I will, however, confer with the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and see if anything can be done, but I cannot make any definite promise on the subject.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That a sum, not exceeding £261,500, he granted for the said Service."—(Mr. Weir.)
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I can assure the hon. Member that the Highlands have their full share of the attention of the Government. The hon. Member would like to see the training ship "Northampton" at Stornoway for some time. I can say that it will remain there some days. The hon. Member is always saying that there is splendid material for the Navy in the Western Islands, but I can assure him that there is equally splendid material in other parts of the country.
§ Motion by leave withdrawn.
§ Original Question put and agreed to.