§ Order road, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [26th February], "That Mr. Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB () Great Yarmouth
This Vote is for twenty-seven millions, which is over 24 per cent, of the revenue of the United Kingdom. In relation to the revenue of the United Kingdom the percentage of naval expenditure is always rising, but it does not rise in the same degree with the aggregate rapidly expanding revenue of the whole Empire. The aggregate revenue of the outlying portions of the Empire is now one hundred and fifty millions, while the contribution from those parts of the Empire to our naval expenditure is represented by only a few score thousands of pounds. Turning to the Estimate itself, I notice that there is a decrease for guns of £18,700, and for torpedoes and gun-cotton of £27,670. I did not understand my right hon. friend the First Lord of the Admiralty last night to give any information to the House as to the reserve of guns, and this is an important matter in view of the decreases to which I have called attention. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us more about it. On the other hand, there is an increase of £216,000 for non-effective services, and I think 1232 that too requires some explanation. Of course, the reserve of guns must be regulated by the number of guns required and also by the life of guns. I believe the life of a 4'7-inch gun is about 800 rounds, and I should like to have some information as to the estimated number of ordinary rounds fired from these guns, because it affects the question of the reserve of guns. As regards ships we are told that we have reached the limit of our present producing power, and now, therefore, to talk about whether we have sufficient ships would be to enter on an academic question, seeing that we could not if we wished build more rapidly than we now do. In regard to this, I wish to know if the First Lord can give us any information as to what foreign nations arc doing in order to increase their power of ship output. It is no use oar having a standard on which we rely for the future if the output power of foreign countries is increasing at greater rate than our own. Next I come to the question of works, and I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman what has become of Wei-hai-wei? Last year £4,500 was appropriated to be expended there by the Admiralty, quite apart from the War Office expenditure, about which we know nothing. I should be glad to know why that £4,500 was not spent. I hope it is because the Admiralty are coming to their senses over it; but I cannot, I fear, arrive at that conclusion, for the reason that this year there is an estimated expenditure put down of £13,000. Can my right hon. friend tell me what the War Office is doing in the matter? I repeat to-day what I have said in this House on many previous occasions—Wei-hai-wei will be a source of Naval weakness and danger if not made another Gibraltar, and I protest against incurring the uncalled for expenditure necessary to make it a Gibraltar. In reply to a question the First Lord told us that the First Sea Lord was responsible for Naval strategy, and he added that he was one of the hardest worked men in the Empire. I wish to know whether considerations affecting the Naval strategy of the Empire are matters to which the First Sea Lord can only attend when he has spare time from those routine duties which make him the hardest worked man in the Empire. I should further like to know whether the views of the Naval strategists of the Empire had over-ruled those of the War Office and Royal Engineers, or whether 1233 the reverse has been the case in relation to Wei-hai-wei. As regards sea transport I most cordially join in the applause so well earned by all the officials of that department of the Admiralty which has had the conduct of the work of transporting our troops to South Africa. I think they deserve all praise. They have worked like slaves in a most indefatigable manner, and the results are greatly to their credit. It would, perhaps, be premature to say much more about our transports. We know we cannot exercise our military power without transports. They are the necessary complement to our land forces, and we ought, therefore, not to crow too much over what we have done in this matter. Spain, with one-seventeenth of the British mercantile marine, placed and maintained in Cuba 200,000 men, and the United States, with only one-fourteenth of our mercantile marine, sent out two large over-sea expeditions, simultaneously, one to the Philippines and the other to Cuba. Nevertheless great credit is due to our naval officials. In the First Lord of the Admiralty's statement there is a general paragraph dealing with marine forces. The chief feature of observations in his statement as to the force maintained under the Admiralty, which is equivalent to twenty batteries of Royal Artillery and fourteen battalions of the Line at war strength, is quite orthodox. We are told the size of these men, but nothing was said about their elaborate training. We are told that they are each, on the 1st of April, to have a pair of canvas shoes. I would like to ask if this question of height and of canvas shoes is of really so much importance, and suggest next time he will have the men weighed, so as to ascertain their tonnage, and then the right hon. Gentleman can tell the House how many tons of artillery and infantry marines we have. I now come to consider the broader question of the personnel of the Navy. I think it is the proper time to consider this matter now, when in the output of ships we cannot keep pace with the requirements of the nation. The personnel is extremely important, and I must ask for the patience of the House while I deal with it. It is not a matter I can directly refer to, but before I sit down I think the House will see that behind this ques- 1234 tion of the personnel lies a much bigger-question affecting the colonies and the consolidation of the Empire in the future. In dealing with the personnel from the point of view of high policy, you cannot deal with 150,000 loose units; they must be grouped, and that has not been done in any satisfactory manner. All units must be grouped with reference to the work they have to perform. In the first place, as to the grouping, I think I can show the House that the policy of the Admiralty as regards personnel is impossible to understand. I think my right hon. friend will agree that I am not trespassing unduly upon the time of the House in dealing with this subject in a broad manner. The only numerical returns we have got, by which we can judge of the relative changes in the grouping of the Fleet, is the return presented last session, which gives the relative strength of the different branches of the personnel of the Fleet from 1858 to 1898. I am compelled to take these figures because we have no other or later returns, and that period entirely covers the period of great revolutionary transition in the nature of our ships and our Fleet. In 1858 our Fleet consisted of rigged ships with very feeble steam power, and the locomotive power and internal working of all appliances necessary for offence and defence of ships were produced by wind, the skill of the officers, and the labour of men. Now everything is done by steam or electricity and mechanical contrivances. That surely ought to have had a very marked influence upon the relative grouping of the units of your personnel, for steam has absolutely and entirely changed the conditions of the work to be done —mechanical science has changed it. What T want to elicit is whether the Admiralty realise that fact, because I cannot find that from 1858 up to the present that fact has been properly realised and its teaching really acted upon. The three great groups of the personnel of the Navy are the engineering branch, which provides the locomotion and the whole of the machinery which entirely works the ship; the second is the group of the units used for offensive and defensive purposes, which is a composite group in the Royal Navy, being partly naval and partly marine; and the third group is the civil branch, the medical and storekeeping units. Of course, these 1235 have not been affected by changes of construction. But the figures of a Return from 1858 to 1898 distinctly disclose that the Admiralty during that period had no continuity of policy whatever. It is important to see what the policy of the personnel was in sailing days and what it is now, and whether, on the face of it, we are quite right in the way we are dealing with it now. Between 1858 and 1898 the following changes took place: - The engineering branches, all ranks, increased 450 per cent., but the commissioned rank of the naval engineer branch had been reduced by over 12 per cent. To put it in another form, while in that period of revolutionary change, from sails to machinery, the engineering branch increased by over 18,000 men, the number of commissioned officers was reduced by 126. That is an important fact. I turn now to the group appropriated to weapons of offence and defence. The naval executive of all rank's, which is one part of the group, increased by 43 per cent., while the commissioned officers instead of being reduced, like the engineers, have been increased by 38 per cent.; and in the other portion of the group -the marine—there has been an increase of all ranks of 14 per cent., while the commissioned officers have been reduced by 9 per cent. I need not comment upon the civil branch, except to say that in the same period this non- combatant body increased by 112 percent., or about eight times that of the combatant marine portion, and non-combatant commissioned officers of the civil branch increased by 5 per cent., against a reduction of 9 per cent, in the marine portion. But the really important thing to know would be, what is the relative expenditure upon these branches? I asked my right hon. friend to give a Return to the House showing the expenditure on these different branches of the personnel of the Fleet, and I pointed out to him that the much abused War Office did give that information of the different groups of the Army. But my right hon. friend said it could not be done, so the Admiralty do not know —or if they do know they refuse to impart the information to the House—what is the distribution of the cost between each branch of the personnel of those different groups. This is what I think we ought to know. It is utterly impossible to extract such information from 1236 the Estimates, and the only thing that is possible is this—to get out the average cost per head for pay and allowances of commissioned officers of each branch. Approximated it is as follows: engineer branch, £294 per head per annum; executive branch of the Royal Navy, £283 per annum; civil branch, £270 per annum; the marine branch, £211per annum. Remembering that we have changed from sails to machinery and steam, and that a vessel is absolutely helpless without the most complete and perfect personnel, it is interesting to note that the highest branch, of the naval executive, which is the flag officers' branch, averages £2,700 a year, and the average of the chief grade of engineers is only £800. We want in all these branches the very best officers and men we can get, and to get them the money we pay and the attractions we offer must have some relation to the money they can earn in civil life. The technical knowledge in civil life of an engineer, or mechanic, or skilled artisan commands a great price, and medical officers also command their price. Accountants and storekeepers command only a small price, while the commercial value of naval and marine officer's' technical training is nil. I think that is a matter for statesmen to consider in arranging and dealing with the question of the personnel of the Fleet. These figures show that the Admiralty have not fully recognised the fact that, in order to get the best men, they must consider their market price. I now come to the combative branch, which is partly naval and partly marine. While masts and sails existed seamanship was the primary and essential qualification of a bluejacket, and by reason of the mercantile marine and the other navies of the. would being also sailing, the seamen of the Royal Navy had a value realisable in the market, a marketable trade. It is not so now. Naval construction has metamorphosed the seaman of 1858 into what he now is' We have it in the Admiralty's own words—I quote from arr Admiralty letter dated February 4th, 1898-—" Seamanship itself now forms only a small part of the technical training of the seamen of Her Majesty's Fleet." What does that mean?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (MR. GOSCHEN,) St, George's, Hanover Square
Read the following sentences.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB
I have read the extract, and the right hon. Gentleman or someone representing the Admiralty tan try to explain it away. I think it is a most remarkable sentence, and it is continued by the utterances of the First Lord of the Admiralty whenever he speaks of personnel. Therefore it has come to this that when masts and yards went by the hoard the functions of the seaman were reduced to the level of the dock. I suppose my right hon. friend will agree to that.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB
I am not such a master of language as my right hon. friend, nor can I turn phrases in the way he can, but with all due respect I stand to my words as a true statement of fact. There is nothing now which a bluejacket is required to do which a marine cannot do also, and the proof of that lies in the fact that the Admiralty at this moment, and for some years, have been enlisting landsmen direct from shore to make bluejackets of, and to my own knowledge men have been enlisted without any inquiry as to whether they have been at the plough or anything else. Thousands of men I know of have been thus enlisted as bluejackets who had never been in a boat. Let me illustrate the point. A and B are two men of eighteen years of age. A elects to enlist in the Navy, and B in the Marines. After enlistment B will have a long, expensive, arid very special course of training and discipline before he embarks on board a ship. When he embarks he meets A, who will be an ordinary seaman, and has had a more casual training, picking up what he could as an untrained unit among trained units in a ship.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Surely my hon. and gallant friend knows that the training on board ship is as close, as continuous, and as good a training as that given to the marines.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB
That does not alter the position. The difference between A and B is simply the difference between the training given to each. I think my right hon. friend will admit that. Would he explain to the House what the marines are elabo- 1238 rately trained to do? It would be better than telling us about canvas shoes and the sizes of the men. In 1858 the seamen never served on shore, whereas the marine, according to the principles which have always governed that branch since its establishment two hundred years before, spent the larger part of his time on shore. Now both the seaman and the marine are trained on shore, and as a matter of fact the pick of our seamen are on shore and the pick of our marines are afloat. My right hon. friend may say that that was because of the increase in the Fleet, but if the proportion of marines to seamen had been kept up that would not have occurred. I maintain it is the deliberate policy of the Admiralty that seamen should be largely trained on shore.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB
Then how does my light hon. friend account for the accommodation provided in the naval barracks and coastguard stations? I find that accommodation is, roughly, provided for 18,000 seamen and only 7,000 marines, and therefore there is no Winking it; it is the deliberate policy of the Admiralty that in future there shall be two and a-half naval units to one marine unit on shore.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB
I am quoting the figures of my right hon. friend himself. Am I right or not in stating that the naval barracks and coastguard stations have accommodation for 18,000 bluejackets?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
In the ordinary course of administration a certain number of seamen coming home from foreign stations must lie accommodated in these barracks, as must also recruits, but we by no means wish to keep our seamen longer on shore than is absolutely necessary. A large number of men have to go to Whale Island to learn gunnery, but it is preposterous to call that a policy of keeping our sailors on shore.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB
I am not accusing the Admiralty of an arbitrary policy. I am only illustrating the altera- 1239 tions in bluejackets' training caused by the different construction of ships. My right hon. friend has, I think, given the case away. He says that bluejacket recruits must be sent to the barracks.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB
Yes, and the marines are also sent to barracks until they go to sea; and seamen are sent to Whale Island to learn gunnery, just as marine artillerymen go to Eastney to learn gunnery. I think the House and the country will see, no matter what officialism may say, the broad fact is that the marines and the seamen have been necessarily assimilated. If the naval barracks and coastguard stations, accommodating 18,000 naval units, wore built to remain empty, then, of course, my argument falls to the ground; but if they were built to be full, the House will see that I am perfectly right. I have served on a rigged ship, and, parodying Carlyle about the naked Duke of Windlestraw, I think if Nelson and St. Vincent could see a modern man-of-war in action, with the crews stark naked, they could not tell the marines from the seamen. But the real point is, what is the proportion between marines and seamen in the combative branch of the Navy? In 1858 it was 56 "4marines to every 100 executive seamen, in 1878 619 marines, and last year 49l marines to every 100 executive seamen, so that in twenty years the proportion of marines has fallen by over 12 per cent. The reason why I emphasise these facts is that the marine, including the marine artillery gunner, is less expensive than the seaman. If the figures are examined it will lie seen that while marines and seamen have approximated and assimilated, the policy of the Admiralty has been to reduce the cheaper marine element, and to increase the more expensive element—the seaman element. The First Lord gave some very interesting figures last night about the personnel of the Nary. He made out that there were 150,000, including active and reserve forces, but he did not toll us what was the number in each branch. I want to deal a little closer with the marine element of the. personnel. This 150,000 exceeds by more than 30,000 the whole personnel of the Fleet in the year of the battle of Trafalgar, and 1240 it exceeds by 10,000 the highest point to which the personnel of the Navy ever reached, namely in 1813, when it included 31,400 marines. Now we have less than 20,000 marines. But in the year of Trafalgar a quarter of the personnel of the Fleet was marines, and in 1813 one-third, and in those days there was no reserve behind the Fleet, except the marines on shore. Now, taking the First Lord's statement last night, and deducting 30,000 for the engineering branch, we get 120,000 active and reserve units representing the total combative and civil branches. But the proportion of marines to bluejackets, in a fleet in which masts and sails have gone by the board, is now only a sixth, or a reduction of 50 per cent., while the proportion of seamen is 50 per cent, more than in sailing days. We want to know why that is so: Why has the abolition of masts and yards increased the necessity for seamen and diminished the necessity for marines? We want to be told why the increase proposed this year in the combative portion of the personnel is more than ten times as many seamen as marines in these days of mastless ships, and why seamen gunners are about 38 per cent, more than the marine gunners. We want to know why the pick of the seamen are on shore and why the pick of the marines are at sea, and why we have abandoned the old historic policy of a large standing force of marines on shore as the real reserve of the Fleet? Why have we departed from the old principle that the seaman's place ought to be always on the sea, and that a marine's place is at sea when wanted there, and on shore in reserve when not actually wanted at sea? The year 1858 was the parting of the ways between the old order of fleets and the new, and a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the question. I remember it well. Steam struck the naval officers of that day very much as Christianity struck the Ephesians, and the Naval Lords played the part of Demetrius. They thought they saw in steam that their "craft was in danger of being set at naught," so this House acted the part of the town clerk and appointed a committee of inquiry, and that committee of inquiry resulted in the Royal Commission on the Manning of the Fleet. Most of the witnesses examined were naval officers, but the most important witness of all 1241 was Sir James Graham, who had been twice First Lord of the Admiralty, once in peace and again during the Crimean War-—a man of unique experience and great grasp of naval policy. What did he tell that Commission in regard to steam? He stated he looked on marines as "two-handed men of superior value, certainly only second to able seamen." Having mentioned he had increased their number, and "saw with great pain their recent decrease," he declared he "would like to see the marines, as a reserve, increased to 20,000, and under no circumstances reduced." His policy was to quarter them at the seaports, and that the Admiralty should "work them round at sea," being withdrawn from the shore, and "sent afloat, so that by roster, which might easily be arranged, they should all lie worked round in the space of five years." Now, we had very few ships in those days, and that policy would have been much more difficult to work then than now, when we have two ships afloat for every one before. On that Commission was the greatest authority upon the mercantile marine of that day—Mr. W. Lindsay, who entirely agreed with Sir James Graham; but the Naval Lords prevailed, and discussed almost everything appertaining to the Fleet except steam. In the Report which they presented, the word "steam" was never mentioned; and they repudiated the use of steam altogether. Well, what did Mr. Lindsay do? He flatly refused to sign the Report. He pointed out in his protest that "the introduction of steam had entirely changed the mode in which naval warfare would in future he conducted "; and he finished up a masterly State paper by showing the necessary decline of the old bluejacket and the coming of the marine gunner. His closing words were remarkable and prophetic—As a subject of this great Empire, and as a Commissioner appointed to inquire into the manning of the Navy, I cannot be satisfied with a Report which is superficial only, and which does not either directly recommend or call attention to the necessity of very comprehensive changes in many branches of Her Majesty's services.Well, despite changes since then, there has not been a recognition of the influence of all these mechanical advances in steam on the personnel, but a long struggle at the Admiralty to stand by the traditions of a sailing fleet, 1242 and squeeze them in the form of seamen, somehow or other, into a steam fleet. The result is that it is the marines and not the seamen who have been thrown overboard with the mast and yards. Had the unique experience of Sir James Graham as Naval Administrator' prevailed, and had Mr. Lindsay's businesslike, practical knowledge guided our policy then, what would have been the case now? We would have all our naval stations and coaling places garrisoned by marine forces as a great standing and ever ready reserve for the Navy, trained in rotation at sea; and you would not have had your army broken up and its mobility paralysed as it had been, by doing work it ought not properly to do. The marine organisation is the true key to the question of colonial reserves ready for service afloat and ashore, to which my right lion, friend referred, and about which he, as well as 1, sec great difficulties. The true solution of the problem of a consolidated Empire is that its safety depends on a strong fleet and a strong mobile army. There are certain duties which lie between the Fleet and the Army. In an Empire like ours, which is mostly water, there is an intermediate place between a mobile- army and the fleet that must be provided for by an amphibious force. Now, is the policy of the Admiralty to go on piling up expenses for seamen, when the seamen's trade is done for, and reducing the proportion of the marines? Is it the policy of the Admiralty to turn the Navy into an amphibious force? I have dealt only with the broad aspects of this question, and from the high level of principle. What is happening is very serious. What is being done at the Admiralty is to waste a magnificent force. My present point is to secure economy and efficiency in the Services of the Empire, and therefore I hope the House will forgive me for having trespassed on its attention so long. I am not advocating the interests of the marines against those of seamen; but what I want is that which shall lie best and most reasonable for economy and the efficiency of the Fleet. In this matter of personnel I cannot believe that the Admiralty is pursuing a policy that is either economical or efficient. This is certainly to be said, that the time has come for really considering whether, if the present policy is to go on 1243 the marines should not he abolished as a naval force altogether, and so release them for Army service. That is a policy I should regret, and I think it would be wrong; hut you cannot go on piling up unnecessary expense on one branch of the personnel of the Fleet simply because the Admiralty Lords are too tenaciously clinging to old traditions of sailing days.
§ MR. STUART WORTLEY () Sheffield, Hallam
I do not willingly intervene in Naval debates in this House, for though I happen to be the representative of one of the most inland towns in the kingdom, I am to a certain extent a dockyard representative. My constituency is the greatest centre of production of armour-plates in the world. It is for that reason that I desire to refer to a matter raised on the previous night as to the capacity of this country to produce materials for building our great ships of war. It may be that in the past financial year, that is, in 1898-9, owing to transitory causes, to changes in the processes, and to industrial difficulties, there may have been some temporary disturbance in the producing power in the great industrial centre which I represent; but I doubt whether the First Lord of the Admiralty is entitled to plead these disturbing causes to the full extent he has urged before the House on the present occasion. I fully concur with the view of the heads of those great firms in my constituency who have asked me to put their view before the House—that given a certain guarantee of continuity of policy, they were prepared to do all that their country required of them in regard to the materials they had to supply for naval construction. Well, those assurances were given to the First Lord last year, and I doubt not that in any correspondence that has ensued since they have been more than confirmed. I see no reason why we should not accept that statement to the fullest extent; but it does make one uneasy when we arc told again this producing capacity has touched its furthermost limits, and that that state of things interferes with the strength of the Navy and the resources of the country as a whole. Since yesterday's debate I have communicated with those great firms, and therefore I am in a position to state that, so far as the future, at all events, is concerned, there ought not to be any uneasiness or any relaxation of 1244 vigour or energy as to naval construction on the part of this country. One firm says that given continuity of orders over a term of years to encourage them to spend money on new plant, they are prepared to supply armour plates to any extent. They say they have not been behind time with any deliveries within the past twelve months. Indeed, the plates for the last two ships were ready before they were required; but "with what we have now on hand, and with our share of the requirements for the new programme, we calculated that we shall have no armour plates to make for home consumption after June next year." Another firm, which claims to speak on behalf of all the firms, writes—We have read the debate of last night. We have spent immense sums of money recently in respect to our capacity for our armour-plate production, and we can state, without fear of contradiction, that we are able to undertake to meet any possible requirements for the British service. Indeed [they say] Sheffield can do more than may he required, and we cannot understand any question being raised by anyone as to prompt supply of armour-plates on Her Majesty's ships.I noticed with great satisfaction that the First Lord of the Admiralty showed in his speech last night that the Government itself was disinclined to undertake to manufacture its own armour plates. The House would not be in a position to consider whether the Government ought to undertake such a task as that without having before it the important piece of evidence which I have taken leave to submit.
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY () Yorkshire, Shipley
said he was rather disappointed that the hon. and gallant Member for Great Yarmouth in the course of his speech said not a word of acknowledgment of the present splendid state of the Navy, or the efforts which had been made by the existing administration towards attaining that end. He desired to associate himself with the compliments paid by previous speakers to the Admiralty, and to the existing state of the Navy. He would go so far as to say that the presence of the First Lord at the head of naval affairs, along with the organisation of the Admiralty Board, go far to give that sense of security and confidence which the country and the House enjoyed as regards Her Majesty's 1245 Navy. The standard of efficiency and safety laid down ten or twelve years ago, and accepted ever since, was that the British Navy should be equal to any two foreign navies combined against it. The light hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean wanted to go a step further, and suggested that our naval preparations should be such that we could meet the combined fleets of three Powers. The duty of the House at the present time, as he conceived it, was not to enter into mere details of naval administration, but to inquire, before entering into Committee on the Estimates, whether the proposals of the Admiralty were such as to ensure that four or five years hence our Fleet should be in the same condition of comparative superiority that it was in at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman had referred very clearly to the fact that Germany had practically accepted a programme of a far-reaching character. It was true, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that sixteen years must elapse before that programme was accomplished; but in the meantime the expenditure of Germany upon naval preparations was three and a half millions annually, and it was intended that that annual expenditure should be trebled, and that nine and a half millions should be spent annually. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Clitheroe Division had spoken with great lucidity upon tin; naval preparations of France, but he (Sir Fortescue Flannery) respectfully demurred to the suggestion that France had practically given up the idea of competing with this country. It would be found that there was a standing expenditure of four millions, and under what corresponded to our own Naval Defence Act, an expenditure of twenty-eight and a half millions, extending over seven years. It was impossible, therefore, to say that France was not in the most active competition with us in her naval preparations. There was one general axiom, on which the House would insist in dealing with naval preparations, and that was that the recent great military expenditure must not be allowed to reduce the expenditure on the Fleet; but, on the contrary, on account of recent military events and the danger of foreign complications, the expenditure on our naval preparations ought rather to be increased. Reference had already been made to an outcry for mobilisation, not 1246 only in the press, but in another place: and he would like, from his humble seat in that House, to re-echo the words of the First Lord of the Admiralty that there was no need for anything in the nature of mobilisation or panic in our preparations to call the attention of the world to what we are doing, as suggested by Lord Rose-bery. The printed statement issued to the House by the First Lord showed that there were 348 of Her Majesty's ships in commission on the first day of the present year; and the mere mobilisation and patrolling of the Charmed by the mobilised fleet would not add one iota, to our strength; while it might be regarded as a demonstration of a provocative character, and have the contrary effect to that which the noble Lord desired. What we should do was to persevere with those fundamental preparations in ships and men which could only be accomplished in times of peace. There was one alarming statement in the speech of the First Lord, namely, that we had failed to spend upon shipbuilding the amount voted a year ago by this House, and that that failure was due to the short supply of armour and propelling machinery. He would ask the House to go back farther than last year. He found that in 1897 there was a similar failure to the extent of £804,000, and in 1898 a similar failure to the extent of £2,139,000: or for the three years 1897-98-99 four and a half millions voted by this House for the purpose, of naval preparations were not spent by the Admiralty owing to circumstances over which, they allege, they had no control. Now, there is a suggestion underlying the printed statement, that the Admiralty would have built a larger number of ships but that they found it a physical impossibility to do so; and the speech of the right hon. Gentleman distinctly elaborated that idea, and that that was the reason why he did not lay larger Estimates on the Table of the House. With great deference and great respect he would venture to altogether deny that allegation. He had had many years experience in connection with the shipping industries of the country, and he assured the First Lord of the Admiralty that as regarded propelling machinery there were many workshops now engaged upon the construction of propelling machinery for the mercantile marine which would, if a little encouragement were given them, willingly lay themselves out to supply propelling 1247 machinery for Her Majesty's Fleet. He would not say that it would be accomplished without some preparation, but he believed that at the end of three years of short production—1897-98 99 the First Lord should have been able to obtain all the machinery he required. He suggested that a certain number of orders should lie distributed amongst tin; various firms, and then by the automatic operation of competition in trade the facilities of production would be so increased that there would not be any necessity for the right hon. Gentleman to curtail his shipbuilding programme. This country had by far the largest power of building ships, and it was humiliating that the Admiralty should say they were unable to propose Estimates of a sufficiently large character— although they admit that they should be larger because of an inability to get the work done. A matter had been referred to by the Member for Gateshead upon which he would like to say a few words the storage of fuel on foreign stations. Everybody was agreed that coal deteriorated very rapidly when exposed to the atmosphere, especially in hot climates. Liquid fuel was under those circumstances a great advantage. The new fuel had made great strides in the mercantile marine, the experiments made with regard to it had been a complete success, and, indeed, a large number of ships were now on their ordinary voyages using liquid fuel with satisfaction and success. There was, he thought, great necessity for the Admiralty to push on their investigations regarding liquid fuel, or otherwise the British Navy would find itself left behind in the race in that respect. The hon. Member for Gateshead had with his accustomed vigour, and with, he had almost said, his accustomed lack of discretion, raised the subject of water-tube boilers, in which he agreed very largely. In his printed statement the right hon. Gentleman had stated that the new boilers had been placed in old ships with excellent results. What he and others had, on previous occasions, asked the Admiralty, however, was whether they would send one of the large cruisers and battleships fitted with water-tube boilers, upon whose endurance the fate of the country might one day depend, upon a long ocean voyage at full speed, and he now asked the right hon. Gentleman to state what was the longest distance at full speed 1248 which any vessel of Her Majesty's Fleet fitted with the new type of boiler had accomplished. It was a crucial question, it was a question of actual practice. Some vessels with water-tube boilers were now on the coast of South Africa, one of which came from China. At what speed did those vessels travel I Did they go at full speed, and if so, what was the consumption of fuel; and was there any trouble with the boilers at high speed? He had asked on the previous evening whether it was the intention of the Admiralty to fit the new ships which were being built with the old or new type of boilers, but the answer was that the question was not yet settled. It was therefore fair to assume that the right hon. Gentleman had as yet come to no determination on the subject. He was of opinion that the time had come to take this matter into serious consideration, and unless the Admiralty could justify their belief that the water-tube boilers were safe and enduring he hoped the Committee would refuse to vote the Estimates for them. Not only was it a question of endurance, but there was also the question of the saving of fuel. It was a question which went to the root of the efficiency of the British Navy, and therefore the right hon. Gentleman ought to satisfy the House on these points. The First Lord had spoken in deservedly high terms of congratulation of the success of the transport system; 181 transports had been concerned in this war and had carried the troops practically without an accident and without the loss of a single man. But not one of those 181 transports was fitted with boilers of the new type.
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY
One important matter not mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman was the question of the new gun mountings which were being designed. Everyone was aware of the effect which our naval guns had had on the war in South Africa, and how the position at Ladysmith had been saved by them. He desired to know whether the new gun mounts were such that they could not only be used on shipboard, but could also be adapted for service on land. He would also ask that there should be a special House of Commons day every year, when hon. Members who so desired could go over the dockyards. Many hon. 1249 Gentlemen would remember how much instruction was obtained through the recent visit to the Portsmouth dockyard. If the right hon. Gentleman in his goodness of heart could see his way to give facilities on a special day for those hon. Gentlemen who wished to acquaint themselves with these important matters of nasal administration to visit the dockyards, many hon. Members would avail themselves of the privilege. The last point with which he would trouble the House was the question of the engineers. The right hon. Gentleman in his speech delivered on the previous evening had described a modern man-of-war as a box of complicated machinery with every kind of engine involved. He had also said that in the opinion of the naval advisers of the Admiralty Board the sailing training squadron was doomed. Taking those two points in conjunction he pointed out that every year the position of engineers aboard ships of war was becoming more and more important. No one realised more fully than the First Lord that a modern man-of-war was one complex mass of involved machinery. If that were so, was it not of national importance that the very best engineers should be attracted to the service, and induced to remain in it until the age of compulsory retirement? It was extremely satisfactory that the quiet discontent of the engineers of the Fleet, as reflected in many debates, had led to some reforms. Every one of the reforms indicated by the First Lord was a step in the right direction, and he spoke with knowledge when he said the reforms, so far as they went, were received with extreme satisfaction by the engineers. But would the reforms be regarded as sufficient by the engineers; would they attract the very best men to the service? In his opinion they did not extend as far as they ought to go, and as far as they must go in the near future. A Committee consisting of two naval executive officers and the Secretary to the Admiralty had inquired into the position of the engineers. He wished to know whether the evidence taken by the Committee and the Report would be published?
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY
said he also desired to know whether the 1250 Committee recommended that a separate corps should be formed for engineers with executive rank? Until that took place we should not have the best engineers in the Navy. There was some idea that the engineers wanted an increase of pay, but that was not so. They did not expect or require any increase of pay. What they wanted were proper facilities for carrying out their duties and proper authority over the men who were supposed to be under their command. The deficiency of which they complained was a deficiency in rank, and that had been only partially made good by the new proposals of the First Lord. Knowing the earnest desire of the Admiralty to bring mercantile engineers into the ranks of the Royal Naval Reserve, he was surprised that no attempt had been made to let these engineers have the same opportunity of going to sea in Her Majesty's ships, with a view of qualifying themselves in all the various details of the machinery, as the deck officers of the Royal Naval Reserve had. That was a reform which he believed would have the effect of raising the number of engineers of the Royal Naval Reserve. If the right hon. Gentleman would reestablish the system which was formerly in vogue, by which superintendent engineers of mercantile companies had conferred upon them commissions as honorary chief engineers, he would do much to encourage employers who had control over very largo bodies of most skilful mercantile engineers to get their men to volunteer for the engineering branch of the Royal Naval Reserve. There was also the important and crucial question of giving the engineer executive rank. The engineer was not an officer at all; he was a mere naval Uitlander amongst the officers of Her Majesty's Fleet. He was given a commission, a sword, and a uniform, but not the real attribute of an officer—namely, authority over those whom he was supposed to control. Would it be believed that the stokers, who were supposed to be under the control of the engineer officers, were trained in fighting drill by the executive officers, while the engineer officer (under whose control they were supposed to be) might associate with the chaplain, the doctor, and the paymaster? What authority could an engineer officer have over the stokers under such circumstances? The engineer officer was made responsible for the behaviour of some- 1251 times half, sometimes a third of the ship's company, and yet they declined to give him executive authority over them. The engineer officer could not administer the smallest punishment without going to the executive officer on deck like a schoolboy carrying tales to his master. The Committee to which he had referred in making the recommendation that executive authority should he given to engineer officers only repeated what was done by a former Committee ten or twelve years ago. This reform would come in the days of his right hon. friend, prejudiced as he was on the question, and would add substantially to the real efficiency of the Fleet, which, whatever its minor defects, was the organisation of the finest fighting maritime force the world had ever seen, and of which the House and the country were alike justly proud.
The question raised by the hon. Member who has just sat down is one of the greatest importance, and I do not disguise from myself that the instalment of reform now promised by the Admiralty is not likely to allay the agitation that has existed so long in connection with this question. We shall have the demands of the engineer officers put forward in their original form, if not in a stronger form. I do not see, first of all, why an inquiry of a wider and more public character than that which has taken place should not lie made into the demands of the engineer officers. I do not see why this House should not have the opportunity, by means of a Committee of its own, of investigating the whole question. At all events—and this is my second suggestion—I do think the First Lord of the Admiralty should provide us with some information about the very remarkable experiment which has been made in the, United States. As I understand it, a year ago an Act was passed by Congress by which most sweeping changes were made in this very matter. The experiment is now about a year old, and I suppose the information at the disposal of the Admiralty would enable them to say what the result has been. The only other subject which induced me to rise is the question of the alleged failure of output on the part of the contractors. The right hon. Gentleman has made statements both in his printed paper and in his speech which have been commented on with much 1252 severity by many Members who have spoken. When I first read the statement, I thought there was some false economy in it, and that, provided the demand existed, there could be no reasonable doubt the supply would be afforded. We now hear from the hon. Member for Hallam and others, that the deficiency in output does not exist. I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us further information. I did not clearly gather from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman whether in any case there had been a failure on the part of a private contractor to keep to his time. If that is so, that, of course, proves the allegation understood to have been made on the part of the Admiralty. If there have been such failures, I repeat the question I have often asked in this House —How did the Admiralty deal with these failures? If there has been a breach of contract, have penalties been enforced, and if not, why not? And in development of that, I ask, as I have done again and again for three years: Will the Admiralty at last give us the new form of Admiralty contract, which must have been completed by this time?
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
That was pleaded nearly a year ago when the Attorney General was engaged in the Venezuelan Arbitration. Surely the thing might have been finished long ago. At all events, if there is to be a new form of contract, it is time it is settled, and when it is I hope it will be immediately laid before the House. The hon. Member who. preceded me in this debate drew from the statement of the First Lord the inference that but for the failure of the contractors to realise their expected output during the last twelve months, the Admiralty would have proposed larger Estimates now, and consequently that the Estimates now proposed are not, in the opinion of the Admiralty, sufficient for the necessities. of the moment. I cannot accept that inference at all. I thought the right hon. Gentleman made a perfectly satisfactory defence of the Estimates he laid before the House. I regard them as sufficient, and ! accept his explanation of them, more particularly the defence he based on the comparison of our programme with the 1253 programmes of other nations. At the same time I hope neither the country nor the critics of the press will fall into the mistake of supposing that we have reached the limit of our manufacturers' output.
§ MR. PENN () Lewisham
Being no longer a contractor, T should like to say that if the penalty clauses to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred on several occasions were put into force by the Admiralty with too great an amount of severity it would tend largely to diminish the number of those who are willing to undertake Government contracts. It would hand over their places entirely to the mercy of the workmen, and, rather than submit to that, they would prefer to take work unconnected with the Admiralty. The First Lord said last year he proposed to add 100 engineers—that is, to bring up the number from 950 to 1,050 in the course of the current and next year. I should like to ask' him whether he hopes to get that number; because, in answer to a question T put a few days ago, he said that from outside sources he had obtained thirteen and from Keybam thirty-seven engineers, making fifty in all. As there must be a large amount of waste going on in the engineer branch of the Navy through retirements, illness, and other causes, I fear the number the First Lord will have to get in the next two years will still be 100. As far as T can make out from the Estimates at least 400,000 indicated horse-power of auxiliary machinery will he added to the Navy in the course of that time, and I do not know whether the First Lord is altogether satisfied that that number of engineers will be capable of dealing with that enormous increase. It used to take seven years to make an engineer for the Navy, now it only takes four, but you cannot get the double quantity for this year. Key- ham, when completed, may be able to double its supply. We must look, however, to the attraction of outside men into the service. I therefore think it most desirable that the position of the naval engineer in this country should be made as good as it possibly can be, in order that the best men may be attracted into what is certainly one of the most important branches of the public service. Another question raised in this debate is that of the water-tube boilers. That 1254 question to my mind is an all-important one. The important points about these water-tube boilers are: (1) their endurance: (2) their coal consumption. I rejoice to see that competitive trials of two different types of boilers are taking place, and I hope they will be continued in order that the absolute merits or demerits of this particular type of boiler may be thoroughly ascertained. We have adopted this boiler largely to the exclusion of other' forms of boilers; and I do not know that we are all even now satisfied that it is the best form. In 1891 or 1892 there was a certain amount of trouble in the Navy in connection with boilers, and a Committee was appointed called the Boiler Committee, consisting largely of naval officers and engineers well versed in the boiler management of the mercantile marine. The Report of that Committee was a most valuable one, and I believe it was to a great extent acted upon. In my opinion it would greatly strengthen the hands of that most able engineer, the chief of the Navy, if that Boiler Committee were reappointed. If the boilers as now fitted are all we hope they are, the Committee will report in their favour. If they are not, the Committee will sift evidence and ascertain what is the best step to take. I throw out that suggestion in order that we may have these doubts at once dispelled, and may look with absolute confidence on the boiler question in connection with the Royal Navy.
§ SIR JOHN BAKER () Portsmouth
It is perfectly clear the statement of the right hon. Gentleman has given satisfaction to the country. In my own constituency the right hon. Gentleman has dispelled all the attacks and promised attacks on the administration of the Admiralty which have been propounded of late. The point to which I wish specially to allude is the recognition at last accorded to the men in the service. It is the first time in my recollection that the chief and petty officers in the dockyards have had their value arid importance to the service recognised in such marked and unmeasured terms. Anyone connected with the Navy during the last twenty years cannot fail to admit that a very large number of men in the prime of life who have been engaged on the lower deck have withdrawn their services because they have failed to obtain the 1255 very moderate increase of remuneration which they have asked for year after year from the late and present administrations. That state of things continues because the door is not wide enough for promotion and the remuneration is not sufficient compared with other services. The position compares very unfavourably with the Army relatively in rank. This grievance has led to a combination on the part of this class of chief and petty officers by which the Admiralty are regularly petitioned. The Admiralty have before them the very modest demands of these men, but there is no response whatever, and I would press upon the Admiralty the necessity of meeting that requirement. The Navy will require recruits to a very large extent in the immediate future, and it is certainly not over recruited now. There must be some incentive offered to these men not to leave the service when they are of the utmost value in their vocation, but to remain until the age of fifty or fifty-five, at which age they are as capable of doing service in the Navy as at thirty-eight or forty years of age. In addition to that the seaman himself must have some inducement in the way of an increase of pay according relatively to the increases in the Army and in the Civil Service. This especially applies to stokers. If you are to get a class of stoker superior to that generally obtained, a greater amount of pay than is now afforded must be given as an inducement to continue in the service. There is also a certain grievance in the administration of the Navy which is felt very severely, and that is the authority given to the executive officer of a ship to disrate a man for a trivial offence; a man ought not to be summarily disrated for such an offence, but should be tried, and the evidence sent to the Admiralty. At present he is punished for the rest of his service, perhaps for the rest of his life, at the arbitrary will of the commanding officer of the ship. That is a very serious blot in the minds of the men generally. It may not happen in I per cent, of the commissioned ships in the Navy, but if you get such a man as the Admiralty sometimes find, who never gets his second ship, you will find his punishments are f 0 or 20 per cent, more than on an ordinary ship. The man may be removed, but there is no remission of the sentences he has passed: they follow the recipient through the rest of his public 1256 service. T think if these alterations and suggestions, which have for a long time been pressed on the Admiralty, are attended to there will be no possibility of the Navy being short of men at the expiration of the coming year.
CAPTAIN PHILLPOTTS () Devon, Torquay
I should like to say a word on the subject alluded to by the last speaker. He stated that it is within the power of the commanding officer to. disrate a petty officer for a trivial offence. That, I can assure him, is utterly incorrect. Before any petty officer can be disrated the case has to be investigated in the presence of the accuser and the accused, and though the evidence is not taken on oath, yet, after a long experience in the Navy and also some experience as a magistrate, I say that I have heard more false evidence given in a police-court that on the quarter-deck of one of Her Majesty's ships. Whenever a petty officer is disrated the warrant has to. be sent in, a record is kept of the offence and of the punishment, and any officer who shows himself to be a martinet and not fit to be. trusted with these powers very soon finds himself on half-pay. With regard to the training squadron, I have heard the First Lord of the Admiralty say that his own personal predilection was in favour of retaining it. I, in common with many naval officers, wish it could be so, but we have to consider facts as they are and not as- we would like them to be. What was the condition of a training squadron? It consisted of four-masted steamers, with auxiliary sail power. For the purposes of instruction in practical seamanship of the old style it was of no very great service, and if you are to have men trained with masts and yards the sooner the First Lord comes to the House with proposals for building at least a dozen sailing ships with auxiliary steam power, the better. I do not think the House or the country would support such a demand, and, much as f regret it, much as I wish we could retain the practice as it used to be conducted, I think the idea of the training squadron is doomed. In this connection I should like to say a word with regard to the removal of the "Ganges" from Falmouth. After three years service at Falmouth I say there is no better seaport for the training of our young lads. I am quite aware you have had reports against it, but the cause of a great many of those reports is that 1257 you appoint married officers to that ship. Falmouth is a very good place for training lads aloft and in boat sailing, hut it is a very disagreeable place for an officer to return to his ship from the bosom of his family early in the morning, when a high wind is on. I have heard many complaints and grumbles about the disagreeable passage. Another important point in favour of Falmouth is that when the boys go on shore for their leave it is very much more healthy than if it were in the vicinity of a large town. As to the statement of the First Lord, I regret we have heard nothing this year about the granting of commissions to senior warrant officers. Such a system would hurt nobody, but it would be a very great encouragement to the backbone of the service, as I have often heard the warrant officer described, and to the smart young lads who now join. I listened with great attention to the speech of my hon. and gallant friend the Member for Yarmouth with regard to the marines, and I regret that he made that speech. I yield to no one in my admiration of the corps of which he was so distinguished a member; their history is practically the naval history of the country for the last 200 years, and they need no praise from anyone. Eat to say that they can do the work or take the place of bluejackets is to go very far beyond the facts of the case. My hon. and gallant friend also said that seamanship had come to an end. I contend that seamanship is as necessary now as ever it was, but it is seamanship of a different kind. The marine officer is no more capable of taking command of one of Her Majesty's ships now than he- was when the ships were propelled by means of sails. Various statements have been made with regard to the engineers. Here again I yield to no one in my appreciation of the work now demanded of and so ably performed by these officers, but I think the statements which have been made are hardly borne out by the facts. Engineers have received improved pay and position as regards their relative rank, but their social position on board a ship cannot be prescribed by the Admiralty. They have to make that for themselves, as every other officer and man on board a ship has to make it. I have seen before now the chief engineer the most popular man in the mess, and I have seen him—I was going to say—the reverse. The position an officer occupies in 1258 the mess is entirely of his own making' quite independent of the relative rank granted by the Admiralty. A pamphlet has recently been circulated drawing attention to the Act of Congress by which the line officers and the engineer officers of the United States Navy wore amalgamated. I have lead the accounts of the introduction by the Secretary of the Navy and the Act itself, and I say- that the conditions governing that proposal are entirely wanting in Her Majesty's Navy, because in the United States the two branches are amalgamated, and the officers are interchangeable. There is one very important point. In this introduction it is stated—There, can be no divided command; only one man can exercise it, but he must be thoroughly competent for it.I contend that at present the engineer officers are not competent to take the command of one of Her Majesty's ships. My hon. friend said that these officers occupy an inferior position, that they have no authority. I must take leave to contradict that entirely. The engineer officer has precisely the same authority as any other officer of his rank. The House may be surprised to learn that on board Her Majesty's ships there is one officer, and one only, who has the power of inflicting punishment, and that is the captain. It is true he can delegate to his second in command the power of awarding minor punishments, and also to a very limited extent the power with regard to minor punishments for purely military offences to the senior marine officer, but the authority remains with the captain himself, because he is responsible for every punishment inflicted on board his ship. Every such punishment has to be recorded, and the record goes in every quarter to the Admiralty; each offence and each sentence is therefore carefully weighed and considered, and if any irregularities occur the officer responsible is immediately called to account. It has been contended that because the engineer officers have not that power they are not respected by their men. I deny that entirely. Compare the engineer officers with the first-lieutenant or the gunnery-lieutenant on a battleship. The two latter have constantly to deal with every man and boy on board, but neither of them have power to inflict punishment. If either of those officers have any com- 1259 plaint to make they have to put the offender in the report, and he, the offender, unless it is a very serious case, is brought up in due course at the regular time before the second in command; the case is then deliberately investigated, and, if proved, punishment awarded and recorded. In the case of a very serious offence the man may be sent on the quarter-deck, and the offence reported then and there to the captain or the officer in command, and the prisoner put in rigorous confinement. No officer, not even the captain himself, can say, "Put that man on the black list," or "Give him such and such a punishment." The man has to be formally brought up, the case investigated in the most formal manner, evidence taken, and a record made. [think that this grievance, which has been urged with such persistency, is not a real one. I do not believe that the engineer officers would find themselves in a bit the bettor position if they had the power of punishment. What J. contend is, that if you had more than one officer with the power of punishment, you would have perhaps two men committing similar offences—
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY
There are already more than one officer with that power; there is the Marine officer.
My hon. friend is quite mistaken. The marine officer can inflict punishment only for purely military offences of a minor nature—offences which do not concern naval discipline as such. Then conies the question of the stokers themselves. I had the pleasure, with another hon. Member, of receiving a deputation from the engine- room artificers. After hearing what the engine-room artificers had to say, one of my colleagues remarked that he had to go to see a deputation of engineer officers, and he incidentally mentioned that it was their demand that they should have the power of punishing men. I noticed that that statement was not received with any appearance of delight by the engine-room artificers. We are frequently told there is a difficulty in getting stokers to join the Navy, and I venture to say that that difficulty will be very greatly increased if power is given to make it easier to inflict punishment upon them. I have also heard it urged that under certain circum- 1260 stances the officer's of the watch have power to inflict punishment. That punishment simply means an extra hour at the wheel, or perhaps on the look-out. But even to that extent I think it is a mistake, and speaking as one who has kept watch for many years, I never recollect exercising that power. If a man commits an offence he should not be punished in hot blood, so to speak; his offence should be deliberately investigated, and the punishment inflicted in a formal manner. With regard to giving the Engineer-in-Chief a seat on the Board, I think my hon. friend hardly took into account the purpose of the Board of Admiralty. The duty of that Board is to decide as to the needs of the Navy, the number of ships, the power of those ships, where they should be sent, and the equipment necessary for them. All the information they require with regard to the engineering department they can get from able specialist advisers. The Engineer-in-Chief of the Navy has not to decide, how many ships there should be any more than the Director of Naval Construction has to decide that question. The duty of the Chief Engineer, when the Admiralty have decided the number and the power of the ships, is to design and to engine them. The engineers are now, as in the past, departmental officers, exercising very much more important duties than formerly, and undoubtedly they are a very much higher class of men. I can remember the time when, owing to a mistaken economy, the Admiralty entered men who were quite unfit for their position as officers, and a great deal of the prejudice which undoubtedly has existed in the past, and does still exist to a limited extent, is due to the fact that in bygone days so many undesirable men were given the position of engineer officers in the Navy. The officers now in the service are showing themselves worthy of better things; they are showing themselves to be officers and gentlemen in the highest acceptation of the term; and I rejoice to see that their position is being improved. But that does not make me the least bit more anxious to see conferred upon them a power which would only lead to conflict and bad feeling on board a ship. If such a course were adopted there would be endless confusion and bad feeling, and discipline would suffer. Another point was touched on by my hon. friend, and 1261 appeared to be considered by him to he a grievance— namely, that stokers should be drilled by executive officers. So far the engineer officers have not been compelled to qualify in either gun, rifle, or cutlass drill, and as it has been found absolutely necessary for the health of the stokers that they should be employed on deck for a certain amount of time, they must be drilled by someone competent to undertake that duty. That is the whole reason, and there is no slight whatever on the engineer officer's. There is one grievance I should like to see removed with regard to the engineer officers, and that is the question of the age at which they are allowed to retire. ID my opinion they are kept on the active list for sea service far too long. No man should be serving afloat, except in command of a ship or fleet, at the age of fifty-five. I think that is far too old, and there should be an improvement in that respect. In conclusion, I wish to say that I have over and over again heard t lie complaint about the power of punishment from executive as well as from civilian officers, but the officers from whom I have heard the complaint have generally proved themselves to be inefficient. You do not require the power of punishment in order to ensure the respect of the men; respect is given from quite a different motive.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON () Middlesbrough
I quite agree with the hon. and gallant Member who has just addressed the House that it would be a, mistake to put into the hands of engineering officers the power of punishing men. We can only have one captain on board a ship. If we divide up the whole concern among different officers, giving each the right to control, one may say that a man should be punished, while another may say that he should not, and then there would be confusion, resulting in more harm than good. As far as the stokers are concerned, I have never heard them complain that they were dissatisfied because the engineering officers had not an opportunity of inflicting punishment. I do not see why the engineering officer should be so desirous of having that power. The commander is the right and proper person, and he alone should have the privilege.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
As has already been explained, the power of the marine officers is only in regard to breaches of military discipline, and has nothing to do with naval offences. As to the Royal Naval Reserve, I was somewhat astonished to hear the First Lord of the Admiralty say last night that the Government were not depending upon the merchant service for a supply of men for that force. He said that fishermen were coming in considerable numbers, that they were a better class of men, and that in case of emergency they would be more easily got at than men employed in the merchant service. The figures of the right hon. Gentleman do not bear out the statement that the fishermen are coming in such considerable numbers, because r find that in the year 1899 there were only 1,144 men enrolled for the Royal Naval Reserve, while in 1898 there were 2,536 enrolled as able seamen and 621 as firemen. It is evident that in 1899, if the men who are to make up the Naval Reserve are fishermen, they are not coming in so very readily. I would like to draw the right hon. Gentleman s attention to this, that the total number of Naval Reserve stokers or firemen is only 3,500. I think if we do require men at all to man our ships in the future the men you require more than any other class are those of the stoker class. Take the manning of a ship. You will find that the hands employed in the stokehole or engine-room department in some cases exceed the number employed on deck. Take some of our large liners, like the "Campania" or the "Majestic." On these vessels there are more men in the engine-room department than on deck. There are 180 firemen and trimmers in the stokehole, and when you add to that number the greasers, and from 15 to 20 engineers, you get a total of 200, whereas the deck hands only number 36 able seamen and firemen and 4 or 5 officers, making 40 hands on deck against over 200 in the stokehole department. If that is so on our fast liners it must be so on our fast cruisers. A very large number of men will be required in the engine- room and stokehole department, so that it is a very serious matter indeed to find Reserves for the supply of men for the Navy in the future, and to find that in the Naval Reserve we have only got 3,500 of these men. I have been informed, on very good authority, that a 1263 large number of the stokers who have joined the Navy recently are men who have had no practical experience of their work. I think it is a very dangerous thing indeed to fill one of our warships with a large number of stokers who are not accustomed to the work. Some hon. Members imagine that a stoker is a man who requires only strength, but I would like to disabuse their minds on that, because stoking is a work that requires a good deal of skill and brain, not only for getting up steam, for that is only one thing, but for looking after the boilers and the furnaces, for boilers are very often burnt out by incompetent stokers, and in a very short while boilers have to be repaired in consequence of the employment of incompetent men. I have known in the merchant service a new boiler destroyed in one voyage of forty or sixty days through having incompetent stokers on the vessel. I do not think it is a good policy for the Government to pick up a large number of those stokers who are not qualified men, and to fill up their ships with them, and think they are all that is necessary. In the event of a call being made upon our Fleet, which might happen at any moment, we ought to have a Reserve of at least 20,000 stokers. It is perfectly true, as far as able seamen are concerned and deck hands, that, at the present time, we have a good supply. I observe that there arc in the first-class able seamen 11,000, and in the second-class 11,300. That is a good supply of men for the deck department, but in the stoke-hole department we find that 3,500 is all the available supply that the Admiralty have to call on in case of emergency. I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman imagines that in time of war, by offering a special bounty, he will be able to get a good supply of men. That would be so if the Government offered special terms for men to enlist during the time of the war. But I question very much whether they would be able to do that: even if they were able to do it, it would only lie done at a very considerable cost to the country, and what I complain of is that I do not see that there is any real necessity for that being clone, if the Admiralty would take in hand the question of building up a good substantial Naval Reserve body of firemen. The question arises, how are we to get those men '. There is no doubt, that if our mercantile marine was manned by British sailors and firemen, 1264 we should have a larger supply of men from which we could draw our reserves. I find that year by year there is a considerable falling off in the number of British firemen and stokers and sailors employed in our mercantile marine. At the present time the number of men employed in the mercantile marine is 225,000, that is including lascars, foreigners, and British, and out of that number 33,898 are foreigners and 31,000 are lascars. Now there is. no reason whatever why there should be such a large number of foreigners and lascars employed in our mercantile marine. I know that the First Lord of the Admiralty and the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty think that there should be no interference with the Steamship companies in this respect, who are doing Government work, and who- are carrying lascars and foreigners. They Say that these lascars are British subjects, and that it would be a wrong policy for the Government in any way to interfere with the employment of these lascars. I would like to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the lascars are not all British subjects, for a very large proportion of that 31,000 are Asiatics, consisting of Chinamen and others who are not British subjects. The Government do not propose to employ these lascars or Asiatics on board our warships, and therefore I think that the Admiralty, as far as lies in their power, should insist upon all companies who are doing Government work carrying a certain number of British stokers and seamen. We will take the P. and O. Company. At the present time they employ all lascars, on deck and below, except in the case of a few ships chartered to carry troops. Both on deck and in the engine room department the stokers themselves are lascars. I do not see why the Government should not insist upon the P. and O. Company manning all their vessels with British seamen, so that if there was any complaint to be made of excluding lascars entirely, the Government may say, "We will allow you to man half your ships with lascars, but as for the remaining half, we will insist upon you carrying Naval Reserve firemen and Naval Reserve seamen on deck." That would afford an opportunity of employment for the British Naval Reserve men: and by creating opportunities of employment, it would encourage a large number of stokers and others to 1265 go to sea as stokers and sailors and firemen. With regard to the 33,000 foreigners who are on our ships at the present time, the Government do not endeavour, by any means whatever, to discourage the employment of foreigners. I sent a letter to the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty the other day, in which I called his attention to one vessel engaged in carrying Government stores, and she carried twelve hands in the stokehole department, all of them foreigners of mixed nationalities, including Germans and Swedes, and she carried eight men on deck, and five out of the eight were foreigners, and yet this vessel was engaged carrying Government stores. I only mention the instance of one ship, but I know a large number of others which have been engaged in the same class of work, and in which foreigners have been given a preference of employment over the British. I say that the Government are, to some extent, responsible for that, because there was no reason why they could not have stipulated with the owners in making the contracts that the vessels should carry Britishers on deck. This would all tend to encourage the employment of British labour, with the result that a larger number of men would flock into our mercantile marine, and this would give the Government a better opportunity of increasing our Naval Reserve. I have seen myself Naval Reserve firemen apply on board ship for employment, and they have been told that the ship was not carrying Britishers and that they wanted foreigners. I ask", how can the Government or anyone else expect a man to continue to remain in the Royal Naval Reserve, and then when he goes down to seek employment on hoard a ship he is told that he is not required, and that foreigners are preferred? That sort of thing causes great dissatisfaction amongst our men, and I have known large numbers of them threaten to hand in their Naval Reserve; books, and have nothing more to do with it. Another reason why the Government are not able to get a larger number of firemen to join is because the pay is not what it ought to be. I believe that, if the Admiralty were to give the firemen who join the Naval Reserve a larger sum per week than what they receive at the present time, you would get a larger number of men; and by increasing their annual retainer that would be an en- 1266 couragement to a large number. It is surprising that if you take vessels like the "Campania" and all those large ships, you find that out of 116 stokers employed there are probably not more than 15 or 20 Royal Naval Reserves. I see no reason why the whole of those men should not be Naval Reserve men, and I believe myself that they are a good body of men. I do not know whether hon. Gentlemen have seen the Liverpool firemen. I have worked amongst those men, and I do not think there is a smarter or finer body of men in the world than the Liverpool stokers, who are strong., substantial men, and very expert firemen. I believe that, if the Admiralty were to offer better conditions, there would be a large number of those men willing to join, and they are men who sail from Liverpool to New York from one years end to the other. They would always be available in the event of their services being required, and the Government would be likely to get a very fine body of men indeed if they were to give better conditions. Another thing that creates dissatisfaction amongst the men who have, joined the Royal Naval Reserve is the question of the pension. They are supposed to get a pension at the age of sixty if incapacitated from following their usual employment. But the great question with them is how to live up to sixty years of age, because most of them are either killed or drowned long before they get to that age, and I think it is a farce to talk about giving a pension to a man at sixty years of age. There is no reason why these men should not have pensions at fifty years of age. After all, it would not entail a very large amount of money being spent to take off this ten years, and I am certain that it would give satisfaction to a large number of men who are at present in the Reserve, and it would, in all probability, cause a large number of others to join. As far as men joining as able seamen is concerned, I do not think many men will join the Reserve in the future under the conditions which compel them to do six months training on board a warship. I do not think you will get a largo number to join. You may get a number of young men and fishermen, but I am certain that the ordinary able seamen who sail on our merchant ships will not accept your conditions. Neither do I believe that you wall get the firemen section to join for six months service. I 1267 would like to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman one thing, and that is to provide better facilities for the men putting in their annual drill. I know that, in many cases, great hardship is inflicted upon men in consequence of having to put in their drill, because, possibly, they have been away on a long voyage, and when they get home they have been compelled to put in their drill right oft', whereas if proper facilities had been offered they could have completed their drill while abroad. In some foreign ports abroad, and in British ports, warships are lying in the harbour, and very often vessels are lying there for a week or two weeks, and in the case of sailing ships very often for three; or four weeks. I would like to ask the right lion. Gentleman if some arrangement could not be made whereby Naval Reserve men in British ports abroad, or anywhere else where there is a British warship, might have facilities offered them of putting in a week's drill on board a warship. Of course they would have to give up their claim for wages from the owner of the vessel in the meantime, because they would get the week's pay from the Admiralty just the same as if they were doing their drill at the home port. If facilities were offered to the men whenever they arrived in port abroad to put in a week's drill on board a warship, I venture to say that it would do them far more good than the instruction they received on the training ship in this country. T do not know how far the Admiralty could go in that direction, but I would like them to carefully consider the matter, as it would prevent the men's drill from accumulating, and then when they return home, instead of having to perform their drill before they could draw their retainers, they could go away and draw their retainers without any further delay. I would like to say a word or two with regard to the transport service, which is mentioned in the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty, i have asked several questions with regard to the manner in which the Admiralty contracts were given out. ft is not often that I advocate the cause of the shipowners, but on this occasion I stand in the position of championing their cause. There is great dissatisfaction existing with regard to certain contracts that were given to a Liverpool firm, and if the statement that I have heard is 1268 correct it seems to me that some explanation is necessary from the Admiralty as to why so many of the contracts for ships should have been placed in the hands of one firm, who have been allowed to make huge profits out of the transaction.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
It is the firm of Houston and Company. What I understand was done is this. The firm of Houston and Company contracted to carry mules to South Africa at £16 per mule, and then this firm went to private shipowners and chartered their ships without saying that they required them for Government contracts. They chartered the ships, and then they pay the shipowner 30s. per ton. It has been stated freely that this firm has made over £200,000 out of this transaction of chartering ships. I do not know whether it is true, and I am not in a position to state whether it is true or not: but I do know this, that if the firm of Houston and Company had £16 per mule from the Admiralty for carrying those mules, and the shipowner whose vessels have been used has only received 30s. per ton, then lean well imagine that a huge profit has been made, and I want to know why. Why could not the Admiralty advertise in the ordinary manner, and thus give all shipowners an opportunity of tendering for the work? If it is true, as has been alleged, that preference was given to this firm, it is a very serious matter indeed, and I hope that other hon. Members in this House besides myself will press the Government for some explanation as to why this was done. I would like to say one word more with regard to the manner in which the Admiralty carried on their business of feeding our troops. We are told that the War Office was not responsible for the manner in which the troops were fed on their passage from this country to South Africa. I have read many letters in the papers from soldiers at the front, who have written back complaining of the scandalous manner in which they were starved during their passage on those ships. It is not for me to say whether those statements are true or not, and I would like the Admiralty to be in a position to contradict the statements that have appeared in the public press that the men who 1269 were sent out to light our country's battles—although the passage out only occupied some; twenty or twenty four days—were neglected on the part of the Admiralty, and that those poor soldiers, many of whom were on their last voyage and last trip, were starved, and fed on rotten beef and provisions during their passage out to South Africa. I think that is a very serious matter indeed, and I hope the hon. Gentleman is paying attention, because T shall expect a reply. I do hope that he will be able to assure us that it is not true that those men were starved in the manner which has been alleged. I understand that the Admiralty are responsible for the feeding of the troops, and if they could not manage their business in such a way that men only going on a twenty-four days trip could at least he fed with propel- provisions and stores, then I say it reflects the greatest possible discredit on that department. Of course, I cannot vouch for the truth of the statements, but they were freely made in the press, and for that reason I do hope that we shall have an explanation. I also trust that the hon. Gentleman will promise us that he will consider whether it is not possible to give the Naval Reserve men pensions at fifty years of age instead of sixty, a matter as to which they have been agitating now for the last twenty-five years. It would not make a difference of more than £10,000 to the Government, and it would make a great difference to the seamen. It would give satisfaction, because a large number of them joined the Royal Naval Reserve expecting this pension, and it would be better for the Admiralty to retain rather than lose their services. I would like to say one word more in conclusion. There are a large number of seamen who leave the Naval Reserve after doing five or ten years drill, and there are a considerable number of men who leave the Royal Navy after ten years service. I would like to ask the Admiralty whether they think that it would not be wise, and perhaps profitable, to establish a Naval Reserve of Volunteers. I believe myself that a large number of the men who have served in the Royal Naval Reserve and in the Navy would be willing to volunteer for such a Naval Reserve, to consist of men who could be employed only in case of emergency for coast defence. After the Government have spent a. large amount of money upon train- 1270 ing seamen for ten years it seems to me a great pity that their services should be lost to the country entirely. I believe that a large number of those men, if the Government were to establish a Naval Volunteer Corps, would be willing to join it, for it would attract a large number of those ex-Navy men and ex-Naval Reserve moil who have done their ten years drill in the Naval Reserve. I am aware that we have the Royal Engineers, but they are generally landsmen. I think if a naval brigade, was formed of ex-Naval Reserves and ex-Navy men they would form a very valuable force for coast defence. I beg to apologise to the House for having detained it so long.
§ COLONEL DENNY () Kilmarnock Burghs
I very largely agree with what fell from my hon. friend behind me in reference to the status of engineer officers. I am glad to learn that the Admiralty, under constant pressure, have considerably ameliorated the lot of the engineers. They have given them bettor rank and better pay, but still more recognition is desired of their position than they have yet got. The hon. Member for Middlesbrough and the hon. and gallant Member for Torquay made out that the, demand of the engineer officers for power to punish their subordinates in minor cases is a demand that stands by itself. I venture to say it is not; it is part of a system put in force. It is of no use for anyone to deny nowadays that the, work of the engineers has progressed enormously in comparison with the work done on deck. I most earnestly make the claim that the engineers should have still further recognition, and should have the power of punishing their men in their hands. I believe that if they had it they would put it into effect as little as any other officer on the quarter-deck would. We have to recollect that the stokers of Her Majesty's Navy do not enter the service at the same time as the bluejackets. The bluejackets are caught young, but the stokers are brought into the service at a mature age, and have not been under the discipline which deck hands have experienced since their youth, and the engineer officers ought to have moderate powers of punishment. We who represent the engineers in this House, however, gratefully acknowledge, so far as it goes, the improvement made in the status of these officers in the Navy. As to the remarks of the hon. Member for 1271 Middlesbrough on the Reserve, I would point out to the House that we have now a Navy of 150,000 men and boys, with 29,000 reservists, or a total of 180,000. The House will at once see the difficulty there is for shipowners to man their ships entirely with British sailor's. We have one half of the whole carrying trade of the world in our hands, and our area of choice for seamen is confined; and therefore it is impossible to put any limits to the shipowners as to the nationality of the men they employ. That must be left almost entirely to them, or a great deal more harm than good will be done. There is a subject on which I would like the Secretary to the Admiralty to give me some information. In his printed statement the First Lord said that four liver gunboats had been sent out to the China station, three for service on the Yangtze river, and one for the West River. I happen to know something of that region through being concerned in putting on the first mercantile steamship there. If what I hear is true, I fear that these gunboats are wholly inefficient for the purpose for which they have been built. Between the towns of Neu Chang and Chang Tung, on the Yangtze river, there are rapids running at a speed according to the imagination of the man looking at them; but there is a concensus of opinion that the speed is very fast indeed. I understand the gun vessels sent out are of very slow speed, and that they have never yet attempted to pass the rapids; and I am told that if they do attempt it they will fail on account of the want of speed. I want to know whether the hon. Gentleman will give instructions for an investigation into this matter, and for a trial of the gunboats to see whether they have sufficient speed to stem the rapids. There is nothing more important for the trade that we, in this country, are trying to develop on the Yangtze river than that we should have gunboats of a proper type for policeing that river and also the West River. The hon. Member for Devonport claimed that additional work should be given to the dockyards, but I radically differ from him in his views in regard to the use of Her Majesty's dockyards. These ought to be engaged in preparing war vessels for immediate service in time of war. If we may judge from the only recent wars— the American-Spanish war, and the China- Japanese war—the number of vessels to 1272 be repaired would be very considerable, and these should be sent to the dockyards. The Admiralty seems to think that there is an unlimited supply of men, but I can assure the House that all private firms want to know where they are to get the men to do the work on hand, and yet hon. Members for the dockyard constituencies are clamouring for more work, which means the taking away of men from the private yards. Now I am Sony to say that the supply of men in the private yards does not seem to be increasing, due to the practice in some trades of limiting the number of apprentices. What we require really is less work in the dockyards, and more in the private yards. There is only one other subject to which I wish to draw- attention—namely, that of the water-tube boilers, which my hon. friend the Member for Gateshead has argued with great force on many occasions. He has had the disadvantage of arguing the case as a professional man against right hon. Gentlemen on the front bench who are not professional men. The Admiralty appear to have pinned their faith irretrievably to water-tube boilers, and to one make of water-tube boilers, and that a type which I have never known to be used in the mercantile marine, and which is not to be found outside the French navy. We are all too anxious to prove that that type is the best. Yet what are we to think of it after the trial between the "Highflyer" and the "Minerva"? The former is one of the most modern ships with the water-tube boilers, and the latter is an old ship with return boilers. The performance of the "Highflyer" was a fiasco; it was almost a miserable wreck, and kept signalling for help. It was a fiasco not only with regard to boiler endurance but especially with regard to coal consumption, and that is most significant; whereas the "Minerva," although an old ship, always came up smiling and ready for work. I always understood that water-tube boilers had been adopted for two reasons: first because, being lighter, they carried less water; and second, because they gave additional weight for guns or armour. But if this decreasing weight in water' is eaten up by a large additional consumption of fuel, I fail to see in what case we are better off, and I maintain that, as the result of that trial, the "Highflyer" is a failure. I assure the First Lord that we are only too 1273 anxious to prove that in adopting the Belleville boiler the Admiralty were in the right; but that was not a trial that would satisfy me or any of my professional friends. Last year I made an offer to the First Lord to get a suitable Committee together to make a perfect trial: and I contend we are entitled to have, as professional men in this House who are not enemies but friends of the Admiralty, a fair, just, and open trial so that it may be proved whether the Admiralty is right or wrong. I hold the interests of the country are far and above the interest of any single man or body of men, and that it would be in the interest of the First Lord himself and of the country if we had an opportunity of putting such a boat as the "Highflyer'' in the hands of a committee composed, partly of naval engineers and partly of civil engineers, in order that that vessel may be properly tried. The First Lord may say that "if we arc wrong, everybody else is wrong ": which reminds me of the story of the old Scotchwoman who thanked the Lord that after all her neighbours were as bad as herself. But that would be an exceedingly small consolation to the country. The First Lord does not believe that there are any lame ducks on account of these water-tube boilers. We are committed to an enormous expenditure for these boilers, which is going on from day to day; but, I hold, the taxpayers of the country, who are largely civilians, should be permitted to have such a trial of these boilers as to satisfy us absolutely that they are right. There are plenty of engineers in this country who would be willing to serve on such a committee as I ask for. It would not cost much, and it would let us know whether the First Lord is absolutely wrong, and we are absolutely right in regard to these water-tube boilers.
Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present (Mr. WILLIAM REDMOND, Clare, E.). House counted, and forty Members being found present,
§ MR. DUCKWORTH () Lancashire, Middleton
It may seem some what out of place that I, the representative of a purely industrial community, should intervene in a debate such as this, but I can assure the House that those busy bees in the hive of industry in the North take a 1274 deep interest in this subject, not only because they have a keen concern in the welfare of the country, and desire to feel assured that the Navy is efficient, but because they know that to a very large extent they have to supply the sinews of war. Indeed, they do not fail to observe that there is a continual increase in the Naval Estimates brought before this House. It would appear that the greater these Estimates become, the more coolly and confidentially does the First Lord bring them before the House. I remember, two years ago, when the First Lord stood at the Table and referred to the time when, with some degree of trembling, he asked the House for a sum of nine millions. At that time he asked for twenty-three millions; but now, with great confidence and coolness, he asks for the large sum of twenty-seven millions: and I believe the country will treat this demand with as much coolness and confidence as the First Lord himself does. I feel disposed to congratulate him on what I will call the sane, sensible, and, under the circumstances, reasonable nature of his proposals. He and his colleagues have not lost their heads. In these times of war, passion, and excitement, they have not manifested any panic; and although there is this year an increase of nearly a million of money in the Estimates, I think that perhaps we may be thankful to the First Lord and his colleagues for not having taken advantage of public feeling, and having caused the Estimates to be far larger than they are. I am disposed to think that the country, on the whole, will not begrudge the money he has asked for, if they can be assured that they get value for it, and that they can have some confidence in the security of the country so far as its defences are concerned. My one purpose in rising to address the House is not to follow the technical arguments of experts, but to say a few words in favour of the Loyal Marines. Amongst the experiences of my youth were some connected with that part of the service; and although that is now over forty years ago, I have never ceased to have a sympathetic feeling towards the marines. I consider that corps the finest in Her Majesty's service, and we have only to follow what they have done in South Africa to conclude that down to the present time they have kept their good name, and proved themselves worthy of it. I do not think that we use the Royal 1275 Marines to the greatest advantage. I was somewhat taken a back to hear that they are a decreasing quantity, and if that is true it seems to me it is a mistaken policy. I think instead of having them decreased, we ought to be anxious to increase their number.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
The Royal Marines have been continually increased during the last three years; it is the seamen who have been decreasing.
§ MR. DUCKWORTH
I beg pardon; I must have been under some misapprehension, and I am delighted that I was mistaken on that matter. I have just returned from a tour in the East, during which time I visited Malta and Gibraltar, and I could not help thinking that those places should be garrisoned by marines instead of by Line regiments. I do not think the marines have had the encouragement to which they are entitled, or that the public really understand what they have to do and are capable of doing. They are men prepared to light on land or sea. In South Africa they seem to be absorbed in the Naval Brigade, and the reports state that the Naval Brigade have done this, that, and the other thing, while little is said or known about the marines. This is a long-standing complaint: in fact, I used to hear of it as a youth. I have a letter from a young fellow at the front in South Africa, who has taken part in four engagements with the marines. He writes after the battle of Graspan that—The marines here have been disappointed at the reports of the battle in some of the papers. There was nothing but that the bluejackets had been doing this, that, and the other thing', and that the bluejackets had charged up the hill. There was not even a mention that the marines were there. As a matter of fact, there were only fifty bluejackets compared with 220 marines in the firing line.That is the evidence of a man who upon the field of battle has been made a noncommissioned officer. There is another reform which might be brought about on behalf of the marines, and this applies to the Army generally, and that is in the quantity and quality of the food. The rations of the private soldier per day is one pound of bread and three quarters of a pound of meat including bone.
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
If the hon. Gentleman referred to naval rations he would be in order, but in referring to military rations he is not in. order.
§ MR. DUCKWORTH
I am referring to the rations of the marines, and if the amounts I give are not correct I shall be glad to hear it. I daresay the bread is better in quality now than it used to be, but I remember when we used to take out the inside of a loaf and try and make it stick on the wall. If it is not better than it was forty years ago there is great room for improvement. The bread such as I have described is much worse in some respects than that given in the workhouses, and not a great deal better than that given to prisoners. There is no- reason for keeping to this poor diet, because food is so much cheaper now. I think the time has now come when the sailor and marine, as well as the soldier, ought at all events to have a pat of butter for their bread at breakfast and tea, and now and then a piece of cheese by way of a change. If the Government has money which it has been unable to spend on naval extension, I think it- would be desirable to use it to improve the quality of the food. Another way in which the service might be made more attractive is by having a smarter uniform for these men. If the uniform was made more attractive the service would gain exceedingly. These are practical suggestions which in the face of a possible resort to conscription, or some kind of enforced service, the Government ought to consider. Conscription in this country is neither necessary nor desirable, and I have always been of opinion that soldiers, like poets, are born, and not made. What is required is to make the service so attractive that the martial instinct is drawn towards it, and if that is done we shall not have to complain so much of the difficulty in getting men. The men who fight our battles are not treated so generously as they ought to be, especially in the way of food, and also in other' things in barrack life. In barrack life there are what I may call petty filchings from their miserable pittance, and all these things ought to be swept away and the men treated in a more liberal spirit. Men who go out to fight the battles of a wealthy country like ours, whore money is of little consequence, when they come home to barrack life ought to be made to 1277 feel that everything possible is being done for their comfort by a rich and grateful country.
§ MR. WILLIAM SIDEBOTTOM () Derbyshire, High Peak
said although he represented an inland constituency, and in consequence would probably not be expected to speak on naval matters, he intervened because he had the honour to be connected with one of the armour-plate manufacturing companies which had been referred to. His object in so doing was to dispel some little misapprehension which appeared to have arisen in the course of the debate. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty was absolutely correct in his statement that armour-plate manufacturers were not able to deliver in due time the orders entrusted with them: but their inability to execute orders was due, as would lie apparent to the most casual observer, to the engineers' strike. Last year a considerable increase in the output over that of the preceding year took place, and this year there would be a further increase of 25 or 30 per cent. Large sums had been expended in increasing the plant for this work, and if the First Lord would say how much armour plate would be required from any particular firm in a given time there was no doubt but that the order would be executed. He had intervened in the debate merely because he thought it right that the House should know the exact position of affairs.
§ MR. DALZIEL () Kirkcaldy Burghs
said that, rightly or wrongly, there prevailed amongst the large linoleum manufacturers of the country a disbelief in the fair play exercised at the Admiralty with regard to linoleum contracts. Invariably the largest contract was given to one particular firm, and there was a feeling on the part of some manufacturers that linoleum of a quality inferior to that tendered for was being supplied. The quality tendered for was three-sixteenths, but that supplied according to the samples which he held in his hand was less than one-eighth. It was essential that the best quality should be supplied, because the lives of the men depended on it. If. however, the Secretary to the Admiralty would undertake to give his personal attention to the matter he would be perfectly satisfied,
§ SIR SAMUEL HOARE () Norwich
I only rise to offer a few observations on the points which refer to the Reserve men from the Navy. There is a vast number of what I may call off-shore fishermen on the east coast, as distinguished from the fishermen who go to sea for comparatively long voyages, who are as loyal and warm-hearted Englishmen as any men in the country, and who are as willing and as ready to serve their country in case of necessity as any men in any part of the Empire. I am anxious that the First Lord of the Admiralty should consider whether he could not avail himself of the services of some of those men as Reserves. In the case of a mobilisation of the Fleet most of the Coastguards would be required for service in the Fleet, and I think the right hon. Gentleman would find these men could be made, in such times of emergency, of great use for coast defence. I would therefore suggest that some of the offshore fishermen should be asked to join a Coastguard Reserve, which would lit! available to guard our coasts in case the regular men were called upon to go to sea. It would lie a simple matter to drill these men. The chief boatman now drills his four or five men of the Coastguard, and it would be no more trouble to him if he had from time to time a certain number of these young men from the district to drill with them. At Cromer there is a chief officer with naval men who could chill twenty or thirty men as well as the six or seven he is drilling at the present time. When we are considering the defence of our coasts there is nothing we should have more regard to than good signalling. My suggestion is that fishermen should be taught the work of signalling, which could be done in a short time, because their whole life is spent in watching the sea. Everyone who knows anything of the dash and daring exhibited by fishermen in the lifeboat service will agree with me when I say they are amongst the pluckiest men in the country, and it does seem a pity that an attempt should not be made to draw these men into some sort of service, where in times of emergency they would be of the greatest use. There are some 1,000 men now serving in the Coastguard who would be, available for service at sea, and I believe it would be of the greatest advantage if the Admiralty would start some sort of Coastguard Reserve.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
I rise to call attention to the inadequate supply of Roman Catholic chaplains in the Royal Navy. This matter has been brought before the Admiralty year after year, but so far as I know no satisfactory solution of the difficulty has been arrived at. In answer to a question of mine the other day the First Lord in his reply seemed to say that the Admiralty had met the views of the Catholic hierarchy in this matter. I do not think that will be found to be the case, because Cardinal Logue, in his Lenten pastoral just issued, expresses his grave dissatisfaction with the existing state of things by which thousands of Roman Catholic sailors in Her Majesty's service are unable to receive the ministrations of their religion. With regard to the Army, I think the matter has been satisfactorily dealt with; but there is a great deal of dissatisfaction in Catholic circles, not only in Ireland, but in England, at the fact that there are so few Roman Catholic chaplains in the Navy. There are a great many Catholic sailors in the Navy, and I think it is a legitimate ground of complaint that in this matter their interests have not been looked after.
§ MR. COHEN () Islington, E.
I only express the feeling of the House and the country when I say with what admiration we listened to the interesting statement of the First Lord. But there was one passage in that statement which does not exactly inspire me with the confidence that the coaling of the Fleet is being approached quite in that spirit in which some of us would like to see it treated. I refer to the use which is being made of colonial coal. About ten days ago the Secretary to the Admiralty told me in reply to a question that it was true that in consequence of the recent great advance in the price of coal, Australian coal was now obtained on terms which made it compare most favourably with that which is obtained in this country. He further told me that the Admiralty were considering to what extent they could make use of the offers of coal which I understood from him had been submitted to the Admiralty from various representatives of the Australian coal interest in this country. I have very little personal knowledge of Australian coal, and absolutely no interest in Australian or English coal, but I think the House and the nation will be pleased if, consistently 1280 with efficient service, it is found possible to make use of Australian and other colonial coal for the purposes of the Navy. The Secretary to the Admiralty has already informed me that this matter is being investigated, but it seems to me that the Admiralty are considering a problem which has been solved by hide-dependent persons in a manner which ought to hasten, if, indeed, it does not render superfluous, the investigation in which they are now engaged. No one would desire that colonial and Australian coal should be used unless it can be shown to be suitable for consumption in Her Majesty's ships. I am informed on very good authority, however, not only that Australian coal can be furnished to the Admiralty, freight and all other charges included, at a price a little less than two-thirds of what they are now paying, but that its efficiency for, and adaptability to, the needs of the Navy are proved by its use by some of the great American liners, by the navy of the United States, and by the fleets of some of the foreign Powers. I trust that the Admiralty will hasten as much as possible the investigation they are making into the subject.
§ SIR. WALTER FOSTER () Derbyshire, Ilkeston
I should like to refer to the changes which the First Lord of the Admiralty proposes to make in the Naval Medical Department. We should give credit where credit is due, and I think the effect of these changes will be to make that department much more efficient in the future. They are wise and provident changes, and I congratulate the Committee presided over by the Junior Lord on having suggested them, and the right hem. Gentleman on having made them. Hitherto surgeons going into the Navy have had to pass an ordinary competitive examination, and pass on directly to their service in connection with their profession; but now these gentlemen coming fresh from the medical schools will have the great advantage of going through a special course of practical instruction at Haslar Hospital, and there learning all the details of their future medical service. That will be a great advantage, and one which their predecessors in some instances, greatly wanted. Then again these officers have to be sent off to various quarters of the world, where they are often brought into 1281 contact with conditions and diseases which they have had. no possible chance of studying previously. In future it has been promised that they shall be given special instruction in these diseases at naval hospitals. In addition, it is desirable that medical officers separated from the centres of scientific activity for long periods when at sea should have the opportunity of attending post-graduate courses of lectures on their return home, and I hope that in future arrangements may be made by which even the senior officers, as well as the [junior officers, may attend the medical schools and make themselves acquainted with the latest developments in surgery and medicine. I congratulate the Admiralty upon its departure from that strange spirit of meanness which has hitherto required naval medical officers to find their own instruments. This has hitherto amounted to a fine of about £00 on the medical officer, and I have always regarded it as a disgrace to the Admiralty. That will be done away with in the future. In my opinion, the changes indicate an enlightened departure, so far as the medical department of the Navy is concerned. They will give satisfaction to the profession, and will encourage young medical men to enter upon careers of great usefulness.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER () Belfast, W.
I share in the sense of reassurance conveyed by the dignity and simplicity of the speech of the First Lord. The right hon. Gentleman has calmly reviewed the almost panic-stricken suggestions which have been urged by some critics, and has firmly stated his own policy. For myself, knowing the ships of the Navy even better than I know the regiments of the Army, I can certainly say that if the spirit of criticism is over found in me it ceases when I come into contact with the realities of the Navy. Going from dockyard to dockyard and from ship to ship, I learn what I can, but wherever I go I am forced to the conclusion that, within the limits of possibility, what is practicable to be done is being clone, and I feel absolutely compelled to give my testimony to the efficiency of the Board of Admiralty as now administered. From either side of the House there have been expressions of satisfaction, and, with regard to what has been said about the engineering branch, I hope that the 1282 changes presage further improvements in the future. The time is coming when this branch of the service will have to share the privileges accorded to the combatant branches, and I have great hope that under the present spirit of administration the levelling up will continue. There are one or two points upon which, perhaps, the Admiralty will supplement the statement made. The question of boilers is one of these. On this subject I am an amateur and outsider, though probably I have been in more stokeholes than most Members, and speak as a person interested and, to a certain extent, informed. The proper attitude, it seems to me, for any civilian to assume towards the Belleville boilers is to stand outside the controversy and seek for proof that the enormous expenditure upon them is justified. My own opinion is that the case in favour of the Belleville boiler has not been sufficiently established, but I have bowed to the professional opinion of the Admiralty. It has been very strongly represented as being in favour of the Belleville boiler, and the country has been committed to a very large expenditure indeed on the ground that the Belleville boiler is not only a good boiler, but the best that could be produced under existing circumstances for Her Majesty's ships. I have contended inside and outside this House that that proposition may be true, but that it has never yet been established. On many occasions I have stated that in my opinion it was necessary to make a real and fail' trial under sea - going conditions between two vessels, one fitted with Belleville boilers and the other fitted with Scotch boilers, and I have been given the assurance that such a trial should be made. Such a trial has been made, but it has not been made clear in the course of this debate what the result of that trial was. As far as I can gather—and I hope the First Lord will contradict me if I am wrong- in the case of the "Highflyer" and the "Minerva," a trial has been made under something approximating to sea-going conditions, and what has been the result? The result has been that in every respect except one the Belleville boiler has been at an enormous disadvantage. The Belleville boiler has been far more extravagant in the consumption of coal, far more liable to injury, and has required far more repair than the Scotch boiler, 1283 The First Lord of the Admiralty said last night that difficulties had arisen with regard to machinery. T have made a study of every report upon which I could lay my hands, both in the United States and in this country, with regard to trials of the Belleville boiler, and I think that that statement of the First Lord requires some qualification. Many of those difficulties have not boon directly connected with the boilers, but many of them have, and that is particularly the case in regard to the boilers of the "Highflyer" during the recent experiments. There has been a triumph for the "Minerva" the older and smaller ship—in regard to the consumption of coal, and the efficiency of the boilers after the trial has taken place -that is to say, there has been greater endurance and there has been greater economy. In one particular, no doubt, the "Highflyer" had the advantage, that is, in the power of getting up steam from cold water or from banked fires or their equivalent in a much shorter time than the "Minerva." That is an advantage. I have received from the Secretary of the United States Navy the whole of the reports of the United States Navy Department with regard to the steaming qualities of their ships during the war, and I admit that this power of getting up full pressure of steam at very short notice is very important. But I contend that if you are to weigh advantage against advantage the balance is enormously on the side of the ship with the small consumption of coal and the small injury to boilers, and which can steam for a great distance, as against the ship which at very short notice can get up steam. If the light hon. Gentleman had last session and the session before made to tins House a- statement with regard to the Belleville boilers, which he then commended, as qualified by the results of the trial of the "Minerva" and the "Highflyer," tin's House would not have given the same ready acceptance to his conclusions as they did. I venture to support the appeal of the hon. Member for the Shipley Division that we should have some further information with regard to the general character of this boiler before we are committed to any greater extent. I am not saying a word against the water-tube boiler. The water- tube boiler is bound to come. But there are many types of water-tube boilers. The very boiler mentioned in the First 1284 Lord's statement — the Babcock and Wilcox boiler—has this enormous advantage in its favour, that it has found favour with the mercantile marine. It has been tried in the "Sheldrake," and, as far as I have been able to see, the result has been extremely favourable, and I do think it is but fair that the result of the trial with the "Highflyer"—
§ MR. GOSCHEN
pointed out that the trials between the "Highflyer" and the "Minerva" were not yet completed, and until the full results, which would be laid before the House, had been obtained it would be better not to base; any arguments upon them.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
The right hon. Gentleman is quite justified in correcting me, but I have never stated they were concluded, because I know they are not. I contend, however, that I am justified in asking that, before we are committed any further, we should have more information, because tin; facts, as far as they go, are as I have stated. We are face to face with the fact that for a succession of years we have been told positively that the objections to the Belleville boiler did not hold good, and that Her Majesty's Navy were committed to those boilers. I am glad to notice that this year there is a slight qualification of that statement, that no pledge is given with regard to the boilering of the new ships, and that the Admiralty reserves its judgment. I fully accept the statement that the trials are incomplete. It may be that the full-speed trials of the "Highflyer" and the "Minerva" will produce a result which will vitiate the conclusions I have come to, and, therefore, to some extent, invalidate my argument based upon the result of the present trials, which, however, have been very important and considerable. But I do ask that when those trials are completed the House may have an opportunity of knowing exactly what their tendency is. The Engineering Department of the Admiralty have been good enough to furnish me with a Return as to certain ships which have been fitted with the Belleville boiler. I am, as T say, not an expert, but I am one who has studied these matters very considerably, and, even so, I am bound to say that that Return is not a very lucid or a very enlightening document, probably owing to the involved character of the statistics 1285 which had to be given. There is very little opportunity given on the face of the Return of forming a real judgment as to the merits of the ships. What I should like, when these trials of the "Highflyer'' and the "Minerva" are completed, is a statement which can be understood by plain people who are not specialists. That is not too great a demand to make. Such a statement is made year after year by the United States Navy Department, and, though I am little more than a mere amateur, I do say that those statements are perfectly lucid, clear, and comprehensive. What we want is not a table with fifteen columns and a mass of statistics, which even a specialist who had given all his life to the matter would find sonic difficulty in interpreting, but a plain, straightforward statement, giving the impressions of persons of experience and knowledge as to what are the real advantages to our Navy in the circumstances in which it is likely to be engaged of one particular system as against another. I do not pretend for a moment to set myself in opposition to the expert opinion of the Admiralty with regard to the Belleville boiler, but I do ask, as it Member of the House of Commons, that Parliament may he frankly told the result of these trials. and why, if the Belleville boilers arc to he adopted, they arc supposed to be so superior to the Scotch boilers, the Babcock and Wilcox boiler, and the many other types which are under trial at the present lime. There is one other matter about which I should like to say a word. The right hon. Gentleman will no doubt think it is a hardy annual, but the circumstances of the present year are exceptional, and therefore, perhaps. I need not apologise for mentioning it again. I notice that the figures given with reference to the Naval Reserve were to a certain extent much more satisfactory than in the past year or two. and that more is being done to render the Naval Reserve a really useful body in time of war. But I regret that still nothing is being done to utilise that one force which, this country has in excess of all other countries, the great force which is supplied by those who follow the sea for love of the sea. This year we have seen the great assistance the War Office has obtained out of the principle of volunteering. Nearly half of the troops in South Africa at the present moment are volunteers, and I venture 1286 to say they are not the worse half. I do not quite understand and never have understood why the Admiralty has set its face against volunteers. Most of our great victories at sea in the past have been won largely by ships manned by volunteers. I include the privateering, which in itself is volunteering. There is certainly nothing in the history of our nation which should prejudice us against volunteers. Every year I go along the coast of these islands, in the inlets, up the rivers, and out at sea, and every year I become move and more impressed with the enormous reserve of power possessed by this country if it were but utilised. The hon. Member for Great Yarmouth is perfectly correct in saying that there are hundreds of bluejackets in the Navy who have never been in a boat in their lives; there are thousands who do not know at a given hour how the tides are flowing or which way the winds are blowing; there are thousands who have no more idea of the tides of the Channel or of inland navigation or the coast navigation of this country than, I was going to say, the policeman at the door of this House; but he probably knows more. There is a class of men who know all these things; there are men to whom it would be a, pleasure to sail their vessels into the Thames on the darkest night in the three hundred and sixty five of the year; there are men navigating their 4-ton cutters from the Lizard up the Channel without ever making a mistake; but we are not utilising the services of these men. The Admiralty once permitted an experiment in volunteering, but that experiment was all wrong. It was entirely wrong from start to finish. The wrong men were taken, and tin.' wrong officers were selected. The men were put on a totally wrong job. Lawyers' clerks and stockbrokers were set to scrub decks at half-past four in the morning, and had to do work which was a great deal better done by bluejackets. No imagination was put into the thing. The Admiralty did not realise for a moment what the education, enterprise, and self-respect of men of a certain class of life would enable them to do. They did not in the least grasp what the special knowledge of seamanship and so on of the class of men to whom I have referred could do, and they put down a very heavy foot upon this volun- 1287 teering experiment. I agreed with them and thought they were right in that case, but they have never yet allowed an experiment to be tried on a sane and reasonable footing. I have over and over again asked that at least a chance, an opportunity should be given to this large class of very competent men. I am very largely at one with the hon. Member for Yarmouth as to the uselessness of the coast defences of this country. Those coast defences are in the hands of the Army. But I attach enormous importance to the mobile defence of the country. If we wore to go to war to-morrow, what would happen now would be what happened in 1805: we should have the Channel from end to end swarming with the mobile defence—torpedo-boats and commissioned boats of every kind—of our enemy.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
And of our own. That happened in 1805, and in 1808, and in 1813, when we were enormously superior at sea, and yet within sight of the harbour at Dover and within the limits of the Downs themselves scores and hundreds of our coasting ships and larger ships were captured because the enemy were very active at sea. These ships of the enemy were sent to sea with very large crews, and the whole power of our sea-going Navy was unable to put a stop to their depredations. If the Navy were mobilised to-morrow, what would happen? We should have the Navy doing what the "blue-water school" very justly say they ought to do; they would be going to the coasts of the enemy, and there no doubt they would be doing their best to destroy the enemy's fleet. That is their function. But there is absolutely no method by which men can be taken, from the personnel of our Navy, to provide for the mobile defence of our coasts. It is not even supposed to be the province of the Navy; it is the province of the Army. I have seen the Royal Engineer boats paddling about the harbours, and if you are depending upon them you are depending upon a very slender reed indeed. Why is it you do not make use of those who know our coasts like an open book? If they are tried and found wanting, let the experiment be given up. But we have not tried it. Again I put this pro- 1288 position to the right hon. Gentleman. Will he give any sort of encouragement, or if he can induce his naval advisers for once to lay aside—I do not like the word "prejudice," because I have a sincere respect for the Naval Lords—to lay aside the view which so strongly possesses them that no good can come out of Volunteers, will he make this bargain, that if, in any mercantile or maritime port, a properly constituted Volunteer corps can be formed, with sufficient guarantees as regards money and eficiency, and able to provide two or more crews for a first-class torpedo - boat, he will allow them, under any conditions the Admiralty may like to make in regard to efficiency in the manning of the boat or in the stokehole or in the firing of the 3-pounder gun, to take that boat in charge for twelve months and see what they can make of it? That is a proposal which might fairly be considered by the Admiralty. I will undertake to say that if the right hon. Gentleman will agree to do that he will, within three weeks, got a response from half-a-dozen places round the coast. What is the worst that can happen? There are some three-score of those first-class torpedo boats laid up in our dockyards. Let the right hon. Gentleman offer one of these boats to the estuary of the Thames and another to Bristol, and see if he cannot get stokehold crews, bluejacket crews, officers and men, for these boats without any trouble at all. The Admiralty, I suppose, will say that the experiment is bound to fail. Well, even if it does fail, what harm is done? You will have given the use of an, at present, not used boat; you will have damped the energy of a certain number of energetic men, and have shown them that they are as useless as you have supposed them to be. But if the experiment succeeds you will have at your disposal the nucleus of a force which will put the whole present fixed defence of our coast absolutely in the shade. That is a proposition which I have made before and which I now make again. I say that the circumstances of this year are propitious for such an experiment. We have had a revelation as to what volunteering can do, and I do hope that the Admiralty, in which I can honestly and truly say I have the most unbounded confidence, will sympathetically consider this proposition. I believe there is value in the proposal, and I am 1289 certain the experiment is worth trying. There is one other matter about which I shall speak upon another occasion, namely, the Royal Marines. I shall not go into the matter now, but I believe that the Royal Marines are suffering from the treatment they have received, and that they have grievances which are grave and increasing, and which ought to be redressed. !f an opportunity is afforded me at a later stage of this debate, I shall endeavour to bring forward as clearly as I can the grounds which justify me in believing that the interference of the Board is absolutely necessary for the protection of that splendid force and for the removal of an injustice which I believe to be a real and a growing one. I shall urge this matter upon the attention of the First Lord, because it is one of the matters, perhaps the only matter, concerning the Navy about which I think I know as much as or even more than the right hon. Gentleman does himself. I believe I know more than he does about this matter, because, from the very nature of the case, the feeling which exists and which I have known to exist for years among the Royal Marines is not likely to come to him exactly as it has come to me. I have never sought for grievances; I have never asked a soldier or a sailor if he had a grievance; but for fifteen years I have been intimately associated with naval officers and with Royal Marine officers, and I have learned what I have been told. Within the last two years I have seen a development of a feeling of unrest and discontent in the Royal Marines which has alarmed me, and when I come to ask myself whether that discontent is unreasonable or whether that dissatisfaction with their condition is a feeling which I can blame, I am bound to answer the question in the negative, and to say that- it is natural, that it is one which anybody situated in the same position would have, and that being so I believe I have no alternative but to bring the matter before the only tribunal which can really give any satisfaction in the matter. This question is the only one in regard to which I differ from the Admiralty, and I shall take another opportunity of brniging it before the attention of the House.
§ MR. WEIR () ROSS and Cromarty
sincerely hoped the First Lord of the Admiralty would not a year hence inform the House there was a difficulty in getting 1290 guns manufactured. Such an excuse was a libel upon the manufacturing community of this the greatest manufacturing country in the world. The cause of the difficulty was that the work was concentrated in one or two shops. If orders were given to other manufacturers they would be encouraged to lay down the necessary plant and machinery for the production of guns, but it was not to be expected they would go to that expense unless assured of orders. He also expressed the hope that at the earliest possible moment the old muzzle- loading guns would be done away with and replaced by quick-firing guns. As to the disposition of the training ships, why did not the Government send one to the north-west of Scotland, where there would be no difficulty in obtaining just the class of boy who should be encouraged to join the Navy. He agreed with the hon. Gentleman who last spoke, that there were an enormous number of men all round the coast who might be drawn upon for the Naval Volunteer force. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of bringing in a short Act of Parliament to raise 10,000 men for this force. They could not secure men as competent stokers without adequate training. If they employed incompetent men as stokers the boilers of our ships would be seriously damaged. With regard to surgical instruments, he hoped the Admiralty would take care that those supplied were up to date, and not antiquated instruments which he had seen in use in military hospitals.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
I assure the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down that with regard to the surgical instruments supplied to medical officers they are of the very latest and most up-to-date pattern. It is the desire of the Admiralty when dealing with the Reserve that every possible attention should be paid to the peculiar circumstances of the localities, and I am sure that the hope which the hon. Member has expressed will be attended to. There are one or two important questions of policy which have been raised to-night, as well as others of equal importance raised with reference to water-tube boilers. To those my right hon. friend the First Lord of the Admiralty will take an early opportunity of replying, but by the rules of the debate I am precluded from taking any further part in the present discussion. With regard 1291 to one or two questions raised by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and especially with regard to the question raised by the hon. Member for the Middleton Division of Lancashire, I wish at once to say that I am not able now to compare the rations of the Royal Marines with what they were forty years ago, but I have every reason for believing that they are of the very best quality. There is no limitation upon the prices paid for the victualling of the Royal Marines cither afloat or ashore, and they should be of the very highest possible quality. As a matter of fact, very few complaints indeed have been made during the time I have been at the Admiralty of any of the contractors who supply provisions to the Royal Marines, and in every case where the complaints have been substantiated and proved those contractors have been removed from the list of tenderers. We desire to make the service as attractive as possible, and I entirely agree with hon. Member who expressed this view: and I feel sure that if he were to pay a visit to the Royal Marine barracks he would find that they are equal, if not superior, to any other barracks in the country. The Admiralty certainly have had the comfort of the force before them, and they have spent very considerable sums of money in providing conveniences and attractions for the divisions when they are in barracks. I would also remind the hon. Gentleman that, so far as our recruiting for the force is concerned, the returns are very satisfactory, and there is nothing to show that there is anything under the surface to tell against the very best class of recruits joining. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy called my attention to the contract for the supply of linoleum. I have had my attention directed to it on previous occasions, and I have no reason to suppose from reports which I have received from Her Majesty's ships that there is any ground for his allegations. The question has been brought before me, and it will receive the attention of the administration. My hon. friend the Member for East Islington asked whether the attention of the Admiralty had been directed to the colonial coal supply. I can assure him that we are not only considering this matter as an abstract question, but for some years past we have been making experiments on board ship as regards the coal supply from our various colonies, and 1292 especially from Australia. We have found a considerable quantity of it absolutely unfit for use in Her Majesty's ships, but our attention has been recently directed to some other qualities which we can use locally, and to one or two of those qualities which we hope to give a full and effective trial. It is a question of the highest importance, and the officials responsible are paying very close attention to the matter. The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, who is not in his place, alluded to the question of transports, and criticised the manner in which they had been taken up by the Admiralty. He made suggestions of such a character that I do not think it is proper to pass over without some notice. He stated that there was considerable distrust in shipping circles at the manner in which we ha I dealt with a certain firm in Liverpool. I have had many opportunities of meeting those engaged in the shipping trade in the city of Liverpool, and I have never heard one of the suggestions which the hon. Member for Middlesbrough has alleged. All I can say is that if anybody entertains the views which the hon. Member has stated have come to his notice, those; views are absolutely without any foundation whatever. No preference was ever given by the Admiralty, or by any official of the Admiralty, to any shipowner or any shipping firm, whether they were or were not connected with any individual in this House. As to the particular ships he alluded to and the price paid for the mules in connection with those ships, I may state to the House at once that they were actually the lowest price which we paid for transporting any mules, and there is not the slightest foundation for supposing that, first of all, the owners of the ship got the contracts from us and then took up the ships. The ships were offered to us in the ports where they wore ready for the purposes for which we required them, and I have not the slightest ground for suspecting, nor has anybody at the Admiralty or elsewhere, that anything of the character suggested took place in connection with the transport service. Every opportunity was given that could possibly be given to other shipowners to supply what we required from them; and far from giving any preference to the firm mentioned, I have no reason to doubt that that firm considers itself on some occasions to have 1293 been rather hardly used by the Admiralty. The hon. Member for Middlesbrough went on to speak of the victualling of the troops. He did not, however, make himself responsible for the statement which he brought to the notice of the House, but he asked for assurances that they were not true. As many letters have appeared from time to time in the papers, I think it is desirable to state the circumstances. The victualling of the troops has been carried out on a very considerable scale. Some 54,291 men were victualled for forty-two days. The provisions and medical comforts amount to 6,775 tons, and the transport gear, including bedding and horse gear, amount to 10,555 tons. All this vast amount of provisions and transport gear was placed on board these transports without interfering in the slightest degree with the ordinary work of the victualling yards, and without being one single moment in arrear. What has been the result? I have received eighty-seven reports from the commanding officers of the troops in eighty-seven transports. Of these eighty- seven reports sixty refer to transports victualled by the Admiralty. Out of those sixty cases in forty-four there were absolutely no complaints, and when I say that I am, to a certain extent, understating it, because in almost every case the commanding officer expressed himself in the highest degree satisfied with the provision made for the troops. I will only quote one instance, and that is the case of the "Dunera." In this case one or two complaints were made with regard to the flour, but in each case a fresh issue was made. With regard to the remaining ships, the complaints have been, in most cases, of a very trivial character, and so far as provisions are concerned the complaints are entirely confined to the salt beef provided. In only a few cases has this beef been actually condemned. When I tell the House that over 400,0001b. of salt beef have been placed aboard these vessels, and only 1,0001b. at the outside were condemned, I think the House will recognise that, generally speaking, the service has been carried out in a satisfactory manner. I may say that in regard to the casks of salt beef landed from the ships at Cape Town about which there were any complaints, the whole of it has been surveyed by a Naval Board, and a telegraphic report of the survey which has 1294 been received proves to be quite satisfactory. In providing very large quantities of provisions of that character in accordance with the regulations laid down by the War Office, where, on account of the long sea voyage, fresh provisions cannot be provided, it is not unnatural that some small portion of it may not be in first-rate order. I think, however, speaking generally, the House will be ready to recognise that, on the whole, the victualling of this very large number of men has been carried out with satisfactory results. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee earlier in the evening asked a question about the new forms of Admiralty contracts, and across the Table of the House I used an expression which I will modify now, because it may carry to his mind, and to the mind of the House, an impression which I do not wish to convey—namely, that the delay in issuing the new form of contract is entirely owing to the law. The necessities of the case have been the cause of prolonged conferences between those responsible for the legal phraseology and the professional advisers of the Admiralty. It has not always been possible to arrange meetings just when each side were prepared to consult. The matters to be decided are of great magnitude, governing in the future large and important interests, and I do not think the hon. Gentleman himself will be inclined to complain very bitterly if we prefer to take time in deciding the form of this contract. The hon. Member asked if we had any information with regard to the system adopted in the United States Engineering Office. I may say that the information we possess of that system is not of such a character as to lead us to adopt a system of that sort. My hon. friend the Member for the Shipley Division of Yorkshire, who spoke earlier this evening, was good enough to approve of the proposals inserted in the First Lord's statement with regard to the improved conditions of pay and other matters connected with the engineering branch of the Navy, but he was not prepared to admit altogether the proposition, which my hon. hon. friend laid down with absolute correctness, as to the position of the engineering officer on board Her Majesty's ships. In order to remove any misapprehension, I wish to state that there is no difference between the engineer officer and the ordinary officer of the executive and combatant branch of the Navy with 1295 regard to the power of inflicting punishment. There is only one authority as to punishment on board ship, and that is the commanding officer and his deputy, the executive officer. The engineer officer is in the same position as the first lieutenant, who would have no more power to punish a bluejacket or a stoker than the chief engineer. Therefore, so far, no engineer officer suffers any disparity of position compared with officers of the combatant branch. The position which the chief marine officer occupies is this: that he has no more power to punish on a question of discipline or insubordination, or any other breach of the rules of discipline on board Her Majesty's ships, than the first lieutenant, and his power of punishment is solely confined to those delegated to him by the commanding officer, such as questions of kits not being properly arranged, or if the men come up unshaven on parade. He has no power whatever to punish on questions of discipline, and so far he and the engineer officer are precisely on the same lines. My hon. friend asks me a question as to whether, in the Report of the Committee, we did not recommend that the engineer officers of the Royal Navy should form a separate corps with executive rank. I can tell my lion, friend that we recommended nothing of the sort or anything approaching it, for very excellent reasons. The engineer officers who appeared before the Committee and gave evidence differed on many questions, but they were absolutely unanimous upon this point, that they did not desire to have general executive authority. They admitted that it was a matter which they could not deal with, and that it was entirely outside the position which they occupied on board ship. My hon. friend the Member for the Shipley Division said nothing should be left undone by the Admiralty to prevent the best engineering men leaving the service and to induce others to join. Upon that point I entirely agree with the hon. Member, but I dispute altogether the suggestion that the best men in the engineering branch of the service are leaving, for they are doing nothing of the sort. Nor can I for one moment admit that there are any grounds for supposing that the entries in Keyham College are not of a very good class. I only wish hon. Members of this House who are interested in the engineering branch would go down to 1296 Keyham and see what is being done there to prepare these men for carrying out the important duties in connection with Her Majesty's Navy. I am sure they would be struck, as I was struck when I went to Keyham College, by their remarkably good appearance, and I was told by their officers that their conduct there was excellent. It must not be supposed for a moment that those responsible for the administration of the Admiralty are not fully aware of the importance of securing the very best material they can get for the engineering branch of the Navy. I am bound to say that when we come to compare the advantages offered to those who enter the engineering branch; when we consider their absolute security of employment and the advantages they get when they leave the service, and compare it with those who go into the general engineering professions of the country and have to fight their battles against severe competition, I unhesitatingly say that comparing the prospects in the Navy and the advantages in the shape of a pension with the chances of success, which are few and far between, in the civil engineering of the country, there is a great deal to be said for the opportunities that the engineering profession offers under the flag of the Royal Navy. There are one or two other administrative reforms in connection with engineer officers in Her Majesty's service which have been carried out by the Admiralty, and which, in connection with this Committee, have not been stated, and to which we attach very great importance. I only desire to say, in conclusion, that we give the very fullest consideration and the amplest opportunities to all branches of the engineering department of the Royal Navy to lay their views before us. and I think those views have been laid before us in a very admirable manner. Some of them took an opportunity of repudiating as strongly as possible the idea that the view circulated in pamphlets at all represented the general wishes of the officers of the engineering branches. I think I have now dealt with most of the questions which have been raised in this debate, but there is one matter which was alluded to by the non. Member for the Hallam Division of Sheffield. We are very glad to hear that the armour-plate manufacturers hope to largely increase their output. As a matter of fact, during the last few weeks the output 1297 has been increased; but it is also a fact that ships being constructed by contractors to the Admiralty as well as in Her Majesty's dockyards have been delayed by the failure of the armour contractors to make delivery of plates. I am not saying that the manufacturers have not had great difficulties to contend with or that their delay has been in any way deliberate, or that they have not exerted themselves to the utmost to overcome difficulties, but nevertheless it is undoubtedly a fact that these delays have taken place. I believe, however, we may look forward in future to a very much larger and more rapid delivery, and no persons will be more pleased if the hopes of my right hon. friend are realised than the Board of Admiralty. I do not know that any other questions have been raised to which I need reply at this stage, and perhaps I may be allowed to appeal to the House generally to let us take this stage of the Navy Estimates now.
§ Question put, and agreed to.