§ 1. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £6,739,000 (including an additional sum of £410,000), be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expense of the Contract Work for Shipbuilding, Repairs, etc., which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1901."
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
As some time has elapsed since the Navy Estimates were introduced I will make a few general observations on this Vote. I am afraid I may have to trouble the Committee at some length, and I hope they will be good enough to 242 extend some indulgence to me, as I may have some little difficulty in making myself properly heard. Fair progress has been made since I last addressed the Committee in shipbuilding and in the delivery of armour and machinery. I cannot say that these deliveries are still up to our expectations and our hopes. There is, however, a great deal of improvement since last year in that respect. Armour has distinctly been delivered in larger quantities. Nevertheless, both as regards armour and the various materials that are necessary for shipbuilding, there is still a certain difficulty in getting all that is required in sufficient time. Many comments have been made on my statement with reference to the reasons why it was inadvisable to lay down more ships. I have a distinct policy in that respect. I should be extremely sorry if the laying down of more ships retarded the completion and the delivery of those that are already in hand. I should consider it undesirable to lay down a showy programme with a number of armoured ships and a number of cruisers with the necessary machinery, if by that I impaired to a certain extent the rapid completion of those that are now in hand. I am not sure that the Admiralty did not go rather too far before in laying down more ships at the time than those with which rapid progress could be made; and I wish the Committee thoroughly to grasp this—that it is not only the shipbuilder, it is not only the men in the dockyards who have to work to complete the ship, but we have to put the tube manufacturers into action, the manufacturers of gun mountings, of hydraulic machinery, and of a thousand accessories, and unless the deliveries of these accessories proceed pari passu with the completion of the hulls of the ships there is great waste. Scarcely in any single one of these respects have the contractors been able to keep their time. The House knows the many circumstances which affect in this way the completion of our ships. Shipbuilders do not make their own tubes, and contracts to deliver tubes have to be let to various contractors; nor do they make their own hydraulic machinery. If they are dependent on sub-contractors, then, if these sub-contractors were at once to assist the new ships, it would be at the expense of the delivery of the ships now in hand. For instance, if there were more armoured ships laid down, it would 243 be more difficult to get the armour which we now want for our ships; and we want armour for our ships in every direction. The public will scarcely realise the enormous number of ships that are building now for Her Majesty Government. Our programme is extremely large— larger than it has ever been at any time before. I am anxious that we should go on with that programme, laying down other ships so soon as we see that we have got a good prospect of making progress with them. Some firms have stated that they are willing to build ships at once, and we shall lay down new ships as soon as we see a prospect of making progress with them. Well, we have got to place six armoured cruisers under contract, and I am glad there will be such good competition for them as I gather from some of the statements currently made. Again, as regards the manufacture of machinery, it will be necessary to make machinery not only for these six armoured cruisers, but also for the two new battleships included in the programme. The Committee have observed from the Supplementary Estimate that where we have had the opportunity of purchasing some ships that were near completion we have availed ourselves of the option. In the Supplementary Estimate we take money to complete the purchase of five torpedo boat destroyers, which are almost ready, and which lay outside the programme that I submitted to the House. One of these is a very interesting vessel, a sister ship to the "Viper," embodying the turbine principle, which, so far as we are able at present to see, has been very successful. There will be further trials, but already speeds of thirty-six and thirty-four knots have been obtained. We have every hope that this new system of propelling will turn out a success. That is another argument for not having done what we are reproached in some quarters for not having done—namely, for not having laid down a number of new torpedo-boat destroyers. We want to see how this now system, which is especially adapted to torpedo-boat destroyers, will answer before we commence. We have every reason to suppose that in this new and most ingenious invention we shall find a fresh power which we shall have secured for this country, and in which for once, I think, this country will have a start over all other Countries. I really do not know whether I ought to detain the House on a subject 244 which has given rise to some questions and answers across the Table of this House and to some controversy in the newspapers. The controversy in the newspapers is a very one sided controversy, because while the administrator is attacked day by day he very seldom takes the opportunity to reply. I have again been charged—a charge which I thought I had entirely disposed of—with having neglected to spend all the money which has been placed at the disposal of the Admiralty by the House, and it is treated almost as a breach of trust. All the money in the dockyards has been spent in all these years. We have not been behindhand with our construction in the dockyards. It has been through the contractors, under Vote 3, that we have fallen behind. We cannot spend the money if the contractors do not produce the ships or the armour or the machinery for which we have to pay them. But if there is one body who must regret this delay, it is the Board of Admiralty, who are disappointed in their programme and have to show that what they hoped to be able to produce is not produced. The chief regret is ours, but we are powerless to help or to avoid it if the contractors do not earn the money. It must, however, be made good in subsequent years. Every year when the Estimates are being made up, if we have not spent the money placed at our disposal on shipbuilding, we have added the sum to the Estimates of the following year, so far as we knew the expenditure of the following year. I will take the first year for instance. Of the sum unexpended in that year £900,000 was re-voted in the following year, while the balance fell upon later years; because if you once fall behindhand the instalments must be spread over a greater number of years. All I can do is to assure the House that, in making up the Estimates, we have invariably added what was short-spent in one year to the Estimates of the coming year, and then taken a survey of the whole. Hon. Members can test that for themselves. If they take the "Canopus," or the "Ocean," or any of the later ships, they will find that the estimated expenditure placed against each ship in the three years or the four years is much larger than the total cost of the ship—that is to say, a part of the money is re-voted. It has not been our fault that we have not been able to spend the money, 245 but I cannot reiterate in too strong terms that we have always revoted the money and spread it over later years when we believed that the amount of money would be spent. I must apologise to the Committee for having gone into this matter. Many people might think it was wrong for mo to argue with sandwichmen, but there are so many ways in which this has been spread by placards and by leaflets all over the country that I have been advised that it would be wise for me to contradict it once more—I hope once for all. There is another and still more absurd charge—namely, that the Admiralty have, out of deference to the Treasury, endeavoured to induce contractors to slacken the speed with which they were building their ships, and putting off the necessity for paying the instalments. I always wonder where such fancies can be hatched. I cannot imagine what can possibly be the ground for them. I am told it was suggested that I still retained some of my Chancellor of the Exchequer instincts, and that I was anxious to do a good turn to my right hon. friend the present Chancellor of the Exchequer by allowing him to have more money to pay off debt rather than spending it upon ships for which I am responsible. I need scarcely assure the House that it is too puerile, too absurd, to make such a suggestion as this. Ear from it, in some cases we have given advances to contractors who were not yet entitled to them, to help them over some difficulty in order to be sure that we should not check the building of ships for whose delivery we are so anxious. I do not think there is a single person, in this House at all events, who would believe that any Admiralty would, in deference to any Department of the State, induce contractors to slacken the speed with which they can build ships. Certainly no such suggestion has ever been made to me while I have been at the head of the Admiralty. I have said enough now on the general progress which has been made with our shipbuilding, and I hope I do not take at all a pessimistic view. I believe that from month to month we shall now get on bettor, and that we shall find the deliveries on which we count coming in more punctually with every quarter. It will he a great satisfaction to mo if, at the end of this year, I shall be able to show that we have spent, as I hope we shall spend, every 246 shilling the House has placed at our disposal. The House may wish to know what typo of battleships are to be the two which are to be laid down in the dockyards. They are to be of the "Formidable" and not of the "Canopus" type. Then, the new "Hermes" will be about a knot faster than the former "Hermes." I do not think the House will think it necessary that I should say anything about the smaller ships. They are of the same character as their predecessors. With reference to one very important question connected with shipbuilding, I will refer in one sentence to the experiments of the "Belleisle" and the question of the amount of wood which is to be put into our ships. Now, so far as the experiments on the "Belleisle" could prove that proper arrangements for flooding the decks and for taking every precaution against fire will have great success, so far I think the experiment has been distinctly successful. Attention is always called to the Spanish and Chinese ships, but on the Chinese and Spanish ships we have no evidence whatever that they had these fire services and all those precautions which are taken on board British men-of-war. In the case of the "Belleisle" the pumps continued to flood the deck during the whole of the bombardment, and were found to be quietly wetting the deck after a certain part of the ship had been destroyed. But I frankly say that I wish to guard the Admiralty against the impression that, because this experiment shows what it has shown, therefore we should be at all remiss in diminishing as far as we possibly can the employment of wood in all our battleships. What our critics do not quite realise is this: that, if there is to be a general reform carried out and that reform is carried out at once, it would involve taking an undue number of ships to pieces at possibly a very unfavourable and critical moment. When we are asked to reconstruct ships, what does it mean? It means that at a given time those ships must be put out of action for six months or a year, or for even a longer period. Therefore it has to be done with judgment, and we must watch the political situation of the day, lest we should be found improving ships just when ships are required, and instead of being ready at a critical moment we should find oursleves with ships stripped, and unable to be put into line.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
asked a question with regard to the use of non-inflammable wood.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Non-inflammable wood is a different part of the question. We are putting non-inflammable wood into some of the ships we are building now, but the use of non-inflammable wood has not been entirely satisfactory, not as regards its non-inflammability, but as regards some of its other properties which make it rather difficult to employ it in certain parts of the ships. Great attention is being paid to the matter, but it must not be thought that the question can be solved by employing this particular wood without considerable further experience and experiment.
§ * SIR J. COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
Is it not true that the difficulty mostly experienced is with regard to painting?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
That is one difficulty there are other defects. There are certain qualities in non-inflammable wood which, when it is brought into contact with screws and other ironwork which are required in fastening the wood, lead to corrosion. But this is not so simple a question as it may at first sight appear. Now I approach a topic which attracts a great deal of interest, one which is very technical indeed, and one with regard to which I should like to give some explanation and information to the House— namely, the very controverted question of water-tube boilers. Now, the experts in this House and those who are initiated in the matter will excuse me if on some points I seem to explain facts that are known to experts, but which may not be so well understood by the uninitiated. In the first instance, a great distinction is to be drawn between two classes of water-tube boilers—the small water-tube boilers and the large water-tube boilers. The large water-tube boiler is generally represented by the Belleville and Niclausse and some other types. The small water-tube boiler is represented by the Thorny-croft, the Normand, the Yarrow, and others. These two classes resemble each other in some respects, and especially in this, that they are both applied to high pressure — very high pressure—in all the ships of the class of water-tube boilers. There is also a 248 certain approximation between small water-tube boilers and large water-tube boilers. A water-tube boiler, I may say to those who are not cognisant of the subject, is a boiler where the water is in the tubes and the fire is outside of the tubes, while with the cylindrical boiler the fire is in the tubes and the water is around. The water-tube boilers have this advantage, that they require only one-tenth of the water which is employed in the cylindrical boiler, and, if there were no other considerations, there would be a gain in lightness in favour of the water-tube boiler as against the cylindrical boiler, which requires so much more water. I only make that observation by the way. I now return to water-tube boilers generally. The small water-tube boiler was introduced, I think, as long ago as 1885, and it has been applied since to the destroyers and the torpedo boats, and I doubt whether we could have torpedo boat destroyers in the shape in which we have them, with a speed of thirty knots, without the help of water-tube boilers. But the attack is not made upon the small water-tube boilers; I think they are accepted with their merits and demerits, because, of course, as they have merits, so, too, they have demerits. We have now gone through three or four stages with regard to the machinery, and I may point out, as of some historical interest, that precisely the same outcry which is being raised now against water-tube boilers was raised against triple-expansion machinery before 1892. There was a great prejudice against that form of boiler in the Navy, but it was ultimately overcome.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I am coming to the breakdown at sea, if the Committee will have patience. I will try to cover all the ground, but I want the Committee to realise what it means—and perhaps it has some bearing on the breakdown—to have this greater steam pressure. In 1885 in battleships and cruisers the steam pressure of the engines was 95 lb. In 1890 the pressure was 135 lb., and now in battleships we have gone up to 300 lb. in the boilers and 250 lb. at the engines. That is to say that since 1885 we have risen from 90 lb. to 250 lb. as regards the 249 engines. The Committee will see, even those who understand nothing about steam, that if you have this enormous increase in steam pressure the machinery and all that is constructed to stand that pressure have to undergo a much fiercer test, if I may use the word, than they had to undergo in the old times.
§ MR. ALLAN (Gateshead)
May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that they have that pressure in the mercantile marine?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I will come to the mercantile marine; I will endeavour to cover the hon. Gentleman's argument, as well as those of my hon. friend; but the subject is very technical, and I hope hon. Members will permit me to proceed without interruption. The mercantile marine has to do totally different work. The ships of the mercantile marine have a different programme to carry out. They have to do work which the men-of-war have not to do, and the men-of-war have to do work which the mercantile marine have not to do. The mercantile marine can build their engines without regard to a protected deck, below which the engines must be kept and above which it would be dangerous to keep them. Men-of-war must compress their machinery into such space and weight as will enable them to carry armour and guns, and they must reduce all this not only with reference to the construction of boilers, but also with reference to machinery which has to stand the great pressure of 250 lb. at the engines and 300 lb. in the boilers. If the genius of our engineers and the ability of our manufacturers by degrees, working by experience, sometimes by rather painful experience, show that they are able to create machinery and to create all the auxiliary appurtenances to the machinery to stand this test, and also to give lighter machinery—because that is the point—they will have made you more efficient men-of-war, and will have enabled you to compete better with the ships of foreign nations. That is the preliminary answer which I give to my hon. friend opposite. In torpedo boats in 1885 the pressure was 130 lb. to 150 lb. In destroyers in 1895 it was 225 lb. The Committee will see, therefore, that the pressure applied has risen, and it will be seen by a careful study of the subject that the main difficulties are not 250 in the boilers. The main difficulties have been in the engines and in the auxiliary appliances of the ship, and the steam pipes especially, with their present enormous length. The difficulties have been to get a perfect system which will endure this high pressure. Then as regards revolutions. In 1885 the revolutions were seventy-five to eighty-five. Now, in 1900, they are 110. The greatest differences, of course, are in the smaller ships. The smaller cruisers had 110 revolutions, and they have now gone up to 185, the third-class cruisers to 250; in torpedo gunboats they have gone up to 370, and in torpedo boat destroyers to 380 and 400 revolutions. I ask the Committee to consider for a moment these figures, and to see what it means to have these 400 revolutions in a minute, as is done in the torpedo boat destroyers. There are defects continually, and no doubt sometimes those defects are made to reflect on the Belleville boilers. Now I must pass rapidly over the torpedo boat destroyers. The pace is so tremendous, the revolutions are so many, and the pressure is so high, that certain defects are expected. We take that into account in the number of destroyers that we order, and that we arrange for employment in time of war. We say, "We have 100 destroyers; and there will be a certain proportion of them in need of repair." But a torpedo-boat destroyer is always employed near a base; and we are now arranging to have repairing ships for all the groups of destroyers, able to carry out the repairs in case of small accidents to the machinery without having recourse to the dockyards themselves. The small water-tube boilers are always put into the destroyers and into some of the third-class cruisers. In France they have put the small water-tube boilers into some of their very large cruisers; but it is strongly held at the Admiralty—though experience may show this to be wrong—that the small tube boilers have a shorter life than the large tube boilers; and, therefore, where you can use the latter, it is wiser. Mr. Yarrow is hard at work on the whole subject, and it may ultimately be proved that these boilers 'have a longer life than we can at present assign to them; but, of course, the life of a boiler must be taken into consideration. As to the Belleville boilers, they were first introduced into the British Navy in the "Sharpshooter." They were tried there, and having been 251 successful, the Admiralty of the day applied them to the "Powerful" and the "Terrible." The "Sharpshooter" is a vessel of about 730 tons, and the "Powerful" and "Terrible" are vessels of 14,000 tons. I well remember the argument used at that time, and it is a very interesting point in connection with water-tube boilers. The water-tube boilers are much smaller than the cylindrical boilers in this respect: that where, in a battleship, you have eight cylindrical boilers you have twenty water-tube boilers. The result is that, if anything goes wrong with one boiler, in the case of water-tube boilers only one-twentieth of the boiler-power is out of action; while in the case of the cylindrical boilers one-eighth is out of action. In the water tube type you distribute the risks over a much wider area, and the accident is smaller in extent. There is this further advantage—that you can repair the water-tube much more easily than the cylindrical boiler. When you have a protected deck it is a very different thing repairing a water-tube boiler from lifting up your deck to get at a cylindrical boiler which represents one-eighth of the whole boiler power. It may fairly be admitted, even by the opponents of the water-tube boilers, that that is one of their advantages. They are easier of access and easier of repair, and the risks are distributed over a larger area. The defects of the water-tube boilers are alleged by their opponents to be that they are less reliable and more exposed to develop defects. The Question is, Are these defects inherent or are they remediable? It must be acknowledged that there are defects, though they have been exaggerated. If they are irremediable, then we must abandon the water-tube boilers. But if they are remediable, and if experience shows month by month that you can deal with them; and if other experience shows that frequently these defects have been overcome; then it would be folly to sacrifice the clear advantages of the water-tube boilers be-cause you have given up too soon the task of remedying temporary and not inherent defects, due to inexperience. That is a fair statement of the issue between the two sides. Our position is that the defects are remediable; that they have been in part remedied, and are being further remedied, and we must attempt to secure the advantages of water-tube boilers by endeavour- 252 ing to meet the defects as they arise. I go back for one moment to the question of the "Sharpshooter" and the "Powerful." The "Powerful" had forty-eight boilers, and the "Sharpshooter" had eight. I will not say that the boilers of the "Powerful" were absolutely a repetition of those in the "Sharpshooter"; but they were only one-third larger; and, therefore, if you had seen the working of the boilers in the "Sharpshooter" you could form a very good opinion of the working of the "Powerful's" forty-eight boilers. There was one element at the time, perhaps, which was not sufficiently considered in the very great stride that had been made; and that is an element which is facing us continually in all this difficult question—namely, the human element. The supervision of forty-eight boilers is a much greater task than the supervision of eight boilers, even after you have multiplied the number of engineers in proportion. The advance was very rapid; and I think it will be found that the defects are not inherent in the "Powerful" and subsequent ships. But there has been difficulty in the insufficient early training of the engineers, stokers, and engine-room artificers in their now and more complicated occupations. Perhaps the advance we made was too rapid; but we had to choose between that and the sacrifice of the additional speed and additional gun-power which the water-tube boiler gives; while it was pretty certain that with the genius of English engineers and the resource of English stokers the initial difficulties of training would be overcome, as we believe that it is being, and as we know that it has been to a large extent elsewhere. The "Powerful" and the "Terrible" were completed, and the "Powerful" was put into commission. Some hon. Members and a portion of the press are accustomed to speak of the "Powerful" as "the lame duck." I am afraid that it is the same with a ship as with a woman—once damage her reputation and she will never recover it. The "Powerful's" reputation has been damaged not by any accident to her boilers, not by anything remotely connected with her water-tube boilers, but by a breakdown at Mauritius and Colombo, due to the heating of her main engines and to some defects in her auxiliary machinery. When she reached Colombo her officers declared that their 253 only regret was that "some inconsequent man in the House of Commons" had declared the accident to be due to the water-tube boilers. When the "Powerful" arrived at Hong Kong there were lamentable descriptions of her sent home. But she had been the finest ship and the fastest ship, and she had done the fastest trips on the China Station of any vessel in the service. The "Powerful" on the China Station did extremely well. One of the great drawbacks which has to be dealt with is the high coal consumption. She had no economisers. But apart from that she did admirably. From Hong Kong to Manila she steamed for four hours at 20.3 knots, and for twenty-three hours at nearly 20 knots; and no cylindrical boiler ship has ever done such a run on commission. From Hong Kong to Yokohama she steamed for four hours at more than 20 knots; and in the Channel and the Atlantic, for sixty hours, at three-fifths of her power, 15,000-horse power, she steamed at 19.6 knots. A ship that can do 19.6 knots with three-fifths of her power, is a very good ship, and need not be called a "lame duck." The defects stated at the time of these trials were small defects. It is unfair to expect water-tube boilers to perform feats which they were never asked to perform. I do not know whether I ought to speak at such length, but I have felt the importance of this question as being one of the greatest responsibility to the First Lord. These are some of the advantages claimed for the water-tube boiler—greater speed, greater power of getting up speed quickly, lighter weight, and smaller space. This last point is disputed, but there is claimed for them generally greater speed on smaller dimensions, which allows of more guns or heavier guns. These advantages are scarcely denied to the water-tube boilers except by extreme opponents, but it is argued that these boilers are exposed to defects to which the others are not exposed. That is the general charge that is brought against them. If anyone has studied the Paper circulated or the accidents which have taken place they will have seen the many directions in which these defects have occurred, and that in comparative proportion those which have occurred in the boilers as compared with those in the engines and in the steam pipes connected with the engines are very few, I call attention to 254 the last table in the Memorandum circulated, where it is shown that only thirty-eight tubes out of the thousands enumerated there have burst since the accident in the "Terrible." Side by side with this increased pressure to which I have referred, side by side with this more-complicated arrangement, there has been an enormous, in some respects a regrettable but unavoidable, increase in all the auxiliary machinery of ships. There are auxiliary engines for the working of the capstan, motors, electric light, and refrigerators. All these engines are put in different parts of the ship connected with steam pipes all along, and with this enormous length of steam piping you have a high pressure operating on the joints of those pipes; and the difficulty arises as much from the multiplication of the machinery as from any principle affecting the boiler, and it is in that direction you must endeavour to find some solution. But the defects are not, as we believe, important defects. There has been one important breakdown enumerated in the Memorandum, the "Hermes." Apart from that, the class of breakdowns generally are with reference to some of the minor arrangements of the ship. All these are brought forward, but what is not brought forward are the successful runs of the ship. We have got a certain number of ships in commission, among them the "Andromeda," the "Niobe," and the "Diadem." All these ships are doing most excellent work. Then you have the "Arrogant" and the "Furious"; they have made excellent runs. There is one ship which has been a disappointment, the "Europa." A curious thing is this, that the "Europa" is a sister ship to the "Andromeda," the "Niobe," and the "Diadem." That the "Europa" is not doing well proves that there must be something in her arrangements not yet. discovered, but it is not in the system of boilers, if it were you would find the same defects in the other ships; it is in the management of leaks in unsuspected places or defects of that kind where the disappointment must have taken place. It is very much the same with the "Hermes" and the "Highflyer." All these things require most careful examination, and that examination is continually going on. I claim that we have never tried to hide our difficulties in the least. We have never curtailed the experiments we have made. We have 255 increased the trials of our ships in every way, and we have made special trials. We are not thinking of damaging our case; we are seeking to get to the bottom of the question of water-tube boilers and testing them in every possible way. The personnel of the Fleet has increased at so large a rate that it has been impossible to give that full training to the younger men we should like. There are a number of engineers and stokers who have not had experience on water-tube boiler ships, but we are not going to shrink from putting water-tube boilers into commission, not only with the object of seeing whether they have those defects, but also in order to accustom as many engineers and stokers as possible to the use of those boilers, of which we have so many in the Navy. I have quoted the case of the "Powerful." Here are some special trials of the Belleville boilers. The "Diadem," from Gibraltar to the Nore in 1898, ran 1,330 miles at a speed of 19.27 knots. That is an extremely good run. The "Andromeda," from Gibraltar to Malta, 891 miles, attained a speed of 19.1 knots, using four-fifths of her power only. On a recent occasion the Mediterranean Squadron steamed a distance of 800 miles, from Gibraltar to Aranci Bay. The "Ocean," with the water-tube boilers, steamed 790 miles at four-fifths n.d power, at 16.9 knots, and beat the "Renown," the next fastest of the ships in the Mediterranean Squadron, by one knot, and other battleships by from 1.9 to 2.79 knots. The "Ocean," with the water-tube boilers, is the fastest ship on the Mediterranean station. I should like to clear up one point which is continually raised by hon. Members. I revert again to the question of defects. Are they remediable or irremediable? What is the experience of other countries? I am told that there are hon. Members who have given an indirect warning by conveying that if there is one argument to which they would not listen with patience it would be that the British Navy could learn anything from foreign navies, or that their experience would be in any way a guide to the experience of this country. There are other hon. Members who think, and I have seen it stated in the press within the last few days, that we were going to introduce a fad of the French Navy. I remind those who are so chary of allowing us to look into the doings of other countries, some of which, 256 like the French and the United States, have a very great reputation for engineering, that in the case of the breechloader and the muzzleloader the same kind of language was used with regard to the introduction of French fashions. I remember the struggle there was in order to introduce the breechloader into the Navy. What is the result? The French got the start of us and they have kept it. Again, as to ironclads, the French were the first to use armour. Thus I sweep away the idea that we can learn nothing from other countries. It is a dangerous theory, and it betrays a wrong insular pride and an insular danger. How do we stand as to France? They introduced some time ago, and while we were experimenting carefully, the water-tube boilers into all their battleships. In the whole of their fine Mediterranean squadron, their northern squadron, their combined squadron, I do not think there is a single ship in that fleet which has cylindrical boilers. How do we know that they answer? They have been seen. Some of these ships have been seen for six years. It is our business at the Admiralty to know what the French ships are doing, as it is the business of the French Admiralty to know what we are doing. We know the degree with which they are satisfied with their boilers, and here is a test: they are re-boilering all their old ships that had cylindrical boilers; as fast as they can prepare them, they are putting in water-tube boilers. Why? Because they find the water-tube boiler has been a success and answers the purpose for which they designed it; because they think they have overcome many defects which are due to the training not being sufficient, and because also they think the advantages to be gained are so great that they are bound to proceed. So much for the promise. I feel sure that the House will see that we should be wrong if we brushed away the whole facts. The French First Lord of the Admiralty claims that their Mediterranean fleet is a knot faster than ours; and we cannot deny that the French ships are somewhat faster than ours; but I hope that with the "Ocean" and her sister ships we shall more than make up this lee-way. I say we are bound to take into consideration the fact that the United States, Russia, Japan, all those nations which are now developing their navies so 257 earnestly, are without hesitation adopting water-tube boilers. They have not only seen our example, but the criticisms directed against the defects and the break-downs of those boilers—they have seen all that, yet, nevertheless, they are going forward with water-tube boilers, and now every ship in the United States Navy is having water-tube boilers put into it.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I am arguing the question of water-tube boilers versus cylindrical boilers. Before I sit down I shall deal with the question of the Belleville boilers. It is more desirable to have one type of boilers than several. We have, however, experimented with another type of water-tube boiler than the Belleville. The experiment has been successful, and we intend to put one into a large cruiser, and I hope that will be satisfactory. I have more plausible opponents than the hon. Member for King's Lynn who say that the whole system of water-tube boilers is wrong; and it is against them that I have been in (entirely friendly) controversy to-night. Now, this is what the Chief Engineer of the United States says on the subject—The fact that the water-tube boilers raise steam quickly is of the greatest advantage. I have stated elsewhere that I consider the battle of Santiago to have developed the necessity of the use of water-tube boilers, whether it taught us anything else or not.That is pretty strong. What they have seen in actual war has convinced them firmly of the advantages of water-tube boilers. And again—It would have been the greatest advantage to have had during the blockade of Santiago boilers capable of raising steam in less than half an hour.In another passage he says—In the meantime, all that I can have to say is that the use of water-tube boilers has been definitely decided for our naval vessels, because water-tube boilers give tactical advantages of great moment, and because with care in the selection, manufacture, and management of water-tube boilers, their disadvantages may be neutralised.That is precisely the position we take up. I do not disguise the disadvantages, but we believe they can be neutralised, and will gradually be neutralised. I have said something with reference to the 258 mercantile marine. It must be remembered that the mercantile marine steamers have perfectly different functions to perform to those of the Royal Navy. The former go from one port to another continuously steaming the whole time, whether at the maximum or it may be with something in hand, I am not prepared to say; but, at all events, their object is to go as fast as possible from one place to another. Their success depends upon their speed, and the coal consumption and other considerations of that kind are absent from their mind.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I am afraid I have not expressed myself accurately; but, at all events, what they have got to arrive at is that they shall have the reputation of being the fastest steamer from port to port. Their length does not much matter; they know exactly the docks to which they go and the docks to which they will go back; and, as a parenthesis, let me say that after every voyage they have their machinery examined and little repairs put to rights before they start on their next voyage. Men-of-war, on the other hand, are away sometimes for a year, and their artificers must do the best they can to make good such defects as occur in all steamships. It seems to be supposed in some quarters that the one thing for a man-of-war is to try and get an extra knot at full speed. Here is a curious fact. It will startle hon. Members to know that the difference in speed of the "Powerful" between 18,000 horse-power and 25,000 horse-power is 1.2 of a knot, or say 1¼ knots. To put on extra pressure to the extent of 7,000 horse-power for the sake of one extra knot and a quarter, when you are cruising from one port to another without any particular purpose, would surely not be common sense, and our Admirals do not do it, except, it may be, for purposes of experiment. I will show the conditions under which Her Majesty's Navy generally cruise. According to the Queen's Regulations the following is the classification of the speeds to be used on different occasions with natural draught—With all despatch, four-fifths power; with despatch, three-fifths power; with ordinary despatch, two-fifths power; and for ordinary steaming, one-fifth power. Air pressure and four-fifths power are only to be used in cases of great urgency.259 When hon. Members talk of the "Powerful" "crawling home," her commander is, in fact, simply obeying the Queen's Regulations. I might dilate on the subject of the mercantile marine not adopting water-tube boilers; but I prefer not to do so, for I am afraid I have already almost exhausted the patience of the House— [HON. MEMBERS. No, no.]—I know that whatever I say to-night will not have the effect of allaying the public uneasiness. Partly on account of breaks-down, due to numerous small defects, the small-ness of which cannot be appreciated by people generally, but defects which hon. Members by eloquent speeches know how to magnify, a feeling of uneasiness has been created in the public mind. I recognise that the House and the country have with unstinted liberality given the Admiralty all they have asked for in money, and besides that, they have given that which has been valuable to us— namely, their confidence generally. I recognise that with frankness; and seeing that the country has done this, and seeing that from many quarters not hostile to water-tube boilers, but friendly and sympathetic quarters, it has been urged upon me that the country would like to have what they call an impartial verdict on the water-tube boiler, I will consent to an inquiry by a Committee into the subject. I consent to it with some reluctance, and I will tell the Committee why. It disturbs a Department terribly when in the full pressure of their business, with the vast amount of work connected with the Navy to do, with so many ships in commission and under construction, with all the new inventions and appliances, now gun-mountings, new hydraulic arrangements, new electric arrangements, being forced upon them from day to day, which must be examined and which cannot be left entirely to subordinates, but which must pass under the review of those who are responsible to the Board of Admiralty and the country generally—it is, I say, a terrible thing when for a long period they have their time occupied with a Committee sitting at the Admiralty, looking up the whole facts and making good their defence. It would be only human if a great portion of their energy and power were absorbed and hampered by the sitting of such a Committee. I have thought over that and how it could be avoided. I do not know that I can succeed in avoiding it entirely, but what 260 we want is a practical examination of the water-tube boiler in actual operation. I believe, for my own part, the public and this House of Commons will be more satisfied if they had actually seen the water-tube boiler in operation than they would be from the Reports of a Committee, which necessarily in a Committee of this kind must go largely into little details. It is entirely a question of petty details, and I wish to give the Committee every means of satisfying themselves as to the efficiency of the boilers and the class of defects which occur and the means applied to remedy them. What I believe would best meet the case would be a Committee on which practical and seagoing engineers — outside engineers — should be largely represented. It should be part of their functions actually to go to sea in some water-tube boiler ships and examine the question on board ship, both on trial runs and under service conditions. The Committee should also visit some ships in reserve in dockyards, and study the scientific or theoretical as well as the practical side of the question. The "Europa" is one of the ships which I will place at the disposal of the Committee for investigation. She has all these defects, and I should be prepared that they should investigate the whole system of the ship and tell us what is wrong with that ship, as against her sister ship, which has none of these defects. They should also see the "Hyacinth." They can see the "Sharpshooter," with the Belleisle boilers, the "Sheldrake," with the Babcock and Wilcox, and the "Seagull," with the Niclausse boilers—three ships which we propose to use for extra naval purposes and for the training of stokers. They can also see the two ships in commission with the Channel Squadron — the "Diadem" and the "Pelorus." I think it will be recognised that a Committee, all of whose members, of course, would not be prepared to undertake duties of that kind, but a Committee on which men would sit who would have this practical experience, would be a means by which the House and the country might assure themselves either of the efficiency of the boilers or of the remediable or irremediable character of the defects. I hope hon. Members will consent to the appointment of a Committee, which will have the same opportunity as other Committees have of calling witnesses on points which 261 may arise in the investigation of the ships. I think I have made a proposal which will commend itself to those who wish for a practical examination of this complicated subject.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
I rise at once to express what I am sure is the general feeling of hon. Members—a feeling of congratulation towards the right hon. Gentleman on the decision at which he has arrived. The announcement which he has made, that the Admiralty, while adhering to their opinion on the main question, so far as their experience has gone, and while maintaining that there has been no rashness or want of administration, are willing and anxious that the mind of the country should be satisfied on the subject, and that an inquiry of the kind which he has indicated should be made, will, I think, give great satisfaction in all quarters. The mind of the country has been greatly exercised on the subject. It is no reflection whatever on either one side of the House or the other, and for my part I have been anxious for very many years in connection with naval or military matters not to lend myself to anything which would bring either of those great services into the sphere of political and partisan recrimination. I think I can commend the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty for having pursued that policy whilst he has occupied his present position. This has not always been the practice of Boards of Admiralty; there has been rather a disposition to make out what great men we, the existing Board, are, and what poor creatures those were who had gone before. I have never seen any trace of that spirit in the right hon. Gentleman. Therefore, it is only carrying out the spirit which he has introduced into these debates to say that there is nothing in this matter which leads in the direction of party recrimination or feeling. Nor is any censure or criticism involved of the conduct of the Admiralty itself. I trust the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues at the Admiralty will understand that if I and others get up here and say it is a relief that there is to be an inquiry, it is not that we have any doubt of the skill and wisdom—so far as mortals can speak with certainty of their wisdom —of the right hon. Gentleman and the 262 Board, but that we feel that it is most desirable that there should not be this uneasy feeling in the country. Sometimes it is almost as harmful that there should be a suspicion of there being something wrong as that there should be something wrong. It is of great importance, when the country is so anxious to support the Department in this great matter of national defence, that the Department should do everything in their power to secure the real confidence of the country. Here is a new departure which is taking place in the propelling machinery of the ships of the Navy. Tremendous experiments are taking place; no doubt some will say it has placed a large portion of our fleet in a very unsatisfactory condition, whilst others would say that if we do not adopt this new system we shall be behind the world in efficiency; but in whichever of these views the truth lies, or whether it lies between them, it is most desirable that we should know from outside, impartial, and expert testimony how the matter stands. I am certain that there will be in the country, as there is within this House to-night, a feeling of intense satisfaction and relief that the right hon. Gentleman, with great public spirit, not minding the appearance of any little triumph for himself, nor caring whether his reputation as a Minister is enhanced or not by the result, is desirous of doing what is right by making inquiry into the matter in this impartial way. By that I believe he will have done much, not only to improve in the end the condition of the Navy, but to improve and strengthen the confidence possessed by the country in the Board of Admiralty and in the Navy itself.
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY
The House always welcomes invitations of this kind from the right hon. Gentleman, and it welcomes the candour with which he has dealt with this question of the water-tube boilers. This question of water-tube boilers has been dealt with by successive Admiralty administrations. It first originated in a practical form in the administration of which the right hon. Member for Clitheroe was the Secretary, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean the Civil Lord, and that being so, I should like to emphasise in the strongest manner the statement thrown out by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that there is no party feeling in this 263 matter. We have listened with rapt attention for one hour and a half to a most lucid statement from the First Lord of the Admiralty, but the Committee must have been reminded whilst listening to his speech of two modern phrases—"the old Parliamentary hand," and the Chinese observation, "Saving one's face." From one end to the other of the right hon. Gentleman's speech he attempted, and successfully, to save the face of the Admiralty in regard to much; but there is one part of his speech in which I venture to think he has not made good all that he has claimed for the Admiralty or himself. I refer to the spending of money that has been voted by this House from time to time for ships. The right hon. Gentleman said when introducing the Naval Estimates early in the session that there had been a failure on the part of contractors to earn instalments that would otherwise have been due to them. The right hon. Gentleman said in the early part of the session that the intention was to spend that money still, if contractors were found who were willing, to undertake the duty of constructing the vessels; but the armour, hulls, and propelling machinery could not be obtained within reasonable time for delivery from the manufacturers, so that the Administration were restricted in the proposal that they made to the House. Now, what happened after that was that, in consequence of the right hon. Gentleman's statement, certain large firms of the highest possible standing publicly offered to assist in making up the arrears of naval construction. One of these firms was Armstrong, Whitworth, and Co.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
That firm does not produce its own armour, and can only get it from those firms which are not able to produce sufficient to meet the present requirements of the Admiralty.
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY
Can it be said that ships cannot be produced when such a firm as Armstrong, Whitworth, and Company have no Admiralty contract at the present time?
§ MR. FORTESCUE FLANNERY
I wish they had too. If the firm of Armstrong, Whitworth, and Company have no contracts from the Admiralty for ships the Government ought not to be behind hand in getting delivery of ships.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I beg my hon. friend's pardon. How can they get materials for the construction of ships unless they get them from the firms who are under contract to us? I am very anxious that this should be made clear, because so much has been said on the subject. They do not make their own materials, but if they were to undertake to build ships, being a strong and wealthy firm, they might offer to manufacturers higher prices than are paid by other shipbuilders. If they got the materials of other people it would be at the risk of delaying the delivery of ships built by other contractors.
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY
Surely my right friend is drawing unduly on the credulity of the House when he asks the House to believe that Armstrong, Whitworth and Company would publicly undertake to give delivery of ships within a certain time without inquiring and knowing beforehand whence they would get the materials to build those ships.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
How would they carry it out? They could only carry it out by paying such handsome prices as, would prevent sub-contractors from fulfilling their contracts to all other firms. There are only limited sources of material.
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY
I say that it is incredible that a firm of such standing as Armstrong, Whitworth, and Company have attained would take up the position either that they did not know where to get materials or that they intended to outbid the contractors to the Admiralty for the materials obtainable in the market. May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that there are such persons as Admiralty overseers—men who are sent to attend every day in the works where work is going on, and who might be relied upon to absolutely prevent details such as Armstrong, Whitworth, and Company would purchase from having precedence over details already ordered by the Admiralty. I do not think, with every respect to the right hon. Gentleman, that his position is tenable. The illustration 265 of the picture which my right hon. friend gave is one that fails at its very inception. The illustration fails in this, that it is not one picture, but a picture this year and next year and the year afterwards that would be required. It is a series of ships that are required, and not one ship. The facts are—and it is impossible to get away from them—that this House has voted money for the purpose of new construction of ships, and that, by the admission of my right hon. friend, that money has not been spent. Now, when a Supplementary Estimate is being introduced to the House, there is no suggestion of new ships as distinguished from small craft, and no attempt made to take advantage of the public offer of firms of importance to enter into contracts for vessels to make up the deficiency of the past year.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
These firms will have an opportunity of tendering for the six armoured cruisers that are to be put out to contract.
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY
Do I understand my right hon. friend to say that if vacancies still remain in the private yards, after these contracts have been taken up, the Admiralty will avail themselves of the opportunity to make up some of the arrears of naval construction?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Yes, if I could be convinced that in regard to the armour it would not interfere with the fulfilment of present contracts.
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY
I believe that Members of the House generally are of opinion that these arrears of naval construction ought to be made up without any hesitation whatever. The necessity for naval construction has recently become more accentuated than ever. The German Parliament has passed a Bill for the increase of the Navy by a majority of two to one. Affairs in the far East are so far developing that one cannot tell what may be the ultimate necessity for naval preparations for this country. So long as the Admiralty give the assurance that the arrears and defects in connection with our administration in preparation for the Navy are not in any degree likely to be repeated, then I feel certain that the House will be satisfied. 266 There is some encouragement in the fact that the Admiralty have purchased six new torpedo boat destroyers. I believe the Admiralty have done most wisely in purchasing a vessel which has the enormously high speed of 36 knots—a vessel with an entirely new kind of machinery which engineers believe will develop into a great and enormous improvement on anything that has gone before it. I come now to the question on which my right hon. friend laid the greatest stress in the course of his speech—the question of the boilers in Her Majesty's fleet. If the Committee will bear with me I will very briefly remind them of the history of this question, and of the reason why boilers of the new type have been eagerly seized upon by the Admiralty. It is an axiom which any one can understand in the designing of a ship, that any saving of weight in the propelling machinery will have the effect of enabling either more coal to be carried for the purpose of propulsion, or the taking on board of heavier guns and a larger quantity of ammunition. On the other hand, if there is a saving of weight in the boilers, then machinery of larger power giving greater speed may be put into the vessel, and thicker armour may be employed. There had been, as the right hon. Gentleman stated, attempts made as early as 1885 to lighten the boilers, and thereby to improve the performances of war ships. First of all an attempt was made to use the locomotive boiler. That was an abject failure. The failure was recognised quickly, and that type of boiler as applied to naval purposes was quickly withdrawn. Then came the era of the water-tube boiler, and the course adopted by the Admiralty was one with which no one could find fault. It would be interesting to recall the composition of the Committee who some years ago recommended the adoption of the water-tube boiler in the first instance. There were the chief engineers of Lloyds, the Board of Trade, and the P. and O. Company—all of them men of scientific attainment and capable of dealing with this question in a practical as well as a scientific way. The Committee took evidence, and the members went to see what the new boiler might do. They reported in favour of a limited test of water-tube boilers in one vessel of small size, and the complaint that has been made in this House every year, when the Estimates have been discussed, is that 267 there has been no proper test of the endurance of this new type of boiler, although ship after ship, time after time, has been fitted with these boilers. It is also complained that this change has been entirely carried out without any real attempt to test the endurance at a high speed for a long period. Considerable allusion has been made to the "Powerful." I ventured to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question recently as to the performances of the sister ship "Terrible" in carrying troops. There was some difference between my right hon. friend and myself upon the question of the length of the passage. I made it out from the newspaper reports to be five and a half or six days, but my right hon. friend made it five days. Assuming it to be five days for 1,800 miles, that vessel, carrying troops, in circumstances of the greatest national emergency, made a speed of fifteen miles an hour from Hong-Kong to Ta-ku. Can it be said that a vessel that appears in the Navy List as a twenty-two knot vessel was thus doing a performance which was satisfactory to the Admiralty, or which ought to be satisfactory to the country? Whilst our countrymen were immured in Peking to the imminent danger of their lives, the vessel carrying troops for their succour was not capable of going, or, at all events, did not go, at the highest speed which is claimed for her by the Admiralty. I do not know why we have not had some explanation of the passage—some accurate statement of the figures. If my figures are wrong, what are the correct figures? No doubt that is a matter that the new Committee will be able to deal with, but at present we are as much in the dark about it as when the question was first brought before the attention of the House. My right hon. friend has drawn a parallel between the Royal Navy and the mercantile marine. He has suggested that the difference between the boilers in Her Majesty's ships and the boilers of the mercantile marine is so complete that no fair comparison can be drawn. A fair comparison is this—that never, in all the trials which are set forth in the Memorandum issued to the House three days ago, was there a trial of endurance as regards length of passage with boilers of this type equal to what is ordinarily performed by vessels in the mercantile marine. We have in crossing the Atlantic 268 every day one vessel or another at her highest speed of 20 knots, and that without any idea that the test of endurance is too prolonged. I challenge my right hon. friend to indicate in this Memorandum a single instance of a test of endurance as long as in the case of those merchant steamers crossing the Atlantic in the ordinary course of their duty. If such a test had been made, and the results had proved that vessels with boilers of this type were capable of prolonged service at sea without breaking down, there would have been no necessity for this discussion, no necessity for the Memorandum which has been issued, and no necessity for the Committee which has at last been granted to investigate this question. I feel that acknowledgment should be made by the House to the right hon. Gentleman for this concession, which, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, is required to calm the uneasy feeling that undoubtedly exists throughout the country. But there is a claim in the Memorandum issued to the House which I feel certainly may be premature. The Admiralty has had the effrontery to state that a total of sixty-one ships—first, second, and third class cruisers—would, if fitted with cylindrical boilers, have had at least a knot less speed than they now will have on account of the water-tube boilers. May I refer to the question of the weight of boilers of this character? What is the advantage of saving weight if the consumption of coal is greater, and if the weight of the water and coal combined is greater in the new type than in the old? Some of the figures that are stated in the Memorandum are extremely interesting. A trial was made between the "Minerva" and the "Highflyer"—the "Highflyer" having water-tube boilers and the "Minerva" cylindrical boilers. The figures are not fully stated in the Memorandum, and if I have made any mistakes perhaps I may be corrected. In the first trial—
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY
What I say is that the figures are not given fully. I am going to state the detailed figures of each particular run, and if the details I am giving are not accurate I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give 269 the correct figures. They are taken from an engineering newspaper, and are, I believe, correct. During the first run of sixty hours at ten knots the "Minerva" consumed 27 per cent. less fuel than the "Highflyer," and at the end of the trial could have started for a voyage anywhere—to Australia or across the Atlantic. Immediately after the trial was concluded the "Highflyer," with water-tube boilers, was five days under repair. All the artificers from the other ships of the fleet were reported to have been on board. There were two runs of sixty hours each at fourteen knots. The "Minerva" had 380 tons and the "Highflyer" 463 tons. Again, after these two trials, the "Highflyer" was under repair for six days, while the "Minerva," after this test of endurance, was capable of proceeding to sea any where she might be sent. There were two other runs of thirty hours, each ship at full power, and again the "Minerva" consumed much less coal than the "Highflyer." On these runs the "Highflyer" consumed 18 per cent. more than the other vessel. Again, the "Highflyer" received heavy repairs, while the "Minerva" was ready for sea immediately after the trials were finished. If we find that on a run of sixty hours between these two sister ships the water-tube boilers consumed 100 tons more coal than the cylindrical boilers, the amount of weight claimed in the Memorandum as being saved by the adoption of water-tube boilers is really not saved, and with such an enormous consumption of coal you reduce the fighting power of the ship. I venture to say that such vessels as the "Hermes" are a danger and a trap to the engineers who man them. If I may be excused for saying so, I regret very much to notice that in a recent answer to a question the suggestion was made that the court - martial on the "Hermes" had found that it was on account of the fault of the engineers that such a misfortune should happen in a ship as that which took place. The Admiralty say that the ship was helpless at mid-ocean, and had to be towed a long distance—1,600 or 1,800 miles—to a port of refuge. From the inquiry it was found that the boilers were completely helpless. The suggestion was that the engineers had neglected to do their duty in the way of supplying these boilers with proper care and attention. I believe it would be found that the facts 270 are rather the reverse, and that the anxiety, overwork, and over-pressure arising from the necessary close attention to the delicate operations of these boilers actually drove the engineer into sickness and led to a mutiny amongst the stokers down below. British stokers will never hesitate to go into danger when it is necessary in the service of the country; but when a danger is gratuitously put upon them by having to attend boilers which are continually giving out and causing explosions at the most unexpected times, the result will be, as in the case of the "Hermes," that insubordination will arise, necessitating a lieutenant to go down into the stokehole to maintain that discipline which the engineers have no power to keep because they are not executive officers. These are some of the facts which have aroused uneasiness in the country. I do not propose to enlarge upon these matters, because the whole object of the motion for the reduction of this Vote which I had the honour to place on the Paper some time ago has now been attained. I do not believe that any of the hon. Gentlemen in this House who have been raising difficulties and doubts about these boilers desire anything more than an impartial inquiry and proper tests of their endurance. The criticism of hon. Members on both sides of the House has not been directed against any person at the Admiralty. They have been criticisms of a system. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Admiralty, in his remarkable speech this afternoon, has entered into all the details with great accuracy and in the most painstaking manner. This has occurred not on account of the want of engineering skill, but because of the system, and because of the inadequate staff which exists at the Admiralty to support Sir William White and Sir John Thurston. But when the Committee is appointed, let it not be in any degree a substitute for the necessary increase in the staff at the Admiralty. The Navy has been extended enormously in recent years, and the work that has been put upon the members of the scientific branch of the Admiralty has been out of proportion altogether to human endurance, or to what the Government has a right to expect from the men in that Department. I do not see that there is in this Supplementary Vote any suggestion of any increase in the Admiralty staff. That increase must come, whether in this 271 or succeeding years, and we must have not merely an increase in the personnel of the scientific branch, but we must have an increase in the number of engineers afloat. When that increase is made and when the personnel of the Fleet is improved by an addition of a number of the best engineers, my right hon. friend will find that his difficulty about water-tube boilers will rapidly disappear. Before I sit down I would like to refer in a sentence to the argument based on the adoption of water-tube boilers by foreign navies. I do not think my right hon. friend has been fairly accused this afternoon of not being willing to profit by the example of foreign fleets. By all means let us obtain the information from wherever it is possible to obtain it. When it is suggested that any portion of our Fleet is in a parlous state it should be remembered that it is no answer to say that foreign navies with whom we have to fight are in an equally parlous state. That is no argument at all. We must have the very best that can be obtained, both in men and material. I believe the course which the right hon. Gentleman has taken will give general satisfaction, and will increase largely the confidence of the country in the administration which he guides so patiently and so successfully.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
The hon. Member who has just sat down was allowed by you, Mr. Lowther, to touch very briefly a point which was touched upon by the First Lord of the Admiralty, and which appears to me to have a most essential bearing upon the question of water-tube boilers, which has been submitted to the House. Upon that question I do not feel myself competent to offer an opinion, for it is a highly technical subject, but having read nearly everything which is sufficiently non-technical which has been written upon this subject, I am convinced that what the First Lord of the Admiralty called the human element plays a very large part indeed in connection with it. While hitherto I have hesitated to accept the view upon this question of the hon. Member for Gates-head, I am convinced that he has proved the other side of the case, which we are not in order in discussing now, namely, that the human element plays an enormous part in the matter, and that you are not dealing out fair treatment to any of your boilers unless you increase 272 the number and efficiency of the men in your engine-room and strengthen your engineering department. There was one observation in the First Lord's speech as to which I should like to say a word. The right hon. Gentleman dealt with the experiments which had been made with non-combustible wood. He stated that we had no evidence that during the destruction by fire of the Spanish and Chinese ships the decks had been left flooded with water. That was contrary to the official information which had been given in the United States. The American reports which I have seen upon this subject do state that a fire occurred both in the Chinese and their own war in cases in which the decks were flooded, and I think it is necessary to diminish the amount of wood to an extent to which we have not yet aimed. That is all I wish to say upon this subject. I now turn for a few minutes to what I confess seems to me to be the most important portion of the speech to which the House has listened with so much interest, and that is what the right hon. Gentleman has told us about his programme, which really constitutes his revised programme, for the present year. The state of things which was alluded to just now by the hon. Member for the Shipley Division is one in which I associate myself with the general views expressed by my hon. friend without adopting his particular arithmetic. The importance of the subject is as great as any question that can possibly be brought before this Committee or before this House. The Prime Minister has made a statement as to the position of she country, and he has recommended the country to adopt a new and extraordinary means of defence by establishing rifle clubs. I think this danger is entirely covered by a proper programme in regard to the British Fleet. The vast majority of the people of this country deny the possibility of dealing with the dangers which the Prime Minister has pointed out as the natural fate of a maritime power—and which he described as "a blow directed against the heart"—by means of rifle clubs. We believe in naval means of meeting the dangers; and the programme of the First Lord of the Admiralty has been criticised as being an insufficient naval programme in face of the dangers. The Prime Minister says what all of us feel, that at some period a coalition of 273 Powers may be formed against us. He may have exaggerated the danger, but I wish to point out that at the beginning of this session the First Lord of the Admiralty was criticised for the manner in which he has allowed his performances year by year to fall below his programme. The reasons given in February last by the right hon. Gentleman for the performance falling short of his programme were deficiencies in propelling machinery and in armour. I think we ought to keep before our eyes the reason which is given to this House for falling short in the programme which was considered absolutely necessary for the safety of the country. Earlier in the session the First Lord of the Admiralty replied to the hon. Member for Chester; dealing with those questions to-night, he spoke of them as an absurd charge against the Admiralty that their arrears from year to year should be added together. We know what the point is. Year by year we have been told that the sum of money asked for is the least that the Admiralty can safely do with, and yet we have always fallen short in that expenditure, and we have continued to fall short year by year. In the year 1898 there was a very great arrear, and in March, 1899, alluding to that arrear, the First Lord of the Admiralty said that—The programme is the lowest which can be justified by the existing expenditure on shipbuilding of other Powers.It is a serious thing, however you put it, arithmetic or no arithmetic, when admittedly we cannot complete a programme which is described in language of that kind. That is an admitted and acknowledged fact, and the reasons given for this falling short are difficulties with regard to the contractors. The right hon. Gentleman gave the same reason in February last, and he used the same phrase as last year. This year we have got into arrear again, and the reason given is that there have been deficiencies in the supply of armour and propelling machinery. To-night the First Lord of the Admiralty has said that we cannot spend the money if the contractors do not earn it, and the "contractors cannot do more." That is practically a statement to this Committee to the effect that the resources of this country are insufficient to supply the armour and the propelling machinery which are considered to be necessary by the Admiralty for the safety of the country, 274 and that is an admission which, as a supporter of the general policy of the right hon. Gentleman, I confess I am not able to accept. The First Lord of the Admiralty has stated that all this expenditure is necessary for the safety of the country, and the Prime Minister has put the danger to the country even higher than it has ever been put by an Opposition speaker, and yet in that year we fall short in our expenditure upon the Navy. We have been told that for the first time we are likely to come up to our promises this year in regard to our performances. In the meantime there has been a controversy between the hon. Member for Shipley and the First Lord of the Admiralty as to the possibility of adding to our contractors a particular firm, but the First Lord of the Admiralty questions whether the firm alluded to—Armstrong's—ought to be added to the list in view of the work they are already doing for the Admiralty. It must be remembered that all this time firms who do not contract with the Admiralty and some firms who do have been completing a considerable number of first-class armoured ships for foreign Powers, and I cannot help thinking that if the arrangement of prices is properly managed it would not be impossible for us to draw upon these firms ourselves which are completing ships for foreign Powers. Some of our own firms who have contracts with us have large contracts with foreign Powers. Armstrong's have contracts to complete ships for foreign Powers, and they have no ship contracts with us. In face of the fact that some eight or nine great firms are making propelling machinery of the first class and of the largest kind in this country for other Powers, and that several firms are building ships for other countries, I cannot believe that the productive power of this country is as short as it is supposed to be, and if the national emergency is as great as described by the First Lord himself and by the Prime Minister, our performance ought to be larger than it is, and when a programme has been agreed to by this House we ought not to fall short of that programme. The First Lord of the Admiralty has admitted—indeed, it is part of his case— that there has been a great slowness in carrying out his programme even such as it is. He has pointed out how slow we have been both in contract ships and in dockyard ships in regard to propelling 275 machinery and armour plate. The House is often reassured by the more optimistic class of speakers that we have such extraordinary powers of building ships fast in this country that we can afford to be behind other Powers. That is not the view of the First Lord now, and he has not recently made use of that argument. Nevertheless, it is very often used in the country, and we very often read it in the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite. We have got ourselves into the habit of falling behind with our ships. The engineering strike has been given as the alleged reason for all our difficulties, and no doubt that strike had a continuing effect beyond the actual moment of the lock-out, and its effects were felt in subsequent years. But the delay in the ships is continuing to be very great indeed, and I would like to give the House two or three examples. In the March, 1896 programme the "Albion" was to have been completed in August, 1899, but that ship is not now expected to be completed until September, 1901. The "Glory" in the same programme, although not so much behind, is also very late, but the excuse in this case is the financial difficulty of the contractor for engines. There was a Japanese ship of the same character which was begun at the same time by the same contractor, and which was delivered more rapidly and completed. As regards the March, 1897, programme the same thing occurred again. The "Formidable," the "Irresistible," and the "Implacable" were to have been completed in March, 1900, but they are not yet complete. This is a matter about which the Committee ought to have some information. In the case of these three ships the excuse is that the delay is caused by a difficulty as to parts of the armour. This matter of armour has been brought before this Committee year after year by specialists representing either the trade or the constituencies concerned, and I think it has been gone into no less than eight times within the last four years. I confess that I think this difficulty in regard to armour ought to have been overcome by now. No doubt changes in the plant have been required, but the First Lord of the Admiralty admitted last year that we must get the plant, and that if we could not get it by one plan we must get it by another. Although I should prefer to do this by the ordinary form of contract in the open 276 market, yet we must obtain this armour even if we have to go into partnership with manufacturers. Again, the ships of the "Duncan" class—the "Duncan," the "Cornwallis," the "Exmouth," and the "Russell," of the revised programme of 1898—are very backward, and are more backward than the corresponding Russian ships which they were designed to meet. If you take the case as put before us in the very excellent tables published in the last Naval Annual it will be seen that only three battleships have really been completed in the two years immediately preceding the publication of the last Naval Annual. Of the battleships provided by the March, 1896, programme only half—namely, three out of six—have been completed up to the present time. In the most recent debate in the French Chamber on this subject, when they discussed the whole question of the possibility of war between France and this country, it was clear that battleships have again come to the front, and we must be prepared to see a considerable accession to the number of battleships possessed by foreign Powers. I do not suppose that anyone would press the right hon. Gentleman to revise his programme at this moment in regard to the contracts for additional battleships. As regards cruisers it may be taken as admitted that we are short. The reason given for this deficiency and for not laying down more cruisers is the difficulty of obtaining propelling machinery.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
I was only repeating the reason, given in this House as to propelling machinery—one which has been given for a long time. The first class cruisers promised in the March, 1896, programme for completion before March, 1900, are not yet complete, and they will very soon have been five years in hand. The excuse given, as in the case of the battleships "Albion" and "Glory" in the same programme, is the financial difficulties of the contractor for engines. The third class cruisers in the same programme are almost as backward, and the armoured cruisers of the revised programme of 1897, which are ships very urgently needed at the present time, according to the statement of the First Lord, are already a year behind time. As regards 277 armoured cruisers of the 1898 programme, the twenty-three-knot cruisers, urgently needed, on the average were not laid down until fifteen months after the announcement made in the House, and the armoured cruisers of the revised programme of 1898 not until eighteen months afterwards. In some cases the Admiralty have found it necessary to accelerate the dates of launching, although they do not finish the ships. That is the case not only with contract ships, but also with dockyard ships, like the "Drake" and "Essex," which, I think, are to be hurried forward to no good end, as Pembroke Dock is insufficiently equipped. The admirals of the fighting squadrons are not satisfied with the number of cruisers at their disposition at the present time, and I cannot but think that to commission additional cruisers would be a more reasonable precaution than to adopt rifle clubs. The First Lord has announced the purchase of five destroyers, and he has stated that that is a considerable addition to the strength of this country. We reproached him in February last with not having provided more destroyers, and he now tells us that he was thinking of purchasing these destroyers at the time, but he did not announce the fact because it would put up the price against himself. I confess that I think this is a welcome purchase, although I think that an even larger addition to the number of destroyers would have been wise. My main reason for rising and taking part in this debate is my conviction that the resources of the country are sufficient, if properly used, to fill up the programme which the First Lord of the Admiralty himself thinks is necessary, and the difficulty of obtaining armour and propelling machinery, although it may be a convenient argument to use once, when some particular shortness may have occurred, is an unsound argument, and is not a proper excuse when it is alleged to the House year by year. In face of the fact that we are building for foreign countries at a time when there is a national emergency, I think we ought to be able to obtain sufficient propelling machinery and armour.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
Undoubtedly the right hon. Baronet has put his finger on a radical defect in the management of the Admiralty, if not 278 in its intelligence. It is undoubtedly true that this country is capable of building as many battleships and cruisers, and producing as much armour, as is required. I am going to go a little further and suggest that the reason may possibly be that the Admiralty have never yet understood how to deal with contractors, for they beat them down in their prices in an absurd way.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Under our present system we do not beat the prices down. We invite tenders, but we do not always accept the lowest.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I really cannot weary the Committee by going into details, although I have them here. The case I had in my mind was one of seven years ago when tenders were invited for torpedo destroyers. Tenders were given by two firms, one of which was Messrs. Yarrow. That tender was not accepted; they would not do it for the money; and they were then offered a little more. It was a case of beating up instead of beating down, but it is the same principle. You must deal with your contractors in a proper and even generous way. If you do not, the result will be that the best contractors will not work for you, but will fill their yards with foreign work when they should be working for us. I have heard that continually alleged, and the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean goes so far as to suggest a reason. I think there may be other reasons. There may be, for instance, a want of proper foresight on the part of the Admiralty, and, consequently, too great a delay in ordering the armour required. I believe that is largely the case. If you want the best work you must go to the best contractors; if you want the best contractors you must treat them fairly, and even handsomely. As to this question of armour, it is absurd to say that this country cannot produce armour sufficient for the needs of the Navy. But let us assume for a moment that the private contractor cannot produce the armour required. Then I say it is possible for the Admiralty—nay, it is the duty of the Admiralty—to do one of two things; either, as the right hon. Baronet has suggested, to go into a quasi- partnership with the armour producers, and by promise of orders induce manufacturers to put up machinery to carry 279 out the work, or to take the bull by the horns and set up rolling machinery in the dockyards. You have had to take a similar course with regard to the building of ships, and if there is no other way, you must do it with regard to the supply of armour. But to come year after year and say that you cannot get this, and you cannot get that, in a manufacturing country of the illimitable capacities of this country, is really to give a reason which cannot be readily accepted by the House of Commons for not carrying out the naval programme which we have been told is the least that is absolutely essential. I come now to the question of boilers, and that seems to me to be even more important. I am afraid I must believe that the boilers we have in the larger number of our most important ships are not satisfactory. If that is so, we may at any moment find this country in a state of most horrible danger. Everybody must feel that great events are impending— great events in the East, great events in Europe—and we never know the day when we may be called upon to put forth what is after all our only power—our sea power. If it be that there are conditions in our ships which are such that those ships cannot be relied upon for service in emergency or generally, if there be some serious fundamental fault in their machinery or boilers, or in both, which render them unreliable—capable of doing great things on one day and breaking down the next, for goodness knows how long—if we are in that position, we are in the most serious position that the country could possibly be in, and one which it behaves Her Majesty's Government to deal with immediately. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, has indeed given away his case. He admits, or he does not dispute, that, on the whole, the water-tube boiler has been unsatisfactory.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I will put it in another way. The right hon. Gentleman admits there was great uneasiness about it—so great an uneasiness that even he himself could not remove it. Therefore, I think the case is admittedly, on his own words, a very very serious one.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I do not wish to put it in the least higher than the right hon. Gentleman himself put it. He said the defects in his opinion were remediable, but the apprehension was not remediable. I want to make one remark on the right hon. Gentleman's speech, because I do not think he has apprehended the case against the boilers. He spoke all through of the water-tube boilers. My belief is, and I think it is the belief of a great many Members of this House, that the water-tube principle—that is, the principle of putting the water instead of the fire into the tubes—is a good principle. I am not an expert on this question, but I have endeavoured to acquaint myself with the subject, and that is the belief I have come to. The only question is whether the Belleville boiler is good. Here is a Memorandum prepared for this very debate. What do we find there? I do no know whether the right hon. Gentleman wrote it; I imagine not; the English is not good enough. What the writer of this paper says is this—The Admiralty policy has been to consider the Belleville boiler, with which they have had more experience than any other type of water-tube boiler, as the approved type for large ships."Water-tube boilers" here, then, does not mean water-tube boilers in general, but the type approved by the Admiralty —the Belleville. The water-tube boiler may be good; it may be the most perfect invention the brain of man has ever put into a steam engine; but if the Belleville be bad it is no answer to us. The writer further says—But in this paper it is only necessary to compare the Belleville boiler with the cylindrical boiler.That is all that is necessary to do tonight, but that is the very thing the right hon. Gentleman has not done. He has all through compared water-tube boilers generally with cylindrical boilers. I do not care what he proves about water-tube boilers, if it be true, as I am afraid it is true, that our particular form of water-tube boiler—the Belleville—is unsatisfactory and cannot be trusted. The right hon. Gentleman is good enough to say he will not find it difficult to deal with me as an adversary. He will not. I recognise the great power and capacity, 281 the enormous energy and industry, which the right hon. Gentleman has brought to his work. The Committee must recognise the almost masterly engineering way in which the right hon. Gentleman described the water-tube boiler tonight, stating frankly many of its defects and mentioning still more frankly many of its excellencies, involved a great deal of work not altogether familiar to Members of this House. I will not go into details; I will not even read the facts set forth in the Memorandum showing how in one of the trials on which the Admiralty rely, the ship with the Belleville boiler drank nearly six times as much water as the ship with the cylindrical boiler. That is a very serious matter, because it is not the water only. The extra water means extra coal, and therefore every extra pound of water that the Belleville boiler drinks means more coal in order to distil it. There is one other thing. The right hon. Gentleman drew a large distinction between the two kinds of water-tube boilers. He spoke of the large sort and the small sort—that is, the water-tube boiler with large tubes and the water-tube boiler with small tubes—as though they wore two beings of totally different races coming from different countries. But they are the same boiler. The essential principle of the two is the same, and it is possible to make the small tube boiler with larger tubes and fit it into a larger vessel. That is exactly what the French are doing; they are fitting their vessels with water-tube boilers of the torpedo-boat destroyer sort, but made with larger tubes —such as the Normand, the Yarrow, the Thornycroft, and the Guyot. The right hon. Gentleman rather suggested to the Committee—I do not think he meant to do it, but it was the inference suggested to us who do not know much about boilers—that for large ships you must have large tube boilers, and for small ships small tube boilers, and that consequently you must have the Belleville boiler for large ships, although you might have the Thornycroft or the Yarrow for the small.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
explained that he did not intend to convey that impression; he meant that small water-tube boilers were generally provided for the smaller ships.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I quite accept the right hon. Gentleman's statement that he did not intend to convey that idea, but in the unsophisticated frame of mind with which I endeavour to approach all new questions that was the inference suggested to me. The Memorandum states and the right hon. Gentleman says that one of the great advantages of the Belleville boiler is that you get less weight. I think the hon. Gentleman below the gangway rather disposed of that when he showed that although you get less weight in the machinery and in the boilers, you get as much weight in the coal.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
Then, says the right hon. Gentleman and also the Memorandum, you get better speed. My hon. friend opposite shakes his head. I am going to assume that do you get better speed. But when do you get it? Perhaps on one day in twenty, when the boiler is going properly, you get your extra knot, but on the next—
§ MR. GOSCHEN
complained that that was a most unjust description; it was just the same as in other ships.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I think not. If hon. Members will refer to this Memorandum they will see that they act unlike other ships. Take the "Highflyer" and the "Minerva." The former was continually breaking down; the latter never. I do not say it always happened, but you cannot rely on it not happening, and reliance is the very essence of the action of the Fleet. The old cylindrical boiler may not have had the advantages —I think it had not—that the water-tube boiler has, but at any rate you could always rely upon it, week in, week out—nay, year in, year out. For year after year the cylindrical boilers have gone on with a little looking into at the end of each voyage, and they have done their work perfectly well. The "Royal Arthur" at the present moment can get as good a speed with her cylindrical boilers as when she was built twenty-five or thirty years ago. As to the foreigner, I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman, we must sweep away our national prejudice if we can 283 learn anything by so doing. I am most anxious to learn everything possible from the foreigner. What does the foreigner teach us? Let us see what is found in this Memorandum. I will summarise it in a very short way. All foreign nations, says the Memorandum, have adopted water-tube boilers. Yes; but not the Belleville. The Belleville boiler is the only one with which I am concerned, as sixty-one of our largest ships are fitted with it. We have in the Memorandum an account of what the different nations have done. The really important marine nations are these—and I put them in order of importance: England, France, United States, Holland, and Germany. What have we to learn from the foreigners? Germany uses the Thorny-croft, the Schültz, the Niclausse, and the Dürr boilers; but out of the thirty shirs named in this Memorandum only two have Belleville boilers. In Holland every boiler—on large ships, too—of 10,000 indicated horse-power is a Yarrow with the larger tubes. There are eight of these ships in the list, and not one of them has a Belleville boiler. In the United States they use the Thornycroft, the Babcock and Wilcox, the Niclausse, and the Mosher; but in all the nineteen ships named there is not a single Belleville boiler. Now I come to France, and this is really the crucial instance. It was in France the Belleville boiler was invented twenty-one years ago by a naval officer of very great scientific attainments and ability. With regard to the Belleville boiler, I have never been shipmates with it, as they say; but I have been alongside of it, and having seen a great deal of it was touched with a profound admiration for it. I remember having my doubts as to the wisdom of the policy adopted by Gentlemen on the other side when they first put this boiler, without any trial, in a big ship like the "Power-full" or the "Terrible." But in the "Sharpshooter" I conceived a great admiration for it, and I stood up in this House and said it was a very good boiler. That is one reason why I am here to-day—to put on a white sheet. In France, and this is most important, the earlier ships— I am now really confining myself to the list in the Memorandum — were all fitted with Belleville boilers, but if hon. Members will look at the Memorandum they will see what a change has been coming over the mind of 284 France in regard to these boilers. Of the fifteen cruisers of 1899 and 1900 only six have Belleville boilers. That is in France, the original country of the Belleville boilers—France, in which it is almost patriotism to use the Belleville boiler. The right hon. Gentleman will understand that I have no quarrel against the Niclausse, the Yarrow, the Guyot, the Babcock and Wilcox, or any other of the twenty types of boilers; my quarrel, my doubt, my horror, are all reserved for the Belleville alone. Of the fifteen cruisers, armoured and protected, named in this. Memorandum, only six have Belleville boilers. All battleships built in 1896 or 1898 have Belleville boilers, but those of 1899 and 1900 have not Belleville but Niclausse boilers. The two latest battleships on which the French mostly rely, and which have excited the horrors and fears of the right hon. Baronet opposite, the "Suffren" and the "Henri IV.," have the Niclausse boilers. First of all, I say that the figures I have shortly put forward with regard to France show that she is recovering from the Belleville craze, which she had in a strong form; she has now forty ships against our sixty-one fitted with the Belleville boiler; but she is recovering from the craze, and—I make this assertion with such responsibility as I have in this Committee —the authorities responsible for French naval construction believe that the Belleville boiler is bad in principle and difficult to work in practice, and they have ceased to believe in it as the boiler of the future. That is my assertion, and I make it on good grounds. My information is recent, and, as the figures show a tendency to avoid the Belleville boiler on the part of the French Government, so I assert the future will show to a certainty that the French Government have absolutely given up the belief in the Belleville boiler for large ships. I have made a bold assertion, but the right hon. Gentleman has a Naval Intelligence Department here and an Ambassador in Paris, and he can ascertain whether I am right or wrong. If he can in any way show that I am wrong in what I have said, I shall be very glad to retract it. I say this further: In the "Jeanne d'Arc" it is a Guyot boiler, I believe. There is really no generic difference between a boiler with small tubes and a boiler with large tubes; I believe they are essentially the same, but when you use them in torpedo boats you make 285 them with small tubes, and when you use them in a large vessel you make them with large tubes. All the arguments with regard to foreign nations are arguments against the Belleville boilers, not against water-tube boilers. The experience of the Admiralty action of Germany, Holland, the United States, nay, of France herself, is an experience which should induce us to give up these Belleville boilers. But we have got them in sixty-one of our ships, and we have got to live with them. Here I am in entire agreement with the hon. Gentleman near me. The human element does come in, and I am afraid that the Admiralty have not always taken sufficient account of that human element. The Belleville boiler is such a box of tricks as never before was put into a ship. It is like a lady's watch, always getting out of order and requiring most delicate handling. It requires to be stoked to a nicety, and when defects occur they require to be repaired to a nicety. If you are to live with the Belleville boiler you must treat stoking no longer as unskilled or quasi-unskilled labour; it is a fine art, and you require artists to do it. How are you to get them? Other nations have been in the same difficulty as we are in, but France got out of the difficulty by doing as I now venture humbly to suggest the right hon. Gentleman should do—namely, obtain instruction from the Belleville Company itself in stoking as a fine art. Will the right hon. Gentleman do that? I feel very strongly the urgency of this matter. I believe that no other Belleville boilers ought to be put into Her Majesty's ships, but we have sixty-one ships with them, and the right hon. Gentleman should take the means open to his hand for using them to the best advantage. Let him set up a school of stoking, and send for two or three French stokers from the Belleville Company, to teach our men the art of stoking. Those men could then teach others, and in course of time we should learn to stoke the Belleville boiler. You cannot do it by leaving it to the unskilled stoker to learn it by himself, or if he should learn it in that way he will learn it too late. It may gall the pride of the right hon. Gentleman to go to France to be taught stoking, but this is a French dish, and if you wish to enjoy it you must have it done by a French cook. There is no other way. I do hope the right hon. 286 Gentleman, in the presence of these enormous accusations—to some extent ill-founded, but largely well-founded—will immediately take means—there is not a day to be lost—to teach his stokers how to stoke the Belleville boiler. The right hon. Gentleman is to appoint a Committee of experts; they are to go to sea; they are to be shipmates—
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
Some of them are to be shipmates of the Belleville boiler in order to see how it acts. I am not sure that that experience could not be obtained without any difficulty at all. I am not sure the captains and commanders of Her Majesty's Navy could not unfold to the right hon. Gentleman a tale about the Belleville boiler which would harrow the First Lord's soul. I have heard tales. I know nothing about engineering, but what struck me was constantly hearing executive officers of Her Majesty's Navy groaning and complaining of the awful job they had in getting the Belleville boilers to act properly. Will the right hon. Gentleman take any steps to ascertain the views of the executive officers of the Navy? I do not say even of the engineers, because they are in rather a false position; they have to report to the man who adopted the boiler, and who also looks after their promotion—and here let me say that I am not sure that that arrangement will not require to be looked after. I am not sure that the methods by which we design our ships and boilers do not require a great deal of overhauling. The chief engineer is an admirable person, but he is an engine driver in essence; his business is to drive an engine, not to design one.
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY
said the engineers were individually of the highest type of men they could possibly got.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I am not speaking of the individual engineer. This engineer has to look after the material, and keep it going. I am not quite sure that we have not entered on a new period as regards the navy. I am quite certain that the right hon. Gentleman and the Board of Admiralty come to their work with the highest determination to do the best they can for the country. No one 287 could have greater determination in that direction than the right hon. Gentleman, but then he is constantly being told by Navy Leagues and halfpenny newspapers that the Admiralty is an effete institution. There was a time when we were told that if steam were adopted in the Navy it would be the downfall of the Fleet, and there was also great difficulty in introducing breech-loading guns. The modern Admiral now says to himself, "I will not be open to that reproach; I will keep up to the times," and he is consequently apt to run to the other extreme and to indulge in a debauch of novelty. I regret the changes which are being made, especially as regards the training squadron, but I regret most of all the change which was made in boilers and machinery without adequate trial in 1893. I am glad the right hon. gentleman has volunteered a Committee. It was not forced upon him, and I hope it will do good work. I trust in the meantime the right hon. Gentleman will take immediate steps to increase the number of stokers for the boilers we have already got, in order that we may get better results than hitherto—such results as at any rate will make us feel comparatively safe in trusting our Navy and our sailors to the Belleville boilers.
§ * MR. ALLAN
I rise with feelings of great gratification. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty on his patriotism in agreeing to appoint an expert Committee to inquire into the whole question of the boilering of Her Majesty's ships. That question when I entered the House six years ago came home to me. When the great plunge was made, and when millions of money were blindly thrown into the business, I saw that a mistake was being committed, and I did not hesitate to tell the then Administration that they were making a powerful mistake and a terrible blunder. The late Secretary of State to the Admiralty laughs, but he does not know what a boiler is. Probably he laughs because he has loft such a legacy to his successors; but laughing will not make a strong Navy or save Britain in the hour of danger, and I do not like to see an ex-Minister laughing. We have been told to-day that the "Powerful" and the "Terrible" have done everything. But what have they done? Let the truth be known. What did the "Powerful" do going out to China? She made 1,500 288 miles in ten days, and although she is a boat designed to do 22 knots she has never done it. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman now to take out of Portsmouth Dockyard the "Powerful" and see if she can do 22 knots after only five months steaming. She cannot do it. Why is not a list of the defects of the "Powerful" inserted in the Memorandum? I will tell the House why. The defects are so great that the Admiralty feared to put them in. What has the "Terrible" done? She had to run from Hong Kong to Ta-ku in a grave national emergency when the lives of a British Minister and British attaches in Peking were in jeopardy. How long did she take? Did she do 22 knots? Never. She did not do 15 knots, and, forsooth, these are the boilers which were to do great things, and which the First Lord of the Admiralty, on the advice of the so-called experts, approved. But, of course, I am not blaming the right hon. Gentleman. Take the "Europa." What has she done? She was designed to do 20 knots, and she ran from Suez to Colombo at the magnificent speed of 7½ knots, and, forsooth, this ship, designed to do 20 knots, took eighty-eight days for that trip to Sydney. Why, a sailing ship would have done it in the time. It is a satire on British engineering, and on our Naval supremacy, that a ship designed to do 20 or 22 knots cannot do it. None of these ships can do it. I stand on facts. A great many hon. Members in this House have perhaps never seen a Belleville boiler. There are actually 48,000 joints connected with the boilers of H.M.S. "Glory." Think of that at the end of the nineteenth century. Shade of James Watt and George Stephenson! We are now spending millions in putting boilers into ships with 48,000 joints, when the true spirit of all engineering science ought to be simplicity, and the fewer the joints the better the job. That is the reason of their failure, and I fear that these boilers will lead to disastrous explosions which are bound to come at unexpected moments. Take the "Hermes." She was sent out to the West India station, and ere reaching it it was found that the boilers were all burnt. She was towed into Nassau, but they could not repair her there. She was then towed to Port Royal, and could not be repaired there, and had to be towed to Bermuda. What happened to her? I am quite willing to admit that the feed pumps 289 were a little wrong, hut granted they were not working well, there was so little water left in the boilers that it evaporated in ten minutes, the boilers became red hot, the men panic stricken, and a lieutenant had to be sent down from the deck to keep the men, who were almost in a state of mutiny, in the stokehole. I feel sorry for the chief engineer. I will toll you why. His life must have been miserable. Night and day he was on duty; and, being in dread of a black mark against his name, he dared not open his mouth. He was never off watch, and when the ship got to Bermuda he was invalided homo. Get his report and defects list. The "Hermes" is a fine sample of British engineering. It is a beautiful sample, and she is not fit to do a bit of work now. Take another case, the "Diadem," which we were told to-night was such a success. I have seen a letter which states that hundreds of her tubes had to be taken out—they were all pin-holed; and the letter states that if all the facts were known as to the amount the "Diadem" cost to repair they would stagger humanity. The pin-holed tubes were put into hot zinc in order to close up the holes, and then they were put back again into the boilers. I should like to show the right hon. Gentleman some facts which his officials have not laid before him. The Memorandum which has been issued is a melancholy example of misapplied engineering effort. I never read such a miserable account coming from men who call themselves engineers. Why, a three years apprentice would not have written such stuff.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I must protest against the hon. Gentleman doing what he has done before. He attacks not only the scientific knowledge of the experts, but he also attacks them for not putting the facts before me. Against that I protest.
§ * MR. ALLAN
I am relying on the Memorandum. I have not attacked any man, and I can only judge by what is given to me. What I want to bring home to the right hon. Gentleman is that all through the Memorandum at every opportunity there is disparagement of the cylindrical boiler. What are the facts? If you compare the old "Impérieuse," fitted with the cylindrical boilers, and the modern "Diadem," with the water- 290 tube boilers, it will be found that the first is fit for sea, can go anywhere, and is as good at her work to-day as the day she came out, and that, if pitted against the "Diadem" from here to the Capo, in a steady spin, or across the Atlantic, she would win, and on far less coals. Again, in the trials between the "Minerva" and the "Highflyer," the "Highflyer" had from forty to fifty tons of water in her tanks, whereas the "Minerva" had none. Now if the "Highflyer" had been under similar conditions to the "Minerva," it is evident that she could not have done her run at all, as she required this water for her water-tube boilers, while the "Minerva" required none for her cylindrical boilers; this was not pointed out in the Memorandum. Then there is the case of the "Pegasus," fitted with water-tube boilers. She had been for fifteen months on commission on the South American station; and what has happened? The water-tube boilers have to be refitted and she is ordered homo, and the "Sappho," with cylindrical boilers, was sent to take her place. How much steaming has the "Pegasus" done altogether? I question if she has done two months, and then you send out a cylindrical boilered ship to take her place. Why did you not send out any other water-tube boilered ship, if the "Pegasus" had proved satisfactory? The idea of the Admiralty officials as to the value of water-tube boilers is absurd and cannot be borne out by facts. Even on the chief engineer's admission there is no saving in weight, although he says that there is a gain in speed. Speed is a matter of form, displacement, and power, and not a matter of the type of boiler, and to say that you can got a knot more because of a certain type of boiler, is a piece of engineering bluff. We are told by Members of this House that those boilers have come to stay; but if they have come to stay, the engineer critic has come to stay also, and will stay as long as they remain, and until the existing evils are removed. When we talk of this country, of which we all are proud, what do we see? That from the old boiler has arisen all our country's greatness. It has built up our present mercantile supremacy, and has carried our Army with all its impedimenta to South Africa. Of the 240 or 250 transport steamers employed for the war, not one was fitted with water-tube boilers. 291 Now the country's first line of defence is provided with boilers which are not to be depended on, while for simplicity, economy, and the pence of mind of the engineering staff nothing cm equal the cylindrical boilers. The cylindrical boiler has made Britain what it is, and if they are not used in our Navy, so as to give us a sure superiority over other nations, then I say farewell to the greatness of Britain on the seas. Once her naval power is destroyed, she will go down as did Carthage of old.
ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
We have had the usual protest from the hon. Member for Gateshead against water-tube boilers, and I wish now to draw the attention of the Committee away from that subject. The hon. Member, who appears to have watertube boilers on the brain, laboured the question, but now that the First Lord of the Admiralty has granted a Committee, which I regret has been granted at all, we may pass from the subject. It is not true that these boilers were not tested. They were very well tested by engineers of standing, who took passages on vessels fitted with these boilers to and from Australia and reported on them. I cannot agree with my hon. friend the Member for King's Lynn, that France is discarding the Belleville type. France is using two or three kinds of water-tube boilers, and let us do the same. Russia has also taken up water-tube boilers for the fleet she is now building, and it is all nonsense for hon. Members in this House to find fault with the policy of the Admiralty because they have adopted a boiler which has failed in a few ships. My hon. friend the Member for King's Lynn made some very useful observations. I would remind the House that we have never taken up a new invention without encountering difficulties. I remember when steam was first introduced and there was then great difficulty, but we did not discard steam. I remember also when rifles were introduced for the first time, but we did not throw them overboard. Neither will we throw over these water-tube boilers. It is all nonsense for hon. Members to make theatrical protests in this House in this age of reform and progress. If the House wants an illustration of the advantages of a water-tube boiler, let them turn 292 to page 15 of the Memorandum, where it is stated—The advantage of quickly raising steam was illustrated in the ease of the 'Niobe' at Las Palmas, when the 'Persia' transport broke her shaft, and was nearly on the rooks. The 'Niobe' was able to get up steam and go to her assistance in 1¾ hours from the time of receiving the news. With cylindrical boilers it would have required five or six hours.The First Lord has granted a Committee. I regret it, because it is a concession to clamour without much backing behind it. However, the right hon. Gentleman has granted it, and there is nothing more to be said. Let me pass away from that subject, and let me say how pleased I am at the Supplementary Estimate which haw been introduced, and that the First Lord and his advisers have decided on these new torpedo boat destroyers and also on the repairing ships. All this is most meritorious, and makes up for the shortcomings in the fulfilment of the Admiralty programme for the past year. I agree with much that has been said by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, who always speaks with great weight on this subject, and no civilian has studied the question more closely than he has. I agree with what he says about the shipbuilding programme being thrown into arrears because firms take foreign contracts which pay them better. This is a vital matter. We have no right to run any risks, and I do not think that any adequate defence has been made by the Admiralty for the non-fulfilment of their programme. The engineers' strike no doubt explains part of it, but that is not sufficient justification. I stated the facts, to a friend outside this House who is conversant with the subject in all its bearings, and he used language of the most un-Parliamentary character. He intimated plainly that the statements which were made in this House were not in accordance with facts. The matter is so vital to this Empire that I would do anything in my power to prevent foreign contracts being placed in this country as long as our own naval programme was unfinished. If an Act of Parliament were introduced to cheek the execution of foreign contracts in this country when our own contracts are left behind, I would vote for it. We are behind France with our building programme, although we have had some extension through the pressure of the public press. I have been much impressed with the important experi- 293 merits of a crucial character made on the "Belleisle." Of course no one is allowed to go on board, hut anyone can go into the dockyard, and by merely looking at the vessel there and judging for one's-self, one cannot fail to be struck with what he result would be of the next naval engagement. Nothing in these Estimates can make a proper provision for a reserve of battleships and armoured cruisers. We are very deficient indeed in cruisers. The late Sir George Hornby laid down what would be a sufficient number of cruisers, but the Admiralty are following his advice much too slowly. We are told that the programme presented to us is equal to that of any two Powers. That is not a proper comparison at all. Bother other flags! Our Navy should be equal in battleships, cruisers, and every other vessel of war to our Imperial necessities and our great responsibilities. A distinguished Admiral in high command, at a public banquet the other day, spoke out his mind freely before the country, and said that we are greatly deficient in battleships and cruisers. I am speaking not my own opinion, which may be worth nothing, but that of one whoso views are entitled to weight and respect, and I do not hesitate to say that the Admiralty are behind the times; and woe be unto any nation that is not prepared when the hour of trial comes upon it. I am well aware that the First Lord of the Admiralty is deeply convinced of the necessities of the case, and I know that he possesses the confidence of the Service in all its branches; but that does not make me shut my eyes blindly to the facts. Our programme is not completed, and the money voted by this House has not been expended. We are in arrears, and will be in arrears. I would like to have referred to the turbine ship "Viper," which has developed a speed of forty-three miles an hour. That is marvellous, and I would like to know whether the Admiralty have it in their mind to extend that system of propulsion. The "Belleisle" experiments must have taught the Admiralty the enormous importance of more largely adopting electric power in all our battleships and cruisers for working the guns and other machinery which now require to be worked by steam power. In these days, with steam worked at 250 lb. to 300 lb. pressure, if a steam pipe were cut by shot or shell, the result would be very serious indeed. Electric power is very largely adopted in the American 294 Navy for working the turrets and all the other machinery, and I hope the Admiralty will in that respect follow the example of the United States. Wires can be carried all over the ship out of sight, and are not likely to be injured in the hour of battle. In conclusion, I may say that I do not share the views uttered in this House by the opponents of water-tube boilers, and I, for one, regret the appointment of the Committee, although I have no doubt that the result of the inquiry will be the triumphant success of these boilers.
§ MR. C. H. WILSON (Hull, W.)
I think I ought, having had more, perhaps, practical experience of the working of water-tube boilers at sea than any other member of the House, to give to the House the results of that experience, which certainly do not bear out the violent charges made by the hon. Member for Gateshead. I do not think we have gone far enough back in this story. When this patent was introduced into the Navy a difficulty had arisen in regard to the old cylindrical boilers in making them strong enough and heavy enough to do their work. It might have been a mistaken policy on the part of the Board of Admiralty, but I was under the impression that the cylindrical boilers in the old ships of war would not have passed the requirements of the Board of Trade for mercantile steamers. If that be so, it may account for some of the difficulties which arose from the use of the cylindrical boilers. The Admiralty, therefore, may have thought that something might be done with water-tube boilers, which were then coming to the front, and were being used in foreign navies. About the same time this country became subject to one of these constantly recurring scares as to the sufficiency of our naval defence, which every now and again make their way into the House of Commons. The Government of the day were pressed to build more ships as speedily as possible, and even to-night we have had hon. Members below the gangway complaining that they still do not build vessels fast enough. That is not a fault confined to the Admiralty. we in the mercantile marine cannot get our ships built up to time. Our experience is that when we order ships to be built by a certain time the shipbuilders take almost double the contract period, or at least make a very 295 considerable addition to it; so that the Admiralty, after all, may not be so much at fault as some hon. Gentlemen allege. Water-tube boilers forced themselves on the attention of the Admiralty to remedy several of the evils of the old cylindrical boilers. Then the Belleville boiler, in a way, became the fashion, with its high-sounding name; and, even after the Admiralty Memorandum has been pulled to pieces, it has been shown that, at great expense, many of the foreign Admiralties are using these Belleville boilers. The use of the water-tube boiler at sea is a new thing, but on land it was not new. Hon. Members on this side of the House have had many years experience of water-tube boilers, although I am not at the moment going to refer to any special water-tube boilers. When the Admiralty once embarked on the use of water-tube boilers, after the country and the House drove them forward to build more ships as quickly as possible, they had no time to make experiments with different classes of water-tube boilers. Even now, after so many years experience, I personally have been almost gratified to find, from the Memorandum of the Admiralty, that matters are not so bad as they might be. That is faint praise; but what has struck me is that perhaps the Admiralty practice has been somewhat lax in their designing and supervision of construction, not of the boilers only, but of the machinery of the ships on which the success of the boilers more or less depends. If the machinery gives way, or there are leakages and other faults, these react on the boilers, and do not give them the fair chance they ought to have. I think the Admiralty practice must have been considerably at fault when we see the long list of defects published in this Memorandum. Last year I was told by the captain of one of the ships of the Mediterranean Squadron that the feed-pipes were so bad that they could not keep the boilers supplied with water; and consequently, if the ship had encountered bad weather, there would have been great danger of her loss, leaving out of the question altogether the fighting capabilities of the ship. Again, these defects are not confined to the Admiralty ships alone. The same faults are to be found in the mercantile marine, partly on account of the latest forms of machinery both in naval and mercantile ships. No doubt this 296 increase of pressure has created these difficulties. I was told the other day by a naval captain that the French naval authorities avoid to a great extent many of the faults which are shown in this Admiralty Memorandum by not working their ships at the full pressure which the boilers are capable of. If that be so, the French ships might develop the same faults under similar conditions. It is constantly being asked why do not these ships steam at the highest speeds; and complaints are made that they do not. I imagine that the Admiralty authorities in too many instances, in their attempts to attain these highest speeds, have worked the machinery, for long distances too, at a greater pressure than is desirable or wise on their part. Take the experience of my own firm. To some extent we found the same faults with the old cylindrical boilers which the Admiralty did; and we have in the same way asked ourselves how these things could be remedied. Water-tube boilers were brought before us eight years ago, and one was put in the ship called "Nero," which has been continuously at work ever since. How many thousands of joints it has I do not know, but practically they have given us no trouble. I will give our experience with water-tube boilers, in the hope that it may be of some interest to the House, to the Admiralty, and likewise, possibly, to the country, because a scare has arisen that these water-tube boilers are inefficient, and that we are likely to have the terrible catastrophes predicted by my hon. friend the Member for Gateshead. In 1893 we got to work with the "Nero," and since then she has made seventy-nine voyages, and run 165,965 knots. In 1895 we built the steamer called the "Hero."
§ MR. C. H. WILSON
No; they were fitted with Babcock's English water-tube boilers. The "Hero" made 257 voyages out and home, that is from Hull to continental ports and back again, and ran 131,045 knots. In 1896 we took the old cylindrical boilers out of another of our steamers in the same way as we had done with the "Nero," and put in water-tube boilers in her; and she has made 104 voyages, and run 106,293 knots. In 1897 we did the same thing with 297 the "Orlando," which has made sixty-eight voyages, and run 84,306 knots. In 1898 the old cylindrical boilers were taken out of the "Rollo," and water-tube boilers substituted, and she has made forty-nine voyages, and run 53,975 knots. In 1898 the "Otto" was built for the short weekly continental trade, and was fitted with water-tube boilers. She has made ninety-nine voyages, and run 51,984 knots. In the same year the "Duello," a new vessel, was fitted with water-tube boilers. She has made ninety-four voyages, and run 51,291 knots. In 1899 the cylindrical boilers were taken out of the "Tasso," and water-tube boilers put in, She has made twenty-seven voyages, and run 44,046 knots. This steamer makes frequent voyages from Hull to the West Coast of Norway, and carries a great many of our friends backward and forward with perfect safety. Summing up the results of all these steamers, I find that they have made 800 voyages and run 700,000 knots, and practically we have not experienced all the dangers and difficulties that have been predicted. I do not say that the water-tube boilers are perfect. As we go on we get more knowledge, the same as the Admiralty are getting; and we are now getting as near perfect as possible. We have steamers running to America once a week, and we are taking the cylindrical boilers out of them and putting in water-tube boilers. In a few weeks they would be running a voyage of 7,000 miles, and that will give a very good test. Taking the other side of the question, in 1895 we had Belleville boilers put into the "Ohio," but they were not satisfactory, and we took them out after runs of 111,000 knots to America and back. These were the first Belleville boilers constructed by Moles-worth so far as the mercantile marine is concerned; and possibly they were not a fair test of the system. No doubt the experience of the Admiralty has been somewhat unsatisfactory; but at the same time I think the Admiralty deserves the greatest credit for taking up this great question, and not allowing it to become a matter of party politics—one Government blaming another for doing this or not doing the other thing. I hope the appointment of this Committee, which I am glad the Admiralty has promised, will lead to satisfactory results. Personally I feel con- 298 vinced that the Admiralty will never go back again to the use of cylindrical boilers. I have heard it stated from the other side of the House, by the hon. Member for Gateshead, that there is no saving in the weight by the use of water-tube boilers. That is a great mistake. There is an enormous saving in weight. The hon. Member is correct when he says that the weight of the water-tube boiler itself is not less than that of the cylindrical. But he omits altogether the enormous weight of the water in the cylindrical boilers as compared with that in the water-tube boilers; and it is self-evident that that is a very great advantage, more especially in the Navy. But even in the case of the mercantile marine, as a practical ship-owner, I think it is a great advantage. Take one of our smaller ships: there is a saving of twenty tons of water. And if that ship makes fifty trips from Hull to the Continent and back, that is 100 in all. They could, by the use of water-tube boilers, carry 5,000 tons more cargo. This advantageous saving of weight the Admiralty could put into guns or engines. Personally, I think they ought to put it into guns, because I have been told that French men-of-war are better armed than our English ships. I understand that the Admiralty utilise the saving in weight by taking in more coal, instead of increasing the defensive and offensive power of the ships. But in the Boor war we have found that the range of guns is all-important; and I hope that those Gentlemen who are responsible for the Navy will take a lesson from that, and increase the armament rather than the coals. It would be much better if they carried their coal with them in colliers, and so made our ships more efficient than those of any other country. What I have said I hope will be taken for what it is worth. It is my opinion against that of hon. Members who have always taken an opposite view. I repeat that our first steamer fitted with water-tube boilers eight years ago is yet at work, and we have no reason to complain of it. I presume, therefore, I can speak with a certain amount of authority on this subject. If my experience tends in any way to allay the scare which has been excited in this country in regard to this matter, I feel that I shall have done what little I could to assist the Admiralty in what, no doubt, is a very 299 difficult position, but which it is the duty of the House to make as easy as possible for them.
§ SIR EDWARD GOURLEY (Sunderland)
said his hon. friend the Member for Hull, in alluding to water-tube boilers—
Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present (Dr. TANNER, Cork Co., Mid). House counted, and forty Members being found present,
§ SIR EDWARD GOURLEY
(continuing) said the Memorandum which had just been issued by the Admiralty to hon. Members dealt entirely with boilers of the Belleville type. There was no charge; against the manufacturers of such boilers as were made by Messrs. Babcock and Wilcox. In regard to vessels fitted with water-tube boilers the main charge was that the amount of speed for which they were originally designed had never been attained in a single vessel, and the Memorandum, to his mind, with regard to the performances of this type of boiler was neither more nor less than a piece of special pleading. The Memorandum commenced by admitting an enormous number of defects in connection with this type of boiler, and the reason assigned in the Memorandum for the defects not having been remedied and overcome in the long series—he might say years—of experiments was want of knowledge and ability on the part of the engineers and artificers who man the engine-room. That was, to his mind, an unnecessary reflection upon the engineers employed by the Admiralty, and so far from this type of boiler being complex and difficult to superintend, he believed that nothing was so easily managed. He had himself gone into the boiler-rooms of the "Powerful," and an explanation was given to him by the engineers. He saw nothing whatever difficult in connection with the manning and working of these boilers, the defect being not in the management but in connection with the type of boiler itself. Owing to the many defects in these boilers which had been developed in the course of time a much larger staff was required for superintending and doing the work of the vessels generally, and thus the vessels must be much more expensive to work than vessels fitted with the cylindrical type of boiler. With regard to the experiments on the two 300 ships referred to in the Memorandum—the "Highflyer" and the "Minerva"— he found that there had been no fewer than fourteen defects in the "Highflyer," which had the Belleville type of boiler, whereas in the "Minerva," which had cylindrical boilers, there were only three defects. He believed that during four trials of sixty hours at a time, the "Minerva" had to be detained twice while the defects of the "Highflyer" were being repaired. In connection with the Report just issued there was one serious omission on the part of the Admiralty, no allusion being made to the great heat connected with the working of this type of boiler. From the reports which had been received from the engineers and others it appeared that the men in the stokehold were sometimes entirely incapacitated for work. In hot climates, such as the Red Sea and other places, where the heat was great, extra hands had to be employed—Zanzibar men—who were accustomed to work in great heat. He could prove what he had said with regard to the great heat in the use of these boilers by calling attention to what was proposed to be done. It was proposed to introduce an eight-inch lining of silicate of cotton in order to cool and make the cabins habitable. In regard to the new yacht, he held that the Chief Constructor of the Navy, instead of designing the vessel in the office of the Admiralty, ought, as any shipbuilder would have done in building a yacht for his own use, to have called in the assistance of a naval architect accustomed to the designing and building of yachts. It was perfectly evident from the construction of the "Victoria and Albert" that the ability to build yachts did not exist at the Admiralty. We had not yet been told what the extra cost was to be of pulling that vessel to pieces.
That question does not arise on this Vote. This Vote that we are now discussing refers to what is built under contract for Her Majesty's Government.
§ SIR EDWARD GOURLEY
said the reason assigned for the adoption of this type of boiler was that it was loss weight than the cylindrical boiler. That was perfectly true. He believed that the difference in weight in favour of the Belleville boilers was 100 tons in favour 301 of the "Highflyer" as compared with the "Minerva." But what about the fuel? On that point there was no information in the Memorandum which had been placed before them; but on page 26 of the Report they had the performances given of vessels with the Belleville type of boiler and four ships with cylindrical boilers. One of the vessels with the Belleville type of boiler made a continuous run from the Nore to Gibraltar, a distance of 1,330 miles. During the run she consumed 950 tons of coal, whereas a cylindrical boiler ship, in a run of 1,298 miles, consumed only 569 tons of coal. Supposing both of these vessels had gone a distance of 3,000 miles, the result would have been, in regard to the "Diadem," a consumption of something like 2,150 tons, while the consumption in the case of the "Royal Arthur" would not have amounted to more than 1,500 tons— a difference of about 600 tons in favour of the vessel fitted with cylindrical boilers. It would be admitted that coal meant displacement, and that a vessel which required 2,000 tons compared badly with another vessel which required 1,500 tons —a difference of 500 tons. On a voyage across the Atlantic the difference would be 400 tons. That was a most serious defect in connection with the Belleville type of boiler. In regard to this type of boiler the First Lord of the Admiralty said that the performances of their vessels were not to be compared with those of the mercantile marine. Were our cruisers to be treated as though they were toys? These vessels, when completed and ready for sea, ought to be sent on a continuous voyage of five, six, or seven days, in the same way as ships owned by large companies. We adopted a different method in regard to the so-called trial system; but we would never arrive at a correct estimate of the speed of our men-of-war until we adopted another method. He came now to another point, and that was the policy with regard to the strength of the Navy. The policy laid down by both parties in the State was that the Navy of this country, both with respect to ships and guns, should be equal to that of two other maritime Powers—France and Russia. That was the policy laid down by the late and the previous Government. Whether it was the policy of the present Government it was impossible to tell. In 1889 this country had 36 battleships afloat and 15 building; 12 302 coast defence ships; 12 armoured cruisers; and 86 protected cruisers; whilst France and Russia in the same year had only 25 battleships afloat, and 12 building. At the end of 1899—ten years later—this country had only 34 battleships afloat, and 17 building—a total of 51; whilst Franco and Russia had 34 battleships afloat, and 16 building—a total of 50, or only one less than this country possessed. If our policy was to have two to one, it thus appeared that both with respect to battleships and cruisers we were considerably short of the number required. He believed that the men-of-war of other countries were fitted with electrical hoists for facilitating the rapid handling of munitions in time of war, and he could not see why similar facilities should not be provided on our ships. He hoped the Committee of Inquiry would be appointed quickly, and that the Admiralty would ascertain as early as possible all the facts in connection with the different types of boiler.
§ * SIR J. COLOMB
In view of the fact that the First Lord of the Admiralty has announced his intention of having a Committee, I do not wish to occupy the time of the House with any expression of my own opinion, except to say that I think it was absolutely inevitable that the water-tube principle should be adopted. The question of the suitability of the Belleville boiler, or any other type, is an open question, but I would like to have some definite information from the First Lord in regard to the producing power of this country. I think it is an extremely serious thing when we have adopted the principle of two to one. It is not a scientific standard. What is there to begin with? The Navy consists of several classes of vessels. You cannot lump the whole question, and say that if Russia and France—the two greatest maritime Powers next to us —have so many battleships and cruisers, therefore we can adjust scientifically the arrangements of our Fleet. But even taking this standard of two to one, to be told that we cannot complete our ships to attain our standard is a most serious position, because these ships were projected to keep up our strength to that standard. What is the use of having a standard if our arrangements for producing ships and engines are insufficient to keep up that standard itself? When the Navy Estimates were formerly 303 before us I asked a question to which I did not get an answer; but perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will answer now. I wish to know what steps are being taken as regards the development of our producing power. I am not at all sure that our naval intelligence staff are observing as completely and efficiently as they ought to do what other Powers are doing. If other Powers are increasing their plant and arrangements for greater producing power, it would be interesting to know what we are doing in that direction. To my mind that is really the root of the whole question. I do not remember myself—I may be wrong—in the whole history of this country of its ever having been announced before in this House, that although ships are projected and necessary, we were not able to complete them. I am sure the Admiralty has done its best to push on these matters, but you cannot increase your producing power in a hurry. It is a matter of settled policy that requires a long time to develop, and if they have done all that they can it is not to be laid to the door of the Administration of this particular time that the position is not more satisfactory. It shows that there has been a continuous defect in carrying out the policy, and in making the necessary arrangements for developing the producing power. I will not go into the question of personnel now as I have a motion down to reduce the salary of the First Lord, and I will defer my remarks on that matter until the time comes to move. I have also a motion down to reduce the Vote in respect of £62,000 for subventions of the merchant service. I shall not move that, because we are in the midst of great transport operations, and I do not think it is opportune to go into a question of policy which is now under test in a practical way, and as far as I know the present experience is justifying my persistent opposition to this subvention principle on its present lines.
§ MR. HARWOOD (Bolton)
I wish to call the attention of the Committee to another matter, and that is the attitude of the Admiralty towards the question of submarine or submersible boats. I can only ground my complaints upon answers which have been given across the floor of the House, and it is quite possible that it may be a matter of necessity that those answers should not be more explicit. 304 The first answer is that of the First Lord of the Admiralty to the hon. Member for West Newington—The submarine boat, even if the practical difficulties attending its use can be overcome, seems so far as the immediate future is concerned, to be essentially a weapon for maritime Powers on the defensive, and it is natural that those nations which anticipate holding that position should endeavour to develop it.The second answer is one in reply to a question I put asking whether the Admiralty were conducting any experiments in regard to these submarine boats; the reply was that they wore not doing so, but were watching the experiments of other nations. As far as we can judge, the attitude of the Admiralty is that they are not doing anything themselves in the way of experiments, but they are watching the experiments of others. I venture frankly to say that the point of view from which I approach this matter is that of the business man. I think that, perhaps, Admiralty and naval matters are left rather too much to the discussion of experts and Members for naval constituencies. Who, after all, are the most interested in the Navy? The people who pay most for it, and they are the productive classes of the community. We, if I may number myself among them, are the most interested, because we contribute so largely towards it, and depend so much upon it. Who would suffer most if we lost the supremacy of the sea? In a material sense the productive classes of the community. Therefore it is the manufacturing classes who are most interested in the Navy being kept up to the highest possible point of efficiency. I want to look at the matter from the point of view of the plain business, man, and I say from that point of view the attitude of the Admiralty is indefensible. I do not at all assume that there is anything in the scheme. I am quite prepared to grant, for the sake of argument, that ultimately it may be found that there is nothing in it. But that is not a sufficient reply. If you are conducting a great business—and there is no greater business than that of the Navy —you must not only be the first in production, you must also be the first in experimenting. In my own small way, if people about me are not experimenting when other people are experimenting, I blame them very considerably; I say they are neglecting their duty. You do not know what may come of experiments. 305 It is quite possible that the circumstances at present may not be hopeful or clear; but it is also more than possible that by conducting these experiments you will find out something which will be of enormous use. Therefore, my complaint is not to be answered by saying that these things will not succeed. My question is: Are you taking up the position you ought to take up as the head of a great business? Are you showing that enterprise and zeal and forwardness that are demanded by your position? Is there anything in this matter? Take the answer of the First Lord himself. He says the boat might be useful to nations on the defensive. But that plan of putting nations into two categories—those on the defensive, and those on the offensive—is illogical. Take a nation with a Navy like ours, spread all over the world. If any war breaks out, we shall be in some places on the offensive, but in some places also we shall be on the defensive. The matter will not be settled by some great naval Armageddon in which the great navies of the world will sail out into the open sea and fight each other until only one is left. As we have found in the present land war in South Africa, in some places we are superior, and in some places we are inferior; therefore, to say that because on the whole we are superior, and that other nations will have to be on the defensive with regard to us, does not prove that we should not take every possible precaution to have every appliance that is useful for defence, as well as for offence. I was, therefore, astonished at the apparent assumption underlying that answer, because to say that we are the nation on the offensive, and that other nations are on the defensive, is a very partial and, if I may say so, untrue view of the matter. If there is in the idea anything that is useful for defence, there must be an element of usefulness of which we ought to take advantage. The First Lord of the Admiralty in the same answer said—The question of the best way—and this is an acknowledgment that there is something in these boats—of meeting its attack is receiving much consideration, and it is in this direction that practical suggestions will be valuable.Then there is something in the attack; otherwise there would be no need of anything to meet that attack. You fear it; 306 you are giving your mind to considering how that attack should be met. Why are you not giving your mind to the consideration of the means of attack, as well as to the means of defence against that attack? There is another point to which I should like to call the attention of the Committee, and that is as to the course taken by other countries in reference to this matter. Is there anything in it at all? Is it a mere idle dream, or does there lie in it the germ of something useful? I think there does. The right hon. Gentleman referred in most eloquent terms to the lofty English scorn that some people show in regard to looking to foreign nations for examples. But anybody who has in the least degree studied the history of naval matters knows that France has been ahead of us in a great many things. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that in regard not only to breech-loading guns, but to armour plate, the application of steam to ships of war, and to rams—in all those things the French were ahead of us. Therefore, whenever the French do anything it behaves us to look at it seriously, because they have been pioneers in these matters, and anyone who reads the debates in the French House of Commons on naval questions knows in what detail and with what keenness these matters are. discussed, not merely from the point of view of getting higher wages for some particular class of men, but from the point of view of general national and naval policy. I therefore contend that the example of France in this matter is deserving of the serious attention of the Admiralty and of the country. The French are not only not doubtful about the matter, but they are absolutely certain that there is something in this idea which is or may be made very valuable. They built in 1888 the "Gymmote," the "Gustavo Zédé" in 1893, the "Morse" in 1899, and the "Narval" in 1899. The "Narval" is under trial and is a success, realising up to a certain point the autonomous and offensive submarine. On the stocks are six submarines, all, it would seem, of the "Morse" type, and these are the "Francais"—they are even named; this is no mere chimera, they have names—the "Français," the "Algerien," the "Korrigan," the "Farfadet," the "Gnome," and the "Lutin." Two improved "Narvals" are being built. I find also in the plan of the manæuvres, which are attract- 307 ing so much attention now, that the submarines "Narval" and "Morse" will go through exercises, diving and reappearing on the surface, during the review. All this shows that in France this matter has got beyond the stage of a mere dream, and therefore I say that in England it has certainly reached a stage deserving experiment. There may be a certain amount of national excitability to which we are rather fond of thinking ourselves superior, but the French people have subscribed 300,000fr. to present one of these boats to the nation, and the French seven years programme includes the building of thirty-eight submarine boats. M. Lockroy, the Minister of Marine, has described most carefully the action of one of these submarine boats which sailed from Turin to Marseilles, and which in eight minutes practically sunk the "Magenta" ship. The Committee must remember that when you sink a battleship you sink forty to one in the way of value alone, because a battleship costs forty times as much as one of these boats. In the last parliamentary debate on the French Naval Estimates the Reporter of Navy Estimates said:—The submarine vessels are now proved to be so valuable that a large number should be at once provided.But we are not confined to France. It is only to-day that we have heard that France and the United States were the two countries whose example was most to be looked to. What do the United States say? They too have taken up this matter. I am sorry to say I am old enough to remember how much depends upon being ahead in these matters. Some Members will remember when the the "Merrimac" came out; it was a new development—a development we should have laughed at in this House and which the Admiralty would have thought not worth experimenting about. But it was an experiment which would have sunk the whole fleet of the Northern States if they had not had another experiment—the "Monitor." That departure has revolutionised naval warfare, and therefore there is something in these matters. There have appeared in our papers pictures of the Holland boat. It is not an experiment even in its early stages; it is worked out to the most minute nicety. You have an arrangement of electric motor power for travelling under the water; of gas power for searching; you get a speed of eight knots under the 308 water, and of fifteen knots on the surface. I saw it stated that the United States are to add fifty of those vessels to their fleet. The Naval Department of America has been considering this matter very seriously, and Admiral Dewey, who will not be thought a mean authority, was examined on the question. He appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Naval Affairs when the subject was discussed. He told the Committee he had witnessed the test of the Holland boat, and greatly admired its performance. He was convinced that if the Spaniards had had two Holland boats in Manila Bay he could never have remained there. The two nations that have been held up to us this afternoon by the First Lord of the Admiralty as the countries which preeminently claim our attention are the two nations who are not merely experimenting in this matter but are actually building these boats. I should not dwell so much upon this matter, but it is not an occasional lapse on the part of the Admiralty; it is an instance of a chronic disease. In these things we have always been behind, and we are going to be behind again. I do not say that nothing is certain to come out of the experiments, but what I do say is that the present course of the Admiralty does not indicate that they are realising their duties as managers of a great business upon which depends the welfare and safety of a great nation. To me it is astounding that we should be behind anyone in experimenting with anything in any direction that can throw any light whatever upon any improvement in this great business upon which so much depends. I do not pretend in the least to be an expert, but I do say that the Admiralty are taking up a wrong-position in this matter. In conclusion, I would ask the Committee to consider the moral effect of always being in front. As a business man I have learnt that it is not merely the actual results of your experiments that are of value, but that your people know that no one is ever ahead of you, that you are always in the front in trying things, and this gives rise to a feeling of hopefulness and trust which cannot be obtained in any other way. There is also the moral effect of these vessels themselves. I cannot imagine anything more weird, uncanny, or more likely to strike fear into the hearts of your enemies than the gliding about 309 of a vessel under water, which may at any moment send them to the bottom. There is the uncertainty, the invisibility, and the weirdness of the thing, which have a fearful moral effect upon your opponents, which is probably far exceeding the effect of anything actually done by the boat. I plead with the right hon. Gentleman, who has shown such a spirit of patriotism and enterprise, that in this matter, as in other matters, he will see that the British Admiralty and Navy are really in front of all the nations of the world.
* CAPTAIN PHILLPOTTS (Devonshire, Torquay)
Like many other hon. Members in this House I do not pretend to be able to give an authoritative opinion upon the vexed question of water-tube boilers; that is a question to be threshed out by a committee of experts. But there is one subject in connection with water-tube boilers upon which I do venture to offer an opinion, and that is the complement of artificers, and especially in regard to these boilers. We have only to read the Memorandum which has been supplied to us to see that many of the accidents which have occurred have been due to want of efficiency and to the lack of proper inspection and manipulation of these complicated engines. When I tell the Committee that the complement of artificers on cruisers of the "Highflyer" class is only nine, it will be enough to show that that complement is not sufficient to carry out the important duties demanded from the engine-room staff. One hon. Member opposite told us that there were 48,000 joints in connection with these boilers and the machinery, with a steam pressure of between 250 and 300 pounds to the square inch. That means that every single artificer has over 5,300 joints with which to occupy his spare time. I say to occupy his "spare time," because he has his watch to keep, and in addition to his duties in the engine-room, the artificers and engineers have to look after the auxiliary engines, the electric light engine, and the thousand and one complicated machines that exist on board Her Majesty's ships. I therefore assert, without hesitation, that there is not a single engineer or executive officer in the Navy who will say that the engine-room complement is anything like sufficient, and I hope my right hon. friend will take immediate steps to remedy that state of things. I am quite aware of the 310 difficulty of engaging skilled artificers; but, after all, the question of engaging men of that class is more or less a matter of money; and I am quite certain that this Committee, if called upon, will ungrudgingly vote the necessary funds to provide additional or increased pay if such be demanded in order to get the proper number of men to attend to the work of the engines and boilers of these vessels. I am not referring to ships fitted with cylindrical boilers. Their complement is about the same, but the work is not nearly so hard, and the men have a much better chance of properly carrying out their duties. There are undoubtedly many great advantages in connection with water-tube boilers, most of which are pointed out in the Memorandum; but there is one advantage which may fairly be claimed for them which is not alluded to—namely, the fact of the machinery being below the water-line. Recently I had an opportunity of seeing the drawings of two ships of exactly the same class—the "Talbot" and the "Highflyer" class. The "Talbot" was a very successful ship, getting up her speed and doing her work most efficiently, but her cylinders are 4 feet above the water-line, and have to be protected by a steel dome; whereas in the ship of the same size of the "Highflyer" class they are all under one steel deck, which docs not come above the water-line. Gentlemen who have experience only of mail steamers and passenger ships do not realise the difference of the conditions that prevail on board Her Majesty's ships. Several speakers have wondered why our fast cruisers cannot keep up their speed on a voyage across the Atlantic. They are never intended to do anything of the kind. They are designed and intended to keep up their high rate of speed for chasing, or, in emergency, avoiding an enemy. They are not intended to make a voyage at that speed, and it would be perfectly impossible with existing conditions to design a ship with all the necessary qualities of a man-of-war which could do such work. I will in a very few words endeavour to illustrate my meaning. Take the case of the "Terrible," a vessel of 14,000 tons, and the "Campania," one of the most successful of ocean mail steamers, of a slightly less tonnage. The length of the "Campania" is somewhere about 100 feet greater than that of the "Terrible"; 311 her amidship section is very much less, and there is no necessity to keep her engines below the water-line, as they are not exposed to shell fire. It is perfectly evident to anyone who is acquainted with the operations of designing a ship that it is impossible to get the same speed in a short broad boat that you can in a long narrow one, unless you devote the whole space to the engines and boilers, and that obviously would be impossible in a man-of-war. We also hear a great deal about the expenditure of coal in connection with some of our men-of-war, but the fact is often lost sight of that an enormous amount of coal is expended in connection with the auxiliary engines, the engines for working the turrets, for electric lighting purposes, ventilating, and other matters. So far it has not been found possible to obviate the increased waste that occurs when steam leaves the boilers at a very high pressure, and a certain amount of the additional expenditure on water-tube boilers may be accounted for in that way. For my part, I believe that the boiler of the future will be some form of water-tube boiler, and I think that the results of the labours of this Committee which is to be appointed will be of the very greatest use to the country. I now turn to another subject. I notice in the Navy Estimates this year provision is made for the construction of several armoured and protected cruisers. I wish to draw the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty to the armaments it is proposed to place on board those ships. Take the armaments of the armoured cruisers of 9,800 tons. I find that they consist of fourteen 6-inch guns, which is a very much lighter armament than would be placed upon a cruiser of anything like that tonnage built by any foreign Power. I find in the "Ariadne" class, which are vessels of 11,000 tons, the armament consists of sixteen 6-inch guns. I contend that that is a mistake. What is the use of designing your ships for coal-carrying capacity and a high rate of speed when, within range of the enemy, they may find themselves hopelessly outclassed? I am well aware that there are many persons whose opinion is worthy of the highest respect, who hold that these armaments are sufficient, and that nothing should be sacrificed in the shape of coal-carrying capacity in order to increase those armaments, and yet I venture to say that the mass of naval opinion, and 312 the opinion of officers who will have the command of these ships, would be in favour of supplying them with guns of greater power and calibre than the pro posed armament. I would ask my right hon. friend to consider this point before those vessels get too far advanced to alter their armour. Once the construction is so far advanced alterations can only be made by a very great sacrifice of time, money, and material, and in the opinion of vast numbers of naval officers, it is essential that this matter should be considered before the vessels are further advanced. There is another point in connection with this subject of which I would remind the Committee. Speaking broadly, the power of penetration of the gun is equal to about one and a half times its calibre. Therefore, a 6-inch gun would penetrate nine inches of armour, and a 9.2-inch gun would penetrate nearly fourteen inches of armour. We see from the reports not only of our own ironclads, but of the ironclads being built by foreign nations, that they profess to attain a speed of nineteen knots. It is easy to imagine that one of our heavy cruisers might be pursued by an enemy's battleship so near her own speed that she might be placed in a very awkward position; whereas if she carried a couple of 9.2-inch guns in a turret aft, it would probably make all the difference between escape and capture. I beg to submit this suggestion to my right hon. friend in the hope that he will give it his further consideration. I now come to the question of the experiments of the "Belleisle." I have read some of the criticisms and accounts of those experiments which have appeared in the public press. According to some people's ideas one would imagine that it was supposed that any ship which ever had been designed could have kept afloat after being subjected to the terrific fire which was opened upon the "Belleisle." I venture to say that there is not a ship either designed or built that would have remained afloat subject to the same conditions as prevailed on the occasion to which I refer. If the "Belleisle" had not been sunk it would have only meant one of two things—either that our guns would have been absolutely useless, or that our gunners would have been worse than useless With regard to the question of fire between decks on board ship, I think it has been much exaggerated. I 313 was glad to see the result of those experiments, because it was quite what I expected. The danger has been very much overrated. I have never seen a fire between decks on board a ship in my life, and I have only seen six fires below deck, and only two of those were serious. In the case of a fire on board ship the real danger is in regard to the smoke, but there is not sufficient material between decks on board a man-of-war prepared for action to make sufficient smoke to be a source of danger. I am quite certain that, providing there were any of the crew left alive after being subjected to a murderous fire that would probably occur in a naval action, if any fire occurred it could easily be extinguished. There is also the question of wooden decks. The last portion of a ship that burns is her deck. I remember the occasion of a fire on board a transport which had been smouldering for hours before it was discovered. Part of the main decks were charred through, and to walk along it was like going over thin ice; nevertheless, by doing so we were enabled to save the ship, whereas if there had been an iron deck we would not have been able to walk on it on account of the heat, and the vessel would have been lost. It has been proved, even in wooden ships, that the deck is about the last portion of the ship to burn. The only other case of a fire I over saw was that of the Bombay, and in this case some of the guns on the ship were loaded at the time the fire broke out. Some twenty minutes or half an hour after everybody had been driven out of the ship by the flames and smoke, these guns went off and it was a plain proof from the direction of the shots that the deck of the vessel was intact at the time. That shows, I think, that the deck does not burn so readily as the parts of the ship that are upright. That view was borne out by another fire on board ship where the guns went off after the crew had all left the ship, and a number of men were wounded on a ship which was moored alongside. Therefore I think it is clear that the danger of fire between decks has been very much overrated. The hon. Member for Bolton has referred to the question of submarine boats, but that is a very old story. Submarine boats have been experimented with now for nearly forty years. I remember that some experiments were made with a submarine 314 boat in Valparaiso Harbour. It was a perfect submarine boat, for it went down and has not come up since. No doubt something may be done in this direction, and something may be learned, and I am glad that the Admiralty are turning their attention to this matter.
* SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
The leader of the Opposition has given expression to the satisfaction felt in all quarters of the House at the promise of a Committee. So that there is no need for me to say more upon that point. There is one phrase used by my right hon. friend with respect to the officials at the Admiralty which I, as an old member of the Admiralty, may be allowed to emphasise. It is that I cordially hope there will be no feelings of regret, or any notion that an aspersion is cast upon anybody, at the Admiralty, by the appointment of this Committee. No doubt the House has read with a good deal of interest the very frank admission which is made in the Memorandum of the defects which have occurred in the ships both in regard to boilers and engines. I think this Committee will meet the undoubted uneasiness which exists in the minds of many people in this country upon this subject, and the Committee is not intended in any sense as a reflection upon the Admiralty at large, and certainly not upon the Engineer-in-chief, Sir John Durston, who has borne such a heavy responsibility and taken such a bold step in advising the Admiralty to adopt water-tube boilers. Perhaps I may be allowed to say that I think there has been a somewhat ungracious response, at all events on the part of one or two Members on the other side of the House, to this announcement of the First Lord of the Admiralty. On this side of the House I think I may claim that his remarks have been received in a more gracious spirit. The hon. Member for the Shipley division and the hon. Member for King's Lynn did not seem to accept graciously the answer of the right hon. gentleman in regard to the Belleville boilers.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
The right hon. Gentleman has no right to say that, for I accepted it most graciously.
* SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
There are some very important and serious matters for this Committee to inquire into, and amongst them I will only refer to two. After all, it docs seem to me that it is somewhat a beating of the air and a waste of the valuable time of this House at this stage of the session to enter into any full debate upon the subject of water-tube boilers, for the consideration of which, this Committee has been appointed. I think hon. Members who came down prepared to deliver speeches on the subject of water-tube boilers may very well put their notes in their pockets, as I intend to do, and leave the subject to be thoroughly threshed out by the Committee. I do hope that great attention will be paid to what the First Lord of the Admiralty very truly called a very important part of the subject—namely, the human element. All the speakers who have spoken with knowledge upon this subject to-day have dealt with the human element. It is a fact which is known to those who have paid close attention to this subject that, in some of the ships in our Navy and in many foreign ships where these very boilers have been used, the difficulties have been overcome, and it does seem to me that if the human element is after all the greatest difficulty in the matter, the most important problem to solve is the training of the human element that has so much to do with these water-tube boilers. The personnel of our engine-room and stoke-hole contingents seems to be a very important matter for consideration. There is another point which I will only just mention. First of all lot me say that I entirely agree that neither the present Board of Admiralty nor its predecessor is pledged to any particular type of water-tube boilers. It was decided some years ago that water-tube boilers should be applied not only to torpedo destroyers but to big ships, and the only available water-tube boiler was the Belleville boiler. I particularly wish to put in that preface before saying what I am about to say. I remember very well that my hon. friend the Member for Lewisham stated in a speech, a year ago, that the water-tube boiler had come to stay. I think that is the general opinion of persons in this House and outside. So far as the navies of the world, and our own Navy in particular, are concerned, I adopt the phrase of my hon. 316 friend that the water-tube boiler has come to stay. I do not think that anybody with an intelligent acquaintance with the subject, who considers the question without prejudice and without partial affection for the old cylindrical boiler, would have come to any different conclusion There is no reason on that ground why we should be wedded to the Belleville boiler. But, having adopted this French invention, I think the House will agree with me that we should gather all the light we can from the advances which have been made in France and other countries, and I think we ought also to avail ourselves of all the experience which has been gained by the inventor and his firm. The fact is perhaps known to some Members of this House that a gentleman who occupied not long ago the position of Director of Dockyards, who stands very high among the naval constructors of this country, has lately paid a visit to France upon this subject in order to satisfy himself upon this point, about which he felt great anxiety, and he went to investigate those defects arising from or connected with the boilers and engines in ships fitted with Belleville boilers. The result of those inquiries has been satisfactory. I think we should send representatives over to Paris to have personal interviews with Mr. Belleville and ascertain what has been done in Paris. I understand that Mr. Belleville will be pleased for anyone from the Admiralty or the Navy to be placed in possession of the full knowledge he possesses on the subject. We have for years paid large royalties for the use of this invention. Therefore we have a claim upon Mr. Belleville, who ought to be willing to afford us the fullest information with respect to the way in which these difficulties have been overcome in Franco, for example as regards the little contrivances which have been adopted for getting over many of the difficulties in connection with the corrosion of the tubes, leakage of joints, and the excessive consumption of coal in Belleville boilers. I venture to suggest that this Committee should visit Paris, and should ascertain from Mr. Belleville himself all the experience he can give upon this subject. As the reputation of his invention is at stake he will be willing to give full information. Passing from the subject of these water-tube boilers, I want to ask just one or 317 two questions with regard to the additional estimate we have before us. My first question is with respect to the purchase of destroyers. I have very little doubt that, as regards the "Viper's" sister vessel, fitted with the steam turbine, this is a very wise purchase on the part of the Admiralty. But, as regards the rest, I observe that they cost more than £70,000 each, and I should like to have a few particulars about them. I should like to know what is their speed. The First Lord of the Admiralty told us that negotiations were going on at the commencement of the financial year in regard to these destroyers, and I am sure he will be ready to give the House fuller information on the subject. With regard to the repairing ship I should like to know what speed it will have. I do not object to having further repairing ships, and I have not a word of criticism to say against this proposal. I do not propose to detain the House any longer, although I was prepared to say more upon the water-tube boiler question had it not been for the concession of the First Lord of the Admiralty.
§ * MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
I shall endeavour to act upon the advice of the right hon. Baronet who has just sat down in regard to the discussion of water-tube boilers, although I was prepared to go into the question at length. I think that is only a reasonable course in view of the statement made by the First Lord of the Admiralty this evening. I shall certainly take the advice of the right hon. Baronet, and I am sure he will not find me wanting in recognition of the concession which the First Lord of the Admiralty has made in granting this Committee. The decision which the First Lord has arrived at seems to me to be eminently in the public interest. It is perhaps more acceptable to me because, like many others, I have for two years been urging upon the Admiralty that some inquiry of this kind should be granted in order to set at rest the doubts which have affected some minds in respect to the merits or demerits of the Belleville boiler. I certainly claim for myself that until very recently I have never expressed, because I never felt justified in expressing any very strong opinion against these boilers, but I have always said that there has been an amount of doubt about them which was calculated to 318 make one feel uneasy. Therefore I welcome the appointment of this Committee. I do not share the view which is held by the hon. Member for Gateshead, who seems actually to desire that these boilers should be condemned. That is not my view, for no one would rejoice more than I should if this Committee which is to be appointed should report absolutely in favour of these boilers to which the Navy is so largely committed. The right hon. Gentleman must feel that the doubt which has hitherto existed in regard to this experiment has been enormously increased by the publication of this Report. I have seen these boilers fitted, I have seen them under trial, and I have done my best to acquaint myself with their performances, and this Report does not come altogether as a surprise to me. But it is an official confirmation of what many of us have been feeling—namely, that we are committed to an experiment of so great a magnitude that it is not tolerable that we should continue it any longer in this condition of doubt. There is ample justification for an inquiry in the fact that there are forty millions sterling embarked in sixty-one ships, and much more than forty millions, because there is also the whole safety of the Navy, and behind that the safety of the nation. Now we have an admission — ample, official, undoubted — that the whole of this expenditure is at this moment dependent on a series of experiments. The Admiralty are sanguine as to the ultimate result of these experiments. I am most anxious to share that sanguine view, and I should be rejoiced if it is justified by the result; but I do not think it is possible that the country should be longer asked to subscribe to this expenditure until we are absolutely sure of what we are being committed to. I think I shall not be trespassing on the advice given me by my right hon. friend opposite if I say one word with regard to the work which I hope the Committee about to be appointed may do. Nothing has struck me more in reading this Report than the curiously unscientific character of the experiments which have been made. I hear and see something now and then of scientific work, and of scientific experiments. We know that qualitative and quantitative experiments are now performed with a perfection and accuracy that guarantees almost perfect results. But in experiments no single trial has 319 been made which would be regarded in a laboratory as worthy of being called a test at all. The ships which have been tried have not been the same in any sense. In these days the advantage is with the newer ship; but in the very first experiment that presumption is reversed, because we are told in the Memorandum that the advantage was with the "Minerva," with her trained crew, as against the "Highflyer," although the two ships were three or four years apart in date. That is not the way to make experiments. We want two ships of the same class, under the same conditions, and with equal crews. I do not think the hon. Member for Gateshead challenged the honesty and good faith of the Admiralty officials, but I think he was justified in pointing out that some forty or fifty tons of water were carried in the tanks of the "Highflyer," whereas that fact is not revealed in the Report before us. That is a very relevant fact indeed, because it so happens that an almost equal number of tons is quoted in another part of the Report as the weight which would enable one of the cylindrical boiler ships to produce the same horse-power if put in the form of machinery. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman was thoroughly justified in calling attention to that fact. Not in one single case in the trials between those two ships can the experiments be called scientific. The "Ocean" has been quoted. The "Ocean" is a recently constructed ship, and presumably has in her machinery every single appliance that the most modern science could supply. She was designed especially for speed, being the fastest of the ironclads produced up to the present time, and the design has been realised. But, as my hon. friend opposite said, speed is not a matter of boilers, but of a variety of causes, and it is slightly misleading, when we are told that the "Ocean" did exactly what she was designed for, because that is not conclusive as regards her boilers. The argument of the First Lord is that these ships are so dissimilar in their results that it is as unfair to judge from one single trial of an unsuccessful ship as it would be to judge from one trial of a successful ship.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
We cannot have two ships exactly alike, launched and commissioned on the very same days, and exactly of the same dimensions; but we 320 have done our best, and we have taken two ships as similar as we could got, and now we are told that the experiments have been unscientific because we have been unable to realise conditions which no human power could possibly realise. We have done our very best.
§ * MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
Of course, I was not challenging the bona fides of the Admiralty, but I think it is permissible when we are asked to take conclusions from a number of trials to criticise those trials and to point out that they could not be regarded as conclusive. I myself ventured to suggest to the chief of the engineering staff of the Admiralty that a trial should be made on an extensive scale, and that two vessels like the "Diadem" and "Edgar" should be sent on a long trooping voyage, where all the chances of the sea might be encountered over a long series of days, I suggested the "Edgar," because she is the finest example that could be got of the cylindrical boiler ship of large dimensions. My proposal was not adopted. The right hon. Gentleman says, and it is perfectly true, that it is very difficult to make these comparisons. All I mean to say is that if that be so we must regard all these conclusions as approximate only, and that an element of uncertainty must enter into every one of them. Then there is another matter in the Report to which I wish to refer. In the concluding paragraph we are told that had it not been for the courage of the Admiralty in introducing the Belleville boiler into the "Powerful" and the "Terrible," when they did, sixty-one ships which are enumerated in the Report as built or to be built would have at least a knot less speed than they now have or will have. That is an illusory statement. Many ships have been built, or are now under construction, both in this country and abroad, which have or will have this superior speed, and yet have not or will not have Belleville boilers. I think it cannot be too well understood that it was not necessary that the Belleville boilers should have been introduced in order to obtain this extra amount of speed. The statement of the right hon. Gentleman, who no doubt dealt broadly with the matter, has, I think, been the cause of a little confusion. As the hon. Member for King's Lynn pointed out, the impression created when the right hon. 321 Gentleman referred to foreign countries Was that they had universally adopted the Belleville boiler. That is not the case. For three years I have been studying this question, and I have taken as public a part as was permitted me in these discussions, and I think I have some knowledge of the facts. The right hon. Gentle-man quoted the French Mediterranean Squadron, and spoke about that splendid fleet, but I do not think he made it quite clear to the Committee that of that great fleet nine of the finest vessels had not Belleville boilers. I only desire to remove the impression that the great French Mediterranean Squadron is an example to us of how the Belleville boiler produces extra speed. I ought to add that Germany, with one single exception, has not adopted the Belleville boiler, that the United States has not adopted it at all, and that in the Dutch fleet a very remarkable experiment has been made in some of the ships by adopting a kind of combined water-tube and cylinder boiler. Therefore I think I am justified in saying that if hon. Members were under the impression that the general tendency of foreign countries had been in the direction of adopting the Belleville boiler that impression was formed under a misapprehension. Apart from these remarks I am most delighted to hear that an enquiry is to be held. I have no doubt as to the bonâ fide manner in which it will be conducted. Generally speaking this Report has been prepared —I will not say most creditably, because that was to be expected—but in a most satisfactory manner, which is calculated to give us confidence in those who have prepared it. I think we might have some more information given us on some points, but, on the whole, the Memorandum is a worthy and informing document as far as it goes, and I think we may await with great confidence the result of the impartial inquiry which is to be held, and I hope that it will result in establishing the view now held by the Admiralty. I think, with many other hon. Members, that the persistency with which the senior officials of the Admiralty have held to the advantages of the Belleville boiler is a matter which ought to have great weight, and it is a presumption which does require very strong evidence to upset it. I should like to refer to a matter mentioned by the hon. Member for Bolton, because I think it requires 322 more than a passing notice, and that is the question of submarine boats. This is clearly a case which might have been dealt with as a technical matter, and if the First Lord had come down to this House and said that in the opinion of the engineering advisers of the Admiralty the accomplishment of the mechanical problem of making and working a submarine boat was so remote that there was no reasonable probability that such a boat could be created, and that, therefore, we had no reason for action, I should have been very slow to contradict him, because on that matter I am not competent to form an opinion which could be set beside the opinion of the engineers of the Admiralty. But that is not the line taken by the First Lord. He put the question on a footing which enables every Member of this House to form a judgment on it. He said that the Admiralty had not designed a submarine boat, and did not at present propose to design one, because a submarine boat was the weapon of the inferior Power. When he said that he reduced the whole question to a plain issue which plain men can discuss. If a submarine boat is impossible there is nothing more to be said, but if it can be produced as a working article—and that it can be produced I have no doubt whatever—then this argument about the weapon of the inferior Power seems absolutely meaningless. The Power which possesses the submarine boat will no longer be the inferior Power. The Power which possesses a really effective submarine boat, especially in the narrow waters of the Channel, will not be the inferior, but the superior Power, and the mere statement that we consider ourselves to be the superior Power will not affect the position. I was at Spithead the other day and saw one of our great battleships there, and I could not help asking myself what would happen if one of these French plunging boats were to approach that vessel in the dawn of the early morning. I saw absolutely nothing known to man which could save that ironclad in such a case. I am assuming that the probability of submarine navigation has been solved, and that these submarines, or plongeurs, can be made. I do not think that is a very great assumption when we see a body like the United States Navy Department, I suppose the most practical navy Department in the world except our own, devoting a large part of their energy and 323 large sums of money to working out this problem. I say it is not altogether improbable to imagine that a solution will be found, and when once the problem is solved, there will be no protection except that offered by a torpedo-net, and that is a protection which every naval man would be reluctant to adopt; because, if it were adopted, it would absolutely paralyse the ship as an effective force in a naval action. If the danger is so easily guarded against as the right hon. Gentleman seems to think, and if we may rest secure without producing these boats ourselves, well and good, and I am delighted to hear it, but I say that the Power which possesses this engine will cease to be the inferior Power and will become the superior Power. We, beyond all nations, are exposed to the attacks of these boats. Everyone who knows the Channel must realise how absurdly small and narrow it is. It is like a navigable inland lake, and you no sooner leave one side than you are at the the other. There is one classical instance of the use of the submarine boat, and that was during the civil war in the United States. Three times the boat sank with her crew, and three times a fresh crew was got, and ultimately she achieved her task and sank one of the Federal ships. That was at a time when the mechanical appliances in connection with ship construction were as nothing compared with those of the present day, and I submit it is not satisfactory that we should stand by and allow others to carry out this problem without ourself making some attempt to solve it. The right hon. Gentleman referred—-as I thought, not very apropos of his argument—to the tendency of the Admiralty to follow not to load other great nations. I admit that that has been the tendency, and from it I draw a lesson not very comforting in this particular case. It has been mentioned that in ironclad ships we have been behind, and have been compelled to follow, that in the matter of breechloading guns we have been behind, and have been compelled to follow, and that in the matter of armoured cruisers we have been behind, and have been compelled to follow at a terrible disadvantage. The fact is that not once or twice but several times we have been compelled to follow. It may be said, "Oh, but we gained a great advantage in all these cases by not taking the lead." I heard that argument put in a more striking form in the other House. 324 It was admitted that there was a failure to place guns at Singapore for fourteen years; but that failure was regarded as a great triumph of foresight, because it was said that if the guns had been placed there fourteen years ago they would have been obsolete now, and that was claimed as a triumph of foresight. I hope one of these days we may not follow a little too late. Our lesson with regard to the ironclads, the breechloaders, and the armoured cruisers is exactly the same lesson which the Austrian army experienced in 1866 when they were compelled to learn the merits of the breechloader by studying its effects on the field of battle I think there is room for some misgiving with regard to the attitude taken up with reference to submarine navigation.
§ * MR. MATHER (Lancashire, Rossendale)
I am glad to be able to say that this Memorandum appears to me to have been conceived in the most transparent desire to state the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth as regards the experience of the Admiralty in connection with the new ships fitted with water-tube boilers. As an engineer with considerable experience of boilers in various parts of the world, I venture to say that a water-tube boiler is theoretically and scientifically correct. For myself I would prefer to see this country leading foreign nations instead of being led; and it is the absolute and patriotic duty of the Government of this country to experiment continually on the discoveries of science and see how far they may be adapted to our use. I do not consider that there is anything in this Memorandum to convince the House or the country that water-tube boilers, even of the Belleville type, have failed, although they have been tried under circumstances not the most favourable for their development. I have only one comment to make from my experience as a practical engineer upon the Admiralty's action, or their methods of trial, in endeavouring to ascertain whether this type of boiler was worthy of their acceptance, or suitable for adaptation to the Navy. I think the experience they required before placing these boilers in sixty of our first-class ships might have been thoroughly attained if they had taken one ship, and fitted it with a water-tube boiler which was intended to be a type of the system. In the ordinary development of scientific engineering it is custo- 325 mary, when you have faith in a new principle, or in a new adaptation of an old principle, to place upon one trial those conditions which will in a very short space of time compress an amount of strain and stress for which, in the ordinary course, a considerable number of years would be required. I cannot understand why one ship was not supplied with water-tube boilers of the best design and of the best workmanship, and sent for a whole year's cruise all over the world with a first-class staff on board, and accompanied by practical men, for the purpose of learning anything by which the country might have been saved hundreds and thousands of pounds. I find on page 14 of the Memorandum what are called "general observations," in which some excuse is offered to the House for a certain want of competency on the part of the personnel of the staff's of these ships, and also a want of a calculation of the peculiarities of these boilers. It would seem that the staff were so much occupied with the imperfect trials of many ships at the same time that they were over-taxed. But surely in order to arrive at the truth which experience can give in the quickest possible way, the rational thing would have been for the Admiralty to have taken one ship and condensed into one year the experience of four or five. Now we are told that we must not expect that all the weaknesses of these boilers would be discovered in four or five years. But the Admiralty ought to have created possible weaknesses in one ship for the purpose of dealing exhaustively with them. In this way they would have discovered innumerable details which appeared in the ships which were subsequently tried, and the tax upon the staff would have been greatly diminished. Scientifically, small water-tubes are much better than larger water-tubes for the purpose of generating steam; and what is scientifically and theoretically right cannot be practically wrong. It used to be said that a thing might be right in theory but wrong in practice. Now we know that what is theoretically right only needs human ingenuity to make it right in practice also. I maintain that this Memorandum does not do justice even to the Admiralty themselves. I am struck with the singular, almost innocent, ingenuousness of the confessions made here. There are many matters mentioned in detail that need not have been brought 326 before this House, because they are the common events that occur in working machinery of every kind. But it appears to me that the whole scheme of machinery and apparatus throughout the ships is eminently a source of very great alarm. I am led to believe, from a study of this Memorandum, that there is something very radically wrong in designing the details of the system of the machinery on board the ships of war, or that the work is let to contractors under conditions that do not admit of that work being executed in the most perfect way possible. I will not call it cheese-paring; but there is some mistaken policy on the part of the Admiralty, or some lack in the discharge of duty. I cannot believe that this complaint would lie at the door of any contractor in this country worthy of being entrusted with the construction of a ship of war. I hope the Committee will not confine itself solely to the question of water-tube boilers. That is a matter which will settle itself in due course. What is more serious than water-tube boilers are the statements made in this Memorandum, leading us to believe that throughout the whole engineering practice of the Admiralty there is something radically wrong in not providing more efficient apparatus to meet the stress and strain of high pressure. The First Lord spoke of a pressure of 200 lbs. or 300 lbs. as something very high; but we are accustomed to that in land work, and provision has to be made that the steam pipes do not leak, and that the valves and other accessories do not give way. All that should be based on principles and practice perfectly well known, and which are, in fact, the commonplaces of engineering science. This Memorandum — drafted, I presume, by the First Lord's official advisers—has been prepared with a candour which is beyond all praise. There never has been a document presented to Parliament more transparently honest, or drawn up with a more sincere desire to be absolutely truthful. I may overestimate the gravity of the words used, but I do feel uneasy on the point, that there are throughout the ships and the apparatus on board them here described, a certain weakness and certain defects running throughout the whole arrangements which demand the most earnest attention of the engineering staff of the Admiralty, and which will call for 327 the attention of the Committee to be appointed. One of the explanations which the First Lord gave as to the difficulty of maintaining these ships at a constant speed throughout the length of their voyages was the long range of steam pipes passing from the boiler-room right through the ship to auxiliary engines, etc. It was, he said, very difficult to keep these pipes tight on account of the vibration of the ship, especially with steam at a pressure of 3001bs. But is it absolutely beyond the power of the Admiralty to provide another means of transmitting power? Why, we have been passing Bills in this House for transmitting electrical current for power for miles and miles on land; and there is loss difficulty in doing so on board ship. The motors and other mechanical appliances for transmitting the electrical power could easily be established in a central station near the chief engines and boilers, and all steam pipes avoided. If I understand the right hon. Gentleman aright, I am very distrustful of the attention paid by the engineering staff to what is called the subordinate positions. There is no country in the world containing a greater amount of genius in the chief constructors and the higher engineering staff than our own, but we have not got the great army of young men coming out of the schools able to take up the control of scientific details in subordinate positions. As "all roads lead to Rome," so if once we provided good scientific education, the Government would be provided with a large number of highly trained young men who would be forthcoming to take charge of every detail in our ships. We must remember that it is not the large but the small things in these ships which make for success. It is the greatness of the little. It is the want of vigilance in the smallest detail out of sight of the chief engineer and the captain which leads to disaster. I do hope the First Lord will take these matters into consideration. We want our Navy to be stronger year after year. We want it to be the chief defence of our country and the Empire, and we do not care what money is spent upon it. But we want the best equipment and the services of scientifically trained young men, ready to face every scientific development, including water-tube boilers. Under such circumstances we need not fear that our Navy will be unworthy of the country of which we are all so proud.
§ MR. JOHN PENN (Lewisham)
As one who asked for the appointment of a Committee to investigate the subject of water-tube boilers, I seize this opportunity of thanking the Admiralty for taking a step which I believe will be of very great advantage to the public service. There is, however, one point I want to make. I understand that this Committee will deal only with the question of water-tube boilers. I would venture to ask, if I may not be considered a bore, that the reference should be extended so as to include the engine-room complement within the scope of the inquiry. And for this reason, that whatever form of water-tube boiler is to be adopted in the service, it is fairly obvious that the water-tube boiler will take a larger amount of attention than the old cylindrical boiler, because of the larger number of mechanical accessories. That should be borne in mind by the Committee in making their investigation. The right hon. Baronet the late Secretary to the Admiralty raised a point as to the Belleville Company being located in France; and he was anxious that there should be larger conferences with the authorities in Franco. I want to be independent of the Belleville Company. I am not one of those who think that we are dependent on ideas in Paris. Besides, this running over to Paris for ideas might come under the doctrine of contraband of war. I have more faith than the Admiralty in the engineering talent of our own country. In these debates we hear of the extraordinary performances of the ships of the mercantile marine. It is quite true that some of these ships can keep up a speed of 20 knots an hour, but I would like them to be handed over to the engineers in our dockyards and run at full power. I doubt whether a very large margin over 20 knots would then be found. I again thank the Admiralty for granting this Committee.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
This discussion has raised a subject of great importance, and I am not going to add one unnecessary word to what has been said about the Belleville boilers. It devolved on me to bear the first brunt of the attack on these boilers five years ago from the hon. Member for Gateshead. I should like to associate myself with what has been said as to the course taken by the Admiralty. I thoroughly approve 329 and welcome the concessions made by the First Lord. I entirely believe in the candour of the Memorandum laid on the Table, and I thank him for having admirably fulfilled the suggestions I made to him three weeks ago. I think the discussions on the Belleville boiler may well cease after the announcement made by the First Lord, and I hope that the inquiry will be useful. I understand that something has been said on another technical point on which the First Lord has not made any announcement—that is in regard to submarine boats in other navies. I daresay the First Lord will tell us what is the deliberate view of the Admiralty on that subject after a consideration of five years. In the time of the old Board I do not think it was very possible to get a hearing on the matter; but the question has developed enormously since both in France and America. I think the House and the country have a right to know what the First Lord, advised as he is by the best expert evidence, thinks is the true policy to be pursued by this country. One other word of entirely general interest. Not a single remark has been made to-night so far as I know about the alarming growth of this Vote. This is the master Vote of the Navy Estimates; it controls all other Votes; and if it is increased all the other Votes must necessarily be increased, and yet not one word has been said on either side of the House about the tremendous prospect opened out to us. Let mo read one or two figures. Eleven years ago the Shipbuilding Vote stood at £4,300,000 in a total Navy Estimate of £13,000,000— or in a normal year when there was no particular fluctuation, a proportion of four to thirteen. In 1894–5 the Shipbuilding Vote had increased to £7,300,000— or nearly double out of a total Navy Estimate of £18,400,000. Whore are we now? I am taking no account of the additional Estimates which the First Lord will lay on the Table by and by; but this year the Shipbuilding Vote is £13,100,000, very near the total Navy Estimate of 1888–9; and the total Navy Estimate this year has reached the alarming figure of £28,500,000, although that is not by any means so large as it must become through the natural consequences of the Shipbuilding Vote. If we had the same numerical proportion as we had in normal times, we should have in ten years, even if not a 330 penny were added to the Shipbuilding Vote, a total Navy Estimate of £40,000,000. No one can, at the present moment, gain any sort of popularity by calling attention to this enormous expenditure; indeed he may possibly suffer personal damage in doing so. But surely those responsible, however strongly they may believe in the necessity of a powerful Navy, should have the courage to point out to the people the enormity of the expenditure now reached, and the prospect of a still greater expenditure to be reached in future. There is only one other point I desire to refer to, and that is that the benefit of the thirty millions sterling we are now spending on the Navy accrues as much to our self-governing colonies as it does to Ireland or Scotland. Ireland and Scotland stand to the United Kingdom numerically in about the same proportion as Australia and Canada, and yet Australia and Canada do not contribute one farthing towards the Imperial naval expenditure. The only people who have proposed to pay a scintilla of its great obligation towards naval expenditure is the despised minority of Cape Colony. I venture to say that at the present moment, having regard to the state of our colonies and their feelings towards us, it would not be inopportune to suggest to them that they are rich, richer than many of those who have to contribute towards the naval expenditure in this country, and that they should contribute. Why should Australia have a free Navy provided for it at the expense of the poorest washerwoman in Ireland or Scotland? For every million we are voting to-night another quarter of a million will be required, and it is only right that our colonies should contribute to our naval expenditure.
§ * MR. DAVID MACIVER (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
said he did not propose to follow the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House, but to come back to the question of the water-tube boilers. As a shipowner of some experience he might say that water-tube boilers had both advantages and disadvantages, and if we were wrong using them in our Navy other countries who had followed our lead in this matter were also wrong, so that there need be no 331 alarm in the matter. In this regard he was, however, bound to except two countries. The United States of America had not blindly followed our lead in this matter, and our German friends did not rely upon the water-tube boilers altogether, and in their later and newer vessels were placing boilers of both kinds. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty had rather disarmed criticism by suggesting the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the matter, and although he (Mr. MacIver) felt a great deal of sympathy with him, he was not much in favour of this Committee. He did not think this Committee would discover anything further than would be ascertained by spending a few days at Newhaven or Dieppe. He thought we should endeavour to obtain information as to the merits and the demerits of the Belleville boilers wherever we could. The Great Western Railway, with which he was connected, possessed several steamers, and a short time previously he inquired of the marine superintendent as to the working of these boilers. That gentleman had previously been in the service of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway, whose steamers, with those of the Chemin de Fer de I'Ouest, worked the service with Dieppe, and informed him that the Belleville boilers ran for about a fortnight and then that the French steamers so fitted were laid up for some six or seven weeks, whilst the other form of boilers gave no trouble whatever. The Belleville boilers had had a most exhaustive trial in the British mercantile marine, and had been discarded. They were a constant source of trouble, and did not appear to have the advantages that were claimed for them, and, except in the case of one shipping company, there was no one of any importance connected with the mercantile marine who had persevered with water-tube boilers of any kind. Those who were engaged in the shipping trade were not all fools, but men who understood their business, and had these boilers possessed any of the advantages which were claimed for them they would be found in the mercantile marine; but, except in the steamers of his hon. friend the Member for Hull, there was hardly a water-tube boiler of any kind in any trading steamship in the country. He wished to qualify his remarks by saying that, although he did 332 not believe in the Belleville boilers in the slightest, he did thoroughly believe in the First Lord of the Admiralty, who had given his best attention to the subject. If there was anything wrong in the matter the right hon. Gentleman was not to blame, but the professional advice with which he had been assisted, and this was also true as regarded the Secretary to the Admiralty and the Junior Lord. One fact was beyond dispute; in many points the Navy did not, as regards much of its everyday work, differ materially from the mercantile marine, and if in the experience of the mercantile marine these boilers had proved to be what they were said to be, they would not have been discarded as they had been. But in the mercantile service they had proved to be of no use at all. He had not the slightest doubt that for many purposes water-tube boilers were the right thing—for destroyers and for small vessels, for instance, but when it came to vessels of considerable size into which forty-eight boilers had to be put, then there were 48,000 different things to look after, which it was almost impossible for human skill to successfully do. He had no doubt that the Committee offered by the right hon. Gentleman would be a useful one, but the constitution of it would be a difficult matter. They ought not to put gentlemen upon it who looked forward to obtaining work from the Admiralty. There were gentlemen in the House representing constituencies where shipbuilding for the Government was being carried on, and these also should be excluded. Had he represented Birkenhead he might not have spoken so freely, because his former constituents worked for the Admiralty; but now he had no such ties. There were other shipowners in the House who could speak as he had done in this matter, and he hoped that great care would be taken in the constitution of the Committee.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I quite admit that the constitution of the Committee will be a very difficult matter, but I trust that I may be able to satisfy the public. At the same time I would like to give one warning to the House. Almost everyone who has spoken, while accepting the Committee and expressing satisfaction at its appointment, seemed to wish to expand the inquiry further and further into the 333 whole arrangements of the Admiralty. What I want to see myself is a practical Committee which can practically deal with the questions before them, and which would not be tempted by the consideration of any side issue to delay dealing with the subject upon which the public most desires their decision. It is for that reason that I wish to have practical men and men able to see those boilers at work. There is one point upon which I did not lay sufficient emphasis, and that is the question of the Niclausse versus the Belleville boiler which has been raised. Upon that I wish to say that the Admiralty are not wedded to the Belleville boiler, but, as a matter of fact, we are going to introduce the Niclausse boiler in some ships. I am only dealing with the contention that the water-tube system is in itself wrong. It is true—and this I wish the Committee to understand—that though the Niclausse boiler differs from the Belleville in important technical particulars, it does not differ from it in the general principle. The Niclausse boiler is almost the same as the Belleville boiler, except that when required you can take out the whole of the tubes, which you cannot do in the Belleville boiler. It is in these small technical improvements that it is so much better than the Belleville boiler. I am afraid that I cannot gratify the natural curiosity that is felt in regard to that matter. The hon. Member said that we ought to make experiments, and at the same time he pointed out the enormous importance of submarine boats. If we are to make experiments we are not going to disclose the results, which we believe might redound more to the advantage of our competitors than ourselves. If we are to induce shipbuilders to put their mind into the building of submarine boats, we must not make known what has been done to nations which might have the greatest use for these boats. I do not propose publicly to declare whether the Admiralty believe in submarine boats or not. I must ask the House to excuse me. Of course we do not wish to encourage or discourage other nations by stating, as hon. Members wish us to state, how great would be the danger of these submarine boats to ourselves. The House will allow me to be extremely reticent on the subject. My hon. friend said these boats would be easily able to threaten battleships in our dockyards on this side 334 of the Channel. I must add one observation—that we do not neglect submarine boats. We know all about them. We take care that we inform ourselves of every experiment, and endeavour to ascertain the details of every boat introduced; and if we do not make the experiments ourselves, the experiments of other countries are useful to us. The right hon. Gentleman also asked me with regard to the destroyers which we purchased. They are not more expensive than those we have built. I need only say that the cost is about £50,000, the same as we pay for other destroyers, and that they are of the best and newest class of thirty knots. I think the House will feel that this debate has extended long enough.
§ * MR. JOSEPH WALTON (Yorkshire, W. R., Barnsley)
I do not desire to prolong the discussion of the subject now before the House, but I wish to ask for information on two points. I believe that on both sides of the House there is a genuine desire in regard to water-tube boilers that the whole question should be investigated and their efficiency or otherwise clearly demonstrated. I would ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether it is true that the Committee, the appointment of which we have all welcomed, will have power to require that ships in Her Majesty's Navy of every class shall promptly be subjected to practical tests for a sufficient period to demonstrate whether or not the Belleville boilers with which they are fitted are efficient or otherwise. In the next place I would draw the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty to the declaration made in this House by Her Majesty's Government, that they would place gunboats on the inland waterways of China to protect the lives and property of British traders. When I visited the Upper Yang-tsze a short time ago I found the two gunboats sent to patrol that part were deficient both as regards steaming power and construction for the purpose for which they were intended. I am desired to draw the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty to this important question in view of the grave situation in China to-day, when the lives 335 and property of British subjects are seriously endangered not only on the Upper Yang-tsze, but throughout every quarter of China. The two gunboats sent to patrol the Upper Yang-tsze are only able to steam eleven knots, and they have twin screws instead of paddle wheels.
§ * MR. JOSEPH WALTON
The pledge given by the Government was to put boats on the inland waterways for the purpose of protecting British trade.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I will explain to the hon. Member. These vessels were not built for the purpose. They were built for the general purpose of river service in China; but when it was decided that the gorges should be ascended, these two gunboats were given the task, notwithstanding that they wore not specially built for it. At some risk, they undertook to ascend the gorges, and they succeeded in going up.
§ * MR. JOSEPH WALTON
I will ask the First Lord of the Admiralty, in view of the pledge given by the Government, that British gunboats should be placed on the inland waterways of China for the protection of British trade, and in view of his declaration that the "Woodcock" and the "Woodlark" are unsuitable for patrolling the upper part of the Yang-tsze, whether he has included in the Estimates the sum required for building suitable gunboats in point of steaming power and construction for that service, especially in view of the serious danger to the lives of British subjects in that quarter. There is at present one steamer at Chungking, and I hope that in view of the present emergency the First Lord of the Admiralty may be able to say that he is favourably considering the offer made to 336 him of that boat, and so secure that there shall be one steamer on the Upper Yang-tsze able to afford some protection for the lives and property of British subjects.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ 2. £4,139,100, for Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, etc.—Materiel.
§ 3. £2,523,000, for Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, etc.—Personnel.
§ MR. KEARLEY (Devonport)
said he did not know whether at that hour (12.25) the First Lord of the Admiralty considered the opportunity favourable for a long discussion on this most important Vote. In the past they had been afforded full and ample opportunity of discussing it in all its bearings. He suggested that the First Lord of the Admiralty should, as on two previous occasions, give hon. Members an opportunity of going to him and placing before him their views on the various points with which they wished to deal. If he agreed to that it would not be necessary to continue the discussion now.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
agreed to the suggestion, remarking that it would be very useful to him to know the views of hon. Members.
§ Vote agreed to.2
§ 4. £793,200 (Additional) Navy (Supplementary).
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
said there was one question which he wished to ask about this Vote. He did not know whether the question was in order or not. He did not know whether this Vote included payments for lyddite. There was an answer given to him that day by the representative of the War Office in reference to the naval lyddite shells. He desired to ask whether the Admiralty had satisfied themselves as to the power of making picric acid for the manufacture of lyddite in this country in time of war. Although he had framed a question upon 337 this subject he had been unable to get the information he desired. There appeared in the accounts a sum of £16,000 for lyddite shells in times of peace. Up to very recently picric acid was not made in this country at all. The answer he obtained was that it was possible to store it against time of war, but as he understood picric acid would not keep for any length of time, and that being so it was of urgent importance that there should be plant and machinery in this country adequate to the strain to which we should be put in time of war. Another point upon which he desired information, and which was of the first importance, was as to the reserve of guns. In the early portion of the session, the right hon. Gentleman discussed the position of the reserve of naval guns, and he knew that where four guns were made for a ship in the past, there are now five—that was to say, that one extra gun was made for every ship. That was not a true reserve. It was absolutely necessary for us to have a greater reserve of guns than any other Power, as, owing to the use of cordite, there was a very much greater erosion than before. He doubted whether the amount in this Vote for a reserve of guns was sufficient, as he could not but think that in the face of the greater erosion of guns that reserve ought to be very much increased. Full charges were never fired from the guns in times of peace, and even then the erosion was great, but in times of war, when full charges were used, the life of a naval gun was very short.
did not wish to prolong the debate, and therefore proposed that Report might be taken tomorrow, when discussion could be allowed.
§ * SIR J. COLOMB
noticed that the reserve for cordite was £28,000. He desired to know whether that was the full estimate for the total amount necessary for the reserve at different stages. He was delighted to find that the Admiralty had become alive to the necessity of considering the reserve of warlike stores.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. MACARTNEY,) Antrim, N.
said that throughout the whole discussion which had taken place no doubt had 338 been thrown upon the capacity of the Government to deal with these matters. In answer to the hon. Member for Great Yarmouth, he might say that the Government thought it necessary to provide a reserve of warlike stores adequate to their needs. The £709,000 was a balance.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
complained that the Estimate did not show the proportion of guns in reserve. His point was that the reserve of twelve-inch guns was deficient.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said that, as a matter of fact, guns were made for new ships before they were able to receive them, and that in itself constituted a very good reserve. As to the twelve-inch guns, all the guns had been carefully gone through as to their calibre.
said, as his suggestion had not been taken before the Vote went through, he desired to have some information as to the cordite explosion on board the "Revenge," and also some information as to the supply of armour piercing projectiles and shells, which he was informed was very short. He also understood that while the French had a shell which would pierce our armour, we had not one which would pierce theirs.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 5. £267,100, Admiralty Office.
§ * SIR J. COLOMB
pointed out that it was now half-past twelve o'clock, and that was the hour at which it was proposed to discuss this Vote, which was the only one upon which general questions as to the training of officers, etc., could be raised. He did not want to trouble the House at so late an hour, but at the same time there were several points upon which he desired information 339 and therefore he should like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury was prepared to take the Report stage at a more reasonable time.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I am most anxious to meet my hon. friend, but, looking at the position in which I am placed, I do not think it would be possible to do as he suggests, and I should only be doing him an injustice if I made the promise he asks for.
§ * SIR J. COLOMB
supposed that under those circumstances he would have to make his observations as short as possible, and confine them to one point. It would be in the recollection of the Committee that he had put a question as to the amount of sea service which was done by officers in training in the Channel and Mediterranean Squadrons, and he asked that question because he believed that the sea service was far too short. There was too much training ON shore, and too little training at sea. He had asked a question as to the amount of time spent at sea and on shore by Admirals from the time of their being appointed lieutenants, and his right hon. friend replied that it was not possible to give an account of an Admiral's training in that way. The present Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet had only six or seven years service afloat in thirty years. He would shut up the discussion at once if his right hon. friend would promise a Return showing the sea and shore services of the different Admirals whose flags were flying, and the amount of time they had spent at sea since promotion to lieutenants. This question was agitating the service very much. It was a burning question in every service club, and on board of every ship. He hoped the First Lord would give him the information he asked on simple matters of fact.
said the First Sea Lord had been turned out of his house 340 because the Chancellor of the Exchequer was unwilling to give the extra rent demanded by the ground landlord. It was most important that the residence should be near the Admiralty, because telegrams sometimes arrived during the night which required prompt attention.
THE EARL OF DALKEITH (Roxburghshire)
said he sincerely hoped that his right hon. friend would take this matter into serious consideration, so that in future the First Sea Lord might be provided with a house near his work, where he could attend to the important questions which required to be dealt with in all parts of the world without delay.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, in reply to the question raised by the hon. Member for Great Yarmouth, that the present commanders were not one whit less able to manage their ships than their predecessors. The dashing young officers who took command of the torpedo boat destroyers were doing excellent work, and training themselves for the duties they would have to perform. In view of the number of ships in commission and the few disasters due to any want of seamanship in the Navy, he did not think it was proved that there was any falling off in our naval officers. There might be less good sail-work, but in regard to the qualities of seamanship he thought the records proved that there was no falling off in the capacity of the officers. He promised to look into the Return asked for by the hon. and gallant Member.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again To-morrow.
§ In pursuance of the Order of the House of the 16th day of this instant July, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without Question put.
§ Adjourned at ten minutes before One of the clock.