§ 1. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £1,715,300, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expenses of Victualling and Clothing for the Navy, including the cost of Victualling Establishments at Home and Abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1901."
§ *COMMANDER BETHELL (Yorkshire' E.R.,) Holderness
said that, although the quality of the provisions supplied to the men in the Navy had improved enormously during recent years, the quantity served out remained exactly the same as it was, he believed, thirty-five years ago. He knew from experience that the meals of the bluejackets were really scarcely sufficient to support them when they had extra hard work to undertake. He was thinking principally of breakfast. It was a very common thing in the service for the men to have breakfast as early as half past five. This meal consisted of a basin of cocoa and some biscuits or bread. Then they—not regularly, but sometimes—went through excessively hard work, which only terminated at dinner time at noon. He did not think there was much fault to be found with the dinner, but after that meal, although they had to go through another long spell of very hard labour, they had nothing 412 beyond a basin of tea and again bread, which was their tea or supper. There were no serious complaints, he believed, about this course of victualling, but he was also aware how very insufficient both the breakfast and the supper were for the necessities of the case. He thought the time had come when they might have some inquiry into the matter, especially by asking the men themselves, and see if better provision might be made in both these meals. There had been no inquiry into the subject for something like twenty-five years, and even then the witnesses examined were not the men who really suffered, but men serving in harbour ships, who had many opportunities of obtaining for themselves provisions not supplied by the Government. He hoped the First Lord of the Admiralty would see his way to the appointment of a Departmental Committee to inquire into the subject, with instructions not only to examine the matter thoroughly, but to find out the opinions of the bluejackets themselves, the food given being obviously a very limited allowance.
*CAPTAIN PHILLPOTTS (Devonshire, Torquay)
supported the appeal of his hon. and gallant friend, and said he was certain that if a Departmental Committee were appointed and evidence taken, not only from the bluejackets and marines serving in the Fleet, but also from specialists in the preparation of articles of diet, it would result in greatly improving the condition of our bluejackets and marines without any greatly increased cost to the nation.
§ MR. KEARLEY (Devonport)
on a point of order asked whether it would not be more convenient to finish the question of victualling the ships before proceeding further.
§ MR. KEARLEY
said there was no doubt a great deal of discontent, which could not easily make itself heard owing to the service regulations, with the food served out to the marines and bluejackets. That was not to be wondered at considering the fact that there had been no alteration in the last twenty-five 413 years, and that during that time the improvement in the food of the people had been marvellous, and directly anyone joined the Navy he found himself debarred from the food to which he was used. For breakfast, at 6.30 a.m., the man got a pint of tea or cocoa and dry bread or biscuit, with nothing to help it down in the shape of butter or jam. Dinner was at 12 o'clock noon, and supper at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, after which there was nothing in the shape of a meal—unless an optional issue of half a pint of cocoa at the will of the captain—until 6.30 next morning. The hours were as much out of joint as the food arrangements were antiquated. The result of insufficient food was that the men were constantly going to the canteen. Thousands of pounds were spent every year in the canteens. He asked the First Lord of the Treasury if he would grant a Return of the money spent in the canteens of the various ships. He was informed that there was underhand dealing in the management of the canteens, and that the sailor was being exploited and fleeced so that profits might be made for the canteen. And even if that was not so, the canteens could not buy to advantage, in the first place owing to want of knowledge, and, in the next, to having to buy in small quantities. He suggested that the Admiralty itself ought to be as far as possible the wholesale distributors to the canteens.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
I am bound to say that notwithstanding the points put forward the physique of the Navy does not show that the food is insufficient. The system of canteens, however, is a matter which has given me much anxiety. The system is connected with that of savings, which is a cherished system with the bluejackets. The bluejackets cling to their system, and if the Admiralty were to touch it they would create the greatest discontent. A Return is asked for as to the amount spent in the canteens. The Return would give quite an insufficient idea unless accompanied by information showing how much of the money spent in the canteens really came from the savings of the men. The savings of the men in lieu of provisions amount to as much as £450,000 a year. There are objections to that system because the men supply themselves with provisions not necessarily the most nutri- 414 tious, but which are more tasty than other provisions with which they might supply themselves. The hon. Member says that committees are not to be trusted, but I should doubt very much whether it would be wise, as at present advised, to touch the system under which the men themselves manage their canteens. But I can assure the Committee that the canteens have improved in quality very much. Some of the larger contractors have been taking the matter up, and they are now supplying provisions of a better quality and at a better price than was the case before. Of course, any abuses that are discovered ought to be most severely punished, but it is evident that the blame, if any, rests with the men or with the system, and not with the Admiralty, who allow the men in this respect very full liberty. All who know the character of the bluejacket are aware that there is one point which it is very delicate to touch, and that is the question of food and savings. The Committee will see that my attention has been called to this matter, and I need not say that I will give it my best consideration. The hon. Member for Torquay drew attention to the fact that the proportion of bread and meat was unsatisfactory. I am aware of it, and it is a matter for consideration whether the rations should not be considered from the point of view of their relative quantities. It is, however, a matter extremely delicate to touch. The hon. Member asked for a Parliamentary Committee, but I should certainly advise against a Parliamentary Committee to consider the question of food in the Navy. It would be a most dangerous tribunal to deal with the question. I would remind the Committee that at the Admiralty there are a number of captains fresh from sea who help to deal with these questions, and who are familiar with the whole system, and take a great interest in it. Hon. Members must not, therefore, think that these questions are not dealt with until attention is called to them in Parliament. We have them constantly under consideration, but the subject is a very difficult one. I do not wish to promise a Departmental Committee, but I will be very glad to promise that the matter shall be considered by my naval colleagues and myself. As regards the question of hours, it is very difficult to change them from the point of view of altering the working of the ship 415 There is, I believe, a "stand by" about nine o'clock, when the men provide themselves with a certain amount of food, not out of their own pockets. There is a great deal of latitude given to bluejackets in this matter. I will undertake to discuss it with my more experienced advisers, and I will not hesitate to place any further proposals before, the House of Commons if they are found necessary for the health and comfort of the bluejackets.
ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
I will not, of course, oppose my right hon. friend in carrying out any of his kind intentions. He said a great deal about savings, and no naval man questions the statement that savings ought not to be interfered with at all. But we are not in agreement with my right hon. friend that the scale of rations does not require revision. Would it surprise my right hon. friend to know that the Boers get 1½lb. of meat per day, and that is the reason why they fight so well? Of course, savings are a great privilege and advantage to the men, but what we should look to is the main supply of bread and meat. To place our men in good fighting condition 1½lb. of meat per day ought to be the minimum allowed to every bluejacket and marine. I think more might be done to improve the system of rations. Why should not porridge be allowed on the lower deck? It is very easy to carry and very easy to cook, and is very popular with a great many men. The hon. Member for Devonport urged that butter should be carried, but that is not possible except on home stations. There is one ration which we do not supply. We do not supply milk, not even to our boys training ships. That is very wrong. The boys, by some wonderful economy, get milk at their own cost, but a boy's pay is very small, and there ought not to be any deductions from it. I ask any father if he would like his children to be deprived of milk. I have been asked by a clergyman's lady who takes a great interest in this question to bring it before the Committee. I think also that ships in harbour should be supplied with milk. As to the hours of meals, that is a matter that must be left to the captain of the ship.
I quite agree that there should be an extra meal in the 416 evening. Then as to canteens, they have been a great success. There may be a little scandal here and there, but they are very well managed on the whole by committees of the lower deck, which are supervised by the officers or a committee of officers. The canteens are a great accommodation to the men, and I would urge that some of the necessary articles sold in them should be provided by the Admiralty at cost price. My main points are that milk should be supplied to our boys' training ships, and to all ships in harbour, and porridge should be provided for breakfast, and 1½lbs. of meat per man should be allowed daily.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL
I am obliged to my right hon. friend for having promised that very close attention will be given to the general question of rations. The men no doubt get enough to eat, partly from the system of savings, although that has to be supplemented by their own money. I think everyone who takes an interest in the Navy ought to be able to take up the official record of what a ship's crew are allowed, and feel that we—the people—are giving them sufficient to eat without having to supplement their food out of their own money. I take this opportunity of asking my right hon. friend whether he will give further consideration to the suggestion that all provisions not issued because of imprisonment or other reasons should be handed over to a benevolent fund connected with the Navy. That would be an advantage.
§ Sir JOHN BAKER (Portsmouth)
I am sure the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty will be received with great satisfaction on the lower deck. I do not think, however, the Committee is aware of the large amount the men pay to supplement their food. It is said that a bluejacket has to pay from 2s. 6d. to 4s. a week to get fresh food. The First Lord has promised to inquire into the matter, and I am sure that aspect of the question will not be overlooked.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
I wish to refer to the question of sailors' kits. The kit costs about £12 all told, and I believe it will be found that it contains a number of entirely unnecessary articles, such as cloth trousers, which never look well. A great many of these articles are compulsory; I am speaking 417 on professional advice; on the other hand, a number of articles, such as oilskins, are not compulsory. I should think that of all things which a sailor needs on deck oilskins are the most important; nevertheless they are not compulsory. With regard to the question of the constant worry to which both officers and men are subjected by the absurd regulations regarding exact dimensions, which force officers to walk about with tape measures in their pockets, I would remind the Committee that every man is not subject to the same set of conditions, which makes it impossible to comply with the regulations. The other day a training ship was supplied with thousands of caps furnished by contractors to the Admiralty, which on measurement were found to be one-eighth of an inch too small across the top. The result was that the men had to buy new caps. I hope my right hon. friend does not question the facts, or that if he does he will give me an opportunity of privately informing him of the name of the ship. I can assure him that the men are constantly remedying small differences in their clothing. The Admiralty standard itself is not uniform; there are two or three different patterns. On Whale Island a man is expected to wear his badge near the top of his shoulder; when he goes aboard ship it must be worn lower. Only one standard should be kept, or else all standards should coincide with each other, and no departure from the standard should be allowed on the part of officers, or if allowed we must be much less severe with the men. That is the remedy. I would discourage all these tape measurements, which do not add to the smartness of the men, and which worry the officers. I hope the question of the kit will be considered, and also whether such articles as oilskins should not be made compulsory.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
There is one matter connected with the Vote which I should like to submit to the First Lord of the Admiralty. In the list of appropriations-in-aid, there is an item, "Proportion of contribution made by Australian colonies for appointing and maintaining an additional force in Australian waters, £9,600." This is part of an annuity of £130,000 which the Australian colonies make to the Admiralty for the protection of commerce in Australian waters. It was embodied in the Naval Defence Act of 1888, and 418 the arrangement was to last for ten years, unless terminated by two years notice. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman if the arrangement has terminated, or if notice to terminate has been given. If the right hon. Gentlemen would prefer to make a statement on some other Vote I will postpone the question.
§ MR. MENDL (Plymouth)
My experience is that the average bluejacket does not complain of being underfed, but there is a great deal of complaint about the want of variety in the rations. It is a case of dry bread or dry biscuits and salt junk, and there is no reason why some variety should not be introduced, such as cheese or jam, which would make it rather less of a regulation diet. That would really be more acceptable than an increase in the amount of meat.
§ COMMANDER YOUNG (Berkshire, Wokingham)
I am very glad indeed that this question of rations is to be thoroughly gone into. My right hon. friend mentioned that the physique of the Navy was all that could be desired. With that I quite agree, but I believe that a great deal of that physique is kept up out of the men's pockets. I hope that some inquiry will take place, and that the Admiralty will come to the conclusion to give our bluejackets and marines sufficient food, and so avoid taxing the men's pay.
§ *MR. ARTHUR MORTON
I beg to move the reduction by £100 of the Vote in respect of the payment given to hired labourers in the Royal Victoria Victualling Yard, Deptford. I have had the honour of bringing this question forward on two previous occasions, but without success, though I hope for better fortune now. The matter is really one of simple justice. There are three great Government establishments in the Metropolitan District—the clothing factory at Pimlico, the Woolwich Arsenal, and the Deptford Victualling Yard—at which labourers are employed. These labourers all perform, the same duties, and live under the same conditions as regards house-rent and other expenses. In 1897 an increase of 1s. a week was given by the War Office to the labourers in the Pimlico Clothing Factory and at Woolwich Arsenal. In 1898 a similar grant was made by the Admiralty 419 to the labourers employed by it in the Arsenal at Woolwich, and I trust that on the present occasion the demand for a similar act of justice for the labourers in its employ at the Deptford Victualling Yard may be listened to by the First Lord of the Admiralty. I am not going into the question of whether the wages are sufficient, but I simply ask, as a mere matter of justice, that the labourers in the victualling yard should be paid at the same rate of wages as the labourers in the other two establishments I have mentioned. The First Lord of the Admiralty alluded the other day, in sympathetic terms, to the manner in which these labourers performed the increased duties which fell upon them during the pressure caused by the war, and I feel quite sure that their modest demand for equality with their brethren at Woolwich will be favourably considered.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item B (Wages of Artificers) be reduced by £100."—(Mr. Arthur Morton.)
§ CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)
said that year after year hon. Members brought this case before the Committee. They invariably pointed out that the House many years ago passed a fair wages clause, and since then Governments, no matter what party was in power, invariably pressed their contractors to pay their men the current rate of wages in the locality. But they themselves now fell short of doing that simple act of justice to their own men. One argument with which they had been mot was that the men were not in every instance able-bodied workmen or that their labour was of the lowest class. But in this particular case of Deptford there could be no doubt whatever that the men did precisely the same work as stevedores and dockers, for which the latter were paid at the rate of sixpence an hour, or 24s. a week. Some time ago the War Office advanced the wages of the men in their employment at Woolwich, and after a time the Admiralty were driven to give their men at Woolwich the same rate of wages, because the men employed by the two Departments were working side by side. He pleaded with the First Lord of the Admiralty to give the Deptford labourers the same rate of wages as was given to the labourers at Woolwich for doing exactly the same class of work. The 420 First Lord last year said that the reason why he did not concede the addition was that the extra shilling would go into the pockets of the sweating landlords of Deptford. That was a strange reason why the right hon. Gentleman should fail to do what was common justice.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON
said he would be glad to know what was the reason then. He failed to see why men working at Woolwich should be paid a higher rate of wages than the men doing exactly the same work at Deptford. On the question of rents he contended that it would be a simple matter to draw up a scale of wages in keeping with the rents of workmen's houses in different dockyards. The demand for labour at Deptford was always fully met, but he would point out that the men who joined at Deptford made a convenience of the yard until they could pass on to private employment where they got a better rate of wages. The country ought to have the élite of unskilled, as well as the élite of skilled labour. The First Lord of the Admiralty had spoken of the privileges which these men obtained, but it had been pointed out that these privileges could be got for 6d. a week from any benefit society. He would be perfectly satisfied if the First Lord would give the men 24s. a week wages, and retain 6d. a week for the privileges the Government desired to confer on them. These men were said to be unskilled labourers, but he held that they were practically skilled labourers; they were frequently employed, for instance, in cooperage work. He admitted that when they did cooperage work they were paid 2s. 6d. per week extra; but that was only for a few weeks in the year, and it did not brings the men's average wages up to anything like the current rate in the locality. The question of the insufficient food of the sailors had been brought up. The sailors were, nevertheless, fairly well fed; but how could these Deptford labourers, with 19s. a week, out of which they had to pay 9s. or 10s. for rent, and feed their wives and children, also feed themselves well? Yet but for these men the Navy would starve, for they handled all the stores, and did all the packing and embarkation of the stores for the Navy. They had been recently 421 working might and main and long overtime, and they had not been adequately paid for that overtime, although he believed the right hon. Gentleman was going to make some concessions in regard to the overtime. However, overtime had no bearing on the question of the current rate of wages to which the men were entitled. He trusted that the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment would go to a division.
§ Sir JOHN BAKER
said there were sufficient reasons this year why there should be some concessions in the rate of pay to labourers in the dockyards, because at the present moment labourers were being subjected to at least from 6d. to 1s. per week increased expenditure in consequence of the scheme of taxation put before the House by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He thought the Government ought to show an example to other employers as to the rate of wages they paid. The Admiralty, he maintained, was not justified in employing labourers at less than 20s. per week. Could the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty give any reason for the Admiralty employing men at 19s. per week? There was no answer to that. There was another fact. In very large towns as the population increased so did the rents increase. In his own constituency there were from 30,000 to 40,000 houses, and the rents of these during the last year or two had been advanced 25 per cent. Surely the Admiralty should give consideration to the necessities of the localities in which these workmen were employed on that account. For many years he had been agitating for a fair rate of wages for those labourers, and he did not see how the right hon. Gentleman could justify a refusal of their just due. If the right hon. Gentleman would concede this, he would give satisfaction to the men and do his duty to the country.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said that the speech of the hon. Member showed the width of the question now before the Committee. The hon. Members spoke for Portsmouth and Deptford. The hon. Member for Deptford said that, as a mere act of justice, the labourers there should be paid the same wage as the labourers at Woolwich. But that same act of justice did not apply when they came to Portsmouth, for the hon. Gentleman asked that the labourers at Portsmouth, who were paid 1s. per week more than the 422 labourers at Deptford, should get more. Hon. Gentlemen brought this question up year after year, and would no doubt continue to do so until they found a First Lord of the Admiralty who would consent to their demands. There were only 150 labourers at Deptford, but there were thousands of dockyard labourers elsewhere, and he regretted that he could not consider the case of the men at Deptford except as part of a general scheme. It was quite clear that if he gave way and increased the wages at Deptford they would have to be raised all over the country. The question was, therefore, not a local one. The hon. Member for Newington spoke of the men at Deptford who were doing cooperage and working overtime. For four months in the year the men who did cooperage work received 2s. 6d. a week extra.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said there were only 150 men altogether' at Deptford, and therefore the cost of conceding the extra wages would be a small consideration, and he should have been only too anxious to give way if there were not a principle involved. He could not discriminate further in regard to dockyard labourers than had already been done. As to the question of overtime, the men had worked excellently, and had not listened to the suggestion that they should put pressure on the Admiralty by refusing to work. It was proposed to give them an increase of 25 per cent. for the first four hours of overtime, and an increase of 50 per cent. when the overtime extended to eight hours, as a recognition of the excellent way in which they had done their work. He was sorry he could not go further and give way on this question.
§ Sir JOHN BAKER
asked if the right hon. Gentleman was not prepared to give some promise that the minimum rate of wages of labourers should be 20s. a week.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said he could not give a promise of that kind at this time. The labourers in all the dockyards, and not in one only, would have to be dealt with.
§ *Sir CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
said the right hon. Gentleman gave them his annual lecture on taking up the time of the House on this small question. All of them were 423 sincerely sorry, for they thought that the First Lord of the Admiralty took a wholly false view of his duties in respect of this matter when he believed that he could not raise the wages of the Deptford labourers without undertaking to raise them throughout the country. If the raising of the wages of labour in one place involved the raising of wages throughout the country, the matter might be a very serious one. But surely that was not the case. The War Office had never dealt with the question in that way.
§ *Sir CHARLES DILKE
said that the War Office had not such a large number, but still they had considerable numbers scattered over the country, and neither that Department nor the Post Office dealt with the matter in the way which the First Lord of the Admiralty did. In fact, the Post Office had a certain minimum wage which they were ashamed to go below. The case of the men at Devonport and Deptford was the hardest in the whole field of Government employment. The right hon. Gentleman said that a rise in wages always went to a rising rent, but that argument struck at the root of all rises in wages in any part of the country, and therefore ought not to be accepted. The right hon. Gentleman ought to consider the general cost of living in different places as an element in fixing the rate of wages. Some hon. Members objected to anything like uniformity of wages throughout the country, but that principle was not accepted by the Government itself in other Departments. Each case should be considered on its own merits, and the Government sot a very ill example in regard to the remuneration, of their labours to their own contractors. Although they greatly regretted to appear in any way to hold up to public odium the First Lord of the Admiralty in regard to this question, hon. Members not connected with the dockyard constituencies were in duty bound to show by their votes that on the merits an overwhelming case had been made out for conceding the rise in labourers' wages at Devonport and Deptford.
§ MR. STEADMAN (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
said that in discussing this matter it was not a question of attacking 424 the First Lord of the Admiralty personally, far from it; it was a matter of principle. He did not blame the hon. Member for Portsmouth for getting up and speaking in favour of the labourer's at Portsmouth Dockyard. In his opinion there was room for improvement in the wages, not only at Portsmouth and Deptford, but in every other part of the United Kingdom. He was one of those who recognised that the competition going on in the present day was detrimental to the interest of the workers of the country. He believed not only in municipalising, but in nationalising all labour, in order that workmen should not suffer from men competing against them, and that the State, which was a non-competitive body, should be the only employer. He had no sympathy with agitation to induce men in Government employ to take advantage of present difficulties, but he strongly urged that 20s. a week was not a wage which in London would enable a workman to bring up a family decently, though, driven by dire necessity and keen competition in the labour market, men might be found to accept it. If the right hon. Gentleman thought it was, let him try it himself. In the East-end of London they were poor enough, yet they paid their road-sweepers 25s. He felt quite sure that but for the restraint of party allegiance many Members opposite would support the Amendment as a conscientious protest against what was little better than a starvation rate of payment.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
said no Member would desire the Government to pay an exorbitant rate of wages, but when the House of Commons declared by resolution that Government contractors should pay the local current rate, certainly it was implied that the Government itself was equally bound by that resolution, and successive Administrations had accepted that principle. When contractors near Deptford were carrying out a Government contract they would not say before such an arbitrator as the head of the Labour Department of the Board of Trade that 20s. a week was the current rate for unskilled labour. At the time of the great dock strike it was settled that the minimum rate should be 6d. an hour, and that indicated an answer to the question of the First Lord, What is the current rate? It was sometimes urged that certain privi- 425 leges attached to Government employment, but the highest estimate of their value did not exceed 1s. 6d. weekly. When the Government paid 20s. a week at Deptford they were not paying the current rate. If the Government raised the rate in London, that by no means committed them to payment of the same rate elsewhere, because local circumstances must determine the question locally.
§ MR. TRITTON (Lambeth, Norwood)
appealed to the First Lord of the Admiralty to reconsider this matter. When the matter was brought forward in the previous year he voted for the motion, and he believed that if the First Lord could show a little generosity in this matter he would never have cause to regret it. It would give great satisfaction to many supporters of the Government, if they would give generous treatment to men who were considered to be underpaid.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
regretted the speeches he had listened to had not encouraged him to make the concession asked for. They had rather influenced him in the opposite direction. They had shown him the danger of embarking on the course which the Admiralty was invited to take. This was a test case, and every speech which had been made showed how the same arguments would be used in countless other cases. The question could not be limited to the wages of labourers at Deptford. It must go beyond that. It was not a question of the rate of the wages at Deptford, but the wages of labourers in naval dockyards throughout the kingdom. The Treasury had not interfered and had nothing to do with the matter. The principle on which he had acted was his own. It was a principle for which he, personally, was responsible, and he felt strongly (he hoped the phrase would not be offensive) being coerced by the House of Commons into granting higher wages than, according to the principles he entertained, he thought should be granted. He could not make this concession consistently with the principles he held. He confessed that it was a misfortune. Perhaps he was old-fashioned in these matters, and could not adjust himself to the doctrines which had permeated so many of the speeches he had just listened to. On a question of such magnitude in his eyes he could not give way much as he regretted it.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
said the area of discussion had been unfortunately enlarged by what the First Lord of the Admiralty had just said. The question was merely one of dockyard labourers' wages at Deptford. Nearly ten years had elapsed since the present rate of wages was fixed by the Board of Admiralty. Since then many things had happened. In fixing the rate of wages they adopted the principle of local discrimination. A shilling extra was allowed at Deptford, because rents were higher there than in other dockyard towns. If it was true that in consequence of the allowance rents had been raised in Deptford and the landlords had benefited, that was a serious matter, but such a contention would have to be proved, and the right hon. Gentleman could not have committed himself to that statement without inquiry. It was never intended that they should reap the benefit, and it was only fair that the inquiry made nearly ton years ago into the conditions of labour should be renewed.
§ *MR. ARTHUR MORTON
said it was a matter of very great regret to him to find himself in opposition to the First Lord of the Admiralty, but this was a claim founded on justice, and he felt bound to press it. He thanked the right hon. Gentleman on behalf of the labourers of the Deptford Victualling Yard for the reference he made to the work they had performed during the late crisis. The demand was a very small one. He was deeply convinced that it was a simple act of justice to give these men the same rate of wages as was given to labourers of that class performing the same kind of work in other Government establishments. He trusted that, even at the eleventh hour, the First Lord of the Admiralty would see his way to consider the matter favourably. As the labourers in two other establishments receive 1s. a week more for performing precisely the same duties, he could not see why the same wages should not be given at Deptford.
§ MR. E. J. C. MORTON (Devonport)
observed that the question, though small, and affecting only a single dockyard, involved a principle to which, as one of the Members for Devonport, he would certainly object—namely, that there should be a varying rate of wages to the same class of workmen in different places. He held that there should be a minimum 427 rate of wage for the labourers throughout the Government employment. The First Lord of the Admiralty, in a speech the logic of which he could not understand, seemed to think otherwise. There had been two debates in the present Parliament on this question. One was two and a half years ago, when the question of the minimum wage paid to the labourers for the War Office was discussed. In the course of the debate on that occasion, he pointed out that they most cordially accepted and insisted upon the principle that they should pay certain labourers in certain dockyards higher wages than in another. He understood then that they got from the Government a promise that they would institute an inquiry into all the circumstances of dockyard labour, and that they should once for all settle what was the equivalent wage representing the same amount of work in all those different places where labourers were employed by the Government. As a matter of fact, nothing had been done, and no change had taken place. In the debate to which he referred, the hon. Member the Financial Secretary to the War Office stated that he had inquired into the conditions of the Government employment at Pimlico, particularly, and had come to the conclusion that 19s. 6d. was not a sufficient minimum wage to give to Government employees in London, and he undertook that he would raise the rate with, as he thought, advantage to the Government employment. The hon. Member had said that night that he would raise the minimum wage to 21s. per week, and considering the other-advantages of the Government employment, that might be regarded as equivalent to 22s. per week. The War Office two and a half years ago raised the wages of the employees 2s. 6d., but the Admiralty had done nothing. He did not see why the Admiralty should treat their labourers worse than the War Office treated theirs. He could not understand why it was that the Government should not consent to make a general inquiry once for all, and ascertain the difference as between the purchasing power of wages in one constituency as compared with another. He wished to see the Admiralty follow the example of the War Office with regard to the other principle, and say that no man in Government employment should receive less than £1 per week in wages.
§ MR. GRAY (West Ham, N.)
observed that he understood the First Lord of the Admiralty to say that he could not consent to go into this question because he felt he could not be coerced by the House of Commons. Well, that being the case, what on earth was the good of bringing this before the House at all? Mr. Gray had not formed his opinion in this case from anything he had heard outside—in fact, no representation whatever had been made to him outside the House. He had listened to the debates on this question year after year, and having regard to the cost of living in London he thought those men ought to be dealt with in the manner suggested.
§ MR. KEARLEY
said the First Lord of the Admiralty had taken up the position that he could not give way because there must be uniformity of wages. The question was whether the wage paid at Deptford was inadequate. He was sorry to hear the right hon. Gentleman take exception to the interference of Parliament in this matter. He had been long enough in the House to hear Ministers representing not this Government alone, but the Government that preceded it, standing up and declaring that 15s. a week was an ample wage to a labourer. Although it was distasteful to have to discuss questions of this kind in that House there was no other method open to them, and he was perfectly certain whatever concession was ever made to any of those employees it was initiated and brought about by the pressure brought to bear by Members of Parliament. He hoped that so far as Deptford was concerned the right hon. Gentleman would take up a different attitude and concede what was asked.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
replied that an hon. Member had stated that such questions need not be brought before Parliament if he refused to be coerced. He thought the object of bringing Votes before the House was that the House might have an opportunity of checking expenditure. He should always bow to the decision of the House in the direction of a reduction of expenditure, but personally he should not always bow to the behests of the House in the matter of raising expenditure. The moment the Government conceded that point the expenditure would rise by leaps and bounds. He would make one his- 429 torical remark. When he was First Lord of the Admiralty before, he raised the wages of certain trades at an expense of £70,000, and that was done looking to the whole attitude of labour in general. That would show at all events that when he was convinced that it was right to raise the rate of wages he was ready to do so. He could not give way on the present occasion, but he would take the whole question of labour into consideration and he would look at the wages of labourers in the dockyards. He would examine the question afresh with such assistance as he could get, but knowing the great interest many Members took in this matter he regretted all the more that this particular demand of Deptford should have been raised.
§ *MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)
said the right hon. Gentleman seemed to hold the view that cheap labour meant cheap production, but that was an economic fallacy, as could be proved upon investigation. Until the Government broke through their present rule, and paid the current rate of wages which could be obtained from other employers on similar work, they would always have these discussions on the Navy Estimates. He urged the Government to conform to the practice of nearly every other authority in the country. He sincerely trusted the right hon. Gentleman would not try to balance himself on the question whether house rent at Deptford, Pimlico, or Devonport took the larger portion of the wages. They had nothing to do with pettifogging questions of that kind. They had got to pay the current rate of wages and let the labourer get his house as cheaply as he could. The right hon. Gentleman said the object of the Estimates should be to check the expenditure of the country. The hon. Member was perfectly convinced of this, that if they paid the men at Deptford 19s. or 20s. a week they were only getting as compared with other employers 16s. or 17s. worth of labour. He believed that low wages meant dear labour in the long run. The skilled labour which the Admiralty employed was organised, and the skilled workers extracted from the Government the trades union rate of wages, but in the case of unskilled labour the men were too poor to join a trades union. He ventured to say that in Deptford a labourer earning 19s. or 20s. a week could 430 not afford 3d. or 4d. a week to a trades union, besides 7d. or 8d. to a friendly society. The right hon. Gentleman adhered to the view that the House of Commons ought not to interfere with the wages of Departments. He disputed that doctrine in toto, although the minimum of interference was only possible when Government paid the current rate and secured the highest quality of labour. The men employed in the dockyards could not take that effective combination which men outside the Government service could take. He held that the Government should not exploit the helplessness of these men by denying to them the current rate of wages which other employers paid. There was only one way out of the difficulty, and that was to follow the example of the School Board, the County Council, and the Science and Art Department, and pay the current rate of wages. He believed if they paid 3s. or 4s. a week more at Deptford and Pimlico, inefficient and redundant workpeople would be sent about their business and only efficient men would be employed, capable of turning out a proper amount of work. So long as they had charity wages they were sure to have charity work.
§ LORD HUGH CECIL (Greenwich)
I find myself in a somewhat difficult position, because this happens to be one of the few questions in regard to which I gave a specific promise to my constituents at the time of my election. I refused to give the assurance they requested—to ask that the wages should be raised to a particular figure—but I promised always to urge the Government to act in the manner of a good employer; in other words, that they would not sweat their labour. I have the greatest sympathy with the remarks of the First Lord of the Admiralty about the impropriety of constituents threatening Members, and Members threatening the Government. If such a chain of coercion was set up the public service might easily suffer. At the same time it is essential that we should act up to our election pledges—not because we might suffer if we did otherwise, but because the credit of public life would suffer. The question really is—are the Government acting as model employers? I should like the right hon. Gentleman to give an assurance that he personally is convinced that a good employer would 431 not act in a way different from that of the Government towards their labourers. It is quite impossible for us to go into all the details of the rates of wages, comparing the circumstances of one class of labour with those of another, and so on. That might be done by a small Committee of inquiry, or by the Government itself, but it is quite impossible that we should regulate our votes in this House by what is said in debate upon these topics. Therefore, I should be prepared to support the Government and to maintain to my constituents that I have redeemed my pledge, if the First Lord will assure me that the Government, as benevolent and
§ honest men, are acting in the same spirit as a considerate employer would act towards his labourers.
I do not think a good employer with, say 500 men, would give special privileges to twenty or thirty of them. He would look at the whole number, and that is what I am doing. I am acting as I think I should act in a private capacity. I do not acknowledge the justice of a claim put forward on behalf of this particular small body.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 75; Noes, 139. (Division List No. 61.)433
|Abraham, Wm. (Cork, N.E.)||Fenwick, Charles||Reckitt, Harold James|
|Ambrose, Robert||Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Austin, M. (Limerick, W.)||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Baker, Sir John||Hemphill, Rt. Hon Charles H.||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs)|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Hogan, James Francis||Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)|
|Billson, Alfred||Jameson, Major J. Eustace||Seton-Karr, Henry|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Jones, William (Carnarv'nsh're||Steadman, William Charles|
|Burns, John||Kearley, Hudson E.||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Burt, Thomas||Kilbride, Denis||Tanner, Charles Kearns|
|Caldwell, James||Lawson, Sir W. Cumberland)||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr|
|Cameron, Sir Charles(Glasgow)||Lough, Thomas||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Cawley, Frederick||Lowles, John||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Macaleese, Daniel||Wallace, Robert|
|Channing, Francis Allston||M'Crae, George||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Clough, Walter Owen||M'Dermott, Patrick||Weir, James Galloway|
|Colville, John||M'Laren, Charles Benjamin||Whiteley, George (Stockport)|
|Crilly, Daniel||Maddison, Fred||Williams, John Carvell(Notts.|
|Curran, Thomas B. (Donegal)||Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand||Wilson, H. J. (York, W.R.)|
|Curran, Thomas (Sligo, S.)||Molloy, Bernard Charles||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)|
|Dalziel, James Henry||Moore, Arthur (Londonderry)||Wilson, Jos. H. (Middlesbrough|
|Dewar, Arthur||Morton, Edw. J. C. (Devonp't||Woods, Samuel|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Palmer, Geo. Wm. (Reading)||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Doogan, P. C.||Pilkington, Sir G. A.(Lancs S. W||Mr. Arthur Morton and Captain Norton.|
|Duckworth, James||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F.||Clare, Octavius Leigh||Giles, Charles Tyrrell|
|Allhusen, Augustus Henry E.||Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Gilliat, John Saunders|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||Colomb, Sir John Charles R.||Godson, Sir Augustus Fred.|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Cook, Fred. Lucas (Lambeth).||Goldsworthy, Major-General|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Cooke, C. W. R. (Hereford)||Gordon, Hon. John Edward|
|Arrol, Sir William||Cripps, Charles Alfred||Gorst, Rt Hon Sir John Eldon|
|Atkinson, Right Hon. John||Curzon, Viscount||Goschen, Rt. Hn.G. J.(St.Geo's|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r)||Dalkeith, Earl of||Goschen, George J. (Sussex)|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Denny, Colonel||Green, W. D. (Wednesbury)|
|Barnes, Frederic Gorell||Dorington, Sir John Edward||Gretton, John|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Doughty, George||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord G.|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol||Douglas, Rt Hon. A. Akers-||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm.|
|Bemrose, Sir Henry Howe||Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V.||Hanson, Sir Reginald|
|Bethell, Commander||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw.||Hickman, Sir Alfred|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Field, Admiral (Eastbourne)||Hoare, Edw. B. (Hampstead)|
|Bowles, T. G. (King's Lynn)||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Hobhouse, Henry|
|Brassey, Albert||Firbank, Joseph Thomas||Hornby, Sir William Henry|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Fisher, William Hayes||Hudson, George Bickersteth|
|Carlile, William Walter||Fison, Frederick William.||Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.)||Flower, Ernest||Jenkins, Sir John Jones|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J.(Birm.)||Galloway, William Johnson||Johnston, William (Belfast)|
|Chamberlain, J. Austen(Worc'r||Garfit, William||Kenyon, James|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Gibbons, J. Lloyd||Kenyon-Slaney, Col. William|
|Charrington, Spencer||Gibbs, Hon. V. (St. Albans)||Kimber, Henry|
|Knowles, Lees||Morrell, George Herbert||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Lafone, Alfred||Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute)||Smith, Jas. Parker (Lanarks.)|
|Lawrence, Sir E. Durning-(Corn||Myers, William Henry||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay||Stewart, Sir Mark J. M'Taggart|
|Lawson, John Grant (Yorks)||Palmer, Sir C. M. (Durham)||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Lea, Sir Thos. (Londonderry)||Parkes, Ebenezer||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G.(Ox.Univ.)|
|Lecky, Rt. Hon. W. E. H.||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn-(Sw'ns'a||Pierpoint, Robert||Tomlinson, W. Edw. Murray|
|Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Wanklyn, James Leslie|
|Long, Col. C. W. (Evesham)||Plunkett, Rt Hn HoraceCurzon||Webster, Sir Richard E.|
|Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Liverpool)||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Welby, Sir Chas. G. E. (Notts.|
|Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Purvis, Robert||Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon-|
|Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller||Pym, C. Guy||Williams, Joseph Powell-(Birm|
|Lowe, Francis William||Quilter, Sir Cuthbert||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Lucas-Shadwell, William||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne||Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks.)|
|Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Rentoul, James Alexander||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R.(Bath|
|M'Killop, James||Richardson, Sir Thos.(Hartlep'l||Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arcy|
|Middlemore, J. Throgmorton||Ridley, Rt. Hn. Sir Matthew W.||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Milner, Sir Frederick George||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson||Young, Commander (Berks, E.)|
|Milward, Colonel Victor||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Monckton, Edward Philip||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
|Monk, Charles James||Rutherford, John|
|Moore, William (Antrim, N.)||Ryder, John Herbert Dudley|
|More, Robert J. (Shropshire)||Sidebottom, T. Harrop (Stlybr.)|
Resolution agreed to.
§ 2. £208,800, Medical Establishments and Services.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL
In the course of the last year or two there has been a very strong suspicion that the naval hospital is not all that could be desired. While I have no concrete cases to bring before the Committee, I should be very grateful if the Civil Lord could tell me whether the system of nursing at the naval hospital has been thoroughly gone into, and whether the more modern system which is established in civil hospitals has been adopted.
§ THE CIVIL LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. Austen Chamberlain,) Worcestershire, E.
I can give the hon. and gallant Member a reply which I think will be satisfactory to him. I do think the system of nursing in the naval hospital left very much to be desired. The class of men whom we have recruited for the sick berth staff has not been up to the proper standard. Lately a Committee of the Admiralty has investigated the condition of the sick berth staff and the conditions for the employment of nursing sisters, and has made certain recommendations which are now being carried out. I hope one result will be that we shall have a better class of men and better trained men than we have hitherto had. It is a matter to which the Board of Admiralty and the medical directors have given a great deal of attention recently, and we shall watch the result of changes with very great interest.
§ Dr. TANNER (Cork County, Mid)
After the many recommendations which have been made by various Committees upstairs on the Naval Estimates, we find ourselves at the opening of another century with the work, then promised to be carried out, still undone. The number of duly qualified medical men going up as candidates for positions in connection with the naval medical service is incomparable with the number of vacancies which occur. At the last Committee on Naval Estimates I had the support not only of the noble Lord who was recently Member for York, but also of the then head of the Naval Medical Department, in the view, which was given as a recommendation of the Committee, that the same facilities should be offered in this country as are offered in other countries, in order that medical men who have been afloat for a period of years may on their return be able to study their profession for a month or six weeks, so that they may make up any points upon which they have fallen short of the advancement in the science they practise. The granting of such facilities would be to the advantage not only of the men themselves, but also of the patients of whom they have charge.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Will the hon. Member allow me to interrupt for one moment? I do not know whether he has read the Report of a Committee of the Admiralty on this matter which has been circulated as a Parliamentary Paper. That Committee recommended that increased facilities should be 435 given to officers returning from abroad to take a post-graduate course of study here on full pay. That recommendation has been approved by the Board of Admiralty and sanctioned by the Treasury.
§ Dr. TANNER
Had I read that Report I would not have troubled the Committee with these remarks. I sincerely hope, for the benefit of all concerned, that the recommendation will be carried into effect as speedily as possible.
§ 3. £13,300, Martial Law, etc.
§ 4. £92,300, Educational Services.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare, E.)
I desire to move a reduction of £100 in respect of Subhead "D" (Allowances to chaplains as naval instructors).
The question of Roman Catholic chaplains in the Navy—I do not know whether that is the point to which the hon. Member desires to allude—could not be raised upon this Vote, which refers only to the educational services rendered.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
It may be that this matter cannot be raised until we reach Vote 12; but I have only a few words to say, and it may facilitate matters if I am allowed to proceed. It is with respect to the allowance to chaplains as naval instructors that I raise my objection. Am I not in order in referring on this Vote to the fact that of the consider able sum of money set down under this head none goes to chaplains of the Catholic religion? This Vote illustrates the fact that the Navy is practically without Catholic chaplains.
That point does not arise here. If the hon. Member wishes to contend that a certain number of Roman Catholics ought to be employed as naval instructors he will be in order. If he wishes to contend that a certain number of Roman Catholics should be appointed as chaplains in the navy—that does not arise under this Vote.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
I quite understand that technically I am out of order, but I raise the objection and I think it meets the case—that not one penny of this money goes to a Catholic 436 chaplain, for the simple reason that there are no Catholic chaplains in the Fleet. I object to this Vote because it goes exclusively to chaplains of the Church of England. At any rate a portion of the money ought to go to chaplains of our church. In certain cases Catholic chaplains accompany the Fleet, and in those cases should they not be entitled to a share of this money? I should like to read an Admiralty minute dealing with this question, and to ask the First Lord whether it cannot be carried out. If so, I should be, to a great extent, satisfied on this point. The minute, which is dated June 7th, 1878, says—My Lords direct that when a large number of ships forming a squadron are sent on any service that would keep them for a considerable time away from a port where the services of a Roman Catholic priest would be available, arrangements are to be made for one to accompany the squadron.
That really does not arise on this Vote, which is purely educational. If the hon. Member will turn to Vote 11 I think he will there find a point upon which he can raise this question.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
I have no particular desire to pursue the matter now. If I do not get a reply I will raise the matter later on, but I think it would be more convenient if the First Lord would say now that the spirit of that minute will be carried out.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I can assure the hon. Member that we have endeavoured to carry out the spirit of that minute. When our ships went to Crete special arrangements were made under that particular clause, and the Commander-in-Chief was directed to carry out, as far as possible, the spirit of that resolution. We are anxious, without putting any of these gentlemen on the ships, that the spiritual necessities of Roman Catholics should not be neglected, and those services were performed in the case of the squadron which went to Crete.
§ MR. ARTHUR J. MOORE
It must not be imagined for one moment that we are satisfied with the present educational facilities. We have thousands of Roman Catholic soldiers and sailors, and their susceptibilities in matters of religion and education have to be considered. I have frequently conversed upon this subject, 437 and it is not a mere question of what Catholics in Ireland think, but Catholics in this country are dissatisfied with the position of this question. The hon. Member for East Clare is to be commended for the firm and uncompromising manner in which he has brought this question forward, and pressed it upon the attention of the Admiralty.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
There is a question which was raised last year with regard to the teaching of modern languages. The First Lord promised to do what he could to improve it. At the time of the Crete affair it was found we were very short of naval officers who could speak modern languages. The amount taken for the purpose under this Vote is very small, but I doubt whether even that amount is entirely spent.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. MACARTNEY,) Antrim, S.
made a reply which was inaudible in the Press Gallery.
§ DR. TANNER
Under Sub-head G—expenses connected with candidates for the naval medical services—the examination of candidates appears to cost the same amount year after year no matter what the number of candidates may be. There is a note here that the probable number of candidates to be examined during the year 1901 is 100. The Admiralty have been out in their numbers so very frequently that I should like to know upon what foundation they base this estimate.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
Those figures are based upon past experience. Sometimes they may be absolutely correct, sometimes they are not.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
If the hon. Gentleman will give me time to look up the records I will tell him. There may be a difference of one or two, but they have been practically accurate. I have no reason to suppose that the figures for the present year ought to be altered. If more money is spent it has to be made up in some other way—either out of the Vote or out of Naval Votes generally, but I believe sufficient money is provided.
§ *MR. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
On various pages of these Estimates I find 438 sums set down as allowances to chaplains as naval instructors. I want to know whether any of the gentlemen receiving these allowances are ministers of the Church of Scotland, or whether they are clergy of the Church of England exclusively. The Church of Scotland is not a dissenting body, and her ministers are as much entitled to participate in these benefits as the clergy of the Church of England.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Of course, the gentlemen who are chaplains and receiving these allowances for naval instruction as such are clergymen of the Church of England. As to the naval instructors who are not chaplains, we have no knowledge whatever of their religious views. No inquiry is made, and, whatever their religious views, they would not be a bar to their appointment.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I cannot hold out any expectation or make any promise such as is asked by the hon. Member.
§ *MR. WEIR
I find a sum in this Vote allowed to chaplains for acting as naval instructors. These chaplains are all Church of England clergymen, and I think that Presbyterian ministers might also be engaged for some of this work. All wisdom is not centred in the Church of England, and many ministers in the Presbyterian Church are men of great ability, who would be quite competent to act as naval instructors. I hope the hon. Gentleman will see his way to give the Committee some information on the subject, and also that something will be done in the way of appointing Presbyterian ministers to these positions.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
A certain number of chaplains in the Navy are appointed as naval instructors, and 439 they do that work as well as their ordinary duties as chaplains, and receive an extra allowance. Of course, these chaplains are necessarily clergymen of the Established Church. There are also a number of laymen who act as naval instructors, and there is no test for them except an educational test. As regards the needs of Presbyterians in the Navy, these are met under another Vote by the payment of allowances to Presbyterian ministers, but as regards naval instructorships I do not think we should introduce a religious test as regards the majority of these appointments.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Lanark, Mid)
In connection with this Vote, it seems to me peculiar that we should have schools in connection with the Navy alone. Why should we have these schools apart from other schools in the different towns, and why are not these children allowed to mix with other children instead of being kept apart? I also observe that the salaries paid to the teachers in these schools are exceedingly small. I am asking for information in the interests of the education of the children. I submit they would be better educated in the ordinary schools, where they would mix with the children of the general community. But if they are to have separate schools there ought to be efficient teachers. These children are entitled to the same amount of education as other children.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
As regards these schools, the subject was very carefully considered a few years ago, and the result of that careful inquiry was to show that there was good reason for continuing these schools. The schools are now under the inspection of the Education Department, which is a sufficient guarantee for their educational standard, and I fancy that even the localities themselves would very strongly object to these children being educated at the board schools at the expense of the ratepayers.
*Sir U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
I am not at all surprised at this question being brought forward, because this question and various other questions connected with these schools arose during the time that Lord Spencer, my hon. friend the Member for Dundee, and myself were at the Admiralty. Two Departmental Committees which had the advantage of the services of a very experienced man—Sir Joshua Fitch—inquired into this question of dockyard schools and schools for the children of marines. I confess when I first approached the subject I had some doubt, although a perfectly open mind, whether it was desirable to maintain these schools apart from the ordinary technical or elementary schools, and that a separate education should be given to the children of the dockyard artisans and to the children of marines, but the result of the inquiry was extremely encouraging, and we were convinced that it was desirable to maintain these separate schools. The Departmental Committee recommended that it was desirable to put the Marine Barrack Schools under the Education Department, and now they earn grants from that Department in the same way as ordinary schools. The whole result of that inquiry was to the effect that the educational work done in the dockyard and marine schools was admirable. There were no doubt some suggestions for improvement which were adopted, and I think the Committee may have every confidence that that part of the work of the Admiralty is most efficiently and usefully done. I think that the reason why it was so extremely well done in the past was owing to the careful attention which had been given to the schools by the then Chaplain of the Fleet, the Rev. Cox Edwards. I hope similar attention to it will be shown by his successor. I am very glad my hon. friend has raised the question, and every security should be taken to ensure that these schools are kept up to a high level.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I can confirm what the hon. Gentleman has just said. The schools continue to earn very high grants and to receive very favourable reports from the Education Department.
§ MR. CALDWELL
The statements we have just heard are very satisfactory, but 441 it does seem to me that the salaries are very low. For instance, the head mistress of a school commences at £54, and after three years is entitled to £60. It seems to me that the money we pay the teachers in salaries is very inadequate.
§ *Sir JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
There is one point connected with this Vote to which I would wish to direct the attention of the Admiralty. At present candidates for the Navy are taken up to fifteen and a half years, and for the Marine Artillery and Infantry the minimum age was sixteen years. The naval candidates go through a certain course up to the time they are about twenty-one. At that age, they are sorted out; some are taken for gunnery, some for torpedo work, and others for navigating. I would put it to my right hon. friend whether it is not worth consideration that all officers, whether for marines or for the Navy, should be taken at the same age, and up to the age of twenty-one should go through the same course of training, and then be sorted out, not only for torpedo work, gunnery, and navigation, but also that any officers who showed qualifications for such positions should be attached to the military or marine branch of the Navy. At present we are keeping up an artificial and expensive system, which produces two distinct branches of officers. I cannot see why all officers should not go through the same course of training up to about twenty-one years of age. The whole tendency of the time is for naval officers to become more and more employed on shore, and I think if the matter were considered it would lead to greater economy, heartier co-operation and greater efficiency.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is quite right as regards age, but as regards training, there are, for instance, watches to be kept.
§ *SIR JOHN COLOMB
My proposition is that all officers entered for the naval and marine services should work on the same lines up to about twenty years of age.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said that after all a naval officer had to handle a ship, and a marine officer had not. But he rose to discuss two points. It seemed to him that the whole scheme of naval education demanded attention. One 442 thing in which naval officers were extraordinarily deficient was modern languages. The right hon. Gentleman had exaggerated the importance of the ancient languages, and too much time was devoted to Latin. That was a public school view; but the result was that modern languages were neglected in favour of Latin and cuneiform inscriptions or Assyrian. How many naval officers held interpreterships? He questioned whether there were half a dozen in the whole Navy. Only two men went up for the last examination for an interpretership, and only one had passed. Scarcely any naval officer knew any modern language, except Swahili; very few spoke French or German or Spanish. [Mr. GOSCHEN dissented.] The First Lord of the Admiralty might speak all of them; but few naval officers could speak any one of them. When a British naval officer had to read a German manifest or a German bill-of-lading he was entirely at sea; and extraordinary deceits were practised upon him. He was imformed on very good testimony that the only remedy for this state of affairs in a ship off the coast of South Africa was to send out a special officer from England who knew German. The reason for the short supply of interpreters in the Navy was that they were short of the officers of that particular age who would equip themselves for the post. He saw there were three examiners in various modern languages put down in the Estimates for the Naval College; one French, one German, and another Spanish or Italian. Would the light hon. Gentleman undertake to find him half a dozen officers who could speak accurately any of these languages?
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said that if he did find them these officers had probably been stationed off the coast of Spain or Italy, and had taught themselves. It would scarcely be believed that the Admiralty undertook to teach French in fourteen lessons.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said it was fourteen when he made his last inquiry; perhaps it had got up to fifteen by this time.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said his information was from the Chief Instructor on board the "Britannia," and when he last heard from that gentleman it was only fourteen. He hoped there might be more now, for that number was certainly not enough. His contention was that too much time and too many marks were given to Latin, and not enough time or marks to modern languages. Then, he did not see in the list of professors in the college any mention of a professor of the law of nations. Now, it was essential that naval officers should have a general idea of the law of nations. He believed there had been lectures on the law of nations, but he saw no provision made for them in the present Estimates, and he thought that such lectures should be given, especially at Greenwich.
said his hon. friend was a very clever man, but a most incorrigible offender in putting forward arguments which had been answered over and over again. He hoped the First Lord of the Admiralty would not listen to the evil counsel of his hon. friend in discountenancing the teaching of Latin. Nobody could pretend to study French, Italian, or Spanish without having some knowledge of Latin. His hon. friend said that the Admiralty had no lecturer at Greenwich on international law. If that were so, it was a gross sin against custom and rule. He himself had listened to, and profited by the lectures on international law from the late learned Professor Bernard. He did not think his hon. friend sincerely held the views he put forth, but did it more to plague the First Lord of the Admiralty. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Great Yarmouth almost captured him as a supporter of the idea that those who had to live together should be educated together in their youth. But naval cadets entered the "Britannia" at fifteen and a half years, and marine cadets up to the age of eighteen, and he did not think the scheme would work well. Besides, there were other objections and difficulties; for instance, as regards pay. The hon. Member for King's Lynn had said that half-a-dozen naval officers could not be 444 found who spoke French or German. It would not be Parliamentary to make bets; but he would wager that he could go on board any of Her Majesty's ships and find many officers who spoke French with facility, and many also who spoke German. Why, a marine officer, who had a faculty for languages, went to Russia to study Russian, and afterwards through his personal intervention got the £150 allowance for passing in that language, and he was now in the Intelligence Department of the Admiralty. And yet his hon. friend had the charming audacity to say that the Admiralty did nothing to encourage the study of modern languages.
said there was considerable facility for educating officers in modern languages, and when they got on shore they could make their wants known, and, what was more, they could get what they wanted. He held that it was by no means necessary for naval officers to understand Latin, and that they could pick up modern languages without a knowledge of that dead language. But he held still more firmly that for anyone who was going to follow the sea as a profession it was absolutely necessary that he should be thoroughly conversant with mathematics. He would go further and say that it would be all the better if a boy who was going to enter the Navy should begin his study of mathematics as soon as he was weaned. He would then be able to reduce everything to a mathematical basis. After three and a half years trial very few boys from the generally accepted public schools had passed into the "Britannia." This matter required further consideration on the part of the Admiralty, and he hoped that his right hon. friend the First Lord would see whether something could not be done to attract the class of boys most desirable for the public service.
Sir U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
said he had had great apprehension as to what the result would be of the changes made in recent years, and whether in the end we could obtain a better class of candidates for the "Britannia" by raising the age. He tried to keep an open mind on the subject, as the right hon. the First Lord had also pledged himself to keep an open mind, so that, if it were proved that the 445 results of raising the age were not such as had been hoped, a change would he made. He would like the right hon. Gentleman to give the Committee some information as to how the last change had worked, and what proportion of the candidates for the "Britannia" came from the public schools, and whether a decreased or an increased proportion of candidates for naval cadetships passed through the hands of crammers. He was quite sure that the desire of the House was that they should adopt as far as possible a wide source of supply for naval officers, and that they should obtain the best from the various public schools, and so save little boys from that process of exceptional preparation by cram, which they knew had not been productive of good results. He would also ask when it was expected that the new system of a college on shore would be in working order. He himself viewed that reform with very great hopes. He gathered, from something which fell from the right hon. Gentleman in introducing the Navy Estimates, that he looked forward to the time when the present term of education in the "Britannia" would be replaced by a longer term. He knew the right hon. Gentleman was as much in earnest as anyone in the endeavour to combat the system of cram; but he was afraid the tendency had been rather to increase cramming during the time the cadets spent on board the "Britannia."
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said he hoped that the Naval College on shore would be in working order in about two years. In reference to the disputed question of Latin, he himself did not object to the boys being taught Latin. He quite disagreed with his hon. friend the Member for Torquay that the boys who had been reared on mathematics from their very earliest infancy were very likely to turn out the best naval officers. The knowledge of mathematics was most important, but it could be acquired by boys at a rather later age. He did insist, and had always insisted, that boys coming into the "Britannia" ought to have a general education. They ought to agree upon that. They might not agree as to the precise proportions, but they should agree that it was necessary to have boys of average cultivation and general knowledge. How best to get them was a difficult question. The Commissioners had tried 446 over and over again to decide what was the right examination paper for them; but notwithstanding all changes in the marking of papers, the crammers somehow "got round" the Commissioners, and with the connivance of the parents, who were the great sinners, succeeded in passing in more boys than he should wish. He would rather that parents took their chance and did not send their boys to crammers. It was a very difficult matter with which to deal. He wished to impress upon parents that only one boy out of three got in, and if there were two failures, and if these failures had been with crammers, they had lost a certain amount of their time in specialisation at the crammer's. His whole anxiety was to have such papers set as would enable the average boy to get in. As to Latin, Latin was, after all, the foundation of modern languages. By knowing Latin he himself had found it easier to learn Spanish. It would be the same with Italian and French. A knowledge of Latin was the best foundation, too, for grammar and style, and it was most important that naval officers should be able to write despatches and have a general cultivation. Therefore he could not hold out any hope of abolishing the Latin paper.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I did not in the least suggest that the Latin paper should be suppressed, but I think it has too much importance attached to it as compared with the other languages.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
You would give more attention to the daughter languages than to the mother. We give more attention to the mother of languages than to the daughters.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said that the hon. Member was mistaken in supposing that so few officers had a colloquial knowledge of French. There were comparatively few, perhaps, who had a perfect knowledge of the language, but there were many who could read the French newspapers, in which excellent professional papers appeared; and he was anxious for every naval officer to read of everything that went on in France. As to other languages progress was being made, but was there 447 ever a boy who learnt French thoroughly at any school in the United Kingdom? As to the shorter term on the "Britannia," boys were now better prepared before they entered, and had already learned what used to be part of the course. As to whether candidates presented themselves in sufficient numbers, the number during the last year had been double that of two years ago, and while there were 180 vacancies each year, the number of candidates for them was 540. With reference to what his hon. and gallant friend (Sir J. Colomb) had said as to the training of boys for the Navy and for the Marines, he was afraid it could not be brought about without a revolution of the entire system. It would be extremely awkward if at the end of the term all the lads wanted to be naval officers, or vice versâ.
§ *Sir JOHN COLOMB
said that would present no more difficulty than was found now when they wanted to be gunnery torpedo or navigating officers.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said he suspected his hon. and gallant friend had some deep Scheme in favour of the Marines. He could hold out no hope that such a scheme as his hon. and gallant friend's could be adopted. There were lectures on international law given at Greenwich, a special course paid for by fees. The subject was worthy of consideration with a view to further facilities being given for these lectures.
said he believed a certain amount of Latin was a very good thing, but he did not think it should be made an important part of the examination for the Navy. That so many successful candidates came from the crammers, and other than the great public schools, was owing to the vicious system of competition for which his right hon. friend was not responsible. He wished it were possible to go back to the old system of nomination and a high standard of qualification. He could only hope that the system that had been inaugurated by the right hon. Gentleman would be a success.
§ Dr. TANNER
said it was seldom he was able to give the right hon. Gentle man his blessing, but on the present occasion he thought what had been said 448 by the First Lord of the Admiralty had been absolutely practical. With reference to what the hon. Member who had just spoken said about the public schools, he would ask whether, if they took their minds back to the days when they were attending the public schools, they remembered how little of foreign languages they learned. As to the instruction of naval officers afloat in modern times, he took that to be a very important point, and he would put it to the more practical gentlemen who happened to be Members of the House, and who had served with the Fleet in foreign waters, that there an opportunity came in for the study of languages in the places where they were spoken. The instruction of naval officers afloat in modern languages was one portion of the scheme, and the instruction on shore was another, and he agreed entirely with the First Lord of the Admiralty. In addition to that they had heard a great deal about the marines in modern days. He wanted to know how it came to pass that there had been a reduction in the money paid for instruction in riding.
§ 5. £66,900, Scientific Services.
regretted that the Committee had to vote over £14,000 for the Hydrographer without having his Report before them. Had the Navy received any application from the Astronomer Royal or any other astronomers for the loan of a ship to enable them to observe the coming eclipse of the sun on May 28, wherever totality was visible? He understood that an application had been made, but that the astronomers had been "choked off." He expressed his very great regret that the application had not been granted. The hon. Member also asked whether the Admiralty had been approached about assisting an Antarctic expedition. He hoped they would do anything that lay in their power in that direction.
asked why there had been a reduction in the Vote for surveys on the coast of England, as they required considerable correction and revision.
§ MR. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)
asked whether the Admiralty intended to give any assistance to the committee of the Royal Society who were now endeavouring to organise a further expedition to the Antarctic Sea. A former Member of the House (Sir George Newnes) had organised an expedition of his own, and they had landed on one of the islands in the Antarctic Sea. The hon. Member also asked whether anything was being done with respect to the hydrographical surveys of the fresh water lakes of Great Britain and Ireland, partially undertaken some years ago. It had been agreed by the Royal Society in England, the Royal Society in Scotland, and the corresponding body in Ireland from time to time that the Admiralty should proceed with the hydrographical surveys and have them completed.
said the point raised by his hon. friend had not before been under his attention. The work to be done elsewhere by the Hydrographical Department was so great and so pressing that until they had made greater progress with the survey of Australian waters and of other places really important to commerce they could not undertake an inland survey. With reference to the Antarctic expedition, the Admiralty did not see their way to undertake an expedition themselves, because it would take away a ship and a number of officers for a considerable time. They had not a plethora of officers, and they could not spare a number of able officers, because some of the best would have to go on an expedition of that kind. They had, however, offered to give any information that had been gathered in other expeditions, and to help in the selection of instruments. He did not remember that any suggestion had been brought before the Admiralty relative to the eclipse, but he would make inquiries.
§ 6. £271,100, Royal Naval Reserves.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL
observed that recently the First Lord of the Admiralty had undertaken to introduce certain reforms, and personally, in the circumstances, he did not very much care to enter upon a discussion of the Vote. It seemed only reasonable that time should 450 be allowed for what the right hon. Gentleman had undertaken to do.
§ 7. £3,004,700, Naval Armaments.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
said a doubt had been expressed as to whether we had a sufficient reserve of big guns for the Navy. The Government could not, he thought, be pressed to give full information to the House in regard to the question of reserve guns, and he should like also to add that he did not believe that in regard to this matter we were in an unfavourable position as compared with other Powers. He was not complaining that we were worse off than other Powers, but he wished to suggest that it might be of great advantage to ourselves in the event of war if we kept a larger reserve of big guns than any of the Powers keep at present. There was likely to be more and more target practice, and the repair of guns worn in target practice and also in war was a comparatively slow matter. He once more asked the Admiralty Board to bear in mind the essential necessity of having a very large stock of guns. There had been a very full debate in the French Chamber on the question of guns, and a gentleman, an ironmaster, who was an authority on the subject, had in that debate drawn a close comparison between the equipment of the British and French fleets as regards guns. The right hon. Gentleman attached the greatest importance to the statements made by that ironmaster, and these statements were somewhat alarming to ourselves in regard to the French and their guns. We had learned in the past that the French were remarkable for their large guns. It was one of the points on which we had been obliged to admit that they were superior to ourselves. Although in past years our own progress in gun making had been very great, still the statements made in the debate in the French Chamber in regard to ourselves were of a kind which certainly caused some anxiety. It was stated distinctly that they had examined into the armaments for the "Resolute," the "Hannibal," the "Jupiter," and the "Mars," and the French authorities prided themselves that our guns had failed at their full charges, and therefore all the reports 451 we had as to the usefulness of these new guns were of a most alarming nature. Of course they could not in that House solve such questions as these. They were highly technical, and all they could do was to ask the Admiralty whether they felt as confident in the performances of the guns as they had told the House on former occasions.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said that his own impression as to these statements was that they were not correct. The question of superiority in guns depended on whether more importance was attached to the initial velocity or to the velocity at the end of the trajectory. There was no doubt that the French were very ingenious in all questions of guns. As regarded the reserve of guns, there had always been a regular standard, and that standard was being fully maintained. The attention of the Admiralty had been called to the experience gained by the Naval Brigade in South Africa as to the wear of guns, and he was engaged in going through the standard of reserves in order to see whether, by the light of that experience, it was up to the mark, or whether a higher standard ought to be introduced. So far as the existing standards were concerned, and they were considered ample, they were not one gun behind.
§ Sir CHARLES DILKE
said the statement of the right hon. Gentleman was very satisfactory indeed in regard to the reserves. In the recent debate in the French Chamber the figures brought out the superiority of the French guns over ours. They demonstrated it at every period of the shot.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
thought that was doubtful. The figures with regard to the French guns to which the right hon. Baronet had referred were, he believed, put forward rather for Parliamentary purposes than to square with the facts.
§ *SIR JOHN COLOMB
pointed out that the naval guns used in South Africa were taken from ships. He would like to know whether there was a reserve of guns in that station to replace them.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said there was a reserve of guns at all stations, and when ships with a particular kind of gun left a 452 station a change was made in the reserve. He was now considering whether there should not be a central reserve as well as the station reserves.
said they were told that a new 7½in. gun was to be ordered on trial. If the trial was satisfactory they would have to get money for fifty guns of that kind. In regard to an explosion of gun-cotton some time ago, the Ordnance Committee must have reported their opinion long ago as to the cause of that explosion. It was a matter affecting the whole of our magazines and every ship in the service, and it should not be lightly passed over. The Committee had had this matter before them long enough, and it was time they had the Committee's report. Was anything to be gained by secrecy in the matter? It was a matter known to the whole world, and surely the public should be reassured upon it.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
replied that the Ordnance Committee were making an examination into the matter. It would be unwise to form impressions before they had the whole information before them from the scientific body who were inquiring into this.
§ 8. £271,200, Miscellaneous Effective Services.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed," That a sum, not exceeding £267,100, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expenses of the Admiralty Office, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1901."
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
said this was the only Vote on which the administration of the Department could be discussed, and he did not think that could conveniently be done that night. He suggested that the discussion should be postponed. Considering the importance of the works, and that many of them were new, and that many developments must have taken place within the past twelve months, the Admiralty would lose nothing if they allowed the Vote to be withdrawn and to be discussed after Whitsuntide.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 9. £786,700, Half-Pay, Reserved, and Retired Pay.
asked whether any efforts had been made to check applications for the commutation of retired pay. Many officers had been ruined by putting their money into speculative ventures, and some of them had ended their days in the workhouse. He wanted the First Lord of the Admiralty to discourage the practice as much as possible.
§ 10. £1,123,600, Naval and Marine Pensions, Gratuities, and Compassionate Allowances.
§ *MR. KEARLEY
The point I wish to raise is whether certain naval pensioners, under contract as we allege, are entitled to certain augmentations on reaching the age of fifty-five years. I propose briefly to trace the origin of the arrangements which led up to this understanding being arrived at. In 1865 it was found advisable to close Greenwich Hospital for in-pensioners. A contract or arrangement was come to with those who were inhabiting Greenwich Hospital at that time that in lieu of enjoying the benefits of Greenwich as in-pensioners they should receive, on attaining the age of fifty-five an augmentation of 5d. per day of their pension, and that at sixty-five there should be another augmentation of 4d. That was confirmed by a circular issued by the Admiralty in 1868. There was no question of limitation of numbers until 1878, when a circular was issued limiting the number to 7,500. In justification of this course it was urged that the funds were only sufficient to provide augmentation pensions for that number. These pensioners were entitled to go into Greenwich Hospital and live there as in-pensioners, and the basis of the arrangement was that they should become out-pensioners and receive these augmentations. There is ample reason for the funds being insufficient, but the cause was not any action on 454 the part of the pensioners, but on the part of the Government in deliberately misapplying the funds and taking away from the hospital funds to which it was justly entitled. As to the breach of contract, on the last occasion upon which this matter was brought forward,*we alleged that the men had been confirmed in their belief that they were entitled to these pensions, to which the reply of the Civil Lord was a denial, and we were asked why we did not produce a recruiting bill on which it was stated that these augmentation pensions would be paid without limitation of numbers. That was rather a poser. But some notice was taken of the debate, and the hon. Member for Portsmouth a few weeks after received a communication from an old recruiting officer living in retirement at Bristol, stating that this officer had himself recruited a, large number for the marines, to whom he had promised, on the authority of the Government, that they should have this augmentation at fifty-five years of age. He also found the bill, a copy of which I have here, in which it is deliberately stated that after completing his time and attaining the ago of fifty-five years the recruit should receive in addition to his pension five pence per day. This bill has been brought to the attention of the Admiralty. It is perfectly possible for them to repudiate all responsibility, but that will not dispose of the question. This recruiting bill may not be a legal contract, but it certainly forms a moral contract, and there is no getting away from the fact that throughout the Navy there is a strenuous belief that every man who joined the Navy prior to 1878 is entitled to this augmentation. There was a Committee appointed in 1886 to inquire into the practicability of a scheme that had been suggested by the sailors themselves to provide for their widows a pension. Incidentally this question of Greenwich Hospital cropped up, and some of the Members expressed in very definite terms their opinion as to this belief of the men to which I have referred. One gentleman observes—Although you cannot look upon these recruiting placards as legal contracts enforcible in a court of law, they are moral contracts.I leave the matter at that. A far greater*See discussion on this Vote on the 24th June, 1898 (The Parliamentary Debates [Fourth Series], Vol. lx., commencing at p. 99.)455 claim for consideration arises in the fact that the funds of Greenwich Hospital have been diverted and misapplied. Those funds are really the property of seamen. By several Acts of Parliament a compulsory levy was made upon all seamen of Her Majesty's Fleet of 6d. per month in support of Greenwich Hospital. That levy commenced as far back as the reign of William III., when it applied to England only. The Act was extended in the reign of Anne and made to apply to Great Britain and Ireland. It was still further extended in the reign of George II. and made to apply not only to Great Britain and Ireland, but also to the Channel Islands and the American Colonies. Every sailor, therefore, in the service of the Crown at that time, whether he liked it or not, had to contribute 6d. per month towards the funds of Greenwich Hospital. In 1834 those various Acts were repealed, and in lieu of that compulsory contribution it was enacted that there should be an annual payment of £20,000 a year from the Consolidated Fund. That was the bargain. It was also clearly laid down in the Act of Parliament that that £20,000 was to be as it were a debenture to be paid in perpetuity. I take it to mean that it was to be permanent payment to Greenwich Hospital. It is mentioned here in the Act of 1834, in words and terms—It is highly becoming to the honour and character of the British nation that these seamen at Greenwich should be supported according to the original design.From 1834 to 1869 this contribution was regularly paid, but in the latter year the Chancellor of the Exchequer without any legal right clipped this £20,000 down to £4,000, ceasing to pay Greenwich £16,000 per annum. This continued until 1893. Therefore I maintain that the Greenwich funds were plundered out of the amount of £400,000. In 1878 a Seamen Pensioners' Reserve was formed, and as an inducement for the men to join they were promised an augmentation at fifty instead of fifty-five. The Seamen Pensioners' Reserve Fund was established for the benefit of the Navy, and it was maintained at the time that the earlier payment of the augmentation should be a charge upon Naval funds. That did not happen. It was made a charge upon Greenwich, and continued so from 1878 to 1892, with the result that there was diverted from the Greenwich fund a sum of £50,000, which 456 ought really to have been charged on the Naval Votes from year to year. Even that is not all. The buildings at Greenwich, or a large portion of them, since 1865 have been utilised as a naval college. During the whole of that period they had been assessed at no less a sum than £8,500 a year, but from 1865 to 1893 the Admiralty paid to Greenwich the insignificant rent of £100 per year. The matter was protested against again and again, but it was not until 1893 that the Greenwich fund succeeded in getting a just rent for the buildings which were practically taken away from them, the rent in that year being raised to £6,000. This £100 instead of £6,000 was paid for 28 years, so that £165,200 has to be added to the other figures I have given the Committee. It is not a question to-night of asking that these financial matters should be put right. They have already been put right. But no restitution has been made. What I argue is that although the hon. Gentleman in his reply may say that there was no contract with these men, and that the Admiralty do pay as liberally as the funds at their disposal permit, that will not cover my point that over £600,000 has been unjustly taken away from Greenwich. When it is a question of paying these pensions to 2,000 men, and the Government have deprived Greenwich of over £600,000, I think we are justified in asking that restitution should be made to these men. These men are not supplicants for the charity of the Government; this restitution is their right; they ask it in return for services rendered. I hope the hon. Gentleman will see his way to undertake that the remainder of these splendid men, who have served their country well, shall not be longer deprived of this augmentation money.
I do not wish to dispute the statements of the hon. Gentleman opposite, but I must say that the handbill which he produces does not in my opinion count for much. If he had seen the handbills that I have seen he would know that in the old days promises were made which never could be fulfilled; in fact, the handbills for the manning of the ships could only be compared with the handbills which used to be issued by candidates for Parliamentary honours. There is one point in this Vote to which 457 I wish to call attention, and that is the pensions to petty officers, seamen, and marines. There is a widespread feeling in the navy that chief petty officers do not get their full due. They count for pensions only at the same rate as first-class petty officers, while the chief petty officer has very much greater responsibility, and I think they are worthy of better consideration.
§ *MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
If my hon. and gallant friend who has just spoken will permit me, I will not at present reply to the point he has raised, but will address myself to the matter referred to by the hon. Member opposite, which I think merits an answer to itself. The hon. Member did not tell the Committee exactly on whose behalf he made this claim for an increased age pension as a matter of right on reaching the ages referred to. I understood his argument to be that every seaman and marine was so entitled on account of the recruiting bills which had been issued.
§ MR. KEARLEY
I cannot charge my memory at the moment as to whether marines are equally entitled. I will satisfy myself by giving that explanation. I really cannot say at the moment. It is good enough for me to claim it on behalf of the seamen pensioners.
§ *MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
That is what I want to know, whether it is claimed on behalf of the seamen pensioners as well as on behalf of marine pensioners on account of the recruiting bills. That is one basis of the claim, and the other basis is on account of certain sums not having been paid to Greenwich Hospital to which the hon. Gentleman thinks that charity was entitled. As regards these sums there is no cause of complaint at the present time. The complaint was that the rent paid for the buildings occupied by the Royal Naval College was merely nominal, and did not represent the full value. At present and for some little time past the rent has represented the full value. I am sometimes inclined to wonder whether the Admiralty, if they had foreseen when the college was first established that they would have had to pay so large a rent for the buildings, would not have acted more wisely and prudently in securing buildings elsewhere. As regards the 458 other sum which the hon. Member alleges was diverted, I think the Committee will see there is a good deal to be said for the deduction if the Report of the Select Committee on this particular question is read. The Committee reported in 1892 that naval pensioners when inmates were not permitted to draw their naval life pensions; the pensions were suspended. There was thus a considerable saving to the Exchequer. On the closing of the hospital the men previously maintained there resumed their naval pensions, a corresponding charge being thereby laid upon the Exchequer. In order to make good to the Exchequer this additional charge it was decided to abate to an equivalent extent the grant of £20,000 to the hospital. The Committee went on to say that for this course there may have been sufficient excuse at the time when the funds of the hospital were equal to the claims upon them, but now that the funds, owing to the increasing demands, are insufficient, the Committee recommended that the grant should be restored. That grant was restored and has been paid to the hospital since then.
§ *MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
When Parliament year after year has approved of certain payments being stopped or other payments being made, I do not think that many years afterwards we should be called upon to revise those decisions simply because certain Members to-day are not satisfied with the decisions of the House of Commons of thirty or forty years ago. If the hon. Member desires me to be perfectly frank, I do not think the payment of these age pensions indiscriminately to every man who reaches the age of fifty-five or sixty five, whether he be in need or not, and no matter what the extent of the pension to which he is entitled, is the best use to which the funds of this great charity can be put. But I do admit, in view of the past history of this question, that it is undesirable to lessen the amount we are now paying; indeed, I would be glad if larger funds were available. I do not however, consider the case is so strong as to require that we should provide fresh funds when the funds of the charity are sufficient. Then comes the question of the recruiting Bill. It was contended two years ago that the seamen and 459 marines of the Fleet had been given to understand that the age pension would be paid as a light to every man who reached the age of 55, with an augmentation at 65, and that, as a matter of fact, no limitation of numbers had been made by the Admiralty as trustees for Greenwich Hospital up to the date of the Fleet circular issued in 1878, which did distinctly limit the pensions to the number of 7,500. That is not so. What are these pensions? They are the compensation given to the seamen and marines of the Fleet for the closing of Greenwich Hospital. What was Greenwich Hospital? The hon. Member said we were bound to satisfy all these men who, he alleged, were formerly entitled to go into Greenwich Hospital and live there. The Charter of 1694, which established Greenwich Hospital, expressly declared that it was "for the relief and support of seamen serving on board ships or vessels belonging to the Royal Navy, who by reason of age, wounds, or other disabilities, should be incapable of further service at sea and be unable to maintain themselves." I call the attention of the Committee to that. It was a charity intended for those who by reason of these various causes were unable to maintain themselves. To contend that because men who were unable to maintain themselves were received into Greenwich Hospital, therefore, on the closing of Greenwich Hospital, all men, whether able to maintain themselves or not, became entitled to an augmented pension, is a contention which cannot be supported by any logical argument. It is admitted that as regards any seaman or marine who entered service after 1878 the case is clear, because in that year the pensions were limited to 7,500. But when they were first established they were limited. The Committee which recommended the closing of Greenwich Hospital stated in their Report that—it will be equally necessary to limit the number of extra pensions to be granted. Allowing a fair margin, we think that provision should be made for 5,000 extra pensions, and we are of opinion that that number should be the maximum granted.That was published as a Parliamentary Paper in 1865, and as a matter of fact from 1865 to 1869 the Board did actually limit the number of pensions to 5,000, and the number was only extended by a minute of the Board which was never 460 published. Therefore the only published information was that the number should be limited to 5,000. The hon. Member has produced a bill on which he bases his claim that all men who entered the service prior to 1878 are entitled to this pension. What is the bill? It is a bill issued by a marine recruiting officer at Bristol—his own composition, I presume, not submitted to the Admiralty, and, I regret to say, incorrect in many of its details. I do not know whether the hon. Member would say that in addition to being morally bound by the statement in this bill that these pensions would be given, we are equally bound by other statements in the bill, equally incorrect, equally unauthorised, and equally in contradiction of everything the Admiralty ever themselves published. What is this bill? This bill excludes the seamen, and deals only with marines. It is a very significant fact that whilst these age pensions were offered by the Admiralty on exactly similar terms to both seamen and marines, the Bristol bill contains no such promise, the promise being confined to the particular bill of the marines.
§ *MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
From the door of the Bristol recruiting office. When the hon. Member for Portsmouth was good enough to inform me he had received this bill, it was my first duty to endeavour to ascertain exactly how the bill came to be published, who published it, and so on. The person who issued the bill is an officer since dead, so that I am absolutely unable to explain how he came to make these inaccurate statements. We found that one marine officer thought he could recollect some such bill being used. But in any case it is admitted that no one who came into the service after 1878 has any title to an age pension, because in 1878 a Fleet circular was issued distinctly stating that the pensions would be limited to 7,500. What is the date of this bill? I do not know exactly how long it was in use, but it certainly was not in use until 1879.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Member for Portsmouth told me that his informant stated it was used between the years 1879 and 1883.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I cannot decide when doctors differ. But, in any case, the, bill was only printed in the autumn of 1877, so that if it was put into use the moment it was printed it could only have been in use for a few weeks.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
No. It was printed at the order of the marine recruiting officer at Bristol, without any instructions from the Admiralty and without the Admiralty having seen it. It was a regrettable practice in those days that the recruiting officers were allowed to publish their own literature without submitting it to the Admiralty. The name of the printers is at the bottom of the bill, and they were good enough to let us search their books, and we found that the order was given in, I think, October, 1877. So that, to put it as high as possible, the bill can only apply to the marines in the Bristol district who entered between October or November, 1877, and the issue of the Fleet circular in 1878. On that ground how many marines do the Committee suppose are entitled to claim this pension at present? Not a single marine who entered at that time has yet reached the age of fifty-five; not one therefore would, under any circumstances whatever, be eligible for the age pension. I therefore think the Committee will see that this misconception is not and cannot be taken as a ground for an argument that successive Boards of Admiralty have been guilty of breach of faith with the men who have served the country, but that we in distributing an even larger sum than we promised have fully discharged our obligations.
§ MR. MENDL
A more extraordinary story than that just told with regard to this bill has seldom been heard. Two years ago, when this question was raised, the Admiralty denied that there was a contract, and challenged us to produce a bill issued by them or by their servants which would have encouraged the belief in the minds of anyone eligible for these pensions that they had a right to them. Thereupon the hon. Member for Portsmouth found this bill, of which the Civil Lord has made so light to-night on the ground that it was issued by a recruiting officer for whom the Admiralty were not responsible. We are told that the Admiralty allowed this recruiting officer to have his own bills printed, and I think that does leave a very strong moral obligation on the Admiralty to stand by the statements in that bill. It may be quite true that the bill does not give the seamen this right by contract. All that has been contended is that this bill is evidence that the Admiralty or their officers had held out to the men who joined the Navy the anticipation of their being entitled to this augmentation of pension at the age of fifty-five. We must not lose sight of the very small number of men to whom this applies. There are only about two thousand who are now deprived of the pension to which they think they have a right. There is a very strong ground for asking the Government to look into this matter from the broad standpoint of whether it would not be in the interests of the country and of the Navy that the question should be put right, as it could be by the expenditure of a very small sum of money.
§ 11. £343,500, Civil Pensions and Gratuities.
§ Resolutions to be reported.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £60,300, be granted to Her Majesty to defray the expense necessary to be provided for under the arrangement made between the Imperial and Australasian Governments for the protection of floating trade in Australasian waters, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1901."
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
I would like to ask for some statement as to the position of the Navy with regard to the 463 Australian colonies. It does not appear to be quite clear from this Vote how much the Australian colonies pay for the protection of floating trade in Australasian waters. I hold the opinion that the sum paid by the various colonies is altogether inadequate to meet the justice of the case. The total Naval Estimates for this year will not be far short of £30,000,000. Are we to be told that the Australasian Governments, representing a population much greater than that of Ireland, will only pay £126,000 towards that tremendous sum? I should like to compare that miserable amount with the enormous contribution the Irish people will have to pay. But notwithstanding the great difference between the amounts, when I asked the First Lord of the Admiralty a few days ago if he would send a gunboat or a torpedo boat to protect the fishermen of Wexford against foreign steam trawlers I was told it could not be done. I think the time has arrived when there ought to be some readjustment of these colonial contributions towards the maintenance of the Imperial Army and Navy.
§ It being midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Resolutions to be reported to-morrow.
§ Committee also report progress; to sit again to-morrow.