§ * (7.55.) COLONEL DENNY
When one is speaking on the Navy Estimates, the temptation to consider, in a manner more or less discursive, the statement made by the First Lord of the Admiralty, is very great; but, as many Members speaking are bound to hold the same opinion and make the same remarks, as far as I am concerned, I will save the time of the House as much as possible by going directly to the subject in which I am more immediately interested. I would like, however, to bear tribute to the intensely interesting nature of this year's statement. It is put in a businesslike fashion, laying no claim to anything beyond an honest attempt on the part of the First Lord and his assistants to do their best; but it has several most encouraging features, and one or two which require criticism. The personnel is really being treated for the first time, as far as the higher grades are concerned, with anything 788 like openness, and the evident desire of the First Lord to give us the advantage of younger men in the higher grades, must raise him considerably in the estimation of those who have the efficiency of the Navy at heart. But it is when we come to the additional numbers that the First Lord and I part company very decidedly. There we see that 1,900 executive ratings are to be appointed, and only 1,150 engine room ratings, of whom 1,000 are to be stokers. It is notorious that we are short of stokers. It is admitted in this very statement, for if hon. Members will kindly look at page 10, they will find that the stokers who are engaged cleaning and attending ships being brought forward for commission are now to be pressed into active service, and civilians employed. I do not grumble at that, but it is a sign of the times. We who are more or less interested in the efficiency of the Navy on its engineering side, feel that this is one of the subjects which is never treated with openness by the Board of Admiralty, which is entirely 789 composed on its Naval side of executive officers, few of whom have a proper appreciation of the preponderating importance of the engineering branch. 1,000 stokers in proportion to 1,500 seamen is, to my mind, simply ridiculous, while 150 artificers is evidently inadequate, if we look at the number of engineer officers. My position is very considerably strengthened by the revelations made on page 12 as to the number of firemen borne on the Royal Naval Reserve—something like 3,700, as against seamen, about the same date, 21,000, whereas the proportions on board a man-of-war are very much more nearly one third stokers to seamen. That the Reserve is causing anxiety to the Admiralty, is shown by the appointment of the Committee under the presidency of the hon. Baronet the Member for Berwick. In it we will have every confidence. The decision of the Admiralty to abandon the ships fitted with yards as training vessels is, in, my opinion, a wise one; but on page 6 a remark occurs, that the training of the seamen should therefore be directed towards a knowledge of the structure and machinery of a modern man-of-war, and capacity and handiness to deal with and repair it. Does this mean that the deficiency of stokers and engineer ratings is to be made up by pressing into theservice of repairs of machinery the blue-jacket? The amount expended in new construction is eminently satisfactory. We have now apparently got a grip of the situation, and are able to spend money economically and sufficiently, as we have not been able to do since the year of the great strike. It appears to me, however, looking at some of the dates given for completion of the ships, that the First Lord is not yet in a position to give us assurances of speedy construction, such as we are becoming accustomed to in Germany and the United States. If we take such a vessel as the "Monmouth," which has now been some months launched, it is certainly not reassuring to find that she is not expected to be passed into the Fleet Reserve until 1903–4. This appears to me to be far from a remarkable rate of progression. Does the Secretary to the Admiralty consider it satisfactory that on page 10 we should find that the total 790 number of Royal Naval Reserves trained during the manœuvres in 1901 on 162 ships was 34 officers, 231 seamen, and 83 fireman, or a total of 34 officers and 314 men. The establishment of Royal Naval Reserve Executive Officers is satisfactory, but surely the Secretary to the Admiralty does not pretend for one moment that the establishment of Engineer Officers, viz., 400, can be held to be at all satisfactory. How much less the question of the stokers. One unsatisfactory feature of the First Lord of the Admiralty's statement is the fact that sufficient importance does not appear to me to be attached to the question of the supply and treatment of the officers belonging to the Engineer branch of the Royal Navy. The Board of Admiralty, on which there is not one single engineer, stand on this question in antagonism to every trained engineer in the country, and have never given satisfaction to the claims of their own engineers. It is satisfactory to know that some very highly placed officers in the Navy have recognised the mistakes made by the Board of Admiralty. We have had in the past several sympathetic Admirals, but the Board qua Board appears to be unable or unwilling to appreciate the seriousness of the situation.
To go into details would only weary the House, and I hope they will take it from me that the statements I am making, although not supported by detailed figures, are absolutely reliable. My allegations are as follows—that the supply of the Engineering Ratings is totally inadequate to the requirements. There are neither enough officers, enough artificers, nor enough stokers. The reserves, both of officers and stokers, are ridiculously inadequate, as I have already pointed out. The inducements offered for the recruiting of this service are not sufficient to attract men of the proper stamp, and expedients tending to lower the entire service have in despair been from to time adopted. The engineering equipment of His Majesty's ships is, in comparison with a mail ship of anything like the same power, far too low. It may be argued that His Majesty's ships get along with the crews they have and carry out thir annual stram trials, and I admit that this is in some cases—I am 791 afraid not all—true. But if we compare what is a fairer thing—the probable conditions in war—with the conditions in peace, the House will see how the matter stands. Supposing we take a ship like the "Repulse," "Resolution," or "Royal Sovereign," or some of this class, or first-class cruisers like the "Good Hope," "Powerful," or "Terrible" we will find that the engineering staff consists probably of a fleet engineer, of something like forty-five or forty-six years of age, of a senior engineer of six and a half years service, and probably other three or four of what can only be termed youngsters—good boys perhaps, but still youngsters, without experience. In other words, there are practically only two men on a vessel of that description at all corresponding with what we count certificated engineers in the mercantile marine. A vessel of the description, we will say, of the "Royal Sovereign" on squadron service will probably for six months of her time be doing nothing, lying at anchor. For other five months she may be cruising—it is not likely, but she may be cruising—at a speed of probably from ten to twelve knots; and for a few days at a time she may run anything from half power to three quarters, perhaps occasionally full power. Her staff will certainly be overworked, but they will manage to get through. But compare a war service, where not only will they be constantly on the look out, practically constantly under steam or with banked fires, sometimes in action, where serious casualties may happen in the engineering ranks, and always under the highest possible pressure of anxiety. Allow, for example, that anything happens to a mail ship's chief engineer of the size of the "Campania," there are at least seven or eight men under him, each one of whom is perfectly capable, owing to Ids experience, of taking charge of the machinery. Under the fleet engineer on a first class cruiser or a battleship, as a rule, there is one man, and he has no more than at the outside six years service. Sir, we know the trouble that exists now with our modern machinery. We know the complication and the anxiety. We know that in peace time practically the Engineering Department has all the anxiety, and that 792 in war time it certainly has as much anxiety and less chance than the Deck Department; and yet the most moderate reforms asked for are denied.
I admit that since the advent of the noble Lord we have had some improvements. We have had the artificer engineer class developed, and the numbers increased from 150 to 400. The acting time counts; eight years service is sufficient, and the age of twenty-nine is allowed instead of thirty-five. But artificers are still underpaid, and their pensions are still inadequate. It must be remembered that they are very largely married men, whose pay does not go a long way in keeping a house on shore, as well as their own expenses at sea. It is to these men apparently that the Government intends to look to fill up the shortages that we are getting accustomed to in our engineering ranks. We know that they are going, to a dangerous extent, in depriving vessels of considerable size—for example, the unfortunate "Condor" of the advantage of a commissioned officer in the Engineer Department. If the Government are determined to take this line, then they can easily reduce the engineers in number and largely increase the warrant officers, but they roust be prepared for a very different recognition of the engineering staff, who will then become a select branch, who must be most highly trained, most highly paid, and most adequately recognised—somewhat as the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors is at the present moment. If, on the other hand, the Government are determined to keep the engineers on their present footing, they will then have to get more.
Let us consider what would be the result of mobilisation, say, of the first-class reserve, or, as I understand it is called, the A Reserve. There are practically no Royal Naval engineers available for duty without withdrawing from other important employments or from other ships, and even then there would not be anything like sufficient to man more than a very few of the ships. The shortage of stokers is numbered by thousands, and all we have to meet this is the Royal Naval Reserve of engineers of 400 officers and 3,000, or 4,000 at the outside, reserve of stokers scattered all over the world. Sir, the Board of Admiralty are no doubt highly scientific, technical, sensible men, 793 but they all belong to the military side, and they appear to be unable to fathom the intricacies of this engineering question. The Royal Naval engineers' claims are disregarded, they are made to feel themselves, though not by their brother executive officers, inferior in every way. The marvel to me is that they have done as well as they have done. We speak of them not being military. I wonder if the House realises that of the bluejackets who walked into Ladysmith, fought the guns there, and were shut up there, no less than fifty were stokers, and there are other instances of distinguished service being rendered by the engineers. Sir, the Board of Admiralty must alter conditions, and the sooner they begin the operation the easier it will be. I lay before the House what I am convinced will be an adequate expression of the confidence of the country in the engineers and of recognition of their work, and if the Admiralty cannot see their way to grant this then I do not think engineers can be blamed for refusing to join the Service. In rank there should be a Royal Naval Engineering Corps formed. The Admiralty refuse to concede to them a military grade. There is therefore no reason for refusing a separate Corps, There are Royal Marines; we have a Royal Army Medical Corps and we have the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors. We must have a corps of Royal Naval Engineers, and corresponding rank should be given, only in a few cases on hoard ship exceeding the rank of Commander, which will be borne by the chief engineer of the ship. If you had a separate Corps of Royal Naval Engineers there would be no stagnation in promotion, as it would then be as with lieutenants after eight years service, who get rank and pay. The pay of the engineers is not a thing they are inclined to stickle at, although it is considered, alongside of such non-combatant branches as the Paymaster and the Doctor, too small. Still it is the junior ranks that most require augmentation, and a very little, I believe, would satisfy the assistant engineers and the engineers. At the present moment it is not possible for them to maintain themselves creditably. Engineers are much wanted for filling up the gaps of age between say a Fleet Engineer of forty-five and his next in charge of twenty-six or twenty-seven. 794 At present an engineer with eight years service must be a chief in independent charges. Small disciplinary control ought undoubtedly to be given to the engineer. They wish no powers of vindictive punishment. That is the cloud which has always been cast around this item of their requirements by the Board of Admiralty. Shut up as they are down below, they must have the respect of their men, and everybody knows, who knows anything about a ship, to what an extent rank carries weight. It is a microcosm of a society, and should be treated as such. This is already granted to Marine Officers on board ship, and the engineers ask nothing more than to be allowed to do what the Marine Officer does. Let the House fancy that if the chief engineer, for some small breach of discipline, makes a man do some dirty work, such as cleaning the bilges, or something like that, instead of some tidier job, he is liable on complaint by the man to have his orders cancelled by the Captain, as it pertains to punishment.
The last item refers to the youth of what ought to be the Corps of Royal Naval Engineers. Even at Keyham College, when the young fellows are entering upon their career, there are strict lines of difference drawn as compared with the "Britannia." Things that are done for the Cadet Officers in the way of amusements and expenses for their social life are denied to Keyham. There is also a lack of supreme authority at the Engineering College. No better illustration of the disparity of the treatment in the two institutions could be given that the fact that at Keyham the cost to the country per head is only about a quarter of what it is in the "Britannia." Now, Sir, the last thing I would like to do is to weary the House. It is very difficult to make one's contention good in a complicated case like this without going into it at great length. I hope, Sir, I have not erred in that respect. To administrators like the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Secretary, and the Civil Lord, I hope I can confidently appeal to act in this matter as men patriotically inclined, who do not desire to see the Navy suffer in any way whatever; as men of business, who recognise that an important branch of their department is suffering, and is liable to become more or less inefficient through lack of numbers. I know they are actuated by the highest good of the 795 Navy, and I hope I may with con fide n leave this case in their hands for suitable adjustment. (8.15.)
§ * (8.47.) MR. REGINALD LUCAS (Ports-mouth)
said he felt that the House would be indulgent to anyone who represented a constituency like Portsmouth for intruding, even at some length, on the attention of the House. Anybody representing such a constituency was necessarily charged with interests of no small importance. By the courtesy of the First Lord of the Admiralty a convenient system had been adopted by which hon. Members were able to meet him privately and lay before him a large number of matters which could be better discussed by a private deputation than by debates in this House. He referred to such questions as those affecting chief warrant officers and petty officers, the different ratings in the Navy, and all questions affecting the dockyards which could be better laid before the proper authorities in the manner he had indicated. Therefore he would eliminate from his remarks at the outset those issues which he would have an opportunity of devoting himself to elsewhere. It had been his experience that if one endeavoured to take a generous view of the work of the Admiralty and the prospects of the Navy, one was apt to be accused of a servile obedience to the Government. In spite of that he desired to point out features which were matters of congratulation to the Admiralty in their conduct of the Navy. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean had alluded to the long time still taken to build a ship in this country. That was true, but we should not forget that it took other countries quite as long, if not longer. For the purposes of a comparison he would take a French and English battleship and a French and English cruiser. The French battleship "Republique" was laid down in the year 1901, and was to be commissioned in the year 1905, and consequently took four years to build. The English battleship "Formidable" was laid down in March 1898, and commissioned in October 1901, the time taken for building being three years seven months. The French cruisers "Jules Ferry" and "Leon 796 Gambetta "were laid down in June 1900, and were to be commissioned at the end of 1903, and took three and a half years to construct. The English cruiser "Cressy "was laid down in 1898, and commissioned in October 1901, and took three years to construct. Therefore the comparisons of these ships, which were much of the same tonnage and class, were by no means unfavourable, and the facts he had quoted showed that England was able to turn out her ships more rapidly than France. According to the French official document, the "Charlemagne," which was to have been completed in October 1897, was not completed till the year 1899. The "Henry IV.," which was estimated to have been completed in July 1900, had not yet got her engines on board, and the "Montealm," which should have been ready in the year 1901, was not yet finished, and already 2,225,000 francs had been spent on her in excess of the original estimate. Therefore, with regard to the criticisms which have been made in regard to their shipbuilding, they did not need to be at all disheartened in view of the comparisons he had made. They often heard complaints of the unbusinesslike manner in which proposals were brought before them, and of the manner in which they were explained to the House. That, however, was a grievance which was not exclusively their own. It was a grievance which they could read in the French Official Report on the Budget, where it was stated that although the date given on which the cruiser "Gloire" was to be completed, was August 1902, it would not be completed, according to another official document, until April 1903. In the same way the "Carabine" was promised for September 1902 in one, and the middle of 1903 in the other. Therefore, even if they sometimes thought that their shipbuilding was not carried on as expeditiously as they wished, and even if the Admiralty were inclined to be obscure in regard to the information which they gave to the House, he thought they could afford to put those objections on one side to a very great extent, because the official documents of other countries showed that foreign Admiralties were afflicted in a similar 797 manner, and even went far beyond any grievance which had been brought forward in this House.
He desired to say a word or two about the cruisers which were provided for in the Memorandum of the first Lord. Anybody who looked for the moment into the state of the Navy and interested himself in naval affairs must be convinced of the paramount importance of keeping up our standard of cruisers. Wars of the future would be racing, wars, and speed would become one of the most important elements in naval operations, and whatever happened this country must never allow itself to fall back in the establishment of modern cruisers. When he talked like that it was only right that he should fortify his opinion; it was necessary that he should not give what he had just said as an obiter dictum, and he ought to establish his proposition by giving some well-recognised authority. He would, therefore, quote the words of Laird Clowes who said—A large, fast, and well-armoured cruiser, mounting numerous protected guns of medium calibre, but having neither very thick armour nor very heavy gulls, would be a match for the largest and most costly battleship now afloat.He desired to associate himself with those who thought that they could not have too many cruisers mounting numerous protected guns of medium calibre, for these, at all events would be an acquisition to their naval strength which they could not afford to neglect. He agreed with the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, who had expressed surprise that only two cruisers had been provided for in the Memorandum laid before the House. It was not easy to understand at any moment to what state of perfection the different navies of the world had arrived. It was not easy to collect information as to what would be the state of things at the end of the next few years. But he desired, in regard to the Navy, to associate himself with those who firmly believed that this country could not have too many cruisers, an d it would be most disastrous to their prospects in the future if they were to allow any proposals put before them to pass which failed to provide an adequate number of cruisers.
There was one matter upon which he desired to congratulate the Admiralty. 798 The cruiser class, which last year appeared to take the fancy of the authority, contained only 6-in. guns, and that seemed to be a serious defect. He found that the French cruiser "Gloire" had 7.6-in. guns, and the corresponding German cruisers had 8.2-in. guns. The French cruiser "Montcalm," and those, of a similar class, had 7-G-in. guns, while the Russian cruisers now being built had 8.7-in. guns, and the German cruisers now under construction would have 9.4-in, guns. It therefore seemed a great pity that our cruisers should not have bigger guns than 6-in. guns. Consequently, he read with great satisfaction the statement in the Memorandum of the First Lord of the Admiralty that the new cruisers were to be armed with 7½-in. guns, a change which he thought would commend itself to the judgment of the country. It was very difficult to say where the line should be drawn in this matter.
Of course there must be a medium somewhere. They had it on the best authority as a fair estimate that sixty-six new cruisers were required. He was not prepared, nor did he think anyone would be prepared, to ask the Admiralty to provide that number. However, he did ask for more cruisers so that the Navy would, be able to cope with any emergency in the event of war. Nelson in the old days asked for more frigates. A British Admiral should never be placed in the position of saying that he had been starved for cruisers in the ultimate emergency of war.
The hon. Member for West Islington, who moved an Amendment earlier in the evening advocated a reduction in the establishment of destroyers, and appeared to intimate that destroyers were a useless class of ship. He himself took an entirely different view, not only was the destroyer essential to our safety, but we must demand from it the utmost that had ever been demanded, and far more than was demanded in many quarters. He read with very much surprise the evidence given by Mr. Parsons at the enquiry in the disaster to the "Cobra." He said—These destroyers were very lightly built. He believed they were originally intended to be fine weather vessels.It appeared to the hon. Member, even 799 as a layman, that such a proposition was impossible. In this view he was fortified by the authority of an article he read recently in the Contemporary Review, in which the writer said that Navies could not be run on lines to please nervous, well-meaning shore folks, and used the words "Damn danger." While he apologised for the force of the language quoted, he took it that that was a sailor-like and common-sense expression of opinion. The country that knew the capabilities of its destroyers from tests made in time of peace held a very good card in its hand. If we were going to have destroyers in time of war it would be necessary to use them in foul weather, and though he deplored a disaster like that to the "Cobra," he thought the Navy must be asked to undertake these risks. He believed they would not ask that of the Navy in vain.
He wished to call the attention of the House to an important matter in connection with this point. Supposing a sailor was killed in warlike operations, his widow received a pension from the Government; so with regard to the soldiers; but supposing a sailor lost his 1ife, as in the case of the "Cobra," his widow depended upon the Greenwich Old Age Pension Fund. He thought it was not too much to ask in such cases that the country and not the pension fund should be called upon to provide for the widow. From the year 1865 to 1895 the Government paid only one hundred pounds as rent for Greenwich Hospital, but since then £6,500 a year had been paid. From 1869 to 1893 Government appropriated £16,000 from the funds of the Greenwich Hospital and in 1893 they refunded that £16,000. Thus a very large sum of money every year was withheld during that period from the funds of the Hospital, a sum which might now be available for the pension of the old sailors who were entitled to it and whose claims the government admitted were valid but could not be met because the money was insufficient.
He came into touch with a good many men of the lower deck, men who as a class were not grumblers, and he found that in the matter of food they chiefly wanted change in the quantity. The recommendations of the Committee on Navy Rations would not be introduced 800 until 1903. He urged the Admiralty to increase the amount of food given to the sailor. For 100 years the seamen had had no meal between 4 p.m. and 6 a.m. Whatever else they might require must be got from the canteen. He did not think it would be asking the country very much to ask it to provide the seamen with something in the shape of a supper, which would be considered in accordance with the standard of living nowadays, not luxurious or extravagant, but within the bounds of reason, and proper for those who were manning our ships.
He must now say a friendly word for the Marines on whose behalf he asked that the Department would grant the desire Marines had often expressed when trouble arose that they should be tried by court martial at sea. He did not see why the wish of the Marines could not be met in that respect.
There was one little matter which might not sound very heroic, but which he ventured to press, and that was that our war ships should be warmed. That was no original suggestion of his own. The other day he was at Portsmouth, where he saw a Japanese battleship, and it was warmed throughout by means of hot water pipes. No one would accuse our new allies of being an effete or an effeminate race. Russ an war ships were also heated in the same way, so that there was no difficulty in the matter, and we ought to make the lives of our seamen compatible, as far as possible, with the standard of comfort which obtained everywhere else. He had to express great satisfaction and pleasure on learning from the Estimates that one of the new battleships was to be built at Portsmouth. Personally he threw out the hope that it would be as near as possible to the "Formidable" class, which he believed was the best battleship we were building now, and a type we might continue, with the greatest confidence, to build. He had another suggestion to offer, and that was that it should be named the "Portsmouth." We must on no account fall back in our building programme, and he wished that more cruisers of the "Drake" and "Good Hope" class should be put into the water. So far as human ingenuity could contrive, and human foresight could anticipate, nothing should be left undone to perfect 801 our Naval equipment and develop and complete our Naval resources.
He would adopt the sentiment of the Poet Burns, who once said—He will liquidate your debts And lessen all your charges, But, God's sake, let no saving fit Abridge your bonny barges Nor boats this day.
§ *(9.20.) MR. WILLIAM ALLAN (Gateshead)
said he wished to say a few words upon this Vote. In the first place he wished to offer his very sincere congratulations to the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty for his lucid and workmanlike statement he had given to the House in introducing the vote. To his way of thinking, and without at all desiring to flatter the hon. Gentleman, this was the best exposition of the Navy Votes which had ever been brought before the House in his experience. The value of a war ship in those days depended entirely upon two factors. First, there was the offensive power of the vessel; and next, her steaming power. The combination of these two factors being obtained in a ship, made that ship a true, fighting machine. He would deal first with the offensive power of some of the vessels which had been built under the last programme, and some which were included in the admirable statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty. It must be in the recollection of the House that last year in the discussion on the Navy Estimates he drew attention to the fact that we were building valuable vessels, costing hundreds of thousands of pounds meant to protect our Empire, and to be our first line of defence, but that they were miserably under-gunned. He was happy to see from the statement issued by the First Lord, that the Admiralty had since come to the same conclusion. They were now altering the "Powerful" and the "Arrogant" classes, and putting into them more guns, and making them better fighting machines in proportion to their dimensions. It might startle the House to know what those vessels really were. He would take the "Cressy" class. That vessel, which was much lauded as a first-class cruiser, was of 12,000 tons displacement, yet what was its offensive 802 power in an engagement either for the protection of our commerce or in attacking an enemy? She could only fire 1,960 lbs. weight of shot in one discharge of her guns. By way of comparison he would take another vessel, one of the new Japanese cruisers—the "Asama," built at Elswick, and designed by the new chief constructor of the Navy—a very clever man in every respect. The "Asama" was of 9,750 tons displacement, a far smaller boat than the "Cressy." Now, if the "Asama" went into an engagement with the "Cressy" she would just blow her out of the water, because she could fire 2,240 lbs. of shot in one discharge. Again, the "Asama" could steam 21 knots pet hour with 150 lbs. pressure of steam in cylindrical boilers, while the "Cressy" could not approach that speed with her water - tube boilers. He could give any number of cases more. The facts were admitted by the Admiralty themselves, because they were taking out the 4¿7 inch. guns and replacing them with 6 inch. guns; and no doubt they would do that also with the "Terrible," if she were able to steam home.
The question might be asked why it was that those vessels were not designed properly at first? It was admitted by the Admiralty that they were badly designed, and under-gunned. He did not call that designing at all. It was bungling with the ships, and tinkering with the nation's money. He would give his view as to why it was that those vessels were so light in their offensive power. He held, rightly or wrongly, that the dominant idea which had obtained for a long time in the Construction Department of the Admiralty was to build vessels of a high speed. Now, they could not get high speed without fine lines; and the natural sequence of fine lines was that such a ship could not carry heavy guns without rolling. That was to say, if heavy guns were put on board she could not top the waves in a heavy sea. There was an article in The Times the other day, and it would startle the House to know that that Journal, which was generally in favour of the Government, said—The ships of the Mediterranean Fleet during the past few months have been under- 803 going a thorough experimental series of exercises in target practice, both with their main and intermediate armament. The analysis points to a marked divergence in accuracy between the results attained from the moving and vibrating platform of a warship, pulsating from her engines and heaving from wave motion, and that estimated theoretically in the win factories, and practically reached on the solid platform of the shore range. The divergence between results in these diverse circumstances is marked at all ranges, but the difference of result is specially unsatisfactory at any range beyond a sea mile.That was to say, they could not be sure of their aim on account of these vessels rolling when there was any sea on. He had been talking to a gunnery lieutenant the other day, who told him that he could not, with a three-feet sea on, hit a target once out of sixty times. Such, he held, was the true condition of our war ships at the present moment.
How could the greatest offensive power be obtained in an engagement when the ships were designed on terribly fine lines, and had light guns on board? What he had spoken about last year had been amply verified, and it was well known at the Admiralty that such was the case. The cruisers were under-gunned, and had not a stable platform when the least sea was on. They were in every sense of the term fine weather ships. They would do very well for sailing on the Serpentine or on a big pond, but when at sea their power as effective fighting machines practically vanished. Where, then, was the safety of the Empire or of British commerce when only defended by such ships. He honestly said that the offensive power of the vessels in the Navy was of minor quantity as compared with the vessels of other navies; and, as the hon. Member for Portsmouth had said, they were worked with smaller guns than French and other warships.
He came to the next quality which should be possessed by a warship, and that was steaming power. A warship, even if weak, provided she was well-engined and could keep her steam up, could generally get away from an enemy in the event of an engagement. That was a factor which could not be overlooked in designing a. warship, and for many years he had been directing attention to what he considered, eight years ago, the great mistake that was made by the Admiralty officials in putting into vessels steam generators which had never been tried, and of which 804 they had had no experience whatever, and putting them into vessels which cost millions of pounds. Every word of what he had said had been verified; so much so, that Lord Goschen when First Lord of the Admiralty appointed a Committee, and that Committee's Report verified his statements. He was sorry he was at a disadvantage in not having also the Report of the Boiler Committee on the "Minerva" and "Hyacinth" tests. The House had not got that report, and it was not fair that it had pot been presented.
§ *Mil. ARNOLD - FORSTER
I endeavoured to keep my pledge, but the Report could not be printed in time. I regret the delay as much as the hon. Member.
§ MR. WILLIAM ALLAN
said he was fully aware of the hon. Gentleman's desire to have the Navy what it should be. He knew what the hon. Gentleman's sentiments were; and he fully appreciated that the delay was not his fault. The Admiralty officials had put into magnificent vessels costing millions, boilers they had never tried and knew nothing about. Indeed, they were not boilers at all in the true sense. They were steam generators. What had happened? Oh, such a sorrowful picture! Go to Devonport, and what would they find? A crowd of cripples. At Portsmouth, a crowd of cripples, and the same at Chatham; the "Europa," the "Hermes," the "Diadem," the "Spartiate," the "Powerful," the "Vengeance," and many others. Absolutely there was no single vessel, and he was speaking advisedly, and he hoped correctly, that these boilers had been put into that could do her designed rate of speed; and when they attempted to do it they came to grief, and would continue to come to grief. The dockyards would soon be nothing less than repairing shops for vessels lying in them. It is all very well to say that we could not get the men to work the boilers. That was nonsense. There were as good men in England and Scotland as there were on the Continent. We were a race of engineers; but how could a man get steam out of a thing in which the natural principle was nullified by the design? It was not a question of men at all.
805 He wished the House to realise how the system affected the Navy Votes. The repairs to the "Terrible" was given as £8,674. He should like to know what shipping company would stand that The "Diadem," which was only built in 1898, had down against her for repairs £24,289; the "Pelorus" £23,540, although only four years old, and the "Porcupine" £19,439, all within the space of three and a half years. He could not find the repairs to the "Europa," the "Hermes," and the "Furious" in the Votes, but it would startle the House to know where the money went. It was all very well for the Admiralty to say that they wanted £31,000,000; they would get it with the greatest of pleasure. He himself believed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean that it was not enough, but where did the money go? He would tell the House. One-fifteenth of the total amount went in repairs. A sum of £2,195,528 went in repairs, or what was commonly known as reconstruction, whatever that meant, repairs and alterations if any steam shipping company in the world spent a fifteenth of its capital on repairs it would be bankrupt in six months. What did that mean? Did it mean that the vessels of the Navy were right and strong? No. It meant that they were absolutely wrong and unfit for their work, or else they would not be in the dockyards so often as they were. Take the case of the "Spartiate." The original estimate for that vessel was £518,623. What did she cost beyond that? Her total cost was £636,141, an excess of £127,518. In that one vessel alone the original estimate was exceeded by nearly £120,000. The House would see it was not a question of voting the money but of efficiency. When one-fifteenth of the total had to be spent in repairs, there must be something wrong. What was it? He attributed the whole of that excessive expenditure on repairs to nothing else than the great blunder made in putting steam generators into the ships eight or nine years ago. How were they to-day? In the very lucid and clear statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty he found that the battleship "Queen" and the first-class cruiser "Cornwall" were to be fitted with Babcock and Wilcox boilers; 806 that the "Hermes"—the celebrated "Hermes" —which had to be towed into Bermuda was going to have Babcox and Wilcox boilers; that the "Challenger" would also be fitted with them, and that two of the "King Edward VII." class were also to have them. There were six or eight vessels going to be saddled with Babcockand Wilcox boilers. What was the history of those boilers? He warned the Admiralty again that they were making a plunge which they would regret, and that they were spending the money of the nation in a way they would regret. A Departmental Paper issued by the Board of Trade in connection with a Babcock and Wilcox recent boiler explosion explained exactly what took place. That Report said—Considerable trouble has been caused by the tubes in these boilers blistering and bulging, this having taken place during the three years that the boilers have been at work. "There is greater danger from temporary shortness of water in boilers of this description than is generally supposed.And the head engineer of the Board of Trade said-It should also be remembered in dealing with boilers of this type that an amount of deposit, local or otherwise, in the tubes, which would be comparatively harmless at ordinary rates of evaporation, becomes a grave source of danger when the boilers are unduly forced, as they appear to have been in this case.It was impossible not to force the boilers when fighting a ship; no water-tube boiler can stand forcing. That is the fault of all these boilers. There was a ship built at Sunderland into which the Government were now putting the same type of boilers which had to be taken out of her. Upon what grounds of practical experience were they fitting these boilers into brand new ships? Why were hundreds of thousands of pounds to be squandered by putting these boilers into ships without there being a proper trial of them—a lengthened trial at sea under high pressure and designed power and speed? What did the Boiler Committee say in their Report of water-tube boilers? They recommended them, provided a satisfactory type were adopted. Was the Babcock and Wilcox a satisfactory type? When the Belleville boiler came out, and scientific papers were written on it by Admiralty Officials, he warned the Government they would fail, and as surely as they had failed with the Belleville boiler, they would fail again 807 with the boiler they now proposed to adopt. The Report of the Boiler Committee was a sensible Report, and he did not quarrel with it. But where was a suitable, type, and why should the Government plunge again, and put these boilers into six or eight new battleships and cruisers when they had no evidence as to whether they were suitable or not? But if they had no evidence that the Babcock and Wilcox was a satisfactory type, they had evidence that the old cylindrical boiler was satisfactory. They had the evidence of the "Isis" and the "Dido." Those boats were ordered out to China during the disturbances and they steamed away at between fifteen and twenty knots, without a hitch, right out to China to do their work. Against that, let the Government take the "Glory," a modern, up-to-date Belleville water-tube hollered battleship. She should be called H.M.S. "Ichabod." She took fifty-seven clays to go to China. Why did she take so long Simply because she could not get along any faster. He felt very strongly this plunging again by the Admiralty officials. What fault had they to find with the cylindrical boilers? None. The fact was that the Government were ashamed of the failure they made when they first put water tube boilers into our ships; they were ashamed to admit they had made a mistake, their only desire was to get out of admitting it, and the result had been that they had run all over the Continent in order to find a suitable type, and our ships were simply being experimented with. How could we expect to avoid disaster? How could we expect anything from a ship which could not depend upon her engines I What was the use of the best ship to the best admiral if he could not depend upon her engines? The true value of a ship lay in its capacity to safely give steam to its captain when he required it. He had warned the Government before, and he warned them again. He cared not who their advisors were, the Admiralty were wrong, and would come to grief once more if they persisted in this course—putting into ships a thing the very principle of which was scientifically wrong—which burnt more coal and employed more risen. He saw the nice, gentle way in which they were going to get out of the difficulty. They were going, to put in three-fifths Babcock and 808 boilers, and two-fifths cylindrical boilers. This was Horse and Hen engineering. If they were right about water-tube boilers, they ought riot to put in cylindrical boilers at all, but if water-tube boilers were wrong, they ought to put in cylindrical boilers alone. He entered his protest again against the blunder the Admiralty were committing.
§ (9.55.) SIR. JOHN COLOMB (Great. Yarmouth)
said he had been in hopes that this discussion would have been taken in Committee, because he perceived a difficulty in the way of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty in, replying to the various speeches made; but, as it appeared that that was not to be the order of the day, he wanted to take, as briefly as he could, a part in this discussion. The hon. Member who had just sat down always commanded the-attention and sympathy of the House. His patriotism and earnestness all admired, and in what he had said years ago, in conjunction with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean and the hon. Gentleman now the Secretary to the Admiralty, with regard to the armament of ships, he had the satisfaction of saying to-day, "I told you so."
Too much stress must not be laid upon cost of repairs. It was in the nature of progress and experiment, and in those experiments a large sum of money must be expended in repairing damage, and this was the general policy entered into and set forth in the First Lord's Memorandum With regard to the Secretary to the Admiralty's speech, he congratulated his hon. friend on the clearness and frankness of his statement, which had surprised none of those who had watched his career in and out of the House. The-First Lord's statement conveyed, to his mind at least, a rather new departure. It was marked by a spirit of broader policy than they had had before, but its value lay snore in promises than in anything else, and they had to wait and see how far those promises were fulfilled by performance. The difficulties were great, and too much should not be expected. Butin that Memorandum there was one alteration, in one branch of our Naval policy, to which his hon. friend had not referred. The Admiralty, for the first time, 809 acknowledged the complaint with regard to administrative congestion. That was important, because the first thing that improved a position was to acknowledge the fault. There was an acknowledgment of congestion, and an indication that the Admiralty were engaged in some technical remedies with regard to the Controller's Department. But he would point out that when a statesman was put at the head of the Admiralty, he had to learn the Naval problem from the Naval Lords, and his conviction was that these Naval Lords, instead of performing these duties as they should, were being turned into superior routine clerks. These gentlemen acknowledged when they left their positions that they had not time to consider the bigger questions of Naval policy. That was very serious for the country and for the Navy, and he hoped the First Lord would not stop at having made this acknowledgment in his statement, but would prove that he had realised the danger by providing some remedy for this defect. Everybody outside the Department could make suggestions, though without a knowledge of the internal working of the Department those suggestions might not be of much value. He considered, however, that a Naval Lord should have a post-captain to whom he could depute some of the routine work under his supervision, and then he himself would be free to attend to those larger questions of naval policy. But whatever else happened at the Admiralty, there was one principle that must never be given up—that of interchange from the Admiralty Board to the sea, and from the sea to the Admiralty Board.
The next point referred to in the Memorandum was that of personnel. Many questions in that connection it would not now be necessary to discuss, because one of the most important, that of the Reserve, had been referred to a very strong Committee. One point, however, was admitted. The age of superior officers was a very important question. It was necessary to have an adequate number of sufficiently young, trained executive officers. What was really wanted was not so much tinkering with the present system of executive officers, as an enlarged view of the whole position of the Navy. Greater outlets for 810 the naval service and larger opportunities of employment within it were required. In tins connection, he was glad to see—for the first time for many years—a distinguished Admiral had been sent to hold an important position in Australia. As everybody who had studied the history of the question knew, for long after the Napoleonic wars there was hardly a Government position near the sea board of any colony in which there was not a naval officer available for naval service. The real difficulty of the age question could be overcome only by an enlarged view of the whole situation. It was a curious fact that in the different branches of the Navy a very large proportion of the officers on board ship, with their staffs, were not naval officers at all. It was too large a question to be dealt with in that debate, and he would merely repeat that better outlets would have to be provided, so that many officers of executive rank, when they left the list temporarily, would still be associated with the sea.
Before passing from the details of the personnel, he desired to know the distribution or apportionment by classes of the 266 officers and the 143 warrant officers alluded to on page 5 of the Memorandum as an increase. Then there were 400 additional men to the miscellaneous branch of the Navy. Were they to be effective fighting men? Did they belong to the engine-room staff, or the executive staff, or the civil staff, or what? A new feature was the provision of 250 additional artisans and electricians. Those men were not to be under the engineer, but the gunnery-lieutenant. It had to be remembered that the whole period and opportunities of training for a gunnery-lieutenant were between entering the "Britannia" at fourteen and a half or fifteen years of age, and about twenty-one or two, and it was necessary to take care that too much was not piled on to that young man, that in trying to make him everything, they were not spoiling him altogether, and that in creating in the Navy special classes, they did not expect too much from particular classes and too little from others. Had or had not the Admiralty made up their minds that the gunnery and torpedo ieutenants were to be highly trained scientific, hydraulic, and electrical 811 engineers? As to the general question of the relations between the engineers and the executive branch, that was merely a repetition in another form of a question as old as the Navy itself. In the old days, generals and troops were put on board ship hastily and sent to fight the battles; the ships were merely the vehicles of military force. The troops returned, having distinguished themselves, and were rewarded, while the old sea-dogs who provided locomotion to the ships were forgotten, and, of course, they did not like it. They felt that they did the work while the others got the credit, and in the end they took their proper place as masters of the situation. The question now was the same, but in another form. Instead of the executive officer being the man who utilised the labour of the men to provide locomotion for the ship, he simply called his orders down the tube. These men below felt that they ought to be more fully recognised. It was a sentiment, of course, and in the interest of the naval service mere argument must not be pushed too far. The executive officer must, without doubt, be chief, but the Admiralty would do wisely to recognise that there was a general responsibility in all departments, and for the life of him he could not see why the engineering department should not be formed into a corps of Royal Naval Engineers and worked under much the same conditions as the Marine service.
He was glad the Admiralty had accepted in full the Report and recommendations of the Victualling Committee, and it was only right to point out that an hon. and gallant colleague of his, who was no longer a Member of the House—Admiral Field—was the man to whom credit was due for having perpetually, in season and out of season, breed that question on the attention of the Admiralty.
Then, he was not satisfied with the higher education of officers. Not one-fourth was being done that should be done. He looked upon it as most serious that officers, from the time they entered until they became captains, had simply to confine their attention to matters wholly connected with the inside of their ships, And were denied opportunities of studying the bigger problems of naval policy and practice, so that when the Admiralty asked for their opinion, when they attained 812 high positions, on those problems, they were not always really sound guides.
As regards construction, they were for the first time told that what was proposed to be built in the year would be built in the year. That was satisfactory, but it was a startling fact. He presumed that the explanation was that the Secretary to the Admiralty was able to say that the productive power of the country had so developed as to meet present demands. He should like to know whether it was due to the development of the productive power of the country or alteration of the Admiralty system. Was the programme of construction now regulated by that limit of, producing power That was a matter for grave consideration. If that was the limit, the first thing the Admiralty ought to do was to increase by some means the productive power of the country. He was not satisfied that, looking four or five years ahead, the present programme was what it ought to be, and he would simply content himself by ex, pressing his agreement with the remarks of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean on that matter. There were two aspects of the policy of construction to be borne in mind; one was its relation to the power of other countries, and the other was the internal policy regulating provision and constitution of the fleet and determining the class and sort of vessels that should be built.
He objected altogether to basing their policy on a sort of blind adherence to abstract comparison with the ships of other powers. In these matters they ought to lead and not follow. He had already mentioned the new class of scouts, but he wished to know whether the Admiralty were quite clear as to the direction naval policy would probably take in the near future. At present he did not think they had sufficient information about these scouts. As a great many of his remarks would have to be postponed until Mr. Speaker was out of the chair he asked his hon. friend to give them explicit and detailed information as to what sort of ship this new scout was to be and what it was expected to accomplish. He had listened earlier in the evening to the ideas put forth as to the possible standard which we ought to 813 adopt in regard to the Fleet, but he thought they might just as well attempt to fix a standard by the number of cases of smallpox as by the standards which the hon. Member suggested. He must, however, express his agreement with some of the remarks of the Member for the Forest of Dean and press for further and detailed information, for they must all be impressed gravely with the responsibility involved in the question. Our Fleet had to cover the whole world with protection, and upon the right policy we were going to pursue depended the existence of the Empire.
§ (10.20.) MR. HALDANE (Haddington)
said the hon. and gallant Member opposite had congratulated the Secretary to the Admiralty upon the statement he had placed before the House, alit he wished before making a few observations upon that statement to join with him in praise of the tone adopted by the hon. Member who represented the Admiralty. It used to be one of the pleasures of this House, however much they might differ on other matters from Lord Goschen, to feel that he always spoke upon Admiralty matters with his heart in his work. That pleasure had been continued in the case of the hon. Gentleman opposite, who now represented the Admiralty, for they felt that he had got his heart and faith in this matter, and they listened to his words as listening to one who might well command the attention of the House of Commons. Earlier in the debate there was a discussion which he though was well met by a justification of these Estimates. He did not wish to dwell upon a matter which belonged to another period of the discussion, but he would say that he did not think the Estimates—although they involved an increase of £1,000,000—showed an expenditure which the country could dispense with or diminish. In a very interesting discourse which was reported in The Times newspaper in May of last year, Sir Robert Giffen gave a calculation of the National income, which he placed at £1,500,000,000 sterling. Taking these Estimates at £30,000,000, that was only some 2 per cent. on the National income. If we only considered what the National income meant to us, it seemed to him that 2 per cent. was not an extravagant amount to pay as an insurance premium. Upon that income depended not only 814 our prosperity but our very existence as a Nation and au Empire. Without that National income we should be "An over populated and discontented Island in the North Sea." Whether we took the National income at £1,500,000,000, or at the figure disclosed in the valuable Return which his bon and gallant friend got from the Board of Trade, we had much the same result. If we took those figures, the commerce of this country was something approaching £1,000,000,000 and the Estimates only amounted to some 3 per cent. on that. That was not an extravagant premium of insurance. He agreed with his right hon. friend the Member for East Fife that upon this matter of the Navy and also upon education he was not disposed to be parsimonious.
He wished to make some remarks upon the increase in the Estimates. As had already been pointed out, these Estimates were about £1,000,000 in excess of the previous year, but when we considered the increase which had taken place in British Commerce and in the commerce of other nations that was by no means an unexpected result. We had seen great competing lines of mercantile ships proceeding in increasing numbers from Germany, the United States, and elsewhere, and yet our own commerce had shown no signs of diminution and we still held first position in the volume of trade sent forth. That trade had got to be protected, and in view of the increases in the Navies of the United States and Germany, England was bound to consider her position. He did riot attach undue importance to that remarkable discussion in the Reichstag the other day, when it was disclosed that the German Government would before long make further proposals for increasing their Navy. That was natural; but it was equally natural that we should think our own naval equipment required overhauling. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Antrim referred to the statement of M. Lockroy, and to the interesting criticism when 'he made on the position of the Naval Powers. The right hon. Gentleman was a student of the French Estimates, and he (the hon. Alember) was a student of that equally interesting book "The German Naval Annual." In reading that book he had been struck with the very cool-headed criticisms which it contained. For some 815 things it praised us, and for others we were blamed. There was, however, one feature in which the British naval policy was praised, and that was our admirable system of building ships in classes, and in that respect we were singled out as preeminent among the nations. We were, however criticised for a singular want of steadiness in our shipbuilding programmes, which varied from time to time. He saw from Page 7 of the printed statement of the First Lord that the Admiralty appeared to be alive to this, and were now insisting upon steadiness in their programme of naval construction. The strength of Germany had laid in the marvellous punctuality with which her cruisers and battleships had been turned out, and he was glad to hear that in our case this year the shipbuilding programme would be a completed programme.
He was glad also that the armament of the old battleships was being transformed and brought up to the modern standard. The substitution of new guns would make a great difference. It was not simply a question of the number or the calibre of their guns, but it was a question of the weight of metal which they could discharge in a given time. Efficiency in this respect involved that all the equipments and the guns of our old ships should be brought up to the modern standard, and he trusted that this re-arming of the older class of ships meant that they were all being brought up to the standard of modern times. But important as construction was, there were other matters to be considered. He felt, like his right hon. friend the Member for the Forest of Dean, that it was rather difficult to be satisfied with the shipbuilding programme which had been placed before them. It was impossible to know exactly what progress was being made relatively to other nations, for there were so many things to be taken into account. It was a most complex and difficult problem, and, satisfactory as the shipbuilding programme was in many respects, he was not disposed, without more knowledge, to burst forth into paeans of praise about the programme set forth in the First Lord's statement. We had to realise that whatever we might be deficient in, there was one thing essential, and that was that this country must, have absolute command of the seas. 816 Command of the seas did not mean simply defence, but a defence which embraced the capacity of offence and of taking the initiative. Whether we adopted the standard of comparison with two, Powers, or whatever standard we took, that must be the consideration in the comparison, and more knowledge was required as to what the other nations were doing. They wanted a great deal more information than they had now before them to make hon. Members satisfied that we were keeping up to the old footing. As regarded the United States, he did not think that in the future England would.be able to keep up the two-Power standard. The enormous resources of the United States, together with the ingenuity and the energy of her people, had marked America out as a country likely to become a great military power. All he insisted upon was that England should not slack off in any degree, and_ should be careful to see that our best energies were devoted to maintaining what our traditions dictated.
He would now deal with the question of the personnel of the Navy, and he was not sure that this question was not one of more importance than construction. The first thing that struck one in this connection was the question whether the Navy really had that amount of brain power and intelligence of the highest order which was required to control it.
He was not questioning the ability of the-men who held commands in the Navy, but he did find that the work of the Board of Admiralty was increasing enormously. It was responsible, not only for matters of peace, but for matters of war. It was responsible for seeing that the. Navy, when called into action for the serious business of war, was up to the mark. But the members of the Board were overworked, and had little opportunity for elaborating the essential considerations of policy and strategy. With the Intelligence Department, which ought to be our aid, he was far from satisfied. We had only 13 intelligence officers, against 18 of Germany, and the Vote for the Department was only £10,000 a year. There were 13 military attaches against five naval attaches. Surely there ought to be a naval attaches the East, where such great naval development was taking 817 place. He knew a little of this from the inside. Our naval attaches were among the most important people we had in connection with our naval service. We depended upon them for a great deal, he would say the bulk, of the information we got about what was going on in foreign Navies. He had seen the valuable Reports that came from these officers. He wished we had more of them. He wished there was more encouragement given to them to do their work. If military attaches were important, naval attaches were more important. There were more secrets in connection with the Navy than the Army, and yet even with the enlarged programme we were only to have five naval as against 11 military attachés It seemed to him that the point on which our naval system needed much overhauling was in this matter of intelligence. The Board of Admiralty should be enabled to delegate portions of their work. He would be glad to think that every member of the Board of Admiralty had a commander or a captain to assist him in the minor problems of his Department. There was a great deal to be done in this direction, and he thought that the writer of the remarkable series of articles that had appeared in The Times was right in insisting on the necessity of searching inquiry in this matter. He would like to see the whole constitution of the higher Departments of the naval service inquired into, and he ventured to press on the Government the desirability of searching and independent inquiry such as would be obtained by a Royal Commission.
Germany had a very young and very snail Navy, but it was organised on a very modern pattern. He was especially struck with the difference between German admirals and our own. Our own admirals came into their commands to a large extent by seniority. In Germany it was quite different, and when he found that the oldest German admiral was fifty-seven and the youngest forty-nine, he was struck by the contrast between the state of things in that country and in this. Far be it from him to criticise the remarkable men who filled high commands in our Navy; but it seemed to him that we should be able to avail ourselves of the services of younger men when necessary, though he was 818 afraid that the traditions of our Navy lent themselves but ill to having the younger men filling the high commands. Then there was a great deal too much employment on shore in the Navy, and too many officers unemployed. In the German Navy there was not a single officer unemployed. In this matter of the employment of officers, something still remained to be done if the higher grades of our personnel were to be put on a proper footing. He was glad to think that there was a real movement in favour of a naval. Volunteer force, and that this question was also receiving the attention of the Government.
In the statement of Lord Selborne reference was made to the training of officers. He was not one of those who were likely to despise the advantages of high education, but he felt that there was one great fault that we in thin country were apt to commit in educational matters, that was the forcing of subjects upon people for which they had no natural aptitude. Much as he admired mathematics, it could not be denied that there were boys who had no. aptitude for that subject, and in learning it were to a great extent wasting their time. They wanted to make a first rate naval officer thoroughly at home in his ship and to take an intelligent interest in the science of seamanship. Let him specialise himself in that science as much as possible, but do not let him learn the differential calculus if he had not a turn for common addition and subtraction. Again, why should the Admiralty give 800 marks for Latin and only 400 marks for French? He should like to. see our young officers read Nauticus, the German naval manual, but he was afraid there was not much encouragement given for that at the present time. He corned the reference of the Secretary to the Admiralty to the College of Naval Strategy at Greenwich. It was an admirable institution, which had been in existence about a year. He was glad to notice that the Admiralty were recognising the private yards not only in ship, construction, but in the repank of ships. He thought it was important, not merely on account of these private yards, but because he was a great believer in their-value. In his opinion great institutions like Elswick, and Maxim, and Vickers, 819 were part of the defences of the Empire. They should be encouraged as far as could be consistently with the service of the country. They might be our standby in time of need, and he should like to see them treated as integral parts of the defences of the country, manned as they were by men who had shown great patriotism in placing their abilities at the service of the Nation. Of course we must expect to pay a little more for the work we got done there than when we did it ourselves, but the advantage of keeping these places inure or less continuously employed and of having them as reserves seemed to him to compensate for any disadvantage.
He wished the public could know a little more of what took place at the great annual manœuvres. There might be some objections to the Press being represented there, but he owned, speaking as a Member of Parliament and of the public he should like to have fuller information than reached the public on these occasions, for he could not conceive what mischief could be done by getting direct reports instead of reports at third hand.
That was a matter which rested with His Majesty's Ministers; but he held the strong opinion that, as far as he could see, it would be much better in the public interest that they should have full and free information on these matters.
As to the whole statement of the Secretary to the Admiralty, he agreed that, taking it in the main, it was a very satisfactory one. He was not alluding to the programme of construction. That was a thing which it was impossible for a layman to pronounce an opinion about. But he saw in that statement evidence of a desire to keep up-to-date, and make steps forward, which, if they did not go the whole way, went someway. He hoped that we should be able to continue the good tradition carried on for some years of a continuity in Naval policy. To his mind a continuity of Naval policy was hardly less important than a continuity in Foreign policy. The Navy was a great institution for peace as well as war. It was in this House that Mr. Cobden said that he would spend a hundred millions in order to have an efficient Navy. If we were to sleep in our beds in peace and comfort it was 820 important that we should be strong on the ocean. He trusted that, so far as in him lay, he would never be a party to any sort of criticism in this House which could disturb the good tradition which had grown up within the last dozen years of a continuity of policy in this country as regarded Naval matters.
§ *(10.50.) MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
As the House is aware, when Mr. Speaker leaves the chair it will be able to continue this debate practically on the same lines. It is almost impossible for me to deal as adequately as I ought with all the subjects which have been brought forward; and if I deal briefly with the important question raised by the hon. Member for Gateshead, it is because I know that the Question must arise again on Vote 8. By that time the hon. Member will have a further document in his hands, which he will find an interesting contribution to the question when he raises it again. The right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean took the view that the Navy Estimates were not sufficient. The right hon. Gentleman speaks with so much weight and experience, that I do not like a charge of that kind to go abroad without pointing out that there is another side to his contention. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that the new programme for next year was altogether inadequate. Now, I do not take that view. In the first place, I would point out that we have now Estimates of almost unparalleled magnitude. The building estimate is now over £0,000,000 and as long as we keep it at that figure, or anything like it, the amount of work done in any one year is something gigantic. The right hon. Gentleman suggested, and the hon. Member who followed him adopted the suggestion, that in this matter the Admiralty are not provident; that though they are adding to the strength of the Fleet this year and the next year a considerable number of ships, yet they are not looking forward to the next five or six years and making provision for additions at those dates. Now, if this could he truly said, it would, indeed, he a very strong condemnation of the policy of the Admiralty. But I can assure the House that that is not the case.
I will not quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman as to the matter of standard; 821 I believe the right hon. Gentleman has always taken a rather more advanced view, and has advocated a standard of relative strength even greater than is acceptable to many Members of the House. I prefer to take the view that had been taken by the First Lord, and to say that our duty is to have a naval force which shall certainly be equal to that of two other Powers, and shall also be equal to any reasonable emergency with which we may expect to be confronted. This, of course, involves a power not only equal to, but in excess of, the standard of two Powers. But we have that matter in view, we have that ideal before us, and I can assure the House that our building programme is based upon a consideration of all the facts before us. The right hon. Gentleman spoke as if this were an extraordinarily small programme, but that, I think, is not so. In 1899 two battleships were laid down, in 1900 two battleships, in 1901 three battleships, and next year it is proposed to lay down two. That is to say that in the last two years of this period we are laying down five battleships, as against four in the previous two years. The armoured cruisers in 1899 were four, in 1900 six, in 1901 six, and in the coming year two. That is really a difference of two during the last two of these four years; but against that we have to set a much larger number of destroyers in those two years, considerable additions of submarine boats, and an increase in the new class of scouts which have been referred to. Now what would happen if we were to make large additions to the initial stages of our shipbuilding would be that we would have such an enormous excess on one or two years that the whole of the arrangements which we think are adequate for supplying us with all the ships we require within that period would be thrown out. Shipbuilding goes on in stages, and the ordinary rate of building battleships is three years. There is a small initial expenditure in the first half year, there are two very large expenditures in two following years, and the balance is expended in the last year, and if we got too many ships all coining into what we may call the fat period in one year, we should have an enormous excess of expenditure in one 822 year, and very inadequate expenditure in the year succeeding, and so forth.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
I am not asking for an excess. I am asking the Government to keep to their own standard in this programme.
§ *Mr. ARNOLD-FORSTER
We are keeping to our own standard in cruisers. In order to complete our programme it will be necessary to devote very great resources to it; and I think we should gain nothing by laying down four or five battleships at the beginning of next year. We are now building, and shall be building during the next two years, a very large number of ships. I would point out that, though we had in view, and were guided by, what other Powers are doing, there is a precedent which has been acted upon several times in this House—namely, that of introducing a Supplementary Estimate at a later date, if any unforeseen circumstances should occur to modify our view of our position in regard to other Powers. But I do not think that will be necessary. I believe it will be seen that the method of equalizing the expenditure on construction will in the long run be the wisest and most economical, and will get us the ships in full time. As to the Scouts I cannot give the exact details. They are not yet designed, but they will, no doubt, possess all those qualities which we have the right to expect from the ingenuity of the new Director of Naval Construction. I ant asked what is the object of this new class called Scouts? It is this. There are quarters of the globe in which we are compelled to act at some distance from our base, and it is found that under those circumstances it is not always easy to entrust the work, which in home waters might safely be entrusted to the ordinary destroyer, to a vessel of that type; and we believe we are justified in making the experiment of building vessels somewhat more habitable, somewhat more sea-keeping, and with somewhat heavier armament than the ordinary destroyer, which will thus be enabled to perform the work of destroyers at some distance from their base.
I think I should be guilty of a dereliction of duty if I did not allude to 823 the question of the engineers. The hon. Member for the Kilmarnock Burghs has been good enough to say that this is a matter in which he is very deeply interested. But I would like to remind the House that the difficulties submitted to our consideration with regard to this engineering question are not fully described in the speeches which we have heard, and which present a portion only of the really grave problem that confronts the Admiralty, and which, indeed, confronts every other Admiralty throughout the world. I believe that the difficulties that exist in this country are less both in quality and in degree than the difficulties which have arisen elesewhere and are perplexing the authorities of other countries. I would also like to say that, though nobody can object to this question being raised as it has been to-day, this engineer difficulty to a certain extent is not one arising directly in the Navy. It would be wrong to pretend that it has not sympathy in the Navy, but it is distinctly a matter arising outside the Navy, and that, I think, we must bear in mind. We do not find complaints from officers commanding ships of the condition of their engines, and we do not find that when a strain is put upon the engineers they have failed to respond to it.
I think I am correct in saying that the discipline in the engine room is not only good, but that among all classes of men on board the ships it has been exceptionally good. I mention those two circumstances because I think it right that it should be known. It is very much to the credit of tins all-important body of men. Despite all that hon. Members have said, much of Which ought to have weight, these men have done their work admirably, and have been working their engines in a way which is immensely to the advantage of the Navy. I am quite aware that hon. Members will tell me, and tell me rightly, that I have not really approached the question which agitates their minds. The Admiralty has, as I have said, done something which will tend to improve the position of the engineers. We have added three chief inspectors of machinery and seven inspectors of machinery, and we have given a further allowance to the engineer officer of the flagship, even 824 when there is an inspector of machinery on board. We have also increased the allowance to the officer in charge of the engines of a torpedo-boat destroyer from 2s. to 3s., and we have increased the number of artificer engineers from 133 to 200. We have also taken a step which I think is an exceedingly wise one, and one which will be appreciated—we have allowed engine-room artificers to obtain warrant rank at an earlier age than formerly. I think that is perfectly right, because, owing to these men being unable to obtain their warrants until thirty-five years of age, we were debarred from getting into that important part of a ship's crew young men, and it is most important that we should have the service of young men in the Navy.
Now I come to the more serious part of tins matter, which cannot be dealt with by such measures as I have just described. Two claims have been put forward, and I think it is the duty of those who speak on behalf of the engineers to reconcile these views. There is a claim for more promotion, and a claim for an increased number of engineers. I think I can make it clear that there is no compatibility about those two propositions. I have not heard it suggested that engineers should, under any circumstances, take command of ships,and when it is remembered that there are some 400 ships in commission, and that there will be a much larger number in time of war, the House will see that the flow of promotion that goes on in proper proportion of the lower grades, as between lieutenants on the one hand and engineers on the other, is arrested when the rank of captain is reached, and that the promotion of engineers is pro tanto eliminated from the ascending scale. Until you get over this difficulty you are face to face with this fact—that the more you increase the personnnel of the engineer branch, the smaller is the chance of the promotion of engineers, and hon. Members, I think, would do wisely if they made up their minds to accept the fact that if promotion is to be accelerated to any great extent in the engineer branch, it must be by a relative reduction of the number of engineers borne, otherwise it cannot be accelerated. I think there is some misconception in regard to the question of punishment. The engineer 825 officer stands in no different position from any other officer on board ship. The sole authority on board ship is vested in the captain of the ship. He delegates four of the thirty-one penalties he may inflict to the commander, and three to the officer of Marines. With those two exceptions there is no delegation. The officer of the watch has power, in accordance with an old naval custom, to compel a man to stand on the leeside until the watch is over, but that is a punishment which does not apply to the stokehold, nor to men who are engaged in active work. The principle affecting punishment in the Navy is that no punishment can be inflicted until twenty-four hours after the offence, and then the source of authority is the captain himself. I mention this because I believe the suggestion that some special hardship has been inflicted upon the engineers is part and parcel of a misconception. There appears to be a misconception, which I believe does not exist in the Navy, that there has been some intention to put back the engineers as compared with other officers in the Navy. That is not the fact. The position of the engineers is the result of the historical evolution of the Navy itself, and nothing else. They came into the Navy after it had been established for years, and they took up duties which were not properly understood and of which some do not thoroughly appreciate the importance even now. Their importance has grown with the increasing importance of their duties, and I should be the last to suggest that they have yet received the full recognition they are destined to receive. It is not, however, in accordance with facts to say there has been any putting back of engineers in the position they occupy. The position they occupy is one to which they have come historically, and from which they now in some respects wish to be relieved.
But we are told there is a great desire on the part of bodies outside the Navy—engineering bodies—who have taken up this case to alter their position, and I should be very unwise if I said anything disrespectful of these bodies, who represent a most important class of head and hand workers in this 826 country; but when they undertake to interfere—not using the word in any bad sense — when they undertake to advise upon the internal economy of the Navy, they must be reminded that there are other interests involved besides the interests of engineers, other officers of other branches of the service, what I may call the civil branches, to be thought of, and complicated considerations not to be hastily disposed of, which have to be dealt with. My own view is that it is a lamentable thing that engineer officers should feel impelled to look outside the Navy for their future and the fulfilment of their ambition. There is only one Trades Union that is good for the Navy, and that is the Navy itself. These men should feel they have a part in the traditions of the Navy. It is suggested that they have not yet realised this, and I think the Admiralty would be on right lines in encouraging this feeling among engineer officers, that they are a part of the Navy, and in bringing them within the scope of the traditions of the Navy, and making them feel that there is a future for them there, and that they need not look to any other source. For that reason I deprecate any suggestion that another corps should be formed; it is unnecessary. The corps of Royal Marines has a great historical existence, but I am not sure that if we had to reconstitute it now we should give it the same organisation. I think it may truly be said that among the great public services there is none more conspicuous for absence of cliqueism and unfriendliness than the Navy. There is an absence of any tendency to find fault with superiors, colleagues, or subordinates; and nothing should be done that would tend to introduce any feeling of division or segregation in the Royal Navy.
I have said a great deal less than I should have liked to have said on the subject of engineers, but I feel that I must not say much more. The case has recently been put before the public in a manner which I know has been present to the mind of many Members, and though it may have been a useful contribution to the solution of the controversy, it is not the most valuable contribution that could be made. There are highly 827 coloured statements and exaggerations in it. I find a Table set out for the information, not of people informed upon this subject, but of the general public, purporting to give the increase of horsepower in the Navy and the corresponding increase in the engineering staff, and the moral is drawn that the increase in the personnel is wholly inadequate. But is it not rather an unreasonable thing that in this connection no mention should be made of the fact that, during the time this increase had been going on, nearly 4,000 engine-room artificers have been added? It may be hat these artificers were not competent to take the place of engineers, and a great deal could be said on that point; but not to allude to the creation of this valuable class seems to me to be a misleading method of controversy, and damaging to the case it is supposed to support. I believe a great deal can and will be done by the reasonable advocacy of Members of this House, and they have urged their points of view with a moderation I am bound to acknowledge. I can give no pledges, but I must say that this subject has engaged, and is engaging, the attention of the Admiralty very closely indeed. It is most important that there should be no justification for a feeling of discontent in this branch of the Royal Navy. I do not admit that discontent exists, but I feel that if there be any organised attempt made by a body of men in this country to make a service unpopular, it will be made unpopular, and it will be our aim, if discontent exists, not only to remove every just cause of dissatisfaction, but to bring the engineer, who is an officer of enormous value to the Navy, into full community with the naval tradition.
Then I come to deal with some other points raised by hon. Members. I must ask the permission of my hon. friend the Member for Gateshead to defer what I deem it my duty to say with regard to the question of boilers to a more fitting occasion—when we are discussing Vote 8. My hon. and gallant friend the Member for Great Yarmouth called attention, as he always does, to a very pregnant matter, the question of administration, and the hon. and learned Member for Hadding- 828 tonshire devoted his remarks to the same subject. I do not know whether those hon. Members, when they advocated an addition to the naval staff of the Admiralty, were aware that there had lately been additions of that character. There has been added to the Controller's staff a post captain, who is able to give and does give very valuable assistance in the carrying out of the duties of that office, and the appointment of another very capable naval officer, whose name is well known to many Members of this House, Admiral Eardley Wilmot, in connection with the Naval Ordnance Department, will go a little way, though perhaps not far enough, to meet the desire of hon. Members that there should be a larger infusion of the naval element at the disposal of the naval Members of the Board in the carrying out of their very arduous duties.
I should be untrue to the views I have so often expressed in this House if I were to pretend that there was no weight in the contentions of the hon. Member for Haddingtonshire with regard to organisation for war. But my reading of the problem is a little different from his. I do not say there is no room for improvement in the Admiralty itself though we have a Naval Intelligence Department, which has grown very rapidly of late years, and is now most valuable, though I do not pretend to say that it might not with advantage be extended. The figures which the hon. Member quoted with regard to the large personnel of the German Intelligence Department as compared with our own are suggestive. But I confess I am still unregenerate in regard to the broader aspect of this question. I cannot help feeling that there is need in this country for a more general organisation, not only of the naval or the military branch, for war, but of both services together, and of the enormous resources of the Empire for the conduct of war. I have no hesitation in saying this, because the absence of such an organisation is not, perhaps, a matter of reproach to anybody at this particular moment. If this organisation, which I fondly hope we may one day possess, were to be considered necessary, it could not be created in one year or two years, but would require a long 829 and patient course of application of knowledge and experience before it could be of any value. We have to deal with a problem far more complicated than that of any of the Continental nations, and, though I believe in the goodwill and capacity of the chiefs of the various departments of this country, I am still of opinion that such an organisation as that which I refer to involves enormous professional study and an almost life-long devotion, which can only be given systematically by those who have the leisure and the opportunity. To that extent—and I hope I am not expressing ideas which are not shared by other Members of the House—I am in agreement with the hon. Member for Haddingtonshire.
I do not know whether there are any other points of detail to which I ought to refer, but I would remind the House that if they would now allow Mr. Speaker to leave the Chair, we could practically continue this debate on Vote A on precisely the same lines as those on which it is now being conducted, and with the greater freedom which comes from discussions in Committee.
(11.21.) MR. KEARLEY (Devonport)
said he had attended the debates on Navy estimates for the last ten years, but he had never known the request the hon. Member had just made to be put forward after so short a discussion. There were one or two questions he desired to put to the Secretary to the Admiralty. The first was whether any good reason could be given for the recommendations of the Victualling Committee which had been accepted not being put into force at once. That Committee was appointed two years ago, and the Admirality had had over a year in which to consider its Report, but, according to the First Lord's statement, the changes were not to be introduced until next year. The excuse was that they could not be introduced simultaneously until the necessary reserve stock had been created. That was a somewhat mean excuse. The moment it was made clear that the food of the Navy was inadequate, the grievance 830 should be remedied in the home ports at all events, although there might be some delay with regard to the far off statfons. The second question was with regard to the Naval Ordnance Department. That was now to be formed into a separate branch, and would incorporate the Naval Ordnance Store Department. Wonld the warrant officers have assigned to them the positions in that Department which had been promised to them by successive Lords of the Admiralty for many years past?
With regard to accidents to torpedo boats, the hon. Gentleman had said that they should not be taken too seriously. That was a strange statement. What was it that had directed the public mind to the weakness of these destroyers? It was that last September a boat left the Tyne, and almost immediately, in not very rough weather, foundered, breaking in halves. Was that a matter not to be taken seriously?
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said that he was not referring to the "Cobra," which was not built by the Government or manned by a regular crew from the Royal Navy. He was speaking of the accidents sustained by destroyers in running in and out of port.
§ MR. KEARLEY
said he was not imputing to the right hon. Gentleman the suggestion that the loss of the "Cobra" was not to be taken too seriously, but that it was the loss of the "Cobra" that drew the general attention of the public to the condition of these destroyers. The "Cobra" was taken over by the Government after repeated surveys, and within ten hours of leaving it foundered. He thought the hon. Gentleman was mistaken in saying it had not a naval crew on board; at any rate, sixty-seven sailors lost their lives. The truth was that the building of these destroyers required special skill. The Admiralty had on their list a number of men, but they had a false conception of the ability of these men to turn out destroyers of the necessary quality. The Yarrow firm had built for the Japanese 831 Government destroyers that went straight from the Thames to Japan; those destroyers were of great speed; they met with no accidents whatever, and were running in all sorts of weather. He was afraid the fear of the Admiralty that their torpedo flotilla was not as good as it ought to be would induce them to reverse their policy and lower the speed of the boats, in order that they might be more strongly built. If that were done they would fall altogether behind the other Navies of the world. Other Navies would continue to get what we did not appear to be able to get, viz., boats of adequate stability and quality.
On the question of the progress of construction, he was glad to notice there was no mention in the First Lord's statement of the engineering strike as the cause of the delay. That excuse had been worked for all it was worth. They had now to wait for the report of the Committee as to the causes of the delay, but he believed there was practical agreement on that point without waiting for that report. The First Lord himself was apparently converted to the views which had been so frequently expressed in the House, because on page 6 of his statement he said—It appears to me that what matters is not the date at which ships are commenced, but the date at which they are concluded and ready for commission. The hull, the engines, the armour, the guns, and the gun-mountings must be timed for delivery so that the progress of the ship to completion is never delayed.That was the proper way to build a ship, and year after year it had been advocated in the House that all the necessary parts should be so arranged and ordered in advance that there would be no possibility of the ship being delayed in completion through the non-delivery of any part. Lord Goschen admitted that these delays were due to armour and engines being in arrear, and he thought that when this belated report came out they would not find much that they had not already anticipated as to the cause. There was a great improvement last year in the progress of construction, and as the Secretary to the Admiralty had stated with some pride this was the first time for many years that the full sum had been exhausted in the financial year. 832 Nevertheless, it still took four years or more to build a battleship where the limit used to be a little over two years. Although it took the Admiralty between three and a half and four years to construct a battleship, there were private firms in this country who turned out ships at a much higher speed in considerably less time. He suggested that there should be a limit for the construction of a battleship of two and a half years, and that that limit should not be exceeded under any circumstances, no matter whether the construction took place in the Government yard or by contract. The hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean had already pointed out that some of those ships in the 1897 programme were still not completed or not commissioned. Notable in this respect were the "London," the "Bulwark," the "Bellerophon," and four cruisers of the "Cressy" class, one of which only was in commission. There was one cruiser which was laid down five years ago, and it was not yet in commission. Was this because the boilers had gone wrong? It was some consolation to know that in this House there was only one apologist for these delays. The Secretary to the Admiralty met them very fairly last year, and he had done the same today when he admitted that these delays were serious, and he was glad to hear that the Admiralty were going to exercise all their ingenuity to remedy this. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Antrim last year found consolation in the fact that although this country was falling behind in rapidity of construction England was ahead of all other Powers in this respect except Japan. He would remind the House that the Japanese ships were built in this country. That proved that there were private firms in this country who could produce ships in considerably less time than the Admiralty.
It might be said that it was all very well to criticise, and to meet this argument he would offer some suggestions as to how construction could be hastened. In the first place it behoved the Admiralty to see that they had the most modern and most up-to-date machinery and equipments in the Royal dockyards. The right hon. Gentleman opposite claimed 833 that the machinery was of the best character, but if he had seen some of the best dockyards in Great Britain he did not think the right hon. Gentleman would claim that this country had the most up-to-date machinery. No doubt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was wondering when the Admiralty would be coming to him for additional money to provide new machinery and appliances for the dockyards. The Admiralty should have the courage to take out all the obsolete machinery in the Royal dockyards, which was at present occupying the place where good and modern machinery ought to be. He did not suggest that this change should be done violently or suddenly, but it should be done by degrees as part of a general scheme for the Admiralty to work out gradually until it was completed in every way. They had seen lately in the various Government departments—notably in the War Department and the Admiralty—a disposition to call in Committees to advise them when in difficulties as to how to surmount them. Committees had become almost the order of the day. They had had a Committee to instruct the Admiralty as to the cause of the failure of water-tube boilers. They had a Committee to advise the Admiralty how to surmount the arrears of shipbuilding. There had also been a Committee to advise the War Office how to reform its internal economy. Another Committee had been appointed to advise the Admiralty as to the value of the existing torpedo flotilla. He now ventured to suggest the appointment of another Committee to go into the Question of ascertaining what was required in the Government dockyards in the way of equipment, to give them what was required if construction was to increase in rapidity in order to secure the best and the most modern reforms. Such a body should be a roving Committee. It should not only inquire in this country, but it should go to the United States and to Germany, and having seen what there was to be seen there this Committee should thoroughly overhaul the dockyards, condemn everything that was obsolete, and put down new machinery. He was sure that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be delighted to find 834 money for that purpose. He thought that was a practical suggestion.
He had now something to say about the way contract ships were being built and delivered. On page 7 of the Admiralty Report, the First Lord said that no doubt there had lately been some congestion of the work of repairs in the dockyards, and in order to affect a radical cure it had been decided to utilise also the private yards where the ships were built for the purpose of repairs. He thought that was only touching the fringe of the reform which was necessary. Why should they send the ships that were built by contract back to the private yards to be repaired What was the cause of the congestion of work in the dockyards? On page 13 of the Admiralty Report there were many paragraphs in the statement of the First Lord which pointed unmistakably to the cause of the congestion, which was mainly due to vessels being sent from the contractors to be finished in the Government dockyards. There was one of their dockyards which was so inefficiently equipped that they could not complete a ship there, and some of the ships delivered by the contractors had to be sent to Portsmouth to be completed. Could anything be more extravagant or unbusinesslike? Why should not a ship built by contract be absolutely finished by the contractor?
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
I do not say that that is impossible, but what I do say is that no time is lost because the guns are not made by the contractors. No delay is caused because the guns are fitted by our own gunnery officers at Portsmouth.
§ MR. KEARLEY
thought he could show the right hon. Gentleman that he was 835 not right in that respect. He maintained that these ships should be completely built and equipped by the contractor. This was not the practice when contractors in this country built ships for foreign Governments, for it was made part of the contract to complete the ships; and in case a foreign Government desired to supply the guns they were sent over to the contractor's yard. When the Japanese Government bought a battleship from Armstrong's, it was delivered ready for use, completely equipped with the guns on board, and this was all done as part of the contract. If it was possible for the Japanese Government to do this, why was it impossible in the case of our own Government? This practice was leading to an enormous waste of time and money, and frequently twelve months elapsed between the deliveries of the contractors and the passing of the ship into the Fleet Reserve.
He would give the right hon. Gentleman an example of this delay. He had already referred in the earlier part of his remarks to the delay in commissioning some of the ships of the "Cressy" class. About ten or twelve months ago a ship of this class was delivered, and she had not yet even done her gun trial, and she was not ready to be placed in Commission. So necessary was it that this particular ship should be got ready that he had actually been told that the Channel Squadron was waiting for this particular cruiser because the "Diadem" had broken down. He did not see why the Government should go on pursuing the policy of having these ships delivered without the guns being mounted or, at any rate, being placed on board. Even turrets had to be put in by the men 836 in the Government dockyards. It was not only a great waste of time, but also a waste of money, because when these ships from the contractor were placed in Government dockyards, a great deal of undoing of contractors work took place. When the Admiralty received a ship from the contractor, they often began to introduce some of their modern improvements, which meant great expense in labour and material, and he did not think it led to much good. When a ship had been carefully designed he thought it was a great mistake to try and alter her, except in the very earliest stages of her construction. After a ship had been designed and commenced to build, if they began to pull her about it was sure to lead to a great deal of extravagance. All that could be obviated by so arranging matters that they would have these ships completed at the contractor's dockyards.
It might be said that there was some difficulty as to supervision, but that was purely a matter of organisation. Some years ago they had a system of having a senior labour officer constantly visiting the contractor's yards, and looking after the progress that was being made with the work. For some reason or other, however, that Department was abolished, but now it had been resuscitated, and the officer at the head of this department was a gentleman who was spoken of in the highest possible terms. This officer had taken upon himself the responsibility of going round the contractors yards, in order to see that the ships were progressing satisfactorily. Surely it would be within the power of the Admiralty to extend this officer's responsibilities, and allow him to take with him an adequate 837 staff, including an engineer, staff commander, and warrant officers, representing the gunnery and other branches. If this were done, he did not think there would be any difficulty at all. The Admiralty had already proved that there was no difficulty in this respect, because they had taken an initial step which he hoped would be followed again in the future by sending the guns of the "Russell" to the dockyard where the ship was built. He hoped that practice would be continued and instead of sending contract ships round to the Government dockyards to be completed, he hoped they would be finished off completely by the contractor. He suggested that as a cure for the delays which were constantly occurring.
He wished to say a few words about the training of the personnel. One of the most satisfactory things which had been announced was the attention which was being paid to the question of training both officers and men, which was very much to the front ust now at the Admiralty. No doubt this had been pressed upon their attention by the criticisms brought forward in this House from time to time, and he thought it was opportune to make some observations upon it, more especially as the First Lord had suggested in his statement that any criticism would always be welcomed by the Admiralty. The First Lord had stated that no ships, however excellent, would effect anything in the hands of an inefficient personnel. He was glad to see that recognised, for it ought to be put in the front. He wished to refer to the criticism which had been levelled, notably within the last twelve months, at the system of training officers in general. 838 That brought him to ask whether the training of officers, at all events of junior officers, was as efficient and thorough as it might be. He thought they would all agree that Naval men were more professional than their military colleagues. They had less temptation to escape their proper work or indulge in recreation; and, therefore, he thought naval men would welcome most cordially anything that would make their work more interesting, and give them more opportunities for thorough study in the direction of improving their scientific knowledge, and so on. Much of their work at present was not interesting and simply consisted of wasting time, and it would be a good thing if more time could be afforded to them for the study of such subjects as gunnery, torpedo navigation, and signalling, all of which were necessary qualifications to make them efficient men.
As regarded the time that was wasted, let them take for example a big battleship or a cruiser. She might be in dry dock, but all the time the ship was there the Naval officers would be walking up and down the decks practically doing nothing of any importance, for their total duties consisted really in receiving senior officers when they came on board. and superintending small matters which might very well be left to the warrant officers or to the senior petty officers. Last year when the Navy Estimates were discussed one of the great reforms promised was that many of the duties now performed by military men should be eliminated, and he suggested to the Admiralty whether it was not worth their while to overhaul this sort of thing and see whethersome of the duties which werenow so wasteful of time could not be delegated in the way he had suggested either to 839 warrant officers or to senior petty officers. In this way they would have the Naval officers perfectly free to benefit by the improved training which he was sure the Admiralty desired that the officers should have. Those who thought a great deal upon these matters suggested that the most important thing to be insisted upon was that there should be frequent practice in the handling and the manœuvring of ships. They might reply that this was being done already, but there was not enough of it being done, and if they wanted to give their officers that confidence which was necessary they should have more frequent opportunities of manœuvring with steam craft, torpedo boats, and so on. He was not suggesting that the junior officers should be entrusted with the torpedo craft, but there were other opportunities for them. His point was, that if they wished to develop in an officer, confidence, good eyes, cool judgment, and nerve; if they wanted to train him so that as he advanced to higher commands and got control of bigger vessels, he would feel at home with them, the only way to accomplish this was to ground him from the very commencement through all the various stages of training. He was informed that the Channel Squadron and Channel Fleet had sometime ago a five months cruise, and during the whole of that time the junior officers were only exercised in steam craft tactics twice. He sincerely hoped that things had improved now in that respect.
Another important matter was the question of signalling, and every officer ought to be thoroughly equipped on this subject. Only those officers who were bound to know this subject had at present a complete and perfect knowledge of signalling, and consequently the majority 840 of officers could not read naval signals with facility, because that subject was in the hands of the signalling staff. He thought the Admiralty should pay special attention to signalling, and insist that every officer should have a competent knowledge of this subject. In steam tactics, not only should the junior officers be thoroughly exercised, but they should be given the position for the time being of Captain of one of these boats, and allowed to take the responsibility. It had been suggested that in these miniature fleets they should go as Commodores. Lord Charles Beresford adopted for the very first time the exercising of his captains in taking charge of the Fleet, and that practice was quite novel, for it had never been put into operation by any Naval officer before. He thought that practice might very well be imitated by the Admiralty in other directions. Some very favourable comments had been passed on the School of Naval strategy. Some time ago the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean put a Question to Lord Goschen as to the advisability of starting this School of Naval Strategy, but his lordship then received the suggestion rather coolly. Within a year, however, of that Question being put, they found the Admiralty taking the Question up, and what he hoped for now was that the Admiralty would carry out their determination to make that school a thoroughly efficient in institution.
It being Midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.
Debate to be resumed on Monday next.
§ Adjourned at five minutes after Twelve o'clock till Monday next.