HC Deb 21 February 1902 vol 103 cc728-9

The first matter which claims our attention is the personnel of the Navy. There has been this year, as there must be in view of every increase of the fleet, an increase of the personnel provided for. That increase amounts to 3,875 men. I need not enter into an analysis of this increase, because hon. Members will have the particulars before them in the appendix to the statement provided by the First Lord, and those who are curious will be able to analyse the figures for themselves and see what proportion of each rating is contained in this total of 3,875 men. I believe there are many other Members besides myself in the House who regard not altogether with satisfaction the circumstance that we have now reached, or shall by the end of next year have reached, the total of 122,500 men on the active service ratings of the Navy, but I believe that I am speaking the view of every naval man when I say that if we could indefinitely increase that number we should be greatly helping the Navy. I believe that long-service men are perhaps the best material for maritime warfare that you can possibly procure; and if the resources of this country in men and money were absolutely unlimited it might conceivably be desirable to add, equally indefinitely, to your long-service ratings. But there are other considerations which we must not lose sight of. For every man you add to the active service list, there must be a corresponding addition to every branch of naval equipment—to the hospitals, to the training schools and training ships, and to the accommodation on shore and at sea. Not only that, but you have to find occupation for them in peace time, you have to find ships to send them to sea in, and the cost, even with all the wealth of this country, becomes very serious indeed.

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