HC Deb 21 February 1902 vol 103 cc740-1

The progress of the submarine boats has been more rapid than we had anticipated, and the five boats on which we proposed to spend a portion only of the money during the first year have been or will be completed, and the whole money practically spent upon them, during the present year. In order to obtain that money we have asked for a Supplementary Estimate. Another boat is being built, which we believe will be an improvement on those already constructed at Barrow, and we propose to continue this process of adding sub- marines to our Fleet. The destroyers, which have attracted so much public attention, perhaps not so much by their virtues as by their failings, are to be metamorphosed in the future. We are strengthening those in the existing Fleet which appear to require structural additions, and a new type of destroyer has been designed which we believe will give as good results for ordinary purposes of steaming at sea as those of a nominally higher speed which we have hitherto possessed, but which will be stronger and more able to stand the buffeting of the sea I should like to call attention, in connection with this matter, to the fact that, although there have been a considerable number of mishaps, we must not view them too seriously, The handling of a destroyer is a very difficult, delicate, and dangerous performance; and I am quite certain that, if we take too serious a view of the injuries inflicted upon destroyers, owing to the difficulty of handling them, we shall be discouraging a set of officers who deserve every encouragement—men who risk their lives in peace, and are still more ready to risk them in war. We have taken a measure which, I think, is a reasonable one. We have decided to make use of the comparatively less excellent boats, which will be put in the second rank, for peace exercises, and to keep our new boats in reserve, so as to save them from the changes and chances which appear to overtake so many of these boats during peace exercises.