HC Deb 16 March 1903 vol 119 c878

The arrangements for coaling the Fleet, which are enormously important, have been steadily progressing. The progress made last year was very marked, and if the House passes the Estimate we are now asking for it will be greater still. Nothing could be more disastrous than the neglect of what appear to be, but are not, small details of Fleet administration. The power to get coal on board your ships when they arrive, in the shortest time, may mean all the difference between defeat and success. I can assure the House that the coaling problem has been engaging the attention of the Admiralty, and that we are now giving effect to the result of a long and careful consideration in providing, as far as we can, plant for coaling all our great ships. And we are doing what is also very important. We are storing throughout the world, in ever-increasing proportions, the patent fuel which takes the place for storage purposes of Welsh coal. My noble friend the late Member for Woolwich, I remember, attacked, or shall I say, "chaffed," the Admiralty on the ground that we were behind the Turk in our ignorance of the fact that Welsh coal deteriorates in storage, and he recommended us to try patent fuel. I remember that at the very time that he was actually commanding in the Mediterranean there were many thousands of tons of this patent fuel stored under his nose, and I can give the House the assurance that what was begun then is being continued now.