§ 1. £1,502,000, Works, Buildings, and Repairs, at Home and Abroad.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
said there was an increase in this Vote of £400,000, half of which was due to the automatic increase of the annuities payable under the Naval Works Acts. He asked the Civil Lord what was the total expenditure under the Naval Works Acts during the current year, and what was the probable amount of expenditure under these Acts in the succeeding year. He also wished to have an Estimate of the prospective increase of annuities payable in the immediate future under these 586 Acts. He hoped the Naval Works Bill would be introduced as soon as the Admiralty could find it convenient to introduce it. In past years it had been brought in far too late in the session. The net amount of this Vote was £1,000,000. That was a very serious matter, because ten or eleven years ago £400,000 was considered to be the normal amount of this Vote. Since then the great bulk of what used to fall on the Vote had been removed and placed under the Works Act, and thus they had a serious prospect before them of a large expenditure in connection with the Vote. That made it impossible for them to pursue the old practice of accepting the demands of the Admiralty under this Vote as primâ facie reasonable. The enormous increase of the Estimates made it necessary for the House to require a full explanation of every demand made by the Admiralty. It was impossible for a private Member to point to items in a large Vote and say they were unnecessary. They ought, at any rate, to be given information as to the new proposals made by the Government as apart from those already sanctioned by Parliament. He suggested that the Civil Lord should himself begin the debate on this Vote by giving the Committee an explanation of the new works of magnitude, such as those at Chatham, Portland, Malta, Jamaica, and Wei-hai-Wei. Particularly he would ask for some explanation of the item of £40,000 for land purchase. Had that anything to do with any previous policy of land purchase sanctioned by the House?
That was an example of the sort of large item which required a little preliminary explanation from the representative of the Admiralty before the Committee were asked to consider it at all. There was another proposal which was quite new and quite exceptional, the proposal with regard to Osborne. It was novel in this respect, that in every other case the Admiralty had always informed the Committee what the total amount would be that the Committee would be asked to authorise, but with regard to this Osborne work the Committee were asked to sanction an expenditure of £40,000 and they were not told of what whole that sum 587 was a part. That was a matter as to which the Committee ought to be informed, because when the Vote was once passed they would not have the right to put these questions. He submitted that under the circumstances the hon. Member who represented the Admiralty should be invited to commence the debate and give such information as he could upon these matters, and he would also invite him to say—in the calculation which he possibly had made, but which they were not able to make, of all the works both big and small—whether he had been able to arrive at the gross amount which the Committee was asked to sanction.
§ THE CIVIL LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. PRETYMAN, Suffolk, Wood bridge)
said in answer to the invitation of the hon. Member opposite it might be convenient if he were to say a few words on the position of affairs before the Committee on the question of works of magnitude. With regard to the general increase of that Vote he was justified in pointing out that the general expenditure on works could not be very well separated between this Vote and the Loans Acts, because, after all, it was all works, but although large works were dealt with by a Loan Act, he thought on this particular Vote the Committee should have an opportunity of discussing this question as a whole and raising the question of works generally. There was a doable answer to the general increase firstly, it was clearly due to the deficient expenditure in the past, upon works which had now to be filled up, and he thought that the hon. Gentleman opposite, who partly did that work, was largely responsible on that very ground for this policy of Loan Acts It was hardly sufficiently realised by those who initiated the wholesale expansion of the Navy generally, what that would amount to. It was taken for granted that the Navy consisted mainly of ships, though it might also have been considered that men would be required, but it was insufficiently considered what land defence would be required for those men and those ships. Let him take the question of berthing, which was a good illustration 588 to enable a landsman to realise the magnitude of this question. A first-class cruiser required more than thirty acres of water space for berthing room, and when they came to talk of berthing a fleet, and to consider the further point that where ships used to be able to lie in the open roadsteads safe from all attack save from vessels of their own size, they were now liable to be attacked by torpedoes, with the result that large ships, requiring this enormous amount of space, could no longer lie out in the open roadsteads, but had to be confined in what might be described as torpedo safe harbours and required enlarged barracks and stores of all kinds, hon. Members could realise what that meant. One of the items related to oil stores, which might sound rather prosaic, but where would the Mediterranean Fleet be if there was no proper base for the supply of oil upon which that fleet depended. He sometimes thought that the responsibility of the Admiralty was really greater in these matters than in the provision of the ships themselves. If the Admiralty did not do its duty in supplying a building programme there was not an hon. Member in this House who would not claim to display his knowledge of naval matters before the Committee in criticising the Admiralty, but it was extremely difficult for any hon. Member, however anxious he might be to criticise the Naval Votes, to follow all these details and say what was necessary, and what ought to be done. The responsibility lay more heavily on the Admiralty in these matters, for which they were not so liable to be called to account if they fell behind, since the results to the country would be just as disastrous as if a fleet was not built.
The Committee was voting enormous sums to build ships, and it was the duty of the Admiralty to do what was necessary for those ships. That was the answer to the great expansion of expenditure on the fleet generally, whether in Loan Acts or this Vote. With regard to the question of the estimated expenditure under the Works Acts of last year and the previous year, the Committee would remember it was about £6,000,000, and the Admiralty had spent up to within £400,000 of that 589 amount, or perhaps a little more. He would not elaborate that point, as he understood the hon. Member only required the information generally as a financial guide. But he was afraid he would not be able to say what the expenditure was likely to be during the coming year, because the exact form of the Works Bill was not yet settled, and he had no figures which he could give with confidence at this stage. With regard to the question of the annuities on Vote 10, that was an actuarial calculation, which could easily be made so as to show what the interest would amount to on these different sums as they were borrowed. There was no doubt the whole of the annuities would amount, before many years had passed, to several millions, but he could not hold out any hope to the hon Gentleman that that would be the bulk of Vote 10, nor could he hold out any hope to the Committee that the expenditure on Vote 10 was likely to fall below one million if at all. Because if hon. Gentlemen would consider what the expenditure had been, and what it would be in the course of the year, and what a small percentage of maintenance there was on such works as docks and breakwaters—on works of that kind there was not much required for maintenance—but when they came to deal with barracks, hospitals, stores, and other buildings the expenditure for maintenance was very heavy indeed. That expenditure would and must follow the large capital expenditure that was now being incurred. The hon. Gentleman opposite had desired him to make some statement as to the new works of magnitude now being initiated, but he had not made the calculation, and was not able to do so. If the hon. Gentleman had given him notice, it would have been possible to put the exact figures together. He could say, generally, that the expenditure on real or new works under this Vote amounted practically to £100,000 this year at least, that was his impression. They were not all works of magnitude, that was an expression which might be variously interpreted. To what limit did the hon. Gentleman go?
§ MR. PRETYMAN
The hon. Gentleman had asked with respect to particular works at Chatham and Portland. Owing to a fire breaking out at Chatham a few months ago, it had been necessary to rebuild the mould left there completely. There was no need to speak of the extension of the electrical workshops; electrical works and machinery were constantly required to develop that shop in accordance with the advance of electrical science. A thousand pounds was being asked for new roads, and that was required merely for the development of roads as the dockyard expanded. As to the expenditure on the store for water tube boilers, the hon. Member for Gateshead would perhaps hold that the boilers were better in the store than on board ship, and possibly on that ground would be induced to support the Vote. There was also the provision of six tanks for the storage of lubricating oil. The only new item of importance at Portland was the erection of three official residences, one for the harbour master, one for the works officer, and the other for the naval store officer. The expenditure really arose from the completion of the breakwater at Portland, which place was now to be the base for the Home Fleet, a considerable increase of establishment being thereby involved. The harbour master, who would have considerable duties to perform, had only recently been appointed, and as no house existed for him it was necessary to build one. The breakwater would be taken over from the contractor in about eight weeks time, and it would then be necessary to have at Portland a superintending engineer who will be on the spot. In the same way, being the headquarters of the Home Fleet, Portland would naturally be a much larger depôt for stores than it had previously been. The land on which the houses were built had cost the Admiralty nothing, as they had been able to obtain an eligible site from the War Office.
The question concerning Os borne raised a point of greater interest and importance. Under the new scheme for the entry and the training of naval officers, it was decided to establish another training college, 591 because one college would not be sufficient. Just before that decision His Majesty had signified his intention, without knowing that it would at once be put to such good use, of presenting Osborne House and grounds to the country. It was always a matter of great difficulty to acquire eligible sites for any kind of naval establishment, but here, thanks to His Majesty, they had a most admirable site, in a situation second to none. There were also ready to hand such things as a water supply, a drainage system, and so forth, which ordinarily would have taken a long time to provide, and, in addition to the land, a large block of buildings, hitherto used as stables, which at comparatively little cost would become available for classrooms, offices, and other necessary premises. A short distance away was the Medina, suitable for boating purposes, and an excellent site had been found on the shore for an engineering school in which the cadets would be taught that branch of their profession. Cadets who entered under the present system, which would continue for another two or three years, would still enter the old "Britannia" ship. About the middle or end of next year it was hoped the new Britannia College would be available for new entrants, who in the meantime would be provided for at Osborne. Eventually the entrants would fill both the Britannia College and Osborne, but at present the accommodation at Osborne would be necessary only to meet requirements until the new Britannia College was ready. When that college was full, which would be in about two years, they would have to come back to Osborne, and the two establishments together would meet the entire wants of the service. It was hoped the buildings at Osborne would be ready for the accommodation of cadets in or about August next. The buildings, which were not to be of a high architectural character, would be in the nature of bungalows, constructed of a sanitary, and durable, material called Euralite—no wood would be used; the flooring would be of concrete with a paving; and the heating arrangement would be by steam from a separate boiler house. A large gymnasium and recreation hall were also being provided. The total number of cadets provided 592 for in the two establishments would be between 700 and 800. Changes in the naval service were very frequent, so that it was desirable to be able to vary the accommodation as required, without having to alter existing buildings to any great extent. This end would be secured by the system being adopted at Osborne. The class-rooms, gymnasium, and so forth were separate, and could be added to without difficulty when occasion arose. Each bungalow would accommodate about thirty cadets, and about 200 would be provided for at Osborne, that being the accommodation required pending the completion of Britannia College. As to the £40,000 for the purchase of land, the Admiralty had had compulsorily to take land at Deal for a rifle range, but there was no really large item involved, the sum covering all the purchases proposed for the year.
§ SIR WILLIAM ALLAN (Gateshead)
said it was self-evident that this Works Vote would always increase year by year. When the late Liberal Administration nine and a half years ago began to build vessels of the dimensions of the "Terrible" the Admiralty had no docks to put them in. From that time onwards there had been a gradual and natural growth of Works expenditure. Dry docks and wet docks were necessary, and, so far from being surprised at the increase, he thought the growth of expenditure under this Vote was small considering what had had to be done. Ten years ago they had no proper tools or docks at Devonport or Chatham. Therefore he could account for all the increases in the dockyard expenses. There was another item of £23,000 for naval armaments, such as torpedo boat stations and outfit, and there was an increase in the educational expenses of £74,550. That seemed to be a large item for education, but it was all necessitated by the increased cost of training officers. There was another item of £15,000 for ordinary repairs and maintenance at home and abroad, but that was a very small item indeed. He did not consider any of these increases out of the way, considering the magnitude of the work they had got to do. They had to dock their vessels and repair them, and make them fit for sea in the 593 shortest possible time. They could not do that at the present time. Had the Admiralty proper dock accommodation and repairing ships, engine factories, and a proper system for repairing the ships in their own dockyards? He contended that they had not. Speaking from a practical point of view he believed that this Vote would increase in quantity every year, and the Admiralty should not rest until every factory at Devonport, Portsmouth, Pembroke, and Sheerness was able to repair any of their ships, and if they were not fit to do this they should get the money to make them fit. So far as he was concerned he did not object to this Vote, and in future years they ought to make their dockyards fit to repair any of their ships instead of having to send them all round the coast to Glasgow or Belfast to have repairs done which ought to be done in their own dockyards.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
said there were one or two points upon which he desired to obtain some further information. With regard to Jamaica he was glad to see a new charge of £1,000, because it disposed of the humour that the Admiralty were changing their policy with regard to the position of Jamaica as a coaling station. With regard to the Cape, the First Lord of the Admiralty's Memorandum told hem that the preliminary work there had been commenced. He should be had if his hon. friend would give them further statement as to what was the fact position with regard to the progress of the dock at Simon's Bay. He noticed in item for house accommodation for the police of £1,400, and another sum of 2,000 for a residence for the Commander-Chief's secretary's clerks. He noticed so that there was a further charge for new storehouse for ammunition. It speared to him that they were going spend as much on residences to commodate the police and the Commander-in-Chief's secretary's clerks as fey were spending upon ammunition stores. The Admiral had his flagship, and accommodation on board for his secretary and clerks, and he could not see why further accommodation on shore was necessary. There was another item for a cooking-house and 594 reading-room at Esquimalt, about which he should like some information. He wished to know something about the tenure of the land. Had the Canadian Government given the land for nothing, or did the Admiralty hold it under a perpetual arrangement, because in other colonies there was very great confusion as to the nature of the Imperial tenure of the land upon which Imperial buildings were built? Was this cooking-house and reading-room for the Government employees in Esquimalt, or was it for the blue-jackets or Marines when they went ashore? If the latter, was it necessary, in view of the fact that they had there an Imperial garrison under the War Office already supplied with cooking-houses and reading-rooms? These dual arrangements at our coaling stations too often involved double expense.
With reference to the Falkland Islands they would become places of the utmost importance in case the Suez Canal was blocked. Therefore, the Admiralty were right in making provision at the Falkland Islands for coaling. They were told in the First Lord of the Admiralty's Memorandum that the arrangements would be complete this year, but there was a further charge of £3,000 to complete, which was not a new charge. If this work was to be completed in the current year, he did not see why it came on the Estimates for the next financial year. He wished to know whether this expenditure covered provision for rapid coaling in order to secure that the ships should have all those facilities that modern science had provided. He wished to know if the buildings there were so arranged as to provide for protection from the weather, and whether anything was being done to protect the coaling stations in the unhappy event of war. His hon. friend might say that that was a War Office affair. Had any demand boon made by the Admiralty in the Imperial interests that the War Office should make arrangements to provide for such an event in order to give this coaling station the necessary military local protection? The point was one of very great importance. The real truth was that if war was unhappily to break out in the month of April or May, it was in the water area of which the Falkland Islands were the centre that the protection of our wheat supply would be most 595 pressing. He had often complained of exaggerated works and garrisons at coaling stations elsewhere, and he was not going to commit a breach of order by discussing the matter now. He knew that the War Office was piling on money and exaggerating expenditure for the protection of garrisons in other parts of the world, and he wished to know what was being done in regard to the coaling stations to which he had referred. Were they to be left open to attack and destruction by the most insignificant improvised cruiser? With regard to Wei-hai-Wei, he reminded the Committee that there was an expenditure by the War Office at that place on buildings. According to the Estimates it was proposed to provide a new hospital there, and he wished to know what had happened to the buildings the War Office paid for. Was it not possible to render any part of these buildings fit for hospital purposes? Was this to be a brand-new hospital? He found there was a new charge of £6,000 on the Estimates for lunatics and prisoners at Plymouth. Yarmouth had hitherto been the place for the treatment of the unfortunate creatures belonging to the Navy who had lost their mind. Was it not a new departure to have lunatic wards in ordinary hospitals where hitherto that class had not been taken in?
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB
said it was on the Estimates, but if there was no such proposal he need not pursue the matter further. If additional accommodation was required for lunatics, he wished to know whether due inquiry had been made as to the possibility of obtaining suitable ground at Yarmouth from unused War Office ground adjoining, with the view to the establishment being still concentrated there.
§ MR BUCHANAN (Perthshire, E.)
called attention to item M. M.—"Purchases of lands and buildings at home and abroad," amounting to £40,000, as against £15,000 for the year now closing. What was the reason why the Estimates did not tell the purposes for which this money was being asked? Until two 596 years ago the invariable practice was to give, on the Naval Estimates, particulars of the purposes for which the money was being asked. This year the Committee had an extra claim for particulars, seeing that there was an increase of £25,000. By giving more accurate information on the Estimates as to the purposes for which the money was asked, the tendency would be to curb the putting down undue sums. His hon. friend the Member for Dundee asked what was the amount of the commitment on the Estimates for new works during the ensuing year, but, judging from the reply, the Civil Lord hardly understood the Question. The hon. Gentleman said the Estimate was £100,000, but clearly that figure was wide of the mark.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said the amounts were not shown in regard to many of the minor items. The Committee might fairly have expected the hon. Gentleman to tell them the total amount of the commitments under the term "New Works." There were one or two items in regard to which he had given no explanation. One was £20,000 for "accommodation on shore for boys' training establishments at Harwich"; the other was £88,000 for a general hospital and sanatorium at the Cape of Good Hope. There were sums which, added to these, showed that the total commitment would be £400,000. It would only be fair to the Committee to state what they were committing them selves to by passing this Vote. He was disappointed to find that the hon. Gentleman was unable to give the probable expenditure under the Naval Works Act. It had been the custom in past years for the First Lord to give a statement in regard to estimated expenditure on new works at the beginning of the Estimates.
§ MR. PRETYMAN
said that was done when there was no New Works Bill. This year there was a New Works Bill.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said the hon. Gentleman was not quite correct. During the whole of the time that Lord Goschen was First Lord of the Admiralty he always gave an estimate of the amount to be expended on new works. They did not ask the hon. Gentleman to commit himself to a precise figure, but they did insist upon getting a general idea of the total amount estimated to be expended during the ensuing year on new works. A further reason for insisting upon this information was that it had become the practice year after year to put later and later the consideration of the Naval Works Act. He did not think it was a fair way of treating the House of Commons and the taxpayers of the country. He should like to know how the charges were apportioned between the Naval Works Act and this Vote. Was there any principle adopted by the Admiralty as to what new works should be put on the Votes and what should be included in the Naval Works Act? He thought the general idea most hon. Members had was that expenditure was put in the Naval Works Act when it involved millions of money on works the construction of which extended over a considerable number of years, and which were of a distinctly permanent character. It was argued with force and plausibility that the expenditure on large and important naval works which would benefit not only ourselves but our successors should be borne on the expenses not of a single year, in view of the fact that the terminable annuities were for twenty-five years. But when they came to look into the details of the matter they found that while large works were undoubtedly put into the Naval Works Act, there was also expenditure which certainly did not come under that category, and which it appeared to him would be much more suitable under the Naval Works Vote. At present they were putting in the Naval Works Act exactly analogous works which had been previously included in the Works Vote. There ought to be some justification for this practice. Credit was taken under the Naval Works Act of 1901 for dredging 598 and deepening the docks at the dock yards for a large sum, and for something over a million for improving coaling facilities. That might have been right or might have been wrong, but it was not a proper purpose for which money should be borrowed. In this Vote now before the Committee, notwithstanding what was done under the Naval Works Act of 1901, they found several items for dredging and improving coaling facilities. That showed that there was no hard and fast line as to what should be in the Naval Works Act and what should be borne on the Naval Votes of the year. There was a correspondence attached to the Appropriation accounts just issued which showed that instructions had been issued by the Admiralty to confine the works at Wei-hai-Wei to those which had been actually started. That showed that these works were essentially temporary in character, and yet the cost was going to be defrayed out of borrowed money and not borne on the Estimates of the year. He thought that was most improper, and more especially as Parliament had not been informed of this intention on the part of the Government to spend no more money at Wei-hai-Wei. If the House of Commons was to retain any control over the expenditure on the Naval Works they ought to have some statement from the Civil Lord as to the general grounds on which the Admiralty included one charge on the Votes and another charge in the Naval Works Act.
§ GENERAL LAURIE (Pembroke and Haverfordwest)
said he wished to follow the line of thought placed before the Committee by the hon. Member for Gateshead in pointing out that they had been building ships but had been making no preparation for repairing them. Actually in time of peace they had been driven to private yards to get the ordinary wear and tear repairs made. What then would be their position in war time? It seemed to him to be their first duty to have dockyards in which repairs could be carried out so as to send back disabled ships to their stations as soon as possible after being repaired. There was some difficulty in obtaining official information as to the supply of docks available, and although it could be obtained privately 599 they could not use it in debate. The hon. and gallant Member for Great Yarmouth had pointed out the importance of keeping open the route for food which came round Cape Horn by the Falkland Islands, but practically all our food supply would pass the Eastern Atlantic and strike first the West Coast of these Islands. In time of war they ought to have these ships protected, and it was probably there that we should fight, but disabled ships would find a passage round the Land's End very dangerous, and yet there was no provision for refitting them on the West Coast north of the Land's End. It was true there were two docks at Haulbowline, but, practically, at these there was no establishment of men to do the repairs. At Milford Haven, on the other hand, there was a large establishment of men but no repairing dock. He hoped the Admiralty would consider this matter and make further arrangements for repairing ships and supplying proper dock accommodation, especially on the West Coast north of Land's End.
§ MR. REGINALD LUCAS (Portsmouth)
said he wished for some explanation as to the expenditure on naval works at Wei-hai-Wei.
§ SIR JOHN GORST (Cambridge University)
said he wanted to support the appeal made to the Government by the hon. Member for East Perthshire. Some sort of line should be laid down by the Admiralty as to what should be put in the Works Bill and what on the Navy Votes; otherwise the House of Commons would lose its financial control. He rose particularly to ask a question of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty about the expenditure at Osborne. He supposed it was much more convenient to discuss the question of the cost of the school at Osborne on the Education Vote than on this particular Vote. It was a well-established financial principle of the Committee of Supply that no item should be voted for the service of the year unless the whole Vote for the service was before the Committee, In his younger days that principle was particularly observed. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty said that in some two or three years there 600 might be another demand for new works at Osborne. He thought that the omission to give the total expenditure was mainly caused by the hurry in which the resolution to adapt these premises was taken; but the Civil Lord ought to say what was the total estimate which the Admiralty considered sufficient to make the buildings at Osborne fit to receive the 200 cadets. That, surely, ought not to be a very difficult thing to state; and it ought to be stated before the amount was granted.
§ SIR A. HAYTER (Walsall)
said he wished to emphasise the importance of the principle which had been laid down by his hon. friend the Member for Perthshire, namely, as to disassociating expenditure under the Naval Works Acts from expenditure taken on the Estimates. It was almost impossible for the Public Accounts Committee to find out what the expense on any particular item was. For instance, in the last issue of the Naval Works Act, £636,000 was taken for deepening the harbour approaches at Portsmouth; and £98,000 was subsequently taken on the Estimates. Therefore, it could not be said that only small sums were taken on the Estimates; and unless a definite principle was laid down it would be very difficult for the Public Accounts Committee to ascertain what the exact expenditure was. There was one item on the Estimates which had a very extraordinary history. It was the item for a cold meat store. Originally it was intended for an ammunition store, but when completed it was found to be too damp for that purpose. He asked about the matter the other day on the Army Estimates. The Secretary of State for War stated that £47,000 had been spent between the two services in adapting the store to a frozen meat store; and the right hon. Gentleman explained that the expense was mainly due to the freezing machinery which had been put in. But that only amounted to £9,000; and he could not understand, if the store had been properly built originally, that a sum of £38,000 would be required to turn it from an ammunition store into a frozen meat store. Then it also appeared that new canteens were to be constructed at Malta and Wei-hai-Wei; and he wished to know why only 601 a very small proportion of the total amount was now being asked for.
§ MR. PRETYMAN
said that the amounts taken for the comparatively small items mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman really depended on the time that the operations would be commenced. If they were going to commence immediately larger amounts would have to be asked for. But they were not going to commence at once; and the amounts they had asked for would be sufficient for the financial year. With reference to the cold meat store, it was a matter entirely of War Office expenditure and War Office direction of the works. The Admiralty asked for what they required; and where the work was for the accommodation of both services, as in this case, it was usual for either the Admiralty or the War Office, according to local necessities and local capacity, to undertake it, charging a proportion of the cost to each Department. In such a case the Department actually carrying out the work was held entirely responsible. Where, however, work was done by one Department for another, it had been recently laid down that it should be carefully inspected before being taken over, and before it was paid for. With reference to the details of the works he was afraid he was not in a position to give them to the right hon. Gentleman. They were prepared to pay their proportion of the actual cost, as far as the original amount expended was concerned, and he had no doubt that they were getting value for it.
As to the general question of the allocation of expenditure between Works Acts and the Votes, it was one of considerable importance. As regarded the question in the concrete, it was one which it was proper to discuss; but the hon. Member for East Perthshire, in the actual instances he brought forward, mentioned two or three cases where small sums had been expended under loans. That was the case some years ago, but was not the case now; and the instances referred to by the hon. Gentleman were works which were entirely out of date. The Schedule was not one which contained the works 602 actually now in progress, but all the works which had ever been included in a Naval Works Act since the present series commenced. He quite admitted that, as in all cases where a line had to be drawn, particular instances might arise in which it was rather difficult to draw it; but the principle had been correctly laid down by his right hon. friend the Member for the Cambridge University, who said that where there were large works of a permanent character the policy was that they would be justified in borrowing money for them; and throwing, in that manner, a portion of the charge on posterity. He thought if the Committee looked at the Schedule of the present Works Acts they would see that no item was included not in that category. It was true that some works were still placed on the Votes for which large sums of money had been taken on the Works Acts, especially for dredging and coaling. That was easily accounted for. With regard to dredging, it was very simple to draw the line. New dredging of a permanent character, where it was necessary to dredge out a berth and convert shallow water into 20 or 30 feet deep was a charge on the Works Act. On the other hand, maintenance dredging, which was constantly going on, and which would be required to keep the berths open, was a charge on the Votes. As to coaling, a sum of £1,000,000 sterling was taken in the Works Act of the year before last, as a special provision for large coaling depôts. None of that money was allocated for the ordinary work of providing coal stores, or the ordinary accommodation of the fleet for coaling; but it was most desirable, under the principle which was accepted by the House two years ago, that a large capital sum should be voted for the provision of coaling bases with modern appliances at certain specified stations. But that did not exempt the Admiralty from continuing expenditure under the Vote on the ordinary coaling service of the Fleet, which went on as before. He did not think that anything more was necessary to be said. With reference to the hospital at Wei-hai-Wei, it was at first difficult to decide whether it should be a loan item or be put on the Votes; but when the policy of Wei hai-Wei was changed, the amount 603 became clearly a Vote item. The cost of the Cape Hospital was also charged on the Votes.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
asked why only £1,000 was taken for Wei hai-Wei, and why such small progress was made when the total item was £45,000.
§ MR. PRETYMAN
said the reason why expenditure on Wei-hai-Wei was very small was that they were fortunate in securing a very large War Office building called Queen's House. When we originally took over Wei-hai-Wei as a station, practically the whole of the property was bought by the Admiralty and the War Office. Now under the new arrangement Wei-hai-Wei would be under the jurisdiction of the Colonial Office. The military establishment had been withdrawn altogether and the Admiralty establishment had been reduced, and an arrangement had been made by which all the buildings which had been the property of the War Office and the Admiralty, and which were now no longer required by either of those Services, would be handed over to the Colonial Office, who would become the owners of them; but those buildings still required by the Admiralty for use were left in their possession. The Admiralty were also obtaining from the War Office the properties which they had and which the Admiralty now required. Among those was the largest house in the island, the Queen's House, for the purposes of a canteen. It was an entirely new building, and in that way the Admiralty did not see their way to spend more than £1,000. But they were not precluded from spending money if they found themselves able to do so, because the position of this Vote was that the Admiralty, with the sanction of the Treasury, could, if in any item they were able to make more progress, and if they were saving upon another item, spend on the one what they saved upon the other, always providing they did not exceed the total Vote of the year. That was the procedure which had been adopted, and there was no other possible way of dealing with the matter, because it was impossible to tell beforehand exactly how far conditions would allow progress to proceed on any single item.
604 With reference to the points raised by the hon. Baronet the Member for Yarmouth, the residences at Jamaica were being built solely on sanitary grounds. The present accommodation was very insanitary, and these residences, when built, would be allocated to those who were now accommodated in the present insanitary area. They were not for new accommodation. With reference to the residences at St. Simon's Bay, in South Africa, they no doubt were rather costly, but that was due to the cost of labour in South Africa at the present moment, and the difficulty of hiring residences there. The Commander-in-Chief found it necessary to provide accommodation, although it was not usual, but it was absolutely impossible to get residences which were already built, and it had to be done in this way. With regard to the cook house and reading room at Esquimalt there was no new policy involved. The old cook house and reading room were described as being uninhabitable, and this was simply reprovision of accommodation. It was not in any way for dockyard ratings, but solely for men of the Fleet. It not infrequently happened that crews had to be landed to wait for other ships, or ships had to be refitted, and this money was to provide for the accommodation of the men in those cases. The Admiralty tenure of the land at Esquimalt was beyond dispute, and formed part of the naval reservation before Esquimalt existed. The accommodation at the Falkland Islands was for 6,000 tons of coal, which was covered and protected from the weather. The arrangements for coaling there were not on the modern scale, which would be most costly. The hon. Baronet must remember where these islands were. The most powerful fleet would think some time before attempting to molest them.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB
said he did not speak of fleets but insignificant marauding cruisers which could coal at neutral ports within less than 600 miles of the Falklands.
§ MR. PRETYMAN
said he would not deal with the naval policy on this Vote, but the tender and barges provided 605 would always be available for transferring coal to ships coaling there. There were no defences at the Falkland Islands, that was not due to the advice of the War Office but the Admiralty, which considered that these islands must always be in the possession of those who held the sea, and were quite content to trust the Navy to defend them, and had not considered it necessary to make any demand for defences. With regard to the lunatics ward at Plymouth, that heading perhaps was rather misleading. There was an entire reconstruction going on at the present time at Plymouth, and this ward was one of those which had to be reconstructed, and the lunatics and prisoners there had to be provided for. There was no change of policy so far as Yarmouth was concerned; the expenditure there was the ordinary expenditure.
The hon. Member for Perthshire expressed the opinion that from the point of view of economy every item under the sub-head "Land" should be detailed for the Committee, and that before negotiations began there should appear on the Estimates the sum the Government were prepared to pay for land, and that this sum should be as large as was necessary to cover the purchase! He did not think that such a practice would conduce to economy. He did not think the hon. Member, if he were going to negotiate a purchase on his own account, would adopt any such practice. He hoped the Committee would give the Admiralty credit for doing their best for national economy and getting the land they required as cheaply as possible.
With regard to the boys' training establishments on land, the ships now used as training establishments for boys were rotten and insanitary, and the Admiralty had many cases where there had been illness, and some, unfortunately, of death. They had been able to make some comparisons, because there was a large training establishment for boys at Greenwich where there were 1,000 boys, and the comparison of that training establishment with a floating one with a similar number of boys had shown a distinct advantage in favour of training establishments ashore. Many of the boys had been brought from inland districts and had not had any previous 606 sea training, and it might be argued that if they were to be trained on shore they would not be brought into the sea-atmosphere which was so desirable. That was a natural and justifiable criticism, but the difficulty would be provided for by there being allotted to each training establishment, not an anchored vessel as at present, but a small cruiser, in which the boys would be able to obtain sea training under conditions much more resembling those of actual service than was at present possible; so that the Admiralty hoped to gain rather than to lose from that point of view. There was also an advantage as regarded the health of the boys. At present the boys on the ships slept in hammocks, and the medical officers considered that growing boys did not develop physically so well in hammocks as they would do if they slept in beds; therefore beds would be provided in these training establishments. The buildings would be of the bungalow type, about fifty boys being provided for in each, and in that way it was roughly estimated that accommodation would be provided at about £60 per boy. For obvious reasons he asked the hon. Member not to press him on the question of the sites. The total commitments for new items on the Vote, when completed, would amount to £560,000. Some of the works would take a considerable time to carry out, and that sum included the two large items of the Osborne Training Establishment, and the training establishments ashore for boys.
As to increasing the repairing accommodation in the yards, it was of enormous importance that in peace time the commercial yards should be given repairing work so that they might acquire actual experience in the work of repairing naval vessels; otherwise in war time delays might arise with very serious results to the country. With regard to the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University, the £40,000 asked for would provide practically the whole of the accommodation that would be required before the Britannia College was ready for occupation. As the work was not being carried out by the Admiralty 607 he had not studied the figures as he would otherwise have done. The land being Crown land, handed over not to the Admiralty but to the nation, the Office of Works had charge of the operations. The Admiralty were greatly indebted to the Office of Works for the manner in which, at such short notice, they had taken up the work. The matter was not proposed until about last Christmas, and that the buildings should be ready for 200 cadets by next August, which he hoped would be the case, was really a phenomenal result.
§ MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
said the total of £560,000 was a gigantic sum for new commitments, and it was only reasonable to ask that all the items should be put together in future Estimates so that they could be considered beforehand. He also asked that particulars should be given of the purchase of any land that was to be borne on the Votes. The item had jumped from £15,000 to £40,000, but the practice of explaining its object which had prevailed with regard to the smaller sum had been departed from. He objected to the liberality with which the Admiralty were acceding to every appeal made to them. Items of an extraordinary character were being introduced. For instance, why should Malta get a theatre at a cost of £8,000? The very next item was £10,000 for a new church. Why should the Admiralty put up churches? If one at Eastney, why not others elsewhere? Then there was a swimming bath and a recreation room. None of these items had been explained. He should have thought sailors would swim in the sea. The fact of the matter was that the Admiralty had got into the habit of doing everything that anybody asked them to do without inquiring as to the cost or giving any particulars to the House of Commons.
§ MR. PRETYMAN
pointed out that there were about 15,000 active service ratings in the Mediterranean Fleet, of which Malta was the headquarters, and it was of enormous importance that the men should be provided with some rational amusement when ashore. The 608 men themselves, out of the canteen takings, provided considerable sums for the furnishing and running of the canteen and for providing amusement, recreation, and instruction for themselves. This matter had received very careful attention. The theatre was on Admiralty property, and as the Admiralty had for national purposes to retain power to resume possession of the land at any moment, it was not thought right that the savings of the men should be applied to the erection of permanent buildings in which they could not be allowed any property; therefore it had been decided to provide money and place it on the Votes. With regard to the church at Eastney, the marine barracks were a considerable distance from any existing church; a new church was absolutely necessary, and it had always been the policy of Parliament to provide money for the erection of churches or chapels for large garrisons, whether naval or military, where the men had not sufficient access to the parish church. As to the swimming bath, the hon. Member appeared to be of the opinion of the man who declared he would never go into the water until he could swim. These baths were for teaching the men to swim, and were part of the establishment.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £2,292,500, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the expense of victualling and clothing for the Navy, including the cost of victualling establishments at home and abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1904."
§ MR. KEARLEY
said that this Vote was £200,000 in excess of the normal sum. The dietary of the Navy was a matter he had taken a considerable interest in for some years and he had raised the matter almost every year. His complaint in the past had been in regard to the lack of variety in the food, because for many years the dietary of the Navy had remained without any deviation. The meal hours used to be very curious indeed, and he was very 609 glad that the Admiralty had now recognised that the complaints made in former years, both with regard to the lack of variety in the food and the meal hours were well founded. The Admiralty now recommended that there should be five recognised meal times during the day, finishing up with a supper at half-past seven or eight o'clock at night. This would prove to be a great boon to the men, because under the old system a man used to get his last meal at half-past four, and he had to be on duty sometimes at four or five o'clock the next morning, and that was a great trial. As regarded the rations, the Committee which had gone into this question recommended an increase in variety and also an increase in quantity. It would be seen that the Committee's recommendations were fairly liberal from the fact that the additional cost was £187,000 per year. Since the Committee's Report was published the Navy had continued to increase, and he doubted very much whether the actual increase in the future would be less than £200,000 a year. This increase only applied to the service rations, and in addition to that the seamen had to supplement their dietary out of their own money, out, of savings obtained by a money grant for rations which they did not consume. The amount of these savings was largely increasing; that was to say, that the money grant in lieu of rations was largely increasing. The total amount voted this year for food was in round figures £1,288,000, and the amount paid back in savings was £520,000. A large portion of the service rations were, therefore, not taken up at all.
As the canteens now formed an official part of the victualling of the Fleet, he wished to call attention to their management. The Committee pointed out that the extension of the system of canteens had affected the quantity of service rations taken up by the men. If any further evidence was required he only needed to mention the fact that the annual canteen turnover of a battleship amounted to something like £6,000 a year. One would have supposed that the Admiralty would have considered it their duty to instruct the Committee to inquire into the conduct and management of canteens, but the terms of the 610 reference almost excluded it from their consideration. Hon. Members would find it stated in the Report that the Admiralty were not prepared to consider the question of the management of these canteens being placed directly under the Government, because they were satisfied that their existence on board ship gave great comfort to the men, and that the present system, under which they were practically managed by the men themselves, with certain officers for disciplinary purposes, was a sound one. Those were the terms of the reference laid down by the Admiralty, and they seemed to think that there was no room for any particular improvement, and they would have no hand whatever in the conduct and management of the canteen. He would try to prove that the system was not a good one, and he believed that he would be able to show that under the present canteen system corruption and bribery were rampant, that the men were "fleeced" and robbed, and that it was really such an important part of the victualling of the Navy that he did not think the Admiralty were justified in allowing this state of things to go on. He thought it was the supreme duty of the Admiralty to see that the management of these canteens was made efficient.
There were two systems of canteens, one called the service or co-operative system, and the other the tenant system. The tenant system mainly applied to depôts and barracks, and was more of a shore system, but the co-operative system prevailed most generally upon ships in commission away from the harbours. Nominally, under the co-operative system, the management was under the control of an officer who was the president of the committee. The committee was supposed to be elective and thoroughly representative of the lower deck. The committee were responsible for the prices at which the articles were sold, and they controlled the quality also. According to the Report they also distributed the profits. The men had to supplement the dietary by providing money out of their own pockets for the canteen, and they were charged an exorbitant profit upon the cost of the articles. These 611 profits were spent in a variety of ways. They went to provide prizes at sports, general amusements, contributions to service charities, and other purposes. The men were charged an excessive price for their food so that there would be a margin for these purposes. But, as a matter of fact, the actual management of these canteens was run by a small coterie from the lower deck in a hole-and-corner manner, and the crew at large had no idea of what was going on. They very rarely saw the accounts, and if they did see them, they were not in a position to discuss them. This little coterie from the lower deck made a practice of blackmailing the contractor, who, having submitted to the usual commission, regulated his prices accordingly. Therefore the consumer was the man who suffered all the time. Those were rather strong statements to make in the House of Commons, and he should have been a little loth to make them if he could not support them. These things were, however, shown in the Committee's Report. Not long ago he wrote to Lord Selborne, asking for a copy of the evidence given before this Committee, and he also asked whether it was the intention of the Admiralty to publish the evidence. Lord Selborne replied that the Admiralty had no intention of publishing that evidence because it was given before a Departmental Committee. The Committee had abundant evidence that bribery existed. He had a fair acquaintance with the men on the lower deck, having known a number of them for the last twelve years. He had heard what they had to say, but he did not press this subject simply because he was the representative of Devonport. He had received information from various channels in all parts of the world. It was no question of his constituents; in fact, the bulk of his information came from various stations where ships were in commission; and everything he had been told, verified the Report of the Committee who inquired into the matter.
The recommendation of the Committee was hardly worth considering seriously. It was that in future the commanding officer should have the selection of the canteen system to 612 be employed—that was to say, whether it was to be the co-operative system or what was called the tenant system. The commanding officer was also to have the selection of the tradesmen who were to supply the canteen. In another part of the Report it was mentioned that officers had the greatest objection to running these canteens, they had not the necessary training, and he did not think that particular recommendation would lead to much reform. He doubted whether any commanding officer would be able, single-handed, to stop the system of bribery and corruption which prevailed. He had a small bundle of letters in his hand, written not to him directly, but to the editor of a service paper, from fifty-six ships in commission, and from every station where the Navy went, complaining of this vile system of blackmailing and robbery. He thought these were not too strong terms to use. He was not going to attempt to shield the men who did the blackmailing. He did not say that it took place on every ship. He was perfectly willing to hand the letters to the Admiralty if they treated them confidentially and did not bring the men to book for complaining. He had classified the articles referred to, and had taken only those of daily consumption. He had put against them what would be a fair price for the men to pay on shore at home ports. The canteen price for sugar was 3d. to 6d. per lb. against 1½d.; cheese, 1s. to 1s. 4d. per lb. against 7d.; tea (which was free from duty on board His Majesty's ships) 1s. 8d. to 1s. 10d. per lb. against 10d.; tinned salmon, 9d. to 11d. per tin against 5d.; tinned herrings, 6½d. to 8d. per tin against 4d.; rice, 3d. to 5d. per lb. against 1½d.; currants, 8d. to 11½d. per lb. against 3d.; tapioca, 5d. to 6½d. per lb. against 2½d.; peel, 9d. to 1s. 7d. per lb. against 4d.; raisins, 7d. to 9d. per lb. against 3¼d.; Sunlight soap, 1s. to 1s. 1½d. per box against 7½d.; Quaker oats, 10d. to 11¼d. per lb. against 5½d.; and jams, 2½d. per tin against 1d. He had extracted these prices paid on board ship from the letters. He would read some extracts from the letters. From the "Illustrious" in the Mediterranean—I may state that there has been a lot of trouble caused over the canteen of late aboard 613 here. I really cannot side with the men for doing what they did. Their bills were so excessive they refused to pay them. Of course they were had over the coals for this, and eventually the money stopped out of their pay, and then they threw a lot of valuable service gear overboard because they had to pay. I hope that something will be done towards clearing such robbers out of His Majesty's ships.From the "Centurion," Portsmouth—Prices charged are too great according to the ship's company's idea, and the goods that we had were of the most inferior quality and far dearer than bumboat prices anywhere in China or Japan. The ship's company have always been under the impression that the canteen was not properly managed; they had a new canteen committee every quarter—one for each branch; papers were sent round to each mess at the end of each quarter, but the lower deck did not even know who the majority of the votes were for, as it was never put on the canteen notice board.From the "Cruiser," Naples—Maltese canteens are nearly all alike as regards the management of them and the way they are conducted; different prices for different ratings; English weights to-day and Maltese weights to-morrow; selling goods on board at double the price they can be procured ashore, are a few of the failings of the Maltese bumboat system. … Now our canteen is nothing better than the general run of them, if it is not worse. Our commanding officer told us when we were in Malta that if we were not satisfied with this canteen we could have another one. We were not satisfied with it, but we could not see the difference in Antonio Tabonio or Baptista Borda or Michael Borg robbing us, so we decided to retain the former, as we reckoned if we had to be robbed it was immaterial to us which of them it was. It is the system which is rotten, and I think the only way it can be remedied is by abolishing it altogether and substituting a better system.From the "Sans Pareil," Sheerness—The general run of mess bills each month is 7s. 6d. to 10s. per man drawing 5s. per week, poor devils! and if they cannot pay their mess bills their leave is stopped till they can, so most of them get it stopped, as it takes over one week's pay to settle their mess.From the "Cæsar," Lagos Bay—The goods supplied are far from being the best quality—in fact, it may be safely stated that the most inferior goods that can be purchased either from the local or British markets are the general rule.From the "Perseus," Persian Gulf—I am sending an accurate list of our canteen stores, the exorbitant prices of which must surpass the prices of any other ship in the British Navy. Our men are up in arms about it. There are dozens of men whose private canteen bills during the last month have exceeded their month's pay, and then they have only just the bare necessaries of life. We 614 commissioned on March 7th last, and no statement whatever as to canteen accounts has been made, and all we can hear is 'canteen is so much in debt.' At Kurachi, where we could get things cheap, they stopped the bumboatmen from bringing these aboard, as it was stopping the sale of things in our canteen. Some of the things are of a very inferior quality, the butter not being fit for scouring bright work let alone eating.He had scores of letters all contributing the same testimony. The Committee had suggested a reform, but he held that the Admiralty had a far larger responsibility than could be met by carrying out what was proposed. The Admiralty ought themselves to become buyers of those articles which were taken into the canteen, and sell them at a fair margin of profit. The men should not be left to the tender mercies of the scoundrels who blackmailed them by charging extravagant prices. If it would necessitate storage all over the world why not provide it? The present methods were quite out of date. The Admiralty objected to make a change on the ground that it would interfere with the general principles of victualling the Fleet. The general principle of victualling the Fleet was most extraordinary and reeked with red-tape. In time of war the whole service rations, the Admiralty Regulations stated, would be available, all accounts would disappear, and no savings would be granted to the men, who would have to take up their full sea victualling. And in pursuance of that principle the Admiralty said that they had always ready reserve stores to meet the emergencies of war. Therefore they crowded their Victualling Yards with stores which were not consumed, and were largely in excess of their requirements. The result was that the stores deteriorated, and became stale. There was little outlet for the articles in reserve in time of peace because they could be procured on shore. Consequently, when the Admiralty did issue them out of reserve, in the majority of cases they were stale. It was on record that beef thirty years old had been issued to the Fleet, and ten-year-old beef was not uncommon. The Committee said that the beef was satisfactory, but with that he disagreed, and he maintained that the system was antiquated and complicated. The Committee said that these stores were treated like superannuated servants, and after a certain period were compulsorily 615 retired. They were sent to a "rummage" sale, where they fetched a quarter of what they cost. The system was, therefore, not only costly, but it involved the Fleet receiving provisions that were not in a fit state to eat. He contended that, in the face of all these revelations, the Admiralty were not justified in retaining this antiquated system of keeping large reserves. He believed that the only satisfactory thing in the South African war was the feeding of the men. When the war came the manufacturers of the Empire were called upon, and they furnished sufficient supplies for the needs of the Army. He understood that the Admiralty said that the case of the Navy was quite different; but if they could not victual their Fleet in time of war, how could they expect to hold command of the sea in time of war? The Committee were entitled to ask the Admiralty to make some inquiry into this belated system. He sometimes wondered who would have to eat those articles which had been passed out of the reserve stores as not being considered good enough for the men of the Navy!
He had a few words to say as regarded the question of quality. There were two sources of supply from which rations were stocked for, and distributed to, the Navy—first, contractors, and second, the Government manufactories in the Victualling Yards. The Committee said in their Report that, so far as the quality of the goods supplied by the former was concerned, everything was satisfactory, and that the quality of the goods from the latter was perfectly satisfactory. But from facts frequently brought under his notice, he held that every article manufactured by the Government was bad except cocoa, and the very best proof of that was that the men refused to take them up. On page 16 of this Report of the Committee there was a reference to flour. Now, the Government made their own flour. But the Committee admitted that there was a consensus of opinion among the officers and men that the service flour was inferior to that purchased in the canteen. The service flour was—Coarser, darker in colour, did not mix readily for the purpose of making bread, and was regarded by the men with a good deal of prejudice.616 The Committee investigated the matter very carefully, and were convinced that although it differed from the canteen flour it was not of inferior quality. Now, he always thought that the consumer was the best judge of the quality of an article: and he insisted that the men of the lower deck were better judges of the service flour than two or three admirals, post-captains, and the other members of the Committee. Again, that Committee said that the flour was manufactured from the finest wheat that could be procured, and underwent no adulteration during manufacture. Nobody suggested that it was adulterated, but why was it that the flour manufactured in the Victualling Yards was "coarser, darker in colour, and did not mix readily for the purpose of making bread?" Were these the attributes of the flour milled from the "finest wheat" by the flour manufacturers in the country provided with the best machinery in the world? Why should the Government engage in this sort of manufacture and in turning out rascally bad flour—as they did? Then take the ships biscuit. The Committee said that there was no real ground of complaint. He had heard that statement over and over again. The fact was that the biscuit was complained of. If there was not very much to be said about the quality of the biscuit, he should have a good deal to say about the cost. He was certain that from some of the best firms of biscuit bakers in the country the Admiralty could get a better quality of biscuit at a much lower price. Again, the Admiralty manufactured their own oatmeal at the Victualling Yards. At page 20 of the Report of the Committee there was a criticism of the consumer of oatmeal. It was said that as an ordinary article of diet oatmeal was not appreciated in the Navy, and, except by stokers, was scarcely ever taken up. Therefore it was to be abolished from the dietary of the Navy. But why did not the men take up the oatmeal? It was because it was a bad article. He had seen the oatmeal himself and he declared that it was shocking to attempt to impose it on the men. It was a libel to call it oatmeal at all; it was a most inferior article. The Scotch had a worldwide reputation for making oatmeal. There were great firms in Scotland who could manufacture oatmeal very much cheaper and better than the Admiralty 617 could manufacture it He had been examining the Victualling Accounts and found that it cost the Government 15s. 9d. per 100 lbs. to manufacture oatmeal, while the price at which they could buy it in the open market, delivered at Deptford, was 11s. 2d. per 100 lbs., so that the Admiralty were imposing an additional tax on the poor seamen of 39 per cent for every 100 lbs. of oatmeal supplied to them from their Victualling Yards. He was perfectly safe in saying that the additional cost of production of those articles in the Victualling Yards was from £10,000 to £20,000. Again, take ships biscuits; the cost of these, manufactured in the Victualling Yards, was 16s. 1d. per 100 lbs.; while he had it from channels that might be relied upon that biscuits as good in quality, if not better, could be purchased by the Government in the open market at 9s. 6d. per 100 lbs. Why should the Admiralty go on producing an inferior article at a cost 41 per cent. dearer than they could purchase it from outside manufacturers of the highest repute? There was another article for which the Admiralty were responsible, and that was suet. There was general complaint throughout the Fleet that this suet was an abomination. It was not fit for anyone to consume; it was wholly insanitary; and were it not for that fact, he would press the hon. Gentleman to have a sample of it placed on the Terrace—he would not suggest the tea room—in order that hon. Members might see for themselves what a vile article it was. He had said enough to show that the whole output of the Government, excepting cocoa, was bad. But as regards that, he would suggest that some of the great cocoa manufacturers in the country would be able to produce the article the Admiralty required at a lower price than they could produce it themselves. He would suggest to the Government that they should reconsider their position as manufacturers, and that they should appoint an expert Committee to inquire into the prices for which the articles they now manufactured could be produced by manufacturers of good repute. They were commonplace products, which did not require technical knowledge, as was required in the manufacture of guns; and there were many firms of the highest reputation in this country and 618 the colonies from which the Admiralty could draw their supplies. In conclusion, he would ask whether the hon. Gentleman was disposed to recommend to the Admiralty that they should grant an inquiry into the manufacturing side of their operations. He was perfectly satisfied that they were costly, and that it would be in the interest of all concerned that they should be discontinued. He begged to move the reduction standing in his name.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £2,292,400, be granted for the said Service."—(Mr. Kearley.)
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
said that this was a cross issue, and not a question as between one side of the House and the other. The real principle of the matter was that the Government should themselves supply the great bulk, indeed almost the whole, of what the men required. Then the notorious abuses of the canteen system would be removed. The Secretary to the Admiralty had himself recently seen the German Fleet; and he would be able to tell the Committee what the German system was. They knew what the American system was. He had some reason for thinking that the German system was superior to their own, but undoubtedly the American system was enormously superior. Although in the past the United States Fleet was comparatively small, yet there had been a rapid increase in recent years; and undoubtedly the feeding of the United States Navy was immeasurably superior to that of the British Navy. He could not but think that they would have to level up the quality and conditions of supply, not only in the manner suggested by the Committee, but to a much greater extent. The Committee laid down that it was the duty of the State to give the men all they needed to keep them in a thorough condition of health; and that the men should not be required to purchase additional food, but should be given a sufficient ration to keep them in health. That would get rid of the enormous amount of purchasing which existed at present. He had no experience which would enable him to say how far the men ought to be allowed 619 to pay for canteen purchases; but if the general principle were accepted that the Admiralty should supply enough of sufficiently varied food to keep the men in health, then a great proportion of existing canteen abuses would be removed at once. No one would deny the existence of these abuses. The Secretary to the Admiralty knew the Fleet so well that he must have heard of them; and if anyone went even to Malta and kept his ears open he would hear of them there. The abuses were grotesque in their character and amount; but he doubted whether the remedy suggested by the Committee was sufficient to strike them all away. He thought they would have to go farther. In the United States Fleet there was a much more plentiful and regular supply of fresh meat, vegetables and soft bread for the men. He was certain that the baking of bread would have to become general in their ships just as it was general now in the ships of the United States Navy, where bread was baked every morning sufficient for the ship's company. There must be some grounds for the statements of his hon. friend as to the inferiority of the provisions supplied from the Victualling Yards; but he hesitated to go the whole length of his hon. friend, and to say that any inferiority of food damned the whole system of manufacturing for themselves. Was it not possible that the very abuses that they had been pointing to year after year, threw some light on the inferiority of those products. Year after year, they had said with regard, for instance, to the Deptford Victualling Yard, that men were employed even below labourers' wages to perform skilled work. His hon. friend especially excepted cocoa; and said there were fewer complaints with regard to it. Nevertheless, a few years ago a condemnation of Government chocolate on an immense scale took place at Malta. On the Estimates this year would be found a special grant to the person who supervised the manufacture of chocolate; but their complaint, year after year, was that they employed for the purposes of skilled manufacture a class of labour from which they could not expect a finished product. He would conclude as he began, by saying that the canteen 620 abuses were very great, that they were universally acknowledged, and that they could hardly be entirely remedied by the measures proposed by the Departmental Committee. The Government must look forward to acting in the direction of the United States Government, and to greatly improve and modernise the food of the seamen.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. ARNOLD-FORSTER)
said no apology was needed for bringing this question before the Committee. It was a very important question; and he hoped he should be able to show, in the first place, that the discontent was not as serious as the hon. Gentleman represented it to be, and also that the Admiralty were fully alive to certain defects, to some of which the hon. Gentleman called attention. The hon. Gentleman said that there had been very great delay—three years—in carrying out the recommendations of the Victualling Committee. That was in exact on the hon. Gentleman's own statement. The Report was received in July, 1901; and its recommendations would be brought into effect in October of the present year. That was an interval of considerably less than three years. Of course, it was absolutely necessary that an important Report of this kind should be very carefully considered by several Departments of the Admiralty, and should be laid before the Treasury before any action could be taken. When those processes had been gone through, a decision was come to, very properly as he thought, by the Admiralty, and steps were taken in the direction of the recommendations in the Report. A new scale of rations was decided upon, but before it could be brought into operation, it was necessary that stocks of the provisions not hitherto included in the ration should be provided at all stations throughout the world, in order that on a given day the whole Fleet should be uniformly able to adopt the new scale. He hoped that in October they would arrive at that stage, and the improved scale would then take effect. Perhaps, however, hon. Members would like to know that the Admiralty had been able in one not unimportant particular to anticipate that date, for they had already intro- 621 duced the new scale recommended by the Committee on board the home training ships. He thought no one could exaggerate the importance of giving boys, not only as much food as they required—that they had always had—but food of that description which was essential to them at their particular time of life, which he was not equally certain that they had always had. The hon. Member spoke of the quality and the quantity of the food, and of the times at which the food was taken. The Admiralty had recognised that there was room for improvement in all these respects. The character of the food was to be changed. A greater variety of food was to be included in the ration; and the additional cost, which was mentioned by the hon. Gentleman himself, might be taken as some measure of the improvement which was to be made. The meals had been increased from three to five; though it should not be supposed that at present a man did not get a meal between his supper and the time he turned in. He was always able to obtain additional food. [Mr. KEARLMY: At his own expense.] Yes, out of savings. He mentioned these points to show that the Admiralty did not appoint this Committee for nothing. The Committee took a vast amount of evidence from every class of officer and man in the service; and the Admiralty were not going to throw that information away, but were acting on it in an effective manner. Now he would come to a much more debatable matter.
The hon. Member referred to the question of canteens; and he thought that some hon. Members were probably misled by the hon. Gentleman's somewhat vehement attack on the canteen system In reality, whatever was important in the hon. Member's indictment should be turned to quite a different direction. He should like to explain the circumstances with regard to these canteens. They had been told that there was a large amount of corruption in connection with the canteens. Statements to that effect undoubtedly appeared in the Report of the Victualling Committee, and one hon. Member stated that the corruption was aggravated owing to the fact that men who drew stores from the canteen got inferior 622 articles, and had to pay too much for them. How did that arise? The Admiralty had always undertaken to be responsible for furnishing rations adequate and sufficient for the maintenance of the men; but it had been contended that they had misconceived the amount and the quality that fulfilled that condition; and they had agreed to give larger and more varied rations. There their responsibility ended. They could not prevent the men who had money in their pockets from spending that money in supplementing any rations that might conceivably be given. The hon. Member had contended that the supply of additional food to the men should be taken over by the Admiralty, who should create in each ship a sort of general store from which the men could purchase what they wanted. That would, perhaps, be an ideal solution; but it must be remembered that they were now dealing with the expenditure by the men of their own money, and he would undertake to say that every naval man would say that the moment an attempt was made to transfer the canteens to official direction there would be discontent on the part of the men. It was entirely in deference to the personal wishes of the men that the canteen committees were being continued. These committees were elected freely and openly by the men. They were representative of the men, and everybody who knew anything about Englishmen knew very well that they would exercise their own judgment in spending their own money, however bad that judgment might be. He was quite certain that if the feeling of the lower deck were taken, it would show that to prohibit the men from laying in a stock of provisions for their own use would create a large amount of discontent. They would immediately find that the men would complain that the articles provided for the canteen were either not suitable, or that the prices charged for such articles were more than they could afford to pay. The hon. Member had spoken of the price of the articles. It was perfectly true that many of the prices were exorbitant, but that was due entirely to the action 623 of the committees who managed the canteens, and who were representative of the men themselves, and the men must themselves control those they appointed, seeing that they were the persons who suffered. That was the most effective remedy for the evils from which they, undoubtedly, did suffer. But the Admiralty was not blind to these difficultics. They regretted as much as the hon. Member that there should be these cases of mismanagement and corruption; which were alleged and, indeed, proved against members of the ship's company who were put in a position of trust by their own comrades. Since the Committee reported, the Admiralty had issued a circular to the whole Fleet which had done something to mitigate that state of affairs. That circular declared that mess men, ship's stewards, and others should not have any interest in canteens, and provided that the accounts should be under the direct supervision of the captain and officers, and should be audited at frequent intervals. This would deprive the members of the committees of the temptation which resulted from having supplies of moneys in their hands not accounted for. He did not know whether this circular would produce the effect they all desired; but he believed that, taken in conjunction with the larger rations the Admiralty proposed to give, it would do something. But unless and until the Admiralty saw their way to forbid men making any purchase of provisions for themselves, they could not prevent men spending their money in the way they thought best.
With regard to the quality of the rations, he thought the hon. Member had greatly exaggerated. The hon. Member had spoken of beef having been kept for something like ten years. He did not know whether there had even been an actual period of ten years, but he did know of one case where a large amount of salted beef had been bought and kept for a long period and was absolutely unfit for use, and that directly that case was discovered, steps were immediately taken to provide against a recurrence of any such thing in the future. The Admiralty had taken steps, which ought to be of great advantage, to secure a more regular 624 turnover of all provisions, in order that they should be withdrawn before they had any opportunity of deteriorating. It was very difficult to secure a turnover of what he might term the stock victualling provisions of a ship, but the Admiralty were taking steps to see that they were turned over periodically.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said he could not say as to salt beef, of which very little was supplied or consumed, but as to tinned beef the Admiralty had arranged to draw direct from the trade what they wanted for their war reserves, and were endeavouring to extend the arrangement still further, so that if they did not draw the amount arranged, then the trade were to pass it out of stock and sell it. With regard to flour, he entirely disagreed that the flour supplied had been bad. It was very good flour, but this was one of those cases in which what was good was not always appreciated. He believed it contained a certain amount of bran, and was what was called wholemeal flour, and though it was very wholesome and very nourishing the men did not appear to like it.
He had often had bread baked for him from this flour, and was bound to admit that when he had this flour before him side by side with the Hungarian flour which the men preferred, he rather shared the opinion of the sailors. Under the circumstances he thought the Admiralty had taken a wise course. Inquiries were now being made as to whether the flour the men desired to have could not be better obtained in the open market. The right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean had drawn attention to the fact that in the fleets of Germany, France, and other nations, bread was baked on board the ships That had been tried upon our ships, but whether it was that we were not a bread-eating nation to the same extent as others or not, he did not know, but the practice had 625 not been generally adopted. The Committee, after Carefully considering the matter, decided that it was not desirable to have on every ship a regular installation for baking bread for the whole ship's company. The criticisms of the hon. Member for Devonport as to the quality of the food supplied were greatly exaggerated; they certainly did not apply to the flour, the pork, the cocoa, or the biscuit. The biscuit was an exceedingly palatable and excellent form of food, but be did not know whether Members would like to take it in perpetuity instead of bread; as a matter of fact the sailors did not do so. It had, however, to be remembered that in time of war it was absolutely necessary to have a store which could be depended upon as a substitute for bread when the ships were a long time away from harbour. Oatmeal had not been appreciated, and there seemed to be no reason why it should be continued as a ration. Another ration which at one time it was thought would be appreciated was dried potatoes, but that again, in accordance with the wishes of the men, it had been decided to discard.
The hon. Member, who spoke on this point with great authority, said that the cost of manufacturing some of these articles in the victualling yards was in excess of the cost to private manufacturers. While he would like to hear the other side of the question he did not seriously dispute the hon. Member's knowledge. But the Admiralty had to consider, not only the question of peace, but the question of war, and as long as the Admiralty adhered to the policy—he thought it was a good policy—of being able to supply certain of the principal stores in time of war, it was necessary to keep up in the victualling yards establishments capable of extension, with plant to enable the demand, which would be very great in time of war, to be overtaken. He did not in the least undervalue the remarks of the hon. Member would give the Director of Victualling the benefit of the views, he would be heard with courteous attention, and the exchange of views would probably be of benefit. The Admiralty had really 626 done a great deal more than the hon. Member would have the Committee I believe in the way of improving the arrangements for the comfort of the men on board ship. They had improved the scale of victuals; the quantity had been increased, and the quality improved. The new scale had been introduced on the boys' training ships, and steps were being taken to ensure the freshness and the quality of the provisions to a greater extent than had hitherto been the case. Lastly, the Admiralty were taking a step which he thought would commend itself to the Committee, and certainly to the sailor. From time immemorial the sailor had used his pocket-knife to cut his provisions, and there was a time when not only the agricultural labourer, but almost every working man did the same thing. But that time had long gone by on land; and the superior refinement of modern civilisation had dictated the use of knife, fork, and plate That innovation had been begun at sea. A certain class of the ship's company had been supplied with those really elementary utensils, but they had not hitherto been served out to the ship's company at large. Money was now being taken to provide the whole of the ships' companies with knives, forks spoons and plates, which it was believed would be a welcome addition, and prove a great boon to the men when the new vitualling scale came into force.
§ SIR JAMES JOICEY (Durham, Chester-le-Street)
was glad to find the Admiralty had not lost sight of the Report on these food questions, for they were matters of great importance. One of the first duties of the Admiralty, if they desired to have efficient and contented men, was to see that the food supplied was of the best description. He recognised the difficulty of the Admiralty dealing with the canteen system when the Committee was elected practically by, and was responsible to, the men themselves, but, at the same time, having to a certain extent regulated or approved of the system, they could not altogether divest themselves of the responsibility of seeing that it was carried out satisfactorily. The system of illicit commissions was dangerous and 627 injurious to any industry. A committee, whether connected with a ship or an organisation on shore, could not serve two masters; and he hoped the Secretary to the Admiralty would look into this question, and put a stop to the system if possible. The Government were not free from responsibility as to the class of goods supplied by these committees. Employers on shore were prohibited from having anything to do with the truck system, and the least the Government could do was to see that the goods were properly inspected. As to the stock of provisions for time of war, he could not agree that the quality was always good. During the recent war it had been noticed that whereas the food on the ships supplied by private owners was always of excellent quality, that on ships supplied by the Admiralty was often extremely bad. An officer had stated to him that he was unfortunately on board a ship where the food was from Admiralty stores, and the beef supplied to the men was disgraceful. After being boiled for two hours it was still black and hard as leather, and some of it had to be thrown overboard. There was much to be said for the abolition of the victualling yards. He agreed that instead of themselves manufacturing many of the supplies it would be better to buy them in the country, because private firms, having to face competition, had for their own sakes to keep the best qualities of supplies.
§ MR. REGINALD LUCAS
said that what the men wanted was not so much greater variety as increase of quantity. He asked whether there was really any bonâ fide provision made for supper for the men.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)
thought that when a man with the commercial skill and technical knowledge of the hon. Member for Devonport made such statements as he had done in the full light of publicity, in the House of Commons, there must be a grievance at the back of them, even though the statements were exaggerated in some particulars. The hon. Member had stated that the condition of the Navy was not so 628 bad as had been stated, and he had said that he was fully alive to what was going on. That was only a roundabout way of endorsing the substance of the complaint of the hon. Member for Devonport. The Admiralty ought to give this question immediate consideration. Some of the grievances which had been laid before the House did not exist in the French, German, or American Navies, and what was said to be the most efficient Navy in the world, in the matter of feeding 120,000 men and boys, ought not to be behind the French, German, or American Navies in supplying an excellent variety of food. It had been said that the canteen was not an official institution, but it was recognised by the Admiralty to such an extent that the canteen on board every ship was a feature of naval life which was officially recognised, and which the officials were responsible, to some extent, for carrying on. He rose to remind the Admiralty that even if they had not officially recognised the canteen, it was such an important part of ship life, and made either for peace or discontent, that it was exceedingly important that it should be properly managed in order to stop the lower-deck grumbling and discontent which unfortunately prevailed. He believed that the right way out of the difficulty was to dispense with the necessity for these unofficial canteens by altering the variety and the quality of the food, and minimising the jobbery which existed under the present system.
The Secretary to the Admiralty admitted the high prices charged. When they heard that men had to pay from 50 to 100 per cent. higher prices for the common necessaries of life, it indicated that things were not as good on board as they ought to be. He trusted the hon. Gentleman would give this matter closer attention, and see if such abuses could not be stopped. It had been said that arrangements were being made for a better and more frequent turnover of the food. He supposed that meant that certain beef casks would be examined and if found unsatisfactory would be returned to the stores; that tinned food was to be more often inspected. He did not think that was 629 sufficient. When tinned or salted food was considered unfit for consumption in the Navy, it should be subjected to a chemical bath and for ever destroyed. He was convinced that much of the food given to some of the soldiers on the South African transports was food that had been condemned by the Admiralty as unfit for the sailors. This food was bought up again at such places as Stepney and Mile End, and consequently the troops were fed upon condemned naval stores. But even if the soldiers were not fed upon such food, civilians had no right to be tempted by their poverty to buy those stores. He believed that the food recently condemned in the East End would be found to be the food which was considered not good enough for the sailors, although it was considered good enough for some of the alien Jews in the East End of London.
They ought to put an end to the incessant discontent and grumbling and occasional fights which the present canteen system begat aboard many of their vessels. It was the duty of the Admiralty either to abolish the canteen altogether, as at present existing, or else lay the responsibility of the chairman-hip of the canteen committee upon two of the junior officers, so that the men would have some one to appeal to. He believed that if two of the junior officers were made chairman and vice-chairman of the canteen committee, they would find out the petty officers who were responsible for making the jailors pay 1s. 4d. instead of 7d. for cheese, and 1s. 8d. or 1s. 10d. instead of 9d. for tea. They should run the canteen committee under the supervision of one of the commissioned officers, and then all the cause of this discontent would be removed. He hoped the admiralty would give the men a greater variety of food, and appoint officers to be canteen committee as he had suggested. Failing this, the Admiralty light to remove the discontent by abolishing this unofficial canteen committee, and by seeing officially that the nations were of such a character and variety as the men below deck would be intent and satisfied with. The men id a right to demand that they should be treated in such a way as to get their food as fresh and with as great a variety 630 as possible. A French sailor was able to get cheap and fresh food, and so were the sailors in the American Navy; and if the hon. Gentleman would inquire, he would see how those navies had suppressed red-tape and brought their food arrangements up to date. He felt sure that the same thing could be done by the British Admiralty. He was indebted to the hon. Member for Devonport for raising this question, and he was satisfied that the Admiralty recognised the truth of all his statements. He asked the hon Member who was responsible to the Committee for this section of naval administration to go further than he had been willing to go that afternoon, and to overhaul the victualling yard at Deptford. If he found after inquiry that the management at Deptford was not as good as it ought to be, then he should get rid of the present management. Apart from the wages being bad at Deptford he did not believe that there was that practical knowledge of technical manufacture that the Navy demanded. He suggested that the hon. Member for Devonport, the Secretary to the Admiralty, and another practical man should form a small sub-committee to visit Deptford victualling yard in order to see if it was up-to-date; and if it was found defective a small Committee should be appointed to reorganise the victualling department.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB
said he agreed that the hon. Member for Devonport deserved thanks for the persistent war he had brought this question before the House. He thought, however, that great credit was also due to the persistent efforts of a late Member of the House, Admiral Field, who, in season and out of season, had kept before the House the necessity for making an alteration in the dietary of the men. He thought it was going a little too far to say that the State could provide everything that was wanted by the different tastes of men on board ship. The policy of the Admiralty ought to be to do everything that was possible to bring the different branches of the Service together, so as to make them a homogeneous naval service, and that meant an entire change in the position occupied by the Marines. The whole 631 trend of policy (which must end in that) was an acknowledgment that the Marine was now an anachronism and was bound to be absorbed in the Navy. In regard to the simple matter of clothing, he would point out that the State paid £4 17s. per head for bluejackets, whereas the cost per head for the unsuitable dress of the Marines was £6. If the Admiralty were to clothe the bluejackets in the same way as the Marines there would be an addition to this vote of over £100,000. The attention of the Admiralty ought to be directed to this matter. He wished to call attention to another matter, which was of some importance in promoting perfect harmony betwixt the different branches of the Service. On board ship the Marines and the bluejackets were not all on an equality with regard to victuals, allowances in lieu of victuals, tobacco, and so on. Where they were in the same naval barracks on shore they were all on an equality, but the Marine in a marine barracks was not on an equality in these matters with either bluejacket or Marine in a naval barracks and he therefore asked the Secretary to the Admiralty to look into the matter with the view to introducing a remedy. He thought the Admiralty should endeavour to equalise the conditions of the two branches of the Service when in barracks on shore.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
thought the hon. Member for Battersea was rather hard on the Admiralty in dealing with them in the spirit in which he did. As he had already stated, the hon. Member for Devonport, whose earnestness in the matter they all recognised, had in some respects rather exaggerated his case. Many of his criticisms applied only to the state of affairs prior to the Report of the Committee being received and acted upon, and the Admiralty had recognised that in many respects the old arrangements might be improved. It was a little unfair to say that all the hon. Member's remarks applied to the present state of things, when by instituting the the new scale of rations and introducing other improvements, the Admiralty were carrying out to the best of their ability the recommendations of the Committee. The Admiralty often received very 632 good advice from hon. Members on subjects which had already engaged attention, and on which action had already been taken, and he was always glad to find that excellent advice given by hon. Members had already been anticipated. The hon. Member for Battersea had furnished him with another case in point. He said it would be a good thing if, in the effort to regulate the canteens, the Admiralty could introduce commissioned officers into the management. As a matter of fact the Admiralty already had given orders, in the Fleet Circular already referred to, that the canteens were to be administered by a representative Committee, of which the executive officer of the ship was to be ex officio president, and of which at least one other officer was to be a member. He attached great importance to the presence and co-operation of officers on these Committees, to see that irregularities were not allowed to occur. He wished the hon. Member, however, had been a little more explicit as to this question of canteens; for it was really a question of taking or leaving. Were they or were they not prepared to stop the existence of canteens on board ship? The Admiralty were not at present prepared to take the responsibility for the canteens on board the ships, The irregularities did not occur in respect of any of the Admiralty regulations, but on account of the differences between the various members of the Committees. He thought that it was going a little too far to accuse the Admiralty of not doing something in a matter which they had no power to control, beyond taking the steps he had already described. With regard to the question put by the hon. and gallant Member for Yarmouth as to the difference, under certain circumstances, of the treatment in respect of allowances of Royal Marines and bluejackets, he said they must have regard to the conditions of the two Services as a whole. The Royal Marines were raised under a different engagement, they had different duties to perform, different emoluments, and a different system of training from that in the other branches of the Service. The question of these allowances could not be considered apart from these 633 other points of difference. As to the question whether it would be desirable to alter the dress, he said his impression was that the uniform of the Royal Marines was very much appreciated by the men themselves, and he had never heard of any complaint from them as to its unsuitability for the Service. The hon. Member for Portsmouth had asked a number of questions in regard to rations. The full ration for the mid-day meal had now been divided into two parts. The second portion, which was retained for the evening meal, was taken with cocoa. He understood that was regarded as a satisfactory arrangement, because, as he had more than once stated, the chief complaints that had been made in regard to the victualling were not that the food was insufficient in amount or of inferior quality, but that it was supplied at times which were not agreeable to the men or consistent wth due attention to health.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
thought that on the whole the answer of the Secretary to the Admiralty was satisfactory. His hon. friend the Member for Devonport might very well rest satisfied with the discussion he had initiated. In the circumstances he hoped his hon. friend would not think it necessary to proceed to a Division.
§ MR. KEARLEY
said he would withdraw the Amendment. The Committee had pointed out in their Report that the canteens were officially recognised, and therefore the Admiralty had a direct responsibility for the men getting value for their money. He asked the hon. Gentleman to bear that in mind, and see whether the grievance which he had ventilated could not be remedied. The men, also, should not be levied upon for the purchase of prizes for regattas, or for oilskins for boats' crews, which he maintained was an illegal exaction. He begged leave to withdraw his Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original question again proposed.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)
said he wished to draw the attention of the Committee for the fourth time to 634 the question of the wages paid to the unskilled labourers employed at the Royal Victoria Victualling Yard at Deptford. The men worked in that yard under precisely similar conditions of employment as the men engaged by the War Office at Woolwich. Everything which had been urged with so much weight by the hon. Member for Woolwich in regard to the payment of a living wage at Woolwich held good, and was even more emphasised at Deptford. House rents were even higher than at Woolwich. Three shillings per week was the lowest price for which a decent room could be obtained, while the rent of two rooms was 8s. 6d. per week. He was aware that the Admiralty had improved the wages of these men a year or two ago by 1s. per week; that was to say, after keeping the men waiting for two or three years, and placing them in a worse position than the men working under like conditions for the War Office at Woolwich, the Admiralty had given them a rise of 1s. per week, which had improved their condition but very slightly indeed. It had been shown in the debate connected with the Woolwich workmen that 24s. was practically the lowest living wage for an unskilled labourer in the area of the county of London. He was not exaggerating when he stated that, except in the case of well-known sweaters, no employer of labour in or near Deptford, or in South London, paid less than 24s. per week. It was time the men working under the Admiralty were treated with some consideration, and he was not disposed to let this Vote pass without moving a reduction of £100, in order that it might be clearly ascertained what proportion of the Committee were in favour of giving these men the living wage to which they were entitled. At the wages now paid the best labour could not be obtained, and the coming and going of labourers in the establishment at Deptford was a detriment to efficiency, and a loss to the taxpayer. He begged to move the reduction of the Vote by £100.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum not exceeding £2,292,400 be granted for the said Service."—(Captain Norton.)635
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
said that when a similar question was raised in regard to the payment of labourers at Woolwich below the current rate, the Secretary of State for War had expressed a desire to consult with the Admiralty officials as to what the rate of pay should be at the Government establishments. He asked the Secretary to the Admiralty to go into sympathetic consultation with the Secretary of State for War with the view, if possible, of raising the wages in Deptford and Woolwich from 19s. or 21s. a week to 23s or 24s. a week. He was sure that if the hon. Gentleman did that he would have the consensus of the opinion of the House behind him. He knew that 19s. or 21s. a week for making biscuits or cocoa was below the current rate of wages in South London.
pointed out that the discussion the previous week had not been confined to Woolwich, but had referred to other Departments in the country. He himself had shown that the question related also to the Admiralty establishments at the home ports. It was ten or twelve years since the Admiralty had given any consideration to the wages of the poorest paid men in these establishments.
§ MR. PRETYMAN
said that the pledge given by the Secretary of State for War that this question would be considered by the War Office and the Admiralty in consultation would be fulfilled. Any one who heard what had been stated in the late debate could not but have sympathy with the men who had to pay such high rents. But the question was a very large one, which affected not Deptford alone, and not the labourers alone; they could not go beyond the pledge already given.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
said he was glad to hear that an inquiry would be made into the general condition of the labourers employed by the Admiralty as well as of those under the War Office. Certainly such a pledge had been given the other night by the Secretary of State for War. The Civil Lord had said that this was a large question; it was a large 636 question, and had been often raised in this House. He congratulated his hon. and gallant friend the Member for Newington, W., for his praiseworthy persistency in bringing this matter before the House, and he hoped that good would be done. He would remind the Committee that the House of Commons had passed a specific Resolution that contractors should pay the current rate of wages; and it should not be forgotten that the House of Commons had also said, by Resolution that the Government should be a model employer of labour. If the Government were to be a model employer of labour it would not do to fall behind other employers. He did not think that up to the present moment any Government had fully recognised their responsibilities in this respect. After all, the taxpayers themselves did not desire that the Government should be a sweating employer.
§ MR. ARNOLD - FORSTER
said he wished to make it quite clear that he was not competent or authorised to vary in any way the pledge given by the right hon. the Secretary of State for War that he would consider this matter in consultation with the Admiralty.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
said he did not wish to go further than that. But the Committee understood that the Secretary of State for War had promised to inquire into the state of the labourers employed under the War Office, and they wanted the same promise made in regard to the Admiralty labourers.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON
said he did not attach the slighest importance to the promise given by the hon. Gentleman. He had been put off year after year with such promises; and after five years he only succeeded in getting an advance of a shilling. He was now about to be put off with another promise would the hon. Gentleman definitely promise to give the men in the Deptford victualling yard an advance of a shilling? If the hon. Gentleman would not promise that he would divide.
§ Question put.637
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 76;
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.||Hobhouse, C. E. H. (Bristl, E||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Allan, Sir William (Gateshead)||Holland, Sir William Henry||Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)|
|Ambrose, Robert||Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C.||Rose, Charles Day|
|Bell, Richard||Jones, David Brynmor (Swansea||Samuel, Herbt. L. (Cleveland)|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire)||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)|
|Burns, John||Kearley, Hudson E.||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Burt, Thomas||Labouchere, Henry||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Buxton, Sydney Charles||Law, H. Alex. (Donegal, W.)||Spencer, Rt Hn. C. R. (Northants|
|Caldwell, James||Layland-Barratt, Francis||Sullivan, Donal|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Leese, Sir Jos. F. (Accrington)||Taylor, Theo. C. (Radcliffe)|
|Crombie, John William||Levy, Maurice||Tennant, Harold John|
|Cullinan, J.||Lewis, John Herbert||Thomas, F. Freeman- (Hastings|
|Dalziel, James Henry||Lundon, W.||Toulmin, George|
|Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardign||MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Delany, William||M'Arthur, William (Cornwall)||Wallace, Robert|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||M'Govern, T.||Warner, Thos. Courtenay T.|
|Dunn, Sir William||M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)||Wason, E. (Clackmannan)|
|Edwards, Frank||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)||Wason, J. Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Evans, Saml. T. (Glamorgan)||Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, S.)||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Farrell, James Patrick||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)|
|Fenwick, Charles||O'Dowd, John||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith||O'Mara, James|
|Gilhooly, James||Rea, Russell||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Reddy, M.||Captain Norton and Mr. Lough|
|Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Reid, Sir R. T. (Dumfries)|
|Hayter, Rt Hon Sir Arthur D.||Rigg, Richard|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Cox, Irwin Edwd. Bainbridge||Greene, Sir E. W. (Bury St. Ed.|
|Allhusen, Aug. Henry Eden||Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.||Gretton, John|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Cranborne, Viscount||Hamilton, Rt Hn Ld. G. (Midx|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Cross, H. Shepherd (Bolton)||Hare, Thomas Leigh|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Crossley, Sir Savile||Harris, Frederick Leverton|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Henderson, Sir Alexander|
|Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt. Hon. Sir H.||Cust, Henry John C.||Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T.|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hoare, Sir Samuel|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Hogg, Lindsay|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Man'r||Davenport, William Bromley-||Hope, J. F. (Sheff., B'tside)|
|Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey||Davies, Sir H. D. (Chatham)||Howard, Jno (Kent, Faver'hm|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. G. W. (Leeds||Dickson, Charles Scott||Hudson, George Bickersteth|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Kemp, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Bartley, Sir George C. T.||Dimsdale, Rt. Hon. Sir Jos. C.||Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benj.||Dixon-Hartland, Sir F. Dixon||King, Sir Henry Seymour|
|Beckett, Ernest William||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers||Lambton, Hon. Fredk. Wm.|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry C.||Duke, Henry Edward||Laurie, Lieut.-General|
|Bignold, Arthur||Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)|
|Bigwood, James||Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir Wm. Hart||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas||Lawson, John Grant.|
|Bull, William James||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Ed.||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Fergusson, Rt Hn. Sir J. (Man'r||Leveson-Gower, Fredk. N. S.|
|Butcher, John George||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Llewellyn, Evan Henry|
|Campbell, Rt Hn J. A. (Glasg.)||Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Bristol, S.|
|Campbell, J. H. M. (Dnblin Univ||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Lonsdale, John Brownlee|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Fisher, William Hayes||Lowe, Francis William|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire||FitzGerald, Sir Robt. Penrose||Lucas, Reg'ld J. (Portsmouth)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Fitzroy, Hon. Edw. Algernon||Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Maconochie, A. W.|
|Chamberlain, Rt Hon J. (Birm||Flower, Ernest||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn J. (Worc||Forster, Henry William||Majendie, James A. H.|
|Chapman, Edward||Eyler, John Arthur||Malcolm, Ian|
|Charrington, Spencer||Galloway, William Johnson||Martin, Richard Biddulph|
|Clive, Captain Percy A.||Gardner, Ernest||Melville, Beresford Valentine|
|Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. E.||Gibbs, Hn A. G. H. (City of Land||Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M.|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Gibbs, Hn. Vicary (St. Albans||Milvain, Thomas|
|Colomb, Sir John Chas. Ready||Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nrn||Mitchell, William (Burnley)|
|Compton, Lord Alwyne||Gore, Hn G. R. C. Ormsby- (Salop||Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)|
§ Noes, 171. (Division List, No. 46.)639
|Moon, Edward Robert Pacy||Robertson, H. (Hackney)||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Morrell, George Herbert||Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert||Valentia, Viscount|
|Mount, William Arthur||Round, Rt. Hon. James||Walrond, Rt. Hon. Sir W. H.|
|Mowbray, Sir Robt. Gray C.||Russell, T. W.||Wanklyn, James Leslie|
|Murray, Rt Hn A. Graham (Bute||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford||Welby, Lt.-Col. A. C. E (Taunton|
|Myers, William Henry||Sadler, Col. Saml. Alexander||Wharton, Rt. Hon. J. Lloyd|
|Nicholson, William Graham||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|Nicol, Donald Ninian||Seely, Maj. J. E. B. (Isle of Wight||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens||Scton-Karr, Sir Henry||Wilson, A. S. (York, E. R.)|
|Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay||Sharpe, William Edward T.||Wodehonse, Rt. Hn. K. R. (Bath|
|Pease, H. Pike (Darlington)||Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew||Wolff Gustav Wilhelm|
|Peel, Hn. Wm. R. Wellesley||Smith, Jas. Parker (Lanarks.)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart|
|Percy, Earl||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir Jn. M.||Younger, William|
|Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Pretyman, Ernest George||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Purvis, Robert||Thornton, Percy M.||Sir Alexander Acland-|
|Rasch, Major Frederic Carne||Tomlinson, Sir Wm. E. M.||Hood and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Renshaw, Sir Charles Bine||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Ritchie, Rt. Hn. C. Thomson||Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward|
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
said he thought they should have an undertaking that no other Navy Votes should be taken to-night.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow;
§ Committee to sit again this evening.