HC Deb 24 May 1906 vol 157 cc1444-91

1. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £2,053,200, 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, 1907."

*MR BOWLES(Lambeth, Norwood) moved the reduction of the vote by,£10,000, in order to draw attention to the real working of the system under which the Navy was at present victualled. He said the theory of the victualling of the Navy was that the Admiralty completely fed both officers and men, and no doubt the quality and quantity of the provisions supplied by the Admiralty accordingly was extremely good. But so long ago as 1799 it was found that the men were not content to rely solely on the Admiralty dietary, and a system of "savings" was instituted. The Admiralty said in effect —" We provide you with food; if you do not like to take that you need not, and we will give you a certain allowance for it." This gave rise to the establishment of ship's canteens, and that inevitably led to well-founded discontent. The allegations of corruptions and abuses culminated in 1902 in the appointment of a Committee to consider the subject of victual ling. The evidence had not been published but it was admitted that the Committee's report disclosed very serious and grave abuses. The Committee recommended that the old system of the ship canteen should be superseded by the tenant system, under which a tenant held a contract for the management of the canteen, paying the ship's company a fixed rental, and being subject, so far as prices and his dealings with the ship's company were concerned, to a committee consisting of the captain and certain other officers and representative ratings. That system sounded reasonable, but worked extremely badly. What happened? While a ship was commissioning the agents of rival contractors appeared on the lower deck and ingratiated themselves, by methods which would not bear inspection, with a few of the higher ratings on the lower deck. These few leading ratings, under those inducements, selected one particular contractor. The captain, who regarded the canteen as a great nuisance and an excrescence on his ordinary duties, usually agreed to this selection without question as being that of the ship's company. The tenant, thus chosen, entered the ship, and from that moment charged whatever he pleased. The mess books which he had seen showed a very serious state of affairs in this respect. It was undeniable that at the present moment the men of His Majesty's Fleet throughout the whole world and even in Home waters, for things which they bought in increasing quantities and upon which they depended for their sustenance, paid prices which were 50 or 100 per cent, over anything which was reasonable. Ordinary bread which when of the very best quality could be obtained at 10d. a gallon was sold in the Navy at from 1s. to 1s. 4d. a gallon. Tinned milk which one could purchase at 3d. a tin elsewhere was sold for 6d., and butter throughout His Majesty's Navy was sold to the men in the canteens at 1s. 2d. a pound. He asserted, and it could be shown beyond contradiction, that the so-called butter which was sold at 1s. 2d. a pound was not butter at all, but margarine of contemptible quality, which could be purchased anywhere at 6d. or 7d. a pound. But that was by no means the worst of it. There was absolutely no control of any kind whatever on these canteens. There was no system by which the goods supplied were even weighed or checked. The accounts which were rendered seemed from malice prepense to be rendered in an absolutely illegible form so as to make it impossible for anybody to check them. It was a small thing, but it showed the system, that no stamp was even affixed to the receipts in regard to these mess accounts although they amounted to huge sums every month. The Committee, moreover, would hardly believe that throughout the Navy at the present moment it was the universal practice with many canteen firms to give not sixteen but twelve ounces per pound of the food they supplied. Hon. Members would ask why did not the canteen committee, which represented the ship's company, take action, and that was no doubt what the right hon. Gentleman who represented the Admiralty would say. No doubt that committee represented the ship's company and were in a fiduciary position towards them, and it would be asked why did they not control these canteen tenants. The answer was an extremely simple one. It was that a system which would be extremely satisfactory in an ordinary free community was bound to be unsatisfactory in the highly artificial society of the lower deck of a man-of-war. These men who sat upon the canteen committees were members of a service in which discipline was carried to an extent that was not realised ashore, and every man who sat upon those committees knew perfectly well and every man on the lower deck knew perfectly well that if he once got a character for being the kind of man who made trouble in regard to the canteen it would be very bad or him in regard to his career. He knew of many cases with which he would not trouble the Committee. He knew of cases in which men had been punished or having brought complaints in regard to the canteen which any unprejudiced person would say were well-founded. The long and the short of it was that, while the representative system was good in a free community, it was sure to fail in a highly disciplined service such as existed on board a man-of-war. How did the matter stand? The position was that the men of the Fleet were being forced to an increasing extent to rely for their food upon a system for which the best that could be said was that the prices were fantastic, and that the quality of the goods was extremely bad. The system presented all the symptoms of an entrenched and corrupt monopoly. It was thoroughly bad, and could not be defended. He was sure the Secretary to the Admiralty would not defend it. That being so it was no small matter. There were, as he had explained, two systems of victualling in the Navy. There was the official system and the auxiliary system, and one would imagine that the official supply was the greater of the two. If anybody doubted the incapacity of any Government Department, even the Admiralty, to provide a dietary which would satisfy men of this description, one had only to point to the fact that the bill for the official food supply of the men was infinitely less every year than the value of the food which they bought from these auxiliary sources, in spite of the prices to which he had referred. In 1905–6 the total cost of the provisions supplied by the Government to the Fleet would be found by the Estimates to be £762,000, but it was fair to add to that a considerable sum of standing stock which was partly used up in the year, and he supposed it would be a fair estimate to say that about £850,000 worth of food was provided by the Admiralty to the Fleet in the last year. But how much was paid by the men to the canteens? Not £850,000, but at least £1,500,000 was spent by the men on food during that year in the canteens. What one found, therefore, was that the official food supply was about one-third of the total food supply, and that not less than two-thirds of the food used by the men came not from the Admiralty but from the private canteens. What was the position of the Admiralty? The Admiralty was perfectly well aware of the circumstances; they knew perfectly well that the disproportion between the amount of food which they could supply and the amount of food which the men got from the canteen was growing and that the men relied less and less upon their supply and more and more upon the canteen. At this moment, however, the position of the Admiralty was what it had always been, one of tacit recognition of the system and yet of repudiation of all responsibility for the manner in which the system was conducted. On the 30th of April he asked the right hon. Gentleman a Question in that House—a Question which involved grave charges of fraud against many of the canteen-tenants in the Channel Fleet. What was the right hon. Gentleman's answer? He said that the Admiralty had no information in the matter, and in effect suggested that the Admiralty did not greatly care whether the men were being defrauded in this way or not. He very respectfully suggested to the right hon. Gentleman in view of his increasing reliance upon the outside system and the decreasing reliance upon official sources, and of the great abuses which prevailed under the present system, which he was sure he would not deny, that the time had come when the Admiralty would be well advised to lift their heads out of the sand in which like ostriches they had buried them and acknowledge that the system did exist, and that they could not refuse responsibility for what was neither more nor less than the robbery of the men under their control. The present system was quite disgraceful, and its continuance seemed all the more disgraceful in view of the fact that in a great institution under the Admiralty a new system had recently been set up, through the enterprise of a few officers, which provided a naval canteen satisfactory to everybody concerned. He referred to the system of canteen management recently initiated at Portsmouth Naval Barracks. That system could easily be extended to His Majesty's ships generally. He was perfectly convinced that if it were an enormous boon would be conferred upon the men of the Fleet, and what was far more important, it would conduce to the greater efficiency of the Fleet. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to give some indication that, in view of the great and admitted abuses to which he had referred, and in view of the fact that under his eye and hand he had a complete and possible remedy, he would be able to assure the Committee that the Admiralty would not continue the absurd system under which the victualling of the Fleet was now conducted, but would take the matter under their own control and devise some system which would prevent the indefinite perpetuation of proved and acknowledged abuses. He begged to move.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £2,043,200, be granted for the said Service."—(Mr. Bowles.)

MR. J. WILLIAMS BENN (Devonport)

said he desired to associate himself with his hon. friend in his remarks as to the victualling of the Navy. He might be permitted to say that he seemed to hear in those remarks an echo of many speeches made by his hon. friend the senior Member for Devonport. The Secretary for the Admiralty had admitted the viciousness of the present system, and he was perfectly sure that when the right hon. Gentleman had the opportunity and saw a that the remarks of the hon. Member opposite were justified, he would be able to make some recommendation in the direction of the system which the hon. Member for Norwood had brought before the Committee. He desired to draw attention to some very minor matters which, however, caused a good deal of annoyance and a feeling of resentment among the men. First of all, there was a class of men who were called "writers," and he desired to know whether his right hon. friend could not alter the style and title of those gentlemen and bring them into the grade of civil clerks. He also noticed that for something like twenty-six years they had had no increase in pay. In the constituency of Devonport house-rent had increased 30 per cent, and he submitted, therefore, that the case of these men was entitled to some consideration. With regard to the question of uniform clothing he thought he was justified in saying that the present seamen's uniform was unsuited in many cases to the requirements of a ship of war, and that many modifications were necessary to make it efficient for service on land as well as at sea. He ventured to suggest that the different uniforms might be assimilated for all ratings from that of boys upwards, and that distinguishing badges might be used to show the rating. There was another matter which he desired to draw attention to, which was that there were a class of men who acted as stewards on board ship, but who were described as domestics. This caused a great feeling of resentment, and he thought these men would be greatly gratified if their style and title was amended to that of "ship's steward." They very much resented being called domestics. He apologised for bringing these very small points before the right hon. Gentleman, but he could assure him they were matters which excited considerable feeling.

MR. MADDISON (Burnley)

said the question raised was a very important one. He expressed the hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty would give some assurance to the Committee that the Admiralty were going to alter a system which appeared to be inflicting a very serious wrong upon the men of the Navy. These Estimates raised very important matters, and the hon. Member for Norwood had ventilated some very substartial grievances. Some of the stereotyped methods of continuing what was obviously wrong went on year after year. The question brought forward by the hon. Member for Norwood was not new, but it was a condemnation of the officials of the Admiralty. Many hon. Members were strongly opposed to the large expenditure that now went on in the Army as in the Navy, but they had always taken the line that they did not want to retrench at the expense of the men who worked the ships. The men were wanted, and wanted in good condition, and the hon. Member for Norwood had made a suggestion which, if carried out, would, without causing a penny to be paid out of the public purse, increase the wages o f the men enormously. They were now mulcted and blackmailed by an absurd system which had been allowed by the Admiralty to continue from year to year. They now expected something from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty. He was a reformer and they had confidence in him. But they did not want him to acquire the official habit of the Front Bench on which he sat and give the official reply that no doubt there were very great disadvantages in the system but on the other hand—he loved the official style—there was great difficulty in interfering with the free choice of the men. He knew nothing about actual life in the Navy, but he had no doubt that the hon. Member for Norwood was quite right when he stated that this freedom of choice was conspicuous by its absence. He supported the Motion.

MR. JENKINS (Chatham)

agreed with the hon. Member for Devonport that the clothing for our seamen was practically obsolete. One would imagine from the way in which they were clothed that we were still living in the days when the old wooden walls were on the water and the men had nothing to do but to climb the rigging. But nowadays a man-of-war was a huge piece of machinery from stem to stern; yet the men were asked to work the ships in clothing which was most objectionable and most unhealthy. Much exception had been taken to extravagant expenditure, but they did desire that the men should be well clothed and well fed and generally in good condition. They wanted the Secretary to the Admiralty to give some undertaking that the condition, which was by this time well known to the Admiralty, of the clothing and the feeding of the men, would be improved. He expressed the opinion that there was too much extravagance in the shape of gold lace and cocked hats, and that if there were less spent in that way more could be done for the men.


said that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty would, of course, reply to the many questions raised, but he would like to say one word in reply to the hon. Member for Burnley, who had very frankly said he was not acquainted with the victualling of the Navy. The hon. Member had not quite realised what had taken place. The scale of Navy victualling was based upon what was required in time of war. It was obvious that they could not allow the men in time of peace the same as in war time, and the result was that the men had to get a great amount of things which were not on the war establishment of ships. For that purpose the men were allowed to form and did form committees of their own. The hon. Member for Norwood was wrong when he said that the men had no control. That control very often fell upon a few persons, but those persons were undoubtedly representatives of the lower deck. During the last Administration at the Admiralty this question was discussed and a very important change made. The Admiralty recognised that the service supply of food was not adequate to the requirements in the matter of variety, and as the result of a very strong Committee considerable additions were made to the dietary scale. He thought the Secretary to the Admiralty would confirm what he was about to say, namely, that it was all very well to put articles, however good, upon the official scale, but the bluejacket has an ineradicable dislike to what was supplied by the Government.


No wonder.


thought the hon. Gentleman was wrong, and that, if he would investigate this matter for himself and inquire into the sources of supplies to the Navy he would find that it was almost impossible to subject articles to closer scrutiny or to get better sources of supply.


I was not doubting that. I rather wished the Government would take full control.


said he was mistaken in supposing the hon. Gentleman was rather repeating the suggestion that was sometimes made that the men were justified in mistrusting the Government. He did not think it was true, and it would be very unfortunate if it were. He had sampled the foods very often and made very minute inquiries into the sources of supply and character of the food, and found them exceedingly good. But very often the men would not take the articles that were provided. He would give an example. They had had advice from many hon. Gentleman that it would be an advantage to put jam on the dietary scale. The Admiralty bought thousands of pounds, and he saw mountains of it stacked in the Victualling Yard, but the moment the men got it the demand for it diminished. It was not just however, to a public department [...]that they supplied was good [...]when they had made enormous shorts to get abreast of public requirements, to charge them with shortcomings in this matter. There remained the other point as to whether the time had come when they could safely transfer the control of the canteen from the men to the officers of the ship. In some respects that would be an admirable step, but it must be remembered that they would be taking away from the men privileges which, when they were likely to be deprived of them, they would value. He had read scores upon scores of letters sent by the men with regard to victualling and the conditions under which these canteens existed, and personally he would be very glad if the Secretary to the Admiralty could tell the Committee that he thought the time had come when they could safely introduce the Portsmouth canteen system into the canteens of the ships at sea. In that matter he thought they must trust to a certain extent the judgment of the officers.

MR. LEIF JONES (Westmorland, Appleby)

said he wished to draw attention to one question with regard to dietary, and that was the continued use of spirits as a daily ration. The time had come, he thought, when rum should cease to be regarded as a necessary part of the daily diet of our seamen. It was quite true that in deference to the growing opinion against spirits the men were allowed a substitute. There was a general feeling among the men, however, that the money substitute, namely,¾d. a day, was not an equivalent. It was consequently a frequent practice, he was told, even among teetotalers in the Navy, to take their rum, and by arrangement, pass it on to those who still relished it. He knew this was against the regulations; still it occurred, and he urged upon the right hon. Gentleman that the time had come when an end should be put to the practice of supplying spirits as a part of the daily rations.

MR. FLAVIN (Kerry, N.)

Why not stop it in the House of Commons?


said it was no fault of his that it was not. He did stop it as far as he could. In making his suggestion he might quote the example of the United States Navy, which abolished the use of rum as a ration so long ago as 1862, actually in the middle of the Civil War, because of the evil which resulted from the supply of that ration. He did not think anyone connected with the United States Navy would return to the old system. The greatest possible benefits had accrued to the men in the United States Navy from the cessation of the rum rations, on the testimony of all who were connected with that service. He ventured to think the same results would follow if the example were adopted in our Navy. He knew he would fill the hon. Member for Norwood with dismay if he proposed that the use of rum should cease in His Majesty's ships, and therefore he was not going to ask the Admiralty to take any heroic measures. What he would suggest was this. At present the men had three alternatives. They could have rum, money value, or tea, cocoa, and so forth, and his suggestion was that while not interfering with the men at present in the service, new recruits should be offered only the alternative of money or the other substitutes for rum. By a gradual process in that way the rum rations would cease throughout the Navy. He believed it would tend greatly to the advantage of the service and would be welcomed by an increasing number of the men themselves.


frankly confessed that he had found this short debate both interesting and instructive. He thought the hon. Member for Norwood had made out a case at all events for inquiry. He was very much relieved when, after a condemnation of the canteen system on board ship, he praised the canteen establishment at Portsmouth. He had himself critically examined that canteen and he could say that he came away with an excellent opinion of it. One thing that struck him, however, was that for the privilege of selling beer at a panny a glass to men attending the canteen a tenant paid to the managing committee no less than £3,000 a year, which sum was used by the men in various ways, in part, he was glad to think, in keeping up a corps of cadets. He did not dispute the gravamen of the charge the hon. Gentleman had made, and he thought the time had come for something to be done. The first thing, was, of course, an inquiry within the Admiralty itself, and he thought he might promise that a full and complete inquiry would be made. With regard to baking on board ship, he would point out that improved bakeries had been provided. The hon. Member for Devonport had raised the question of clothing and the position of writers. The whole subject of clothing was actually under consideration by the Admiralty. With regard to the writers, they complained of the name and desired to be called clerks. That was a complaint which had come from many of the dockyards, but it amused him to think that anybody would imagine that the title of clerk was a higher degree than the title of writer. When the proper time name the point raised about the spirit rations would not be forgotten.

MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)

said the control was very good if the officers were kept up to the mark. At one time there was nothing sold but beer, and there was some friction as to the way the canteens were carried on by the officers.


said that after the sympathetic and satisfactory answer given by the right hon. Gentleman he did not feel that he would be justified in pressing his Amendment to a division, and he would ask the leave of the Committee to withdraw it. The system of canteen management, regulation and control in vogue at Portsmouth had won the admiration of everybody. He had no doubt that the promised inquiry would result in the extension of that system with great advantage to His Majesty's Navy.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

2. £275,500, Medical Establishments and Services.

3. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £14,700, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Martial Law, including the cost of Naval Prison [...] Home and Abroad, which will come [...] course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1907.' "


said he desired to move a reduction of £1,000 in regard to the item of £1,700 for courts-martial, in order to call attention to the remarkable system under which justice was administered by naval courts-martial at present, and under which it had been administered for a long time past. Naval courts-martial were clothed with enormous powers and it was necessary that they should have extremely strong powers. They had constantly to deal with difficult cases often involving the whole question of the maintenance of discipline in His Majesty's Navy. In the vast majority of cases the justice administered by courts-martial all the world over was of the most excellent, fair, and merciful description, and he had nothing to say against the general administration of justice by those courts. The mere fact that from the necessities of the case it was considered essential to give such stupendous powers to these courts as they now enjoyed made it equally necessary that there should be some sort of control over their decisions by a superior authority. A certain measure of control did exist, but it was entirely illusory and different from the practice in the Army and in military courts-martial. Indeed, naval courts-martial were left entirely masters of the situation and there was no effective control whatever over them. The procedure was as follows:—A man on the China Station, miles away from this country, might commit an offence of sufficient gravity to warrant his being tried by court-martial. This case would be tried out in China. The court-martial would meet, have the man before it, hear the evidence and try the case and come to its conclusion and verdict accordingly. The man would be brought back and the sentence decided upon would be announced to him. Forthwith upon the announcement of the sentence without any interval of any kind the sentence would begin to take effect. The man might have been sentenced to four months imprisonment with hard labour and instantly he would be sent to gaol and put into the cell. There was no waiting or delay. At the conclusion of the proceedings of the court the President dispersed the court and dissolved it. And it was thus only after the punishment had actually begin that the system of control and revision began to come into operation. The proceedings of the court-martial were forwarded immediately to the Commander-in-Chief of the station and he revised them and made any notes or remarks he desired to make in regard to them. The Commander-in-Chief was a busy man, and this, of course, took time. When he had finished with the report; of the proceedings it was packed up and the whole thing was sent with the remarks of the Commander-in-Chief to the Admiralty. It took the papers some time to get there, because they were sent by post. If the prisoner had pleaded guilty and no point of law arose, the papers went straight to the Board. In the vast majority of cases, however, the prisoners pleaded "Not guilty," and in those cases the papers went to the Judge-Advocate of the fleet, who revised and scrutinised them, made his report upon them, and then returned them to the Board. Thus the sentence went from the court which pronounced it to the Commander-in-Chief, from him to the Admiralty, then to the Judge-Advocate, and then back to the Admiralty Board. Supposing the sentence was found by the Board to have been improperly imposed, how long would it take to have this complicated procedure gone through in the case of a man on whom sentence had been pronounced? A long time. And throughout sill that time the man would have been serving his sentence. It seemed to him a ridiculous system— and he hoped it would seem so to the Committee—to try and sentence a man, and then, while he was undergoing the sentence, to go through a long and complicated process which must, he supposed, in the majority of cases take longer than the time of the sentence in order to find out whether the sentence ought to have been given or not. Would not the right hon. Gentleman, or anybody, have serious ground for irritation if, after serving a sentence, he was to be told, as must constantly happen under this system, that in the opinion of the Admiralty half the sentence would have been sufficient, or that the whole sentence was wrong. This was what he called illusory control. The process, he would point out, was the reverse of that in the case of military courts-martial. What happened in the case of members of the Army applied under the Army Act equally to marines ashore. A marine, when afloat, was under the fantastic system he had described. When a military court-martial passed a sentence it did not take effect for a considerable time. At the conclusion of the trial an account of the proceedings was sent to the Judge-Advocate General for review, and it was submitted to the Army Council and the Board of Admiralty respectively. The Army Council and the Board of Admiralty had power to send back the finding of the court to the court which had made the finding for revision of the sentence in cases where that was thought to be necessary. It was only when the Army Council or the Board of Admiralty had confirmed the sentence that it began to take effect. There was a substantial difference between the two methods. Unless there was some serious and weighty reason in favour of the present system in the Navy it should be altered, for it seemed to be a gross and palpable anomaly and injustice.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A. be reduced by £1,000."— (Mr. Bowles.)

MR. JENKINS (Chatham)

said he desired to call attention to the fact that chief officers, petty officers, and noncommissioned officers in the Navy could be dealt with by the captain of a ship for a very trivial offence, and that they could be disrated without any appeal to a court-martial. That seemed to him a very serious state of affairs. A man gained warrant rank, or non-commissioned rank, after many years service, and in order to gain promotion he must be a man of ability, and his character must be exceedingly good, but for a small offence he could be disrated. He had in his mind a case where very recently a man was disrated for a small offence, and if he were to mention it to the Committee he was sure they would agree with him that the punishment was not suited to the offence. The whole of the naval men were desirous of having trial by court-martial, and that some one of non-commissioned rank should be appointed who thoroughly understood the position of their fellow-men. When persons in civil life were brought before a criminal court charged with serious offences they had the right to appeal to be tried by jury. Why should not the same right be extended to seamen on board His Majesty's ships? This was a grievance which the men thought they had a right to raise in this Committee. He asked the Secretary to the Admiralty to consider the matter. Could not these men be dealt with in the same way as the captain of a ship, a lieutenant, or any superior officer?


said the hon. Member for Norwood had by this Motion opened up a question which had a great personal attraction for himself, because it was one in which he took a good deal of interest in former days, when he was in a position of "greater freedom and less responsibility." A demand had been made to-day for the assimilation of the practice in the matter of trials. In what he was about to say it must be understood that he was not speaking officially for the Admiralty on that matter, but indulging in a personal reminiscence. The hon. Member opposite did not fully explain the position of Judge-Advocate General in former days. The Judge-Advocate General in former days was an independent Minister having direct access to the Crown; he was independent of the War Office in matters relating to court-martial, and he stood between the private soldier and the military authorities. That was an office which, he had always thought, was well worth retention, but unfortunately now the Judge-Advocate General, instead of being an independent Minister having access to the Crown, and always; reporting directly to the Crown on his own responsibility, was a mere subordinate official who was under the War Minister. His personal solution of the question would have been not to have abolished the office of Judge Advocate-General as it had been abolished in respect to his being a Minister, but to have given him control over Naval courts-martial as well as Army courts-martial. He was expressing his own personal opinion in this matter. He did not know whether he rightly gathered that the hon. Member for Norwood desired in all cases where an appeal was entered from the decision of a court-martial that the carrying out of the sentence should be stopped pending the disposal of the appeal.


Yes. Sir, that is the point.


said that involved a large point in criminal law. It was a difficult and delicate point.


said the revision and the scrutiny of the proceedings before a court-martial amounted to a useless formality unless the beginning of the sentence was postponed until the scrutiny was completed.


said that was a very debatable point, but he would not debate it now. He did not know that this question was to be brought on at all. He might say that the attention of the Admiralty had already been given to the system of court-martial in the Navy, and that a Committee for the consideration of the whole subject had been, if not actually appointed, at all events decided upon. He thought he was correct in saying that. He thought that decision would satisfy the hon.. Member. The important point raised by the hon. Member for Chatham would naturally be attended to. He would try to remember it and to see that it was brought before such a Committee. He hoped he had given satisfaction to the hon. Member and that this Vote would now be allowed to be taken.


said he was very glad to learn that this matter was engaging the attention of the Admiralty, and he hoped that the Committee to be appointed would see the force of his contention. After the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman he would ask leave to withdraw his Amendment.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £165,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Educational Services, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1907."

MR. BELLAIRS (Lynn Regis)

said he desired to call the attention of the Committee to the great rise which had taken place in recent years in the cost of the educational services for the Navy. During the last ten years the Vote had doubled, and if some subsidiary Votes were included it had more than doubled in four years. He could bring home to the Committee this increase more forcibly by saying that in three years the Navy Education Vote had increased by £30,000 from £138,000, or 22 per cent., which was exclusive of large sums spent on the new system of boy artificers and training mechanicians, which, appeared on other Votes. Some hon. Members seemed to think that the increase in the Navy Votes was due to an increase in the number of men. But that was not so, because the number of men had actually decreased in this three years' period by 1,500. It had been largely due to the new scheme of training for the service. He found, roughly, that it took now about ten years for an executive officer to reach a position of responsibility; and that that training cost at the least £1,000. All boys were now entered at thirteen years of age, and the additional cost of the training of an executive officer was about £250. that of a marine officer was more by £700, and of an engineer officer £500. By abolishing the direct entry of engineer officers into the Royal Navy, a class who cost the country nothing for their training, the new system would cost the country £100,000 in substituting new officers for say one hundred direct entry engineers. The change which had been initiated was the result of the battle between specialisation when young and specialisation when old; of specialisation as a pastime and specialisation for a lifetime. Specialisation when young and for a lifetime existed in every Navy in the world except in America where the new system of specialisation for a period only was acknowledged to be a failure. It existed also in every rank on shore and also in the mercantile marine. The new system was also a substitution of a system of artificial selection for a system of natural selection. By natural selection he meant that the boy himself chose the line in which he meant to spend his life. From information he had in his possession he found that out of 650 cadets at Osborne only two were the sons of naval engineer officers, where is according to the Keyham scale there should have been eighty-five. What was worse was that by the present system they were divorcing the Navy altogether from the country. They were cutting off the chance of receiving boys from the technological, grammar, and public schools of the country. Again, he found that the Royal Commission on the Royal College of Science strongly urged the encouragement by the Government of the technological schools; but by the present system of education of officers for the Navy they were going in the opposite direction. They were setting up an imperium in imperio. Moreover, the present system was divorcing the Royal Navy from the mercantile marine, because the Royal Navy reserve officers who were efficient in executive duty would later on be told they were not wanted because they did not know engineering and the engineers of the mercantile marine would be excluded because they could not come up on deck to take charge of the ship.

MR. LONSDALE (Armagh, Mid.)

drew attention to the fact that forty Members were not present.

Committee counted, and forty Members being present,


continued his speech. He said he was, when interrupted, about to call attention to the fact that the new educational system was divorcing the Navy from the workshops of the country— as in the competition of service trained boy artificers and stoker mechanicians, who were to take the place of the artificers we had always obtained by competition from the ranks of private industry. But what would appeal to the Committee more than anything else as showing the divorce of the democracy from the Royal Navy was the rules about the entry of cadets into Osborne. He had evidence to prove that the expense to parents of entering cadets to Osborne was that they must put aside £600 for their boys during the time at Osborne in spite of the State paying £468. The budget, apart from holiday expenses, was a minimum of £135 and a maximum of over£150 a year. He knew that on this matter he had the sympathy of the Secretary to the Admiralty, to judge from the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman when the new scheme was introduced, and also the sympathy of the Prime Minister, and he hoped that they would have some assurances from the Government that the points which he had put before the Committee would receive their consideration. This question of engineering education had been dealt with by Sir William White's Committee. On May 22nd he asked a Question on the subject,† and the Answer he got from the Admiralty was that that report dealt with a scheme for the training of youths whose after - career and employment would be essentially different from the career and duties of a naval officer. Sir William White, in reply to a communication, wrote— The Committee of the Institution of Civil Engineers made no inquiry into the best course of engineering training for naval officers generally. This inquiry, however, did cover the training of all classes of skilled engineers charged with the responsibility for the working find management as well as the design and manufacture of every kind of engine, including marine engines. That Engineer Committee embraced Sir William White and the most distinguished members of the engineering profession, and it reported— The average boy should leave school when he is about seventeen years of age. Much depends upon the development of individual boys, but the minimum age should be sixteen and the maximum eighteen years. Further, the report recommended that there should be from six to seven years of training in engineering. But the Admiralty new system entered boys at thirteen years and provided for engineer specialists two years nine months. There was a very strong contrast between that report and the one presented by Sir Archibald Douglas. By the former Committee 267 witnesses were examined and all agreed. They included eighty-two mechanical engineers, thirty-two naval architects, shipbuilders and marine engineers, and thirty electrical engineers and thirty engaged in teaching. He found that the questions of specialisation young or old and for a brief spell or a life time were never asked of witnesses by the Douglas Committee and yet the Cawdor Memorandum, on making these great changes, claimed to be based on a thorough investigation by the Douglas Committee. He remembered the refusal of the Admiralty to give them this report when they asked for it and it looked to him what they call in slang language "fishy." The First Sea Lord's present naval assistant, Captain Madden, said the time to specialise was "on leaving the sea-going training ship "—a remarkable statement, with which he most emphatically agreed. That would mean at about the age of seventeen and three-quarter years, and was very reasonable. The Committee themselves appeared to have been in a helpless fog, because on page 54, after two years experience of the children at Osborne, they said— We are now in a position to predict the general state of professional knowledge of the new sub-lieutenants when they arrive at that rank. That meant that they were able to predict the state of knowledge which these people would possess eight years hence, and they were to watch and wait for that time. But at page 170, the Committee said— It is impossible to foresee at the present moment exactly what progress will be made in engineering, etc. These two statements contrasted showed that the Committee were hopelessly in a fog. Then this wonderful Douglas Committee took six weeks—indeed, but a little over five weeks—to report. They apparently were able to pursue their ordinary duties and to take evidence once a week, and they only devoted two days to the provision and duties of officers of the Navy, two to naval constructors, and one to the provision of mechanicians to the watchkeeping duties in the engine rooms. The White Committee took, however, two and a half years, and examined 267 witnesses, including engineers of eminence, while it had upon it men of the greatest engineering reputation. As a contrast to this he might mention that the Douglas Committee devoted two days to the two engineering questions submitted and saw six Admiralty engineers, two college ones, and two others. The witnesses were only asked questions upon some little point or other, and, from what one could gather, their evidence did not support the finding of the Committee. Only one engineer thought the new system engineers would be as competent as the present ones, but it came out subsequently that he did not understand the scheme. Engineer-Lieutenant H. F. Smith said— The scheme would give us inferior mechanical engineers who would not be able to direct the work of the artificers in a ship as well as the 'Keyham' cadets. They would not be so ready to trace a defect to its cause, or so competent to remedy it in the quickest way. The next, witness, Engineer-Commander Marrack, was very emphatic and expressed the opinion that a boy should specialise in engineering and remain an engineer all his life. On page 74 would be found the questions, but the great question the Committee should have been called upon to ask the witnesses was whether to specialise, young or old, for a short spell, or for a life time. These were fundamental questions and were very important. No executive officers were examined, however, and no engineer was asked these questions. Five marine officers were examined in one day, and the Royal Marine portion of the Committee and one naval captain pronounced dead against the scheme, and sent in a minority report. The first marine witness held such strenuous opinions that a portion of his evidence was represented by suggestive stars. He was on the subject of mutiny. He said— You have to consider Trade Unions Socialistic, and Republican ideas‥‥It is a fundamental principle of all armed forces that there should be separate units, one to keep the other in cheek. However, he must not laugh at this witness, because he was asked and he did pronounce in favour of that life-long specialism for which he was contending. The next witness declared that the scheme would be the end of the marine force altogether, and that appeared to be the opinion of other witnesses. A third witness, Colonel Luke, thought that the marine officers would become specialised too old. The recent changes since his evidence made the specialisation, at an even more advanced age. This witness, however, was decidedly in favour of the scheme, but believed the marine corps would disappear. The fourth officer also thought that the scheme would abolish the marine corps, and that the changes would be unpopular in the corps. The fifth witness also thought the corps would disappear. The minority report to which he had referred was signed by the representative of the marines and one other officer, and pronounced in favour of distinctive marine officers without engineering training, and significantly added that there would be a great saving in expense if the new scheme were abandoned. It also concurred in the unanimous evidence that the new scheme of training would result in the disappearance of the marine corps. He did not think the Committee or this House would like to do away with the marine force altogether. These were the people whom Lord St. Vincent called the sheet anchor of England," and if one looked at statistics it would be seen that the cost of a marine was one-third that of a blue-jacket. He was far better disciplined as the punishment returns revealed. As to results, moreover, so far as he could examine into the returns, it appeared that the marine was a better shot than the blue-jacket. It was on the evidence of these witnesses, who were not really competent to deal with so large a question, and whose evidence was taken during two days, that all the structure of the Cawdor Memorandum rested. The Cawdor Memorandum contained a declaration in favour of late specialisation, and, as he had already pointed out, the country was, under Lord Tweedmouth's policy, to watch and wait for seven or eight years. The country was humbugged into believing that a great Committee had thoroughly vindicated the scheme contained in the Cawdor Memorandum. One of the reasons he objected to the scheme introduced at the end of 1902 was that it would give us amateur engineers and bad executive officers. The scheme provided for common entry, common training, and late specialisation at the age of twenty-three. The only point in doubt was whether what was meant was specialisation for a time or specialisation for life. When a previous debate took place on this point before the I Douglas report was published he was found fault with for stating in opposing the scheme for common training that it had failed in the American Navy. There was no doubt that the scheme had failed, because the head of the American Navy had declared that under the system of common training the American Navy was unfit to go to war. The American scheme resembled ours, and the reason why it failed was that the officer who went down into the engine room still considered himself a possible Nelson, and always had his eyes on the bridge. He urged upon the Admiralty that they should thoroughly investigate this scheme; he thought it should be inquired into by a Committee of three. In his judgment the Committee which was supposed to investigate this question did not investigate it at all; in fact in his judgment it was a bogus Committee. It was, he thought, impossible for the Admiralty to claim that they had really investigated the matter, and he was sure there was room for real investigation. Motions had again and again been made for inquiries, and the Government had had the good sense to grant them. In 1874, on this very question of education, Lord Chelmsford proposed one in regard to the training of "Britannia" cadets and the Government granted it. In the fifties there was a Treasury Committee upon our naval strength. It was now said that an inquriy would cast a reflection upon the Admiralty. But surely that could not be said when without objection a Treasury Committee had sat and dealt with such a subject. Let them take the kindred service, the Army. It was the fact that a Committee of three, presided over by Lord Esher, had sat and investigated the whole I question of the administration of the War Office. Therefore he thought that the whole argument about an inquiry being derogatory to the Sea Lords of the Admiralty could not hold water. They insisted upon the necessity of continuity of policy in the Navy, but how could they get it if they could not insist that the Sea Lords who were going to take office should be in favour of the scheme which they were about to carry out? They could not get continuity of policy with a hostile Navy. He had reason to believe that the officers of the Navy were almost to a man hostile to this scheme of naval training, and he noticed that Admiral Fitzgerald, who had held a responsible command in the Fleet, had stated in the Naval and Military Record on March 29th, 1905, his opinions on the subject. He said— I could (if it were not improper) give the names of five admirals with their flags now flying who are most strongly opposed to the new scheme; and on looking through the list I have some reason to believe, though I am not certain, that about a dozen others with their Hags flying are opposed to it. When this question was brought forward in the House of Lords by Lord Goschen, who was absolutely hostile to the experiment and claimed that it was exciting widespread alarm afloat, Lord Tweed-mouth said— While he was ready to keep an open mind on the subject, he thought that, there was not evidence sufficient to stop this experiment. They ought, therefore, to go on with it, in order to see what kind of officer would be produced in seven or eight years, and then judge by the result of the experiment. That was the answer which the noble Lord got in regard to this point of specialisation which he was arguing; it was said that the whole matter must be put off for seven or eight years. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give some assurance that there would either be a Commission or that the Admiralty would come before the Committee next year and say plainly what they intended to do. The scheme was introduced at the end of 1902 and in March, 1903—in the initial stages of the scheme—the right hon. Member for Croydon, who then spoke for the Admiralty, said there was no necessity to consult admirals afloat, as the Board of Admiralty was competent to decide. But he contended that when a revolutionary change of policy of this character was contemplated, a change which admirals afloat would have to continue when they came to the Admiralty, it was necessary to get the opinion of the admirals afloat. The right hon. Member for Croydon had said in 1902 that admirals at the Board of Admiralty had no time to think out problems. Why, then, these revolutionary changes without inquiry? But, as a matter of fact, Lord Selborne did consult admirals afloat the previous year, just before he made this change. Then he made a speech in which he said he had— the authority of admirals and captains fresh from the sea for saying that— So far as the personnel goes, it is scarcely possible to improve the officers or the men. They say with extraordinary unanimity that subject to some improvements in detail, the general system of training young officers and seamen leaves nothing to be desired. If that was so why change it? He had had the opportunity of consulting admirals and captains fresh from the sea. Then a new sea lord arrived at the Admiralty, and the whole thing was revolutionised. No change should ever be made in the Navy unless there was the strongest probability, almost amounting to certainty, that the change was in the right direction, especially if foreign navies had not made the change. The Selborne scheme, which was the scheme that the Government were still pinned to, was condemned by the Douglas Committee. Inefficient as the Committee was, it certainly brought out one truth in its Report when it said that when the time came for specialising late in life no officer would volunteer for engineering or the Marines, and that the consequence would be that they would have to be ordered to join these services. In the words of the Committee— ' In neither case could we hope for the satisfactory performance of the duties of those departments. This was an age of specialisation all along the line. In the Army the garrison gunners were cut off from the Field Artillery because the field was so great they could not cover both sections. But this system involved a far wider field. If they were to join the whole of the Artillery together and amalgamate them with the Engineers they would not have to cover so large a field as this. The Navy was travelling in a directly opposite direction to that in which the Army found it necessary to go. Speaking at the Royal National Lifeboat Institution on March 21st, Lord Tweedmouth said— He thought Sir Edmund Fremantle was inclined to draw him into a discussion on naval policy. 'In vain was the net spread in the sight of any bird.' The Admiralty policy seemed likely to be the subject of somewhat lively criticism under present conditions, and he would be quite ready to take his part in it. He thought sometimes the handiness of the 'handy-man' was a little bit presumed upon, and that there was a desire to make him rather too much a 'jack-of-all-trades.' That was exactly what this scheme did. It said to an officer that he had to become an engineer, a marine, and an executive officer all in one. The Report of the Douglas Committee described the underlying idea by stating that— Each of these officers would have special knowledge in one particular branch, but all would have a general knowledge of the duties of the other branches, and all would have the opportunities of fitting themselves for the position of captain of a ship, and thence of rising to the highest eminence in their profession. That meant that if the engineer officer happened to be the next in seniority to the captain and the captain were shot down, the engineer officer would have to come up and conduct and fight the ship. How could that be expected of a man whose duties kept him below decks till he was thirty-seven years of age? These schemes were worked out beautifully on paper, but when it came to actual practice they could not be carried out. One of the regulations in the Navy List said that the navigating officers should go through courses of gunnery training, but he did not think during a period of thirty-five years more than two officers had gone through the course. Another regulation said that the Admiralty were particularly desirous that lieutenants should go through the senior officer's course at Greenwich and that facilities would be given to them, but never during the time that he was in the service did a lieutenant go through that course. Only a few years ago the Admiralty issued orders that it was absolutely necessary for naval Instructors to spend a period at sea, but the order was a dead letter. He submitted that what was needed in the Navy was that we should level up the engineer training of the engineers and that we did, to a great extent, and so stopped the water-tube boiler crisis; that we should level up training of the executive officers, and as regards gunnery practice that had been done. But the seamanship still left much to be desired. He noticed that in the year 1904 there were no less than seventy-eight collisions and groundings, or at the rate of three a fortnight. It would not improve matters to send officers to spend 30 per cent, of their time in the engine-room. Engineers' training was a matter of training the ear, the executive officers' training on deck was a matter of training the eye, and the Admiralty would find that out when the time of trial came and the officers were submitted to the great strain of war.

MR. ARTHUR LEE (Hampshire, Fareham)

said this subject was an extremely technical one, and one which appealed mainly to experts. He was afraid, also, that it was only too clear that in some cases the experts did not understand it. He did not profess himself to be an expert on naval education, but as he was a member of the Board of Admiralty which adopted and developed the scheme which the hon. Member had so unsparingly condemned, he desired to say a few words. He had studied this matter very closely, and while from time to time he had heard many criticisms made and arguments directed against it, he must admit he had seldom, heard any which were so wide of the mark and so unjustified as those of the hon. Member for King's Lynn. This was not the first attack the hon. Gentleman had made on the new scheme of naval education. It was clear that the hon. Gentleman was an undiluted worshipper of the old system. He wanted things left as they were. The hon. Member had said it was a mistake on the part of the Admiralty to make changes before foreign Navies adopted them.

He himself did not think the Admiralty: should base their reforms solely on the practice of foreign Navies, as it had always been the privilege of the British Navy to give the lead in these matters. After all, what was the burden of the hon. Gentleman's indictment? He said in the first place that this system of entering the Navy was not democratic, and he proceeded to develop; that by saying that there were certain classes who did not go to Osborn. But the fact remained that all who wished to be candidates were invited to come up before the committee and no distinction was made in the class from which they came. The old class distinctions that formerly existed between the engineer officers and the executive officers had been abolished and absolute social equality had been, established. Then the hon. Gentleman had raised the question of the cost of education. That was a financial objection which did not interfere with the principle of the scheme. He himself had no objection to the cost to the parents being reduced, as far as desirable, or even abolished altogether. That was entirely a question for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was a consideration that only that right hon. Gentleman was competent to deal with and it did not in the least affect the principle of the scheme. The hon.. Member then complained that the new system produced a class of officer with superficial acquirements and that they were jacks-of-all-trades and masters of none. That view was really based on a misunderstanding of the intention and actual working of the scheme. He saw with astonishment that even Lord Goschen, speaking in another place, had referred to— The feeling of alarm with regard to the interchangeability which was to be the foundation of the future officering of the Navy. The hon. Member for King's Lynn, speaking on another occasion, had said that the object of the scheme was to produce an officer who was able to do everything; and again to-day he had spoken as if the officers who would be produced under this scheme of education were required to be specialists in gunnery, torpedo work, signalling, navigating, engineering, tactics and everything else.

That was a pure illusion. The scheme provided nothing whatever of the kind. There was no interchangeability. There was merely temporary specialisation in one subject which the particular officer chose. It was estimated that about 60 per cent. of officers in the service would probably specialise, but not a single one of them would ever be called upon to perform the speciality of any other. Therefore, the charge that this scheme produced a sort of interchangeable jack-of-all-trades officer was a complete misunderstanding and was a creature of the hon. Gentleman's own imagination.


said he had read the extract from the Douglas Committee's Report showing that the officers were to be versed in every trade.


said there were a good many points referred to by witnesses in the Douglas Committee's Report, but that Report was not necessarily the scheme of the Admiralty. The hon. Gentleman had claimed that the original idea of the new scheme of training had been abandoned, in that the original idea was that there should be permanent specialisation. He would, however, call attention to a speech made by Lord Selborne, who introduced the scheme originally, in another place in May 1903. The noble Lord explained very clearly that it was not the intention that officers should be permanently specialised under the new scheme. In that speech he expressed the belief and hope that engineers as a special branch would disappear altogether, and that specialised engineer-lieutenants would be only known by the letter E after their name. That entirely disposed of the charge of the hon. Gentleman, and the original condition under which cadets were introduced into Osborne was adopted solely as a precaution in case the scheme should not turn out so successfully as it had apparently done up to the present. The hon. Gentleman's next contention was that officers who temporarily specialised for engineering duties would not be as competent as they should be for executive duties. But he would point out that 40 per cent, of officers, would not specialise at all, and therefore the hon. Gentleman's criticism could not possibly extend to them. These non- specialised general service officers as a matter of fact would have more experience of actual deck duties than their fellows to-day, and they would have also a good fundamental knowledge of engineering, which he hoped the hon. Gentleman would not consider a disadvantage in a sea officer. But, after all, the arguments the hon. Gentleman had used were very old arguments. They were advanced in times past against the teaching of navigation to executive officers. The extraordinary situation in which a ship could not go to sea because of the illness or absence of the navigating officer had, however, been got rid of. He could not see why, if there was no objection to an executive officer having an expert knowledge of motive power when that motive power was wind, there should be any objection to an executive officer having a knowledge of motive power when the motive power happened to be steam. We were rapidly approaching a mechanical age when a steam engine would no longer be a mystery to the rising generation. The marine steam engine of the future would be much more simple than the engine which preceded it. The introduction of turbines, which were to be put in all warships laid down since last October, would greatly simplify the problem of marine engineering. A knowledge of these engines could be acquired with much less difficulty than a knowledge of the reciprocating engines hitherto used. The hon. Member's contention that temporary specialisation in engineering or anything else would unfit officers for the command of ships or squadrons was one that was rather difficult to follow. The specialist period only lasted during the officer's term as lieutenant. Afterwards, nearly the whole of the specialist officers reverted to the general list and returned permanently to executive duties. A complete answer to the criticism offered on this point was afforded by the fact that at least 50 per cent, of the officers now in command of first class ships of war had been temporarily specialists, either as gunnery or torpedo lieutenants. The difficulties of specialisation in connection with engineering under the new scheme would be no greater than those attending the specialisation of gunnery and torpedo lieutenants. Moreover, if an officer did not show an aptitude for the command of a ship at any time, it was obvious that he would not get a command. Permanent specialists would be required for scientific work at establishments on land, and the Admiralty might find a new ally in matrimony. Officers conscious of inaptitude for the work required at sea might specialise for matrimony and shore billets. It had been said that the new engineer officers, Lieutenants (E) as they were called, would be inefficient under the new system. It was universally admitted that the engineer officers trained under the old system were generally efficient, but the Lieutenants (E) would have more engineering knowledge than the officers under the old system. The comparative figures regarding length of engineering training given by the hon. Member for King's Lynn were inexplicable and directly contradicted by the calculations made by the advisers of the Admiralty when the scheme was worked out. The best information the Admiralty could get showed that the Lieutenant (E) would be more highly trained than the engineer-lieutenant under the old system. Engineer officers under the new system, moreover, must all be officers who show a special aptitude and liking for that particular branch and they must have their hearts in the business,whereas under the old scheme there were necessarily misfits, who had merely entered the engineering branch because they had been unable to go into the executive branch; and who had no special talent for the work. The hon. Member for King's Lynn had contended that the new scheme was opposed by engineers generally and by the engineering Press. The Marine Engineer, on this very question in its issue of March 16th last said— It is entirely inaccurate to say that the organs of the engineering profession are opposed to the new scheme, as their columns will show; on the contrary they regard is as a fine piece of constructive statesmanship. Then this journal went on to quote the words of the late Sir William Allan, whose opinion was always very much respected in this House, and who made an unqualified eulogy of this system. He had had, during the last three years, considerable personal contact with Naval officers, not only in high commands but in command of ships, and he entirely failed to discover the widespread opposition and dissatisfaction with the new scheme which had been referred to by the hon. Member for King's Lynn. Although the hon. Member thought the scheme was bound to fail he might remind the Committee that the Board of Admiralty, backed up by its expert advisers, was of opinion that it was bound to succeed. He was glad to know that the present Board of Admiralty saw no reason to disapprove of or depart from the policy of its predecessors in this matter. The hon. Member for King's Lynn had said that what they wanted was continuity of policy. Well, they were getting it now. He had also referred to the case of the Marine officers, and he agreed with the hon. Member that that was more difficult. Many of them were men of great ability and high ambition, but they were obliged to remain comparatively idle in many cases, whilst everybody else were busy. They had no prospects and no responsible position on board ship. What an extraordinary situation it was when, with a great demand for lieutenants, they had 500 Marine officers who were quite unavailable for executive duties or for the general service. It was a most humiliating position for them and they felt it very strongly. Under the new scheme Lieutenants (M) would have a greatly increased sphere of activity, and they would be available as watch-keepers and carry nearly all the responsibilities of general service officers. They would also be specialised in military duties as well. He admitted that this was a most difficult question, but it was a far better solution for the Marines than the old system in which they laboured under such great disadvantages. The whole subject was necessarily a most complicated and difficult one, but at the same time it was one which formed the basis of the efficiency of our Navy. It was, however, a question which experts alone could properly decide, and it had received the fullest consideration of such experts as the Admiralty could command. The hon. Member for King's Lynn had made some unnecessarily insulting remarks about the Douglas Committed and the witnesses who gave evidence before it, but in his opinion that Committee produced a most valuable Report. He knew that the new scheme was condemned by the hon. Member for King's Lynn and others, whose literary abilities were far in excess of their practical professional qualifications, and whose opinion the Committee were not justified in accepting in the face of the opinion of the experts at the disposal of the Admiralty. The hon. Member had specially urged the Committee to reject the advice of the present First Sea Lord, whose energy and genius were well known, because he disagreed with him. He thought the British public were not quite persuaded that the hon. Member for King's Lynn was likely to be a better guide in these matters than the distinguished Admiral of the Fleet who had given the closest possible study to these matters for a great number of years, and who was doing brilliant service for the Navy long before the hon. Member was born. Moreover, the First Sea Lord commanded the entire confidence of his naval and civil colleagues at the Board of Admiralty. The new system, of course, had its merits; and demerits, but it had come to stay, and it was working admirably as far as it could be judged. It was breeding up a new race of naval officers who in nearly all respects would be more highly trained, because they were being more scientifically educated, than their predecessors, and at the same time they were losing none of those fighting qualities which had always been pre-eminent in the Naval service. He hoped the Committee would not be led into the belief that all the attacks which had been made by the hon. Member for King's Lynn were well founded, or that any evidence could be produced to justify the Board of Admiralty in departing from this new policy which was showing such great promise of success.


said the hon. Member for Fareham had spoken for the late Board of Admiralty and what he had said had materially shortened what he should have to say in reply. This was a question of education. The essential feature of the new system which had been attacked was a common entry of all candidates for officerships in the British Navy, whilst under the old system they had three classes of Naval officers. The result of the old system was a certain amount of want of unity between the three ranks of officers, and it was in order to avoid those difficulties that the new system was established. It was to meet that difficulty that the new system of common entry was established. It was true that he had objected to the scheme on the ground of early entry. He still held that view. He believed that early entry, however cheap the system of education might be, excluded 90 per cent, of the people of England from the right of sending their sons to be Naval officers. In that view he was supported by the Prime Minister and by distinguished Naval officers, but he admitted they were a small minority. Personally, he thought the Navy ought to be able to call upon the best brains, blood, and sinew of the country without exception. His ideal was the Japanese system, which admitted cadets to the Naval service up to the age of twenty, the only disqualification being marriage or bankruptcy. He confessed he did not see his way to get rid of early entry. The Board of Admiralty were united and progressive, and they had; accepted common entry at all events. Under the new scheme there was common entry at the age of thirteen, when the boys went to Osborne. At the age of fifteen they went to Dartmouth. At seventeen they went on board a training cruiser for six or seven months. At seventeen and a half a cadet became a midshipman. After three years at sea, at the ago of twenty and a half, he became an acting sub-lieutenant, and at the age of twenty-two and a half he became a lieutenant. Up to that point all the cadets had a common training. Then specialisation began, either as Marine officers, engineer officers, or executive officers. That special training continued during the whole period of lieutenancy, until the rank of commander was reached, at about the age of thirty-seven. Then, with certain exceptions, the three divergent lines converged again, and the great bulk of these specially trained officers were available for executive duty or any other duty. A certain number of them would always remain Marine officers or engineer officers.


asked how the officers were to be selected for special training.


said there would be an opening for voluntary selection, subject to the power of the Board of Admiralty to determine the branch of the service in which an officer should be trained. The difference between Lord Selborne's scheme and Lord Cawdor's scheme was that under the latter the specialisation began a year earlier, and, instead of being permanent, terminated when the rank of commander was reached. Lord Selborne's Memorandum undoubtedly stated that the choice of special training having been made or determined, an engineer would always remain an engineer, a Marine would always remain a Marine, and an executive officer would always remain an executive officer.


said Lord Selborne stated in the House of Lords that that was not the intention.


said he was referring to the Memorandum. He was aware that Lord Selborne afterwards said in a letter that he thought an interchange of duties should take place. He thought they were all agreed that there must be common entry, and that specialisation must begin at some time or other. The only question was whether specialisation should be perpetual or should come to an end when the lieutenant reached the rank of commander. The oldest boy affected by this scheme was at present fifteen years of age. It might be twenty years before it was necessary to apply this scheme to him. Therefore there was time for consideration. Surely it was too early to prophecy and be dogmatic as to what was to happen at so remote a date. The suggestion of his hon. friend the Member for King's Lynn was that a new Committee of Inquiry should be appointed. He must decline on the part of the Admiralty to delegate their functions to any Committee. The line taken by the Admiralty had been expressed by him in introducing the Navy Estimates and by the First Lord of the Admiralty in another place. The Admiralty felt itself perfectly competent to come to a decision upon all the questions. Most of the recommendations of the Cawdor Memorandum were actually in operation or about to come into operation when the present Board assumed office at the end of December. Their policy in regard to the new system was one of watching and waiting. That attitude did not imply any doubt of the soundness of the system as to specialisation in its essential parts; but they held themselves bound to employ free minds and free hands in the settlement of the difficulties that must arise under the new system, just as they had arisen under the old. It was a very obvious criticism for the hon. Member for King's Lynn to make. "How can you assure that you will have as good executive officers in the future as in the past?" That was a question which wanted watching; and so in regard to engineer officers. He admitted that the case of the Marine officers was involved in exceptional difficulty and delicacy; but they were going to watch them all and give them a fair trial. He submitted that that was a sound and rational attitude for the Admiralty to assume. They had not initiated the new system, but they intended to give it a fair trial; and to do what experience might show to be necessary for its improvement.


said that perhaps the hon. Member for King's Lynn would bear with him if he said, from very intimate knowledge of the matter, that his estimate of the cost to the parent of a cadet at Osborne was entirely erroneous. He himself would put it at less than £100 a year. With regard to the new system, it was intended by the late Board of Admiralty to meet the great and growing difficulty of obtaining engineers for the Navy. It was brought home to them that service in teh Navy would never be made attractive to engineers until all the emoluments and prizes of the service were open to them. Therefore, they decided to devise a scheme by which engineering officers would have the same opportunities of rising to the top of the Navy as any other officers in the service. The hon. Member for King's Lynn was under a misapprehension as to the position of the Admiralty in respect of the system adopted in the United States Navy. He had spent many hours on board United States ships and had had a conversation with the Chief Engineer of the Navy. The American system differed in toto from that adopted by the British Admiralty. It should be remembered that not less than 50 per cent, of the high executive officers of the Navy were officers who had specialised in torpedo or gunnery; and in his opinion there was nothing to differentiate specialisation in the engineering branch from specialisation in the gunnery and torpedo branches. There was, it was true, a certain amount of opinion opposed to these changes; but it must be remembered that they were changes which were due to an inevitable progress. The engineer officer had become almost the most important officer in the Navy, and the time had come when they could not keep the engineer officer out of the highest commands of the Navy. Masts and sails had gone, and therefore it was absolutely necessary to revolutionise the whole system of training, so as to give it an engineering instead of a purely seamanship quality. He hoped the Committee would not accept as true all that the hon. Member for King's Lynn had said about the feeling of the service. He quite admitted that there was a certain amount of difficulty and hardship when changes of this magnitude were made. But these changes were initiated in favour of progress. In view of the changed condition of things it was necessary to revolutionise the whole training of the Naval officer, and in the course of that process it was inevitable that they should find a certain number of officers to whom that change, however inevitable it might be, was intolerable. He believed, however, there was an amount of good will and power of adaptation in the Navy which would help them enormously in getting over the difficulties of the transitional period. With regard to the Royal Marines, he had never altered his opinion that the solution of that question was an entire alteration of the function of the Royal Marine Corps, and its development to meet the peculiar circumstances of a maritime nation. He believed that if the guardianship of our maritime stations were given over to the Royal Marines, the whole of the present difficulty would vanish.

MR. G. CROYDON MARKS (Cornwall, Launceston)

welcomed the initiation of a policy to give a rank to the engineers in the Navy. The engineers under the old reigme had no association with the officers and were looked down upon and snubbed. That was the reason of the failure to get men to enter the service. There were plenty of men capable of entering the service but they did not do so because they could get better positions in the merchant service and were there treated as gentlemen. To get over this the Admiralty had wisely determined that there should, be no social distinction between the engineer and other officers, and had opened to the engineer the possibility of being something more than a workman by giving him a rank equal to that of a navigating or seamanship officer. By doing so they would make the service more attractive. There was a large amount of money set apart for training stokers to become engineers; but if they thought the engineering profession could be learnt by three years training by-and-bye they would have some lamentable failures and discover their error. A man-of-war was a mass of machinery, and the most important man in the ship when it was going was the chief engineer, but to oblige every man who went into the Navy to go through a certain course in the engine room, an experience which must be detestable to him, was a very peculiar way of training up engineers with a love for their business. An engineer must be a man of resource, and must know what was likely to happen the moment he heard a click. Did they think a stoker after being trained for a couple of years as a mechanician would know what a particular hissing meant? He would not know what had happened until something went wrong, because he had never had he experience and therefore could not foresee the difficulty. In his opinion the intention of the Admiralty to spend a large sum of money in educating men for the purpose of doing work which could be done by men drawn from outside the service was a huge waste of money and the result would not be satisfactory. The idea of taking a man who had been feeding the fires, at about twenty-five years of age and when he had lost his best powers of learning a new trade, training him as an engineer and putting him in charge of the engine room, was based on a misconception by the Admiralty of the duties the engineer had to perform. In engineering science there was no finality; improvements were always going on, and it was essential that the Navy should have engineers who knew what was being done and who were capable of adapting themselves to that which was new.

MR. LAMBTON (Durham, S.E.)

said he was very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty say that he had an open mind on the question of this new scheme of naval education, and that the Admiralty would be allowed a free hand in the matter. The right hon. Member for Croydon had pointed out that the system had been introduced chiefly because of want of social distinction afforded to the engineer officers. That must have been mere conjecture, because when he looked at the report of the Douglas Committee he found that this vast change had been introduced into the Navy entirely because of imaginary social disabilities of the engineers. It was not entirely a question of the social disabilities of the engineer officers or the way in which they would perform their duties. Previous speakers had spoken of the enormous knowledge an engineer officer should possess, but the executive officer should have some knowledge as well; and the chief knowledge an executive officer should have was that of the leadership of men. How was an engineer who up to the age of thirty-five had passed his time in looking after the machinery of the ship to be expected to have the knowledge of how to lead men? The young executive officer, from the moment he was admitted, had to exercise that leadership and that responsibility which had made our naval officers such a force. A man who was kept below until an advanced age could not acquire the same confidence in the management of a ship. The report of the Douglas Committee showed that the new system did not recommend itself to the marine officers; the speeches just made proved it did not find favour with the engineers; and he believed the majority of executive officers were against it. It was to be hoped the Board of Admiralty would have some regard for the wishes of officers now serving in the Fleet and would proceed very carefully. The Government had said the new system would be given a fair trial, but if that trial was too prolonged great danger might result to the country.

MR. WEIR (ROSS and Cromarty)

said that he had not intervened in this debate before, and should not have done so now, but he thought the time had come when the whole system of Cadet examinations should be inquired into. Who, he would like to know, were the examiners who examined the candidates? Out of 588 accepted candidates who submitted themselves for examination, only two sons of engineer officers were selected. Only the other day he put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman upon this subject. He asked him for the names of the examiners who passed these 588 candidates, but the right hon. Gentleman took advantage of the Question being unstarred and gave information he had not asked for. In future he would star his questions and so give himself the opportunity of putting supplementary ones if necessary.


Does the hon. Gentleman complain that he has not had the names of the examiners?


said the question he put was would the right hon. Gentleman state the names of the members of the Admiralty Board who constituted the examiners. That information was not given. He could toll the right hon. Gentleman who they were. One was the First Lord, one his private secretary; then there was the Civil Lord, and there was one outsider. He should have thought that the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Civil Lord would have had far more important duties to perform than that of examining small boys. Matters were managed very much better under the old system, and he hoped the present system would be changed. It was a most unsatisfactory system. It was not a system of selection after open competition at all; it was a system of nomination pure and simple. That was not the way to get the best brains of the country. Out of the 588 accepted candidates for Osborne, to whom he had referred, instead of two there ought to have been something like eighty sons of engineer officers. He was not satisfied with the system and he was not surprised that the hon. Member for King's Lynn, who spoke with considerable knowledge of the subject, should have condemned it in the manner he had. Sons of the aristocracy were pitchforked into places because they had neither the brains nor the assiduity to stand the strain of a competitive examination, and so they were smuggled in in this fashion. Nelson would have been out of it if the present system had existed in his time. The doors were opened to the sons of aristocrats, too often wooden-headed ones, and favourites. He had always gone into the lobby, whatever Party had been in power, in support of the Navy, but he was anxious to know how the Navy was going to be managed in the years to come. How were they going to train up officers under the present system? They might just as well expect a man with a certain amount of knowledge to dig the foundations of a house, build it, do the carpentery, painting, and finish it throughout, and finally draw the pictures on the panels of the rooms. They did not find the railway companies doing what the Admiralty were now doing. Those who had the driving of the engines were first cleaners, then stokers and finally engine drivers. These men could not make the engines. The idea of puttting an expert engineer on the bridge of a man-of-war was absurd. It was impossible to get the best by the system that had been adopted. It was nonsense to think that because a man could turn a lever he should be able to take the machine to pieces or make a part if necessary. They would not get experienced men by this system. They would have Jacks of all trades to manage ships which cost a million of money. He observed that there was an increase of £16,560 in the training of Naval cadets. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to see that this increase stopped. If it did not he should move a reduction and go to a division another year. He wished to deal gently with the right hon. Gentleman, because the present Government had not been long in office. Those to whom the extravagance was due now sat on the front Opposition Bench. He also desired to ask the right hon. Gentleman to see that the ragging which went on in the Naval schools was stopped. He would call attention to the large number of withdrawals of cadets under the new system. It was a great injustice to the parents. All this was avoided under the old system of examination by the Civil Service Commission. Why should the boys be examined by an Oxford and Cambridge Board at double the cost? He was anxious that these boys should be examined by the Civil Service Commissions, and he hoped the Secretary to the Admiralty would consult the First Lord of the Admiralty, and see if the present system could not be altered. They did not want the present oral examinations, which were only part of a system of jobbery under which boys were smuggled into the Navy. He considered that the whole system was unsound. Whether a boy was the son of a prince or a peasant he had no business to be smuggled into such a department as the Admiralty. He desired to see the Navy efficiently manned, and it was the future they had to consider. He wanted to ensure that twenty-two years hence the British Navy would be in efficient hands and not in the I hands of wooden-heads. Why was this system of oral examination not stopped? Why did the right hon. Gentleman continue it? Everything was not well with the Navy, and this was the black spot in its management. He hoped some alteration would be speedily brought about. They must stop this detestable system of smuggling boys into the finest Navy in the world; they wanted the very best men they could get in the-Naval service. There had been gross mismanagement in the Army, but the "Navy was managed better. Looking along the vista of time he saw that they would have trained a class of Naval officer quite unfit to manage ships of war. He was very anxious for the welfare of his country, but there could be no confidence whilst things of this kind were going on under a system of favouritism and jobbery.

CAPTAIN HERVEY (Bury St. Edmunds)

said that as one of the wooden-heads who was smuggled into the service at the head of the list some thirty years ago, he might be allowed to speak on this subject.


said he had not charged the hon. Member with wooden-headed-ness.


said that as he entered the Navy some thirty years ago perhaps he might be allowed to say a word or two upon the way in which the education of the Navy was now being managed. The new system and the way in which it was being tried was not properly understood. When so great a luminary as Lord Goschen in another place could say that there would be a state of complete interchangeability amongst the various classes in the Navy, and that a man might be an engineer officer one day, a gunnery expert the next, and a navigating expert the next, it might very well be open to others to make similar mistakes. They had been told something about the American Navy, and how the Americans had tried our scheme, and it had proved to be a failure. But was that so? Was the scheme of the American Navy the same as we were now trying in the British Navy? No, it was not. The American scheme did involve such complete interchange ability between the different branches of the service that a gunnery officer on one Commission might be an engineer officer on the next Commission. That was not what the Admiralty were trying to do. In twenty-two years time he thought the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty would find that none of the prognostications which he had put forward lad any foundation. The training which young officers were now going through had been very carefully thought out, as anybody would realise who had read from cover to cover the report of the Douglas Commission as he had done. There were many points in that Blue-book which had not been dealt with in this debate at all, but as hon. Members desired to discuss them on other Votes he would not deal with them now. He had intended pointing out to the Committee what the real scheme was, but the Secretary to the Admiralty had done it so clearly that it was unnecessary for him to deal with it at any length. He would only say that he was glad that all officers were under the new scheme to have a good grounding from the time of entry up to the time of specialisation in engineering. He had discussed this education question with engineers, and he had learnt that their grievances under the old system were not at all confined to the social grievance. There was no social difficulty between officer and officer on board ship; and, as a matter of fact, many of the engineer officers had brothers in the executive branch. What the engineers had lacked was the opportunity of obtaining higher rank and comparative status in the ship owing to their not having executive rank.

MR. NIELD (Middlesex, Ealing)

drew attention to the fact that there were not forty Members present.


I have so recently counted the House, that I do not see any necessity to count it again now.


said similar grievances were felt by the marine officers who had never found employment as general officers. At the present time three marine officers had only 100 men to look after and instruct in marine duties; the consequence was that they had very little to do, and yet at the same time there was a great demand for more naval officers on board ships where these marines were serving. It was obvious that under these circumstances something had to be done. The Board of Admiralty, in starting this new scheme, had acted in a far-seeing and splendid way when they brought in the system of common entry. It had been said that these new officers would not be able to carry out the work required of them in the higher ranks in the service— that was to say, when they were promoted from the rank of lieutenant. He entirely disagreed. It was a good thing to get boys at the age of thirteen, just when they were finishing their preparatory school course and when they could with most advantage be started on a new branch of work. Then they entered with the clear understanding that they might be selected to enter into any of the big branches—marines, enginers, or executive. He believed that no difficulty whatever would be found in getting a sufficient number of young officers of the right sort to volunteer for each of those branches. It had been alleged that good men would not be got to go in as engineers or marines, because they would be looked down upon, but he believed that with better promotion and better pay the right sort would be induced to go into the different branches, just as in the past suitable officers had by the offer of better pay and earlier promotion been obtained for the gunnery, torpedo and navigation branches. As to the suggestion that they would not be able to train boys in the service for engineering duties to equal those now entered from the outside, he asked why they should not be able to do so. He believed those trained in the service would be every bit as good when it came to the final test. Under the new scheme they would be able to get rid of grievances which existed now, and he believed they would get just as good officers in the future as in the past.

MR. BARNES (Glasgow, Blackfriars)

called the attention of the Committee to an item of £750 for "Assistant Masters for Boy Artificers and Mechanicians' Establishment," and an item of £150 for "Assistant Masters for Mechanicians' Establishment." These items concealed the real cost which was involved in the training of the artificer class for the Navy. In fact these two items only represented an infinitesimal part of the money spent in the training of the artificers. He was told that there were something like twenty-five artificers withdrawn from their ordinary duties to undertake the training of the boys on the ships where the training was given. The cost of these men was £3,000 a year. There were also six artificer engineers at a cost of £1,000, three engineer lieutenants at a cost of about £700, and a captain commander, two engineer commanders, and five lieutenants at a cost of about £5,000. Altogether for the training of 400 boys and about 200 of the mechanician class the expenditure was about £9,000 a year. This did not by any means exhaust the matter, because there were charges for food and many other items, and he was probably within the mark in stating that the total cost was £20,000 per annum. He was told that each one in the mechanician class trained in the manner he had indicated cost about £600, and that to train a boy as an efficient artificer involved an expenditure of £1,750. What was the reason for this? Hitherto the naval authorities had drawn the artificer class from the ordinary civil life of the community, and it was on record that the naval authorities themselves had said that they got good and reliable men who performed their duties efficiently. It ought to be said, and they got these men for nothing. He wanted to know from the Secretary to the Admiralty why, if good men had been so obtained in the past, this change had been carried, out. It had been said that it was necessary to give an outlet for promotion to the stoker class in the Navy. He did not want to say anything that would even bear the semblance of interfering with the natural and legitimate desire of any man to get promotion if his abilities warranted it, but he submitted that this project had been put forward not in the interests of stokers but as a set-off against the stokers' demand for increased pay. He had made inquiries in this matter not only from artificers but stokers as well.


The hon. Member is discussing a subject which could be much better discussed on another Vote. He can discuss the matter of education now, but he is entering on the question of policy which does not seem fitted to this Vote. If I allow it to be discussed row I cannot allow it to be discussed later on.


said it seemed to him there was not sufficient warrant for the change seeing that recruiting was going on fairly well prior to its being initiated. He hoped the Secretary to the Admiralty would tell the Committee how the change had been brought about.

And, it being a quarter-past Eight of the clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means under Standing Order No. 8, further proceeding was postponed without Question put.