§ 1. £1,996,400, Victualling and Clothing for the Navy.
§ *The SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Mr. EDMUND ROBERTSON, Dundee)
said he had promised to make a statement in regard to this matter. Vote 2 was pretty well, in all its details, in the same condition as it had been for many years past. There was practically no alteration in the organisation of the Vote. There was, however, one essential point of difference. It was with reference to the kit of the seamen and stokers. These men received on entry a gratuity of £10 to cover the cost of purchasing their first outfit, and the money was taken back from the men when the kit was purchased. It was now proposed that the money should no longer be paid to the men, but the clothes would be provided for them. He proposed to refer to various developments that had taken place in the course of the year. A good deal had been done as the result of the operations of the Committee appointed under the last 1256 Administration to consider questions of cooking. The cookery staff would be increased in some twenty ships, the object being to have the meals of the seamen cooked by trained cooks; and with the same idea naval schools of cookery at the home ports had been considerably improved. Provision had been made for the supply of fresh milk instead of condensed milk for men in the shore establishments and depot-ships, and fresh pork would be provided at various stations where ships called. Then the Committee on Seamen's Uniforms had made several recommendations on clothing which had been adopted. The value of the kit had been reduced by the elimination of articles deemed to be unnecessary. The initial cost of the kit had been reduced from £9 5s. to £6 15s., thereby yielding a saving to the State on the one hand of about £11,000 a year, and to the men, on the other, of considerably more. Oilskin suits would now be provided by the State instead of by the men, and sea-boots for use in the stokehold. The supply of ready-made uniforms would, as far as possible, be in creased, and attention would be given to the training of men in the art of tailoring, so that they might be of service on board ship in that capacity. The stock of mess utensils, which often had to be supplemented out of canteen sources, would, to a large extent, be supplied 1257 by the Navy —that was to say, the Government. The supply of newspapers confined to ships on foreign service and the Channel Fleet, would now be extended to all. As to tobacco, it was said that the strong unmanufactured tobacco was too strong for many of the younger men, and therefore a new kind of tobacco of a milder type had been introduced. He had tried it himself and thought it very good. The Canteen Committee, presided over by Admiral Login, had made a great many important recommendations. He saw no reason why this report should not be published, though it could not be published immediately, as it had to be referred to another Department. He would try to summarize the more important recommendations. Most Members, he supposed, knew roughly what was the present system of naval rations. The naval ration, consisting of bread, meat, and so forth, was a list of items of provisions amounting in cost to the State of 10d. per man per day. The men, how ever, were not obliged to take all the items in the ration; they might drop some of them if they liked, and in lieu get part of the value in money, which was called "savings." With this they might purchase for themselves, wherever they could get them, the articles which they preferred. That was the existing system of naval ration, mitigated by savings, which had been for many years a subject of com plaint.
§ MR. HUNT (Shropshire, Ludlow)
asked whether the men got anything in lieu of the corned beef if they rejected that item.
§ *MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
said he was not aware that they did not. He would inquire. The men need not take up all the articles unless they liked. The naval ration was objected to by the men on account of its monotony; it might be very good at one season of the year and not at another. He was told, too, that the savings system had great disadvantages. The Canteen Committee recommended the abolition of this system and the institution of another. There would in future be a standard ration at a cost to the Government of 6d. instead of 10d., and the balance, 4d., would be given as a messing allowance to the men. This standard ration would have to be taken 1258 up by the men, and the 4d. per day would be a money allowance. It followed from this that the Government provisions on board ship were to be available for purchase by the men, and could be bought by them with their messing allowance. Many of the men were willing to take Government provisions. As a part of the same scheme more convenient times of issue would be arranged for, a number of men having complained that they could not get their provisions when they wanted them. Improvements were also suggested in specific rations, and there were a number of miscellaneus recommendations, the most important of which was that in the case of destroyers and ships of that size, which did not carry canteens, some extra care should be taken on the part of the Navy to provide a greater variety of provisions for the men. The canteen had become an essential part of the economical organisation of a man-of-war. The canteen was, in fact, a shop on board ship, and the contractor, once he was in possession, had a monopoly. That position must be faced whether they liked it or not. Of course, the main raison d'etre, as he understood, was to enable the men to get a greater choice of food without their being tied down rigidly to the Government rations. He did not want to use exaggerated language about the matter, and he purposed to say as few words as he could, and would refer to the Report of the Canteen Committee. In the opinion of the Committee the Admiralty had too long held aloof from the canteens; they had ignored them too much, and they had too long avoided responsibility for them. He was bound to say that that had been due to a feeling of respect for the freedom of the men, and with a desire to give them a free hand in the matter. The principal recommendation made by the Committee was that the Admiralty should no longer shirk its responsibility; that it should supervise far more than it had done hitherto the canteen system. First of all, the Committee recommended that the Admiralty, among their other lists of contractors, should keep a list of men qualified or entitled to offer themselves as contractors or tenants of the canteens, and that that list should be available for the commanding officer when he was about to make a contract for the canteen. It was 1259 not proposed to interfere with the commanding officer's responsibility, and he would be nominally the party to the contract for the canteen onboard. Then, in the second place, it was proposed that the Admiralty should keep a record of the history of the canteen contractors. The Admiralty would do that, of course, on reports from their various representatives, and they would keep also the price lists for the use of the commanding officers for the purpose of making their contracts. To do that it was essential that they should have regular reports from all the Fleet. A canteen might be a success on one ship and a failure on some other ship, and they proposed therefore to have reports at the Admiralty. Further, the Committee had drawn up a model agreement for letting the canteens, to be used by the commanding officers when they were making engagements.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE (Hampshire, Fareham)
Will the commanding officers not be allowed to go outside the list?
§ *MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
said he could not give a definite answer, but he thought that as a matter of fact commanding officers would not be likely to go outside the list. He supposed the prices would be discussed and then they would settle a contract. The Report of the Committee called attention to certain disagreeable features connected with the canteen system, and the means adopted by enterprising con tractors to get contracts. They suggested that regulations should be made which would secure the purity of the lettings and keep down prices to a proper level by suppressing certain expenditure which was not in itself legitimate. Finally, the Committee recommended that the canteen should no longer be allowed to duplicate the Government stores, and the advantage of that proposal was that it would tend to save space and weight on board. That finished what he had to say about the recommendations in regard to the canteens. He would now proceed to one or two other recommendations. The Committee seemed to have some doubt altogether about the value of the ration system, and they suggested the adoption of the general messing system which, he believed, pre- 1260 vailed in the United States Navy, in which the messing for all ratings on board was under the control of the commissariat steward, just as a similar officer dealt with the mess on board an Atlantic liner. Under that system, the cost to the Government would be no greater than the present cost of tenpence a day, while it would lead to better food and a greater variety of it. But the men would no longer have an opportunity of choosing for themselves, though there might be a consultation from time to time as to their tastes. The commissariat steward who would do the catering would be assisted by an adequate staff, and he would provide for the whole ship at a cost which would be no greater to the Government than the present cost, and would load to better results and better food for the men.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE
Will the steward be in the position of a contractor or will he be an administrative officer?
§ *MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
said he would be an administrative officer. It was proposed to try this messing system by way of experiment only, and it was thought that the experiment should be made on the "Dreadnought" as the most suitable ship. The Committee had also made certain suggestions as to temperance in the Navy. Hitherto what he had referred to in regard to the Report of the Committee took the form of positive recommendations, but in regard to temperance in the Navy the Committee merely made suggestions. What they said about temperance was put in a much more modest way. The present system was this. The Government ration costing tenpence a day included a modest little item for rum. One-eighth of a pint per diem was what was called the rum ration, which cost the State a little more than three-sixteenths of a penny per man. The man who did not choose to take up rum took up instead a money allowance. He got, not the value of the rum, but nine-sixteenths of a penny, so that he gained six-sixteenths of a penny, which was equivalent, he found, to ten shillings per annum per man. The essential part of the present system was that the men were entered on the ship's books with a mark to indicate whether they were 1261 temperance men or not. The man who did not take grog, but took the money instead, was labelled in the ship's ledger under the letter "T." —temperance. The number of men who were so labelled, who did not take the spirit at all but received the money instead, were, he was told, and he was rather surprised and gratified to hear it, 25 per cent. of the Navy. [Cheers.] His hon. friend cheered that statement, but there was ground for still further gratification in the fact that the number who did not take rum was rising 1 per cent. per annum. The Committee had made the suggestion that the custom of labelling the men should be altered, and that instead of labelling the temperance men "T." they should label the grog men "G."
§ *MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
said the letters he was referring to appeared only in the ship's ledger. Another suggestion of the Committee was that the inducement to take money instead of grog should be increased by raising the grog money from 9–16ths of a penny to a penny per day. That would mean a grant of 23s. per head per annum to those who did not take grog, and an additional expenditure of £15,000 more than the cost of the present allowance. If the whole of the Navy were to become T.'s, the cost, making allowance for officers, service boys, Coast Guard, and others not allowed grog, would be £88,000 a year if the Committee's suggestion was adopted. That was a fair summary of the Report, some of the recommendations of which would have to be considered by other Departments. The whole scheme would be submitted to a final judgment as soon as possible, and the Report would be in the hands of Members before very long. If the things with which he had dealt were small, they were all important in their way. They all affected the well-being of the men, and on that depended in the long run the strength of His Majesty's Fleet. Taken altogether, what the Admiralty had done and what the Committee recommended constituted a social reform of the Navy well worthy of the sympathy of the Committee.
§ MR. HUNT (Shropshire, Ludlow)
asked what they were to understand by this duplicate provision. What portion would be provided by the Admiralty and what portion by the contractor? Would the canteen system go on as before, or would the contractor have to pay from £200 to £300 for the privilege of having a monopoly? In the past these contractors had been allowed to buy the cheapest stuff and soil it to the men at the highest price. Was he right in supposing that the Navy contractors took annually about £3,000,000 from the men in the Navy? As the Admiralty sold tobacco upon which no duty was paid, why could they not buy these extra provisions themselves and supply them to the men at cost price? He saw no reason why they should not do so. By buying in large quantities they could buy very cheaply and they could supply the men with a good quality of goods at a cheaper rate than was at present charged by the contractor. If the men in the Navy found it necessary to buy food in this way, they ought to be supplied with good stuff at as low a price as possible. At present the system was exactly the reverse. Large sums were being spent upon the food supplies for the Navy and it was their duty to see that the men were well fed.
§ *MR. BOWLES (Lambeth, Norwood)
said the statement which the right hon. Gentleman had made was of a comprehensive character. These matters of food and clothing in the Navy might seem rather small matters of detail to some hon. Members, but they were nevertheless of the greatest practical importance. If the men were fed and clothed in a way which they considered satisfactory and under a system which they considered fair it would do a great deal to make the Navy popular. In regard to the victualling proposals they were at a considerable disadvantage through not having before them the Report of the Committee which had been considering these questions. But as far as he could understand those proposals from what the right hon. Gentleman had said, they seemed to him to be conceived upon absolutely right and sound lines and likely to be of the greatest possible value to the service. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not be led by anyone to depart from the position he had 1263 taken up as to making the Report public. This was important in view of the very serious charges which had been made against a system which went right through the service from top to bottom. Charges of the gravest possible character had been made against the whole existing system, and if they had been substantiated it was important and in the interests of the service that that substantiation should be available to everybody concerned. He was extremely glad that the Committee had reported that the time had gone by when the Admiralty could absolve itself from responsibility in regard to the canteens, and that they ought to take over that responsibility. That was the only way in which the matter could be placed upon a satisfactory footing. He gathered from the right hon. Gentleman's statement that the contracts for the canteen would still continue to be made separately for each ship. He supposed there was no idea of a fleet contract or a single contract being entered into for a whole squadron. He hoped some good reasons would be forthcoming for that decision; for he had always thought that one of the great advantages of the Admiralty's taking over the responsibility for this auxiliary supplying of the canteens would be that, by making a large central contract, they would get articles at wholesale prices, and so be able to sell them more cheaply to the men. On the whole, however, he was bound to say that he thought both the Navy and the country would be obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for what he had done. The matter was of very great importance, and he thought it was quite clear that it was in a fair way of being put on straight lines. There might and probably would be details in which he could not agree; but so long as the main lines of the change were sound, the rest would be set right by experience. So far as he could judge, sound lines had been laid down by the right hon. Gentleman, with the help, he had no doubt, of Admiral Login, the value of whose services could not possibly be exaggerated. As to the clothing of the men, which the right hon. Gentleman had passed over in a sentence, he wished to say one or two words. A change had been made for the current year which was of the most far-reaching and fundamental character; and as to its wisdom 1264 and ultimate effects, he entertained very serious apprehension. The Committee was well aware that in the matter of uniform the Navy stood in an absolutely different —indeed, in an exactly opposite —position from every other uniformed service in the Empire, and, he believed, throughout the world. In every other, service of the King of a uniformed character, the uniform was provided free of cost to the men, and maintained up to a certain specified standard at the cost of the taxpayers. In the case of the Royal Navy alone, the men were clothed and their clothing was maintained throughout free of cost to the Exchequer, and entirely at the cost of the men themselves. That was a fundamental and remarkable difference. The system was this. The Admiralty provided the materials for making the men's clothes. The cloth was bought at wholesale price, and sold to the men at cost price, plus 5 per cent. for various charges in connection with the establishment. The men bought the cloth with their own money, they made the uniforms themselves, and they made their own arrangements for making them. There was therefore a small profit —certainly no loss—to the State. The men gave the whole of their labour and tailoring for nothing. That system was obviously good from the point of view of the taxpayer. In the case of the Army there were enormous factories at Pimlico, involving large expenditure from year to year from the public purse, while in the case of the Navy there were no such charges at all. He had often wondered why it was that the blue-jacket, every half-hour of whose time was occupied by very hard work, should have for hundreds of years undertaken the cost and labour of making his own clothes, whereas the soldier, who had infinitely less to do, had his clothes made for him. He had wondered, in his simple-minded way, whether it would not be possible to use up some of the spare time of the soldiers of the Line in the making of their own clothes. The Estimate in the Vote this year for clothing and tobacco was £300,000, and the amount to be received was £310,000, so that the State was making a profit of £10,000. That was satisfactory from the point of view not only of the taxpayer, but of the service as a whole. Having bought and made their kits, the men had the 1265 pride of genuine ownership. No one would deny that the clothing of the blue-jackets was admirably made. The system seemed to him to present enormous advantages. It had only one defect, if it could be called a defect, namely, that it did not ensure absolute cast-iron uniformity. For some reason which he could not conceive, the Admiralty had issued a circular enacting that from the beginning of next year the issue of materials in the way he had described should cease. Whether the men in the Navy liked it or not, they were to be forced to buy, and what was worse, to wear, a ready-made uniform provided by the Admiralty. That was a serious change which would be very expensive in the end. The history of the uniform in the Navy was very interesting. The Committee might be surprised to hear that it was only in 1879 that the first order issued from the Admiralty fixing any uniform at all. Before then the uniform had depended considerably as to detail upon the idiosyncracies of the various commanders and officers of ships. A distinguished officer told him a few days ago that he was a midshipman in the 'sixties, and that on board his ship the midshipmen used habitually to go aloft in white top hats. In 1879 the Admiralty fixed what articles and how man of each a man was to have, and laid down definite instructions as to sizes, measurements and other details. There were Admiralty instructions as to the size of pockets, the position of buttons, and measurements, but they had not been acted upon. The thing was regarded as being rather foolish — the product of wooden-headed officialism. So long as a man was properly and, above all, smartly dressed the exact measurements were not insisted upon in the ships, but they were always rigid y insisted upon in barracks. In the depots there were police, one part of whose duty was to see that the exact directions of the Admiralty in regard to ridiculous details of stitching and lacing were carried out to the letter. They had been extremely rigid and all kinds of difficulties had arisen in con sequence. Men of the highest character had come back from their ships with kits on which they had spent much time and money, and of which they were naturally proud. They had been forced to lay their kits before the authorities, and the clothes had been ripped up 1266 and destroyed, because they were not made according to instructions. He submitted that all that was folly and a mistake, and he was astonished that the Admiralty should have sanctioned it so long. It now appeared that it was to be not only sanctioned but forcibly ex tended to the whole service. What had happened was that the Admiralty had given a sudden order on 1st February, 1907, that the supply of the material for the uniforms was to be stopped, and that the men of the Service were to be supplied with ready-made slop uniforms. The result would be that the pride which the blue-jackets now (took in their clothes would be diminished, that there would be a demand for a "fore-and-aft rig "as it was called for service on board ship instead of the present beautiful dress; and also a demand for the right to wear plain clothes ashore. He met accidentally two men from a ship in the Channel Fleet the other day, dressed in their smartest and most hand some uniforms, beautifully made; and he talked with them about various things, among others of this proposal, and they said to him that if they were to be put into the "purser's rig "they would never come ashore in it as long as they could buy a yard or two of serge to make a suit for themselves. He condemned the stupid wooden Prussian demand for absolute uniformity in every petty detail. If the Service were left alone the sailors would still have a very handsome dress at no charge to anybody. On the other hand, if this ridiculous change were insisted upon, the Admiralty would be doing what was extremely unpopular, and would inevitably give rise to a demand that the country should supply a uniform for the men at very considerable cost as was done in every other service. He earnestly hoped that this ill-advised change would be re-considered.
§ *MR. LEIF JONES (Westmoreland, Appleby)
said that the statement of the Secretary to the Admiralty was very interesting, and he congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on what he called the social reforms in the Navy. There were some Navy Votes which he would not venture to discuss because they required expert knowledge of Naval questions. But it was quite time that those who were interested in social reforms ashore should show some interest in the 1267 conditions of the sailors afloat. They all recognised the incalculable service which the sailors rendered to the country, and the very least they could do was to make their conditions of service as happy and comfortable as circumstances would permit. He, for one, would look with the greatest possible interest to the publication of the Report of the Committee mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. The improvements the right hon. Gentle man had suggested all pointed to valuable alterations in the conditions of canteens. One of them was as to the conditions under which the tenders of the con tractors for the canteens were accepted. He hoped that under no circumstances should it be imperative to take the tender of the highest bidder. The commander should reserve to himself the right to take a lower bid if he could get a better contractor. He expressed his peculiar satisfaction with the statement of the Committee in reference to temperance in the Navy. He thought the Committee could have hardly made a more valuable suggestion than the substitution of a distinguishing letter for the drinkers instead of for the temperance man. He had always opposed the idea that rum should be regarded as a necessary ingredient in the rations issued to the men on board ship; and he was glad that the men who, after declaration, said that they did not desire a rum ration would not in future be marked in the ships' books with the letter "T," but that the non-temperance men would be labelled with the letter "G" for grog. As a matter of fact the present money allowance was not sufficient to induce the men who did abstain in every case to refuse the rum ration. The grog cost the Admiralty three sixteenths of a penny, and the saving allowed to the men who did not take the rum was nine-sixteenths of a penny, but in their eyes it ought to be more. He was glad that the Committee recommended that the money allowance in lieu of rum should be increased to a penny in order to encourage the growth of temperance in the Navy. The right hon. Gentleman had told the Committee that the allowance of nine-sixteenths of a penny was equal to 10s. a year per head and that that cost the Admiralty £7,000. He did not understand the right hon. Gentleman's arithmetic, when he said that if the 1268 allowance was increased to a penny it would represent an increase of expenditure of £15,000. He maintained that it would be only £8,000, and the total cost to the country would only be £15,000. When the happy time arrived when the rum ration was abolished altogether, the total cost would be only £60,000, and not £88,000 as the right hon. Gentleman had said. He could understand that there might be difficulty with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Treasury in getting this additional sum; but he could say that it would be an experiment extremely cheap at the price. The indirect effects of this issue of rum no one could calculate. He wondered how many accidents and cases of insubordination were due to it! He ventured to say that the indirect cost arising from these was not £60,000 nor £600,000, but incomparably more. When he brought this question up last year he was the recipient of a great many letters —some of them abusive because, as the writers said, he wished to deprive poor Jack of the only comfort he had on his perilous voyages round the world. But he had had a letter from a man who had served twenty years in the Navy and who had had considerable experience of the system of issuing grog as a ration. The letter was as follows —Sir, you are quite a dark horse in His Majesty's Navy, so have nothing to fear. I take it the reason you are interested in the rum question is from a knowledge you have of the evil effects it has upon the men generally — quite so. Now let me please write down just a few of them. First and greatest, the boys are taught by the men to drink, as the lads are often enticed by the cook of the mess to have a drink out of the basin at dinner-time for helping generally with the mess duties. The men barter with their grog, so are able to get two or more allowances. Many teetotalers take their grog up and give it to their messmates in return for work done in the mess. A ration or more of grog and a pipe of ship's tobacco (in tropical weather) make a man drowsy, disagreeable, and unfit for duty. Sentries have been known to break into the spirit room and drink rum till they have killed themselves. If you wish to get a domestic job done, you have to mortgage your grog, for money is of no value at sea.The warrant and the petty officers that handle and issue it are always able to have a good taste of it, in addition to their allowance. The plus or waste does not go down the scupper hole.It fills your cells on board ship.It fills the defaulters book.It keeps a large stall of ship's police.Most all minor punishments carry with it stoppage of grog, hence discontent. It court 1269 martials warrant officers, disrates petty officers; seamen and mariners, etc., lose good conduct medals and good conduct badges. It causes half the unnecessary clerical work in the Navy and creates thousands of stop-grog books.It is more dangerous than gunpowder, and requires greater supervision. It spells its own name (ruin). Therefore it should he wiped out of existence on board man-of-war, and the man who causes this revolution will be confer ring a lasting benefit on our seamen and the nation, and whose reward should be a monument higher than Nelson's.That was a letter from a man who had been twenty years in the Navy, and who added to that experience a power of keen observation. He did not think anyone would say that he exaggerated the dangers and expense caused by the rum ration, and he hoped the savings allowance would be increased. In the interest of the efficiency of the Navy it was desirable to put an end to the rum ration. The most efficient Navy in the world —well, he would not make comparisons —but the one which had most recently gained the admiration of the world, that of Japan, supplied no spirit ration to the men on their ships. The United States did away with it forty-five years ago in the course of the civil war, and he thought the universal testimony of the admirals and officials of that Navy was in favour of their system. Therefore, he thought our Navy would gain by the abolition of the ration, and it would be a wise step to give the new men who joined the Navy the increased money allowance without the option of rum. That would not interfere with the men who were accustomed to it. He re-echoed the words of the right hon. Gentleman that "on the well-being of the men depended the strength of His Majesty's Navy," and because he thought that this course would tend to the well-being of the Navy he ventured to urge it with all earnestness upon the Government.
§ MAJOR SEELY (Liverpool, Abercromby)
said he wished to endorse every word that had fallen from the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite with regard to the undesirability, so far as he had been able to ascertain from inquiries among sailors with whom he had been brought into contact, of abolishing the present system under which the men made their own clothing. It appeared to him on all grounds that whatever an Englishman could do for himself he should be left to 1270 do, although that was a policy which Government offices tried to get away from. If once the Admiralty instead of the men made the clothes, there would be a tendency to approximate naval uniforms to military uniforms. The naval uniform now was the healthiest uniform because the men made it themselves and they would not wear what was not comfortable. The military uniform constricted the throat, interfered with the circulation of the blood, prevented the chest expanding, interfered with the heart's action, and prevented a man from doing any useful work for fear of splitting his coat. It was impossible for anyone acquainted with the uniforms of the two services to sit silent while a proposal was made that the sailors' dross should be turned into those foolish things that men in the Army were forced to wear. He wished for some explanation about sub head M. The item for clothes for seamen, boys of the Fleet and Coast Guard on shore showed a reduction of £44,127, which, coming from a total of £344,374 meant a reduction of nearly one-seventh. Of course the reduction might be highly desirable, but it had occurred to himself and a few others that an explanation of how the supplies for this year were being affected might be given. From what they had been told it could not be accounted for by any reduction of the personnel of men and boys in the Navy; therefore he was led to believe that it must be caused by a reduction in the number of the Coast Guard. That seemed more likely, as they heard that three coastguard stations had been abolished this year and it might be that these men's clothes were taken off the Vote. He would therefore ask his hon. friend for some explanation of the reduction.
§ *The CIVIL LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. Lambert, Devonshire, South Molton)
said the reduction was due to a decrease in the requirements for reserves of clothing.
§ MAJOR SEELY
said that if the hon. Gentleman looked at subhead M. he would find that the reduction was in regard to the issues made. He would therefore ask him to give an assurance that there should be no reduction in the clothing issued to the Coast Guard or 1271 in the reduction of the numbers of that force. Although that assurance had been previously given, it appeared to have been disregarded.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE
desired to support the protest made by the hon. Member for the Abercromby Division against any proposal to militarise the dress of the Navy. It was a small matter, but it might have very serious consequences, not only in the way of decreasing the agility and efficiency of members of the Navy, but also upon recruiting and on the popularity of the service. As to the question of the men making their own clothes, he did not pretend to be able to form an opinion as to whether the clothes provided by a paternal Government would be better in cut and quality than those made by the men, but there was one very important point involved, and that was the importance of encouraging men who would not spend the whole of their lives in His Majesty's service to learn some trade which would be of use to them in civil life. That observation applied not only to the Navy, but also to the Army. He wished to raise a small point under subhead M. with reference to the clothing of the Naval Volunteer Reserves. He had no practical experience of the question, as he had never gone into it very carefully, but there was considerable feeling, he understood, among the Naval Reserve Volunteers at the delay of the Admiralty in giving a decision as to a free kit after three years service. That had a detrimental effect upon recruiting and upon re-engagement of men in the force. It was a small question and the amount of money involved would be very small. The men got a free kit, and at the end of three years the man who devoted himself to his duties found that his clothes were worn out and he had to buy a new kit for himself. That did not seem just towards men of experience and service. What happened in many cases was that the man left the service and then re-entered the next day as a recruit and got a new kit. He believed the demands of the commanding officers of the Royal Naval Volunteers were very moderate. They only asked that 30 per cent. of new kits should be issued to them annually, and said that that would enable them to meet the case of those men who wished to re-engage. He urged the right hon. Gentleman to get a 1272 decision upon the point speedily. The question had been under consideration for some years, and while it was hanging on the men were dropping off, which was a thing the right hon. Gentleman did not wish to see any more than anybody else. So far as the main object of the right hon. Gentleman's statement was concerned, he would prefer to defer expressing approval or disapproval until he had seen the Report. That which the right hon. Gentleman had outlined seemed admirable in spirit, but he thought the Committee must be given time to read and digest the Report before they were asked to discuss it.
§ MR. HUNT
said the hon. Member for the Appleby Division, who thought a great many accidents in the Navy were due to rum, must have forgotten how very good the Admiralty rum was and how very little found its way to the men nowadays. What they received was not enough to get them "forrard" at all. So far as he could see, the men at the present time were well dressed; that was to say that they had clothes in which they could move about. What they complained of was that it cost a bluejacket £3 and the petty officers and others £5 a year for the upkeep of their uniform. That was a serious amount to ask these men to pay, especially as their wages were considerably less than those of the same class of men employed on shore in the dockyards. As he understood, a carpenter's crew on shipboard received from 2s. 4d. to 2s. 11d., whilst the same class of man on shore received 6s.; shipwrights and carpenters on shipboard received from 4s. to 4s. 9d. and on shore 6s. He also asked why all mechanics in the Navy save carpenters were supplied with tools. He thought it extremely hard that men serving on board ship whose lives were certainly far harder than those of the men who worked in the dockyards ashore should be paid considerably less.
§ MR. BRAMSDON (Portsmouth)
joined in the protest against militarising the dress of the Navy. One of the grievances the men had for many years put forward was that they had to maintain their kit. their contention being that they ought not to be expected to do so. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty had stated in reply to questions from him that if the 1273 Admiralty supplied a free kit to the men it would cost the Government £350,000 a year. That sum was now practically taken out of the wages of the men, as they did not receive more than they did forty or fifty years ago. He thought the men ought to be helped in that direction, and he trusted that whatever course might be adopted by the Government something would be done in the direction of giving the men a free kit. With regard to the standard 6d. ration and the remaining 4d., he would like to know whether the men would be able to get forth at extra 4d. rations as good in quality and as much in quantity as they got for 4d. at the present time, because other wise many men might prefer not to take a portion of their rations in cash. He heartily supported the hon. Member for the Appleby Division in reference to the steps being taken to promote sobriety among the men. He could give serious accounts of the evils that had arisen in the Navy from the use of rum. He asked whether the Secretary to the Admiralty could give any assurance with regard to the can teens in the Royal naval barracks in the three large naval ports. They had large canteens, and he wished they were smaller. In the town he represented a new system had been adopted in the barrack canteen of having a temperance restaurant, he believed with great success. Unfortunately, that had to be worked by private money, and he would like to see the Admiralty spend some money in that direction, as it would tend towards increased sobriety.
said, with regard to the remark by the hon. Member for Portsmouth with reference to the temperance canteen, that it would be a great satisfaction to the Admiralty to spend money in that direction if it could be done. He desired to dispel any idea there might be of any militarisation of the dress of the Navy. Any change of uniform would be useless and was utterly foreign to the ideas of the Admiralty. The fact was that the clothing was not made by the men themselves, because in the majority of cases the men had not the time to make it, even if they were skilled tailors. The clothing was made by one or two old hands who had sewing machines on board ship, and who had a 1274 monopoly and charged what they liked. The Committee on Clothing invited the men to express their views on the subject, and the men expressed their opinion that ready-made clothing would be of value to the men themselves, and would be-warmly welcomed. The Admiralty had no idea of any stilted or wooden-headed system in dealing with the men. The explanation of the reduction under Sub head M, Clothing of the Fleet and Coast guard, was very simple. That reduction was due entirely to reduction in stocks. It was recommended by the Committee, which sat from May to October, 1905, that in future instead of a nine months' reserve of clothing, a six months' stock should be kept. That was the whole meaning of the reduced Estimate under this subhead for the current year. The hon. Member for Ludlow had asked whether the articles to be supplied in the new canteens were to be supplied to the men duty free. All the dutiable articles were now supplied duty free, in fact, the 10d. ration was valued outside the Navy at 1s. 3d.
§ *MR. LAMBERT
said that was a matter which they would consider when the Report was published. It would not be fair for anyone who was cognisant with the recommendations of the Report to discuss it before it was before the House. The whole of its recommendations would be fully considered by the Admiralty which would do its best to remedy the grievances which were brought out last year. The result of the adoption of the recommendations of this Committee would be in the direction of removing the grievances which existed. All the Admiralty desired to do was to add to the comfort of the men and prevent them from paying an undue amount for any articles they bought on board ship. The cost of free kits would be about £325,000. The cost for each man, if he got free what he now paid for, would be about £3 5s. There were a trifle under 100,000 men, and therefore the cost would be about £325,000 a year. He was afraid that he could not hold out any hope that the 1275 free kit would be granted. In some quarters they were asked to reduce the Naval Estimates, while at the same time they were asked to increase the expenditure on various items.
§ *MR. LAMBERT
said a good many Members had asked that they should reduce the cost of the Navy, but he, at any rate, absolved the hon. Gentle man from any desire for reduction. Personally, he was one of those who believed in economy while giving the country value for their money. It would not be in order to discuss that question, but obviously if the hon. Gentleman was not satisfied with the present standard of naval expenditure he was very difficult indeed to satisfy.
§ MR. BRAMSDON
said he would like a specific answer to the question whether for the extra 4d. they would get the same quality and quantity of rations as they got now.
§ *MR. LAMBERT
said, as the right hon. Gentleman had stated in his opening remarks, they would be able to get a better standard of value.
§ *MR. LAMBERT
said they would get a better standard of value. He ought to say that those recommendations had not been adopted yet, but it was believed that they would produce the result that the men would get a better ration at a possibly cheaper price, because the canteen contractors would be looked after much more carefully. The rates which by competition they were now asked to pay would be very considerably reduced, and fair value would be given for the canteens.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
said the present Board had not been able to arrive at a definite decision, and he did not think that he could make any promise on the subject. He could not go beyond what he had said in answer to a Question that afternoon. He did not think they could very well differentiate between the Army and the Navy; the Army was in course of reconstruction at the present moment, and the Volunteers formed part of the reconstruction. He had by no means abandoned hope of dealing with the matter; he thought he could give the hon. Gentleman that assurance.
§ MR. T. L. CORBETT (Down, N.)
asked whether the Estimate for the clothing of the Coast Guard was to be reduced. Was the amount to be reduced owing to the reduction of the number of the Coast Guard?
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
No; there is no connection between the reduction and the clothing of the Coast Guard.
§ MR. T. L. CORBETT
said surely the amount of clothing required would be less if they were going to have fewer men.
said the question of the number of the Coast Guard, which apparently was the real objective of the hon. Member, did not arise on this Vote.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON (Middlesbrough)
said he was rather surprised that the Admiralty had not made up their mind to supply the clothing of the men of the Royal Navy. He had always looked upon it as a great hardship that men receiving a small amount of wages —stokers, able seamen and boys —should be called upon to buy their own kit. The hon. Gentleman said that it would cost £325,000 a year. What of that? He looked upon the clothing as part of the pay that was due to the men, and he had expected more from a Liberal Government than they had heard. Certainly the Government ought to provide the men with clothing. Men who joined the Army were provided with clothing and free kit. Why should not the 1277 same system be extended to the Navy? The present system had no doubt been in existence many years, but they were now living in an age of progress, and he thought the Government ought to make up their mind, even at the cost of £350,000 a year, to supply free kits. The Navy cost about £30,000,000 a year, and, compared with that total, £350,000 was a small sum. He considered that the men were entitled to have their clothing provided, and as one connected with the sea he entered his protest against the attitude of the Government. He had thought that the Government were going to effect a reform in that direction, and, therefore, he had not said much on the Estimates. He thought he was right in saying that the majority of the men did not make their own clothes; generally the work was done by handy tailors on board. It was right and proper that the Government should supply the clothing, and next year, if he had an opportunity, he would certainly have something to say upon the matter. While he was not prepared to move a reduction of the Vote now, he expressed his surprise and entered his protest that the Government had not done something in the direction of supplying the men with their clothing.
§ MR. ERNEST LAMB (Rochester)
asked whether they were to understand that the representatives of the men favoured an alteration for the supply of ready made clothing, instead of getting the material.
§ Vote agreed to.