§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £406,400, be granted to His Majesty to defray the expenses of the Admiralty Office, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1912."
§ Mr. O'GRADY
On a point of Order. I desire to ask whether I am entitled to move to report progress at the present 2438 moment for the purpose of calling attention to a matter of great public importance on a question which deeply concerns hon. Members on these benches.
§ The CHAIRMAN
No; this day is allotted for Navy Estimates, and the particular Navy Estimates we are to discuss is specified on the Paper. I could not take a Motion to report Progress in order to discuss another matter altogether.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
On the point that concerns us we would like an expression of opinion from you about it. We understand that the whole of this day is going to be devoted to a discussion of a case which is an attempt of what is practically to blackmail the Treasury. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."]
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not think that the phrase as applied is absolutely disorderly, but, at the same time, I think it is an objectionable phrase to use.
§ Mr. SWIFT MacNEILL
May I state that hon. Gentlemen on this side said, "Shame, shame," which is distinctly unparliamentary and disorderly.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
If in your opinion the expression that I used was undesirable I certainly withdraw it out of deference, Sir, to you. The point of Order is, whether you can give us any indication whether this one question is going to occupy the whole of this sitting to the exclusion of other exceedingly important questions that have to be raised on the First Lord's salary.
§ Mr. ROBERT HARCOURT
May I ask, on the same point of Order, whether it is not open to any hon. Member who succeeds in catching your eye to raise any question on the Vote?
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Yes; in reply to the hon. Member I may say it is open to any hon. Member who catches my eye to raise any question relevant to the Vote. With regard to the question of the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald), it is understood that on this day there is to 2439 be a discussion of what is known as the Archer-Shee incident, and that being the case, I certainly think we ought to spend the first part of the day discussing that question. I cannot bind myself, but I think I ought, as far as possible, to confine the Debate to that question at first so that we may dispose of it. I cannot bind myself as to how long that discussion will last, but I have been informed by hon. Members who are likely to know that they do not desire to carry on the discussion of that question during the whole of the day. I therefore hope, though I cannot promise, that the discussion will not occupy the whole of the sitting.
§ Mr. O'GRADY
Are you aware that the idea underlying this Motion is a question of compensation for this young officer? Are you aware also that the case has been through the Law Courts?
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is not a question of Order. I had better hear the case and then I shall be able to know whether it is in order or not.
§ Mr. CAVE
I beg to move that the salary of the First Lord of the Admiralty be reduced by £100, for the purpose of calling attention to the Archer-Shee case. I make no apology for bringing this matter forward—partly because the First Lord himself a few weeks ago invited me to give him an opportunity of explaining his attitude on the question. In view of the observation made by the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald), I should like to add that I bring forward the Motion entirely on public grounds. I know nothing whatever of either Mr. Archer-Shee or his son personally; I have never seen either one or the other; I have had no communication with them; I move the Resolution simply because on public grounds I think attention ought to be called to the case. Whether or not the hon. Member for Leicester accepts that statement docs not very much concern me; I think the rest of the Committee will at once accept it. I am not going to attempt to re-open the merits of the case. They are entirely disposed of by the statement made in Court by the Law Officer of the Crown. I will call attention only to certain points connected with the dealings of the Admiralty with the case, which seem to me to require explanation, or at all events to require discussion in this House. The facts are shortly these: On October 2440 7th, 1908, a cadet at the Naval College, Osborne, reported that a postal order for 5s. had been taken from his locker. It was found that the order had been signed with his name and cashed at the post office. The Commander at Osborne made such inquiries as he could, and, his suspicions falling upon this cadet, George Archer-Shee, he reported to the Admiralty his conclusion that the postal order had been taken by this young fellow, thirteen years of age. The Admiralty without any communication with the boys' parents, without giving them any opportunity of knowing even what the charge was, or of assisting the cadet, wrote to the father on 17th October, saying that after an investigation of the circumstances the only conclusion possible was that the order had been taken by this young fellow, and they requested him to withdraw the boy from the college. That was ten days after the occurrence, and the first communication the parents received in the matter. The boy was, of course, at once withdrawn. The first matter requiring explanation is how there can be a system under which that very grave and serious step can be taken without warning to the parents or without giving the person charged at least an opportunity of defending himself. I may say, in order to placate hon. Members below the Gangway, some of whom I know have not raised the point of Order out of any desire to stifle the facts, that the father is not a rich man; he is a bank manager in the country, I believe, to whom money is certainly an object. He went at once to a solicitor. After writing four letters to the Admiralty, and after a delay of about a fortnight, he was allowed to see the documents, and ultimately to send a solicitor down to Osborne where some of the witnesses might be seen. The result was that facts were ascertained which threw a new light on the whole matter, and those facts were put before the Admiralty. After further delay the Admiralty took the step of appointing a gentleman known to many of us, and whom I certainly regard with very great respect, namely, the Judge Advocate of the Fleet, "to look into the matter." Whether he was bound by precedent or by instructions I do not know. I am sure that he would have wished, if he could, to hold a real inquiry into the matter, to hear all the facts, and to have the lad defended in a proper way. Rut, for some reason which I do not understand, he did nothing of the kind. He held a very informal private inquiry. He 2441 saw the lad and some of the witnesses. He allowed the solicitor, but no counsel, to come before him and ask questions of the witnesses. It is not to be wondered at that after an inquiry of that kind he reported to the Admiralty, as I understand, that he thought the charge was sustained, and the parents were informed that the Admiralty could not alter their decision.
That is the second matter requiring explanation—how it is when a charge so serious as this is made and appealed against, there is no process by which the person charged, whether a cadet, or a private, or whoever it may be, can have the facts publicly and properly investigated? How is it that a man can be con demned, and, possibly branded for life, without a chance of being properly defended or having the facts properly-brought out? Is it not worth considering, as a public matter, whether some procedure could not be invented or put into operation under which such a thing could not again occur? It was not open to the father to sue the Admiralty for wrong, as an action could not lie, as it would against a private individual. The course taken—I think it was the only course open—was that the father brought an action against the Crown for breach of the contract under which this young fellow was sent to Osborne. That is, he said that the contract to educate and maintain the lad had been broken, and in form he ask for damages for that. Of course, that is not what he really wanted. What he wanted was to have a trial of some kind at which the facts could be openly stated and tested. That Petition of Right, as it is called, was brought, and the next of the unfortunate incidents attending this case occurred. The Crown, instead of saying at once, "We want the facts gone into, and you shall have an open trial," adopted a proceeding known to lawyers as a demurrer. That is, they raised a point of law, and said there was no contract upon which an action could be brought. I know that the present Attorney-General was not responsible for that course being taken. He found the demurrer upon the record when he came into office, and he thought it his duty to press it. The result was that this legal objection, which the learned judge properly called a technical objection, was pressed, and the judge thought himself bound by the authorities to allow it. The result of the action was that by no possible procedure, as things stood, could the real facts be gone into or examined or 2442 ascertained. That is the third point requiring explanation. The old tradition was that whenever a subject wanted access to the courts of the country and desired the decision of a jury, the Crown officials did what they could to facilitate that result. They were bound to maintain in form the privileges of the Crown, but, while maintaining them in form, it was open to them to waive those privileges for this particular purpose in order that the facts might come before a jury and the verdict of the jury be taken.
The third point is, why is it that that very fine tradition in our country was departed from, and a point of law, which must have the effect of suppressing the facts, taken and pressed. Happily, Mr. Archer-Shee was advised to take that decision to another court. He went to the Court of Appeal, where the first breach was made in the armour of the Admiralty. Thanks to the counsel who argued the case for the appellant, and thanks to the sense of justice and the independence of the learned judges who heard the appeal, the whole aspect of the case was altered. I hope the time will never come when the judges will be the only bulwark that we shall have against the oppression of certain Government Departments. They have often been found so, and have been found so in this case, for the Judges of the Court of Appeal compelled counsel for the Crown, after a long argument, to give up his position, and the Court sent the case down to be tried on the facts. Then at last in, I think, July, 1910, nearly two years after this offence had been committed by someone, an opportunity occurred for the facts to be ascertained. The case was fought for three whole days. This young fellow—he was then, I suppose, fifteen years of age—was called and cross-examined by one of the ablest counsel at the Bar. After all, or nearly all, the evidence had been tested and sifted to the bottom, it was at last apparent to the Admiralty, as it had been apparent to others some months before, that no jury in England would come to a conclusion adverse to this young fellow. I do not think it would be right for me to go into the evidence, or into the facts, because it would be a long process, and because I am really precluded from taking that course by the result of the trial, for on the fourth day counsel for the Crown "threw up" his case, if I may say so. The right hon. Gentleman opposite, in his reply to my question on 16th March, said "that the Solicitor-General stated in Court on behalf 2443 of the Admiralty that he accepted the statement that George Archer-Shee did not write the name on the postal order and did not cash it, and consequently that he was innocent of the charge. On the other hand, Sir Edward Carson, speaking on behalf of the plaintiff, agreed that the Admiralty had acted bonâ fide and under a reasonable belief in the statements that were put before them.
§ Mr. CAVE
Oh, yes, I am much obliged to the hon. and learned Gentleman. I was reading from the answer of the First Lord in the House. The statement of the learned Attorney-General goes further than that. He said this:—I say, further, in order that there may be no misapprehension about it, that I make that statement without any reserve of any description, intending that it shall be a complete justification of the statement of the boy and the evidence given to the Court.As might be expected, the withdrawal made by the learned Gentleman was complete and full, and I am sure no one was more glad than he was that he had the opportunity of making that full withdrawal. That was the result of the trial. There remains no question in regard to the charge against this boy. I am not going into the charge, but I should like just to add this: that so far as I can ascertain there is another jury which has acquitted the boy. From more than one source I have the fact that the boys at Osborne themselves have all along held the view, and hold it still, that no charge could be supported against this young fellow. A few days after the trial there was a short Debate in this House. The result of that was that it was said by several Members on this side of the House that they would be glad to leave the ultimate settlement of the case to the generosity of the Admiralty. Now the position was this: By some misfortune, a charge has been made against this young fellow which turns out to be unjustified. It is true that counsel accepted the view that the Admiralty acted under a reasonable belief of the statements made to them. Nobody can possibly dissent from that position. For all that, it is true that the Admiralty did come to that mistaken conclusion, partly because they had 2444 not caused full inquiry to be made before their final conclusion was arrived at. At all events, by whatever mischance, the young fellow and everybody concerned suffered very great hardship. The boy himself had lost two years' education at Osborne, and it was too late for him to go back to the college and resume his naval career. The whole course of his life must needs be altered. It was for the Government to say what course should be taken.
I am not here for the purpose of pressing a claim for compensation, partly because I am not here on behalf of anybody entitled to compensation. Still I think I am entitled to say this: that in every case where mistakes are made in Government Departments, and individuals suffer, it has been the practice for the Government, if possible, to redress the wrongs which have been unwittingly done. I know that the First Lord said in the short debate of last year that "private rights have to be sacrificed for the public good." I think it rather the other way.
§ The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. McKenna)
made an observation inaudible to the Official Reporter.
§ Mr. CAVE
I know that after some months, nothing at all having been offered, the father put in a claim against the Admiralty for a large sum by way of compensation. I think it was £10,000. It is not a matter for me to discuss; but I agree with anybody who says that it was a large sum, and I think too large a sum.
§ Mr. CAVE
If that is so, I should have thought the course of the First Lord was perfectly clear. That was that he, as representing the Government, should say: "I think this is too large a claim, we think it right to pay a less sum "—which he might have named, and to which he might have adhered. I think what really was wanted was not so much a large sum, but some definite act or process on behalf of the Government which should mark the fact that the charge was finally and absolutely withdrawn. I think a formal 2445 expression of regret might well have been sent, and the offer of a substantial sum made by way of compensation—so far as you can compensate for a wrong of this kind. The payment of the full costs incurred would have been reasonable. No such proposal was made. The only offer made was that the Government would pay the father's taxed costs; nothing else that I know of. That means, of course, that the father himself would have a considerable sum to pay for costs, and there would be no kind of redress for the suffering and loss of those two years' litigation, and nothing to mark that the charge had been withdrawn. I am not making any personal charge against the right hon. Gentleman opposite; but I do think that this case has been most unfortunate, and in more than one aspect it does require a certain amount of explanation and justification to the House. I feel bound just to add one other fact, an element of comedy in what in other respects is a somewhat tragic occurrence. The Admiralty made a further mistake. After the trial somebody found out that the summer before this thing happened a letter had been written to the boy's parents saying that the progress he had been making in his studies had not been entirely satisfactory—I am reading the letter—and accordingly the authorities thought it right to warn him that they might consider it necessary that he should withdraw from the College at the termination of a period during which he would be on probation. That letter was actually put forward as a reason for no compensation being paid. I am told that such letters are written to many of these young fellows—as many as thirty in one term—and that they never lead to anything—except increased diligence on the part of the lads. Really, the suggestion seems to be that because you have not been very diligent in your studies, and have not made sufficient progress, you ought not to mind being charged with theft. I do not think that suggestion will be repeated in this House.
To sum up, I think one would like to know whether boys who go into these schools cannot be protected against inconsiderate charges of this kind, because the result must be to deter others from going into the country's service. This is not, I think, the only case that has occurred. When such a charge is made cannot provision be made for a real inquiry into the case? Thirdly, when a subject again tries to obtain redress in this way cannot he be allowed to put his merits before a jury, 2446 instead of being stopped on the threshold? Lastly, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman who was good enough on a previous occasion to say that he wanted guidance from this House has had time to reconsider the matter, and whether he would tell us now what it is he thinks it right and generous to offer on behalf of the Government in respect of compensation and costs?
In bringing the matter forward, I am not, of course, appealing to any particular party in the House; I am appealing to the general sense of the House, and I feel confident that if everybody were free to speak his mind, there are very few men in the House who, knowing the facts, and giving them fair consideration, would not think as I do that something ought now at last to be done to put this matter right.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The hon. and learned Gentleman has stated the case in as moderate and complete a manner as everyone who knows him would expect from him, and for my part I have not a shadow of complaint against a single word which he has uttered. He has, I think, very rightly asked, on public grounds, for information with regard to certain matters on the conduct of this case, and, speaking for myself, I confess that I do not shirk the duty. On the contrary, I am glad of having the opportunity of explaining certain matters in connection with this case which I do not think have been fully explained. From the manner in which the hon. and learned Member opened the case, I hardly think it necessary for me to make any elaborate explanation of my own personal conduct. But I should like to clear up one or two points upon which, although charges have not been definitely made, it would be absurd for me to ignore the fact that some of the organs of the Press have suggested charges. There seems to have been in certain quarters the notion that the Admiralty has been vindictive in these proceedings, and not only that the Admiralty has been vindictive, but that it has desired to conceal all traces of its action, and prevent justice from being done. I hope the Committee will credit the statement which I make, not only upon my own behalf, but on the behalf of all those concerned in this case, that their one desire has been to get, at the truth and to act upon the truth according to their duty and to the responsibilities placed upon them.
It must be remembered that, in judging a case of this sort I am not in the position 2447 of a jury. I have got to administer a college with 400 boys, and I have a duty to the remaining 399 boys as well as to the one against whom a charge may be preferred. If I come to a conclusion upon the evidence brought before me that a boy is guilty of the charge made against him, it is my duty to have him withdrawn from the college for the sake of the 399 other boys. That is my duty, no matter whether I know, believe, or am told whether a jury would or would not convict. If I, in the administration of my duty, honestly and reasonably come to, the conclusion that the charge preferred against a boy in school is true—I must bear the consequences, I know, if the jury say he is innocent—it is my duty not to keep him. If I kept that boy I should be undermining the authority of the administration of the college. I should be allowing to remain in that college a canker, because the fact that the suspicion was held and believed to be true would pervade the whole college and would influence the lives of the 399 other boys, and would never be lost sight of through the whole career of the boy charged.
As regards the fact of the case, I ask this Committee to agree with me that it is the duty of the head of a college, who in his conscience believes that a charge preferred is true, to act upon that belief. Why? What would the natural and human inclination of any man be who was placed in a position of responsibility for institutions of that kind? He has only got to say, "I do not think this charge is quite clear; I do not think we ought to act upon it;" he has only got to minimise the case and he knows that, so far as he is concerned, he will escape all future trouble. In every case of this kind let the Committee remember that those responsible for the college know that they are going to be subjected to attack, and very proper attack, when the parents or guardians in the case will rightly, and very properly, exercise their power to prove that they were wrong. Those responsible know that they could escape all the trouble or vexation if they would only overlook the offence and allow themselves to come to the opposite conclusion to that which they have come. I regard it, therefore, as a point of duty, and nothing less than a point of duty, that those responsible should act upon the beliefs, they have reason for——
§ Mr. McKENNA
Certainly not. I am coming to that point. I said should come to those conclusions to which they have reasonably come. Now in dealing with this case the hon. and learned Gentleman said there was no need to go into the facts of the case. They had been very fully investigated in Court, and certain conclusions had been arrived at after hearing nearly the whole of the evidence by those responsible upon either side for the conduct of the case. On the one hand the charge against the boy was unreservedly, and in the fullest and frankest manner, withdrawn, and his word was accepted. On the other hand—and this the House must notice is a very remarkable conclusion—it was admitted after hearing all the evidence not merely that the Admiralty had acted bonâ fide, but that they had acted upon a reasonable belief in the truth of the statements made to thorn. Now, I put it to any hon. Member who has got to be responsible for a decision, if upon evidence given an hon. Member has formed a reasonable decision, a reasonable opinion, a reasonable belief, is it proper or is it improper to act upon that belief. There can be but one answer. It is a man's duty to act upon beliefs reasonably formed. There is no charge here either of bad faith or of defective judgment. The case is admitted to be one in which the Admiralty acted bonâ fide and with a reasonable belief in the statements they made. So much for that part of the case.
Now I wish to turn to the case, not in its details, but in its procedure as it came to me. The charge was that a postal order was stolen and cashed on 7th October. An investigation was held on 8th October. After the investigation the procedure is for the Captain of the College to report to the Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth, and then for the Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth to report to the Admiralty. The Captain of the College, after investigation, came to the conclusion that the boy should be withdrawn from the College. The Commander-in-Chief endorsed that report and came to the same conclusion, and made a statement accordingly to the Admiralty. Directly I saw the papers—I believe I was away the moment they arrived, but within a day or two I saw the papers—I recognised at once the terrible infliction that such a case as this would bring both upon the boy himself and upon the parents. And I looked round for evidence in examining the case which would enable me to say 2449 that in my judgment I thought the Captain of the College was wrong. I examined the evidence very carefully, and I observed there was an omission as I thought. The handwriting on the postal order had not been compared with the handwriting of the boy charged. I say frankly at once I do not attach very much importance to evidence of handwriting. I do not know I should be very disposed to convict anybody upon evidence of handwriting, and, therefore, what I say now does not in any way reopen the case, but is said in order to bring to hon. Members the truth as to my own state of mind. Although an expert may frequently be wrong when he says a document is written by a particular individual, he is not likely to be wrong if he says the document is not written by a particular individual. And, accordingly, I sent the postal order to be examined with the hope I should be told that the signature on the postal order was not in the handwriting of the boy against whom the charge was made.
I thought that if I had this evidence before me I should have a strong basis to go upon against the report which had come up to me from the College. That was my first action and that explains the whole of the delay. Although the offence was committed on 7th October the father received no letter until 17th October. That investigation was being made in the hope that it might be in the boy's favour. Now I stop here to make an observation in which I think the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite will agree with me. What has struck me in cases of this kind is that nine-tenths of the mischief is done when the first public inquiry is held at the college when the charge is preferred, and when witnesses are called in from outside and the fact that the charge is made becomes a matter of public notoriety in the college. It is then that nine-tenths of the mischief is done before the Admiralty hears of it. After my experience in this case—when this happened my experience of the administration of Osborne was not very long—I amended the regulations and I have issued instructions that no public inquiry, or no inquiry which could lead to publicity, should be made in respect of any charge against a cadet if, as the result—the charge being of a serious nature—the cadet would have to be withdrawn upon the charge being found true; and that no such inquiry should be made, first of all, without prior communication with the Admiralty, and, secondly, without prior communication with the parents. I agree with 2450 the hon. and learned Gentleman in that respect the method was at fault. Do not let it be understood that I am endeavouring to shield myself at the expense of the captain of the college. He only inherited the system, and was acting strictly in accordance with the regulations existing at the time. The moment the facts became known to me I altered the regulations, and I hope the Committee will consider that part of my explanation satisfactory.
The next point the hon. and learned Gentleman made was a point of which a very great deal was made at the trial. It is not a point which affects the merits of the case, but it seemed to go to show that the Admiralty had been very negligent in their response to the parents' appeal. The hon. and learned Gentleman stated that on 20th October Messrs. Lewis and Lewis, writing on behalf of the father, asked to be allowed to know the evidence upon which the boy had been charged, and that although they wrote four times they got no answer until 3rd November. I think that is the statement which the hon. and learned Gentleman made. What is the fact, at any rate so far as I am concerned, in regard to that? On 20th October, as the hon. and learned Gentleman has stated, Messrs. Lewis and Lewis asked for leave to inspect the documents. That letter was received at the Admiralty on the 21st. and it was sent over the same day to the Treasury solicitors, because it was thought as solicitors on one side were conducting the case, it was necessary for solicitors on the other side to do the same. The letter was sent over to the Treasury solicitors for observations, and it came back on the 22nd or the 23rd, and it was minuted by me on 23rd October, two days after the letter was received. It was minuted by me as approving of the father being allowed to know the evidence against his son. There was no delay at all, because it was minuted by me within two days of the receipt of the letter. During those two days it had to go backwards and forwards to the Treasury solicitors. On the 28th Messrs. Lewis and Lewis wrote to say they had heard nothing with regard to the case of George Archer-Shee, and the letter was marked "Urgent." On the 29th they wrote to say they were surprised that they had received no answer. On the 2nd November Messrs. Lewis and Lewis wrote:—Are we to expect any answer?What had happened in the interval? My minute went back to the Treasury solici- 2451 tors. On the 26th October Lord Desart, who was then acting as Treasury solicitor, wrote a private letter to Sir George Lewis suggesting an appointment. On the 27th Sir George Lewis replied, and on the 28th Lord Desart suggested a date for a meeting. On the 29th Sir George Lewis called and saw Lord Desart, so that the whole of this complaint is based on a misunderstanding. No doubt my hon. and learned Friend hears these facts now for the first time.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I will explain. This fact, which is most vital in regard to the conduct of the Admiralty, has never been explained before for a very simple reason. I can only explain it in one way. Whilst Sir George Lewis was seeing Lord Desart and arranging with him, another partner in the firm, not in the least knowing, I am sure, that Sir George Lewis was privately communicating with Lord Desart, was going on writing letters to the Admiralty urging us to give a reply. Meanwhile we knew that Lord Desart was arranging with Sir George Lewis, and we took no further action. I am sure after this explanation, all of which is on record and in documents, it will be admitted that there is no ground for a charge of delay to be made against the Admiralty. Two days after the request was received I had given leave that the evidence should be made known to the father. This has been represented as a case in which the Admiralty have thwarted and prevented an inquiry. What did we do next? I do not suppose there is any precedent for such action as ours in the whole course of the experience of a public department.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The Noble Lord has not yet heard what I have to say. We allowed—and this fact was admitted in the statement made by the hon. and learned Gentleman—the solicitors representing the father to go down to Osborne taking with them an eminent counsel, with full opportunity to examine all the witnesses, to see all the necessary documents, and to get at the very root and bottom of the case. Here were we who were prospectively going to be the defendants in an action allowing the plaintiffs to see everything we had got—and we concealed nothing from them—with full power to examine and cross-examine all witnesses. After 2452 that I do not think it can be said that we were seeking concealment, or that we were anxious to get a conviction.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I know the hon. and learned Gentleman did not say so. As a result of this investigation a report was sent to me by Messrs. Lewis and Lewis, in which they gave grounds, in their judgment, for thinking that the charge had been wrongly made. I read their case, and I read it with the greatest respect, and with the greatest desire to agree with them, but I am bound to say that I do not think the evidence justified me in refusing to accept the statement of the captain of the college and those who had examined all the material witnesses at the time. I determined, however, to do my utmost to assure myself and the college authorities as to the real truth of this ease. I looked round, then, for someone whom I could send down to Osborne to investigate the whole question afresh. The gentleman whom I invited to go was Mr. Acland. What were Mr. Acland's credentials for such a task? Mr. Acland since 1903 had been the Recorder of Oxford. He was thoroughly familiar with judicial proceedings and their methods. In 1904 Mr. Acland had been appointed Judge-Advocate of the Fleet by Lord Selborne, and he is in that office at this time. It must be remembered that the function of Judge-Advocate of the Fleet is to question the decisions of authorities, and if I had looked round for any man of high integrity and great ability who was likely to have a bias, from the practice of his office towards the defendant in any action, I should have selected Mr. Acland. I can assure hon. Gentlemen that nobody was more anxious than I was to get an opinion from an independent party at that time that the charge ought to be withdrawn. No one was more anxious than I was. Mr. Acland investigated the case. He made a report to me, and his report came out once more unfavourable to the boy. After that I had in the exercise of my duty no option but to refuse to take the boy back. What was the next step? An action was then brought by the father for breach of contract, and it was brought by the method known as a Petition of Right. I do not pretend that I am very learned in the precise meaning of a demurrer to a Petition of Right——
§ Mr. O'SHAUGHNESSY
The right hon. Gentleman stated that he had inquired as to the handwriting on the postal order. I 2453 want to know was the handwriting in the postal order declared to be by an expert the same as the boy's handwriting.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I am most unwilling to make any statement of that kind, because I do not wish to say anything which would minimise or whittle down the effect of the absolute withdrawal of the charge. I merely referred to that point. I only referred it to the expert because I wanted him to say it was not the same. Let the Committee understand that in all these proceedings I can only act upon reports, and as soon as it was reported by my hon. and learned Friend that I ought to withdraw the charge I withdrew it instantly. Now we come to the question of the demurrer. I will only say this upon it. There are certain rights or prerogatives which we speak of as the Prerogatives of the Crown. In these days the Prerogatives of the Crown are not exercised for the benefit of the Crown but for the benefit of the public. Those Prerogatives are in existence, and any Minister in charge of his office is a trustee for the time being for the maintenance of those Prerogatives. I should not be doing my duty if it were duty to demur or not to demur, so long as Parliament leaves those powers in my hands, if I did not enforce them. It is, as my hon. and learned Friend Sir Rufus Isaacs says, a legal point which does not rest with the Admiralty. Then the hon. and learned Gentleman said it was only thanks to the judges in the Appeal Court that the case was ultimately heard. I do not think he is there doing full justice to my hon. and learned Friend. I have here the Shorthand Note of the trial—I am referring now to the trial of the appeal in the Court of Appeal—and at the bottom of page 90 it will be seen that the Solicitor-General says:—I do not know if I understand your Lordship rightly. Is that indication of your Lordship's opinion that it would be better that the facts should be tried before the point of law is decided?Lord Justice Vaughan Williams: In this particular case, I do think so.The Solicitor-General: If your Lordships think that, I certainly should not dispute it. That is quite sufficient as an indication to me that your Lordships are of opinion that it would he the better course to take. The learned Judge below took the view that I put forward, that it was bettor to deal first with what went to the root of the matter, and your Lordships have heard that point now.Sir Edward Carson: The learned Judge in the Court below suggested that the facts ought to be tried.The Solicitor-General: No. I say he took the view that I put forward. He asked me whether I would have the facts tried, and I said I thought if I was right on the point of law there was nothing to try, and I claimed my right. That I quite agree, and there is 2454 no question between us about it, but I say at once if your Lordships say that you think it would be better that the facts should be tried first, I should fall in with that view.My hon. and learned Friend at that time had a perfect right to insist on his view and on his original claim. He had already got the decision of the Court below in favour of his claim, and he could have insisted and taken it up to the House of Lords. The mere fact that the facts were pleaded at the same time as the demurrer alone gave the Court an opportunity of discussing the Appeal. Once we had claimed the right, as we were bound to claim the right, under the demurrer, we had no objection to the trial of the case. I now come to the last point—the question of compensation. The hon. and learned Gentleman at the conclusion of his speech said there was a touch of comedy in this case with regard to the answer to the claim for compensation. He said somebody had discovered, after the trial, that the boy Archer-Shee had been under warning, and that statement was invented or discovered or trumped up afterwards as an afterthought.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Well, brought forward. I wish to be perfectly fair. It was found out and brought forward as an afterthought in order to deal with the question of compensation. The facts are exactly the reverse. When the history of the case was brought up to me on the petition of right, there was in the evidence to be sent to the solicitor the fact that a warning letter had been sent to the father on the ground that the boy's studies were unsatisfactory, stating that the father should be prepared to continue his education elsewhere. When that letter came up to me, I withdrew it from the paper. My hon. and learned Friend never heard of that paper, but I had. I had it before me from the start, but I deliberately withdrew it from the paper, although it was very material to the questions of that case, because I did not think it affected the only issue we had to try. The hon. and learned Member thinks such a material fact as that had been forgotten by me when I had to deal with compensation, but I can assure him I have a much better treasured mind than that. I knew it all the time. I never brought it forward, I never should have mentioned it in this case, and I never intended to mention it until not only was £10,000 claimed, but I was met with the assurance that the 2455 claim of £10,000 was the only basis on which compensation would be considered.
I now come to the conclusion of this case. That was the only outstanding issue. I desire to be fair, and I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman that as between the State and an individual, though there be no legal claim, yet it is the business of the State to act fairly and generously. I do not dispute that for one moment, but I have got to protect the interests of the taxpayer, and I was confronted with a claim for £10,000, and for a complete indemnity for costs. What did I propose? I asked my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General to act on my behalf. When Messrs. Lewis and Lewis wrote the letter, I think of October, 1910, asking what we proposed to do on the subject of damages and compensation, we replied that there was no legal claim against us at all, but for our part we should be very happy that the question should be discussed and decided between my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General and the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who had conducted the case with so much skill for Mr. Archer-Shee. I wanted my hon. and learned Friend to settle the question. He is a very fair-minded man, it was he who reported to me that the charge ought to be withdrawn, and I thought he might be reasonably left to decide in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman opposite what the claim against us ought to be. I was met with the reply that the only basis of discussion would be £10,000 compensation and a complete indemnity for costs. Well, I refused. I refused, and I have to take my trial now. Is it reasonable that we should pay £10,000, which is more than a naval officer would receive as retired pay after thirty years' service? If there was still the faintest suspicion that we were in any way continuing our injury to the boy's character, and if there was any suggestion that we had not withdrawn the charge absolutely and unreservedly, then vindictive damages might be claimed against the Admiralty most justifiably, but there is no such case. It is a clear case of compensation for injury done.
Was it or was it not material to that question, and to that question only, that the boy had received this warning letter? The hon. and learned Gentleman says it was a trifling matter. These warning letters were sent, in numbers, I think he said, and no consequences followed, except greater application on the part of the 2456 boy. As a matter of fact, in that year 1908, twenty-seven such warning letters were sent, and twelve boys who received warning letters were withdrawn, or very nearly one-half. These are no idle threats. The actual chance of that boy remaining in the college after the father had received that warning letter was only a half chance, and, as regards his prospects of a brilliant career, there were 400 other boys in the college competing, and is this one boy to be selected as a case for such an extravagant demand, as I think, for compensation under the conditions which I have described? No, I could not come to any other conclusion. I say now, I think it is a case for fair and even generous treatment. Why, then, the hon. and learned Gentleman will say, did I confine my offer to paying the taxed costs. I did not. I offered to pay, not merely the taxed costs, but all the taxed costs of the inquiry, all the taxed costs of the issues on which the father had lost, as well as those on which he had succeeded. But why taxed costs, he may say. Why not full costs? I do not know what the full costs are. This case began as far back as October, 1908. Surely, by this time a bill of costs had been rendered and has been paid. Let me know the amount. What I am asked to do, is to give an indemnity for costs. I do not desire to give a blank cheque of public money to any firm of solicitors, however eminent. I want to know the bill before I pay it, and, when I was willing that my hon. and learned Friend should discuss with the right hon. Gentlemen opposite all the questions, I was refused. I must leave the matter there to the House. So far as I am concerned, I can assure hon. Members on both sides that I have never been actuated by any desire in this case from the first except to know the truth, and, knowing it, to act upon it in accordance with my duty.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
I shall attempt to retain the attention of the Committee by imitating the example and tone and method which has been set me both by my hon. and learned Friend and by the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. The right hon. Gentleman, I think, will understand me if I say that I postpone until the conclusion of the few observations with which I shall trouble the Committee any question at all of compensation. I agree that the question of compensation is important to the boy and is important to the public interest, but it is relatively unimportant to the great questions 2457 of principle raised here. I will ask the Committee to recollect, that this boy went to Osborne with the highest possible testimonials as far as his moral character was concerned from the school at Stonyhurst, where he had spent some years. The Committee will forgive me if I quote one of them. The Vicar of the college said:—Until the day on which he left the college he was regarded by all who had opportunities of knowing him well as a singularly upright and honourable boy?It is true to say of the five testimonials which he took with him at the time he passed into the public service that everyone was equally favourable to his moral character. I desire to ask the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord and the Committee to the real gravamen of the case against the Admiralty. The theft was discovered on the 7th October, and on the 17th October the cadet was expelled from the college on the charge of theft. I begin here, and I am bound to say that my suggestion is that a grave error of judgment was committed by the Admiralty during those ten days by not allowing any mention to be made of the matter to the boy's parents. I do not insist upon that charge against the right hon. Gentleman, because he has in the handsomest possible manner admitted that it was an error of judgment, and it is against the possible repetition of such an error that certain precautions are to be taken. The only reason why I mention it is because I think that, whilst we recognise what he said, we must come to the conclusion that it was one of a number of errors of judgment of the same kind, every one of them serious. On the 17th October the boy was expelled. An inquiry, of course, had taken place before that, and I would ask the Committee to consider why it was that the right hon. Gentleman did not mention what the nature of that inquiry was. You are dealing with the ease of a boy—I suppose about thirteen years old, little more than an infant—and an inquiry was held as to his conduct, with the charges against him being theft and forgery. I venture to commend this view to the consideration of the Committee that it is wrong to arrive at any definite conclusion of guilt against any child of that age at an inquiry at which he is unrepresented by trained and skilful persons in order that they may sift in his interests the evidence that is advanced against him. This point is fundamental, and I do not really gather that the right hon. Gentleman dissents from that.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
That relieves me from the task of insisting upon it. With regard to this case, there was a second practice which we understand will be corrected in future, and that was that the inquiry took place in ignorance of the parents of the child, and that, therefore, neither they nor he were properly represented. The next point is that on the 20th October Messrs. Lewis and Lewis wrote to the Secretary of the Admiralty asking for permission to inspect the documents upon which the Admiralty founded the charge, and the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Cave) in his ignorance of the facts which have been fully explained now by the right hon. Gentleman made a complaint that for a fortnight no reply was received to that letter. As I understand the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman is this, that Lord Desart represented the Public Prosecutor, and was having a series of interviews with Sir George Lewis, and the Admiralty were in ignorance of these interviews.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Lord Desart was acting as our representative; he is the Treasury solicitor; he was having interviews with Sir George Lewis, but the firm of Lewis and Lewis did not know of that fact.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
Do I understand that the Admiralty knew that, but the Treasury solicitor did not know that Messrs. Lewis and Lewis were acting? I do not think Messrs. Lewis knew that Lord Desart was acting when they were writing to say that they had no reply to their letters.
§ Mr. McKENNA
There were two members of the firm. Lord Desart was the Treasury solicitor, and of the two members of the firm, whilst one member of the firm was engaged with the Treasury solicitor, another member of the firm was writing direct to us and pressing for a reply. I do not think the two representatives of the firm of Lewis and Lewis knew each what the other was doing.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
What I do not gather is the reason why Messrs. Lewis and Lewis were pressing their repeated letters during this fortnight if they were cognisant of what the right hon. Gentleman has just said. I can only say that it seems to betray an extraordinary method of conducting important business on the part 2459 of the Admiralty. I pass on to the next important matter. On the 3rd November Messrs. Lewis and Lewis's request was granted, and on the 4th November the Secretary to the Admiralty wrote to inform the solicitor of the evidence upon which the boy was expelled. And here is another point to which I ask the notice of the right hon. Gentleman. The latter refused in these circumstances to give the representative of the boy an inspection of the report which was forwarded from Osborne dealing with the matter. I do make the gravest possible complaint of that. What is the report? It cannot be contended that there is now anything in the nature of the case which is confidential.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
That assurance comes very late in the day. An application was made at the time by Messrs. Lewis and Lewis, long before the innocence of the boy was vindicated and whilst it was doubtful whether or not he would ever be vindicated. Messrs. Lewis and Lewis asked for an inspection of that report which had been forwarded from Osborne and to examine the statements which had been submitted to the right hon. Gentleman for consideration. He was of opinion that this report should not be shown to them. The next step was on the 18th of the same month, Messrs. Lewis and Lewis went to Osborne and took a statement from several witnesses. The right hon. Gentleman has claimed, and in my judgment rightly claimed, credit to himself for having allowed Messrs. Lewis and Lewis to see at that time the witnesses upon whose evidence he and his advisers were founding themselves. But in addition to Messrs. Lewis seeing the witnesses, they made observations, but that could have no result if the right hon. Gentleman or his advisers took no notice of the observations made by Messrs. Lewis and Lewis when they had seen the evidence. Let me tell the Committee what the Admiralty did while Messrs. Lewis and Lewis made these representations. On the 9th December a long letter was sent enclosing copies of documents and letters from Messrs. Lewis and Lewis asking that the Admiralty should reopen the question of the boy's expulsion at an inquiry at which he should be represented by counsel, and I may say here that this was a matter that affected the boy's whole life. The hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt) says "No." I am in the judgment 2460 of the whole Committee, and I am sure that all parts of the Committee will agree with me. Does anyone really suggest that if at the age of fourteen a boy is justly branded with the guilt of theft and forgery that the language I have used is in any way exaggerated?
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
I think the Committee as a whole will come to the conclusion that I have not stated the case extravagantly. I would only ask indeed that any Member of the Committee should apply the circumstances of the case to his own boy. Well, to go on with this case, I did not understand the right hon. Gentleman to indicate that there was any reconsideration of the Admiralty's position at this stage, and therefore in my judgment the suggestion I make to the Committee is that a grave error of judgment was committed when the Admiralty refused the claim of the boy's parents that they should be represented by counsel at a further inquiry. I have spoken of the gravity of the offence, and is it not absurd that at this stage of the case this little boy, hardly more than a child, should alone have an opportunity of dealing with the evidence, dazed and staggered as he must have been by the gravity of the offence alleged, and confronted by authorities who loom in the eyes of childhood with an amount of awe which is never known in adult years. The Admiralty did not assent to that, but they wrote saying that they proposed to hold a further inquiry, and they informed Messrs. Lewis and Lewis that the papers had been handed to Mr. Acland, the Judge Advocate General, for him to look into the case. I may be permitted to say that Mr. Acland is well known to me, and I associate myself unreservedly with what has been said of him by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, and I agree that no one could have suggested one who would judge with greater humanity and greater competence in the investigation of this matter. That cannot be disputed. But the observation none the less remains that the most competent and most humane judge that ever lived is wholly unable to sift and investigate a 2461 charge like this unless he has the assistance of those who are concerned and unless he is able at that inquiry to have presented before him both sides of the question. But that is just what the representatives of the boy were denied, and denied day after day up to this point, in the whole course of this inquiry. It is clear that the right hon. Gentleman and his representatives, in spite of the fact that they had placed the case before Mr. Acland, were taking up a position of this kind: "We have tried this matter, we have tried it without allowing the boy to be capably represented before us, and we do not intend to allow the boy to be capably represented at an inquiry, and we do not intend to modify our opinion." Messrs. Lewis and Lewis wrote again on 31st December, saying:—You will remember in the first instance the course adopted by the Admiralty was founded upon an investigation conducted by one side only without any opportunity being given to the Cadet or the Cadet's friends of being represented.How did they deal with that? They wrote back and said they did not see any necessity for it:—I am commanded by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to acknowledge receipt of your letter relative to the case of George Archer Shee, and my Lords desire me to say that the further enquiry is not one at which a representative of your side in the sense ill which you use the word would be appropriate.That means that the Admiralty at that time admitted that they utterly refused to give the boy any chance at all of being heard and having the advantage of a capable representative to state his side of the case. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman will defend that. I think it is clear that he is bound by admissions he has already made to say that he does not assent to that. He told me, and I am bound to say quite properly told me, that he thought the boy's father and the boy's friends should have been informed at first, and, I presume, should have been represented at the first inquiry. I gather also that he will agree with what was afterwards said. What becomes of the refusal of the Admiralty to allow the boy's parents to be represented in view of the statement made by the Solicitor-General at the conclusion of the trial—a very generous statement. He said that he had accepted unreservedly the view that the boy was completely innocent of every charge brought against him. Therefore it is evident that the Admiralty having erroneously formed a view of the boy's guilt were refusing to allow his relatives to be present or to give them any 2462 chance at the only inquiry which they would grant, or at which there would be an opportunity of establishing his innocence of the charge, an innocence which was established so long afterwards at the expenditure of so much time and money. What would have happened if this boy's relatives had not been able to obtain the assistance of the right hon. and learned Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson)? Surely it is clear that if this boy had been a poor boy, even in the sense that his relatives would not have been able to go to the expense of carrying the case through the courts and obtaining such services as those of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, he would have been branded with the stigma of being guilty of these charges. He certainly would not have had the advantage of the brilliant and fearless advocacy of the right hon. and learned Member, which was so largely responsible for obtaining this opportunity for him and for having this trial and vindication. What happened when the petition of right was presented? The right hon. Gentleman said he was not very familiar with the nature either of a petition of right or of a demurrer, and I may very respectfully say that the observations he made on this point in my judgment betrayed that circumstance, and at the outset he made that very clear. What happened when the petition of right was brought by the boy? It was open to the Government to meet that in two ways. As the right hon. Gentleman says, he might have met it by demurrer alone, without putting upon the record any defence as far as facts were concerned. That is quite true, but if they had done so the Admiralty would have been in this position, that if their demurrer for any reason failed it would have been an undefended action. I think that statement is a well-founded one, and I have given some little attention to the matter, and so have my hon. Friends. Apart from all legal technicalities, what was the alternative which a layman can understand which presented itself to the Government at that time? They might ask themselves whether they were going to use their technical defence in order to prevent the full trial of the facts of this case upon which the boy's representatives insisted. If you strip this question of all technicality that was the issue which confronted the Admiralty and the right hon. Gentleman when it became their duty to state their case before Mr. Justice Ridley. I do not know where the responsibility rested for 2463 the course which was pursued. I have had a long experience of the Attorney-General, and we are all well aware of his tact, judgment, and humanity, and I find it very difficult to believe that that responsibility was his.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
The hon. Member is quite right in saying that the plea was there on the record, which was the point taken by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kingston (Mr. Cave). But so far as anything that took place at the trial is concerned I take the full responsibility. I had to take the record as I found it, but it would not be right to suggest that my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty was responsible for arguing the points which I argued in Court.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
Then it becomes my duty to state that in my view the hon. and learned Gentleman committed a tragic error in this respect. The hon. Gentleman says, in effect, this being the previous history of the case, I propose to insist upon a technical point, that no petition of right lies in the case of a subject, and I propose to insist upon that under circumstances which would close the door for the last time in the face of this boy who is attempting to establish his integrity. That was the effect of it. Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that there were any other means by which the boy's character could be vindicated? The Admiralty had refused the boy permission to be represented at the previous inquiry, and now, when through the avenue of a petition of right the attempt was being made to secure a trial by judge and jury, who were waiting to hear the case—the jury had been sworn and were waiting to try the facts, the boy's representatives were insisting upon their right that these facts should be tried—and the hon. Gentleman said: I, representing a great Government Department, insist upon this technical point, the case shall not be tried, the facts shall not be gone into, and the boy shall be deprived of the opportunity of clearing his character. In spite of the Attorney-General he has now enjoyed that opportunity, and it has resulted in the vindication of his character and the establishing of his innocence before the world. Had not the Attorney-General been ultimately deterred from pursuing this course by the opinion of the Court of Appeal, the boy's innocence never would have been vindicated, and he would to-day, an innocent 2464 boy, have been under the stigma that he had committed this theft and this forgery.
What happened when this case went before the Court of Appeal? The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty has quoted the observations made in answer to the Lord Justice when the Solicitor-General said that if their Lordships indicated an opinion that the facts ought to be tried the Government would not dissent from that view. I do not wish to infer any unreasonable attitude on the part of the Government, but it is elementary knowledge to anybody who has any experience of the Court of Appeal that if the Attorney-General representing the Government had refused to assent to that suggestion made in the Court of Appeal it would have become a grave public scandal. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that the representative of a great Department (the Solicitor-General), when the Lords Justices state that in common justice the facts must be tried should say that they shall not be tried. The fact remains that as far as the trial of this action was concerned—the trial which alone has vindicated the integrity of this little child—as far as that action was concerned. every step was taken by the Government through its legal advisers to prevent the boy having an opportunity of vindicating his character, just as every step had been taken by the Admiralty before the case came into the hands of its legal advisers to prevent the defence of the boy at the previous inquiry being heard. This House is justly impatient of long extracts, but I venture to ask their patience and their indulgence while I read to them a passage from a judgment of a learned judge which is a sinister pronouncement on this very point. Lord Justice Farwell in giving judgment in the case of Dyson v. the Attorney-General, in which a technicality under Form IV. was raised, said:—The convenience in the public interest is all in favour of providing a speedy and easy access to the Courts for any of His Majesty's subjects who have any real cause of complaint against the exercise of statutory powers by Government Departments or Government officials having regard to their growing tendency to claim the right to act without regard to legal principles and without appeal to any court. Within the present year alone there have been no less than three such cases. In the present case we find the law officers taking a preliminary objection in order to prevent the trial of a case which treating the allegations as true (as we must in such an application), is of the greatest importance to hundreds of thousands of His Majesty's subjects. I will quote the Lord Chief Baron in Deare v. Attorney-General, 'It has been the practice which I hope never will be discontinued, for the Officers of the Crown to throw no difficulty in the way of proceedings for the purpose of bringing matters before a Court of Justice when any real point of difficulty that requires 2465 judicial decision has occurred I venture to hope that the former salutary practice may be resumed. If ministerial responsibility were more than the mere shadow of a name, the matter would be less important, but as it is the Courts are the only defence of the liberty of the subject against departmental aggression.",That doctrine was also laid down recently in another action in regard to the view taken by the present law officers, I believe, but whether that is so or not the principles that were there laid down ought to be adopted for the permanent guidance of the law officers of the Crown. When the only means which is open to a subject to vindicate his character and restore his reputation lies through the avenue of the Law Courts—it does not lie with those to whom the public have given the conduct of public cases to slam the door in the face of a suppliant and say he shall not go to the Law Courts. I only want to offer one concluding observation on the question of compensation. I do not know, and I do not care, whether too much compensation has been asked for, and I recognise, in some sense, the justice of the observation made by the right hon. Gentleman on this point. He complained that nothing was said on the part of those representing the boy in regard to any smaller sum. I do not express any opinion as to whether the claim for compensation is or is not an excessive one. The ground I am bound to take up is that the right hon. Gentleman, in his letter of reply, in terms offered to pay the taxed costs of the case, but, I am sure, unintentionally, he did deal somewhat disingenuously with the Committee. He said: "I do not know what the amount was of the untaxed costs, and how could I say that I would pay any part of them?" In his letter written at the time the right hon. Gentleman used the term taxed costs, but if he had simply said I will pay the actual costs between party and client, these costs equally are liable to taxation with the other kind, and if any case was made against them that they were excessive the Department would run no risk.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
It was the right hon. Gentleman's own offer. The right hon. Gentleman offered in terms the taxed costs. But I do not wish to become involved in a technical argument, the Committee ought to treat it in an altogether higher spirit. I will only say in conclusion that I suggest to the Committee and to the Government that they would be well-advised if they think it right to make an offer, to remember that after all the injury done to this boy has been of a very real and very cruel character. They 2466 will remember that, after all, this boy was at the most sensitive and impressionable period of human life. He was a child of only thirteen years of age, and no doubt many hon. Members have sons of their own, and will call to mind what view they would take of this unfortunate case if it was their own son. The Committee will remember that in this case a boy of thirteen years of age had at the most impressionable period of life been bruised for two years, and he supposed for two years that all those who knew him thought that he had committed this grave offence. He would know that his schoolfellows and his friends had not been convinced of the falsehood of the terrible charge made against him. The case may have been put too high in regard to compensation, but I would ask the Government to consider that the injustice extended over a long period, although the boy has emerged from it triumphantly, and the Government of this great country ought not to measure in too nice a scale this question of compensation.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I do not intend in any way to trench upon the very wise and salutary tradition of this House which has almost passed into a law in regard to any Member of this House who takes part in a Debate here in regard to a case in which he has previously acted as advocate. In anything that I am going to say, therefore, I shall not touch upon the facts, but I shall content myself with repeating what I said when the case was closed, that I was very glad to be in a position, and it was a source of real pleasure to me to find myself in a position to state in open court as strongly as I could, so that no one can misunderstand what I was saying, that the boy was absolutely cleared from any charge which could be made against him. I rise in consequence of some observations which fell from the hon. and learned Member for Kingston (Mr. Cave) and also to answer some of the criticisms of which I do not in the least complain, made by the hon. Member who has just sat down. I quite appreciate the spirit in which the matter was treated by the hon. and learned Gentleman in reference to the duty of a law officer in such circumstances. But I dissent entirely and absolutely from the statements which were made by him as to what the duties of law officers are under such circumstances. In what I am saying I am following out the traditions of my office as they have been 2467 handed down for many centuries. So far as I know—and I looked carefully and anxiously at the time to see whether I could find in the books any precedent—there is none for an officer—for, after all, ridiculous as it may have been, this boy's legal status was that of an officer in the Navy—there is no precedent for an officer, either in the Army or Navy, being allowed to bring his case into a court of justice before a judge and before a jury. It has been admitted again and again, and it has been stated in the most emphatic terms by the judges, that it is not open to an officer, any more than it is open to a Civil servant, to present a case in regard to any complaint of any dismissal which has taken place. The reason is not far to seek, because all these commissions of officers and employment of Civil servants are dependent upon the King's pleasure. Any person is liable to be dismissed without explanation and without any justification given, and still is not to be entitled to go into court to question it. He is to have recourse to such other methods as may be afforded him, but I am quite sure that no lawyer in this House will deny my statement that it is not open to any officer in the Army or in the Navy to bring his case into open court for trial.
§ Sir EDWARD CARSON
I think the Attorney-General has forgotten that one question in dispute in the case was whether this boy was an officer or whether he was not there merely under a contract of education, because, if he was an officer, he could have claimed a court-martial.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I assure the right hon. Gentleman I have not forgotten the fact. There is no doubt that a naval cadet is an officer. There is no question about it. If there is any question I will produce the King's Regulations now. The Noble Lord (Lord Charles Beresford) is there, and I will take it from him. The moment he is a naval cadet he is an officer in the Navy.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
No; but he is an officer, and, being an officer, he cannot go to a court of justice in order to get redress, whatever the grievance is. I am not concerned at the moment in asking whether or not that is a good and sound principle of jurisprudence. It may be said by a great many persons that such a right ought to be open in the courts of law. 2468 What I say is that it is not for me as law officers to make the law, but it is for me to administer it, and I have to deal with the law as I find it, and the books are full, as every lawyer knows, of decisions that there is no such right of action, and that the court cannot even discuss such an action if it is brought before it. The late Lord Esher, Master of the Rolls, when one of these cases came before him, said it was quite impossible to discuss questions of the kind, and he pointed out that no one could alter the contract between an officer and the Crown, not even the Queen herself. It is something which the Queen cannot do, and which no one of the Queen's subjects can do, and the consequence is that you always remain with this contract, simply one of dismissal at the King's pleasure.
One other word in order that there may be no misapprehension. When we are speaking of the rights of the Crown we are really speaking of the rights of the public. The Crown's rights in these days are the interest of the community, and it has been thought from time immemorial that it is in the interest of the community on grounds of public policy that there should be no right of action in courts of law in such cases. If the principle which my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. F. E. Smith) referred to is correct, every time a subject—for example, a postman or a private in the Army wishes to bring an action against the Crown, am I to understand that it is the hon. and learned Member's view that it will be the duty, following out the quotation which we read from Lord Justice Far-well's judgment, of the law officer at once to state that he is content to have the case tried? The point I want to call attention to is that this is just one of those matters in respect of which a law officer has no right to waive the privileges of the Crown. He is the guardian of the privileges of the Crown, that is, the rights of the public, and he must not waive them. If those rights have to be abolished, it is entirely a matter for Parliament, and once Parliament has done it anyone can bring such an action. The quotation to which the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. F. E. Smith) referred was given by Lord Justice Far-well in a Form IV. case, which is a totally different case. I think that is the error into which the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Cave) fell when he referred to it. It is a different case entirely, because it is in respect of Revenue cases only. It was a case in which the question was 2469 raised as to whether a subject in dealing with taxation could bring an action against the Attorney-General and the whole point of the decision was that an action would lie against the Attorney-General, because he is the representative of the Crown and consequently, if the subject had some complaint to make about some principle of taxation, he was entitled to bring this action against the Attorney-General and claim a declaration. I do not imagine that the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. F. E. Smith) would suggest that under circumstances such as I have described, or under any circumstances in which a servant of the Crown who was liable to dismissal at the King's pleasure brings an action into Court it would be the duty of the law officer to claim a privilege which is really the right of the public. I do not think myself that a law officer is entitled in this matter to exercise a discretion, because, if he once does that, in the very next case that is brought before the Court he is confronted with the observation. "You waived on the last occasion; you might just as well waive it in this." I have found, on studying the cases of the waiving of privilege by law officers, that they are very jealous indeed of waiving privileges, and I have been unable to find a single precedent in which there has been a waiver of the Crown Prerogative allowing such a case to be brought. I should have been only too glad if I could have said, as law officer, "Try the case." What objection could I have to trying the case? My difficulty was this. I stepped into the matter when the record was already completed, when the plea of the demurrer was already on the pleas, and there was that plea at the very threshold of the case which had to be dealt with, and I should have been wanting in my duty if I had said, "This is an unpleasant matter for me to have to argue. I do not care to have to take this point in a case where a boy is trying to vindicate himself, therefore I will waive the right of the Crown, and will allow the case to be tried." I do not think I was entitled to do that. In administering the law I was bound, until Parliament expressed a different view, to maintain the Crown Prerogative, and it was simply in accordance with that view that I took the point and argued it.
So far from there being any general assent to the view of the right of waiving I have been criticised by lawyers since for having given way to the Court of Appeal when it pressed the point on me that it 2470 would be better, in this particular case, because they had not sufficient facts before them to determine the question of demurrer, that the case should be tried. They have said to me that I have, by doing that, allowed a case of this kind to be tried, and ever afterwards, when a case arises between a Civil servant or between any military or naval officer and the Crown, he will always be able to say "there was a case in which this was allowed to be tried, and consequently it might be done in this particular instance.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
Surely the point involved in the demurrer was that? We are not arguing that because it is not relevant to the point on which I rose to answer the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. F. E. Smith). It was an action, it is quite true, by a father, but the point involved was whether a father could maintain an action for breach of a contract the breach being dismissal of the boy from the King's Service. Therefore an exactly similar point was involved, although I quite agree that it will entitle others to argue that you could differentiate this case because it was brought by the father. That has never been decided. The demurrer has never been overruled by the Court of Appeal, who said they thought they ought to have fuller facts before them before they came to a conclusion. I have only risen for the purpose of making that point clear and not so much because it is involved in this particular case, but because there may be some misapprehension in the future as to what the rights of officers are under similar circumstances, or those who have not attained to the dignity of officers but are still servants of the Crown. I was anxious to make the position clear, which is that Parliament must correct it if it is intended ever to be corrected.
§ Mr. ALFRED LYTTELTON
I do not think the House ought to spend a very long time about this point of law.
§ The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN (Mr. Whitley)
I did not hear any remark of that kind, but hon. Members should 2471 abstain from interruption. This is a matter of obvious importance which should be discussed.
§ Mr. O'GRADY
I emphatically protest against this case being tried over again by the lawyers in this House.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LYTTELTON
The First Lord of the Admiralty said at the beginning of his speech that his one desire in the matter was to get at the truth. I will only say this much in reference to the Attorney-General's argument, that when a Petition of Right was brought and was taken to the Court of Appeal, the judges in that court, who had quite sufficient authority, felt and intimated to the Attorney-General that the case, on the merits, should be tried. I think that is quite sufficient authority to this House to rest on against the argument the Attorney-General has put forward, and for me to say that I am entirely in agreement with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Walton Division of Liverpool (Mr. F. E. Smith) that the attempt on the part of the Crown to prevent the hearing of this case on its merits in the Court of King's Bench, in whatever good feeling it may have been made, was a disastrous exercise of their discretion. The speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty has relieved me of many matters on which it would have been otherwise necessary to dwell. I understand that the position is perfectly clear now. I understand the right hon. Gentleman has intimated that the view of the Naval authorities, if any necessity for such an inquiry as this arises again, is that, in the first place, it shall not take place without a, communication being made to the Admiralty; and in the second place, a communication being made to the parents of the boy. I should like to make sure on this third point, on which I think the right hon. Gentleman was not clear. Assuming these two communications to have been made, has he further directed that, under no circumstances, shall an inquiry in respect of a grave criminal offence take place without children of tender years being represented at the inquiry by a friend, by counsel, or by other qualified persons.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The father of the boy is to be given the opportunity of being present before any inquiry of any sort which can give the least publicity either in Court or otherwise, to the case.
§ Mr. LYTTELTON
If I may say so, with all respect, that is really not enough, if the right hon. Gentleman thinks over the matter. I wish to obtain from the Admiralty a clear assurance on the present occasion that henceforth it shall be the right of the boy himself, or the parents, or the representatives of the boy, to have him suitably represented at this inquiry, in order that proper witnesses may be called, in order that the witnesses against him may be cross-examined, and in order that a full and fair inquiry to both parties represented should take place. The representatives of the Admiralty have not given that assurance, and I beg, before we close the Debate, that the assurance should be given, for I think every fair-minded man in the House will say that it is an outrageous thing that, while every citizen in this Realm has the right in every criminal case, however unimportant, to be represented if he thinks fit, that right should be denied to naval cadets of tender years who are confronted by superiors, and who are totally unable to deal with the facts.
§ Mr. LYTTELTON
You have only to do as is done in an ordinary criminal case. Think of the scrupulous solicitude of the law to prevent any admission being taken from an accused person. A statement is never taken without full warning being given that anything a man says may be used against him in evidence. He is not obliged to say anything at the preliminary trial at all. He may reserve his defence. That a little boy should be placed in the position of being confronted with this kind of charge, without being represented by the parents, or guardians, or counsel is absolutely intolerable, and a thing not to be thought of by any just man. I come now to the next point. I do not wish to use strong or controversial language. After the inquiry which was allowed to take place at Osborne the papers were fully submitted to the Admiralty, and the Admiralty allowed the matter to be examined by Mr. Acland, who is an old friend of my own, and I fully associate myself with everything that was said about him. May we have an assurance again that such an investigation as that will not take place, if I may say so, in 2473 such a hole-and-corner way. The accused person was not repreented. Mr. Acland had no opportunity of seeing the witnesses or hearing them cross-examined, and seeing the view which the First Lord of the Admiralty took of the previous inquiry, and seeing that he took in thoroughly that that inquiry, as his admissions ever since lead us to believe, was thoroughly unsatisfactory, he surely committed a serious error of judgment in not allowing the subsequent inquiry to take place under more proper conditions. He refused the specific appeal made to him on 8th February, 1909, that there should be a full and fair inquiry, and decision on this matter by an independent person. I would remind him that such an inquiry could have been held before men of judicial eminence, such, for example, as Sir Edward Fry, Lord Lindsey or Mr. Romer, any one of whom would have been able, if the opportunity had been offered, of holding such an inquiry.
When it became known to the First Lord of the Admiralty that the first inquiry was so thoroughly unsatisfactory, and that the inquiry before Mr. Acland was one without any opportunity for the full representation of the boy, it was again most unfortunate that this third appeal for a proper inquiry before a judicial authority was again refused by the Admiralty. The matter really does not stop there. I do not wish to labour it after what I have said, but surely it was unfortunate when the parties had got before the King's Bench that the Attorney-General insisted upon the demurrer, and but for the subsequent proceedings in the Court of Appeal this whole investigation would have terminated and lasting ignominy would have rested upon the boy. Will the Attorney-General say that even if he had advised the First Lord not to waive the prerogative of the Crown the First Lord could not have said, "I do not insist upon your taking that point."
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I said before—I am not sure that the First Lord quite agrees with me, but it is certainly my view—that in representing the Crown in a Petition of Eight, it is for me to determine the question whether that Petition might lie against the Crown. As I have said I do not think it is a matter in my discretion. I think it is entirely a question of law.
§ Mr. LYTTELTON
My authority is not so great as that of the Attorney-General, but I did work for a long time in the office of the Attorney-General, and have some 2474 knowledge of these matters. When the head of a great Department has told us with the greatest emphasis that his one desire is to act fairly towards the boy, I am surprised to hear the Attorney-General say that the First Lord could not have instructed him to get at the truth by the only way the truth could be got at—namely, by a public examination in open court. I will not say more upon that than I have done. I wish to point out that the first inquiry was, as is now admitted, a most unsatisfactory one. The second one, before Mr. Acland, was one at which the boy was not represented, and the third one, which was asked for before a judicial authority of great weight, was refused by the Admiralty. As to the fourth, whatever the merits may be, the Atorney-General took up the position that it should not be gone into, and that the technical plea must be insisted upon. Now, after all this, we have a full investigation of the boy's character. I gratefully acknowledge the action of the Attorney-General on that occasion. Then we have a letter, which I think has not been referred to as yet, in which an expression of regret was asked from the representatives of the Admiralty and from the First Lord. In this House my Noble Friend behind me put a question to the First Lord of the Admiralty as to whether he had any objection to expressing regret for the great and grievous wrong inflicted on the boy. What said the First Lord of the Admiralty? He said that the Attorney-General, who was then Solicitor-General, had apologised and expressed his great regret in court and that he himself had expressed his regret in this House. If the authority of the father of the boy, which I quote from the letter he wrote to "The Times." is correct—I have not been able personally to inform myself on the matter—the Attorney-General did not express regret in court, and the First Lord of the Admiralty did not express regret in this House. That is distinct authority, which is vouched-for by the parent of the boy in the one case, and by the shorthand notes in the other. I say it was an unfortunate oversight if that was the case. I think that surely after the parents of this boy had endured the anguish of seeing him confronted with the whole power of this great Department and accused of this offence, and after the innocence of the boy had been vindicated, the least he could have done would have been to give a frank and free expression of regret. The 2475 First Lord, when confronted by my Noble Friend, said, "I did express my regret, and the Attorney-General expressed his regret." That is a most significant and eloquent expression. The First Lord of the Admiralty, in the presence of this House, thinks it ought to have been done. He thinks the Attorney-General ought to have expressed his regret. He thinks he did so himself. If he thinks he did or if he thinks he ought to have done so, surely he ought at this moment to freely and frankly express it. The parent of the boy until two days ago said that from that day to this he had received no single word of regret from the Admiralty or the Attorney-General.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I said a great deal more than I was asked to say with reference to that, but what I had to say with reference to the matter was a complete vindication of the boy. There was no question of expressing regret. If it had been mentioned or thought necessary, or that it would have helped the case, I would have added it without a moment's reflection. But at the time I stated so fully and freely what my view was that I should have thought it was covered by what I did say. I said:—I may say, on behalf of the Admiralty, not only that I accept the statement, but I say in order that there may be no mistake about it that I make that statement, without any reserve of any description, intending that it shall he a complete justification of the statements of the boy and of the evidence he has given in Court.If a statement had been made to me that an expression of regret in terms would have been valued, I should have instantly given it, because it would have been quite proper and the boy was entitled to it; but I thought it was covered by what I said.
§ Mr. A. LYTTELTON
I quite appreciate what the Attorney-General said, but what I wish to point out is that a distinct request was made to the Admiralty by his solicitors that a full expression of regret should be made. I am not speaking of the Attorney-General in this matter; I am speaking of the First Lord. He had not then made any such expression of regret. On the contrary, he used words which I think were very unfortunate in reply to a question of my Noble Friend. I wish, therefore, to put this question across the floor of the House. What possible objection can there be to the representatives of the Navy of this country, after all the custodians of one of the most generous and honourable services in the 2476 world, now saying or writing to the father of this boy an expression of that regret which they believed they had given and which I am perfectly certain in calmer moments they would feel they ought to have given? I do not wish to dwell on this question of compensation for more than a very few moments. What would under the circumstances that I have detailed, which I think do show a great error of judgment on the part of the First Lord or the Attorney-General, any hon. Gentleman do towards the person whom he had innocently wronged? Surely the first thing that any man of honour would do would be to endeavour to place him at any rate in the same pecuniary position as he was in before, and fully indemnify him for all the expenses which he has incurred in this struggle for his boy's honour which he thought right to make and which he was right to make. The Attorney-General knows as well as I do that taxed costs are a ridiculous offer in such a case. It means that because "we, the Admiralty, having, in good faith, it is true, but under a grievous error of judgment and with most imperfect inquiries, caused you to undergo two years' agony of mind while fighting for your very existence as an honourable person, are not to express our regrets in public and are to allow you to be fined in some thousands of pounds, the difference in the case which would be paid in this case and the taxed costs." That is not a position which the Admiralty on consideration could take up.
§ Mr. A. LYTTELTON
Very well. I presume I am bound to take the representatives of the Admiralty writing under instructions saying they are willing to pay the taxed costs of the trial and inquiry.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Allow me to say I said first of all I was willing to leave it to be settled by my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General in consultation with the right hon. Gentleman opposite. Then I was confronted with the statement that we could not deal with you except on the basis of a payment of £10,000, not costs, covering indemnity, costs, and an apology, not an expression of regret. As I conceived that I had done my duty I did not give an apology, and I did not think I was justified in the interests of the public in accepting those terms. It was then I sent the counter offer of the taxed costs.
§ Mr. A. LYTTELTON
I will not go back on this question of the expression of regret. 2477 The right hon. Gentleman was asked in this House whether he would give one. He said he had given one and that the Attorney-General had given one. He was mistaken. Neither of them gave any such expression. I put it to every Member in this House that that expression of regret—I have not used the word apology which might be repugnant to the high spirit of the Department which the right hon. Gentleman represents—is the least that can be asked, and I trust it will be given. I know nothing of these interviews. I only know the documents. On the documents the offer of the Admiralty was made in the most formal way by their solicitor to pay the taxed costs of the trial and the inquiry. I say, without pledging myself to a matter of £100, that if that offer was accepted anybody with experience in these matters knows perfectly well that the result would be not merely the indignity to the boy and his family, but of a heavy pecuniary loss amounting to perhaps £2,000 or £3,000. That is not a position which the Attorney should take up, and it cannot be a position which anybody who represents the British Navy can take up in relation to the father of this boy who has been so wronged. Those are the matters on which I wish an explanation. I trust before the Committee loses its hold of this question it will itself see that justice is done, that an expression of regret is given, and that what a fair-minded, generous-minded man believes is right, compensation for this indignity is given by the right authority.
§ Mr. McKENNA
May I be allowed to intervene for one moment in reply to a matter which the right hon. Gentleman has raised. I was mistaken in my reply to the Noble Lord when I stated that my hon. and learned Friend had expressed his regret in terms. At the time I had read the statement as an expression of regret, I certainly meant my statement in the House of Commons as an expression of regret. I now make it in the fullest and frankest manner, and give a most unqualified expression of regret for the pain and suffering to which both father and son have been subjected.
§ Mr. W. F. ROCH
A general question of importance has been raised by this matter. Is it to be quite clear that in future cases of this kind, when there is a preliminary inquiry, any boy can be represented by counsel and by representatives of the law to protect him when the first inquiry is held? I think that is essential. In this 2478 most unfortunate case, where the facts were examined without any judicial inquiry, the result was that for the time being the guilt of the boy was supposed to be established beyond dispute. But the first moment that these facts come on for a real trial the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General does not even attempt to go on with the case, and at once withdraws. I would urge on the right hon. Gentleman that this points out most conclusively that unless, when you have your inquiry, the boy is entitled to be represented by counsel such an inquiry is useless and a farce. Another point which is very broad and of great importance is the view which the Attorney-General has given us with regard to what he calls the Prerogative of the Crown. As I understand the Attorney-General it is this. Whatever be the merits of the case, however much he thinks that case is entitled to be tried, he looks upon himself as bound in future, in protecting the Prerogative of the Crown, to say "I will not waive my discretion, and I cannot do so." May I point out that he did in effect waive his discretion in this case, for after all the Court of Appeal gave no legal ruling, and if the Attorney-General really stuck to that view he ought to have stuck to his guns and gone to the House of Lords. I am very glad that the Attorney-General took the course he did take. Unless he had given way this boy could not have got a trial. An officer might have gone to a court-martial, but this boy could not get that. In a case of such merit as this in which anyone would wish to do justice—and this was the only way to do justice—I think the Attorney-General might say that in future he would not take that narrow pedantic legal view of the Prerogative of the Crown.
If this is the Prerogative of the Crown, which is what the argument of the Attorney-General comes to, we occupy very extraordinary positions. Here is the Prerogative of the Crown exercised by a gentleman who, with all respect, is a party in the case, an advocate in the case, and who is not a Cabinet Minister. Here we have a Prerogative of the Crown of great importance to His Majesty's subjects exercised without control of the Cabinet. I hope that in future cases the Attorney-General will take a broader view of this matter and look upon himself as bound to see that justice is done in a broad and generous spirit, and that when there is a case of discretion it should be exercised 2479 not as this was exercised, but fairly on the merits as he might exercise his discretion on his own judgment in his own litigation. On the question of compensation I think the right hon. Gentleman spoke a little disparagingly and with a little harshness of the claim for £10,000. Here you have a grievous injustice done to the son, and the father is dragged through the Law Courts for two years. Every technical obstacle is put in his way. He has been denied an inquiry at every stage in the real sense of the word, and he only gets it, poor man as he must be, as has been stated, at great pecuniary sacrifice. Do not take too harsh a view of a man who comes to you in that position. Do not say that he ought not to have made this claim. Think of his feelings and the spirit in which he was bound to come to you. I venture to say that if the right hon. Gentleman's own son had been placed in that position, and he was coming claiming compensation, no father here would say that £10,000, or even £20,000, could really compensate him for the injury done. Whatever claim may have been made let the right hon. Gentleman before the close of the Debate get up and say, "I am ready to do the right thing." He has got an absolute discretion I understand to do the right thing. Preposterous claims, he thinks, may have been made. Let him say what he thinks he ought to do, and let him do it like a man. I hope that not only will the right hon. Gentleman do that, but that he will also deal generously with the question of costs. I do not wish to haggle about this money question, but it is a matter of great importance to the people concerned. I think the First Lord of the Admiralty has taken an absolutely mistaken view of the question of costs. There are what are known as party and party costs, and what are known as costs as between solicitor and client. I have had litigation, unfortunately, and I know that party and party costs are poor compensation for your litigation. Let the right hon. Gentleman say, "I will give you, not party and party costs, but what are known as indemnity costs, or solicitor's and client's costs, of course to be taxed." If I may explain to the right hon. Gentleman, indemnity costs mean solicitor's and client's costs, and they are, of course, taxed by the taxing officer. Let the right hon. Gentleman put those engaged in this litigation in what is called the indemnity position; 2480 that is to say, that they shall be paid by the right hon. Gentleman such sum as he would then be bound to pay. It is for the right hon. Gentleman on the question of compensation to take a generous view, and, now that public opinion is riveted upon him, to do something which will put this boy right in the eyes of the world. If the right hon. Gentleman will do that, coupled with an expression of regret, he will do something to restore this boy to that position in the world which I am sure every Member of this House desires that he should occupy.
§ Mr. NORMAN CRAIG
There are one or two matters to which I think the attention of the Committee may well be directed in connection with this question. It is some considerable time since I heard the First Lord of the Admiralty describe his position as head of this college, and I understood him, unless I am mistaken, to say for the sake of the other boys at the college it is his duty to expel a boy as a thief and a forger, if he suspects him, although the evidence does not warrant him. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] That certainly was my understanding of the right hon. Gentleman's statement. I understood him to say that, apart altogether from the question whether a jury would convict if any charge was brought, it was his duty, for the sake of the other boys, if he entertained a suspicion that forgery and theft had been committed by a boy, to expel that boy.
§ Mr. NORMAN CRAIG
I will not discuss the matter with the right hon. Gentleman; I will wait until I have seen the Official Report. I have heard with surprise that it is possible for a boy of thirteen to be charged with crimes of this sort without an inquiry being held, or without any representative of the boy being present when he is charged, and I have heard with more surprise in this instance no communication had been made to the boy's parents, and no protection afforded to the boy. I have heard, too, with surprise, that the parents' first intimation as to the matter was when the boy was expelled. It is a relief to know that a system such as this, which has existed in the past, will in future be cured. But it must go further than that—the system must be altered in another respect. The inquiry held must not be of a perfunctory character, as in the past. The first inquiry 2481 that was held after the postal order had been stolen consisted merely of two or three cadets, and a short examination of the postman. What happened to this boy was sentence of expulsion, a sentence by which his career was absolutely ruined at the start. The Committee should require that there shall be no repetition of such inhuman conduct as charging a boy who is without defence, and charging him without any communication with his parents. There should be some assurance to this Committee that the system will provide a proper inquiry and not a perfunctory one, an inquiry at which not only evidence will be properly taken, but for which all reasonable evidence will be gathered. That, I think, is necessary. As regards the question of demurrers that has been raised, the learned Attorney-General regards it as his duty to insist upon the prerogative of the Crown. The Attorney-General knows perfectly well that the prerogative of the Crown is very often waived. In the present case the Attorney-General did so at the instance of the three Lords Justices, and, if he did it at their instance, he ought to have done it at once in a case where common humanity demanded it of him.
Reference has been made to the way in which the Attorney-General acceded to the suggestion of the Lords Justices of Appeal, that the case should be tried on the facts. To say that, is merely to deceive this House. It was a polite way of retiring from the case; it was simply an intimation to the court that he would not pursue the matter further; and the learned Attorney-General is not entitled to claim credit from the Admiralty in respect of that action. As to the attitude of the First Lord of the Admiralty on the question of compensation, I think in a matter of that sort that it little accords with the dignity of his office that he should offer the defence, "I was not asked." The right hon. Gentleman, as regards the question of compensation, said, "I was not asked to pay anything except £10,000." Surely it was his duty in the first instance to say, "I can do this, or I can do that, but what you ask is too much, and I am not prepared to go to that length." To take up the defence, "I was not asked," is not a dignified attitude on the part of the right hon. Gentleman to start with. Moreover, it is not an attitude justified by the facts, which appear from the letter written by Messrs. Lewis and Lewis:—We are directed to inform you that the proposals contained in your letter is, in our client's opinion, and in our own opinion, entirely inadequate to meet the justice 2482 of the case, and we much regret that some more generous offer to repair the cruel wrong had not been forthcoming.This letter was written after the discussion between the Attorney-General and my right hon. Friend the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson). That is the end of the whole of the correspondence, and here you have, at the end of the whole of the correspondence an expression of regret that a more generous offer had not been forthcoming from the Admiralty. In the face of that, how can the right hon. Gentleman come to the Committee and say, "I was not asked"? I believe that in the opinion of every right-thinking man it was the duty of the right hon. Gentleman not to wait to be asked, but to go out in order to put right the wrong that had been done. That duty exists still, and I hope he will see his way to make this duty good. As to the matter of compensation, I agree with hon. Members who say that no pecuniary compensation can be a real compensation in a case of this kind. I hope the Committee will retain charge of this matter until we get some definite expression from the First Lord of the Admiralty as to what he intends to do. He says he has not been asked, and, if that be his answer, then he is is asked now. Let the right hon. Gentleman say what he proposes to do in the matter of costs and compensation. I trust the Committee will insist that he does that. There are two sorts of costs, as the hon. Member opposite observed—party and party costs, and solicitor's and client's costs. There is, as the learned Attorney-General can inform the First Lord of the Admiralty, a more effective scale of costs, known to lawyers as "solicitor and own client's costs." That is a scale of costs which would entitle the client to receive everything which his solicitor has legitimately expended in his behalf in the course of the case. I hope that scale of costs will be applied to the Admiralty, and I trust that the right hon. Gentleman, in the matter of compensation, will take the opportunity before the discussion closes, to state what his proposal may be.
§ Mr. McKENNA
On the subject of compensation and costs there appears to be some misapprehension as to the attitude of the Admiralty on the point. But L would like to say that I understand the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson) has consented to give help, with my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney- 2483 General, and if we can obtain, also, the assistance of Lord Mersey, for my own part I shall be only too glad to undertake the consideration of what should be the compensation and what should be the scale of costs. I think this is eminently a question, as I have always held, to be taken into consideration by an independent person who would know how to deal with the case.
Mr. P. J. POWER
I am sure the House heard with great satisfaction that one of the results of this discussion will be that the right hon. Gentleman will see that the wrong inflicted is rectified. I hope that in future, no matter what the rank or class of the man serving the Crown may be, that he will have ample opportunity of vindicating his rights before a properly constituted tribunal. I have no intention of endeavouring to follow the lawyers through the technicalities of the case, and, indeed, I am not competent to do so. I do wish to say that undoubtedly a grievous wrong has been done to the young boy, and that it is difficult to make adequate compensation. It may be a comfort to the lad himself, and also to his friends and relatives, to know the feeling of those who have been associated during the whole of his lifetime with this boy. I happened to be at Stonyhurst the other day, and I had the opportunity of meeting the superiors of this lad, the Rector and Prefect of that great institution. The Rector is from my own part of the world, a Father Bodkin. The moment he heard of the decision which was arrived at with regard to this boy, who had been with him and was afterwards sent to Osborne, he had such a complete belief in the innocence of this child, for what else was he but a child, that he at once communicated with those who had the management of the boy and offered him a welcome, and a hearty welcome, to come back to the walls of Stonyhurst. I only say that to show the view of the Prefect and masters, and the unanimous opinion of his fellow students who had worked for years with him side by side in the classroom, that this youth was incapable of doing what was attributed to him.
I heard that this lad has some connection with the constituency which I have had the honour of representing in this House for some time. I do not know if that is the case, but whether it is the case or not, or whether his friends are supporters of mine or not, I hope I have the manhood to stand 2484 up for the boy in a case in which great wrong was inflicted on an innocent chap. I believe it would be a monstrous state of things, when all sides are practically agreed in saying that this child is absolutely guiltless, if an agreement was not arrived at. I am happy an agreement has been arived at, and though a great wrong has been inflicted on the boy and great pain on the family, I believe the open vindication of his character will do a great deal to make good that wrong. I hope and believe that on a question of pounds, shillings, and pence where the honour of a lad is concerned that there will be no unworthy haggling on both sides of the case. I have taken the liberty as an old Stonyhurst boy to express my greatest relief that this lad has vindicated his position, and that what might be a certain aspersion on my old College has been removed.
§ Mr. CAVE
We all heard with the greatest satisfaction the full expression of regret which the First Lord has given voice to to-day, and also the suggestion that the matter should be referred to the great authority of Lord Mersey, if he is willing to act, together with the two learned counsel. I think the Debate has not been without result, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Mr. MORTON
I do not want to move another Amendment. I know I am quite within the regulation. I do not think, however humble I may be, that that right ought to be taken away. I do not want to take up the time of the Committee so much with regard to this case as to what has arisen out of it. I hope that there will be a proper written apology as requested from the Admiralty, and that there will be proper compensation. I am sorry to hear that the Admiralty should ever have suggested taxed costs only, for they only amount to half costs as a rule. The exercise of this ancient right of the Crown is causing a great deal of mischief in connection with the carrying out of the law at the present day. I should have thought that the Government would have shown a good example in this matter to the people of the country. The Attorney-General has not attempted to uphold the 2485 system. He says he went on with it because he found it so. At least a Liberal Government should have backbone enough to alter this old procedure. It would not be the first time the procedure has been altered in the interests of the people. We are told by the Attorney-General what many people do not know that the Crown now means the people. Unfortunately it gets abroad that it means the Sovereign, and very often it gives him a bad name when he has nothing whatever to do with the matter in question. I have heard people say over and over again that they do not like to look after their rights because they do not want to be offensive to the Sovereign. It cannot, therefore, be too well understood that what is called the Crown now means the people, and the people as represented by the Government have authority.
My experience in this matter in some cases has been unfortunate, and in some cases not. I remember twenty or thirty years ago the Crown claimed a right, and we took the case to the police-courts. The magistrate dismissed the case, and told us how sorry he was to have to do so. We had another case in the city, where the Crown claimed the right in connection with the Post Office Department. In the case of pouring sewage into a river at Aldershot we gave them notice that we would take them before the police-court, and I am very glad to say that on that occasion the Army Council waived their right and ran away. The Government is supposed to represent the masses of the people in this country, and I think they might very well consider some way of breaking this ridiculous and wicked method of carrying on the business of the country. It is all very well to say that the Crown ought to have this right, but the Government, as representing the people, should show a good example and not a bad one. All sorts of claims are made, and I do not know of any Act of Parliament that gives the Crown any such right. It may be what they call common law that has arisen out of custom, but then those customs might be broken, and have been broken. Hon. Members will remember that about the year 1892 Mr. Gladstone broke the custom and procedure which allowed the Attorney-General to take all sorts of outside business——
§ Mr. MORTON
I am only following the Attorney-General, but I daresay he is 2486 wrong. I am sorry it was necessary to bring this case before the Committee at all. It is unfortunate to get justice done in this way, and that the time of this Committee should be taken up. I hope this will be a lesson to the Admiralty, and that they will sink all those absurd notions that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned on the opposite side with regard to the dignity of the Admiralty. I should think that the dignity of the Admiralty ought to lead them, directly they found out, to make the most ample written apology and give compensation. I hope in future we shall be able to live in this country without the horror of such a situation as this to a young child and his parents.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
I am sure the whole of the Committee are very glad to hear the generous apology made, and the generous expression of regret by the First Lord of the Admiralty in this House. That is quite beside the point that I brought to his notice last year and again this year. I want that generous expression and apology sent to the father of the boy on paper, being documentary evidence that that lad's honour is vindicated, and that the Admiralty consider it is vindicated. There is no use doing it in this House. The right hon. Gentleman has been forced to do it by public opinion in this House. Let me show the Committee how he has been forced to do it. On 29th July, 1910, I expressed the hope that the First Lord would see his way to give proper redress to the young officer, who had suffered so severely and so unjustly for a crime he had never committed. That is many months ago. I am not going to speak a word about remuneration. I do not think those who think earnestly in this case would think at all about remuneration. It is the honour of this boy whose career has been blasted and was blasted and damned for all his life by the action of the Admiralty; that is what I want to see cleared, and a proper apology sent to the boy. How does all this case come about? It comes about by the method of the First Lord in nearly every single case he takes in this House. He is asked questions from that or this bench and he gives either very evasive answers or grossly inaccurate answers. Let me give a question just now. It is all very well for the First Lord to get up and say that he is so sorry, and express the fullest regrets. That is quite right. That is what I asked him to do. Let me give an instance of one of his answers. I asked some days ago whether the Admiralty tendered any expression 2487 of regret to Mr. Archer-Shee, or an apology or made any redress or compensation on account of the unfounded and cruel charge which the Admiralty have unreservedly withdrawn. What did he say? He replied:—Yes, sir; if the Noble Lord had followed the proceedings in Court——which I think was a very impertinent thing to say to me. Why should I follow the proceedings in Court? I wanted a definite straight answer from the First Lord, which neither I nor anybody else could get.If the Noble Lord had followed the proceedings in Court he would have heard the Attorney-General, on behalf of the Admiralty, express the fullest regret. I also at the earliest opportunity in the House expressed full regret at the incident.That is absolutely incorrect.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Might I point out that that was a supplementary question, and I was answering on the spur of the moment without the opportunity of referring to the documents.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
I think that is very clever. If the right hon. Gentleman says that he was totally incorrect I will not pursue the subject. I am merely illustrating how very inaccurate he his in his answers to all parts of the House. He never expressed any regret whatever, of any sort or kind, nor did the Attorney-General express regret in Court. After that wish of the right hon. Gentleman I did study the proceedings in Court, and I found that the Attorney-General never expressed any regret. That he had a wish to do so, I quite agree, and possibly the First Lord had a wish to do so; but my point is that he did not do it, and neither of them has yet sent the apology which is due to this young officer and his parents for the cruel wrong that they have sustained at the hands of the Admiralty. I have several questions very much to the point that I wish to put to the First Lord. I find that he gave orders or instructions to the Attorney-General to withdraw the charge so as to prevent its going to a jury. Was not that so? I expect if it had gone to a jury, the jury would have added a rider which would have made the First Lord very uncomfortable. I am rather sorry it was not allowed to go to the jury, because apparently they would have expressed the opinion that there was really no shadow of reason for the charge which had been made. What did the boy go out to the world as? A liar, a coward, a thief, 2488 and a forger. That cannot be denied. As he went out to the world with that character, when the Admiralty found that he was not guilty, their bounden duty was to send an apology in the most gentlemanlike, free and open manner—a thing they have never done to this day. That is my point. I hope the First Lord will do that. He has been perfectly right and generous about his apology here, but I say he was driven into it. He would not have done it if we had not brought the matter before the House. I want to drive him into this other apology to the parents and to the boy who suffered this terrible shame.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of a warning. Who is the best boy at school, or in a regiment, or on a ship? The pickle, the one who gets most often into scrapes and rows. He is the best fighting man you have in a row. Warnings! I will not talk about myself; but there were no better boys at school than my brothers, and they were warned forty times. Warning has nothing whatever to do with it. That the boy was warned, and because he was warned is not to get whatever is right now is folly. Probably the boy is a very good boy. I do not know anything about him, but I have all the greater respect for him because he was warned at school. Was the right hon. Gentleman ever warned at school? Did the Law Officers of the Crown, especially the Attorney-General at the time, consider that there was evidence sufficient to convict before the trial was undertaken? If the Attorney-General did not think so, why did not the Admiralty compromise and yield at once? Further, why was no Naval Court of Inquiry held to ascertain the correct conclusion first? If such an inquiry had been held by independent naval officers it would have been most useful and would very likely have prevented the blunder. To use the Judge-Advocate for this duty instead of naval officers was quite contrary to naval custom. As the First Lord knows, a Naval Court of Inquiry is secret; it is held with closed doors; and the whole question would have been found out and this terrible blunder, this shocking wrong, would never have been committed. I was very glad to hear the First Lord say that he was taking steps—which I think are wise and salutary—that the father should always be consulted immediately in future, and I hope he will assure the Committee that if any case of a similar character should unfortunately occur in the future in any training establishment, there will 2489 be a proper Naval Court of Inquiry—which has nothing whatever to do with a court-martial. Why was the father of the lad so cruelly treated at the Naval College as to be refused information. That, in my opinion, was a wicked wrong.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
Pardon me, he was refused information. I am making the statement. The First Lord says "No," but I make the deliberate statement that he was refused. I want all these questions answered, and I am sure I shall be supported in all parts of the Committee. Was the matter reported on by the Navy Law branch of the Admiralty themselves at all, or only by the private office alone, and then dealt with by the First Lord himself? That is a very important question. Is it not a fact that there was a former very similar case, in which a Naval cadet at Dartmouth was only saved from expulsion and permanent disgrace by the confession of another cadet, who at the last moment telegraphed that he was guilty and not the lad accused? The case was very similar to this. The lad's parents strongly protested; there was no Court of Inquiry, the charge was suddenly withdrawn, the boy was ordered to be liberated and allowed back at Dartmouth. When things of the sort that we have heard today occur the Committee and the public are doubtful of the justice meted out in these schools, and we ought to be very careful that these things do not occur again. Was the Director of Naval Education at the trial in his official capacity, or was he there by leave or by the direction of the Admiralty? I believe that the First Lord settled all these questions himself.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
I am glad to hear it, but there is every reason to suggest that he did. The First Lord the other day made one of the most extraordinary statements I have ever heard. He said:—If any member of the Board submits to me a document and I approve, that document has the approval of the Board of Admiralty.That is absolutely incorrect. It is a very important point. It was brought before the House of Lords, but was never answered. Does the First Lord still state that that is a fact? The First Lord might have the advantage of a document on some great abstruse strategical problem 2490 written by the hon. Member for the South Molton Division (Mr. G. Lambert)——
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
I hope not also, but it is possible. Or it might be a document on the strength of the Fleet, or the discipline of the Fleet. According to this doctrine, the First Lord would approve it, and that would be the law as far as the Admiralty goes. Where do the Sea Lords come in? This is altogether wrong; the First Lord knows it is wrong; and I hope he will correct it. He knows perfectly well that the Board is two Lords and the Secretary, and that was only originated when the Board was at sea. All great questions connected with the Fleet have to go before the full Board, and not two Lords and the Secretary. I do not like the style of the First Lord. He comes down to this House and says, "I" and "My." I heard him say, "I laid down so many ships; I have so many men."
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
Oh, yes; I heard it with my own two ears. They are not his ships, and they are not his men; they belong to the State. I have been fifteen years in this House, and fifty-two years in the Navy, but I never before heard a First Lord come down to the House or make a speech except he said "We," which meant the Board or the Government. "I" is very much weaker than "We." It lays him open to the attack which I am attempting to deliver at this moment. If he would look at the Press he would know that the editorial "We" is a great power. If a leading article were signed "John Smith," or any other single name like that, nobody would pay the slightest attention to it. I should like the First Lord to ruminate a little over that, and not say "I" so often, but to say "We," which would give more power and be more respectful. I do not know how it is, but the First Lord seems to create a tremendous amount of irritation. He irritates and annoys his supporters. Certainly he irritates his opponents. But he not only does that: he irritates the people abroad. I have been reading some of the German Press on the question of the strength of the Fleet under the German Navy Law of 1900. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs distinctly told this House that the German Navy Law of 1900 provided thirty-three "Dreadnoughts," cruisers, and pre- 2491 "Dreadnoughts." Those were his words. Whether he made a mistake or not I do not know, but that is what he said, and that is what went over to Germany. Now, the First Lord of the Admiralty knows perfectly well that the German Navy Law of 1900, plus the additions of 1906, gives fifty-eight armoured ships—"Dreadnoughts," cruisers, and pre-"Dreadnoughts." The First Lord of the Admiralty himself also said that the year 1908 added four battleships to the German programme. What I want to point out is that these inaccuracies are very fatal. They went over to Germany. I have had letters from Germany, and I have also read the German Press. When he found out his mistake he should publicly have shown that it was a mistake, and have shown how it occurred. The First Lord of the Admiralty and myself, and many Members of this House, know how the mistake occurred. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was speaking of "Dreadnoughts." One of the German papers called attention to this false statement concerning the numerical strength of the British Fleet given by the Government and the Admiralty. I say that that sort of wrong information—not intentionally given—is fatal to good feeling, and makes that irritation which we want to allay between this country and Germany. My letters from Germany say: "There you English, you are doing the same thing again; you are making mis-statements about our Fleet: you have told your people that we are only going to have thirty-three 'Dreadnoughts' by 1917. When your people find out that we really shall have fifty-eight, when your Government have said——"
§ The CHAIRMAN
It is not a case in which any and every question can be raised. On the other hand, I think, perhaps, the Noble Lord can easily shelter himself behind the Naval Intelligence Department.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The Motion is for a reduction of my salary, and the Noble Lord is charging me with an alleged offence made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs?
§ Mr. McKENNA
No, no. I do not understand that the words the Noble Lord quotes he alleges were used by me.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Unless they were provided by the Naval Intelligence Department the Noble Lord cannot attack the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
They must have been made by the Naval Intelligence Department to the First Lord.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Noble Lord is not in order in attacking the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on this Vote except in so far as the figures were provided by the Naval Intelligence Department.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
No, Mr. Emmott, I was confining myself accurately to what comes from the Naval Intelligence Department, through the First Lord, into the ears of the Foreign Secretary.
§ Mr. McKENNA
No such statement as that quoted by the Noble Lord was ever communicated either by the Naval Intelligence Department or by me to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; nor, I might add, was said by him.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
Of course, I bow to your ruling. I do not see where to bring this question forward, though I dare say I shall find a method.
§ The CHAIRMAN
We shall have the Shipbuilding programme; it will be relevant then, and the Noble Lord will be able to bring it up.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
I will conclude my remarks, and I hope that the First Lord will answer the questions I here put to him. I also hope he will see his way to make as ample, full, and generous an apology as possible to the father and his son, who have suffered such a cruel wrong. The boy was charged with a heinous offence, for which he was proved "not guilty." Since that day of being proved "not guilty," neither the boy nor his father have ever received one shadow of a shade of apology or expression of regret from the Admiralty.
§ Mr. BARNES
I desire to call the attention of the Committee to a matter which. 2493 although it may not be so exciting or interesting as the one just under discussion—especially to those hon. Members who can send their sons to Osborne or Dartmouth—is yet one of considerable general importance to the nation. I once raised this question about the training of the officers and the men in the Navy, and, I think, on this occasion I shall be able to show, at least I hope so, that the scheme which is in operation, I understand, only tentatively and experimentally, is undemocratic and costly to the nation, and must in the nature of things, be inefficient. In order to make my point clear, it is necessary to say a word or two as to the evolution of the Navy from sail to steam, and to follow that process by a few words in regard to the particular scheme in question. I am sorry to have to interpose before the reply is given to the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth; but possibly he may be none the less willing to wait until I have done, in as much as he, as well as myself, is interested in the scheme upon which I am to comment.
In the old days of sail the Navy was quite a simple thing compared to what it is now. At that time there was two general branches of the Navy. There was the upper and the lower deck. There was the executive officer on the upper deck, and there were the fighting men below. In the course of time, with the addition of steam, electricity, and science generally in the Navy, the Navy has become a much more costly, complicated, and elaborate a machine. In the course of evolution an entirely new branch was introduced into the Navy, and, so far as my memory serves me, that new branch of the personnel forms about one-third of the whole. It is a very large and increasingly important branch, and it is this branch that I want particularly to address the Committee upon. The engineering branch of the Navy, until the inauguration of this scheme, consisted of three main divisions: the engineer-officer, the artificer, and the stoker. The engineer-officer was between the executive officer and the lower-deck man. He did not belong to either class. Up to the time the Cawdor Scheme was put into operation, some six years ago, the engineer-officer stood some half-way between the two I have named, and belonged to neither. The artificer is a man drawn from civil life; so is the stoker. The net result of this scheme, so far as I can understand it, is to absorb the whole territory of the engineering-officer into the executive branch of the Navy; to have reduced 2494 the artificer to a sort of mechanical cobler, and to have driven the vast army of stokers into an acquiescence with this scheme by a largely illusory promise of an infinitesimal chance of promotion. I should like to say a word or two under each of these heads—on the engineer-officer, the artificer, and the stoker.
It is not necessary to go back before the days when this scheme was inaugurated. Still, at that time, some few years ago, the engineer officer was a man who was trained for the comparatively small amount of £40 or £50 a year. He was a man who went into the Navy at an age when there was some sort of chance of selecting a career for himself. The Navy had the advantage of a man going into its service at an age when he could select the engineering branch of the Navy as his life's work. The engineer-officer was drawn from a class of the people comparatively large as compared with the executive branch of the service; from people who could afford £40 or £50 a year to send their sons to Key-ham. Even there there was a mixture, a sort of infusion of the democratic ideas by exceptionally smart boys being put into the service from the dockyard. These boys had passed certain competitive examinations. There was, I understand, some little friction as between the engineer-officers and the executive officers. The first apparently had some complaint, or at all events they thought so, that they were not allowed full power of discipline over their own staff. I believe they also wanted to be ranked in some higher manner than they had been ranked. But it is sufficient for my argument to say that the engineer-officer had, or thought he had, a grievance. Like an Englishman, possibly he put forward his grievance at inappropriate seasons. I do not know. My ground of complaint under this head is that instead of meeting the engineer-officer in a reasonable spirit, and dealing somehow or another with his grievance, the Admiralty have jockeyed the old engineer-officer out of the Service altogether, and have annexed his territory to the executive-officer branch. In so doing they have, I submit to the Committee, unnecessarily narrowed the field of selection. By that means they have made the Navy less democratic than it was, and, I am afraid, made it less efficient than it was. That remains to be seen in the course of time, but I venture to say if you narrow the field of selection from which you are going to draw your officers for the Navy it necessarily follows, 2495 as night follows day, that you are not going to get the high standard of excellence that you hitherto had.
Let us consider this from the democratic point of view. I take it no one can possibly send their sons into Osborne or Dartmouth unless they are fairly wealthy. I notice from the Inland Revenue Returns that those people with £700 a year or more number 258,000. That may represent a population of 1,500,000 or thereabout out of a population of about 44,000,000. Not only is the officer of the Navy now selected from that small number, but that all other jobs worth having are given to the same people. The position of Army officers and the higher officials of the Civil Service, in fact every position which is worth having in the public service is filled from that class of 1,500,000 of the population. It seems to me you have almost abolished selection altogether, and so far as that small number of the population are concerned, it may be said to be all prizes and no blanks for them. I object, therefore, to the matter on that ground. We have a Navy costly enough to be careful about it, and so complex and elaborate that it requires the best brains in the community to guide it, and inasmuch as brains are not the monopoly of any class of the community I object to the Navy being put under the control of that small section of the people. It may have been necessary to have arranged for some form of common entry as covering the marine, engineer, and executive officers, I am not sufficiently acquainted with the details of the Navy to form a judgment upon that. If it was necessary to have lumped all these people into one there were two ways of doing it. They might have enabled the same class which hitherto supplied the Navy with engineer officers to have supplied the Navy with executive officers, or they could have allowed the small class that have hitherto supplied executive officers to supply also engineer officers; they have adopted the latter course. What they have done is to carry out something similar to what was known as the Holmes' circular, and to put it into absolute operation. The Admiralty do not talk about these things, but they carry them out without asking for leave.
I leave that part of the topic with the observation that the Navy, so far as it has altered matters, in lumping the engineer officers in with the executive officers 2496 has been made less democratic than it used to be. And so far as it narrowed, as it must necessarily have narrowed the field of selection by requiring from the sons of those people now going into the Navy not £40 or £50 a year, but £125 to £130, it has made an undemocratic move. The parents of boys sent to Osborne and Dartmouth must be able to find not only the £75 fee, but auxiliaries as well, which brings the sum up to from £125 to £135. An hon. Gentleman opposite said that was done before. I am not now pleading for things to be allowed to remain as before. I am pleading for improvement. And it is no answer to say, and, as a matter of fact, it is not quite true to say, that things are as they were before. If hon. Gentlemen cast back their minds to the old days of Nelson, they will find that the figure was not £120. It was much cheaper to get into the Navy in those days than it is now. Things are not as they were before. The Navy, so far as the executive branch and now the engineering branch are concerned, is less democratic than it was before, and because it is less democratic it is less efficient. I do not mean to say that people who have less money have more brains than other people. I remember a dictum of the Tichborne claimant which divided everybody into two classes, those with money and no brains and those with brains and no money. I do not believe that at all myself. I believe we are all much of a muchness, but I say there are just as much brains in the scale of those a little below those who have money.
I come from that higher branch now to the intermediate branch. I say, as time goes on, you will get a less efficient branch in the higher ranks because they are only open to a small branch of the community. A boy is sent to Osborne at 12½ years of age without any idea of what is going to follow. And, therefore, you have a person thrust into a situation without having chosen it. Having these less efficient men at the top, it seems to me some arrangements should be made whereby you could get more efficient men into the intermediate stage, and that you should at all events retain the artificers who do the practical work of the engineers' staff. The artificer is still a man drawn from the ordinary workshops of the community. He is a man who has served his apprenticeship in the ordinary way, either in marine shops or in engineering shops of some sort or another. He has been bound at the expense of his parents for a period of five, six, or seven years, during which he has 2497 been getting small wages. It is impossible to say to what extent the parents may have made sacrifices to give their sons this technical training. But it is true to say, and it is a laudable ambition on the part of many thousands of working people in this country, that they do involve themselves in considerable sacrifice, and that they do pinch themselves and their families in order to give their sons this technical education. The Admiralty up to the inauguration of this scheme, and still, to some extent, have had the advantage in the artificer engineer of a mechanic who I venture to say, with some experience, is the best engineering mechanic there can be found anywhere. The Admiralty have had the advantage of that man's early training, and have had it for nothing. The artificer has been willing to join the Service, and he has, on the whole, served the Admiralty loyally and well. So far as I know not a single complaint in regard to his disciplinary spirit or his efficiency as a mechanic has been made against the artificers, and I do not know why he should be supplanted as he has been.
What is the scheme so far as the artificer is concerned? The artificer up to quite recently might be said to have been the right-hand man of the engineer officer. He did practically every day work, not only in the use of tools, but he did the necessary repairs to the engines and auxiliary machinery, and he also did the watch-keeping duties. It is on record in the Cawdor memorandum or in the evidence taken before the Court of Committee that in the opinion of the engineer officers examined before that Committee the watch-keeping duties were the most important appertaining to the artificers' duties as a whole. It seems to me there is no reason why he should be disturbed in these duties if they were discharged with efficiency and well, as I am told they were. The scheme involves so far as I understand it the supplanting of the artificers by men from the stoke rating. That is to say, into the 4,000, or thereabout, artificers of the Navy you are going to introduce a small proportion as compared with the number of men from who they are drawn, but by no means small a percentage when compared with the artificers, and you are thereby putting a very great bar to the promotion of artificers. The Admiralty, in introducing this scheme, are I say breaking faith with the men who joined the Navy as artificers prior to this scheme. What are the facts?
2498 We were told by the First Lord the other night when I ventured to say that the Admiralty were breaking faith with the artificers that he had given it upon his personal honour that no man who was in the service prior to the inauguration of this scheme should be worsened in his prospects of promotion. I make no charge against the First Lord, but the circumstances are such that it is altogether beyond his control to prevent these men from being worsened. During the last six years there has been introduced into the artificer ranks from the stoker rating no less than 413 men. They have been promoted to what is known as mechanicians. Let us consider this in the light of the Order-in-Council issued by the Admiralty in December, 1907. According to that Order-in-Council the stoker promoted man, the mechanician, was to be drafted into the Navy in certain fixed proportions to artificers and active stokers. According to this Order-in-Council, three of the mechanician class should be introduced into the battleships and large cruisers, and two artificers and one stoker will be displaced in consequence of the introduction of the three stoker mechanicians. As a direct result of the introduction of these 413 mechanicians of the stoker class, two-thirds of the artificer class have already been displaced. If we take it that the promotions from the artificer ranks have to be in a fixed proportion, say of one-third, then it follows that inasmuch as there has been introduced 413 stoker men into the artificer ranks, and as they have displaced something like 270 artificers, therefore one-third of that number, or about ninety artificers, have already been debarred from getting that promotion for which they had a reasonable chance prior to the scheme, and they are getting to-day less wages in proportion, as they have been denied that opportunity. The difference in wages is something like 1s. or 1s. 3d. per day. I may be told that it is unfair to take a fixed proportion, and that the Admiralty have no idea of promoting one-third. I may also be told that the one-third arranged for by the Admiralty Order in 1907 was, in consequence of the scheme and as a set-off against the chance of promotion, lost by the artificers.
If the hon. Gentleman representing the Admiralty takes that line, it is all very well to make a promise by an Order-in-Council, but it is another thing to carry it out. You have not promoted the one-third which was promised in 1907, and it 2499 is no answer to reply that the number of promotions has been increased in consequence of the inauguration of the scheme. Not only have you broken faith with the artificer class, but you are not going to get the watch-keeping duties carried out so efficiently and so successfully as they were by the artificers. The line is taken that the artificer is a man accustomed only to the use of his tools, and that they have to be trained for watch-keeping duties after they have joined the Navy. We have been told by the Admiralty that watch-keeping is just as much a matter for the stoker as for the engineer artificer. I do not take that view, and I hope I shall have the support of the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth, when I say that in order to carry out watch-keeping duties efficiently you must have a man who is not only accustomed to the use of tools, but who knows exactly when the machine or the engine he has charge of is doing its duty. The idea of a man only being entitled or qualified to use tools because he was a mechanic is an altogether preposterous idea. This reminds me of a tale I once heard of a large firm of printers not far from this place. A year or two ago there was introduced into that firm a new manager. He was the son of the proprietor, and had just come from Oxford or Cambridge. This young fellow, seeing a number of men standing about looking at the machines while they were working, asked who they were, and he was informed that they were highly skilled men. This young man took it into his head that it was a waste of money employing them to look at the machines, and he decided that all but two of them should be discharged. Of course, disaster followed, because the men who were discharged were the men who could set the machines going and they were the only men who knew by the sound the machines were making whether they were working properly or not. This is equally true in the case of the men I have mentioned. Let me refer for the moment to the old question of breaking faith with the artificer class. Let me remind the Secretary for the Admiralty that it is from the watch-keeping men that promotions come. Necessarily the man who is watch keeping is the man who is in charge for the time being, under the control of a superior officer, and the man on the watch is the man who ought to detect things going wrong, is the man who reports things which have gone wrong, and he is the man, more than the workman who 2500 simply uses his tools in repair, who ought to come in for promotion. In taking away the watch-keeping duties from the artificer class you are to that extent taking the chances of promotion from them.
Let me deal with the justification put forward by the Admiralty for the introduction of this scheme as far as the artificer is concerned. I remember one justification put forward when we were discussing this matter a year or two ago was that the Admiralty wished to get rid of the trade union element. I should be sorry to think the Admiralty had anything of that sort in their mind, more especially while the hon. Member for Camberwell has a voice in the policy of the Admiralty. Therefore I think I may dismiss that point. Other justifications have been put forward, and the main one is that there has been a fear on the part of the Admiralty that there might be an insufficient supply of artificers. It seems to me that the supply of artificers is very largely regulated by the conditions of service. If you are going to make those conditions of such a character as they are under this scheme, if you are going to break faith with those men, probably you will find the supply short. In so far as there has been any shortage of artificers it has been in consequence of the fact that their wages are too low, and they ought to have been raised long ago. Let me remind the hon. Gentleman that the wages of the artificer class in the Navy have not been raised since the year 1882. In civil life, during those twenty-nine years, there has been a very considerable advance in the wages of the ordinary mechanic and engineers, as well as in the case of mechanics. This class of artificer ought long ago to have had their wages very considerably increased Let me make a contrast between the cost of running a "Dreadnought," so far as engineers are concerned, and the cost of running the "Mauretania." I find that a "Dreadnought" is running with six engineering officers, including two artificer engineers, and twenty-three engine-room artificers, making a total of twenty-nine at a cost of £3,900 per annum. The "Mauretania," with thirty-three engineer officers and three refrigerating engineers is run at a cost of £4,800. In view of these figures I think there is here a good case, not only for raising the wages of the artificer class, but for raising the wages of the engineer officers as well.
I pass from the artificer class, and I now come to the stokers. It has been customary, when this point has been raised be- 2501 for the Admiralty to appeal to the democratic sentiments of their own followers to support the scheme and justify it on the ground that it is going to give a chance of promotion to the stokers. I do not believe for one moment that that is the real justification. I believe that is merely an afterthought. As a matter of fact it makes very little difference to the stoker. You have in the Navy about 34,000 stokers. You have had in the Navy during the last six years that this scheme has been in operation, either in the Navy or passing out of it in the way of stokers, something like 50,000 men. Up to now you have had a total of 413 stokers promoted out of 50,000. It seems to me that the proportion is so small and so infinitesimal that the chances of the ordinary stoker getting a promotion into an artificer is about equal to the chance of a Member of Parliament inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven. I scout the idea of it being any justification of this scheme that there is a small chance presented to these men of rising not with their class but out of it. What does the stoker want? He has told the Admiralty what he wants. He has put forward an appeal to them through his own union and he has asked not that he should have all his technical knowledge stuffed into his head when he cannot assimilate it, but that he should have more wages, and I think he ought to have more. The stoker has to do the hardest and roughest work in the Navy under conditions which must have a bad influence upon his health. He gets paid at the rate of 1s. 8d. per day rising to 2s. 6d. per day after three or four years' service. What the stoker wants, in the first place, is a considerable increase of his wages, and, in addition to that, he ought to have the chance of promotion to warrant rank as this scheme goes on. Instead of giving him that chance through technical knowledge, I submit that he ought to have it rather through the duties he can do, which require only ordinary common-sense to carry out. I have gone through the points of this scheme——
Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present; House counted, and forty Members being found present——
I should have been done by now if it had not been for the Count. I submit there ought to be a full inquiry into the working of this system, and that that inquiry should not be conducted exclusively by Navy men, but that there should be a number of outside 2502 men with a general knowledge of the civil community. I suggest there should be a sensible reduction in the fees paid at the naval colleges at Greenwich, Dartmouth, and Osborne, so as to bring the positions of engineering officers and executive officers within the reach of a larger section of the community. I suggest, further, that there ought to be an increase in wages of the artificers as a class. They are not now getting the wages they ought to get. I have information to-day from the Mercantile Marine Engineers' Union that the marine first engineer gets wages from £18 to £20 per month, and that engineers lower down get £12 per month. I suggest the wages of the artificers should be brought up to nearly, if not quite, the level of the men outside. There ought to be some better provision than has yet been made, so that those men in the service prior to the introduction of the scheme some six years ago should get that promotion which they would otherwise have got but for the introduction of this scheme, and which I submit I have proved by the figures I have given has been denied to them. I hope these points will be considered, as well as any other points that may be put by my colleagues, and that we shall have a satisfactory reply to-night.
§ Mr. CHARLES ROBERTS
There is one point of Admiralty policy which has not been touched upon in the Debates on the Navy this year. It was discussed somewhat more fully last year, but to-night, when we are really parting with the question of the Navy Estimates, or at all events with the most important Navy Votes for the year, I think it would be desirable that we should have some statement of Admiralty policy again on the question. The point to which I refer is the question of the immunity of private property from capture at sea. Last year the First Lord made a statement which I do not think received at the time the attention it deserved. It represented, I believe, an alteration in the view of the Admiralty, as compared with their previous declarations of policy. I doubt very much whether that declaration received either much attention in this country or that attention abroad which it might have done. I believe the present attitude, at all events, of the Government, so far as I can judge from the literature I have had the opportunity of reading, is entirely misunderstood on the Continent. It is thought we meet this question with an absolute blank non possumus and an uncompromising nega- 2503 tive, and that it is due to the opposition of England that no further progress can be made in exempting private property from capture at sea. That is largely due to the fact that in the instructions which we gave to our delegates at the Hague we did take up an attitude which made it practically impossible to make any further progress. The instructions include this sentence:—If nations generally were willing to diminish their armaments, naval and military, to an extent which would materially relieve them from the apprehension of the consequences of war, and, by rendering aggression difficult, would make war itself improbable, then, if such an agreement were dependent on the abolition of the right of capture, we might waive our objection to it in principle.That did appear to make our assent to this reform practically conditional, as I think, on the millennium. I think in subsequent Debates both the Foreign Secretary and the First Lord of the Admiralty have shown that is not quite our view. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has said we were willing to give up what he considered a valuable privilege if we got a quid pro quo. The First Lord of the Admiralty, on 21st March last year, repeated that, and said, if proposals were made to us upon the basis of maintaining our naval supremacy, we were willing to consider this reform. He said:—If we can secure the peace of the world and reduce this gigantic burden of armaments, the Government would be willing to consider any proposals for the exemption of private property from capture at sea.Under those circumstances, I am hoping the First Lord may be willing to repeat that sentence in order that increased emphasis may be given to it. We have all deplored international competition in this country and in all Europe, but we have deplored it in different terms. The view held on the opposite benches is that it is impossible to escape from it, and that nothing we can do can lift the pressure of these armaments which crush down, not merely this nation, but all Europe and all the world. The hope which is entertained in this country that we can lighten that pressure to some extent by means of arbitration treaties with one country after another—with the United States first, and then possibly with other countries afterwards—is a rift in the clouds, and I would not by one single word attempt to minimise the greatness of the possibilities wrapped up in the project of an Anglo-American treaty of arbitration. It would, no doubt, relieve us to some extent directly, but it would have a much greater influence indirectly by its effect on the public opinion of the world. 2504 Its main influence surely in lightening the burden of armaments and in checking the international competition of armaments could only be indirect. It could not really lighten the pressure of the European situation except by an indirect influence upon public opinion, but, if you could secure exemption of private property from capture by an international agreement, then you would undoubtedly touch one of the great strings of the international competition in armaments, and it is from that point of view I regard it.
It has often been said this reform is not to be argued so much on the ground of humanity. No doubt commerce destruction does inflict less miseries as a mode of warfare than many other forms of hostility, but, if we could both drop commerce destruction and relieve ourselves of a necessity of commerce protection there is not the least doubt we should be able in that way to minimise to a very large extent the burden we have to face. I think even the Noble Lord the senior Member for Portsmouth (Lord Charles Beresford) would very largely agree with me on that point. His view, if I do not misrepresent him, is that we are practically sufficiently protected in reference to battleships, barring the problematical two he wishes to have against the possibility of the Triple Alliance having more battleships at some future date. Excepting for that additional insurance, which I think is a heavy over-insurance, the argument which he has been urging upon us in these Debates is that we require a swarm of cruisers to protect our commerce against the practice of commerce destruction, which, I think, we have it very largely in our power to get rid of. That is only one of the ways in which the existence of this mode of hostility forces us onward in the path of competition in armaments. The weaker nations, too, take up exactly the same plea—the necessity of protecting their commerce against the chances of our aggression. The possibility of commerce destruction provides cheap fuel for all popular agitations of the Navy Leagues of this country and of other countries.
The necessity of protecting our commerce and the possibility of commerce destruction is one of the great causes which increases the weight of international competition in armaments that we all deplore. If the Admiralty would really abandon this old traditional policy in this matter there might be disadvantages in 2505 foreign wars—and I will come to that in a minute—but I think we should assuredly have taken a great step in checking the springs of the great international competition in armaments. Of course, I cannot pretend in this Debate to make a complete statement of the case for this reform. I know what will be said on the other side. They will say we cannot do it because we would deprive ourselves, to use the words of these advocates themselves, of the only weapon we have in the case of war. But of course I assume that we should retain the right of commercial blockade and of cconfiscating contraband, and it will be seen that we still keep in our own hands effective weapons of naval war. I feel the difficulties under which a layman labours in forming any opinion upon a subject so complicated, and he is not helped by the divergent views of naval experts. He has to form the best judgment he can, and for my own part I can only say that I have studied the history of naval war and have tried to form some kind of opinion as to the possible losses commercially which we might sustain and the possible effects which these losses might produce upon us and also the possibility of the losses that we might inflict upon other people, and I say that, supposing we were to drop the destruction of commerce altogether and supposing other nations were also to drop commerce-destruction, it would not alter my view in the least of the necessity of our maintaining a great and even a supreme Navy.
When the advocates of commerce-destruction urge that this is our sole weapon, and treat commerce-destruction as being almost the only mode of war that is open to us, I think we may say that surely that is a very great exaggeration. I should be inclined to think that even if a gun was never fired, providing there were guns to fire, the value of a supreme Navy would still be seen in the fact of its providing us with a balance in the International Bank of Credit upon which our diplomatists and statesmen could safely draw in times of international complication. That influence is seen in the history of Europe even when there is no naval war. Apart from that, the Navy is there to guard us against invasion, and, lastly, it supplies us with a great weapon, the history of which shows that by its means we have taken possession of our various Dominions over seas. Surely, also, when we are told that this is the sole means we have for naval war, I should have thought, judging simply from the history 2506 of naval war that the Navy had a greater value to us in providing us with power to distrain, to take possession of the foreign possessions of nations with which we might get into hostilities, and by that means to exercise a coercive force upon them. I believe that that pressure would be infinitely more valuable to us and more formidable to our opponents than the mere chance of picking up ships here and there about the seas. I will take the case of the Spanish American War. It was not so much the pressure of commercial destruction in that case as the fact that the Americans were able to seize upon Cuba, and the Spanish Fleet was practically bound to come out and make some sort of fight for the possessions of Spain. Therefore, I venture to say that all that kind of argument must be enormously exaggerated, and that even if we give up that power of commerce destruction we would have still, I venture humbly to submit to the Naval experts, a very efficient and very formidable means of conducting naval war.
I cannot, of course, at the moment go into the questions raised by the Declaration of London. By tacit consent these questions are laid upon one side for the present; but put this commerce destruction as high as you like, even in ancient times, even in the wars of the eighteenth century, does it show evidence of having produced the effect which its advocates claim for it? Is it not true to say, as has been said by Laveleye, that there never was a nation which asked for peace in order that its merchant shipping should be spared. It is quite true that in the Napoleonic Wars the pressure which was produced by the command of the sea which we held against Napoleon did have some sort of influence, but I very much doubt indeed whether that influence by itself would ever have terminated the Napoleonic Wars if it had not been for events on the Continent entirely unconnected with it. All these views of past history, all these analogies, whatever their value may be, whatever judgment you may frame upon them, are surely out of date in view of the changes which have taken place in recent years, or at any rate since these events happened. Supposing we did now go to war with a Continental Power. I will take the case of France, as France is a country with which we have friendly relations, and with which we are not therefore likely to go to war.
2507 Supposing we have complete command of the sea; supposing we have destroyed the hostile fleets—would our power to destroy commerce have any other effect except that we should divert some trade from French ports to neutral ports such as Antwerp, or some of the trade from French flags to Dutch or German flags, and also we should impose upon British and also perhaps to impose upon British underwriters a duty, which no doubt they would fully discharge, of compensating French merchants and ship owners for the injuries which the British Navy would have inflicted upon them. If all this is so, surely at least there are three new facts which enormously diminish the value of commerce-destroying. You have first got the Declaration of Paris of 185G. That allows the possibility of a great neutral trade being carried on. It prevents the possibility of a naval war being waged against every kind of trade, or of such interference as we attempted in the old days. You have got, in the second place, an immense development of railways. It is quite true that the interference with sea-borne supplies might raise prices and in some cases affect commerce; but take the single case of Germany. I find that Germany has twelve railway lines across the Dutch frontiers, eight railway lines across the French frontiers, six across the Swiss, thirty-six across the Austrian, and four across the Russian frontiers. In these circumstances, even with the completest control of the sea which you could imagine, you could not abolish the trade, although, no doubt, you might annoy and irritate and handicap the trade of Germany, and might even produce a commercial crisis and a good deal of suffering. Can anyone think of the possibility of interfering with supplies to an extent that we should be able to put such pressure upon Germany as to bring her to her knees by that kind of naval warfare? Certainly this seems to me an erroneous view.
The third point is the whole development of national and international insurance under which you simply do not know whom you are hitting. Whoever you may who you are hitting. Whoever you may hit, you will ultimately hit the British insurance companies, because England has almost the whole of international insurance in its hands. I believe that modern conditions have brought it about that this ancient and historic form of warfare, commerce destruction, is really an ineffective 2508 weapon. It is a niggling method of making war which may ruin merchants and may cause suffering to individuals, but which I do not believe will ever paralyse nations. It seems to me that there are methods of making war which are a good deal more effective, and in which the supreme Navy will give a very good account of itself. But this particular method is I think a very ineffective one at the best and it may recoil upon ourselves in a very expensive form of boomerang. What loss of commerce might take place in a naval war I do not know, but I am of opinion that, assuming one to take place, we are so vulnerable that we require a great and overwhelming force of cruisers to protect ourselves, because we have an immense commerce at stake, the annual profits of which are estimated by the Board of Trade at some £90,000,000 sterling. We are, moreover, dependent almost entirely for our food upon our sea-borne supplies, and at the same time we require an immense amount of raw materials to be brought across the sea, and if the sea was—I will not say shut to us, because that is impossible—but if there was serious interruption our sea-borne trade might be half-starved and our industrial system might be crippled. I do not, however, wish to put that too high. I do not for a moment think, and it would be very inconsistent with my argument to say that the loss which we might sustain would paralyse us, or bring us to ruin. But I think it might inflict heavy loss upon ourselves, and I do not put it higher than this that I do not think that we could really do any vast or decisive harm by this method of war to any belligerent, while, to a certain extent, we should involve ourselves in very considerable loss on account of it.
I will only allude briefly to one other question that always comes up on this point. It is said even if it is ineffective at all events commerce destruction, or the possibility of it, is a deterrent to war. The fact is it is said abolition will either increase the chances of war or decrease the fear of it, but we are really face to face with this argument that the chance of our inflicting this loss upon individual merchants and shipowners in foreign countries will have its effect in averting war or making war less probable. It may have that effect, but I think it is exaggerated, and I am far from saying that a question of this kind can be settled by dogmatic statements. It is not one fact, but many complex facts that have to be considered, 2509 and there is ground for thinking that in international crises even if we drop the possibility of commerce destruction the fear of war would still operate with the business class under modern international conditions of finance, and they would still be averse to the outbreak of war because of its dislocation of commerce, severance of connections, interruptions of trade, the fall of securities, and all the other effects which appeal to the business man. That fear, therefore, will always operate, even if we were to drop commerce destruction entirely. This, again, is but the old argument which has been urged against any mitigation of the barbarities of war. It is held by some that you must make war as barbarous as possible in order to make it less frequent, and really that strikes at the root of all the mitigations which have ever been introduced in the practice of war at all.
There is a class of naval and military expert who sneer and ridicule the possibility of war under limited liability, and wish for what they call absolute war—war in its old unrelieved barbarism. All I would say is that the same argument has been used on many, many occasions in the past, but when one thinks of all the admitted approaches that have been made to this principle of limiting the horrors of war one feels that we must be content with making progress slowly, and step by step, wherever we can, produce an effective limitation on the practice of war by international agreement. I think this conception that the savagery of warfare should not be interfered with, should not be entertained. We have introduced the principle of limitation by tentative approaches to it, and what may be described as first steps have been made towards the recognition of the principle. For instance, it is now agreed by international agreement to give notice to ships then in ports on the declaration of war that commerce destruction—that great and effective weapon, is about to take place. We exempt fishing fleets, hospital ships, and ships engaged in the work of civilisation, and we have arranged now for the immunity of mails on board ships. To conclude, I would venture to think we might make some practical proposals. In the first place, even if we cannot abolish commerce destruction altogether, and cannot secure immunity to private property from capture, we might at least accept the French proposal to abolish the payment of prize money for naval captures. Let us concede, if you like, that 2510 commerce destruction is a necessary part of a naval war, but you need not induce people to do it, by allowing them to make private profit out of it. It smacks too much of the old idea of simple plunder. And even if it is impossible at once to get the whole reform we might at least do that, and I think we should have a stronger position to make what defence we can to the world for the retention of commerce-destroying.
A week ago, in the Reichstag, Motions were put forward aiming at securing treaties of arbitration, and there was one put forward by the Socialist party which called upon the Government to make progress in the direction of limiting our armaments and the abolition of the right of capture at sea. In the course of the debate which took place on the subject, not merely Socialist speakers, but the speakers of other parties treated that as practically accepted. The final resolution which was accepted in the Reichstag does not carry you very far in the direction of disarmament. At all events it merely invited the Imperial Chancellor to declare his willingness to enter into joint negotiations with other Powers as soon as proposals were made by a Great Power. That was not, perhaps, taking any very decisive step in that direction, but the debate shows quite clearly that it might be quite within the power of our Government to effect an agreement on this important point, and it is along those lines that it seems to me we should proceed if we wish to relieve the European situation. The present Government is willing to consider a proposal if made, and other continental Governments are equally prepared apparently to make progress along the lines of this reform. I cannot but hope that it may be possible in future for someone to make some practical proposal, for I am quite clear in my own mind that, if we could carry this reform and abolish the right of capture, it would be one of the greatest possible steps we could take towards international limitation of armaments.
§ Mr. JOHN WARD
The House to-day, just as on Tuesday, it presented itself at its best, presents itself at about the worst it could possibly do. We have been considering during the early part of the day a question which has been well worked in a certain section of the Press, and we had an immense number of Members present, but now we are beginning to discuss subjects which are of great interest to the 2511 working people who, after all, are the majority of the country, and then we find that the House is very sparsely populated indeed. I want to refer to the question of the policy of the Admiralty with reference to the wages to workmen upon public works being constructed under their authority. I know that the usual answer is that, whatever the complaints are, the Admiralty has transferred their liability to the contractor, and that they are not responsible either for the wages or the working conditions or anything else. I hope I may be able to prove that circumstances will occur very shortly which will force the Board of Admiralty to consider it part of their duty to interfere in the matter to which I am going to direct attention, and that they will be obliged to have some policy relating to the subject.
I wish to call attention to the fact that the Board of Admiralty, I believe, are attempting to the best of their ability to evade the Fair Wage Clause. Some time in March, 1909, the House passed a new Fair Wage Clause, which it decided should be inserted into all contracts let by the Admiralty and the different Government Departments for the future. I believe in the case of the War Office for some considerable time now all contracts have been worked under the Fair Wage Clause, and notices have been posted on all the works of the country, wherever barracks and other works are being constructed by the War Office, announcing the fact to the contractor and the workman that the wages agreed upon in those districts between employers and workmen must be the wages paid upon those works, but I am afraid, down to quite a recent date, the Board of Admiralty have done nothing of the kind. By one subterfuge or another they have evaded their responsibility and duty to this House.
I am not in the slightest degree impugning the policy of the hon. Gentleman (Dr. Macnamara). I know he is sympathetic towards labour, and if he had the deciding of the policy of the Board of Admiralty it would be a far different thing, so far as the bottom dog was concerned, but he has not unfortunately. We know how sympathetic he is to us and to our movement. They evidently put him here, or at least somehow or other he always gravitates here, when these discussions are on as a sort of buttress between the real enemy of labour who manages the policy of his Department and us, rather than that the 2512 culprits should be here themselves. The hon. Gentleman has denied that that is the case. This is the situation. In the case of Portsmouth dockyard everybody knows that a certain contract was let to Messrs. Morrison and Mason. There was considerable dispute as to the wages that ought to be paid, and eventually a compromise was arranged with the hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary who himself went down into the cuttings and saw the nature of the work. The compromise which was made was for the time being satisfactory, considering that the contract was let under the old contract. You would have thought that the Board of Admiralty, if they were anxious to secure decent wages to the men, would, when they had any new works to let, put in the contract the clause as to fair wages which was passed by this House. But as a matter of fact nothing of the sort has occurred. They decided to let some additional works almost as large in character as those under the first contract months after this House had passed the last fair wages Resolution, and instructed the gentlemen who are in charge of Departments to insert the fair wages clause in future contracts. Instead of letting the new contract, which involves hundreds of thousands of pounds with the proper trade union clause as decided by this House in 1909, the Board of Admiralty thought they could escape paying the workmen decent wages by extending the old contract to the new works. That is the case at Portsmouth. In addition to that, one year and two months after the passing of the Resolution requiring that workmen employed by Government contractors should get fair wages, a certain contract was let to the firm of Sir John Jackson, Ltd., a firm which is represented in this House by one of the hon. Members for Portsmouth, and with the exception of a special class of men who, owing to the intervention of the Financial Secretary, get the benefit of the clause, the workmen are excluded from its operation up to the present time. As a matter of fact no tender has been accepted for work at Portsmouth that contains the new fair wages clause, insisting upon the contractors paying proper wages. When I explained this the other night I said it was an illustration of some peculiar perversity about the decisions of the Board of Admiralty. They say they try to be fair, but they always manage in their decisions to down the bottom dog. There is not a decision come to which is not against 2513 the man who works for his living. I know that the Financial Secretary is not responsible for it, but I ask him if there has been a single decision during the last two or three years given by his Department that has not been for wages to the worker less than are the standard wages in the locality where the work is done?
It is not as though Portsmouth were an isolated case. Let us go to Rosyth—the largest works the Department has under construction at the present time. What is the situation there? When tenders were being advertised for, as this was an oasis with no particular locality where you could fix any rate of pay at all for this class of work, I begged the First Lord in this House to say what should be the minimum rate for the work at that place. He said he was sure the Board of Admiralty would arrange all that, and that his hon. Friends might take it for granted that the interests of the workmen would be well looked after. You know the kind of stuff we get, and so the tender was accepted with the old form of contract in it. I believe that three weeks or a month after the fair wages Resolution was carried in this House a contract was signed for work with the old clause in. I complained the moment I knew it was let with the old clause, and promises were made that it should never occur again, and it was explained that a little time was necessary in order to arrange the new form of tender. The contractor has paid fivepence an hour on these works. I had a friendly chat with him, and he told me that was what he intended to pay unless he was compelled to pay more. Some time after that, I am not sure whether it did not amount to considerably over a year, the Board of Admiralty extended the contract. They wanted more work done, and more docks constructed. You would have thought that, after what I had pointed out in the case of Portsmouth, they would at least in this new contract in the case of the extended works at Rosyth arrange for giving the workmen the advantage of the new fair wages clause passed eighteen months before. Nothing of the sort; I wish the Financial Secretary to listen to what I have to say on this matter. He will have to hear about it before the year is out, and perhaps before many months are out. You would have thought naturally that, as they were going practically to let another million's worth of work eighteen months after the fair wages 2514 clause was passed in this House and knowing the difficulty and controversy which had occurred by extending the old contract at Portsmouth, they would now let the new contract so that the workmen would get the benefit of the clause. That is not the Board of Admiralty's way of dealing with workmen who claim the right to proper wages. That is what the Board do not want.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Dr. Macnamara) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. J. WARD
The Financial Secretary wants fair wages to be paid, but I say positively that the Board do not want that. I say your intentions are all right, but I am not concerned with men's intentions. I want to know the result of what they do. The result is that an immense proportion of this work which is let again eighteen months after the passing of the Fair Wage Clause of this House will for the next four or five years at Rosyth be under the old Clause, which enables the contractor to do just what he likes. The Board of Trade have got out what they consider to be a list agreed on by employers as to the proper wage to be paid to labourers employed in the building trade, which includes navvies. The rate at Leith is 5½d., at Edinburgh it is 5½d., at Grangemouth 5½d., and at Larbert, a little higher up, it is 6d. an hour. You would think that the Board of Admiralty would fix upon one of those rates, ranging from the mouth of the Forth to the top end, showing that the average rate was from 5½d. to 6d. an hour for this class of work. Nothing of the sort. There happens to be a little place near that has no rate for labourers at all, Dunfermline. It would be quite improper to select those places where there is a definite rate, because that would actually give the man a chance of earning from 5½d. to 6d. an hour. That is not what the Board of Admiralty wants, because the contractor is only paying 5d., and the Board of Admiralty do not want to compel him to pay more, so they fished about to find a place with a fixed rate which would be a proper rate, and they settled on Dunfermline, which has no labourers' rate at all, and excluded the four places with rates ranging from 5½d. to 6d. an hour. We have endeavoured to keep the men quiet there while the works are on. Certain classes of workers are getting more than 5d. an hour, but the contractor admits that his rate for navvies 2515 is 5d. an hour and he sees no reasons for altering it, unless the Board suggest that the rate is higher.
I put a question to-day thinking that the Admiralty would never agree that 5d. an hour for a poor navvy working in the trenches at Rosyth was a fair wage, and that I might give them a chance to get out of it if it were possible. The answer sent to me this afternoon admits that the rates I have quoted are rates observed in Government Departments as being rates of wages paid, and then it goes on: "I have made inquiry into the matter and I have no reason to doubt that the contractors for Rosyth are paying a fair rate," that is 5d. an hour, less than £1 a week. I heard to-day a description of the proceedings of this House by my hon. Friend the Member for East Leeds (Mr. O'Grady). I forget exactly, or else I do not want to remember, what his description was, but if it was a correct description of the proceedings of the House at that time, what sort of description will the hon. Member for Leeds give of this action of the Board of Admiralty in deciding that 5d. an hour is enough for a navvy working in the trenches at Rosyth? I do not think it would be possible within the language admitted as being parliamentary for me to express what my feelings are with regard to Rosyth. Therefore I will leave it. It is one of those subjects, as the costermonger says, where you cannot find words to express your feelings nicely. The Board of Admiralty need not have gone out of their way to say that the contractors' rate was a fair rate. They might have said that there was no rate applicable to the locality, or that the rates in the towns I have mentioned did not apply to these works. They might have said anything they chose to justify their attitude on the subject. But to go out of the way to declare that 5d, an hour is a fair rate for a navvy at Rosyth was so extraordinary an action that I am sure, if a day's Parliamentary time can be given to discuss the decision of the Admiralty in relation to an injustice done to one man or boy, we should be entitled to ask for a Parliamentary day to be given to discuss what I consider an injustice to two or three thousand men. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonshire is going to reply for his Department, but, at any rate, I consider myself that for the Board of Admiralty 2516 to have gone out of their way to declare that 5d. an hour is a fair wage——
§ Mr. J. WARD
"I have made inquiry into the matter, and I have no reason to doubt that the contractors for Rosyth are paying a fair rate."
§ Mr. J. WARD
I assume that before the Board of Admiralty answered that question declaring that a fair rate was being paid they inquired what was the rate.
§ Mr. J. WARD
Then all I can say is that two-thirds of the men are working for 5d. an hour, and therefore by inference I am bound to suggest that the Board of Admiralty have declared that 5d. an hour is a sufficient wage for these men.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I understood the hon. Gentleman to say that there was a different rate from the rate of the locality.
§ Mr. J. WARD
Yes. I put a question to the First Lord of the Admiralty to-day asking him to refer to a Board of Trade Report issued as to the wages in this locality for labourers. The wages in this Board of Trade Return from both employers and employed are 5½d. an hour at least—5½d. at Edinburgh, 6d. at Grangemouth, and 6d. at Larbert, right away up the Firth. My information is that there was never less than 5½d. an hour paid at these works or anywhere near these works until the Board of Admiralty sent a contractor there, and it is the Board of Admiralty, in fact, which is reducing the wages. The influence of the wages they are paying is to reduce the rate paid by everybody in the locality. On the instructions of the men I have given a copy of their notice to the contractor, and I have also sent one to my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, in regard to this question, and I do assure him that we are not going to admit that 5d. an hour for the laborious drudgery which the men have undertaken on these works is a fair wage, and on the first favourable opportunity we shall put that point to the test, though I shall be very loth to do anything to delay these works, which I am as anxious to see completed as any right hon. or hon. Member opposite. The work which these 2517 men have to do means slavery, considering the conditions in which it has to be performed. And the next point of criticism which I desire to bring forward has reference to the housing of these men. On this matter the Board of Admiralty have beaten me from pillar to post. There is no housing accommodation at all at these works. The Board of Admiralty gave the contractor a piece of land, half an acre or three-quarters of an acre, or something of that kind, near Inverkeithing, at the extreme end of the works, where, as a matter of fact, the men require a train in order to get them to their daily labour.
Yet there is plenty of land available for housing, but the Admiralty will neither give the contractor any site for building, nor will they permit the contractor to build or build themselves. What is the situation at the present time? The answer of the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty is that private enterprise has supplied all that is required, and he stated that he went over certain great buildings, a sort of great barracks, what we call a "packing can," at Inverkeithing, which accommodates some 600, 700, or 800 men. It is a fact that there is this place for the accommodation of those who are employed upon the works—a sort of fourpenny doss-house. That is considered good enough for Admiralty workmen; that is the result of private enterprise—this fourpenny doss-house, this "packing-can" provided for these men. We have heard complaints against the present Government in regard to the condition of affairs in South Africa in connection with Chinese labour, but at Rosyth we have a condition of things absolutely typical of that at the present time. There are plenty of married men, but there is only accommodation for some 300 of them, and they are obliged to leave their wives anywhere they can under the present circumstances. I think it is time that the House insisted upon the Board of Admiralty doing something to deal with this important question. What happens? If a man is ill he has only a little bit of a bunk for his accommodation. Nobody can attend to him, and the consequence is he has to be carted off to the workhouse. The Lord Advocate gave us a list of those brilliant British workmen who "never shall be slaves," who, the moment they became ill in the doss-house of Iverkeithing, had to be sent off to the workhouse.
There are 3,000 men employed upon these works, with no hospital accommodation within miles. Even the hospital they 2518 can reach is so full that it is necessary to send men who become ill to the workhouse infirmary. The Lord Advocate informed us that during the last twelve months twenty-four men who had sustained accidents at the works were treated at the workhouse by the Poor Law Union authority, because no provision had been made by the Board of Admiralty, which is considered to be so kind to the men in its service. I have spoken of these matters with some heat, but I think hon. Members will see that I am justified in doing so, that we have a real grievance, a grievance that we are not going to allow to rest, because, sooner or later, we shall take action on this matter, which may perhaps prove uncomfortable to His Majesty's Government, unless they do something to make provision for the men whose case I have been putting before the Committee.
§ Mr. SPEAR
I would not venture to intervene in this discussion if it were not one in which many in my constituency are interested. I hear among my constituents from time to time expressions of opinion upon these matters which I am glad of an opportunity to bring before the representatives of the Admiralty. In listening to the speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow I found that many of the difficulties which he explained are experienced by the men whom I represent. I have realised, in moving among my Constituents, that both with reference to engineering officers and artificers, as well as stokers, the difficulties which the hon. Member spoke about with such great ability prevail among them. They feel that they have not full justice done to them as regards remuneration or promotion. I appeal to the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty to take these questions into careful consideration. I am sure the Board of Admiralty are anxious to pay a fair wage, and where they fail it is from lack of knowledge of the circumstances of the case, and not from any desire not to pay the men under Government employ adequate wages. I am sure that every Member of the House will agree that Government employés ought to be paid at least as well as are men employed by private firms. Therefore I ask the representative of the Admiralty on this occasion to consider well the case of these men, who I believe have presented it by petition to the Department. I hear, howver, complaints about their being so long in receiving replies to their petitions. The questions which they raise are important, and I do trust that their petitions will be 2519 considered as quickly and as speedily as possible, so that their suspense may be removed, and that they may have an opportunity of knowing whether there is any prospect of their receiving the consideration to which they think they are entitled and for which they have appealed.
I agree also with the hon. Member for Glasgow in the strong appeal he made that promotion in our dockyards should be by merit. The fact of a man being born in a humble degree should be no bar to his progress provided he has the ability to fill any position which is in the power of the Government to bestow. I know the Admiralty have done something to give our sailors better food—I still think there is room for improvement. We depend very much on the personnel of the Navy. Good ships are valuable, but we must have good, contented, well-fed men to man the ships. I do think there is room for the Admiralty to go still further in securing for those men better food than has hitherto been the case. With reference to the Navy, I feel strongly, as one who believes in the maintenance of our Navy in a state of complete efficiency, that that can best be done if we make our dockyards the first source of supply both for new construction and for repairs. I know very well it may be necessary to keep in touch with private yards in cases of disaster, and that we want a wider field to recruit ourselves and to regain our position. But still, it seems to me, we ought to have in the Royal Dockyards the best men that can be got and the best machinery, and that we should look to those dockyards as our first source of supply.
I believe the Navy will be kept in a more efficient state in that way than it can by leaning on private yards. There is another point to which I desire to refer; sailors are very often disappointed at not being in port when they would like to vote at, say, Devonport or some other part of the country. I think that the Admiralty ought to issue instructions to those who are in command to offer every possible facility for the conveyance of those men to the port where they are entitled to vote, so that they may have the opportunity of fulfilling their duty as citizens. I would like to go a step further, so that those men who are at sea might have some means of recording their votes, and not continue to be disfranchised, as is at present the case. I know the Admiralty are anxious to do what is right and just. I put before them 2520 these matters from dockyard employés in my own Constituency. The grievances which have been stated so ably by the hon. Member below the Gangway, and which I have tried to endorse, are ones which to those employés are very real. I am sure the Admiralty will give all due consideration to them. My closing word is an appeal that petitions which are sent representing their case before the Admiralty may be dealt with as expeditiously as possible so that the men may know whether there is any hope of securing what they deem to be their just rights and their just claims at the hands of the Admiralty.
§ Mr. CHARLES DUNCAN
I listened very attentively to the speech of the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow (Mr. Barnes) with regard to the question of artificers in the Navy. There are still one or two points which he did not cover and which I would like to deal with. I have taken rather a deep interest in this question, because I realise that there is a very great injustice being done to the men who are in the Service at the present moment. We have debated this subject on several occasions before, and it seems to me that the best way to illustrate the position is to take a parallel from the Mercantile Marine, for after all the men who are in the Navy as engine-room artificers are men who have served their apprenticeship in the workshops of the country as engineers and machinists, boiler-makers, etc. They have thus served their time and become practical mechanics. When they joined the Navy I certainly think they had a fair and reasonable right to expect the same outlook and the same promotion as those same men would obtain if they joined the Mercantile Marine. In the Navy, I am sorry to say, their conditions are anything but equal, and not only is that so, but, owing to the new system of stoker mechanicians, the difficulties of the artificers seem to be increased, and there seems ultimately to be a great chance of the artificers being scrupulously excluded from service in the Navy at all. It has been argued in this House that the idea of the scheme for the promotion of stokers into mechanicians is with the hope of widening the range of promotion. It has always seemed to me to be a very unfair proceeding and a very unfair proposal to give one man promotion to the detriment of another man. If we could have from the Admiralty some explanation and some idea that the stoker would be promoted, 2521 but not to the detriment of the artificer, and that the artificer would likewise be promoted there would be some fair reason in the arrangement.
So far as I can understand it, the position is something like this. A number of men who joined the Navy as stokers are to be taken away from their stoking and to be given training for a year or two. They are being trained by the very men in the Navy whom they are going to displace, that is the artificer and the artificer engineer. It seems to mo as though the hardship lies here, that in the Mercantile Marine the man of the artificer class is the man who becomes the third, or the second, or the chief engineer. But in the Navy the stoker is to be trained, and he is to be put over the artificer or over the type of man that will have the opportunity of becoming third, or second, or chief engineer in the Mercantile Marine. That seems to me to be a rather lopsided proposal, and it is a throwing overboard of men specially trained as skilled mechanicians. After all, whatever argument may be advanced by men occupying positions in the Government, I do venture to suggest that the hon. Member for Blackfriars who can claim to be a trained skilled mechanic, and myself also as a trained skilled mechanic, can pretend to understand this question as well perhaps, if not a little better, than some of those who are defending the position. Therefore we say that whilst we are perfectly prepared to admit that the stokers are an exceedingly able class of men in the Navy, and whilst we desire to see every avenue of promotion given to those men, and whilst we suggest and have suggested and continue to suggest, that the stokers be given advanced rate of wages, to all which appeals the Admiralty lent a deaf ear, all they can think of is this scheme as a result of the Cawdor Memorandum where after all, only five persons were examined, and on a perusal of the evidence one is led to the conclusion that at least three of them were against the finding of that inquiry. Therefore it seems to me, as far as I can understand the matter, there is really no defence for it at all. With regard to promotion, there is a paragraph on page 126 of the Cawdor Memorandum, which, I think, completely knocks down the statement that promotion is to be the same in the future as in the past, and that the position of the men who joined the artificer rank prior to the Cawdor Memorandum 2522 will be in no way endangered by the mechanician. The paragraph states:—It appears that under the present system, the engine room artificers who are still mechanicians of various trades, are employed on board ship to some extent in doing watch keeping and engine driving work which is largely taught them after having joined the Service, and which does not require any very considerable degree of workmanship or mechanical training. In consequence, whilst they are so employed, their workmanship and mechanical ability is not being utilised to the best advantage, and the long apprenticeship which they have served at their varions trades is being wasted. It is a matter for consideration whether competent engineer drivers and stokehold and engine-room watchkeepers could not be trained from the stoker ratings of the fleet, and the artificer class in this way will be free to perform their more legitimate occupations in the ships workshop.That shows conclusively that the idea of the Cawdor Memorandum was to displace the artificer rank and to put in a position superior to them men from the stoker rank, who had not the same mechanical training, and could not have the same mechanical insight into the various questions connected with machinery in the Navy. I have never heard of anything similar to that in the mercantile marine. In the mercantile marine the artificer class can rise to the highest position. The artificer has the stoker under his control, and also all the engines, boilers, and machinery in the ship. By law the men in the mercantile marine are compelled to go to sea for a certain time, and to undergo a certain examination, and the ship owners are compelled by law to have these men with chief, second, or third engineer's certificates, to man the mercantile marine. In the Navy the whole thing is turned upside down, and the less skilled man is placed in charge of the more skilled man. That is an indefensible position. Surely we are not putting our claim very high when we ask that some further inquiry should be made. At the Cawdor inquiry not one of the 4,000 men affected by the new scheme was invited to give evidence or to attend the inquiry. They were all ignored, and treated in the usual Admiralty method as though they were not worth a moment's consideration, and were not of the slightest concern to those in charge. The First Lord of the Admiralty disclaims this attitude, but we judge not from what Ministers say, but from the effects of the system. Another point is that we cannot find out the cost of the new system. We have the Estimates, but they are so mixed up that Socrates himself could not fish out the cost. When the system was inaugurated we were given to understand that the stokers were to volunteer for this new rank. I know what I am speaking about, and I say that 2523 if the Navy were dependent for stoker mechanicians upon men volunteering the whole scheme would break down tomorrow. As a matter of fact, men are largely being pushed into the business whether they will or not. They are being driven like a flock of sheep. We ask that the First Lord should at least give us a definite promise as to the number of men to be promoted in the future. Do not put us off with flimsy promises to which the Minister cannot be pinned, but give us a clear, definite statement. We shall then know where we are, and the uneasiness which exists among this large class of men will be minimised.
With regard to Admiralty shiprights, I understand that a petition was presented in September, 1908. A Committee was appointed under the chairmanship of the Secretary to the Admiralty, and a report was presented in 1909. From then till now the report has been before the Treasury, and the men are still waiting for their case to be considered. In regard to other matters, I have given the Financial Secretary some hard knocks, but on this matter I could give him a high testimonial as to the celerity with which he dealt with the question so far as he is concerned. But the matter has now left his hands and is before the Treasury, and the men have been waiting ever since 1908. Can any Member imagine a number of men working for an ordinary employer asking, through the proper channels, for an advance of wages or an improvement in their conditions, and being compelled to wait three years before the consideration of their case was concluded? These men have a real grievance—they are simply asking for a civil answer to a reasonable petition. But although the Treasury have not given their decision on the report, some parts of it have been put in operation. One part deals with an extra allowance to the men whilst employed in London. This allowance amounted to £40 a year, which, as a result of the part of the Report put into Operation has been reduced to £25. That is a Paddy's rise. I understand that the whole of the men employed in London do not receive this allowance, and they ask that if it is to be cut down, at any rate all the men employed in the London area shall receive it. Moreover, the men have petitioned the Admiralty annually since 1904, but no answer has yet been given to the petitions they have presented. That is the statement which is given to me, that 2524 since 1904—and not only since that year, but I believe for a period of twenty-nine or thirty years—these men have had no advance at all in their wages. It is obvious to everybody that the wages of outside workmen had been advanced. The cost of living, too, has been increased. Therefore, I do plead with my hon. Friend to bring pressure to bear upon the Treasury so that these men, who have had so unconscionable a period to wait, may expect before very long some improvement in their position.
Another point that has been brought forward is that one of the minor recommendations has been carried out and that three men have got advances of £25 a year as chargemen. These men are of a certain rank, who have taken charge of a position of chargemen, and have received the advance I name. I want to give every credit where credit is due. Still, I want to say that there are 1,000 men waiting for an answer to their petition for three years. They have been waiting very patiently indeed, and I do ask the Financial Secretary for the Admiralty to use every endeavour to bring some pressure to bear upon the Treasury to have this matter settled in a fair and reasonable way.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Blackfriars (Mr. Barnes) raised to-night again the extremely interesting question of the entry of naval officers into the Navy. He says that under the Selborne scheme of 1902 the system of entry of naval officers is becoming increasingly anti-democratic That is one of his main objections to it. I do not know that I should be found an advocate of the scheme if that were so. Let us examine the facts. The scheme of "common entry" dates from 1902. My hon. Friend knows that prior to that the executive officers and officers of the Engineers and of the Marines were entered at different times—as to age I mean—and trained on different lines. He knows that the genius of the Selborne scheme is common entry; that those intended to be officers should start at the same age, and that in the initial stages they should all share the same training. Theoretically it is a fact that anybody can apply for entrance, but my hon. Friend is perfectly right when he says that the fees which follow undoubtedly restrict the area of selection. It is not for me to deny that. I need not go into the method of selection. I am a very cordial advocate of it, particularly of the viva voce interview 2525 of the Committee with the candidate which I have not the slightest doubt arrives at the real truth of the native genius of the boy far more rapidly and better than a month of written examinations. Without going into that, my hon. Friend knows that, having entered, the boy goes for two years to Osborne, and then for two years to Dartmouth. Then he goes for six months in a training criuser—the "Cumberland" or the "Cornwall." After getting through the "passing-out" examination, which determines the place of the cadet in the Navy List, he goes on a sea-going ship for three years as a midshipman. The first batch of midshipmen under the scheme who have been at sea joined the Fleet in the year 1908, and take the rank of sub-lieutenants next month.
As to the cost of the system, my hon. Friend says the cost to the parent is very much greater than under the old system, particularly with regard to the engineers. What I think he overlooks is this. That under the old system, in all three branches the boys entered our service at a later age, and that during the time they are at Osborne, their parents, under the old system, had to maintain them. I think it is only a fair thing to add that to the cost of the old system. The boys enter now at the age of between twelve years and eight months and thirteen years. Their parents pay £75 a year for the first four years and £50 for the next three. Railway expenses, holidays, and so on up to the end of the midshipmen's career have to be counted, so that my hon. Friend is about right when he says that the cost to the parent is between £600 and £650. That is a very-fair and moderate calculation. Such a cost considerably narrows the theoretical right of anybody to send up their son to become a cadet in the Royal Navy. What he did not mention—and it is only fair to the system to mention it—is that we have the right, and exercise the right, to charge a limited number, being the sons of officers in the Army, Navy, and Marines, or of civil officers in the Admiralty, an annual fee of £40 instead of £75. If hon. Members go into it carefully they will find that, taking one thing with another, the old scheme was much about as expensive as the new scheme.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I am coming to the engineers. The engineers, under the old system, entered between the ages of 14½ and 16½, and they spent five years at Keyham. 2526 The annual fee was £40. Again, prior to 14½, you have to add the cost of the education of a boy at a crammers. "But," says my hon. Friend "the dockyard apprentice, the engine-fitter apprentice, had a chance during his apprenticeship in the dockyard to pass an examination and go to Keyham with a bursary free, and ultimately to become an engineer officer in the Royal Navy." He said you robbed them of that, and that is a real defect in this scheme. I think my hon. Friend is under a misapprehension as to the extent to which the dockyard apprentices were going to Keyham and could become engineer officers in the Royal Navy. I think he has associated with that the case of the shipwright who could get a scholarship and could go to Keyham for a year and join the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors, and which includes a larger number than the fitter apprentices to which my hon. Friend directed his attention. To what extent have we deprived these dockyard apprentices of opportunities for promotion which they had in the past. Let me say this about the dockyard apprentice. I was for a good many years a schoolmaster, and I know a little of this matter. I have been to these dockyard schools, and no boys engaged my attention more by their good behaviour, their quiet demeanour, and determination to use every opportunity of advancement and to follow up every chance put in their way than these dockyard apprentices; and it is a fact that the design of every single ship now on the first line of the Navy is due to ex-dockyard apprentices. I can speak in the highest terms of these boys, and I should be forgetful of my duty if I did not have regard to the fortunes of these youthful, intelligent, most industrious, and admirable lads—the apprentices in the Royal dockyards.
I think my hon. Friend and other Members have really over-stated what were the opportunities for these lads. Engine-fitter apprentices who showed exceptional merits at the end of the fourth year of the six years' apprenticeship were examined and were eligible for a studentship in marine engineering. Not more than one or two a year were selected, not more than one or two a year went to Keyham. They remained at Keyham for a year, with free teaching and £25 bursaries to cover expenses. That undoubtedly was open to them, and is not open to them now. It is perfectly clear it was open to them to become officers in the Royal Navy as engineer officers.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
That is perfectly true, but the hon. Member forgets there was a large number of warrant officers who could go into the engineering department under the old scale who cannot now. That is where the hon. Member for the Black-friars Division (Mr. Barnes) is right in saying that the Service is not so democratic now as in the old days. These people used to get in as well as the apprentices.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I will go into that with the Noble Lord. What I was saying was that these opportunities for these engineer fitter apprentices becoming engineer officers of the Royal Navy is gone to this extent: that ten or eleven of them found their way to this promotion in ten years. I said it was about one or two a year. I now hear that eleven succeeded to the commissioned ranks in ten years. I quite admit that has gone for the moment. At the same time, I ought to say that last year we gave a scholarship to one engineer fitter apprentice. I think he spends his first year of scholarship in the yard, and then he will go for three years to Greenwich with the prospect of entering the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors. With regard to the shipyard apprentices, the effect of the closing of Keyham will be that the apprentices will spend one year of scholarship in the yard. The closing of Keyham necessitates keeping the apprentices one year in the yard and then proceeding to Greenwich. These lads never had a chance of becoming engineer officers, therefore we rob them of nothing. They had a chance of entering the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors; they have a chance now, and their position is in no way affected by the new common entry scheme. We have established a new scholarship in electrical engineering for electrical fitter appentices valued at £40 a year, and further, there is at this moment a Committee sitting upon the organisation and numbers of the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors. I cannot anticipate that report, but I can go the length of saying that I hope, though in no way desiring to prejudice the recommendations of the Committee, it may be able to make recommendations affecting the advance of very clever apprentices, whether engineer fitters or shipwrights, of such a character as will give these lads opportunities equal to those open to them in the past.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
That has roughly been the effect in the past. There were eleven in ten years. If we can do better no one will be happier than I shall. With regard to the Selborne scheme generally, I have always admitted that whilst it is most admirable, its area of selection is restricted, which restriction is brought about by the heavy fee. The matter is one that has been constantly before the minds of those of us responsible, after the First Lord, for the administration of the Admiralty. It is one to which I have given considerable thought and attention. I am anxious, and always have been, to see whether it is not possible to cast the net wider. But I make this frank confession: this thing is so good, and the ultimate finished product is so admirable that I have been rather chary of seeking to impose upon it any views which I might hold and which might be more or less in respect of this matter of a doctrinaire character. I have not been headlong in suggestions, because undoubtedly we do turn out a most admirable product as a result of this system when these young lads become officers in His Majesty's Navy. Now with regard to the mechanicians——
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I have already said that there are two or three ways in which we could make the net wider, and I have pointed out that we might reduce the fees to the lower sum of £40. I will undertake to give the whole matter of casting the net wider every consideration, but I cannot now hold out any promise of an immediate alteration of this system in the direction suggested by my hon. Friend. The suggestion made by the hon. Member for Barrow and the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division is that by the arrangement we have made the engine-room artificers have been prejudiced, hut really that is not so. From the beginning we undertook to create a certain proportion of warrant ranks amongst the engine-room artificers, and that proportion has been adhered to. The prospects of the mechanician class from the stoker class rising to warrant rank have not worsened the prospects of the engine-room artificers. The system sets the engine-room artificers free for other duties, and while it enables us to have repairs kept better in hand and ships not so long in the dockyard, at the same time it does promote 2529 collaterally the chances of promotion to a very deserving class, namely the stokers in the Navy. We want to relieve the engine-room artificer so that he may attend to his proper duty of repairs and maintenance in the first place, and in the second place we want to improve the prospects of the stoker. The suggestion of the hon. Member was that the stoker mechanician cannot properly drive the engine, but I think that is entirely beside the mark. If anyone will go into the system under which the stoker mechanician is selected, and the period of time which has to be covered by his training, he will see that it is not at all appropriate to call him an unskilled labourer. On the contrary, he is a fairly skilled man with a fair knowledge of one trade. The best men are selected from the stokers. They have to acquire an elementary knowledge of one of the skilled trades, they go through a two years' course at Chatham, and the stoker mechanicians possess considerable intelligence.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
No, the engine-room artificer does the repairs. The stoker mechanician does twelve months further probation, and at the end of that training he is confirmed as mechanician. By the arrangement we are making we are setting the engine-room artificers free to do their work, so that our ships shall not be so long in the dockyard. We are training a class which can effectively do the work which we require.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
No, the engine-room artificers will do the repairs. The opposition we have had to-night suggests the idea that the skilled mechanic is being supplanted by an unskilled labourer. I do not think the mechanician is anything approaching an unskilled labourer. I object to the suggestion that after a first-class stoker has gone through all his training he is not fit to drive the engines. Our experience is that he is fit for that duty. This system sets the engine-room artificer free to ply that trade, and our repairs to ships are much more in hand than before this scheme was adopted. But, over and above all this, we are opening an avenue of promotion to an extremely deserving class, which is a large class in the Navy.
I must refer to the criticisms of the hon. Member for Stoke in some little detail. He alluded to the Fair Wages Resolution of 2530 this House, and the dates upon which we were able to put them into our contract. Now the hon. Member says the last Fair Wages Resolution was not put into the contract at anything like the date it ought to have been. The old Fair Wages Resolution is dated the 13th February, 1891, and the new resolution is dated the 10th March, 1909. Let my hon. Friend observe that the old Fair Wages Resolution was confined absolutely to wages, but the new Resolution is much wider in its scope. The old Resolution provided that the wages paid should be those generally accepted as current in each trade for competent workmen, and that applied not only to the main contract, but to any sub-contract. My hon. Friend knows better than I do that the new Fair Wages Resolution, dated the 10th March, 1909, not only deals with wages but also with the general conditions to be observed. It is nothing like so simple in its application as regards the wages as the old. First of all it says the contractor shall pay rates of wages not less favourable than those commonly recognised by employers and trade societies in the district; in the absence of such recognised wages those which in practice prevail amongst good employers. Where there are no such wages recognised or prevailing in the district, those recognised or prevailing in the nearest district in which the general industrial circumstances are similar shall be adopted.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Then there is also the question of the way that applies to sub-contractors, just like the old Fair Wages Resolution. Beyond that there are the hours of labour and the conditions of employment generally accepted in the district. The hon. Member asks why we did not put the new Fair Wages Resolution in our contracts at an earlier date, and I am endeavouring to give an explanation. The Committee will see this Resolution was wider in scope than the old fair wage resolution, introducing the question of the hours of labour and the conditions of employment. The wider scope of the Resolution, and particularly its reference to the conditions of employment in the district, had to be taken into account in determining how far the fair wages clause was being observed, and necessitated very careful consideration on our part when the question of incorporating it in our contracts generally came up. In June, 1909, 2531 three months after the Resolution was passed, the Treasury appointed an Advisory Committee, and in September, 1909, or six months afterwards, that Advisory Committee made certain recommendations as to the best way to give contractual effect to a Resolution of the House of Commons, which in one particular especially—the question of taking note of the conditions of labour—was rather wide in its scope. It had to be carefully considered how one would give contractual effect to that general condition.
My hon. Friend charged us with not having put this new Fair Wages Resolution into our contracts earlier, but directly we got the recommendation of the Advisory Committee in September, 1909, as to the best way to go to work, we put the new Resolution into all our general contracts for stores and material unless they were running contracts. We inserted the new clause in the tender forms for the annual contracts for stores and materials, but, so far as the works contracts and ship-building contracts were concerned, the matter, no doubt, was not so simple, and a good deal of examination had to be made and legal advice had to be taken as to how we should give practical effect to the new Resolution. Finally, an Admiralty Order, dated 16th January, 1911, ordered the insertion of the new Fair Wages Resolution in all our contracts made as from that time. I must repeat that in the simple stores and material contracts it was inserted immediately or a very short time after we got the recommendation of the Advisory Committee, but so far as the works and ship building contracts were concerned it was not so easy, and the matter required further consideration. That is the reason for the delay which has taken place in regard to the contracts for ship building and works.
§ Mr. J. WARD
Can the hon. Gentleman explain how it was that in July of 1910 it was promised, in answer to a question from me, that this new Fair Wages Clause should be in all the new contracts and that in October of the same year, four months later, the old Fair Wages Clause was inserted in a contract of Sir John Jackson.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The matter could not be dealt with as expeditiously as was anticipated, and it is a fact that it was not the practice to put the Clause into our contracts for ship building until the order of 16th January, 1911.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
It is not correct to say that is true of all our contracts. I am trying to explain that the new Fair Wages Resolution went into the simple stores and material contracts—the annual supply contracts for the year—almost immediately we received the recommendation of the Advisory Committee. The last point raised was with regard to the wages at Rosyth, and it was also raised by the hon. Member for Stoke. The hon. Gentleman, as I understood, spoke of an agreed rate in the locality.
§ Mr. J. WARD
The rate signed and agreed to by the employers in the locality. Of course, if the Admiralty do not want to pay that I can understand the matter.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
It is not a question of what the Admiralty want to pay, but what they are bound to make the contractor pay under his contract, and beyond that, of course, they cannot go. This contract is under the old Fair Wages Resolution, as my hon. Friend knows very well, and therefore it is not a question of an agreed rate. It is a question of the rate current for competent workmen in the district. Consequently, to tell me the agreed rate is this or that is to tell me something which, under the Old Fair Wages Resolution I cannot exact from the contractor. That is the fault of the Resolution, but, if the Resolution is in the contract, it is no use endeavouring to force anything beyond that. I am glad we have got the new Resolution, and I am sorry it was not possible to put it in earlier; but it will be in them now. The hon. Member tells me the agreed rate in the district is so much, but it has nothing to do with the case.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The hon. Gentleman can make what he pleases, but the contract is under the old Resolution, and he knows as well as I do that that is the rate current for competent workmen in the district, and is not necessarily an agreed rate. I have got to deal with the contract as it is. He says the rate at Rosyth is 5d. for general labourers, and that in the locality very much higher wages are paid. I have before me the rates at Rosyth. It is 5d. to 5½d. for general labourers. There is a contract for a new graving dock at Leith, and there it is 5d. and 5½d. for general labourers. At Methil there is a 2533 harbour extension and the rate is 5d. and 5½d. At Dunfermline, builders, including Admiralty Department men, 5d. and 5½d.
§ Mr. J. WARD
You pay some of your men 4½d. I believe one of your contractors is paying 4d. They can, in fact, pay anything.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Do not let us get into an acrimonious discussion. The hon. Member says the contractor can pay anything he likes, but that is not so. It has got to be the rate current for competent workmen, and I have to do the best I can and to see what is the rate. I admit it is a difficult task, and the hon. Member for Stoke-upon-Trent (Mr. Ward) knows it is a difficult task. The rates for general labourers at Rosyth are 5d. to 5½d.; Leith, 5d and 5½d.; Methil and Dunfermline district the same. Surely these figures show what is the rate current.
§ Mr. J. WARD
The Financial Secretary will surely see it is only a proof of what I have said that whenever the Admiralty are asked to interfere they hunt about to find what is the lowest rate.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I do not think it is fair to say that. It is the rate current that has to be paid so long as the contract is under the old Resolution I have referred to. The new Fair Wages Resolution is different. Now, with respect to navvies, of whom the hon. Member is so strong an advocate, they receive at Rosyth 5d. to 5½d.; at Leith, Methil and Dunfermline the same. The timbermen are also associated with the navvies. At Rosyth they receive 7d. to 7½d. At Leith, Methil and Newport 7d. I should be glad to go into these figures with the hon. Member so that he may see for himself that the people are paid the rate current. The question really is, what are the terms of the resolution which is incorporated in the contract, and I have to see that they are carried out. With regard to the point about hospital accommodation, I must say that I have found Messrs. Easton, Gibb and Company very reasonable people to deal with. I have been in communication with them, and twice I have been there, and I have raised many of these questions of accommodation for the workmen. I will take the case of the hospitals, on which I have been personally in communication with Messrs. Easton, Gibb and Company. There is a little mortor ambulance. It is not a question of taking the men over rough roads without any attention. There 2534 is a first-aid provision in the grounds. Tb might be desirable that there should be hospital accommodation in the interests of these men, who are going there now by the thousand. I cannot say at this moment, but I shall be glad to have a further report upon the point, and I will see whether it may not be possible to meet the hon. Member in regard to it.
§ Mr. J. WARD
I would like some promise that the right hon. Gentleman will try to formulate some scheme, seeing that since July last 24 accidents have occurred and the men have had to be taken to the workhouse, because there was not hospital accommodation available at the place.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The contractor has a liability under the Workmen's Compensation Act, and if there is a reasonable prospect of accidents he would provide against it. It is his duty to do so, to prevent having applications under the Workmen's Compensation Act. I will not promise that a hospital shall be erected on that site, but I will promise to go into it and to make any representations I can in the direction desired. The hon. Member knows it is my desire to get the best accommodation we can from the contractor, and I will see whether it is necessary or not to have an hospital on the spot in addition to the first aid appliances, and the means of rapidly taking them to Dunfermline. Any representation the hon. Member makes shall have every consideration, and I will transmit whatever he says to the contractors, and I think that it will receive due consideration from Messrs. Easton, Gibb and Company.
§ Mr. J. WARD
I want to know whether the Financial Secretary listened to that part of the complaint referring to the housing. I complained bitterly of that. There was accommodation for single men, out of 3,000 men on these works there was only accommodation for 300 men with their wives and families. The consequence is that the conditions are disgraceful. It is a terrible thing that the domestic life of these men should be destroyed in this way.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
My hon. Friend knows that we have placed a piece of land at the disposal of the contractor, which he can use for no other purpose than the accommodation of these men. I found the accommodation there was not half full when I went. I went into the subject very fully, and I find from a news- 2535 paper report that some of the men took rather strong objection to the system of accommodation by way of huts, which I understand is what my hon. Friend refers to. I will show him a copy of the "Rosyth Courier," in which the shanty system is denounced.
§ Mr. J. WARD
That is in regard to those very places which my hon. Friend has declared were so satisfactory. They object to these miserable shanties. They want places where they can have their wives and children.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I thought this report referred to the huts. It is a speech by the Superintendent of the Scottish Navvy Mission, F. G. Tiller, who is addressing a meeting on "Hut life on public works." Again, I say, although (his is a great contract work, we cannot entirely absolve ourselves—I do not for my part—from some responsibility for the well-being of these men. They are under a contractor, it is true, but we are to some extent fiduciaries for their well-being, and although this matter is upon the contractor, and there are good reasons why he should look after their interests, in my view we cannot absolve ourselves from all responsibility in this matter. I shall be only too glad to hear my hon. Friend's representations on the question. An hon. Member asked me about the delay in carrying out the recommendations contained in the report of the Writers Committee. Changes in regard to certain features of it have been promulgated by the Treasury, but the great bulk of the recommendations are still the subject of consideration by that authority. I hope there may be no great delay in our getting the matter finally settled, but I really cannot say when that will be. I can only say that I am very anxious to have the matter settled, but it is now under the discussion and consideration of the Treasury.
§ Mr. LEE
I do not propose to follow the hon. Gentleman in his spirited defence of the Selborne scheme of education. It is hardly likely that I should feel it necessary to do so in view of the fact that I am myself somewhat implicated in the origination of that scheme. Nor do I wish to follow up what he has said in regard to works at Rosyth. I have no local knowledge, and I am not able to tell whether he or the hon. Member (Mr. John 2536 Ward) has the better case. But there was obviously a very serious warning running through the hon. Member's speech, and I hope the Admiralty will take this matter into their consideration at the earliest possible date, not because I wish to influence them in their decision one way or the other, but because anything which would lead to delay in the completion of those Government works would be considered a very serious matter indeed by the nation at large. I say no more, because it is a very delicate subject, but we earnestly trust nothing will prevent the completion of these works at the earliest moment. There is another question of broad policy, an entirely new question in these Debates—a new question of policy, which has never before occurred in the history of this country, and one about which the House is entitled to have a little information. We have seen in the last few days a proposal made—I do not know on which side of the North Sea, and it does not matter—for England and Germany to come to an agreement to exchange information with regard to their naval programmes. That suggestion was made in this House by the Foreign Secretary a few weeks ago. Since then it has been approved and accepted by the Imperial Chancellor in the Reichstag, and it seems to me that it introduces an entirely new principle of the utmost importance in the interests of good feeling and good understanding between the two countries. I think as an ideal, it is most praiseworthy, and that any agreement which could obviate or lessen the suspicions, counter charges, apprehensions, scares, such as led, I am afraid, to a good deal of ill-feeling between the two countries in 1908–9, and subsequently would, I am sure, be welcomed by everyone. Those who believe in a strong and supreme Navy and those who believe in a smaller Navy, would all be united on that ground and all that we wish to know is in what way that ideal which has been adopted on both sides of the North Sea can be made practical. At this stage, beyond the fact that we know the agreement in general terms has been come to, we do not really know what this suggestion means. I do not know whether the First Lord of the Admiralty is in a position to tell us at present, but we shall not have another opportunity of raising the question in the Navy Debates this year. What the House is entitled to know, in the first place, is at what stage this interchange of opinion will take place. 2537 That is a difficult question, because I cannot believe that the House of Commons or the Reichstag would for a moment consent to the communication of information to a foreign Government before it had been laid before the responsible Parliament in either country. That creates technical difficulties, because it has been the custom in England and in Germany for the Navy Estimates to be produced at quite different periods of the year.
It is also necessary to consider what would be the nature of the information. Is it to be merely the amount of expenditure or sufficiently detailed information with regard to the programme of shipbuilding, the size of the ships, armament, and, above all, when they are to be completed? Unless the information is on a fairly accurate and detailed scale, I am afraid that, so far from leading to a better understanding it will only lead again to suspicions that the one country or the other is trying to steal a march on its rival. That is what we want to avoid. It does not require that either country should either lessen or increase its shipbuilding programme, but if it is to be of any value, and not a source of irritation rather than in the interests of peace, it is important that it should be laid down in the clearest possible terms what is to be the extent of the information, and by what means it is to be communicated. I do not ask these questions in any hostile spirit at all. On the contrary, I welcome the proposal and hope that the goodwill and the wisdom of statesmen on both sides may enable them to come to a satisfactory conclusion regarding it. I do say that there are very real difficulties in regard to it, and I hope that at the earliest possible moment the Admiralty, or, if necessary, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, will communicate to the House the terms of the agreement and the extent of it in order that it may be clearly understool beyond the shadow of a doubt on both sides of the North Sea.
That brings me to a point which I have previously raised and on which the right hon. Gentleman has given no reply on behalf of the Admiralty. It seems to me that an exchange of information is going to be of comparatively little value unless it is clearly understood in both countries what is the standard on which each country is building, because that is, after all, the measuring rule. It is the method of appraisement which has existed in the past so far as we are concerned, but which 2538 unfortunately no longer exists on account of the action of His Majesty's Government in, first of all, giving up the old-fashioned standard to which we were so well accustomed not only in this country, but all over the world, and the setting up something which is not understood in this country, and which is still less understood by foreigners. That question of the standard is one which the right hon. Gentleman for some reason or other studiously avoids when he makes his usually lucid and informative speeches. He never deals with that, and I hope we may be more fortunate on this occasion than in the past. It surely cannot cause any offence in any part of the world. We have never hesitated in the past to proclaim that we support the two-Power standard, and it has never been misunderstood. Until there has been a regrettable diversity on the part of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench there was no doubt in the public mind as to the standard on which we were building. There has been a great divergence of authoritative opinion on the bench opposite. The Prime Minister stated on no less than three occasions that the two-Power standard was to be maintained in this country, and that it was to be held to apply to any two Powers wherever they might be situated. That was clear and definite enough. Then we had the Home Secretary giving his version of the two-Power standard—namely, that it only applied to any two forces available for aggressive purposes against these islands. He has forgotten that we have to protect the British Empire. Then we had the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, giving an entirely new interpretation which had never been suggested by anybody before that the two-Power standard only involved two Powers in European waters. The right hon. Gentleman will see that these definitions are entirely incompatible with each other.
As the responsible Minister who has to build to standard, he should inform us what is the standard to which ho is building. I shall leave him a few minutes in which I hope he will clear up that much-debated point, about which I think there is no mystery at all, but which, I think, needs a great deal of explanation. At any rate, I think that a clear understanding in this question of standard is absolutely necessary before any scheme of exchange of information of foreign Powers can be made practicable. We know, unfortunately for the scheme to which I have just 2539 referred, that the German Chancellor has said that while the German Government make no complaint whatever of the British claim "to maintain," in the words of the Prime Minister, "an unassailable supremacy on the sea," they do not recognise it; they are not prepared to accept it. A counter statement of standard has been laid down by the Chancellor in the German Reichstag, in which he stated that the only standard which Germany could accept for her naval or military forces was the sum total of German capability. That is to say we have got the full capacity of the German shipbuilding yards. We know that, if possible, that full capacity will be used as soon as convenient, and we have got to face that fact in future. A standard is necessary not only for the information of this country and of our rivals, but in order to breed a sense of security in this country we must adopt a standard which is competent to meet that possible menace to our supremacy on the seas, a standard which I believe can only be satisfactory if it approaches the standard now known as the standard of two keels to one. We are in this position, that we do not know the standard at which we are building. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, before the Debate closes will in the ample time which I shall give him for this purpose, inform us to what standard he is building. I do think, in view of the language that has been used during the last few weeks by the German Chancellor, language of which I do not complain in the smallest degree, language almost mediæval in its frankness, which certainly leaves nothing to the imagination, it is folly on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, merely to help himself round a difficult corner in debate in this House, to hold out a half promise of reductions in the Navy Estimates next year. He cannot possibly know that he will be in a position to make those reductions. On the contrary, so far as one can see, examining the standards of foreign countries, so far from the Estimates being lower next year, they will be bound to be higher if the right hon. Gentleman does his duty. I suggest to him, in quite a friendly spirit, that it is always a mistake to borrow trouble, and he is borrowing trouble by giving these—I will not call them promises, because he was very careful to guard himself, but half-promises, to those who should be his friends below the Gangway—promises or half-promises, which I feel certain he will not be able to make good 2540 when he stands up at that box, always assuming that he is in that position at that time next year. I think that his action in holding out these hopes will give those who are in favour of a reduction of the Estimates real cause of complaint, because he is holding out hopes which cannot be realised. We, on our side, I think, have a right to expostulate with him on this subject, because, next year, if the Government are successful—which is a large assumption—in passing their Parliament Bill, there will be a great relaxation of the bond of discipline, or shall I say the bond of common interest on the other side of the House, a very great relaxation, and the right hon. Gentleman will find his position very much more difficult if he has to introduce the Naval Estimates. Then he will have to rely, I believe, almost entirely on the support which he receives on this side of the House in order to enable him to pass his Estimates through. Therefore, I think we have a special right——
§ The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Emmott)
The hon. Gentleman is travelling a long way from the question before the Committee.
§ Mr. LEE
I at once accept your ruling, Sir, and will not transgress again. I have practically made the few remarks I wish to make, and I will only suggest that the promises which the right hon. Gentleman has indulged in with regard to the reduction of the Estimates are, I am afraid, misunderstood, not only here, but abroad. They are interpreted more as a sign of weakness in our determination to maintain our naval supremacy, because it is not generally understood abroad, as it is here, that they are really only dictated by domestic or internal difficulties.
§ Sir ALBERT SPICER
I wish to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty to consider one point. There have been many discussions from time to time with regard to the allowance of rum to men of the Navy. I do not want to make a suggestion of any drastic nature, but I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether the time has not come when, instead of rum being served to all who do not give in their names that they do not require it and want some small financial allowance instead of it, that the process should be reversed, and that rum should only be served to those who ask for it, and that the small financial allowance should be made to all the others. I think the First Lord of the Admiralty will admit that 2541 this is not a drastic proposal, and after all it is only going in the direction which the habits of society practically recognise. The Noble Lord (Lord C. Beresford) who is watching me, if he will look back upon his school days, I think will admit that the custom was in all public schools—I know it was at the schools to which I went—that beer should be handed to every boy as a matter of course, and it was left to those who did not wish to have it to say so. But to-day—and I think this applies to most schools I know—the custom has been reversed. There has been a sort of evolutionary process going on, and now beer is not served unless it is asked for. It is taken for granted it is not wanted unless it is asked for. I suggest to the First Lord of the Admiralty that if he would make the change that practically has been made in others of our great institutions, he would be doing a service to many men, and I believe it would be in the best interests of the nation.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I will reply to the questions put by my hon. Friend opposite and my hon. Friend who has just spoken. The suggestion which he (Sir A. Spicer) has made appears to me to be a very valuable one. I am not able to say without an examination of the details of bookkeeping and of supply in the Service whether the suggestion is one which I can undertake to adopt, but I will certainly inquire into the matter in a most sympathetic spirit. With regard to the questions put by the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Lee), let me, in the first place, say with what pleasure, if I may use the word, I recognise the tone with which he received the statement made by my right hon Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs with regard to the proposal for an interchange of naval information between this Government and the German Government As he will readily understand, I am not in a position to say anything more on this subject than has already been said by the Foreign Secretary, namely, that the question of interchange has been agreed to in principle. I have no doubt my right hon. Friend at the very earliest moment will answer all the questions which were properly put by the hon. Gentleman with regard to the matter.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I am not able to speak upon this matter, as I am not fully informed at the moment how far negotiations by my right hon. Friend have gone; but I do not imagine that the negotiations would include any interchange of opinion which would go beyond what is ordinarily stated in this House. With regard to the second question put to me—namely, the standard to which we build in this country, I cannot help thinking that the hon. Gentleman is making difficulties in the matter. He quoted various statements of right hon. Friends of mine with the object of showing that their statements do not in every respect agree with one another.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Let me very briefly, as I endeavoured once before, to put the matter in a nutshell. The numerical calculation of the two-Power standard, which was always a rough-and-ready standard, was very properly applicable in days when there were no fleets to be considered outside the fleets of European waters. Consequently the two-Power standard might very properly be understood to be a numerical standard; but as fleets developed in countries very remote from Europe it was quite obvious that a numerical standard no longer had the same value. Any two European Powers could combine their fleets together and could make the fleet of the total strength approximately equal to their total numerical strength; but if you were to combine a fleet in European waters to a fleet in Asiatic waters it is perfectly obvious, owing to the great distance between the two and the difficulty of combination, and the absence of a base of whichever fleet attempted to join the other, that the total strength of the two fleets when they combined would not be equal to the total numerical strength of the others in European waters.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Reckoning the standard by calculation of numercial strength, I endeavoured in 1908 to the best of my ability to make the explanation to the hon. Gentleman I am making now. As it is an 2543 explanation obviously founded upon reason, I cannot see what objection he takes to it. The Foreign Secretary stated that the two-Power standard in the old numercial sense—the sense in which the hon. Gentleman understands it—applies to any two European Powers. Obviously it does; because the bases of their navies being close to our own, a combination between two European Powers would have a total strength approximately equal to their total numercial strength; that is to say, they could combine approximately the whole of their forces. I hope I have now made the point clear.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The hon. Gentleman has clearly not examined the words, which do not justify that statement. The Prime Minister, in 1907, stated, in reference to the two-Power standard, that in reckoning the Powers you have to remember what are the forces they can combine. It is ludicrous to suppose that two Powers situated 8,000 miles apart could combine with the same total strength as two Powers situated 200 miles apart. One other point was with reference to my statement that I hoped to see a reduction in the Estimates next year. I am quite content to back my proposition against that of the hon. Gentleman. Provided the conditions I laid down are satisfied and there is no material change in foreign programmes, I am pretty confident I shall be able to realise my expectation.
§ Mr. CROOKS
With regard to the removal of the torpedo department to Greenock, have the Admiralty disbanded once for all the torpedo department at the Arsenal? If the Greenock factory is not large enough, do they propose to go to contractors for any additional torpedoes they may want, or do they propose to utilise the men already waiting for work at Woolwich? Further, does the right hon. Gentleman really intend to carry out his promise that, in connection with the continual construction of "Dreadnoughts," some of the gun-mounting work shall be done at Woolwich? My last question is with regard to the ratings of the lowly-paid mechanics 2544 in the Navy, such as plumbers and blacksmiths, who have not had a revision of their pay since 1882. Will the right hon. Gentleman look into these matters, and give them his sympathetic consideration?
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
We have had an interesting Debate, but some of the speeches have been long. They would not have been less effective if they had been shorter, and other Members would then have had an opportunity to speak. I would like to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty what his policy is in regard to the Marines? Ever since this Government have been in power they have cut down the strength of the Marines from 10,800 to 15,800. What is the basis of the policy of the First Lord? Is it the intention of the Government to do away altogether with the Marines, who have done so much for the country, and have held aloft the flag in all parts of the Empire? Are the men, who, in the most trying circumstances on land and sea, have upheld the honour of the flag, to be wiped out of existence? That, it seems to me, is the way the policy of the Government is tending.
As to the Greenwich Old Age Pensions we had a very interesting statement from the Financial Secretary the other night. He told us that in connection with the money which had been wrongfully used and taken away from these pensions, and used to pay the pensioners of the Seamen's Reserve Pension Fund, that he had made certain arrangements by which all the men who receive their pensions from the Greenwich Pension Fund shall receive it from the Seamen's Pension Fund; that he had taken them all off. I think I am right in saying that what he meant was that he had not put any more on.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
Then I have no more to say, except to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the fact that there are at the present time quite a thousand men over sixty-two years of age who are eligible for this pension, and who, owing to lack of funds, are not able to obtain that pension. It is a very serious matter, in view of the fact that the Government have brought in a general Old Age Pensions Act. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to endeavour to 2545 remedy this, and give some recompense to these old men who have fought for their country.
§ Mr. BOOTH
Our hon. Friends on the opposite side want continuity of policy. May I ask them to support a suggestion frequently put forward from these benches, that is that the First Lord of the Admiralty should have some kind of a Committee to advise him. By that we should get continuity of policy, so dear to the hearts of hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ Amendment put, and negatived.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported upon Monday next; Committee to sit again upon Monday next.