§ Mr. GRETTON
There are certain matters relating to national defence, more particularly connected with the subject of the Navy, which have not been discussed during the previous Debate. It was announced in July last year that Sir William Smith, who had been appointed the Chief Constructor to the Navy, had been superseded and that another gentleman had been appointed to that office. Sir William Smith is a gentleman who has done most distinguished service for the public at the Admiralty. He is of the highest professional attainments, and it has been his fortune to earn the confidence and goodwill of all those with whom he has been brought in contact. I think in the interests of the public service it was a great mistake to supersede Sir William Smith, and there is no doubt whatsoever, from all I can learn, that the treatment he has received—doubtless with the highest intentions of furthering the public service—has caused much uneasiness and dismay at the Admiralty, which cannot conduce to the good of the public service in that great Department. I have no criticism to offer on the gentleman who has been appointed in his stead. I will only say I trust the appointment of the new Constructor will lead to some definite lines of constructing the great battleships that have to be laid down under the naval programme of future years, and that we shall get progression 2728 on some well-defined principles. I will not go into a highly technical matter now, but I would like to point out that something was to be said for some of the main principles of the "Dreadnought" that have been abandoned. One advantage was said to be that she carried an armoured belt from one end to the other. In the latest of our battleships the Admiralty has reverted to what they contemptuously spoke of at one time as "the soft end." Either one principle or the other is right, and there should have been some definite announcement as to what was right before changes of this kind were made, to be followed by a reversion to a principle which was so strenuously condemned.
This is the only naval Power in the world which has for a long period abandoned secondary armaments in battleships. The "Dreadnought" class has been said to have all big guns, but no other great naval Power, either in the United States, or Germany, or Japan, have abandoned the secondary armament. They all have a powerful battery of guns—five-inch, six-inch, and even larger—in addition to the twelve-inch guns, which form the main armament. I understand, and I hope the rumour will be confirmed, that the all-big gun principle is no longer to be adhered to, and that our battleships will have a secondary armament which will put them on an equality with the great vessels belonging to other naval Powers. It is the more necessary because it is notorious in the Service, and must be obvious to anyone who has any knowledge of naval construction, that modern battleships have not so good and steady gun platforms as their predecessors. They are of greater breadth, and consequently they must move rapidly and more easily, especially broadside-ways. I wish to make a few remarks on the contemplated changes in the Department of the Controller of the Navy. Neither the public outside nor this House has any accurate information as to what those changes are to be, but, from what has been said by the First Lord of the Admiralty on several occasions and from the Memorandum attached to his statement, it would appear the new Civil Lord is to take over the technical construction contract work and the management of the dockyards, which have hitherto been brought under one head and represented at the Board of Admiralty by the Controller of the Navy.
I hope, and I know many others outside hope—I would not venture to speak 2729 on these matters unless I knew the opinion was well-founded and was held by those who are much more able and better competent to express an opinion than I am—that not for one moment will the fact be lost sight of that the Admiralty after all is a war organisation, and will itself be the war staff responsible for the management of the Navy in war From that point of view, it is not desirable the civil element should too largely predominate on the Board of Admiralty. In times past men who have long experience of sea service have been appointed to the great Departments of the Admiralty, and have then, when they have completed their service there, returned to the sea. That has brought into our naval administration that practical experience which has preserved the Admiralty from many of the errors and many of the troubles which have beset the War Office in the past. It is better that practical fighting men, who may again have to go to sea and risk their lives in war, should be brought into service at the Admiralty to assist in those peace preparations which must be made by a civilian Department, but which will be brought to a head in times of war.
The First Lord of the Admiralty has announced that there is to be an inquiry into the employment of oil fuel in the Navy, and, in answer to a question the other day, he gave the names of the gentlemen who will form the Commission. I trust the Admiralty will take immediate steps to communicate with the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office in order that the oil fields which are available for ourselves in our own Possessions may be preserved from any combines or any foreign companies which might deprive the Admiralty or any other British Service of those supplies which they might need. No doubt it will be found oil is the right fuel to use, and that it will have to be largely used. It will alter the whole strategic position, because at the present time our supplies of fuel for the Navy come from the centre, whilst if oil is adopted largely in the Navy the supplies will come from outside and will have to be drawn into the centre. That will mean controlling and guarding trade routes and possibly, in war, a reversion to the system of convoys. I do not think that has been adequately thought over by the Admiralty. I have nothing to say of the gentlemen who form this Commission except as to the chairman, and it is only right it should be publicly stated in this House that Lord Fisher's recall has 2730 caused a great deal of dismay and alarm throughout the Navy. The period of his administration at the Admiralty was notoriously a time of controversy, uneasiness, favouritism, and supersessions. There were two parties, as is well known, set up in the Navy constantly disagreeing and struggling against one another.
There had never been anything of the kind in the Naval Service before, and those who regard esprit de corps in the Navy as of the greatest importance to the defence of the Empire, view with alarm the fact that Lord Fisher has been recalled to the Admiralty where his period of service was associated with so much controversy. Those who hold this view feel strongly that a man of so much energy and ability as Lord Fisher cannot have a room and become one of the great officials of the Admiralty without having great influence over the First Lord of the Admiralty himself, and in many of the details and subjects associated with the work of the Admiralty with which he has no immediate connection. I should like to say something as to the great changes which took place when Lord Fisher was chief naval adviser to the Crown. The abandonment of the coaling stations was one of the matters for which he was responsible as technical adviser to the Ministry of the day. If we are going in for oil fuel for the Navy, it will mean a reversion to the system of outside stations for oil fuel and a complete reversal of what Lord Fisher did in abandoning the coaling stations. I asked the First Lord during the Navy Debate as to how he calculated the position of battleships immediately ready for war on an emergency, and, as I understand, there are at the present time thirty-two battleships in commission.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. GRETTON
Twenty-seven in full commission, and at the end of this year Germany, we understand, will have twenty-one. The same position arises in 1914. We are told that in that year in the narrow seas there will be thirty-three battleships or battle cruisers permanently in commission on a war footing ready for any emergency. In the same year Germany is to have twenty-nine. We are told that our total force permanently in commission 2731 is to be forty-one, and I presume that although that will include what the First Lord called the pivot Fleet at Gibraltar, it will not include the four battle-cruisers to be permanently stationed in the Mediterranean and based upon Malta only. The First Lord is contemplating having thirty-three in 1914. On the 18th March, when he made his annual statement on the Navy, he said it was necessary to strike off from the British strength 25 per cent. for ships under repair and in dock, because they would not be immediately ready to take their place in the fighting line; therefore, from, the thirty-three ships eight must be struck off, and that leaves twenty-five as against Germany's twenty-nine, because, in the case of sudden war, we must take it that Germany or any other Power declaring war would be careful to have her fleet at its maximum strength and in every way in readiness. I do not think it will be disputed that this calculation by the First Lord has caused great dismay and alarm among those who take an active interest in this question. They feel that the margin is far too narrow and is disappearing, and those who hold that the position of this nation depends upon the absolute safety of our supremacy at sea—and they are, I believe, a vast majority of the people of this country—are seriously alarmed at the narrowness of the margin, and are bitterly disappointed and dismayed because the First Lord has not taken steps to give a larger margin of safety than apparently is in contemplation.
The British Admiralty must not rely upon the Colonies to make up for its delinquencies. No doubt Canada is prepared to contribute, as also are other Colonies, but they will do so only in order that there may be a fleet detached from the narrow seas, and available for service in any part of the world, in any Colonial waters, in the Pacific, or the Indian Ocean, independently of that required for our safety in the narrow seas. From all I can learn, if the Admiralty is scheming to rely on the Colonies to make up its own deficiency and to secure a margin of safety, it will find the Colonial Governments will not readily respond, because they are not prepared to support the Admiralty in a cheese-paring and dangerous policy. These subjects are of the greatest importance, and are causing great alarm and uneasiness among those interested. I hope 2732 the First Lord will be able to make some statement, either now or in the autumn, which will do away with this alarm and anxiety. We have believed in him hitherto; we have hoped he is actuated by the one desire to fulfil the duties of his great office to the best of his ability, and with the single purpose that the Navy shall be as perfect and as powerful as he is able to make it. But rumours are spreading everywhere that he has been overruled by other Members of the Cabinet. We hope they are not true, because, if they are, the people will no longer be ready to give him that trust which they were prepared to give him when he first took office.
§ Mr. RONALD M'NEILL
I do not rise with any intention of further discussing the very important subject raised by my hon. Friend—
§ Mr. RONALD M'NEILL
I want to discuss a topic connected with the Navy, but not the particular one brought forward by my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I think the hon. Gentleman wishes to speak on some matters connected with the dockyards, with which my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty would more properly deal.
It would be more convenient then to call upon the First Lord of the Admiralty, and the hon. Member can bring his point forward afterwards.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I assure the House I do not propose to stand long between it and the hon. Member, but perhaps I may be allowed to say a few words in reply to the various points raised by the hon. Member for Rutland. That hon. Gentleman, in his brief and moderate speech, travelled over very wide ground. I do not propose to follow him step by step into all the different spheres of naval administration into which he entered. I have already during the course of this Session, made two considerable statements to the House on naval policy. I do not desire to make, neither do I feel the need of making, any addition to those statements at the present time, nor do I expect to be called upon to make any new or serious statement when we assemble again after our holidays. I do not propose to go into the question of the standard of naval strength 2733 between this country and various European Powers, because all the facts on the subject which it is necessary or possible to state have already been laid before the House or are accessible in the official publications which have been supplied. That remark applies also to the question of Canadian naval policy, on which it is certainly not desirable or possible to make any further statement at the present time. I should like, however, to say I think the phrase used by the hon. Gentleman that we must not expect Canada to cover up our delinquencies is a little wanting in justice to the immense exertions which have been made by this country for so many years, at tremendous expense, in bearing, practically unaided, the whole burden of Imperial defence. The hon. Gentleman spoke on several interesting controversies of a highly technical character connected with the designs of warships. There again I find a little difficulty in following him in every detail, because these are matters which it is not possible to deal with in a few observations exchanged across the floor of the House. In order to do justice to the design of a battleship or to the theory on which that design is based it would be necessary to enter with the utmost precision and fulness into all sorts of details, extremely technical and extremely confidential, and while their technicality would make me a very undesirable medium for explaining them, their confidential character would, I think, make the House a very unsuitable place for such an explanation.
The hon. Member also spoke of the new appointments which have been made in the Department of naval construction. The task of filling up the place vacated by Sir Philip Watts has been the most difficult in the region of patronage which I have had to discharge since I took office, because, while there was no one of the same prominence as Sir Philip Watts, there were a number of very able and competent gentlemen both in the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors and outside between whom it was necessary to judge. I have certainly acted without precipitancy. On the contrary, a great many people have thought there has been too long a delay in coming to a decision. But I was very anxious that all the claims should be exhaustively considered, and I was also very anxious to make an oppointment which would be most convenient and most satisfactory, from every point of view, to the Admiralty at the present time, and I have no doubt whatever that the decision which 2734 has been arrived at is one which will be found to be satisfactory in practice. I should like to repeat what I have already said in answer to a question, that this decision implies no slight or slur upon the public services of Sir William Smith. After a service of forty-two years at the Admiralty, he goes into retirement at his own wish, and he carries away with him the respect, regard, and good wishes of everyone with whom and under whom he has served. The hon. Gentleman asked further about the new Table of Business. Just as I rather deprecated discussing those other matters on the ground that they have already been considerably before Parliament this Session, I find a difficulty in discussing that, because it would be almost impossible to make the House appreciate it fully without the publication of the new Table of Business, and the Memorandum by which that will be accompanied. That publication is not yet ready. It will take place in the course of a very few days, and I shall add to it a minute or memorandum of explanation which will be much more satisfactory and informing than any description I could improvise in the course of these few remarks this afternoon. I will say this, however, that there are in the Comptroller's Department three main aspects: first of all, design; second, repairs and refits; and, third, the business aspects of that great department. When the new Table of Business is published, it will, I think, be found that we have provided for these different branches of business in such a way as to enable each to be transacted with greater smoothness and thoroughness, and that at the same time we have preserved the proper essential combination for a common purpose of all these three large spheres of Admiralty business.
The hon. Gentleman spoke of the Oil Fuel Committee. There again he is entering upon the realms of the future. He asks various questions, and used various arguments about the adoption of oil fuel, and its consequences upon our tactical and strategic arrangements, but these are matters which are to be largely illuminated by the work upon which the Committee is engaged. I do not see any advantage to be gained by making an attempt to deal in a partial or superficial manner with them now. Let me, however, assure the hon. Gentleman that the fact that the Committee is sitting and inquiring into the general questions of oil fuel and its application to warship engines by no means 2735 blocks the way to the day to day administration of the Admiralty in regard to the adoption of oil fuel, or to the accumulation of the proper reserve, or to all other measures connected with this most important part of our naval system. On the contrary, we are not going to be delayed at all by the excursions which the Committee will have to make, and we have long ago made the communications with the Colonial Office and the Foreign Office which the hon. Gentleman desired in order that we might not be behindhand in regard to any oil which may be discovered within the circuit of the British Dominions.
The hon. Gentleman—and this is the last of his points to which I shall refer—struck a personal note in regard to Lord Fisher, and he expressed regret that Lord Fisher should have been appointed to preside over this Committee. Sir, I am certainly not going to apologise for making such an appointment. I am glad to think that since I have had the honour to hold my present position I have received the aid and support of all sections of naval opinion and of officers who, according to public repute, occupy most opposite and even antagonistic points of view. Sir Reginald Custance is the head of one of the Committees of Inquiry into the Education system, and now Lord Fisher, I am glad to say, has consented to preside over this Committee on Oil Fuel. We need at the present time all the best brains that the Naval Service can supply, and I am certainly not going to make myself a party to those divisions and factions, which the hon. Gentleman says existed in the past, by excluding from the range of Admiralty choice any officers of high distinction who are willing to render us service. The time has not come to appreciate fully Lord Fisher's work for the Navy, but the imprint of his administration is deep in every branch of our naval system. In the construction of our ships, in the position of our naval science, in the system of education which prevails, in the concentration and disposition of the Fleet, and in many other spheres, his hand has left a mark which will not be effaced within the course of the next ten or twelve years. I have given my best attention to these problems, and I am sure that the more Lord Fisher's contribution to our naval efficiency is studied and examined, and tested by the passage of time, the more certainly will it be established that there has been within 2736 living memory no naval administrator possessed of abilities so rare and so distinguished.
§ Mr. RONALD M'NEILL
I desire to bring two comparatively small matters to the attention of the Secretary to the Admiralty. These two questions are of smaller general interest than those which have been under discussion, and the right hon. Gentleman will be glad to know that he can turn a deaf ear to the case I am going to present to him without endangering the safety or commerce of the country. But I hope that neither the Government nor the House will consider that a grievance is to be regarded as trifling merely because it affects a comparatively small number of people. The first point to which I wish to refer is the status and pay of the schoolmasters of the Royal Marines. They are a very small body of men, but I think I shall be able to show that in their present situation they have a legitimate grievance. In the year 1881 headmasters in the Royal Navy were for the first time given warrant grant. Up to that time the position of the schoolmasters in the Navy as regards pensions, pay, and position was altogether inferior to that of the schoolmasters in the Royal Marines. Up to that date the Admiralty actually transferred some of these schoolmasters from the Royal Navy to the Marines in order that they might thereby gain an improvement in their pay and pension. But as soon as the Navy schoolmasters received warrant rank their pay, pension, and position were then increased, and from that date no more headmasters who had gone into the Navy were transferred to the Marines. I suppose the necessity for that had gone by. Although that was true with regard to headmasters, the chief petty officer schoolmasters were from time to time selected for promotion and were transferred in the same way. It was, therefore, clear that at that time warrant officer head schoolmasters in the Navy and warrant officer schoolmasters in the Royal Marines were considered by the Admiralty to be in a position of equality.
In recent years further revisions or improvements have been made in regard to naval schoolmasters. Taking the head schoolmasters first, in 1904 three of them received commission rank, and as chief schoolmasters they received an improvement in pay up to 11s. a day and allowances, and a pension of £120 a year. In 1910 this number of three head 2737 schoolmasters in the Navy was increased to four, and they were still further benefited by their maximum pay being increased to 13s. 6d. a day, their pension was raised from £120 to £150 a year, and they were enabled to retire with the rank of lieutenant after three years' service as head schoolmasters. The position of the petty officer schoolmasters was similarly dealt with in 1904. Ten of them were promoted to be additional warrant officer head schoolmasters—a very cumbrous title. Six years later, in 1910, nine more of them were similarly promoted to warrant rank, their pay being increased from 8s. 6d. to 11s. a day, and they were given a maximum pension of £100 a year. No corresponding improvement was given at either of those dates to the schoolmasters in the Marines, and that although they were originally in a better position. I should like to draw a comparison between the present position of these two sets of schoolmasters, first of all as regards pay, and then as regards pensions. As regards the Navy, a chief schoolmaster gets 13s. 6d. a day and a warrant officer head schoolmaster gets 11s. a day, whereas a warrant officer Marine schoolmaster only gets 7s. 6½d. a day—pay on a very much lower scale. As regards pension, a chief schoolmaster in the Navy gets £150, a warrant officer head schoolmaster gets £100, and a Marine warrant officer schoolmaster gets only £82 a year, so that in all these particulars, as regards pay, pension, and promotion to commissioned ranks, the Marines are at a disadvantage. Something over 80 per cent., I believe, of those who hold equal rank with the Marine schoolmasters in the Navy obtain a step, and sometimes more than one step, in rank, whereas the Marine schoolmaster remains for all time a warrant officer. If he is compared with the schoolmasters in the Army the Marine also suffers by the comparison, because they also have commissioned rank open to them, whereas the Marine schoolmaster is entirely shut out.
He is a man of very great importance. He has to prepare non-commissioned officers for their steps in promotion, and he occupies an important position in the schools, both for the children and the men. I cannot imagine any reason except one for this, I think, gross inequality between these two sets of schoolmasters. The only reason I can imagine is that the Marine schoolmaster has the advantage, if it is an advantage, of being able to be continuously employed upon shore instead of 2738 having to go to sea. I do not know whether that is considered by all of them an advantage or not, but I feel very certain that it is not an advantage which at all compensates them for the very great inferiority which they suffer as compared with the men of the Navy, and it causes, I think legitimately, a very distinct sense of injustice when they remember the history which I have sketched—that they were originally in the better position of the two and that they are now on such a very inferior footing, both as regards pay and pension, and, perhaps more important still, as regards promotion. I hope, although the actual number of individuals who suffer this injustice is a small one, the Admiralty will not on that account refuse to consider their claims and do something to remedy this injustice.
The other matter to which I wish to refer is also a very serious injustice which is being suffered by a small locality. St. Margaret's Bay, between Dover and Deal, is one of the most beautiful spots upon our coast, and it depends for its prosperity upon its beauty, which attracts a considerable number of summer visitors. This small place is being gradually destroyed by the sea, and I hope to be able to convince the House that the encroachment by the sea is, if not entirely, at all events mainly, the direct outcome of the naval works which have been in recent years carried out at Dover. Up to the year 1847, and I think for a year or two afterwards, at St. Margaret's Bay, there was a coast road, which ran round from Dover to Deal, and was very largely used. That has ceased to exist entirely now owing to the encroachment of the sea, and there is no hope of its being revived at all. In 1847 the old Admiralty Pier at Dover was commenced, and from that date during succeeding years, it was noticed that the sea was making advances in St. Margaret's Bay, and gradually sweeping away foot after foot of the land until the road was swept away and a large number of houses had also been destroyed. Scientific opinion points out quite clearly that this is the result of the works at Dover. In view of what I believe to be the reply of the Admiralty, there is rather an interesting circumstance. Not very long ago I had the privilege of taking part in a deputation to the Civil Lord, and therefore I know to some extent the grounds upon which the Admiralty rely for resisting the claim of these people for compensation from the Government. The position of the 2739 Admiralty, I believe, is that there is not sufficient evidence to show that the encroachment of the sea is the direct result of the works at Dover.
I know on that occasion the Civil Lord of the Admiralty quoted the opinion of a scientific gentleman—an engineer—given in the year 1873, that he did not think that the Admiralty Pier had caused this encroachment. There is this very curious circumstance which I think points to the fact that the works at Dover is the guilty party. The encroachment was first noticed, I am informed, soon after the original Admiralty Pier was built at Dover, and for many years the encroachment continued; but at a certain period, some twenty years or so after these works were completed, apparently a new equilibrium had been brought about, and no further encroachment whatever took place for some time, showing that the cause had worked itself out, and that the sea had established a new basis for itself. But when the new works at Dover, which have only been recently completed, were carried out, this encroachment began again, and it has been going on much more seriously during the last year or two, and only within the last twelve months most serious damage has been done, and the prospect is very serious indeed. I do not think the Admiralty ought to rely in a matter of this sort upon one, or even two opinions given them by scientific gentlemen. Everyone knows, who has ever been in a Law Court, that it is the easiest thing in the world to get expert evidence to move out the expert evidence given on the other side; and a Government Department, of course, has its experts always at its call, whose habit of thought it is to support the non possumus attitude of the Government Department. I should like to give the House some extracts from evidence which I have at my disposal. First of all, I should like to read a letter which was written within the last month or two, dated 3rd May, 1912, from Professor Boyd Dawkins, who is a man of very great eminence. He is the Professor of Geology in the Victoria University at Manchester, and I believe his opinion upon a point of this sort is at least as good as that of any other living individual. He says:In my opinion the new harbour works at Dover cannot fail to make the erosion of the sea front from Dover to St. Margaret's and beyond, greater and swifter than it was before they were made.The reason why these works has this effect is this. There has been always—for 2740 what reason I really do not know, and I am not sure scientific opinion can explain—in the Channel a drift of shingle from the west to the east, and that shingle is thrown up by the sea at different points and creates a natural barrier, preventing the sea from encroaching upon the coast. But when the works at Dover were made they created a wall which stopped the flow of this shingle, or threw it out into deep water, with the result that it ceased to be formed in the shape of a shingle bank in St. Margaret's Bay, and the sea was therefore at liberty to do what it has done, namely, to encroach upon the shore. I should like to quote a few words from a report which has been given by Mr. Case, who was also a very eminent engineer, and who is himself the author of a standard work upon coast erosion. He says:—After a careful inspection of the coast, and consideration of the available historical and documentary evidence, I have come to the conclusion that the erosion is due to the alongshore travel of the beach to the north eastward by the wind waves being greater than the supply of beach brought in from the south westward. The beach travel from Folkestone to Dover has for the past forty years been trapped at Dover by the old Admiralty Pier, and it has not been possible for many years past for any appreciable amount of beach to travel north eastwards past the mouth of the old Dover Harbour.That was the condition of things with regard to the original works at Dover, and it has caused much greater damage in the course of the last year or two, and the opinion of Professor Case and of other scientific gentlemen is that if it is allowed to go on it must in twenty or thirty years entirely sweep away all the inhabitable part of St. Margaret's Bay, and destroy the houses and hotels there, and everything else. Mr. Stillgo, engineer to the Birmingham Corporation, says:—It was certain the erosion at St. Margaret's Bay had been greater since the Admiralty Pier was constructed.Another Civil engineer, Mr. Wheeler, who has written a book on the sea coast, said that:—As the Admiralty Pier advanced seaward, all travel of shingle eastward was completely stopped, and the beach of St. Margaret's Bay has become much denuded.Then I quote the opinion of a gentleman who is himself employed by the Admiralty. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would pay more attention to what he says than to anyone else. This is Sir William Mathews, civil engineer and engineer for the Admiralty for the Dover National Harbour. In the proceedings before the Royal Commission on Coast Erosion he made these remarks:—There has been a considerable growth of beach from the stoppage of the travel. When the Admiralty 2741 works were finished, there would be a considerable area of accretion which will be worth money.Consequently the Admiralty, according to the evidence of their own engineer, is actually going to get some money's worth—I do not say anything very great, but some value—out of the damage they are doing to other people. We know that when a county council sweeps away a slum area it has to rehouse the people it displaces, and I certainly think the Admiralty, when they are carrying out great national works for the benefit of the country, when they have to destroy, as they are destroying, a small and a beautiful seaside resort, the least they can do—they cannot, as the county councils do, rehouse the people; but the expert opinion is that they could, for a comparatively small sum of money, do something to prevent further damage taking place. I understand that these works at Dover have absorbed between £4,000,000 and £5,000,000 of money. To prevent this encroachment of the sea at St. Margaret's Bay going on and sweeping the whole place away would only cost about £5,000 or £6,000.
§ Mr. RONALD M'NEILL
More than £5,000 has already been spent; I do not think by the local authority, but by subscription—at all events by the locality. It is not a very populous or a wealthy locality, and I believe they have got to the limit of their resources. They did cope with the original damage, but it is so much greater now and so much more rapid that it has got altogether beyond their control. They are advised that it will take another £6,000 to do the necessary groining work in order to stop the encroachment of the sea. They are unable to do it for themselves, and as they have, I think, a very large volume of evidence that the injury has been caused by the Admiralty works, I think it would only be a matter of justice that the Admiralty should take their case into consideration in a much more sympathetic spirit than it has assumed yet, and that it should not rely upon the report of an engineer, which may be right or may be wrong. I do not want to put my case higher than that it is a matter of controversy. You have a large mass of expert opinion upon one side and upon the other, and you may say that it is at least an open question whether the destruction at St. Margaret's Bay is or is not the result of the Admiralty works. Under these circumstances, I think the Admiralty might 2742 take, I will not say a just view, but a generous view, of the position which I have laid before the House. I hope I shall have a sympathetic answer from the right hon. Gentleman, and some definite promise that the very serious injury done to these people will be taken into consideration by the Admiralty.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Dr. Macnamara)
I will reply at once to the two points brought before the House so courteously and, if I may say so, so powerfully by the hon. Gentleman opposite. First of all with regard to the Marine schoolmasters, the hon. Gentleman acknowledged that in recent years we had done a very great deal for the naval schoolmasters. Some years ago he said we established for them the commissioned warrant rank of chief schoolmaster, which was a consideration. More recently we gave a general increase of pay to naval schoolmasters. We also increased the number of head schoolmasters, and the number of chief schoolmasters, and we increased the maximum pension for chief schoolmasters. We also increased the scale of widows' pensions. The hon. Member said also that we created the relative rank of lieutenant for chief schoolmasters on retirement after three years' service in that rank. All these were very considerable reforms with which I was very glad to be associated. I suppose the fact of the matter is the Marine schoolmasters think it is their turn. But I do not quite think that their conditions are entirely comparable with those of naval schoolmasters. I do not think that the two cases are quite parallel. The hon. Member said that I might turn a deaf ear to their case because the numbers were small. There are fourteen Marine schoolmasters, and I shall not turn a deaf ear to them because the number is small at all. But I do not think that the Marine schoolmaster—I say this with full sympathy—is quite entitled to base his case on what we have done for the naval schoolmaster. The naval schoolmaster goes afloat, but the Marine schoolmaster is always at home in barracks. In the case of a married man with a family he finds it much more comfortable to remain ashore. I am afraid I can give no undertaking—it would be going beyond my province to do so—that we can promise any change. I am familiar with this question and with the case as it has been put on behalf of the Marine schoolmasters. I assure the hon. Gentle- 2743 man that the points he has put forward will receive most serious consideration on our part. Beyond that I could not undertake to go, because I would be the last man to raise hopes which might not be realised.
Let me refer to what the hon. Gentleman said as to the encroachment on the foreshore at St. Margaret's. His contention is that the harbour works which have been carried on at Dover have increased the amount of coast erosion at St. Margaret's Bay. In December last the hon. secretary of the St. Margaret's Bay Preservation Committee represented that damage was being done there, and asked whether we would make some contribution towards the cost of preserving the foreshore. As the hon. Gentleman has stated, on 21st May last the Civil Lord received a deputation on the subject. He not only received a deputation, but we received reports from our officials on the matter. I was rather struck with the discrimination made by the hon. Gentleman with respect to our experts and other experts. He seemed to be under the impression that our experts would always tell us what they thought we liked to hear, while his experts, or scientific gentlemen, as he called them, were to be regarded as men who had casually dropped in from the golf course at Deal to give an absolutely unbiassed opinion as to the cause of the coast erosion. I do not go so far as to say that our officials are men who will always tell us what we wish to hear, while his experts are always scientific gentlemen who are quite disinterested.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Quite so. I am not putting the point very seriously. It was considered that the memorialists were not justified in saying that the erosion had been caused by the construction of the Admiralty Harbour at Dover. They were so informed in a letter dated 19th July last, as follows:—I have laid before my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty your letters of the 7th ultimo and 4th instant, submitting statements relative to the erosion of the Coast at St. Margaret's Bay, Rover.My Lords have closely considered the statements put forward by the St. Margaret's Bay Preservation Committee; but they are of opinion that no facts have been adduced to substantiate the theory of the Committee that the erosion in question has been caused by the Admiralty works at Dover.The Civil Lord of the Admiralty had an interview on the 2nd instant with Mr. Charles E. Thomas, of Granville, Lansdowne. Bath, at which Mr. Thomas was verbally informed to the above effect.2744The two reports and plans prepared by Mr. G. O. Case for your Committee are returned as requested.That is where the matter rests. It is quite true that the British Navy is designed for the preservation of our shores; but I am afraid we cannot admit that the money at our disposal for that purpose is applicable for preservation of this sort, unless the hon. Gentleman can bring it home more closely, reliably, definitely and clearly that our operations have caused the erosion, or accentuated it, at St. Margaret's Bay. I am rather inclined to think that if we admitted such liability a good many claims might be made from different parts of the country.
§ Mr. RONALD M'NEILL
May I ask one question? Do the expert gentlemen, or the scientific gentlemen, who advise the Admiralty, suggest any other cause for the erosion which has taken place coincidentally with the works at Dover?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
They are of opinion that no facts have been adduced to show that these works caused the erosion. All I can do is this: I have read the papers, but I will go through the matter again with the Civil Lord, and put the views of the hon. Gentleman before him. But here again I am sorry I cannot undertake to give any assurance that we shall be able to comply with the request of the memorialists.