HC Deb 20 March 1912 vol 35 cc1964-93

I beg to move, "That the collective responsibility and authority of the Board of Admiralty ought to be preserved as the root principle of Naval administration."

In making this Motion, I do not intend to raise any subject of party controversy whatsoever. The organisation and administration of the Admiralty is a matter far too vital to the interests of the nation to be made the subject of any party recrimination in this House. That which has raised the difficulty to which I wish to refer is the growing tendency, evidenced in this House and in various incidents in the administration of the Admiralty during recent years, to set aside the Board of Admiralty and to claim that a civilian official representing the Government is for all purposes the Board of Admiralty. I think that this is an abuse of an old Order in Council, that it is stretching what was originally intended to be a provision for convenience of administration to a principle ordering all the proceedings of the Admiralty, and that it tends to over-rule the authority of the Board which has been the foundation principle of the whole working of the Admiralty since the office of Lord High Admiral was abolished. Perhaps I may recall to the recollection of the House the origin of the Board of Admiralty. Ever since the early days of the British Navy, the whole authority over that Navy—the command, the provision of supplies, and the finance—was vested in the Lord High Admiral appointed from time to time by the Crown. But in process of time the office of Lord High Admiral fell into disuse, and under patents granted by successive sovereigns the powers of the Lord High Admiral were vested in the Commissioners of the Admiralty, who were formed into a Board. This has been the system of administration from the beginning. It is logical, and it is founded on experience and long-established custom and success in war. In the war which ended in 1815, and up to that time, the Board of Admiralty had exercised command and administration over the fleets alone. The supplying of the funds, the building of ships, and the provision of stores, guns, and material, had been vested in the Navy Board, which had separate buildings and separate offices from the Board of Admiralty, situated in Somerset House. The Navy Board during the great war was the cause of great scandal, waste, and abuse. Sir James Graham, following the recommendations of Lord St. Vincent's Commission, abolished the Navy Board, and amalgamated the office and duties in the Board of Admiralty itself. That was about 1832. I mention that because there is a great principle of administration involved in that incident. The old Board of Admiralty was, in fact, the war staff of the Navy. The greatest of our First Lords, Lord St. Vincent and others, commanded the Fleet in those days, and their methods and principles brought the great war to a successful conclusion. Supply was seperated from comand. When the Boards were amalgamated Supply was brought into direct communication with command, and very largely overwhelmed the command of the Navy for the purposes of strategy and preparation for war during the period of transition from wooden vessels to iron, and from sail to steam. But the main principle of the administration of the Boards was preserved by Sir James Graham, and it endured until Mr. Childers, in 1869, undertook new reforms in the Admiralty. I mention the reforms of Mr. Childers because they led to the very state of things which we fear is tending to recur, owing to the concentration of the powers of the Board in individuals, and abolition of the control of the Board over the naval policy of the country. Mr. Childers separated the administration of the Admiralty in regard to Supply and Command. There were only two Naval Lords, the first Naval Lord and the junior Naval Lord subject to his orders and under his supervision. For the first time the controller of the Navy was made a Member of the Board, and the other officers were brought under his supervision, except so far as finance was under the control of the Parliamentary Secretary. There were thus two supreme officials. This was found to work so badly that in 1871, after only eighteen months' trial, a Committee of the House of Lords was appointed, which reported at great length and utterly condemned the whole system. The First Naval Lord of those days stated before the Committee that his office was most difficult to administer. Sir Sydney Dacres complained that he had no colleagues of sufficient rank in the Navy whom he could consult on difficult points. In confirmation of his opinion he stated that on the day when the Russian Note arrived Mr. Childers said:— Recollect that the first thing which must be done is to put another Naval Lord into the Admiralty. The Report states further down— Under the present plan, on many matters, the First Lord consults only one man, namely, the First Naval Lord. The Committee reported— The witnesses are equally unanimous in their opinion that the present constitution of the Board of Admiralty is not satisfactory. They also said— While, therefore, under parliamentary government, the civil authority is supreme, some arrangement must be made to give the First Lord professional knowledge upon innumerable matters which he may be called upon suddenly to decide. The whole system of Mr. Childers was condemned; that is to say, the concentration of the Admiralty in two individuals in communication with the First Lord as the representative of the Admiralty in the Cabinet, and the abolition of the Board as a Board in the administration of naval affairs. Mr. Goschen, in 1872, owing to the ill-health of Mr. Childers, became First Lord. He immediately reverted to the old plan. He dismissed the Comptroller from the Board, and matters at the Admiralty proceeded on very much the lines which had been arranged by Sir James Graham in 1832. This more or less endured until a change was made by Order in Council and new distribution of business by Lord Selborne in 1904. I only need say in passing that the great evil still remained, that is the predominance of supply over command. The civilian side had charge of the technicalities, shipbuilding, and so forth, and prevailed over the side that had the consideration of war plans; so much so that in 1885 when there was a question of a possible war with Russia it was found that the Fleet was utterly unprepared. That led to a change, and the naval side of the Board obtained greater authority and greater influence. The House, of course, knows what followed in the great shipbuilding programme which raised our Navy to a position commensurate with its great duties and responsibilities and with the great interests entrusted to it, a change carried under the auspices of the First Lord who succeeded, Lord George Hamilton. I only want to deal very briefly with the order of the distribution of business in 1904. That distribution of business, though it may be approved in general, contained one defect which, I think, capable of upsetting the whole working of the Board. That was in regard to the duties of the First Sea Lord, who for the first time in that year was called the First Sea Lord. His duties were laid down as consisting of attending preparation for war, all large questions of naval policy and maritime warfare, to advise. The fighting and seagoing efficiency of the Fleet, its organisation and mobolisation; the destination and movements of all ships in commission or in the Fleet Reserve. The control of the intelligence, hydrographical and naval ordnance departments. That gives the First Sea Lord, if carried out in the meaning of the words, predominance over all his colleagues on the Board. It makes him in fact the Commander and not the senior of equal members acting together on the Board. This is accentuated by a Note which is placed in the Memorandum on the Distribution of Business, and which runs as follows:— It is to be understood that in any matter of great importance the First Sea Lord is al ways to be consulted by the other Sea Lords, the Civil Lords, the Parliamentary or permanent secretary, and he will refer to the First Lord for any further action considered necessary, such as, for instance, bringing the matter formally before the Board. It is, of course, understood that all members of the Board will communicate direct with the First Lord in accordance with immemorial custom whenever they wish to do so. That is the distribution of business made under the powers of the Order in Council, and it makes the First Sea Lord the commander of the Admiralty to all intents and purposes, and for all purposes of action it imposes this official between the Board, and the First Lord who represents the Cabinet. That is what I complain of. The process has been carried further in recent years. Let me remind the House of the controversy which took place upon the Admiralty Memorandum, published in 1911. Many questions were asked in the House of Commons upon that subject. We have the answer of the First Lord, who is now the Home Secretary. I asked one question myself as follows:— Mr. Gretton: I beg to ask whether the memorandum attached to the book called 'Compulsory Service' signed A. K. W.— understood to be initials of the First Sea Lord of those days— was submitted to and approved by the Board of Admiralty before its issue in an official publication emanated from another department. Mr. McKenna: There was no Board meeting on the memorandum referred to, but it was published with my approval. After some questions the Member for Oxford University asked a question which is in the OFFICIAL REPORT, and extracted from the First Lord a reply to the effect that if any members of the Board submitted to him a document and he approved it, that that document had the approval of the Board of Admiralty. That was the length to which the doctrine of the predominance of one member of the Board was carried on that occasion. I need not remind the House of what took place over the Declaration of London.

An hon. Member declared that the Board of Admiralty as a Board had never been consulted. The First Lord of the Admiralty, it was said, was content to consult one or two of his officials on the subject; he formed his opinion in consultation with those officials, and claimed the full authority of the Board without ever taking counsel with the other members of the Board upon a question of such vital importance to this country, should we ever be engaged in a naval war. The matter has been carried, I think, a little further, as I can show by the Memorandum which has been issued with the present Naval Estimates. I will just recall the fact that these matters have all been thoroughly investigated, and that this process is in direct contradiction with what has been the immemorial practice. Let the House consider the decision of the Hartington Commission. During the whole of these inquiries very great attention was paid to the administration of the Admiralty, which, after full investigation and most careful examination of papers and witnesses, was considered to be a model of the reforms that the War Office might follow. In the Hartington Report, page 23, section 73, it is stated:— We consider that a definite and direct responsibility to the Secretary of State should be placed upon the heads of Departments for their several administrations, as is the case with the Naval Lords at the Admiralty. Under the present system, as we have pointed out (par. 57], the only real responsibility appears to rest on the Commander-in-Chief, who alone would be accountable to the Secretary of State even for such a matter as the defective design of a heavy gun. We do not rind that this centralisation of responsibility exists in the administration of the armies of any of the great Powers of Europe, and we consider that it cannot conduce to efficiency. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, who it will be admitted was a successful and a very able Administrator, added to this Report a statement in which he said (page 30, section 2):— In my opinion it is essential that the group of officers by whom the Secretary of State will be surrounded and advised should be, as regards him, on a perfectly level footing. And he goes on to say:— At the Board of Admiralty, which I regard as being in this respect a model to be copied, the First Lord is not divorced from executive duty. On the contrary, his duties keep him in constant contact with all branches of the naval service, and if he enjoys a certain primacy among the naval members of the Board, it is quite as much on account of the importance of his executive responsibility as because of any particular function he fulfils as special adviser of the First Lord. And further he says:— In the first portion of this Report it has been recommended that this latter function should be somewhat developed, but I should regard it as a vital mistake if this were carried so far as to infringe the cardinal principle of loyal equality between the professional members of the Board. This Report teems with evidence to the same effect, but I do not think I need trouble the House further upon the matter. I do not think it will be contested as to what the old custom in this matter has been, and that it was a sound principle and a valuable principle and conduced to the well-being of the Admiralty and the Navy and the great State which it was their duty to protect. I must ask the House to consider for a few moments the changes which apparently are proposed in the Memorandum of the present First Lord issued with the Navy Estimates. There is a great deal said in this Memorandum upon the question of the new War Staff. I think a good deal too much credit is taken for the establishment of this War Staff. It has existed, and it now appears changed only in two particulars. It merely gives a new name and a new dignity to the Intelligence Department of the Navy, which existed ever since 1885, which arose out of the Foreign Department established two years earlier. But the point where the great difference arises is a vital point. In the old days the Naval Intelligence Department were required to report to the Board and not to any one official on the general work which they had to perform. The Naval Intelligence was of course open to any one member for the purposes of his Department, but the duties of the Director of Naval Intelligence on great questions of policy was laid down on the 24th January, 1887:— The functions of the Intelligence Department are to be purely advisory and in no sense administrative. The essence of the work is preparation for war. The senior Naval Lord will supervise the Intelligence Department, but the Director of Naval Intelligence will apply to other Naval Lords on all matters which are connected with their duties in the distribution of business, will furnish them with any information which they may at anytime require, and take care that they are put in possession of all intelligence received by the Department with which they should be acquainted. … The Director of Naval Intelligence may communicate with all other departments of the Admiralty. And it goes on in paragraph 12 to lay down that— During the first week in each month or as much oftener as may be considered necessary the Director of Naval Intelligence will meet the other members of the Board and the secretary and report to them the progress made by the Intelligence Department in the last week and the work he proposes to do. As these instructions showed clearly the Intelligence Department was a specialised branch, a branch of the Admiralty acting as a War Board; and it was not contemplated as it apparently is in recently issued instructions, that the Intelligence Department should report to the First Sea Lord alone and communicate with the Board through that official. I am not quite clear upon this point, and I should be very glad if the First Lord would assure me that it is not the intention to do away with the old custom and rule that the chief of the Intelligence Department or War Staff should attend meetings from time to time and once a month to consult and communicate with the Board as a whole, upon the duties of his Department and the work he is doing. There is another matter involved in the new administration which is set forth in this Memorandum, namely, the appointment of a new additional Civil Lord. I tried hard to understand this appointment. There is a precedent for the appointment of such an official. Mr. Rendel was appointed as additional Civil Lord in 1882. At that time there were great changes taking place in gunnery and gun-mounting, and it was admitted he was a far greater expert than any other man in this country and the greatest authority upon gunnery and gun mounting, and it is admitted that his services and his advice given to the Admiralty between 1882 and 1885 were of great service. But the post of additional Civil Lord was not continued, and when his appointment expired no other gentleman was asked to take his place. Now we are to have an. additional Civil Lord for an entirely different purpose. He is to be the business manager, and he is to supervise contracts, and it is proposed, apparently, to relieve the Controller of some portion of his duties in order to enable him to go about from place to place visiting fleets, watching the progress of vessels, and making inquiries. That seems to be a very vague and unsatisfactory description of the duties of a great official of the Admiralty. The Controller is responsible for the provision of the material for the Navy. If this new Civil Lord is to have any responsible duties whatever as distinct from duties of other members of the Board of Admiralty, I think we must ask the First Lord to explain what these duties are. Is he to have control over the Department of the Director of Contracts? Is he to take over control for the Director of Works and the Directors of Supply, and is he to purchase coal. I am not making any attack upon this gentleman—it is far from my intention to do so. I understand the Civil Lord now appointed is Sir Francis Hopwood. It would appear to those outside that Sir Francis Hopwood, who has had a most extraordinarily successful and useful official career, has very little knowledge of the particular duties which he has now apparently to perform. He is not an expert in the purchase of ships or in the purchase of material for ships. He is not an expert in any one of the Departments under the Admiralty unless it is the Department of Finance. Is the Civil Lord expected to take charge of Finance? The Parliamentary Secretary is entrusted under the Order in Council with the finance of the Admiralty, and he has to supervise the contracts and the accounts, assisted by the Finance Department. If it is intended that the new Civil Lord should supersede and take away some portion of the duties of the Parliamentary Secretary, I would like to remind the House that the Parliamentary Secretary is appointed so that Parliament may have control over the finances of the Admiralty, and he is the representative of the Admiralty in this House upon all subjects of finance. He is here to give explanations, answer questions, and defend the finance of the Department which he represents. I complain that if the new Civil Lord is going to supersede the Parliamentary Secretary it is an unconstitutional practice, and one which is most undesirable in the interests of the nation. It is highly undesirable that there should be a permanent official taking away from the representative of the Admiralty in Parliament the duties which he has hitherto performed. These matters appear to me to require some explanation.

I should like to refer to the great advantages accruing to the Admiralty and the nation from the administration of the Board of Admiralty. On the whole the evidence before the Committee of the Lords which inquired into the changes led to the reinstatement of the Board. The Committee of Inquiry of 1888, and the experience and history of the Navy, bear out the belief that the administration of the Admiralty by a Board is, on the whole, the best that could possibly be devised, because it leads to individual responsibility in the Departments which members of the Board are entrusted with or for which they are personally responsible, and it also leads to cohesion, consultation, and co-ordination. The members of the Admiralty can meet round the Board as equal colleagues, and discuss great questions concerning their several Departments and the Navy as a whole. All these matters can be threshed out in the hearing of the First Lord, who is ultimately responsible to the Cabinet, Parliament, and the nation for carrying on the business of the Admiralty and the preparation for war. The concentration of power in the hands of single members of the Board, contrary to precedent, has been condemned by experience, and I am sure that every man who has studied naval questions regrets the tendency to re-establish it. I am not desirous of pressing this Motion to a Division, and I hope the First Lord will be able to give us such an assurance on this vital question that we shall be satisfied he is not going to upset the axiomatic principle that the Board of Admiralty must be responsible for the administration under the supervision and control of the Cabinet of the day.

The First Lord is a representative of the Cabinet, and he must have absolute control over the Board, and the members of the Board should be personally responsible to him and to the Board and personally powerful over their own Department. If a Member of the Board disagrees with his colleagues upon conscientious grounds, naturally he resigns, as indeed the First Lord of the Admiralty would resign if he did not agree with his colleagues in the Cabinet. Men of the highest authority on naval subjects and experienced in naval administration would look upon it as little short of a calamity if the present tendency of allowing power to drift into the hands of the First Sea Lord were permitted to continue, and if the institution of the War Staff tended to impair the authority of the Board of Admiralty. I do not wish to say a word about any individuals in this matter, because there is a vital principle concerned. After all, the First Lord of the Admiralty to-day is a new man, and we wish him well. On this side of the House we are perfectly prepared to support him to the utmost in the interest of the Navy and the nation at large. Whatever controversies we may have had on other subjects we are not going to carry our differences into the administration of the Admiralty, over which the right hon. Gentleman presides, and I hope he will be able to give us an assurance which will satisfy us that he is not going to interfere with the great fundamental principles of naval administration. I thank the House for bearing with me so long.


I beg leave to second the Resolution.

This subject does not allow of any indefinite extension, because my hon Friend has dealt with it very fully and ably. I am told there are a number on both sides of the House who desire to speak, and the time for private Motions is very limited. In these days of lightning legislation, the chances of a private Member getting in upon any subject outside the Parliamentary procedure of the Government itself are so very few that those of us who are lucky enough to obtain a place in the ballot take good care that our good fortune shall not be thrown to the winds. For that reason we are careful to pick subjects of paramount importance, and I submit, in putting this Resolution to the House this evening, we have taken up a matter which is deserving of consideration and earnest thought by the First Lord of the Admiralty, and one to which I hope he will give a satisfactory answer. This subject is brought forward at a peculiarly appropriate moment, because the right hon. Gentleman has not long been in office. I do not mean to say it in any offensive way, but he has acquired a reputation for rapid changes, politically and otherwise. He has already taken advantage of his high office as First Lord to make a large number of changes there, and whether the alterations he has effected are justified or not is for him to state this evening. Our case is that the responsibility of the Board of Admiralty at the present moment tends to become rather more individual than collective. That is to say, the First Lord and those associated with him are prepared to throw over the policy of two heads being better than one, with the result that the chances are that the main reason for the existence of the Board of Admiralty—that is the readiness of the Fleet for war—will largely be lost sight of.

My hon. Friend who proposed this Resolution particularised, and gave the House a number of striking instances supporting his statements. I intend to conclude by asking the First Lord of the Admiralty three questions, and I trust he will be able to give satisfactory answers, seeing we have brought this Motion forward in all friendliness. It is not my intention to add to my hon. Friend's examples, or to confuse the trend of them by any details of my own. I would rather set out a few ideas for the consideration of the First Lord when he comes to answer. I hope the House will bear with me whilst I outline the work of the Admiralty as it is carried on at the present time. My hon. Friend dealt with the historical side of it. Of course, we can go back a long time to find the genesis of a. Board of Admiralty, or at least of some sort of collection of Gentlemen interested in the Navy and associated with the Government of the day whose concern it was to look after the Fleet. I do not think I need, for the purposes of my argument, go further back than 1872. On 19th March, forty years ago yesterday, we find that by an Order in Council the Board of Admiralty was to comprise as follows: In the first place, of the Commissioners for executing the office of Lord High Admiral, secondly of the Parliamentary or the Financial Secretary, and, finally, of the Permanent Secretary. Since that time a very large number of changes have taken place. In 1882 a comptroller was added to the Board of Admiralty, and in 1904 seniority was for the first time given to the First Sea Lord or First Naval Lord, as I believe he was then called. Before that time all these Naval Lords were placed upon a level position in regard to their powers of voting and the arguments they might bring forward on the Board, and any seniority which they might acquire was developed purely upon the strength of their individual wills. Lastly, the Home Secretary, the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman, introduced what I think is a most pernicious thing, and he based the introduction of it upon an old Order in Council, so old that it ought to have been buried and never resuscitated—the signing of memoranda, possibly of great importance to the Fleet as a whole, with the addition of only one other signature besides his own and issuing it either to the Fleet or to the public, as the case might be, as upon the responsibility of the entire Board.

9.0 P.M.

What, in effect, is the Admiralty? The Admiralty is a huge office for national insurance, the steel-hulled policies of which float in every sea, and the premiums which we are called upon to pay every year amount to tens of millions of pounds. There has been set up to control this sum an organisation, perhaps one of the most wonderful that exists in the world to-day, and over this organisation there is appointed at various times and for various purposes a Board of very distinguished directors, which is drawn partly from the Navy and partly from the Members of the Government of the day, whoever they may happen to be. In their hands lies the direction of the greatest arm for war that has been known in the history of the world. Much trust is centred not only in this country but in the whole Empire upon that Board. I would go further than the First Lord, who said our Navy represents a medium of peace for the whole world, and say it is a feature of the Government of this country upon which the whole world largely bases its trust. It would be a bad thing indeed if any fault could be found or suggested with that particular item of our Government. What are the duties of the Members of that Board? First of all, we have the First Lord. He has far more important duties than going about in his yacht. He is responsible to the Crown and to Parliament for the whole business of the Fleet, and for designating within limits the various duties that are to be placed on those who are associated with him upon the Board. I am not quite sure the right hon. Gentleman has not abrogated that particular essential, and taken a large number of those duties upon himself, for which one cannot blame him, seeing the interest he shows in the Fleet. Then we come to the Naval or Sea Lords, who each have their particular departments. It might almost be laid down as an axiom—it is certainly accepted by everybody in the House—that the head of each Department should be exempt, except upon special occasions, from interference in his Department. I think it has been fully carried out up to the present. I say quite frankly I do not know of any specific instance when it has been interfered with now, but that is not the point. It is the fear that interference might come by an attitude that is at present being taken up, and which is the outcome of a new system introduced during the last few years. It is rather interesting to refer to a Select Committee on Naval Estimates in 1888, when Sir Arthur Hood, as he then was, stated that he could not tell a single instance in which the First Lord, on any important question placed before him, had vetoed the opinion of the Naval Lord in charge. That means, that if a decision had been arrived at by the head of any one of these Departments, and if his decision had been arrived at upon a firm and sound basis and could be-argued as sound before the whole Board, the First Lord had not utilised his veto to go back upon it. The reason, surely, is that the First Lord is most careful in choosing his men. If he is not, then the country has every right to feel aggrieved. The First Lord, in selecting naval officers; to be associated with him and to form the Naval section of the Board, chooses those who are suited for the specific duties they will be called upon to undertake in those particular Departments.

What are the duties of those Naval Lords? I think it is necessary just to give a short outline of what they do, what they are called upon to do, and how their duties might be affected by a system which in its development might be detrimental to our naval administration. The First Sea Lord is the chief naval adviser of the First Lord of the Admiralty. He is the collecting centre of technical information, and the fountain head of practical knowledge. He is the practical man. He is the man to carry on naval work under the guidance of the First Lord who has to get his policy direct from the Cabinet in association with the Foreign Minister. The work of the Second Sea Lord is mainly to look after the personnel—he has other minor duties—and the Third Sea Lord has to do with the medical side of the question and with victualling and transport. Over all the Sea Lords there was spread a certain control of the Intelligence Department. Each had some leading hand in the intelligence with which his particular Department was concerned. That part of the arrangement has been entirely altered. Intelligence has been removed absolutely from the control of the Naval Lords and placed in a compartment quite by itself, the result of which might be detrimental to the power these Naval Lords exercise in their particular sphere.

Then we come to the Civil Lord. The Civil Lord's work is the Works Department, and the Accountant General's, as far as pay and allowances of the Fleet are concerned, and he is the Director of Greenwich Hospital. I do not know exactly what that means. The Works Department, and such items of the Accountant General's Department as come within the ægis of the hon. Member, should surely bring him more often to the brass-bound box at the Table, yet so rarely do we see him, that when he does come to address us on Naval Estimates men on this side ask who the new Minister is. The Financial Secretary looks after the major portion of the finance. He was Director of Contracts until the appointment of a new business manager, and he has something to do with the purchase and sale of ships. Sir F. Hopwood's name has been mentioned. I am not going to criticise the appointment of Sir Francis. It would be an impertinence. It would be very invidious, because those who have had some little knowledge of the entire working of the Department over which the Financial Secretary has control know perfectly well that the work has developed to such an extent that it is impossible for him to carry it out compatibly with efficiency without the aid of somebody to deal with the heavier items of finance. For that reason it was essential some aid should be given to him by some one in a distinguished high civil position. That outlines a very perfect compartmentation. We have each of these gentlemen having under their control absolutely special features of work in the Fleet, and the concentration of that work, we hope, will give us such an efficient force as will make us at all times safe on the seas. One would expect that with the division of labour in this way, which gives individual effort its greatest chance, we should have supreme efficiency. As my hon. Friend said, we do not suggest that, at the present moment, there is inefficiency. Indeed, we are proud to believe that of all Government Departments the Admiralty has less red tape and more efficiency than any other. But we are frightened of the consequences of something that has arisen just lately. We fear the insidious and creeping danger of the Board merely becoming the creatures of a single man. We admit it is essential for the carrying along of the business of the Admiralty that the First Lord of the Admiralty should be the supreme head, and the arbiter in every single instance, that he should have the last say and the best say. But what is the power given him now. He is not an expert man, nevertheless, under the new powers taken by his predecessor, he can, if one of the Naval Lords obtains a sufficiently big hold of him, in association with that Naval Lord sign a document putting the views of that Naval Lord into operation, without placing them before the whole Board, and can come down and say to this House that the Board of Admiralty is responsible for it. That is a situation of which we are afraid. I do not say it has been done, still the power is there and the danger is there. The right hon. Gentleman who is now First Lord of the Admiralty is not going to be there always, and some one may succeed him who may be overcome by the greater brain of one of the Naval Lords, and, as a result, a policy may be put through and a decision come to entirely contrary to the best interests of the public.

Now we come down to the Naval War Staff Memorandum. This Memorandum was received with great cheers. It deserved all the cheers it got, because it was the outward and visible sign for which the people of the country had been waiting of what was going on in the Admiralty. It was felt necessary the public should know that the Admiralty were not asleep. There is an ill-founded idea that those appointed as civil officers go to their offices and do nothing. That cannot be said of the Admiralty. They are awake to danger and possible dangers, and so we have that which the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth has been crying for for many years, a Naval War Staff. But everyone I think will agree, and I must reiterate something which has been said by my hon. Friend who moved this Resolution, that there is discontent with the manner in which the information is to reach the First Lord of the Admiralty. As this House no doubt knows, the Naval War Staff of to-day under the most distinguished officer at the head of it, is divided into three portions. There are the Intelligence Division, the Operations Division, and the Mobilisation Division. Each of these divisions has over it a very distinguished officer well fitted for his job, and each of them is bound to carry such information as he culls direct to the First Sea Lord, or else from the First Sea Lord to go to the First Lord himself. We do not object to that, but there is one line in it to which we take a very deep objection. It is that the First Lord and the First Sea Lord may, whenever they think fit, consult the directors of the various divisions or other officers. Of course they will do that, but what I want to know is, can the officers who are at the head of these various divisions go, under this arrangement, to the First Lord, and say to the right hon. Gentleman, having heard the decisions arrived at by the three Sea Lords, they think they are wrong; or must they wait for him to go to them and ask if they think they are wrong. That is the point on which we are wanting information. Under the situation as we read it here, the right hon. Gentleman is in such a position that he can give information from above and can come down and ask for it, but they cannot go and give him information, as has been the case in times past. In conclusion I wish to ask three questions. First, will the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that no decision affecting the Fleet as a whole— obviously in regard to small details of administrative work this question would not hold ground—that no decision will be arrived at without the consent of the whole Board, and that he will not take advantage of that old superannuated, resuscitated Order in Council under which he and one other member can sign papers and put them in circulation as upon the responsibility of the whole Board. Secondly, and I do not know if he is entitled to answer this, how often does the whole Board of the Admiralty meet. Thirdly, is the head of a Department the absolute authority in his own Department; has he the right at any time he thinks fit to go to the right hon. Gentleman or the First Sea Lord and state his complaint or suggestion without its having to pass through any specific channel? This Motion, as my hon. Friend has stated, has been made in all friendliness, the idea being to elicit a statement tending to allay the great feeling of discomfort in certain circles. I trust that in the circumstances the right hon. Gentleman, who knows that the interest I have always taken in the Fleet is purely a national one, as against a party one, will accept the Motion.


The House has listened to two speeches which certainly show great industry on the part of the two hon. Gentlemen who have made them. While I was listening to those speeches the reflection irresistibly crossed my mind that the House, as a whole, will probably feel what an extraordinarily complicated and difficult business the administration of the Admiralty must be, because it would seem, from the account which has been given of it by the Mover and Seconder of the Motion, to involve almost all the complications of the constitution of a first-class Power, with most of the doctrinal dogmas and tenets of a religious body. In fact, it is much easier than it sounds. The constitution and composition of the Board of Admiralty is essentially practical, and is devoted to objects which are purely practical. I should also much deprecate the attempt to raise a long and elaborate constitutional discussion about the exact position, in theory and in practice, of in dividual members of the Board, and the relation of the particular Departments— and there are a very great many Departments within that building—to one another. I am quite certain that if we were to endeavour to apply that kind of examination to the system and machinery by which this great business is carried on, and carried on successfully, from day to day, we should waste our time and do the Admiralty no justice.

I subscribe heartily to the general principle embodied in the Motion. I am very glad indeed that the civilian Minister, the political and Parliamentary chief of a great fighting Service, has the enormous advantage of being provided with the assistance of a Board of Admiralty, representative of the best that the Naval Service can produce, and enshrined in the minds of the Navy by centuries of successful and, whenever occasion arose, victorious naval administration. It is a great advantage, and there is no doubt that the position of the First Lord of the Admiralty, with his Board to assist him[...] is a much more satisfactory one than that which used to be occupied by the Secretary of State for War when he was brought face to face, not with a board of five or six or seven or eight different members, with whom he could confer on the various points of view, and whose views he could check one by the other, but when he was confronted with a single great officer of the military service, the commander-in-chief, who was like the narrow neck of a bottle, who claimed to be the sole channel through which the information and advice of the technical and expert officials reached the head of the office. I am sure it is a good thing for administration; I am sure it is a good thing for the Navy; and I am sure it is an exceedingly good thing for the First Lord. I can assure the Mover and Seconder that, so far as lies in my power, I shall do all that is practicable and useful to maintain the reality of the executive authority of the Board of Admiralty as a whole.

The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Motion asked me certain specific questions and I shall answer them without equivocation. He asked me, first of all, whether I would give him a guarantee that no decision affecting the Fleet as a whole should be taken without the consent of the whole Board. No, Sir, I am not prepared to give such a guarantee as that. The collective and corporate responsibility of the Board of Admiralty is a matter of high importance, but the swift and effective executive control of events is a matter of still higher importance. In the second place, he asked me how often does the Board meet. I can only speak from my own experience. I have made no calculations, and I am only answering the question put to me across the House. I think that since I have been First Lord the Board has met about three times a month, but some of our sittings have been very long, and all, or almost all, the important matters of business which have been decided have received the formal assent of the Board. I am very glad to think that very complete agreement on the great questions prevails amongst members of the Board. That is only natural, considering that the Board has been almost completely reformed, and I have had the opportunity of ascertaining the views of the new Board—the general views—before they came into the service at the Board of Admiralty. The hon. Member then asked me has each head of a Department full authority over his Department and access to the First Lord. The Departments of the Admiralty are much more numerous than the members of the Board. Sometimes four or five Departments are grouped together under one superintending Lord of the Admiralty. The heads of these Departments, quite apart from the Lords of the Admiralty, very often come to see the First Lord. Of course, I make it my business to see them, and encourage the practice, and I personally have always used the habit of sending for any of these heads of Departments, apart from members of the Board, whenever any question arises upon which I wish for information, and I most clearly and distinctly see the importance of the First Lord and of other members of the Board having access for the performance of their respective duties to all persons in the Admiralty. I should deprecate very much the development of a series of Martello towers from out of which each particular member of the Board would look anxiously and curiously, and within which all would be strictly his private domain. The whole object of good administration in the Board of Admiralty is that the utmost possible information should be brought into the common stock and that the highest degree of co-ordination should prevail. That is not always reached by a formal Board meeting. It is sometimes reached by two or three members of the Board concerned in a particular branch of the subject or group of subjects in the First Lord's room, and these meetings take place probably on the average more than once a day as compared with the formal meetings of the Board, which register the general progress of Admiralty administration rather than serve as a debating assembly for the discussion of all questions.

So much, then, for the Board of Admiralty and its different members. The First Sea Lord has the duty of making preparations for war and moving the Fleet, and that is a matter which affects from night to night the security of the country. The Second Sea Lord deals with the men of the Navy, but in the Memorandum which was issued on the War Staff it is specificially laid down that the First Sea Lord and the Second Sea Lord are to work in association in the great business of preparation for war, so that in the event of anything happening to the First Sea Lord we are not left without a high naval expert absolutely conversant with every detail of naval plans. The Third Sea Lord deals with materiel. He is responsible for the military construction of the Fleet. Of course, he is responsible for a great deal more, and I am considering at present whether a greater strain is not being put upon a single individual than is advisable. The Fourth Sea Lord is responsible for stores and ammunition, the Civil Lord is responsible for works and for various other ancillary matters, and the Financial Secretary is responsible for the correct and proper control of Admiralty finance, and also for enforcing that economy in small things which, even when it has been given up in large things, should never be relaxed. All these offices have been adapted to their duties by the regular financial and administrative practice, and I am bound to say I feel a very considerable degree of satisfaction in surveying the machine which time and experience has evolved. Some improvements, no doubt, can be made, but in the main it is a good and convenient instrument for administering the Navy and for administering it, not only to the satisfaction of the House of Commons on the one hand, but to the satisfaction of the great sea-going profession and Service on the other.

The First Lord of the Admiralty stands, of course, in a special position, because under the Order in Council he has the sole responsibility for the patronage and appointments of the Navy, and in addition to that he is charged with the general direction and the assignment of all business. Therefore he has the power of choosing who his colleagues are to be and what functions they are to discharge, and of changing, varying, extending, or diminishing those functions from time to time as he may think fit. That, of course, is a very extensive power, and carries much with it, but nothing can free the First Lord from his ultimate responsibility, which is to discharge his duty to Parliament and to the Crown, and to make sure that, whatever happens, good results are obtained. Nothing can relieve the Minister of that responsibility. Still, I am quite certain that no one who is called upon to occupy a position of high Ministerial responsibility would wish to take more upon himself than he could avoid, and for my part I heartily subscribe to the phrase which has been used that two heads are better than one. Whatever may, in theory and in fact, be the powers of the First Lord, I am sure no one would wish in these matters to proceed alone where it is possible to proceed with the assent of two, three, or four persons who have given their whole life to the professional study of the subjects dealt with. One cannot look at these subjects apart from personalities. You cannot deal with offices in the abstract. You must think of offices in connection with the men who fill them, and I do not think it is very likely that during my tenure of office I shall ever be called upon to proceed in isolation, without the support of the principal members of the Board of Admiralty. Certainly I hope not. Nothing that I can do to avoid it shall be neglected.

Then I turn to the position of the First Sea Lord. The Mover and the Seconder of the Motion spoke with some anxiety about the superior position which in recent times has been assigned to the First Sea Lord. I am not a very good Latin scholar, but there are a couple of phrases which are appropriate. He is among the Sea Lords, not merely primus inter pares, but facile princeps. I am glad the House likes the familiar ring. But it is necessary to the due performance of the First Sea Lord's duties that a special position should be assigned to him. There must be some one high naval authority in the Admiralty who is directly charged with the day to day movements of the Fleet and with the main direction of the preparations for war. The War Staff has been placed under the First Sea Lord. That does not mean that other members of the Board cannot have access to the information of the War Staff for the purpose of their particular Department. Certainly not. The Third Sea Lord can get from the Department all the information he requires. The Director of the Intelligence Division can obtain exactly what he wants to know about naval construction in other countries. Similarly as regards ammunition and stores, information can be obtained. The staff has to be placed under the First Sea Lord because the responsibility for giving advice upon great questions of strategy and war preparations must be assigned to some high naval authority. So far as the additional Civil Lord is concerned, I should like the House to realise that the work at the Admiralty is necessarily severe. I have served in four of the great Departments during the last six and a half years, and I can say with perfect sincerity that the work which falls on the head of that Department is far greater than anything I was acquainted with in the other Departments. There is a reason for it. At the Colonial Office, the Home Office, or the Board of Trade, there are a number of Departments, but they are all drawn together under the permanent secretary, such men as Sir Llewellyn Smith at the Board of Trade, Sir George Murray at the Treasury, and the other permanent heads of Departments. These are officials who have been for many years in their Departments, and, having the whole of the work at their finger ends, they are able to co-ordinate it. But it is not so at the Admiralty. At the Admiralty there are naval chiefs, and there are various civil departments, and there is no co-ordinating centre below the political head. There is no co-ordinating centre to which all the papers dealing with the different Departments are brought before they are presented to the First Lord. He has himself to co-ordinate the working of these different Departments. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is the Permanent Secretary doing?"] The Permanent Secretary has certain functions assigned to him, but they are not analogous to the work done by the heads of the other Departments. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] In the first place, how can the Permanent Secretary, who is a Civil servant, deal with the expert advice given to the First Sea Lord? What would be the use of his attempting to deal with questions relating to the projectiles to be used in different kinds of guns? The duty of the Permanent Secretary is to give effect to the decisions of the Board, and to administer the office.

As I say, the main co-ordination has to be done by the First Lord himself. That being so, it is necessary that there should be given to him, within reasonable limits, whatever he requires to aid him in the discharge of the great mass of business there is to be done. My hon. Friends have both a perfectly clear idea of the work. A great number of questions were not receiving the proper attention they required, and it is to deal with these questions of business—questions quite apart from naval construction, or the purely financial duties which fall to the Financial Secretary, that the additional Civil Lord was instituted with great advantage—so great an advantage that I do not know how it would be possible to get satisfactorily forward if he were withdrawn. I think I have given a tolerable explanation of some of the matters which have been brought forward. Let me say in conclusion that I have never sought to magnify unduly the creation of the War Staff. I have recognised in the Memorandum that most of the elements were in existence before the change was made, but they have now been co-ordinated and brought together. They have now been given recognition and authority which never existed before. The advantage of that will, I am confident, be very great. In the first place, there will be continuity of policy. As successive First Sea Lords come to the Admiralty they will find a great body of reasoned opinion which has been collected over a period of years on almost every single strategical question. Everything will have been treasured up and sifted, and it will be presented as the result of the experience of a growing school of continuous thought with respect to matters affecting the Navy, and so I hope we shall avoid some of those sharp turns and changes which are always the inevitable concomitants of personal rule and personal opinion, however able the principal officers may be. We hope in that way to find some means of guiding naval opinion, because nothing has been more perplexing than the very violent differences of all sorts on technical matters which have prevailed among the officers of the Navy. Careers have been ruined, and animosities of the deepest bitterness have been created by differences of such a character. I am sure the House would appreciate what I mean by that if I were to go over these matters. The reason is very plain. Naval officers have had to exercise their own judgment in the light of their own practical experience upon a great variety of difficult and ever-changing propositions, without being guided by any systematised body of thought and opinion. There has been no manual of tactics or any regular system of staff training. We hope to provide clear and general knowledge on the root facts and root principles of naval strategy and tactics, and to have that widely disseminated to all ranks in the Navy. If that is so, we shall not merely have armed the Board of Admiralty with the best machine for working out war plans and giving advice on strategic questions, but we shall also have done a great deal to sweep away the differences of opinion which have on occasion introduced a serious element of discord into the otherwise harmonious service of the Navy.


As an old Member of the Board of Admiralty I wish to say a few words on this very important question. I do not intend to enter into many details, because the Mover and Seconder of the Resolution have done so in speeches which, I think, were most able and clear. They spoke rather in the way of inquiry than of severe criticism. The real question is whether the Board is a Board or not. My two hon. Friends put very clearly their view of the question. It has not been a Board since the Order of 1904, took away the collective responsibility of the Board, which I think is a-very serious question for this country, and gave the chance of the one-man power which many of us think in the Navy was not good for the Service, and in any case a great number of the reforms which were introduced between 1904 and 1909 have got to be altered, particularly with reference to the question of arming ships with auxiliary guns, and the question of the strength of the Fleet, and many other things, because as we think the Board had not the collective responsibility. These things were hurried through without Debate, without consideration by the Service, and in nearly every case in direct opposition to the Service opinion. In my opinion the Board should go back to its collective responsibility. I think the country believes that it has collective responsibility. As it is now it is very much the same as it was in what I may describe as the one-man power period. The Board of Admiralty is the biggest burden in the world. It is the most intricate. It has the greatest amount of labour thrown upon it of any bureau in the whole world. Let me compare it to a great shipbuilding company or a great line owning company. Take the P. and O. Company, add to it one of our great shipbuilding companies like Lairds. It has both those two trades to do. It has also organisation for war; it has all the questions connected with the Fleet, which are interminable, and it is, in my opinion, even now, though it has been increased a great deal, to a great extent overworked. As the right hon. Gentleman says, I believe it has rather more than 2,000 people altogether, and every one of those people has his work told off, and it is very extensive. In my opinion it would be better to bring it forward under the old position of the Board than to leave it as it is, for the simple reason that if the Board had remained we should not have had the same large sums of money to pay as we shall have to pay owing to many of those reforms that on the face of them will have to be altered. With regard to the new Civil Lord, I agree that it was necessary to have him. The work of looking after material, of buying, and matters of that kind has increased and will increase enormously in the future, and although the Parliamentary Secretary and the First Lord have an immense amount to do With that class of duty I think it is very wise to have somebody to assist them, as I understand he will not be in a condition of dominance at all.


I wish to make it clear that this additional Civil Lord will deal with the business and commercial side of the question. He will not be in a position of dominance, nor will he, of course, be in the position of a permanent Secretary in a Government Department, though he is a member of the Board and has certain special functions assigned to him.


The right hon. Gentleman really found that it was necessary for the superabundance of work connected with the business point of view?




And the new Civil Lord is not in any way in a position to control the Controller?




He is under his control?


No, he is a colleague of the Controller, and not under his control at all. They are both on the Board and have different functions.


I will take the class of ship or dock or yard. The Board will say what they are going to do, and they will then instruct this gentleman to do the business part of it, and he will buy the material, and so on. Am I right in that?


That is the theory.


That is a very good plan. It will relieve the other two gentlemen and increase efficiency and cheapness, because I imagine that it will prevent a good deal of unnecessary expense which has often occurred owing to there not being a business man to give advice at the proper moment. I will take two cases in which the Board were not consulted, though they ought to have been consulted. One was in connection with the Declaration of London, as to which there was very strong opinion by merchant ship owners, by insurance societies, and by naval officers. That was passed and brought to this House without any opinion being given by the Board. An opinion by the Board would have been much more satisfactory, though I do not think I would have agreed that it was the best way to do it. Then there is the extraordinary document, the Memorandum that was signed and brought before the House. It was a very important Memorandum, but it was. evidently written in a hurry by a most distinguished officer without much thought, and never for a moment did he dream that it would be published. If you had brought that before the Board, where there would have been time to think it over and to discuss it, such a Memorandum could never have been published. I only mention these things to show how necessary it is that the Order in Council of 1904 should be rescinded. The Mover of the Resolution pointed out that the two Committees, on each of which I had the honour of sitting, found that the Board should be kept. It was to be a Board to discuss these very great questions connected with the administration of the Navy. After all, what is the Navy for? It is for one crucial moment when you go into action. You have got to win, and to be enabled to win in order to save the country; and if it is strong enough you will not have to go into action at all. The Board is more likely to have a Navy suitable to our requirements than if it were under any one man, no matter how clever or able or experienced he may be. With regard to the War Staff, I would ask if it is not entirely advisory or has it any power of dictation? I imagine it will be entirely advisory. Then I should like to hear as to the suggestion that the officers who are qualified for the staff will have that sea experience to which another hon. Member has referred in such an excellent terms, and that an officer will not be promoted because he is clever enough to work at a table on the staff, but will have that ample sea experience without which no man can be an efficient naval officer.

With regard to promotion and staff appointments, they should not be made as against those who are doing the dull routine work at sea or abroad; there should be no favouritism because a man is very able on the staff at particular kinds of work. With regard to the War Staff, I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that it can communicate with all the members of the Board. The results arising from having a good War Staff are very apparent now. If we look at the statement made by the First Lord of the Admiralty in regard to the organisation of the Three Fleets, in regard to the control of the Admiral over the torpedo boats, and in regard to the cruisers, which are the eyes and ears of the Fleet, it will be seen, I think, that all these things are really far more valuable than if you put down £20,000,000 to add to the Fleet. Organise what you have got, and you will do a great deal better in time of war than if you have an enormous Fleet not organised. What we have never thought about is war. We have spent all this money, and did not organise our Fleet in order to enable it to act when called upon. These points were brought forward in the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty, and I most heartily agree with what he said. I can assure hon. Members that this organisation has done more to prepare the Service for war, and to be ready if suddenly called upon, than if we had added twenty "Dreadnoughts" to the Fleet and so many more cruisers. I think that is one of the most satisfactory points to be gathered from the First Lord's statement.

As far as the War Staff goes, in making plans and arrangements, what you have to do is, in sailor language, to put the yarns together into a rope, instead of having the yarns lying on board separately, causing friction and disagreeableness. That is a most valuable point. You may collect statistics of strategy and of clever people's thoughts who have made a study of war, but you should get those people together for discussion. There would be a little give and take in the course of the discussion, but good would result from it, which could not be achieved if you keep them apart. That is one of the most important things you can do in order put the Navy back to the old lines of discipline, good feeling, and comradeship which did not exist before in the Navy through the Board not being really the Board. But these are bygones, and I do not want to bring them up again. The present situation, as far as my experience and knowledge go—and I respectfully submit that they are not inconsiderable—is very good indeed, and better than it has been during the time I have been in the Service, with regard to organisation and the formation of these Departments. Hon. Members will find that economy will result from having everything organised for war in all its details, and in having a War Staff to boil it all up in order to see what is necessary and what is not. In regard to the Intelligence Department, I hope it will communicate with the Board as it did before, and also that the right hon. Gentleman will assure me that it is perfectly and distinctly laid down that the War Staff can communicate with any member of the Board, and that any member of the Board can communicate with the War Staff.

10.0 P.M.


I have listened with very great interest to the speech of my Noble Friend, and also to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has now left the House (Mr. Churchill), and if it had not been for some remarks made by my Noble Friend I do not know that I should have intervened in this Debate. I should have waited in the hope of hearing the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Dr. Macnamara) reply to some of the remarks addressed to him by my Noble Friend, but as he has not done so, I should rather like to put my view of what I have heard in the Debate before the House. My Noble Friend, in his speech, rather likened the administration of the Board of Admiralty to a great shipping company.


I did not intend to convey that sentiment. What I said was that the Board of Admiralty in all the details was like adding together a great company with all its duties and affairs and a great shipbuilding yard.


And these two great concerns combined would be rather an example upon which the management of the Navy should be conducted. I gather that the object of this Motion is to ensure that responsibility for the management of the Navy is entirely with the Board of Admiralty and not with any particular individual member of that Board. I gather from my Noble Friend that he objected to an individual manager on the ground that from 1904 to 1909, when there was an individual manager, the result of that individual management was wrong. My experience in the management of a great business concern is that though it has a board nominally managing it, practically the management is in the hands of one man, who directs the whole management of the business and the policy of the company. As a rule in nine cases out of ten, especially in successful businesses, it is the one man who carries on the whole concern. As a matter of fact the board registers the decrees of the one man of that particular board, and he is the one man who carries on the business of the company.

In my humble opinion, I believe that a committee of one man is the best committee you can possibly have—far and away the best—it is to my mind the most perfect committee you can have, but it must be a committee composed of one good man. If you get one bad man on that committee you will have the worst committee you possibly could have. I do not know to whom my Noble Friend was alluding when he referred to what took place between 1904 and 1909, but it is quite possible that he may be perfectly right, and that I may be perfectly right, because the authority to whom he was alluding in that time was a bad authority—that is to say a committee of one man who was a bad committee; but that does not prove that you are going to make it better by having three bad men instead of one bad man. On the contrary, I think one bad man is likely to do better than three bad men. So far, I have dealt with the speech of my Noble Friend. Now I want to deal with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has been requested to make notes of certain remarks of my Noble Friend by letter. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will make notes of my remarks and reply in a separate letter to me at the same time that he replies to my Noble Friend. My idea is that there should be one man at the head of the Admiralty who should be responsible to this House. I am not quite certain from the speech of the First Lord whether he holds that view. As I understand him, he said the first person was to be the First Sea Lord, that he was to be facile princeps. Does that mean facile princeps over the right hon. Gentleman or over the remainder of the Board? I am in favour of one man who is responsible to this House, and that whatever arrangements may be made that nothing should be done in any kind of way which will cause the control or responsibility of that man to be in any way minimised. He must not shelter himself behind the Board of Admiralty. The decision of the Board must be confirmed by the right hon. Gentleman, and he alone must be responsible. That, in my humble opinion, is the only way to obtain efficient management of the Navy. The right hon. Gentleman, or any other Member promoted to his great office, should not shelter himself behind the Board, but should bear the brunt of responsibility and of criticism and of blame. Evidently the right hon. Gentleman opposite agrees with me in the remarks which I have made, and perhaps I have convinced my Noble Friend. [Lord C. BEEESFOED: "Not at all."] Perhaps in private conversation I shall be able to do so, and I shall take the first opportunity I have. The right hon. Gentleman should see that he has proper subordinates, and, if they sell him, that is all the worse for him, but it has nothing to do with us.


After the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord made earlier in the evening, I desire to ask the leave of the House to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.