HL Deb 16 May 1890 vol 344 cc1062-78

My Lords, I am anxious to call your Lordships' attention to the invention of flashing signals used in the Navy, and to the treatment which the inventor, Admiral Colomb, has received in reference to that invention. Before I go into the matter I should like to make one remark, and that is, that I do not touch upon it in any way as a personal grievance alone, for if that were the case I should certainly not have taken up the question. If any injustice has been done it is not to Admiral Colomb alone, but it is to the whole service of the Navy generally. I have looked into the matter very thoroughly, and I have consulted all the principal authorities upon the subject, and, I have come to the conclusion that there has been no doubt a very great injustice done, and that unless some suitable reward is given to Admiral Colomb there cannot be the slightest doubt that it will be looked upon in the Navy as a great slur and disgrace cast upon that noble Service. My Lords, I will endeavour, in bringing the matter forward, to deal with it as shortly as possible. First, in regard to its importance and value. Your Lordships are aware that it is of the most vital importance that the ships of the Navy should be able to communicate with each other on dark nights and also in fogs, for if men-of-war are unable to make such communication there can be no doubt that their usefulness is very seriously crippled, and undoubtedly they will often be in very imminent peril. When you consider those circumstances, when you remember that our ships cost enormous sums of money—some of them nearly a million sterling—I think you cannot entertain the slightest doubt that any invention which tends towards their safety or usefulness must be of vital and paramount importance. My Lords, in the year 1859 the same system of light-signals was in force which had been used in the year 1799, and the same signals were used in the case of fogs, namely, guns fired at intervals. The system of signalling which was then used at night was merely the hoisting of a certain number of lanterns either vertically, horizontally, in squares, in triangles, or in some manner to form a particular figure. Unfortunately, mistakes in consequence very often arose. It was very difficult to see the signals at a short distance, and if a rope should get entangled in any of the lanterns the signals were entirely misunderstood, and great trouble was caused. The result was that only a few set signals were used, and even those were hardly used at all. In fogs, guns were used, being fired from one to five times to cover certain intervals. During the period that our ships were sailing ships the difficulties did not arise to the same extent, but directly steam was used the ships went at much greater speed, and the danger from not having proper signals wa3 very much increased. In the year 1859 our Admiralty had become fully alive to the difficulty, and when an invention was brought forward by an Austrian named Redl, they at once eagerly bought it up, and gave £1,500 for what they thought was an improvement. Unfortunately, that improvement turned out to be absolutely useless, and the money had been thrown away. Accordingly at that date the Admiralty looked round and they found a very intelligent officer who had taken a good deal of interest in signalling, and they asked him to undertake the duty of seeing whether some system of signals could not be invented by which signalling could be easily carried on at night. Mr. Colomb, now Admiral Colomb, at once set to work and for several years he worked away with great assiduity to see whether some new system could not be discovered. He found a great many difficulties in the way. He had to search through what had been done up to that time, and try a great many experiments. In 1861, after having worked for three years at the matter, he found himself quite successful, and that he had obtained a system which, if people were properly trained to work it, would undoubtedly be of very great service. Unfortunately, as very often happens under those circumstances, Admiral Colomb found he had immense difficulties to contend with. He found that people were prejudiced, that people would not believe it was possible to be done, and that when experiments were made they were often not admitted to have been successful, when perhaps five out of six persons thought they had been very successful. The result was, therefore, that he was bound to go on, and he worked steadily on until the year 1868, when finally this system of flashing signals was adopted and used. During those nine years he had undoubtedly to encounter very great difficulties. I have looked through the whole history of the matter and found that obstruction was constantly thrown in his way, that he had to encounter prejudice and trouble of all sorts; and I think Admiral Colomb is very much to be congratulated that, notwithstanding all those difficulties, he steadily pursued his course, until finally, in 1868, he succeeded in getting this system thoroughly adopted. During the first five years of that period Admiral Colomb had to pay all the expanses out of his own pocket. But in 1863 the Admiralty paid him a sum of £500 towards the expenses. My Lords, under the old system of light-signals there were constant mistakes made, and they could only signal for a distance of about one mile; but, under the new system of flashing signals, signals can be made up to 20 and 30 miles with the same ease and facility as can be done up to one mile. Under exceptional circumstances signals can even be made at much longer distances, and I believe on one occasion signals were made 60 miles away. That, of course, was done, as your Lordships will see, at once by using the flashing signals against the sky, and so reflecting the signals a long way off. My Lords, I do not wish to in any way make out that this invention was of any novel or extraordinary character. It was really an adaptation under very difficult circumstances of the Morse system of telegraphing. Instead of short and long strokes of the Morse alphabet you have long and short flashes of light for night signalling, and in fogs short and long sounds. As I have said, Admiral Colomb found very great difficulties in his way. One difficulty which I believe he could not for a long time overcome was that it is absolutely impossible to look steadily with the naked eye upon a winking light, or even with a glass, without losing a certain number of the winks; and if one of the winks should be lost the signal would, of course, become totally different. Admiral Colomb said, on the other hand, that this was a matter of training. He said— Look at your telegraph instruments. It requires education before men can properly understand them, and if men are trained they will very easily be able to distinguish the number of winks. He went on carefully and steadily, and at last he perfected a machine by which he was able, by putting a shade over a lamp, and by moans of a certain mechanical arrangement, to entirely obviate the difficulty, and to make an accurate measurement of the time. And thus, my Lords, he perfected his machine. As to its great use, I think there can be no doubt. I believe there is not a single Admiral who has ever commanded a fleet or squadron who will not acknowledge that without this system it would be absolutely impossible to manœuvre vessels. Your Lordships will remember when the Vanguard was lost, and a Court Martial was held to inquire into the circumstances, it was stated that if the system of flashing signals had been properly used the loss of that vessel would not have occurred. In your Lordships' House sit several Peers who have commanded fleets. The illustrious Duke, who generally sits upon the Cross Benches, and who has lately returned to England, has commanded the Mediterranean Fleet, and is, I know, keenly alive to the importance of the subject, and it was his intention to come down and support me. Unfortunately, he has been detained elsewhere. He has, however, written me a letter which he has desired that I should read to your Lordships— My dear Lord Sudeley,—I am afraid that I shall not be able to get down to the House this afternoon in time to be present when you bring forward the case of Admiral Colomb. I should have been very glad to have said a word in support of Admiral Colomb's claims for his most valuable invention of flashing signals, or I have had great experience of their use during the long period that I have had command of squadrons in the Royal Navy. I may safely say that without these signals squadrons could not be handled as at present, and every modern invention, such as the electric light, &c, adds to the usefulness of the system instead of detracting in any way from the value of the original invention. Believe me, yours very truly, ALFRED. I ought, my Lords, to have mentioned that it is quite immaterial what light is used for the flash, though, of course, if the electric light is used the flash is very much stronger and brighter. I have also a letter from Sir Thomas Symonds, Admiral of the Fleet, upon the subject, and he writes in exactly the same way— Having had experience of Admiral Colomb's flashing signals twice in command of fleet, I have always found them answer most satisfactorily without a hitch. They are of the utmost possible importance towards the safety and convenience of a fleet. They turn night into day. Admiral Colomb has conferred upon the Navy an inestimable benefit, more particularly during war, by his most talented invention, and I consider him deserving of great reward. In fact, it would be difficult to find an adequate recompense. He has been shockingly treated; his promotion has been very slow, and though he makes our Navy safe by night and in fogs, he is most unhandsomely awarded only £500, while his brother officer in the Sister Service is awarded £26,000 for a range-finder. I cannot understand his having been so meanly treated. Then, my Lords, the noble Lord Alcester, who has unfortunately been prevented by a severe accident from coming down to the House to-night as he intended to, most heartily supports this Motion. He has, however, written from his sick bed most strongly in favour of it. He says— There is no man now in existence who has done so much to improve the 'conducting' of Her Majesty's ships in safety as Admiral Colomb has done by his system of night signals. They have now been adopted by nearly every Maritime Power in the world, with modifications it is true, but the principle on which they are worked remains the same, and this during your service in the Royal Navy you must have been well aware of. His invention has rescued us from a slough of despond in which we bad found ourselves from the days of Benbow, when the sole mode of communicating by signal by night was by means of lanthorns, the lights of which could not be relied upon for remaining unextinguished in gales or rainy weather; whereas at the present day his system has been worked by aid of the electric light, when necessary, at distances at which the ancient signals could not have been discerned. And for this valuable invention all that Admiral Colomb has received is £500, and out of this he has had to pay £380 for maintaining the patent rights. Can anything be more miserable? My Lords, I will not weary you with many quotations, but I have here another letter from Admiral Sir Geoffrey Hornby. He has the reputation in the Navy of being one of the best of our Admirals in Fleet evolutions. He was two years at the Admiralty and is well up in the subject. He writes in very similar terms. After referring to his various commands he has had he states— In the year 1863 he was Flag Captain to the late Sir Sydney Dacres when that Officer was ordered to try Colomb's system of night signals —this was when Admiral Colomb had first, as he believed, made this satisfactory invention, and five years before it was finally adopted in the Service— and they enabled him to order any manœuvre and to make any communication to his ships by night as the same could be done by day. Then he says— It gave the Queen's Navy greater proportional advantages when compared with the old system than electric telegraphy gave over a system of semaphores, because under the old system we were limited at night to some 104 signals, each conveying our order or piece of information, e.g., 'Tack,' 'Wear stern most,' 'Ships first,' 'Have struck soundings,' 'Standing into danger,' &c., &c. But by Colomb's system any sentence may be signalled and any word spelt. In this view it has always appeared to me that it was a professional disgrace that an. officer who gave such great advantages to our Service should not receive an adequate reward. My Lords, I will read only one more letter. It is from Admiral Sir George Wellesley, who has also commanded our Fleets. He says— It is hardly possible to overrate its importance, or for anyone who has not had personal and practical experience of this invention to estimate its full value, or how much it has conduced to the safety and efficiency of Her Majesty's Fleet. We have with Colomb's signals the power not only of conveying instantaneously every signal in our books but also any other communication either to the Fleet in general. or any group of or single ship with perfect accuracy and rapidity. And, in conclusion, I would state that it is no less a curious than a true fact that signalling has been rendered more easy and rapid by night than by day, and with much less liability to mistake. I will not weary your Lordships with any other quotations. It is perfectly clear, from the testimony of these eminent Naval Officers, that this system has undoubted advantages, and now, my Lords, let us see what reward has been given to its inventor. It has been urged that the sum which was given in the year 1868 was given as a reward or recompense. My Lords, it was given, not as a recompense, but to cover expenses, Admiral Colomb's expenses were very great. He had to pay no less than £380 for patent fees alone, leaving only £120 to go towards other expenses. But, my Lords, that point is too trivial to discuss at all, and I hardly think it is necessary to consider it. The actual fact is that Admiral Colomb has succeeded in inventing a system which has enabled our fleets to conduct operations at night, and in fogs, without any loss or risk whatever, and in doing so he has done a great service which. I think your Lordships will agree ought to be adequately rewarded. I have heard for many years that constant communications have been going on between the Admiralty and the Treasury; but they have been without any result whatever, and I hope, when I have concluded my Motion, that my noble Friend will admit that the letters and documents in this matter may with advantage be laid on the Table. For some time it has been urged, and I believe that several letters have passed to that effect, that when Admiral Colomb perfected a land system of signalling for the Army, or for use in the Land Services, and when he received £500 for that, he thereby gave up all claim on the Treasury in respect of his invention for the Navy. But, my Lords, that was distinctly not the case. My noble Friend Lord Northbrook, who was at that time Under Secretary for War, has publicly stated that when the £500 was given Admiral Colomb made a distinct stipulation that he only accepted it as a reward for the small service he had done for signalling in the Army, and that it was on no ground whatever to be supposed that he was prevented from obtaining proper compensation for the invention used in the Navy. Therefore, I think, my Lords, we may at any rate drop that argument. But as several questions have arisen at different times as to whether Admiral Colomb had given up his right to compensation, he very wisely a short time ago placed all the documents and papers before a great legal authority, Sir Henry James, whose opinion was to this effect—"I think that Admiral Colomb did not, either in letter or spirit, accept the sums received by him in full satisfaction of all his claims, and that, therefore, Admiral Colomb is not precluded from pressing his claims for full and complete recompense for the services he has rendered to the country. "I think, my Lords that disposes entirely of that matter. Last year a deputation waited on the First Lord of the Admiralty, and it was a very important deputation, consisting of six Members of your Lordships' House and six Members of the other House. The First Lord of the Admiralty then stated that he fully appreciated the value of this invention; that he sincerely hoped something might be done, and indeed that he thought the invention deserved a proper reward, and he would at once communicate to the Treasury, and he hoped the matter would soon be settled. Another year has passed and nothing has been done. This matter remains in the same state, a slur and disgrace upon the Navy. My Lords, I cannot believe for one moment that if this had occurred in the Sister Service—the Army—such service would have been allowed to remain unrewarded. I feel sure that long before this a reward of, say, £20,000 or £30,000 and a K.C.B. would have been given to any officer in the Army who had made such an invention. In saying this I do not speak without book. Some short time ago an invention was made for use in the Sister Service which cannot really, I think, be compared with this so far as the importance of the invention and its great advantages to the Navy are concerned, though that invention will be of great use no doubt for the Land Service. I am speaking of the range-finder; and, in time of war, certainly the range-finder will be of enormous utility. But what did Major Watkin, the inventor, receive as a fitting reward for that invention? He received £25,000 and £1,000 for 10 years. These two inventions ought to be put on a par. They are practically of the same character. Then, my Lords, there have been other inventions paid for very largely. For instance, only two years ago the enormous sum of £110,000 was paid for the Brennan torpedo. One argument has been used in this matter which I should like to meet, and that is that the invention was made so long ago that all claim has really dropped by lapse of time, that as Admiral Colomb has allowed the matter to drift for 25 years he has no claim now. I think this argument can hardly stand good. In the first place, Admiral Colomb was, up to a very short time ago, on full pay, and his position in the Navy prevented him from pressing his claims. Until he became a retired officer he could not bring that pressure to bear which he is now inclined to do, and to bring his claims prominently forward. Surely, my Lords, this is a case in which we ought to act in a large and generous spirit. It would be right, in the true interests of the Navy that such a view should be taken. When dealing with a profession where you have such a splendid body of officers animated with the highest principles of honour, loyalty, and zeal, no feeling of ill-use or bitterness should be allowed to arise. No doubt the Treasury, as guardians of the public purse, are bound to see that no money is wasted, but, on the other hand, it must not be forgotten that the Navy stands in a very peculiar position. It is a Service in which great hardships and personal discomforts have to be undergone, and it deserves the utmost consideration. Naval officers have great trials to bear. Our ships are at sea on foreign stations for many years, and our Naval officers are away from their homes for lenghtened periods. The old system of pleasant cruizes in the days of sailing ships no longer exist. Constantly officers have to spend months and years cooped up in ships which are practically great masses of machinery and nothing else, and they have to spend weeks and months in harbour. I mention these things to show that there are great hardships to be borne in the Navy, and I think it would be a great pity if rewards were thought not to be properly bestowed. I maintain that, instead of being over-critical, the Government should rather go out of their way to see how far they could add to the popularity of the Navy, and to let the officers know that merit and zeal will be amply rewarded. Unfortunately, for several years past a very strong feeling has grown up in the Navy that, whilst in the Sister Service honours and rewards are looked after with the greatest care and attention, that is not the case to anything like the same extent in the Navy. I apprehend that is a matter deserving of the greatest care and consideration on the part of those in authority, lest the feeling should spread and produce serious discontent. I make this statement with considerable diffidence. I know I shall be told that it is wrong to mention it; but I am certain that that feeling exists in a far greater degree than the Admiralty themselves are at all aware of, and I am afraid that the manner in which Admiral Colomb's invention has been treated has created a feeling of bitterness of the extent of which few are aware. I will not trouble your Lordships any further. I will only say this, in conclusion: that here you have an instance of an invention which has been in the highest degree successful, an enormous saving to the country by preventing loss of vessels and a great boon to the Navy; you have an officer of high distinction, who has never had a single thing against him, absolutely unrewarded; you have every distinguished officer of the Navy of whom inquiry has been made strongly of opinion that the invention is of enormous benefit to the Navy. Every officer in the Navy, as far as I have ever heard, feels most acutely that gross injustice has been done, and that a slur and dis- grace has been cast upon his profession which ought to be removed. My Lords, I sincerely hope that my noble and gallant Friend who is about to answer this question on behalf of the Admiralty, and who of all men is well aware how strong this feeling is in the Navy, will be able to tell us that at last the Treasury have given way to the Admiralty, and that even at the eleventh hour they see their way to giving Admiral Colomb proper compensation, due meed of honour, and suitable reward, so that we may no longer have before us this great disgrace to the Service.

Moved, That there he laid before the House correspondence between the Treasury and the Admiralty relating to the claim of Admiral Colomb for reward as the inventor of flashing signals."—(L. Sudeley.)


My Lords, I regret very much the absence of Lord Alcester, whose opinion would have great weight with your Lordships, for he would have given us his own personal experience of the value of Admiral Colomb's flashing signals. I can only say from my own experience that I entirely concur in all that has fallen from my noble Friend. In former days, as he has described, the system of night signalling was by lanterns, which were hoisted up in various positions over or alongside each other. It took a considerable time to light the lanterns, and sometimes they were all blown out, and had to be taken down and lit again. Then, again, the light thrown by the lanterns could not be seen except in clear weather, and in fogs they were of no use whatever. But with this flashing system you can signal very much quicker at night to either a single ship or to a whole fleet than you can with flags in the daytime. I can only say, according to my experience in holding command, that without this system of flashing lights it would have been impossible to handle any fleet or squadron under steam, and I think, therefore, that the invention ought to be properly recognised.


After what has fallen from the noble Lord and from the noble and gallant Officer opposite, I should not for a moment trouble your Lordships with any opinion of mine even if I could offer one that had the slightest preten- sion to authority upon this system of flashing signals, which is the subject of Admiral Colomb's invention. But as my name has been referred to in the matter, I will state the facts which have come under my cognizance. I simply wish to say that the answer which Admiral Colomb received to his application for a reward three years ago, namely, that having received previously a sum of £1,000 in two portions, he had accepted£500 of that in bar of any further claim, for a reward for the invention of flashing signals, was based upon an entire misapprehension of the facts of the case. I happened to hold the office of Under Secretary of State for War at the time, and I was the person who had to arrange with Admiral Colomb for payment to him of the sum of £500. That sum of £500 was paid to Admiral Colomb not on account of his general system of flashing signals for the Navy, but on account of the assistance he had given in the development of a joint system of signals for the Military and Naval Services combined. That sum was given him on the recommendation of two very distinguished officers, neither of whom is now alive, one of them being Admiral Sir Cooper Key. What I have to say is that if an answer was sent to Admiral Colomb basing the refusal of his claim on the ground that he had accepted that sum in bar of all future claims, it was not a correct answer, and it must have been sent under a misapprehension. Having gone through the whole of the papers connected with the case 20 years ago, and having had the advantage in going through them of the assistance of a most competent official at the War Office, I am quite satisfied that Admiral Colomb never intended to relinquish his claim to future reward when he gave his receipt for the £500.


My Lords, I so fully concur in the views which have been so clearly put before your Lordships that I shall venture to offer very few remarks indeed. But having known Admiral Colomb, and having had a great deal to do with more than one association which takes an interest in these matters, I should be sorry to let this occasion pass without offering a few observations founded upon my own personal experience in testimony not only of the ability of Admiral Colomb, but of his unwearying industry and his remarkable talent for clear exposition of difficult problems on matters of signalling and naval tactics. Last, but certainly not least, let me speak from my personal knowledge of his zeal in placing before the country at a time of threatened danger the absolute necessity of placing our shores in a state of defence. There was no worker more zealous and sincere in that great cause than Admiral Colomb. I received a letter yesterday from the distinguished Admiral who is now in command at Devonport (Sir W. M. Dowell), one short passage from which I will read to your Lordships— I have been in command of ships and squadrons for the last 18 years, and my opinion ought to be of some value. I consider these signals are in valuable. —mark the word, my Lords, "invaluable"— By them squadrons are conducted and manœuvred in safety both at night and in fogs. Of their value in war, my Lords, we have not had experience, happily ; and we can only imagine how great their value would be. I would appeal with the utmost confidence to every noble Lord who hears me, and would ask, Is £120 an adequate compensation for an invention of such great utility to the Naval Service? Because that sum really is all the money which, so far, has gone into the pocket of the gallant Admiral. My noble Friend who has just spoken has cleared the ground of the suggestion that the £500 from the "War Office" was given on account of anything more than the invention for use in the two Services jointly, and that it was to be in bar of all future claims. It had no connection whatever with the compensation for the naval invention for which, as I said before, deducting the amount paid for "Patent Fees" only, the miserable sum of £120 has been paid to Admiral Colomb. Now, my Lords, let me say one word with reference to the action of the Treasury. In the House of Commons we were taught, and I hope that we have always retained the lessons we learnt there, that one of the first duties of Members of the Legislature was to support the Treasury, and protect it against aggressive inroads upon the public purse. That is a principle upon which I should always like to act. But, my Lords, the Treasury, in resisting this appeal, appear to me to have acted either upon some misunderstanding or from an entire misconception of the facts of the case which have been so clearly and well put by my noble Friend opposite. The Treasury are not infallible. They are liable to act wrongly like other people; and as it appears they have not done justice in this matter, it is worthy of your Lordships' grave consideration, for there has been testimony read to your Lordships showing that in the Navy this is regarded, and I think properly regarded, as an injustice to the Service. It may be a wrong opinion that the Navy is unfairly treated as compared with the Sister Service, but that appears to be the opinion entertained by naval men; and if that is their opinion, we should endeavour to remove it. I do not base anything upon that fact beyond urging that grave consideration should be given to this case. I think it is the duty of every Member of both Houses of Parliament to do his best to remove that feeling because it is destructive of all confidence; and it is more than that, because, by discouraging our officers in either Service from applying their natural gifts of observation, guided by the light of their own experience and their own intellectual powers, for the benefit of the Public Service, we may lose products of the greatest value. Hera we have had utilised in the Public Service an invention which has been proved by 20 years' experience to be the very best system that has ever been attempted to be used in the Navy; and I say that by such discouragement you are doing that which will have a prejudicial effect upon the efforts of officers who are desirous of doing their best for the Service. I will not detain your Lordships longer, but I do trust that the answer we may receive from the Admiralty, which, as we all know, has already gone fully into this matter, will now be satisfactory. I quite expect to hear from my noble Friend who represents the Admiralty a fitting recognition of the service which Admiral Colomb has rendered to the Navy by the invention of these "flashing" signals. I must apologise to your Lordships for the length of these remarks, but I feel bound to stand by a man who has had no adequate reward for conferring a great benefit upon the Naval Service.


My Lords, if success depended upon powerful advocacy, I think Admiral Colomb should have every reason to be satisfied with this evening's discussion. My noble and gallant Friend who introduced this matter has described the case of Admiral Colomb with perfect accuracy, with great fairness, and, I think, with great moderation. In bringing the matter forward he has quoted letters from several naval officers of high rank and position; men who have commanded Fleets at sea, who have manœuvred Fleets, and whose opinion is entitled to the greatest respect. He has received the support of the illustrious Duke who, as your Lordships know, has lately returned from command in the Mediterranean, and who, had he not been otherwise engaged, would have been here to-night to take part in the Debate and speak to the great value, as he considers, of this invention. My noble Friend has also been supported by numerous noble Lords in this House, all of whom have given consideration to the subject. All are agreed upon it. There is a consensus of opinion as to the value of this invention of Admiral Colomb, and I am not here to dispute that value; on the contrary, I fully admit it. We fully admit the value of that invention. We fully recognise the importance of this system of flashing signals in the Navy. No fleet or single ship is now sent to sea without them; and if we may test the value of an invention by the opinion entertained of it by foreigners, we have the very best testimony in this case, for I think I am right in saying that every foreign Naval Power has adopted this invention. By it we are able to send Fleets to sea and to manœuvre them at night, and in fogs, with the same safety and facility as we can in clear weather, or daylight. The system of Admiral Colomb was first officially tried in 1861, and it was finally adopted in the Service in 1868, when the inventor received a sum of £500 from the Admiralty. That sum, Admiral Colomb and my noble Friend maintain, was in no way intended as a reward for the invention, but that it was rather intended as a recompense for the loss of time he had incurred in perfecting the invention, and for loss of professional service. But the receipt given by Admiral Colomb was worded as having been received— In full discharge of all claims for the services in question and attendant expenses. When two years afterwards, in 1870, the gallant Admiral was employed by the War Office as has been described by the noble Lord opposite, in establishing a system of signal communication, not only for land service, but for joint Naval and Military use, he received for the service a further sum of £500, £250 of which was paid by the Admiralty, and £250 by the War Office. On that occasion the receipt given was— In final and absolute discharge of all claims upon Her Majesty's Government on account of signal arrangements for land service, and in respect of joint signals for naval and military use. My Lords, in 1876 the claims of the gallant Admiral for further remuneration were brought by the Admiralty before the Treasury, and the Treasury declined to entertain the claims, on the ground that by the wording of the receipt given to the War Office and to the Admiralty in 1870, Admiral Colomb had himself barred the door to the payment of further remuneration. And the Treasury also felt that were they in the circumstances to allow this case to be re-opened, they would really be paving the way to demands for the reconsideration of other claims, and inviting other inventors, who might think their claims for inventions had received inadequate reward, to appeal to the Treasury for further remuneration. The Admiralty looked upon that decision of the Treasury as final, and there the matter rested. In 1887, as has been stated by the noble Lord himself, Admiral Colomb wrote to Lord Northbrook, then Under Secretary of State for War, and the noble Lord's reply in July, 1887,—pointed out, as he has already explained, that Admiral Colomb's position in regard to the naval signals was in no way affected by the payment of the second £500. Your Lordships will remember that he had had one £500 from the Admiralty and a second £500 from the Admiralty and War Office jointly. Though the noble Lord says that the position of Admiral Colomb as to the naval signals was in no way affected by the payment of the second £500, he declines very naturally to express any opinion as to the claims against the Admiralty in respect of the first £500 paid for the flashing naval signals. That, ray Lords, left that matter entirely open. The second payment of £500 was not in dispute. Admiral Colomb received that in full recompense; but the door was expressly left open for further claim to reward for the flashing signals for naval use. That is not disputed by anybody; but as the Treasury had based their refusal to entertain the claim for remuneration on the ground that he was debarred by the last receipt which he had given, from raising further claims against the Government, that being the very point upon which a contradiction was given by the noble Earl Lord Nortkbrook, the Admiralty felt bound to reopen the whole matter and to lay the case again before the Treasury. What the Admiralty have done is, they have written to the Treasury; they have recapitulated the whole matter, and have sent them copies of the letters, testimonials, and other documents which the noble Lords have referred to. Having done this they feel that they have done all that lay in their power to do. The matter now rests with the Treasury, and is now under their consideration. I see that by the notice my noble Friend moves for papers. As the correspondence between the Departments on the matter is not yet completed, and the documents referred to are now before the Treasury, I must decline for the present to produce any papers.


Will my noble and gallant Friend inform the House how soon he thinks it would be possible to obtain an answer from the Treasury?


I am unable to say.

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.