HL Deb 16 March 1891 vol 351 cc1017-35

, in rising to call attention to the block of promotion in the rank of lieutenants in the Royal Navy, and to ask what steps the Government propose to take to remedy it, said: My Lords, I am anxious to call your Lordships' attention to the block of promotion which exists at present in the list of lieutenants in the Royal Navy, and I wish to ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to remove it, and especially what steps they propose to take to prevent it arising again. Your Lordships will remember that I ventured to bring this question before the House three years ago for discussion. On that occasion my noble Friend was able to announce that a small alteration had been made, and that a certain number of commanders had been added to the list. I am sorry to say, notwithstanding that was done at the time, but a slight amelioration was made, and that the discontent which then existed among the senior officers has very much increased. In saying this, I wish at once to state that I do not bring this matter forward in any way as an attack upon the Admiralty. It is no fault of the Admiralty that the present state of things exists; unfortunately they have inherited it. But when I say that I must also state that it is in my humble judgment absolutely essential that the question should be gone into very carefully, and that this terrible block which exists should, to a certain extent, and as far as possible, be removed, and that steps should be taken to see what can be done to prevent its arising in future. I should also like to say, that I do not in any way wish to say a word against the retiring scheme of Mr. Childers. I have always argued that that system of retirement was a great charter to the Navy. It was an enormous boon to the Service, and if occasionally some slight alterations have been found to be necessary, it is only certain small points which it has been found desirable should be carefully examined and altered, so that any friction that may arise may be put right, and the whole scheme be enabled to work properly. Unfortunately I am bound to admit that when Mr. Childers introduced that great retirement scheme he made in the opinion of a great many people one slight mistake in desiring to have in all ranks young officers, and he thought it would be possible to reduce the lieutenants to a very low list. He accordingly laid it down that the number of lieutenants should be 600. I am sorry to say that experience has proved that that is a mistake. That number has been found far below what is absolutely essential, and lately we have had it increased by 250. According to the present arrangements the list ought to be 1,000, of whom 800 are lieutenants, and 200 navigating lieutenants. It must be remembered that the lieutenants' list is the back-bone of the executive service of the Navy. It is from that branch that you must expect all your small craft to be commanded in time of war; and when you remember the enormous number of torpedo vessels and other small craft which you will want in time of war you will see at a glance how necessary it is to have a very large body of efficient lieutenants. But my Lords, there is another point in the matter. It is from this branch that all your commanders, all your captains, and all your Admirals in the future must be picked. If, unfortunately, any inefficiency exists, whether it is from want of proper training or from other causes, you may depend upon this: that sooner or later your great Naval Service, on which this country so much depends, must ere long find default. I am happy to say that from all I can find out from officers who are far better acquainted with the subject than I am, that the present body of lieutenants are a splendid picked body of men. They are officers thoroughly imbued with devotion to the great Service to which they belong, and with knowledge and efficiency in everything that is required for the Naval Service. Unfortunately, in the senior ranks, there is a great amount of discontent, and I am afraid I must admit it is a discontent and dissatisfaction which you could do nothing else than expect. Before I go into the question to show your Lordships how very old these lists have become, I should like to point out that in the opinion of the most competent judges it is well known that the lieutenant of 10 years' seniority has arrived at that point when he ought soon to be promoted. A lieutenant of 10 years means that he has also been for 10 years a midshipman and sub-lieutenant, so that he has had, practically, 23 years' service in the Navy. A lieutenant of 10 years' seniority is in a difficult position. In a few years more he must be retired. Indeed, for a year or two it is very difficult to know what employment to give him; but in addition to this a lieutenant of 10 years, if you do not promote him, sees that ere long he must be retired, there will then be no prospect of his attaining flag rank, and he naturally becomes discontented and dissatisfied. In former days a naval lieutenant was a man who, provided he was a thorough seaman and was able to work his ship well under sail and knew something of gunnery, was looked upon as a competent officer. In the present day a lieutenant is a very different person. He must be a skilled officer in every sense of the word: he must be a skilled engineer; he must be a skilled gunnery officer; he must be a skilled mechanic; he must be able to wield our large ironclads; he must be able to take a battalion of men on shore; and he must have a very considerable acquaintance with international law. In fact, a lieutenant is a very skilled officer if he has been properly trained, and it is at this point that you ought to select your men to fill the vacancies in your Commanders' List. If you do not do that you have not got the best men in the prime of life. Now, I should like to point out to your Lordships how very much older the list is becoming—taking it for granted, as I have attempted to show, that a lieutenant of 10 years is as old as he ought to be before being promoted. In 1871, two years after the retirement scheme was introduced, I find there were 79 lieutenants of over 10 years' seniority; in the year 1880 those numbers had gone up to 171; in 1885 they had gone up to 262; and in 1891, at the present time, they have gone up to 316. You have got over one-third of your lieutenants' list, composed of men who, in the opinion of all the most competent judges, are far too old and ought to be retired. Now, how is this to be done? How this is to be remedied is of course a very difficult matter. The average numbers of promotion from lieutenant to commander is only 23, and this number you cannot possibly increase. It can be proved to demonstration that now only two lieutenants out of every seven can possibly become commanders; and I apprehend there can be no doubt when you once get your list up to 1,000 that it will be only two out of 15 who will ever become commanders. This is most unsatisfactory to the officers, and I apprehend it is most detrimental to the Navy. Then the question arises as to the increase in the numbers of naval cadets. I know it is very often said, "Oh you need not trouble to supply that at all, the supply will always be equal to the demand, and it is perfectly immaterial, as far as that part of the question is concerned, whether the lieutenants are discontented or not." But, my Lords, I apprehend that is rather a mistaken view. Surely if parents and guardians gradually find out that a young lad going into the Navy has practically no chance of ever becoming an Admiral, if they see that he will have to wait until he is 40 before he has a chance of retirement, I cannot help thinking that before long you will find great difficulty in getting the number of naval cadets which you now find it so easy to obtain. A great many lieutenants have lately been promoted—or rather I ought not to say "a great many"—but those lieutenants who have been lately promoted, have been, in most instances, men of such seniority that they can never become Admirals. If you take the period of five years from 1886 to 1890, you will find that 136 lieutenants have been promoted. Of those only 15 were under the age of 34. Now, taking the commanders' list at six years and a half, and taking the captains' list at 15 years, a lieutenant of 34 must wait until he is 53 before he can be at the top of the captains' list. It is, therefore, perfectly clear that hardly any of these officers can ever become Admirals. Not only have you this great objection, but you have, from the economical point of view, a terrible state of things existing, because what you are really doing is that you are greatly increasing the cost of retirement; you are promoting officers who must have retired before they can become Admirals, and in that way you do very great harm to that charter of retirement which Mr. Childers brought forward. If you take the last batch for promotion you will find there were seven commanders and 11 lieutenants promoted, and then only one can ever hope to obtain flag rank. The youngest lieutenant promoted was 34 years and a-half old, the youngest commander was 39, and practically only one was ever likely to attain flag rank. Now it may be said: "This is all very well, but what possible remedy can you apply?" I know it is a matter of very great difficulty, and what I venture to say I do say with the greatest deference possible, but I know it is a matter of very serious importance, one that has to be faced, and this question divides itself into three points: first of all as to the small number of lieutenants; that small number which, I believe, at presentis only 837 instead of being 1,000, is due to the melancholy fact that many years ago the number of naval cadets was reduced. It was determined only to enter a smaller number, and the result has been this: that do what you will you must wait until you have reared up a larger number of midshipmen and sub-lieutenants. Until you have done that you cannot get your list up to 1,000. As regards that point I should like to ask my noble Friend whether the Admiralty are perfectly sure that the number of naval cadets now being entered will be sufficient to keep the list up to that point. I should also like to ask him whether they are thoroughly convinced that at no future time can such a terrible mistake occur again as that of reducing the number of naval cadets. It is possible that if this were done at any future date you would find in time of war, however much yon might rely upon your Merchant Navy for a certain number of reserve officers, that your efficiency as a Naval Power would be much deteriorated, and that you would be in a far worse position than your foreign rivals. As regards the second point, "the present discontent." I know well, among the senior lieutenants, they have one remedy in view: their idea is that you ought to increase the number of commanders and that you ought to give a certain number extra promotion. I venture humbly to think that if this were done it would be the greatest mistake that could possibly be made. I am inclined to think that what was done by the Admiralty three years ago was a mistake, and that if they increase still further the commanders' list they will be acting directly in the teeth of what Mr. Childers stated when he introduced his retirement scheme in 1870. I do not think anyone can wish that those higher ranks should be gradually increased again or that we should again see the Navy in the state it was in before 1870. What I should like to hear my noble Friend state boldly is this: that there is no intention of increasing the commanders' list, and as far as extra promotion is concerned it is absolutely impossible in the interest of the Service to give it to them. I know that will be a great blow to the senior lieutenants; I wish it were otherwise, but I am sure no one can look at the true interests of the Service without seeing that that ought not to be done. Well, then, what can be done? You have over 330 senior lieutenants, men who have in their youth looked forward as midshipmen to the day when they might become Admirals, but from no fault of their own, imbued as they are with the utmost zealousness, they find they cannot get promotion, but must linger on until they become 42 and then they are retired. You cannot say, "If we cannot promote them we will retire them," because, unfortunately, owing to that mistake in reducing the number of cadets you have not got a sufficient number of sub-lieutenants to fill their places. You dare not reduce your lieutenants' list below what it is; it is already too low and, therefore, do what you will, these unfortunate men must remain where they are. If that is the case, I think there is only one answer: that if you find from no fault of their own these men must remain in a position for which they are unfitted, I think the only thing you can do to alleviate that position is to give them such special increase of pay as may be desirable, and, as far as you can, to make them as happy and as comfortable as possible. In saying this I have no wish to suggest that you should give a large increase of pay or, indeed, any general increase whatever but I do think in common justice that you ought to do for these men in the way of pay what you are unable to do for them by way of promotion or retirement. We now come to the third question, and I think the third point is one which, perhaps, is even more important than the other two, and that is "The question of the future." What are you going to do in the future? You are increasing the number of cadets very largely, so that you may have 1,000 lieutenants. In a few years you will be in the position of finding that you have this larger body of men in the rank of lieutenants but the same number of promotions. You cannot increase the number of 23 promotions every year, however large your lieutenants' list may be. You have got only two men in 15 to be promoted in every case. This is a subject of the greatest difficulty, but I venture to think that the suggestion I threw out three years ago ought to be seriously considered and tried as an experiment. My suggestion was that the only way of meeting the difficulty was by an optional retirement of a limited number at an early age. When a man reaches 32, or even 30, you ought, with the consent of the Admiralty, to give him the power of an optional retirement. If you do this you will allow him at a comparatively early age to seek some other position in life before he becomes too old. I know it will be said in answer to this—"But your best men will go; your best men will be picked out for other appointments and you will lose them." I quite admit that is a danger, but it is a danger not at all to be compared to that of having an enormous body of men discontented and dissatisfied. If the Admiralty will look into the matter I think they will find that is the only solution of the difficulty and I do sincerely hope, in the interests of the Navy in future, that some such plan may be adopted. It is certainly cruel to allow young men to enter the Navy without telling them what their prospects are likely to be, and I think there can be nothing worse than to rear men up to the sea through all the hardships that they have to undergo, thinking they may possibly one day become Admirals, when they ought to know that there is only the smallest possible chance of their doing so. As regards the position of lieutenants, as they now exist, there are several matters which might be improved, and there are some questions occasionally arising which, I think, might be smoothed over in their interest. Thanks to the courtesy of my noble Friend and the Admiralty, I have been allowed to have the exact number of all the special allowances in the lieutenants' list. I find that the total number who have special allowances are 378; of those there were 145 senior lieutenants, 69 gunnery officers 127 navigating lieutenants, and 37 commanding torpedoes. Well that is payment by results, and I think there can be no doubt that a great deal of satisfaction might be given if you were largely to increase the number of those special allowances. The more efficient you make your officers, and the more you pay in that way the better it will be for the Service. But there is also another subject, and I am very glad to see my noble Friend Lord Sidmouth opposite, because he has on several occasions suggested that the number of interpreters in the Navy ought to be increased. He has very rightly pointed out that a knowledge of German and French is, in the Navy, of the utmost importance. I am sorry to say that although in the junior ranks an officer has to pass in French both as midshipmen on entering and also on passing their examination; still there is no encouragement given to them for keeping it up, and I have the best authority for stating that the knowledge of German and French is not kept up in any way as it ought to be in the Naval Service. In fact I am told on very good authority that there is hardly any foreign Navy in existence where the knowledge of foreign languages is not infinitely better maintained among its officers than in ours. I think this is a small point which might be very well looked into by the Admiralty, and if you can, by offering encouragement to those who know those languages, induce them to keep up their knowledge by giving them some little additional allowance, I think you will be doing a very good service. There is another suggestion I should like to make, and it is this: This matter, I am afraid, unless some special steps are taken will be again shelved. It is not a question only for members of the Admiralty; and aware as I am that it is a point of the most vital importance connected with the personnel of your Navy, I would venture to make a suggestion. Unfortunately, Naval Members of the Admiralty are so overwhelmed with the consideration of the details of the profession that we cannot expect them to give such matters as this their attention, and what I venture to suggest is this: that the First Lord of the Admiralty should appoint a Committee of some of the best men in the Navy, together with an accountant and an actuary, and that this question should be thoroughly solved. It must not be shelved. There are other points connected with this subject, but I will not weary your Lordships any more. I am sure your Lordships sympathise most deeply with these men who have been so long in the Service, and who now find that they have no chance of promotion. These officers have gone through considerable hardships; all of them have served for many years in foreign climates far away from all the pleasures and advantages of home life, and it is a most terrible ordeal for these men, when they come back from foreign service, when they have served for many years in the rank of lieutenant, to find not only that they cannot get their promotion but that you are obliged to keep them and cannot allow them to go. I assure your Lordships this is a most vital point. The Navy must be kept up to its full efficiency; but if the body of naval officers from whom you draw your supplies to command your Navy is not maintained in a state of efficiency, and if they are allowed to become discontented and dissatisfied, it will be a terrible thing for this country. I sincerely hope my noble Friend will be able to give a satisfactory reply.


My Lords, I wish to say a few words generally in support of what has fallen from my noble and learned Friend opposite. In 1883 I brought forward the subject of the pay of naval lieutenants, and after I had done so, and I hope partly in consequence of that, my noble Friend Lord Northbrook and Lord George Hamilton did materially improve the position of the lieutenants as regards pay. I do not mean to follow my noble Friend opposite through all the various points he has raised; but I agree with him that it is not advisable to increase the number of commanders. I think doing so would only make a difficulty higher up the list. I do not know whether the figures he has given with regard to the age for promotion will always hold good; no doubt, generally speaking, they will hold good; but the time must come when a number of captains will be retired very closely together, that is those who approximate in age; and possibly some few men promoted after 34 may have the good fortune to become Admirals, although, unfortunately, most of them will not arrive at that rank. I hope we shall hear from the noble Lord who will reply on behalf of the Government that the Admiralty will take this matter up seriously, and see what can be done in it.


I think the noble Lords who have spoken have not at all exaggerated the importance of the question, and I do hope the Government will give it their serious attention. I cannot think why the Admiralty cannot do something in the way of improving the position of naval lieutenants, as my noble Friend has suggested, by giving them opportunities of employing themselves in the Profession on special duties. There is another matter in which they might be encouraged to become proficient in the interest of the Profession, and that is in connection with steam machinery. That is a matter which receives no kind of encouragement now, but I think it will eventually become one of the most important points in naval instruction. Many officers are now studying it, but they get no encouragement whatever for doing so, either in the way of promotion or of increased pay. Then I would make another suggestion. Why should not the Admiralty give to officers while serving as first lieutenants the position of brevet commanders? That would certainly be some little encouragement to them. There is nothing more disheartening to a man than to serve for 10, sometimes even 13, years without getting one single step in rank. Another point which I think the Admiralty ought to consider is the expediency of increasing the number of lieutenant-commanders, as the number of small vessels is increasing. I think it would be only just to those officers who have served so long an apprenticeship if a number of commanderships with brevet rank were given. I trust the noble Lord who is about to reply will tell us that the Admiralty are prepared to take these matters into consideration.


My Lords, my noble Friend opposite raised the same question in the years 1887 and 1888, and I am very much afraid that the answer I must give him in 1891 must be to all intents and purposes almost the same as that which I gave him on the two previous occasions. The circumstances are not changed in any way whatever, as they existed then they exist now. The relative numbers on the list are slightly altered, but the circumstances are the same. Turn whichever way you will, look at this question in whichever way you will, you are met by this problem—how are you to pass a list of 1,000 lieutenants into a list of 270 commanders? By no human ingenuity can you do that—you cannot ensure that every one of them shall enter into commanders' rank. Upon that subject I think I cannot do better than quote the words which were used in the Debate on the former occasion, in 1888, by a noble Lord whom I do not see present, Lord Camperdown. He said— With regard to the passing of 1,000 lieutenants on to the list of commanders, it is quite true it is impossible to promote 1,000 lieutenants into a list of 250 commanders, and, therefore, your Lordships must recognise at once as absolutely certain the fact, that a large number of lieutenants would never be promoted, and that by no scheme that human ingenuity could ever devise, would it ever be possible to effect that object. That is perfectly true; as his Lordship said, by no scheme which human ingenuity can devise, will you be able to pass a list of 1,000 lieutenants on to a list of, now, 270 commanders. My noble Friend spoke as if he was afraid there would be a falling off in the entries of naval cadets. Bat in spite of the uncertainty of promotion the Admiralty have no difficulty in this respect; on the contrary, the applications for entrance are larger than we can meet. In the Debate of 1888 the noble Lord said that that would be a very unfair argument to make use of, as no boy of 14 could know what he had to look forward to. But it so happens that I did not make use of that argument. However, if boys of 14 do not know what is before them, I hope that their parents and guardians do, and they accept the position and prospects for them Previous to 1886, as the noble Lord has said, the number of entries had fallen very considerably, they were very erratic. One year they were so many, and another year less, and another more; but since 1886 we have introduced a uniform number of entries, and 120 cadets are now entered every year on board the Britannia, which are all that can be accommodated on that ship: that is to say 240 altogether are as many as she can accommodate. Roughly speaking it takes 10 years for a newly-entered boy to become a lieutenant, but in consequence of the small number of entries in 1883–4–5, the number of lieutenants at this moment is actually diminishing, and will continue to do so until 1893, after which there will be a rapid rise, and at the end of 1895 the combined lists of lieutenants and navigating lieutenants should reach the maximum number of 1,000, which was decided upon in 1887. In order to maintain-that number, that is, 1,000 lieutenants, a smaller number of entries as naval cadets would suffice, probably 90 instead of 120, but to reduce the number to 90 would be to keep the sub-lieutenants' list at 220, or only just sufficient to feed the lieutenants' list. This would have a disastrous effect. It would reduce the average length of service of the sub-lieutenants to 2½ years, which, under the present course of instruction, would practically deprive the Fleet of their services in time of peace, and would be of great disadvantage to the young men themselves, as it would deprive them of any opportunity of gaining experience at sea Therefore, taking the number of lieutenants at 1,000, the full number of entries of naval cadets should continue to be 120, at all events, until the average length of service was 3½ to 4 years. That would in all probability permit some system of retirement to be carried on It may seem hard, and at the first blush you may say that it is very hard that a lieutenant should not be allowed to retire, even if he wishes to do so, before he is 40, but we have to consider at the Admiralty what are the requirements of the Service. We require the full number of 1,000 lieutenants, and until that number is reached we cannot permit retirement, except, of course, where there are special and exceptional circumstances. Where there are special circumstances in the cases, each of them would be inquired into by the Admiralty by itself; but at the present moment, with the list below its full strength, we cannot allow of any retirement. The noble Lord has suggested that retirement should be allowed, if they wish, at 32; but I would submit that, after the great expense to which the country has been put in the matter, this cannot be seriously advocated. These officers are educated by the State, and after the great expense to which the country is put in their education, they surely can hardly be permitted to retire at the age when their services are most valuable. At present the whole of the lieutenants are employed, and instead of the sub-lieutenants' list being of any assistance to the lieutenants' list, some four or five lieutenants are actually employed at this moment in doing sub-lieutenants' duty. I do not know whether the noble Lord is aware that the requirements of the Service have very largely increased of late. Taking the Mediterranean and Channel Fleets, we have 60 more lieutenants and navigating officers now employed in those two Fleets alone than two years ago. It is, therefore, perfectly clear that until the various lists are up to their full number there can be no question of voluntary retirement, and even then, when the lists are up to their full strength, I do not hold out the slightest prospect to my noble Friend that retirement at 32 should be allowed voluntarily on the part of lieutenants. For the reason that I gave just now, that they are being educated by the State, the Admiralty would not be justified in allowing them to leave at so early an age. I do not know whether the noble Lord opposite suggests that an officer claiming his retirement is to give up his retiring pay. If an officer is to have the right to claim retirement at 32, and to be put on half-pay, it would mean enormous increase to the retired pay-list of the Navy. It would probably amount to a very large sum. Again, are we to discriminate between the more valuable and the less valuable officers, and to allow the less valuable officer to get his retirement and to refuse retirement to the more valuable one? That would be a very bad course to adopt, and would be a premium upon inefficiency. Then I would like to point out that the position of lieutenants with regard to promotion is much more favourable now than at any time during the last 20 years. The proportion of promotions was formerly 1 in 15; previous to 1887, 2 in 9; since 1887, in consequence of the increased number of commanders, 2 in 7. Between 1870 and 1887 there were 418 promotions, or 20.9, or, roughly speaking, 21 a year; from 1888 to the present time there have been 30 a year. In selecting a batch of officers for promotion the Admiralty always take care to select a certain number who can become flag officers. But this difficulty of promotion is one that exists everywhere. It is not peculiar to the English Navy; it exists in the Navies of every foreign Power—they have all met with the same difficulty. But our average time for the service of sub-lieutenants is much less than that in any foreign Navy. Then as to pay, there was an increase given to the Service in 1888, and there are now many classes of extra pay which were not known formerly. My noble Friend suggests, I think, that we should give 2s. a day more after 12 years' service. Formerly the rate of pay was 10s. a day, and after 10 years' service the pay was increased to 12s. a day In 1888 an alteration was made; and after eight years' service a lieutenant received 12s., and after 10 years 14s. But, as I have said, there are a great number of classes of extra pay. The noble Lord went through them but he did not give the amounts. These extra or additional allowances mount up very considerably. A senior executive officer can receive from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 6d. a day extra; a gunnery lieutenant in the same way can receive from 1s. 6d. to 3s. 6d. extra; a navigating lieutenant 2s. 6d. a day extra, and a torpedo lieutenant 2s. a day extra. All that is in addition to the 14s. a day; so that really your Lordships will see the pay has been greatly improved of late years. But it is quite possible something may have to be done in the direction suggested by my noble Friend, but it is a matter requiring careful consideration, and it will not be by increasing the number of commanders. Then my noble Friend suggests that a Departmental Committee should be applied to inquire into the whole of this subject; he says that the naval Lords of the Admiralty are so thoroughly well employed that they would have no time to undertake it. Although it is quite true that the Admiralty are much occupied at present, they do propose making a further and a careful inquiry into the position of the lieutenants with a view, if possible, of improving it, not through the medium of a Committee, but within the Admiralty itself. The Admiralty are fully cognisant of the unfortunate position in which senior lieutenants are placed, and are most anxious, if possible, to improve their status. Therefore, the matter will be very shortly gone into. They recognise fully the zeal of these officers. And, now, there is only one other point on which I need touch, and that is the question of interpreters. As my noble Friend knows, in regard to that question of interpreters, French is compulsory on the Britannia and at the college. At Malta, the French and Italian masters have £100 a year; and payments per hour, per head, or per lesson are made at Alexandria, Halifax, Bermuda, the Cape, Mauritius, and Bombay, while the terms in China are under consideration. The Admiral or the senior officer on a station orders midshipmen to attend for instruction in these classes. They all receive a certain amount of pay. I need not trouble the House with the figures. On the Britannia prizes are given for French every second term—the first of £2 10s., and five others of £1 10s., while every fourth term there are three of £5 each, and five of £2 10s. each. Afloat, at the annual examination of acting sub-lieutenants and midshipmen, there are prizes for French—one of £10, one of £5, and five of £3; for German, one of £10, and one of £5; and for Italian and Spanish, the same prizes as for German. This scheme of prizes was only started last October, so that I can give no statistics yet as to how it is operating. I should add that any officer who may go abroad for the study of a foreign language is allowed full pay for a period of four months, provided he passes an examination to the satisfaction of the Civil Service Commissioners on his return, and if appointed to a ship as interpreter for European languages, will receive 2s. 6d. a day in addition to his other allowances, if appointed interpreter in Oriental languages, 1s. 6d. a day in addition. I think I have now gone through all the questions which have been put to me. I am not quite prepared to answer my noble Friend Lord Sidmouth's question as to brevet rank off-hand at this moment, but I think I have sufficiently answered all the other points.


My Lords, as I happen to be the only Peer present who has had anything to do with the administration of the Navy, I wish to say a few words upon this subject. In the first place I must express my entire concurrence with the noble and gallant Lord who has just addressed your Lordships, and with the noble Lord who has introduced the subject in regard to the very valuable, and in many cases, distinguished, services of the lieutenants. There can be no doubt they are among the finest and best officers in Her Majesty's Navy. Also I wish to say that there is no one who has had to fill the office of First Lord of the Admiralty who has not felt the extreme difficulty of selecting for promotion to the rank of commander from the lieutenants' list. As the noble Lord representing the Admiralty has said, it is impossible for every lieutenant to be promoted, and it is still more impossible for every lieutenant to become a post-captain or an Admiral. At the same time, from what the noble Lord has told your Lordships, it appears that at the present time the proportion of lieutenants promoted to the rank of commander is greater than it has been of late years, and, doubtless, the lieutenants are in a better position than they were some years ago. I hold that it is most desirable that the lieutenants who are now serving should not be debarred from the prospect of promotion, even though they should have arrived at an advanced age. Although it is not possible for them to become Admirals they may do good service as commanders and post-captains. At the same time, as the noble Lord has truly said, it is necessary in the interests of the Navy that a certain number of younger officers should be promoted, and I believe the First Lord has always opportunities of giving promotion to young officers who distinguish themselves in the scientific branches of the Service. Now, I quite agree with the noble Lord who has spoken on behalf of the Admiralty, and I differ from the noble Lord behind me, who introduced the subject, with respect to the proposal of a voluntary retirement of lieutenants at the age of 32. I think if the Naval Administration were to adopt any such course as that, there would be exactly the same difficulty in the Navy as there has been in the Army; and there would be a number of young men in the prime of life, probably some of the best officers in the Navy, hanging about without employment, having taken small pensions, and therefore I cannot think that is a proposal which should be adopted by the Admiralty. I must say, in this matter, that such a proposal would be a very lame conclusion to come to. I think your Lordships will have gathered from the speeches you have heard that it is almost impossible to propose any real solution of the difficulty; and, perhaps, on the whole, the right view is that taken by the noble Lord representing the Admiralty, that the difficulty might be met by making an addition to the pay of officers in certain cases. That was done some years ago; if necessary you can do it again, and the Admiralty will no doubt, if desirable, adopt that course. But I have been struck with an anomaly in the speeches to-night. While my noble Friend complained of the block in the lieutenants' list, which numbers now between 800 and 900, and said it was quite wrong to increase the commanders' list for the very good reason that the commanders would not have employment, yet at the same time he said it would be a good thing to increase the number of naval cadets. And the noble Lord representing the Admiralty has said that the number of naval cadets now appointed is somewhat more than is necessary to keep up the lieutenants' list to the number of 1,000. Your Lordships will see at once that the steps token to increase the number of naval cadets, and to bring up the lieutenants' list to 1,000, must increase the difficulty which exists in the promotion of lieutenants. Out of 1,000 lieutenants there must, of course, be a smaller proportion promoted than are promoted now. Therefore, it seems to me that, instead of the Admiralty deserving to be congratulated upon having increased the number of naval cadets, it is very questionable whether the course they have taken is a wise one. It may be a popular step for the moment, but will it not be sowing the seeds of greater difficulties in the future? I must confess I was disappointed in the speech of the noble Lord representing the Admiralty. There has, no doubt, been a great increase in the Navy during the last nine or ten years, and that increase has necessarily required an enlargement of the Executive list—at any rate, of the lieutenants' list. It appears to me this is precisely the time when a question, which has been under the consideration of naval officers of great distinction for many years, should now be prominently brought forward and taken into consideration by the Admiralty—I mean, the question whether the full list of lieutenants is to be still made up from entries of naval cadets, or whether the time has not arrived for the same course to be followed in the Navy as has been adopted for many years in the Army, namely, to admit to the commissioned ranks of the Service some number of warrant officers. Warrant officers now receive a very high education, and they are a very valuable body of men who, as it seems to me, cannot long be left without their legitimate ambition being satisfied in that manner. I think that would be a statesmanlike way of looking at this question, and a proper recognition of merit and service. The Admiralty should consider, I think, whether they ought to depend entirely upon the entries of naval cadets, or whether, on the other hand, there ought not to be some other way of increasing the lieutenants' list than from the growing list of naval cadets, which must involve, if the present course of entering 120 per annum is continued, all the difficulties which have been referred to. This question is a very difficult one, and I have great confidence in the Board of Admiralty at the present time giving every consideration to this and other naval questions. I venture to throw out this suggestion, as it appears to me the only real solution of a long-standing difficulty which has not yet been solved.