in rising to call attention to the Evidence taken before the Select Committee of the House of Lords on the Board of Admiralty, and to move— 1020That it is expedient that the changes in the Constitution of the Board of Admiralty, under the Order in Council of 14th January, 1869, be reconsidered by Her Majesty's Government,said: I cannot conceal from myself that the subject of my Notice must be so little attractive, except to those who devote especial attention to naval affairs, that I can hardly hope to be able to invest it with any degree of interest to the great majority of the House; but I trust, nevertheless, that I shall experience its indulgence while I perform a task which I should gladly have avoided in the absence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers), but which a profound sense of duty compels me to undertake, convinced as I am of the incalculable importance to the Navy of the proper solution of the questions involved in the evidence to which I shall refer. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, in introducing the Navy Estimates, said that the services of his predecessor would prove of great value hereafter, and render the administration of the Navy an easier task to his successors. I do not know whether the right Gentleman at that time had read the evidence of the Committee, or whether having read it, he is of the same opinion still; but this I do know, speaking after an experience of Naval administration, which commenced just 30 years ago, in the course of which I have served in every political office at the Admiralty from the lowest to the highest, that if it should ever be my lot to be at the Admiralty again, I should absolutely despair of conducting the business of the Department either with credit to myself or without the risk of disaster—and, in truth, there has been disaster enough already—under the system whose practical working is revealed by this evidence. I might, indeed, have wished to have had it in my power to quote a Report of the Committee in favour of my views; but the constitution of the Committee will readily explain the absence of that advantage. It consisted of 11 Members, exclusive of the Chairman. Of these, three were noble Lords, whose political opinions coincide with my own; one was a noble Lord who sits on the cross-benches, and the remaining seven were habitual supporters, and two of them actual Members of the Government. That a Committee so con- 1021 stituted should have voted six one way and six the other can leave very little room for doubt that its real opinion was in favour of the admirable draft Report proposed by the Duke of Somerset. The Amendment moved by the Lord Privy Seal is by no means inconsistent with that view of the case, because it does not attack the Duke of Somerset in any one of his positions, but merely asserts that, as the late First Lord could not be examined on account of his absence from England, a Report, founded on imperfect evidence, would not be satisfactory to Parliament or to the country. But I will not further speculate on this point, for it appears to me to be absolutely impossible that any 12 gentlemen of ordinary intelligence could have heard the evidence contained in that Blue Book without concluding, whatever might have been their opinion respecting some of the changes in matters of detail introduced by the late First Lord, that the Order in Council of the 14th of January, 1869, had proved a failure, and, in the words of the Motion with which I shall conclude, "ought to be re-considered by Her Majesty's Government." On the night of the introduction of the Navy Estimates the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Samuda) said—It appeared to him most wonderful that a right hon. Gentleman, who, to say the least, was a very young Minister, should have been allowed by the House to usurp a position so different from that which all previous First Lords of the Admiralty had occupied.… . . He was astonished that a matter of so grave and serious a character should have been permitted to pass through the House without a protest on the part of those who usually take a part in the discussion of naval affairs; and, indeed, he had expressed his surprise in private to some of the leading Members on the other side, and among them the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tyrone, that they had not pointed out to the House the great leap in the dark they were taking in confirming this arrangement."—[3 Hansard, ccv. 726–7.]I feel greatly nattered at the position my hon. Friend has assigned me as the mentor, whose duty it is to warn the House against the indiscretions of inexperienced First Lords of the Admiralty. The task is not a light one, but I have nevertheless sometimes endeavoured to perform it, and I can assure my hon. Friend that I did not neglect it on the occasion to which he adverted. If he will refer to Hansard, he will find that I addressed the House at some length on the subject 1022 on the 2nd of April, 1869, and that I left untouched hardly a blot which has been hit by the Duke of Somerset's Committee. I objected to the Controller of the Navy being made a Lord of the Admiralty, which, I said, placed him in a most anomalous position, and was in direct violation of the principle adopted by Sir James Graham when he suppressed the Navy Board in 1832. I objected to the discontinuance of Consultative Boards, because in a special Department like the Admiralty, where so much professional knowledge is required, it was necessary that the First Lord, usually a civilian, should have the assistance of a Council of Naval Advisers, and I objected to the reduction of the number of Naval Lords as throwing on the First Sea Lord an excessive amount of responsibility and labour; while, with respect to the whole scheme, I declared it to be entirely inconsistent with that simplicity and unity of action which Sir James Graham held, to be the essence and life of public business. The late First Lord answered me in a somewhat contemptuous manner. With respect to making the Controller a member of the Board of Admiralty, he said it secured unity of action, and brought all the business into one hand. The House would presently see what kind of "unity of action" it had produced. This change was excessively popular at the time it was made; yet now, with the exception of Sir Spencer Robinson, who had suggested it, the witnesses examined are unanimous against it. The late First Lord declared it, in 1869, to be the cardinal point of his reforms; but it appears from the evidence that he had seen the mistake he had made, and that if he had continued at the Admiralty the new Patent, on Sir Spencer Robinson's removal from office, would not have included the Controller among the Lords. Seven witnesses were examined on this subject, four actually, and three lately holding office at the Admiralty, and all except the late Controller condemn the present arrangement. Even the late Financial Secretary, Mr. Baxter, thinks itQuestionable whether the Controller of the Navy ought to be a Lord of the Admiralty, and that it is objectionable that the same man should be the head of a subordinate department, and, at the same time, a member of the Board which has to decide upon submissions made by him.Sir Sydney Dacres, the First Naval 1023 Adviser, but whose advice appears to have been seldom followed, thinks that "the Controller should not be a member of the Board," and, in reply to a question as to whether he was aware that Mr. Childers came pretty nearly to the same conclusion, he says—When Sir Spencer Robinson left the Admiralty I wrote to Mr. Childers, and I begged that he would not put in a Controller and a Lord in one person, and he wrote to me, and I have his answer, in which he says he will certainly attend to the matter and not do so.After that evidence, I am surprised that the present First Lord should have issued a Patent in which the offices are combined. Sir Frederick Grey thinks—The system should be what Sir James Graham established—namely, that the permanent officers at the head of the departments should be the servants of the Board, and not parts of the Board.Sir John Briggs, the late Chief Clerk, and who had served upwards of 25 years as reader at the Board, where he had, of necessity, a thorough knowledge of the whole business of the Department, says, in his answer to Question 677—My opinion was asked confidentially as to the Controller becoming a member of the Board. I replied that I did not think such an appointment would add either to the efficiency of the service or the harmony of the Board. Then you think that it was a mistake to put the Controller into the Board?—Decidedly.Lord John Hay approves of almost every other change, but disapproves of the Controller being a member of the Board. He says—I think that the office of Controller is an unnecessary one altogether. I very much agree with what I believe was Mr. Childer's view upon the matter—namely, that there should be a Third Lord at the Board as there is now, for the purpose of looking after that department, and that there should be no Controller at all.Captain Willes, the Chief of the Staff, in his answer to a question on another subject, says—Another difficulty has been the Controller being a member of the Board. I believe that Mr. Childers intended, if he had remained, to do away with the Controller and make him a Naval Lord as recommended by Sir Frederick Grey, with a Chief Constructor as principal officer under him.Admiral Eden was not questioned on this subject; but it is well known that his opinion is strongly against the Controller being a Lord of the Admiralty. The only other witness besides those I have quoted whose evidence refers to this question is the late Controller him- 1024 self, Sir Spencer Robinson. Of course his opinion is strongly in favour of the change, as it was at his instance it was adopted. His reasons for having recommended it are stated at length in a Paper which he laid before the Committee, and I should not deny their soundness if the question could be treated in reference merely to economical considerations. Considered commercially, they are perhaps right. He says, page 43—It is in vain that the Controller will have carefully prepared a programme, distributed the labour to the best advantage, estimated accurately the cost to be incurred on the several services he has to direct, regulated and apportioned the work to be done during the month or the year. The First Sea Lord wants some work not provided for, and if he chooses to have it done, all else gives way for this desire. His very duties as to the management and distribution of the Fleet are in antagonism to economy in the dockyards.But that is precisely the reason why the Controller should not be independent of the Senior Naval Lord, who always has been, and from his position ought to be, responsible for the movement and condition of the Fleet, of course under the sanction of the First Lord. If the Admiralty is, in its relation to the dockyards, a great ship-building and ship-repairing establishment, it is in another and still higher sense a great political Department, required to be ready at all times to adapt its resources to the demands rising out of the state of our relations with foreign countries, which it is impossible to foresee when the programme is prepared. The policy to be adopted in this respect—the number and the character of the ships to be brought forward for service as eventualities arise—is entirely outside of the sphere of the Controller's functions; and it appears to me that the member of the Board within whose sphere of duties it does lie must of necessity have a control over the work of the dockyards, which is incompatible with the independent exercise of authority by the Controller as a member of the Board of Admiralty. No doubt the exercise of this control is, as Sir Spencer Robinson states, in antagonism to economy; but it is essential to the fulfilment of the objects for which we maintain a Navy, and that ought to be the first consideration with the Admiralty. But the late First Lord, in answering my objections in 1869, said that his reasons for making the Controller a member of the Board was that 1025 it secured unity of action, and brought business into one hand. Unity of action, indeed! And what a graphic picture we have of it by Sir John Briggs, who, from his position as Chief Clerk for a whole year under the new system, must have been thoroughly conversant with the mode in which the business of the Department was conducted! In his answer to Question 677, speaking of the new arrangement in relation to the Controller's department, he says—The result of this has been that there are now virtually two offices at Whitehall—the one the Admiralty proper, under Sir Sydney Dacres, and the Controllers's Office, under Sir Spencer Robinson—not acting in harmony, but in opposition to each other. I do not think that anything could have been much more complete than the former system. If I was called upon to find a paper it was brought in a minute, because all papers had then passed thorough my hands; but during the last few months that I was in office I considered that the First Sea Lord, the Secretary, and myself, only saw half the papers. This unfortunately, as I predicted, caused a collision between the First and Second Sea Lords.Here is a picture of unity of action and of a united happy family. Two independent offices at Whitehall, only half the papers coming to the notice of the First Sea Lord, the Secretary, and Chief Clerk—no wonder the service should complain, as it does, of receiving contradictory orders—two offices at Whitehall, only two naval advisers—for the Junior Naval Lord is by the Order in Council reduced to the rank of an assistant—and these two in collision the one with the other, which we must only hope was not of a material character. The evidence teems with instances of want of harmony, and in what did it culminate? Why, in the scandal presented to the world of a First Lord of the Admiralty inculpating his Colleague and Controller in a printed Minute, which was drawn up and published behind his back, and of the Controller, in self-defence, replying in a Memorandum, which was also printed and published, against his Chief, and his subsequent ejectment from office. So much for the unity of action which was to be secured by placing the Controller at the Board. I now come to the next great change—the disuse of Consultative Boards. Here, again, the present system has no friends. The late Financial Secretary says, in answer to Question 236, that he attaches very little importance to the question of a Board, and he thinks that the present 1026 formal Boards are a mere waste of time. But he says, in answer to the question—Do you think that the present system works well?—I think that it works admirably. I find that I have now very little to do. I believe that I am the best paid, and the least hard-worked officer in the Government.That answer, however, is hardly consistent with another, where he says—I dare say that I have broken through many rules since I have been there. I know that I have done many things which were considered highly irregular by officers of the Admiralty.It is difficult to understand why, if the system worked so admirably, he should have thought it necessary to act in violation of its rules. It is true that the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Lushington, favours the present system, for he is opposed on principle to Boards as Governing Bodies. But the former Boards were not Governing Bodies, and he and Lord John Hay were the only witnesses who disapproved of Consultative Boards. The other witnesses examined were Sir Sydney Dacres, Sir Spencer Robinson, Sir Frederick Grey, Admiral Eden, Sir John Briggs, and Captain Willes, and they are unanimously in favour of the old Consulting Boards. Sir Sydney Dacres says—A Board is of great value, and it gives an opportunity to all members of the Board to know every subject under discussion. Lord Lyveden: Then do you think that the disuse of the Board has facilitated public business?—No. Do you think that the business was more rapidly done under the old system?—Yes. Do you think that it was done less efficiently?—I think not.And he added that there were less arrears before the change. He is then asked—It was stated in evidence by Sir James Graham that when a civilian First Lord came to the Admiralty it was of very great importance that he should hear day by day the things discussed at the Board, and the opinions of naval officers, and, hearing different opinions, should be able to make up his mind. Do you think that that is of great value?—Certainly.These are the conclusions of Sir Sydney Dacres after five years' experience—one-half under the old system, and the other under the new. But the most remarkable evidence in favour of the old system of Boards is that of Sir Spencer Robinson. The changes had in a great measure been carried out by his advice. He had advised that the Controller should be made a member of the Board, and expected great results as the consequence, but all these have in his opinion been more than neutralized by the dis- 1027 continuance of the practice of holding Boards. He is asked—You contemplated the continuance of the Board of Admiralty as you had formerly known it?—As far as counsel and advice went, I could not have conceived that the abolition of a system whereby all the Lords could, with facility, consult each other, and in the presence of the First Lord (for I lay the greatest possible stress upon that), would have been initiated, or could have gone on with any satisfaction to the service. It appears to me to be absolutely essential, call it a Board or call it a Council, or arrange it how you will, that there should be upon every subject of importance, communication between all the members of that Council, or of that Board, in the presence of the First Lord, and not, as I have repeatedly seen, one member called in, and giving his opinion and advice, and as soon as he leaves the room another member called in and giving his opinion and advice, and a decision come to in the absence of both parties. The inconveniences which arose from the want of the Controller being a Lord of the Admiralty have been exceedingly increased, although the Controller has been made a Lord of the Admiralty, from the want of consultation between the various members of the Board and the First Lord, in each other's presence—not so much with reference to the departmental business of the Controller, but with reference to the general business of the Admiralty.Sir Frederick Grey, who had five years' experience as First Naval Lord under the Duke of Somerset, entirely concurs with the late Controller in this respect. He says—I have a most decided opinion that the former system is by far preferable to that which I have heard described by the witnesses as now existing, and that the daily communication between the different officers sitting at the Board is absolutely necessary for the transaction of the business.Sir John Briggs' evidence is equally decided. He says—I attach very great importance to a Board. It affords general information, enables each member to hear what the other thinks; and much benefit to the Department accrues from a free interchange of opinions.Sir John Briggs also states that the work is not done so rapidly as it used to be. Admiral Eden is of the same opinion as to the value of Boards—Do you not think it better that the First Lord should obtain his professional advice from responsible members of the Board of Admiralty, meeting at the Board, than from advisers even though professional, to discuss a particular subject?—Most certainly. Do you think that officers generally would deliver their opinion with quite as much freedom and confidence before a Board of that kind, where they were exposed to the criticism of their colleagues, as they would in the confidence of private communication?—I should say so, certainly. Many of the questions which were brought before the Board were questions seriously affecting the character of a naval officer; for instance 1028 the loss of a ship. Is it not very desirable that such questions as those should not be merely decided by the First Naval Lord in his own room, and then communicated to the First Lord, but that they should be discussed where two or three other officers might have an opportunity of giving an opinion? — Yes; and if they differed, their reasons for differing be heard. They might very often mitigate a censure or alter the view which had been first taken of it?—I have often seen that done.I can confirm this statement in the fullest manner, and it is undoubtedly for the interest both of officers and men that when charges are brought against them their case should be fully discussed at a Board. Captain Willes also adverts to the inconvenience resulting from the discontinuance of Boards, and speaks of the advantage which would result if the First Lord would make his arrangements afresh, and would discuss important subjects in the Board room, instead of in his own room. Lord John Hay is the only witness who objects directly to the old system of holding Boards. He gives two reasons, and it is difficult to say which is the worst. He says—I think that the number of people who can listen to a paper of great importance when it is read out before them, and can settle offhand what is to be done about it, is very limited, and while I think that my own profession are extremely intelligent, and just as intelligent as most people, yet I do not think that our habits or our education are of that nature which assists us very much in doing that.I must do my naval colleagues the justice of saying that I never found any deficiency in them in this respect; but, of course, when any difficult question leading to difference of opinion was brought forward, the practice was to reserve it for further consideration. His second reason is as bad—I think that discussions in a formal manner are very useful, where all the persons who are discussing the matter are in some measure upon an equality; now that never is the case when a discussion of that sort is going on among naval officers in the presence of the First Sea Lord; there is not that freedom of discussion which makes discussion useful when you are ranged round a table formally with the First Sea Lord.I, on the contrary, have always found the discussion of the most free character, as free as in this House, and Sir John Barrow, who held the office of Permanent Secretary for so many years, used to say the Second Sea Lord was always the leader of the opposition. It will thus be seen that the evidence in favour of Consultative Boards is overwhelming. 1029 But the great argument against what was called government by a Board was, in the words of the late First Lord, that it frittered away responsibility; but this very general mistake was the result of entire ignorance of the former system, under which the complete supremacy, and consequently the complete responsibility, of the First Lord was never questioned. Sir John Briggs, who, as Reader to the Board, had been constantly present at the Board for more than 25 years, is asked—In fact, as far as the First Lord goes, the change which was made in 1869 could not add to the responsibility which before that time was complete?—I have always considered the authority of the First Lord of the Admiralty supreme; he takes the opinion of the members of the Board; but it is for him to decide whether he will act upon their advice or otherwise. In your long experience of the Admiralty, do you ever remember divisions at the Board which were carried by a majority, as it were?—No, I cannot suppose that any First Lord holding that high office would allow anything of the sort. The use of a Board was to collect the opinions of naval men, and then for the First Lord to decide. Do you think that it in the slightest degree alters the responsibility either of the First Lord or of any other member of the Board?—In my opinion it does not.Even Mr. Baxter doubts very much whether the new system has thrown greater responsibility upon the First Lord of the Admiralty. He says it is a mere question of consulting the gentlemen in one way rather than in another; he consulted them in his own room instead of in the Board room. He does not see what practical difference the Order in Council has made as to responsibility, although it has made some difference as to the distribution of business. Mr. Lushington, indeed, in answer to the question—So that by the new system a much greater responsibility is thrown upon the First Lord of the Admiralty?" says, "I should say so, certainly.But, then, he was in complete ignorance of what the old system was, for he says in his answer to Question 77—"In short, the Board was the Governing Body, it was the deciding and determining body," which is distinctly at variance with the evidence I have already quoted, and with the fact. Mr. Lushington had no experience whatever of the old system, and entirely misconceives what it was. But it is unnecessary to multiply evidence on this point, because the late First Lord has himself given us conclusive proof that, in his opinion, when anything goes 1030 wrong, the responsibility rests not with the First Lord, but with his subordinates; for on the occurrence of a great catastrophe—the loss of the Captain—he drew up a Minute entirely exonerating himself, and throwing the whole blame on the constructive department. Under the old system this would have been impossible; because everything relating to the Captain after her delivery to the Admiralty would, of necessity, have been known and discussed at the Board in the First Lord's presence, and if anything which ought to have been done by way of precaution had been neglected, he could not have escaped the responsibility. But Boards, it was said, weakened the sense of individual responsibility on the part of the Junior Lords. On this point what does Sir Sydney Dacres say? Why, that he did not think he had a bit more responsibility than Sir Frederick Grey had, or any First Naval Lord who was ever at the Admiralty. As to the sense of individual responsibility being weakened by the practical working of a Board, he did not think it was in the slightest degree in a strong mind; the single. Lord could only do exactly what he thought was best and right—the sense of responsibility was not weakened a bit. If he had any question of importance he took it to the Board, and had the advantage of other opinions besides his own. So much for the greater sense of responsibility which the Order in Council was to establish. It is attempted to be shown in the evidence that, notwithstanding the discontinuance of Boards, the most ample consultation takes place between the First Lord and his colleagues on all important subjects in the First Lord's room. Mr. Lushington says there is the most free communication. The only thing to be said is that the day is too short; the First Lord is seeing them all day long, and I am not surprised at this under the cumbrous system of separate conversations which has been substituted for discussions at which all the Lords were present at the Board. Mr. Baxter also says—I think that if Mr. Childers had any fault at all, it was in too much and not too little consultation.But this is hardly borne out by other evidence. A few facts are worth a thousand statements. Perhaps I know as much of nautical subjects as most 1031 First Lords as I have occupied much of my time "in great waters." But I should no more have thought of writing a Minute upon matters involving questions of seamanship without consulting my naval advisers than I should have thought of climbing up to the moon. But on what naval advice was the Minute on the loss of the Captain founded? There was only one naval adviser—Sir Sydney Dacres. And Sir Sydney was asked respecting the Minute of the First Lord relating to the Captain—"Was that Minute seen by you before it was published?" His answer was—"Never; I never saw a line of it, nor was I consulted upon a line of it." Again, as to the scheme of naval retirement, the late Controller of the Navy says, at the end of his answer to Question 453—There has been serious detriment to the public service, I think, from the want of the members who are called the Board of Admiralty meeting the First Lord, either in the Board room or in his own room, I do not care where it is, provided they meet together in his presence, and discuss their ideas before him.It also appears that the Memorial to the Queen for the Order in Council of January 14, 1869, altering the entire constitution of the Board, was never discussed at the Board, although it is designated in the Order in Council as a Memorial from the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty. There are various other instances; but these are sufficient to show the want of consultation on important subjects, which would have been fully discussed, and thereby much mischief obviated, under the old system of Boards. But one of the greatest evils resulting from the abolition of Boards, where every important question of naval policy was freely discussed, is that no one has anything beyond the most superficial knowledge of the business outside his own department; and, consequently, in the absence of one Lord, from whatever cause, no other Lord is fully qualified to undertake his duties. This is shown by Sir Sydney Dacres, who is asked—Supposing that you yourself were able to attend when Sir Alexander Milne was unable to attend, you could take his business, having heard from day to day what was going on; but if you were now temporarily unable to attend, how would your business be managed?His reply is—That is the great disadvantage of the present Board, and the great advantage of the other.1032 Sir Frederick Grey also describes what passed under the old system—Although you had special business, all the important part of your business was brought before the Board of Admiralty, was it not?—Invariably.Again, he is asked—The second Sea Lord, for instance—Admiral Eden—who had his own special business, also was so far aware of your business, that if from any accident you had been obliged to be absent for a short time, he was in a position to undertake it?And he replies—Yes; and the practice was that either Admiral Eden or myself was always present in the office; we were never away together; it may have happened for a day; but, as a rule, when I was away he took my work, and if he was away I took his.Sir John Briggs also points out the advantage of the old system in this respect. He says—It is very desirable that matters of general interest should be discussed, and that the First Lord should take the sense of the Board upon such matters; it facilitates business, and insures unity of action.He is asked—Under that arrangement, of course, if one Naval Lord was occasionally absent, the other Naval Lords were conversant with the business, and were able to carry it on?—Certainly.This is also shown by Admiral Eden. He is asked—When the First Naval Lord was absent at any time, either for his vacation, or from any accidental cause of absence, you, I think, undertook his duty?" He replies, "I did.He is again asked—And from being at the Board, and hearing day by day what business he had to perform, you were perfectly conversant with it so as to be able to take his duty when he went away?—Quite so, without the slightest difficulty.And the great inconvenience resulting from the want of general knowledge is not confined to the Lords, but extends to the Secretaries as well, and it would be impossible to continue the present system if the office of First Lord were held by a Peer. Sir John Briggs thus describes the position of the Secretary to the Admiralty as it used to be—Was not the Political Secretary in former times constantly present at every Board?—Certainly; he was the Secretary to the Admiralty. And he had perfect cognizance of everything which passed? — Yes. The Minutes which passed at the Board were initialled by him?—Yes; in fact the greater part of them were made by him. How much of the duties which the Secretary in olden times used to perform, did Mr. Baxter perform as long as you remained at the Admiralty?—None.1033 His functions are now merely departmental. The late Financial Secretary, indeed, said—I am pretty well acquainted with the general business of the whole Department. I think that I know as much about it as some gentlemen who have been Secretaries to the Admiralty; and, of course, in the absence of the First Lord, it is my business to make myself acquainted with all details, and especially upon the matters which are likely to come before the House of Commons.But he was asked only two questions, I think, out of his own department, and he could answer neither—As you say that you have a general knowledge of what is going on, can you tell us how the Coastguard is inspected, since the Controller and the Deputy Controller of the Coastguard have both been abolished?His answer is—By an officer acting under the First Sea Lord. Does he go round to all the different stations?—That is a question which I cannot answer. Has any alteration been made in the inspection of the force of marines?—That is a question which I cannot answer.Both those questions related to important subjects connected with the national defence, with which formerly Secretaries would have been thoroughly conversant; they would have known these points as well as their A B C. We all know that any ignorance in these respects cannot be owing to any want of ability or of diligence on the part of the late Financial Secretary. But the system makes it impossible for him to have that general knowledge which the Parliamentary Secretary of the Admiralty ought to possess. But perhaps the evil resulting from this want of general information is even greater in the case of the Permanent Secretary. He used to be the connecting link between an outgoing and an incoming Board, and the means of securing the continuity of administration, which is of the greatest importance in a Department like the Admiralty. And I must here bear testimony—and I am glad of the opportunity of doing so—to the invaluable services of Mr. Romaine, the late Permanent Secretary of the Admiralty. By the intimate knowledge which Mr. Romaine possessed of the various subjects which from time to time had been under discussion, and likewise by his good sense and judgment, I have myself on many occasion been prevented from making mistakes; and the advantages to the Department of a gentleman so thoroughly conversant with the business which it was called on to transact could 1034 hardly be exaggerated. But this inestimable advantage is now lost. How little the present Permanent Secretary, not from any fault of his own, is acquainted with the general affairs of the Navy and the policy of the Admiralty, the following questions and answers will show:—What does the person do who represents the storekeeper general—namely, the superintendent of stores; what is his duty?—I am not very well qualified to answer that question, because I have no daily supervision of his work. Does he merely take charge of the material stores, or does he keep any account of the value thereof?—I should not like to answer that question. I understand you to have said that you are not acquainted with these things because they are not brought before the Board of Admiralty?—I said that I was not acquainted with them because they were not brought under my daily view; but it is also correct to say that they are not brought before the Board. With regard to the superintendent of stores, I do not see from this paper that he has any power of objecting to the stores?—I am sorry to say that I cannot answer that question; I think that I can inform your grace who can answer it best; either the late Third Lord, Sir Spencer Robinson, or the present superintendent of stores, Mr. M'Hardy, or Mr. Baxter. The functions of the director general of the medical department have also been considerably altered; does he buy the medicines himself, or is that also part of the functions of the purchase department?—There has been some discussion about that matter. I am not sure how it was decided. The general officer who inspected the marines has also, I understand, been abolished; is not that so?—I believe so, but that was before my time. But, besides that, there was a naval officer and a master attendant, I think, in every victualling yard; and that is also abolished, is it not?—There have been considerable changes, but I could not speak upon that matter.Judging from these answers, I should much doubt whether a new Board or a new First Lord would be likely to obtain much valuable information so as to secure continuity of administration from the Permanent Secretary under the existing system. Captain Willes points out the great disadvantage of this. He says—The chief difficulty of not having a Board is that, supposing there to be a change of Government next month, we have no person like a Permanent Under Secretary of State. I mean no disrespect to Mr. Lushington, but I do not think that by the present system the Secretary does know or can know everything that is going on.This is also shown by Sir John Briggs, who says—There is nobody now in the office who has his hand upon the whole business of the office in the same manner as the Permanent Secretary and the Chief Clerk used to have before the alteration in the meeting of the Board.1035 This is one of the innumerable evils resulting from the disuse of the Board. And what a picture does the evidence present of the disorder which ensues, entirely in consequence of the abolition of the old system of Boards, when the First Lord is absent. The Admiralty at once becomes like "all Israel, scattered on the hill side, as sheep without a shepherd." Let us imagine such a state of things in war as was described by Sir Spencer Robinson, when he said—It has so happened that when the First Lord has been away, nobody has known to whom to apply; there is no person really in charge at the Admiralty. We have always done the best we could; we have consulted each other, and made the work go on, but if there had been a serious difference of opinion between us, there was nobody to go to. How would it have been under the former system?—There would have assembled two Lords and a Secretary as a Board, and the whole thing would have been done without the slightest difficulty.This state of affairs is again described by the Financial Secretary—Who was responsible for the conduct of the Department after Mr. Childers's absence from illness? — Each several principal officer took charge of his own department. The questions to be answered in the House, of course, I took charge of. I took charge of the Parliamentary business, and had daily consultations with all my colleagues upon such matters.It would be laughable, if it were not deplorable, to read how the duty is carried on under this system of every man for himself, and God for us all. We have a striking illustration of it in the evidence, showing how the Navy Estimates for the current financial year were prepared in the absence of the late First Lord, but it is too long to quote on the present occasion. When the First Lord is away there is no captain of the ship, and this state of things, most dangerous in time of peace, would be fatal to the public interests in time of war; and it is really intolerable that if the First Lord were absent for a week or ten days the business of a great Department should come to a standstill. The next great mistake made by the Order in Council is the reduction of the naval element, as it is called. Formerly, there were four Lords, and each had a right to advise on matters of general policy; now there is only one, for the Controller is still merely the head of a department, and the third, or Junior Lord, is reduced by the Order in Council to the position of a mere assistant to 1036 the First Lord. This position is accepted by Lord John Hay. He was asked—"When the Senior Naval Lord is absent, who takes his business?" The reply was—I take his business—that is to say, I take all that I feel myself thoroughly competent to carry out, which would not include the most important portion, and those matters would be either deferred or sent to him to deal with himself.Therefore, there was only one Lord to deal with and advise the First Lord on all important questions of naval policy. The result is, that an excessive amount of labour and responsibility is thrown upon the First Naval Lord, and that there is no one to undertake his duties if he is ill or absent. In 1869 I enumerated the duties of the First Naval Lord, and said the work was excessive, and the then First Lord replied that my statement was an example—How by setting out figures in a particular way almost any conclusion might seem to be justified.But what does the unfortunate Sir Sydney Dacres say?—Under the present plan the duty falls very hard upon the First Naval Lord? He has a great number of branches to attend to, and he can hardly attend to them. You think the naval part of the Administration somewhat undermanned?—Certainly, I have not a doubt about it; and in case of sickness it would be thoroughly impossible to perform the duty. Working so hard continually is likely to produce sickness, is it not?—Yes, it does not strengthen me.Sir Sydney then read a list of his various duties, and was asked—Does the list which you have read exhaust all the subjects which are assigned to you?—No. There are many other matters besides?—A great number. And it would be your duty to make yourself familiar with the papers relating to these matters?—Yes, it is more than one can possibly do. You consider that the work is more than can fairly be discharged by one Naval Lord?—It is impossible; one has no time to give attention to very important things which belong to the Fleet.Not only, therefore, is the First Naval Lord overworked, but in consequence of the quantity of details with which he has to deal, important matters relating to the Fleet are of necessity neglected. Even in the opinion of the Permanent Secretary, who is naturally disposed to view the present system in the most favourable light, the First Naval Lord has too much business put upon him, for he says, in answer to Question 68—"In my opinion the Senior Naval Lord is an overworked man." There is other evidence con- 1037 firmatory of this objection to the reduction of the naval element, but it has been followed by greater evils in other respects. Sir Sydney Dacres, with nearly five years' experience at the Admiralty, one-half under the old and the other under the new system, is asked—If you had one or two eminent naval officers by your side, it would, you think, be more satisfactory to the Navy generally?—Certainly. And it would also be more satisfactory to yourself?—To myself most particularly. I wish to ask you first as regards the feeling of the Navy. Do you think the general feeling of officers of the Navy is that the naval element is sufficiently represented at the Board of Admiralty under the present system?—It is not only the feeling of the Navy that it is not, but it is my feeling also.He adds—I think that is too much responsibility for any naval man in the world, whoever he is, to rule the whole Navy; and that his opinion will never be considered to carry so much weight as the opinion of a larger number would.Sir Spencer Robinson confirms this opinion, for he says—I think the naval element is not strong enough to give the first-rate advice which would insure that everything connected with the administration of the Navy should be thoroughly considered by professional people. One naval man advising the First Lord upon all promotions, all movements of ships, all appointments, and all rules and regulations which affect the future well-being of naval officers, in my opinion is not enough. I think that the country at large hesitates to accept that as a proper solution of naval administration.Sir Frederick Grey expresses a strong opinion to the same effect. He says—I should be very sorry, indeed, as the Senior Naval Lord, to be the sole adviser of the First Lord upon those matters; I think it absolutely essential that those important questions, very often involving the character of officers, should be discussed by the naval members of the Board.Sir John Briggs says that in case of illness it is impossible for two Naval Lords to do all that is required; and Admiral Eden, who served five or six years as Second Naval Lord under the Duke of Somerset, shows the great advantage of the old arrangements, under which, in the absence of the First Naval Lord, he (the Second Naval Lord) was always available to undertake the duties of the First Naval Lord, and vice versâ. These advantages obtained under the old system are now quite lost; whenever the First Naval Lord is absent from illness the work comes to a standstill. The attempts made, in some of the questions put to the witnesses, to show that the 1038 naval element has not really been diminished, as the appointment of Captain Willes as Chief of the Staff is tantamount to that of another Lord available to be consulted on general questions, entirely breakdown and are effectually disposed of by Captain Willes himself. After having expressed the opinion that under the present system the naval advice is not sufficient, he was asked—Then you never communicated personally with Mr. Childers upon any matters?—No, except on the business of my own department. He has sometimes called for me with regard to the Coastguard, but nearly always in the presence of the First Naval Lord. He has never consulted me on any matters connected with the duties of the office generally.There is no point in which the evidence is more conclusive than in respect of the insufficiency of the naval element, as reduced by the Order in Council of 1869. The only witness who disputes it is Lord John Hay, who is universally stated to have carried on his own business in a most satisfactory manner—working in a Paradise of his own, and unconscious of the disorganization which surrounded him. Not only does he differ from the other witnesses on material points, but his evidence is inconsistent with itself in many particulars. He thinks the naval element sufficiently strong, and would even introduce the War Office system (which Heaven forefend!) and have a Commander-in-Chief and only one Naval Lord. Yet he says—If there was a small war I would add one; if there was a very great war I might add half-a-dozen Lords.Sir Sydney Dacres stated his work was more than one man could possibly do; but Lord John Hay thinks its entirely his own fault if it is, as there is a great deal of his business he might delegate to others. He thinks it more agreeable to the service that the First Lord should have only one naval adviser. But this is entirely contrary to the opinion of the other naval witnesses examined, and contrary, as I can positively state, to the fact. He does not think the First Lord an overworked man under the system of separate consultations which have been substituted for discussions at the Board. Yet he says—That he was a long time at business, and that he saw the Naval Lords more constantly than would have been possible with any other man.And when told that it was in evidence that the business was done more slowly 1039 under the new system, he said—"I should like to know whose evidence that was;" and on being informed that it was the opinion of Sir Sydney Dacres and Sir John Briggs, he said it certainly was not the case as respects his own business; which is not surprising, as it appears he had very little to do. He added, "of course Sir Sydney Dacres is the best judge of how his own business is done." And he disposes of Sir John Briggs by saying that his experience of the new system was comparatively slight; forgetting that while Sir John Briggs had had a year's experience of the new system, he himself had had, as he states in answer to a question, only three or four months' experience of the old. These are some specimens of Lord John Hay's evidence which, except on the subject of the Controller being a Lord of the Admiralty, approves of the new system in almost every particular. But, although he is a very able officer, and was a most efficient Lord of the Admiralty, I think his opinions will hardly weigh against those of the numerous other witnesses of equal ability and much greater experience, who differ from him in almost every particular. Having now adverted to the evidence, so far as it relates to the changes effected by the Order in Council, it only remains for me to glance at a few of the collateral subjects on which witnesses were examined by the Committee. And, first, as to the reduction of the clerical establishment at Whitehall. Mr. Lushington thinks the present staff sufficient; but it would have been more satisfactory if some of the heads of branches acquainted with the old system had been examined, as they could have explained how far the reduction in the establishment had occasioned the greater slowness of the work, and the greater accumulation of arrears, which is complained of in the evidence. But the possibility of reducing the number of clerks was in a great measure due to the amalgamation of the Controller's with the Secretary's department, which, as Sir Spencer Robinson states (482)—Caused the entire cessation of the voluminous correspondence which the Controller had to carry on with the different branches of the Admiralty proper.I do not, however, see how this amalgamation can continue in force if the Controller ceases, as I must take it for granted he will cease, to be a member 1040 of the Board, for in that case he must make written submissions, as they are called, and receive written instructions from the Board in the same way as the other principal officers, and for that purpose it will be necessary to increase the establishment of clerks as well in the Secretary's as in the Controller's department. No doubt, the present arrangement is an economical one; but like many other of the economies, it may have been purchased at too dear a price. Very little evidence was taken in respect of the abolition of the office of Storekeeper General and Controller of Victualling. The opinions differ; mine remains the same, more especially as regards the Storekeeper General—namely, that it was a great mistake. Certain I am of this—that the amalgamation of the offices of master shipwright and of storekeeper in the dockyards is absolutely incompatible with good management, and I think the First Lord of the Admiralty, when he visits the dockyards and compares how the service is carried on at Devonport, where there is a storekeeper, and at Portsmouth, for instance, where there is not, will arrive at the same conclusion. But it is impossible for a local storekeeper to perform his duties with sufficient independence unless he has a Chief at the Admiralty to whom he can appeal for support in case of difference with the master shipwright, or in other words, unless there is an officer at the Admiralty having some such authority as was exercised by the Storekeeper General. I believe it is quite contrary to commercial practice that the expenditure and the custody of stores should be in the hands of the same person, and I trust the First Lord of the Admiralty will see the advisability of giving greater independence to the store department at Whitehall as well as in the dockyards. The only other question on which I shall trespass on the time of the House is the abolition of the offices of captain superintendent and master attendant of the victualling yards. The late Financial Secretary admits that this was a measure of pure economy, and this paltry economy was carried out against the strongly-expressed opinion of Sir Sydney Dacres, who had himself held the office of captain superintendent at Gosport, and of Sir William Martin and Sir James Hope, the Commanders-in-Chief at Devonport and Portsmouth, who were consulted on 1041 the matter, and, in conformity with the recommendation of a noble Lord of no naval experience, but who has since been appointed Civil Lord of the Admiralty. The only witness who speaks in favour of these abolitions is the late Financial Secretary, who, when asked whether he knew that Admiral Hope, at Portsmouth, made a strong remonstrance against that abolition, and that Admiral Martin, at Plymouth, made a very strong remonstrance against it, gave the very characteristic answer—I suppose that nine people out of ten remonstrated against it, as they did against all changes involving reductions; I have no doubt that that is so.This is hardly a satisfactory reason for the abolition, which is objected to in the strongest manner by every naval witness examined on the subject. Neither do I think it so respectful an answer as the three distinguished officers he had named were entitled to. Sir Sydney Dacres was asked—Did you differ from Admiral Hope and Admiral Martin upon that subject?—Not in the slightest. You agreed with them?—I agreed most perfectly with them; I had been captain superintendent of one of those places myself, and I most perfectly opposed the change all through. Then you thought that it was a mistake to take away the naval element?—Yes, and I think so still. In time of pressure, for naval operations the victualling of a Fleet rapidly is of very great importance?—Certainly, of vital importance. For that purpose you require some naval man to attend to the arrangements, do you not?—I think so; I think that nobody else can do it. Do you think it a satisfactory arrangement to leave these victualling establishments without professional superintendence during peace, in the belief that on the sudden breaking out of a war the deficiency could be supplied?—It is exactly in the same way as putting another Naval Lord into the Admiralty; if he is on the spot in peace he is better able to do the work when a pressure comes.These are the opinions on this subject of the first naval adviser of the Crown. They are entirely confirmed by Sir Frederick Grey, who occupied the same position during six years. He says in answer to a question—I think that it would be absolutely impossible to work the victualling yards properly without a captain superintendent and a master attendant in time of war; and I doubt very much whether it could be done without them in peace time. You think that for the proper victualling of the ships some such person is necessary?—Yes; and I think that a captain superintendent is as necessary in the hospitals. I think that the maintenance of discipline is not one of the special duties of medical officers, as it is of the executive officers of the Navy; and I know no place where it is more necessary to maintain discipline than in a hospital. 1042 I had a great deal of experience in that matter during the Crimean War, at Constantinople, where we had a large hospital at Therapia; and I found it absolutely necessary to have a large ship lying off the hospital, with a captain who was responsible to me for discipline in the hospital, although we had one of the best medical men, and one fully equal to anything which could be required from him at the time.Before the abolition the naval hospitals at Portsmouth and Devonport were under the captains superintendent of the victualling yards; and I thoroughly agree with Sir Frederick Grey that in the interests of discipline that arrangement ought to have been maintained. Again, we have the opinion of Admiral Eden on the subject—From your experience of victuallings ships of war, and the business which must go on in the victualling yard with regard to the Fleet, do you think that a naval officer is of importance in that position?—I think most decidedly that he is. You have seen a good deal of the working of the victualling yard in victualling ships of war?—I have; I do not see how it can go on satisfactorily without him. Some naval man, I suppose, must overlook the lighters?—Yes. And if there is no naval man to overlook them you think that in the course of the preparing of a naval expedition very great inconvenience might arise?—I should think very great confusion.Such are the opinions of these distinguished and experienced officers, as well as of Sir William Martin and Sir James Hope, and none of them can have the slightest personal interest in the matter. In connection with this subject the evidence throws some light on a matter which was made the subject of great glorification of his department by the late Financial Secretary at the beginning of the Session, as proving that the stocks of the various articles in store were adequate to the demands of an emergency. On the first night of the Session my right hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire drew an imaginary picture of the answer we might have received from the Emperor of the French, in August last, if we had announced the intention of resorting to an armed neutrality, at a time when our artificers were discharged and our dockyards empty of stores. A friendly Question was put to the Financial Secretary on the subject on the following day, and, in his reply, he stated that—Our stock of provisions at present in the victualling yards is so large that 2,500 tons, amounting in value to nearly £50,000, can be spared for Paris without the slightest inconvenience to the naval service. It will be a consolation to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, and to those who believe with him that our 1043 stores are in such a lamentable condition, to know that, if necessary, we could afford at least 1,000 tons more."—[3 Hansard, cciv. 125.]But another story of this business is to be found in the evidence. Mr. Rowsell, the superintendent of contracts, the gentleman who makes the purchases, was asked by the Chairman—In the case of a large naval expedition being ordered, and a sudden peace coming, or a cessation of that naval force, there would be a much larger quantity in store, I suppose, than would be likely to be wanted for some time, would there not?—That is so; such a case has not, of course, arisen, but an analogous case has just arisen in connection with the re-victualling of Paris; I have at the present moment a quantity of soup and bouilli at Deptford which I shall be very glad to get rid of, as it is in excess of our wants. It was bought with the intention of sending it over to France?—Yes. And it is now not wanted for that purpose, and must be therefore got rid of?—Yes; it will be sold for the benefit of the Treasury.So far, therefore, from this transaction proving that the stores in Her Majesty's victualling yards were in that plethoric condition which the hon. Member's answer led us to believe, it turns out that so small a quantity as 2,500 tons could not be spared without going into the market to purchase it; and I have the best reason for believing that a similar course would have been necessary in respect of naval stores, if the Navy had been increased as it ought to have been last summer; but, unfortunately, masts, yards, sails, rigging, and anchors for heavy ships of war, are not procurable in the market. And we heard a great deal of the wonderful expedition with which the victuals were sent to Paris under civilian management. But what does Sir Sydney Daeres—himself a quondam superintendent of a victualling yard—say on this subject. He was asked by Lord Camperdown, the Civil Lord—What was the special use of a master attendant in a victualling yard?—I do not wish to go into personalities, but very lately I saw that if a master attendant had been there the things would have gone faster to France. Was there any complaint as to the delay?—Yes. When there was a pressure they found out that there was not a vessel. I have never had any other opinion upon the matter.So that not only was there delay—and expedition in victualling a Fleet in time of war, in the words of Sir Sydney Dacres which I have already quoted, would be of vital importance; but it appears to have escaped the civilian authorities that when victuals are to be conveyed over sea a vessel is an article which it is 1044 necessary should be provided. So much for the good management of the victualling department, of which we heard so much at the beginning of the Session.
I must now thank the House for the indulgence with which it has listened to me, and my appreciation of the importance of the subject must be my excuse for the length at which I have called attention to the evidence to which I have referred. It shows conclusively, not only as a matter of opinion, but as demonstrated by unfortunate results, that it was a mistake to make the Controller a Lord of the Admiralty; that it was a mistake to discontinue Consultative Boards; that it was a mistake to reduce the number of Naval Lords. I will not run the risk of weakening the force of the evidence by dilating further on these topics. This is no party question. On the contrary, nearly the whole—I am not sure that I might not say the whole—of the witnesses whom I have quoted in support of my views, profess the same political opinions as Her Majesty's present advisers, and many of them have held, or actually hold, office under what is called a Liberal Government. The First Lord of the Admiralty has announced the intention of modifying the existing system of naval government, and I trust that in considering the question he will remember that he has a solemn duty to perform to the great service over which he has been appointed to preside, to which any feeling of delicacy towards his predecessor ought to be made entirely subordinate. If I receive from him a satisfactory assurance in this respect I shall not think it necessary to put the House to the trouble of dividing; but otherwise I must press to a division the Motion of which I have given Notice.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is expedient that the changes in the constitution of the Board of Admiralty, under the Order in Council of 14th January 1869, be reconsidered by Her Majesty's Government,"—(Mr. Corry,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he did not complain of the tone adopted by the right hon. Gentleman opposite the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry), in treating of the 1045 subject he had introduced to the House, in reference to whose concluding remarks he might say that he desired to approach the subject in the same spirit. Indeed, he was anxious to receive as many suggestions as possible respecting the best mode of conducting the Admiralty business, and although he would have done wrong had he hastily effected changes on his accession to office, he now admitted there were many points which were open to re-consideration. In justice to his right hon. Friend the Member for Ponetefract (Mr. Childers) it should be borne in mind that he had not the advantage of being called before the Committee to explain his view of his own plan. Again, his right hon. Friend did not have the advantage of working his system with the aid of entirely converted or attentive colleagues, and unhappily personal differences also sprung up, so that there was not that amount of harmony which might have been desired among the members of the Board. That must of necessity have caused a great difficulty in working the new system, unless he had taken a step which no one would desire—namely, to change the whole personnel. It was natural that the system should not work smoothly at first, for many would think that the new system was inferior to the old. The same want of harmony would, however, have arisen under the old system. That difficulty was aggravated by personal differences which under the old system would have been attended with serious consequences, for he could not conceive that gentlemen were different meeting in a board room from what they were when assembled in the First Lord's room. Too great importance ought not to be attached to the difference in form between the two systems as regards consultation. No one could be at the head of a professional Department without being desirous to have a great deal of professional advice, and he cordially agreed with the right hon. Gentleman opposite that it was most important to check the professional advice of one man by the professional skill and knowledge of another. Having now been for some months at the Board of Admiralty, he must demur to the general view of the right hon. Gentleman that there was no consultation. In many ways the evidence before the Committee had not been fair to Lord John Hay, the Junior Naval 1046 Lord. It was generally supposed that his right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract had but a single naval adviser, but the truth was that Lord John Hay daily gave him valuable advice on naval questions. Then, the right hon. Gentleman opposite spoke of the Controller as a mere departmental officer, but it should not be forgotten that he was also a captain in the Navy, and that the questions termed departmental by the right hon. Gentleman were, in fact, naval questions of the highest importance, on which the Controller's advice was asked and taken. He had now the advantage of the distinguished services of Lord John Hay and of Admiral Tarleton, the latter being consulted constantly with the heartiest concurrence on the part of Sir Sydney Dacres, and on all important subjects he had the advice of three or four officers of the highest experience. He had no objection to a Board, provided it was not Executive. But what the right hon. Gentleman opposite wanted was something more than a Consultative Board. [Mr. CORRY: No!] He would show him that he did. [Mr. CORRY: I can assure you I do not.] The House must judge between them on that point. The Board was not only to be consultative, but was to be a means by which the Financial Secretary and the Permanent Secretary were to learn the whole of the business; and therefore all the business of the Department would pass through it. [Mr. CORRY: All important business.] All the important business would pass through that Board instead of through the several departments. It was very desirable that the First Lord should meet his professional advisers and consult with them; but they had changed the system in some important particulars, and he believed it was working satisfactorily, and he was prepared to contend that to make the whole of the business of a great Department pass through a Board, was to adopt a mode which must lead to delay. In regard to the absence of the First Lord, the right hon. Gentleman opposite would make the Board other than consultative, for the proposal was that if the First Lord was absent his place was to be taken by two other Lords and the Secretary. They would thus at once become an Executive Board. But that was not the plan of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Childers.) In the absence of the First Lord the First Naval 1047 Lord assumed his position, and in the absence of the latter the responsibility of his position devolved on the Junior Naval Lord. When Sir Sydney Dacres had been away, and Lord John Hay had taken his position, he thought it right in the absence of the First Lord that there should be some distinct person to do his work, and that it ought not to fall back on the Board. With respect to financial matters, there were very few subjects unconnected with finance, and he thought the Financial Secretary, in the absence of the First Lord, might represent him efficiently, for those who held the purse-strings naturally became acquainted with all the business of the Department. But he did not think it desirable that the Parliamentary Secretary should be confined to the subject of finance, and he was not sure whether it would not be better, instead of having a Civil Lord and a Financial Secretary, to have a Financial Lord and a General Secretary. There was another point for consideration, and that was the mapping out of the duties between the different Lords. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had stated that under the present system the First Naval Lord was in danger of being overworked, and he had instanced the case of Sir Sydney Dacres in proof. That matter, however, had already been dealt with; a portion, of the work done by Sir Sydney Dacres, involving matters of detail, such as the appointments in the lower grades, had been transferred to Admiral Tarleton. It would be very desirable if no rigid rule were laid down as regards the distribution of duties, so that if the First Naval Lord were very strong, and were associated with a weak Second Lord, the work could be distributed accordingly; or if both Lords were equally able the work could be equally distributed. Perhaps a modification of the Order in Council in this respect would be desirable. The next point was the reduction in the naval element on the Board, and with reference to the Committee of the House of Lords the right hon. Gentleman had stated that the witnesses had been mainly Liberals in politics. The witnesses might be more accurately described by saying that they belonged to the naval element in Admiralty politics; and the chief point to which their evidence had been directed was that the civil element had been unduly fostered 1048 above the naval element. This was the complaint in respect of the post of Controller of the victualling yard. The evidence read by the right hon. Gentleman, it would be noticed, was directed against every reduction that had been made, and this could be easily explained. Those representing the naval Department were responsible neither to Parliament nor the taxpayer, and they desired to see things done on the grandest possible scale. Some, supposed to represent the naval element, however, had favoured reduction. Sir Spencer Robinson had done so, but evidence had in consequence been given against retaining him on the Board. The naval element, in fact, objected to anything depreciating its influence at the Board. He now came to the question of the presence of the Controller at the Board. With respect to that matter, and another subject on which the right hon. Gentleman had expressed an opinion in favour of—namely, the appointment of some official equivalent to the permanent Under Secretary of other departments, in order to preserve continuity in the management of the department. That was a point which presented the greatest difficulty. If the officers were working Lords of the Admiralty and superintended departments, they did themselves so much of the business that the permanent officers had not got the opportunity of performing those functions. Mr. Romaine knew the business by being present at the Board and reading all the papers, but his position was not analogous to that of an Under Secretary in one of the other departments, because he never executed anything himself. He was a Secretary, but he did not, as in other departments, take the place of the Chief during his absence—as Mr. Hammond, for instance, would do in the Foreign Office, or as other Permanent Under Secretaries would do in other departments. He (Mr. Goschen) attached great importance to continuity, and thought there ought to be some connection between all the Boards with the First Lord of the Admiralty, in the shape of officers who were perfectly conversant with all the work. It might be said they had such officers everywhere except in the naval branch. They had a storekeeper, a superintendent of stores, and a superintendent of contracts. In those outlying depart- 1049 ments they had now a certain amount of continuity; but in regard to the questions of manning, of the Reserves — matters purely naval—he did not see that they had the necessary continuity or that the permanent element was sufficiently strong. That seemed to him a defect. It might be remedied in more than one way; possibly by dealing with the secretarial arrangements, or by other arrangements that were under the consideration of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to the creation of the Chief of the Staff, who was able to do the duties he performed as well in his present position as if he were a Lord of the Admiralty. The whole of the manning of the Fleet was under Sir Sydney Dacres, and managed by Captain Willes, for when Captain Willes said that he was only consulted by his right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) upon his own business, it should be remembered that that was very important business, involving the manning of the whole Fleet. But the weak point about the appointment of the Chief of the Staff was that that new office was not continuous, so that when the new office had ben created it did not add to that to which he confessed he thought great importance ought to be attached—namely, the permanent strength of the Department. He was, therefore, prepared to re-consider the appointment of the Chief of the Staff, and he thought he should be able to arrange for the performance of the duties of the office so as in a great measure to remedy the evils complained of. With regard to the question of Boards, he was in favour of Consultative Boards, but was not in favour of Executive Boards, and he thought that some more definite arrangements should be made for carrying on the duties of the First Lord during his absence than were in existence at present. He was prepared to consider that point, and he also thought that the Parliamentary Secretary ought to be conversant with most of the business. He would like to see Consultative Boards established for matters of policy, and for the consideration of large questions, but not for considering the details of the office. On professional questions the First Lord must have professional advice, and the advice of one ought to be checked by the advice of another, but the personal re- 1050 sponsibility of the First Lord was a matter to which great importance ought to be attached. As to increasing the naval element of the Board, he did not see his way to accept the proposal, as he understood it, of the right hon. Gentleman, which was simply that another Naval Lord should be added to the Board of Admiralty. If anything could be done in the direction of increasing its naval strength, he should like it to be done in some manner by which they could secure continuity and permanence. If, for instance, another Naval Lord were added, he would prefer that he should be a captain, and should not go out of office with the other members of the Board, but should remain for five years, so as to afford some security that they would have a naval man at the Board who should be acquainted with all the details of the Department, and be able to carry out the same policy when any change of office took place. He did not say that that would be the best arrangement, but he was disposed to consider any means by which that defect might be remedied. He now turned to another point—the presence of the Controller at the Board. It was the Controller's presence at the Board which led him parenthetically to consider the permanent element, because it was very important that the officer mainly responsible for the construction of the ships should have more or less of continuity or permanence about him. The right hon. Gentleman opposite was in favour of the removal of the Controller from the Board for several reasons which he indicated; but the right hon. Gentleman did not give what might be called the most powerful reason of all—namely, that the presence of the Controller on the Board might involve his always leaving office with the Ministry. That was an argument which might possibly be strongly urged. He did not think the arguments used by the right hon. Gentleman were very strong. The right hon. Gentleman quoted a great deal of evidence, and he attached great weight to the evidence of Sir John Briggs, because he had been 25 years a member of the Board under the old régime; but that was the very reason why he (Mr. Goschen) did not attach so much importance to that evidence, because when men had spent a great part of their lives under one system, it was but natu- 1051 ral they should have a prejudice in its favour. The other witnesses called were mainly naval men, old Lords who had conducted business under the old system. He did not think the Committee had done full justice to his right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract by the selection of witnesses. They mainly examined ex-First Naval Lords, who, because they had conducted the business of the Department on the opposite principle, condemned the scheme of his right hon. Friend; and one Naval Lord, a colleague of his right hon. Friend, because he gave evidence in favour of that scheme, was called eccentric in that he differed from the others, and naturally differed from them, being a naval reformer. The evidence of Sir Sydney Dacres had been alluded to over and over again, but chiefly to show that the naval element ought to be supreme. Now, he admitted that the position of the Controller must be seriously considered with reference to this point; whether it was wise that he should be so placed that he would have to depart from the Board with the Government. That was a matter open to question. But his right hon. Friend attached great importance to there being no one between the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Controller, whereas the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Corry) proposed that the Controller should be under the First Naval Lord. Now, to that he demurred entirely. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to quote his right hon. Friend as having told Sir Sydney Dacres that he was converted to his opinion. All he could say was that within the last month he had received a letter from his right hon. Friend stating that he attached the greatest importance to no one intervening between the Controller and the First Lord of the Admiralty. His right hon. Friend held that the Controller should stand in direct relation to the First Lord, and that there should not be that intervention of the naval element between them which used to prevail under the old system. Upon that point his right hon. Friend was strong in his opinion, and he thought he was right in it. The position of the Controller was, however, under consideration, and he believed it was possible to make some arrangement to secure that the Controller should be an officer of some permanence, so as to obviate 1052 any great inconvenience on a change of Ministry occurring, but that he should still stand in direct relation to the First Lord of the Admiralty. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had concluded by referring to the position of the master superintendent in the victualling yards, of the abolition of the office of captain superintendent there, of the general arrangements with regard to stores, and he spoke of Mr. Rowsell, who, although merely a superintendent, was as competent as the old storekeepers and other superior officers who received much higher salaries. The present arrangement with regard to stores appeared to have given considerable satisfaction, and had obtained the approval of the Duke of Somerset, who, in his draft Report, had stated that the greatest advantage to the country had resulted from the power of purchase being concentrated in one hand. As regarded the point of the disadvantage resulting from the absence of the naval element from the victualling yards he did not think the right hon. Gentlemen had made out a case. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to forget that there was such a person as the Commander-in-Chief, who was responsible for the discipline of the dockyard, and, if he were not mistaken, of the victualling yard also. He could not hold out any hope, unless evidence was produced of the necessity of changing the present system, that naval officers would again be placed in their old position either in the victualling yards or in the hospitals. The right hon. Gentleman should remember the speech of the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely), who had expressed a wish that the superintendence of such departments should be placed in the hands of civilians, and not in those of naval men. For his own part he wished to keep a due mean, and not to rush to extremes by excluding entirely either the civilian or the naval element. His right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract had, in his opinion, done great service in regulating the superintendence of the dockyards, and there was not that deficiency of stores which the right hon. Gentleman opposite had suggested. But the sufficiency of stores would not depend upon the naval storekeeper, but upon what was decided upon at Whitehall. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that there should be first a naval 1053 storekeeper in the dockyards, and then that he should be protected against the Contractor's department by a Storekeeper General at Whitehall to look after the whole business. Such an arrangement would undoubtedly lead to circumlocution and great confusion. Having dealt with all the points which had been raised by the right hon. Gentleman, in conclusion he would say that he entirely reciprocated the spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman had addressed himself to his task. He must further say that he was fully conscious of the interests of the Navy and the delicate character of the naval service, and of all the specialities that surrounded it. He had, he hoped, acted, and he would continue to act, in that policy, but as to the changes that had been made by his predecessor in strengthening the civilian element, that part of his policy it would, he thought, be wrong to reverse. He trusted that what he had said would be so far satisfactory as to induce the right hon. Gentleman not to press his Motion to a division.
SIR JOHN HAY
said, he thought that some of the points that had been made by his right hon. Friend the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry) required further discussion. It must be at least satisfactory to his right hon. Friend to hear that considerable changes were to be made at the Board of Admiralty. He sincerely trusted that the very serious losses that had recently occurred to the Navy, and that the great discontent which had prevailed for some time would be removed by the arrival in power of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Goschen), and by the changes which he was about to institute. The right hon. Gentleman alluded in his speech to the condition of the Board of Admiralty before the changes of his predecessor, and that the House would see what the character of those changes were. The Board, as it was constituted by Sir James Graham, and as it remained until his right hon. Friend left office, had a considerable portion of the naval element embodied in it; but it was a mistake to think that that naval element could reverse the decision of the First Lord of the Admiralty. There was no control over him, except in this way, that the First Lord, had the advantage of hearing the four Naval Lords, who debated before him any question that might be 1054 brought forward for consideration. There was no question of minority or majority, for after the First Lord had heard everything that could be said he decided as to the proper course to be adopted for the benefit of the country. The right hon. Gentleman had said that he liked a Consultative Board; but he would not get that, unless he assembled all the officers of his Board at once and heard each individual. It was a very different thing to send for them one by one, and hear what they had to say without any conflict of argument between them. What was necessary for the First Lord to hear was their free and undisguised opinions expressed in the conflict of argument. The right hon. Gentleman said that minor matters of detail should not occupy his attention at the Board, and that he (Sir John Hay) entirely agreed with. In his experience, no matter which involved a less expenditure than £500 was ever brought to the attention of the Board, whilst all matters which involved a larger expenditure was brought before the Board. Most matters were sanctioned without delay; but if it was considered of sufficient importance a statement was made about it, and mostly in writing. In that way all the information connected with the various departments which were under the control of the five Junior Lords of the Admiralty was so brought forward that each Lord was conscious of what was going on in the other departments. The Permanent Secretary also was present, heard the discussions, and made records, and the whole archives of that office were available for reference. He had reason to think that certain papers relating to the Captain had been ordered to be burnt by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers); but down to the time that he (Sir John Hay) left office every paper was duly kept in the record office, and the most minute particulars in reference to any past transaction could be produced within an hour. He had heard from various persons who had held high office that there was no other Department in the State in which information in reference to decisions which had been arrived at could be so quickly obtained as at the Admiralty. But the whole of the record department, the mode of copying, and reference had now been changed, and there were many papers now circulated of which no copies 1055 were kept at the Admiralty. He remembered the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) observing, in reference to a proposition of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract, to obtain a press for the copying of letters, which would enable him to abolish several clerks, that his experience was unfavourable to such a plan, and that in his opinion the mode of record was entirely insufficient. He (Sir John Hay) thought that there ought to be kept a more perfect record, and continuity. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said that he did not mean to increase the naval element on the Board. It was not for him (Sir John Hay) to say what might be most conducive to the interests of the service in that particular, but he could not see how the Board of Admiralty could be properly carried on with less than four Naval Lords. When he was in office he found that his three colleagues and himself had quite enough to do in the Department. With regard to the position those naval officers held, the right hon. Gentleman said he had no desire to give them that executive authority which must occasionally devolve upon them, under the circumstances pointed out by his right hon. Friend the Member for Tyrone. But he must consult in some degree the sentiments of the profession, and the right hon. Gentleman would not get competent naval officers of rank and position sufficient to command the respect of the profession if he gave them merely the position of Under Secretaries. He might get second-class, but not first-class men; he would not get Admirals who had commanded Fleets to be entirely subordinate in naval affairs. The First Lord of the Admiralty was a civilian—an able and experienced statesman—who had the ear of the Government and of the House, and who, no doubt, was respected in the country; but he had no special knowledge of naval affairs, and he could not get a man of high standing commanding the confidence of the profession to combat his opinion unless he gave him some executive authority in the Department in which he was called upon to do duty. The right hon. Gentleman said no disasters had occurred in consequence of the changes made at the Admiralty. Now, during the short time the present Government had been in office five ships had been lost—two entirely lost owing 1056 to Admiralty mismanagement. These accidents would, most likely, not have occurred if the naval element had been strong at the Board, giving their unbiassed opinion to the First Lord. With reference to the store department, the right hon. Gentleman quoted the Duke of Somerset's Committee as favourable; but the Duke of Somerset's draft Report was not so, although it was quite true there were reasons why that Report was not carried. He might also remark that Sir Spencer Robinson, whose evidence had been quoted by the right hon. Gentleman, stated that though he was a Naval Lord and Controller, he never was consulted outside his own department. The store department, the victualling department, the medical department, and the department of works should have over them independent and permanent officers; but there was great difficulty in appointing any permanent Member of a political Board. It was utterly impossible that a naval officer could fairly give good advice to his political Chief, and when a change occurred continue to give good and fair advice to the political Chief on the other side. He therefore thought that the old system, by which a second Permanent Secretary, like Mr. Romaine, gave continuity of information without advice, was preferable, and the right hon. Gentleman was wrong in not reverting to it. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would take these views into consideration when making the changes he was about to make in the Board of Admiralty.
§ MR. SEELY (Lincoln)
said, he felt himself in the unfortunate position of disagreeing with both sides on the present occasion, for he must complain of the general mismanagement of the Board of Admiralty. He thought the losses they had sustained, and the loss of prestige that would follow, must be exceedingly damaging, and any fair business-like arrangements would have prevented them. The Megæra had been condemned five years ago; but the Admiralty did not appear to know anything about it. If any man had a number of ships under his control, would he not have had a ledger in which he would have entered them, and taken note of any reports or remarks bearing on them? In such a case, it would have been impossible for the Admiralty to have lost the Report of Mr. Reed, which was tantamount to the condemnation of the 1057 Megæra. He would go further, and say that the Admiralty ought to know how the captains had conducted their business in managing their ships, the number of desertions that had occurred, what services each ship had performed, and so on. He could not say that the present arrangements were satisfactory. But they were asked to alter those arrangements in the wrong direction. Had the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry) simply proposed that the Order in Council should be re-considered he should have voted with him. But the right hon. Gentleman wanted to retrograde; he, on the other hand, wanted to go forward. The right hon. Gentleman wanted to return to the old system; he wanted to abolish it altogether. Was there one single thing in the conduct of the old Board of Admiralty which the House could approve? Did it succeed in manning the Navy? There had been Commissions and Committees to inquire how best it could be effected, but the men who sat on them were nearly all of one class, and still worse, the witnesses who were called and who gave evidence were of one class. There would have been no difficulty in ascertaining how the Navy should be manned if they had summoned before them as witnesses seamen as well as officers. They would then have known why it was that seamen deserted, and why it was that the Peninsular and Oriental and the Cunard men did not enter the Royal Navy. It was impossible to ignore the discontent that existed in the service, and it was all moonshine to say that the past or present system was satisfactory. Then, again, the old Board had not attended to the interests of the taxpayers, and there was not a single thing which it did from 1832 to 1869 that any hon. Member could get up and defend. The old Board spent recklessly the money intrusted to them to spend thriftfully. They bought anchors at double the price they ought to have given, and paid for them in 25 years £170,000 more than the market price; and spent in nine years £73,000 more than was right for chain cables. They repaired and converted ships at a greater cost than they could have built new ones for, and they paid for building ships 50 per cent more than contract ships could be obtained for. They kept in harbour old obsolete vessels 1058 at a cost of at least £280,000 a-year. They spent £1,500,000 recklessly and wastefully, and they were, moreover, behindhand in everything that ought to be done, and when sailing-ships and paddle-ships were going out of fashion the Board of Admiralty still clung to them. Therefore, it was impossible to return to the old, obsolete, and, he was going to say, good-for-nothing Board of Admiralty. Hon. Members on both sides of the House had admitted that something must now be done with the present Board of Admiralty; but, in his opinion, there was something ridiculous in trying to manage a large business—for the Admiralty was really nothing further, being only a business relatively so much larger than that of the Peninsular and Oriental or of Messrs. Cunard—by means of men who were constantly changing. The Board had been strongly condemned, and yet the Opposition wished to revive it for consultative and executive management, whilst the Government supported it for consultation only. The Members of the Board depended on political expediency, by being able to make good speeches, or by making themselves very unpleasant. He was aware that that House paid great respect to the weight of authority. There were arrayed on the one side the right hon. Member for Tyrone and the hon. and gallant Baronet opposite (Sir John Hay); and on the other the right hon. Member for Pontefract and the half-and-half sort of right hon. Gentleman the present First Lord of the Admiralty; but he had in his possession the Report of the Royal Commissioners of 1861, and he found that they condemned the Board of Admiralty, and he might further quote the evidence tendered before the Select Committee on the Board of Admiralty in the same year. Before that Committee only four witnesses unconnected with the Admiralty were summoned, but all of them condemned the Board. The Committee which sat on Military Organization in 1860, composed of eminent men on both sides of the House, expressed in reference to Earl Grey's recommendation that the War Office should be managed by a Board, that they had great doubts of the propriety of what they considered a retrograde measure, and they therefore condemned the notion. Therefore the weight of authority, as well as common sense, told them that they ought not to 1059 go back to a Board. Something had been said about naval superintendence, and from the information he had received, he distinctly stated that the captain superintendent and the master attendant in Her Majesty's dockyards had very little or next to nothing to do with the masting, arming, and fitting of Her Majesty's ships. [Lord HENRY LENNOX: Name!] He was supported in that view by the opinion of a person well acquainted with the subject, whom he consulted last Friday, but whose name he declined to give. That person informed him that the rigging of ships was settled in warrants or orders from the Admiralty, the master attendant directing the fixing of it; and the Admiralty also settled what guns a ship should carry, the master shipwright consulting a gunner attached to the Steam Reserve as to the placing of them when necessary. It was said that the master attendant ought to be a naval man, as he had to direct the moving of ships in the basins and harbours; and on that point he (Mr. Seely) might mention that in accordance with official routine no ship could be taken from one side of a basin to the other without 24 hours' notice being given to the master attendant. He would say no more on that subject, for he thought he had sufficiently indicated his dissatisfaction with the present system, and his disinclination, to return to the old system.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, he could not allow the statement of the right hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry), that Mr. Childers wished to avoid the responsibilty of the loss of the Captain, to pass uncontradicted. Probably the matter could be better discussed at another time; but meanwhile, he demurred to that assertion, and also to the statement that under a Board constituted like the old Board of Admiralty neither the loss of the Captain nor the Megæra would have taken place. Those hon. Members who had listened to the statement of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Goschen) earlier in the evening, would remember that he had stated that, with reference to the Megræa, eminent naval men, including Sir Sydney Dacres and Lord John Hay, had been consulted. [Sir JOHN HAY asked, whether it was a fact that the First Lord consulted Lord John Hay?] Lord John Hay was Superintending Lord of the Transport 1060 department, and he had no doubt he was consulted. He was surprised to hear it stated that the old Board of Admiralty was consultative only, because all the information he had been able to obtain, and some of the evidence which had been quoted, showed that the Board had been executive. When considering whether such a Board could give satisfaction they must remember the frequent debates on the question which had taken place in that House, and also speeches delivered outside the House. The right hon. Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington), when First Lord, had said in this House—From the constitution of the Board there is an absence of that direct responsibility which ought to exist in a great Department, and I cannot say I think the constitution and working of that machine are satisfactory or well adapted to the discharge of the important duties devolving upon it.The right hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers), while establishing direct responsibility announced his intention to consult the Members of the Board freely; and he believed those consultations had been as frequent under Mr. Childer's Administration as before. But formerly important matters were discussed as much in the First Lord's room as at the Board, even if they were not absolutely decided before they came before the Board. It was the intention of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Goschen) to make the Board a consultative one, but not to restore its old function as an executive body.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
said, that if he were to judge either by the remarks of the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely) or the opinions of the public Press, he failed to see that the system initiated by the right hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) had given more satisfaction than the old Board. He was very glad to hear that the present First Lord was about to make some change in the existing state of things. The hon. Member for Lincoln had attacked the old Board with some warmth for the large prices which they gave for anchors, chains, and cables; but last year, when it came to the knowledge of the House that some of those first-class anchors, which had cost £35 or £40, had been sold during the economical craze of the right hon. Member for Pontefract for something like £6, he looked in vain to the hon. Member for Lincoln or those sitting on the same bench for a word in condemnation. As to whether the right 1061 hon. Member for Pontefract did or did not try to shift from his own shoulders the responsibility of sending the Captain to sea, it was too late to discuss it at 1 o'clock in the morning, and in a desultory conversation like the present.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.