§ MR. SEELY (Lincoln)
, in rising to move—That this House, in order to remedy certain defects in the administration of the Admiralty, recommends the Government to take into consideration the propriety of administering that Department by means of a Secretary of State; that this House further recommends the Government to take into consideration the advantages of appointing to the offices of Controller of the Navy and Superintendents of Her Majesty's Dockyards persons who possess practical knowledge of the duties they have to discharge; and of altering the rule which limits their tenure of office to a fixed term,said: The Navy differs from all the other public Departments in this respect —that it is administered by a Board. Other public Departments may be said to be administered by what may be called Boards, but they are not Boards in reality. There is the Local Government Board, for instance. No one can say that the President of that Board is not supreme in the same way as is the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The same may be said of the Board of Trade. There is also the Treasury Board: yet it is only a Board in name, for my right lion. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers), when giving his evidence before the Megæra Commission, used these words—That system was found utterly unworkable, with the accumulation of business and the requirements and the responsibility at the present day.I know it has been argued, and it may be argued again, that though there is a Board of Admiralty, the First Lord is really supreme; and that the Members of the Board are merely a Council, and a very efficient Council, in giving him advice. Well, I doubt this. The Members of the Board of Admiralty are appointed by Patent. They sit daily for the transaction of business. I therefore doubt whether the First Lord would be supreme, as the Secretary of State for the Home Department is in the management of his Department. But even if that were so, still there are strong objections to the system. I believe that the Lords of the Admiralty are often appointed on political grounds, and I 1455 am certain that their tenure of office is much too short. That they are often appointed upon political grounds appears to me clear. My right hon. Friend the late First Lord (Mr. Goschen) thought that I attached too much weight to this argument; but even he was obliged to admit that "political considerations ought as little as possible to influence the choice of Naval Members of the Board." And my right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers), when giving instructions to the Permanent Secretary in 1869, soon after his accession to the position of First Lord, said—You are the embodiment of the permanent Admiralty Department, and in process of time this state of things ought to exist: that if the heads of the Office whose tenure depends upon considerations of a political character are removed, you and your heads of branches ought to have such a grasp of the business that you can carry it on until the new heads of the Office are warm in their saddles.And I think I may cite the present First Lord (Mr. Hunt) as a proof that political considerations have somewhat too much to do with the government of the Navy. When the First Lord entered upon his office in the year 1874, he made a very violent attack upon the preceding Board. He, in fact, charged them with having starved the Navy; and implied that they had handed over to him "dummy ships" and a "fleet on paper." [" Hear, hear!"] I hear that that statement is cheered by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Well, the effect of that statement at the time was to produce a sort of national scare. People were exceedingly frightened, and they could scarcely sleep comfortably in their beds. But when the facts upon which the First Lord based his assertion came to be examined, it was found that there was but little in it; and I think that if we were to compare the Fleet of 1874 with the Fleet of the present day, we should find that the attack of the First Lord on his Predecessor was neither sound nor just; for, to the best of my knowledge, the Fleet has not been increased, except in two instances, by any ship that was not designed and brought forward by the late Government, or was not being built at the time that he acceded to office. The two ships that have been designed and built and launched by the present Admiralty are the Nelson and 1456 the Northampton; and even these ships are described by the Controller of the Navy as "no part of what are called our battle-ships." And, further, I would point out that when the present First Lord acceded to office there were many ships being built. If there were to be a change of Government now, I think the new First Lord would find very few line-of-battle ships upon the stocks. I know of but two, the Ajax and the Agamemnon. Therefore I think I may fairly conclude that political necessities had somewhat to do with the strong assertions of the present First Lord. But there is a still stronger argument, I think, which proves that political considerations have much weight in the choice of Members of the Board of Admiralty. Since 1833, when the Board came into existence, there have been eleven changes of Government. Twice all the Lords have been changed but two; four times all the Lords have been changed but one; and five times all have been changed. During the last eight years, although it has been said that political considerations have no weight now, no less than 11 occupants have been found to fill the three Naval Seats. But great as may be the evil of filling these offices, high and important as they are, from political considerations, the evils of perpetual change are still greater. The business that they have to manage is an extremely large one, and a very difficult one. They have to see to the manning of the Navy, and its discipline; the building and repairing of our ships, and the victualling of them; they have a large number of artificers under their control; they spend something like £11,000,000 a-year; and therefore I may fairly add that the management of a business of this kind requires no ordinary skill and experience. But, according to the expressive phrase of my right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers), before these Gentlemen are well "warm in their saddles "they are dismounted, and the horse has to find another rider. They have no experience to signify; and that is the one thing that I mainly complain of. My right hon. Friend the late First Lord (Mr. Goschen) was quite well aware of the desirableness of having continuity of service, and he made an attempt, which was not an exceedingly bold one, to get something like 1457 continuity of tenure in the office of Controller. He ejected the Controller from the Board; and the reason he gave was, that for the business he had to manage, the Controller required more experience than he was likely to obtain if he remained a member of so fluctuating a body as the Board; and that it would be a very great anomaly to have one member of the Board permanent and the other four not so. He therefore pushed the Controller from the Board. But does not the head of the personnel require something like experience for such matters as manning the Navy, and all those important subjects which come under the head of the personnel? But my right hon. Friend did not change the system with regard to the Naval Lords; and he assigned three reasons for keeping them as they were. I am inclined to refer to them in order to show that I do not think they were exceedingly forcible. One of them was that it was desirable to have Naval officers at the Board in order that the Governing Body might get a knowledge of the Fleet. Well, I think a knowledge of the Fleet might be obtained without a Board. I do not think it is necessary to bring Admirals and post captains into office for a short period in order to get a knowledge of what is going on on board our ships and in our respective Squadrons. The Foreign Secretary does not bring home an Ambassador in order to tell him what is going on in a foreign Court; and therefore, as I have said, I think that reason is not a very strong one. Ho also said that the feelings of the Service should be considered. I mention these points because it is very possible that the present First Lord may follow in the same line. Well, I too think that it is very desirable that the feelings of the Service should be attended to. We should like that to be done in all the Departments of the State, but higher considerations may prevent us from seeking to do it in that way. And, further, when you are speaking of the Service in reference to these appointments, it must be borne in mind that the Service there spoken of is only some 10 or 12 distinguished Admirals or post captains. The great body of the Service, the rest of the officers, the navigating officers, the seamen and marines, the artificers and the clerks—all these are, in my mind, 1458 comprised in the Service. Only a very small part of the Service is concerned when we speak of contenting some few distinguished Admirals. Another reason assigned was that it was desirable that these officers should go to Whitehall in order to learn administrative duties. It may be very pleasant for them to get in that way a knowledge of administrative duties; but, at the same time, I think that the price paid for it is rather too high. The fact is, that the constant changes that are going on not merely give us inexperienced Administrators at Whitehall, but sometimes give us inexperienced commanders at sea. Sir Sydney Dacres, who was a Lord of the Admiralty for some years, said, in his evidence before the Duke of Somerset's Committee—" The fact of officers remaining long at the Admiralty destroys their usefulness as sea officers;" and I will cite the case of the Vanguard as an illustration, and a very painful illustration, of the truth of that remark. I am not about to enter at any length into the question of the less of the Vanguard. I endeavoured last Session to bring the matter before the House, and to test its opinion. I was not successful in obtaining a day; and I will, therefore, only refer to the subject so far as it illustrates my argument, that a long residence at Whitehall gives us inexperienced commanders at sea. Now, with regard to this question of the Vanguard, I think the Admiralty erred in two particulars. They erred in appointing Admiral Tarleton to the command of the Reserve Squadron in 1875; and they erred in not bringing Admiral Tarleton afterwards to a court-martial. The court-martial which sat on the case of the Vanguard assigned six causes for its less, and one of them was the high rate of speed at which the Squadron was proceeding in a fog. The Admiralty, however, said that did not in any way contribute to the disaster. Now, the court-martial which sat on the Vanguard was a very strong body. There were two Admirals and seven captains—all commanding iron-dads. It must be remembered that the members of the Court were sworn, and that the witnesses gave their testimony on oath; and that the Admiralty, in upsetting this decision of the court-martial, held their proceedings in secret, so that no one knew anything of what occurred. I 1459 therefore think that I may assume that the Court was right in its judgment that the high rate of speed at which the Squadron was proceeding in a fog had something to do with bringing about that disaster. If this be true, and if the speed had been reduced to three or four knots an hour, according to the Admiralty regulations, then three of the other causes assigned by the court-martial would not have existed. The Vanguard would not have had to reduce speed, the Iron Duke would not have been going so fast, nor would she have had to sheer out of line. I think I might assume, then, that the court-martial which sat on the Vanguard thought there should be a Court-martial on Admiral Tarleton. I think I may say, too, that the House of Commons last Session, in the debate raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen), plainly showed that that was its opinion; for of those who spoke on that subject, 10 were for a court-martial, and of these four were Conservatives; while six spoke in favour of the Admiralty, and three of these were official Colleagues of the First Lord, and only two spoke in favour of him who were not in the Government. Of the naval officers who spoke—and they were five in number—all thought there ought to be a court-martial, and three of them were Conservatives. Now, the Admiralty, in objecting to bring Admiral Tarleton to a court-martial, acted, in my opinion, unwisely; and I think I may say that if the First Lord had been a Secretary of State, with permanent heads of Departments, he would scarcely have taken the course he did. The laxity of discipline calculated to arise from having allowed Admiral Tarleton to go free may be illustrated by what occurred shortly after in the case of the Monarch and the barque Hal-den. The Monarch and the Halden were proceeding down channel, and the Monarch, a steamship, expected that the Halden would get out of the way, but the Halden, relying on the rules of the road at sea, kept on her course. There was a violent collision, and considerable damage was done to beth vessels. The Admiralty paid a portion of the Halden' s expenses, and the Monarch was three weeks under repair. I think if Admiral Tarleton had not been a late Colleague of the Lords of the Admiralty lie would 1460 have been tried by court-martial; and I say, where there is any case of favouritism of this kind, where breaches of discipline are passed over, they are very likely to reproduce themselves. Take another case that occurred shortly afterwards in the Mediterranean Fleet. The Raleigh ran into the Monarch, I am inclined to think, in consequence of wrong signals, or of someone's not understanding signals. I come to this conclusion, because not long after the collision the Admiral in command of the Fleet, Sir James Drummond, issued an Order to the effect that the attention of officers was called to the necessity of making themselves thoroughly conversant with the signals used in evolutions under steam. Here, again, I may refer to Admiral Tarleton. He used a wrong signal under steam, and yet he was not to blame! But my main point is that these offices are filled for the benefit of naval officers; and I think the same feeling prompts the arrangements for designing our ships of war. The head of the Department is the Controller of the Navy. In the Memorandum explaining the Order in Council of the 14th January, 1869, it is said that he has to deal with "designs and classes of ships;" and my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen), in his reply to me in 1873, said—The Controller has to advise the Admiralty from a naval point of view, and to state whether the designs of the naval architect can be depended upon.Now, I can conceive nothing more difficult than the duties which fall upon the Controller. He has to settle what designs he will recommend the Admiralty to adopt. We all know the immense difference of opinion as to what our ships should be—whether they shall be long or short, broad or narrow, how they shall be armoured, the sort of guns they shall carry, and various other questions, demanding the greatest amount of skill and experience that can be brought to bear upon the subject. But how is the Controller selected? First, the Admiralty lay down a rigid rule that they will not have a civilian; so that the men best qualified for this office of designing our ships of war are all put aside, and a naval officer has to be selected. Formerly I know it would have been said the Constructive Department would keep the Controller from going wrong; but the Constructive 1461 Department is not exactly what it was, and it can scarcely be depended upon to advise the Controller as it could a few years ago. Formerly, when my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed) was Chief Constructor, I believe I am correct in saying that no advice was tendered to the Controller of any importance that was not at any rate approved by him. The Reports which were sent to the Controller were initialed by the Chief Constructor, and had his approval; but it is not so now. There are, I understand, three parties who can send Reports to the Controller —independent Reports. In his evidence before the Megœra Commission, Mr. Henry Morgan, the professional secretary to the Chief Constructor, said" We are put in a sort of Commission;" and Mr. Barnaby, now the Director of Naval Construction, at the head, I suppose, of the Constructive Department, said—When there was a Chief Constructor the Reports of the Assistant Constructors passed through and were initiated by the Chief Constructor. Now a large amount of the Reports goes direct to the Controller of the Navy without having my initials or immediate concurrence.But even if the Controller of the Navy and the head of the Constructive Department were men of the greatest skill that could be obtained, still I should say there were objections to the arrangement for designing ships of war. Officers trained and kept in the same office are apt to run all in the same groove, and I think the Constructive Department will not be free from that objection; and it may be desirable to call in a little more of the outward world. But be that as it may, I agree with The Times of the 29th of November, 1875, that—Each dockyard ought to be a separate institution with a local management, and with a separate body of Constructors. If a new design for a ship is wanted, each dockyard ought to be invited to furnish a design.I may say that this is done in France. I have this upon the authority of the late Rear-Admiral Goodenough. He was sent to the Continent, I believe, by the Admiralty in 1872, or thereabouts, and he told a friend of mine that he was struck by our centralization. We had no designers, he said, in our dockyards, but everything was done at Whitehall; but at Paris he saw designs 1462 sent to the Minister of Marine from all the dockyards. There was competition, and in one case a design of the Assistant Constructor of a second-class dockyard was accepted. But not only have we these evils to contend with, but we have another. The Board of Admiralty meddle with matters that they do not understand. This was put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke on the 9th of January in this year, when, writing to The Times, he said—There are two or three ships now in the Navy designed by myself, in accordance with instructions from those who were above me in authority, some of the leading features of which I never approved, and the origin of which I never knew;and he adds—Very many of the differences in our ships do not arise from causes such as may justifiably involve great sacrifices, but from fancy, from caprice, from divided counsels, from the competition of influences within the Admiralty—in a word, from maladministration.This, I think, is a very serious charge, but I feel it would not have been made if the First Lord had been really and truly supreme, and if there had been permanent heads of Departments; for if there had been permanent heads of Departments, one would have been at the head of the personnel, and the other at the head of the shipbuilding Department; and I cannot suppose for a moment that if this had been the case the designs agreed to for constructing our ships of war would have been altered at the caprice and the whim of the head of the personnel. This, I think, is an extremely strong argument in favour of my Motion that the Board of Admiralty shall cease to exist as a Board, and that the subjects over which it has cognizance shall be managed by a Secretary of State and permanent heads of Departments. In fact, this system divides and destroys all individual responsibility, which is distributed amongst five persons, instead of being centred in one. I must here express my thanks to the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed) for having given us such a very powerful illustration of the weakness of the present system. Evidence of the same evil influence which prevails in the Constructive Department is found in the Department for building and repairing our ships. There, again, a naval officer is 1463 selected, and civilians are rigorously excluded. I may observe, however, that over this Department the Controller has nominal control; but, practically, I apprehend the Surveyor of Dockyards now manages the several dockyards. This Surveyor of Dockyards is a civilian; but all the officers at the head of the several yards are naval officers. Now, most business men, if they had six or seven large establishments, and if they placed one man at the head of these establishments, and wanted him to manage them properly, and intended to hold him responsible if they were not managed well, would give him the power to select his agents. But it is not so with the Admiralty. That would be a too businesslike mode of proceeding for them. They not only say the head of the dockyard must be a naval officer, and they will appoint him themselves, but they will not give the Director or Surveyor of Dockyards, whatever his name may be, the power of appointing his own agents. Well, these naval officers enter upon their offices without any experience, and they do not remain long enough in them to gain any. The average tenure of office is three years, and yet these naval officers who come to take charge of our dockyards are to have "full and complete control." I now quote from the "General Instructions" of July, 1875—Full and complete control over all the officers and other persons employed in the dockyard, and to superintend and control every part of the duties carried on therein.Well, this might be a very good order for a Superintendent who knew his business; but it is a mere sham to say that a naval officer, who knows nothing whatever of the various business carried on in a large shipbuilding yard, shall have "full and complete control" of "every part of the duties carried on therein." In fact, it is perfect nonsense. Now, to such an extent does the want of knowledge go amongst these naval officers in our various shipbuilding establishments, that The Times, on the 30th December, 1875, said—The consequence is, that being deficient in the necessary scientific and technical training, the Admiral-Superintendent fritters away the time of the professional officers in endeavouring to comprehend the instructions which he is supposed to see properly carried out.Now, these instructions are given in 1464 order to make somebody apparently responsible; but, in spite of the instructions, it is well known that the Superintendent is not practically responsible. And here I may, perhaps, be allowed to quote, or at least to give the pith of, a Memorandum which was written in 1867 by Sir Spencer Robinson, who was then Controller of the Navy, for the Lords of the Admiralty. In his Memorandum he says that the Superintendent has no personal or individual responsibility for bad work, for waste of money, for unthrift, for loss of time, or general negligence; he is equally without control over those through whose instrumentality he does the work, "he cannot promote, he cannot dismiss, he is checked by inadequate instructions." And this reminds me of what occurred at the Admiralty Committee in 1868, when the very gentleman who had written this appeared, and in the most able manner defended the system he had thus described. Loyalty to his chief, loyalty to the Board of Admiralty, obliged Sir Spencer Robinson to defend a system which he had placed on record as bad. Now, there is something besides loyalty to the Admiralty and loyalty to a chief, and that is loyalty to the nation. At any rate, I think I may ask the House, when official persons come forward to defend a system, to look sometimes with a little suspicion, and weigh well the arguments by which they support their defence. Well then, again, the Admiralty, appointing this Superintendent knowing nothing about the work that he is to superintend and control, endeavour to smooth his path by issuing orders from Whitehall. And very petty orders are sometimes sent from Whitehall. An instance of this may be found in the holes which were cut in the Vanguard. Orders were sent down by the Board of Admiralty directing that holes should be cut; and when the Vanguard sank, probably her passage downwards was hastened by the cutting of those holes. The Admiralty, of course, asked for an explanation. They wrote to their Superintendent. Well, that gentleman called upon the Engineer for an explanation. The Engineer gave an explanation, and the Superintendent did not think that explanation quite sufficient; but he did not feel that he might ask the Engineer for a further explanation, so he suggested that the 1465 Lords of the Admiralty should do so. So that a man who is to have "full and complete control" is not able even to call upon an inferior officer for an explanation upon such a serious matter as this. As to the petty orders which I say are sent down from the Admiralty, I may mention that the Admiralty required that the coal-bunkers of the Vanguard and certain other ships should be ventilated; but, instead of sending to the manager of the shipbuilding yard an order simply to do this, they pointed out exactly how it should be done. The Admiralty, having no man at the head of the establishment whom they could depend upon, not only sent down an order, but sent down tracings, as to how the holes were to be cut. The order was sent, I apprehend, in the first instance, to the Superintendent's office; somehow or other it got into the hands of the Chief Engineer, and the Chief Engineer misunderstood the tracings and cut holes in the water-tight compartments of the Vanguard, the Achilles, the Simoon, the Himalaya, the Swiftsure, the Sapphire, and some others. He misunderstood the tracings; and one hardly knows which to blame most, the Admiralty that has such a system that it is necessary to send down such trifling orders, or the Engineer who has grown up in such system and pays such blind obedience to the Admiralty orders as to cut holes in the water-tight bulkheads of several of our ships of war. I apprehend that if an order had been sent down to cut holes in the bottoms of these ships, it would have been done. Well, this is not a very agreeable picture of the way in which our dockyards are managed; but there is another illustration, and a very powerful one, afforded by the blowing up of the Thunderer. Now, I attribute the explosion on board the Thunderer to the want of proper care and management. I believe there is considerable doubt as to the regulations with regard to the Steam Reserve, and the Captain of the Steam Reserve receives part of his orders from the Commander-in-Chief, and part from the Superintendent of the Dockyard; and the result is that there is a divided authority, and this leads to the want of proper care and management to which I attribute the explosion on beard the Thunderer. I am aware the First Lord may say that there was a coroner's jury, 1466 and the coroner's jury came to a different conclusion—that the explosion was "due to the sticking of the safety valves, from the contraction of their metal seats." [Mr. HUNT: Hear, hear.] I hear the First Lord cheers that statement, and from that I apprehend it meets with his approval. [Mr. HUNT: Hear, hear.] In fact, I think that the whole course pursued by the Admiralty shows that he approved of it. The jury came to this conclusion mainly from the evidence of Mr.Bramwell, an eminent civil engineer; and he, I believe, came to his conclusion as to what was the cause of these valves sticking from certain experiments which he made upon 14 valves. He found that one of them stuck from this cause, as he supposed, and that the other 13 did not; and, therefore, there were 13 chances to one against the valves sticking from this cause. Mr. Bramwell said very candidly, in addressing the jury, that he had never known a similar occurrence, and that he had never seen anyone who had known of such an occurrence; that he had never read or heard of such an occurrence; and that all the scientific gentlemen engaged in the investigation were as much surprised as himself. Mr. Bramwell assigned five other possible causes which may make valves stick; and one was, if a valve was left in its seat without movement for a considerable time. Now, these valves on beard the Thunderer—one of them certainly—had not been moved by hand for more than three years, and I think it is not impossible that the other valve had not been moved for a considerable length of time. I find the First Lord disputes that. [Mr. HUNT: They had been moved on the morning of the accident.] I know there was a man deputed to move one of the valves. The other could not be got at—neither of them could be got at except by means of a handle attached to one of the valves. The valves were placed in an iron box —I believe hermetically sealed—and one valve, as I shall prove, had not been knowingly moved for more than three years. As to the other valve, the handle had been moved, and it was reasonable to expect that the man who had moved it thought he had moved the valve. But what says the Assessor who was deputed to aid the coroner in the discharge of his duty? As to that, he says— 1467The man who tests the safety valve may be deceived, and leave a safety valve stuck fast on its seat when he thought he had raised it and left it free.That is Mr. Lavington Fletcher's opinion; and, therefore, I hold that it is not wholly improbable that neither of those valves had been moved, and that that was the cause of the explosion. But, at any rate, it is clear that both valves ought to have been moved. If you have two means of safety, it is not wise to neglect one altogether. But whose duty was it to look to these valves? I think it was the duty of the Board of Admiralty. In a letter to the contractors on the 5th of April, 1873, the Controller says—The Portsmouth officers have been directed to relieve you of the expense and responsibility of keeping the engines of the Thunderer in order from the present time until they are properly tried and accepted.Therefore, until the Admiralty had accepted these engines—they had not accepted them up to the time of trial—they were responsible for them, and for doing everything that was necessary from time to time. Well, then, of course the officers are responsible; but which of them? There is no manager of the dockyards. The Superintendent is not responsible. Who, then, is responsible? The Captain of the Steam Reserve was examined, and he said "he had been told "that the safety valves were taken out while he was in command, and their weights weighed during the time he held that position; but the work did not come under his personal cognisance, and he had not examined the engines—it was no part of his duty. The Chief Inspector of Machinery Afloat —and the Thunderer was afloat—said he never opened the safety-valve box during the three years, because the engines of the Thunderer were never "in the Steam Reserve proper." What Mr. Oliver thought when he said that, I cannot tell. What distinction he drew between the Steam Reserve and "the Steam Reserve proper" is confined in his own breast. The Chief Engineer of the Dockyards, who has instructions to examine "prior to all trials at the mile," was not called. The only evidence was that of Watts Thomas, an engineer of the Thunderer, who "recollected a man named Wilkins from the dockyard "coming in May, 1873. So that, although 1468 45 men were killed by this explosion, and many more most likely maimed for life, no one was responsible for it. The Admiralty cannot say who is responsible for it—at least, we have yet to hear it. Now, this shows the folly of dealing with large establishments by petty instructions. These special instructions for moving these valves are sufficient in ordinary cases, when a vessel is sent to Portsmouth and is tried almost immediately afterwards. The valves are taken out, and then there is no doubt that they will move freely in their seats; but the Thunderer was three years and more before she was tried on the mile. When she went to Portsmouth, her valves were taken out and measured and weighed, and if she had gone then on the measured mile, no doubt they would have acted freely, and I believe there would not have been any accident. But she was, as I say, three years without having been tried; and, therefore, certainly one valve had not been moved, and posssibly the other had not. But I not only think there is fault in the Admiralty in not having made better arrangements for the moving of these valves, but I think considerable blame attaches to them for not having ordered an inquiry subsequently. The mode in which the inquiry was conducted was certainly not such as to justify any great confidence in the result. The coroner who presided at the inquest was the same gentleman who presided when the Alberta ran down the Mistletoe. He was the Admiralty Agent then, and he was the Admiralty Agent at the time of the inquest on the bodies of the men killed by the explosion on beard the Thunderer. He required some one to assist him, and he selected Mr. Laving-ton Fletcher. This gentleman was paid out of the funds of the Home Office. Mr. Bramwell, a civil engineer, appeared on behalf of the Admiralty. I say "on behalf of the Admiralty" because, although he was first introduced as an independent witness, it was subsequently found that he was retained by the Admiralty and paid by the Admiralty, and therefore acted in the relation of counsel to his client. Well, there were five gentlemen named by the Admiralty to investigate the cause of this explosion, and there were five gentlemen named by the contractors; and Mr. Bramwell and his assistant were added to this Com- 1469 mittee. Therefore, there were 12 persons engaged in investigating the causes of the explosion, and seven of them were named by the Admiralty. Mr. Bramwell appeared before the jury to give the jury the result of their investigation; and I think the First Lord admitted, when he answered my Question a few days since, that Mr. Bramwell had professed to give the result of this investigation—that he spoke the sentiments of the gentlemen who had investigated the cause of the disaster. Well, the jury on this came to their verdict. They were of opinion—they had a right to be so —that there was no difference of view among the scientific men who had made these investigations. For the counsel for the Admiralty said Mr. Bramwell laid before the jury the results of the investigation. Mr. Bramwell's evidence occupied three days, and he spoke generally about machinery, and about the machinery of the Thunderer in particular. The pith of his remarks was that the valves stuck in consequence of the contraction of the metal seats. Nobody was called upon after Mr. Bramwell to give evidence except the assistant of Mr. Bramwell, and a member of the Admiralty Boiler Committee. The other witnesses were not called. The jury then, believing that the 12 gentlemen of the Committee were all of one opinion, and having no contrary opinion before them, came to their verdict that the valves stuck because of the contraction of their metal seats. But, two or three days after the jury gave their verdict, a letter appeared in The Times signed by two of these gentlemen, Messrs. Bourne and Hide, stating that they differed from the view that Mr. Bramwell had put before the jury. Well, it may be said that this was after the result; but then there is evidence to show that before the verdict was given the persons responsible for conducting the inquiry knew that there was a difference of opinion amongst the Committee; for, in the written Report of the Assessor, Mr. Lavington Fletcher, it is said—Mr. Bourne has suggested that the excessive pressure in the boiler may have been due not so much to the valves being bound fast in their seats by adhesion as to being blocked down in the following way:—He concludes from the marks on the valve spindles that one of the spindles was broken prior to the explosion, and that that getting out of place may have jammed down its own valve, and at the same time the 1470 weights upon it may have so fouled those upon the other spindle as to have kept the other valve from rising also. -In this way he thinks both valves became locked fast. On this point it may be well for Mr. Bourne to make his own statement.Now, this Report was in the hands of the coroner before the jury gave their verdict. Mr. Bourne was never called, and the Report of Mr. Fletcher was never laid before the jury. Therefore I say that the Admiralty ought, in my opinion, to have ordered another inquiry, to ascertain what was really the cause of the valves sticking. Mr. Bramwell said the valves might stick from the bending of the spindle; therefore, even Mr. Bramwell's evidence goes to prove that Mr. Bourne was possibly right. But, be that as it may, Mr. Bourne ought to have been called before the jury gave their verdict, and as this was not done the Admiralty must bear the responsibility of having been aware of these facts and yet having ordered no inquiry. I believe if the First Lord had been acting alone as a Secretary of State, ho would have ordered another inquiry. I feel convinced of this—that men acting in a body very often do what they would not do individually. Well, now, the reasons given for defending this system have been two. It has been said that the shipbuilding work and the repairing work in our naval yards do not constitute one-half of the work done in the dockyards, or perhaps more than one-third. I may dispose of that simply by quoting the number of men there are employed in shipbuilding and repairing in our factories and yards. I find that in 1874–5 —I have no more recent statement—the First Lord, in moving the Navy Estimates, gave full details as to the different classes of men employed in the different yards, and the sum total was 11,388 in building and repairing and factory work, and 2,912 in other work. Therefore, I assume there are four times the number of men employed in shipbuilding that there are in other work. Another reason given why naval officers should be at the head of our shipbuilding yards is this—that they know more about the fitting of ships. Well, if it is necessary to have a naval efficer at the head of a dockyard because he knows more about the fitting of ships, it is somewhat singular that the Admiralty should put over all the naval yards a civilian, who knows nothing about 1471 the fitting of ships. I believe there are men in this House who have built iron-clads for foreign Governments, and have done it without the assistance of naval officers. From an Instruction issued in 1875, I find that the Superintendent is to take care that "all orders issued by our authority relative to the mode of dealing with the fitting of ships be strictly complied with." I apprehend that there are the most precise directions as to the fitting of ships, as well as to the other duties; but whatever other duty there is to transact in the Admiralty shipbuilding yards, it must be small and petty compared with that of building and repairing. It is no use trying to disguise the fact that the system has been devised by naval officers and got up by naval officers in the interests of their own particular class—not of the Service, but of a few eminent and distinguished naval officers. Well, but perhaps the First Lord may say" This is all mere reasoning. Let us look at the results—see how the Navy is managed." I am content to abide by that test; I would ask whether the Service, in its wide sense, comprising all that belongs to it, is contented? Are the officers contented? Are the seamen contented? It was only last year that my hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw-Lefevre) brought forward a Motion with regard to the great number of desertions, showing how much they were increasing. Are the Marines contented? There was a Motion last year by another hon. Member (Mr. S. Lloyd) showing that the Marines were exceedingly dissatisfied, and I do not think their position has been improved since. Are the Engineers contented? I leave that question to my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Reed), who I believe will second my Motion. Is there a single class under the Admiralty Administration of which you can fairly say it is contented? And then, when we come to our ships, are they efficient? I am sorry to say I shall be obliged to trouble the House with rather a long list of breakdowns. I see that the First Lord smiles. It has been said before that he generally takes a very genial view of almost everything, and I have no doubt he may do so on this occasion. I have spoken of the Vanguard, and I have said a few words about the Thunderer; but I will now 1472 take a few of the disasters, or "mishaps," as they are called, that have occurred during the last 16 months, and to these I pray the First Lord's attention. In November, 1875, the Iron Duke almost sank on her trial trip because her sluice valves were wrongly marked. In January, 1876, the Assistance nearly sank at sea, having a large hole in her hull, till then unnoticed. [Mr. HUNT Where?] I quote from The Examiner of September 30th, and The Broad Arrow of November 11th. The First Lord will find the particulars in those two papers. Well, about the same time the Rover broke down on her trial trip; and in March, 1876, the Valorous broke down on leaving port. [Mr. HUNT: March, 1876?] In March, 1876, the Valorous broke down, so it is said. The Opal has been in constant trouble from failure of engines. She had a narrow escape from the Monarch's ram, was once ashore at Ascension, twice ashore in the Straits of Magellan, and is still unreliable after repairs at Valparaiso. That I quote from The Broad Arrow of the 16th October, and The Times of February 27th, 1877. In June, 1876, the Hydra exploded a boiler, killing one engineer, and injuring several others; and in July, while at full speed, her engines were totally disabled. From June, 1876, to January, 1877, the Shah was detained by constant failures of machinery; from July to February the Alexandra was useless from similar causes. In August, 1876, the Orontes, with new machinery, broke down; she was repaired, and in October her crank shaft was found cracked. She was sent to the East with troops in this state; and last week (February 27th) news was received that she is detained at Singapore from defects in machinery. She should have left on January 25th, but is now delayed indefinitely. In August, 1876, the Boadicea broke down on her trial trip, and had to be towed back to port. In September, 1876, the Danaë was commissioned, and has been useless ever since. Her boilers primed, her engineers were "fairly beaten," the crew were ordered to the Torquoise. The Torquoise also broke down, and the crew went to barracks, and the Danaë into dock. In November, 1876, the Favourite, having dangerous boilers, was towed round from Scotland by the Malta; both broke down, and other help had to be sent. In Decem- 1473 ber, 1876, the Invincible, when about to be re-commissioned, was found with all four cylinders cracked beyond repair. Well, then, we find that in six months there have been eight ships disabled —the Hydra, the Shah, the Thunderer, the Alexandra, the Boadicea, the invincible, the Danaë, and the Shannon. In February The Times reported on one day 11 vessels broken down from defects of machinery, of which 11 only 4 have been mentioned in my list. Now, this is a long catalogue of disasters, but I could add many more; and I have no doubt the First Lord would say they are some of them very trifling cases. No doubt they are; but, at the same time, it is very serious that six or eight of our first-class iron-clads should be incapacitated during a year of peace. And I think what makes it so painful is that there is no necessity for all these breakdowns and all these mishaps. The ordinary care and skill which are displayed in many of our private establishments, if they were equalled in the Admiralty Department, would prevent a great portion of this, if not the whole. The First Lord, I think, will scarcely say it was impossible to make arrangements which would have prevented these people from cutting holes in the Vanguard; or that it was impossible to make arrangements by which the valves of the Thunderer could have been moved; and many other matters of this sort. I very much doubt whether he will say it was absolutely necessary to appoint an Admiral to command the Reserve Squadron who had never been at sea, with the exception of a few months, for 16 years, and had never commanded an iron-clad in his life. All this, I think, should call his attention to the state of our Navy now. So many. breakdowns, I may be allowed to observe, form a very striking contrast to the state of things some 60 or 70 years ago. I read two very able articles on the subject about six months ago, one in Fraser's Magazine and the other in The Quarterly Review. At that time, as they said, the word "collision" was not in our seamen's vocabulary, and people went to bed quietly and comfortably, feeling assured that the Navy of England they might rest upon with perfect security. Then we could rely upon our ships to blockade the enemy's ports, even with an inferior force, being off those ports 1474 for months together in stormy weather, never being driven ashore, and never driven away so that the vessels of the enemy could pass out. How different is the state of the Navy now! We do not take up a newspaper without seeing that some ship of Her Majesty's Navy has been disabled. The First Lord might perhaps say that, with reference to the comparison with 60 or 70 years ago, we now have steam, and that it is more difficult to manage. Just look at what some of our steamship companies can do. I remember reading at the close of last year an address given by the chairman of the Peninsular and Oriental Company, in which he said that they had, I think, some 65 steamships of 21,000 horse power; that those ships had traversed during the last 12 months 1,650,000 miles without loss of life, without any accident worth naming, and with an entire immunity from maritime disaster. The chairman further went on to say that no dispassionate person could say this was the result of chance. It was due to the excellent system of ship management. There was an article some time since in The Times with regard to the Cunard Company. They had 49 ships, and in 12 months they conveyed 80,000 persons, passengers and crews, between England and America alone; and during the 50 years the Company had been established they had only injured bodily two persons on beard their ships, and the juries acquitted the Company of blame in both cases. The Times, which gave this statement, went on to say—" This is sometimes described as luck, but no person and no firm is ever continuously lucky for 50 years." Would that the Admiralty could say the same as these great steamship companies ! Now, it sometimes is easy to point out a fault, but it is not quite so easy to say what the remedy should be. But in this case I do not think there is any difficulty in making the remedy clear. There is no very high order of statesmanship required in the office of the First Lord of the Admiralty. He has not, like the Foreign Secretary, to deal with very difficult questions of diplomacy. All we want of the First Lord is that we shall have a powerful Fleet; and I would say that in order to obtain this we should do away with the Board of Admiralty, where the responsibility is frittered 1475 away by being divided amongst five Lords; and let us have one head. The evil is clear of having a Controller and Superintendents of Dockyards who are ignorant of their business. The remedy is equally clear in having men of skill and experience in their stead. The evil is that of trying to manage large business establishments by written instructions, by telegrams, by letters. Instead of these let us have each dockyard complete in itself, under a skilful and experienced manager. Then—and not until then—shall we have a Navy we can depend upon, and ships that we can send anywhere to do what we require of them. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his Resolution.
§ MR. E. J. REED
said, he rose to second the Motion of the hon. Member, although he was not able entirely to concur in many of the remarks which his hon. Friend had made. He proposed to base the fabric of the observations which he intended to offer on this subject upon one fact, and that fact was the altered condition of the British Navy at the present time from what it had been in the past. On Saturday last the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had said at the Royal United Service Institution that—When, we read, as we did the other day, of the Alexandra going to sea with 35 engines on hoard, I say that it makes me feel perfectly bewildered. I am sure that no man could properly take part in the management of a ship like that without being possessed of an amount of scientific knowledge which must be gained not only by the study of works bearing on the subject, but must also be fortified by actual and considerable experience. We shall have to educate ourselves for that, and not only for that, but you will have to go to your Engineers for works of which you have now no conception.Those observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War would form the key-note of the remarks which he himself now proposed to address to the House. Iron-clad ships differed from the old ships which composed the Navy in almost every particular. These vessels were not only built of different material, but were subdivided into a large number of compartments — larger, probably, than many persons supposed. In some of our vessels there were more than 200 compartments. All these compartments were furnished with valves and contrivances to separate them from each other, all of which had to 1476 be made familiar to the minds of the officers entrusted with the charge of the ship. Then, again, the methods of pumping, upon which the safety of a ship often depended, were very complicated, and the steam engines on beard were not only, as he had indicated, numerous, but demanded on the part of those who were responsible on beard an intimate knowledge of their character and mode of application. The armaments of the ships were also extremely different from what the armaments of our vessels used to be. A great deal of machinery was required to work the guns in these ships. All that being so, the question which he invited the House to consider was this—had the great change which had occurred in the constitution of our Naval Service been fully realized and acted upon by those who had been entrusted with its management? For himself, he did not think that that change had been sufficiently recognized and acted upon; and the consequence had been that the Navy of this country was not now in anything like the satisfactory condition in which it might have been if various causes, some of them traditional and all of them associated with the rules of the Service, had not stood in the way. That the altered state of things had not been sufficiently recognized he would now show by one or two facts. And, in the first place, he desired to refer to the position of the Admiralty Office at this moment. In doing so he must make a momentary allusion to the Navy Estimates for the present year, which had been placed in the hands of hon. Members, though he did not think those Estimates differed materially from the Estimates of last year in reference to the point he was about to mention. In those Estimates they would find that the total provision which the right hon. Gentleman made within the walls of the office at Whitehall for the control and management of the Royal Navy was the appointment of one Engineer officer at £900 a-year salary. But if he should be told he had excluded out-door officers, who ought properly to be considered as upon the Staff, he would extend his figures and say £3,000 a-year was the total outlay for Engineer officers within the walls of the Admiralty. While they found that one Engineer officer had the control of the whole machinery of the Royal Navy at a salary of £900 a-year, 1477 they would find there were seven admirals at salaries amounting to £13,300 a-year to manage naval affairs. The inference he drew from that was, that it was perfectly idle for hon. Members to complain that the machinery of the Admiralty was badly designed, badly constructed, and badly managed, because no one could seriously suppose that one officer, with a salary of £900 a-year, could exercise the control that was required. The difference between £13,300 for the seven admirals and the £900 for the one Engineer officer was so great that he thought it would strike the House with considerable force. He did not wish in the least degree to imply that there were too many admirals, or that they were paid too much. But his argument was, that if they required £13,300 for admirals within the walls of the Office, they required more than £900 for an Engineer officer to take charge of the machinery. If they passed from Whitehall and went on beard the ships, what was the state of things they found there? He would take first the officers, and he would select for the purpose of his argument two ships now in commission, the Newcastle and the Devastation. The Newcastle was a wooden frigate, with one set of engines to propel her, and with the ordinary full rig and spread of canvas. The Devastation was a ship without a mast or sail, and was as unlike ships of the olden times as any construction man could contrive, teeming with machinery and mechanical appliances, all of which required to be understood. Let them refer to the Newcastle and the Devastation in The Navy List, and they would find their officers exactly the same in every respect. There were no more officers on the one than on the other, except that on the Devastation they had two or three more of the lower class of Engineers. Under these circumstances, he contended that the present system of officering their ships did not reflect the altered condition of the times in which they were living. But were things any better when they proceeded to examine the manning of their ships? He recollected that many years ago the Duke of Somerset, the then First Lord of the Admiralty, had spoken to him of the necessity there was of training a class of men for service on board our iron-clads. The views of the noble Duke, however, had not been carried into effect, and the result was, as appeared from a 1478 statement in a newspaper during the past week, that a number of carpenters from Chatham Dockyard had been obliged to be sent on beard the Alexandra as part of her crew because there were no regularly trained men to fulfil the duties they would be called upon to discharge. In the machinery department it was just the same. The Admiralty could not, and did not, provide the engine-room artificers which were necessary for the care of the engines. All these deficiencies arose from the fact that the Navy was managed by a system of routine which did not compel Ministers and Executive officers to open their eyes to the age in which we lived. There was another branch of Admiralty administration the unsatisfactory condition of which was equally striking — namely, that which related to the education and training of our Naval officers. The right hon. Gentleman had not said a word as to the education which our Naval officers should undergo in order to fit them to take charge of our iron-clad fleet. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) perceived the necessity of taking some steps in this direction, and in 1869 he appointed a Committee to draw up a scheme for their education. The Committee appointed by the right hon. Gentleman, however, from its constitution, was not in the least degree capable of giving practical advice to the Admiralty upon the subject.
§ MR. CHILDERS
explained that that Committee had only to deal with the education of the naval cadets of 13 years of age.
§ MR. E. J. REED
said, that they were, at all events, to be taken into the Navy. The right hon. Gentleman afterwards appointed a Committee which had not to deal with the education of boys of 13, but with the higher education of Naval officers; and here he must remark that he trusted that what he was now saying would not be taken as an undue criticism of what had taken place, but rather as a suggestion for the future. He maintained that the Committee to which he had just referred did not comprise one individual at all competent, looking at his antecedents, to direct the mind of the First Lord of the Admiralty as to the proper course of study which our Naval officers should pursue. The same kind of things was still going on at the 1479 present time. The right hon. Gentleman the present First Lord had he thought, very properly, determined to build a College where naval cadets should be educated. It was necessary that part of their education should be devoted to their becoming acquainted with the machines with which they would have hereafter to deal. The right hon. Gentleman appointed a Committee with reference to the College; but he never said a word about this at all, with the single exception that the last of the points to which he drew attention was that the College should, if convenient, be in proximity to a naval port. From the proposed site at Mount Boon the cadets would have to go to Devonport to become practically acquainted with the immense machine they were in future to command. Could any change for the better be expected under the existing organization of the Admiralty? The Managing Board of the British Navy now consisted of two Members of the House and three' admirals. That, he contended, was not sufficient, and showed that the altered circumstances of the new Service had not been properly considered. It was not impossible that he might be told that the First Lord of the Admiralty was a supreme Minister. If that were so, the Warrant under which the Board of Admiralty was constituted was a fiction and a sham; and if it were not so, then he objected to the First Lord having Colleagues who had no opportunity of discharging duties they were expected to perform. He had himself realized the difficulty in this matter. During the time that he held the office of Chief Constructor of the Navy, the times in which he came into personal contact with the First Lord on questions of the construction of ships were extremely rare. In his post he always felt a considerable distance from the fountain of power and responsibility. They had been told, in previous discussions on this matter, that the management of the Dockyards had been found to work very well, and he had no doubt the Admiral Superintendent of any one of these establishments would, with perfect innocence, express his surprise on being told that everything was not going on well. Of course, the mechanical officers of a Dockyard did not complain to the very person who was the embodiment of their grievances. The remedy for this state of things was 1480 very simple, and it was embodied in the Motion of his hon. Friend. They had no desire to interfere with the details of the Naval Service. What they wanted was some one sitting on the Treasury Bench who should be responsible to the House when any great mishap occurred, and who when any succession of disgraceful mishaps occurred, should be asked to resign his post in favour of some one else. He might have assistants from the various branches of the Naval Service to advise him. There should be a Secretary of State for the Navy, who should have, in the first place, a Parliamentary officer connected with him. Then he should have an admiral responsible to him for the good condition and satisfactory performance of the entire commissioned Navy. He should have another responsible to him for the whole of the Naval Reserves. He should have another officer responsible for the whole construction and management of the ships and engines, and another who should be responsible for the finances. This would not deprive the Naval Minister of the power of assembling his officers and consulting them when occasion should arise. So strongly did he feel on this subject that he was convinced that responsibility for the construction of the Navy there was none—that it was a gross absurdity to speak of it. There was absolutely no one who if a ship were designed ever so badly was responsible for the fact, or who, if an engine were ever so defective, could be held responsible. With what conscience could they go to the Chief Constructor of the Navy and tell him that he was responsible, when a naval officer had been put over his head? Would he not very naturally say—" Give me the prestige of the office if you seek to give me its responsibility." If they had a Secretary of State, with a number of skilled advisers—heads of departments—they would not have to complain of the absence of responsibility. The present condition of things was extremely unsatisfactory. His hon. Friend had detailed a number of accidents which had occurred; but he was thankful to say he did not think it necessary to his argument to rely on those accidents. He took them to be the ordinary growth of the existing system, and if the House remained content with the Board of Admiralty, which could not manage be- 1481 cause it did not know intimately of what the Navy consisted, they must expect such disasters. He did not desire that they should make any sudden or violent change in the way of forcing mechanical officers into the position of great eminence. There was this difficulty in the way of doing so—that there was but a small supply of such officers, and that was the defence the Admiralty set up. But that small supply was one of his greatest accusations against the Admiralty. In the Estimates the House would see the large amount that was to be expended in the building of vessels whose construction must be perfectly mysterious and inexplicable to those who were not thoroughly and practically acquainted with them. If it was worth while to build such vessels, surely it was the duty of the Admiralty to provide qualified men to work them both in peace and war? The House should remember that they were in a position of transition. He did not state those views by way of finding fault. His object was, if he could, to arouse the Government to a sense of the actual position in which this vitally important matter now stood. It was perfectly discreditable to us to allow naval officers to remain ignorant of the duties they would have to perform. He remembered on one occasion having a carpenter appointed to an iron-clad, and who became acquainted with the duties which would be required of him in such a ship; but he was invalided the night before she sailed, and his successor was a man who had never seen an iron-clad before. Such things were discreditable, and must end in grave difficulties if the evil was not remedied. He did not know whether his hon. Friend intended to divide on his Motion. Probably he might think the House was not altogether prepared to vote on the large propositions contained in the Resolution, and be content with the discussion of the questions they involved; but if his hon. Friend went to a division he would think it his duty to go into the Lobby with him. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord would distinguish himself by taking the lead in the reforms that were necessary.
Motion made, and Question proposed,That this House, in order to remedy certain defects in the Administration of the Admiralty, recommends the Government to take into con- 1482 sideration the propriety of administering that Department by means of a Secretary of State:That this House further recommends the Government to take into consideration the advantage of appointing to the offices of Controller of the Navy and Superintendents of Her Majesty's Dockyards persons who possess practical knowledge of the duties they have to discharge; and of altering the rule which limits their tenure of office to a fixed term."—(Mr Seely.)
§ CAPTAIN PIM
asked permission of the House to withdraw a Motion which he had on the Paper, as an Amendment to Mr. Seely's Motion, to leave out all the words after the word "That," and in lieu thereof to insert the words—Before recommending the Government to make any change in the administration of the Admiralty, or in the appointments to the offices of Controller of the Navy and Superintendents of Her Majesty's Dockyards, it is desirable that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire fully into the present Admiralty organization and its system of departmental and general administration of the affairs of the Navy, as well as into the actual condition of the Navy and Maritime resources of the Country, to ascertain how far they meet the requirements of the Empire; and also into the administrative arrangements made by the First Lord of the Admiralty to insure the efficiency of the Naval Service, upon which depends the welfare and safety of the Kingdom.
§ MR. D. JENKINS
said, the House had a right to expect that everything possible should be done to avoid disasters at sea, a great portion of which were attributable to the want of ordinary skill in the navigation of our ships at sea. The less of the Vanguard and of many other vessels was to be attributed to that cause. One great cause of this want of knowledge was the fact that junior naval officers did not spend more than one-third of their time at sea, and the same observation applied to those who were higher in command. They could not expect young officers to perform their duties in a satisfactory manner unless they had continuous practice at sea. If he remembered aright, one of the officers who was examined as to the cause of the loss of the Vanguard stated in his evidence that out of the three years he had held his commission of lieutenant he had only spent 14 or 15 months at sea. It was unfair to expect of officers so circumstanced that skill and judgment which it was necessary they should possess and which they could not attain unless they were given the means 1483 of acquiring a thorough acquaintance with the duties of their Profession. He could not altogether agree with the observations made by the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed) as to the ignorance of naval officers in respect of the construction of their ships. He did not think they were so ignorant as the hon. Member supposed. Certainly, officers of the Mercantile Marine were not. Again, much had been said with regard to the duties of Engineer officers. Well, he had commanded steamships himself, and knew what those duties were. They were onerous and responsible, no doubt; but he maintained that the responsibility of those officers was nothing compared with that of the commander or the lieutenant of a ship. A greater amount of responsibility rested on the shoulders of the two able seamen who kept a look-out on a dark night. In fact, the responsibility of those on deck was greater than of those in the engine-room. There was a kind of freemasonry about engineers. They thought that no one knew anything about marine engines but themselves. He should, however, be sorry to think that naval officers were ignorant of the working of marine engines. Before he took command of a steam vessel he had mastered the details of marine engines and passed a voluntary examination on the subject, and he could not believe that the commanders of ships of war were unacquainted with the working of marine engines. What was required was an alteration of the system to which he had alluded, of allowing officers to remain for such long periods on shore, for he believed that a great number of such accidents as they had heard of could be avoided if officers had the advantage of continuous sea service. He was of opinion, too, that ships while cruising, as the Vanguard was when she was run into, should be provided with experienced coasting pilots, from whom the senior officers could obtain assistance and the junior officers instruction. The accident to the Vanguard would, he believed, have never occurred if each ship of the Squadron had had an experienced pilot on beard. Perhaps we could be less concerned about gunbeats than iron-clads; but with an iron-clad worth about £500,000 every precaution ought to be taken to insure safety. If the hon. Member went to a division he should be happy to support him.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he had endeavoured on former occasions to induce the House to act on the opinion he had long entertained, that the great cause of the misfortunes which occurred in the conduct of the business of the Admiralty was the wrong construction of the Board and the faulty practice of placing at the head of it a civilian who could not understand the duties of his office. He did not disparage the great abilities of many of the First Lords, but he regretted that their talents were not employed more beneficially for their country. A First Lord was not in his position long enough to acquire the necessary knowledge for the discharge of his duties. An anomaly so glaring and absurd did not admit of argument and it must come to an end. He believed that the loss of the Vanguard might be traced to the civilian government of the Admiralty, and also that the other casualties which had occurred about the same time were attributed to that cause. With respect to the proposition that there should be a Parliamentary authority, as a Secretary of State, he thought that would be an improvement on the present system; but if such authority should be appointed, there ought to be a stringent provision that he should never go near the Admiralty, and should be a medium of communication between the Admiralty and the House of Commons, and not interfere in any manner with the conduct of the Navy, otherwise the present evils would be perpetuated and such appointment would do more harm than good. He believed his views were shared by a majority of the House, and would have been adopted long ago if it had not been for the reluctance of the two front Benches to give up the patronage connected with the Admiralty. The struggle between the civilian and the nautical element was seen in the design and construction of ships, which were not of the class we required. We had not three ships that were capable of making a voyage round the world under sail and reserving their coal for an emergency; indeed, some of them had no masts and were mere floating batteries, propelled by steam, and unmanageable without it. We had too many Devastations and too few Neweastles; and we required more of the nautical element in the Admiralty to devise the kind of ship that could be properly handled under canvas, and that 1485 would be a useful vessel, adapted to meet the requirements of the British Navy. He trusted they would receive some assurance from the Government that these points would receive more attention in the future. Several large Committees had been appointed to consider this subject, of more than one of which he had been a Member, and every one of those Committees had recommended that the constitution of the Board of Admiralty should be re-considered. Until, however, the time came when the country took more interest in the condition and administration of the British Navy, the evils of which his lion. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely) complained were likely to be perpetuated.
§ MR. BAXTER
must admit that he took very little interest in the first part of his hon. Friend's Resolution. He had never seen the importance of this Board question, and he cared very little whether the Minister at the head of the Admiralty was called a First Lord or a Secretary of State. He must have a certain number of advisers, both naval and civilian, and it was immaterial whether they were called a Board or not. His hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed) had given them a sketch of what he considered the proper method of carrying on the business of the Admiralty, and according to him the present mode was either a sham or something worse; but from his own experience as Secretary to the Admiralty he could say that the business meetings of the heads of departments were more frequent now than ever they had been before; and he considered it due to the right hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) and the Lords of the Admiralty during his time to bear his testimony to the good working of the Board. He agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke that for the future it would be desirable that the mechanical genius of the country should be better represented on the Board of Admiralty, or in Whitehall, whether the Admiralty business was conducted by Board or not. He could not get up any enthusiasm for the first part of the Resolution of his hon. Friend. It had reference to a mere matter of nomenclature; and if the question before the House had merely been whether the First Lord should be called a Secretary 1486 of State he should not have taken part in the discussion. He, however, was anxious to say a few words, as he felt strongly, upon the other part of the Resolution of the hon. Member for Lincoln. That was a very different matter, and to his mind was the chief of all the difficulties in the administration of the Admiralty, because it went to the very root of the sources of that dissatisfaction and discontent with dockyard management which existed in the minds of the people of this country. The fact was notorious that no matter what Government was in office, whether they were Conservatives or Liberals, mistakes of a most wonderful nature, of a most startling character, had been constantly made in the Royal Dockyards—mistakes which he agreed with his hon. Friend would be considered amazing in connection with a private trade. They had all known of vessels of a most powerful character, costing enormous sums of money, being found defective on the occasion of their trial trips. They all knew that a great number of their ships had been discovered to require very serious repair after they had been a comparatively short time at sea. They all knew that men-of-war were sent to sea out of the Royal Dockyards which, although not very old, were found to be unseaworthy; and he ventured to say that in the history of steam navigation there had been no such accident, lamentable as it was in its loss of life and discreditable as it was to some persons, as that which occurred on beard Her Majesty's ship Thunderer. He himself had seen, whilst he had held office, many things at the dockyards in the administration and working of the yards which had produced a very unpleasant impression upon his mind, although he did not think it would serve any good purpose to recapitulate them now. This was not the fault of individuals, but the fault of the system, to which lie believed the latter part of the Resolution of the hon. Member for Lincoln would apply the proper remedy. He had never before said a single word on this subject; but he wanted now to state that, having carefully read and listened to what had been written and said upon it, and after some experience at the Admiralty, he was never more thoroughly convinced of anything in his life than that the work of the Royal Dockyards would never be 1487 properly done, unless, in the words of the Resolution of his lion. Friend, persons were appointed, not as subordinates, but as Superintendents, "who possessed a practical knowledge of the duties they had to discharge."
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. BAXTER,
in continuation, said, he was surprised that any hon. Member should have moved that the House be counted when such an important subject was under discussion, as he must have known that there were many more than 40 Members present in and about the House; besides, Her Majesty's Government had not yet spoken upon the subject. He was about to state, when interrupted, that there was a large amount of opposition, jealousy, discontent, and bad feeling existing between the naval officers who superintended the dockyards and the civilians there, which was positively detrimental to Her Majesty's service. That jealousy and ill-feeling might not be very apparent to casual observers and visitors, but he knew that it existed, and his hon. Friend's observations on this part of the subject were not a whit too strong. He was opposed to the principle of rewarding good service, either on the sea or in the field, and whether rendered by officers or men, by sailers or soldiers, by giving them appointments which were not very much in their line. It would be greatly to the benefit of the Service if officers whom it was thought desirable to reward were offered a grant of money instead of being appointed to positions they were not fitted for. Not one naval officer in 20 appointed to take charge of the dockyards knew anything about the building or repairing of ships, although those men thought it necessary to interfere in such matters. He firmly believed that the presence and position of those officers in the dockyards had a deterrent effect in preventing men of higher standing and knowledge as master shipwrights from entering the public service. Each of those yards should be regarded as a great manufacturing establishment, over which there should be a manager who understood not one branch, but all branches of his business. But he would not exclude the naval element 1488 altogether. It was highly important and necessary that there should be naval advice, and there was nothing that he saw to prevent a Commander-in-Chief of a station, or where there was no Commander-in-Chief, the Admiralty, from appointing an assessor to assist the superintendent of the yard. He admitted that at the outset it would be difficult to get gentlemen of sufficient standing to occupy posts such as those of superintendents; but he was satisfied that the proposal of his hon. Friend ought to have a fair trial, because he had never met with a man of business who thoroughly understood the working of a great manufacturing establishment and who had also seen what went on in a dockyard who did not entirely disapprove of the present system. Besides, the second part of the Motion offered the most practical suggestions to the House which had been before them for a considerable time. Before sitting down he desired to say a few words in consequence of some observations which had been made in the course of that debate. The hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) said that there were only three serviceable ships, according to his notion, in the British Navy; and the Mover and Seconder of that Motion had naturally dwelt on the defects of the present system. Now, he admitted that that system had many serious defects, and that night they had been discussing one of the principal of them; but, nevertheless, he did not wish it to go abroad that the Navy of this country was really inefficient. He was glad that the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Pim) who had given Notice of an Amendment had not ventured to press it upon the House. They did not want any more Committees on that matter. Although he did not approve all that had been said or done by the present First Lord of the Admiralty, he believed that the administration of the Navy was absolutely safe in his hands, just as it had been quite safe in the hands of previous First Lords who had been attacked for their administration. And at this moment, notwithstanding all the criticism they had heard in that House and read in the newspapers, he was perfectly convinced that the Fleet of this country was superior to the Fleet not only of any other Power which could be brought against it, but of any combined Powers 1489 which were likely to unite against us. He often thought it very impolitic and very unpatriotic for Gentlemen to dwell altogether on the faults of the present system and on the deficiencies of the Navy, without at the same time admitting that ours was the most powerful Fleet which he believed the world had ever seen. He would ask the House to deal with practical defects. One had been pointed out and was before them, and the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed) had referred to seine others, and he (Mr. Baxter) hoped they would be discussed at greater length at a future time. It was the duty of every Member of the House, and especially of the Opposition, to criticize the naval policy of the Government; but he deprecated saying or doing anything which would cause an unnecessary panic at home and produce a very false impression abroad. He would be happy to support the Resolution.
§ MR. A. F. EGERTON
thought that his hon. Friend who had moved that the government of the Admiralty should be placed in the hands of a Secretary of State had been fighting with shadows rather than with realities, as so far as he knew—and he had now had some four years' experience—his right hon. Friend the First Lord held the same position at the Admiralty as the Secretary of State for War did at the War Office. It might be said that the responsibility of his right hon. Friend was shared by the Naval and Civil Lords and by himself; but he denied that assertion, maintaining, on the contrary, that his right hon. Friend was the organ of the Board of Admiralty and entirely responsible for its administration. The hon. Member had quoted a long list of disasters, or rather mishaps, to Her Majesty's ships, some of which were not authentic, while others, unfortunately, were authentic, and he had said that they were owing to the bad method of administration. There was, however, a missing link in the hon. Member's argument, because he did not show that those disasters were due to the fact that there was a First Lord, together with Naval and other Lords of the Admiralty. As to the disaster to the Vanguard, the hon. Gentleman alleged that the reason why Admiral Tarleton had not been tried by court-martial was because he was an old member of the Board. Now, he 1490 denied that that fact had really had anything to do with it. The reason why Admiral Tarleton had not been tried by court-martial was because the whole question of the loss of the Vanguard was of course referred to the Admiralty, and carefully considered by the First Lord and by three Naval Lords whose business it was to consider all cases of that kind; and they arrived at a judgment to the effect that Admiral Tarleton was not to blame. He believed that was a perfectly impartial judgment, and, having arrived at it, they were bound to act upon it. The Minute was agreed to by every member of the Board. They had two of the best officers in the Service, two of the best admirals, and one of the best, if not the best, captain in the Service, and a man thoroughly conversant with the conduct of iron-clads at sea. The fact of Admiral Tarleton being a former member of the Board did not weigh a feather's weight with any of those who gave that perfectly impartial judgment. The hon. Member had said that the Iron Duke was nearly lost. No doubt the valves of the Iron Duke were wrongly marked, but the ship was not nearly lost, and he could not see show any change in the Admiralty could have prevented the wrong marking of those valves; and he would take the opportunity of warning the hon. Member against too implicitly believing in the reports of the naval correspondents of newspapers, who picked up their information as they could and who were apt to give a certain amount of colouring to their facts. Those reports, at all events, ought not to be made the basis of discussion in the House until they had been thoroughly sifted. Very often the slightest accidents were magnified into naval disasters. In the case of the Assistance, so far as he knew, there had been no complaint, while in the case of the Pallas there had been a slight accident, which had been immediately placarded as "Another disaster to one of Her Majesty's ships." He was sorry to say that in the cases of the Opal and the Hydra there was reason for complaint. The latter was a case of pure mismanagement, for which those responsible had been punished sufficiently by the Admiralty. As to the Shah, her engines unfortunately had been very unsatisfactory; there was no question about it. 1491 But there was a tale to tell about those engines. They were ordered from a firm which unfortunately went into liquidation, and the business was taken over by another firm. The consequence was that the engines were not finished as they ought to have been, and it was only recently that they had been got to work at all satisfactorily. Such a case as that was not the result of bad work on the part of the Admiralty, though he did not say that the Admiralty was not responsible for it. Engines were ordered of private firms which were reputed to be the best in the world; they were ordered after tenders had been received and fully considered, and he was not aware what more could be done. Unfortunately it was a much more difficult thing to engine a man-of-war than an ordinary merchant vessel, owing to various considerations which had to be taken into account, and that was probably the reason why breakdowns sometimes occurred in the Navy. The case of the Orontes was a remarkable one. She was a troopship, which, having been too short, was lengthened by her original builders, the Messrs. Laird, of Birkenhead, and so lengthened proved to be a great success. Unfortunately her engines were unsatisfactory, but they were made by one of the best firms in the world, who were most desirous to give satisfaction; and he just mentioned this fact as a proof of the difficulty which was sometimes experienced in such cases. The Danaë was also a special case. Her boilers were of new construction, and they were ordered by the late Government, and it was then found that they would not work, and the present Government had had to replace them. The engines of the Turquoise and other new ships had also been very unsatisfactory. The Admiralty ordered them from the best firms in the world, and he could not see, whether if the Admiralty were administered by a Secretary of State, a naval officer, or anyone else, they could have done more to secure proper engines. So much for the accidents which had happened in the Navy. He now came to the second part of the hon. Gentleman's statement. The first observation he had to make on that subject was that the hon. Gentleman seemed to have a very erroneous impression as to the position in the Service of the Surveyor of Dockyards. Instead of being a sort of 1492 superintendent of dockyards, as the hon. Gentleman apparently believed, that officer might be described as the "eyes of the Controller." His duty was to see that the work was going on satisfactorily, but he had no control over the dockyards whatever. The great complaint of the hon. Member seemed to be that the Controller should be a naval officer; but he did not say from what class he would have him selected. The Controller's duty was to advise the Board, after consultation with his own suberdinates, as to the general work of the dockyards, and he quite admitted that a gentleman in that position ought to have great and varied experience. On looking back, however, to the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) in 1873, he found there a very complete answer to the objections which had been made to the present Controller of the Navy. He himself would only add that the present Controller of the Navy was a man of very considerable experience in the management of dockyards, and that he did not believe it would be possible to find either a civilian or a naval officer who could better fill the position. The right hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) contended that the superintendents of dockyards ought to be civilians, and that each dockyard ought to be conducted on an independent footing. He wished to ask the right hon. Member, in that case, what he proposed to do with the Purchase Department of the Admiralty. If it were kept up and supplied the dockyards it would do away to a considerable extent with the power of the manager of the dockyards. If, on the other hand, the superintendents purchased each for his own dockyard one would be pitted against the other, for whatever they did they could not make the managers of dockyards independent in the same sense as the masters or owners of great private manufacturing establishments. The result would be entire confusion. There was another objection to what had been proposed to the House, and that was the vast increase of salaries that would have to be given to these managers, which would cause a considerable addition to the Navy Estimates. They could not get good men at a less salary than £2,000 a-year. This, he granted, was an objection which would not have much 1493 weight if it was certain there would be a great advantage in having civilian managers; but he contended that the superintendents at present did their work very well. They were men who had had a large and varied experience of naval affairs, which, if they were men of sense, could hardly fail to qualify them for their position, and he doubted the possibility of getting civilian managers who would perform the duties so satisfactorily as the majority of the superintendents did. There might, of course, occasionally be a superintendent who did not attend properly to his work, but that might equally happen if they had civilian managers, and where it did happen there was the advantage in the case of the naval superintendents that, as they did not remain permanently in the yards, there was a good chance of getting rid of the inefficient officer. The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed) had dwelt a good deal on the weakness of the Engineer Department of the Admiralty. He quite agreed with him in thinking it was at present too weak. Something had been done to remedy that state of things, but whether anything more would be done he could not tell. The duties of the Department were very important; it had to examine the specifications and to see that the subordinates in the yards were doing their duty, and its present strength was, he thought, inadequate for that work. With regard to the remarks of the hon. Member for Pembroke on the subject of the education of naval officers, he agreed in thinking that there ought to be greater opportunities open to them than at present for studying the whole question of steam as applied to Her Majesty's ships; but he did not think it would be found practicable to give prominence to that matter in the early stages of the boys' training. He would not trouble the House with any further remarks. He had sought to show in brief that if the office of First Lord of the Admiralty were abolished to-morrow and that of a Secretary of State substituted, it would make no practical difference in Admiralty administration; that the office of Controller was held by a person who had a practical knowledge of the duties connected with it; and, lastly, that it was expedient that superintendents of the yards should remain, as at present, naval officers.
§ MR. GOURLEY
said, there was no spending Department of the State which, in his opinion, required more careful supervision than the Admiralty. He did not, however, entirely agree in the Resolution moved by the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely), but he should go into the Lobby with him if he pressed it to a division. He thought the system prescribed by the Admiralty for the sailing of our vessels—namely, that the ships should follow at three cables' length from each other—was the main. cause of the loss of the Vanguard. He hoped the system would be altered, otherwise similar accidents during fogs might be expected. He denied that the First Lord of the Admiralty was now as much responsible for the management of the Fleet as he ought to be, for there was this difference between him and the Secretary of State for War—that he had the opportunity, if he chose, to evade sole responsibility, and cast a share of it upon the other Members of the Board. It would be politic on the part of the Government to make the First Lord as responsible to the House and the country as the Secretary of State for War now was. Reform was needed in regard to the manning of the Navy. At the close of the Crimean War in 1859 this country had 927 ships, and the number of men and boys required for their management was 46,000, exactly the same number we had now for working 248 ships. He should like to know how the Admiralty disposed of so many men at present with so small a number of ships. He also complained of the expenditure of £100,000 a-year for police to look after the dockyards, and suggested that blue-jackets might be employed in their stead. A more careful control was required over the Dockyard expenditure, particularly with regard to repairs of ships, upon which money was wasted in some instances. He urged the Admiralty to take measures to secure the thorough training of naval officers in the management and manoeuvring of our steam fleet; and he suggested the establishment of local Naval Colleges at all our principal seaports, where poor parents might obtain for their boys a naval education at less expense than was now incurred in sending them to Greenwich or some other of the existing schools. Our transport system was worked expensively, and the vessels 1495 employed in that service took double the number of men that merchant ships of a similar tonnage carried. In conclusion the hon. Member expressed a hope that these necessary reforms in the several branches of the Department would be effected by the Admiralty.
§ MR. SAMUDA
said, the paragraph in the Motion which set forth that—This House recommends the Government to take into consideration the advantages of appointing to the offices of Controller of the Navy and Superintendents of Her Majesty's Dockyards persons who possess practical knowledge of the duties they have to dischargewas a truism. The difficulty was to confine oneself to within those narrow limits which would enable one to follow the discussion which had been raised by his hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln. He did not think that the disagreeable incidents and mishaps in the Navy referred to by his hon. Friend justified the conclusions he had drawn from them. One of those incidents was the breaking down on her trial trip of the Alexandra, which he had no hesitation in saying was one of the finest ships in the Fleet. It was assumed that the breakdown arose from a flaw in a crank-pin of the engine, and a careful examination was made to ascertain whether such a defect existed. He was informed that the contractor, in whose hands the engine still was, removed all doubt on the question by voluntarily offering to remove the suspected crank-pin and put in another. After this had been removed there was no defect whatever in the machinery of the vessel. As a rule, he believed that the engines in the Navy were very successful. It was quite the exception when one found anything seriously wrong with them, and that was one of the strong reasons why he would draw the attention of the House to what he conceived to lie at the root of the cure of that evil in the matter which the hon. Member for Lincoln had put forward with regard to ships. If we were to introduce—if we could introduce into the Navy, with regard to ships, the same plan of operations which we had with respect to machinery, we should find different results. But the difference between the two cases was this. With respect to machinery, the Admiralty, as a rule, trusted to the character of the firms who had made marine engineering their 1496 speciality during their lives. These parties themselves designed the engines, and every alteration in them by what previous experience had taught them in arriving at the perfection to which those engines had attained. But with regard to ships the case was different. With the view of pushing competition to its extreme limit, the Admiralty had recourse to theoretical designers. He did not want to say anything disparaging of these designers; he entertained a very high opinion of the Chief Constructor of the Navy; but, whoever he might be, he could not produce such satisfactory results as if, instead of relying upon one man, the Admiralty could avail itself of the outside information that was to be obtained throughout the length and breadth of the land from persons who had devoted their lives to the subject. While, in his opinion, the Controller of the Navy ought not to be looked to for the designs of ships, he ought to be able to lay down the general principles upon which the designers should act, and therefore he should be an experienced naval officer. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Childers), when First Lord, thought the right thing was to make the Controller a Member of the Board. It appeared to him, however, that this step was a serious mistake. In his present position the Controller had to justify all he did before the Board —a tribunal higher than himself; but the position would be different, if he were merely called upon in a conversational manner, and with the special knowledge he possessed, to justify his acts before Colleagues of equal authority. With reference to the Dockyards, he held that the hon. Member for Lincoln was right thus far—that the centralization which existed at Whitehall was a bad thing, and that decentralization should take place to a certain extent, so that each Dockyard should be made to constitute an independent manufactory. With regard to the proposal to substitute a Secretary of State for the First Lord of the Admiralty, he could not see what advantage could be gained by such a change. The question of engines was not the weak point in our naval system, but the complications and variations in the types of our ships. We might with advantage in this respect follow the example of 1497 some Continental nations, and make our ships a greater repetition of one another, separating ourselves from theoretical designers, and putting ourselves into the hands of men who had made the building of such ships the study of their lives.
held the opinion he had expressed last year, that the First Lord should, if possible, be a naval officer; but, like the last speaker, he did not see what advantage would be gained by merely substituting a Secretary of State in his place. The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed), who so ably seconded the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely), had, during the Recess, prepared us for this Resolution. The hon. Member came down to the House and delivered a sort of sequel to the letters he had so lavishly laid before the the country in the columns of The Times. He was glad, however, to see that certain remarks which the hon. Member had made in those letters and which had given great offence to naval officers had been entirely eliminated from his speech to-night. But there was one respect in which neither the speech of the hon. Member for Lincoln nor that of the hon. Member for Pembroke was a sequel to the letters that had been published, and that was that they had really brought the matter to-night to no practical conclusion. Neither of those hon. Gentlemen had hinted who ought really to be the superintendents of our naval yards. They attempted to give reasons why naval officers should not be, but not to show who should. Did the hon. Member for Lincoln contend that the superintendents should be taken from the Constructor's department? The hon. Member for Pembroke seemed to prefer that they should be taken from the heads of the mechanical department. But a naval constructor, though possessing great knowledge of everything that went on in the dockyards, might not be capable of superintending the engineering department, nor an engineer of superintending the shipwrights. He did not intend to say that naval officers, except in very few cases, had any special knowledge of shipbuilding; but he would remind both hon. Members that it was not altogether unheard of that naval officers had that special knowledge. Had the hon. Members never heard of Admiral Symonds, of Sir Baldwin Wal- 1498 ker, and other naval officers, who had designed such vessels as the Phaeton and the Narcissus, of each of which it might be said—She walked the waters like a thing of life.Then there were other things, such as rigging and malting, which naval officers were particularly fitted to attend to. Every gun carriage on beard a man-of-war was either the invention or adapted from the invention of a naval officer. The steering apparatus, too, a matter which required a great deal of thought to work out, was chiefly invented or perfected by naval officers; and, in some cases, the machinery of ships, if not invented, had been improved by them. The general fitting out of the ship and the stowage of the weights were essential matters, which a naval officer would know how to deal with better than a constructor or engineer. A great deal had been said about patronage; but where a naval officer was superintendent he had no patronage whatever to distribute among his own particular class, which would not be the case where a civilian held the office. The hon. Member for Lincoln had talked of the frequent disasters to Her Majesty's Navy and compared naval officers invidiously with officers of the Merchant Service. The hon. Member had spoken of a fleet of 43 merchant ships, to which there had been only two accidents all the time they were employed. But did the 43 merchant ships sail together — were they employed about the mouths of harbours and off stormy coasts? Nothing of the kind. They made single voyages from one post to another in a stated time. There was an entire difference between the two cases. Every one of those ships was equipped in the best manner for making a particular voyage; while in the Navy they had not to make passages from one place to another, but to do certain duties, and many ships were most difficult to handle. He had been in a ship built by the hon. Member for Pembroke, called the Penelope. It was one of the most useful ships of her day, but of such extraordinary construction, being without keel, that it was impossible to keep her in her station unless one screw was kept going.
§ MR. E. J. REED
rose to explain that the Penelope was an exceptional vessel, 1499 built with extremely light draft of water for particular service.
repeated that the Penelope was an excellent ship for certain purposes, but it was very difficult to manage, and when any accident occurred to such ships hon. Members came down to that House and said that naval officers could not manage our ships as they ought to do. And when the leading journal adopted such a doctrine, as it did on the 21st of January last, saying that naval superintendents of dockyards were officers who wished to qualify for better appointments, playing at business, and that their profit was the loss and injury of the country, he must take the opportunity of saying that such statements were utterly unfounded. One of the best points in this debate was made by the hon. Member for Pembroke when he spoke about the position of the engineers. He quite agreed in all the hon. Member had said, and he was glad to observe, by reference to the Naval Estimates, that they were about to receive, at all events, an increase of pay, if not also an improvement in their position. He was glad this subject had been brought forward by the hon. Member for Lincoln, and while he agreed with some of his remarks, he could not vote for the Motion.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, he was quite prepared to concede much to the statements made in reply to the hon. Member for Lincoln with regard to the long list of naval mishaps which had occurred during the last 18 months; but, making every allowance for individual cases, he thought it must be admitted that there was a residuum of very serious fact which fully justified the serious attention of the House. He quite admitted that in particular cases they might push responsibility too far. The Admiralty was served by innumerable agents in every part of the world, and they could not eliminate human error in every case. What, however, the House and the country had a right to expect was that when cases of disaster occurred, the Admiralty should do their best to press home responsibility to ascertain causes and, as far as possible, to profit by what had occurred and endeavour to prevent its recurrence. Having looked at the cases as they had occurred from time to time, he did not think that the action of the Admiralty 1500 had been altogether satisfactory. He thought that, on the whole, there had been an absence of firmness and vigour in pressing home responsibility upon those who ought to have borne it. In the case of the Vanquard, for instance, they did not probe the disaster that had occurred to the bottom, nor did they press home responsibility in the way they might have been expected to do. They were very hard on a young lieutenant who had only served a few months, and passed over with slight notice much more serious offenders. Again, in the collision between the Alberta and the Mistletoe, the general impression was, that the case had not been sufficiently investigated. [Mr. HUNT: There was a vote upon it in this House.] Yes, but the sense of the House was not only to be gathered from the votes of Members; the drift of the discussion was entirely in the opposite direction, and showed that there was a strong feeling among Members that there was a disposition at the Admiralty to hush up the matter rather than probe it to the bottom. It was true that in the case of tile Thunderer there had been an inquest, and various facts had been elicited, but there had been no official inquiry since, and we were at the present moment quite ignorant of the cause of the disaster. In looking back upon all the cases, there had been in dealing with them a want of vigour and firmness such as would be likely to make them an example to the Navy and prevent their recurrence for the future. As to the first part of the Motion—namely, that relating to the constitution of the Board of Admiralty, he was disposed to agree with the Secretary to the Admiralty, that the hon. Member for Lincoln was rather fighting a shadow, and he thought that after what had been said by hon. Members his hon. Friend would come to the conclusion that that was not really the most important part of his Motion. In 1869 his right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) practically upset the whole constitution of the Board and re-established it upon a new basis. He laid down that each member of the Board should be responsible for his own individual work, and that the First Lord should be responsible to the House and the country for the conduct of naval affairs, and could not relieve himself of it by shifting it upon his Board. Since 1501 1869 the Board was not an executive body; it existed really as a consultative body to which the First Lord referred for advice from time to time in a formal or informal way, very much as the Secretary of State for War consulted the heads of various military departments. The real responsibility rested with the First Lord, and each Member of the Board was responsible to him for his special branch of work. If his hon. Friend divided the House on that part of his Motion, he (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) must vote against him. As to the second part of the Motion—namely, that relating to the position of the Controller, as far as he understood his hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln his main objection to the position of the Controllor was that he was a naval man, and he thought his hon. Friend said there was a fixed rule at the Admiralty that the Controller should be a naval man. He (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) did not believe that there was any such fixed rule, and it was perfectly competent to the Board if a vacancy should occur, to appoint, if they thought fit, a civilian. When the present Controller was appointed by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Goschen), the matter was well considered, and it was felt that there was no man better qualified for the post than Admiral Stewart. As to the third point, the constitution of the dockyards, he was disposed to agree very much with what had fallen from his hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln. He must, however, in the first place, point out that the position of Controller differed on very material points from that of the naval superintendents of the dockyards. The Controller of the Navy was really responsible in a very high degree for all the work that was done in his department; whereas the naval superintendents, as far as he understood, were not responsible for the work that was done in the dockyards. If he was rightly informed, the position of the naval superintendents was this — they were practically mere superintendents, and not real managers of the dockyards in any true sense of the term. They were the mere vehicles by which instructions were sent by the Admiralty to the constructors in the dockyards. In 1869 his right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract introduced tentatively a process under which naval superintendents would become real managers of the manufac- 1502 turing establishments in the dockyards. That plan was carried out tentatively in two or three dockyards where his right hon. Friend was able to find persons qualified to accept that post; but he believed that his right hon. Friend was not able to carry it out in all the dockyards. He (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) believed it would have been wise to have carried out that plan to its legitimate conclusion. But the present First Lord of the Admiralty, as soon as he entered into office, seemed to be desirous of restoring the state of things that existed under the old system. He maintained that while it was desirable that we should have naval superintendents at the dockyards, it was requisite that we should build up gradually an effective civilian control over those establishments; otherwise the most serious results might be anticipated. His hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke had raised the question of the general position of the constructors and the engineers in the dockyards as compared with that of the naval officers; and with much that had been said on that point he essentially agreed. He thought it would be most advantageous to the Service and to the working of the yards if the general status, not only of the engineers, but of the constructors, were raised, because then we should get men of ability and technical knowledge to fill those posts. On this point we might take a useful lesson from the French system. Some three years ago he had visited Cherbeurg, and had minutely investigated the system at present in force in the French dockyards, and he found that the first striking difference between the English and French systems was that under the latter there was no distinction between the constructors and the engineers, who formed part of one special class, each officer of which could undertake the work either of constructor or of engineer. The second point of difference was that in the French dockyards these officers occupied a much higher status than they did among ourselves, and were men of considerable attainments, having been educated in the National Ecole Polytechnique, and having been selected for their posts by competitive examination. Thus, this branch of the service was in great repute, it was well paid and its members took high rank as compared with naval 1503 officers. Thus, the head of the Constructors' Department in each dockyard ranked next after an Admiral, both in pay and in general status. There was this further distinction between the two systems—that in France the head of each Constructors' Department took the supreme command of all the manufacturing establishments in the dockyard. The naval element in the dockyard was represented by the Préfet Maritime, the equivalent of our Port Admiral, who, however, exercised no control over the manufacturing branches of the establishment. Another point worthy of notice was that the French squadrons were always accompanied by one of these constructors, whose duty it was to supervise the condition of the ships and to keep the Minister of Marine informed on that subject; and that a similar officer was almost always to be found in the English dockyards, taking count of what took place in them, and reporting to the Minister. The result of all these distinctions to which he had referred was that, as a class, the French constructors and engineers were infinitely superior to ours, and it would be a great advantage to our naval service if we could advance in the same direction. He ventured to hope that before the debate was concluded the House would hear from the First Lord of the Admiralty that he had not committed himself to the system of naval superintendents and the nominal management of the dockyards as now carried on, but that he was prepared to take a step in the direction indicated by the hon. Member for Lincoln.
§ ADMIRAL SIR WILLIAM EDMONSTONE
protested in the strongest manner against the proposal to put a civilian at the head of our Royal Dockyards. His experience of a dockyard told him that if a naval officer had not had the control there would have been universal confusion; a civilian would be an anomaly. He thought that a Secretary of State and his underlings would be the same as the present Board. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had cited the example of France; but he should like to know what would be said in that country if it were proposed to place the French dockyards under a civilian management?
§ SIR MASSEY LOPES
said, he could unhesitatingly affirm that the Orders in 1504 Council constituted the First Lord of the Admiralty in all but name the Secretary of State for that Department; that under those orders his power was supreme; and that he was wholly, solely, and exclusively responsible to the House. With reference to the Board of Admiralty it had been, he thought, admitted by the House on several occasions that it was a right and proper thing for a civilian to be the First Lord of the Admiralty; and in what way could a civilian learn the necessary professional details unless he had the assistance, as counsellors, of Naval Lords? The object of the First Lord was to get the advantage not only of the wisest judgment, but also the most recent experience. It had been said that the Lords of the Admiralty were sometimes changed; but it seemed to him that that, instead of being a disadvantage, was of the greatest possible advantage to the Board of Admiralty itself and to the country at large. A permanent Board would be useless after a few years. Things were continually changing in the Navy. Ships were changing, discipline was changing, motive power was changing, our mode of attack and defence was changing. In 10 years half the men who entered the Navy left it; and not only the men, but opinion, was changing. For that reason men were required at the Admiralty who would make the First Lord conversant with the most recent experiences in the Service. As to the power which the First Lord had of choosing his coadjutors, he held that it was necessary the right hon. Gentleman should possess that power, in order that he might have confidence in the naval officers, and that matters might proceed pleasantly. It did not follow that because the First Lord had this power the coadjutors whom he selected were chosen wholly and solely for political reasons. For instance. Sir Alexander Milne, who was at the Board for 18 years—he (Sir Massey Lopes) had known him all his life, yet he did not know his politics. There was also the case of Sir Sidney Dacres. It had been urged that the Controller was not qualified because he had no knowledge of the practical duties of a dockyard. Put he would remind the House that that officer was assisted by a committee of five naval architects and two engineers. These gentlemen were permanent officers and civilians, and the 1505 Controller always advised the Board as to the type, design, qualities, and properties that a man of war should possess; therefore he must be a naval man, and have much nautical experience. The naval ordnance and stores were also under the Controller, for it was necessary that all three departments should work together, as if they did not there would be endless confusion and delay. His hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed) had advocated that there should be a civilian to assist the Controller in the dockyards; but he (Sir Massey Lopes) thought the House would admit that that would establish a dual government and divided authority which would leave no responsibility at all. They were told again that naval men were selected not for their experience of dockyard management, but from their professional knowledge; but in answer to that remark he could point to no better instance than the present Controller, who had been Superintendent at Chatham for five years, and who had afterwards held the same position at Devonport and Portsmouth. They had been told also that the Superintendents ought to be civilians, as at present they had no practical knowledge of their duties, and they were too frequently changed. He could only say that shipbuilding was a very small portion of the work done in dockyards. The Superintendent was a sort of link between the service afloat and the service ashore. No civilian could exercise the same sort of influence which naval men did. Something had been said with regard to foreign yards, but in all these there was a naval Superintendent. Moreover, when any foreign Government had a ship of war built in this country they did not send over a civilian, but they always sent over a naval officer. [Mr. E. J. REED: No, no!] He could only say that that was the result of his experience. As to the charge that the Superintendents of dockyards were too frequently changed, he thought there was some foundation for that. That was the weak point. If instead of the Superintendents being liable to removal after a short time, by promotion or any other cause, they could be appointed for a period beyond five years he believed it would be a great improvement. His right hon. Friend the First Lord had felt that difficulty, and had taken 1506 action upon it in a recent case at Chatham Dockyard, by obtaining an Order in Council to enable them to retain the officer after his promotion. He confessed he should like to see that system extended. He should be the last man to protest against any just criticism of our naval administration. He thought all must feel that our natural greatness and prosperity depended upon our marine supremacy. He felt, however, that organic changes in the naval administration were very dangerous and detrimental to the public service. He did not doubt that there were many defects, and that improvements could and should be made. He did not blame the hon. Gentleman for bringing forward a Motion which had led to so much useful discussion, but he thought the House would agree that he had not made out a case in its favour.
§ MR. WHALLEY
expressed his sympathy with the position of the right hon. Gentleman in regard to the calamities which had occurred during his administration. He thought the Motion of the hon. Member for Lincoln was well worthy discussion, in that it had produced, and would probably cause to be continued, a useful discussion without producing any of the organic changes in the administration of the Navy which some hon. Members seemed to fear. He complimented the right hon. Gentleman on the attention he had paid to questions apart from the ordinary routine of the administration of the Navy, and he expressed an opinion that the appointment of a Secretary of State would ensure still greater attention to such matters in future. The system of Naval Artillery Volunteers had been established under the right hon. Gentleman's auspices, and training ships and other kindred matters, upon which it was usually very difficult to make any impression on the Board of Admiralty by outside influence, had received great attention at his hands. The hon. Gentleman strongly urged the further development of the Volunteer system in the Navy, and he suggested that the fleet of pleasure yachts might in some way be utilized in connection with volunteering.
§ MR. HUNT,
who rose after a considerable pause, said: I waited, Sir, in ' the hope that the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Goschen) would have risen to offer some observations to the House; 1507 but as he has not thought proper to do so, I think before we divide—if we are to divide—the House would probably like to hear one or two observations from me. The hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely) has put me in a great difficulty, because he has virtually made it necessary for me to make two speeches. First of all, I have to reply to his Motion, and next I have to reply to his speech. If I reply to his Motion, I shall say very little in answer to his speech; and if I reply to his speech, I shall say very little in answer to his Motion. The hon. Gentleman has, in the course of the last few days, changed the form of his Motion no less than three times. He first proposed it in the shape in which he submitted it to the House in the year 1873. Then, about three or four days ago, he made some little alteration in its form, leaving the substance very much the same as it had been. To-day, however, at the eleventh hour, we have a new version, in which the hon. Member proposes two distinct Resolutions. I gather from that fact that the hon. Gentleman found a little difficulty as to the support he hoped to obtain; that he found his original Motion would meet with little support; and that he divided it into two heads in the hope that one of them, at least, would find favour with the House. But, in spite of all these alterations, I do not think the hon. Gentleman has made the right alteration. Looking at his speech, rather than his Motion, my view is that his Motion ought to have been one of want of confidence in the First Lord of the Admiralty. I have a very old English prejudice in favour of coming up to a scratch; and I cannot help saying that if the hon. Member intended to have made an attack upon me, I should have preferred he had made it in the shape of the Motion I have suggested. Sir, the Motion of the hon. Member is an attack upon a system, while his speech is an attack upon me. I was quite prepared to meet him on either ground; but his speech and his Motion render it necessary that I should meet him on both grounds, and I am here to do it. The hon. Member began his speech very much as he did in 1873, and spoke of the great defects in the constitution of the Board of Admiralty. He complains that the Admiralty is governed by a First Lord and a 1508 Board, instead of by a Secretary of State. Well, that topic has been touched upon by many hon. Members who have addressed the House; and very few have —I do not believe that a single Member has — given any countenance to that part of the Motion. I will therefore only remind the hon. Member of the opinion given by Sir James Graham when examined before a Committee of the House in 1861. Sir James Graham said that the House must not only look to the patents under which the Board of Admiralty was constituted, but also to the usage and custom of the Admiralty in order to understand what the Board really was and how it did its work. The authority of the First Lord was, he said, paramount, and unless that were the case the system would not work. With, however, the personal and individual responsibility of the First Lord well established the system worked in the way which Parliament and the country expected. Everyone who has been at the Admiralty since 1861 has been of the same opinion—that the authority of the First Lord is paramount—and that is the reason why the system works well. The officers who form the Board remember that the First Lord is responsible to Parliament, and that is the reason why they are willing to give way to him on many points that may arise. I will ask the hon. Member for Lincoln whether he has ever known any First Lord seek to shelter himself under the Board? There are two right hon. Gentlemen on the opposite Bench who have served the office of First Lord, and will he say that they have ever sheltered themselves under the Board—will he say that I have ever done so? Has not the responsibility of the First Lord always been fully avowed by himself — and has not this House always looked to him as responsible? If so, why do you want a change? You may alter his designation—you may call him a Secretary of State or a First Lord, or a President, if you will, but you will virtually have the same thing as you have now. But in all you will want this element of personal responsibility, and that I say you have. I maintain, however, that the change from First Lord to Secretary of State would not be acceptable to the Service, and that they would not regard a Secretary of State with the same feeling as they do the Board of Admiralty 1509 that has existed so long and in which they have confidence. The hon. Member says that politics interfere with the selection of the Board. If the naval members obstructed the action of the Board by their political opinions that would be an excellent reason for a change. But so far from being actuated by politics, I continued two members of the Board who were in office under my predecessors. I can truly say that I do not know what are the politics of my First Sea Lord, and I could not give a positive opinion as to the politics of two other members of the Board, for I never discuss politics with them. I can, however, say that when I have spoken to them about accepting seats in Parliament they decline on the ground that it would withdraw them from their duties, and that it would be better that they should have nothing to do with politics. The hon. Gentleman gave an extraordinary reason for saying that politics interfered with the Board, because, he says, I made a political speech when I first introduced the Navy Estimates. I do not see how that proves his point even if it were true; but I venture to think that I did not make a political speech on that occasion. There was much controversy at the time, and no little heat about a Motion then pending, and I explained the real state of the Navy, and I did so unreservedly and frankly. The hon. Member says he believes that the state of the Navy now is, if not worse, at all events not better than it was then. All I can say is that, as I have asked the House for large sums of money to be expended on the Navy, if it has not improved I have grievously betrayed my trust. I will only add that if the hon. Member is seriously of that opinion he is in a state of the most profound ignorance. The hon. Member read a long catalogue first of my delinquencies and then of the defects in ships. That is a part of the speech that has, however, very little to do with his Motion, unless he is of opinion that if I had been called Secretary of State those delinquencies would not have occurred, and those defects in the ships would not have existed. I venture to think that it would not have made the slightest difference. He alluded, of course, to the case of the Vanguard. The hon. Member, I believe, intended to make a speech on the Vanguard last Session, but unfortunately did not find an opportunity. When we have 1510 prepared a speech on any subject and are prevented from delivering it, there is a feeling of uncomfortableness until we have disburdened ourselves of it—a sense of fulness or indigestion which leads us to take the earliest opportunity of delivering it. The question raised by the Vanguard was a very intricate and difficult one. I went into it at great length last Session, and I do not propose to go into it now. I accepted fully the personal responsibility of the decision in that case, and which I formed according to the best of my judgment and ability. To that decision I adhere; but when the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) says it showed weakness and want of vigour and firmness, I say it showed the very contrary. If the Admiralty had accepted in full the verdict of the court-martial, we might have been open to that imputation. But we took a different line from the court-martial, and I say that we exercised an independent judgment. The hon. Member may say the line we took was erroneous, but he cannot call it feeble. There is no pretence for saying that the regulations of the Admiralty as to the apertures in the bulkheads hastened the foundering of the Vanguard by a single moment. Those apertures were made without the knowledge of the Admiralty, and in consequence of some misapprehension of the instructions sent down to the dockyard. The Admiralty sent the same instructions to other dockyards, where the same mistake was not made. Then we are told that the wrong persons were called to account, and we are asked why we did not call to account the Admiral Superintendent. The fact was that the Admiral Superintendent to whom the hon. Gentleman wished us to write was not there when the mistake was made, and to censure him for what was done before he went to the dockyard would, I should think, hardly meet the views even of the hon. Member for Lincoln. The regulations were not sufficiently explicit as to the functions of the engineers and the constructors. It was, however, brought to our notice that these regulations were not explicit, and they were altered by us after the mistake was made, but before it was discovered. They were very small holes and covered with slides. They were not open holes, and although we were surprised that such holes were made, something is to be said 1511 in defence of the officers. They were not the absolute idiots which some people have supposed. The hon. Member then refered to the delinquencies of the officers of the Navy in these dockyards, and said he would give the House plenty of instances. It was said that the Iron Duke nearly went down; but it never did. A sensational telegram was sent from Devonport to that effect, and leading articles upon it appeared in the papers; but what were the facts? The Iron Duke was taken out with the assistance of a tug; the water came in through a valve; and as those on beard were not able at the moment to ascertain where it came from, they made a signal to the tug to rejoin the Iron Duke. That gave rise to the sensational telegram that the Iron Duke had signalled "We are sinking; come and save us." In a few minutes it was discovered where the water did come from; it was pumped out in 10 minutes, and then the strictest inquiry was made. Though it was a small matter, there never was a more searching inquiry. The primary cause of the accident was as follows:—In consequence of the accident to the Vanguard an alteration was ordered to be made in the Iron Duke. It was found that the handle by which certain valves were worked being under the floor-plates of the stokehold were not easily accessible; and it was determined that a long handle should be affixed to those in the Iron Duke, so that they could be worked from the engine-room platform, and a leading man from the Factory was told off to do the work. He was not told to mark the handle, but he did so, putting "O," for open, where "S" ought to have been, and "S," for shut, where "O" ought to have been. I have no doubt if there had been a Secretary of State instead of a First Lord of the Admiralty the man would have put the letters in the right place. Then it is said someone should have found out this mistake. Perfectly true. We discovered who was to blame for not finding out the error; but we did not punish him, because it had been previously found that he was unfit for his post, and he had already been removed from the ship. This is the history of the Iron Duke incident. It is said that the Monarch had a collision in the Channel, and we paid money to the ship with which she had the collision, and that therefore we owned we were wrong and 1512 yet punished nobody. It is quite true that there was such a collision and that we paid money as compensation; it is not true we considered anybody on beard the Monarch was in the wrong. It may seem inconsistent, but there was an inquiry, and my colleagues and I were perfectly satisfied that all was done well on board the Monarch, that there was a good look-out, and that the light of the merchant ship was not seen. The conclusion I came to was that the merchant ship did not carry a light, or else that she carried one in such a way that it could not be seen. I was prepared to contest the liability of the Admiralty, but the lawyers we consulted said" You may be perfectly right, but you will have to prove a negative. You can prove that you did not see a light, but you cannot prove that a light was not there." We were advised, therefore, not to take the matter into Court, and I did not like to go into Court and spend public money with the risk of being beaten; and I maintain that we adopted a prudent course in settling the matter without going into Court, and that nobody on beard the ship ought to be called to account. Well, then, the hon. Member talks of the collision which occurred to the Mediterranean Squadron. The Admiral-in-Chief of that squadron did not think it necessary to order a court-martial, and wrote to the Admiralty that he did not consider there was any culpable inattention on the part of the officers concerned. With the expression of that opinion were we to order a court martial? If the Admiral had found there was primâ facie evidence of culpability such as to justify him in ordering a court-martial he would have done it. We accepted his opinion with the confidence we ought to repose in the judgment of such an officer, and therefore we did not order a court-martial in that case. I now come to the very serious business of the Thunderer, of which I can hardly speak without emotion. The accident to the Thunderer was a very awful calamity, and one that every person must deplore; but the hon. Gentleman seems to think that the Admiralty ought to have ordered an inquiry, and that we did not. He asserts, too, that the conclusion was arrived at upon the evidence of gentlemen who were employed in the interest of the Admiralty. I venture to say there never was an inquiry made 1513 under circumstances of greater solemnity, with greater security for impartiality, and for the fulness of the scientific evidence, than was made in that case. What did the Home Secretary do? Though it was an unusual thing to do, the Home Secretary allowed the Coroner the expenses of a skilled witness, and the gentleman appointed was a man of great attainments and thoroughly competent to give advice. Well, what did the Admiralty do? They directed a number of their most skilled officers to go down and examine the stokeholes and boilers, in order that they might form a correct opinion as the cause of the explosion. Moreover, particular care was taken that there should be no tampering with anything on beard the ship; sentinels were stationed to prevent anyone interfering with the debris of the boiler, so that the witnesses should see everything as it was just after the explosion. The Admiralty thought it would not be satisfactory to have only Admiralty witnesses, and they selected a gentleman of high and independent position and of great eminence as an engineer to go down, examine the boiler, and give his evidence before the Coroner. Of course we paid him; who else was to pay him? Mr. Bramwell is a gentleman of far too high a position to warp or alter his evidence in the slightest degree simply because he looked to the Admiralty for payment for his services. He was selected to give an independent opinion and told to do so, and we were bound to recognize his services by payment; and it would be a monstrous slander to say that he was acting as an Admiralty agent whose object it was to warp the decision of the Coroner's jury. The hon. Member for Lincoln may disagree with the verdict of the jury, but I venture to say that he has not read all the evidence. There is conclusive evidence that one of the valves had been opened on the morning of the accident, while in regard to the one that was closed the hon. Gentleman alleged it would not have been immovable if it had not been shut up for three years. But the evidence showed that the valve, after the accident, was found perfectly free in its seat and clear of rust and dirt and able to work. It is true the verdict contained the words quoted—The accident is due to the sticking of the valves from the contraction of their metal 1514 seats, but the stop valve being closed, we consider as contributing to the accident;but the inquiry disclosed a possible condition of things previously unknown in the engineering world. A new fact was disclosed in regard to these valves, a fact not known, generally speaking, to the engineering world—namely, that valves which would move freely when cold, and which would work if moved in the process of heating, might stick when heated fresh from cold; and it was on that fact that the jury, with the evidence before them, found that the valves stuck. Besides Mr. Bramwell and the officers appointed by the Admiralty there were other officers appointed by the contractors. The contractors were naturally interested in showing that the responsibility did not rest on them, and nobody could have behaved more honourably than they did in this matter. The experts whom they sent clown entirely agreed with Mr. Bramwell and the officers sent by the Admiralty, and it was not thought necessary to call the other witnesses. The hon. Gentleman referred to the evidence of one witness, that a man might think he had opened the valve when he really had not done so. I tried the thing for myself, and found that it was impossible that a man who had once been shown how to work the valve could possibly have thought he had opened it and not have done so. Then the hon. Member said—" Oh, the Admiralty ought to have had a further inquiry." What possible good could we have done by a further inquiry? We had had our own experts and also independent experts, and that was the conclusion to which they came; and we accepted it as the right conclusion. Enormous expense had been incurred to arrive at a right conclusion, and which the jury sanctioned. But all these accusations are founded upon the supposition that the Admiralty want to hush up matters and to screen people who are to blame. There could be no greater mistake than such an idea. No one could be more anxious than the Admiralty itself is, or than I myself am, being the person who is responsible to this House—no one could ' be more anxious to find out anything that goes wrong, and who is the culprit. What we want, above all things, is to have a really efficient and trustworthy Service, and the only way to secure this 1515 is to punish the persons, when we find them out, who are guilty of causing these disasters. Well, I have now dealt with some of the important charges of the lion. Gentleman, and I hope I have done so to the satisfaction of the House. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) alluded to another matter, and spoke of the opinion of the House; but after a long discussion the House decided in a way contrary to the view of the hon. Member for Reading. The hon. Member for Lincoln gave me a long list of ships which he says broke down, and which we are to suppose would not have broken down if I had been a Secretary of State; but which, according to my construction of his meaning, would not have broken down if some one else had been First Lord of the Admiralty. I could not help smiling when he began his list, and he remarked that I appeared to take a cheerful view of things. The fact is, I could not refrain from asking myself "Is it possible that an authority on these matters like the hon. Member for Lincoln has been made a dupe of by paragraphs in the newapapers about these mishaps being instances of maladministration." I was surprised to find writers indulging during the Recess in statements that these mishaps were illustrations of maladministration; but I confess my surprise was much greater at finding the hon. Member harping on the same string. I am glad, however, that he did not confine himself to generalities, but condescended to particulars. And hero let me say, once for all, because it is an observation which covers the whole of these defects and these instances of maladministration which he has brought forward—let me say that the Admiralty has to build ships, but it does not make their machinery. It contracts for the machinery which is placed in them, and before it accepts that machinery it subjects it to very severe trial. Nine-tenths, I suppose, of the mishaps which are alleged as evidence of bad administration at the Admiralty are really so many proofs of good administration. They show that we refuse to accept machinery from the contractors before it has been put to the proper tests. A ship with new machinery, or with machinery that has been repaired, goes out for trial. If anything goes wrong, we order her to come back and to start afresh on another 1516 day. The ship starts; a pipe gives out, perhaps, or a valve is found to be defective. Immediately the ship comes back; and then it is said—" Oh, another of Her Majesty's ships has broken down! "Under these circumstances, the contractor is called upon to put things right; he does so, and the ship goes out for a fresh trial, and perhaps she may have to come back once more. Then it is said—" Why, she has broken down again!" That is really the history of half these cases which are cited by some writers in the Press and also by the hon. Member for Lincoln as proofs of maladministration. Let me say that there are some defects in machinery which can only be discovered by trial; and I am informed—for I am not an expert in these matters, though I have sought to acquaint myself with them—that in some instances no contractor can be sure that some of these defects will not arise, and they cannot be found out until the machinery has been actually tried. It is difficult to say beforehand whether they will interfere with the proper working of the ship or not. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the case of the Alexandra. I can speak freely about her, because she is not my ship; as she was built by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Goschen), and I congratulate him on her being a great success. Well, the Alexandra was tried. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Samuda) alluded to the subject, and he understands it. There was a defect in the crank-pin. It was an enormous mass of metal, and there was a defective weld in it—that is to say, two edges had not perfectly joined; and the contractor volunteered to put in a new crank-pin. The spare crank-pin was put in, an additional new one was provided, and that was what happened to the Alexandra—a gross case of Admiralty administration. Then I come to the Orontes. There were some defects in the machinery of that ship which the contractors were called upon to make good. After receiving her back from the contractors, it was found that one of the crankpins presented an appearance similar to what had been seen in the case of the Alexandra, and there was an alarm in the papers that we were going to send the ship to sea with a defective crank-pin. We subjected her to a trial, and being found to be perfectly 1517 safe she went to sea. With regard to the Assistance, I shall be much obliged if the hon. Member will give me particulars. It is perfectly new to me that the Assistance has broken down anywhere. As for the Valorous, I am told that my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. A. F. Egerton) accounted for her. She did not break down, but she is not a new ship, and after trial at Devonport it was thought that she required new piston-rods. This the hon. Member for Lincoln would consider due to some fault in the administration. If we had not ordered new piston-rods when she required it, he might have justly found fault with our administration. Then it is said the Valorous and Favorite got into trouble. Well, the Favorite had long been in want of repair, and as soon as a ship was ready to take her place we sent the Valorous to tow her home. On the way they got into bad weather, as ships will do, and something connected with the towing apparatus broke, in consequence of which they were obliged to put into port. But I am not aware that a Secretary at the Admiralty could have prevented the ships from getting into bad weather, or that the same thing would not have happened if the hon. Member for Lincoln had himself been Secretary. There was an explosion on beard the Hydra, it is true; but the engineer through whose fault it occurred was removed from his post. I do not know whether this is another instance of maladministration. We found out who was responsible for the accident, and we punished him. Now, with regard to the Danaë, my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty has already given the House an explanation, which, I am sorry to say, many hon. Members were not here to listen to. He made a most excellent reply; but as many hon. Members are now present who preferred dining to hearing it, I will just go over a little of his ground. A few years ago a new form of boiler was invented, the object of which was to save fuel. Well, that is a very desirable object, because the cost of fuel is a considerable item in our Estimates. The new form of boiler was tried in a ship throughout her commission and answered perfectly. My predecessors at the Admiralty being satisfied with it, ordered boilers of that kind for the Danaë class, and I think 1518 they acted wisely in so doing, for the invention had been a success. But when the new boilers were put into the Danaë, it was found to everybody's surprise that they did not answer. Although they were suitable for one class of ship, they were not suitable, it appeared, for all. We ordered everything to be tried to make them work, but our efforts were unsuccessful. At last we determined most reluctantly to take the new boilers out of the ship and put others in their places. Then there is the Shah, a ship which was ordered many years ago. The contract for her machinery was entered into by my predecessor with a firm which had done good work for the Admiralty and from whom, therefore, good things might have been expected. Unfortunately there were changes in the firm. They amalgamated with another firm in consequence of their inability to carry out the contract, and I believe that during the change some of their best men left them. The consequence was that the engines were not put on beard the ship in that satisfactory state which was fairly to be expected, and they have, as the House has heard, given a great deal of trouble. I am happy to say, however, that the difficulty in this case has been overcome. For some years we have been introducing a new and improved class of engine into our ships—engines that are calculated to save a great deal of fuel—and there having been a largo demand upon the different makers, the machinery orders have, perhaps, been given rather widely. A great many firms have been allowed to tender who under ordinary circumstances would have been passed over. As has been pointed out in the course of the debate, the placing of engines in a ship of war is a very different thing from placing them in a merchant ship. Less space is allowed, the engines have to be protected as much as possible, and in consequence the manufacturers have had their ingenuity very much taxed in their efforts to comply with the conditions laid down by the Admiralty. Moreover, some experience of the new engines is needed by those who have charge of them before they can work them altogether satisfactorily. In the last four years—from 1873 to 1876—the number of new steamships commissioned has been 48, 13 of which had engines of the old 1519 type and 35 engines of the new type. Of the former class three were not satisfactory. Cracks were found in some of the castings of one of them. Of the engines of the new type 10 have given trouble. But I have not yet exhausted the list of the hon. Member. The Boadicea, according to the hon. Member, "broke down" on her first trial. It is true that on her first trial her engines were not satisfactory, but after that they gave great satisfaction. What the hon. Member said about the Invincible was entirely new to me, and I hope he will supply particulars. As to the Shannon, she is not yet in commission, but there was an accident to a subsidiary engine on her passage from Pembroke to Devonport. Some foreign body got into a part of the machinery, and I do not think that is an accident which a Secretary of State could prevent any more than I can. The Rover and the Opal have both given great trouble. In the case of the Opal the machinery is still unsatisfactory, and the contractor has volunteered to send out a man to a distant station to have it put right. I have now, I think, gone over all the ships named by the hon. Member, and I hope I have satisfied the House that maladministration on the part of the Admiralty has really not been the cause of the defects, most of them insignificant, which have been mentioned. Hitherto I have been replying to the speech of the hon. Member. I should like now to say something respecting his Motion. As to the first part of the Motion I have already alluded to it, and as I understand it gets very little support, it is probably unnecessary for me to trouble the House further with reference to it. The second part, which refers to the Controller of the Navy and the superintendents of the dockyards, begins with a truism; but I object to putting it as a Resolution in the Journals of the House, because it must mean something different from what it purports. If the hon. Member accepted the present state of things he would not have brought forward the Resolution at all. I think that the present state of things satisfies literally the part of the Resolution to which I am now referring; but the hon. Member must mean that he wants to see some change. It has already been shown that the gallant officer who fills the post of Controller of the Navy has had special 1520 training fitting him for it. Indeed, I do not think you could pick out an officer who has had in the same degree the particular training needed for the post; and I am happy to tell the hon. Member for Lincoln that the Controller—his five years' term of office having nearly expired—has consented to accept a renewal of that term. With regard to the superintendents of the dockyards, the hon. Member is entirely mistaken in his notion as to the manner in which they are chosen. In nearly every ease, even of the smaller yards, the officer selected has had some experience of administrative duties. With rare exceptions they have had experience either in dockyards at foreign stations or as captains of the Steam Reserve, and have been known in consequence as fit persons to be selected for those appointments, of the duties of which it is now implied they have no practical knowledge. It is a common practice to appoint a man so trained to the smaller dockyard, and if he showed himself efficient there, then to promote him to the larger dockyards. I need not go through the list; but the House will, I am sure, believe me when I say that that is the practice with the rarest exceptions. Then the hon. Gentleman contends that the rule should be altered which limits the tenure of office of those officials. With regard to the Controller, I have shown my sense of the importance of continuing in office a man of experience and one in whom I had confidence. As to Chatham, it is a dockyard the superintendent of which is an officer with the rank of captain, and it was necessary to appoint a man of that rank, because he has transactions with captains in the Service, to whom it was desirable he should be senior; but what was the consequence? Just as soon as he got used to his business, he was removed from his post on promotion, and on the 21st of July there was a memorial to the Queen in Council from the Admiralty to the effect that, whereas such frequent changes were detrimental to Her Majesty's Service, the Board should be empowered in the event of a captain superintendent obtaining Flag rank to retain such officer as admiral superintendent. That complaint, therefore, of which we have heard something this evening, has been already met at Chatham, though I am only a First Lord and not a Secretary of State. With 1521 respect to other appointments, I agree that it is well worthy of consideration whether the principle contended for ought to be extended to other dockyards. I deny, however, that men ought to be appointed permanently, for if they do not commit any serious fault it is exceedingly unpleasant to remove them; while if they are only appointed for a certain time, and they give satisfaction, there may then be a renewal of their term. That is a subject which is under consideration. We have been told tonight, especially by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), that the responsibility of the superintendents is merely nominal, as was shown by the terms of the directions to them. I beg leave, however, to tell the hon. Gentleman that a change has been made in that respect, that the terms of the directions to them now are "you are to do so-and-so," and they are held directly responsible. This change was made last autumn. As to civilians being superintendents of dockyards, that is a question on which great stress has been laid by several hon. Gentlemen this evening. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Reading has told us that he has been to Cherbourg, and as given us the result of the inquiries which he made there. He, however, is not the only member of a Board of Admiralty who has visited foreign dockyards. During the last Whitsuntide, having a holiday, I went over some of the German dockyards, which I was anxious to see, because the German Navy was a new Navy, and they were a people who started without any prejudices. Well, I found there a Port Admiral—I forget what they call him, and I do not know whether I could pronounce the word even if I remembered it. I found a naval officer superintendent of the yard, and six instructors, as well as engineers, under him. That was the case at the two dockyards I visited, and I was exceedingly glad to see what came under my observation on that occasion, and that in what is virtually a new Navy the Germans had established that same system which we hear now condemned. On the question of naval and civil superintendents I have, I may add, no prejudices whatever. I have, at the same time, still to be convinced that to appoint a civil superintendent is right and a naval superintendent is wrong. 1522 The dockyards are not simply manufacturing, they are also repairing establishments, and the head of a dockyard is brought into constant communication with the captains of ships with regard to demands made for repairs and stores. That being so, I believe that if a civilian were at the head of the dockyard instead of a naval officer there would be a great amount of friction. And where, I wish to know, are you to get men to replace the naval superintendents, who have to deal, not only with materials, but large bodies of men, and who ought to be able to manage them? There is no officer now in the dockyards, however eminent his abilities in a particular line, fit to be placed at once in the discharge of those duties. It has been said in relation to the office of the Chief Constructor that we have taken a step backwards; but if we have taken a wrong step I think it is our duty to take a step backwards, and we found that too much had been put upon one man. It is of the greatest consequence that the Chief Constructor, formerly called the master shipwright, should be constantly about the yard, but if you send him into an office to look after stores you cannot have this. But, it is said, we have now altered the relations between the Constructor and the Engineer, and in all matters of construction is it not, I would ask, right that the Engineer should be subject to the Constructor? The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed) called attention to the increasing imporance of one class of officers—the engineers. He had prepared us for his speech in this House by some able letters which he had already sent to the Press. But, although the hon. Gentleman might, perhaps, have caught the public eye with regard to this matter, he really was not the originator of the movement. Months before his letters appeared I had appointed a Committee to inquire into the question, and before his letters appeared the evidence given before that Committee had been under the consideration of the Admiralty. And, in answer to my hon. Friend, I stated the other day that when the Estimates were brought forward I should be able to explain what we intended to do. Therefore, I will not forestall that statement now. There was, however, one mistake made inadvertently by the hon. Member for Pembroke. He said—" Oh ! the Admiralty 1523 have not a proper idea of the importance of the machinery in the engine-room, because in this matter they are only represented at the Admiralty by one official with a salary of £900 a-year." Now, the services of inspectors of machinery are wanted not so much at the Admiralty as at the ports, and, therefore, it is not necessary to have a very large engineering establishment at the Admiralty; but the hon. Gentleman is wrong in supposing that the engineering staff at the Admiralty consists of only one individual. There is one official at £900, two at £700, and two assistant engineers, who have been recently appointed, at £350 each, besides four draughtsmen.
§ MR. HUNT: I
can give the hon. Gentleman the names of the officers. This was an illustration which the hon. Gentleman gave of the indifference of the Admiralty to the question of the machinery of ships. I venture, however, to think that the interests of the Service in this respect have been carefully considered by the Admiralty since last Session. I think the movement will be one in the right direction. I believe I have now gone through all the important matters which have been mentioned in this debate, though it has lasted so many hours that possibly I may have omitted some points. If I have not satisfied the hon. Member for Lincoln, I hope that I have, at all events, satisfied the House that the interests of the Navy, which are, in fact, the interests of the nation, are duly taken care of by the present Board of Admiralty.
§ MR. SEELY
proceeded to controvert the statements of the First Lord of the Admiralty, and said that no doubt he had done his best to condone the errors into which his Department had fallen. He would not, however, believe that the two years' and a-half experience of the Naval Lords was all that was requisite, and he did not think that if the holes in the Vanguard had been stopped she would have sunk. Whoever made the holes ought to have been called to account.
The House divided:—Ayes 58; Noes 183: Majority 125.—(Div. List, No. 27.)