§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £937,100, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expense of Victuals and Clothing for Seamen and Marines, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1884.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
, in rising to call attention to the state and condition of the Iron-clad Navy, said: The subject I have to bring before the Committee is one of the most important that can occupy the attention of Parliament; but, seeing that this is the dinner hour, I cannot expect to have a large audience, especially as the question is not one at this moment of an exciting character. The question also wants something else to attract the attention of the House of Commons. It lacks the flavour of that bitter political partisanship which alone fills the Benches of this House. Although my indictment in regard to the Navy must be addressed to the Members of the present Board of Admiralty, yet I shall have, in the course of my task, to comment upon the action, of those by whom the present Board were preceded in Office. I wish at once, before entering into the subject, to state that I have no wish to make any remarks that may be considered personally offensive to any Member of the Admiralty in this House or to any Member of the Board of Admiralty at Whitehall. Having taken now for the last 14 years a great interest in everything connected with Naval Administration, I feel myself compelled not to allow the Statement made the other day by the Secretary to the Admiralty to pass unchallenged. I consider the statement made by the Secretary to the Admiralty on that occasion to be of the most unsatisfactory character I ever heard from any Representative of the Board of Admiralty in this House. The Secretary to the Admiralty, it is true, talked of "maintaining our position, and securing our maritime supremacy;" but while he expressed his confidence in this respect, he does not give us any of the data on which he bases his confidence in our maintaining our position and securing our maritime supremacy. They were nothing more than relative terms. If I should be able to show to-night that at the end of 1883 England would have 41 iron-clads built and building, and if, happily, the Secretary to the Admiralty could get up and tell us that the French Government would have only 21 built and building at the same period, then, indeed, our maritime supremacy would be assured, and I should not be standing here to-night. But if I can show, as I hope to do, that at the end of 1883 the English Government will have 77 41 iron-clads built and building, and that the French Government will have 37 built and building, then the Secretary to the Admiralty, in coming down to the House and talking about our maritime supremacy being secured, makes use of a mere phrase, calculated greatly to mislead the public. It has always been held that our English Navy should be double the Navy of France, and that it should be able to cope, under any circumstances, with any possible or probable combination. The other day I saw a letter in a newspaper from a gallant Admiral—Admiral Elliot—who puts that matter much more clearly than I can; who describes what our position would be if the French Fleet was ever allowed to get into a position of superiority, and who points out that in such an event we are bound to lose either the command of the Channel or of the Mediterranean. I have spoken of the apathy which prevails in the House of Commons. I do not at this moment even see any Dockyard Member present. That apathy arises, I believe, from the over-confidence which the English nation possesses in the strength of the Fleet. "Rule, Britannia!" is still for them one of the shibboleths of their existence, and they do not believe that anything can shake the truth of that patriotic song. Unfortunately for that feeling we know that the same spirit of confidence prevailed in 1870, in a country which is a near neighbours of ours—namely, France. I have the authority of a very distinguished Friend of mine—(Dr. Russell)—for saying that when he went over to Paris on his way to become a War Correspondent in connection with the Prussian Army, he was met with questions on all hands, not as to whether the French would be beaten by the Prussians, but how long it would take for the French Army to get to the Rhine, the places they would occupy when they crossed it, and the terms on which they would occupy Berlin. Indeed, the French went so far as to ask whether there was any Prussian Army at all against whom they had to compete. They had the same overweening confidence in their Army as we have now in our Navy. Although, no doubt, confidence is much better than half-heartedness, it is not impossible that confidence may be too far strained when it comes to be looked to in connection with that Service on which our national life depends. In the early 78 part of this century, the late Duke of Wellington laid it clown as a necessity that the English Fleet should be double that of the French, or of any other nation. At that time there was very little danger of competition. France had no Navy of consequence to combine against us. Our ships were as good, and our guns were as good, as those of France and Spain, whilst our sailors and the personnel of the Navy—our blue-jackets—were infinitely superior to those of any other country in the world in gallantry, in discipline, in seamanship, and in all those characteristics which ensure success. I am, therefore, surprised and exceedingly sorry to hear the dictum uttered by one whose words on this subject at this time must command great attention—the highest Admiralty authority in the country—in which he said that the Navy of the future will not depend so much on the number of ships as upon the discipline, daring, gallantry, and. other high qualities of our seaman. Now, I cannot help thinking that the noble Lord who made that assertion must be aware that from the nature of our modern iron-clads those high qualities of the British seamen are less and less called into action every day that we live. The iron-clads of to-day and of the future will not depend so much on our blue-jackets, I regret to say, as upon gunners and stokers. The sailing power of our battle ships is daily and hourly disappearing. The result of all this is, that whereas in our old wars, at the beginning of the century, we had a great superiority both in the number of our ships and in the quality of out guns, and an enormous pre-eminence in the quality of the personnel of our Navy, at the present moment we are losing, of have lost, that superiority in the number of our ships; and the great qualities of the British seamen, on which we formerly depended, are of less and less account every year. In considering the condition of our Fleet, I will simply call the attention of the Committee to a statement made by a gallant Admiral—Sir Edward Fanshawe. He tells us that in 1805 England had 88 line-of-battle ships in commission, while the French had 37, and the Spanish, 24. But such little reliance could be placed on the whole of our Fleet—owing to the necessity for providing for the defence of our Colonies and of our trade—that Sir Edward. 79 Fanshawe tells us that at that time, when our Colonies were less numerous, and less widely scattered than now, and when our commerce was not one-hun-dreth part of what it is to-day, out of 83 line-of-battle ships we could only bring 27 ships into action at the decisive battle of Trafalgar against 33 ships of France and Spain combined, the remaining 58 ships being engaged all over the world in defending our commerce and our Colonies. I have no wish to weary the Committee; but I should like to give some slight idea of what the commerce is which our Navy has to protect. The gross steam tonnage in the world amounted, in 1881, to 6,700,000 tons,of which 4,200,000 tons was British, 630,000 tons American; whereas that of France—whose Navy is now closely approaching our own—is only 420,000 tons, or one-tenth of ours. The value of British shipping at that time amounted to £100,000,000; and the value of British commerce now to be protected, should war take place, amounts to the gigantic sum of £800,000,000 or £900,000,000 sterling. In fact, upwards of 70 per cent of the sea-carrying trade of the world is carried on in English ships. Therefore, I am here tonight to tell the Government that they should increase our Navy, and take some further steps than they have hitherto thought it right to take in order to ensure that command of the sea, which is necessary, I might almost say, for our daily bread. If I have the temerity to urge this upon the Admiralty to-night, I think the figures I have given in regard to our commerce, shows some slight reason for the action I am taking. The Secretary to the Admiralty, I have no doubt, will tell me, as his Predecessors have told me before, that it is very unpleasant and unwise to wound the susceptibilities of foreign nations, and to alarm them; but that is a very one-sided view of the case. Now, I do not think that foreign nations care a farthing about wounding our susceptibilities or of alarming us, because they go on year after year spending enormous sums of money for the purpose of building up gigantic Navies, when they have neither commerce nor Colonies, to speak of, to defend. There is another reason why I wish the Admiralty to look the matter in the face, and to make some further additions to the Navy. In 80 olden days the cost of a line-of-battle ship, and the time required to build her, wore not a third of what it takes now to build an iron-clad line-of-battle ship of the present day. Further than that, in the olden days, there was always due notice of a war coming on. Wars did not then come upon the country suddenly, as they do in these days. In those days wars and diplomatic relations were spoken of and coming on for days, and months, and years, during which time England, with her vast resorces, could build what line-of-battle ships she thought necessary. But in these days no Member of the present Board of Admiralty, nor my right hon. Friend the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith), who sits by my side, need be told that war, like a man's hand, first appears in the horizon scarcely a speck, and then breaks out all over Europe in a war involving us in one of those panics which lead to a ruinous and profitless expenditure of money, and induce us to add to the Navy ships which at other times we should be ashamed of. I say, therefore, that maritime supremacy is a relative term, and that we cannot tell whether we have ensured our maritime supremacy. We cannot tell whether we are maintaining our position as mistress of the seas, unless we look round and see what our foreign neighbours are about. It is for that reason I have taken upon myself the task—perhaps the obloquy—of drawing the attention of the Committee to what is going on around us in foreign countries. I am not going to weary the Committee by going into details as to the Russian preparations that are now going on so rapidly for the reviving of her Navy. I will not more than allude to the enormous and expensive fleet of torpedo boats which the United States are building. I will not even touch upon the smaller Powers, which now appear to think they cannot be looked upon as Powers at all unless they can more or less provide themselves with an Iron-clad Fleet. What I wish to do is to draw the attention of the Committee to nations nearer home, and especially to nations whose greatness, whose ambition, whoso geographical position, induces, and I will say entitles, them to think they ought to have a voice in the settlement of every great European question. First among these great nations is Germany. Since 1876 she 81 has added 12 iron-clads to her Fleet. In 1871 she passed an Act of compulsory enlistment for that Navy, so that whenever it is required there is the material to man the Fleet at once; and now she has just given an order for a fleet of most powerful torpedo cruisers—steel cruisers, armed with the heaviest guns. I come next to a country which was thought not to be in. such a condition of financial prosperity that she was likely to be induced to expend any large sum of money. On this point I have obtained my information from a Spanish newspaper, which relates what took place in the Chamber of Madrid. We are told that in Spain the new Minister of Marine is about to ask the country to raise a loan of £16,000,000 sterling, which is to be applied to what he is pleased to call the re-organization of her Navy. The scheme of the Minister of Marine is to apply this money in making a very large and powerful addition to the personnel of her Navy. It is to be expended in the purchase of iron-clads, torpedoes, in the fortification of her arsenals, and her forts, and, above all, in the purchase of guns of the most modern type and of 40 and 80 tons calibre. These guns, we are told, are to be put up at Ceuta, Tarifa, and Algesiras, and other places; and, to use the words of the Minister of Marine, they are to be mounted in such positions as will best and most effectively command the Straits of Gibraltar. Now, I am not afraid of Spain, and I do not suppose that any Member of this House is afraid of Spain; but I only mention these facts to show the feeling that exists all over Europe, and how every country of the world, except England, is taking steps to defend herself in case of war. The third country I will mention is one which affords, certainly, one of the most extraordinary instances in modern history—namely, the rapidity with which Italy has placed herself in the front rank of European Powers by her marvellously rapid creation of a most powerful Iron-clad Navy. In 1875 the Italian Government applied themselves to the re-organization of the Navy. That re-organization was to consist of seven monster iron-clads, armed with guns 39 feet long in citadels. Two of them are already in commission, while two others are in a forward state of progress, their engines having been ordered 82 of Messrs. Maudsley, in England, while the composite iron plates necessary for her armour are in the hands of Messrs. Cammel, of Sheffield. The Italian Fleet, I may remind the Committee, is numerous besides these vessels. I come now to the nation which is most in my mind, and the last I am going to mention tonight—namely, France. No one will deny—not even Her Majesty's Government will deny—that France has made, not only rapid, but gigantic strides of late years in the creation of a Navy. That very Blue Book of Estimates now lying on the knees of my hon. Friend the Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Sir Thomas Brassey) tells us of the strides which the French Government have made. In 1870, after their crushing defeat by Germany, they had no ships and no Navy at all. What have they now? They have a Navy worthy of the consideration of the British Admiralty and of my hon. Friend the Civil Lord of the Admiralty. I have not the slightest wish to exaggerate the strength of the French Navy, and still less to underrate the strength of our own Navy. Eighteen months ago I first brought to light these French ships and the rapid progress being made by France. Since that time many and most exaggerated statements as to the strength of the French Navy have appeared, partly through ignorance, and partly fostered by the extraordinary reticence of the Admiralty authorities, I have no wish whatever to exaggerate the strength of the French Navy. What I desire to-night is to lay before the Committee, in a calm and dispassionate review, an actual resumé of what the Navy is and will be of our most powerful and most restless neighbour. Before I go into the question of a comparison between the French and English Navies, I should like to say a few words explanatory of my meaning in this matter. We are often in the habit of hearing a good deal of talk about tonnage. Now, one sort of tonnage is one thing, and another sort of tonnage is another. I do not think there prevails in the public mind a sufficiently clear idea of how far one system of tonnage goes, and where the other stops. There are two kinds of tonnage, and I will sketch out what is really meant by tonnage. One kind of tonnage is called a tonnage of displacement— that is to say, the ships with engines, coals, guns, provisions, 83 and everything on board. Then there is another kind of tonnage, which merely consists of the weight of the hull, and is merely the shell of the ship. The former—the tonnage of displacement— if I am not wrong, and I see the eye of my hon. Friend who was my first instructor in naval matters upon me—the tonnage of displacement is generally half as much again as the tonnage weight of hull. I have taken down two ships from the Estimates this year. Ono is the Conqueror, and the Conqueror's complete tonnage of displacement is 6,200 tons, whereas her tonnage weight of hull is only 4,200 tons. The other ship is the Rodney. The Rodney's tonnage of displacement is 9,600 tons, and her weight of hull only 6,005 tons. But in order to make it quite clear, and to assure the Committee that I wish to be perfectly impartial in the matter in any of the weights I give in regard to French ships, I have reduced the French Ships to a corresponding weight of hull; so that when I speak of an English ship and a French ship, both are calculated upon the weight of hull. Having stated that, I have no desire to exaggerate the condition of the Navy, and having informed the Committee upon what principle I intend to take the tonnage, I will now go on with my comparison between the English and French Navy, In the year 1882, on the 16th of March, the hon. Gentleman who was then Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Trevelyan), and who has since distinguished himself so much by the ability with which he has discharged the duties of Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, made his statement upon the Navy Estimates in this House. The hon. Gentleman told us that he was going to lay down four ironclads. I remember well that my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Wigtown Burghs (Sir John Hay) said that, after all, they would see that the Government were awake to their position, and that they were going to have four ironclads laid down. But let us see what these ironclads were. There was, first of all, the Howe, which was certainly not to have an alarming advance made upon her, seeing that it was only 13 per cent. Next came the Renbow, which, although she had been put out to contract, was only to be advanced 7 per cent. The Camperdown was to be advanced 3½ per 84 cent, and the fourth ship, that redoubtable ship, the Anson, was to be advanced 0.3 per cent. At that time I ventured to say to the Committee that I looked upon the Anson and its advance of 0.3 per cent as nothing more than a paper ship. The year has now gone round, and the keel of the Anson is not yet laid. Then let us see what, for the same period, the French Government were going to do. I may mention that, in the case of both countries, in the year 1882–3, the Government promised to lay down four ironclads. Before I go on to compare the state of things in this country with the French programme, I should like to make another remark, because I am quite sure that many Members of the Committee will not know that whereas the English financial year goes from the month of April until April in the next year—or from April, 1882, to April, 1883—the French financial year runs from January, 1882, to December, 1882. Therefore, whatever work the French Government had to do in the financial year corresponding with ours, they had three months advantage of us, which in these days of sudden wars and troubles is a very great advantage. The French programme for the year 1882, corresponding to that brought in by the present Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, consisted of four first class barbette ships of 10,000 tons each, armed with very heavy breech-loaders of modern type, which were to be ready when the ships were ready to take them on board. Now, upon that point I must dwell for a moment or two. In April, 1882.3, the English Government, proposed to advance the Howe 13 per cent, the Benbow 7 per cent, the Camperdown 3½ per cent, and the unhappy Anson 0.3 per cent, but which faded into nothing. The French Government, in 1882, proposed to advance four large barbette iron-clad ships —the Magenta, 14.5 per cent, the Neptune, 16½ per cent, the Hoche, 17½ per cent, and the Marçeau, 30 per cent; so that the least advance of a French ship at that time was more than the greatest advance proposed to be made in any of our four ships by 1½ per cent. I should like to go a step further, and to point out the condition of the Estimates in regard to these ships in that year. The Estimates, as I have already said, were brought in with signal ability the other night by the hon. Gentleman the Secre- 85 tary to the Admiralty, and the hon. Gentleman boasted to the House of the large increase which was going to be made in the iron-clad tonnage over that proposed by his Colleague (Mr. Trevelyan). He said that his Colleague only proposed 11,400 tons, whereas he was going to add 13,200 tons; but in the very next sentence the Secretary to the Admiralty, with a näivete, which I fully commend, said, "I think it is only fair to say that in these 13,200, I include two protected ships"—which, in my opinion, had no right to be called ironclads at all. As these two ships were to be advanced 1,000 tons, it is necessary, therefore, to strike them off the magnificent programme of 13,200 tons, which reduces it to 12,200 this year, against 11,400 proposed by the hon. Gentleman's Predecessor, or an actual increase of 800 tons. I feel bound to say another word upon this subject; and I will ask the Committee to look at the French Estimates for this year, because it is only fair to say that everything connected with tonnage at all is an estimate. The Secretary to the Admiralty estimates that he will add to the Navy 12,200 tons of iron-clad ships in the course of the year. The French Secretary to the Admiralty, or the Minister of Marine, estimates that in a period, which will end three months before ours, he will add no less than 17,200 tons to the French Navy, or 4,000 tons in excess of that which was proposed to the House of Commons with such a splendid flourish of trumpets by the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty. I once had the honour to be connected with the administration of the affairs of the most powerful Service of the world —namely, the Royal Navy of England?—and, therefore, I am perfectly aware that these Estimates are only Estimates, and that neither the English Estimates of 12,200 tons, nor the French Estimates of 17,200 tons, maybe realized. Having said that, it will be well to examine what really the probabilities are of the one programme being carried out or the other; and I am fortunately able to place my case before the Committee both upon the British and the French Estimates. In the English Dockyards we have 18,000 men employed, whilst in the French Dockyards there are 23,000. England is building one ship by contract—the Benbow: France is building 86 three large iron-clads by contract—the Marçeau, the Requin, and the Neptune. Well, then, France has 28,000 men, and we have only 18,000; and what are our 18,000 men to do? Have they not a large demand upon their time, which does not exist in the French Dockyards, for the repair and refitting of various ships as they come home? I shall have more to say about repairs later on; but if the Committee will realize for one moment that we have only 18,000 Dockyardmen, and that France employs 23,000; that we have one ship building by contract, and that they have three; and that our Dockyard-men are, every year, more and more wanted for repairs and refits, while France has very few ships to repair or refit, they will be able to form a very good estimate as to which of the two programmes is most likely to be fulfilled in the course of the year. I will endeavour to make our position a little clearer. I hope I am not wearying the Committee too much; but I may say that, during the two years from April, 1882, to April, 1884, England will have laid down four first-class iron-clads; while from January, 1882, to January, 1884, the French will have laid down seven first-class iron-clads. In April, 1884, there are four English ships, which may be advanced 4,500 tons; in December, 1883, seven French ships will have been advanced 10,000 tons. Now, Sir, I have something more to say than that. If the French programme of the year does not really produce this advance on those seven ships, and which, as far as I can make out from the Estimates laid on the Table a few weeks ago in Paris, has not been maintained on the four ships which were to have been advanced by the end of the year 1882, so also the advance on our ships has not been maintained. It is alleged that the amount expended on the advance of these four ships—the Hoche, the Magenta, the Neptune, and the Marçeau—has not been equal to the Estimate. But what have the French done instead? They have laid down, or are about to lay down, two large iron-clads, one called the Brennus and the other the Charles Martel; and not only that, but they are going to lay down eight large armoured gun vessels, possessing great speed, I presume, because I see the engines are to be of the same power as those in the 87 large iron-clads. Therefore, when we talk about the French programme and the English programme, it simply comes to this—that whilst the English Government have, this year, what I must call dished up the Anson as the only iron-clad we are to have new this year —and dished up I call it, because the Anson was approved in the Estimates proposed by the present Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant—this year the Government give us in their programme only one iron-clad and two protected ships; whereas the French set forth in their programme two large iron-clads and eight armoured vessels of great power and speed. At the end of 1883, as far as my calculation goes—and I have tried all I can to be correct in this matter—England will have building and completing 11 first-class iron-clads; whereas France will have 17 at the same period. At the risk of wearying the Committee, and in order to prove the accuracy of my statement—in regard to which I challenge contradiction-—I will, with the permission of the Committee, run over the names of these iron-clads. The 11 English iron-clads building and completing at the end of 1883 are the Colossus, the Conqueror, the Edinburgh, the Howe, the Impérieuse, the Warspite, the Rodney, the Anson, the Camperdoun, the Collingwood, and the Benbow. The French ships estimated to be built by September 1, 1883, are the Amiral Baudin, the Neptune, the new ditto, the Formidable, the Indomptable, the Hoche, the Brennus, the Magenta, the Charles Martel, the Marçeau, the Furieux, the Terrible, the Cuïman, the Requin, the Vauban, the Du Guesclin, and the Tonnant, plus eight armoured gun vessels and four torpedo vessels. I have a very great dislike to disagree with anyone, and it is a very great pleasure to me when I can find myself at one with my Hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty. On this particular occasion, if the programme I have just read out—? that programme in which the poor Anson is again dished up—is made to do duty against this formidable list of French ships, I am certainly at one with the Secretary to the Admiralty; because I am satisfied there is no one in this House, let him sit on whatever side he may—there is no naval officer on half pay or full pay, wherever he may be stationed, who will not agree with me 88 in feeling that the Secretary to the Admiralty, on the night he made his Statement, made an assertion which no one could differ from, when he announced, to use his own words, that the policy of the Earl of Northbrook was neither of a startling nor an ambitious character. Anything less startling, anything less ambitious for an English Minister of Marine to present to Parliament, I do not think any House of Commons ever heard. But the worst of all this is that, miserable as this programme is, there is something still more disquieting —namely, that even these promises are never carried out—that is to say, that in the last 10 years only on two occasions have the promises of the Board of Admiralty been fulfilled. During the greater part of my political life I have had the privilege of sitting here, and upon one occasion it was my duty to answer the Statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty, at the request of my late lamented Friend the Earl of Beaconsfield. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) came down and made one of the best speeches he ever made, and in that speech he proposed to build a largely increased amount of tonnage, without providing for an increase in the number of Dockyard workmen to carry out his scheme. I warned the right hon. Gentleman that he would not carry his programme out unless he was a conjuror. A year passed by, and the hon. Gentleman again came down with his Estimates, and he said, with perfect frankness—"I must admit that the noble Lord the Member for Chichester was correct." Sir, I am no conjuror; but I knew that it was impossible to carry out that programme. I am deeply indebted to the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty for one part of his speech the other day. He gave the House a most excellent example of how utterly these programmes are unfulfilled, and how little the Admiralty authorities know whether they are fulfilled or not. On that occasion the Secretary to the Admiralty, with the greatest bonhommie and desire to please and interest the House and the public, told us that a certain amount of iron-clad tonnage had been added to the Navy since the years 1877, 1878, and 1879. Now, the corrections I desire to make in the Secretary to the Admiralty's figures are 89 simply drawn from the Navy Estimates, laid on the Table by the hon. Gentleman himself. In 1878–9, said the Secretary to the Admiralty, 8,430 tons were added to the Navy; but according to the Navy Estimates it was only 4,506 tons. In 1879–80 the hon. Gentleman says that 7,327 tons were added; but according to the Navy Estimates only 5,314 tons were added. In 1880–1 the calculation of the Secretary to the Admiralty is that 9,235 tons were built; but I cannot find that more than 7,833 tons were built in that year. In the year 1881–2, according to the statement of the hon. Gentleman, 10,748 tons were built; but according to the Navy Estimates only 9,802 tons wore built. In 1882–3 the hon. Gentleman says that 11,460 tons were built; whereas, according to the Navy Estimates, only 9,733 tons were built. The total number of tons, according to the hon. Gentleman, was 47,206: whereas the actual number of tons was 37,188, making a difference of 10,018 tons.
Does the noble Lord include the ships built by contract in the total amount of tonnage built and added to the Navy in those years? I believe the figures are given in the Expense Account.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
Oh, yes; and I shall have something to say about the Expense Account by-and-bye. The Estimates laid on the Table this very year, compared with those introduced by the Secretary to the Admiralty, show a diminution in the tonnage building over the tonnage promised of no less than 1,235 tons of iron-clad shipping; while in one case alone—that of the Benbow, which is a ship building by contract—there is a deficit of 285 tons out of the small amount of 450 tons ordered and promised to Parliament this year. Therefore, this shipbuilding by contract in this year, 1882–3, was out by nearly one-half of the tonnage promised. The hon. Gentleman was good enough to remind me of the Expense Account; and, in passing, I must say that the hon. Gentleman has not been very much disposed to give me information, because when he based one of the great arguments in his speech upon the Report of a Committee superintended by Mr. Hamilton, he based his arguments on the Report of an Admiralty Committee, which, when hon. Members asked for it, 90 so that they might see if there were two sides to it, as there are two sides to everything, they were told that it was a confidential Report, and could not be given up. Now, only twice in the last 10 years has the Dockyard iron-clad building been maintained in anything like the tonnage promised. In 1873–4 there was a deficiency of 2,513 tons; in 1875–6 there was a deficiency of 268 tons; in 1876–7 of 490 tons; in 1877–8, 3,766 tons; and in 1878–9 of 5,325 tons. Now, on that point I wish to say a word. That was the time when the Admiralty was presided over by my right hon. Friend near me (Mr. W. H. Smith), and the late Secretary to the Admiralty made some capital out of that fact last year, when he was addressing public meetings in the country. He said—"Why, you see, we have ordered so many iron-clad vessels, and the late Government also ordered a certain number; but the late Government took only a small sum for that purpose, whereas we have taken a large one." Now, I say that the failure of tonnage, while my right hon. Friend was in Office, was creditable to his feeling of patriotism, and to the proper motives of economy by which he was actuated, because I know that at that time the most elaborate and the most crucial trials were going on to test the penetrating power of armour, and the question was being considered whether it was better to have plain armour plates or plates combined of steel and cast-iron. Until that vexed and most anxious question was properly settled by my right hon. Friend, he was perfectly right not to put money into the Estimates for buying armour-plates which might prove to be useless. Now, I thought, when I found that in 10 years there was actually a deficiency of iron-clad tonnages to the extent of 15,160 tons, that I had got at the bottom of the case; but I was very much mistaken—indeed, I was confronted at that period by a most remarkable Report from a most eminent man, whose authority, ability, patriotism, and intelligence, no Member of the present or of the late Board of Admiralty will dare to question. It is a Report of Mr. Hamilton, who was at that time the Accountant General of the Navy, and whose services have since been found to be so valuable and useful, that the Government have attached him permanently to the Secretariat of the 91 Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Now, what does Mr. Hamilton say? He discloses the fact that from 1869–70 to 1879–80 there was a deficiency of iron-clad tonnage added to the Navy of 9,409 tons beyond the deficiency admitted in the Navy Estimates. As that is rather a startling statement to make, perhaps I shall be excused if I read the two lines in which it is contained. Mr. Hamilton says—The total number of tons calculated to have been added during the period from 1869–70 to 1879–80 was 206,545 tons, which, compared with the quantity provided for in the Estimates, leaves a net deficiency of 13,165 tons.As regards armoured vessels, an endeavour has been made to compare and calculate the quantity promised with the actual additions to the Navy during this period, with the result that a further deficiency has been discovered, which amounts to 5,409 tons. In other words, while it has been calculated that during the last seven years, 83,770 tons of new armoured vessels have been added to the Fleet, and the money has been formally voted for this purpose, it has only been found possible to add in actual vessels 74,361 tons. I regret to say that the same deficiency is still going on, and the inquiries I have made have all been made upon the Navy Estimates themselves. I find that, not content with the deficiency of 13,165 tons of which I have spoken, and taking only the 10 years, without going as far back as Mr. Hamilton's Report—namely, from 1872–3 to 1882–3—there is a further deficiency of nearly 7,000 tons more, making together 21,665 tons of deficiency in the iron-clad tonnage given by the Dockyards of the country to the Queen's Navy in 10 years. And what does that represent? It represents in weight of hull at least five ships of the Conqueror type, of which the Queen's Navy has been deprived. The Secretary to the Admiralty has a right to ask me how I arrived at this conclusion. Now, a ship, after all, can only be of a certain size; I have looked down the list of ships added to the Navy, and I find that the amount is 65,556 tons during those years. In that I do not include the Northampton or the Nelson, which, although useful ships, can hardly be included in the ironclad ships of the Navy. To summarize matters, there have been in the last 10 years, 88,471 tons ordered by Parlia- 92 ment. The Admiralty, in their Estimates, have taken credit for 73,307 tons—that is, that the Admiralty admit a deficiency of 15,146 tons. On looking over the various ships which are being built, and which have been built, and going on the principle that no more can be put into a vessel than her actual size, which is an incontrovertable fact, I find that the amount actually built is 66,806 tons; and that is the way in which I get at the real deficiency of 21,665 tons, or, as I have said, five line-of-battle ships of the Conqueror type. I make no charge against anyone. But I think it is time that the country should be made aware of what is going on, and that we should not be told that we are perfectly safe; that our iron-clads are going on well; that we are adding a large number of tons every year; that one Secretary to the Admiralty is adding more than another Secretary; that the supremacy of the country is quite secure; and that there is no chance of our dreams being disturbed. I think I am only doing my duty, as an independent Member of Parliament, when I disclose facts which nobody can controvert. And now I pass to another part of the subject, and one in regard to which I have always felt very strongly, and which enters very largely into the argument of my speech to-night. My objection is that the Ironclad Navy of the country is always, owing to Treasury supervision, and perhaps to a wish to flatter the vanity of the Prime Minister of the day, if he wishes to have a good Budget, kept under the mark. These are facts which nobody can controvert. We have heard a good deal about thrifty administration; but I do not call that so which, at a moment when there is a cloud of danger, lands us in a violent panic, in consequence of which bad ships are obtained at a ruinous expenditure. When the war broke out between France and Germany, and an European war was threatened, we were seized, in the month of August, with a violent panic. Our Navy was not sufficiently strong to protect the interests of the country in the Mediterranean, if the war was to take a wider range; and the consequence was that the Minister came' down and asked for a Vote of Credit of £2,000,000 to increase largely the personnel of the Army and the stores of the Army, £500,000 being handed over to the 93 Navy. I should like to show—and I hope the Committee will allow me to tell them—what happened in regard to that £500,000. That £500,000 went, in a great measure, towards building what were by courtesy called four coast defence ships—the Hydra, the Hecate, the Gorgon, and the Cyclops. Now, the Cyclops cost £154,026; the Gorgon, £138,567; the Hecate, £140,593; and the Hydra, £141,372, making a total for those four coast defence ships of £574,658. These ships, very naturally, did not meet with the approval of the Admiralty or the Naval Authorities, and accordingly a Committee, presided over by Admiral Ryder, was appointed to report upon them, the conclusion arrived at being that the vessels which had cost £600,000 were not safe to go even from one port to another, except in very fine weather. Now, Sir, I think that was a wretched mistake. To keep your Iron-clad Fleet below its proper strength until there comes a time of danger, and then, telling Europe that you are not strong enough, to rush in and buy four ships at a very heavy cost by way of defending your coasts, that are only fit to move in fine weather, is, in my opinion, a penny-wise and pound-foolish policy, that no Admiralty in the world but ours would be guilty of. In saying this, I feel sure I shall have the cordial support of my hon. Friend opposite. It was said that the sum of £15,000 or £20,000 additional was about to be spent in altering the Hecate. I have not heard whether that alteration has been made. [Mr. CAMPBEIX-BANNER-MAN: It has not been made.] Then, I would ask my hon. Friend when it will be commenced; and whether the contemplated alteration is of a character that would lead us to suppose that a similar additional sum will have to be spent upon the three remaining ships of the same class? The next panic followed eight years after the time I have just referred to—in 1878–9—when a victorious Russian Army was marching on Constantinople, and when my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. H. Smith) was First Lord of the Admiralty, and the Earl of Beaconsfield Prime Minister. That was a grave state of affairs; but it was still more grave that the Authorities of the day had no confidence in our Navy being strong enough to resist any combination which might be brought against it. 94 What was done? Four ships, the Superb, Orion, Belleisle, and Neptune— ready-made ships—that had been ordered and made for other Governments, were bought at a very large cost. Now, ready-made articles are never likely to be as good as those made to order, and certainly not so in the case of such a complicated machine as a modern ironclad. I do not blame the Government of that day any more than I blame the Liberal Government of 1870 for coming down and doing what they could to provide for the deficiencies of the Navy; but, Sir, I do object to what I think the mad policy—the parsimonious views—that for many years kept down our Navy to so low an ebb in order to save money, and which, as soon as a cloud arose over Europe, obliged us to go and add to our Navy four ships of the kind I have described. I am told that the Orion rolls even in harbour, and that when out of harbour her normal condition is to roll 28 degrees in a smooth sea. The Committee will be familiar with the voyage from the coast of Ireland made by the Belleisle, the only iron-clad we had at the time on this side of Gibraltar to defend our coasts. I will not, however, go into details. But what is the history of the Neptune, a vessel which, no doubt, is of good design, because it was designed by my hon. Friend who sits opposite? The Neptune was bought for £614.000, because she was ready to go to sea at a moment's notice; He has stores, fittings, guns—Whitworth guns, by the way—engines, and even provisions on board. That was in 1878; but from that time the Neptune has never been to sea until last week, when she was sent on her trial trip. Having Whitworth guns on board, as the Admiralty must have been aware, it was found that there was no Whitworth ammunition at any of the Mediterranean Stations. Accordingly, having bought the vessel in 1878, because she was ready to go to sea, the Admiralty had to set to work upon her, taking out her fittings, stores, guns, and, in short, dismantling her, and this operation has added the nice little sum of £70,000 to her original cost of £614,000; while, as I have already stated, except for the purpose of trial last week, she has never been to sea. I do not call that good economy. But I wish to make an appeal to the Secretary to the Admiralty. 95 It is rumoured that the Neptune is to be sent to the Mediterranean; and, if that be true, I would express the hope that before she is sent to sea my hon. Friend will have her bottom examined in dry dock, for I understand that those who are called upon to serve in her did not feel over anxious to trust themselves in her at sea until that operation has been performed. It may be asked what is the cause of this perennial failure in building our iron-clad tonnage? Why is it that the Admiralty cannot build the amount of tonnage which they put in the Estimates with the money and men at their disposal? The answer is obvious. The Secretary to the Admiralty has not been long in Office; but he has been there long enough to know that there is no quantity so unknown as the amount that will be required for repairs—refitting, and making good defects in ships—nevertheless, there is no item in the Estimates the cost of which is calculated to so great a nicety, and that fact alone is sufficient to show that there is no bona fides in the whole transaction. I hold in my hand the Estimates of this year; and if hon. Members will turn to page 189, they will find the charge of £279,971 for Repairs and Befitting. The Committee will observe that this unknown and varying quantity is actually calculated down to £71. Then there is, for making good defects in the Channel Squadron, the charge of £123,086; and the same remark applies to this item. There are the further sums of £12,375, added under letter A, for repairs at Malta and other places in the Mediterranean, and £28,052, under letter B, for making good defects in the Channel Squadron; the total for the year for Wages and Repairs being £443,584. All these unknown and uncalculable quantities are set forth with the greatest minuteness; the calculation in the case of this large sum being brought down to £584. Now, I think it is altogether wrong, and, moreover, quite contrary to Parliamentary practice and Constitutional usage, that men for whom credit is taken in the Estimates for the purpose of shipbuilding should be transferred from that to the work of repairs and refitting without the knowledge and sanction of Parliament. I do not say that there may not be limes when an extra amount of work thrown upon the Dockyards would render it advisable that some latitude should be given to Superintendents in this respect; 96 but I point out to the Committee that this practice, which certainly to my mind is unconstitutional, is not the result of accident, but the annual and perennial rule. But the men having been transferred in the manner I have described, this question presents itself—Are the repairs and refitting for which that transfer is made completed? I am afraid not. I believe the repairs are rather behindhand; but I shall be glad to hear from the Secretary to the Admiralty that the contrary is the case. I should like to ask what is the position of the Raleigh, the Shah, and the Inconstant, which are oxidizing in our creeks and harbours for want of men to bring them forward, even although men have been taken from shipbuilding and put upon repairs and refitting? Passing from this to the question on which my right hon. Friend the Member for Westminster has often addressed the House—namely, that of the guns, I will remark that about 18 months ago I was astonished at the late Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Trevelyan), who made what, to my mind, appeared the startling assertion that the English Fleet was being armed with weapons equal to the most powerful of any Fleet in the world. Sir, I was at the time in a position to object to that statement, and I did so on the ground that I knew there had not been a single breech-loading gun supplied to any of our ships; whereas all the French ships were armed with breech-loaders of more or less approved type and with many of the newest typo. And a gentleman of the highest distinction, whose name commands respect in this and every other Assembly— Sir William Armstrong—confirmed this view when, shortly afterwards, he said, in his address at the British Institute—Our Navy is at present armed with guns which could not be expected to contend successfully with the best modern guns that could be used against them. Happily, most of the older ships of Foreign Powers are in the same position; but all their new vessels, and some of their older ones, are being armed with artillery which, weight for weight, is superior in power to that of our Navy. Our Service guns have simply been overtaken in that rapid progress of artillery which has been going on for the last eight or ton years.Soon after this spurt between the late Secretary to the Admiralty and myself, it was officially announced that the Navy was to be armed with breech-loaders at no distant date, and the Secretary to the 97 Admiralty came down with confidence and exuberance of feeling, as though he were going to carry everything before him, and expressed the hope that during the current calendar year the Conqueror would be supplied with 43-ton breech-loading guns. Now, the year had passed away, and, I ask, where are the Conqueror's breech-loading guns? The fact is, no heavy guns have been supplied. Well, the other night, my hon. Friend the new Secretary to the Admiralty came down to the House, and, apparently in even a more sanguine frame of mind than his Predecessor, said, flatteringly, in effect—"If you will only be patient for another year, I think we can supply you with 11 43-ton guns." I shall believe in the realization of that hope when I see the guns in the ships, and not until then. But this is not all, for the late Secretary to the Admiralty, at the end of 1882–3, went so far as to tell the House and the country that by the present time 174 guns of all sizes and of the new type would be delivered to the Navy. But not a single breech-loading gun, except of small type, has been issued to the Navy. I ask, where are the 174 guns promised by the late Secretary to the Admiralty? Again, the House has been told, in an official speech, that the Rupert was to be armed with new 18-ton breech-loading guns. But, if I am not mistaken, the Rupert has not received any 18-ton guns of the kind; she has muzzle-loading guns on board; and if she had to be sent to sea it would be with those guns, and not with the 18-ton breech-loading guns promised. I wish to show the Committee, from the Estimates themselves, the great danger which results from the dilatoriness of the War Department in the supply of guns to the Navy. My right hon. Friend beside me long ago settled with the Secretary of State for War that new 43-ton guns should be supplied to the Navy. Will the Secretary to the Admiralty tell me whether those guns have been tested, or whether even their pattern had been approved? I am told not. The Secretary to the Admiralty stated the other night that the Conqueror, which was in other respects ready for commission, was incomplete for want of her armament that was promisedl8 months ago; and, at the same time, he stated that several other large iron-clads were delayed through 98 the same cause. But the hon. Gentleman rather titillated our palates in telling us that not only the 43-ton guns were to be supplied, but that some ships of the Admiral class were to be supplied with 63-ton guns. In the Army Estimates of this year I do not find provision for a single 63-ton gun; and as long as the guns are not in the Estimates, I think we should be living in a fool's paradise if we suppose they will be supplied at all. But, Sir, the position in France is the reverse of this. There the patterns of their breech-loading guns have been approved, and the guns themselves tested, of which there is an abundant supply. The new French iron-clads are all supplied with these very 43-ton breechloaders. Now, Sir, not only have our ships been delayed by the want of the guns, but they have been delayed by the Dockyard authorities not even knowing the nature of the guns to be supplied to them, for which reason they cannot employ themselves in settling the nature of the requisite carriages and fittings. I wish also to draw the attention of the Admiralty to the delay that has occurred year after year in the supply of armour-plates promised to be delivered by the contractors within a certain time from the date of the order. This is a question which merits serious attention on the part of the Admiralty; and I say that if there is one thing more than another that should be made binding upon those who undertake to supply us with armour-plates, it is that they should serve us before all others, and deliver the armour-plates at the time contracted for. This question of Naval guns is one which, as the Committee is aware, has interested me for some time past; and in the spring of last year I stated, in a humble pamphlet, that more than a year before attention had been drawn to the fact that nothing was more unbusinesslike, and less conducive to economy, than that our Naval guns should be ordered from, or supplied by, the War Office. I urged, also, that these monstrous and ruinous delays could never cease until an Ordnance Board was established for the Navy; that the guns should be supplied by that Naval Ordnance Department; that they should be ordered by the Naval Authorities, and paid for out of sums voted for the purpose in the Navy Estimates; and 99 that this was the only way to fix upon the Admiralty, who now shelter themselves under the plea of War Office responsibility, the real responsibility for the guns of the Navy. Sir, I am much pleased that I expressed those views, because my right hon. Friend the Member for Westminster last year spoke warmly on the question, and actually proposed to ask for a Royal Commission to inquire into the subject. I was delighted at that—first, because I was sure that this great subject, having been handled by my right hon. Friend, would be influentially and effectually dealt with; and, secondly, because I felt somewhat flattered that the suggestion I made some six months before was taken up and endorsed by my right hon. Friend. Now, Sir, how many systems of guns have we in the Service at this moment?—and I would at this point impress upon the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty the necessity of doing something to simplify the number and different descriptions of guns in the Naval Service. There are now no less than four distinct systems in use in the Royal Navy, including, under those four systems, 37 different sorts of guns, each requiring its own particular ammunition and fittings. I ask the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty whether he thinks that such a condition of affairs would be likely to be dealt with easily in a time of panic or in a time of war? I congratulate him on having gone a step forward in taking part of the fittings of the guns out of the War Office Estimates and putting them on the Navy Estimates. I was delighted to see that, because it was the first step in recognizing the advantage of a policy of which I have always been a humble but consistent advocate. But, Sir, I do regret very much that the Admiralty, by their Estimates of this year, do not seem to have realized the state of our Navy, either with regard to Foreign Navies or the state of affairs in Europe. In 1883–4 the Admiralty proposed to build an amount of tonnage, including unarmoured ships, less than last year. In 1882–3 we had 20,140 tons, as against only 19,424 tons for 1883–4, and yet we are told that the number of Dockyard workmen is increased by 1,700. I will tell the hon. Gentleman that when he comes down to the House next year, although he has a diminished amount 100 of tonnage to deal with, and has employed 1,700 more workmen, he will not have completed his programme. I am very sorry that an old and valued friend of mine, a distinguished Member of Her Majesty's Ministry, is not present in the House to-night. I am sure I could make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I wish he was here. I should claim his support for my contention that 19,424 tons, which the Secretary to the Admiralty proposes to add to the Navy this year, is utterly inadequate for the safety of the Empire. It is 12 years ago that the right hon. Gentleman filled the Office of First Lord of the Admiralty. At that time, Sir, France lay bleeding in the dust, without a Navy; Germany had no Fleet; Spain had not negotiated the loan of £16,000,000, and, as was also the case with Italy, she had no Fleet. At that time we were in a state of profound peace, arising from the very exhaustion of other European Powers; and what was then the dictum which the right hon. Gentleman wished to lay down for the future? He said it was not safe, for the simple wear and tear of our Fleet, to add less than 20,000 tons yearly to the Navy. Now, Sir, at a time when the world is bristling with iron-clads, with the gigantic Navy of France close upon us, the Secretary to the Admiralty asks us to accept, as a great favour, 400 tons less than the First Lord of the Admiralty 12 years ago told us was necessary. I am aware that there are those in this country who believe in no danger; and, were wars of slow growth and long duration, I might assent to that doctrine. But I know that wars in these days are begun and finished before the dormant resources of the countries engaged in them can be called into action. Armour-clads and guns cannot be produced in a hurry; and, therefore, I say that the argument of there being no danger is most destructive, inasmuch as its effect can only be to foster a reckless confidence. It is clear to mo, and it must be clear to the Admiralty, that the French are successfully aiming at pre-eminence over our-selves in regard to our ships in speed, weight of armour, and certainly in power of guns. If that be so, I, for one, as an Englishman, cannot imagine that anyone, however steeped in red-tape officialism, would think it right or meet 101 for the Government not to take some extra steps for such a crisis, and to retain for England the command of the seas, to protect her flag wherever it may float, and to maintain inviolate the Empire of the Queen in every part of the world.
SIR THOMAS BEASSEY
It is very much to be regretted that the discussion of Naval questions so frequently lands us in hopeless controversy; but there is one observation in which I think all parties will agree, and it is this—that if we were in the lamentable position which has been represented by my noble Friend—which, however, personally I do not admit— and we were in that position in spite of the large additions were have made to the Naval Expenditure, the blame for that situation would rest not with ourselves, but with a long succession of previous Administrations. I have not risen to enter into an unprofitable comparison between our performances and those of other Administrations. My object is to indicate the various points in which the extremely unfavourable statements which have been made lately with reference to the condition of the Navy are inaccurate. Ships have been included as complete and ready for sea which are still in hand, and, in some cases, very far from completion. All foreign ships are regarded as being armed with the armament proposed for them; whereas we know that, in numerous cases, they are armed with guns very inferior in power to those for which the ships were built. Delays in completion are spoken of as exclusively characteristic of British Naval administration; whereas we know that the disappointments which have been experienced at the British Admiralty, both with regard to the increased time and money required to complete our formidable iron-clads, have been, at least, equally experienced in France and Italy. Comparisons are made of mere numbers, without reference to the fighting efficiency of the ships. Thickness of armour is compared, without reference to the area protected, although in the one case you may have a mere belt above the water line, and in the other complete protection. Lastly, differences of coal supply are ignored, although I find, in arguing with my Colleagues in favour of restricted dimensions, that coal endurance is a quality upon which they insist most strongly. 102 As a broad principle, displacement is the fairest measure of the fighting power of contemporary ships. Displacement means weight—whether of armour, armament, machinery, fuel, or material used in the construction of the hull. The proportions assigned to each may vary according to the qualities insisted upon in the particular type; but we may assume for the able Constructors of the chief Maritime Powers of Europe equality of skill in the utilization of tonnage. If a comparison be made on the basis of displacement between the Navy of this country and the Navy of France, to which allusion has been more particularly made in the speech of the noble Lord, I venture to say that the result will be highly satisfactory to this country. I will confine myself to a comparison of ships actually ready for sea in the years 1882 and 1885 respectively, and built either of iron or steel, or of wood, launched subsequently to the year 1867. Older ships of wood are excluded, it having been laid down by the Committee on the French Estimates for 1880–1 that the life of wood-built iron-clads should be reckoned at 15, or, at the utmost, 16 years. Grouping together in the first class ships with armour of not less than nine inches, and with a displacement exceeding 8,500 tons, we had, in 1882, 10 ships aggregating 96,000 tons, while the French had three ships aggregating 2,000 tons. In 1885 we shall have 15 ships with 140,000 tons; the French five ships with 51,000 tons. Taking for the second class ships protected with armour exceeding eight inches, and a displacement under 8,500 tons, we had, in 1882, 13 ships of 80,000 tons; the French, seven ships of 56,000 tons. In 1885 we shall have 16 ships of 101,000 tons; the French, 13 ships of 93,000 tons. In the third class, consisting of ships with four-and-a-half to six inches of armour, and without limits as to displacement, we had, in 1882, 13 ships of 104,000 tons; the French, 12 of 50,000 tons. In 1885, we shall have 12 ships of 98,000 tons; the French, five of 24,000 tons. For coast defence we had, in 1882, eight ships of 28,000 tons; the French 14 of 37,000 tons. In 1885 we shall remain as at present, while the French will have increased to nine ships of 41,000 tons. In this comparison the three vessels of the Cerberus type for 103 Colonial defence are not included, nor the Viper, the Vixen, and the Waterwitch; while on the French side seven floating batteries and the Onondaga are omitted. I venture to think the Committee will be satisfied with the comparison I have made; and I would point out that while we are especially strong in ships of the first class, the advantages we possess in ships of the older type should not be disregarded. With improved machinery these ships could be made extremely useful for the protection of our commerce. While I have been able to place what, I hope, will be a satisfactory comparison before the Committee, it must be admitted that the French have made great efforts of late to strengthen their Navy. In the interval between 187C and 1879, a large addition was made to the sum which they appropriated to shipbuilding. In the last three years, however, their expenditure has remained comparatively stationary, while our expenditure has increased from £3,123,000, in 1880–1, to £3,754,000 for the current year. By this increase of expenditure our armoured tonnage, including the Mersey and the Severn, has been increased from 10,863 tons to 13,206 tons; and the number of men employed on repairs from 5,000 to 6,500. Hon. Members opposite may say that we ought to have done more; but we have proceeded with deliberation, because we knew we were secure, and we are seeking, by every means in our power, to make a better application of the money already at our disposal, rather than propose to Parliament a further, and perhaps unnecessary, increase in the Estimates. I fear I am not justified in holding out hopes to the Committee that any sensible reduction can be made in the expenditure of this country on the maintenance and repair of our large seagoing Fleet; but I venture to hope that a material improvement is practicable in the application of the money devoted to shipbuilding. Powerful sea-going ships must always occupy the first place in the British Fleet; but I consider that it would be unwise—and that is the opinion of our professional advisers—to concentrate our resources unduly on vessels of that class. These large vessels should be supported by swift auxiliaries, protected as regards buoyancy, and armed with light or medium guns. Vessels of that class, while combining with the 104 larger ships in battle, would be found highly effective for the protection of our commerce. This new and valuable type is represented in our present programme by the Mersey and the Severn. I venture to hope that two or three more ships of this class will be included in the programme of the ensuing year. They should take the place of the large corvettes, the Calliope and the Calypso, which are rapidly approaching completion. Torpedo vessels are scarcely inferior in importance to fast cruisers. A combined attack of numerous torpedo vessels would be formidable, and perhaps fatal to the largest iron-clads. They are being largely built for all the principal nations of Europe. The provision in our present Estimate for vessels of this class is confined within somewhat narrow limits; but we hope in the coming year the completion of the six gun vessels, which are included in the present Contract Vote, will set free a considerable sum which can be most usefully applied to the increased construction of torpedo vessels. Ships capable of cruising under canvas are, in my opinion, indispensable for the training of seamen. We have, thanks to the exertions of former Administrations, a very large reserve of vessels of this class; and the universal use of composite construction has added largely to the durability of our armoured cruisers. The relative fighting efficiency of the Navy may be raised without increasing the expenditure by superior skill on the part of our constructors. I regret to see that in some public utterances by Naval authorities the skill of our Naval architects is impugned; but I venture to say that a comparison between the British Fleet and Foreign Fleets redounds greatly to the credit of our Naval architects. No Navy contains so small a proportion of obsolete ships as our own. We may regret the deficiency of speed in some of our unarmoured vessels; but the new ships we are now building or completing are a remarkable and gratifying advance in the essential quality of speed. As a Fleet, they are unrivalled by anything which is in the course of construction for any Foreign Navy. The speed of 15i knots an hour attained in the recent trial of the Conqueror was a gratifying incident in recent shipbuilding history; and all the later iron-clada will be capable of 16 knots an hour. In the Mersey we look for 17 knots, and in, 105 the five protected ships of the Leander class we look for 16 knots, or, with the use of forced draught, 17 knots. We have thus no less than 16 ships building which will have a speed of 16 knots, rising to 17 knots. In point of fighting capacity, no ships of equal tonnage now building for Foreign Powers are equal to the Collingwood, and later vessels of the same type. We are quite ready to improve; but, as at present advised, we see no necessity for departing from a type which had received the endorsement of two Boards of the Admiralty. If the type be satisfactory, it is obvious that by repeating it we are doing much to reduce the time occupied in construction, and also to economize the cost. Having thus indicated the means by which the fighting strength of the Navy may be increased without adding to the expenditure, I must leave the question of a further addition to the Votes to the consideration of the Government. The decision must obviously depend on proceedings elsewhere, which we can neither foretell nor control. If our expenditure has increased, and if it should be increased in the future, we have been following, and not leading, in a rivalry which we deplore. For the present Board of Admiralty I would contend that they have taken the measures which they have deemed necessary under the circumstances; and we ask for the confidence of Parliament in our future administration.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, that, after the very elaborate and full speech of the hon. Gentleman (Sir Thomas Brassey), he should not venture to go over the same ground; but some of the hon. Gentleman's statements required some further elucidation. The hon. Gentleman had stated that in the year 1885, or, rather, in April, 1886, there would be 51 British ships ready for use—15 of the first class, 16 of the second class, 12 of the third class, and eight ships for coast defence; while the French would have 33—six of the first class, 13 of the second class, five of the third class, and nine for coast defence. He was sorry to contest any statement of the hon. Gentleman, who, of course, had more accurate information on this subject than he himself, or any other person in the country; but he was anxious for a little more explanation. In the French Estimates it was shown 106 that the French Fleet would be made up to 35 in 1886, and not only to 33. That gave a difference of two ships; but as the hon. Gentleman, of course, did not give names, it was difficult to see how the difference arose. The English Fleet, however, so far as he could make out, would only amount, in 1886, to 43 ships; and he could not tell where the 51 to which the hon. Gentleman had alluded could come from. Forty-three ships were all we should have complete by that time, unless the Defence was included, and then there would be 44; but he had omitted the Defence, because he found no proposal for repairing her; and, according to a Return last year, her boilers were in a condition in which they could not be considered of value.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, that might be so; but there was no Estimate for their repair. Last year the pressure of her boilers was down to 15 lbs., and, as there was no Estimate, he assumed that they were not worth repairing. If the Defence was to be repaired, it was a pity there was no Estimate for new boilers and other matters. Did the hon. Gentleman include the Cyclops and her three sisters? [Sir THOMAS BRASSEY: Yes.] And the Mersey and Severn? [Sir THOMAS BRASSEY: No.] Would the hon. Gentleman state which were the eight vessels he had spoken of for coast defence?
SIR THOMAS BEASSEY
The Glutton, the four ships of the Cyclops type, the Scorpion, the Wyvern, and the Viper.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, the Report on the Cyclops class stated that if they were in sea, broadside on, with 10J-seconds' interval, they would roll over, and, of course, they would become coffins for all on board. The Cyclops and her three sisters could not be considered seaworthy, and ought not to be included in this list; and, therefore, he thought the Committee would see that these eight ships ought not to be considered as belonging to the Iron-clad Navy of a first-class Power. They did not steam nine knots an-hour; their un-seaworthy qualities were recognized as dangerous, and they should not be regarded as coast-defence vessels for a first-class Power. Neither were they to be compared with the French ships of that class, all of which where iron-clad, 107 and were seaworthy, and which, with the guns with which they were mounted, would form a great addition to the French Navy. Deducting these eight ships, he was quite satisfied that on the 1st of January, 1886, while England would have 43 sea-going iron-clads, France would have 35. It might be said that was a due and proper proportion. He did not think it was. He did not think that 43 sea-going iron-clads were sufficient for this country. The old proportion of line-of-battle ships for this country was twice the number of France. It was always considered that it was necessary that we should be able to keep the sea with a force which should be equal or superior in Home waters to any combination in Europe, and that, at the same time, we should be able in the Pacific and the Indian Oceans to protect our Colonies and our trade. Eight of our ships could not leave the Channel. If they did go beyond the Channel they would be quite as dangerous to themselves as to their enemies; therefore, they were not fit to be considered for a moment as swelling the list of iron-clads from 43 to 51. With regard to the question of guns, he confessed that he viewed with some alarm the apathy which was displayed. Avery valuable Return in regard to guns was laid on the Table by the War Office on the 20th of April, it having been moved for by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith). The Committee would remember that for the service of the Navy—he asked the attention of his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kincardineshire (Sir George Balfour), who thoroughly understood the subject, and who would correct him if he was wrong—for the service of the Navy some 2,200 guns were required; he believed the number was rather larger, amounting to nearly 2,300. In addition, a certain number of spare guns were required; and the Secretary to the Admiralty had told the Committee, with great satisfaction, that a very large number of merchant steamers were of such a quality as to be fit to be used as cruisers in the event of war. When, however, the hon. Gentleman was asked whether the guns were prepared for those vessels, he was not able to answer, and he had not yet been able to give the information required. The Return which was moved for by his 108 right hon. Friend the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. W. H. Smith) showed, however, what guns they had got. The number of guns "ready, delivered, and in store" amounted to 131–131 guns for the service of a Navy which required 2,245, and which also required for the 280 merchant ships which the hon. Gentleman alluded to 560 more guns, of which there was no trace. His noble Friend (Lord Henry Lennox), in that excellent speech which they listened to in the earlier part of the evening, pointed out that the gun question was complicated by the great variety of the patterns. At any rate, one would think that it would be desirable that the guns and ammunition should be complete, so that whatever the pattern should be there should be an ample supply of each description at the base of Naval operations. Here he differed from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) and the noble Lord (Lord Henry Lennox) as to the desirability of having a separate manufacture of guns under the charge of the Admiralty. He never thought it was a desirable thing that there should be two establishments in the country for the manufacture of guns.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, his noble Friend (Lord Henry Lennox) made the remark, and his right hon. Friend did not correct it. He, therefore, assumed the remark was correct. He was glad the right hon. Gentleman was not of that opinion. It seemed to him that though it might be good that the gun carriage should be under the direction of the Admiralty, the manufacture of guns was a big question, which a Committee or a Commission ought to inquire into. He was of opinion that, looking to the fact of the enormous charge for the Army, and for the manufacture of guns both for the Army and Navy, the manufacture of guns ought to be a separate concern. In the panic during the Crimean War the Ordnance Office was abolished. He thought it was better that the Ordnance Corps—Artillery and Engineers—should be under the War Office; but the manufacturing department for both the great Services ought to be separate. The manufacturing department might buy guns from private traders, 109 or manufacture them themselves, or do both; but, at all events, the Army and Navy should draw the guns from it. That was the old process; and it would be of the greatest advantage to the House if, instead of having thrown on the Table enormously swollen Army Estimates, they were to have separate Estimates in regard to the manufacture of guns, which manufacture could be conducted by the Master General of the Ordnance, or by some Minister responsible to the House for the expenditure upon guns and ammunition and other articles of that kind which were necessary for the Services. The reason why he should dislike to have the Army manufacturing guns for itself and for its fortifications, and the Navy manufacturing guns for itself, was that if, in a Naval action, they fell back upon Malta or Gibraltar for a fresh supply of ammunition and guns, the same guns which the fortifications had, and the same ammunition which the fort had, would be available for the ships, and they would not be required to keep a large separate supply for ships which at times might run short, and might lead to great complications and disaster. He was persuaded that until they went back to a separate Ordnance Department for manufacture, both for the Army and Navy, they would not have a satisfactory supply of guns and ammunition for either of the Services, neither would the House have that control over the manufacture of guns which it ought to have, and which it had previous to the abolition of the Ordnance Department. But, in the meantime', the Navy was without guns. The ships had certain guns, no doubt; but they were inferior to the guns of other Naval Powers. They were told that the ships which would be ready in a few years' time would not be armed in a satisfactory manner. He saw that of the 12-inch 43-ton guns "ready, delivered, and in store," there were none; of the 18-ton guns, one; of the 6-inch 80-cwt. guns, 14; of the 81-cwt. guns, 92; of the 4-inch, 22-cwt. guns, 19; of the 13-cwt. guns, five; making 131 guns. Such was the total number of guns returned by the War Office on the 20th of April, 1883, as "ready, delivered, and in store." It was possible he might have omitted to mention some guns; but, at any rate, 255 guns was the outside number, according to the Return he 110 had previously spoken of. There were also 229 guns ordered. Such a condition of affairs was not satisfactory; and, looking to the condition of Europe, he could not believe the Committee, would be satisfied they had either guns or iron-clads sufficient for the defence of the country.
§ SIR EDWARD J. REED
said, he thought the noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox) had done good service in placing before the country, with great fulness, the views taken by himself and by many other hon. Gentlemen who had studied these questions thoroughly. At the same time, he felt bound to say that that was no place for the threshing out of the questions involved. It would be quite impossible to completely sift matters in a Committee of the Whole House; and he hoped the day would come when they would have Select Committees of the House appointed to deal with questions of this kind. To his mind, the Government would show greater judgment and discretion by granting a Committee to deal with moot points of this kind, rather than by making such a large concession as they were disposed to make on a recent occasion, when the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) brought his Motion regarding National Expenditure before the House. It appeared to him that the Prime Minister was ready to refer the framing of the Estimates, more or less, to a Grand Committee of the House, and for the Government to receive its guidance largely from such Committee. He (Sir Edward J. Reed) thought it would be highly impolitic for the country to hand its finances over to the charge of a Committee; but, at the same time, he considered that on questions of great public importance, which were limited in their scope and defined, in their nature, there might be a Committee occasionally—a Committee which would thresh out the subject, and put the public mind at rest. He listened with great pleasure to the speech of his hon. Friend the Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Sir Thomas Brassey), because, as hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House would admit, he gave them encouragement to believe that that which was the object of all of them was likely to be more or less accomplished. He apprehended it was not the object even of hon. Gentlemen opposite, who did. 111 not profess to be always actuated by the same principles of economy as they on the Ministerial side did—he believed there was no hon. Gentleman on that side of the House who desired the Government to embark in any large or ill-considered expenditure. What they all had in view was to get a better expenditure of the money voted by Parliament. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty told them that it was the intention of the Admiralty, as far as possible, to check expenditure upon slow ships, and ships that were imperfect in many respects, and to concentrate their attention and efforts, as much as possible, upon fast ships. The hon. Gentleman told them it was the endeavour of the Admiralty to obtain in the ships a speed of 16 knots or more. If that could be supplemented by some satisfactory statement as to coal supply he believed the satisfaction of the Committee on the point would be complete. There was one point in the statement of his hon. Friend that struck him as a little remarkable. The hon. Gentleman said that the vessels of the Mersey and Severn type were representative of that class of vessels which it had been said should form an auxiliary fleet to the great line-of-battle iron-clad ships. Now, the Mersey and Severn cost £100,000 for their hull, and £65,000 for their machinery; and he thought that vessels costing £165,000 were rather too expensive to be regarded as auxiliaries to individual iron-clads, however important an auxiliary fleet might be. It had been publicly advocated for a long time past that there should be attached to the principal iron-clads vessels which should operate as defences about them against torpedoes; but surely they should expect smaller and cheaper vessels for that specific service than the Mersey and the Severn. So long as nothing contrary to that had arisen in the statement of his hon. Friend he could only regard the statement as satisfactory. He should like to say a word or two about some other ships which had been mentioned during the debate. The Cyclops class of vessels had been condemned; but he should prefer to take, for the purposes of illustration, vessels designed entirely outside the Admiralty. If the Orion and Belleisle, for instance, had been built for any Foreign Government, they would have been extolled as 112 vessels possessing the wonderful advantage of a combination of great power, small size, and moderate expense, and also as examples of the great skill which the private shipbuilders of this country brought to bear upon iron-clads. The Orion and Belleisle were designed and constructed by Samuda Brothers; and he thought if the former Member for the Tower Hamlets could have been present during this discussion he would have been a little shocked to hear the harsh terms in which the Orion and Belleisle were spoken of. He (Sir Edward J. Reed) knew they were powerful vessels; and he could only say that if rolling was their defect the Admiralty knew well how to remedy it. He should also say that if the Cyclops class of vessels had been built for some other Government they would not have been subject to the criticism passed upon them. He was aware that in the case of the Cyclops his noble Friend (Lord Henry Lennox) and others had the justification of a Committee; but Committees sitting on Do-signs of Ships—Committees in which there was no Naval architect with power to vote—wore extremely likely to go to extreme lengths. The Cyclops class of vessels was immeasurably superior to a very large number of vessels which they used to hear extolled in the House of Commons and elsewhere in the days of the American War. He did think that that class of vessels was not deserving of all the censure which had been expressed with regard to it. With respect to the Neptune, twice over had he been credited with the design of that vessel. As a matter of fact, she was designed in his office, the object of the designers in coming there being to protect themselves with regard to calculations—to ensure themselves against running into miscalculations. The conception of the ship was not his, and the responsibility never could be his, because the building of the ship was entrusted to private builders, who were quite incompetent to perform the work. Later on, it was true, she was completed under his care. He should like to say that the argument of his noble Friend (Lord Henry Lennox), in which the Neptune was referred to, was a perfectly sound one. It was true that, although successive Administrations came down to the House and told them, with the utmost confidence, that the Navy was never in 113 a better condition, that they were quite satisfied with it, that those who criticized and complained of its position were altogether in the wrong, and were exaggerators; the very moment there was any risk of the Navy being called upon to do anything, they bought up every ship they could lay hands on, and in that way got into the Navy vessels with which they themselves were dissatisfied, and which their own officers condemned; that it was in this way public money was expended extravagantly, and with less wisdom than it ought to be. Although his hon. Friend the Civil Lord of the Admiralty had made a powerful speech, and made striking statements, the accuracy of which he (Sir Edward J. Reed) should be sorry to doubt, he had no hesitation in saying that if they ran any risk of entering on a European war the present Government would come to the House and ask for a special Vote of Parliament to enable them to buy ironclads. The Government would lose a great opportunity if they failed to pay serious attention to the representations that had been made from both sides of the House. The Navy Question was one which did not prove very inviting to the House; it was generally discussed when very few Members were present; but it was, nevertheless, one in which the public were deeply interested. The concern of the people in the Navy was manifested on every occasion when necessity arose; and he considered it would be a weak thing for this Government, or for any Government, to leave anything undone which would give to the people complete confidence in the Naval Administration. In conclusion, he would repeat that he considered the speech of his hon. Friend (Sir Thomas Brassey) an extremely valuable one, holding out to them, as it did, the expectation, at least, that the Admiralty would do their utmost to curb useless and wasteful expenditure, and apply the money saved to useful purposes.
§ CAPTAIN PRICE
said, that in a discussion on Navy Estimates there was such an enormous variety of subjects to be covered, that it was quite impossible for any Member, in a single speech, to go thoroughly into all the questions involved, although he was bound to say his noble Friend (Lord Henry Lennox), who opened the debate, had, as nearly as possible, covered the ground which 114 lay open to them in a consideration of the Estimates under discussion. He (Captain Price) asked the attention of the Committee for a few minutes whilst he entered into a consideration of the fighting strength of the Navy—that was to say, the strength of their Iron-clad Fleet. His hon. Friend the Civil Lord of the Admiralty gave them just now a very fair comparison between the Fleet of this country and that of France. In all such comparisons, however, it was a very difficult thing to make a correct classification. Hon. Gentlemen always dealt with the kind of classification which they themselves took up; and he asked the attention of the Committee, and especially of his hon. Friend (Sir Thomas Brassey), to a classification which he would now endeavour to put before the Committee. It was a very simple one, and might be, perhaps, very popularly understood. Possibly, before introducing his classification, he might be permitted to refer to one remark of his hon. Friend of which he took a note. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty said that in all these matters of comparison they ought to consider, amongst other things, the area of protection in an iron-clad ship. In was all very well to talk about having so many iron-clads; but a most important element of consideration was the area to which the ship was protected by armour. If they were to go into that subject fully, he feared it would be found that the advantage lay with the new French ships which were building. All the French ships of the Inflexible type were more fully armoured than ours. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty also spoke about the coal-carrying capacity of our armoured ships. He (Captain Price) was not quite sure how the matter stood with regard to France; but the large armour-clad ships which were being built in Italy had considerably more coal-carrying capacity than our ironclads had. [An hon. MEMBER: They are larger.] They were larger, he admitted, and we had got nothing to equal them. Some of the Italian ships were capable of steaming from the Mediterranean to South America and back without coaling. We had no ship in this country capable of doing anything like that. In the comparison he wished to make between the fighting strength of the Fleets of England and France he 115 should divide the Iron-clad Fleet of both countries into three classes. He did not quite understand the classification his hon. Friend (Sir Thomas Brassey) made. He understood the hon. Gentleman to put into the first class all ships carrying armour of over nine inches. If he did that he must include ships of very small power indeed. The hon. Gentleman's classification also depended upon tonnago; but he (Captain Price) excluded that from his classification. He took the two most important elements of classification of the strength of ironclads—namely, the thickness of the armour and the weight of the gun. If they did that they found this result— and, though he did not use the tonnage as a distinct element, it almost entirely lent itself to this classification— that in the English Fleet, in the first class, which he would take to mean vessels of not less than 18-inch armour and carrying guns of not less than 43 tons in weight, there were 10. He was alluding not only to the number of ships which were at present existing, or were ready for sea, but was taking all those which were contemplated at the moment; because he took it that discussion of the Navy Estimates was for the purpose of considering not only what ships they had ready, now, but what were to be provided for in future. The Fleet of 1882 and the Fleet of 1885 had been referred to; but he thought it would be better if they went further into the future. He wished to take account of every ship which was at present contemplated in France and England, as well, of course, as those in existence at the present moment. If they took all these ships and looked through the Navy Estimates and at the Dockyards, they could not make out more than 10 ironclads of the class he had mentioned as belonging to the English Navy. France, on the other hand, of the same class of ships—that was to say, carrying armour of not less than 18 inches, and guns of not less than 43 tons—possessed no fewer than 18, the names of which had been given by the noble Lord (Lord Henry Lennox). One ship on each side had less armour than 18 inches; but he had put them in the list on account of their armaments. The ships of the second class he had taken as those possessing armour of not less than nine inches, and guns going up from 18 tons to 38 tons weight. Of that 116 class in England, built, building, and promised, they had 26, and in France they had 18. The total was, therefore, 36 to France and 36 to England. The third class he omitted altogether. In that class he put every iron-clad not mentioned in the first and second class, and it would be useless to go into that, as all sorts of questions would be continually cropping up as to whether such and such vessel ought not to be included, or whether such and such vessel ought not to be excluded. He ought first to mention how the case stood, so far as Italy was concerned. In that country there were these enormous ships he had spoken of. In the first class there were seven; in the second class five; and in the third class seven; making a total of 19. The sum total of all this was that on the completion of this programme, about which they were talking, and which was presented to them in the Navy Estimates, whether it took place m 1885, 1886, or 1887, they should be in possession of 51 armour-clads, 36 of which would be in the first and second class; France at a similar date would be in possession of 50 iron-clads, 36 of which would be in the first and second class; and Italy would possess 19, 12 of which would be in the first and second class. This showed that on the completion of the respective programmes France would have a number of iron-clads at least equal to our own, if not greater, and Franco and Italy combined would have a preponderance of 12 ships of the first and second class. What they had to consider that evening, and at all times, was, whether this was a safe state of things? Of course, in considering that, they had to consider whether any combination was possible between France and any other country. They always looked upon France as their principal opponent —he did not mean to say the most likely one—for they were not likely to meet her in anything but an amicable way, at any rate for some time; but they looked on her as the principal Power they might have to deal with. He was struck very much the other day by a letter he read from one of our senior Admirals—namely, Sir George Elliot— on this point. The Admiral had put the case so much better than he (Captain Price) could, that he should like to mention what he had said to the Committee, He had said— 117Suppose we were at war with France, or with France combined with any other country, let us consider this —that our Fleet, roughly speaking, would he divided between the Mediterranean and the Home ports.That was a proposition which no one would deny. He was not going to consider the number of iron-clads it might be necessary to have on Foreign Stations—in China, Australia, and in the Pacific. He left those places out of the question altogether; but supposing they had their whole fleet of iron-clads concentrated in European waters, where would they be? Why, they would be divided between the Mediterranean and the Home ports; but where would the French Fleet be? That would occupy a position midway between the Mediterranean and the Channel, consequently the whole of it could at any time be concentrated on the one-half of our Fleet in the Mediterranean, or the other half remaining at home to guard our coast. We could not get out of that—no amount of telegraphing, or anything of that kind, would enable us to escape such a strategical event as that. Many people said the only way to guard against such a difficulty as that was to have a Fleet of double the strength of the French Fleet, and such people he must answer by saying he did not think they were far wrong. It had been our policy in past times to do that, and it should be our policy now. If it was not, he should like to ask the Government what was their present policy with regard to the Naval strength of the country, because they had never been able to get at that yet. Was their Fleet to be equal to the combined Fleets of the world, or ought it to be equal to some combination of European Fleets, or simply to be nearly equal to the strongest Fleet in the world? He had noticed that in "another place" a noble Viscount (Viscount Sidmouth) had mentioned what he believed to be the Prime Minister's opinion on this point—namely, that their Fleet ought to be equal to the combined Navies of the world. The Earl of Northbrook contradicted that, and said the noble Viscount could not quote authority for such a statement. But he (Captain Price) was correct, he thought, in saying this much—that both the Prime Minister and all Ministers who had had anything to do with the administration of the Navy had, up to the present time, at all 118 events, agreed that it was necessary for this country to be equal to most combinations of European Powers. He remembered one Minister—the present Home Secretary—not many years ago saying that the Fleet of this country was equal to the combined Fleets of the world put together. Of course, having said that, the right hon. and learned Gentleman must have been of opinion that their Navy ought to be as good as the combined Fleets of the world, or else a person in his position should come down to the House, and say—"I cannot agree to the Estimates —they ought to be considerably reduced." He held that if this question as to what the comparative strength of their Navy should be was inquired into and reported upon, it would, no doubt, settle the question for many years to come. It seemed to be impossible to get any statement from the Government on the subject; and when hon. Members made any comparison between their own Fleet and the Fleets of other countries, such comparisons were strongly deprecated. That had been the case over and over again. He had not heard comparisons deprecated so much that evening; but that was because the Government were taking it for granted that these comparisons must be made. They might take it for granted that they always would be made. The First Lord of the Admiralty (the Earl of Northbrook), in "another place," and the Secretary to the Admiralty in this House, he was bound to say, made such statements as were calculated to lull the people of this country into a sense of false security. He should like to call the attention of the Committee to one or two statements made by the First Lord the other day, which, he thought, would bear out the assertion he made, that what fell from the noble Earl was calculated to lull the people of the country into a sense of false security. The noble Earl might have been improperly reported, for they had only The Times and the other newspapers to tell them what he had said. Viscount Sidmouth had drawn a comparison between the ships building in this country and those building in France, and had said that in the French Naval Estimates there appeared 18 large and powerful iron-clads. The Earl of Northbrook, in answering Viscount Sidmouth, said there was a great error in the 119 comparison, and that the figures for 1885 had been taken, 10 ships having been reckoned, neither of which, up to the present day, had been launched; whereas, of the total number of English ships taken into account, only two had not been launched. He (Captain Price) did not know whether that statement was wrongly reported or misprinted; but it was calculated to give the most erroneous impression of the state of things. The Earl of North-brook said they had only two ships in the programme which had not been launched; but how did the matter stand? As a matter of fact, there were nine ships in the programme which had not been launched—nine out of 13 building in this country; and in France, according to Viscount Sidmouth, there wore 10 out of 18 which were building and were not yet launched. The Earl of Northbrook's was a most misleading statement—namely, that they had only two ships building which were not yet launched. The Earl of Northbrook denied that there was any extraordinary endeavour being made to increase the Navy of France, and they had heard a good deal about that that night. The noble Lord (Lord Henry Lennox) had shown conclusively and clearly the extraordinary steps taken by the French Government at the present time to increase their Navy. He had alluded to the tonnage which had been built, and which was to be built during the present and forthcoming year. He told them of the number of men that France employed in her Dockyards, pointing out that she had 5,000 more than we had, the number she employed being 23,000, against our 18,000. He (Captain Price) was inclined to ask what these 5,000 men were doing? Were they sitting down doing nothing, and was all this money that France was voting year by year being thrown away, or being pocketed by Ministers, or what became of it? It was certain that France was making most extraordinary efforts to replace her obsolete ships and increase the force of her Navy. He would allude to one more statement by the Earl of Northbrook, which, if it was correctly reported, was most extraordinary—namely, with regard to the armaments of these Fleets. The noble Earl had said that, speaking roughly, 43-ton guns were the guns which were being put on the French ships now being completed 120 for sea; whilst in our ships which were being completed—in such ships as the Rodney, for instance—63-ton guns were to be mounted. What was the impression conveyed by that? Why, that the French ships were being armed with 43-ton guns and our ships with 63-ton guns. Why, in the first place, there was no such thing as a 43-ton gun in France; and, in the second place, there was no 63-ton gun in the English Navy. They were told something about this last year. He remembered the Secretary to the Admiralty dealt grandly with the 63-ton guns, or the 60-ton guns, with which the Fleet of this country was to be armed. Why, at the moment the Secretary to the Admiralty spoke not only were there no 63-ton guns in existence, but they did not even exist on paper. The designs for the guns about which the hon. Member talked so much had not been completed, and the Surveyor General of the Ordnance would bear him out in what he was saying. The fact was that in the French Navy four of the 18 vessels of which he had spoken would be armed with 48-tonbreech-loaders—indeed, they were so armed, and half of the remainder would be armed with 59-ton breechloaders, and the remaining half with either a 72 or a 75-ton gun. Some doubts had been expressed as to whether these 72-ton guns that he was speaking of in the French Service had been supplied to the ships. He had had the advantage of being over at Cherbourg last year, and of going over the magnificent Dockyard there—a Dockyard which, he thought, compared very favourably with our yards. The French officer who conducted him over the yard gave him a great deal of valuable information. He (Captain Price) tried to get from him the number of these 72 guns actually completed; but the French officer said he could not state the exact number which had been made, although he had reason to suppose that several had been. He added that only a few weeks before —and it was then August of last year— eight of these guns had been in Cherbourg Dockyard, and had been forwarded from there to Toulon, in view of complications arising in Egypt. Therefore, unless the Admiralty had much superior information to that, he was correct in saying that whereas we had no 63-ton guns in existence, or certainly had them no more than half com- 121 pleted, the French Navy possessed guns of a much larger and more powerful kind. Hon. Members were constantly taunted with dealing in exaggeration; but he had shown, he thought, some exaggerations which had been made by so estimable a person as the First Lord of the Admiralty himself. He wanted to know—and he had never been able to understand—why it was that the Admiralty concealed from the House and from the public the real state of things? They were constantly talking about their great Naval strength. Public men, at dinners, meetings, and so forth, were constantly talking in this strain. Undoubtedly, they had an immensely powerful Navy; but they never talked about the relative strength of their Navy and the Navies of foreign countries, or of its efficiency, and these were the great points. The Admiralty knew very well what the opinion of Naval officers in this country was as to the state of their Navy—they knew very well the opinion of their own advisers. He should like to hear them deny that they had at the Admiralty information from their advisers to the effect that at the completion of the respective programmes of the two countries this country would be in possession of fewer ironclads than France and Italy, or France and Russia combined. That was a distinct proposition, which he should very much like to hear replied to. He asserted that they had sufficient information at the Admiralty to enable them to give a distinct answer. He referred to the completion of the programmes, and hon. Members knew what he meant by that. He believed that before long their Navy would not be strong enough to cope with any combination of Navies of European countries. He did not know whether the Secretary to the Admiralty or the Government were in a position to guarantee that they should have no Naval war within the next five or six years. If they were not, they should be able to deny the proposition he had just laid down. There was a sentence which fell from the Secretary to the Admiralty last year which indicated that he did not feel quite easy in his mind on this particular point. He said that the general consideration governing the policy of the Admiralty was—That it was not necessary for the safety Of the country to ask for any special grant of 122 money for iron shipbuilding, unless the French Admiralty, having completed its programme of 1872 and replaced its obsolete ships, should then go on building as fast as ever."—(3 Hansard,  1063.)When the French Government had completed their programme it would be too late for us to take the proper measures. We could not build ironclad vessels in a year, or in two years; and we should find that when the French and British programmes were completed, and the French Admiralty went on building at the normal rate, increasing their Fleet as we did, it would be too late to make up for lost time, and to maintain that superiority which, undoubtedly, we ought to have. He was not one who desired to increase the Expenditure of the country unnecessarily. Undoubtedly, he always urged an increase of expenditure on the Naval Estimates, because he thought it was most urgently required. He believed their general Expenditure might be cut down in many respects. He thought they might save a little by refraining from teaching the children of the poorer classes how to solve equations, and how to translate Latin and Greek. He found in the Civil Service Estimates that they were to be called on shortly to spend £100,000 on a new site for the Admiralty Offices. Surely that was rather like beginning at the wrong end. What did they want new Admiralty Offices for before they had got a new Navy? The Government were acting like the little boy, who desired to have a pretty purse before he had any money to put in it. The present Admiralty Offices were amply sufficient for the transaction of the business of the present Navy; and if, in cases of this kind, the Government would save a little money, and give the country a few more iron-clads, they would add to their own reputation and to the efficiency of the Navy. He apologized to the Committee for detaining it so long, and thanked hon. Members for having listened to him so patiently. His only object— like that of the noble Lord who introduced the subject—was to provide, if possible, not only that they should have an efficient Navy in the immediate future, but at the time when they knew that France would have a very much superior Navy to that which she had at the present time. He knew very well that the Government, and those who 123 presided over the Admiralty, were responsible for these matters. Hon. Members were told they ought to leave these matters in their hands. They were quite willing to do that. It would be satisfactory to them, and, no doubt, to the country, if, after a severe Naval reverse, in consequence of which they found the power of this country humbled, they could turn to those who had brought about that state of things, and say that they were, at all events, now reaping the reward which they so richly deserved.
§ MR. STEWART MACLIVER
said, they had now been considering the efficiency of the Navy for some time, and he was one of those who thought that it was a Service on which no expense should be spared. Since the usual interchange of courtesies across the Table had taken place, since the guns had been disposed of, and the various ships debated, he might be allowed to invite attention to those who built the ships and those who sailed them. The increase of the Vote this year was moderate, amounting to £283,317, of which £113,804 went to Dockyard work, Devonport getting £23,069 more than last year, and 360 additional men out of the total increase of 1,772 to be provided for. As usual on these occasions, they had the grievances, real and imaginary, of different classes revived; and he could not refrain from complimenting the Civil Lord and the Secretary for the efforts they had made to understand those grievances by visiting the Dockyards and hearing from the workmen the statements they had to offer in their own behalf. This was a much better arrangement than had hitherto prevailed. Then the men could with difficulty get their claims heard, and were naturally dissatisfied. Of course, it could not be supposed that every complaint would be met and adjusted. Some were less reasonable than others; but to hear a complaint was generally found an easier way of adjusting differences. His hon. Friend the Secretary, whose able and exhaustive statement they had all admired, devoted an entire day to the case of the men of Devonport, and won their confidence by his frank and genial manner of dealing with them. The large and important body of shipwrights, who had strong claims upon the consideration of the authorities at Whitehall, were looking hopefully for- 124 ward to some advantage from the interview with the hon. Gentleman. To this they were well entitled, after patiently waiting for nearly 20 years without any advance. So were the joiners, the riggers, and the writers of the various Dockyards. The position of the Naval Engineers he had on other occasions brought to their attention; and while he cheerfully admitted the readiness of the Department to meet the hardship of the 11 years' condition of pension, he yet thought the clause should be so modified as to allow engineers to count junior time and enable them to obtain rates of pay from which they were at present debarred. The total number of Chief Engineers was 220; but of these only a small proportion received 17s. per day. Referring to the engine-room artificers, those men, he said, had looked for some improvement in their position; but instead of that a great hardship had been inflicted upon them, as shown by the issue of a recent Circular. By a new Regulation two years of extra time was imposed upon those men without any corresponding advantage. The effect of this change was to produce distrust and alarm amongst the men, which it was desirable to remedy as soon as possible. He would give the Committee the experiences of those men, one of whose number had written him a letter in which, speaking of his own particular case, he said that having completed 10 years he was made to sign a new indenture. A month afterwards he was sent for and told that the indenture was null and void, and that he must now serve 12 years in order to qualify for a pension. This extra service would be found to inflict injury upon the men in a way which was not intended by the authorities when it was put into force. Its effect would be to defer the rise of pay to the men, while it would compel them to give two extra years of service before qualifying for a pension. That he would show was so in a very few sentences. The number of engine-room artificers who entered the Service from 1873 to 1876 was 98——
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is discussing particular items which come under Votes 6 and 16. He is not discussing the general policy of the Estimates, which is the Question under Vote 2.
§ MR. STEWART MACLIVER
said, he understood they might go into these cases under the Vote before the Committee. However, he would reserve what he had to say for Votes 6 and 16.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
The noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox) has delivered a most interesting and most important speech, and one which, I am sure, the Committee has listened to with great interest. I am not able to follow the noble Lord to all the conclusions at which he has arrived; but I am sure my hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) will feel that the questions raised deserve the most serious consideration from Her Majesty's Government. In "another place" the First Lord of the Admiralty is reported to have said—No Government of this country, and certainly it is not the intention of the present Government, will allow any nation to take a position of equality with England on the sea— that no other Government should possess a Navy equal to our own. But there was a much more important condition laid down by the present First Lord of the Treasury in 1878—namely, that our Navy should always be equal to any probable or possible combination that could be brought against it. The Secretary to the Admiralty, in introducing the Estimates, laid great stress on the fact that the Admiralty were conscious of their responsibility for maintaining the Fleet of England in a condition equal to the duties that devolved upon it, and he then proceeded to discuss the figures relating to our ironclads. No doubt, a very agreeable impression may be produced by the statement of the fact that we have, at the present time, 51 ironclads, as against 43 in the year 1855. But, Sir, while we put these numbers one against another, we must bear in mind that the Navies of other countries have been also enlarged, and that much greater duties fall upon the English Navy as compared with any other. The Committee and the country are aware that, at this moment, ironclads have to be employed in the China and Australian Seas, in the Pacific, on the Coast of North America, and in the West Indies. Our Fleet is scattered in a manner in which the Fleet of no other Power can be scattered; and while it is discharging duties in three or four different seas, if, unfortunately, we should be engaged 126 in a war, Foreign Powers might be able to concentrate their forces against our Navy. The responsibility of Her Majesty's Government in this matter is a very grave one, and we do right in pointing out and insisting upon that responsibility, and in assuring them that whatever assistance may be required, in order to maintain and keep the Navy in an efficient condition, this House and the country will always give. I feel certain of this, and that there will be no excuse for any Government not taking as much money as may be necessary to provide a thoroughly efficient Navy. I must again refer to the question of the guns, to which the noble Lord near me (Lord Henry Lennox) has alluded at some length, and to the delay which has resulted, on the part of the Admiralty, in completing the programme laid down for the equipment of ships. I do not say this offensively towards the present Board of Admiralty. I confess that when I had the honour to be First Lord of the Admiralty I fully realized the difficulty which the present system of obtaining guns places in the way of the administration in completing the programme laid down both as regards time and efficiency. When the present Government took Office they felt it was necessary to be vigorous in their administration of the Navy; and they promised, among other things, that the ships should be prepared for sea much more rapidly. In saying this I repeat what I have often said before, that I am not speaking from a Party point of view, but merely drawing attention to what, in my opinion, are the inevitable results of the system under which the work of the country is being carried on. Speaking on the 7th of June, 1880, the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) promised that by certain arrangements which he proposed to make the Agamemnon and the Ajax were to be completed respectively on the 1st of December, 1881, and the 1st of March, 1882; but I think I am right in saying that up to this moment the Ajax has not been to sea, and that the Agamemnon has only just been completed, the delay having, I believe, been due to the fitting of the ships. Sir, it is a serious thing that from a cause of this nature the good intentions of Her Majesty's Government should be frustrated as re- 127 gards two ships, in the one case by a delay of 16 months, and in the other by a delay of 14 months at least, the Ajax not being even now ready for sea. Well, Sir, that is the case with regard to the Agamemnon and Ajax. And now I come to the statement of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (Mr. Trevelyan), then Secretary to the Admiralty, who, after repeating in March, 1881, that the Ajax and Agamemnon were to be completed at Chatham during "the coming year," went on to say that the Shah and the Raleigh were to be refitted with their new armament also in the course of "the coming year." But neither the Shah nor the Raleigh have been touched, and not a single new gun has been supplied to them. Again, in March, 1882, we were told that the Ajax, Agamemnon, and Conqueror "will be finished in the course of the year," and we had the assurance of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland that—The Conqueror, within this calendar year, as we confidently hope, will be actually armed with the new 43-ton gun.Well, Sir, that gun, I am told, is not in existence. But the Conqueror is not ready for it; nor will she be ready for it in the course of the year. Then, we were told, in 1882, that five ships were to carry the new 60-ton gun; but the ships have been building for more than 12 months, and I understand that the design of the gun, which ought to have been sent to the Constructor 12 months since, has not yet been sent in. The result of an omission of this kind is that a ship has to be cut to pieces in order to put in the necessary fittings for the guns; and that is a proceeding which involves great delay, additional expenditure, and great disappointment, and so you do not get the ships when you ought to get them. That was the case with the Conqueror, which was to be ready by the 31st of March, 1883; she has not got her guns. [MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN: They are ready for her.] I am exceedingly glad to receive that assurance from my hon. Friend; but, at all events, we have been twice promised that the ship would be ready for sea by the 31st of March last at the latest. That period has passed—and I am afraid the next 31st of March will also have gone before the ship is ready for sea and to take her place in the Navy. We were also 128 told that the Rupert would have her boilers renewed, and be armed with new 18-ton breech-loading guns—all that was to be accomplished during last year. No 18-ton gun is in existence, so far as the Navy is concerned—certainly, none have been delivered or are ready; and the Rupert has to be armed with the old gun, and is, therefore, so much less efficient than she would have been had the engagement entered into by the Admiralty been fulfilled, besides costing a large sum of money for refitting. My right hon. and gallant Friend (Sir John Hay) has spoken of the supply of guns by the Naval Authorities for the Navy. I do not quite agree with that; but I do advocate most strongly the complete reconstruction of the relations now existing between the Admiralty and the War Office, and should certainly desire some explanation of the delay which has occurred during the last three years in the supply of guns. Great delay has been caused to our ships from the present system; and I feel sure it will occur again unless some new system is adopted. The Return I have in my hand will show that, notwithstanding the amount provided for new guns in 1881, not a single gun was delivered; in 1881–2 the sum of £72,000 was provided, with the same result; and in 1882–3, when £207,000 was provided, only 77 guns were delivered to the Navy, of which none were of greater calibre than the 6-inch gun. These figures alone show the necessity for the most serious consideration on the part of Her Majesty's Government as to the supply of guns. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Trevelyan) was very sanguine, in March last year, when he promised that the Hercules should be armed with batteries of 18-ton breech-loading guns. He said—She will carry a broadside of 18-ton breech-loading guns, and we shall have 174 guns of all sizes of the new type by the end of the next financial year—that is to say, the 31st of March last. But those expectations have not been realized. With regard to the 60-ton gun of which he speaks, I would ask my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty whether the Admiralty possess information which will enable them now to give the necessary orders for the hydraulic apparatus, and directions for the construction of magazines? I have some recollection of a ship in the case 129 of which, for a long time after her guns were received, the question of ammunition was not settled, the result of which was that a great deal of expense and loss of time was incurred in altering the arrangements of the ship below, and in fitting machinery in order to provide the means necessary for fighting the ship. It was then found that, for want of space, she could not carry as many rounds for her guns as she ought to have carried. There is another point to which I desire to refer; and I wish it to be understood, with reference to the actual performances of the Department, that I am not addressing myself to the present Board of Admiralty as sinners in particular, but rather that I am asking for information, and I hope to find that the Board of Admiralty will find some mode of stating facts to the House which will not be so difficult to understand as the form now before us. When the hon. Gentleman made his speech to the House, I showed that the statement of the tonnage proposed to be built in 1882–3 differed from the statement in the present Estimates to the extent of something like 600 tons. In 1882–3, the Admiralty proposed to build 11,016 tons of armoured and 4,186 tons of unarmoured ships; but in the Estimates for 1883–4, they have corrected those figures to 10,615 tons of armoured and 4,201 of unarmoured ships; and you say you have built 11,448 tons of armoured and 4,792 tons of unarmoured ships, showing an increase in the former of 432 tons on the original Estimate, and 833 tons on the corrected Estimate. But, in page 204 of the Estimates, the Committee will perceive that the actual number of tons built are shown, and these exhibit together a total net deficiency of 1,283 tons on the work promised last year. If the deficiency in respect of the Benbowis taken into account, there will be a total deficiency, instead of an increase, of 1,568 tons. Sir, I have no doubt this is something which can be explained; but it is not explained by the figures which have been placed before the country, and I think it would be much more satisfactory if some method could be arrived at by which a clear view of the work done in our Dockyards could be communicated to Parliament. I do not call in question what has been done in the Dockyards; but I say that, by all appearances, so far from there being an increase, there has been less done by 11 130 per cent than was in the programme. Again, in the case of the corvettes, it is claimed that there has been more work done by 500 tons; whereas, in point of fact, there is a deficiency of 400 tons, if the figures put forward are correct. Then, Sir, it was stated, in 1882, that only 1,018 tons were necessary to complete the Cordelia; but 1,040 tons are reported as having been built. It seems to me clear that you have not increased the displacement, and I have no doubt that you have done some work twice over; but, if that is so, the proper way would be to write it off as an expense, and not make a claim for it as an addition to the strength of the Navy. There is one other question to which I wish seriously to draw the attention of the Admiralty— namely, the tendency to increased costliness of the Service. Vote 1, in 1881, was for 58,800 men, the amount being £2,721,000. In 1882–3, the men were reduced by 600, but the Vote remained the same. In 1883–4, the men are reduced again by 250, but the Vote still remains the same; so that you are increasing the cost of the Service man per man, and in order that you may not ask for more money you are diminishing the number of men. That is a matter for serious consideration. I know it is difficult, with the pressure put on the Admiralty from all sides, to increase the pay and remuneration; but it is a serious matter that we should have gone down in the personnel of our Navy from 58,800 to 57,250 in three years, while the cost remains the same, and for the same money we are getting 2½ per cent less efficiency. The time is getting late, and I will not occupy much more of it; but I venture to say there is one other matter to which, so far as the building of ships is concerned, the attention of the Admiralty might be directed. I cordially supported the appointment of Mr. Rendel to the Board, as I felt that the Board needed fresh strength in dealing with designs when once prepared, and requiring that they should be properly carried out as prepared, and without loss of time. I cannot help thinking that if an officer was made responsible, from the first, for the complete design for a ship, and was called upon to see it carried out, without any tinkering or changes in construction, we should see our ships fitted more quickly, and at much less cost than now. It is in the knowledge of all who are acquainted 131 with the Admiralty construction that alterations are frequently made in ships, and they are duo, generally speaking, to the fact that things have been forgotten, or not properly considered in the first instance, and it is nobody's fault. I think the Board of Admiralty should make all that some one officer's duty, so that a design for a ship of war should be as thorough and complete as the design for a house, or for a first class mercantile steamer would be. I know very well the conditions with which the Admiralty have to comply are complicated, and that they must march with the times, and make such changes from time to time as may be necessary; but I think designs should be considered completely by competent persons at the first, before the ship is laid down, or the design has left the Office of the Admiralty. It has been alleged that one of the reasons for the delay in the construction of the Leander is that the Admiralty have not fully decided upon the smaller arrangements which have to be carried out by the builders. I have no doubt that is true; but anyone who walks through a Dockyard will know that what I am insisting upon is not usually complied with. A great many things are left open for consideration and decision on a future day; but consideration and alteration do seriously interfere with the efficiency and rapidity of the work. There is one change which has been made in the Admiralty which I regret, so far as the Admiralty itself is concerned, and that is the withdrawal of Mr. Hamilton from the post of Secretary. I had the responsibility of bringing Mr. Hamilton to the Admiralty, and the appointment is one which I never regretted. I believe he was a most efficient servant in every sense of the word, and I cannot doubt he will prove to be a great loss to the Admiralty, however ably his Successor may discharge the duties. I have no doubt he is well placed in his more important duties—if they can be more important—and I can only congratulate the Government of Ireland in having obtained the services of so efficient an officer.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I am sure every Member of the Committee who was present when the noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox) spoke, listened with the greatest interest to his speech; and I 132 only regret, with regard to that speech, that the House was so empty, and that, therefore, the greater number of Members who are now here had not the advantage of hearing the noble Lord's remarks. The noble Lord, in a most able and temperate manner, urged on the Committee the strong view he entertains that the present Administration at the Admiralty are not doing enough for the maintenance of the Navy. That, in one sentence, was the gist of his remarks. Although it is almost a commonplace, yet I wish to say, in the clearest and most unreserved terms, that the Government accept, as the basis of the naval policy, the principle that our Naval superiority must be upheld. That is a doctrine which may be asserted and acted upon in this country without, in the least degree, arousing jealousy on the part of any other nation, because it is a doctrine justified and required by circumstances in our position from which most other nations are free. Our scattered Colonial possessions; the vast amount of our maritime commerce; the preponderating share we have in the carrying trade of the world; the large extent to which we are dependent on foreign supplies—all these considerations, apart from the immediate defence of our coasts, require that we should have no rival on the sea. No Administration would deserve or receive the confidence of either side of this House, which neglected or did not fully realize this necessity; and, therefore, so far as the noble Lord and any other hon. Members who have addressed the Committee, have been urging on the attention of Parliament this necessity, I have nothing on the part of the Admiralty to express but agreement with them. But where we part company is when they say that our proposals are inadequate. Much has been said, and will be said, on this subject, expressive, I will not say of panic, because I have no desire to attribute so unreasonable a feeling to anyone, but of extreme anxiety on account of the active shipbuilding policy of France. Other nations have been mentioned; but, after all, it is upon a comparison with France that the great bulk of the arguments we have heard this evening have been founded. It is, of course, true that when we use the words "superiority" or "rivalry" a certain comparison is involved, and the calculation of our naval strength naturally rests 133 upon an account taken of the naval strength of other Powers; but, for my part, I am not prepared to go into a detailed comparison between the ships of the two countries, partly because it is delicate ground to tread upon, and partly, also, because when we come to individual ships, or even classes of ships, we come to subjects which are really very much matter of conjecture. We have heard to-night one classification given by my hon. Friend (Sir Thomas Brassey), who is one of the great and acknowledged authorities on the subject, and who possesses a power of acquiring and communicating information on the subject which few people possess; and we have heard from the hon. and gallant Member for Devonport (Captain Price) another classification. We have heard the right hon. and gallant Admiral (Sir John Hay) find fault with my hon. Friend's classification in some respects; and, therefore, I think that is a mode of dealing with the subject which is rather to be avoided by anyone who is unable to speak with the great personal authority of my hon. Friend and Colleague I also wish especially to avoid the use of the very doubtful word "obsolete." When we talk of one ship being obsolete, and of another not being obsolete, it appears to me that these phrases are often used in a double sense. An obsolete ship may mean a ship which is perfectly done and useless, or it may merely mean a ship of a type which is not to be reproduced; and, therefore, as there is ambiguity in the phrase, I am not enamoured of it. I, therefore, prefer to direct the attention of the Committee for a few moments, as so much has been said as to the condition of France and her naval preparations, to the broad facts which have led to the recent development of shipbuilding in that country. It is somewhat more than 10 years ago since the people of France awoke to the fact that their naval force had not been kept up to what they considered the proper level. The noble Lord spoke of France at that time having no Navy at all; but, as a matter of fact, it had a very substantial Navy, although it had been neglected for some years. To make up for this neglect, the people of France resolved, for some years to come, to devote large sums of money to restoring their Fleet to what they believed to be its proper position. That was a most 134 patriotic and natural decision on their part, and they have steadily and gradually carried their purpose into effect. In order to show what was the state of things between the two countries then as compared with the present day, I must, of course, make a comparison; but I propose to make the comparison in bulk rather than in detail, in order to avoid dispute as to particular ships. I propose to show the relative position of the two countries in 1872 and what it is at the present time; and I think if the Committee will favour me with their attention they will see that the figures I quote show at once the reason of the great increase in French shipbuilding, and, at the same time, prove that we still maintain that material superiority which I am sure every Member of this Committee thinks we ought to possess. In 1872 the French Navy possessed, in available iron-clad ships, a total displacement of 155,070 tons, while we possessed a total displacement of 269,416 tons. But of these 155,070 tons of French ships only 23,150 tons were iron ships, while of our 269,416 tons 191,056 tons were iron ships. The rest in each case were wooden ships. At that time there were building in France nine armoured vessels—I am talking of armoured vessels only—one of iron, and eight of wood; while we had altogether abandoned wooden ships, and were constructing eight vessels of iron. The Committee will, therefore, see that 11 years ago France, while possessing a formidable number of wooden ironclads, had fallen altogether behind in the construction of iron-armoured ships. Now, an armoured ship, whose framework is of wood, may be an efficient engine of war, but it soon deteriorates, and has a much shorter life than a ship of iron. Indeed, the French authorities themselves have decided, and their opinion is published in the Report of the Commission of 1880, that the extreme limit for the normal existence of a wooden iron-clad is only 16 years. Passing from that time to the present day, how do we stand now? Taking, as before, the whole bulk or mass of iron-clad tonnage, without regard to individual vessels, no doubt many of which are very poor and inefficient, I find that in 1883 France has in available ships 71,500 tons of iron or steel vessels, and 170,560 tons of wooden vessels, while we have 331,910 tons of steel and iron vessels, and only 14,000 tons of wooden, 135 ships. It is thus evident that we have a great preponderance in the more enduring material; but this difference will be to some extent reduced by the tonnage now in the course of construction in the two countries respectively, which, consisting entirely of iron or steel ships, is 150,000 tons for France, and about 100,000 tons for England. These figures may have varying values attributed to them. The deduction to be drawn will depend on the estimate we set upon many of the French wooden ships on the one hand, and on our earlier ironclads on the other; but the figures show, at all events, the reason why the French have been making these great strides in adding to their Navy. The reason is that they are engaged in the process of exchanging their wooden ships for iron ships; they, in fact, speak of it themselves as the "transformation" of their Navy. The noble Lord said France was aiming at pre-eminence over us; but, for my part, I do not believe that at all. I believe the object of France is most reasonable and patriotic, and one which we can regard without any alarm. She finds that the great bulk of her Fleet is composed of wooden ships of short lives, some of which are already, probably, in a material sense defunct, although they may not be absolutely condemned; and she wishes to substitute for them the more modern style of steel ships, which are more enduring, and more permanent and effective. I cannot see in those figures, showing, as they do, this gradual conversion from wooden ships to iron ships of longer existence, any ground for extreme alarm; while, at the same time, I do think that as France is at this moment adding so largely to her Fleet the newest kind of iron-clad ships of a formidable nature, we have been fully justified in making the material additions which the present Administration has made in the last three or four years to the naval strength of this country. That is all I have to say with regard to this rivalry comparison between England and Franco. The French Government and the French people look upon us with no particular individual jealousy, and have no desire to outstrip us; and we, on the other hand, may very well sympathize with the great patriotic efforts they have been making to establish their Navy on a proper footing. But we, as I say, have been making additions gradually and steadily to the amount of 136 armoured iron-clad ships, for which we have asked money from Parliament. Others, no doubt, who are great authorities, and whose opinions we shall always wish to take into account, have urged us to take another course. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir John Hay) takes a very different view of the French Navy; and he has, in a letter to The Times, gone so far as to recommend that we should immediately, "as a commencement"—to use his own words—begin the construction of no less than 11 first class ironclads at the various private Yards throughout the country. That is to say, according to my right hon. and gallant Friend, we are to embark in the expenditure of £5,000,000 or £5,500,000 on one particular type of vessels, or, at any rate, vessels of one particular size. [Sir JOHN HAY: Only for one year.] Well, they were to be begun as a commencement. If we are to make great strides of that kind in expenditure, I am not by any means sure that that is the direction in which we should exert ourselves. There are many other things which we might do. There are fast small torpedo vessels, or protected vessels of the Severn class, which might be most useful auxiliaries to the ironclads; and if we indulge in any such expenditure as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman recommends, I think part of it might be devoted to the construction of such vessels. Let me repeat the figures I quoted in introducing the Estimates, showing the progress which has taken place in armoured shipbuilding in recent years. These figures were called in question by the noble Lord (Lord Henry Lennox); but I told him at the time that I did not know where the figures he contrasted with them were taken from. I have taken these figures from the Expense Accounts, and, including the tons built in the Dockyards and by contract, I find they stand thus—In 1878–9 there were actually built 8,430 tons; in 1879–80, 7,427 tons; in 1880–1, 9,235 tons; in 1881–2, 10,748 tons; in 1882–3, 11,466 tons; and this year, 1883–4, we propose to build 12,281 tons. But with regard to the alarm with which certain hon. Gentlemen view the immediate future— because it is in 1884–5 that the French, programme is to be completed—I am bound to say that, so far as the present Administration is concerned, nothing that they could have done would have been of any avail with regard to that 137 event. No ship which the present Administration could have laid down since they came into Office could have been ready in 1885; so that, I think, I am justified in supposing that my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. W. H. Smith), who perfectly well knew what the French programme for 1885 was—and the programme was a good deal beyond the actual performance—and who was in Office at the time when it was possible to lay down ships in anticipation of it, but who did not do so—I think I am perfectly justified in saying that he takes very much the same view as I do of this question. I have said that we have built in past years a certain number of tons, and I have spoken of our intention this year again to build a certain number of tons; and, so far from being astonished, I am not at all surprised—it is what I expected—that the noble Lord and other hon. Members have taken exception to this calculation. The fact is, that to those who study this subject, the question, "What is a ton?" is almost as difficult to answer as the celebrated question, "What is a pound?" Everybody knows what the displacement of a vessel is, and therefore, for my part, I am always more comfortable, in dealing with this question of tonnage, when I speak of a vessel's displacement, because in it you have a completed result turned out for a purpose; but if hon. Members want to know what is meant by a ton in the Navy Estimates, as contrasted with a ton of displacement, I must ask them to turn to page 190, at the foot of which they will find a luminous note, which I hope will give them some useful information. The noteThe tonnage given in this abstract is the weight of hull complete. A ship's state of advancement in building is measured in the following manner:—Each man is assumed to add to the ship for every day's work an equal amount of tonnage, whether at the commencement or the completion. In other words, for every pound spent in labour there will be a certain fraction of tonnage added to the ship. This fraction is arrived at by dividing the weight of hull in tons by the total cost of labour in pounds.That is a statement of the way tonnage is made up, which, I confess, it may be somewhat difficult for hon. Members to follow. The fact is, that in calculating the progress of a ship regard must be had to two things—namely, the weight of the hull—not the total displacement 138 —on the one hand, and the ultimate cost of the ship on the other hand. It is by calculating the proportion between these things that we can arrive at what a unit of tonnage is. The noble Lord (Lord Henry Lennox) alleged as a fact that during several years a great many tons had been lost in the shipbuilding of the Navy; and I have seen articles in news papers almost implying that some ingenious and light-handed gentleman had run away with thousands of tons of iron ships. The plain fact is, that we form the expectation of building a certain definite number of tons in the course of a year—and by tons I mean a certain proportion of the ultimate cost of the vessel—but it is often found that, with a certain amount of labour expended on it, a ship does not progress so far as we had hoped it would, and that, in fact, a "ton" has proved in this case a more costly unit than we expected. At the end of the year, when we thought we had built 1,000 tons, we had only built, perhaps, 700 "tons," and, accordingly, we have had to begin the following year as if our original estimate had been for only 700 tons, because only that proportion of the ultimate cost of the ship has been achieved, although the labour and money actually expended has not fallen behind our original estimate. Again, in the Expenses Account a further calculation, based upon the further progress of the ship, may again increase the value of a ton; and, in fact, if we did not make these corrections in the value of the unit, we might go on until in a vessel of 5,000 tons we apparently built 6,000 or 7,000 tons. To those who hear of it for the first time this may appear a rather ridiculous mode of computation. There is no doubt that a ton, as we speak of it, is an artificial unit altogether. It may, perhaps, be thought that it would be desirable to get rid of the question of "tons" altogether, and to base our calculations and Estimates simply on the ultimate cost of the hull of the ship. I would, however, observe that the system of calculating by the tons' weight built, computed on the principle I have described, has existed in the Admiralty for many years, and therefore has the advantage of forming a perfectly fair mode of comparison with past years. Again, if we took the fraction of the ultimate cost, as is done by our neighbours across the Channel, I am afraid we should still not escape from 139 the awkwardness of the position, because as the cost increases so the value of the unit is increased; and just as we have apparently to build more "tons" than the ship contains, so if we go back over the French Estimates, which are based on "hundredths," we shall find that their ships are often made up of more than 100 hundredths. This is the explanation that I think it right to give in answer to some very strong remarks made by the noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox) as to the apparent loss of tonnage during a course of years. Complaint has been made by my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. H. Smith) as to the retardation of ships. I have just said that the French sometimes find themselves in the same difficulty as ourselves—that they find they have had to build more than a ship before they get it finished. When one suffers from a misfortune, perhaps the thing that gives one the greatest solace is to find that other people suffer in the same way; and we can derive this kind of comfort from the fact that the French complain of the very evils of which my right hon. Friend opposite has so justly complained to-night. So far from advancing or exceeding their programme, they are falling behind every year in spite of all their efforts. In fact, on a recent occasion, so disheartening in this respect were the statements made in the French Chamber by the Minister representing the Marine Department, that one of the Deputies exclaimed—"On a fait machine en arrière!"—he complained that progress had actually been made backwards. My right hon. Friend has asked me about some ships which he mentioned, and inquired what is the cause of their delay. I wish to set myself right in one respect. The allegation has been attributed to me that some of our ships have been delayed for the guns. I never meant to convey that impression. I never meant to say that ships were delayed in consequence of waiting for the manufacture of guns. What they have been waiting for is the design of the guns—a much more important matter. If we know what the size and weight, and what are termed the ballistics, of the gun are to be, we can go on building the ship up to the last moment. The non-reception of the actual gun is a matter which would cause comparatively small delay. What causes delay in building the ship is that the guns which are 140 ultimately to be put in it are not even designed. Under such circumstances it is quite impossible to know up to what size to build, and what amount of magazine accommodation must be provided. That was so in the case of the Ajax and Agamemnon, for instance. I will not go through all the circumstances which have caused delay in the case of those vessels; but, in 1878, the possible use of a newer typo of 38-ton gun stopped work on the turrets and citadel deck. It was finally decided to adopt iron armour for the citadel, and to keep the 38-ton muzzle-loader; but, after experiments, the powder charge was raised. It was further decided to carry an auxiliary armament of 6-inch guns. The settlement of the pattern of the guns occupied considerably more than 12 months, and, in addition to this, the novel torpedo arrangements occupied some time in working out. I think I have said enough to show how the delay arose; but I do not wish to imply that there has been undue delay in the manufacture of guns. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. H. Smith) knows that we are engaged in the great work of re-arming the Navy, or preparing for the arming of the Navy with breech-loading guns. Not much progress in that direction had been made when the present Government came into power, and I do not think it can be said that we lost much time in setting to work after we took Office. A short experience convinced the Secretary of State for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty that it was desirable to have an Ordnance Committee to make sure of the work we were doing. That caused a certain amount of delay; but, as a result of its inquiries, we are more confident in what we are undertaking, and we are gradually feeling our way towards a satisfactory solution of the many problems referred to that Committee. With regard to guns for particular ships, I am glad to tell my right hon. Friend that the Conqueror's guns are ready—that is to say, two 43-ton guns are ready for delivery, and others will be ready in a short time. The Ruperthas retained her old -gun, and of 18-ton guns there are seven which are fast nearing completion. The 63-ton gun, it is expected, will be ready for the Admiral when they are completed. I am glad to say we now know the particulars of the 63-ton gun, 141 and, therefore, we can proceed with perfect confidence with the ships in which it is to be placed. I must again say that when we hear of delay in regard to guns, and when we hear of the guns which the French have as being so much better than ours, we derive a sort of grim satisfaction from reading, as I have done, in a very recent work of high authority, that the French complain exactly as we do, and are constantly asking—"When will the guns be ready?" In speaking of guns, I am disappointed to find that neither the noble Lord (Lord Henry Lennox), nor the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith), nor the gallant Admiral (Sir John Hay) gives us any credit for our decision to place two 100-ton guns in one of the new ships. We have been frequently told of the French 100-ton guns, although their construction has been abandoned; and we have been asked why we did not provide guns of this size. I think that now the Government have made up their mind to have them, it might have been taken into account in this discussion.
§ MR. CAMPBELL -BANNERMAN
The gun will be the Elswick 100-ton gun, such as was used recently at Spezia, but of slightly improved design. The noble Lord made some observations, in which, to a certain extent, I agree, in deprecation of the custom, if it could be said to have formed itself into a custom, of the Government, in cases of emergency, going into the market and buying any ships that could be found, without much regard being had to their quality. The noble Lord also blamed the Government of Mr. Gladstone in 1870 for rushing into the building of certain vessels for coast defence which have been denounced as unseaworthy. The construction of those ships, however, was not a leap in the dark, because similar vessels had already been tried and found successful for the purpose for which they were intended. We are now engaged in placing on the Hecate a superstructure to remedy the defects that have been pointed out. That work is being done by contract, and it is expected it will be finished in the course of the summer. The cost will not, I hope, very much exceed £10,000, instead of £20,000, the Bum mentioned by the noble Lord, and the same course will be followed with 142 the other three vessels if the improvement on the Hecate justifies it. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Captain Price) made considerable allusion to a speech made by the Earl of Northbrook in "another place." I am perfectly certain that everything my noble Friend stated would be taken from accurate and authentic sources. I It is true we have eight ships in the course of construction, and I do not know how many ships Lord North-brook spoke of. In regard to the men in the Dockyards, Lord Northbrook stated in his speech that it was quite true that the French had a larger number of men in their Dockyards than we had in ours; but the noble Earl's contention, and the contention of many who had studied the labour question, was, that the English labourer aid more work in the end than the French labourer, and that, therefore, it was quite possible that the difference in the numbers might not represent anything like an equal difference in the output of work. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. H. Smith) spoke of the growth of the expenditure under many of the Votes. The Government are doing all they can, and they flatter themselves that this year they have been successful, in keeping down the expenditure under many of the Votes. With regard to Vote 1, to which the right hon. Gentleman particularly alluded, it is the case that although the numbers have been reduced, the expenditure has increased, or, at any rate, remained the same. This arises, I believe, from two causes —first of all, from the increases of pay and advantages which are necessarily given to the different men of the Service; and also from the greater tendency there was to introduce a large number of a more expensive kind of men into the Service. This year, for example, there is an increase in the cost, although a decrease in the number, of petty officers I and seamen generally, and it is explained in this way—that greater provision has had to be made for chief and other engine-room artificers, for skilled artificers in ironclad ships, and for the petty officers employed in the gunnery and torpedo service. My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth (Mr. Mac-liver), who was interrupted in his observations, alluded to my promise last year to see some of the workmen who had represented their grievance to the Board 143 of Admiralty. My hon. Friend (Sir Thomas Brassey) and myself have visited the principal Dockyards, and we have, with great satisfaction and pleasure to ourselves, had interviews with the workmen. We were greatly struck with the pleasant and kindly and reasonable tone of those whom we met, and we will take good care that all the recommendations they made shall not be lost sight of.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."— (Mr. Jenkins.)
MR. A. F. EGERTON
said, he had no wish to prolong the debate; but, before the Motion to report Progress was put, he desired some explanation of Vote 2.
rose to Order. He wished to know whether, by the Rule which was supported by both the Front Benches, an hon. Member, speaking on a Motion to report Progress, must not confine himself strictly to the Motion to report Progress?
§ THE CHAIRMAN
said, there was no doubt that by a strict interpretation of the Rule that was so. He merely understood the hon. Member to ask a question.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, he was afraid they must not discuss anything relating to the Vote. The Committee had now been engaged in this discussion for some time, and he thought it would be willing, if necessary, to sit up some time longer in order to complete the matter. It would be extremely inconvenient to report Progress.
said, the noble Marquess was probably not aware that although the Committee had been engaged for some time in an extremely interesting discussion, it had not at all discussed the Vote before the Committee. He was quite certain that no one who had listened to the speeches which had been made that evening would have the slightest idea that they were debating the Vote for the Victualling and Clothing of the Seamen and Marines of the Royal Navy; they had been talking about the ships, and they had never mentioned the Seamen or Marines. Why he thought they ought to report Progress was that some opportunity ought 144 to be given to hon. Members, who wished to do so, to discuss questions affecting the Seamen and Marines of the Royal Navy. When Vote 1—the Vote on which questions affecting Seamen and Marines ought properly to be raised— was brought on, it was impossible to discuss it at length, because the Government found it necessary to get the Vote in order to carry on the Administration. They were obliged, in order to assist the Government, to abstain from discussion; but it was understood that the questions which they were unable to raise upon the Vote for the pay of the Seamen and Marines should be raised upon the Vote for Clothing and Victuals. It seemed to him that the discussion about guns might very property have boon raised upon Vote 6 or Vote 10; certainly, it appeared to his untutored mind out of place on Vote 2. It was because the Committee had not discussed the Vote at all that he should support the Motion to report Progress.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, he agreed with his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Gorst) that the discussion, which had been most interesting so far, might, with great propriety, have been taken on Vote C. He should be borne out by the Committee when he said it had always been understood, and he hoped it would be, that under Vote 6 there was an opportunity afforded to the Committee to review the general Naval Policy of the Government. This year, in order to promote the convenience of the Government, it was arranged that upon Vote 2 there should be an opportunity afforded to the noble Lord (Lord Henry Lennox) to deliver the speech which had proved so interesting to them all. They had not discussed Vote 2, and if they had had an opportunity he should have been prepared to show that there was a very largo increase of expenditure on the Vote which deserved the careful consideration of the Committee. If the Government said they were obliged to have this Vote that night, he should not resist them; but if they were to discuss Votes in Committee of Supply, they must not be asked to take a Vote on trust at 1 o'clock in the morning. He had been sitting on a Grand Committee all day; and he must remind the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) that it was understood, when the Now Rules were adopted, that there would be an earlier reporting of 145 Progress. He should regret if they were not allowed to go into the merits of the Vote in such a way as might, perhaps, lead to some useful examination of its various items.
§ CAPTAIN PRICE
said, that in consequence of the New Rules, the noble Lord (Lord Henry Lennox) had no opportunity of making a Motion on going into Committee, as used to be the custom in years gone by. This was a good illustration of the awkwardness of the Rules, that they were bound on this question of Navy Estimates to endeavour, as far as they could, to cover the whole ground in one Vote. It would be much better, if these Rules were still to remain in force, that such questions as had been raised by his noble Friend should in future be raised on Vote 10, so that they could have Vote 6 for the discussion of Dockyard matters, which always occupied some time. The general discussion on naval affairs should be taken on Votes 1 and 2.
§ MR. GOURLEY
said, he hoped the Government would agree to report Progress. The Members who had spoken had been, either in the past or present, officially connected with the Navy, or connected with it indirectly. Only one Member who was unconnected with the Navy—a Member who was interested in the Dockyards—had risen to address the Committee on the important matter raised by the noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox), and as to Vote 2, no one had had an opportunity of addressing the House on it at all. He thought it was unreasonable of the Government to ask them to go on at that hour, because there were several hon. Members outside the official and ex-official Benches who wished to speak. The official and ex-official Members had had it all their own way that night, and the outside Members had not had the slightest opportunity of expressing their opinions. It was all very well for the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. H. Smith) to smile at this, because, as an ex-Minister, he had the eye of the Speaker and the Chairman. The right hon. Gentleman had changed his opinions on the subject of guns, or his opinions had advanced so rapidly since he had become ex-First Lord of the Admiralty——
§ MR. GOURLEY
said, that if he was out of Order, of course he must submit to the ruling of the Chairman. All he was going to say was that they heard very little about breech-loading guns from the right hon. Gentleman when he was First Lord of the Admiralty, and had power to deal with the question. He hoped the Government would respond to the appeal made by the hon. Member for Penrhyn, and agree to Progress being reported.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, it seemed to him a little unfair, on the part of the Government, to ask them to agree to the Vote, seeing that although they had been in Committee some hours they had not discussed the Vote. He should be inclined, under other circumstances, to oppose the granting of this Vote without full discussion on it. There was this reason why the House should have further time for discussing it, and that was that under it there had been most monstrous frauds committed by Admiralty officials. The discovery of these frauds showed that the Admiralty system of supervision was so futile and useless that some very stringent regulations were called for. Ample explanation ought to be required at the hands of the Admiralty officials. An adequate explanation of these frauds, and of the way in which the Admiralty accounts had been audited, could not be given at that hour of the morning; therefore, on these and other grounds, he thought the Government had no right to complain of the treatment they were receiving. It would not be unfair, he considered, for the Committee to agree to report Progress.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, that if it were the desire of the Committee to discuss the personnel of the Navy on this Vote, the Government would not oppose the Motion to report Progress. If they agreed to the proposal for reporting Progress, it would be on the understanding that the general discussion was closed, and that when the debate was resumed it would be upon either the personnel of the Navy or matters directly affecting the Vote. He had understood the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Gourley) to say that he wished to address the Committee further on the subject which had been under discussion that evening. If that was so, he hoped the hon. Member would go on with his observations, and that he would be 147 followed by others until the question was eloped.
said, he was anxious to speak on the general question, and as he had understood that others also desired to do so, he had moved to report Progress. If it was understood that they would be able to speak on the general policy of the shipbuilding on Vote 61, he should be glad.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said, that on that Vote the general subject of shipbuilding could be discussed, but not the personnel of the Navy.
§ MR. BIGGAR
objected to the Motion being withdrawn. He held it was most unreasonable at 1 o'clock in the morning to pass a Vote for £1,000,000 sterling for a purpose which had never been discussed in the most remote degree.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Wednesday.