§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ (1.) £2,902,900, Wages, &c. to Seamen and Marines.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. HIBBERT) (Oldham)
In rising, Mr. Courtney, to make a general Statement with respect to the Navy Estimates, I wish, in the first place, to thank hon. Members for the kind consideration which they extended to me on Monday night, when I was unavoidably absent, and when the noble and gallant Lord opposite the Member for Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) initiated a very interesting discussion with so much ability. I have also to thank the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. R. W. Duff) for having supplied my place at so short a notice; and I have, further, to congratulate him upon the knowledge and ability which he displayed. I feel that I stand here to-night in an unusual position, because in the past year there has taken place that which, I believe, never took place before. We have had three successive Boards of Admiralty within the last 10 months. We have had three successive First Lords, and three successive Parliamentary 1185 Representatives of the Admiralty in this House. In addition to that, we have, also, at the present time a larger number of new officers representing the various Departments—and very important Departments — of the Admiralty than ever represented them at one time before. I allude first to the gentleman who holds the important position of Accountant General, who was appointed by the Earl of Northbrook, a gentleman of great experience, who, I trust, will bring that experience to bear on the financial affairs of the Admiralty; and then we have two other important appointments made by the noble Lord opposite the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton)—I mean those of Controller and the Director of Naval Construction. They are also gentlemen of great ability and high reputation; and from them I expect that great strength will be given to the Board of Admiralty. We have also had two other appointments to very important positions in the Dockyard Department; and there have been other appointments in connection with the Dockyards, such as those of the Civil Assistants to the Superintendents at Portsmouth, Chatham, and Devonport. We all know that new brooms sweep clean, and, therefore, we expect a great number of reforms and changes from these gentlemen. I am sure that there is room in many ways for great reforms and changes; and particularly for reforms in the Dockyards. The first reform of which the Committee already have knowledge is the improved form of the Estimates in the hands of hon. Members to-night. This improved form is due to the unwearied labour and great ability of Admiral Graham, Sir Gerald Fitzgerald, and the Director of Naval Construction. The information contained in the Estimates now before the Committee and the country is greater than has ever been given in any previous year; and I think that anyone who will carefully look at that information will find the great advantage it affords to them if they desire to thoroughly understand the Estimates. You have information given to you, not only as to the cost of each particular ship in course of construction, but also information as to the cost of the year up to March, 1885; the original estimated cost for the year 1885–6, with corrections where necessary; of the condition of the work at 1186 the present time, and the proposed expenditure for 1886–7, together with the number of men to be employed. But that is not all; you have, in addition to that, further information given to you as to the estimated expenditure on each ship to be completed, and the original and corrected date for completion. It might have been thought that all that information is sufficient for hon. Members; but it is not all the information that is given. You have, in addition, information which has never been given before with respect to propelling machinery, gun mountings, torpedo carriages and gear, and guns chargeable to the Army Vote. All this information is given for the first time; and you are able to see what will be the total cost of every particular ship in the course of construction. All that is a great advantage; for, in my opinion, it is far better to give to hon. Members and the country every information about the expenditure in the year on shipbuilding, or any other subject, than to try to keep it back in any way. There is another important change in these Estimates; and it is one which was recommended first by the Earl of Northbrook in a Minute before he left the Admiralty, and carried out by the noble Lord opposite the late First Lord. I refer to the important change which has so long been a matter of dispute and discussion in the House with reference to the "Parliamentary ton," or tonnage measurement, as it appeared in the Estimates. I congratulate the noble Lord on having been able to carry out that great change. I remember, in a discussion which took place last year, my right hon. Friend the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith), who has, year after year, called attention to this disputed question, made use of these words, that—The promise to build a certain tonnage has never been fulfilled by any Government.That form of promise has always been a cause of dispute in the House between one side and the other. Happily for myself, however, I have to make no such promise of any particular amount of tonnage to be built in the year; and it is a still more happy escape for hon. Members that they will no longer be troubled by the annual battle of the unfortunate "ton." Expenditure will for the future be the measure of the progress made in shipbuilding. I now 1187 come to the consideration of the Estimates which have been presented to Parliament for the ensuing year; and in making a short explanatory statement respecting them, I wish to remind the Committee of the very short period during which my noble Friend the present First Lord (the Marquess of Ripon) and the Board have been in Office, and of the consequent great pressure and haste with which, naturally, we have been compelled to consider and determine the preparation of the Estimates. I do not think the Committee can expect a perfect policy to be prepared in four or five weeks; nor do I think it would be advisable to attempt to prepare a policy in so short a time. But the policy of the present Board is a loyal adhesion to the policy followed and the expenditure undertaken by the Earl of Northbrook, and the further expenditure commenced by the noble Lord opposite. We do not stand either by a Liberal or a Conservative policy; but we follow the policy of both Parties; and therefore I think I am able to say that our policy is a national policy. Well, then, we have also carried out in good faith the promises made to Parliament and to the country in the years 1884 and 1885; but we have, at the same time, a firm determination to curtail all expenditure which can be properly curtailed without injury to the Naval Service. The result of all is a net Estimate, which you have now in your hands, amounting to £12,993,100, or an increase of £606,600 over the grant of 1885–6, and of £298,200 over last year's grant, plus the Supplementary Estimates. No doubt, this sum of £12,993,100 is too small a sum to please many of our Naval Friends who sit opposite; while, at the same time, it is too large a sum for some—I will not say many—of our economical Friends who sit on the Benches on this side of the House, and who wish to see a more economical administration of our finances. Therefore I feel that on the present occasion I have to stand, as it were, between two fires, and have to be prepared to receive an attack from both sides. I appear here to-night in two capacities. As Secretary to the Admiralty, I desire to carry out and maintain to the fullest extent the efficiency of the Navy; but I also appear here as an economist, and in that capacity I venture to hope that the explanation I have 1188 to give will be one which may disarm the opposition of both Parties. Though I admit our Estimates are high—too high for our economical Friends—and, omitting Votes of Credit, that they are higher than those of any year since the Crimean War, I think I may say that their amount has been rendered necessary owing to the large liabilities incurred in carrying out the shipbuilding programme of the last two Boards—the Earl of Northbrook's and that of the noble Lord opposite. The Earl of Northbrook's scheme for additional ships caused a liability on the Navy Votes of £3,500,000. The late Board, presided over by the noble Lord opposite, during the short time—seven months—they were in Office, commenced 11 additional ships, five of which were in the 1885–6 programme, but not ordered; no designs had been prepared, nor had they been commenced. I do not mean, by saying that the noble Lord commenced 11 additional ships, to throw any imputation upon him of having commenced building unnecessary ships. Of these 11 ships, five belonged, as it were, to the Earl of Northbrook's Administration, and six to that of the noble Lord opposite. But if I include — and I think I ought to include it in the amount of liability the noble Lord's programme entailed upon us—I shall have to add the Nile and the Trafalgar, because, although they had been suggested by the Earl of Northbrook, the designs were completed in the time of the noble Lord opposite; and I may say that the vessels already commenced created a further liability on the Navy Votes of £2,600,000. Then, again, we have a liability thrown upon us this year in respect of the non-completion of the 40 torpedo boats commenced out of the Vote of Credit last year, which amounts to £223,600. Unfortunately, those boats cannot be completed before the end of March, and the Vote of Credit does not run over into the new financial year, so that our total liability, taken from the programme of the two late Boards, and our liability under the Vote of Credit, amounts to no less a sum than £6,323,600, to be paid during the next few years. Of that sum, £3,828,000 has to be paid for our shipbuilding in 1886–7. I should have thought that those who are in favour of getting work out of hand would have been prepared to agree with the 1189 principle that you should complete what you have got in hand before you put additional ships on the stocks. I may be asked by some hon. Members—"Why do you not, instead of throwing this money over three years, throw it over five?" All I can say is, that I do not approve of a slow and dawdling system; and a return to such a policy would be, I believe, as wasteful, extravagant, and expensive as a rapid policy is economical. I think I can show hon. Members that it is a bad system, by referring to one or two ships whose construction has been thrown over a number of years, and how much the additional cost has been as compared with that of vessels built rapidly. There are two ships called the Agamemnon and the Ajax. The Agamemnon was proposed to be finished in seven years; but she was not really finished for nine. Well, Sir, what has been the consequence? The consequence is that the amount of money spent upon her for labour has been £185,522. The original Estimate was £140,000, so that it has been exceeded by no less a sum than £45,000, no doubt in consequence of a variety of reasons, some of them probably the alterations which were carried out during the construction of the ship. The Ajax is a similar case. It appears also to have taken nine years in construction, and the cost for labour was £188,894. The original Estimate was £162,000. In that case the excess was not so great, but still it was considerable. I hope I may be allowed to refer, for a few moments, to a list of vessels which I hold in my hand. I have named the Agamemnon and the Ajax. I now come to the Inflexible. The Inflexible took nine years to build, and the cost over the original Estimate was £102,400 for labour. Now I will come to some vessels which are to be built more rapidly. First, the Camperdown. She was proposed to be built in six years, and she will really be completed in six years, without any increase in the original Estimate. The original estimated cost of labour on hull was £196,000, and it is expected she will really be completed for £196,000. In the same way the Hero was fixed to be finished in six years, and she will be built within that time without any increase in the original Estimate. The Téméraire was to be built in four years, and she was completed in four years, without any addi- 1190 tion to the Estimate of £140,000. Then, again, the Rodney was to be completed in six years, and she will be completed in that time without any increase of cost. I think that shows that the more rapid system is the more economical system, and I trust that the system inaugurated last year for the more rapid completion of vessels will be the one which will be followed by the Board of Admiralty in future. What does the opposite system really mean? It means that we have a large capital lying idle for a great number of years. During the time that the Agamemnon and Ajax were being constructed, an amount of capital was lying idle which would have produced at 5 per cent something like £50,000 or £60,000 a-year. Therefore, on the ground of economy, I would myself press forward this new system of rapidity of execution. Another argument I would use to hon. Members in this House who are strongly in favour of economy is this—that I consider that a liberal provision for the Naval Service, carried out steadily and systematically from year to year, is far more economical than a policy which first blows hot and then blows cold. In the latter case, when a panic arises, we are led into very hasty and extravagant expenditure, and many Members consider that the money spent last year in taking up ships hastily from the Mercantile Service was so much money thrown into the sea. I think the noble Lord opposite used that expression. I do not go quite so far as that, but I will go with hon. Gentlemen to this extent—that it would be better, and would be more economical, to provide as many ships as we want than to spend money in that extravagant way. Having addressed a few words to hon. Members who are in favour of economy, I should now like to appeal to those who are in favour of increased Estimates, and ask them to consider how much has been done for the Navy during the last two years. In 1885–6 the Naval Estimates of the year amounted to £12,694,900, or an increase of more than £1,500,000 over the previous year. Well, in addition to that, out of the Vote of Credit there was spent on contract shipbuilding work no less a sum than £1,014,000; on Dockyard wages £98,000; and on purchase of naval stores nearly £450,000; so that you not only had this increase of £1,500,000 in favour of larger expenditure, but also another £1,500,000 1191 of money taken out of the Vote of Credit for shipbuilding purposes. I will invite hon. Members now to look with me into the naval expenditure of the country for a number of years past, and it will be found, as I have already pointed out, that the proposed expenditure this year is really higher than it has ever been in any year since the Crimean War. If you take the expenditure for the last 12 years, leaving out Votes of Credit, of course, and dividing it into two periods of six years, I find that in the first period, from 1874–5 to 1879–80, there was an aggregate sum of £66,802,000 spent on the Navy. These were the years when a Conservative Government was in Office, and I find that the average was £11,133,000 per annum. I find also that the gross Estimates this year are £2,500,000—£1,859,000 more than the average expenditure of each of those six years when a Conservative Government was in Office. I will now take the six years of a Liberal Government, and I find that the aggregate sum was £69,030,000 during the six years 1880–1 to 1885–6, or an average of £11,505,000, and less than this year's gross Estimate by over £2,000,000. When I mention Conservative and Liberal Governments, I do not do so for any Party purpose, but I merely do it because it may be useful to hon. Members who want larger Estimates to know what their Friends did for them during the period they were in Office. Then I will ask hon. Members to look at the provision for new construction, and the large number of ships now in progress. There are at the present time in progress 103 different ships—19 armoured ships, four protected ships, 26 unprotected, and 54 torpedo boats. In addition, I would say that the total estimated expenditure for the large number of new vessels which are now being constructed amounts to the very considerable sum of £13,155,000. I do not suppose that at any previous time in our history has there been so large a liability for the work of shipbuilding during the time of construction; and in addition to this sum we have to pay a further sum of £1,138,000 for guns for the ships which, though charged to Army Votes, has to come out of the taxpayers' pockets, and is practically for the purposes of the Navy. The Dockyard Vote this year for the labour on new ships is £693,990, against £605,330 last year, an 1192 increase of nearly £90,000; and the Contract Vote for hulls and propelling machinery for new ships this year is £1,720,000, against £1,530,000 last year. During the year seven torpedo cruisers, five gun vessels, and one large armour-clad vessel, the Benbow, will be completed by contractors. I think, then, with this work going on, I may safely appeal to hon. Members to wait a little to get all this work out of hand before we set to work to provide some of those new ships said to be by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and which I believe and agree are, so much wanted for the Navy. Now, what are the reasons why we have made no proposals for new ships? My noble Friend—if he will allow me to call him so—the late First Lord (Lord George Hamilton) said that they had left a programme for new ships amounting to something like £1,000,000 of money. I quite agree that they did leave such a programme, but it was the programme of the Board of Admiralty, and I do not know that it was a programme which had been passed by the Treasury or by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In that programme, which the noble Lord desired to add to the expenditure for 1886–7, there was a certain number of gunboats and corvettes to be nearly completed in the course of that year, and the remainder in the following year. I quite admit that it is not desirable to go on patching up and repairing these old gunboats. I doubt whether it is economical to do so. Therefore, I should have been very glad if we could have seen our way this year to make provision for additional gunboats to replace these old, useless, and obsolete vessels; and I still hope, before the end of the year, we may be able to do something in that direction. The First Lord of the Admiralty desires to do so; and were he able to be here himself I know that he would say so. But I think I may fairly appeal to the Committee to support the plan we have adopted. My noble Friend thinks, and his Board thinks, that they ought to have time to mature their future policy. And I think there is no desire, either on one side of the House or the other, to call upon the Admiralty to enter into a large expenditure for iron-clads. But our attention must be turned at once, and I have no doubt that the present Board of Admimiralty will turn their attention at once, 1193 to the question of what description of vessel is to be the vessel of the future. We are fully alive to the importance of determining, after adequate consideration, the general lines of a policy, to be steadily followed as circumstances and means may permit. It is pretty generally admitted by the members of both the late and present Boards that, when the large armoured ships now building are completed, we may pause for a time at least in the building of vessels of that description, and so may at once turn our attention to other classes of ships—to fast cruisers, to a development of torpedo craft of all kinds—torpedo boats, torpedo catchers, and torpedo depôt ships—and to provide for the waste of the Navy in respect of gunboats, so far as required to replace old obsolete ships. The question of gunboats was referred to by several speakers on Monday night. If the Estimates are maintained at their present rate in 1887–8, combined with a decreasing liability for ships near completion, there will be nearly £1,000,000 which can be devoted to all these objects without the slightest interference with the shipbuilding already in operation. Therefore, I think I am justified in asking that we should be allowed time to consider what is to be the vessel of the future; that we should be allowed time to consider our programme; and that we should come forward, if we should be in a position to do so next year, with a definite proposal for additional ships in the direction which has been suggested by the noble Lord the late First Lord and the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford), and other speakers. Having said enough, I hope, on that question, I should like just to show what was done as to shipbuilding by the late Board of Admiralty in the Estimates of 1885–6. Why, Sir, the late Board of Admiralty—that presided over by the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton), who, no doubt, will be able to offer some explanatory statement much better than mine — provided in the Estimates for 1885–6 for the commencement of five ships of which the designs were "not decided upon"—namely, two armour-clads, to be built, one at Portsmouth and one at Pembroke; one torpedo ram to be built at Chatham, designed, not ordered; one new vessel to be built at Sheerness, and one new Scout to be 1194 built at Devonport. Up to the Earl of Northbrook's retirement, however, no order had been given for the construction of these ships; and in the case of the vessels to be built at Portsmouth and Pembroke, the designs had not even been decided upon. The late Board, having decided upon the designs, ordered the construction of 11 ships, six of which are not in the Estimates. They were two armour-clads — the Trafalgar at Portsmouth and the Nile at Pembroke; two belted cruisers, 18 knots, the Immortalité, to be built at Chatham, and the Aurora at Pembroke, the Immortalité being substituted for the torpedo ram contemplated by the Earl of Northbrook, who left a Minute expressing his preference for that class over a large armour-clad; two Scouts, 16 to 17 knots, the Racoon and the Serpent, to be built at Devonport; one gun vessel, the Buzzard, to be built at Sheerness, 15 knots; three torpedo gunboats, one called the Grasshopper, to be built at Sheerness, and the Sandfly and Spider at Devonport; and in addition to these there was one other gunboat, the Rattlesnake, 19 knots, to be built by contract by Messrs. Laird, of the same character as the Grasshopper, and to be ready about August next. These four gunboats are of an entirely new type, and are intended for the destruction of the enemy's torpedo boats. They are 200 feet long, 23 feet wide, 450 tons displacement, with 2,700 indicated horse power, the speed being 19 knots. They will each of them carry 100 tons of coal, enough for 600 knots full speed, or 4,000 tons at 10 knots an hour. They have no rig except two light poles for signalling purposes. They are to be propelled by twin-screws, and they cost about £33,000 for hull and engines. In addition, four gunboats of the Rattler class were ordered after the change of Government to be constructed by contract, the money having been provided under the ordinary Estimates of 1885–6. I should now like to say a few words about the Nile and the Trafalgar. Of course, they are two of the most important vessels that will ever be put on the stocks in this country. They certainly will be the largest armour-clads yet constructed for the English Navy. Therefore, when we are about to commence the construction of such important vessels, I think it is desirable that I should say a few words to 1195 the Committee in order to show them what the vessels themselves will consist of. If hon. Members are already in possession of the information I will save them the trouble of listening to a repetition of it; but I am not aware that any account has, as yet, been given to the House. They surpass in displacement all foreign armour-clad ships except four vessels now being constructed for the Italian Iron-clad Navy. This being so, I think it is desirable that I should say something as to their dimensions. Their dimensions are — length, 345 feet; breadth, 73 feet; displacement, 11,940 tons; and indicated horse-power, 12,000. The estimated speed will be about 16½ knots. There will be an armoured citadel about 190 feet long in the central position of the ship, and at each end of the citadel a turret. Each turret will contain two 68-ton breech-loading guns. Between the turrets and above the citadel there will be a central box battery, lightly armoured, which will contain eight 5-inch breech-loading guns, and on the spar deck covering this battery the boats will be stowed and a number of quick-firing machine guns mounted. The guns will be loaded, and the turrets worked, by hydraulic power. In addition, each ship will have a powerful torpedo armament, and will also be fitted for ramming. They will be capable of carrying 1,200 tons of coal in the bunkers, and will have no rig. The armour belt at the waterline extends to about 230 feet amidships, and before and abaft the belt a strong steel deck, three inches thick, protects the vitals. The armour on the belt will be 20 inches, on the sides of the citadel 16 to 18 inches, and on the turret 18 inches. In addition to this there will be an inner armour of about two inches, which will also be worked behind the teak backing. Now we come to the cost, which is very large indeed—so large that I am almost afraid to mention it. But when I look at what some other ships have cost in the British Navy, which are not so powerful and which can never be so protective as these vessels, I do not know that the sum is very excessive. The cost of each vessel will amount, with the guns, to no less a sum than £919,134, which is approaching £1,000,000. [An hon. MEMBER: Both?] No; each. The hull will cost £686,000, the propelling machinery, £97,000, and the gun mountings, £79,794; making a total on 1196 the Navy Votes of £862,794. The guns will cost £56,340. Well, now, hon. Members may think that a large sum. I admit that it is a large sum; but we have expended these large sums previously on other vessels not so large as this, but still, for the size of the vessels, very considerable sums. Take the Inflexible—she cost £809,600; the Benbow, which is a contract ship—and we have always been told that we can build cheaper by contract than in our own Yards—the Benbow is to cost £789,162; and the Renown, built by Sir William Armstrong, which is the same size as the Benbow, is to cost £789,995. Well, if we are to be a strong country—and it is often stated that we ought to be as strong, if not stronger, than any other Power—we must make up our minds to go in for this large expenditure. But I think I may safely say that these two large iron-clads will probably be the last iron-clads of this type that will ever be built in this or any other country. In France they are ceasing to go on with the construction of large iron-clads. Very little is now being done by the French Naval Authorities in the way of building, but they are completing certain iron-clads which are larger than anything we now have. These two large iron-clads, however, which are being built, and which were first suggested by the Earl of Northbrook and commenced by the noble Lord opposite, will be equal—I think superior—to any ship of the same character in the French Navy. And now let me say a word or two about the development of our torpedo flotilla. It has been said that we have been doing very little in the way of torpedoes. I dare say we were a little backward about the time the noble Lord alluded to the other night—namely, the time of the Russian scare. Perhaps we were not then so well prepared with torpedo boats and torpedoes as we ought to have been, and as I think we shall be if any difficulty of the kind occurs again. The development of a torpedo flotilla has been, and is, receiving the greatest attention of the Board of Admiralty. There are now several sea-going torpedo boats rapidly approaching completion. There are the torpedo cruiser Scout and her sister ship, the Fearless, both of which will be finished in 1886–7, as well as two or three of the improved Scouts, of which eight are building and 1197 will be finished this year. Then there is the torpedo gunboat of the Rattlesnake class, which is much smaller than the cruisers to which I first alluded, and which is to have a speed of 19 knots, as against 17 to 17½ knots in the other class of cruisers. There are 40 torpedo boats, all of which are 125 feet long, being 12 feet longer than the largest of those which were used with the Experimental Squadron at Bantry Bay last year, and so may have, it is hoped, better sea-keeping qualities than the vessels tried upon that occasion, though they cannot be expected to be really intended for sea service. Even if they were able to keep the sea for a day or two, it would be almost cruel to the crews to keep them on board for a great number of days. And now I come to show the Committee that we do not want to be in too great haste in deciding upon any additional torpedo boats until we have had experience of the vessels which are now in the course of completion and almost ready to be experimented upon. We want to find out which is the best and strongest type of swift vessel that can be used as a torpedo boat-catcher at the smallest cost. In addition to those I have named, there is a special torpedo vessel, of 150 feet in length, bought from Messrs. White, of Cowes, now being fitted for trial; and another, 135 feet long, with a guaranteed speed higher than any yet built for the Navy, has been ordered from Messrs. Yarrow. When these vessels of these various types and of various strength are completed, trials will be made with them and with the Rattlesnake, so as to ascertain whether a satisfactory type has been gained, and what type is best for general purposes. When that has been decided, we shall know what to do in regard to the torpedo boats of the future. Then it is said that we have no torpedoes. With regard to the arrangements for the purchase of torpedoes, I may say that there has been considerable difficulty in finding out where to obtain them; but we have 541 now ready for use, and still require 1,463 before we shall have sufficient for our purposes. We have made arrangements to obtain these additional torpedoes in the best way we can. Some of the additional torpedoes we are having made by a firm near Leeds, and we are getting them made at Woolwich 1198 Arsenal at the rate of 250 per annum, and we are also getting an additional number elsewhere, so that by the end of this year we hope we shall be short by only 300 or 400 of the torpedoes we shall require. It is not a very easy matter to get these additional torpedoes. We want as soon as possible to get them made in this country, and if firms will undertake the making of them, we shall very readily try to promote business with them. In addition to what I have said about torpedo boats, it is intended to have 32 first-class torpedo boats at the following Colonial Stations: — Hong Kong six, of which two have already been sent; Malta eight, of which four have already been sent; Gibraltar six, of which two have already been sent; Simon's Bay four, of which two have already been sent; while two have been sent to North America, and more than double that number will be sent as soon as they are ready. Therefore, I do not think we are open to the complaint that was made the other night that we are doing so very little in torpedoe boats and torpedoes. I do not say that we are perfect, or that we ever shall be perfect, because the torpedo boat and the torpedo itself are weapons of such a scientific nature that we shall see the greatest changes taking place even from month to month in their construction. I do not suppose that we have yet arrived at anything like perfection in that class of warfare. The noble Lord the late First Lord drew attention on Monday night to the want of ammunition for our guns. I do not think that things are quite as bad as the noble Lord stated. I find that considerable provision has been made for guns, not only in the Navy Estimates this year, but also in the Army Estimates. There are also considerable sums for gunpowder and other matters which the noble Lord alluded to. We have made provision for projectiles both for the guns on the ships and for the guns proposed for the ships, and we have also a certain amount in reserve. We have not perhaps got so much in reserve as we should like; but still we have done much more than the noble Lord gives us credit for. I trust that the armaments of the ships in the future will be carried out much more expeditiously than they have been in past years. There is no doubt that many ships have 1199 been kept waiting for their armaments; but I do not think that will be the case in the future. Now, with respect to the guns, and the large guns particularly. I will give some idea of our position and prospects. In April, 1880, there was not a single breech-loading gun available, and on the 1st of July, 1885, there was no 110-ton gun or 64-ton gun available. By the 31st of March, 1887, there will be three of the former and 14 of the latter. On July 1, 1885, there were only 11 43-ton guns ready; in March, 1887, there will be 17. In July, 1885, there were only 230 6-inch guns; in March, 1887, there will be 468. I may also add that in the Estimates this year provision is made for the first time for the armaments of the six ships of the Narcissus type laid down last Spring. We commenced to make provision for the armaments at the same time that we made provision for laying down the ships. Before I sit down I will just refer to what has been done during the last six or seven months by the late Board of Admiralty with respect to the reorganization of the Admiralty and the Dockyards. I think the country is indebted for the very courageous way in which the noble Lord the late First Lord and my hon. Friend who was Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Ritchie) carried out the work on this question. Of course, they had to do it at the risk of incurring much obloquy and complaint; but I believe they have been doing a real duty to their country. In the first place, immediately after the Committee, which was called Mr. Goschen's Committee, they instituted, on August 4, a Committee consisting of the Secretary to the Admiralty, Sir Reginald Welby, the Permanent Secretary to the Admiralty, and the Accountant General, to consider—What alterations are necessary to ensure an effective control over the expenditure of the different Departments of the Admiralty.I think that was a very necessary thing to do, whatever Government might have been in power. The late Government further extended the inquiry of the Committee they had appointed by requiring them to investigate the position of the Dockyards, and the expenditure upon labour and material, as well as the work done in the Dockyards. That Committee have been sitting and taking evi- 1200 dence, and I believe the result of the inquiry will be of the most useful character. The Committee reported in September, recommending that the position of Accountant General should be strengthened by making him assistant and deputy to the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary, which, by Order in Council, was carried out fully. By that means all estimates, liabilities, and expenditure come under his direct control. He has been provided with a deputy and two assistants, who are each in charge of a division. An Inspector of Yard Accounts has also been added for auditing and supervising the Yard Accounts, and of scrutinizing the expenditure upon shipbuilding and repairing. Also a Finance Committee has been appointed to meet fortnightly, consisting of the Financial Secretary, the Accountant General and his three deputies, and the Inspector of Yard Accounts as Secretary. Now, I believe myself that there is great room for reform and economy in the management of the Dockyards, and I am very glad indeed that the late Government approached the subject in the way they did. I believe the system they have laid down, which is only now just commencing, when it is brought into full operation, will be of the greatest use in reducing the expenditure of the country upon that portion of our naval expenditure. I believe that the country does not so much complain of the amount which you ask it to spend upon the Navy, as the question whether they get their money's worth for their money. It ought to be our duty to see that the country does get money's worth for the money it spends. I should like to say one word about the supervision of labour in the Dockyards. There is much in the evidence which shows that a very extensive amount of supineness and waste takes place there. I cannot admit that the Report, which refers to the workers in the Dockyards, can refer to the whole of them. No doubt there are idlers, and the sooner we get rid of the idlers the better. But I think we have a right to say to the workers in the Dockyards that if they want our sympathy and desire us to consider their grievances, and if they want us to give them a fair day's wage, we must have a fair day's work for the wage we give them. That, I trust, will be the principle adopted in dealing with the workers. I have now 1201 only to thank the Committee for the attention they have given me. I do not pretend to have made anything but a plain, unvarnished statement. I do not profess to know more than other hon. Members know, except a few secrets of the Admiralty; but I will give way to none in this House, whether he be a naval man or a civilian, in my desire to do as much as I can to promote the welfare of all classes of Her Majesty's Naval Service. At the same time, I do not wish to forget the strong claims which the taxpayers have upon us—that we should pay attention to the economical administration of the large funds which they entrust to our hands. While, I say, I am bound to consider these strong claims, I also consider the strong claims of our national responsibilities, and our anxiety and our desire in the future to maintain that supremacy at sea which England has always kept in past years, and which, I hope, she will occupy in future.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON (Middlesex, Ealing)
I think it will be the unanimous feeling of the Committee that I should express our congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman on his restoration to health and on the business-like and lucid statement he has just made. The right hon. Member has only had a few weeks to prepare himself for one of the most complicated and intricate statements which a Member of Parliament can make; and on this occasion it was more difficult than usual owing to the great mass of the Estimates having been necessarily prepared before he accepted Office. But he has acquitted himself in a manner which has given universal satisfaction to all who heard him; for although he did not profess that his statement was in any way a pretentious one, yet for the amount of information it contained, and for lucidity of arrangement, it quite equalled almost any statement of the kind which in past years I have heard in this House. It is extremely satisfactory to the members of the late Board to find the right hon. Gentleman speaking with his well-known business capacity, expressing approval of the alterations we made for the purpose of maintaining adequate efficiency and control over the expenditure of the Admiralty, and also for the improved system of supervision of the business in the Dockyards; and I can assure him, 1202 so long as he endeavours to support those principles in so magnanimous a manner, he will have our cordial co-operation. The accounts this year are exceptionally difficult to explain, because, as the hon. Gentleman has pointed out, they are embarrassed by the inclusion of a very large sum for the additional expenditure which the Earl of Northbrook sanctioned last year, and also for a considerable sum which remains from the Vote of Credit passed only last year. But there is one point in connection with the subject to which the hon. Gentleman did not attach too much importance, and that is the improvement in their form. For the first time, the Committee has before it not only a clear statement of the past and the estimated expenditure of the future, but also an account of the liabilities which that expenditure will entail. When we went to the Admiralty we found that the mistake which had occurred in the accounts to so large an amount was entirely due to there being no accurate record of liabilities. In fact, the system was most defective. The Heads of the Departments checked their own expenditure, and it is to their accuracy that no blunders of important dimensions have occurred in the past. We therefore determined, not only in regard to current expenditure, but any expenditure which had reference to future years, that there should be a full and complete record of all liabilities which would be entailed, and the Estimates have been framed with the greatest success in carrying out that view. There is another alteration by which the old and inaccurate Returns of tonnage have been abolished, and, for the first time, an accurate Return is taken of the progress which the expenditure of the money will entail, and also an accurate account, not only of the sum spent in the initial expenses, but also of the material used in the Dockyards. The right hon. Gentleman has further expressed his approval of the Returns which had been practically completed when we left Office; and in order to make the Returns more thoroughly complete he has added a Return, perhaps more valuable than any of the others, which shows everything connected with the question of the guns, torpedo gear, and complicated machinery, and in which the respective share borne by the War 1203 Office, as well as the Admiralty, is accurately stated. I very much regret that the right hon. Gentleman was not here the other night when the debate took place. From his remarks, he evidently did not understand the object with which I intervened in the debate and the purport of certain observations which I made. I quite agree with him that in the Estimates presented to the House the Board of Admiralty was perfectly right in laying down no new ships, because if they had extended the programme which they have given in the present Estimates, undoubtedly they would not be able to expedite the work. I know, and my hon. Friend who sits beside me knows, that the great difficulty any Board of Admiralty would have to face in the present year would be to find the ways and means to meet the enormous liability of the past two years; and I was certain that no Chancellor of the Exchequer would grant more than a certain sum out of the taxation for the naval purposes of this year. That being so, my proposal was that a portion of the expenditure which was abnormal and additional, and which formed part of the programme sanctioned by the Earl of Northbrook, should be taken out of the Estimates and should be converted into a Terminable Annuity to run over a certain number of years. I believe that that could have been done in five or six years, and at the end of that period you would not only have a large reduction in the naval expenditure, but the country would have had the satisfaction of knowing that the Navy was in the highest state of efficiency, and that the Fleet had been thoroughly renovated from top to bottom. And now, Sir, let me say a word as to the calculation by which I arrive at the opinion that a sum of about £2,000,000 sterling was necessary to thoroughly revivify the Fleet. I estimated its insufficiency at about £2,000,000 sterling, and I arrive at that figure in this way. The Earl of Northbrook left behind an Estimate that the sum which it was necessary to spend in shipbuilding was £3,100,000, and that it was to be spread in equal proportions, as far as possible, over the next five years. He estimated also that the amount for guns in the next five years would be £1,600,000, making in the aggregate an increased expenditure of £4,700,000. It is now 1204 estimated that during the past year we have reduced our liabilities of £4,700,000 by £1,700,000—namely, £1,000,000 for ships and £700,000 for gun. That leaves a liability on subsequent years on the extra expenditure, framed on the basis of the Earl of Northbrook's programme—an outstanding liability of £3,000,000 sterling. But certain investigations which were made during last year show that the sum the Earl of Northbrook proposed to expend in bringing the Fleet up to the requisite strength was insufficient; and I estimate that the amount to which it was insufficient was £2,000,000 sterling. I arrive at that figure in the following way:—I left behind me an Estimate of some small ships, which, in the opinion of naval men, were necessary to be built in the next two or three years, amounting to about £1,033,000. Then I estimated that for guns a sum of £500,000 more than was provided by the Earl of Northbrook would have to be spent, and I add to those sums about £350,000 as necessary to be spent during the next two or three years for the purpose of bringing up our torpedo boats and torpedoes to the necessary number. That made about £2,000,000, which, added to the £3,000,000 of liabilities under the Earl of Northbrook's programme, made £5,000,000 sterling. My wish was to take out of the Estimates for this the extraordinary expenditure, amounting to £1,800,000. Reducing the Estimates by that amount, I proposed in its place to substitute a Terminable Annuity for five years. My right hon. Friend the late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) was opposed to me, and my right hon. Friends near me shared, to a certain extent, his objection. Therefore, I will not raise that point again. Nevertheless, it is well that the Committee should understand what will be our position during the next three or four years. You will have most magnificent iron-clads, but they may be useless for the want of guns. You will have the finest belted cruisers any nation can possess, but with absence of sufficient amunition for guns. Further, you will have gunboats admitted to be the most obsolete of any Naval Power in Europe, and deficient also in torpedo gear. Surely, if we spend 9–10ths of the sum which is necessary to put our Fleet in a state of pre- 1205 paration, it is unwise to decline to spend the remaining 10 per cent that is requisite to render our Navy efficient from top to bottom. As regards the alteration we have effected in the Admiralty during the current year, it must be recollected that we came in as a Government just as the war rumours were over and the scare had subsided. Our relations with Russia became in consequence more amicable, and we found that there were a considerable number of iron-clads which figured in the list of effective ships which were altogether obsolete. Therefore, the first step we took was to place certain iron-clads in reserve and to replace them with five sea-going vessels. We had also the advantage of the Report of one of our ablest Admirals—Sir Geoffrey Hornby—the Admiral of the Evolutionary Squadron, which gave us most useful information as to the types of the vessels of the future. Therefore, having regard to the expenditure which had been sanctioned, and the expenditure which it was clear would have to be sanctioned, the late Board of Admiralty thought it their duty to take steps to insure an effective control over the expenditure which was imminent, so that the nation should get as good a return as possible for it. The right hon. Gentleman has alluded so kindly to what we have done that it is not necessary for me to enter into a recapitulation. But there is one point in particular in connection with this matter on which I wish to say a word in behalf of those who cannot defend themselves. Persistent attacks have been made during the last six months by different newspapers upon the permanent officials of the Admiralty; and it has been asserted over and over again that they were doing all that was in their power to impede and embarrass my hon. Friend and myself in carrying out the necessary reforms. I wish to say that all these statements are untrue. My hon. Friend and myself had, undoubtedly, to effect considerable alterations; but we were most loyally supported throughout by the permanent officials of the Department; and, indeed, unless we had secured their cordial co-operation we would never have been able to effect even so much as we have done. The investigation, however, that was set on foot made it perfectly clear that our system of Dockyard administra- 1206 tion was most unsatisfactory. We came to the conclusion, in this investigation, that the materials supplied to the Dockyards were of the very best, that the workmen employed were the very pick of their class, and that, with regard to the constructive and engineering officers, there was no task that was not within the limit of their capacity. Therefore, if the system was defective, it was not from the want of hands and brains. The defects arose from too great centralization at the Admiralty, and too great isolation in the branches of the different departments of the Dockyards. As far as possible, we endeavoured to reverse these principles; and I believe we have laid down regulations which, while giving increased power to the local officers, will, at the same time, by an outside and independent audit, provide that sufficient control is kept over them. Perhaps, however, it will be a more suitable time to discuss this question when we get to the Dockyard Vote. There is one matter which I would ask the economically-minded Members of the Committee carefully to consider. About one-half of our naval expenditure is in connection with our manufacturing establishments. At the present there is a pressure being put upon the Government to appoint a Select Committee to inquire into the whole expenditure of the Army and Navy. I trust that that question will not be considered by a Committee with so wide a Reference. I am perfectly satisfied that the inquiry would lead to no practical result. A Committee can be of no assistance in laying down the number of ships that there should be in commission or the number of men in the Army. That is alone the policy of the Government. But there is one point in regard to which an investigation would be of the greatest possible service, and that is the connection both of the Army and Navy with these manufacturing establishments. There is this great difficulty connected with these establishments—that it is the practice to vote an annual fixed sum for them. If any material is cheap at a particular time it is not possible to buy a quantity of it for use during another year; while, on the contrary, if the price of a material is high one year the Treasury would not thank the Board for returning the money, because they know that it would lead to the expenditure for the next year 1207 being larger. In the same way it is almost impossible to obtain sufficient sums to keep the plant of these establishments in proper order. No private manufacturing firms have such obsolete machinery as is to be found in Her Majesty's Dockyards. [An hon. MEMBER: Hear, hear!] An hon. Member cheers that; but I am afraid that he must be regarded as a special exponent of the system which entails this wasteful system. I have not the slightest doubt that if funds could be found for the production of fresh plant and machinery great economy in labour would be obtained; but this cannot be done under an annual Vote. There is another question which is to undergo the investigation of a Committee. A great deal of work is at present done by convict labour—convicts are employed in building basins, and in other work of a similar character. Of course, the object of the Home Office is to employ the convicts, and to give them full employment; but I am certain that the result is that in certain cases works are undertaken in order to employ these convicts, which are too large, and cannot be maintained afterwards on the sum annually voted for their maintenance. This has been the case, for instance, at Chatham; and the result is that a portion of the money which was required for the maintenance of the old and smaller Yards is appropriated to the extension of the larger Yard, by which process the larger the Yard becomes the smaller is the sum annually voted for its maintenance. Into all these things a Committee might, with great advantage, inquire, in order to see whether we could not have some more business-like way of managing the expenditure of these establishments. The right hon. Gentleman has mentioned at length the number of ships which the late Board of Admiralty laid down; and the Committee were, no doubt, somewhat surprised to hear the enormous cost of the two iron-clads we laid down. Now, to sanction the commencement of two iron-clads, each of which was to cost over £900,000, was a very serious responsibility; and we took all the pains we could to ascertain whether we should be justified in doing so. In the first place, we found that the Earl of Northbrook had intended to lay down two such vessels. What we had to consider was, first, the displacement; and the late Board of 1208 Admiralty—certainly my hon. Friend the late Secretary—had decided upon a displacement of 12,000 tons. The next question to consider was what type of vessel would give us the most powerful iron-clad. The other night we heard an able and technical speech from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Holderness Division of the East Riding (Commander Bethell), in which he expressed his opinion that iron-clads are practically obsolete. It may be that these two vessels may be the last great iron-clads that will ever be built; but if we are to maintain our naval supremacy, I would ask my hon. and gallant Friend, and all those who think with him, whether we can maintain it at this time by opposing unarmoured to armoured vessels? Let the hon. and gallant Member go back to the origin of armour-clad vessels, and let him read the record of the performances of the Merrimac and the other earlier American iron-clads, which positively wrecked and destroyed all the wooden ships of the American Navy. We know that the guns are now far more accurate and penetrating than any artillery of that time; and I think it would be absolutely madness to abandon iron-clads unless other nations do the same. At the same time, it is our duty carefully to consider the question of expenditure. It is quite true that the cost of these two ships is very large, and that it will amount to the sum mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman; but it amounts only to £76 per ton, while in the case of the Benbow, which is far inferior, the cost per ton will be £78, and in the two ships which were laid down just before we came into Office—the Renown and the Sanspareil—the cost will be over £70 per ton. I do not think anyone will contend that either of these vessels is superior in strength to those which we have laid down. There is one point in connection with these gigantic iron-clads which we had very carefully to consider, and that was—what guns should be placed in them. I found that there was a strong opinion among almost all naval officers against the giant ordnance of modern days—that is to say, such guns as those of 110 tons. There is one great ground of objection against guns of this calibre, and that is, that not only is it more costly in accordance with its size, but owing to the large charge of powder 1209 the force of the discharge is so great that after a certain number of discharges the steel lining of the gun becomes practically worthless, and the gun has to be taken out of the ship and relined. In addition to that, the larger a gun is the longer it takes to load. Taking all these things into consideration, we thought that these iron-clads would be more effective with four 68-ton guns than they would be with two 110-ton guns. Now, Sir, the estimate which the right hon. Gentleman gave us of the number of ships which we added to the Earl of Northbrook's programme was in the main accurate. The only difference we made was to add one cruiser, two vessels of the Scout class, and three new gun vessels; and I am glad to find that the present First Lord of the Admiralty approves entirely of the type of the vessels, and intends to push on their construction. But there were certain facts brought to my knowledge, after I had been appointed to the Office which I held in the late Government, when I was first acquainted with the naval administration, and when I had less knowledge concerning the Navy—there were certain facts connected with the construction of these vessels whish made me arrive at the conclusion that the Navy ought, as soon as possible, to be strengthened by an increase in the number of smaller and swifter vessels. Now, the improvements which have recently taken place in marine engines are peculiarly advantageous for the development of the strength of the Navy in this direction; and I will allude to two or three vessels which will abundantly prove this statement. There are two vessels of almost identical tonnage—the Iris and the Mersey—the engines of which are nearly of the same power. The Iris was laid down in 1877, and the Mersey in 1883; they are almost of the same displacement; the engines of the Iris weigh 1,020 tons, and she was intended to obtain a speed of 18 knots; the engines of the Mersey were only of 548 tons weight, or about one-half the weight of the engines of the Iris, and she was estimated to attain the same speed as the Iris. And what has resulted? It is that the Mersey's engines cost £54,000, and the engines of the Iris, £132,000. Again, in the case of the Nile and the Inflexible, an equally satisfactory comparison may be made. The engines of the Inflexible weigh 1210 1,444 tons, and the engines of the Nile weigh 1,050 tons; in other words, the engines of the Nile are one-third less in weight and yet of nearly one-third greater power than those of the Inflexible. This improvement in the construction of marine engines enables the designer to place in vessels engines of greater power than was possible before, and the result of which is a high rate of speed on a small displacement; and it is quite clear that in future it will be possible for the Navy to have a number of these fast cruisers of a small displacement. These small cruisers could be made faster than any of the merchant liners, and I am strongly of opinion that it would be far wiser for the Admiralty to expend a larger sum in building these small and fast vessels than in subsidizing the Mercantile Marine, or hiring merchant vessels at a high price during a period of panic, and endeavouring to protect our marine abroad by chartering these merchant vessels at high rates. There are, I believe, only five vessels in the world which will steam 18 knots an hour, three of which belong to the Cunard Line. What seems to me the great objection to subsidizing the vessels of the Mercantile Marine is, that when you pay a retaining fee for a vessel which you suppose to be one of the fastest vessels afloat, you may have in a few years a vessel built that will steam faster; you will have prevented the owner selling his ship, and when the time comes at which he is free his ship will be of a very much reduced value. The only plan for the Admiralty appears to me to be that they should subsidize one or two Companies instead of individual vessels, and to be allowed, in virtue of such subsidy, to take such vessels as it thinks fit when it is necessary to do so for the Public Service. But, probably, other Companies and owners would strongly object to that proposal. There is another reason why I think that the Board of Admiralty will be obliged shortly to spend certain sums of money in building these small vessels. Many naval men maintain that it is necessary to keep a certain number of full-rigged vessels afloat for the purpose of training our officers and men. We arrived at the conclusion, and it is one in which I hope the present Board of the Admiralty will think we were right, that in classifying the ships of 1211 the Navy, the war vessels should be distinguished from those intended for training purposes, and we decided that all the smaller vessels should not be fully rigged, but built mainly with a view to speed, and that the training of the men should be carried on in the large corvettes. Then, Sir, we thought that, although the quality of the personnel of the Navy was good, one great source of weakness is the large number of non-combatant men which every iron-clad is obliged to carry, especially the number of stokers and engineers; and we endeavoured to counteract this by determining that the stokers should be trained in small-arm practice, so that in time of need their services would be of use. We also directed that the work of butchers and other trades on board ship should not be done by civilians, but by Marines. And we also carried out the intention which the Earl of Northbrook had announced of giving a capitation grant to Naval Volunteers, fully recognizing that if our ports are to be placed in an efficient state we must mainly rely on local effort. If that policy is adhered to, and the men attain to the efficiency required of them, I have no doubt that before many years have passed the Admiralty will consider the advisability of increasing the number of corps who may obtain the capitation grant. [Mr. HIBBERT: That is done.] I am glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that. Although we were in Office only a very short period, I had the good fortune to secure singularly able Colleagues; and if the changes which we effected, and which I am glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman opposite approves of, turn out to be beneficial, the main credit is due to them. I believe that the naval officers who are on the Board of Admiralty can safely be trusted to keep the personnel of the Navy up to the highest state of efficiency, and that it is the business of the civilian members to see that the material of the Navy is similarly maintained. The changes effected during the last 12 months may individually appear small; but I believe that in their totality they form the foundation of a policy which, if resolutely pursued and expanded as circumstances require, will, beyond all doubt, establish for us, at a 1212 moderate cost to the taxpayer, that naval supremacy on the sea which, in times of trouble and difficulty, would be so necessary to us as a self-sustained and independent nation.
§ SIR THOMAS BRASSEY (Hastings)
I desire to follow the noble Lord in congratulating the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty on the excellent statement which he made on introducing the Naval Estimates, and I wish also to congratulate the noble Lord on his speech, and upon his administration at the Admiralty during his tenure of Office as First Lord. The noble Lord, during that time, was assisted by able Colleagues, and by a body of naval officers who did their duty in a way which entitles them to the thanks of this House and the country. I will pass from that subject to say a few words on the Estimates before us. My right hon. Friend referred to the new features in the Estimates. The Appendix relating to the shipbuilding programme, gives, for the first time, a summary of the total expenditure proposed for labour, materials, and machinery on account of each ship in course of construction. I should like to urge for the consideration of the Admiralty the addition of one or two tables in future Estimates. It is highly desirable that we should have in an Appendix the total expenditure for the manning and maintenance of every ship in commission, whether at home or on foreign stations. These statistics are supplied in the French Estimates. We have, under the present system, no such information available for easy reference, and there ought to be no difficulty in furnishing it. The French Estimates give in an Appendix the total cost in separate colums of the hull, machinery, equipment, and armament of every completed ship in the French Navy. That information is brought together for the use of the Admiralty in their Blue List of ships, and I would suggest that the principal figures, under the headings I have mentioned, should be presented to Parliament together with the Estimates. I now pass to a subject more important than the forms in which the Naval Estimates are presented to the House. The essential we have to consider in Parliament is whether the Estimates make sufficient provision for 1213 the Navy. For manning the Navy, we are in a fairly satisfactory position. There can be no question as to the high efficiency of the personnel of the Naval Service; but we want a reserve of lieutenants, and a considerable reserve in the engine-room complement. I am glad that a capitation grant is to be given to the Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers. That is a boon which we owe to the administration of the noble Lord opposite. The late Board of Admiralty, doubtless, acted upon the advice of that able officer, Admiral Hamilton, who was appointed by the Earl of Northbrook to deal with the preliminary arrangements for Coast defence when we were under the apprehension of a war with Russia. As regards the numbers of the Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers, I apprehend that no decision has yet been taken. I am glad to notice in the Public Press that the formation of a new brigade has been sanctioned on the Clyde. A new brigade should be established for service on the East Coast. I now turn to the question of ships. While I should have been glad if the additions to the Estimates which the noble Lord has recommended could have been made, the Estimates on the present liberal scale ought to place this country in a commanding position. The question is, do we, or do we not, get the best results for our vast expenditure? That is a question of the gravest importance from a political, naval, and administrative point of view, and I will endeavour to supply an answer. There is, doubtless, much room for improvement; but in justice to the officials concerned, and whose good name is at stake, I would ask that a comparison should be fairly made between the results obtained in this country and the results obtained elsewhere. I will deal first with the designs for our ships. On one point opinion is unanimous—high rate of speed is necessary in the construction of ships of war. In the case of armoured battle ships we raised the speed to nearly 17 knots. The armoured cruisers Warspite and Impérieuse steam 17˙2 knots—a knot more than was promised. Let the Committee compare these figures with those obtained by the latest French ships, and it will be seen that the Vauban, the last iron-clad which has been tried, ob- 1214 tained a speed of 14.3 knots. In unarmoured construction a great improvement has been accomplished. The small gunboats, justly described in France by the term poussière navale, have been swept out of our programme, and fast and effective vessels have taken their place. The change does credit to our administration. Passing from the designing of ships to the practical question of construction — the public has been impatient at the delay in the completion of ships. Those delays have been caused not through maladministration in the Dockyards; they are the result of the difficulty of settling many complicated details of armament during a period of transition. Taking the iron-clads included in the French programme of construction for 1886, a comparison of the dates of the commencement of the ships and their present state of advancement, will show that the time occupied in building in England is a little more than half of the time occupied in the French Dockyards. If we make a similar comparison with reference to cost, while we acknowledge that our original Estimates have been exceeded, the excesses are not so formidable as in France and Italy. A Report on this subject was presented by the Committee of the French Chambers on the Estimates of 1882, and it was stated in that Report that the programme of construction adopted in 1882, and originally estimated to cost £16,000,000 sterling, would probably involve an expenditure of £40,000,000. Again, in Italy, the 10 years' programme of building for the period from 1877 to 1887 was originally estimated to cost £5,840,000, and in 1882 the excess over the original Estimates had already reached the formidable sum of £2,000,000 sterling. A similar comparison as to repairs will give results decidedly in favour of English administration. Statistics on this question form a prominent part of the Report of the Committee to the French Chambers in 1879. I will not trespass on the patience of the Committee by reading the details of the subject. I proceed to refer to certain reforms, which, in my judgment, are very much needed. I have alluded to the Committee of Inquiry appointed by the late Government with reference 1215 to Admiralty administration; their recommendations were referred to a Departmental Committee of which, the Financial Secretary of the late Board was Chairman. The deliberations of that Committee have resulted in an extensive plan of reorganization. Dealing first with, the Department of the Accountant General, I observe, with satisfaction, that it is not proposed to appoint a new permanent official to whom the Accountant General would be subordinate. That would have been distinctly a retograde step. What was wanted was to strengthen the responsibility of the Accountant General, and to secure a more strict recognition of the authority of that officer.
The hon. Gentleman is not entitled to refer, unless in a general way, to the organization of the Admiralty Department on this Vote. It would be improper to enter into detail. The hon. Gentleman can deal with that subject on Vote 3 and Vote 6.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON (Middlesex, Ealing)
Upon the point of Order, Sir, may I ask whether it has not been the practice to discuss all questions on the first Estimate?
§ SIR JOHN GORST (Chatham)
The statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty was, necessarily, a perfectly general one. He referred to the Dockyard management under the late Administration, which he very highly approves; but there was something said by the right hon. Gentleman to which I take extremely strong objection, and if the words of the Secretary to the Admiralty are to go to the country, and if we have to wait until Vote 6 is reached for an opportunity of contradicting his statement, we shall have to wait until the month of July or August.
§ MR. RITCHIE (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
Sir, I believe it has always been the custom to discuss the policy of the Admiralty on the first Vote, and I venture to suggest that the changes to which the hon. Member for Hastings (Sir Thomas Brassey) was about to refer in connection with the administration of the Admiralty, as also the changes introduced in the Dockyard Department, is distinctly a matter of policy, and one of a most important and far-reaching character, and having been entered upon by the Financial Secretary to the Ad- 1216 miralty, I submit that it would be hardly correct to prevent discussion.
I understood the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty, as has been remarked by the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Sir John Gorst), to enter in a very general way into the question of reorganization in respect of the Admiralty and Dockyards, and it would, no doubt, be perfectly in Order for an hon. Member to enter into the question in the same general way. But to enter into detail would be improper, inasmuch as there are two Votes not yet reached to which the questions relate. The noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton) asks me whether it is not the practice to discuss any question relating to the Admiralty on this Vote? I reply that it is right to discuss on this Vote all questions in connection with the Navy in a general way, but it would be a breach of Rule to enter into a specific question to which the Vote does not refer.
§ MR. RITCHIE (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
Am I to understand, Mr. Courtney, that we shall be precluded from commenting upon reductions that have been made in the Votes which are now submitted, but which are subsequent to the one which is now before the Committee? Let us take, for instance, the Stores Vote. If it should be considered that a reduction has been made in that Vote, and that, in consequence, stores have been largely or are likely to be largely reduced, is that not one point which we may now fairly comment upon?
§ SIR THOMAS BRASSEY (Hastings)
I bow, Sir, to your ruling, and will not enter any further into details with reference to the Report of the Committee to which I was referring. I may, however, say that the opening statement of the Representative of the Admiralty has generally been the occasion for a wide discussion; and it is extremely difficult, as you, Sir, recognize, to discriminate between what are observations on points of detail and what are observations of a general character. The office of Accountant General is undoubtedly one of great and general importance, and it is scarcely possible to say that any matters affecting the position of Accountant General in refer- 1217 ence to the administration of the Navy are matters of detail, or belong to any particular Vote. I will proceed to make two suggestions to my right hon. Friend (Mr. Hibbert), as the Representative of the Admiralty, with reference to economies in matters of expenditure, which depend upon the direct action of my right hon. Friend and his Colleagues. I particularly desire to call attention to the wisdom of resisting, and stoutly resisting, any proposals for costly alterations of ships upon which you do not reckon as effective vessels of war. As you look over the accounts of the past year you find that these expenditures have absorbed far too large a proportion of the resources placed at the disposal of the Admiralty. I also suggest, as another means to economy, that receiving ships and hulks which are not essentially required should gradually be replaced by permanent buildings. I ask my right hon. Friend (Mr. Hibbert) is it necessary to maintain as receiving ships such vessels as the Urgent at Port Royal, and the Revenge at Queenstown? How many ships have been commissioned and paid off, either at Jamaica or Queenstown, in recent years, and to what useful purpose is the crew maintained on board the Urgent, exposed, as they are, to be decimated by yellow fever? The Urgent and the Revenge are specimens of a large class which I think would disappear by a wise naval administration. Before I sit down I should like to refer to another question which I take to be of general importance, and as to which I placed a Notice on the Paper; but I should have been very sorry to interpose between the House and the statement which we expected to have been made to us on Monday last. It is in reference to the foreign squadrons. This subject was touched upon by the noble Lord the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton), and with what he said I most cordially concur. The complaint which I wish to make with reference to our foreign squadrons is this—that we are spending a very large sum of money upon the maintenance of these squadrons, and that, constituted as they are now, they are quite incapable of affording sufficient protection for our commerce in the event of war. It is said that these squadrons are valuable for training; but I think that the training which is re- 1218 quired for the Navy could be given to our officers and men in a better way. The change which I desire to recommend is the gradual substitution of a less number of vessels of greater individual power for ineffective gun vessels and gunboats. In addition, it is essential to have the means of more effectively reinforcing our squadrons in an emergency; and for this purpose I suggest that a powerful Reserve Squadron should be formed of our fastest steam cruisers, and kept always in commission. They should be partly manned; they should be exercised at sea, and form part of our Evolutionary Squadron, which I hope will be formed every year. The organization of the Reserve Squadron of cruisers should, in my judgment, resemble generally that of the First Reserve Squadron. In addition to the Reserve Squadron of cruisers, it is most desirable for the efficiency of the Navy that a certain number of ships should be kept together of a class which can cruise under sail. It is satisfactory to know that we have one such squadron at sea under the command of Commodore Fitzroy. I was glad to hear of the satisfactory Report from Commodore Fitzroy. I hope that this Atlantic Squadron will be a permanent institution of the Navy. It should, from time to time, visit the Cape, the South-East Coast of America, and the North American Stations. It should return home once in every six months to give to the men who have had their turn at sea a spell in harbour, and an opportunity of receiving instruction in gunnery, and to clear out the ordinary seamen who are waiting in our receiving ships. Another Flying Squadron should be organized for cruising in more distant waters. A voyage to the Antipodes can easily be performed in 18 months, and no training squadron should be kept away from the home ports for a longer period. I claim for the plan which I recommend that the occasional visits of a powerful squadron to foreign waters exercise a greater political influence than the constant presence of the small vessels on which the Flag of England is usually carried in foreign waters. I believe that the establishment of these training squadrons would be of great advantage for the training of the Navy. The changes which I desire to see introduced should be made gradually; and I hope that this very important subject of the strength 1219 of our foreign squadrons may be considered by a Committee upon which the Admiralty, the Foreign Office, and the Colonial Office will be represented. It only remains for me to thank the Committee for the patient attention they have given me.
§ SIR JOHN GORST (Chatham)
I hope the Committee will forgive me if I venture to give to the discussion this evening a somewhat more critical turn than it has yet taken, because there are Members, such as myself, whose duty to their constituents obliges them to appear in the House rather as critics than as praisers of the administration of the Admiralty. I can, however, agree with former speakers in one respect, and that is in congratulating the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Hibbert) on his recovery from his recent indisposition, and on his being able to appear before us and give us the extremely lucid and interesting statement he has made to-night. But when I say the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty I at once come to my first grievance. Why the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty? It does seem to me a most extraordinary thing that whenever certain Gentlemen who profess to be most desirous to bring questions of the Navy under the direct control of the House of Commons happen to be in Office we invariably have the affairs of the Navy intrusted, not to a Gentleman who sits here, and who is responsible to us, but to some Nobleman sitting "elsewhere." We cannot get at the First Lord of the Admiralty; many of us do not even know him by sight. We cannot question him, for he is entirely and absolutely beyond our control and reach. It is not for want of Gentlemen in this House competent to hold the Office that this peculiar arrangement always takes place. In the last Parliament we had a succession of Gentlemen—Predecessors of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hibbert)—one almost exceeding the other in his ability to administer the affairs of the Navy. I am quite sure I speak the unanimous opinion of the Committee to-night when I say we should hail with satisfaction the appointment of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hibbert) as First Lord of the Admiralty—for as First Lord of the Admiralty he would be much more in his place in this House, conducting the 1220 Business of the Navy, than he is when he only occupies the Office of Financial Secretary. Now, Mr. Courtney, I should have liked to go to-night in some detail into the subject of the re-organization of the Dockyards and the Reports of the various Committees which have been alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hibbert); but, of course, in obedience to your ruling, I shall only make now the most general statements on the subject; but I give Notice that those general statements which I shall make I am perfectly ready to support by testimony, and by detailed argument, so soon as it shall please Her Majesty's Government to allow us to discuss Vote 6, the Dockyard Vote. I think you will not consider me out of Order if I parenthetically make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hibbert) to allow the Dockyard Vote to be presented to the Committee of Supply and to be discussed this year at a somewhat earlier period than the end of July or the beginning of August, which is usually the date, because there is this burning question upon which many Members of the House are so desirous of expressing their opinion. It has been very justly represented—I think by the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) or the late Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Ritchie)—that the institution of this Committee, and the alterations which have been made in consequence of the findings of the Committee in the management of the Dockyards, is a question of vital importance in the administration of our Navy. I am persuaded the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hibbert) and his Colleagues will see the propriety of giving Parliament a proper opportunity for the discussion of the Vote. I know the right hon. Gentleman himself cannot dispose of the time of the House; but I hope he will represent to those who can that there is a great question of policy involved in this matter which deserves to be seriously discussed by the House. Well, now, as I said, I will be perfectly general. May I begin by saying I utterly and totally deny that the evidence adduced before the Committee proved anything like a general amount of idleness and waste in the Royal Dockyards. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hibbert), with that kindness and courtesy which always distinguishes his speeches, was good enough to say that he could not 1221 believe it was general. I am sure that the men who are employed in our Dockyards will thank the right hon. Member for the kindness with which he spoke of them. I will not enter into detail now; but when I do enter into detail I shall show that the Committee made a most sweeping and unfounded charge, which they are utterly unable to support by any evidence whatever—a charge not against an isolated person here and there, but against the whole of the workmen in the Dockyards as a class. When the proper time comes I will undertake to refute the accusation. But I want to say something more than this concerning the Report of the Committee. The evidence adduced before the Committee showed most distinctly that there was an enormous amount of waste of public money by reason of the extremely injudicious and bad organization established at the headquarters of the Admiralty in Whitehall. Why is it—and this is a perfectly general observation to make—that ships built in the Dockyards cost so much more than ships built by private contractors? When we were going into Committee of Supply we had it stated—and it was not contradicted—that the Admiralty are perpetually making alterations, and that those who are charged with the construction of the ships have to wait for the plans, have to wait for the details of the propelling machinery, and have to wait for the gun fittings; at every turn of the business they are waiting. While they are waiting for orders and instructions necessarily the men are kept idle, and they are thereby, as I believe the Committee says, demoralized. Well, but that is not all. The cheeseparing instincts of the Board of Admiralty, I suppose enhanced by the strictness of the Treasury control, is such that it has been notorious for years past that no adequate stores have been kept in the Dockyards for the purpose of building ships; and when the time comes that I can, without breach of Order, enter into detail, I will undertake to amuse the Committee of Supply by giving them the detailed account, supplied by the Chief Constructor at the Chatham Dockyard, of how the men employed in shipbuilding are kept idle while persons are running all over the town to get ten-penny nails or screws which are not kept in stock, and for the want of which the progress of the ships can no longer 1222 proceed. And further, when the time comes, I will attack the expedient, which the Admiralty seems to have devised, of sending to the Dockyards what are called civil assistants. A civil assistant is a superior kind of policeman. He has no authority, but appears to spend his time in prowling about the Dockyards trying to find somebody he can bring before the authorities for some misconduct or other. I have got very near the verge of being out of Order; but when I can enter into minute particulars I will undertake to make good all the general and sweeping observations which I have submitted to the Committee. Well, now, turning again to the statements of the right hon Gentleman (Mr. Hibbert), I must say I was rather amused at the way in which he claimed that the Admiralty had laid down principles which had not been observed. It never seemed to occur to the Admiralty that it is themselves who are the persons who do not act in accordance with the principles laid down. I heard the right hon. Gentleman expatiating upon the advantage of a rapid system of shipbuilding. Well, but everybody admits it. I never met anybody in this Committee, or out-of-doors, who had any doubt whatever that the most economical course was to build a ship of war as fast as it could be built. But why are our ships not built rapidly? It is the fault of the Admiralty themselves. They do not need to come down to the Committee of Supply and lecture us upon the necessity of rapid shipbuilding. Let the right hon. Gentleman call his Board together at Whitehall and lecture them upon the advantages of speedy shipbuilding. He will find no dissentient in the Committee of Supply. Well, then, another thing that the right hon. Gentleman lectured the Committee upon was on what he called blowing hot and cold. But who blows hot and cold? We blow hot sometimes. Since I have had the honour of a seat in this House—at least, since I have represented a Dockyard constituency—I do not know that I have ever allowed an occasion, when the House was in Supply on the Navy Estimates, to pass without blowing as hot as I could; and it has been to me an unfeigned source of satisfaction that in this new House of Commons there is a large number of gallant officers connected with the Navy 1223 who have been able to come to the House and tell the truth at first-hand, to make statements on their own authority and own personal knowledge, which I and others were, in past years, obliged to make at second-hand, and, of course, with less weight in the House. I never heard anybody, except the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) and the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), blow cold. They are not here now; but I have no doubt that one or both will come in later in the evening, and give us the speech which they have made over and over again during the past 15 years. With the exception of these two hon. Members, I do not know that any great pressure—at least during the last 15 years—has ever been put on the Board of Admiralty by this Committee of Supply to reduce their Estimates below that point at which the Navy could be properly sustained. The cold blast which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hibbert) appears to find fault with has come either from his own Colleagues at the Admiralty, or from that other Department of State whose duty it is to blow cold—namely, the Treasury, the Representative of which (Sir Edward J. Reed) I now see sitting on the Government Bench. Well, let the right hon. Member (Mr. Hibbert) either find fault with his own Colleagues, and beg them no longer to blow cold, or let him accept the pressure of the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed), and beg that the Treasury will no longer cut down the Naval Estimates to such a point that the Navy cannot be kept in an efficient state. Furthermore, the right hon. Member (Mr. Hibbert) told us he thought the Admiralty were not open to any complaint about torpedo boats and torpedoes. That was a very audacious statement to make, accompanied, as it was, by another statement of how little had been done, how much remained to be done, and how much they were going to do. A Department of the State which comes to the House of Commons and tells us that they have sent such a miserable pittance of torpedoes to Colonial and foreign stations that they mean to send double the number as soon as they can scrape them together ought not to be surprised if some fault is found with it. But, whether or not the House of Commons is in a position to make complaint against the 1224 Government in respect to torpedoes, and with regard to guns, the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) made the other night, and repeated it to-night, a charge against the administration of the present Government which ought to be treated with a good deal of seriousness. The noble Lord said—and no one ought to know better than he—that when you have built your ships and spent vast sums of money upon them, you find that you have not got sufficient guns and ammunition for the vessels. We have nothing at present but the bare statement of the noble Lord. I thought the other night that the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. H. H. Fowler) was going to give us some details on the subject, and going to show us that the statement was incorrect, and that there was sufficiency of guns and ammunition. It turns out that the War Office have not only failed to supply sufficient guns, but have also failed to supply sufficient ammunition; and the hon. Member could not give the House the information which he obviously intended at the time to give. Now, Mr. Courtney, I cannot say anything more upon the general subject; but I must ask a few questions of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Hibbert) upon details which are germane to this Vote. I have only one or two to ask, and therefore I need not apologize for interpolating them into a general address, because it will save the Committee from being troubled with them subsequently. I want to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty whether any steps have been, or are being, taken to redress the grievances of the warrant officers? The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Captain Verney) has, by the means of Questions, called attention to this matter. It is a fact that the warrant officers in the Navy who obtain commissions do not number more than one in 1,000; whereas in the Army the promotions from the ranks number as many as four in 1,000, so that in the Army there are four times as many promotions from the ranks as there are in the Navy. And, then, why a man in the Army who is fortunate enough to obtain a commission from the ranks should be placed in a position vastly superior to that of a man so promoted in the Navy I cannot understand. It is not only as regards 1225 pay and pension, but also as regards pensions to their widows, that the men in the Army get more than corresponding men in the Navy. There is another class of men—namely, the engine-room artificers, in respect to whom I want some information. Their case has been frequently before the Admiralty. I feel great interest in the engine-room artificers. About 10 years ago I several times brought their case before the House of Commons, and I was fortunate enough to induce the Admiralty to make very great changes in the amelioration of their position. Unfortunately, the thing has only been half done, and there are, as the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed) knows, applications continually being made to put the engine-room artificer in that position on board a man-of-war which he ought to occupy. In these days, when men-of-war are very costly instruments, fitted up with costly machinery, every part of which is liable to get out of order, we ought to have the very pick of engine-room artificers. It is the worst economy in the world to employ anything but the very best labour; but we cannot get good men unless we pay them well, and give them that position on board ship which they ought to occupy. Another class whose condition requires improvement is the engine-room stokers. These men have fallen between two stools, because in 1880, when the seamen had their pay increased on engaging for service a second time, the stokers were left out; and then, when the first-class petty officers had their position revised, they were again left out of the calculation. I am quite sure that if their position were improved, many of the men would be found to remain in the Service instead of quitting it. I hope that when the time comes the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hibbert) will be good enough to answer the few questions I have put to him.
§ THE CIVIL LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. R. W. DUFF) (Banffshire)
I hope to be able to remove a misapprehension which seems to exist in the mind of the noble Lord the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) in regard to guns. I stated on Monday evening that we have guns for all ships now ready for sea, and that by the time the ships now building are fit for commission we shall have guns for all of 1226 them. I stated that most distinctly, and also that we would prepare a Return showing the dates at which the guns would be delivered. I did not bring down that Return to-night, because the Return which was asked for by the hon. Member for Lincoln is now being prepared for us. The noble Lord has returned to the charge, and accuses us of neglect in the Ordnance Department. Well, I have conferred with the Director of Naval Ordnance (Admiral Hopkins), and he has assured me that the guns will be ready for the ships when they are required; and I may add that it is intended to take the sum of £46,000 in the Army Estimates this year for ammunition for guns already ordered. I may point out that the expenditure sanctioned by the War Office for naval ordnance this year is, perhaps, the largest we have ever had on the Estimates, being £1,000,000—£850,000, and £150,000 out of the Vote of Credit. This does not include a sum £200,000 for gunpowder and gun-cotton. I therefore think that when we have taken these sums we shall be able to supply the deficiencies which have been alluded to by the noble Lord. I may mention that the normal expenditure, until the year 1884, was £500,000. Last year it was £850,000, and this year it will be £1,000,000. I should also like to advert to what has fallen from the noble Lord the late First Lord of the Admiralty in regard to hiring a fleet of merchant vessels. There is no doubt we were last year urged, in many quarters of the House, to employ these ships; but it was never intended that they should fight men-of-war. It was rather intended that with their great speed they should be able to escape from men-of-war. I quite agree with the noble Lord that if we are to give a premium to these vessels it should be for speed rather than for any other quality. It would be no use hiring vessels which could be captured by fast men-of-war; but, on the other hand, we have a certain number of merchant vessels whose speed is so great that no man-of-war could overtake them, and the view of the Admiralty is that the subsidy should be given for speed rather than anything else. Then the noble Lord also alluded to the Royal Naval Volunteers, and I may remind him that we are now establishing depôts for these Volunteers. My hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Sir 1227 Thomas Brassey) suggests that instead of the vessels we have on foreign stations, we ought to have—I am not certain whether he said two or three—Plying Squadrons. [Sir THOMAS BRASSEY: Two.] I cannot agree with my hon. Friend's observations on that subject. I should be sorry to see all the advantages which we derive from the present system given up—both as respects training of men and officers and protection to commerce. My hon. Friend has suggested that we should have a Committee to inquire as to what vessels are required on foreign stations.
§ SIR THOMAS BRASSEY (Hastings)
I do not desire to see vessels withdrawn which are capable of giving protection to commerce.
§ MR. R. W. DUFF
We have, at the present moment, on foreign stations 99 vessels. There was a Committee appointed by the Admiralty some years ago, consisting of representatives of the Admiralty, the Colonial Office, and the Foreign Office; and they recommended that there should be on foreign stations 83 vessels and 15 gunboats for the protection of British commerce and British subjects abroad. At present we have, as I say, 99, and after the inquiry instituted I do not think we can do with a less number. A Consul, I know, is always glad to get a gunboat, but we cannot always give him one. No doubt these boats are useful to Consuls. Everyone who has served abroad knows what services gunboats can render to British interests abroad. As to the remarks which have been made in reference to the warrant officers, they will be replied to by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Hibbert); and lam not going now into the question of Dockyards. I will defer any observations I may have to make with regard to them until we come to the Vote itself—Vote 6. When I saw the Notice on the Paper dealing with this matter, I could not help asking myself whether it would have been put there by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir John Gorst) if there had not been a change of Government. The question of the Dockyards has been fully discussed in the House. All I can say, speaking generally, is that the present Board of Admiralty approve of the reforms in the Dockyards carried out by the late Board. There are some details that probably 1228 may be capable of improvement. There is not, I think, that preciseness in the instructions given in the Controller's Department and the Department of the Constructor of the Navy that there should be. But these are matters which I do not want to criticize too minutely; and I may say that, generally, I entirely concur in the reforms carried out by the late Board. There is only one other subject to which I would allude, and it is the appreciation which the Viceroy of India has expressed of the services rendered by the officers and men of the Navy who took part in the Burmah Expedition. I think it only right and due to the Service that this recognition should be publicly acknowledged.
§ MR. JACKS (, &c.) Leith
I listened with the greatest pleasure to the speeches of the two right hon. Gentlemen who introduced this debate, and was particularly impressed with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Hibbert) when he said he was perfectly satisfied that the country desires that our Navy should be in an efficient state, but that there was another point on which they also wished to be satisfied—namely, that they were getting value for their money. We who have just come from feeling the strong pulsations of the national mind, and who are not in official life, can bear testimony to the soundness of that statement. There is a profound belief in the minds of the people of the country that they were not getting value for the money they were expending on the Navy. The only way of arriving at the truth in this matter is by instituting comparisons, as the hon. Gentleman sitting near me (Sir Thomas Brassey) has done. The hon. Gentleman compared the expenditure on our war ships—or rather, he said, by inadvertence I presume, the expenditure on "English" war ships, though as the swiftest and best war ships are not built in England at all, but on the Clyde, I suppose he means the British war ships—with the expenditure on the war ships of France. The comparison, however, does not quite hold, because the hon. Gentleman must know as well as I do—and there are Gentlemen in this House who are intimately acquainted with the arrangements of the Foreign Dockyards who will bear me out—that it is impossible to get at the correct cost of a foreign war 1229 ship, because so much of the material and armament is supplied by subsidized works, that the true cost never appears on the official Papers. I think my hon. Friend will bear me out in that. [Sir THOMAS BRASSEY: Quite correct.] But there is a comparison we ought to institute which will at once settle the question in this House and in the minds of the people. We should institute a correct comparison between the cost of ships built and of repairs executed in Her Majesty's Dockyards, and the cost of ships built and repaired in the private Dockyards throughout the Kingdom. I took the trouble to analyze the Returns which have been made on this subject. I will not trouble the Committee with many figures; but I will take the liberty of quoting two or three, in order to let the Committee see precisely what is their value. In the year 1872 there were 6,000 tons built, and the average cost per ton weight in Her Majesty's Dockyards was £49 and a small decimal. The same year, fortunately, about the same amount of tonnage was built by contract in the private Dockyards, and the cost was £37 decimal 50, as compared with £49. Now, I come to the next year, and we find the figures precisely reversed—£36 per ton weight in Her Majesty's Dockyards, as compared with £60 per ton in the private yards. We go on a few years, and the absurdity is always getting greater, until there is a small print put in which explains that the cost in Her Majesty's Dockyards is expenditure in wages only, as compared in the private Dockyards with both material and wages. Now, I ask any hon. Gentleman in this House who has had any experience in controlling and guiding large manufacturing establishments whether these Returns are of any value whatever; and whether they are not as useless, for all practical purposes, as if they were hidden in the deepest hieroglyphic obscurity? I would ask any hon. Member whether, if he were managing a large private establishment, he would waste three minutes of his time in looking at such Papers. What is the comparison we require? The only comparison we require is one which I am sure the hon. Member for Grovan (Mr. Pearce), if he were here, would say is carried out in the yard with which he is identified. Any other hon. Member 1230 connected with a Dockyard will say, I am sure, that the system to which I allude is carried out there—that is to say, having a simple form showing the cost of the ship for plates, angles and bar iron, woodwork and fittings; and then another line showing the expenditure in wages. That should be carried through with a small note at the end, where there is any difference in regard, for instance, to class of ship and of fitting. Let such a table be made out both in Her Majesty's Dockyards and the private Dockyards, and then we shall know where we are. We shall know what the cost is, and we shall know precisely how the money has been expended. We shall know more. We shall know what a certain ship will cost by simply taking into account the difference in the price of iron at the date when her prototype was built. And we shall even have a guide in this matter when we propose to have another class of ship. What is the reason we have not had these Tables or Returns? It is to be found in the Report which was only put into my hands a few minutes before the meeting of the Committee. I do not want to fall into the error for which the heathen of old were so justly condemned—a condemnation which may apply much nearer home than Galilee—of indulging in vain repetitions, and of expecting to be heard through much speaking; but I will ask any hon. Gentleman who has referred to this Report whether the whole burden of its story is not utter want of organization and management? The Report itself says there is this, that, and the other; but its own fatal words are—Of management there is none." "Have you any check?" "No." "Have you any on wages?" "No." "On materials?" "No." "Do you check the stores?" "No." "There is no real audit of labour or store expenditure.—and so on.
§ MR. JACKS
I thought it my duty to call attention to this particular point. I would urge on those who are responsible for these things to try to give us such a comparison as would be of practical use. I myself, like every Member of the Committee, have received lots of Returns, and I am sure that a great part 1231 of them are of no use whatever—fully 25 per cent are useless because they have no regularity or business-like precision. I never saw a more glaring instance of this than is to be found in these Returns, which are supposed to be authoritative, as to the cost of shipbuilding in Her Majesty's Dockyards and in private Dockyards. I will not go further than to refer to just one other point on which a declaration came from the hon. Member near me (Sir Thomas Brassey), and, of course, came from such a quarter with considerable weight. For I cannot sit down without mentioning the great desirability of increasing our Naval Reserves. Hon. Gentlemen who, like myself, are acquainted with seaport towns, and have been so all their lives, know very well that amongst the great fishing community we have the most splendid sailors, and, more than that, men of daring and of the highest courage that the world offers; and yet 80 per cent of these are quite unutilized. In them we have a power of which any country might be proud, and here we are letting it die away unutilized. I hope Her Majesty's Government will try to utilize this part of our national strength.
§ MR. PULESTON (Devonport)
I had an idea, like the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir John Gorst) who spoke from this side of the House some time ago, and other hon. Members, that we were to have something like a general discussion on this Vote. I am sorry that it is not so. If I went into all these questions of Dockyard management I should be ruled out of Order; and yet one considers himself not only entitled, but feels it a duty, to reply to so many remarks which have been made on the subject. However, under the impression that we shall be able to go into these matters some other time, I shall content myself with referring to some remarks already made by the Secretary to the Admiralty and others who have preceded me in the debate so far. I must, and not as a formal thing, join other hon. Members on both sides in congratulating the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hibbert) on the very plain and straightforward speech with which he has honoured us. I am glad that he has his materials so well in hand; and I must say, taking into consideration the fact which he remarked on himself that he has been so short a time at the helm, so to speak, that he has shown 1232 himself thoroughly capable of managing his craft. I regret that he is not here as First Lord. I thought that some time ago we had settled the point that it was most desirable that the First Lord should be in this House. However, when next the right hon. Gentleman addresses the House I hope he will do so in that capacity. He will then speak to us with more authority. He told us he addressed us in the double capacity of economist and Secretary to the Admiralty. I hope, too—for it is an important consideration—that he addressed us, to some extent, in his old capacity of Secretary to the Treasury. I think the difficulties we have had to face in these matters we are too often apt, in this House and elsewhere, to attribute to the Treasury. The right hon. Gentleman, who was pretty well grounded in his position at the Treasury, will be able to draw on his experience in that Department, and will be able to smooth over and manage more effectively the business of the Office he now holds through his late connection with the Treasury. I am glad he has had the courage to throw overboard, in a very direct and emphatic manner, the late First Lord of the Admiralty (the Earl of Northbrook). It is true, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that the Earl of Northbrook was five or six years building ships, and that the work could be done far more economically, and in a manner that would minister far more to the interests of the country, if no more than three years were occupied in construction. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having evinced so much courage, and on having been able so boldly, properly, and righteously to condemn the policy of the noble Earl who formerly held the position of Head of the Admiralty. With regard to the noble Earl of whom I speak, I am glad that, so far as the Admiralty is concerned, he has not re-occupied the position he held some time ago, and which deprived any of us humble Members who sit on this side of the House and who represent the Dockyards of the advantage of approaching him when we deemed it desirable. I think we have advanced a great deal of late. We have arrived, on both sides of the House, at a knowledge of the fact that whoever controls the Admiralty it is necessary to concede that vessels of war must be rapidly constructed. The 1233 excellent speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. Jacks) bore upon this subject. I appreciate every word the hon. Gentleman has uttered, and I congratulate him on having made his statement in such a straightforward manner. He has heaped no abuse upon the Dockyards, and I am glad to see an hon. Member on his side of the House take up such a position as that he has assumed. Unfortunately, we regularly hear the Dockyards attacked from the opposite Benches. The Dockyards are denounced; they are to be abolished, and I know not what. That is the policy that has been pretty generally advocated on the other side; and hon. Gentlemen who doubt it have only to refer to the pages of Hansard. I hope the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth (Sir William Crossman) is not going to run away because I mention this. I am sure he will strengthen his Party in the matter. There has been lavish expenditure on shipbuilding in Her Majesty's Dockyards, it is true; but it has not been the fault of the Dockyard Service or of the management locally. It has been the fault of the Admiralty. When the Admiralty have a ship to build, and they give it out by contract, they agree to its being constructed in the ordinary business manner; but when they build a ship in a Royal Dockyard, they cut it in pieces, alter its construction, and instead of completing it in a year, or two years, as the case may be, as it would be completed in a private Yard, they take four or five years to do the work. When a ship comes out of one of the Royal Dock-yards, it is an entirely different vessel to the vessel originally proposed. There is hardly a vestige of the original remaining. However startling these figures which have been referred to may be, you will find that they in no way tell against the Dockyard management. They tell against the way the Admiralty manage the Dockyards; but as for alleging the Dockyards to be full of idlers, as the right hon. Gentleman did, those of us who know anything about these places are able to refute the assertion.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. HIBBERT) (Oldham)
I did not make an attack upon the Dockyards per se. I merely wished to show that it was more expensive to spread the construction of ships over a number 1234 of years than to have them completed in a short time. I did not refer to the Dockyards.
§ MR. PULESTON (Devonport)
I thank the right hon. Member for that explanation. It elucidates an important point, and I feel sure that after his experience at the Admiralty he does not think the charges made against the Dockyards are properly made. Of course, there are idlers there, as there are everywhere; but to charge a whole body of public servants like those of the Royal Dockyards with indulging in idleness is simply ridiculous. No one knows more about the efficiency of our Dockyards than the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed), and the loyalty with which the men work there—and that for less wages than in the private yards. He, I think, will gladly state to the Committee his high appreciation of the employés in the Dockyards. I trust we shall not lose any of the independence of criticism we used to get from the hon. Member now that he sits on the Treasury Bench; but, however that is, no one in the House, I am sure, is more conscientious, or more thoroughly acquainted, and no one is more entitled to respect, than the hon. Member for Cardiff. There is another very important question involved in this matter of building by contract and building in the Yards. Whilst I maintain that a ship can be built as cheaply, and, it goes without saying, as well in the Dockyards as in any private Yard, and ought to be, I think if the Reports were properly investigated and the right figures put in the right places, and so on, I think you will find that there is not the discrepancy the right hon. Gentleman refers to. But suppose it did cost a little more, which I deny—suppose it were a trifle more expensive to build in the Dockyards than the private Yards, it is still our duty to keep up the former for use when cases of emergency occur. We have had panics. We had one last year. Some years ago, at the time of the Russian War, we wanted one or two large vessels built rapidly, and we put them out by contract. The men struck work, and we had to send the Devonport men from their own Yards to help the private shipbuilders to fulfil their contracts. That was done at very great cost and at very great inconvenience. The hon. Gentleman the Member 1235 for Leith (Mr. Jacks) particularly will recognize the fact that we may purchase economy in shipbuilding at too dear a price. We have to run the risk of the Dockyards being inefficient, and they must be inefficient, and cannot be useful in times of emergency, if they are not always kept up at full work. It is because the Dockyards had not, for some time previously, been kept at their full complement that we are put to great strain and enormous outlay at the times of panics, such as frequently occur, and such as we had last year. At such times millions are thrown away, which would be much better and more effectively expended in our own Dockyards in times of peace and quietness. What do we see now? Why, that only last year there was the most wasteful extravagance. Millions of money were thrown away in buying ships here, there, and everywhere in the most reckless manner. All this is not ancient history: it is only the history of a year ago. It is useless to discuss here the question of 1 or 2 per cent difference in the construction of one ship here and another there when we take into consideration the cent per cent and the many cents per cent which were thrown away in buying ships upon an emergency like that of 12 months ago. While this question of the efficiency of the Navy is a burning question, while everybody, I believe, except a few hon. Members who sit below the Gangway opposite, but who do not represent, I undertake to say, anything like a prevailing opinion in the country, recognizes the great importance of having an efficient Navy, and while, besides, at the present time there is the greatest possible depression, what do we find at Devonport? Why, men discharged by wholesale—400 men discharged at one fell swoop. I thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Hibbert) and my hon. Friend the Civil Lord (Mr. R. W. Duff) for the interest they have taken in this subject. They have certainly minimized the evil which was likely to arise from the discharging of men by reducing the number to be immediately discharged; but such a thing has never been known in the Dockyards of discharging so many men at one time. I quite appreciate the fact that the authorities of the Dockyards were within their right in discharging the men; having completed a certain 1236 job, the men engaged to work upon it were discharged. At the same time, some consideration should be had to the time and place. The Chairman shakes his head, and therefore I am afraid I am going too minutely into Dockyard matters. I regret that the Navy Estimates and other Estimates are not discussed day by day until they are disposed of. If they were we should save an immense amount of time, because when we come to discuss Dockyard matters again all that we have said to-day will be ancient history. Hon. Members will return fresh to the charge, and the probability is that much that has now been said will be repeated. Much time, too, would be saved if we had the opportunity of discussing the whole question, for practically naval matters form one question. Although the Estimates are split up into Votes 1, 2, and 3, and so on, the Votes are closely intertwined one with the other. I wanted to say something about the Victualling Yard, and also upon Votes 3 and 4; but it is almost impossible to discuss any one of the six Votes without, in some shape or other, touching upon another, and thus getting on the brink of disorder, so far as the Rules of the House are concerned. Now, before I resume my seat, I should like to make a few remarks upon the question of the rapid construction of vessels. We built the Hero in, I think, 16 months. It was said it would take four years to build; but the Admiralty were seized with a very good fit at the time, and we built the ship in about 16 months. I remember very well that the rapidity with which the Hero was turned out created very great consternation in France. The French said—"Look how quickly the English people can do their work." If hon. Members would refer to the cost they would find that the Hero was built proportionately cheap. There is another very good reason why the expenditures in connection with, ships are higher than they ought to be. The recommendation of the Committee to which hon. Gentlemen have referred was very strong on the question of repairs. The Committee recommended that repairs should be done at once. Why are they not done at once? I think the Invincible has been lying four or five months at Devonport for repair, and she has not yet been touched. Surely the Invincible should be taken 1237 promptly in hand. What is the consequence of the delay? It is that there is a large number of idle hands—well, not idle hands, but hands necessarily in attendance, or kept in readiness for the work upon the Invincible. The recommendation of the Committee does not seem to have had the least effect. There is one other observation I desire to make, and it is that it struck me as very remarkable that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Hibbert) should ask us to wait for a year while the Admiralty decided as to the design of the ships of the future.
§ THE CIVIL LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. R. W. DUFF) (Banffshire)
The hon. Gentleman will, I am quite sure, excuse my interruption. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Hibbert) did not ask the Committee to wait for a year. He said the present Board had only been in Office six weeks, and they were now preparing to consider the plans of vessels.
§ MR. PULESTON (Devonport)
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I certainly understood that we were asked to wait until next year for certain shipbuilding to be undertaken. What the Civil Lord (Mr. R. W. Duff) says is perfectly reasonable. What I was anxious to say was that we permit delay in the building of our ships. We cannot wait for a few years, or even for a year, in order to find out some new development in shipbuilding. I must express the pleasure it gives me to find that we have turned over a new leaf in regard to the Navy. I am glad to see my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) in his place—I thought earlier in the evening he could not be far away. I am sure that even he will not venture to repeat to the full extent the speech with which he has annually favoured us against the rapid construction—or the construction at all—of ships of war, or against the spending of money upon our National Dockyards. I am sorry he has not been present during the whole of the discussion; but, however, I hope that when he rises he will be able to tell us that he, too, falls in with the sentiments of the whole country. The country has come to the conclusion that the more we spend—provided we spend it properly—to make the Navy efficient, the more we add to the security and prosperity of our country, 1238 the more we contribute eventually to economy in our finances. It is the piecemeal system of building ships, having a thing half done, doing a little this year and a little next, the Treasury knocking off this item and then that item, which has ruined our Navy, and which has prevented us from getting a proper show even for the money that has been voted. If, with a generous hand, we contribute to the better progress of our Navy, of course, taking care that we take all the safeguards against extravagance and waste—if we get our ships finished rapidly, one after the other, we shall the sooner be able to see our Navy in a thorough state of efficiency, and the better it will be for the country, the better for the country's commerce, and the better for the peace of mind of everyone.
§ SIR WILLIAM CROSSMAN (Portsmouth)
I do not wish to trespass long upon the attention of the Committee. I merely rise, as one of the Members for Portsmouth, to say that I agree entirely with what my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Puleston) has said as regards the Dockyards. I am sure that anyone reading the Report to which my hon. Friend the Member for Leith (Mr. Jacks) has referred must have been struck with the statements therein made. I believe that the fault does not lie so much with the Dockyards as with the system carried out of late years by the Board of Admiralty; and I think the statements made in the Report in question are of such serious consequence to the State that it would be a good thing if the whole subject of Dockyard management were referred to a Select Committee of the House. However careful a Departmental Committee may be in investigating matters, it does not command the same confidence, either from the people of the country or the House, as a Select Committee of the House does. Therefore, it is, I think, much better that the whole of the question should be referred to a Select Committee. But this is not the time to propose such an arrangement. I can only say this—that I have met many Dockyard labourers, and have found that they are very much hurt indeed at the statements that are made about their general idleness. I do not at all say that there are not some idlers in the Dockyards; but an accusation to the effect that there is general 1239 idleness on the part of the men is one which cannot be received. Now, Sir, I do not intend to weary the Committee with any statements as to shipbuilding—a subject with which, perhaps, I am not very conversant; but there are certain matters in connection with this Vote, in addition to those mentioned by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chatham (Sir John Gorst), which I wish to mention. The hon. and learned Gentleman has referred to the claims of the warrant officers, the engine-room artificers, and the stokers. These are matters of detail which it is not necessary I should go into at present. But there are other classes of men which require some consideration—I refer particularly to the naval schoolmasters. They are not paid as well as schoolmasters in the Army are. I hope my right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Hibbert) will give his consideration to the subject. Now, there is one important part of this Vote to which I wish specially to refer. Everyone will admit that no branch of the Service stands higher in reputation than the Royal Marines and the Royal Marine Artillery. There are 13,000 men in the Royal Marines and the Royal Marine Artillery; but they, particularly the officers, are placed in the most anomalous position. I have had the privilege and pleasure of sailing on board men-of-war, more often, perhaps, than most soldiers have; and nothing has ever struck me more on board Her Majesty's ships than the position which some of the officers in the corps I have named hold. When on board, Marines are not under the command of their own officers, but under the Captain of the ship; and even when they are on land, as they often are, they may still be under the orders of the Captain of the ship to which they belong. Now, I think that the Marines have a perfect right to claim that they shall be entirely commanded by their own officers. Even on bourd ship I think the Marine officer should have the power of punishing his own men. The only General Officer attached to the 13,000 is the Deputy Adjutant General of Marines; and when the men are landed and acting with other regiments of Infantry I do not think anyone ever heard of a case of a Marine officer commanding a Division or even a Brigade. On account of this Marine officers are kept out of those rewards 1240 which all soldiers look to when they have seen active service. But not only so, but Marine officers are debarred, at present, from having anything to do with the General Staff of the Army. They are, I believe, as highly educated and as good officers as any officers met with in any other branch of the Service; and, therefore, it is most unfair that men like these should be debarred from obtaining Staff appointments. They are even debarred, I find, from sitting on courts martial on men of their own corps on ships of war. That, I think, is grossly unfair to them—indeed, the whole system under which the Marines are managed requires the serious and immediate consideration of the Government. In my opinion, great saving might be effected if the Marines were turned to some uses for which they are particularly fitted. On my return from China, 15 years ago, I remember saying the same thing to the present Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Childers), then First Lord of the Admiralty. I thought then, and I think still, that the Marines are just the men to garrison all our coaling stations abroad. By placing Marines under the Admiral Commanding-in-Chief in charge of the coaling stations, we should obtain very good employment for the men, and we would effect great saving in our Army Estimates. We find that at Portsmouth there are some 2,000 Marine Artillery—I am not quite sure that that is the exact number—none of whom are actively employed in the defence of Portsmouth itself. They are being drilled for work on board ship which they hardly ever do, because there are so few of them in comparison to the total number of men employed on Her Majesty's ships. If we cannot employ them, as I do not say they might not be employed, in manning our own forts at Portsmouth, Plymouth, and other naval stations, they are the very men to man with advantage the forts of our coaling stations abroad. I hope that these suggestions will receive consideration, and that the Marines will be taken into greater account than they have been of late years. Of course, one has a good deal to say upon the Dockyard management; but as I understand the subject will come up under Vote 6 I will not attempt to say anything about it now. I desire, however, to say that I am convinced of the truth of what was said by 1241 the noble Lord the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton), as to the advisability of putting our naval resources into a proper state of efficiency at once, and not leaving it over for five, or 10, or 25 years. I also think it is most advisable to carry out all these defences of the coaling stations referred to a few nights ago by the noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford). It is desirable that both these objects should be attained, that we may be free from panic and wasteful extravagance hereafter. It is said that to provide the requisite money Terminable Annunities ought not to be resorted to. The suspension of the Sinking Fund is repudiated by both Parties in the House. If I might venture to give a hint as to the raising of the money it would be that ¼d. in the pound be put upon all realized property, leaving out all under £500, and we would have sufficient money to do everything that is required.
§ MR. FORWOOD (Lancashire, Ormskirk)
I listened with great interest to the speeches addressed to the Committee this evening by the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Hibbert); but there was one point—and, I think, a very important point—omitted in their statements, and it had regard to the type of engines which the Admiralty were supplying to the modern men-of-war. Within the last three or four years a very great change has been made in the type of engines with which merchant vessels are fitted. Some 25 years ago a great change was made in the form of engines for all vessels. The Admiralty of that day, I know, were very slow in following the lead that was set by a very eminent firm which was represented by the hon. Member who sits on my left (Mr. Pearce). The saving in fuel which was effected by that change amounted to something like 30 per cent. The system was gradually developed up to two years ago, when it made a very great leap. The change of 25 years ago was from pressure on the boilers of vessels from 25 to 50 and 60 lbs. It then extended from 60 to 90 lbs., and within the last two years the pressure on the boilers in our merchant vessels has extended from 90 to something like 160 1242 lbs. Now, this difference of working pressure on the boilers with the triple or quadruple expansion engines has made a most serious difference in the working expenses and the consumption of coal of the Merchant Fleet. I hope that where the consumption of coal and weight carrying is of such importance as it is in Her Majesty's ships, the Admiralty will not allow themselves to be so far behind the progress of the age as they were 25 years ago. I have ascertained as well as I can from the Estimates the cost of fitting vessels with engines, and I find a very great discrepancy between the prices of London and Provincial makers. The price varies from something like £8 per indicated horsepower paid to makers out of London, to £10 10s. per indicated horse-power paid to London makers. Why there should be this difference between the prices of country makers and those of London makers I do not know, unless the reason is that the London makers are to put in some of the vessels the new type of modern engines. I hope the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Hibbert) will pardon me mentioning this matter. I only do so because I am quite sure it will be of great satisfaction to the shipowners of the country to feel that the Admiralty are keeping abreast with the important improvements in marine engineering. Something has been said as to the necessity of the country possessing fast cruisers in contradistinction to what I may call fighting vessels. It is well known that 12 months ago there was a great scare among shipowners simply because our Admiralty were not possessed of vessels of the type necessary for the protection of the great Commercial Fleet of the country. No doubt the Admiralty did the best they could in the panic. They chartered a number of fast cruisers. I asked the other day for a Return of the cost of these cruisers to the country. The Return has not yet been made; but I believe it will show that a very large sum of money was virtually wasted by the hiring of these vessels. When I say virtually wasted, I mean that if the Admiralty had in years past been alive to the necessity of protecting our commerce they would have had these fast vessels already in their possession, and would not have 1243 had to rush all over the world picking up a vessel where it happened to be. I doubt very much whether any great protection can be afforded to our commerce by the arming of merchant steamers. There are very few merchant steamers that are fitted to carry a gun, and I believe that when the Return for which I have moved is published it will be found that a very large sum of money was expended in fitting the cruisers with guns, and in taking the fittings off again. I trust the Admiralty will not overlook the necessity of keeping very fast light-armed cruisers ready to protect our commerce at the same time as they provide the very best fighting vessels. We cannot forget that 25 years ago 90 per cent of the American trade was carried on in American bottoms, and that, owing to the inaction of the American Government in not providing themselves with fast cruisers, one such cruiser almost succeeded in sweeping the American mercantile flag off the ocean. It would be a terrible thing if we found our Mercantile Marine without proper protection in case of need, and if our shipowners were obliged to fly for protection to a neutral flag. I wish to urge most seriously these points upon the attention of the Admiralty, because once a vessel changes her flag she never comes back to the original flag. The question of the stamp of engine used in merchant vessels is of great importance; but it is of even greater importance in the case of our armour-clad vessels. Therefore, I hope we shall have an assurance from the Admiralty that they are quite alive to the necessity of possessing fast cruisers, and of fitting our ships with the most modern engines.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD (Marylebone, E.)
I will not detain the Committee very long with the remarks I have to make, principally in reference to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Hibbert). I may touch lightly, as my hon. Friend near me (Mr. Puleston) did, on the question of the Dockyards. I, for one, should be very glad to see a reform of the Dockyards, not that I think the men and officers work badly, because their work is the best that could possibly be; but that there is occasionally considerable expenditure that might be avoided. Let me give the Committee an instance of this. It is quite clear 1244 that different types of ships require different classes of material. Now, there is the awning stanchions necessary for all all ships—the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed) will know what I mean. When I had the honour of being second in command of the iron-clad Thunderer, we naturally spread our awnings as soon as we commissioned, in order to ascertain if they would set properly. The stanchions being of the same strength and substance for a ship of 36-foot beam as for a ship of 70-foot beam, the result was that when we spread our awning the whole apparatus gave way. All this led to great expense, which could have been avoided if suitable stanchions had been made for the ship before she was actually in commission. Now, in regard to the reform of the Dockyards, I should be very glad to welcome the idea of having a civilian attached to the Admiral commanding, provided it is not the thin edge of the wedge to make a civilian the administrative officer in the Dockyard. From a boy an Admiral is brought up to administrate; it is his training. All our executive officers are taught to administrate. It is their duty to know what speed they want, and how many fathoms of rope are required, as well as to administer justice. As boys, they have practical experience of all work of administration; and, in my opinion, they are quite fitted for the work they are now called upon to perform, on account of the experience they have derived. I should be sorry to see them superseded by civilians. I should, however, welcome the assistance which civilians might render in promoting economy. You must remember this—that if ever civilians are appointed to the administrative posts in the Dockyards, the general supposition will be that the Navy was made for the Dockyards, whereas the Dockyards are necessarily made for the Navy. That is a very important point; but I merely mention it to see what view the Government take upon it. Now, I heard the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Hibbert) say something about the increased Naval Estimates for the year; and, as far as I could gather, the idea he wished to convey to the Committee was that it was impossible the Navy could want anything else. I venture to say that was the sole argument, if it can be called an argument, which was urged against the facts 1245 which I adduced in the House the other night. The only argument the Chancellor of the Exchequer advanced in opposition to my Motion was, "How can it be possible for the Navy to be inefficient if you have such large Naval Estimates?" I do not consider that an argument at all. It does not matter what your Estimates are. The question is, is the Navy in the position it ought to be in? I endeavoured to show the other night that the reason the Navy Estimates are this year put at so high a figure is that the Navy was not in years past put in the position it ought to be in. The large Estimates of this year are simply the result of a panic. Now, we have had a great deal of debate, principally carried on by my brother Officers in the House, which has led to the conclusion that we who are connected with the Navy wish to spend a great deal of money. That, I believe, is so. ["Hear, hear!"] I heard an hon. Gentleman say "Hear, hear!" but I must say, also, that there are very great economies that we ask to have made in the expenditure of the Navy. For instance, we should like to see all the small and useless craft ordered home at once. Personally, I should like to see these vessels ordered home and paid off to-morrow, if it were possible. If we do not recall these obsolete vessels we shall have to repair them; and, therefore, we shall be expending money upon vessels which are really a danger to us, because we shall have to use them in time of war. I maintain there would be great economy if the Admiralty would order home all the small craft, and put in their stead one or two large and useful ships to do double work, and be as nearly as they can in two places at one time. Now, this is one economy I propose, and I propose it in the hope that hon. Gentlemen who hold very opposite opinions to mine will not think that we wish to spend money on the Navy simply for the sake of spending money, but that we wish to administer it properly, and with a view to economy. I think that all the great Votes submitted in respect of the Navy should be carefully scrutinized, for the best economy is to have the greatest efficiency. Now, Sir, with the few remarks which the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Hibbert) made relative to the Nile and Trafalgar I entirely agree. I think it would have been 1246 very wrong for the Board of Admiralty succeeding that at the head of which was my noble Friend (Lord George Hamilton) if they had not proceeded with the construction of these ships. They are most useful ships; they are of a type that I myself, as a humble officer in Her Majesty's Service, entirely approve of. They are belted ships; they are not great floating batteries with four guns which can only be fired once in five minutes, but they have besides heavy guns a good armament of small and quick-firing guns, which are most useful in action. Their speed is not quite what I should like to see, when I recollect the class of ships the Italians are building. I hope the Secretary to the Admiralty will make a note of this point, and see if it is possible, with a little extra expenditure, to increase their speed. I have no doubt each of these ships will cost £1,000,000 sterling; but the money will be well laid out. England cannot afford to let any other country build a ship which is better than any she has got, because each individual ship England has had a great deal more to do than a ship belonging to any foreign country. We must, of course, contemplate the possibility of a large iron-clad being blown up by torpedoes; but then we must also have regard to what the ship has to do, and the positions in which she would be most useful and available, where a torpedo boat or a fleet of torpedo boats would be perfectly useless. With small craft and torpedo boats what could we have done at Alexandria? What could such a Fleet do in the Baltic? It is no use sending torpedo boats; they cannot do the work required. In these days our Fleet must be formed of component parts; we must have big, heavy ironclads, as well as torpedo boats to protect them. The Secretary to the Admiralty said very truly that 40 torpedo boats had been ordered, and I understood him to add that 40 was a sufficient number. I do not agree with him there, and I endeavoured the other night to show the reason. I will not repeat myself, but I will point out this fact—that the 40 boats ordered are only to go 19 knots an hour and are 125 feet long, and that Foreign Governments have now got contracts out for boats 135 feet long to go 23 knots an hour. It is obvious that our boats cannot be driven at the speed of the larger craft.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. HIBBERT)
What I said was that we did not wish to build any other boats until we saw what was the best boat for the future.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
Nothing can be fairer than what the right hon. Gentleman has said; but I hope he will give me an assurance that if he finds the 135 feet longboats the better craft he will order some of them. The point ought to be impressed on the Committee that we shall not have a sufficient number of boats when these are finished. These boats were ordered at a time of panic 12 months ago, when it was considered absolutely necessary that they should be built as quickly as possible. Although I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is well that we should have a trial to find which is the best boat, I must ask him and the Board with whom he acts to take into consideration the question whether there are boats enough. I must also remind him that the question of the size of the boats is of great importance. I understood him to say that the Government did not intend to build very many more torpedo boats of the larger class. No doubt, in these days of perfection in artillery practice, the larger your target the more certain you are of hitting it. That boats shall not be too large is of immense importance to the officers and crews of the boats leading a torpedo attack. I think that here an immense economy may be effected, and I say that with all deference to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite. The present system of making guns at Woolwich has been fairly good in its results, but it has been extremely costly; because not only have ships been delayed for the want of guns and additional expense incurred in consequence, but when the guns are made they have to be tried, and the cost of the experiments, which is very heavy, comes upon the country. I believe the Navy would like the guns which they require to be ordered by them and put out to contract. We know exactly what we want, but at present we have very little to say in the matter. Well, Sir, I should like the guns for the Navy to be tendered for under contract. I should like to see an official announcement that such and such a gun is wanted, with the various requirements as to velocity, weight, powder, and the project- 1248 tile to be carried. The Naval Board should say to the contractors—"These are our conditions; produce a gun; we will try it; and if it is satisfactory and produces the results we demand we will order 100 guns." You would in that way get your gun at once, having to bear the cost of one experiment only, and without the process of red-tapeism which is called economy, but which is, in the long run, very extravagant. Well, Sir, I believe if it were tried the plan I have indicated would be found to be economical. There were several remarks made by the noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton), who I am sorry to observe is not in his place, because I wanted to ask him one or two questions upon the subjects to which he has referred. The noble Lord stated that a larger sum than was now to be given—the sum of £1,000,000—was proposed by the Government of which he was a Member for the purpose of building small craft. I should like the noble Lord to have informed the Committee what is to be the tonnage of those small craft proposed by the late Government. I ask this because, as far as I understood the noble Lord from his speech, he entirely supported the theory and the proposals which I put forward the other night. There are liabilities, I believe, amounting to £3,000,000, although the money has not yet been expended, and that sum, taken together with what is required for the Navy to be put into next year's account, make up the £5,000,000 which I spoke of; and my proposal is, therefore, backed up most thoroughly by the noble Lord. I therefore trust that the Board of Admiralty will think this question over also. Another thing which the noble Lord referred to was the largeness of the establishments. But that is a necessary evil; we have to provide so much when we go to war, and it is, therefore, most necessary that we should keep our establishments on as large and efficient a scale as the nation will pay for, so as to have at our command what is necessary if there should be a declaration of war. The noble Lord made an excellent remark—if I may be bold enough to say so—with respect to the rigging of ships, because the question of rigging first-class fighting ships is a mystery to a great number of seamen. If you want your fighting ships to be successful in action, do not put masts, 1249 sails, and spars into them, because they are one of the greatest sources of danger. If a shot cuts the rigging through on the starboard or port side, over go masts, rigging, and all, and you cannot fight any more, because your screws will sure to get foul, and when once your screws are foul you are put out of action. Therefore, I say, do not put your ships in that position—have your fighting ships without rigging, but have your training ships rigged with masts and sails ready to be turned over to the Navy when required. Never do away with your Training Squadron, for it is that which creates seamen with those qualities so necessary for fighting with anything that floats. The noble Lord referred to another important point—namely, that of non-combatants in the Fleet. That question was brought forward by me some years ago. The large proportion of non-combatants in our ships is fraught with considerable risk. The French have in their ships probably 400 or 500 men, but they have only 5 per cent of non-combatants, whereas in our ships there is a far larger proportion. The non-combatants in our ships are the stokers, ship police, carpenters, sail-makers, servants, and so on—a class of men which in a ship like the Thunderer runs up to about 63 per cent. That, Sir, is a question which I think demands serious consideration, and I am of opinion that in ships of every class there should not be more than 5 per cent of non-combatants. When I was in command of the Thunderer it was thought we were going to war with Russia, and it was considered that the number of non-combatants on board was a serious thing for the ship and for England, because we were representing England at the time. Well, Sir, we called a muster to ascertain how many non-combatants there were; all the boats were manned and sent off from the ship, and the only men left on board who were combatants were the four quartermasters. Now, suppose it had been necessary to do anything quickly—suppose four ship's cutters had come alongside from the Russian Fleet, this 65 per cent of non-combatants would have been of no use; they could not have carried out the orders given; they could not have loaded a rifle, because they had never been drilled. Now, I think that constitutes a very great danger, and when I spoke on the subject before, it 1250 was to urge on the Admiralty that all these non-combatants should be drilled and taught to fight. The men want to learn to fight, but we do not teach them, and therefore I again press this matter upon the attention of the Secretary to the Admiralty. The hon. Member for Hastings (Sir Thomas Brassey), who, I regret, is also absent from his place, has made some comparisons which, however, I do not think applicable. There is no use in comparing ship with ship, or a certain number of ships with the same number; to arrive at any useful result, the comparison must be with regard to the work to be done; and I say that so far as the French and Italian Fleets are concerned, the comparison instituted by the hon. Member is useless. But the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hastings was also wrong in saying that the speed of the English ships to that of the French was as 17 to 14. The speed of our cruisers is at this moment a knot less than the French, and many of those vessels are obsolete. I am sorry that I have not the list with me; but I can state to the Committee that, out of the 41 cruisers which we have now, 18 are obsolete. I entirely agree with the remarks that have been made about the Training Squadrons. We cannot do without them. There are also some of the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Sir John Gorst) with which I agree, particularly those which relate to the artificers of the Royal Navy. The grievance of these men is that their pensions are not in proportion to their pay, whereas the pensions of the chief petty officers, with whom they rank, are in proportion to their pay; and I submit to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty that he should take note of the fact, and that it should have the attention of the Board of Admiralty. The artificers of the Royal Navy are a most useful body of men. We must remember that, in these days of steam, although it rests with the captain to put his vessel in the position which he desires, he is entirely in the hands of the stokers and others. So much indebted do I feel to these men that, in one little action in which I had the luck to be engaged, I ordered the stokers to go to one side of the ship and the Blue-jackets to the other, and I called on the Blue-jackets to give the engine-room department three cheers. 1251 Well, Sir, the request I have to make on behalf of these men is that the question of their pensions and their position in the Navy should be taken into consideration; and, with regard to the latter, I ask that they should be called engine-room artificers—there is no need to call them warrant officers. The hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth (Sir William Crossman) has made some remarks about a corps of which we, as naval officers, are as proud as he is. I do not agree with the whole, but with some, of the remarks of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I do not agree with him when he says the Marines should not always be under the control of the naval captain, because it is, I think, obvious that the captain's control must extend over everything and everybody connected with the ship. I agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the position of the Royal Marines is not what it should be, and that they do not get those advantages in which they are entitled to share. I also partly agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman in his remarks with regard to Staff appointments. The difference between a soldier and a sailor is this—that a sailor will run where he thinks he is wanted, but a soldier will stand at his post. At the time the Duke of Edinburgh was shot at in Australia, we stationed a Blue-jacket guard for his protection; there was a double ring of sentries around the house, and they were ordered to hail anybody who came past three times, and if there was no answer they were to fire. There was an emu in the garden. The emu passed; the Blue-jacket sentry hailed the emu, which did not answer; he hailed it three times, but it never answered, and then fired, and I am sorry to say he missed the bird. I mention this to show the difference between the Marine and the Blue-jacket, for directly afterwards every Blue-jacket sentry ran to the place where the shot had been fired; whereas, of course, military sentries would have remained at their posts. The fact is, you train one man—the Blue-jacket—to be useful everywhere on the spur of the moment, and you train the soldier to do his duty on the spot. I repeat that the Marines are a most useful body of men, capable of being landed and carrying out with the discipline and precision of the soldier 1252 whatever work they have to do. As to the question of expenditure, I have endeavoured to show as briefly as possible that great saving can be effected, particularly in the Dockyards; but not by reducing those establishments, because I believe you can never get work better done than it is in our Dockyards. What you want is better organization and better administration; and I hope that it will be clearly understood that an Admiral shall always administer the Dockyards over the heads of whatever civil assistants there may be to support him.
§ CAPTAIN VERNEY (Bucks, N., Buckingham)
Sir, we have been told by an hon. Member (Mr. Illingworth) that we naval officers returned as Members of this House, when a question of naval policy comes forward, are not to take part in the discussion. But I venture to ask the Committee to consider that there are two or three sides to a question of naval policy, and there is one portion of it on which naval officers may claim to have something to say. In the first place, on the question of expenditure in connection with the Navy, naval officers do not pretend to be financiers; and they ought, therefore, to be content to leave questions of finance to those who understand them. As to the question of naval establishments, naval officers ought to know something about that; but they have no right to lay claim to exclusive knowledge on the subject, because there are others capable of forming just as good an opinion as they can of the class and number of ships required in the Navy. Those persons have, of course, the advantage of consulting with naval officers on questions relating to the requirements of the Fleet; and, therefore, I repeat that naval officers cannot lay claim to exclusive knowledge on that point. But there is one point on which naval officers have a right to speak, and on which men without practical experience should be silent. When the ships and guns have left the hands of the professional experts, the country does not want to know on what scientific theories they were constructed, but how they will serve us when put to the test of real work. Naval officers are alone capable of judging of the efficiency of the ships of the Navy; and, therefore, Sir, I think it is unwise of economists in this House 1253 to be desirous of shutting the mouths of naval officers, as the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) attempted to do a few nights ago. Why, Sir, it is the greatest service that can be performed from the point of view of economy in respect of naval administration to tell the House and the country whether the ships on which such vast sums of money are expended are or are not efficient. The old Navy before the days of steam was essentially an efficient Navy. Our ships were the best afloat; they had the best rope, the best canvas, and the best guns that could be made—there were no ships in the world that could compare with the ships of our Navy before iron-clads were introduced. They were thoroughly efficient; they always went at full speed; the material of which they were constructed was of the best; their armament was the very best that could be found; and, as I have said, there was no better class of ship than the sailing vessels of the Navy in the old days. But it is not so now. We have at the present time very few efficient ships in the Navy; and therefore I say that this is a subject on which we men of the Navy have a right to speak. Take the question of speed. We have not many ships in the Navy which can go at full speed for any length of time. When I was afloat from 1870 to 1873 in the Mediterranean, almost every ship had to work her boilers at reduced speed. Then we find other nations with more powerful weapons than we have; and therefore I say that our Navy is not efficient in the matter of weapons. The noble and gallant Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) told the House the other day that naval officers do not now get the training necessary to fit them for the command of ships. Well, Sir, reverting to the subject of the rate of speed, during the three years of my command I do not think I went more than 20 times at full speed. There is a standing order in the Navy that the captain shall ascertain what is the most economic rate of speed—that is to say, the speed at which he can cover the greatest distance with the least expenditure of coal. This generally works out at from five to seven knots an hour; and a ship, unless on particular service, is always required to steam at that speed, the consequence being that 1254 naval officers are only accustomed to handle their ships at a low speed. But when your Navy is required for active service, you have to go at full speed; you have to go at 10, 15, or 16 knots habitually; and I say that under the present system you do not give your naval officers a chance of handling their ships at that speed. A ship steers very differently, and requires, in consequence, very different handling when going at one speed from what she requires under another. The stokers cannot, under the circumstances I have mentioned, keep up steam enough to get speed out of the ships. What would be thought in the Army, if a Cavalry officer were expected to take his regiment into action at full gallop, when he had never been allowed to drill it except at a walk? Would any hon. Member intrust his carriage to a coachman who had never driven his horses except at a foot's pace? And yet you require your naval officers to go into action and manœuvre their ships at a tremendous speed to which they have not been accustomed. Why, Sir, when we do handle our ships at full speed, we feel we are not accustomed to it. No doubt, the cost to the country of allowing the ships of the Navy always to go at full speed would be very great; but that is no business of the naval officer. Our business is to tell you that your ships, on which you have spent large sums of money, are not as efficient as they ought to be; and it is the duty of every hon. Member to insist that the Navy of this country, even if it be small, shall at least be efficient. It cannot be efficient under the conditions I have described. English naval officers ought to be the best officers in the world. I do hope that hon. Members will not be found to rise in this House and ascribe to naval officers unworthy motives. Perhaps it would be well to give them credit for a little patriotism and regard for the efficiency of the Service to which they have devoted their lives, as well as a desire to win the respect and affection of their countrymen. I venture to say that the name of the noble and gallant Lord who sits opposite (Lord Charles Beresford), and who has spoken to-day, is beloved wherever it is mentioned. In the old days, when one ship fouled another very little harm was done, and the damage could be easily made good; but if one of our iron-clads fouls another a very different 1255 result follows; the ship has to be taken into dock, and it will probably be found that there is a great hole in her side. It is the enormous weight of the ships as compared with what it was formerly that causes this. For handling ships of this kind you want a man of exceeding nerve, and one who carries in his mind's eye the exact curve which the ship will make in steering. If a ship is going out of a narrow harbour, for instance, everything depends on the captain's knowledge of the behaviour of the ship under different rates of speed. You must not falter; you must not stop; if you do you will come to grief; you must, therefore, go on and have in your mind's eye the exact curve which the ship will make. Well, Sir, I think that in a situation demanding such discrimination the Committee will agree with me in saying that the captain must know exactly what his ship will do at full speed. It is necessary that our naval officers should know how to handle the great engines under them with perfect nerve and skill; and it is in my judgment clear that nothing ought to be allowed to stand in the way of their attaining the knowledge necessary to produce that result, because otherwise, in time of need, the nation will suffer for it. The hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Sir John Commerell) has told us what his experience has been with a vessel having a twin-screw—the gallant Admiral may not be as well known to the House as the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford); but he is as well known in the Navy, and there is no man whose voice should be more attentively listened to. He explained his own experiences when in command of a heavily-sparred twin-screw vessel, and how he had represented to the Admiralty the uselessness, and even the danger, of such heavy masts; but when he returned home he found another twin-screw ship being rigged with still heavier spars. What have the economists to say to that? Now, I felt very much what the gallant Admiral said, because I also commanded a twin-screw ship, and I also made representations about her spars. What I found was this—that she would never go to windward at all under sail, and if ever I wanted to go a little way to windward it was necessary to get steam up. For instance, I had 1256 on one occasion to get steam up to steam only about 200 yards to get into Ascension. Well, surely that was not economy. But why was it? Because the Admiralty had put useless spars into the vessel, which was a positive blunder, and could have been no use to her in the event of her going into action. In regard to the efficiency of the men, all I can say is this—that there never was a time when our officers and men were more efficient than they are now. When I look back at the low class whom we had amongst the men of the Navy, when I first went to sea, and the low tastes they developed, I am astonished when I compare them with the men whom we have in the Service at the present time. The seamen of to-day are amongst the most sober, intelligent, and educated of Her Majesty's subjects. Then, in regard to the officers, I do not know that the members of any profession are better educated in their profession than are our naval officers. During the three years in which I commanded a ship in the Mediterranean, I never knew an instance when the captain of an English man-of-war did not take his ship in and out of harbour without a pilot, although the captain of every foreign man-of-war, without exception, always employed a pilot. It occurs to me, however, that the time has now come when this House should insist that there shall be promotion from the ranks in the Navy as well as in the Army. I believe that the time has gone by when the country will allow all the higher grades of the Profession to be held exclusively by one particular class, and before very long I hope to see a way open to the highest ranks of the Navy to seamen of the Fleet. I have a Notice on the Paper on this subject which I intend to bring forward. I postponed it until after Easter, because I believed that I was going right in the teeth of the Navy. To my astonishment, however, within the last few days I have discovered that many of the higher officers are in favour of it. I have asked three Questions on this subject from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Hibbert), and I cannot forbear expressing my thanks for the courteous and careful consideration with which he has replied to them. I have reason to believe that the matter is likely to be con- 1257 sidered in a short time by the Admiralty, with a view of seeing if it is possible to do an act of justice to every seaman in the Fleet, by giving him an opportunity of rising to the highest ranks of the Profession. If this be done, it will go far to remove the grievances of the seamen of the Fleet, and the English Navy in the future will continue to be what it always has been in the past. I hope the Committee will not think that we naval officers are extravagant when we demand efficiency. For my part, I shall never hesitate to speak out my mind when I think the Service falls short of what the country has a right to expect.
§ CAPTAIN PRICE (Devonport)
I listened with the greatest pleasure to the very able and very lucid speech of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Hibbert); but I think I must also say that the Navy will listen with some feeling of disappointment to the statement which has been laid before us by the exponent of the Admiralty in this House this evening, and for this reason. After all the money we were called upon to spend last year; after the great scare which went over the country in regard to Russia, and after all the expense which was caused by it, the Navy did expect that the Representative of the Admiralty would have been able to come down here to-night and have told the Committee that at last the Navy had been put into a thoroughly efficient state. I know very well that he is not to blame, however, and that he has only followed the example of other Secretaries to the Admiralty, and has simply come down clearly to explain the Estimates before the Committee. It never has been the custom, unfortunately, and I am afraid it never will be, for the Representative of the Admiralty to tell us, to tell the Committee or the country, that the Estimates which he is placing before the House are sufficient to place the Navy in a thoroughly efficient condition. I did not take part in the debate on Monday night for this reason. There are several new Members in the House belonging to the Naval Profession, and I thought that it was only right that they should have a full opportunity of putting before the House their views on the state of the Navy. The House has been in the habit of hearing the same Representatives of Dockyard boroughs 1258 year after year advancing the same arguments on these Estimates in regard to the Navy; but this year we have new men, who have had great experience of the Navy, coming here and confirming everything that we have said before on these matters. What is the leading feature of the statement which has been put before the Committee tonight? I think the country will consider that it is this. That the Estimates of the late Board are really the Estimates which were presented to the Government, and that those Estimates have been reduced by no less than £500,000. It is well known in this House and out-of-doors that the Government have only to say that such and such a sum is necessary for the efficiency of the Navy, and no single Member in this House would decline to vote the sum asked for. For the first time within my knowledge, the Government have declined to ask for the sum of money which has been considered by the Board of Admiralty sufficient, and only sufficient, to put the Navy in an efficient condition. I do not think that I can be contradicted when I say that the Estimates now put forward are not those submitted by the Board of Admiralty. All the principal members of the present Board, and nearly all the permanent officials and heads of Departments, have been sitting at the Admiralty for months past, and they came to the conclusion that it was necessary to pay a certain amount of money to put the Navy in a proper state of efficiency. That sum was asked for by the Board, and that sum has been reduced by £500,000. I think I may put it in this way—that the Treasury have been asked for £500,000 more than we have been asked for to-night. I should like to put the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir William Harcourt) into the witness-box on this matter to-night. Speaking in the City yesterday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the Admiralty could not have everything that they required, and that they must cut their coat according to their cloth. I think there is a great deal which we can read between the lines in that remark. What it amounts to is this—that the Admiralty cannot have what they require; that they must take what he was prepared to give them. Well, Sir, by-and-bye hon. Members are to be asked to give £200,000,000 for the dis- 1259 ruption of the Empire, and I do not think it is too much to ask them to give £5,000,000 to assist in maintaining the remnants of the Empire. My noble Friend below me the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) told us that he asked for £500,000 more for the purpose of laying down small ships and for providing torpedoes. He wanted £350,000 for torpedoes.
§ CAPTAIN PRICE
I do not know how much that that would amount to for torpedoes alone. If I rightly understand the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Hibbert), he said he can only ask the Committee to provide 900 torpedoes this year, although 1,400 would be eventually necessary. As Whitehead torpedoes cost last year between £300 and £400 a-piece, the purchase of 900 of them would require a good bit of money; but why are we not to have as many as are required? I believe it is because we have no means of making a sufficient quantity in this country. Last year, during the Russian scare, I am told that there was a great deficiency of torpedoes; and I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Hibbert), therefore, whether any arrangement has been made at Woolwich or elsewhere for supplying them? I should like to ask him whether any contract has been entered into with Mr. Whitehead for manufacturing them this year? As to torpedo boats, we heard something amusing about them last year, when the Earl of Northbrook, in "another place," told us that he was going to provide 40 torpedo boats, and that they would be armed with guns during the war, and that after peace was proclaimed they were to be armed with their natural weapon—the torpedo. I should like to know whether that policy is to be repeated? The Secretary to the Admiralty, in his very able speech to-night, said nothing at all about the personnel of the Navy; but I dare say he intends to allude to that matter upon some subsequent Vote. It has been the custom to refer to the matter on this Vote, but I quite recognize the circumstance under which he has refrained from taking that course to-night; but I hope that he or his Colleague, at some future time, will give us a little more 1260 information upon the personnel of the Navy. There is one matter which I should like to refer to, and which reflects great credit upon recent First Lords of the Admiralty—and that is, that they have at last come to the conclusion that we ought to provide for the support of the widows of our seamen and marines. I hope that the matter will be satisfactorily settled, and in the most liberal possible spirit. Something has been said about that gallant corps, the Royal Marines; and I think that that is a question which no naval officer can altogether help referring to when Naval Estimates are before this House. I must say that I am sorry to see that this force is to be reduced by 70. The reduction is a small one, no doubt, but still it is a reduction. In my opinion, there in no force in the service of the Crown which is more economical, or more efficient, than the corps of Marines. Regarding the question which my noble and gallant Friend below the Gangway (Lord Charles Beresford) has mentioned, I understand that he spoke about the punishment of Marines for serious offences on board ship. I think my noble and gallant Friend was right—that that matter ought to be left to the captain of the ship. But, for my part, I think that the power of inflicting punishment on the Marines should be left in the hands of the senior officer of Marines on board ship as much as possible, and on shore entirely so. In regard to the engine-room artificers on board ship, also, I wish to say that I think that, in the interests of discipline, I believe it is necessary that those men who are put in charge of the engines ought, at the very least, to hold the position of warrant officers. I have always maintained that the upper classes of artificers, after 10 years' service, ought to be raised to the rank of warrant officers. Just one word on the question which the hon. Gentleman (Captain Verney) has raised as to warrant officers. I understand that after Easter he is going to raise the question, and take the vote of the House upon it. If he does, I shall have very great pleasure in seconding him. It is a question I have often raised in this House—that of the promotion of warrant officers. It seems to me extraordinary that in the Naval Service of this country, above all others, no man—no seaman—should be able to rise above the rank of warrant officer. 1261 It used not to be so in years gone by. There were frequent cases in the old days of seamen rising to be Captains and Admirals; but now they are altogether cut off from anything of the kind. This is not the condition of things in the Army. We do not pretend to have an Army. That small, if gallant, body of men we have to fight our battles for us is only by compliment on the Continent called an Army, and yet the cases in which men have risen from the ranks to the possession of commissions are very frequent. I think there are 120 men now holding commissions as Captains and Lieutenants who have sprung from the ranks, besides 600 or 700 Quartermasters and Ridingmasters. Though an Order was placed on the Statute Book by which it was provided that commissions should be given to seamen, yet, although that Order came out 30 years ago, not a single instance has ever yet been noted of a man being so promoted. I know I shall be told, as I have been before, that commissions are given. But what are these commissions? It has been the custom for the past few years to promote gunners and boatswains to be what are called chief gunners and chief boatswains; and they are told when they are so promoted that they are commissioned officers. They receive a piece of paper with the word "commission" written on it, which entitles them to call themselves commissioned officers; but they are not really commissioned officers. They are still boatswains and gunners, and do not rank with the officers. Well, there is no unreasonable request made in connection with this subject—there is no difficulty in the matter at all. We are told that there are social difficulties in the way of conferring the rank of commissioned officers upon these men; but there is no reason why they should not be promoted to be Lieutenants or Commanders. You need not put them in the ward room with the other officers, if this difficulty exists, which I do not believe; but, at all events, there is no reason why you should not put them in the Coastguard Service, where the social difficulty would not exist at all. We are sometimes told that we shall not be able to get the warrant officers to pass the examinations necessary to become Lieutenants, and I dispute that entirely. I maintain that every gunner 1262 in the Service is able to pass the same gunnery and seamanship examinations as the Lieutenants, and that the gunners and boatswains could easily, with the ordinary six months' training at the Naval College, pass the necessary examinations in navigation and mechanics. I have said there is no difficulty in regard to education or the social aspect of the question; and I say, if you can do it, promote those men to be Lieutenants who are worthy of it—place them in the Coastguard, or in command of gunboats, or second in command of gunboats. There are heaps of positions you could give them in the Navy. I want, further, to suggest—and I want the Representatives of the Admiralty to consider this matter, because it has been put before me by deputations and otherwise—that chief boatswains and gunners, when they retire from the Service, should be allowed to retire with the rank of Lieutenant. That may seem an empty kind of honour to ask for; but it is really nothing of the kind. If the rank of Lieutenant is given these men on retiring, their children—their sons—will have the satisfaction of knowing that many appointments are open to them which otherwise would not have been open to them, to say nothing of the pride which they will feel in being able to say that their fathers were promoted to commissions for long and faithful services. I hope the Admiralty will consider this question, and that, as the French soldier used to be able to say that every knapsack contained the baton of a Marshal of France, so every sailor in our Navy will be able to say that he has in his locker the cocked hat and epaulettes of a British Admiral.
§ MR. RITCHIE (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
Your ruling, Sir, to-night, which is, no doubt, correct, is of such a nature as will, I am afraid, prevent me from dealing with many of the questions that have been raised with reference to certain action we thought it necessary to take when we were at the Admiralty with that fulness I should have been glad to have been able to adopt. I know, however, there will be other opportunities when we shall be able to discuss these matters in greater detail, and when we shall be able to defend the course we thought it right to take in the interest of the Service on the subject of 1263 reorganization. There are, however, one or two points I desire to refer to, and which I shall be able to touch upon without bringing myself under the censure of the Chair. With regard to the speech just delivered by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Captain Price) as to the Estimates which the late Government, in the interests of the Navy, thought it necessary to formulate, and the Estimates now before the Committee, I must express my great satisfaction that the proposals presented to Parliament by the present Board are, on the whole, of so satisfactory a nature. I am glad to think that the shipbuilding programme which we thought it necessary to formulate in reference to the building of ships in our Dockyards has been to the full adopted by the present Board, and that they propose in the Dockyards to spend this year probably a larger sum than has ever been spent before, exclusive of the sum taken from the Vote of Credit for wages. I am extremely glad that they have so far adopted our views in that respect, because I feel sure that if arrangements are made for the economical administration of the money that it is proposed to devote, the more wages you spend in the Dockyards, within certain limits, the more likely you are to have an efficient and cheap Navy. It would, perhaps, interest the Committee to hear that, large as are the wages taken for shipbuilding in our Dockyards, they are nothing like the proportion that would be spent in the private Dockyards which had the same amount of work on hand. Certainly, if it pays private builders to spend large sums of money in wages in order to get the work quickly out of hand, it ought to follow that a similar course would be to the interests of ecoonomy in Her Majesty's Dockyards. Great fault has been found—and I think rightly found—with the delay which has taken place, and which is almost the normal condition of things, with reference to building in our Dockyards; though it is true that in one or two cases ships have been turned out with remarkable and praiseworthy expedition—and especially I would refer to the ship to which reference has been made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Puleston)—namely, the Hero, which was turned out with a speed which would have done 1264 credit to any private Yard in the country. In the case of the Hero, the ship was turned out so rapidly because there was not a large amount of new work being done at the Yard. A large amount of labour could be got on it, and kept on it, which is the great secret of turning out ships with rapidity. When we were at the Admiralty, our view was that it was to the truest interests of economy that everything in our power should be done to obtain more rapidity of construction in the Dockyards than had ever been exhibited. The Committee will see that the programme for work in the Dockyards that has now been adopted by the present Board of Admiralty is a programme which will insure much more satisfactory progress in the Dockyards than has hitherto been the case; and I would point out that whereas it was stated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Hibbert) that the Ajax was nine years being built, the Nile and the Trafalgar, two ships of far greater tonnage than the Ajax, are put down in this year's Estimates to be completed by the year 1890, so that if the programme which is now placed before the Committee and the House is carried out, we shall see these two vessels, the Nile and the Trafalgar—which will be two of the most powerful ships in the world when they are afloat—turned out of Her Majesty's Dockyards in a period which I think in ordinary times would hardly be exceeded by any private Yard. I hope that the present Board will make it a point to see that their proposals in that respect are pushed forward with the view of carrying out the programme that is put before the Committee. While, however, I express my entire satisfaction with the proposals made by the Government with reference to the work in the Dockyards, I am sorry to say that I cannot express the same amount of approval of the other portion of their programme. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Devonport (Captain Price) said the Estimates presented by the present Government were not within £500,000 of the Estimates prepared by the previous Board. In that he rather under-estimated than over-estimated the condition of things. The Estimates presented by the present Board, so far as my recollection goes, are, in round numbers, £500,000 less upon what may be called the ordinary programme of the year 1265 than the Estimates of the late Board, apart from the additional programme for extra small vessels which we hoped—I must say, however, that it did not go beyond a hope—we might have been able to induce the Treasury to sanction. Therefore, how is it that notwithstanding the Estimates which are now before the Committee are £500,000 less, so far as what I may call the ordinary programme of the year is concerned, than those which we formulated, yet the same amount of work that we proposed is going to be turned out of the Dockyards? Well, I will tell the Committee that the difference is mainly in the Contract Vote, and that the present Estimates provide for a very considerable sum less being spent under that Vote than we estimated would be earned by the contractors during the year. I should very much like to know from the Secretary to the Admiralty how it is, and by what process it is, that these Estimates have been reduced in the way that I have mentioned, because I do not find that there is to be any smaller programme? The same number of ships are to be built—the contractors are to have the same work in hand—as we proposed. It is proposed to order machinery in the same way as we proposed to order it for ships that are building in the Dockyards; but, notwithstanding that, so far as we can see, taking the number of ships and the work that is to be taken in hand into consideration, the programme is to be the same as the one we left at the Admiralty, there is to be on that particular Vote something like £250,000 less spent than we expected we should have to spend during the year. I should like to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty whether he has obtained from his responsible advisers estimates of the progress which is to be made upon the ships and the machinery which has been ordered and is to be ordered, £250,000 less than those they furnished to us when we were in Office? Is it the case, as to my certain knowledge it has been in previous years, that it being desired to cut down the Estimates by £250,000, orders have been given to the permanent officials charged with the duty and carrying out the work to take off the sum by which it is thought desirable to reduce the Estimates pro rata from all the ships? I must say I cannot be- 1266 lieve that it is to the first of these causes that we have to look for this diminution in the amount of the Estimates, because I cannot imagine that the responsible officers of the Admiralty would within the short space of two or three weeks alter their minds so much as to be able to advise the Admiralty that the contractors would not earn within £200,000 or £300,000 of the money they had advised us they would be able to earn. If I were allowed to go into questions of detail, I could show the Committee that whether you take the ships that are being built by the contractors, or take the machinery now in order, or the machinery that is to be ordered and must be ordered, there is a suspicious look about these various items which makes it appear, certainly to me, as if a reduction had been ordered, and that simply £8,000 had been taken off this ship and £8,000 off the other, and £10,000 off this machinery and £10,000 off the other. I venture to say that if that is the course that has been followed it is a course that the Committee and the House ought to condemn. There is only one legitimate mode in which Estimates should be presented to this House, and that is by stating the amounts—I am speaking now of contract work—which you are advised by those who are responsible for directing you in these matters will be earned by the contractors in carrying out the work you have intrusted to them. What is the position the House is likely to be placed in at the end of the financial year if the reduction has been made by simply cutting down the Contract Vote by £250,000? They will find that if the contractors go on building in the way that was originally anticipated, they will at the end of the year be asked for a large Supplementary Vote. It was our fortune, or misfortune, to be the means of its becoming necessary for the present Government to present a considerable Supplementary Estimate to Parliament for the purpose of meeting the demands of the contractors. But, Sir, the course we adopted was one of which the House unanimously approved. We found that the contractors were proceeding more rapidly than was anticipated when the Estimates were prepared, and we did not think it necessary to stop them, feeling sure that the House would approve of the course we pursued in desiring to get these ships built as 1267 rapidly as they could be built. But while the House was quite willing to excuse us for having adopted that course, and to justify us for having adopted it, I do not think that the House would be likely to approve of the custom of adopting that as a principle. I do not think the House would be satisfied with a systematic under-estimating of the amounts to be earned by the contractors' Ministers trusting to the House at the end of the year to give them the amount rendered necessary by the extra earning of the contractors. But it is not only with reference to the work which is being undertaken by the contractors that there has been what I am afraid is an undue cutting down of the Estimates which we left behind us. There has been—and here, again, I cannot enter into detail—a large sum cut off the Stores Vote, the effect of which will be that at the end of the year the naval stores in stock will be lower than they have been at any time during the past 13 years. Well, I can quite understand the difficulties under which the Government labour. There is a declining Revenue and a failing trade, and I can quite understand their extreme desire to keep down these Estimates, which in any case are extremely high, to the lowest possible amount; but I do not think it is desirable to cut down the Estimates if it is done by the means which I have pointed out to the Committee. Well, now with reference to what I would call the extra programme which we left behind us and which we hoped we might have the authorization of the Treasury to proceed with. I can assure the Committee that there is no expenditure which is more necessary than that upon the small additional programme which we left behind. We, as the noble Lord the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) pointed out to the Committee, considered that it was our first duty to endeavour to bring the Iron-clad Fleet of the country up to a level with and a superiority over that of any other Power; and, therefore, we felt that our first duty was to see that ships were laid down and built which would be a match for any iron-clad that was building, or built, throughout Europe. But we did not shut our eyes to the fact that there was also a grave necessity for small vessels to be provided. I should like to point out to the 1268 Committee, speaking with regard to the gunboats, that although we have 33 on the list as effective, in five or six years we shall not have half-a-dozen effective gunboats in the British Navy. Well, that is a matter which I think requires the earnest attention of the Government; and I was very glad indeed to hear my right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty say that although the Government had not included this small additional programme of ours in the programme to be laid before Parliament, yet that they had hopes that before the end of the financial year they might see their way to proceeding with some of these extremely necessary small craft. I, of course, do not quite see myself where the money is to come from; but I hope my right hon. Friend has in his eye some unexplored mine into which he will be able to dip, and out of which he will be able, at any rate, to commence these vessels.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. HIBBERT) (Oldham)
As you commenced five new vessels without having the money for them.
§ MR. RITCHIE
I am not aware that we commenced five new vessels without considering where the means were to come from to pay for them. I should like to have the details of that. I can only again express a hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to do what he expects he will. The noble and gallant Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) asked me what is the tonnage of the small craft we proposed to build. We proposed to build four corvettes of 2,000 tons each, four sloops of 1,000 tons each, two improved Curlews of about 785 tons each, and eight gunboats of the Rattler type of 670 tons each. That is the whole of the additional programme we proposed, and we hoped of these to have built in the current year eight gunboats, one corvette, and two sloops. We felt that the time had arrived when it was absolutely essential that the question of gunboats should be taken in hand, because we were face to face with the fact that we had a large number of gunboats in the Navy List that were absolutely useless, and which, if money had been spent on their repair, would have been wasted, as we could not have got out of them more than eight knots an hour. I think the 1269 House would have had reason to complain if we had spent large sums of money in trying to make seaworthy gunboats, which, after they were made seaworthy, would not steam more than eight knots an hour. With reference to the question of reorganization at the Admiralty and in the Dockyards, my hon. and learned Friend (Sir John Gorst), who, for the purpose, has assumed a position of greater freedom and less responsibility below the Gangway, is evidently very angry with us.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
I rise to Order. If it is in Order for the hon. Member to go into that question, it will be equally in Order for us to reply, and I have a very long reply to make.
§ MR. RITCHIE
I am not going into the question in any detail. The general question of Dockyard reform was touched on by my right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty, and has been touched on by more than one speaker; and, while I will rigidly guard myself from going into any question of detail in connection with it, I think I shall be in Order if I say one or two words to show the necessity of dealing with the Dockyards. Now, what were the circumstances? We were face to face with the fact, about which there has been conflict in the House and in the country over and over again, that the ships which were building in our Dockyards were not being turned out with that expedition with which they ought to have been turned out, and that they were being turned out at a cost greatly in excess of a fair and proper amount. That led us to inquire into all the circumstances in connection with the Dockyard administration. Now, I wish it to be clearly understood that although in the Blue Book which has been referred to more than once, containing the Report of Admiral Graham's Committee of Investigation into the Dockyards, certain statements are made as to idleness in the Dockyards, the Committee must not be under the misapprehension that the reforms which we undertook were undertaken in the belief that the only fault, or the great fault even, was that of idling in the Dockyards. Of course, where there are large numbers of men congregated together, as there are in the Dockyards, there must be, and there will be, idleness here and there; but I 1270 am convinced that no country possesses more efficient servants than this country possesses in the artizans who are employed in our Royal Dockyards. And, further, Sir, I am satisfied of this—that whatever may be the question of cost in connection with what is turned out of the Dockyards, or whatever may be the question of time, no Dockyard in the country, or in any other country, turns out work superior to that turned out of Her Majesty's Dockyards. I would almost go further, and say that I greatly question whether work such as is turned out of Her Majesty's Dockyards is turned out of any private yard in the country. Hon. Members for Dockyard constituencies, whose indignation I can well understand and appreciate, must not run away with the notion that we have been driven into the question of Dockyard reform in consequence of the complaints which have been made with reference to the hands employed in the Dockyards. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chatham (Sir John Gorst) and my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Puleston), while denouncing the reforms which we had made, and while applying the most opprobious terms to the assistants to the Superintendents whom we had appointed, themselves bore the strongest testimony it was possible for anyone to bear to the absolute necessity for the reforms which we had initiated. The hon. Gentlemen themselves complained of men standing idle for days and weeks together; they said the men had no work to do, although ships were lying in the Yards ready to be repaired, but upon which the men were not employed. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chatham complained of the total inability of the men to obtain the stores which it was necessary they should obtain in order to proceed with their work. What did all these complaints point to? They pointed to a want of management. And, Sir, what we considered necessary, judging not only from the evidence which was placed before us, but from the evidence of our own eyes when we made our visitation to the Dockyards—what seemed to us to be absolutely essential was that there should be placed in the Dockyards someone with technical knowledge, who should be responsible to the Superintendent and the Admiralty for the efficiency of the work 1271 which was done there. And, Sir, I agree with my hon. and learned Friend that there was as much necessity, to say the least of it, for taking in hand the reform of the central government in the Admiralty as any reform in the Dockyards; and I believe that we have instituted such a system, both at the Admiralty and in our manufacturing establishments, as will secure that the country obtains quickly, efficiently, and expeditiously value for the money which this House votes. We have endeavoured in all that we have done to follow out the system which leads to such successful results in the private Yards of the country. We formed our plans on the basis upon which private Dockyards in the country have been so successful for so many years; and I want to impress upon the present Board of Admiralty what we considered one of the fundamental, if not the fundamental, principle which underlies all the reforms which we have endeavoured to secure. We have adopted a system by which, for all practical purposes, the two Departments of designing and of building shall be separate, and that the officer charged with the designing shall be responsible for his designs, and that the officer charged with the building shall be responsible to the Board of Admiralty for quickly and economically and efficiently carrying out the work which has been placed in his hands. I would impress strongly upon the present Board of Admiralty that they cannot be too particular in endeavouring to secure, as far as it is possible, this clear division of labour, in order that there may be responsibility where responsibility ought to lie. Sir, I am speaking upon a subject which was to me one of daily and nightly concern during the whole time that I had the honour of filling the Office of Secretary to the Admiralty. There is much that I should like to say upon it, but I know it would be altogether irregular for me to do so; and, therefore, I shall reserve what I have to say with reference to the details of the arrangements which we have made until we have a legitimate opportunity of considering them. There is, however, one word which I should like to say in support of what was said by my noble Friend the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) with reference to the manufacturing establish- 1272 ments of the Navy. You may make all the reforms in administration which you please, and yet you will not get what you have a right to expect unless you take in hand vigorously the reform of the tools which you give your servants to carry out their work with. I venture to say that no one can go round Her Majesty's Dockyards without being amazed at the antediluvian character of a vast deal of the machinery which is given to those in the Dockyards who have to carry out the programme decided upon. There is a great deal of machinery which ought to be ruthlessly swept out; and I can conceive nothing more unsatisfactory than the mode in which, at the annual visitation of the Lords of the Admiralty to the Yards, the question of what machinery is wanted and what buildings are wanted is settled. It is taken for granted that so long as the sum which was voted the previous year is not exceeded in the demands of the year that is to come, everything is all right; but, Sir, to my mind, that is a fatal and a most costly process. Anyone who goes round the private Yards will see that as little as possible is spent upon buildings and as much as possible upon machinery; anyone going round Her Majesty's Dockyards will see that the reverse is the case—that as much as possible is spent upon buildings and as little as possible upon machinery. I do no not care how flimsy your buildings are so long as you have fine machinery—machinery brought up to the present day. A person who inspects some of our greatest Shipbuilding Yards cannot but be struck with the flimsy character of the buildings and the splendour of the machinery. I remember saying, in one of the principal Yards—"Dear me, what a very light structure you have got for all this splendid machinery." "Yes," said the owner—"That is the principle we adopt. We put up a very light building. We never know what we may have to do. We may have to pull down the building. We may find it in an inconvenient position, and we may want to move it to another place. But we think it absolutely essential to have the best machinery that can be obtained." As I have said before, it seems to me the direct contrary is the case in Her Majesty's Dockyards. Now, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leith (Mr. Jacks) gave us one or two illustrations, 1273 by way of comparison, of the cost of building in Her Majesty's Dockyards and the cost of building in private Yards, and he said that the Returns which were presented to Parliament were of no value whatever. If the hon. Gentleman was speaking of the form of Estimates which have been presented to Parliament hitherto, I should feel very much inclined to believe him, for I am certain that anyone taking up the Estimates of previous years would be utterly unable to make head or tail of them, unless he possessed a great deal of technical knowledge and a considerable amount of special education. But, Sir, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will alter his mind when he studies the Estimates of the present year. He said he had only just received the Report of the Committees with reference to administration. I hope he has only just taken up the Estimates, and that he has not had time to look at them, because I should be extremely sorry and very much disappointed if his observations had been based upon the Estimates of the present year. He will find, and the Committee will find, in the Estimates of this year every possible kind of information which will enable the Committee to make comparisons, or to learn whatever they wish to learn in regard to the naval expenditure.
§ MR. JACKS (, &c.) Leith
May I ask if in the Estimates comparisons are made between the cost of labour and material in the Royal Yards and private Yards?
§ MR. RITCHIE
It is perfectly impossible for the Admiralty to adopt forms of Estimates giving the cost of labour and material in private Yards. What we have done in the present Estimates is to make a clear distinction between the labour and material on every ship that is being built, so that all the hon. Gentleman has to do is to look at the Estimates, and if he desires information about any particular ship, he will see, in separate columns, the labour and the material which have been spent on that ship, and the labour and material which it is proposed to expend on that ship in the current year. I presume I should be somewhat out of Order if I were to go into further details in connection with the Estimates; and, therefore, I will content myself by saying that our endeavour, with reference to these Estimates, has been to present in an intelli- 1274 gible form the progress which has been made, and the progress which it is proposed to make, during the ensuing year. Something was said by my hon. Friend the Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. R. W. Duff) in reference to the amount which is to be expended during the next year upon guns and ammunition. I do not propose to go into details in reference to this subject; but I do desire to emphasize some remarks which have been made by my noble and gallant Friend the Member for Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) upon the point. My noble and gallant Friend spoke of the extremely unsatisfactory position of things, as between the Admiralty and the War Office, with reference to the armaments and ammunition supplied to the Navy. I entirely agree with the noble and gallant Lord. I think that the present condition of things, by which the War Office undertakes to supply the Admiralty with the guns which they require, is anything but satisfactory. My own belief, and I think it is a common-sense view, is that the Admiralty, which is responsible for the building and equipping and fitting of a ship, ought to be responsible for everything in connection with the ship. They ought to be able to bear upon their own Estimates the cost of all the guns and ammunition which they require, and they should be at liberty to go to the cheapest and the best markets in order to obtain their guns and ammunition. If Woolwich can supply them more cheaply, or as cheaply, and as good, and as quickly as any other people, then by all means employ Woolwich; but if it cannot, then let them be at liberty to go elsewhere. There is no doubt that, although there are many reasons why ships are delayed in the process of building, they are frequently delayed by the difficulty in obtaining their armaments. When we left the Admiralty negotiations were going on with a view of placing this matter on a satisfactory footing; and I trust those negotiations will proceed, and that in a short time the Navy will be able to have the money for her own guns and ammunition on her own Estimates, and will be able to provide her armaments more expeditiously. I am afraid, Sir, that in some cases I have approached very near to the limits of the debate which you have drawn; but I will not trespass longer upon the attention of the Committee. 1275 What one has to say on these matters is naturally of an extremely discursive character. In conclusion, I will say that there does not seem to be from any quarter of the Committee any strong opposition to the programme which the Admiralty have resolved to adopt. I myself regret very much indeed that they did not see their way to enlarge their programme somewhat; but I know that circumstances at present are extremely depressing, and that the difficulty of obtaining money from the Treasury must be very great. For my own part, I am sufficiently unorthodox to agree with my noble Friend the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) in the proposal which he advocated the other evening. I do not think that it is a very advisable thing either to suspend the payment of the National Debt or to issue Terminable Annuities; but my opinion is it is the lesser of the two evils. If ships are wanted, if increased expenditure is necessary in order to bring the Navy up to an efficient condition, it is a much lesser evil to raise the requisite money by means of Terminable Annuities than to leave the Navy in an inefficient state. All we should do would be to pay 3 per cent for the money of which we obtained an advance; and I venture to say the advantage we would obtain by having our Navy in an efficient and strong condition is worth 10 times the 3 per cent we should have to pay. But that is a matter I do not wish to dwell upon. I can only express my personal thanks to my right hon. Friend (Mr. Hibbert) for the extremely kind and courteous, and, indeed, handsome manner in which he has spoken with reference to the action which has been taken on several questions by the late Board of Admiralty, and for having so loyally set himself, as I know he has, to carry out the programme which was left behind by the late Board.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. HIBBERT)
I do not know whether we have arrived at the time when we may be allowed to take the Vote — [Admiral FIELD: No, certainly, we have not]—but I think the time has arrived when I may reply to the observations which have been made by several hon. Members. First of all, I may say that I do not feel at all dissatisfied with the discussion which has 1276 taken place upon the Estimates which are now before the Committee. Of course, there has been, very naturally, a considerable amount of criticism. The great part of it—the greatest part of it—has been of a friendly character, and where it has been otherwise we must, of course, try to make the best of it, and see whether we can do anything in future to carry out the views of those who do not agree with our proposals. Well, I should like to say a word, in the first place, in reply to the remarks of my hon. Friend the late Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Ritchie) as to the Navy being free to purchase their guns in the best market. I entirely agree with him. The noble and gallant Lord's (Lord Charles Beresford's) case is, I think, that if you do not confine the Navy to obtain its guns from one particular place, like the Woolwich Arsenal, it would probably have a much better chance of improving its armaments and of availing itself of new inventions. It is quite obvious that the Navy would profit very largely by being at liberty to go where it liked than if it were confined within the four walls, so to speak, of a Government Department. Then I also entirely agree with my hon. Friend (Mr. Ritchie) as to the necessity of getting rid of all obsolete machinery in our Dockyards. I did not touch upon that in my original statement—I meant to have done so, but I thought my observations were getting too extended. I may, however, say now, that since I have been at the Admiralty I have tried to ascertain what the amount is which will enable us to get rid of the really obsolete machinery in the different Yards. I find that the expense is really not of so very serious a character as one would have thought; and therefore I think that, before another year comes round, either we, or some other Government which may be at the Admiralty, will be able to undertake the abolition of the obsolete machinery. As far as I can ascertain, the total amount required in addition to what is being provided this year—for we are providing this year no less a sum than £70,000 for the purchase of new machines—is not much more than £70,000, the greater part of which would have to be expended at the Chatham Yard. Now, my hon. Friend (Mr. Ritchie) has said a great deal in favour of the programme of his own Board, and I ex- 1277 tremely regret that we were not in a position to carry out that programme. I believe that if we could have carried their programme out it would have made our proposals almost perfect; but we felt we could not adopt it. Then he asked me how it is that we can obtain money to carry out the proposal to build eight gunboats? We shall obtain our money probably in the same way that they have taken money for vessels which they commenced during the time they were in Office—they obtained it from savings, and from using moneys which could be adapted for the purpose. Probably we may be in the same fortunate position they were in; and if we are in that position we shall feel it our duty, and shall make the attempt, to lay down something like six or eight gunboats. Then, again, my hon. Friend (Mr. Ritchie) asked me how it is that we get rid of the £250,000 upon our Estimates for contract work? We thought the amount placed in the Estimates for contract work was excessive, and we asked that it should be revised, at the same time saying that we had no desire in any way to curtail or postpone the contract work. After going into the matter carefully and fully, we were assured it would be possible to reduce the amount put down for contract work by something like £200,000 or £250,000. Supposing the worst came to the worst, and the work goes on so rapidly that more money will be required than we have put down in our Estimate, why should we be more afraid of coming to the House and asking for money in a Suplementary Estimate than the noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton) and my hon. Friend (Mr. Ritchie) were? I do not see why, if the money is earned and if it is desirable that these vessels should be built and delivered at as early a period as possible, we should not face the House of Commons and ask for the money that is required. But I do not suppose we shall be in that position. I trust we shall not—at least, I do not know which I hope for most. Personally, I shall be quite prepared to take a courageous course and ask the House for the money if it is earned. Now I should like to say something upon the Store Vote, because I have not referred to it hitherto. My hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Puleston) put a question to me in respect to torpedoes. I stated in my 1278 first speech that we were short of 1,463. Of that number we shall have 683 ready at the end of December next, being 780 to be provided for. As to this 780, we have arranged that from Woolwich we shall receive 230 annually, and we have also arranged with a firm at Armley, near Leeds—Greenwood, Batley & Co.—that they shall produce this year 80 instead of 20. That gives us 310, which leaves 470 to be obtained in the best way we can. As I have said before, we do not wish to go abroad for these things, but desire to keep the work in our own hands. I do not think there would be any difficulty in providing money for them next year. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chatham (Sir John Gorst) asked if any steps had been taken to redress the grievances of the warrant officers? In replying to the hon. and learned Gentleman, I wish to reply also to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Buckingham (Captain Verney), who also referred to the question, which is one in which I know he takes great interest. I may say that up to the present time nothing has been done in the way of carrying out the promotion such as was contemplated by the Order in Council to which reference has been made. But I quite agree with those hon. Members who have mentioned the question that it does seem rather singular that we should have an Order in Council providing and allowing for promotion of these officers in the way which this Order does, and that no case should have been fully carried out. Nor can I say what justification there is for withholding promotion from men who hold the position of warrant officers in the Navy and granting it to men in the position of non-commissioned officers in the Army. It is said there are social reasons in the way. If such reasons do exist they will, of course, be discovered when the time comes to attempt to make any promotion. I do not suppose that any promotion has ever been attempted; but I have to say in reply to the remarks that have been made that my noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty (the Marquess of Ripon) is prepared to consider the question with the view of seeing how far he can make this Order a workable Order, and thus promote an improvement in the position of a very deserving class of men. A question has also been asked me in regard 1279 to the engine-room artificers. No doubt these men have a grievance, and I am sure the First Lord of the Admiralty will be perfectly prepared to consider any grievance which is brought before him. I must, however, say this, that the pay of the engine-room artificers is so exceedingly good that I do not think there is any probability of any increase in it being made. I do not know whether it is that their grievance is in respect to pay or pension. ["Pension."] Of course, there is no difficulty in getting any number of first-class engine-room artificers at the rate of pay given, and that makes it difficult to consider the subject. At the same time, I think that if there are any grievances affecting a large and valuable class of men such as the engine-room artificers which can be removed it is very desirable they should be removed, and the present Board will be quite prepared to take the matter into consideration and see whether anything can be done. Now with respect to the stokers. They have also, I believe, grievances, but I am not prepared to say that anything can be done to redress them. Only a short time ago the rank of chief stoker was created, and pay at the rate of 2s. 8d. a-day granted. Besides, there is to be some new arrangement with respect to gunnery and torpedo practice which will give additional advantages to this class, enabling them to obtain extra pay. Then, again, with regard to what was said by the noble and gallant Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) as to the large number of non-combatants carried in every vessel, I may say that the stokers and engine-room artificers will in future be trained in the use of the cutlass and pistol, and thus made available for really defensive work if it should be necessary to call upon them to do such work. Those, I think, are the principal questions which have been asked me in the course of the discussion; and I can only say that any other inquiries which hon. Gentlemen have to make will receive the attention of the Department which I have the honour to represent.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
Sir, I am sorry that I have the privilege of following, instead of preceding, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty. I think I must say that it would have been a 1280 little more courteous on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, when he knew that there were other Navy men who desired to speak — ["No, no!"] — to have waited a short time longer before he rose. Hon. Gentlemen say "No!" but that is my opinion. I do not wish to take up the time of the Committee at any undue length. My object in rising is to draw attention to one or two points of importance and to obtain an answer upon them, and not to go into any discussion, of which, perhaps, there has been too much already. We have had an interesting speech from the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton), and I think it would have been courteous to naval men if the late Secretary to the Admiralty had waited for an opportunity of answering some questions. Upon this Vote I wish to draw attention to the question of wages to petty officers and seamen, and to point out the invidious distinction which exists between different branches of the Service. There are some officers, perhaps, who think it a wise distinction; but there are a great many who are of a different opinion, and the invidious distinction I refer to is felt by the Coastguardsmen, whom it affects deeply. I ask that to-night it should receive the attention of the official Representative of the Admiralty on the Treasury Bench. The representations of the men in question upon this subject were approved by the Duke of Edinburgh, and forwarded by him to the Board of Admiralty. Well, Sir, the question I refer to is that of the Coastguard men not receiving the extra 2d. a-day in common with others in the Service who receive it after 10 years' service on re-engagement. There never was before any such distinction in the Service, and I cannot but think it unwise and regrettable that such an invidious distinction should be made now between those who serve ashore and afloat. Although the Coastguardsmen are not serving afloat, it must be borne in mind that they are the salt of the Service, and the best part of your Naval Reserve.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD
Mr. Chairman, I bow to your decision, of course; but I must try to deal with this question in another way. There is an invidious distinction between a portion of the Ser- 1281 vice afloat, and another portion of it which serves on shore. ["Order!"] Well, I will not press the point now.
§ CAPTAIN PRICE (Devonport)
Mr. Courtney, I rise to Order. Is it not the case that the wages of the Coastguard are provided under Vote 1?
§ ADMIRAL FIELD
I am always very careful in endeavouring to avoid being called to Order. I was under the impression that I was right in dealing with this question under the present Vote, and I am glad to find that impression confirmed by the reply of the Chairman to the hon. and gallant Member for Devonport. I will proceed with this subject. The further complaint of the Coastguardsmen is, that when they are required to go for their month's cruise they are not allowed to draw this paltry 2d. a-day. That is their grievance, and I repeat that it is an unwise and invidious distinction to make between them and other branches of the Service. The grievance has been pressed by the former Head of the Coastguard Service, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the claim approved by the then Board of Admiralty. Under these circumstances, I trust that there is very little difficulty in the way of its receiving the attention of the Secretary to the Admiralty and the present Board. There is another matter to which I desire to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman and the Committee in connection with the Egyptian Nile Expedition, and the Naval Contingent which served in that Expedition. Captain Boardman, of the Royal Navy, was one of the officers who served in that Contingent, and for one year was in charge of the line of communication; he had men and officers under him. I say nothing as to the way in which he did his duty; but everyone knows that he did his duty well. Captain Boardman served in the Naval Contingent, and he was borne on the books of his ship at Malta; but I find that he is not allowed to count sea time for his service in Egypt. Well, Sir, I beg to tell the right hon. Gentleman who represents the Board of Admiralty that the Service is not satisfied with that Rule, and that they hope that the officers in question will be granted the right to count the time during which they were engaged on this hard and hazardous ser- 1282 vice. The other officer, whom I may now name because he is not present, was the noble and gallant Lord the popular Member for Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford). He served in the Nile Expedition. If there is one man in the Naval Service of whom the Service is proud, it is that of the noble and gallant Lord whom I have mentioned. Everyone knows how that gallant Officer crossed the Desert; how he took his steamer up to Khartoum, and how, with a shot in her boiler, he repaired the damage under the enemy's fire; and now we are told that all that brilliant service is to count as harbour time. I say it is an insult to that Officer, and to the Service, that he should be so treated, and I believe the Committee will sympathize with me when I say that if the Rules do not allow these two officers to count the time spent by them in Egypt as sea time, it is the bounden duty of the Government to change the Rule. And I remind them that on a former occasion they found no difficulty in making an Order which brought about a great change in the constitution of the Admiralty. I hope I have said enough on this subject to convince the Government of the desirability of giving it their prompt attention, and that the Committee will perceive that I had a good reason for rising. Allusion has been made by the hon. Member opposite to certain grievances felt by the corps of Marines, and the noble and gallant Lord the Member for Marylebone also referred to the subject. We are all proud of that Corps, and we feel it has been very hardly treated in respect of its great service at Suakin, where they had to bear hard knocks with very little glory attached to them. A great many men were lost in garrisoning that place; but that is a fault which is not ours; it lies at the door of the Military Authorities. The next subject I wish to refer to is the subject of guns. It has been said that the present system is not economical, and that another system ought to be adopted instead of that under which the guns for the Navy are supplied by the War Department. After the remarks that have fallen from the late Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Ritchie), I am bound to say that I am sorry that when the late Government were in power they did not remedy the evil complained of. I always 1283 take a great interest in the utterances of the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed), who is a warm friend of our Service, and whose opinions are so well formed upon this subject, that I have much pleasure in quoting him. The hon. Gentleman said, on the 20th of April last, that the Admiralty groaned under the delay of getting guns; that they should insist upon having them, and that he was sure the House would back up the Admiralty in freeing itself from the system under which the Navy of this country was made dependent on the routine of getting its guns made at Woolwich. Well, Sir, I would ask, will the hon. Member for Cardiff back up the Admiralty in getting rid of the present system? I think the hon. Gentleman and the Secretary to the Admiralty should have no trouble now in meeting this difficulty, and I can assure them that naval officers on this side of the House will support any action which they may take to bring about the desired result. The next subject I desire to touch upon is that of Dockyard accommodation for vessels on foreign stations, the importance of which will be understood by every Member of the Committee, although we have not heard much about it to-night. A little time ago, when the Bombay Flagship required some repairs, she had to leave the station to go to Malta. I may perhaps state that in Bombay Harbour there was a Dockyard containing four docks. At the time I speak of an Estimate was sent home for the purpose of getting permission to throw the two docks into one. All that was wanted for the work was £80,000; but the permission was not given, and, as I have said, the ship had to go to Malta. To show the advantage of having a dock on foreign stations when vessels are cruising about, I may refer to what happened at Bermuda. One of the vessels of the Squadron of Exercise damaged her screw and could not afterwards work her engines; permission was obtained to send the ship to Bermuda, which was accordingly done, and the defect remedied; but if it had not been for the dock at Bermuda the Squadron would have been hampered in every way. Therefore, I wish to draw attention to a subject that so vitally concerns the efficiency of our ships on foreign stations. Now, I intended to enter 1284 into a new subject, but will refrain from doing so now; I will merely say that it was hardly fair, after the Chairman of Committees had cautioned an hon. Member who went very near without crossing the border line of Order, that the late Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Ritchie) should have been allowed to speak on the subject. Sir, we have a rod in pickle for him and the noble Lord, and it will be in the shape of a discussion on naval matters. A former First Lord of the Admiralty, the Member for East Edinburgh, says, that while anxious for the efficient administration of naval affairs, it was of the utmost importance that "we should not do anything which would lead naval men to think that their views in these matters are entirely ignored." That is the very charge we bring against the noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton) and his Colleague—that they did ignore the views of naval men when it was of great importance that the efficiency of the Navy should be secured. Although I recognize the ability of the late Secretary to the Admiralty, especially when he is dealing with the question of sugar, I must confess that I have never had the same admiration for his speeches when he is dealing with "salts;" and I can tell the noble Lord that there are no two men who have done more to wound naval opinion and naval feeling than himself and his Colleague, since the day when they occupied the positions of First Lord and Secretary to the Admiralty. I venture to say, if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) had presided at the Admiralty, nothing of the kind would have taken place, and that there are men of great distinction in our Service who, if they had been consulted, would have given an opinion very different from that which has been expressed to-night. Sir, I conclude my remarks upon this Vote by expressing a hope that I have justified the statement with which I commenced—that I did not rise without having something of importance to say.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
I desire to say one word before this Vote is taken with respect to what has fallen from the late Secretary to the Admiralty—that no strong protest against the increased naval expenditure has come from any part of the House. At least 1285 I offer my protest. There is only one redeeming thing which we learn from the discussion which has taken place, and that is that the Naval Estimates are £540,000 less than they would have been but for the fortunate change of Government. Every increase of naval expenditure has been sought to be justified by referring to the examples of France and Italy; but I may point out that there are items of comparison which have been omitted. One is, that that the deficit in France, created by such extravagance of warlike preparation, has involved the contracting of a new loan, stated at £70,000,000 sterling; and the other is, that, as the best criticisms represent it, the state of Italian finance is one of chronic disorder, because naval officers have been allowed to say that money should be spent without stint, and without saying where that money is to be earned.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (2.) £964,400, Victuals and Clothing for Seamen and Marines.
§ SIR JOHN GORST (Chatham)
I wish to make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department as to whether the amount of money that has been granted is not sufficient for the Public Service? I would remind the Committee that a Vote once granted can be used by the Admiralty as a provision for all other Votes. It is, in fact, a Vote of Credit; and the sum of money now obtained from the Committee—in round numbers £3,000,000—is sufficient to enable the Admiralty to conduct its business until the end of July. I think we ought to have a pledge from Her Majesty's Government, that if this Vote is obtained before the Committee report Progress, further application will not be deferred until the end of July or the beginning of August, when Members interested in the question of Admiralty administration have left, and when it is impossible to have matters discussed in the way they should be discussed. This question of the Dockyards is a very important one, and it will eventually excite a great amount of interest in the House, and it is one which I think the Secretary to the Admiralty ought to see is fully debated. Therefore, I ask the 1286 Secretary of State for the Home Department, the present Leader of the House, whether an undertaking can be given that if another Vote is taken before the Committee reports Progress, the House shall have an ample and early opportunity of discussion?
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. CHILDERS) (Edinburgh, S.)
The inquiry of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham is not an unreasonable one. We will inform him when the Navy Estimates will be taken.
§ SIR JOHN COMMERELL (Southampton)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the large number of condemnations which have taken place in provisions and clothing during the past year? Is the right hon. Gentleman also aware that an officer of tried experience was appointed by the late Government to inspect the ship and victualling accounts, with an allowance of £100 a-year, and that since the advent of the present Government that officer, without any reason, has been displaced and his remuneration disallowed?
§ THE CIVIL LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. R. W. DUFF) (Banffshire)
I shall be happy to receive a communication from the hon. and gallant Admiral on the subject, and to entertain, as far as possible, anything he has to say on the matter.
§ Vote agreed to.