§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ 2. "That a sum, not exceeding £2,500,300 be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Victualling and Clothing for the Navy, including the cost of Victualling Establishments at Home and Abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1911."
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
If all the Votes were as satisfactory for the Navy as the Vote for Victualling and Clothing there would be very little room for criticism. The last efforts of the Admiralty since 1907 have been quite excellent as regards victualling. It must not be understood that the food was ever 831 bad. I joined the Service in 1859, and from that day to now the food supplied by the Government was always excellent, but the cooking, the preparation, and the system of savings which was extremely wasteful and enormously expensive to the men were very bad. That is all altered. The victualling is as good as it can be at present, but I have a few suggestions to make. One question I want to ask is, how has the general mess in the "Dreadnought" and the "Furious" been reported on? That is where the paymaster gets 9½d. for everybody on board, and has to make that go all round. The 5d. for the standard which the men have to take up is compulsory.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
Anyway the men have either 3½d. or 4½d. which they can take either from the canteen or the paymaster. In the old days they used to bake, and then steam, and then burn meat on top of potatoes, and when they burnt the food, and the men called it a "schooner on the rocks," a "burnt offering," or a "boiley-bake," which it was very like. But that is being remedied. I want to know whether the report has come in, and whether it will be adopted. To show the advantages of the new system: in the old days a bluejacket or marine really paid from 10s. to 15s. a month out of his wages extra for his food—that is besides the savings—not that the food was bad, but the wastage was so enormous that the men had to pay that. Under the new scheme the food is very much better. It is well prepared and well cooked, and the men do not pay more than from 3s. to 5s. a month extra for their necessaries in the canteen. Having also the accounts of each mess every week, the caterers know exactly how much they owe or how much they are in pocket. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can see his way to making two issuing rooms. There is one issuing room used now for the standard rations. It has increased the work a good bit, having an extra ration of 4½d. a day that the men can take up from the paymaster or the canteen. As it is now, they go for what they demand in extra rations into the hold or anywhere at all, and they ought to have a separate issuing room, which would save a lot of trouble and bother in the ship. 832 Another matter I should like to bring forward is the scheme of economy adopted some years ago when victualling stores abroad were very much reduced. As we know in some cases we had to buy all over the world wherever our ships might be. To do that in peace time is, I think, inadvisable, but to do it in war time would be inexpedient and dangerous. I wish to know if the whole of the supplies are provided under the new system, or whether in some cases they have still to be filled up abroad?
I hope there is no intention on the part of the Admiralty to take over the canteens. I think that would be very inadvisable. They ought to be very careful in regard to the canteens that nobody will get any benefit by advocating that certain men should run them. I recommend that the whole of a ship's company should vote for the man who is to run the canteen, so that there should not be certain cliques who would get some advantage by recommending that a canteen should be run by certain people. It is in the interest of the men that the canteen should be run without anybody benefiting, and that no one should be asked to pay more than the fair market price for the articles purchased. I also see there has been a great deal of comment in the papers on the Maltese having canteens. After all, the Maltese are British subjects, and I wish to know why they should not have canteens. I think it would be perfectly fair for the right hon. Gentleman to take into consideration how the canteen on a ship is voted for.
I come to the question of clothing. I do not think the ready-made clothing system is at all satisfactory. It is very bad so far as fit goes, and the quality of the stuff is in many cases not at all good. I know some men who do not like the clothing, and in many cases they get suits made on shore, because they object to the quality and fit of the ready-made clothing. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that, so far as the victualling goes in the Service, the new plan is very much appreciated. We all know that if you are well fed you are better tempered, and if you are better tempered, then when the time comes for acting and working you are not so liable to get irritated under strict discipline.
§ Mr. GIBSON BOWLES
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question as to the Appropriations in Aid. They 833 are all set forth in the Vote, and they are so large that I have some doubt whether they should be put down under the head of Appropriations in Aid. May I take it that they are all Appropriations in Aid in proportion to the contributions of the Indian Government, the Australian Government, and so forth, and are they all in respect of victualling and clothing?
§ Mr. GIBSON BOWLES
I want to follow up what the Noble Lord (Lord O. Beresford) has said with regard to the making of the men's clothes. There used to be on board ship a day that was called the making and mending day. On that day the men made and mended their clothes, and I always understood that there was not a better cutter of a pair of trousers than a bluejacket in the British Navy. Certainly the system of the men being allowed to make and mend their clothes themselves was a most excellent one. They made their clothes in a style which no London tailor, certainly no slop-maker, could import into the men's uniform, and I attribute to the fact that the clothes were made by the men themselves the success which has characterised the recruiting for the Navy as compared with the recruiting for the Army. If boys see a well-set-up man in a neatly made uniform, although it is only blue serge, and although there may be no gold lace about it, that may certainly have an effect on their imagination. I believe that is one of the important causes which have enabled the Navy always to get more boys than they want, whereas the Army cannot get the number they require. I think it is a false policy that the Admiralty should have set their face against the system of the men themselves making their own clothes, and that they should have introduced a system, and used their influence to get the men to adopt it, of providing ready-made clothing instead. I do not know what reasons there may be to assign for the change, and perhaps in the remarks which will be made by the right hon. Gentleman we shall hear them.
As to the question of canteens, I have no doubt that the system of canteen contracting is a very excellent thing so far as it goes, but it is impossible to avoid the knowledge common to everyone who knows about the Navy that not long ago there were serious abuses in connection with canteens. My own belief is that these 834 abuses have ceased in consequence of the appointment of an executive officer as president of the canteen who has the governing and controlling command. I do not think you can leave a canteen to the men alone. They are exposed to every temptation and allurement on the part of those who seek to provide canteens with the two main articles, which, I believe, are supplied to them, namely, Worcester sauce and Beecham's Pills, and the men cannot resist these temptations. In order to resist the temptations you did require the intervention of an executive officer, who looks after the supplies in so far as he can and who will stand no nonsense. I should like to be confirmed in the statement that an executive officer does now occupy that position, and that he will be continued in it.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
I wish to make one remark with reference to what fell from the Noble Lord (Lord C. Beresford) with reference to ready-made clothing. I understand that part of the reason, and, in fact, the main reason, why the change was made of supplying ready-made clothing instead of allowing the men to make their own clothes was that there is now a large number of stokers in the Fleet who do not know so well how to make their clothes as our seamen did in former days. Probably that is the real reason for the new system which has been adopted. I wish to ask whether it would not be possible to combine the two systems—that is to say, that those who prefer to make their own clothes should be allowed to go back to the old system, and that others who have not the talent or the time to make their clothes should be allowed to buy ready-made clothes under the system which prevails at the present moment, thereby pleasing all sections of men in the Navy.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The observations of the Noble Lord (Lord C. Beresford) in which he expressed his general satisfaction with Vote 2, were of a kind which will be highly appreciated both in the Admiralty and by the officers who are directly concerned with the operations of this Vote. I think in respect of this particular Vote, the Noble Lord is perfectly in the right in saying that the recent reform that has taken place in the victualling of the Navy has worked out in the most satisfactory manner. I can say that with all the more confidence because, personally, I cannot claim the smallest credit for it. These changes have taken place as the result of 835 accumulated experience, and it would not be just for any person in the Admiralty occupying the post which I now hold to claim credit for himself or his friends for what has only been the result of successful experience over a large number of years. The Noble Lord put several questions to me, and suggested various ways in which some further reforms might be effected in connection with this Vote. He asked me in regard to the general messing experiments that have been made in the "Dreadnought" and "Furious." I think there is also another ship, namely, the "Hampshire." He also asked in regard to certain shore establishments. The trials of these arrangements are still proceeding at the present time, and so far as we have seen, they have been undeniably satisfactory. There is no doubt that, as regards the men who are away with a ship that is cruising, the satisfaction which the system gives appears to be complete. The only objection which might be urged is that as regards a ship which is in port the men may prefer, as they are not going to have all their meals on board, to save some of their money instead of living under the general mess system. I can assure the Noble Lord that careful attention will be given to the results of the experiments when they have been completed. The Noble Lord suggested that an improvement might be made in regard to a second issuing room being established on board ship. On that point I am happy to be able to assure him that the matter is being carefully looked into in connection with new ships which are being built, but nobody can understand more readily than the Noble Lord that it is very difficult in the case of old ships to find the necessary space. On the new ships the Noble Lord's suggestion will be carried out if it is found practicable. On the subject of canteen tenancies I am not sure that I can agree with the view expressed by the Noble Lord that it is desirable that the Admiralty should interfere in the appointment of the tenants.
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
I do not mean that at all. What I meant was that the Admiralty should not take over the canteens themselves under Admiralty management.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I am very glad that I misunderstood the Noble Lord. I am at one with him on that point. The Admiralty do not propose to take over the 836 management of the canteens. They retain a controlling voice in regard to the matter. The tenants of the canteens have to be on the list of Admiralty contractors. The Director of Contracts answers that the prices charged by the contractors are reasonable. The Director of Victualling is responsible for seeing that the goods supplied by the contractors are up to the standard. Once we have security as to the price and quality of the goods, then the Admiralty has done its work. As regards the actual tenancy of a canteen, that will continue to be held by a private contractor, and there is no proposal at the present time that the Admiralty should take over the canteens.
Then the question was raised, not only by the Noble Lord, but also by the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Gibson Bowles) with regard to ready-made clothing. Something has been done in that matter. As a matter of fact the explanation of the large increase in the sub-head dealing with clothes in this Vote is that a change of pattern has recently been made, and in consequence of the change of pattern the existing stores were allowed to run down below the standard. They have now been made good, and made good with clothes of the new pattern.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Pattern to a certain extent includes quality. We hope also to get rid of some legitimate grievance which exists with regard to ready-made clothing. The patterns have been revised and improved, and the present system in seagoing ships is about to be modified by introducing on board tailors who will make to measure. We cannot say that all classes will be made to measure. We cannot say that we shall abandon all ready-made clothing, but wherever practicable we shall make the clothes to measure, a competent tailor being employed for the purposes of measurement. As regards the other point raised—that we should not abandon the old practice of the seamen making their own clothes—I am glad to assure my hon. Friend (Mr. Gibson Bowles) that we have not abandoned it. We have the system of men-making and the system of supply running side by side. There is no intention at the present time of giving up the well-established practice of the seamen making their own clothes to a certain extent. Of course it would depend on the sailor. No doubt very good 837 clothes can be bought of very good quality, and very cheaply, more easily than the sailor can make them himself. There will always be a tendency for the sailor to buy his clothes. But we still issue the cloth to any sailor who is willing to make his own clothes and can make them. So we are doing our best as far as we can to maintain the benefit of both systems. The reduction of supplies in foreign ports is due to foreign establishments being closed. As the Noble Lord knows, there has been no reopening of foreign establishments, and consequently there has been no increase of supplies.
§ Mr. McKENNA
At the present time I think I am justified in saying that in all our ports our stores are fully up to standard. There is no shortage in any port, either home or foreign, but that the total has been reduced, of course, is an obvious consequence of having, closed a certain number of ports.
§ Mr. REES
On page 45, under "Appropriations in Aid," I find that the "proportion of contribution from Indian Government on account of His Majesty's ships in Indian waters" is £9,100, which is the same sum as was provided in the Estimates last year. I thought, perhaps erroneously, that a ship something bigger than a first class cruiser was to be deputed to the East Indian coast during the coming year. If so, there would be a correspondingly larger provision for the victualling and clothing under this head.
§ Mr. McKENNA
My hon. Friend is raising a controversial point. So far as I remember it is not in order at all to discuss this matter.
§ Question put, and agreed to.