§ Order for Committee read.
§ The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Sir Eric Geddes)
I beg to move, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair." It is nearly three months since I had the honour of addressing the House on the Vote of Credit, and, before coming to a general review of the Naval situation and of Admiralty activity, I would like to occupy a few moments of the time of the House on a personal matter. It is considerably over a month since I have attended a sitting of the House, and my absence has been the subject of some 1866 comment, both in the House and outside. I venture to make a plea to the House, on my own behalf, that it will view my infrequent attendance here in the light of an assurance that if I am elsewhere it is simply because, in my judgment, I am thus best serving my country at this time. I recognise to the full my responsibility to this House, and the need, especially in my case, that I should earn and retain its confidence. I am a man with no party politics. I have neither knowledge, gifts, or inclination for them, and I most earnestly beg that, if I have the confidence of the House personally, I and the Admiralty may be left as far as possible outside party politics. While thanking the House for its indulgence in the past, I ask it to permit me again, on this occasion, to make constant reference to the very full notes which I have prepared, and would ask hon. Members to regard it as a statement of a plain business man, unskilled in oratory or rhetoric, endeavouring to give a true and faithful record of his stewardship. My absence abroad—to which I will refer later—was caused solely and only by Admiralty business, and I occupied my time on nothing else. My journey was undertaken in the knowledge that it is impossible to administer intelligently large and complicated establishments which one has never seen, under the control of officers whom one has never met; that one cannot understand the views and desires of one's Allies if one does not see their conditions for oneself and confer with them at the scene of their activities.