HC Deb 16 March 1835 vol 26 cc1048-51

On the Motion, that a sum not exceeding 108,844l. be granted to his Majesty for the salaries and other expenses of the Admiralty-office, for the year ending the 31st of March 1836.

Dr. Bowring

compared the number of employés in the civil department of the English Admiralty with the number in the civil department of the French army. Although the former was 197, and the latter 385, yet the expense of the English Admiralty was much greater than that of the French.

Mr. Labouchere

thought, that the establishments at Somerset-house ought to be increased rather than diminished.

Mr. George F. Young

complained of the appointment of Captain Symonds as Surveyor of the Navy. He had made a similar complaint in the last two Sessions, and he repeated it now, because experience had shown that that appointment had been most prejudicial to the interests of the public. Captain Symonds was supposed to be the inventor of a particular plan for the construction of ships of war; but the fact was, the invention was not his, for it was known fifty years ago. He did not mean to detract from the merits of Captain Symonds—no doubt he was a clever man; but what he complained of, and what he thought the public had reason to complain of, was that the country was put to the expense of altering vessels which had been laid down on former plans, so as to have them remodelled on Captain Symonds's plan. There was, for instance, the Boscawen, which had been laid down on the plan of the Courageux, the St. Domingo, and other ships, which had been greatly approved of, but which was now being taken to pieces after having been laid down for some years, and her timbers well seasoned, in order to be remodelled on this, which was called Captain Symonds's plan; and this alteration, would be made at an expense of 10,000l. to the country. These were caprices which ought not to be permitted, when they involved the country in such expense. He would ask the noble Lord (Lord Ashley), whether he had seen the reports of many experienced naval men, and among others of Sir George Cockburn, who must be allowed to be a good judge on this subject? The system of building new ships wholly on Captain Symonds's plan was in his judgment much to be deprecated. The remodelling the Navy on that individual's principle—a principle which, if he died to-morrow, would cease to be used—was most unwise and impolitic.

Captain Pechell

did not rise for the purpose of defending the expenses incident upon the adoption of Captain Symonds's plan, or to justify the appointment of that gentleman to the office of surveyor of the navy. He, however, thought that the professional knowledge and practical experience of Captain Symonds had been of the greatest possible utility to the service, and the late Board of Admiralty were deserving of the best thanks of the country for employing him. Captain Symonds had been of the greatest service to the country, by his construction of many of our new ships of war; and although he (Captain Pechell) differed from him in some points, he must say, that the ships to which he alluded were, in point of equipment, speed, and capacity, fit to go to any part of the world and were a credit to England.

Lord Ashley

said, that he had inquired into the subject, and found that the ships which had been constructed on Captain Symonds's plan were generally and highly approved of. One of those ships, although larger by a considerable number of tons than another on the old construction, yet cost less by 14,500l.

Sir James Graham

held himself responsible for the appointment of Captain Symonds, and from that responsibility he would not shrink. That gallant officer had built several vessels of a small class, but the largest vessel constructed upon his plan was a frigate of the fourth-rate. It was true that there were now building two seventy-fours and one first-rate. The excellence of the ships had, however, been demonstrated to the satisfaction of every individual competent to form a judgment, and he (Sir James Graham) was quite content to leave the question of the propriety of the appointment of Captain Symonds, and the benefit thereby conferred upon the naval service of this country, to the judgment of the gallant Admiral (Sir George Cockburn) who had commanded the Vernon, and who was about to join the Board of Admiralty. He was, also, persuaded that Captain Symonds had incurred no needless expense in trying experiments; on the contrary, the former surveyor (Sir R. Seppings had been in the habit of asking from the House a vote in the estimates of about 800,000l. for materials; while all that was at present asked by Captain Symonds was 358,000l., so that in point of economy the difference was 100 per cent, while at the same time the naval arsenals never abounded with better materials than at present. As he had before said, he was quite willing to leave the matter to the knowledge and experience of the gallant Admiral to whom he had alluded.

Sir Edward Codrington

bore testimony to the excellence of Captain Symonds's principles of naval architecture, and could say, that the experiments which he had witnessed, had induced him to recommend Captain Symonds to the attention of the late Government.

Mr. Hume

said, that if the statements of the hon. Member for Tynemouth were correct, and fifty ships had been laid down upon the new principle, it was high time they had the report of some scientific and practical men upon the subject.

From the appointment of Captain Symonds was to be dated the overthrow of the school of naval architecture, which he could not but regret, as England had long been notoriously behind the rest of the world in the science of ship-building. No man ought to have been appointed surveyor of the navy who had not a scientific knowledge of naval architecture. It seemed from the course that had been pursued, as if it was determined no vessel should be built to come in competition with those of Captain Symonds; for last year, when six packets were to be laid down, they were all built upon that gentleman's principle, instead of upon different principles, by which the new one might be put to the test of competition. What they ought to do was, to appoint a Committee of that House to receive reports of the performances of the ships produced by Captain Symonds by those who had witnessed them.

Sir James Graham

said, that the ships were not laid down upon Captain Symonds's principle without good advice and knowledge of its effect. Before taking any decisive step, he had taken the opinion and advice of Sir Thomas Hardy, Sir William Parker, Sir J. Rowley, and the House had heard the sentiments of the gallant Admiral, the Member for Devonport. As to a Committee of this House trying a technical question, the idea was preposterous; but he was willing to leave the decision of the question to Sir George Cockburn, who was about to come to the Admiralty, and who would certainly be an impartial judge of Captain Symonds's merits. He would have abundant materials whereon to found his judgment, for there was hardly a station in any part of the world in which there was not now a ship built by Captain Symonds; and the largest frigate he had built was now in the Mediterranean, where it would sail in competition, not only with the whole of the English squadron, but probably with many foreign ships. By the end of the year, therefore, reports whereon to found a sound opinion would be received at the Admiralty from every quarter of the globe.

The vote was agreed to.