HC Deb 03 July 1837 vol 38 cc1768-72
Mr. G. F. Young

said, that notwithstanding the lateness of the hour and the opposition he was likely to meet with, he felt it his duty to persist in calling for the returns of which he had given notice. In the first place, he complained of the present system on which our ships of war were constructed. The construction of those vessels ought not to be confined to one particular person, but the nation ought to have the benefit of the general talent of the country. At present such was not the case, as the Surveyor of the Navy had the sole power of selecting the plans submitted to his inspection. Such a system, in his opinion, produced a bad description of ships, and besides every new surveyor had a new plan of his own, and the ships constructed on the old system were laid up in ordinary, or broken up and sold, while still in sound condition. The old ships were thus destroyed, and with every new surveyor new vessels were constructed at an enormous expense to the country. Since the present Surveyor of the Navy had been appointed upwards of half a million of money had been expended in constructing ships upon his plan, and we were suffering ships built by former surveyors to rot in ordinary, while ships were building upon the plans of Captain Hayes and Admiral Elliott, in order to ascertain which plan was the best. Now, the Admiralty ought by this time to have determined whether the plan of Sir William Symonds ought to be adopted, and if it was good, they ought not to have put the country to the expense of building ships on other plans which could not be adopted. But if Sir William Symonds' plan was bad, then it ought at once to be discontinued, and some other system at once adopted instead. He objected to the system of experiments which had hitherto been pursued, as entailing an enormous and useless expense on the country. He had every respect for Sir William Symonds but, not having been educated for his present situation, he could not think Sir William Symonds the most proper person to decide on the system which ought to be pursued in the construction of ships. The duties of the surveyor were to draw plans for ship-building, to decide on the qualities of timber and iron, and on the reports of those persons who were appointed to ascertain the condition of ships; and he would ask, how the present surveyor, who was not a professional man, could possibly perform such duties? All he wished for by these returns was to enable him to make out a primâ facie case for the appointment of a Committee, and he could not see any reason why he should meet with the opposition which he under-Stood he was to receive. The hon. Mem- ber concluded by moving for a number of returns.

Mr. C. Wood

thought it was incumbent on the hon. Member to show some better reason than a mere assertion for the production of such voluminous and, in some instances, expensive returns. The hon. Member defended the conduct of the Admiralty in the course they had pursued, and supported Sir William Symonds, as having contributed most essentially to the improvement of the British navy. If any blame attached at all, it was to be attributed to the Admiralty, and not to the Surveyor of the Navy, than whom a more able or better public servant could not be found. The hon. Member for Tynemouth had been rash in some of the assertions he had made; for, speaking upon official information, he could state, that so far from the absence of any opportunity of rivalry in the building of ships for the British naval service, Sir W. Symonds had only built one ship of the line and one frigate, and of small vessels only nine out of eighteen had been built by other individuals. On the whole, he submitted, that the hon. Member for Tynemouth had laid no sufficient grounds to be furnished with these returns, which would be both voluminous and expensive.

Captain Berkeley

bore his testimony to the professional merits of Sir William Symonds, and added that, from his experience of the labours of that Gentleman, he could state, that the navy were deeply indebted to him for his public services.

Captain Dundas

said, he had no wish to depreciate the merits of Captain Symonds, but he must observe, that there were many other individuals whose talents in the same capacity well deserved the attention of the Admiralty.

Sir C. Adam

concurred with the hon. and gallant Member for Gloucester (Captain Berkeley) in the opinion that the ships constructed by Sir W. Symonds were at once an ornament and an improvement in the British navy. He knew no ships at all equal to those which Sir W. Symonds had produced.

The motion negatived.