§ The House then went into a Committee of Supply; Mr. Bernal in the chair.
§ The following votes were passed nem. con.:—138,214l to defray the salaries of the officers and the general expenses of the Admiralty Office; 9,772l. for the General Register and Record Office of Seamen; and 52,847l for the scientific departments of the Navy.1001
§ On the vote of 137,287l. for Her Majesty's naval establishments at home,
took occasion to remind the House that the late Secretary of the Admiralty (Mr. Ward), in moving the estimates, and in explaining the alterations which the Admiralty proposed in the dockyards, made some observations with respect to the manner in which the business was carried on by the dockyard officers. Since that time certain hon. Members, following up the remarks of the hon. Gentleman, had made use of strong language in reference to those officers—some having oven gone the length of charging them with gross and profligate mismanagement. Now, having had five years' experience of the manner in which business was carried on in the dockyards, and entertaining as he did the highest respect for the officers of those establishments, believing that they were actuated by the most ardent desire to promote the public service, and having always found them conscientious and zealous in the discharge of their duties, he felt bound to say that the observations which had been made upon them were by no means deserved. He would do the hon. Gentleman the late Secretary of the Admiralty the justice to say, that he did not think he intended to convey the impression to the House which some hon. Gentlemen had attached to his remarks. It had been said, too, that the Board of Admiralty had for 200 years been conniving at gross peculation and extravagance in the dockyards. In disproof of this assertion, he would refer to the investigation into dockyard affairs which had taken place under the Commission of Inquiry, appointed by the 43rd George III., passed in 1802, and to the various amendments subsequently introduced by successive Boards of Admiralty. Without denying that the system was open to improvement, he felt bound to maintain that the charges which had been urged against it were greatly exaggerated. It was said, for instance, that there had been no audit of wages; but that did not arise from any loose management on the part of the authorities, but simply because they had always found their preliminary inquiries sufficient to secure accuracy. Then again it was said that there had been no general survey of stores; but that was because of the enormous expense which such a survey would have occasioned, and because it was considered to be unnecessary, in consequence of other arrangements calculated 1002 to secure the same end. With respect to the existence of any check upon expenditure, it should not be forgotten that there was a monthly return of all the stores, which was duly verified by the superintendents.
SIR F. T. BARING
regretted that his hon. Friend (Mr. Ward) was not present, in order to explain personally that he had had no intention whatever of ascribing blame to the officers of the dockyards. So far was his hon. Friend from stating that the system hitherto pursued at the dockyards had been a system of peculation, that he, on the contrary, was much struck and greatly satisfied, on strict inquiry, by the honesty with which the public business had been carried on in the dockyards. No doubt there was room for improvement there, as in all large establishments of a similar nature.
§ The vote was then agreed to, as was also a vote of 24:,873l. for the contingent expenses of the naval establishments abroad.
§ On the vote of 414,763l., for the wages of artificers, labourers, and others employed in the naval establishments at home,
§ MR. COBDEN
expressed a hope that the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty would postpone these votes until the hon. Member for Montrose was in his place, to move two amendments of which he had given notice—one for the reduction of the number of admirals, and another for the reduction of the dockyard battalions and shipwrights. His hon. Friend had been unable to remain in the House owing to a sudden attack of cold, which rendered him inaudible, and, as his amendments were of importance, it was advisable to let the votes to which they had reference, stand over until he was present.
SIR F. T. BARING
would prefer proceeding with the votes; and he would afford the hon. Member for Montrose an opportunity of taking the sense of the House on the estimates upon the bringing up of the report.
§ The votes were then agreed to.
§ Votes of 40,744l. for artificers in the naval establishments abroad, and of 818,869l. for the expenses of naval stores, steam machinery, were also agreed to.
§ MR. COBDEN
said, that with reference to the charge of peculation against the officers of the dockyards, all those hon. Members who had taken part in the exemination 1003 of the subject last year were satisfied that there existed no grounds for any such imputation. But there was a concurrence of opinion in their minds that the management of the dockyards had been excessively defective; and he believed that a commission or a committee had been appointed to revise the system, and place the establishments more upon the footing of private concerns. It was agreed that the stock should be taken, and that other arrangements should be carried out; and he wished the right hon. Baronet to state the result of these improvements.
Sir F. T. BARING
said, that an inquiry had been made into all the dockyards, and that the report consequent upon that inquiry had been carried into effect with gratifying success.
§ A vote of 391,934l. having been proposed to defray the charges of new works, improvements, and repairs in the naval establishments,
§ MR. W. FAGAN
complained of the small share enjoyed by Ireland in the great sum expended upon the naval establishments of Great Britain. Out of a total expenditure of near 2,000,000l., only l,355l. went to Ireland. He called upon Government to redeem their pledge of constructing a harbour and establishing a steam factory at Haulbowline, in the Cove of Cork. There was no difficulty now as to the title of the land for the erection of the latter establishment.
Sir F. T. BARING
admitted the pledge to which the hon. Gentleman referred. They were bound to establish the naval works in question, and were most anxious to do so. Up to the present moment, however, a difficulty as to the title of the requisite land had delayed the works; but as soon as the title had been made good—and he was glad to hear from the hon. Gentleman that the difficulty in this respect had been overcome—an additional vote for the purpose would be applied for. As to the steam factory, no doubt there had been an intention to erect an establishment of the kind; but that intention had been abandoned, with a great many other schemes involving expense.
§ MR. J. O'CONNELL
would remind the House that it would be very harsh treatment towards Ireland if there were to be only one naval establishment there. He would remind them that, by the Act of Union, to which reference had been made, it was stipulated that there should be a dockyard at Cove; but, without reference 1004 to any promises made at that period, the Government ought, in common justice to the country, and for the sake of their maritime interests, to carry out a plan of such utility as that of making Cove a naval establishment. He would appeal to the hon. and gallant Admiral the Member for Launceston, whether Cove were not a most desirable harbour for such an establishment. While on that subject, he would ask, was it creditable to the Navy to have a guard ship such as the old Crocodile, which, in her best days, was known as a "jackass" frigate, bearing the admiral's flag in such a harbour as Cove?
§ ADMIRAL BOWLES
Sir, having been appealed to by the hon. Member who spoke last, I add with pleasure my testimony to the importance of a steam basin at Cork, and sincerely regret that some small proportion of the millions so lavishly wasted in Ireland in 1847, was not applied to this purpose, which would have been a really reproductive work, and equally useful in a national and local point of view. It is always with reluctance that I ask for the attention of the House; but really we have of late heard and read such absurd and mischievous misrepresentations with respect to naval affairs, both here and elsewhere, that although I am fully aware of the difficulty of dealing with a dry professional subject clearly and intelligibly, and sincerely wish the task had fallen into abler hands, I feel it to be a duty I owe to my country to endeavour to dispel prejudices so unfounded, and at the same time so dangerous; and I am encouraged by reflecting, that at least no one will deny the paramount importance of the question at issue—that it is by her maritime strength and superiority that this country has been enabled to raise herself to her present proud pre-eminence, or that without that strength and superiority she could not maintain her rank amongst powerful rivals and competitors even for a single year. Withhold from our merchants that naval countenance and protection on which they have hitherto been accustomed to rely in peace as well as in war, or diminish it below that which other nations afford to their subjects, and see what execrations would be heaped on the heads of those shallow and shortsighted politicians (as well as on any Government weak enough to give way to them), whose mischievous interference had caused this national degradation. In all former times, and when our military organisation and preparations were much more 1005 perfect and complete than they now are, a British Parliament has always viewed with particular jealousy any diminution or mismanagement of the Navy; and I am confident that if I searched Hansard I could quote numberless declarations from the hon. Member for Montrose, testifying his utmost readiness (even at the moment when he was waging his fiercest warfare against the Army Estimates), to vote any sum which might be necessary for the duo efficiency of the Navy. The whole question at issue, therefore, is simply this—What do we understand as constituting that state of due efficiency? Is it that relative strength and superiority which the experience of the past has proved to be absolutely necessary for our defence and protection; or have some new circumstances arisen which render all these precautions no longer important? Now, Sir, I discard as wholly unworthy of consideration or argument all the wild and vague talk we have heard of the changed views and disposition of the world, of an increasing abhorrence of war, and a general inclination to settle all disputes by amicable negotiation, rather than by the sword. Would to God, Sir, that I could place the slightest confidence in these, I fear, visionary assertions; but when I look back to the events of the last three years, and see that in 1846 President Polk was only deterred by our firm and determined attitude from putting into execution his avowed intention of seizing our territory in Oregon; that in 1847 he actually attacked and conquered Mexico; and that during the last eighteen months Europe has been most fearfully convulsed by a mixture of foreign and domestic warfare—I cannot believe that any sane man will venture to assert that this is a moment in which the Government of the country can be justified in still further weakening the small amount of force we at present maintain in a state of efficiency, and without which our mediations and interventions would be wholly disregarded. In all other respects our situation remains precisely the same. We are still only separated by a narrow strait, and a very few hours' sailing or steaming, from a formidable and powerful neighbour maintaining large naval and military establishments, the whole weight of which might on any critical occasion be turned with much greater facility and rapidity than formerly against us. And, Sir, besides all this, I have, I confess, an old-fashioned prejudice in favour of experience, in preference 1006 to theories and professions; and I have therefore been observing attentively how these "men of peace," who assure us that "the spirit of the times" is so decidedly opposed to all violence or appeals to arms, are conducting themselves in their own individual capacities with respect to this question. They are obviously becoming an active and prominent party; and if their views are as pacific as they represent them to be, we should, I imagine, see them exerting all their endeavours to forward this most laudable object by inculcating the great maxims of Christianity—charity, forbearance, and brotherly love—assuaging all religious differences and animosities—disposing all classes of society to throw aside mistaken and injurious jealousies and suspicions—and, in short, by inducing all within their influence to become loyal, peaceable, cheerful, and contented in the various situations in which it has pleased Providence to place them. But now, Sir, does this description in the slightest degree resemble all that we hear and read? I think not. Those gentlemen seem to me as pugnacious politicians as I ever remember during the course of a pretty long experience, and they must therefore excuse me if I judge of them rather by their practice than their professions; and that remembering the old fable of the sheep, the wolves, and the dogs, I frequently imagine that I see one of the most plausible and insidious of their body approaching the poor innocent sheep, with the most tranquillising assurances that a great change has taken place—that wolves are no longer carnivorous—that liberty, equality, and fraternity now govern the world; and that if the sheep could only be prevailed on to dismiss from their service throe troublesome and disagreeable dogs—whose names, I believe, were Army, Navy, and Ordnance—the wolves would be delighted to fraternise with them, and to lead them to all the sweetest pastures and clearest brooks. Sir, we all know the sequel of the story—the dogs were discarded, and their dismissal was followed by a grand fraternal banquet, consisting entirely of mutton in all its various shapes and forms! With this catastrophe before my eyes, these gentlemen will forgive me if I prefer the dogs to the wolves, and if I venture to express my fears that they are proceeding by sap and mine against those great safeguards of the empire which they dare not openly attack, and endeavouring 1007 to mislead the country by exaggerating the expense, disparaging the management, and sneering at the efficiency of our naval establishments. Nothing strikes me so forcibly in these discussions as the unbusinesslike way in which we go to work, when we talk about our establishments being too large, without ever giving ourselves the trouble to inquire what proportion they bear to those of other maritime Powers. It is a very remarkable fact, and one which deserves our most serious consideration, that during the whole of the inquiry last year not a single question was asked by the leading Members of the Committee tending to obtain any accurate information of the naval force of other nations; and I cannot, after a laborious search through the whole index and appendix, find anything like a return—which might have been so easily obtained—of the actual state of the navies of France, Russia, America, &c.; and yet without this information how can any man venture to assert whether our own is unnecessarily large, or dangerously small? I repeat, therefore, that the whole question at issue is simply this—what are we to consider an efficient Navy? Is it to remain as it has hitherto been of a character so decidedly superior as to be able on all occasions to defend our coasts and commerce at home, and at the same time those widely scattered colonies and interests which demand protection in every quarter of the globe? Or is it by successive curtailments, and a parsimonious and paralysing policy, to be suffered to dwindle gradually down to a state of comparative inferiority? The French Navy consists at this moment of (about) 50 ships of the line, 50 frigates, and (towards) 100 armed steamers. The Russian of (about) 50 of the line, 25 frigates; and the United States 12 of the line, 14 frigates, making together a grand total of 112 of the line, and probably near 100 frigates, besides steamers. Now, Sir, our whole force last year according to the returns published by the Select Committee on the Navy Estimates consisted m round numbers of only (about) 70 ships of the line—of which near 20 are old, and of a very inferior description—55 frigates, 21 first class, 34 second class, and 124 steamers; whereas at the end of the year 1793, the first year of the French war, we had actually in commission 78 ships of the line, 101 frigates, with 76,000 men; further increased in 1794 to 89 ships of the line, 120 frigates, with 85,000 men; and yet any Gentleman who will take 1008 the trouble to read the naval history of that time, may see with how much difficulty our coasts and trade were protected, and what heavy complaints were made by our merchants of the losses they sustained from the enemy's cruisers during the first years of that war. At later periods of this war, we had to contend with Spain and Holland, as well as with most formidable coalitions in the north of Europe, and finally with America; and it is impossible to look back, without wonder and admiration, to the rapidity and decision of our naval operations on those critical occasions; but what would have been our situation if our force had been diminished in the manner now proposed by our financial reformers? Sir, why do I trouble the House with these historical recollections? I do so because they ought to reflect that what has already happened may again occur, and that it is their bounden duty, as the guardians of the national safety, as well as the national honour, to maintain, unimpaired in its efficiency, that force on which both must principally rely in the hour of danger. It is at this moment too low in amount; and the reduction of 3,000 men, small as it may sound, will deprive us, I fear, of the means of keeping up that squadron of exercise and instruction which, after so long an interval of peace, has become so urgently necessary for the service. We forget that without skill and discipline, even courage and numbers are of little avail, and that on former occasions—more particularly at the commencement of the wars in 1758 and 1778—we began our naval operations with such indecisive and unsatisfactory engagements, that the nation was thrown into a paroxysm of alarm and indignation, from which it did not recover for many months, and which produced the worst effect both at home and abroad. It was for the purpose of affording this important and indispensable instruction to the rising generation that a small squadron was fitted out during the Administration of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, and which, although since too much diverted to other services, and not sufficiently employed in the manner originally contemplated, must nevertheless have been productive of considerable advantage; but it is now entirely broken up, and I fear the rigid rules laid down last year by the Committee preclude all hope of its revival. I have already troubled the House at considerable length, but it is necessary to say a few 1009 words on some very mistaken animadversions, which I have heard and read, with respect to our continuing to build new ships, while we have already so many in our arsenals which have never been at sea. As I have just proved, I hope, that our whole stock of ships is too low, I need not say much on this subject; but people in general are not sufficiently aware how fast these immense wooden fabrics deteriorate, even when laid up in our harbours with every possible care taken for their preservation. A steady perseverance in our building system is, therefore, absolutely necessary, and it is only to be regretted that the want of space in most of our dockyards, and the small number of our building slips, render it impossible to keep, as the French do, a large force on the stocks completely ready for launching, and much less exposed to decay, than when actually in the water. And it should also be recollected, that a considerable proportion of our ships being of old and objectionable classes, it is much better economy to replace them by new ones, than to incur a heavy expense in repairing them. I have thus endeavoured—although, I fear, very imperfectly—to counteract the effect of those bold but unfounded assertions which might, if left uncontradicted, have produced a dangerous impression on the public mind. I have, I hope, shown, that while the Navies of other Powers have been gradually increasing, ours, during the last twenty years, have been allowed to diminish; and if very great exertions had not been made by the late Administration to remedy this deficiency, our relative inferiority would have been greater than at any former period in modern times. I abstain, purposely, from entering into any further particulars, and will only, in conclusion, implore the Committee to persevere steadily in all the plans adopted by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth for the defence of the country, more particularly for the improvement of our dockyards, and their adaptation to the repair of our steam navy, without which its efficiency cannot be secured; and, finally, that the instruction of our rising generation of officers, on whose skill and experience the country must rely for its safety and protection on future emergengies, may not be neglected or postponed for the sake of some small and inadequate saving of expense.
§ MR. HENLEY
thought that the Government was in a difficult position; on one 1010 hand the country was calling out for reduction in no measured terms; on the other, in that House, the Irish Members were calling for a new establishment, for no other reason except that it would benefit Cork. He was sorry that the gallant Admiral the Member for Launceston had given some sanction to that proposal, at a time when they were all agreed that our establishments ought to be kept up as economically as possible. In his opinion, the multiplicity of our establishments was a great source of needless expense, which might be very much reduced; and the benefit to Cork was no reason for creating a new establishment The dockyard at Deptford cost 6,600l a year, of which the wages amounted to 2,900l., or about 18 per cent upon the expenditure. In the Portsmouth dockyard, the expenses of the establishment were 23,000l. a year, the expenditure 191,000l., so that the expenses of the establishment were nearly 10 per cent upon the expenditure, which was certainly a large per centage upon the work done for the country. He thought they had too many of these establishments already, and that the work would be better done, and at less cost, if the number was diminished. He must say that there was certainly nothing in the present estimates to lead to the supposition that the Navy was neglected. No alarm need be felt on that score. The Government were the persons most fit to determine the number of men; but he must remark that they were now paying more for stores and wages in the dockyards than they were in 1843, and he should have been glad to see greater reduction than was proposed. The proportion of establishments and stores to the number of men was higher now than in 1814 or 1815, although the price of stores was infinitely greater then than now. That was a fair way of testing the economical management of the dock-yards; and though he believed that the Government were taking steps in the right direction, he was satisfied that more might still be done without at all impairing the efficiency of our Navy. He protested against the increase of our establishments, and he had risen to make that protest in consequence of the calls which had been made upon the Government.
reminded the hon. Gentleman that the estimates for the present year included items which were not embraced in the expenditure of 1814.
§ MR. HENLEY
had taken care in his 1011 comparison to omit those items which related to the victualling yards and the steam navy,
said, that he could not agree with the hon. Member for Oxfordshire as to the greater economy of our naval administration in 1814 and 1815. He had taken ten years preceding 1828, and calculated the average expense of the Navy during that period; and from 1818 to 1827 the cost of the Navy was 6,141,000l.; whilst from 1833 to 1838, it was 4,746,000l.; during the five years of the late Government it was 7,062,000l.; and during the three years of the present Government, 7,492,000l. So that from 1818 to 1827 it was 6,141,000l; and from 1842 to 1846, 7,062,000l.; showing an increase of 921,000l. in the latter. But the House must look at the additional charges during the latter as compared with the former period. There were first the contract packets, 473,000l. Then the average number of men from 1818 to 1827, was 14,700 men; from 1842 to 1846, 39,600—making a difference of 85 per cent; and the additional cost upon an increase of 85 per cent in the number of men would be 779,100l.; in addition to which there were additional pensions to the amount of 83,000l.; making a total of additional burdens of 1,335,000l., and as the excess of naval expenditure was only 921,000l., it was clear that if the 1,335,000l. were added to the expenditure between 1818 and 1827, there would be now a decrease of 4,400l. Since that period, too, the steam navy had been created—steam basins constructed, and great alterations made in their dockyards, the expense of which ought to be added to that decrease. At all events, he had shown enough to prove that the management of naval affairs had of late years been more economical than it was formerly.
§ VISCOUNT BERNARD
thought that the hon. Member for Oxfordshire had very unfairly attacked hon. Gentlemen who had urged upon the Government the case of Cork harbour; the harbour of Cork was distant from the city, and a harbour of the utmost importance in case of war. It had always been so esteemed by naval officers, and on those grounds he was anxious to urge on the Government the propriety of carrying out, not any extensive alterations, hut a few trifling improvements, which would not cost more than 30,000l., in a harbour which was able to contain the whole Navy of Great Britain in perfect 1012 safety. The fortresses which defended that harbour were in a dilapidated state; and he hoped that the Government would not hesitate to incur the trifling cost which would make that harbour impregnable. He also begged to urge upon the attention of Her Majesty's Government the state of a harbour which had been much neglected—the harbour of Bantry, and also of the lighthouses on that coast. He hoped the Government would not be deterred by the opinions of a few Gentlemen opposite from placing the Navy in that position by which, in time of war, it might he able to maintain its supremacy.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
complained that the estimates had been brought on unexpectedly, it being supposed that the debate on the Irish Bill would occupy the whole evening. It was probably under this supposition that the hon. Member for Montrose, who had several Motions on the Paper, had vanished. It was probable that many Members of the Government were now donning their silk stockings and pumps, with a view to making their appearance in a more brilliant assembly. As economy was the order of the day, he thought there only ought to be three Lords of the Admiralty, instead of six; but he would not cut down the clerks a single sixpence. If he was too late to move that reduction, he would give notice to do so on the bringing up of the report. He had no wish to interfere with the efficiency of the Admiralty, nor would the reduction of the Board from six to three have that effect. He also thought it would be well to reduce the salary of the First Lord some ten or twenty per cent. The clerks, generally speaking, were ill paid.
was happy to bear his testimony to the fact that the Navy had never been in a more efficient state than under the late First Lord and the late Secretary to the Admiralty; whilst, at the same time, due attention had been paid to economy. He wished to know whether there was any improvement as to the method of coaling the steam navy, for, considering that only 100 tons could be put on board in a day on the old system, it was desirable that some other mode should be adopted. Another question to which he wished to call the attention of the Government was with regard to the freight of specie. He thought it would be better if some arrangements could be made for altering the present practice.
SIR F. T. BARING
was much obliged 1013 to the hon. Gentleman for the handsome terms in which he had referred to the state of the Navy under the late Lord Auckland and his hon. Friend Mr. Ward. He was glad also to have the opportunity of bearing his testimony to the merits of his hon. Friend the late Secretary. He must say, that during the short time he had been at the Admiralty, he had never mot with a more zealous public servant. The attention of his hon. Friend had been much given to the subject to which the hon. Gentleman first referred—that of coaling the steam navy; but he (Sir F. Baring) had been so short a time in his present office that he was not yet acquainted with all the details of it. He believed, however, that before long a new plan would be adopted. With respect also to freight of specie, the question was one of considerable difficulty, and he had not yet been able to come to a satisfactory determination upon it.
§ SIR H. WILLOUGHBY
called attention to the great increase which had taken place under the head of No. 11 (new works). From 1833 to 1840, the average yearly expense was 95,000l., but for the next years it had been 426,000l. He observed that 120,000l. was asked for towards the works at Keyham, and 15,000l. for the breakwater at Plymouth Sound. He observed from the estimates that 1,366,749l. had been already voted towards that breakwater, and 1,464,646l. had been expended? He wished to know how it happened that the expenditure had exceeded the sum voted? In the evidence given before the Select Committee it was stated that the powder magazine was to be removed at a great expense, and that the new site had not been resolved upon. He thought it would be time enough to vote that item when the site was fixed upon.
§ SIR W. MOLESWORTH
said, he must oppose the vote for steam docks and steam basins at Keyham, and call the attention of the Committee to the manner in which Parliament had been systematically misinformed with regard to the extent and intended cost of these works. In the Navy Estimates of 1844, Parliament was informed that certain works were to be commenced at Keyham; those works were to cost 400,000l.; and, on the faith of this estimate, Parliament voted 30,000l. On the 25th September of the same year, a gentleman of the name of Baker, a contractor, proposed to the Admiralty a plan of operations at Keyham. The Admiralty, in a letter, dated September 30, approved 1014 of that plan. It required the expenditure of 713,000l., for the completion of a portion only—not of the whole—of the intended works; and the Admiralty entered into engagements with Mr. Baker to that effect. In virtue of these engagements, the Secretary of the Admiralty had stated, that Parliament was pledged to expend this year, at least, 120,000l. at Keyham. Nevertheless, the next estimate presented to Parliament, in 1835, was only for 675,000l. Now, the Admiralty must have known, at that moment, that the whole of the works in contemplation at Keyham could not be completed for less than twice that sum; yet, in 1846 and 1847, the same estimate of 675,000l. was laid before Parliament; at length, last year, the estimate was increased to 1,225,000l. The Navy Committee, however, discovered that an important item had been omitted from this estimate; and now they were told that 1,322,627l. would be the sum required, or above three times the original estimate. Without doubt, the Committee will suppose that this increase on the estimate had arisen from the works at Keyham having been extended beyond what was originally intended. Nothing of the kind; on the contrary, the hon. Gentleman the late Secretary for the Admiralty told the Navy Committee, "that the scale upon which the Admiralty would propose to open Keyham would be less than half that laid down in the plans which they found traced out by the previous Government." He likewise told the Navy Committee, that it was originally proposed to have two basins and three docks at Keyham, and that the present Government had struck out one of the docks. It was evident, therefore, that from the year 1844 to 1848, Parliament had been regularly misinformed with regard to the extent and intended cost of the works at Keyham. It had, however, been said, that the works which were estimated in 1844 at 400,000l., were different from those which are now to cost more than 1,300,000l. How did they differ? Precisely in the same manner as the foundations of a house differ from the whole house when completed. The foundations of a house were useless, unless the house be built; so the works of 1844 would have been useless without the subsequent works? But why was not Parliament informed in 1844 of the necessity of those subsequent works? why not furnished with an estimate of their intended cost? What, he asked, would hon. Members think of an architect, who, being employed to furnish 1015 an estimate for a house, should merely state the cost of the foundation, and, by so doing, should lead his employer to believe that for the sum so stated the house could be built, and should thus induce him to commence a building disproportionate to his wants? This had been exactly the conduct of the Admiralty with regard to Keyham. If in 1844, instead of informing Parliament that 400,000l. would have to be provided for works which were about to be commenced at Keyham—if the Admiralty had plainly stated that it would be useless to commence these works unless Parliament were prepared to expend l,300,000l. upon them, what would have been the consequence? In all probability, Parliament, knowing that there were costly works connected with the steam navy in progress at Woolwich and Portsmouth, would have hesitated to commence far more costly ones at Keyham—would have required more information, and, perhaps, have referred the question to a Select Committee; and if the Committee had been like the Navy Committee of last year, the works at Keyham would never have been commenced; for the Navy Committee reported, that, if those works had not been commenced, they would have had no hesitation in recommending Parliament to withhold its sanction from those works. There was no doubt that great blunders had been committed with regard to the works at Keyham. First, they were on the lee shore, and, therefore, exposed to the prevailing winds, instead of being on the weather shore, and sheltered from the prevailing winds. It was, however, a strange fact that all our dockyards were upon the wrong shore. Secondly, there was not a sufficient depth of water at Keyham. The bottoms of the basins were to be twenty-two feet below low-water mark, but the entrance to them was five hundred feet from low-water mark; therefore the largest class of steamers would only be able to enter the basins at spring tides. To remedy this defect, it was proposed to cut a channel through the mud, and to endeavour to keep it open by constant dredging. Third, the entrance to the basins being at right angles to the current of the stream, large steamers would run the risk of considerable damage in entering, unless they entered at the top of the tide, that is, at slack water. Fourth, the basins were to be extravagantly large; the two would cover above sixteen acres, and therefore would easily contain between fifty and sixty steamers of the largest size; that was 1016 about three millions' worth of steamers. What possible use could there be for such enormous basins, when there was such a harbour as the Hamoaze at hand? Fifth, these works were prematurely undertaken. In 1844, works connected with the steam navy were in progress at Woolwich and at Portsmouth. Parliament, as usual, was misinformed that they would be completed for 100,000l; since then about 400,000l had been expended upon them. Now, the Admiralty should have waited till these works were completed, and then, if experience had proved their expediency, works of a similar character might have been constructed at Devonport for about a third of what Keyham will cost. Sixth, all these works were undertaken partly in consequence of a most ludicrous miscalculation of the pecuniary benefits to be derived from them. It was calculated, that by means of these works, steam vessels could be repaired for about 25 per cent cheaper than by contract. Prom this calculation, the cost of the works and of keeping them in repair was omitted. Now, it would be easy to show that the interest of the money so expended, and the cost of keeping the works in repair, would be nearly equal to the whole cost of repairing the steam navy by contract. Therefore, instead of a saving of 25 per cent, there will probably be a loss of 75 per cent by this mode of repairing the steam navy. Let him warn the Committee against ever believing any statement made by the Admiralty or by the Ordnance, or by any other public department, of the cost of any work performed by them, for they invariably omitted from their calculations about one-half of the elements of the cost. It was evident, therefore, that these works at Keyham had been begun in the most thoughtless, reckless, and unbusiness-like manner. They were, however, but a specimen of a system which has been pursued for years both by the Admiralty and the Ordnance. The waste of public money was most deplorable. 500,000l. had already been expended on Keyham; to complete these works a further sum of 800,000l. was the estimate. If they were completed for that sum, Parliament might rejoice at the lucky termination of works which ought never to have been commenced, and which would cost nearly as much as the great national undertaking of the breakwater at Plymouth. To prevent such occurrences in future, it was worthy of consideration whether there should not be a board of public works, to which all plans and estimates, 1017 both of new works and of alterations of old works, should be submitted, which should be responsible to Parliament for the accuracy both of plans and estimates, and without the full report of which board as to the nature and probable cost of an intended work, no estimate for works should ever be presented to Parliament. If there had been such a rule in 1844, Parliament would not, by voting 30,000l. on an estimate of 400,000l., have unwittingly pledged itself to works costing 1,300,000l With regard to these works at Keyham, it still appeared to him that the wisest plan would be to stop them, and to pay a forfeit to the contractor; by so doing there would probably be a saving of 700,000l.; he, therefore proposed to the consideration of the Committee a reduction of 120,000l on this vote.
said, that as he was in office at the Admiralty when the works at Keyham were undertaken, he was enabled to afford the House some information on the subject. The hon. Baronet the Member for Southwark had proposed in the Committee on the Navy Estimates that a stop should be put to these works, but his proposition was supported by only one hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding; and he (Mr. Corry) therefore hoped that the Committee of the House would support the Committee upstairs in their decision, by rejecting the hon. Baronet's Amendment. The hon. Baronet had said, on a former occasion, that the Admiralty, under the pretext of making economical repairs, were squandering large sums upon the works at Keyham. Now, these works were undertaken solely in order to maintain the efficiency of the steam navy in time of war, when, he maintained, they would be absolutely necessary to the safety of the country. It must be obvious to every one acquainted with naval affairs, that if there were any part of the coast where it was essential to have basins and docks, and other means of repair for steam ships, that place was Devonport. As a great part of our naval force would be required in the event of war for protecting the coast of Ireland, or for blockading the western coast of France, Devonport was the nearest point at which provision could be made for its repair, and that port was also the first that could be made by steam vessels returning in want of repairs from any foreign station, with the single exception of the Baltic. He admitted that a majority of the Select Committee had expressed the opinion that if the works at 1018 Keyham had not been commenced, they would not have recommended that they should be undertaken; but, with all deference to the Committee, he would rather rely on the opinion of Gentlemen who had much more acquaintance with matters of this kind than the Members of that Committee could possibly possess. Mr. Ward, the late Secretary at the Admiralty, nearly all the naval Lords of the Admiralty, the late Lord Auckland, Admiral Bowles, Mr. Sidney Herbert, many engineers, and, indeed, all the witnesses examined before the Committee, with only one exception, he believed, had urged the necessity of establishing extensive works for the repair of steam machinery and steam-ships at Devonport. It had been said that the works might have been commenced on a small scale; but he considered that there could be no worse economy than to commence important works of this kind on a small scale. In 1838 an establishment for the repair of steam vessels was made at Woolwich on a small scale, and in five years it proved to be wholly insufficient, and it was found impossible to alter the works so as to form part of a large engineer establishment, and considerable loss to the public was the consequence. The hon. Baronet had given a most exaggerated account of the capabilities of the basins at Keyham. It was true that the basins were very extensive, but this arose from the necessity of having space for bringing the ships alongside the wharfs, that they might be placed under the shears to receive the immense weight of boilers and machinery to be put on board them; and, so far from those basins having been constructed on an extravagantly large scale, it was in evidence that they were only about one-third larger than the basin at Portsmouth, and he bad lately been informed by a most intelligent officer of that yard, that so far from the basin there being found to be unnecessarily large, the only mistake had been in not making it larger; and it was the duty of the Government, in undertaking new works, to take care that sufficient accommodation was provided. The hon. Baronet had said that a gross blunder had been committed in placing the works at Keyham on the lee shore; but as the dockyard was on the lee side of the harbour, it was deemed advisable, for obvious reasons, to place the basins on the same shore. The hon. Baronet was also entirely mistaken in his statement respecting the depth of water, for he (Mr. Corry) would state, on the authority of the engineer officer 1019 in charge of the works, that the channel would be kept perfectly clear without having recourse to dredging. Although he admitted it was desirable that Parliament should have as full information as possible as to the extent to which it was intended to carry new works, yet it was very difficult on commencing a great undertaking of this kind to determine upon details, so as to make a satisfactory estimate. During the progress of such works various enlargements or alterations might appear necessary; and if in 1844 the Admiralty had laid before Parliament a full estimate of the works at Keyham, they would have been deceiving the House, for it was then imposssible to foresee what extent of accommodation the growth of the steam navy might ultimately require. He denied, however, that the Government, in the course they had taken, had any intention of deceiving Parliament, for their estimates had not pretended to provide for the whole work, but for particular portions of it, which were specified, and for which the sum stated to be required would amply suffice. The increase in Vote No. 11 had been noticed, but that increase was caused by the same circumstance which had led to the increase of many other heads of the Navy Estimates—by the necessity of providing for the maintenance and repair of the steam navy. Another cause of the increased expenditure for works in the dockyards was this—when the late Board of Admiralty came into office, they found the dockyards in a state of dilapidation; they considered it their duty to place them in an efficient condition, and hence considerable expense had been incurred; hut he believed that the expenditure which had thus been occasioned had been attended with results most advantageous to the public service.
§ SIR W. MOLESWORTH
denied that he had made any mis-statement of the nature which the hon. Gentleman had attributed to him.
§ MR. COBDEN
said: Mr. Bernal, I beg to inform the hon. Member who spoke from the opposite benches that the Committee which sat last year upon the Navy Estimates did nothing more than recommend that the contracts already entered into by the Government should be completed. The Committee did not know whether this sum of 120,000l. was all that was required to complete the works at Keyham. But my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark is quite right in moving his Amendment, because I think that it is high time for a plan of these works to be laid before Parliament, 1020 and as yet we have had none. The right hon. Member for Tyrone is an advocate for the method of getting money in advance, and for postponing the plan; but I hope this system will never again be adopted, for it is a most disgraceful one. As to the necessity for constructing a steam basin at all in this spot, the Committee of last year came to a resolution that there were already steam basins enough, and that, if Keyham basin had not been begun, it ought never to have been undertaken. There are ample basins enough at Portsmouth and Chatham, where there are, at each place, large establishments. These are quite enough to provide for the repairs of steam-ships during a great war. But there is now no great war. All those preparations seem to be made in anticipation of such a struggle as that which took place at Trafalgar. Is this, may I ask you, a wise policy to pursue with reference to your taxpayers? For my own part, I deny that it is good policy to construct such works at all. The private steam-ship builders have no steam basins. Napier has none at his works. All that he has is a wharf on the Clyde, where his steamers are brought alongside to have their boilers taken out or put in. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tyrone has said, that you must estimate the expense and size of the steam basin at Keyham by the extent of its wharfage. If so, why is there any basin at all? Why, you had much better have constructed a sea wall, alongside of which your steam vessels could have ranged, in order to have their engines put in and taken out, as is practised in all the private manufactories. But all these great works are, in my opinion, only so many schemes for expending and idly wasting the public money. And my belief is, that if the Government had a California or a Peru to go to, instead of having only the pockets of the people to tax, they could not have shown a more reckless degree of extravagance. Here now, in this very estimate, is a sum of 97,000l. for removing a powder magazine; and you are told that it is necessary for you to have this great store of powder—no less than 47,000 barrels, in order to be provided against the chance of a great war. But is it necessary for you to be thus provided? In fact, there are 90,000 barrels, and this additional store of gunpowder is, in my opinion, utterly useless. The only remedy that I perceive to this most extravagant course is, for the electors of this country as a body to declare that it is far more dangerous 1021 for the country to be subjected to such an expense than for it to have to encounter the risk of a great war.
§ MR. HENLEY
expressed his surprise that no Member of the Government should have thought it necessary to explain this vote; for there was nothing by way of explanation in the estimate itself which seemed to bring it within the recommendation of the Committee of last year. The Committee recommended that the works contracted for the construction of a coffer-dam should be continued, but that no progress should be made in building factories till the Navy Estimates of 1849–50 should have been submitted to the House. Now, as far as he could gather, part of the expenditure seemed to be on account of factories. It appeared to him, that in accordance with the recommendation of the Committee of last year, which was founded on good sense, that, so far as the Government were bound by contracts, the works should be continued; but that they should not go beyond that without the concurrence of Parliament; and he thought some explanation due from the Government as to how far this recommendation had been acted on.
SIR F. T. BARING
said, that the reason he had not risen before was, that as those arrangements were made not by him but by former Boards of Admiralty, he thought the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tyrone, who had formerly been Secretary to the Admiralty, the proper person to give an explanation respecting them. With regard to the recommendation of the Committee of last year, to which the hon. Member for Oxfordshire referred, that was carried out strictly by the Government, and the present vote was in conformity with that recommendation. He was aware that there would be differences of opinion as to the expediency of commencing such an outlay; hut though it might seem large, he had heard from authorities well worthy of attention that this establishment, when formed, would be of great value in case of war; and the question was whether, having expended a considerable sum on the works, they would throw that all away, or proceed in carrying those works into completion. The money he now asked for was money required under existing contracts, and he believed the contracts went further than the sum he wished the Committee now to vote. If the Amendment were carried, the works would 1022 be stopped, and all previous expense rendered useless, and a considerable sum besides must be paid to the contractors for not carrying out the contracts. His hon. Friend the Member for Southwark had not brought forward an Amendment like the present last year, under the idea, no doubt, that the country was bound by contracts; but, having then allowed the works to go on, would it be wise in his hon. Friend now to stop them?
§ MR. HENLEY
inquired what portion of the 120,000l. would be required to complete the works which the Committee of last year recommended, and how much further the Government was bound by existing contracts?
§ MR. HENLEY
thought that after the recommendation come to by the Committee of last year, the estimate on its face should clearly show that the expenditure was to be limited to that particular branch of works within the recommendation of the Committee.
SIR F. T. BARING
repeated that the Government had carried into effect the recommendation of the Committee.
, in reference to the argument used by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding, that it was not necessary for the Royal Navy to have a steam basin, because there was no such thing as a steam basin for the mercantile navy, requested the hon. Member to look to the East and West India Docks, and see if there were no steam basins there.
§ MR. PETO
said, he had examined the works at Keyham, and there would have been, in his opinion, no difficulty in having a close estimate of the total outlay before the commencement of the works. He never saw a position in which works were placed on a better foundation, and in respect to which fewer contingencies existed, and therefore it was inexcusable in any Government undertaking such works without the most accurate previous information.
explained that the sum of 120,000l. proposed to be voted would be applied to the works connected with the coffer-dam, according to the recommendation of the Committee of last year.
§ MR. COBDEN
observed, that what he had stated was, no private steamboat builder had a basin for the purpose of putting 1023 steam engines and boilers on board ship; and be repeated that statement. Take the case of Napier, of Glasgow. [Mr. COREY: He has a "nook."] And the Government had plenty of nooks at Portsmouth, and other places. He wanted the Government to act and calculate as private persons did.
MR. J. B. SMITH
thought that a very small sum might be necessary to complete a sea wall, and the making of docks and basins might be reserved till some future opportunity; and great expenditure might be saved by rendering it unnecessary to remove the powder magazine.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That a sum, not exceeding 391,934l., be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the charges of New Works, Improvements, and Repairs in the Naval Establishments, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1850.
Afterwards Motion made, and Question put—
That a sum not exceeding 271,934l., he granted to Her Majesty, to defray the charges of New Works, Improvements, and Repairs in the Naval Establishments, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1850.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 27; Noes 101: Majority 74.
|List of the AYES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||King, hon. P. J. L.|
|Blewitt, R. J.||Locke, J.|
|Bright, J.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Brotherton, J.||Mowatt, F.|
|Clay, J.||Perfect, R.|
|Clifford, H. M.||Peto, S. M.|
|Duncan, G.||Pilkington, J.|
|East, Sir J. B.||Smith, J. B.|
|Fox, W. J.||Sullivan, M.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.||Thompson, Col.|
|Hastie, A.||Williams, J.|
|Henry, A.||Wood, W. P.|
|Keogh, W.||Molesworth, Sir W.|
|Kershaw, J.||Cobden, R.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Abdy, T. N.||Compton, H. C.|
|Adair, R. A. S.||Corry, rt. hon. H. L.|
|Anson, hon. Col.||Cotton, hon. W. H. S.|
|Armstrong, R. B.||Cowper, hon. W. F.|
|Arundel and Surrey, Earl of||Craig, W. G.|
|Dod, J. W.|
|Baines, M. T.||Dodd, G.|
|Baring, rt. hon. Sir F. T.||Douglas, Sir C. E.|
|Berkeley, hon. Capt.||Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.|
|Berkeley, hon. H. F.||Duncuft, J.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Dundas, Adm.|
|Bromley, R.||Dundas, Sir D.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Ebrington, Visct.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||Ferguson, Sir R. A.|
|Clive, H. B.||Filmer, Sir E.|
|Coles, H. B.||Fitzroy, hon. H.|
|Floyer, J.||Mundy, W.|
|Fordyce, A. D.||Paget, Lord C.|
|Freestun, Col.||Portal, M.|
|Glyn, G. C.||Price, Sir R.|
|Goddard, A. L.||Pryse, P.|
|Gordon, Adm.||Rawdon, Col.|
|Grenfell, C. P.||Renton, J. C.|
|Grenfell, C. W.||Rice, E. R.|
|Gwyn, H.||Rich, H.|
|Hanmer, Sir J.||Robartes, T. J. A.|
|Hay, Lord J.||Romilly, Sir J.|
|Heneage, G. H. W.||Rushout, Capt.|
|Henley, J. W.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Herbert, H. A.||Rutherfurd, A.|
|Hobhouse, rt hn. Sir J.||Seymour, Sir H.|
|Hobhouse, T. B.||Simeon, J.|
|Hodges, T. L.||Smith, J. A.|
|Hollond, R.||Somers, J. P.|
|Hope, Sir J.||Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.|
|Johnstone, Sir J.||Stanton, W. H.|
|Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.||Thicknesse, R. A.|
|Keppel, hon. G. T.||Thornely, T.|
|Lascelles, hon. W. S.||Tollemache, hon. F. J.|
|Lewis, G. C.||Tollemache, J.|
|Lindsey, hon. Col.||Townley, R. G.|
|Littleton, hon. E. R.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Martin, C. W.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Matheson, J.||Westhead, J. P.|
|Matheson, Col.||Willyams, H.|
|Maule, rt. hon. F.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Miles, P. W. S.||Wilson, J.|
|Miles, W.||Wilson, M.|
|Monsell, W.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.||TELLERS.|
|Mulgrave, Earl of||Tufnell, H.|
|Mullings, J. R.||Parker, J.|
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ The vote for 27,605l for medical stores was then agreed to; as also was a vote of 68,400l. for miscellaneous services.
§ On the next vote, which was for 232,252l. to complete the sum necessary for the charge of half-pay to officers of the Navy and Royal Marines,
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
observed, that it had been stated that he had drawn an improper comparison between the number of officers in the British Navy and in the navies of France and the United States, and had not explained the circumstances which caused the number of officers in the British Navy to be as great as they were. He had stated a fact which was not denied, and the object of that statement was, to call the attention of the Government to the necessity of bringing the number of officers within proper limits. He had excellent authority on this question, namely, that of a very distinguished officer in the British Navy, who said that the number of officers in the British Navy should bear some sort of proportion to the work to be done; and if any circumstances caused the number to be greater than it ought to be, steps ought to be taken to bring it within 1025 proper limits. The officer he quoted was Sir James Stirling; he said, you have got 8,000 officers, and you only want 4,000; you are keeping up an excess of officers over and above what is necessary for the work to be done, equal to the keep of 20,000 able seamen. That was his statement before a Committee of the House of Commons. The consequence of keeping up many more officers than was necessary was, that you constantly found young men in the primo of life going about complaining to all their friends that they could not get a ship, and could not get employment; and when you put a man in command of a ship, you sent one who, perhaps, had been on shore for a number of years, and had not acquired skill in his profession.
SIR F. T. BARING
said, that his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose had given notice of a Motion upon that subject; and it appeared to him (Sir F. Baring) that it would be better to postpone the discussion with respect to it until that Motion should have come under their consideration.
§ SIR H. WILLOUGHBY
wished to call the attention of the Government to the impolicy of appointing so many cadets while the officers were so little employed. He found that from 1833 to 1840 they had averaged 104 a year, and during the last eight years they had averaged 150.
SIR F. T. BARING
said, that the late Lord Auckland had thought that the number of cadets ought to be limited to 100, and had issued an order for so limiting them. That order would henceforward be complied with.
§ MR. HENLEY
wished to know whether the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty was desirous that they should pass the votes that evening, and postpone the discussion of them to some other occasion?
SIR F. T. BARING
said, that the vote then under their consideration was for the payment of half-pay to which officers were already entitled. He could not, therefore, see how the Committee could refuse to sanction the vote.
§ The vote was then agreed to.
§ The following votes were also adopted:—
§ 300,561l. for military pensions and allowances. 61,357l. for civil pensions and allowances. 147,200l. for the freights of troop ships, and the victualling and conveyance of troops and stores.
§ A vote of 748,296l. having been proposed for the charge of the Post Office packet service.1026
§ MR. FLOYER
said, the item for conveyance of mails between Southampton and the Channel Islands had boon increased from 2,000l. to 4,000l., which he thought required some explanation. It had been generally supposed that the object of changing the port of departure from Weymouth to Southampton had been to save expense. The fact, however, was, that the passages from Weymouth to the Channel Islands were performed with greater rapidity than from Southampton; and the people in the Channel Islands wished the mails to be sent through that port rather than Southampton. If the new route was attended with more expense, and occupied more time, it was certainly desirable that the old route should be retained. At all events the increase required explanation.
explained that the increase from 2,000l. to 4,000l. was owing to the contractors who carried the mails having given notice to terminate the contract. The contract was advertised, and the only parties who tendered were the parties who had it before, and their tender was 4,000l. The Government had, under these circumstances, no other resource. When Weymouth was the port of departure, the Government employed their own packets; but the parties who had taken the contract preferred Southampton, because they had their establishments there. There were certainly reasons for thinking Weymouth a better port for embarkation than Southampton; but as the contract was in the hands of a private company, the Government were not at liberty to select the port. At all events, whilst the present contract endured, Southampton must be the port of departure.
§ MR. FLOYER
inquired whether any opportunity had been given to the port of Weymouth to send in a contract for this service?
replied, that tenders had been called for by public advertisement. The new breakwater at the Isle of Portland had since been finished, and it would give Weymouth an advantage.
§ SIR T. ACLAND
inquired what was the remaining term of the contracts for the packets to Alexandria and the West Indies?
§ MR. MONSELL
asked if the Government had considered the importance of appointing some port on the west coast of Ireland as the port for the arrival and departure of the North American mail steamers?
said, that as the present contract for the conveyance of the North American mails had not terminated, the Government had not been able hitherto to give the subject mature consideration.
§ MR. COBDEN
thought that the vote for the Post-office packet department ought not to pass without a word, in order that the country might know why no profit appeared, It was evident that many of these charges would never have been undertaken as a matter of profit. He found here a charge for carrying the mails between Alexandria and Beyrout; a charge for the mail from Singapore to New South Wales; from Suez to Calcutta, 64,000l.; from Ceylon to Hong-Kong, 45,000l. The charge for carrying letters between this country and the West Indies was 240,000l. a year. How could we undertake to pay 240,000l., when the whole gross proceeds would not amount to one-fourth of that sum? It must be from totally different motives than letter writing, because letter writers had no reason to expect that Government could be conveyers at a cost four times the amount of postage. This was calculated to injure our postage reform, and prevent its adoption by other countries.
SIR F. T. BARING
said, that the arrangements respecting the West India packets had been made before the penny postage reform took place. The Government found it necessary to complete the communication between the mother country and her various colonics; but it appeared that it was now contended that such communication should be limited to the mere postal necessities of the country. He could not consent to look at the question as one merely of the amount of balance that might be left at the end of the year; nor did he think that, because those expensive communications between England and the colonies absorbed a considerable portion of the income derivable from postage, that that fact was to be taken as an argument against postage reform.
§ MR. COBDEN
was as willing as any man to admit the advantages of Post-office communication with every part of the world, but if no reference was had to the number 1028 of letters passing between the mother country and a colony, they might, according to the right hon. Gentleman, at once start a line of steam communication between this country and New Zealand. He held that the accommodation provided should have reference to the amount of business and the number of letters. He said this in justice to the whole community of taxpayers.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, that the expenditure complained of had been mainly caused by the necessities and requirements of the commercial classes. It was the object of giving increased facilities to commerce that had induced Government to set up such expensive modes of communication. At the same time he admitted that the management of the Post Office was a question that required looking into.
§ MR. BRIGHT
explained that what his hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding bad said was, that it was not fair that 240,000l. should be put down for letters, which speaking fairly could only cost 60,000l. The hon. Gentleman's principle was more extravagant than that of his hon. Friend, because according to his plan there should be a post-office in every house instead of every town. His hon. Friend was anxious that nothing should be done to prevent the proof of the success of the penny postage, in so far as their islands were concerned. If these charges were all put upon the Post Office, foreigners would think that the principle had failed, whereas every one in this country must admit that no reform had ever been effected more important than that which had been suggested by Mr. Rowland Hill, and carried into operation by the present Government. He believed that the country was sincerely grateful both to Mr. Hill and the Government for their conduct in the matter.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
observed, that the penny postage had no connexion whatever with steam navigation; but as the former had been mentioned, he might be permitted to say, that looking at the result of the penny postage, no experiment could have been more satisfactory than it had proved. The number of letters passing through the Post Office had greatly increased, nay, had actually doubled. In any fortnight of the present year, compared with the corresponding fortnight of any year before the postage was altered, it would be found that the proportion was as 6,000,000 to 3,000,000, 1029 and that this advance had proceeded equally in England, Scotland, and Ireland. Whether the increase of the packet service abroad happened to be large or small, was a matter that had nothing to do with the penny postage.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, that the object of Mr. Rowland Hill, in the introduction of the penny postage, was to extend the delivery of letters and to increase the number of letters passing through the Post Office as much as possible. The change had been important and valuable. It certainly was one which ought not to be measured by its expense; neither, he thought, should the packet-service be measured by its expense.
§ SIR J. DUCKWORTH
said, that as the contracts for sending the mails from Southampton would soon expire, and as railways had effected a great change in all internal communication throughout this country, he did hope that fair consideration would be given to such tenders respecting the packet service as might, when the contracts became open, proceed from the ports of the West of England. Those ports should at least enjoy an opportunity of sending in their tenders.
§ The vote was then agreed to.
§ A vote of 12,688l. was then proposed to defray the expenses of the North Star, for taking out supplies to those engaged on the Arctic expedition.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported on Wednesday.
§ The House adjourned at a quarter after Twelve o'clock.