HC Deb 31 May 1849 vol 105 cc1009-12

The report of the Committee of Supply on Navy Estimates having been brought up, the further consideration of the postponed vote of May 25th (Wages to Artificers) was proceeded with.


rose and said, he observed that there were numerous petitions upon the table of the House, calling for a reduction of taxation. He believed that there was but one way of accomplishing it, however, and that was by reducing the public expenditure; and if any attempt of the kind were to be made, this House was the place in which to make it; he had, therefore, entered into an examination of this vote, and he thought he was able to make out a strong prima facie case for considerably reducing it. Last year the Government demanded 850,000l. on this vote; but, upon the recommendation of the Committee which sat to investigate the expenditure of the Navy, it was reduced by 40,000l., in consequence of which, the estimate was made to stand at 810,000l The amount of the present estimate was 764,000l., being 46,000l. less than the sum voted last year; and his (Sir H. Willoughby's) proposition was to further reduce it, by the sum of 50,000l. He found that the Committee, to which he had alluded, stated, in their report, that the establishment of the naval yards should be revised; that after ascertaining the number of workmen that were actually required, the number should be fixed by an Order in Council, and that every part of the establishment so fixed should be reported to the House of Commons at the commencement of the ensuing Session, or before the estimates were voted. The sum now demanded was enormous, and much greater than had been asked for any year, with the exception of the last, during fifteen years. With regard to the number of artificers employed, he found by an Admiralty order, that, as far back as the year 1833, 6,000 artificers were considered to be enough. In 1837, the number was 7,000; in 1842, 9,000; in 1844, 10,000; in 1845, 11,000; in 1846, 13,000; in 1847, 13,000; and in 1848, 13,278—not including convicts. He should like to know, therefore, how far the recommendations of the Committee had been complied with; and if they had not been acted upon, why such vast sums of money was continued to be expended for this purpose. The late Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Ward), in giving his evidence before the Committee, admitted that the question of dockyard expenditure required grave consideration. He (Sir H. Willoughby) quite agreed in the necessity of having an efficient Navy; and we had an efficient Navy; hence arose the question, what were the grounds for maintaining all this expenditure? Within a certain number of years the steam navy had advanced from 5,000 to 50,000 horse-power, and the increase was still going on. There must, eventually, he some limit imposed; and he wished to know where it was intended to stop. He admitted that there might he danger of war; but there was another danger—that of disgusting the people of this country at the enormous amount of taxation; and he thought no Member would be bold enough to got up in his place and say which of these two evils was the greater. The moment that the navigation laws were repealed, they ought to put the British shipowner in an improved position by the remission of the timber duties; but they would not be able to do so unless they took large items of expenditure, such as this, into their consideration. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving a reduction of 50,000l. in the vote for the wages of artificers.


seconded the Motion.


said, that in order to possess an efficient navy, it was requisite to keep up, at a considerable expense, stores of naval supplies in proportion. As to the steam navy, he admitted that it was very expensive, but he did not see how we could do without it; and if the hon. Gentleman looked to the steam navy of France, he would not think that our own was by any means too formidable. The hon. Gentleman had compared the expenditure of the present with that of former years. He (Sir F. Baring) admitted that the present vote was large; but it ought to be recollected that in various departments of the Navy, a higher and more skilled, and, therefore, a better paid, class of workmen were now required, than that which had formerly been employed. Reductions, however, had been made to the extent of upwards of 86,500L from the amount of the vote as it stood last year. Other measures of economic reform recommended by the Committee were gradually being carried out, more particularly in the case of our foreign dockyards; but they could not well be brought at once and immediately into play.


thought that every one would agree in the principle just laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty with respect to practising every economy that was consistent with the efficiency of the public service; but, as on the face of the documents before the House, this principle did not appear to be carried out in practice, he confessed he was very much disposed to agree in the Motion proposed by the hon. Baronet the Member for Eversham. For the last ten years the expenditure on the dockyards had been regularly and steadily increasing; while although the number of men employed there had been nearly the same during the last five years of that period as during the first five years, the wages had risen from 552,000l. to 680,000l.; and there had been a corresponding increase of expenditure on stores from 804,000l. to 896,000l.; so that there was an average expenditure of 220,000l. or 230,000l. altogether during the last five years beyond the average expenditure of the preceding five years, although the number of men had not been increased. He could not, therefore, arrive at the conclusion which had on a former occasion been expressed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the greatest economy had been observed which was consistent with the public service.


thought that at present Government steamers were often used unnecessarily, and that by the adoption of a different system a considerable saving might be effected. He strongly urged the introduction of improvements in caulking, and recommended the use of "Jeffery's Marine Glue," on the ground of its superior qualities as well as of the economy which would attend its adoption.


observed that Mr. Jeffery's invention had been brought under his observation, and that inquiries were now going on with a view to some settlement with that gentleman. He (Sir F. Baring) feared that the Admiralty did not value the invention so highly as did the inventor himself, but that was not at all an unusual occurrence.


declined to press his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Resolution agreed to.