HC Deb 08 April 1850 vol 110 cc52-66

On Vote 11, Motion made, and Question proposed— That a sum, not exceeding 137,100l., be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the salaries of the officers and the contingent expenses of the Admiralty Office, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1851.


said, he had given notice of his intention to call the attention of the Committee to this Vote. He had to propose a reduction of the present establishment of the Admiralty, particularly as regarded the number and salaries of the Lords. The right hon. Baronet opposite held the office of First Lord with a salary of 4,500l. a year, to say nothing of other advantages, such as a largo house in a dry, airy, and wholesome situation, rent free, with coals and candles. He thought the right hon. Gentleman might maintain the dignity of his office on a much smaller sum, and he should therefore propose to reduce it by 1,500l. Three Lords had a salary of 1,000l. each. He proposed to strike off 200l. from each, leaving their salaries 800l. instead of 1,000l. "The other two Lords had salaries of 1,200l. each. These he proposed to reduce by 200l. leaving for each of these two Lords a salary of 1,000l. a year. He proposed, that instead of six Lords of the Admiralty they should have but four—too many cooks spoiled the broth. He thought four Lords would do very well. If, after that reduction, they found that the service was not performed in the manner in which he would wish to see it performed, he had no objection to pop on another. Now, what he proposed to do was to reduce the whole expenditure of that particular branch from 9,900l. to 5,800l., making a saving to the public of 4,100l. per annum. He would be guided by the Chairman as to the manner in which he would take the sense of the Committee on the question. He was not aware whether it was the regular mode of proceeding to take the proposition first in that form, and reduce the Vote for the Admiralty by the amount he had stated.


suggested that the amount proposed to be reduced on the entire vote would be the regular course. The diminution in the larger sum would be first put.


, in accordance with that suggestion, begged to propose that the salaries of the secretaries and principal officers be reduced as follows:—The first Secretary from 2,00l. to 1,500l.; the second Secretary from 1,500l. to 1,000l.; the Surveyor of the Navy, from 1,000l. to 800l.; the Accountant General from 1,000l. to 800l.; the Storekeeper General, from 1,000l. to 800l.; the Comptroller of Victualling and Transports, from 1,000l. to 800l.; the salary of the Director General of the Medical Department, and the Comptroller of Steam Machinery, ought also to be reduced; these, with other reductions which he intended to propose, would amount to 7,100l.

Afterwards, Motion made, and Question put— That a sum, not exceeding 135,100l., be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the salaries of the officers and the contingent expenses of the Admiralty Office, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1851.


said, that if he rightly understood the hon. and gallant Gentleman, what he proposed was to reduce the salaries of the Lords of the Admiralty, and also of the staff of the Admiralty—of those gentlemen whose offices were not political, but who were, in fact, merely the head clerks of departments. The hon. and gallant Gentleman also proposed to reduce the number of Lords of the Admiralty from six to either four or five.


begged to ex-plain. He did not wish to touch the salaries of clerks at all. They were the working men. It was the officials who were only nominally clerks, head clerks, superior clerks, gentlemen clerks, in fact, whose salaries he thought ought to be reduced.


said, that the difference was only in the application of a term; for the parties referred to were the heads of the department at Somerset House. There were two or three points in reference to the hon. and gallant Member's proposition to which he would address himself. And, first, with respect to those Parliamentary officers belonging to the department, he would only say, that after the notice given by his noble Friend at the head of the Government, that that matter would be submitted for the consideration of a Committee of the House, on which occasion the question of their salaries could be finally entered upon, he (Sir F. Baring) thought it would not be expedient to anticipate the decision of that Committee. He did not conceive it fair, however, that the hon. and gallant Member should confine the vigour of his attacks exclusively to the Admiralty, and that he had permitted the Ordnance Estimates to pass without making any similar remarks upon the system of that department. But all these matters would be considered by the Committee to be appointed to inquire into them. With regard to the other officers, he thought his noble Friend had acted wisely in leaving them to the discretion of the parties themselves more immediately concerned in the discharge of their duties. It was to be considered what was a fair remuneration to be paid for their services. He could assure the hon. and gallant Member, however, that he formed an erroneous estimate of the duties to be performed by those officers to whom he had alluded, for they were most responsible and onerous. With respect to the Accountant General, he had been upwards of fifty years in the service, and was a most valuable, laborious, and useful public officer; yet the hon. and gallant Member, who professed his anxiety not to touch one sixpence of the salaries of those who were hardworking officers, proposed to make a reduction in the emoluments of one who had risen by his own merit and long standing to the station which he now occupied. He trusted, therefore, the House would not indulge the hon. and gallant Member in that respect at all events, but would rather take into consideration the long and faithful services of the individual alluded to. If a reduction were to be made, it should come into effect hereafter, and not commence in the way proposed with those who have lived so long in the service. But such reductions as were proposed might not he as economical as was supposed. Parties might resign who would be entitled to re-tiring pensions in proportion to their salaries; so that if new appointments took place, and retiring pensions were to be paid, the expense would necessarily be increased. The hon. and gallant Member proposed a saving of 100l a year on the 600l. or 700l. of the office of comptroller of steam machinery; now he (Sir F. Baring) contemplated cutting off that post altogether, and thereby save the entire amount of the salary. The hon. and gallant Member thought that a much fewer number of Lords of the Admiralty could do the business to be performed. Now, he (Sir P. Baring) would be glad to see the number reduced if it were conducive to the public service; but he considered that in case of war we could not do with our present staff. It was, in fact, not a war, but, strictly speaking, a peace establishment. Now, how had the business of the Admiralty been managed in 1821? There had been seven Lords of the Admimiralty, eighteen commissioners, and nine secretaries, to perform the duty for the first six years after the war. In 1829 there had been five Lords, sixteen commissioners, and four secretaries; and at pro-sent there were six Lords, two secretaries, and five other officers, who held permanent not political situations. The expenses of the Admiralty were for the three periods just named as follows:—

In 1821 £39,000
In 1829 32,000
At present, only 18,000
And this great reduction since 1821 had been made notwithstanding a great increase in the business to be done by that department. He did not think, therefore, the House had any reason to complain of the want of work to be done by the board. There was a large mass of detailed business to be superintended by the respective Lords; and, for his part, he did not think it would be good for the public service to reduce their number. If they did so, other parties should be got to perform the duties which now devolved upon the Lords of the Admiralty. He believed the present arrangement had been made by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon in 1833—that it had worked well, and therefore he trusted the Committee would not agree to the proposition made for reducing their number.


said, the House had been reminded that the noble Lord at the head of the Government had proposed a Committee. If the noble Lord would assure him that that Committee should be appointed, he would leave his proposal to its decision; but the case reminded him of the words, Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.


said, if the hon. and gallant Member had confined his proposition to a reduction of the number of the Lords of the Admiralty, he might not have made any observations on the question; but when it was proposed to cut down the salaries of two secretaries to the extent of 500l. a year; and still further, when it was proposed to reduce the salaries of the Accountant General, the Storekeeper, and other officers, he could not consent to such a proposition, having had some personal experience of the admirable manner in which the duties, particularly that of the Accountant General, who had been 54 years in the service, were performed; and that public servant had an enormous staff of clerks under his charge; and when the immense extent of the accounts of the Navy was considered, it could not be thought that he was over paid. With respect to the salary of Surveyor of the Navy, as that was a new appointment, he thought that 1,000l. per annum was sufficient. On the subject of the number of the Lords of the Admiralty, he considered the service of one might be easily dispensed with. He knew that there was an immense quantity of work to be done, but all the duty to be performed was not done. In fact, a great deal was scarcely done at all. Too much was left to be done by the permanent officers. He did believe, however, that all the business to be transacted at the Admiralty might be done by one Lord less than the present number. However, as the noble Lord at the head of the Government had promised to appoint a Committee on that subject, he (Mr. Fitzroy) should feel great delicacy in voting with the hon. and gallant Member, if he pressed his Motion to a division.


was of opinion that much unnecessary expense was incurred by the tours of inspection that were periodically made by the Lords of the Admiralty. Shortly after the prorogation of Parliament in August last the Board were at Plymouth, and he found it stated that the first Lord examined a bakehouse, and that in the evening he honoured the table of the admiral superintendent with his presence. On another day, it appeared, the Lords embarked in the Lightning steamer, under salutes from the Impregnable and the Dragon, and proceeded to the Queen, which they closely inspected. It was, he believed, well known that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord was no sailor. He believed that these tours of inspection were merely an excuse for very jovial parties. The next party, consisting, amongst others, of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, proceeded on an excursion to one of the scats of Lord Edgecomb, and made most important inspections there, no doubt. On the 21st the Black Eagle arrived at Portsmouth, and waited for the First Lord. They then went to Pembroke, and no doubt walked through the dockyard, and dined with the superintendent. On the 28th of August he found them at Portsmouth, when salutes of the flag ship announced their arrival. In short, the movements of the Board became so hacknied, that the reporter said that it was high time that the chronicling of dining should give place to the more sensible chronicling of business. On the 31st of August, the Admiralty were employed a day in inspecting the Excellent, where a few friends were entertained, and this might be con- sidered as the close of the tour. Instead of the Board of Admiralty going down and making this fuss, if one or two of their Lordships went down to make these inspections without giving notice, there would be a great saving in time and expense, and a smaller number of Lords might perform the duties. On these grounds, if the hon. and gallant Colonel took the sense of the House as to the reduction of the Lords' salaries, he should certainly support him.


quite agreed to the reduction of 7,100l., and thought it much better to leave the salaries to be apportioned, He should be sorry to make a reduction in the salary of the Director General of the Medical Department, because there was not a more important office connected with the Navy.


said, that the hon. and gallant Colonel had fallen into an error with respect to the Committee for which he was about to move. The Committee would certainly inquire as to the salaries of the First Lord of the Admiralty and the other Lords, Members of Parliament; but it would not inquire, with regard to the salaries of the Accountant General or the other permanent officers of the department. He thought the heads of departments much better able to make reductions from time to time than any Committee that could be selected. For instance, if they took the case of the comptroller of steam machinery. It would be difficult for any Committee to determine whether this office were necessary or not; but his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, with the necessary information at command, had found the office to be superfluous, and had accordingly abolished it. With respect to officers of departments, he likewise thought the Government better able to judge of them than any Committee could be. The vacancy caused by the death of Mr. Brooks-bank had not been filled up, nor would it he, as the Government were of opinion that the business could be got through without.


was satisfied with the assurance of the noble Lord that the Committee were to investigate the subject of the salaries and numbers of those composing the Admiralty.


repeated, that although the Committee might include the Lords of the Admiralty in their investigation, they would not inquire as to the salaries of the Accountant General and other officers.


said, that under such circumstances he should press his proposition to a division.


said, that if it could be proved that, consistently with the efficient discharge of the public service, reductions could be made in the amount of official salaries, no doubt that was a fair subject to be investigated by a Committee. But if the definition given by the noble Lord as to the functions of the proposed Committee were the correct one—if their investigations were to be confined to Parliamentary, judicial, and diplomatic salaries—he (Mr. Disraeli) thought the Government ought to have been prepared with a measure on the subject which should state the grounds for those reductions which the Government admitted were necessary. When the noble Lord on Friday moved for this Committee, he (Mr. Disraeli), in moving his Amendment, should be prepared to show why he thought the noble Lord's proposal impolitic and inexpedient.


said, after what had fallen from the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, he was willing to press only that part of his Amendment which referred to the reduction of the number of the Lords of the Admiralty to four.


explained, with respect to the establishment, that there had been ten vacancies of extra clerks, which it was not intended to fill up. With regard to the visits of inspection to the dockyards, so far from thinking them a waste of time, he considered it would be more advantageous for the service if these visits could be more frequently made.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 33; Noes 110: Majority 77.

List of the AYES.
Archdall, Capt. M. Lennard, T. B.
Blewitt, R. J. Lushington, C.
Broadley, H. Meagher, T.
Chatterton, Col. Masterman, J.
Clifford, H. M. Moffatt, G.
Cobden, R. Mullings, J. R.
Dick, Q. O'Brien, Sir L.
Duncan, G. Pilkington, J.
Ellis, J. Plowden, W. H. C.
Greene, J. Rufford, F.
Hall, Sir B. Salwey, Col.
Halsey, T. P. Scholefield, W.
Henry, A. Smith, J. B.
Hornby, J. Stuart, Lord D.
Hume, J. Turner, G. J.
Kershaw, J. TELLERS.
King, hon. P. J. L. Sibthorp, Col.
Knox, Col. Arkwright, G.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

On Vote 12, for 9,772l. for the General Registry and Record Office for Seamen.

Agreed to.

On Vote 13, for 49,703l. for defraying salaries connected with the scientific department of the Navy.


complained of the high price at which the Nautical Almanack (for which 3,400l. was paid by the public) was published. It was a work of reference that every ship leaving England ought to have on board; but the price put it out of the reach of many captains. He wished to know if all the nautical surveys made under the order of the Government had been brought to a conclusion, and wished to know if Admiral Beaufort's maps were to be brought within the reach of the public generally in point of price? Seeing the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade in his place, he wished to ask him what was the result of an inquiry which had been made last year in the Baltic, in reference to a vessel of very considerable value that had run on a shoal at a place where there was no shoal marked in the map? The Government had sent a very able naval officer to ascertain how the accident had happened, and he wished to know the result. If he were correctly informed, the captain on board the vessel had no notice of the shoal, the map being incorrect, though the proper Admiralty map did give it.


could not immediately call to mind the facts of that case, but he was ready to admit that in many instances their merchant vessels were very inadequately provided with maps.


said, the question was whether, without trenching on the private property of map makers, some means could be taken, whereby persons having maps should produce them to the hydrographer, by whom, if correct, they would be stamped.


was understood to say that the matter would receive attention.


begged also to call attention to a speech made by Captain Ross, at the Geographical Society, at Bombay, in which he stated that three ships of war had been lost, in consequence of not having proper maps on hoard. It appeared that the scales drawn for the East India Company and for the Government were different, and that no trouble had been taken to bring them together, or to make the surveys of India valuable. They knew the East India Company at great expense had surveys made, but unfortunately they had not the charts all engraved, and it became a matter of consequence that it should be carried out by the Company or by the Government.


thought it was a matter of much importance to the merchant service that the charts should be speedily produced. They were now covering the seas of the world with their steam-ships, and therefore the production of the charts was more necessary. In slow-sailing vessels they could ascertain the depth of water, but with the swift sailing of the steam vessels that could not be so easily done, and accidents were more likely to happen. He hoped, with the improvements now taking place, the right hon. Gentleman would take into serious consideration the necessity of making one uniform scale, and publishing the charts, that they might be made available for the general merchant service. He would also call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the surveys of the Eastern seas, and hoped, as it was intended to extend their steam navigation to that part of the world, the Government would pay attention to them.


assured the hon. Member that no one was more anxious than himself to give efficiency to the map department of the Admiralty. The delay he believed arose from the great care and attention paid by the Government officer to those charts. He should be very glad to do all in his power to expedite the publication of the charts, and any suggestion which the hon. Member could offer to further this end would be willingly attended to.

Vote agreed to; as were Votes—

(14.) 135,826l., Establishments at Home.

(15.) 23,713l., Establishments Abroad.

On Vote 16, Motion made, and Question proposed— That a sum, not exceeding 689,971l., be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the charge of Wages to Artificers, Labourers, and others, employed in Her Majesty's Naval Establishments at Home, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1851.


said, that the Committee upstairs had pointed attention to the enormous increase of those establishments beyond any possible want of the service. When the expenses were considered, they ought to produce twice as many ships as were required, and, consequently, there was a large portion of labour wasted, and he thought that was unsatisfactory, particularly at a time when they had so many ships lying by rotting. He regretted that he had not got the return for which he moved of the number of ships that were built and were rotting, never having gone to sea. For a number of years they lay by, and yet they were building more ships of the same class, and wasting materials.


understood that it had been the practice in the dockyard to charge the repairs of one ship to another. For instance, suppose repairs were to be made in the Vanguard, the Brilliant, and other ships, when the repairs for any vessel amounted to a large sum, it was the practice to carry the repairs of one ship to another; so it was impossible to ascertain the expense of any given ship. He wished to know whether it was in the power of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty to give the account for the repairs of a particular ship—take, for instance, the Vanguard. The question was of importance, for the practice would lead to a fraudulent system of accounts.


said, it was in the power of the Admiralty to give the information with respect to any individual ship, but the hon. Member must not ask for the expenditure under this head of every ship in the Navy. He was not aware that the practice alluded to existed in any of the dockyards, and certainly any officer who should be found guilty of such tricks, would, if continued in his situation, receive the severe censure of the Admiralty. The charge was rather a serious one; but, for himself, he could not give credence to any such supposition. In answer to the hon. Member for Montrose, he would observe, that this vote had been reduced 75,000l. this year, in addition to a very large reduction last year, which he thought on the whole was not to be despised.


said, the right hon. Gentleman had misunderstood him. He had made no charge against any individual. He believed that in former times such a practice existed, and he had asked whether it existed still.


said, his only answer was, that he did not believe it to exist. What happened many years ago, the hon. Baronet might perhaps know, but unfortunately he did not.


hoped the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Admiralty would answer the question of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose, with respect to the return of the number of ships that had been built and were rotting, never having gone to sea.


said, that the returns would be laid upon the table of the House as soon as they could be obtained.


said, that so long as it was necessary to keep up a peace establishment, and no war to call out the ships in reserve, there would of necessity be some ships which must rot without going to sea. The Admiralty might prevent this taking place by sending out every ship in its turn, instead of keeping the same ships at sea for a length of time; but in the end this would be found the more expensive method of the two. His impression was, that they did not let their ships rot half fast enough, and that a great deal too much expense was incurred in repairing ships which ought to be broken up. The number of years which the ships were kept up in the Navy was far greater than was considered at Lloyd's to be the proper term for any ship in class A 1, which was the state in which the Admiralty professed to keep all their ships of war.


believed that too much money was expended in repairing an inferior class of ships, and thus keeping up the inferiority of our Navy.


said, that during the last twenty years 229 ships had been broken up, one half of which were better than the new ones which had been built, for they had not been built by the Surveyor of the Navy. At present we had a fleet of 400 sail, and he saw no use in building 400 sail more until they were actually required. The number of ships which had been launched from Her Majesty's dockyards from the 31st of March, 1828, to the end of the year 1848, had been 264, with a burden of 220,404 tons, at a cost of not less than 4,840,000l. From private yards, 44 ships had been launched with a tonnage of 19,000 tons, and at a cost of 328,000l., making a total of 308 ships launched, with a burden of 239,000 tons, and built at a cost of 5,168,000l. We had now more materials and more ships on hand than we could dispose of for the next 15 years. What necessity was there therefore for this shameful extravagance? It was enough to drive one almost mad to see such extravagance. According to a report made in 1848, there were then 59 ships lying rotting which had never been at sea, and yet new ships of the same class had been launched. In 1848 there were 443 vessels, of which 235 were in commission; and, on the 1st of April, 1849, there were in course of building 67 new ships, while of the 37 launched in 1828, not one had been to sea. It was a fact that 41 men would build a 74-gun ship in one year, and the number of men at present employed would, if properly employed, build the whole Navy in two or three years.


said, as the hon. Gentleman had given notice of a Motion to reduce the vote for stores, it would probably be better to defer any discussion upon the question of the Navy, generally, till then. He hoped the House would allow the two votes before it to pass, and he would go no further that night. But with regard to statements that had been made in that House and elsewhere, as to the number of ships broken up, and their state of efficiency, he wished to make one or two observations. The average age of ships that had been broken up was 37 years, so they certainly could not be considered very young. They had sold 18, the average age of which was 37 1–3 years. Of vessels taken from the enemy 24 had been broken up, whilst the average ago, since the date of their capture, was 26 years, and 26 ships had been sold, the average of which was 20 1–3 years. Now, with regard to the Canopus and Implacable, which had been so frequently cited as being better ships to repair than the new ones they were building, he wished to say, that beginning with the repairs of 1805, and ending with 1847, the cost of the Canopus's repairs was 135,293l. The Implacable, captured at the same period, cost in repairs 109,912l.; so that for the repairs of those two ships four new vessels might have been built, independently of the sums paid for their capture. Now, when it was stated that they ought not to break up or build new ships, he thought it necessary that that statement should be made. With regard to the number of ships built since 1828, he would ask the hon. Gentleman whether it was practicable to turn old sailing ships into new steam ships, and it should be borne in mind that a new element—that of steam, had been recently called into action in naval warfare. If the steamers were deducted, the numbers built would not appear at all large.


said, that what he complained of was the waste which had taken place in endeavouring to convert old sailing ships into steam vessels. He wished to have a return of the number of vessels launched, distinguishing steamers from sailing vessels; and when that return was produced, he was sure that it would prove that there had been no occasion to lay out more than a million of money in this way, instead of the five millions and upwards which had been expended, He observed a charge of 10,000l. for training and exercising the dockyard artificers, thereby spoiling good carpenters, and making bad soldiers. Instead of going about like plain workmen they were all cock-a-hoop, with their epaulettes and uniform, and as he thought this was of no use, he should take the sense of the Committee on that vote.


had heard it stated on all sides that these men were now in a state of great efficiency, and he trusted that no such reduction would be made.


said, that the hon. Member for Montrose must recollect, that when these artificers were called out, considerable alarm prevailed in the country. The expenditure occasioned by training them had at first been considerable, but it was now materially reduced. Now, that they were properly organised, a small sum of money would be sufficient to keep them in their present state of efficiency. Though we were at peace now, that might not always be the case, and we ought to be prepared for an emergency.


wished to know whether the old system of telegraphing was still resorted to, as there was an unsightly pole at the top of the Admiralty, which led him to infer that the electric telegraph was not always employed.


replied that the old system was done away with, and that the Admiralty were selling the old telegraphs as fast as they could.

After some further conversation,

The Committee divided:—Ayes 15; Noes 66: Majority 51.

List of the AYES.
Brotherton, J. Pilkington, J.
Duncan, G. Plowden, W. H. C.
Ellis, J. Salwey, Col.
Greene, J. Smith, J. B.
Henry, A. Stuart, Lord D.
Kershaw, J. Thompson, Col.
King, Hon. P. J. L. TELLERS.
Lennard, T. B. Hume, J.
Mullings, J. H. Cobden, R.

Original Question put, and agreed to; as was Vote 17: 36,985l., Wages, Artificers abroad.

House resumed.

Resolutions to be reported To-morrow.

Committee to sit again on Wednesday.