HC Deb 06 December 1852 vol 123 cc1000-17

(1.) 6,500 Additional Men.


said, that in discharging the duty which devolved upon him on the present occasion, he hoped the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume)—inasmuch as his observations had been answered by his (Mr. Stafford's) right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer—would not expect him to encumber the question before the Committee by any reference to those questions to which he had alluded. No time could be more inopportune for such discussions than that at which a Supplemental Estimate was brought forward. In bringing forward this Supplemental Estimate, he wished to state that he had no intention of casting any imputations on the late Board of Admiralty, or on the right hon. Gentlemen who preceded the present Government in office. The present Government had taken the Estimates prepared by their predecessors. They had taken them in no party spirit, but in the belief that unless circumstances changed they would be amply sufficient for the public servise. It was usual in asking the House of Commons to grant a sum of money, to lay before it the fullest information with regard to it. At, present he felt that if he entered into details he might make a statement which would more properly belong to the introduction of the general Estimates at the commencement of the financial year. He must, therefore, decline making any such statement at present. If he commenced his remarks with the expression of an earnest desire for the maintenance of peace, the most perfect peace, throughout the world, he was sure that every one on either side of the House would agree with him in that expression. The present Estimate was so completely independent of any particular Power—of any particular nation—that he would not refer to any one country more than another. The two Supplementary Estimates which he had now to submit to the Committee were, first, 113,000l., for 5,000 additional seamen and 1,500 marines; and, secondly, 100,000l for the necessary expenses of steam machinery for naval purposes. When they looked back over a number of years and regarded the enormous sum which had been voted for steam machinery, it was impossible not to feel that they had not been able, owing to unavoidable circumstances, to observe a stricter economy in the expenditure of it. If the hon. Member for Montrose believed that all the money which had been voted for steam machinery had been expended for that purpose, he was mistaken; but even allowing for reductions on that head, still he was ready to admit that the sums spent were of enormous amount. But let them remember the circumstances under which those grants were made from year to year. They had in the first place to create a paddle-wheel steam fleet, and they had at present to create a screw steam fleet; and that necessity had arisen not only in our national establishments, but also in every private shipbuilding establishment throughout the country. It would be found that the experiments connected with the new machinery, and the necessity of abandoning machinery after it had been one-half, or three-fourths, or even still more nearly completed, had entailed not only on our national marine, but also on the great private firms which constituted our mercantile marine, an enormous expenditure, which it was impossible to avoid, because it was only by such an expenditure that the authorities of the Admiralty were enabled to arrive at their present conclusions, if conclusions they could be called. He believed it would not be the wish of the Committee, as he was sure it would not be the desire of the country, that after they had established a paddle steam fleet, and found that the paddle was becoming universally superseded by the screw, they should leave our naval defences so far behindhand as to continue the paddle-wheel and go to no further expense in building screw vessels. They should re-member, as he had before stated, that the expense which had been incurred was not to be attributed, as he believed, to wasteful extravagance in any great degree, and that still less was it to be attributed to the love of change on the part of the Board of Admiralty, as some hon. Gentlemen had argued in that House. He said it was to be attributed to the frequent new inventions which had been forced upon their consideration, and which had imposed upon them the necessity of entering upon new works at a considerable cost, if they did not wish to see the naval power of this country reduced to a condition in which it ought not to he placed. It had been his good fortune to have gone last summer to the Mediterranean, where the present Board of Admiralty had wisely, as he thought, sent a screw squadron for evolution under Admiral Dundas. The fact of their having committed the command of that squadron to so distinguished an officer, had, he believed, given universal satisfaction to the Navy and to the public generally. After having seen the evolutions of that squadron, as compared with those of sailing vessels, it was impossible not to arrive at the conclusion at which Admiral Dundas had arrived, thoroughly and unreservedly, that the screw auxiliary was in some cases absolutely necessary. Unless some unforeseen new mechanical power should be discovered—and what new discovery might be made they could not undertake to predict—but unless such a discovery were made, screws would no doubt become the future great motive power in our Navy as well as in our mercantile marine. Screws were accompanied with this very great advantage, that the machinery could be kept under water; that they did not offer paddles, which might become, as it were, a target for the fire of the enemy; and that they did not, like the paddle-boxes, take up so considerable a space on deck that it was impossible to place the guns in the most efficient manner. He said that they should, therefore, henceforward resolve upon recognising the combined power of the screw and the sail in our naval and mercantile marine. In order that the Committee might have some notion of the comparative expense of these screw steamships and of the sailing vessels, he would read to them a paper which had been drawn up on the subject. The comparison was between a 90-gun screw steamer and a 90-gun sailing vessel. He would state to them, in the first instance, the cost of a 90-gun sailing ship, and of a screw ship furnished with an engine of 500-horse power. He found that the first cost of a sailing ship, furnished with 90 guns, was about 108,300l., while the first cost of a 90-gun screw ship, of 500-horse power, was 151,800l. Then again, the annual expense of a sailing ship would be about 44,335l., while the annual expense of a screw ship, with the cost of coal to nearly the amount of 1,500l.—an estimate which he thought a low one, would be 51,678l., showing an increase of 40 per cent on the first cost of the screw ships, and an increase of about 20 per cent on the annual expense of the screw ship as compared with the sailing vessel. The hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) had stated that they should introduce retrenchments into their dockyard establishments. Now, he trusted that when the Navy Estimates now in the course of preparation were brought forward, it would be found that the present Government had not been remiss in that particular. They had felt that the attention of the public had been strongly directed to these establishments, and not without reason, on account of the large sums that were annually voted for their maintenance, and they could not therefore remain insensible to the necessity that existed for making a reduction in their expenditure; but, as he said before, this was not the proper time to discuss those matters. All, however, that he wished to effect at present was not to leave the Committee unaware of the future—the expensive future—to which they should look forward, unless they wished to see the British Navy behind all the Other navies of the world in those aids which science had applied to the development of man's dominion over the ocean. He should next pass to consider that without which the screw and the paddle-wheel would be wholly useless—he meant the number of new men whom they proposed to raise. He proposed a Vote for 5,000 additional seamen, and 1,500 additional marines, for the service of Her Majesty's Navy during the period of four calendar months. But in order to diminish the expense as much as possible, they had assumed that there should only be 2,500 for the first two months. Hon. Gentlemen would see, therefore, that the Estimate had been formed on a basis of employing only half the number of men for the first two months. There was a distinction between Supplemental Estimates and Annual Estimates; for while in the Annual Estimates the muster of men was already secure, the Supplemental Estimates would drive the Admiralty into the market all of a sudden for the number of seamen, and it would he idle to suppose that they could get 5,000 seamen all at once. At the same time he was happy to say that the rumour which had gone abroad with regard to the difficulty of getting men to join the Royal Navy was highly exaggerated, and that the Board of Admiralty found far more facility in obtaining those men than public rumour would lead people to believe. But let them not disguise from themselves that, at the present moment, the British sailor was, perhaps, the most precious article in the market. The Royal Navy had for competitors, not only our large mercantile marines—it had not only to encounter the present stimulus of the gold regions, but it found that there was not a single nation in the world which did not gladly accept on board her docks the British sailor; and he therefore said, it was most important that they should do everything in their power to promote his comfort, and to render the service of Her Majesty a tempting service to him. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said in the course of his financial statement on Friday evening, that he regretted very much that at the time when the British seaman was most efficient he should be turned adrift, and that the recruiting for the Royal Navy should afterwards begin as it were de novo. His right hon. Friend had further stated, that that matter would be submitted to the consideration of a Committee composed of persons most competent to investigate it. He (Mr. Stafford) felt persuaded that that Committee would arrive at some satisfactory conclusion. He wished, however, to inform the Committee that any of the proposed 5,000 men who might join Her Majesty's ships would be subjected to no conditions and to no restrictions except those which were already in force in the Royal Navy. There was nothing, as had been pointed out by the hon. and gallant Member for Brighton (Sir G. Pechell), more distasteful to a sailor joining one ship, than that he should be transferred to another. The new sailors would be perfectly free to select their own ships for the period usual among their class, and there would be no restraint upon any of those men except those already imposed upon their brothers in the service. In order to ensure the comfort and well-being of the seaman, they should consult his condition, his feelings, his fancies, and oven his prejudices. If it should go abroad that there was to he the slightest change in the arrangements affecting the new force, he (Mr. Stafford) believed that they would not be able to raise 100 men in six months to join the service. The question of raising those men would naturally lead the Committee to inquire what proposition Her Majesty's Government had to make for our homo defence, as far as it could in their opinion be stated with safety at the present moment. If he should then state the outline merely of the plan they had adopted, he trusted that the Committee would believe that he did not enter into more particulars merely because he felt that it would be undesirable in the present case to go further into detail. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated that his wish was to place the Channel defences in such a position as to set that question at rest. They believed that, although it would be impossible absolutely to confine any one ship to any particular port, for it would be necessary that the fleet should exercise itself occasionally in the Channel; but they also believed that the vessels should in general be stationed at particular points, and the following was the arrangement which they were prepared to adopt on that subject. They thought there ought to be stationed at the nore three frigates and five steamers; at Plymouth four sail of the line and five large steamers; and, lastly, at Portsmouth five sail of the line, two frigates, and six large steamers; for they had in that latter case to consider the exposed nature of the coast, and not forgetting Osborne and the hopes and loyal sympathies which often centered there, he thought this would not be looked upon as too large a force for the defence of our own shores. That was the plan which they proposed to carry into effect if Parliament should grant them the necessary funds for the purpose. They thought that they ought to have 10,000 seamen besides the marines for our home defences. He might take that opportunity of observing that they had, at the present moment, only six or seven men, more or less, than the number voted by Parliament; so that they had so far kept themselves strictly within the limits laid down for them by the Committee. They felt, how-over, that the time had arrived when, with the most pacific intentions, it was absolutely necessary that we should put our Channel defences in a new position, and man the Channel with a larger force. He should repeat—with a prayer and an earnest hope of peace; and the conduct of England, since (he establishment of peace, was, he believed, a sufficient guarantee to Europe that the expression of that wish on the part of the British Government was no idle word. They wished for no addition to our territory—they wished not to interfere with the internal policy of any other country; but they wished that the poorest of their subjects in the most distant quarters of the world should feel that the British flag was a succour and a source of safety him. They believed it was most desirable that England should keep faith with other nations, and should rigidly adhere to existing treaties. They felt, however, at the same time that we ought to transmit, unimpaired, to our descendants, our great colonial empire, and that we ought to have a fleet to protect in distant seas those merchant vessels whose owners were perpetually soliciting the Admiralty for the presence and the countenance of one of Her Majesty's vessels, for the purpose of securing respect for themselves and security for their commercial operations. But, above all, Her Majesty's Government sought the aid of that House—and would not, he was sure, seek in vain—in their endeavours to keep our native islands inviolate, and to render a contest short and decisive if a hostile force should ever attempt to set foot upon our shore. He trusted that if he should then decline to enter into any detailed information with respect to that Vote, no Gentleman would attribute such a course to a desire to treat him individually with discourtesy, hut would feel that it was owing to the determination at which the Government had arrived, after the most serious consideration, that it would he better under existing circumstances not to enter into any particulars with respect to that case. He asked the present Vote from the House of Commons, not as a Vote of Confidence in any particular Ministry, but as a Vote of Confidence in that Executive which, whatever party might be at the head of the Government, must necessarily be charged with the defence of the country—must necessarily be in possession of secret and important intelligence, and must necessarily be the fitting and only judge how far that intelligence ought to he communicated to the House.


said, he had always declared his objections to the building of more ships than we could employ; and now it was discovered, after laying out millions of money upon war steamers with paddle-wheels, that they would not answer the purpose, and therefore a new fleet of screw steamers was necessary. That ought to show us the folly of which we had been guilty for so many years of keeping up such enormous establishments. We had been throwing away 2,000,000l. yearly upon our dockyards, and he really thought that it might be a question whether we ought not to build our ships by contract. He himself should be disposed to object to any additional Votes for the Navy until all the recommendations of the Committee upstairs had been adopted—until our ships had been brought home from foreign stations, where they were only doing mischief, and until all useless officers had been placed on a retired list. We continued to keep up the number of 150 admirals, although we did not employ twenty of them. He did not know whether it would be of much use, but he protested against the Vote altogether.


said, that the question before the Committee related to the raising of 5,000 additional seamen and 1,500 marines. That question had no connexion with those to which the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) had referred, such as the expenditure in the dockyards and the age of admirals. He (Lord J. Russell) conceived that those topics might be fitly discussed when the Naval Estimates came under consideration, and then it would be for the. members of the late and of the present Government to state their views upon these subjects. But the present proposal was to raise 5,000 additional sailors, and 1,500 more marines, and he must say that such a proposal had his warm assent. He believed that it was right and necessary to provide a sufficient defence for this island, which was the citadel of a vast Empire, and he was very glad that Her Majesty's Government, having been persuaded that such a force was necessary, had not shrunk from proposing it. He believed that so far from its being an unpopular Vote, the nation would gladly learn that it had been carried, and he, for one, gave it his cordial assent.


said, he thought that Her Majesty's Government were justified in proposing this increase to the Navy. He deeply regretted that, during the discussions last Session on the defences of the country, the Navy was placed almost entirely out of view. The Navy, in his opinion, ought at all times to be regarded as the very bulwark of our defences. But he agreed to this proposed increase of 6,500 men to the two branches of the Navy, not because he thought it necessary, but in deference to the opinion of the people of this country, whose alarms on the subject of our national defences, ought, he thought, to be calmed by such a step as this. But when the public out of doors were informed of the present state of our national defences, he hoped they would be satisfied that we were in a state of security against any attack, come from what quarter it might. We had, as defences of the country, cavalry, infantry, and artillery of the line, with its auxiliaries—which forces included 187,000 men. To that were to be added, for sailors and marines afloat, 39,500 men—making a total of 226,500 men. We had, besides, in the Colonies 46,500 men, and in India 30,500, which gave us a force at home and abroad of 303,500 men. Our defences were, therefore, on a footing of unquestionable security. We had now 138,000 men engaged in the national defence more than we had in 1835. Such an increase was incredible. He was willing to admit that the Admiralty was the most efficient branch of the public service, and the present Board displayed more energy and had done more real good than any of its late predecessors. He trusted that the hon. Secretary of the Admiralty would do nothing to forfeit the good opinion thus expressed of the manner in which he had discharged his duties. He wished to call the attention of that hon. Gentleman to the system of corporal punishment at present pursued in the Navy. That system was the great obstacle to the proper manning of our fleet. It gave a power to one man to inflict punishment, without the control of any other party—a power which, he thought, ought never to be vested in the hands of any man. He (Mr. Williams) trusted also that savings banks would be established in the Navy, as had been the case (with the most beneficial results) in the Army. If they were established in the Navy, the sailor might be made, to a great extent, a provident person.


said, he believed there were very few persons, either in or out of the House, who were not disposed to concur with the hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Admiralty as to the necessity of increasing the efficiency of the Navy; but the hon. Gentleman had not stated that the money voted for that purpose last Session was not sufficient. He had not told the House what had be come of the 30,000l. which had been voted as a reserve fund. The hon. Gentleman stated that the intention of the Government was simply to raise 5,000 additional seamen, half of whom were to be brought into service within the next two months, and that they would not be liable to be moved from ship to ship, according to the present practice. But there were other points on which he had not given any explanation. The sailors were at present very much dissatisfied with the late regulations with regard to their provisions, especially in having the quantity of their grog limited, which was a very delicate question as far as regarded seamen. Until that grievance was redressed, they would find great dissatisfaction prevail. Men who had lately been paid off were found not to return to their ships. They also felt exceedingly annoyed at the system of being sent about from ship to ship. It greatly interfered with the comfort of their families, and caused them much expense in wear and tear. Again, with regard to promotion, now that they were raising these additional men, it would, in his opinion, be well to make them understand that when they became petty officers they would be considered deserving of pensions. Those petty officers were the men on whom they could always rely, and he thought their case had not been sufficiently considered. Much dissatisfaction had also been created by the order of the Admiralty in respect to the prices which were charged to the seamen for their provisions, especially their sugar and tea. He hoped, now that the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer was about to reduce the duty on the latter article, and as the duty on sugar had already been reduced, a proportionate redaction would be made in the charge for those articles to the sailors. This was a peculiar time, at which it was very important that our sailors should be made to understand that their condition would be improved. With regard to punishment in the Navy, to which his hon. Friend (Mr. W. Williams) had alluded, he would just observe, that no captain in the Navy could order any punishment to be inflicted within twenty-four hours after the commission of the offence; there was, therefore, ample time afforded for due consideration as to the degree of punishment to be inflicted. Monthly or quarterly returns were also required to be made from all ships as to the number of punishments which had taken place. It was, therefore, not very safe for any captain to return home and demand his promotion unless his list of punishments was such as the Admiralty might not consider either intolerable or harsh. For his part, he had always voted against corporal punishment, and in favour of substituting imprisonment or some other kind of correction. But he believed that every caution was now taken that nothing of a cruel or tyrannical character should take place on board Her Majesty's ships. He believed no officer or commander of a ship would stand well at the Admiralty if it were found that he had unduly punished his men.


said, that 30,000l. had certainly been voted on a late occasion; but at the same time an understanding was given that it should be maintained for the purposes of a Naval Reserve. It had not, therefore, been used at all, nor was it the intention of the present Board of Admiralty to avail themselves of it. If he had understood the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir G. Peehell) rightly, he thought that sailors ought to be tempted into the service by promises of pensions when they became petty officers; but surely the hon. and gallant Gentleman would not make any difference between these and the other men in the service. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that certain alterations might with effect be made in manning the Navy; but it would be a misconception to conclude from the words of the right hon. Gentleman that the men hereafter would be liable to more restrictions than they had been liable to before. The same system which had hitherto existed, would, so far as their liberties were concerned, still remain. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had not exaggerated in his statement as regarded corporal punishment. The present Board thought that officer the most meritorious who could manage his crew with the least recourse to such extremities, and by recognising them as fellow men. Still, as to corporal punishments, he believed that if you put it to the Navy, they would themselves say it Could not be altogether avoided. The 5,000 men now asked for were to have their choice of their ship, and when they had chosen it Were not to be removed from it.


begged to congratulate the Committee and the country that at last they were about to take the right means for our national defence. He had always held that they had reason to Complain, when they were discussing the question of defences last year, that the militia force Was put in advance of recruiting the Navy, and using those natural means for the safety of the country which Providence had given us. What the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) then said about nothing being able to resist the enemy approaching our Coast and landing on our shores, had fallen to the ground, since it was proposed to have a full command of the Channel by the formation of a fleet ready at any moment to encounter the enemy. He thought, also, that there would be plenty of means of saving the money expended on this extra force, if they only instituted a rigid examination into the way in which naval money was now spent, for at present, in almost every item, the expenditure was susceptible of very great improvement. To those who knew the way in which the public money was spent in the dockyards, there was a fruitful source of economy to be found in that. The Admiralty began some time back by having a paddle fleet; how he was glad to find they had become converts to a screw fleet. He certainly thought they were right, but warned them hot to run on before the science of the day. They would not live two years before they saw further improvements, and therefore when they talked of assembling fleets at Portsmouth, Plymouth, and the Nore, they should not run into hasty expense. The great point Was this—to take care that England had the command of those waters which made her invulnerable. No nation had the right to say to England, "Why do you increase your Navy?" It Was our natural defence. They had their armies as theirs. We had the ocean as our field of defence, and not from any jealousy, but simply for the purposes of defence. We must avail ourselves of the ocean, and increase our Navy as might be required. The great mistake hitherto had been—he was glad the present Admiralty had avoided it, and gave them every credit for so doing—that they had sent nearly all our vessels abroad, and that those even allowed to stay at home were refitting or not half manned, so that at home there was scarcely a vessel fit to go out and meet an enemy. He found now that they were not only going to have 5,000 additional men for the Channel fleet, but, as he under-stood, 10,000 altogether. The hon. Secretary to the Admiralty had said that it was intended to retain the 5,000 there already, and that 5,000 extra Were henceforth to be employed, not as a demonstration of war, but as an acting security. At present he would make no observations on the mode of manning the Navy—he had given a notice on that question; but he might say that he hoped those officers who were examining into the subject of the naval improvement in respect to manning the fleet would do so in a generous spirit, and would recollect that England must depend at all times, and under all circumstances, on having the command of the sea. They must recollect that unless they made the service popular, it would be utterly impossible to get a sufficient number of good and efficient seamen, and that, if a war suddenly broke out, they would act at a disadvantage, or be obliged immediately to apply to improvement. He was glad the Motion before the Committee seemed to be cordially accepted on all sides, for the Navy was our true legitimate and certain defence, and no other could be equal to it.


said, he should not have addressed the Committee upon the present occasion had it not been for an observation which had fallen from the hon. and gallant Member who had just addressed the Committee. The hon. and gallant Member had expressed a hope that the Admiralty would not go too fast in constructing screw vessels, but would wait and see what improvements might be introduced in that motive power. Now, it would no doubt be desirable that experiments should be carefully made before any considerable expense was incurred in the construction of our ships, if time were afforded for such experiments; but it should be remembered that the most important point of all was that provision should be made for the safety of the country. The Board of Admiralty felt that they could not postpone the construction of screw steamers while other nations were building vessels of that class. He would read an extract from a preliminary note to the French Navy Estimates for the present year, which would show the importance attached in Franco to that point. It was there stated that— The alteration of ships of the line into steam vessels had become a political and naval necessity of the first order. It was impossible to postpone those changes any longer without reducing France from the rank she ought to hold among the nations of the world. The greater portion of the naval estimates for the year 1853 was to be applied to that useful work. If this country were to suspend her works in that direction, France would in the course of a year have fifteen or sixteen screw steam ships, while we should have but three or four. With regard to the supplemental vote of 5,000 men, then under the consideration of the Committee, he could not help expressing his gratification at finding the Government come forward with such a proposal. He had shown last year that France, with an enormous military force, had more vessels on her home station than England had on her home station. He trusted that the proposed 5,000 men would be kept in the Channel, and would be added to the force hitherto stationed there, and not frittered away on foreign stations.


said, he wished to know how it happened that of 160 sail of the line which we possessed, only twelve or thirteen were kept at home for the defence of our shores. He was desirous as any man could be that we should have a powerful fleet, but he protested against its being broken up into fragments, and scattered throughout every sea, instead of being maintained in great measure for the defence of our own shores.


begged to express his approval of the proposed increase. No one knew more than himself how difficult it was to state the grounds for any increase. It was for the Government to state, on their responsibility, what they thought necessary for the service of the country, and he was not one of those who would oppose what they so thought necessary. It was the habit of many hon. Gentlemen in that House to keep up a sort of rattling fire upon every Board of Admiralty; but when the proper time arrived, if hon. Gentlemen pleased to attack the course he and his Colleagues had pursued when in office upon the Naval Estimates, he should be ready to say what he thought might be said upon the subject; but he hoped the Committee would not always believe the statements that were made by hon. and gallant Officers. It was astonishing what inaccurate statements and charges were made, and he really thought hon. and gallant Officers ought to inquire a little before they made them.


said, the Committee had just seen a specimen of the manner in which Gentlemen who had been in office attempted to put down any one who dared to complain of the acts of any branch of the Executive Government. It was idle to talk of the responsibility of a Minister in matters of Naval or Military expenditure, for everybody know that such responsibility was only theoretic and imaginary. Responsibility no doubt did attach morally to a Minister in such matters; but where was the Minister who was ready to answer for that responsibility? There were, at the present moment, no fewer than 39,000 seamen and marines in the service of Great Britain, and now it was sought to augment that prodigious number by the addition of 6,500 more; but before any such augmentation was agreed to, the Committee ought to be informed of the present position and actual employment of this enormous force at present in pay. Where were they, and what were they doing? For his own part, he was disposed to regard with disfavour and suspicion this proposition for an increase of our naval force, for he could not forget that Mr. Pitt, whose authority was considered paramount on the Ministerial side of the House (as long as it coincided with their own policy) had always maintained that 16,000 marines and seamen were all that were required for the maritime defence of the country. No doubt the times were changed, for Ministers had been going on from one act of extavagance to another of late years; but still there was reason in all things, or there ought to be, and he was sure the present naval force was quite sufficient for all purposes of national defence.


was sorry for the dispute between the two Boards of Admiralty, but thought for his own part that for the last seventeen years there had been a good deal to complain of.


said, it would be very difficult to speak in that House on naval subjects, if each representative of the different Boards of Admiralty were always to get up and make an attack on the speakers. The very measure before the Committee was a reflection on former ones, because it proposed to do what they had neglected doing.

Vote agreed to.

(2.) 100,000l, Steam Machinery.


said, there was certainly a very prevailing opinion that the amount already voted for steam ships would be perfectly sufficient if the Admiralty knew their own mind. Unfortunately they did not. A ship just ready for launching was pulled about in the most extraordinary manner. There was the St. Vincent, which had lately been docked at Portsmouth, all dismantled, and the whole expense upon her thrown away. There was also the case of the Windsor Castle, and it was beyond calculation what the cost of all these alterations would come to. He had asked the hon. Gentleman on a previous occasion for the number of vessels which had had, or were going to have, the operation for the screw performed upon them; but the hon. Gentleman had replied that that was information which it was very impolitic to give. But he said still that there was nothing in it in any way to prejudice the interests of the community, that it was impossible to maintain any secrecy of that kind, and that, after all, the hon. Gentleman must give him the information he required. In the same way, when he wished to know the expense of converting the Ajax and the Blenheim into screw steamers, the hon. Gentleman refused that information; but that also he would be obliged shortly to give. He thought, moreover, that the system of saluting admirals who changed their flags was carried on to a truly ridiculous extent. There was nothing but firing along the entire coast, to the great astonishment of the people, who naturally enough thought that the militia were on the point of being called out, and that the French were coming. Then if a picnic took place at the Isle of Wight, off went a steamer with an evident sacrifice of useful fuel. He thought if the House of Commons would order returns of the number of times steamers were ordered to light up their fires on such occasions, it would check the wasteful expenditure to which he had alluded. Then there was the practice of pulling ships to pieces. When a ship put into port, she was paid off just as her men had become instructed in the art of gunnery, and the ship was pulled to pieces whether she wante1016d repairs or not. He thought all these mat- ters caused a wasteful expenditure, of which the people justly complained, and he must say he was most reluctant to agree to this vote, being of opinion that they had both ships and men enough.


begged to explain, that the number of men at present employed, with the additional 5,000 demanded, would man the fleet and leave a reserve,


said, he must complain that a large unnecessary expenditure had been annually incurred for want of due attention and economy in the naval yards. It mattered not who was at the head of Admiralty affairs, no efficient reform could be introduced without a complete reconstruction of the system. He thought an account should be laid before Parliament showing the cost of every ship in the Navy, not only for her first construction, but for all repairs and alterations she might undergo. He believed the Windsor Castle and others which were being adapted for the screw, would be found totally inefficient as ships of war. They would not be able to carry their complement of men, or a sufficient supply of coals and ammunition. In the dockyards the men did not perform more than a third of a day's labour for a day's pay, and until that system was reformed, we could not expect either economy or efficiency. In consenting to the Vote, he reserved to himself the right to call attention to any vessel now being altered from a sailing to a steam ship, should the failures he anticipated occur.


said, that two-thirds of the sum sought for under the present Vote would doubtless pass into the pockets of the hon. Member's (Mr. M'Gregor's) constituents, from whom the requisite steam machinery would be obtained.


hoped there would be no division on the Vote. The unanimous acquiescence of the Committee in it, taken in conjunction with the establishment of the militia, would prove to the world that the people of England, however anxious for economy, were willing to make any sacrifice that the Government might think necessary for perfectly securing the state of our national defences.

Vote agreed to.

(3.) 73,971l Charge of Wages.


said, that he would take occasion to observe, that much good would probably result to the service if the Admiralty, instead of building all their own vessels, were occasionally to employ private builders. Some of the Admiralty built ships were undoubtedly splendid vessels, but they had not yet reached perfection. It was a remarkable circumstance that this country had no vessels during the war at all so good as those which were taken from the French.

Vote agreed to; as were also

(4.) 1,200l., Medicines.

(5.) 37,929l., Charge of Victuals.

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