HC Deb 25 April 1856 vol 141 cc1541-64

said, that in order to give the First Lord of the Admiralty an opportunity of explaining the cause of the gross mismanagement which had been exhibited in connection with the accommodation provided for both Houses of Parliament to visit the review on Wednesday last, he should ask him whether the Transit, which had been placed at the disposal of the other House of Parliament on Wednesday last, was the same vessel which broke down on going into Plymouth, broke down again on leaving that port and ran into Brest, and then went on to Gibraltar and broke down there? Perhaps the right hon. Baronet would also explain whether it was true that 700 or 800 delicate ladies had to remain on board the Himalaya all night without any place to sleep—almost without any place to sit down in. The Government ought to explain what had been the cause of all this gross mismanage- ment, and why, if they invited that and the other House of Parliament to see a review—which he (Mr. Lindsay) had previously said he believed to be a useless show—they did not make proper arrangements for their accommodation.


I have waited, Sir, until the last moment before addressing the House on this subject, in order that I might not interfere with the question of which notice had been given, and because I thought it desirable that I should hear the charges which might be made before I proceeded to make any observation on the matter. After what had occurred in this and the other House of Parliament last evening, when I had no opportunity of replying, I was most anxious to make a statement to the House, and that statement I should have made even had not the hon. Member for Tyne-mouth addressed to me these questions. I hope the House, therefore, will give me its attention, because it is necessary not only for the justification of the Board of which I am a member, but also, for the satisfaction of hon. Gentlemen themselves, that I should enter, even at some length, into the details of the arrangements which were made by the Government, and I hope that I shall be able to show that on our part, at least, nothing was omitted which could conduce to the comfort of both Houses of Parliament. No persons can have been more grieved at what took place than was every Member of the Board of Admiralty and myself in particular, inasmuch as no persons had so great an interest in the general success of the splendid demonstration which we had been mainly instrumental in calling into existence. We should regret those occurrences the more if we had not taken every means in our power to cause everything connected with that review to pass off as well as possible; and I think, at all events, we have succeeded in showing that the country has good reason to be proud of that display of her naval strength which was exhibited on Wednesday. Great exertions had been made both in Her Majesty's building yards and in the private yards of those contractors who were employed to build a larger number of vessels of war than at one time it was thought could have been provided, as well as by those other contractors who had provided what was still more extraordinary, the large number of steam-engines which were required; and the Admiralty, which had been the means of exciting the contractors to these great exertions, had a pardonable feeling of pride in what had been done, and were most anxious that the country, and more particularly the two Houses of Parliament, who had placed at their disposal the means of providing the enormous fleet which was assembled at Spithead, should have the best opportunities of witnessing the result of our labours. I think, therefore, that the House will admit that we were the persons most interested in the display, and I hope I shall be able to show that, so far as depended upon us, every order was given and every precaution was taken to insure that every hon. Member and every other person who went down under the charge of the Admiralty should see it to the best advantage. I must, however, beg hon. Members to remember that there are two elements—time and tide—over which we had no command, and that with regard to the conveyance of persons from London to the port of embarkation we had but a very limited control. We did all that was in our power to provide that proper arrangements should be adopted by the railway company for the conveyance of the Members of both Houses of Parliament, but it was not for us actually to carry out those arrangements. The review, as hon. Gentlemen are aware, was originally intended to have taken place rather more than a week ago; but I found that, if the review had been then held, in consequence of the state of the tide the manœuvres must have commenced at so early a period of the day that it would have been necessary for persons who intended to witness the proceedings of the fleet to leave London soon after midnight. I represented this to Her Majesty, who was graciously pleased to sanction the postponement of the review for a week, in order that visitors from London might not be subjected to inconvenience. I went down to Portsmouth along with my right hon. and gallant Friend (Sir M. Berkeley) and we found that, in consequence of the state of the tide, the period which could be devoted to the evolutions of the fleet on the day appointed for the review would be about six hours—between eleven o'clock and five o'clock.

Before I state generally the arrangements that were made I will notice some of the complaints which, I observe, were made here and elsewhere last night with reference to those arrangements. Com- plaint has been made that the members of the two Houses of Parliament were embarked at Southampton and not at Portsmouth. Well, I can only say that our reason for making that arrangement was simply because we believed it would be most convenient for the two Houses. The question of time was so essential that, as the commencement of the review depended upon Her Majesty's arrival, we thought we should best consult the convenience of all parties by doing everything in our power to insure Her Majesty's embarkation at the appointed hour, and the dockyard at Gosport was reserved exclusively for Her Majesty and those attached to the Royal suite. The two ports of embarkation for the public were therefore Portsmouth and Southampton. There was every reason for believing that by far the greatest crowding and inconvenience would be experienced at Portsmouth, because a large number of naval officers, with their families, were residing in that town and its immediate neighbourhood, and there could be no doubt that they, along with numerous friends, would be most anxious to witness the spectacle. The great mass of people who took an interest in the fleet, and who were desirous to witness the review, were collected at Portsmouth, and I do not know that I can give a better test of what we believed would be the comparative numbers embarking at each port than the fact that we made arrangements for despatching twenty-three steamers for spectators from Portsmouth, and only six from Southampton. As, therefore, the large number of persons connected with the town of Portsmouth, or resident in the neighbourhood, or who might resort there from other points in order to witness the review, was certain to occasion inconvenient crowding, we thought the best course would be that visitors from London should embark at Southampton, where they were less likely to be incommoded by the pressure of crowds than would be the case at Portsmouth. Another consideration which influenced us in making this arrangement was, that the pier at which passengers embark at Portsmouth is half a mile or three quarters of a mile from the station, while at Southampton the trains discharge their passengers within 200 or 300 yards of the wharf. I have a lively recollection of the naval review which took place two years ago, and I remember on that occasion the great difficulty and confusion occurred in getting from the Sallyport or the Dockyard to the railway station, and that such inconvenience was experienced in a far less degree at Southampton than at Portsmouth, in consequence of the smaller distance at the former town between the points of arrival by railway and of embarkation. Another consideration which influenced our decision was, that the distance is less between London and Southampton than between London and Portsmouth, and we thought it fair to both Houses of Parliament to subject them to the least possible inconvenience so far as we were concerned. It was, however, as I have previously said, no part of our business to provide for the conveyance of hon. Gentlemen from the railway station to the ships' sides, and I think it will be admitted that the shorter the distance I between the station and the ships' sides the less inconvenience were passengers likely to experience. At Southampton, as I have said, the railway station is within about 300 yards of the wharf, and we therefore thought that Southampton would be the most convenient point for the embarkation of the Members of both Houses of Parliament.


said, he would beg to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether they might not have been embarked at the Clarence Yard, at Portsmouth?


Sir, the Clarence Dockyard was reserved exclusively for the use of Her Majesty and the persons who immediately accompanied her; and if that dockyard had been open to other persons, we could not have secured that accuracy of time for Her Majesty's embarkation which was absolutely essential in carrying out the proposed review, which must, as I have already stated, have taken place between the hours of eleven and five o'clock in the day time. Southampton had, for all these reasons, been selected as the port of embarkation for the Members of the two Houses of Parliament; and I must here observe, that when I informed the House on a preceding evening of that selection, I heard no objection whatever made to it. I now come to the vessels we had chosen for conveying the Members of the two Houses of Parliament. These were the Transit for the Members of the House of Lords, and the Perseverance for the Members of the House of Commons. Some alarm was expressed with reference to the latter vessel, and questions were put to me on the subject in this House, which I answered. Similar questions were subsequently asked, and I gave an answer, which has been characterised as discourteous, to an inquiry addressed to me by the hon. Member for Chester (Mr. O. Stanley). I can only say that it was far from my intention to act discourteously to my hon. Friend; but, if my answer was in any degree discourteous, I must assure my hon. Friend and the House that if they were acquainted with the vexations to which I was subjected in connection with the arrangements relating to the review they would make some allowance for me if I replied with discourtesy to a question which I had answered fully and completely on the previous day, and which was founded on reports which, I believe, were utterly groundless. I hope those Members of the House of Commons who embarked on board the Perseverance have had no reason to complain of the inefficiency of the vessel, or of any want of regard for their comfort. I learn from Captain Macdonald that the Perseverance arrived at Southampton, on her return, at half-past six o'clock, and that every Member had left the vessel at a quarter before seven. Considering the unfortunate delay which took place in the morning, I think, therefore, that time was as punctually kept with regard to the return as could have been expected. The other vessel employed was the Transit. My hon. Friend (Mr. Lindsay) seems to think, that because a vessel once met with an accident, no matter how well she might afterwards have been repaired, she must for the future be considered utterly inefficient for the performance of any duty. Now, I should have thought my hon. Friend must have known better than that. The accident had happened to the boilers of the Transit somewhere about a year ago, and since that time she has undergone complete repair. She was reported perfectly fit for service on the 25th of March last, with the single exception that one of her airpumps was affected, but that circumstance in no way injured her boilers. The only result of it would be, that it would reduce her speed—[Laughter]—I am not going to conceal anything—that it would reduce her speed from eleven knots to ten knots an hour. The defect, in fact, was considered a matter of such slight importance that she was reported as about to go to the Crimea, and she would have gone had she not been required on the occasion of the review.[A laugh.] Hon. Members may laugh, but I take leave to inform them that she will go to the Crimea, and I have not the slightest expectation that her machinery will not be found in the most efficient order. A notion has prevailed that some of her machinery was defective on Wednesday. On hearing that this morning, I immediately sent a telegraphic message both to Captain M'Dougal, the inspector at Southampton, and to Sir George Seymour, at Portsmouth, and the answer of both was to the effect that there was no defect in her machinery of any sort or kind. What really did happen to her on Wednesday was, that her fires were let out. That, of course, was a piece of gross negligence on the part of the persons in charge of the vessel. But I hope hon. Gentlemen will see that it was one of those incidents for which it would be impossible to expect that the Board of Admiralty should have issued any order for preventing such a casualty. But it is only fair to the officer in command of the Transit to state what his character is. My hon. Friend the Member for North Northamptonshire (Mr. Stafford) spoke the other night in very high terms of Captain Macdonald, the commander of the Perseverance. I can assure the House that Captain Johnson, the commander of the Transit, is an officer whose character stands as high as that of any man in the navy. He is covered with medals; he served in the most distinguished manner under Sir Charles Napier in the Syrian war; he commanded a steamer for three years in the Pacific, where his good conduct was such that he not only obtained the approbation of the Admiralty, but was thanked by the British merchants in California, and by Lloyd's at home; and he was selected by a private company to command one of their large steamers, which he did during the first year of the war. He then re-entered the Queen's service, and, with his high character, was appointed to the command of the Transit. I firmly believe that there is no officer of a higher character in the navy, and upon that ground he was appointed to the command he now holds. When I heard this morning of what took place on Wednesday I sent an order by telegraph that an inquiry should immediately be instituted for the purpose of ascertaining the cause of so great a piece of negligence as that which allowed the fires to go out altogether, or get so low that it was impossible to raise sufficient steam. It was owing to no fault or defect in the machinery; but I admit it was a most unfortunate occurrence, although I hope hon. Gentlemen will see, as I have just said, that it was not one that could be provided for by any orders issued from the Admiralty. We certainly never thought of instructing the commander of the Transit. to caution his engineers to be careful not to let their fires out. It had been asked why it was thought indispensably necessary to provide such large vessels for the accommodation of the two Houses of Parliament. Do hon. Gentlemen remember the circumstances under which the review took place two years ago? It was in the middle of summer; the weather was exceedingly fine and settled, and we had no great scruple in sending a large number of persons on board the different vessels without providing for foul weather. But in the present month, as hon. Gentlemen know, the weather is not settled, and we therefore thought it necessary to make provision accordingly. We provided vessels in which, if the weather should be found bad, the passengers might be accommodated on the under-decks, where they could witness the spectacle without inconvenience or discomfort. Moreover, two years ago the number of tickets issued to the House of Lords was only 150, whereas on the present occasion it was 400. The number issued to the Rouse of Commons two years ago was 220; on the present occasion it was 450, or, in fact, any number that hon. Members might choose to apply for. Hence it was indispensably necessary to provide larger vessels than those provided on the former occasion. So much for the accommodation at Southampton, and for the Transit and Perseverance.

If the House will bear with me, I will read to them the orders given by the Admiralty, which, I think, will show that we neglected no precaution, even to the most minute detail, that could promote in any degree the comfort and convenience of hon. Gentlemen. This was the order sent to Sir George Seymour— April 10. H. M. S. Transit will embark the House of Peers, and the Perseverance the House of Commons at Southampton, at nine o'clock A. M. of the 23rd instant. Both ships to be there early on the 22nd, or on the previous day. The Commanders of these vessels are to direct the mili- tary stewards to provide breakfast, and also a cold collation during the day, to include sherry, beer, and soda water, for the following number of persons, and at the expense of the Admiralty:—Transit, 400 persons; Perseverance, 450. The necessary plates, &c., must be hired for the occasion. The spare spars, &c., are to be landed from these vessels to afford more space, and tables are to be on the main decks, also platforms round the ships to afford accommodation for those who will be on board. Sir George Seymour to give the necessary orders, and my Lords trust the Commanders of these vessels to give every assistance in their power to carry out the proposed arrangements in a satisfactory manner. Each vessel to carry a distinguishing flag at the fore on the 23rd instant—namely, Transit, white, with blue cross; Perseverance, blue. On Friday, the 18th, the captain of the Transit wrote the following letter to Capt. Milne:— H. M. S. Transit, Friday, April 18. My dear Sir,—I have written to the Commander in chief that the dockyard men will have completed as on Saturday evening (to-morrow), and requesting a Southampton pilot. Wines, &c., are on board, and everything in a fair way, promising to turn out well. We have ample room on maindeck to sit down 450 at one time, and could make a few more seats in case of necessity. Very faithfully yours, . R. JOHNSON. There was a great complaint as to the want of tea on board. Captain Johnson adds:—"We shall have hot water for the million." But the real point upon which, in my opinion, the whole difficulty turned, was the conveyance from London to Southampton. If the conveyance had been performed as we had every reason to suppose it would he, I am convinced no inconvenience would have arisen. Of course it was not our duty to provide for that conveyance, but we communicated with the Managing Director of the railroad, and I hold in my hand a paper which he sent to us stating what he was prepared to do. Here it is:— Train No. 3, with the Members of the House of Peers and House of Commons. To leave London for Southampton at 7 A. M., and to arrive about 9.15 A. M., returning from Southampton about 6.30 P. M. We had several interviews with Mr. Scott, the Manager of the railway. Captain Milne, to whom the details of the arrangement were entrusted, saw him several times, and I myself saw him once. Captain Milne sent him a return of the number of persons who were to be conveyed by the special train two or three days before it was to start, and every possible information was given to him which could enable him to make his arrangements in the most perfect manner. So late as Tuesday morning—the morning before the review—Captain Milne saw Mr. Scott, and informed him how anxious we were that no delay should take place, or inconvenience be caused to hon. Members in their conveyance to Southampton. Mr. Scott assured Captain Milne that he need be under no apprehension whatever—he had taken every precaution in his power, all would be right, and we might depend upon the train delivering its cargo, if I may say so, at the time specified in the paper which we held in our hands. I really do not know what more we could have done to ensure the proper and comfortable conveyance of the two Houses from London to Southampton. Having thus taken precautions that hon. Gentlemen should arrive at Southampton in proper time, we next wrote to the Mayor of Southampton, begging that he would have a free passage kept from the railway station to the wharf side. Here is the memorandum on the subject:— April 20, '56. Write to the Mayor of Southampton and request that such facilities as may be in his power to grant may be made for the embarkation of Members of the House of Peers and Commons, and request that a clear passage may be made and kept from the railway station to the dock, and Captain M'Dougal has been requested to communicate with him on the subject. I understand that it has been said that no person was authorised to superintend the embarkation of the House of Commons at Southampton. In answer to this I can only say, that Captain M'Dougall, an old and experienced officer, who has been long charged with the embarkation of troops at that port, was informed, so long ago as the 10th of April, that the Houses of Lords and Commons would embark at Southampton on the 23rd, and he was desired to make the necessary arrangements for conveying them on board. We knew perfectly well that the vessels in which the Houses were to embark must lie at a certain distance from Southampton on account of the state of the tide, and we directed Captain M'Dougal to hire vessels which could lie at the wharf side to transport the Members to the Transit and the Perseverance. He reported that he could only hire two vessels, upon which we ordered three others immediately from Portsmouth, and early on Wednesday morning he had, independently of the Harbinger, four steam vessels of a small draught of water, capable of conveying both the Houses and every one connected with them, in one trip, on board the larger vessels. Among those four vessels were the Alban, the Widgeon, and the Monkey. Captain Milne wrote the whole of these arrangements to Captain M'Dongal. Captain M'Dougal was at the Admiralty on Wednesday morning, and Captain Milne then went through the whole of the details orally with him. I saw him myself, and I told him that we depended upon him to arrange the embarkation of both Houses of Parliament. Commander Macdonald, of the Perseverance, was in town on Monday morning, and I saw him also, and explained everything that was to be done. I gave him one of the charts which hon. Gentlemen have seen, and I pointed out to him on the map where he was to go. Neither Captain M'Dougal nor Commander Macdonald expressed the slightest doubt of the whole arrangements being carried out, provided that the train arrived at or about the time stated by the railway officials. According to their calculation, it might take about half an hour or three quarters of an hour to put the passengers on board the large vessels. We allowed an hour, and we had a right to calculate that they would be on board the large vessels by ten o'clock. Supposing that they had been on board by half-past ten, there would have been ample time to see the whole review. When on board the large vessels they were precisely the same distance from the west end of the line as it was from Portsmouth to the west end of the line—namely, eight miles. The course which was prescribed for them was this:—They were to go to the west end of the line; to pass between the lines to the head of it; they were then to wait till the Queen's yacht arrived, and were to take their places as near the Queen's yacht as they conveniently could. They were then to follow the Queen's yacht till she had passed through to the pivot ships, taking a similar position; and, returning with the Queen's yacht, they were to pass along the whole line of floating batteries and mortar boats; and they would thus have seen everything that the Queen saw. From this statement it will be seen that they ought to have had an hour's start of the Queen's yacht. These were the orders which were given, and I really do not see in what respect the general plan could have been improved. At eleven o'clock on Monday night Captain Milne attended at the Admiralty, and looked over all the orders to see whether anything had been omitted, and he could discover nothing. To provide against the possibility of any contradictory orders being issued at Portsmouth, I myself went down at seven o'clock on Tuesday morning, and communicated the whole plan to the admiral there. Some doubt being entertained at Portsmouth as to the feasibility of the boats containing the two Houses passing between the two lines—and as I thought it essential that they should do so—I wrote down the order with my own hand, and the admiral sent it over to Captain M'Dougal at Southampton. In addition to this, I went to see that the fleet was in proper order, and the Himalaya having come down, I sent for Captain Priest, and, explaining the plan of the four small boats and the Harbinger, asked if he anticipated that there would be any difficulty in the passage from Southampton to Spithead; and he said that under the circumstances detailed there could be none. I then wrote a private letter to Captain M'Dougal, telling him that the vessels containing the two Houses of Parliament were to pass between the two lines, but that their doing so depended upon the time of their starting, and I begged him to see that the passengers were embarked as soon as the train arrived. Those were the orders and those were the arrangements. Public orders were given to the effect that I have stated, and they were enforced by a private letter explaining them in greater detail. Most of the parties we actually saw ourselves, and we explained to them what was to be done; and I declare now, looking back, I do not know what other order could have been issued from the Admiralty to insure the arrangements being carried out, so far as they depended upon us; and sorry, vexed, and annoyed, as I am, that this mistake should have occurred, and that the result should have been so unsatisfactory, I really declare that I canot charge myself, or any member of the Board of Admiralty, with having omitted anything which in the way of precaution or foresight should have been done to insure the arrangements being carried out.

I may be asked, perhaps, what became of those four tenders. Upon this subject I can only state what my impression is; and I will read an extract from a letter which I have received from a person perfectly unknown to me, which I think explains the occurrence. He states that, intending to embark in the Himalaya, he went down in the earliest special train from London which followed soon after the six o'clock train. He says that on the way they were delayed by what I suppose I must call an "ordinary" train. [An hon. Member: It was the "Parliamentary train."] Oh! I am told that it was the "Parliamentary" train that stopped the way. They were obliged to wait till the "Parliamentary train" could be shunted, and the consequence was that they arrived very late at the station. He goes on:— I have described the train which impeded the first special train in the morning. When we were at length enabled to pass it, I presume it took its own place on the main line again, and offered the same impediment to the following special trains as it had offered in the first instance to our own. That was called the 'breaking down' of an engine. The engineer of that train simply did his duty in getting it forward how he could and as quickly as he could. When the company for the Himalaya arrived at Southampton it was within, perhaps, three-quarters of an hour of the time fixed for the embarkation of one or other of the Houses of Parliament. How was Captain M'Dougal to know that they would arrive at the time appointed? Upon speaking to him, which I did twice in the course of the night upon the subject, his reply was, 'The House of Peers or the Commons were expected to arrive at the time you actually reached the barricade, and I thought it only reasonable that they should have the preference of you; but when I had waited a long time and found the Legislature did not make their appearance, and with an angry crowd of gentlemen before me, I could keep the tenders idle no longer, and sent them full to different ships.' Was not that a very natural thing for the gallant officer to do under the circumstances? As to the wooden barricade, he said he had nothing to do with it. So, then, it comes to this, the gallant officer was left in perfect ignorance of everything that had occurred to delay the trains by the railway authorities, and I and others who could have enlightened him were prevented from approaching the pier by a wooden barricade, erected by the Southampton authorities, no doubt from the best motives. Had the first special train kept its time, no doubt the four tenders would have been at the disposal of the company. They would have been enabled to return in time for the succeeding trains, and everything would have been in order. I have now stated to you briefly my observations. Now, as far as I can judge, I believe that this is the real explanation of what took place, and the unexpected delay in the arrival of the first train ocasioned all the difficulty, and the company reached the pier at Southampton about three-quarters of an hour before the time named for the arrival of the two Houses of Parliament. Captain M'Dougal declined to allow the company conveyed by that train the use of the tenders to carry them to the Himalaya, but after waiting a considerable time he gave way to their remonstrances, and allowed them the use of the tenders. That accounts for the absence of the tenders upon the arrival of the Members of the two Houses of Parliament. Had the special train been to its time the tenders would immediately have conveyed the company on board the Himalaya, and they would then have been able to return in time to receive the Members of Parliament. That, I believe, is the real explanation of what took place. Hon. Gentlemen will see that it really does all turn on the want of punctuality by the railway company in working the trains. Every arrangement that we could make was made, and up to the last moment the strongest assurances were given that there was no reason to apprehend any difficulty would arise in carrying out those arrangements. I ought to say that I assure hon. Gentlemen that nobody in this House can be more, or feels more, disappointed than myself. We were most anxious that every one should have an opportunity of witnessing the review under the most favourable circumstances; and I believe, if any fault has been committed, it has arisen from attempting to give greater accommodation to the public than ever has been before afforded on a similar occasion. We provided accommodation in one way or another for upwards of 6,000 persons in Government vessels. I am not sure that as matters have turned out it would not have been better to have allowed them to find their own way in their own steamers; hut I can only say, that if anything has gone wrong we did not expect any delay, for we spared no pains to make the arrangements as perfect as possible. Perhaps we attempted more than we were justified in attempting, but we were most anxious that everything should go off as satisfactorily as possible.


said, that referring to the explanation respecting the Transit which he (Captain Duncombe) had made on a previous night, he must remark that the information he had obtained was directly contrary to what they had just heard; for in addition to the machinery of the vessel being generally out of order, he was told that at this very moment her condensers were being repaired at Napiers'. He did not wish at all to detract from the merit of Captain Johnson, who was a most worthy officer, as, indeed, his decorations proved, and who did his duty, under the circumstances, as well as could be expected. It had, however, been stated that but for the accident to the machinery the speed of the vessel would have been twelve knots an hour. Now, he could positively assert that at no time did she move at a rate exceeding six knots an hour; and even on going out of Southampton, where the way was all clear, she did not make up by increased speed for the delay which had taken place. On her return she hardly made steerage way, as he had remarked to the helmsman, who, he supposed, took him to be a thorough green-horn, for he replied, "Why, you see, sir, she is so very long that she will hardly steer." He fully admitted that it was the desire of the Admiralty to give every possible accommodation to the Cabinet and the Members of the two Houses of Parliament; but he wished he could say the same for the railway company, whose management from the beginning to the end was of the most disgraceful description. They had wilfully misled the Members on their return, particularly the Peers, the Peeresses, and their daughters, the consequence of which was that they did not leave Southampton until eleven o'clock at night, reaching London about half-past three o'clock the following morning, when the railway authorities had not even sufficient forethought or courtesy to provide the requisite number of ordinary cabs for the conveyance of the passengers from the station to their homes, and noble Lords, learned Judges, right rev. Prelates, and their wives and daughters, had actually to walk at that unseemly hour through the streets of London to their residences.


said, that he had directed an inquiry to be made respecting the machinery of the Transit, and as soon as the Report was received, he would lay it before the House.


said, he was quite sure that if the two Houses of Parliament had been placed in an anomalous position after having been invited to the review to attend Her Majesty, it was not from any neglect on the part of the Admiralty to ensure for them the necessary accommodation, so that they might present themselves in a seemly and decent manner. Still he must call the attention of the House to the facts which had been brought to his knowledge. It was proposed to move the Members of the two Houses of Parliament to Southampton, for the purpose of witnessing this review. In the first place, he did not think it very wise on the part of the right hon. Gentleman to separate them from the Royal cortége. It would have been better, if he might use a sea term, that they should have been within hail of each other all the way. That, however, was a part of the arrangement which might have been carried out, if they bad not failed to get there. What he wanted to ask, however, was, whether there was no power for direction, in such a case, over railway companies whose lines communicated between the metropolis and Southampton. The South-Western had now become one of the principal lines of military communication between London and the greatest naval arsenal of the country, and he put it to the House whether it was not disgraceful to find that a number of gentlemen, about equal to a single regiment, could not be conveyed that distance within two hours of the time specified? A review of this kind was intended to impress foreigners with an idea of the power, the grandeur, and the organisation of this country, showing that, although we had consented to close the present struggle, we were prepared, if necessary, to continue the war. But all that had been marred by the absence of that communication between different departments, the effect of which was so painfully apparent in the Crimea. The Government had literally failed in reaching Portsmouth and Southampton on a pleasure trip. Did anybody, after the experience they had had, suppose that if an emergency arose which rendered it necessary to dispatch a large number of troops down that line, that great danger would not result from the want of proper organisation, seeing that the railway company had failed in conveying the Houses of Parliament with any degree of punctuality? He hoped the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Chaplin) was in his place, and was also prepared to give some explanation of the conduct of the company relative to the transit of the Members of the two Houses. He wished to ask him what department of the Government he communicated with previous to making any arrangements—was it with the Admiralty? For his (Mr. Newdegate's) part, he always understood that there was a department of the Board of Trade whose special business it was to look after the conveyance of passengers by railway. [No, no!] Well, he might be mistaken, but that was his impression. At all events, the House was certainly entitled to inquire what precautions were taken by the South-Western Railway Company to ensure that the line should be clear on that day? As it was, no information whatever was received at the Waterloo station that the line was obstructed; the consequence was, that their train proceeded a short distance, then it stopped, then it went on and stopped again, and finally it came to a stand-still altogether. He thought the railway authorities must have been aware of the cause of the delay, but all the Members who were in the train knew was that they lost two hours in that short journey. What he complained of was, that there was not sufficient preparation, in the way of spare engines, at Basingstoke or other junctions, to remove obstacles out of the way, and in his opinion they were very fortunate to have escaped as well as they had. They had had a satisfactory explanation from the First Lord of the Admiralty, by which it appeared that he gave all the directions in his power; but as yet they had had no explanation from the representatives of the railway company. How was it that they undertook to convey the Members of the two Houses of Parliament to Southampton in two hours and a quarter, and instead of that consumed about four hours and a half in their conveyance? All that, however, would serve to point a moral, although it did not adorn a tale. Ought, they not seriously to consider the necessity of adopting some measure which would give the Government power to secure the proper management of the line on the occasion of any military emergency? He felt the deepest mortification that, instead of this review showing foreigners that there no longer existed in our public departments those defects which so nearly proved fatal to our army before Sebastopol, it made it evident that there were not means in this country for conveying the Members of the two Houses of Parliament from London to Southampton without interruption. It exhibited only another instance of that lamentable weakness with which we were taunted throughout the world, and proved that some control of the railway company was necessary to enforce greater exactitude.


said, that nothing was so important as to maintain an efficient communication between the first military arsenal of the kingdom and the metropolis, and he fully concurred in the remarks on that subject which had fallen from the hon. Member for North Warwickshire. He knew very well that the trite answer would be given, that in this country such matters were left to the management of private enterprise; but where a national object was to be obtained, it was surely the duty of the Government to furnish the means. Various methods had been suggested from time to time to provide the means of direct communication with Portsmouth, but hitherto the Government had shown an entire indifference to them. The hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Byng) had called the attention of the Government to-night to a very considerable expenditure upon fireworks, which would not be of the slightest benefit to the country. He could not say how far such a sum as £10,000 would be available in improving the railway communication between London and Portsmouth, but the subject was well worthy the attention of the Government. He had for many years endeavoured to accomplish that object, and he acknowledged himself to be an interested party. He and other landed proprietors had made considerable sacrifices both in money and time to break down a most inefficient monopoly, but nothing would induce the Government to come to their assistance. He hoped, however, that the present contretemps would not be without effect.


said, he must beg to express the regret both of himself and colleagues in the direction of the South-Western Railway Company that any hon. Member should have suffered inconvenience by any accident, whether that accident were under their control or not. It should be remembered, however, that the whole of this traffic had to be conveyed from the Waterloo station within two hours, and that it was impossible in that time to start more than sixteen trains, besides all the ordinary local trains. It was also impossible to get a single train back to London in time to perform a second trip, and all intermediate traffic had to be accommodated by stopping trains, in addition to the special trains. The first of the sixteen trains started at five o'clock, and was an excursion train to Portsmouth. The second, at 5.15, was to accommodate the officers at Aldershot. The third, at 5.30, was an excursion train, conveying 670 passengers. The weight of that train was 167 tons, and the engine used to draw it had constantly drawn goods trains weighing 400 tons, being one of their most powerful engines. One feed-pipe, however, burst at Esher, and with the other the train was got as far as Woking. There was no telegraphic communication between Esher and Woking, and no information of the disaster could, therefore, be sent forward. At length an engine from Kingston was got to Woking, and the train was shunted to allow other trains to pass. The fourth train, at six o'clock, was a special train for passengers with tickets for Government ships. The fifth and sixth were despatched at 6.15 with Government officials. The 7th was at 6.20, a special second class. The eighth and ninth, at 6.45, conveyed the Ministers and foreign personages. It was not for him, perhaps, to complain of the patrons of the railway company, but 2,300 tickets for ships were issued to persons to go by a train at that hour. Such a number had not been contemplated, and two trains became necessary. At seven o'clock the tenth train, with the Lords and Commons, started. At 7.15 the 11th, with the directors of the South-Western and other railway companies. The Great Northern, the North-Western, the Midland, the Eastern Counties, and the South-Eastern Railway Companies, kindly lent engines and carriages to the number of 160, and the directors were, in compliment, invited to go and see the review. At 7.30 the Queen's household left; at 7.45 the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth trains started, and at 8.45 the sixteenth left with Her Majesty. Sixteen trains in one morning could not, with regard to that safety which, he was proud to say, had been secured, have been started earlier. He could state also, that the traffic was not of their own seeking. If the company had had the power of control, they would not have engaged to take more passengers than they could conveniently have sent; and they held out no inducement by lowering fares to entice the multitude, and crowd their trains beyond the capacity of their locomotive power, and if, under the enormous pressure of the circumstances, an accident had occurred, to which railways were at all times liable, and which had on that occasion impeded the passage of the trains, he did not think the company could be severely blamed, if it could be shown that they had used all reasonable precautions to prevent accident, and that they did so he thought was proved by the circumstance that they had at least conveyed every one safely over their line. But he denied that the company were re- sponsible for much of the inconvenience and delay, for the directors, who reached Southampton after the Members of the two Houses, had been enabled to see the review; and, had proper arrangements for taking hon. Members off to their vessels been made, they would have done the same. The pressure was, of course, more intense on the return, because people who went down on Tuesday came back with the Wednesday visitors, although the tickets would have permitted them to remain until Thursday. It was quite impossible to regulate the crowds, who broke down all barriers, and got into the carriages by force. The inconvenience resulting to the House of Peers, on their return, was attributable to the confusion, in the midst of which it was stated, in mistake, that their Lordships were in their carriages, and the train left without them. So large was the traffic, that the number of persons conveyed from London on Tuesday was greater than that usually conveyed during a whole week; and from Monday to Thursday night scarcely any of the company's officials went to bed. As far as the company's arrangements were concerned, everything was satisfactory; and the delay which had occurred, and which he deeply regretted, resulted, as he had previously mentioned, from a failure of machinery, which was entirely beyond the control of the directors.


said, he thought that the railway company were not entirely to blame for the delay which took place, although he did not acquit them of much of it. It would only have taken an hour to have transported the Members of the two Houses from the docks to the vessels intended for them had any means of transport existed; and as they arrived at the docks at one o'clock, they would, notwithstanding the breakdown, have been in time to have seen the review. He would, therefore, inquire of his right hon. Friend, the First Lord of the Admiralty, whether he did not think that it would have been better if there had been some responsible agent at the dockyard—they could not expect one of the Lords of the Admiralty, but a subordinate—who might have seen that the vessels were not taken away. His right hon. Friend said it was impossible for him to regulate the time and tide. He (the Marquess of Granby) quite admitted that, but at the same time he bad never known any extraordinary blunder of this kind being made without such an excuse.


said, he hoped that the result of the discussion would be, that the railway system of the country would be placed under proper regulations. Whenever attempts had been made in that House to introduce an efficient control over it the Government uniformly thwarted the efforts of those who wished to give the greatest possible accommodation to the public. On the very day before this review occurred he went to the terminus of the South-Western Railway at eleven o'clock in the morning, and he must confess that he rarely if ever saw a state of more inextricable confusion. The station was so full, that it was with the greatest difficulty that any one could get standing room, there being only two small boxes to get the tickets at, and more than 1,000 persons requiring them. He attributed much of the inconvenience that had arisen to the past negligence of the House itself in not supporting Bills to put the railways of the country under proper control, the consequence of which was, that when a great demand for conveyance arose it was accompanied with much danger and confusion, which offered an extraordinary contrast to continental railways.


said, he much regretted that the House should have sustained any inconvenience on the Southwestern Railway, but he thought that some hon. Gentlemen opposite, especially the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), had expended a good deal of unnecessary indignation upon the subject. What Government regulation could have prevented such an accident as occurred on Wednesday? Hon. Members had their horses fall down in their carriages now and then, and how, therefore, could the directors of the railway foresee that one of their best engines would burst its feed-pipe, and that thus delay would be occasioned to a traffic so enormous that he (Mr. Hutchins) did not know how they had conducted it so well as they had done. His right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty had forgotten to mention that the Admiralty issued a great many more tickets than the railway company anticipated. The delay of the Houses of Parliament was not entirely attributable to the Railway Company, had the boats of the Admiralty been as good as that employed by the directors of the South-Western Railway Company, noble Lords and hon. Members might have seen the whole of the re view. The directors' train arrived at Southampton after that which conveyed the Members of Parliament, yet they saw the Queen come down the line, went up with her, witnessed the whole of the review, and returned to Southampton, where they arrived at seven o'clock as advertised, and reached London at ten o'clock. He (Mr. Hutchins) was on the platform of the Southampton station when the Members of the House of Commons arrived there in the evening. The special train was ready to receive them. He asked the superintendent where the peers were, and was informed that they were in the carriages behind. He believed that such was the case, and it was not until the previous day (Thursday) that he heard that any Members of the Upper House were left behind. The fact was that the peers were delayed by the accidents to their boat, and did not arrive at Southampton until after the special train provided for the accommodation of the Members of the two Houses of Parliament had left. The result was that they had to be accommodated in one of the ordinary trains, and did not reach London until a very late hour. He did not think that this was entirely attributable to the acts either of the directors or servants of the railway company.


said, that the discomfort and inconvenience about which there had been so much grumbling had been caused by the wonderful assurance of the railway directors and the much more wonderful credulity of the right hon. Baronet (Sir C. Wood), which, remembering from how far north he came, did, he must say, greatly astonish him. The ordinary express trains on the Southampton line, carrying no second class passengers, except the servants of first-class ones, took two hours and twenty minutes to go from the Waterloo station to Southampton. How the right hon. Baronet had allowed himself to be so far gulled, even by railway directors, as to believe that they were going to take down trains containing 4,000 or 5,000 persons in five minutes less than the time occupied by an ordinary express had passed his (Mr. Henley's) comprehension. The assurance of the directors in making this proposition and the credulity of the First Lord of the Admiralty in believing that this promise could be fulfilled had been at the root of all the trouble and mischief of this affair. It was similar to expecting that, because you could go through clear streets in a cab at the rate of nine or ten miles an hour, you could proceed at the same rate through New gate Street at that time of the morning at which it was most crowded. It was known that the line would be crowded from end to end, and it might have been foreseen that some of those unfortunate accidents which did occur, and against which no provision was made, would happen. It was, in his opinion, a source of consolation that so many thousand persons were conveyed on the line without any of them being smashed. He gave to the right hon. Baronet (Sir C. Wood) credit for a desire to make the best possible arrangements, but he thought that it was an unfortunate arrangement that the ladies should have to be transhipped from one vessel to another; that was at all times a disagreeable, and would in wet or rough weather have been a very ugly operation.


said, that no explanation had yet been given of the fact, that although the train in which the Members of that House returned to town left Southampton at eight o'clock, it did not reach the Waterloo station until considerably after midnight.


I wish, Sir, to make a single observation upon this subject. When the House of Commons attended the funeral of the Duke of Wellington, along with the House of Peers, they themselves appointed a Committee which arranged beforehand the method of their transit from this House to St. Paul's, and if any failure in the arrangements had occurred it would have been visited upon that Committee. Upon that occasion the two Houses attended, if I may so use the expression, officially. In the present case they did not attend officially, and I very much doubt whether it is a good precedent—although I know it has been set before—that the Government should undertake, at the public expense, to provide carriage and entertainment for the Members of both Houses of Parliament to enable them to view a great spectacle. If we are bound to appear as Members of the Legislature, then we should make our own arrangements, and attend at the public expense; but, if we are not so bound to appear, I hold that we ought to go at our own cost. I think we may learn from what has occurred in this case a lesson which neither the Government nor this House will easily forget—namely, that we have functions of a very different character to discharge, and that it is not wise or prudent on our part to ask the Government to entertain the Houses of Parliament upon occasions of this description.

The Motion for the adjournment of the House was then agreed to.