§ (1.) 59,380 Men and Boys for eight Months.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
It will, perhaps, be in the recollection of the Committee, that when I moved, on the first formation of the Government, certain Vote3 on account of the Navy Estimates, I stated that I should feel it my duty, before any further sums were demanded, deliberately to consider the whole of the Estimates which the late Government had submitted to the House, and then to bring forward the proposals which we might think that Parliament ought to sanction. In conformity with that assurance, we have given the subject our best attention, and I now trust I shall receive the indulgence of the Committee, while I proceed to explain, as briefly and as clearly as I can, what are the respects in which, after full consideration, we are of opinion that some reduction may be made in the Estimates of the late Government, and what are the portions of those Estimates in which we believe it to be impossible that any diminution can with prudence be effected.
The Committee will understand that I have now to deal specially with the first Vote which I shall have to put, Sir, into your hands—that which relates to the number of seamen and marines to be voted, and the sum which must necessarily be paid to them in the shape of wages. The hon. Gentleman who has just divided the House (Mr. W. Williams) was undoubtedly quite right in stating that the Estimate proposed by the late Government for the naval force of this country, and adopted by the present Government, is a very high Estimate. It is higher than any that has been submitted to Parliament of late years 884 —it is larger than was proposed last year —but I am bound to say that after a full consideration, it is the opinion of the pre-sent Government, that our predecessors did take a bold and a wise course in making that recommendation to Parliament; and we cannot consistently with our sense of duty, propose any reduction in that Vote. I believe I shall best discharge the duty which now devolves upon me, by being perfectly frank with the Committee. I propose to lay before them the reasons which have influenced the present Government in adopting so high an Estimate, and I feel persuaded that when I shall have fully and fairly stated the reasons why we have adopted the course we are pursuing in this matter, they will not hesitate, whatever may be the pecuniary cost, to vote whatever Estimates shall be necessary to uphold the naval power of this country. On a former occasion I explained the real difference between the Votes proposed by the late Government for the wages of seamen and marines, in this and last year. The number of men proposed for 1858–9 is, in fact, 3,000 more than the ultimate strength which was taken last year. The Vote originally moved by the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Halifax (Sir C. Wood) last year, was for a force of 33,000 seamen and marines, 2,000 men for surveying purposes, and 5,700 men for the coast guard. At a later period of the year, the right hon. Gentleman moved a Supplementary Vote for 2,000 seamen to be added to the force; so that its total amount for the year 1857–8 was 35,000 officers, seamen, and boys, 2,000 men for surveying purposes, and 5,700 for the coast guard, amounting in the whole to 55,700 men. the late Government proposed, and it is now my duty to renew that proposal, that this force shall be increased by an addition of 2,000 officers and seamen to man our ships, and by 1,000 men for the coast-guard service. Hon. Members will observe, upon the face of that Vote, that the men for that latter service are raised from 5,700 men last year to 7,380 for the year 1858–59; and I therefore wish to explain that, although there is an apparent difference to that extent, the real difference is one of only 1,000 men. The apparent discrepancy in the figures arises from the fact, that 680 of those men have been transferred from the civil portion of the coast-guard service to the naval portion. It was the policy of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and I believe it was a sound 885 policy, to got rid of the civil portion of the coast-guard service; and this increase of 680 is in point of fact, only a transfer from the civil, to the naval portion of that service. The Vote I shall have to place, Sir, in your hands for the wages of the force is £2,401,599. The state of the case as respects the men borne on the books of the ships is this:—When I moved the Vote on account, I stated that the men actually on the books were considerably beyond the number voted for 1857–8; I think to the extent of something like 1,000. That number has increased, and we have now actually on board ship 1,621 more men and boys than the number voted last year. If, therefore, the Committee should adopt the Vote I am now about to propose, there will, in fact, remain a balance of only 379 out of 2,000 additional men we now demand. On the other hand, in order to complete the manning of our ships in commission, we want 1,318 men more than we have at present in those ships. The first point to which I must beg to call the attention of the Committee in connection with the proof which I hope to give of the necessity for this large increase in the number of men is the present state of our naval force in the East Indies and in China. In the year 1856, only two years ago, our naval force on those stations consisted of by ships, carrying 333 guns, and manned by 3,131 sailors. Our naval force in the East Indies and in China at the present moment consists of 75 ships, carrying 953 guns, and manned by a force of 11,863 sailors. Six of those ships, carrying 104 guns, and manned by 1,057 men, are now on their way home; and with that reduction we shall have on the East India and the China stations 09 ships, carrying 789 guns, and having on board 10,206 seamen. The Committee must be aware that this is a very large increase on the force we have had at any previous time in the same quarter of the world, and in point of fact it amounts to a very large proportion of the whole force I am now about to ask the Committee to grant. I am glad to be able to stale that a very great increase has also taken place in our force on the African coast for the suppression of the slave trade; and I am sure that no disposal of our Royal Navy will be more acceptable to this House, and more in accordance with the state of public feeling in this country, than a great increase in the force employed for the suppression of the Slave Trade. Nevertheless, this is an item 886 which we are bound to take into account in calling upon Parliament to vote the necessary supplies of the naval service of the year. On comparing the present year with the year 1855—to go no further back—I find that in the last-named year we had on the coast of Africa 20 ships, carrying 134 guns, and manned by 1,929 seamen; while we have now 29 ships, carrying 215 guns, and manned by 3,353 men. It appears, therefore, that of the whole naval force of this country, including the ships which are on their way home from China, we have not less than between 15,000 and 16,000 men employed at the present moment on the Chinese, the East Indian, and the African stations.
While I think that this statement will be satisfactory to the Committee, I am sorry to have to add—I must not conceal it from them—that the condition of our naval force at home is by no means satisfactory. I think it is far better frankly to make this avowal and to ask Parliament to meet that state of things than to attempt to conceal a fact which must be known to every Government in Europe, and which, I believe, is unknown to the people of this country except to Members of this House. Up to a very recent period we had no ships of war which were not employed on foreign stations or in distant portions of the empire—no vessels which could be made immediately available in any British port. We have at the present moment in our harbours some of the noblest ships that ever floated on the ocean, and we are adding rapidly to their number; but I cannot too emphatically point out to the Committee, I cannot too earnestly ask them to bear in mind that those ships are useless unless you have men to man them. I believe that every one who has given any attention to the state of the defences of the country is aware of the great difficulty we have experienced of late years in manning our fleet; and that difficulty forms a question with which it is now most incumbent on Parliament to deal. I have said that we have now in our harbours some of-the most noble ships that ever floated; but I must now inform the Committee that owing to the want of men they are not available for immediate service. At this moment I know of no ships immediately available in the Channel except the Renown, at Spithead, with one frigate and two of the finest corvettes ever built; but the Renown is not yet fully manned, although four months have been employed 887 in endeavouring to accomplish that object; but she is very nearly manned, and she may at present be considered as an available ship. It is, however, only quite lately that she could have been so spoken of. We have also the Marlborough, at Portsmouth, and we have the Euryalus, at Devonport—two of the finest ships of their respective classes—but they are unable, from a want of men, to proceed to their respective destinations. Although, therefore, the number of men for the service of the present year exceeds that voted last year, we are actually at this moment short by 1,300 men of the number we require to man our ships in commission or in harbonr commission, where they ought to be half manned in order to be ready for service. While, however, I make that statement, I think I may also say that there are some important respects in which this country is at the present moment in a better position in regard to this great point of manning the navy than she had ever occupied before, and I believe that nothing is required but a fair amount of liberality on the part of the House of Commons, and a proper sys-tem of organization on the part of those who are entrusted with the management of the navy, very shortly to place the country in that satisfactory position with regard to this important subject of the manning of her fleet. And here I am bound in justice to say that very important steps in that direction have been taken by each of the three last Administrations. I must include in that statement the management of the Admiralty Board by the Duke of Northumberland, under the Government of Lord Derby, in the year 1852. The noble Duke felt, as many other men in the same position had felt, the disadvantage under which we laboured from a want of men to man our navy, and the subject occupied no small share of his attention. He appointed a Committee, composed of several most able and experienced naval officers—one of them being Sir Richard Dundas, an officer of the highest possible standing, and by whom I have now the advantage of being assisted, as one of the Lords of the Admiralty. A few weeks after the Duke of Northumberland had retired from office, the Committee he had appointed made their report, and in that document there appeared two important recommendations. The first was the adoption of the system of continuous-service men—that is to say, men who should en-list for a longer period of years than has 888 been customary, and who should receive, in consideration of that longer service, a higher rate of pay. Their second recommendation was, that we should adopt the principle of a marine militia, by raising a body of seamen, enlisted, like our land militia, on the voluntary principle, who were to undergo a certain amount of exercise, and who were to be liable to be called out to man our ships in case of a national emergency. Both these recommendations were carried into effect under the naval administration of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham), in the Ministry which succeeded the Government of Lord Derby; and I think I may say, without any exaggeration, that they are the two most important steps that were ever taken in the direction to which I am adverting. Another important measure was afterwards adopted, and I believe I am right in attributing the merit of that measure to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Sir C. Wood). That measure was, the placing of ships round our shores, in connection with the Coast guard, and removing the Coast guard on board those ships. By means of the Coast guard and the Naval Volunteers, as they arc called, but which, in fact, are a marine militia, we have at this moment a reserve, which, in case of a national emergency, might at once be called out. I believe I do not exaggerate in saying, that under the operation of those measures, we could, in a very short time—I am told within a fortnight, but certainly I believe within a month—collect in the Channel a fleet of not less than twenty line of battle ships. Those ships would consist, no doubt, to a great extent, of what are technically known as "block ships," being old seventy-fours, not fit to cope with vessels of modern construction; but, still, I believe that, in a very short time, we might bring into the Channel a powerful defensive force, in case of a national emergency. The Committee, however, must observe that it is only in case of a national emergency that we could put such a fleet to sea; for, without such an emergency, neither the volunteers nor the Coast guard could be employed in active service. Now, I maintain that it is not creditable to this country, and that it is not consistent with our national dignity and our national safety, that we should not have the means of sending our ships to sea, for any purpose, unless a national emergency should arise. 889 How, then, are we to deal with this most important point? I am in hopes we may be able effectually to deal with it by the extension of that valuable change lately adopted, and known as the continuous-service system. And hero I cannot too strongly lament the course taken by my right hon. Friend opposite (Sir C. Wood) last year, in allowing not less than 3,000 seamen who were serving on board our ships, and who were enlisted for continuous service, to be discharged from that service, and thus lost to the country. I can assure my right hon. Friend that I do not mean to speak of his administration in any spirit of censure: I am well aware of the pressure that was put on the Government last year; I am well aware of the difficulty with which they had to contend when that cry for economy was raised throughout the country; I cannot, however, help wishing that the right hon. Baronet had possessed sufficient firmness and vigour to say that the national interests should not be tampered with, and that the country should not be deprived of the advantages of an important improvement in our naval administrative system. We had then between 23,000 and 24,000 continuous-service men, the flower of our navy; but, under the pressure of the cry for economy, the late Government issued an order, to the effect that any continuous service men in our ports who liked might take their discharge. The result was, that out of some 5,000 or 6,000 of those men in the home ports, not less than 3,000 accepted the offer; those men were lost to the service, and their number had never since been made up. But that was not all; the worst part of that unhappy step was the moral effect which it produced upon the men. Strictly speaking, it decidedly was not a breach of faith; but I am sorry to say that it was so considered. Sailors could not enter into nice distinctions; they saw that, although they had been enlisted for ten years, and although they were willing to serve for that period, they were told to go about their business; and I say the moral effect of that step was most unfortunate. We must now endeavour to retrace that step, and, if possible, to regain our former position; and, I am happy to say, we have already, to some extent, succeeded in the attainment of that object. The number of continuous-service men, when that step was taken, was nearly 24,000, and it is now between 21,000 and 22,000. I do 890 not mean to say that the actual number of continuous-service men is 3,000 less than when the step to which I have alluded was taken; but I do say that the moral effect of that step has been most unfortunate. In the opinion of the present Government, in order to give permanent strength to our navy, and to avoid the discreditable state of things which I have described as existing in our ports at the time, our best policy, without resorting to more extravagant changes, would be to aim at having what I may call the minimum naval force of England—the number of men necessary, under all circumstances, for the manning of the fleet and for the defences of the country—altogether of continuous-service men. There must always be a margin, whatever the pressure may be at this moment. The Committee will see that circumstances always alter calculations. For instance, when the China war is over, when the force in India and China is reduced to the strength at which it stood four years ago, no doubt we shall be able to reduce the number of men now engaged in active service. That must always depend upon the pleasure of Parliament and the state of public affairs. Every year must vary according to the aspect of public affairs. There must always be a margin; but we may be able to deal with the continuous-service men, and keep them at a fixed minimum, and thus avoid the bad effect which the step taken last year unfortunately did produce. Within that margin, the present Government is decidedly of opinion that the entire force of seamen should consist of men entered for continuous-service; and this very day I have given directions that every means should be used to increase the number of men so entered as fast as possible up to a given amount.
I must now state to the Committee what is the opinion of the present Government upon another point, in which opinion I anticipate the concurrence of every Member of the House — namely, that we ought never to be without a Channel fleet. I do not think it is consistent with our position, with our national dignity or safety, that we should have no naval force at all in the Channel. I remember, when my right hon. Friend opposite (Sir C. Wood) proposed his Estimate last year, he said there would be no Channel squadron, on account of the state of affairs in China. I allow the pressure of affairs in China at that time was severe; but I venture to think that no Government should, under any cir- 891 cumstances, leave the Channel without a fleet of line-of-battle ships. Her Majesty's present Government hold it to be their first duty, without any loss of time that can be avoided, to establish a Channel squadron, not only for the protection of our shores, but for the exercise of our officers and men. The hon. and gallant Member for Southwark (Sir C. Napier) will agree with me, I am sure, when I say that in these days, when the introduction of steam into our navy is so recent, and our officers as yet so unaccustomed to its application, that it is essential there should be a squadron for evolutions and practice, which shall enable officers and men to become practically acquainted with the new system. We have an example before us, set by our opposite neighbours in France, which we cannot with prudence neglect. They do not allow their coasts to be left defenceless, nor do they allow their officers and sailors to remain without opportunities for practice. On the contrary, with great prudence, and with his usual sagacity, the Emperor of the French has lately assembled at Toulon a force which will form a squadron of evolution; and I hope, before the present summer has passed away, that we shall see in our own Channel a squadron, worthy of England and her naval reputation, assembled for the same praiseworthy object. Having mentioned to the Committee the number of men which I conceive to be necessary, I will now explain how it is proposed to dispose of them. When I mention the 2,000 additional men required, the Committee will understand that I do not refer to the 1,000 Coast-guard men. They are a force quite distinct, and I should only embarrass my statement by including them at present. I speak only of the 2,000 additional men required for the manning of our ships.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
Yes. I have explained to the House that, in order to complete the manning of our harbour ships—the ships in commission—we want 1,318 more than we have. The increased Estimate only allows a balance of 379, and therefore there will remain to be made up 939, supposing all the ships to be fully manned. For the Channel squadron, which we hope to be able to fit out in the course of the summer, we shall require 1,500 more; and we shall also require 1,000 additional men for reliefs to be effected during the present year. This will give 892 3,439 men more than the increased Vote for which we now ask. But, within the next two months, there will arrive from China, from the Pacific, from the Mediterranean, and from various other stations, ships to be paid off, which will set free a force of 3,488 men; and therefore, having provided for the requirements of the ships now in commission—after having provided for such additional ships as we hope will form a Channel squadron, and after providing 1,000 men for foreign relief—we shall have a balance out of the Vote which we now ask for of only 49 men. I admit that it is a large Vote, and I wish it was in my power, consistent with my duty, to propose a lower one; but I hope that the statement which I have made to the Committee will convince it that by this means alone we shall be able to put our fleet into an effective and practicable condition. I trust that it will agree with me that this object could not be effected by the employment of a less number of men; and I must add a hope that, however the number may vary from year to year, the fixed policy of the country—a policy from which nothing will divert it—will ever be that the navy shall be maintained in an effective condition. In order to make it effective, we must have a Channel squadron. In order to make it effective, we must have a reserve of available seamen with which to man our ships in case of emergency, and so avoid an exhibition so unsatisfactory, so humiliating, as that which we have witnessed during the last few months. With this explanation, I will pass to the other Votes.
For the supply and victualling of the fleet, I shall have to place in your hands, Sir, a Vote for £1,027,357, being an increase over that of last year of £165,159, the Vote of last year being £862,198. Of course, the increase on this Vote turns entirely upon the other. I have taken the figures submitted to us by the late Government; and, if the Committee think that the additional number of men required in the first Vote ought to be granted, then of course the additional expense will follow as a necessary consequence of that increase in the naval force of the country. The present Government do not propose to make any alteration in the Votes intervening between the numbers two and eight on the Estimates; but with respect to that latter Vote we have deviated from the intention of the late Administration, and propose a smaller Vote than they had intended to submit to the House. We did not arrive 893 at this determination without considerable anxiety; but I am bound to say that we arrived at it after the fullest and deepest consideration. I have endeavoured to state in the strongest terms I could, the necessity which exists for maintaining the Navy in the highest state of efficiency, and the House will agree with me that it ought to he done with the greatest practicable regard to economy. With my short tenure of office, I have no right to imply anything which might appear to infer censure upon the proceedings of the late Administration; but I have in my mind an impression that our dockyards are not conducted with that strict economy with which they ought to be managed. I hope the Committee will understand what I mean. I consider it the first duty of any Member of the Government administering the affairs of the Navy, to conduct those affairs not only with the most rigid regard to economy, but with that regard to economy which is consistent only with public efficiency. Extravagance does not promote efficiency. I do not mean to imply that in proposing, as the late Government did, an establishment of 12,190 men in connection with the dockyards they were guilty of extravagance; but I do say that I am unwilling after so short a tenure of office, to propose, without the clearest conviction of its necessity, a Vote which stands unprecedented in our naval Estimates. It is absolutely impossible—and I beg the attention of the hon. Member for Lambeth to the fact, that we can go back to the Estimates of the Duke of Wellington and Lord Grey with regard to our naval establishments. Such an idea is altogether chimerical. Great changes have taken place; the whole system of our Navy has been altered; and without reference to the present establishment, the House, I am convinced, will never be able to go back to that of former days. Let me remind the Committee and the hon. Gentleman of the wonderful change which has taken place in late years with respect to the size of our men of war. It was only the other day that our first-class ships—ships that were the pride of the British navy, that were considered the grandest vessels that had ever been launched—were ships such as the Neptune, the Caledonia, the St. Vincent, the largest of which was about 2,600 tons. What is their size as compared with our first-class ships of the present day? The Duke of Wellington, the Marlborough, the Royal Albert, the other men of war, instead of being 2,600 tons, 894 range from 3,800 to 4,000 tons. I saw last week, on the stocks at Portsmouth, a new ship, the Victoria, which will greatly exceed even them. At this moment there is a 32-gun frigate, called the Diadem, which measures 2,500 tons—that is to say, within 100 tons of the size of our old three-deckers. Well, then, Sir, I say it is quite impossible that those great changes in the size of our ships can take place without increasing in a proportionate degree the extent and the expenditure of our dockyards. Next, let me remind you of the effect of the introduction of steam. A few years ago your steam ships were an exception; the great majority of the navy was composed of sailing vessels. What are they now? Almost all steam ships. The House is little aware of the wonderful rapidity with which this steam power is extending in the Royal navy of England. I hold in my hand a return, showing the aggregate horse-power of our ships for a series of years. In 1844, only fourteen years ago, the aggregate horse-power was 23,379. In 1852—the year I before referred to—not because it was the year in which Lord Derby was in office, but because it was the year previous to that in which the disturbing causes of the Russian war made their influence felt—the aggregate horse-power was 44,250; and now, in 1858, the aggregate horse-power has risen to 99,512. The Committee will bear in mind that this could not have been effected without vast additional labour and expense; and, therefore, under such circumstances, it would be utterly impossible to return to the days of Lord Grey and the Duke of Wellington. Nor is it possible that the same dockyards used for the construction and repair of the vessels of that time are applicable to the construction and repair of the gigantic steam fleet of the present day. The Committee will, perhaps, allow me to mention the prodigious expense the country has incurred in providing a steam fleet during the last six years. From the year 1852–3 to the year 1857–8 this country, in the machinery for our ships and the machinery for our dockyards, has spent no less a sum than £3,687,000. Of course, the circumstance of the Russian war was one great cause of the expenditure; the major portion, indeed, of that expenditure being incurred during the period of that war. But while I say this, I must also add, that I consider the present pressure of expenditure in our dockyards is to a great extent exceptional. I have already stated 895 my regret at the step taken by the Government, which had the effect of setting at liberty 3,000 seamen. I know that they took it under pressure; but still the effect of that was to throw out of commission some seven or eight line of battleships, besides several frigates, last year, every one of which now being to be brought forward again, a great loss of money to the country must necessarily accrue. I know the pressure under which the right hon. Gentleman opposite acted, and I blame the House more than I do him, being at the same time quite willing to take my own share of censure; but, I say, that if ever there was a case in which we were penny wise and pound foolish, it was when we took the step by which we dismissed those men and dismantled those ships, not a year ago; while now we are spending thousands upon thousands of pounds to put those ships in order which might have remained in an effective state by the expenditure of a comparatively small amount of money. At the present moment the pressure in the dockyards is such that the whole strength of the establishment is diverted from the building of ships to the repairing of those which were put out of commission and dismantled last year. Considering, therefore, as I am justified in doing, that that pressure is exceptional, I must express my reluctance to adopt a measure for an unprecedented amount of force in the dockyard establishments until I am satisfied of its actual necessity. I cannot touch this part of the question without requesting the attention of the Committee to a subject which I know has for several years attracted the attention of naval men as it has that of the present Government during the short time they have been in office. I allude to that most objectionable and unwise practice of commissioning our ships for only three years. In the first place, it is most extravagant in point of money; and in the second, most injurious in point of discipline. You increase the efficiency of the men, while at the same time you increase the expenditure by thousands of pounds. Will the Committee allow me to give them an illustration upon this point connected with the subject of fitting out two of our largest line-of-battle ships? I wish it was in my power to do so by referring to screw line-of-battle ships, but the information obtainable at the dockyards is not sufficient to enable me to do so. I have no doubt, however, that it is larger than the refitting of sailing ships. I 896 will take, therefore, the case of the refittal of the Queen, from the time of her launching and being first put in commission in 1845 down to 1852; and the Rodney, a large two-decker sailing ship, from her first commission in 1840, to the period when she was last commissioned in 1856. The mean expense of each refitting of the Queen was £19,928, and the mean expense of each refitting of the Rodney was £22,996. So that the mean expense, taking them both together, of each ship, would be £21,462. Now, if each of these ships were refitted three times only in ten years, it would have cost three times the sum I have mentioned; while, if they were refitted twice in ten years, the practical result would be that the country would save no less than £21,462, or upwards of £2,000 a year on each line-of-battle ship; and I need not point out to the Committee that if that were spread over the whole of the Royal navy, allowing the necessary difference for the refittal of the smaller vessels, the annual saving to the country would amount to a very large sum indeed. Nothing is better known by naval men than that when a line-of-battle ship is sent to sea, that ship is not in the order in which a captain desires to see it under twelve months, and I can mention, upon the authority of one gallant officer, that in many instances cur best officers will not be satisfied with the condition of a line-of-battle ship under a year and a half. Not only, then, by this constant recommissioning, are you losing money directly, but, according to some authorities, inefficiency exists for a third, and, according to others, one half the time during which they remain in commission. A point here arises which cannot but be admitted to be of considerable importance. If we were to adopt permanently the system of commissioning ships for four years —my own feeling would be for five years —but, at any rate, if we were to allow the rule of commissioning ships for a longer time than at present, one of the results would necessarily be to produce a material effect on the position and prospects of the officers of the navy; because the number of appointments would be diminished in proportion; and, therefore, I am not prepared, upon the part of Her Majesty's Government, to make any definite proposition upon the subject; but this I will say, that we are prepared to give our best attention to it, with a view to promote the efficiency of the navy, while 897 at the same time we shall feel it desirable to give every opportunity to the officers for a fair trial of their abilities at sea. We think that a longer period is necessary for discipline and economy, we see the difficulty arising with respect to the officers; but we hope to be able to effect a great improvement, which will ensure both economy and discipline without proving injurious to the prospects of gallant officers who have a just demand upon our most favourable consideration. In further illustration of what I have just said, I may mention that at this moment there are nine ships in our docks, seven line-of-battle ships and two frigates, not one of which has been in commission more than three years and a few days over—at all events, few under four years—till of which are being refitted and going out at a great cost to the country. If five years' commission was the rule, not one of those ships would need refitting, and every shilling they are now costing would have been saved to the country. I hope I have satisfied the Committee that there is good reason to hesitate before adopting the estimate of 12,190 men, as proposed by the late Government for dockyard establishments. I believe the largest dockyard estimate ever adopted was that which was brought forward last year when a demand was made for 10,850 men. That was an increase upon the years 1855–6 and 1856–7; and I was therefore proportionately surprised when I found that the late Government proposed this year 12,190 men. I cannot help thinking that on the whole, this excess for dockyard establishments has been subject to one great irregularity, and I beg to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Sir C. Wood), to the fact that this very question of dockyard establishments was the subject of an inquiry before the Select Committee of the House of Commons which sat upon the Navy Estimates in 1848. That Committee made a distinct recommendation with respect to the dockyards, and they recommended that the establishment should consist of 9626 men. In the year 1850 an Order in Council to that effect was passed, and the additional establishment of 10,050 men, I believe, was without the authority of any such Order, and this year we have a proposal for 12,190 men. It would be better, I think, either to abrogate the Order in Council, or to pass an annual Order in Council, putting the matter on a business like footing, than by having an establishment of 10,050 men, 898 practically to break the law of the country. While the late Government were prepared to come down and ask for 12,150 men, it is not the intention of the present Government to ask for a permanent Vote to a greater extent than 10,850, and I wish to be distinctly understood that, I have recommended this reduction solely on the ground of caution. It is easier to raise an establishment than to reduce it when once it has been raised. Thinking, as I do, that the present pressure is an exceptional one, I am inclined to believe that the establishment to which I have referred of 10,850 men will be enough. I am willing to admit that at present it is not sufficient; and whatever the navy requires ought to be granted. But I am not satisfied of the necessity for a permanent increase, and, therefore, I shall propose to the House that, instead of increasing the permanent establishment, we take a Vote of £50,000, to be expended in hired labour and extra work, so that it may be proceeded with as expeditiously as possible, during the ensuing summer season. I have not adverted to the 2,000 men employed in the steam factory, nor to the fact that throughout the last year, the establishment of 10,850 has been largely assisted by means of hired labour, and that up to the present moment somewhere about 400 or 500 additional men have been employed. The difference between the Vote which I propose, and that which the late Government would have proposed during the present Session, amounts to about £100,000; and, therefore, I now suggest to the House, to devote £50,000 of that which will be an actual increase upon the Vote of last year, and at the same time a diminution of £50,000 upon the Vote which would have been proposed by the late Government this year for the purpose of expending it in hired labour. In making this announcement, I must also add that, if the present pressure continues at the close of the summer, and we find that the money which has been so taken is not enough—if, in point of fact, we find that the late Government were right, and that they did not exaggerate the requirements of the country—I shall have no hesitation in coming down to the House, before Parliament is prorogued, and asking for the other £50,000, rather than allow any injury to accrue to the public service.
The next Vote to which I wish to advert, is for Naval Stores. This Vote for 1857–8 amounted to £1,395,400, and the Vote 899 proposed by the late Government, for 1858–9, was £1,464,742. From this reduced Vote, we propose to deduct £75,000. That amount is divided into three items. The first is £15,000, which we propose to take off the item for general stores, the stock of which we find so abundant that, we think a saving to that amount may be effected. We also propose to take off £10,000 comprised in the item for ships built by contract and purchase. The late Government inserted that item by way of caution; but I cannot learn, from all the inquiry I can make, that there is any prospect of our having to build ships by contract, or to buy them ready built; and, therefore, I think a saving on that item may be effected. But by far the largest proportion of the reduction is that of £50,000 which we propose to take on the item of steam machinery. The Vote proposed by the late Government was £300,000, which we propose to reduce to £250,000. I have already stated to the House that in the course of six years, we have spent the enormous sum of nearly £4,000,000 for steam machinery; and I am assured that all the ships preparing for launching during the present year maybe completed, and a safe margin left, by reducing the estimate by £50,000. Before quitting this subject I wish to state that Her Majesty's Government are of opinion, considering the enormous amount of property which has thus been acquired by the country, by the expenditure of nearly £4,000,000 of money, including the present Vote, for steam machinery, that we are bound to provide that that property should be well cared for, and the country receive the full benefit of the immense expenditure. It is our intention, therefore, to appoint a small commission of scientific men to investigate the state of this machinery, to report upon its condition, and the best course to be taken in regard to it. In saying this, I beg to state that I do not imply that I have any reason to suspect neglect on the part of the officials in Her Majesty's dockyards. On the contrary, so far as I can form an opinion, from the few days I had an opportunity of inspecting one of those yards, I received a very different impression. I have every reason to think that great care is taken; hut I think that good only can arise from the officials in the dockyards knowing that they are liable to have their conduct overlooked from time to time, and that it is only a proper precaution on the 900 part of the Government to institute an inquiry into the condition of, and the best means of preserving in an efficient state, what has cost the country so much money.
The next Vote to which I would advert is No. 11, for New Works. The late Government proposed £694,618 as compared with £578,415 for the year 1857–58. We have carefully examined this Vote, and it appears to us that it may be safely reduced to £585,862, which will be a saving on the original Estimate of £108,756. When we come to the Vote in Committee, I shall be prepared to explain what the various items are by the reduction of which we arrive at this saving. It is a very long Vote—many of the items are small— so small, indeed, that it would be quite unnecessary to detain the House to go through them. I will only mention three of the larger ones—namely, £25,000 for the purchase of land near Devonport, £15,000 for the purchase of land at Gosport, and £15,000 for the dockyards at Malta. I have inquired closely into the position in which the present arrangements stand, and it does not appear to me that there is any exigency which makes it necessary to go on now with these items, or why this expenditure may not with safety and with prudence be postponed.
The next Vote on which we effect a reduction is No. 17, for the Transport Service. Upon looking at this Vote, hon. Gentlemen will see that in the year 1857–58, there was a Vote of £207,500 under this head. The amount proposed by the late Government for 1858–59 is £495,500. But I ought to explain that this apparently great difference does not exist in reality; inasmuch as the Vote of £207,500 for last year was found to be wholly inadequate for its purpose, and of the amount of money voted for the Chinese war, £200,000 was taken in addition, and is therefore fairly applicable to the conveyance of troops to China to make up the deficiency. The Vote, then, is larger than it appears, and we are now of opinion that we may safely reduce it by £85,000. That reduction will comprise £45,000 for freight; and, consequent upon that saving in freight, £40,000 for coal. And we are enabled to effect this reduction in consequence of the several hired steam transports, having been paid off in China, being no longer required, and by the reduction in the expenditure for coals, caused by their being so paid off; Her Majesty's troop ships having, in the meantime, taken the place 901 of those hired ships. That, then, is the last reduction which I have to state to the Committee.
The general result is this:—We propose to reduce on Vote 8, Wages to Artisans in the Dockyards, £50,000; Vote 10, Naval Stores, and Building and Repair of Ships, £75,000; Vote 11, New Works and Repairs of Yards, £108,750; Vote 17, Army and Ordnance Conveyance of Troops, £85,000: making a difference of £318,756, as compared with the Estimates proposed by the late Government. Those Estimates of the late Government exceeded the Estimates of 1857–58, not including the packet service, by £932,600; and we now hope to effect the reductions to which I have referred, amounting to £318,756, which will leave an excess in the Navy Estimates for 1858–59 of £613,845 over the Estimates for 1857–58.
I thank the Committee for the attention with which they have listened to this long explanation. I have detained them longer than I hoped when I rose to address them; I hope I may be excused. I have endeavoured to state the general results at which Her Majesty's Government have arrived as clearly as I can, and in a manner as free, I hope, from intentional censure of the late Government. I have had only one object in view to urge on the Committee—that which I conscientiously believe to be for the service of the country. In the office which I have the honour to hold, I have the advantage of being assisted by some most eminent and distinguished naval officers, and I may say for those gentlemen, as well as for myself, that as long as we retain office we can have but one object in view—namely, to consult the proper administration of the service, to avoid unnecessary expenditure, but above all things to maintain the naval force of England at that point of efficiency which is required for the honour and dignity and the safety of the country. The right hon. Baronet then concluded by proposing a Vote of 59,380 men and boys, including 15,000 marines, for the service of the Navy for eight months.
§ SIR CHARLES NAPIER
said, that since he had had the honour of a seat in that House, he had heard a great many statements from First Lords of the Admiralty, but he had never heard so good and so clear a speech from any First Lord as he had listened to that night from the right hon. Gentleman opposite. The right hon. Baronet must have been well instructed in the work he had to do, and he had spoken 902 with great propriety of the importance of keeping up the discipline of the service, and maintaining a fleet that was worthy of the country; and he had also cast aside the stupid nonsense which First Lords had been in the habit of uttering about the danger of exposing the real state of the navy for the information of foreign Powers, He thought the right hon. Baronet had shown that he understood his business well, in not being afraid to show other nations what was our position in reference to the fleet. But before the right hon. Baronet made his statement to the House, or the Speaker left the chair, the House ought to have had some explanation given to them with regard to the manner in which the money voted for the Estimates of last year had been expended. He agreed with the right hon. Baronet—although he had heard the same claptrap used by First Lords of the Admiralty for many years past—that we had never possessed so fine a navy; or rather he would say—for "navy" was not the word—so fine a set of ships as at the present moment. It was true that we had incurred vast expense to arrive at this result; but that had been rendered necessary by the blunders of successive Admiralties. First of all, they had the old Navy Board; then a Surveyor of the Navy, who built ships without bottoms. Next, they had the tin-pot or the iron navy, of which there were forty vessels—all of which, with the exception of one or two, had disappeared. Fortunately, however, they had not parted with that excellent officer, Sir Baldwin Walker, than whom, whether as a sailor or an administrator, an abler man did not exist. Indeed, they had only to look at the ships which he had produced, to see what he was made of. He agreed with the right hon. Baronet in what he had stated respecting our present position; and as the right hon. Baronet did not appear to think there was any danger in letting an enemy know how strong we were, he had the pleasure of stating that he had a list of the steam-ships, and from that he found that we had four ships of 800-horse power, one of 700-horse power, six of 600-horse power, three of 500-horse power, and fifteen of from 400 to 450-horse power. In addition to them we had the block-ships, of which, however, he would say, that the sooner they were broken up the better. Of them we had four ships of 450 horse power, and five of 250-horse power. There was some excuse for the building of the first of these ships, but who caused the others to be built he did not know. Into 903 line-of-battle ships engines of 250-horse power were put, the screws being intended to be only auxiliaries, but at the same time their masts and yards were reduced; and, if bad weather came on at a time when the fires were out and the screw not in action, they must go on shore. The sooner they were got rid of the better. Of ships repairing and altering, we had two of 1,000-horse power each, five of 800-horse power each, three of 600-horse power each, one of 500-horse power, and one of 400-horse power. The House no doubt thought that that was a very fine navy; and certainly it was. Still he could not approve of the right hon. Gentleman's proposal to reduce the artificers and stores.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
I do not ask for the increased number proposed by the late Government; but I do not reduce a man.
§ SIR CHARLES NAPIER
But looking at what was passing on the other side of the water, he implored the right hon. Baronet not to discontinue building and arming those ships, for the French were going on at a very rapid rate. He held in his hand the following list of French line-of-battle ships:—One three-decker of 1200-horse power, five ships of 900-horse power each, eight of 600-horse power each, four of 500-horse power each, four of 450-horse power each, and one of 140-horse power. With such a steam fleet as that the navy of France was by no means to be despised; and it must be remembered that as England, in the event of a war, was naturally the attacking party, it was necessary to have two or three squadrons to watch for one sent to sea. He trusted, therefore, that there would be no relaxation whatever in the building and repairing of screw ships. So far as sailing ships were concerned it was of no use to think of ever going back to them. One caution, however, he would give the right hon. Gentleman. We were now building these fine ships; but that they would be permanently in use was out of the question. He had not the smallest doubt that before that day ten years we should find it necessary to build iron ships, or ships with iron sides, in the same way as Napoleon's floating batteries were now built; and in that case he had no hesitation in saying that a vessel of twenty or thirty guns would be superior to the finest three-decker, and would eventually drive the latter out of the service. He bad recommended the late Board of Admiralty, and he now recommended the right hon. Gen- 904 tleman, to take an old three-decks ship, reduce the weight of her masts, guns, and stores, cut her down to one deck, and line her sides with iron sufficiently thick to resist shells. Then take another old three-decker, with all her guns on board, and placing the two within musket-shot of each other, let them fire away and see which sank first. He would undertake to say that the iron-sided vessel with only thirty guns would destroy the three-decker in half an hour, by making holes in her big enough to drive a wheelbarrow through. The right hon. Baronet had truly stated that, without men, ships were of very little use, and in men we were woefully deficient. In 1856 the number of seamen voted was 60,000 and 16,000 marines. The coastguard and volunteers had begun to be organized, we had a Channel fleet of eight or nine sail of the line, and the country was delighted to see what a navy we possessed; but when 1857 came, and Government announced their intention to dissolve Parliament, the election cry of "economy" was raised by the noble Lord the Member for London, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That might not be a very agreeable statement; but it was, nevertheless, the fact. This House at once echoed the cry; a Cabinet Council was held, and the First Lord of the Admiralty came down, and, without consulting his own officers, issued an order dated the 15th of May, 1857, to pay off the continuous-service men, boys, and even apprentices. When he mentioned this in the House the other day he was told that no such order had been issued; but he happened to hold it at this moment in his hand. Amongst others it contained the following passage:—First, petty officers, seamen, and boys, now-serving in ships at the home ports or in ships serving in England, are to be allowed to be discharged, if they wish it, and no payment is to be required from continuous-service men and boys so discharged.
§ SIR CHARLES NAPIER
The 15th of May, 1857. He did not blame the Admiralty or the House of Commons; but he did blame the Prime Minister for not coming down and pointing out to the House the absolute necessity of not discharging the continuous-service men. True, the House of Commons wanted to get rid of the Income Tax, but the Prime Minister should have been firm in his re- 905 sistance to the reduction of the navy. The First Lord of the Admiralty in 1856 had given very good reasons in a speech of his for keeping up a large naval force; he pointed out the state of the French navy, and showed that both the Dutch and the French could call out a larger force than we could, and he urged that it was not safe that the condition of the navy should be reduced, especially with reference to a war between England and France. Notwithstanding this, the ships were reduced and the men discharged. We had got ships and stores and guns, but what had become of the 7,000 men who were discharged? We had accepted their services during the war; we had kept them as long as it answered our purpose to do so, and turned them adrift at the very moment when they had become well disciplined. But what was the result? Why that this miserable attempt at economising had been attended with a much greater expense than if we had retained every man of them. Another great error committed by the late Government was that they did not commission and substitute screw ships for sailing ships to the extent they ought to have done. There was a number of good screw ships, which ought to be put into commission, and substituted for the sailing flag-ships at all the out ports. If this had been done before, the navy would have been as efficient as the present First Lord seemed inclined to make it. Indeed the late Government had begun to do that which he (Sir C. Napier) had recommended last year; and he hoped the right hon. Baronet would carry out the plan further, and put our best ships in the place of our old flag ships, taking care that they were well manned with continuous-service men, and let new commissioned ships be manned by draughts from those ships, by which means, instead of ships taking five months to be manned, it could be done in one. A number of those ships which were paid off last year, the Colossus, the Duke of Wellington, and others, were those which were now about to be put into commission again. That fleet was paid off in May, 1857; on the 29th of June news arrived of the rebellion in India. If these ships had not been paid off, their lower deck guns might have been taken out, half their men might have been draughted off, and in a few hours 10,000 or 12,000 men might have been sent out in them to the East. The House could conceive the effect which the opportune arrival of ten or twelve sail of the line at Calcutta would have had, and the number of lives which would have been saved. More- 906 over, troops might thus have been sent out at an expense of £5,000 or £6,000 per ship, while it appeared in evidence before the Transport Committee that the cost of sending out Indian reinforcements by transport ships had not been much less than £50 a head. The late First Lord had opposed the system of giving bounty to sailors, and declared that it was better to improve their condition. But by offering a bounty to soldiers the Horse Guards had added 25,000 men to the army, while the Admiralty were manning with great difficulty a very few ships. Another error had been in taking away without due notice pensions from good-conduct men returning from foreign stations. For this had been substituted the system of carrying stripes on the arm, which entitled the sailors who wore them to additional pay. Yet when a sailor was made a potty officer he was not allowed to carry the additional pay, and the sailor with two or three stripes received as much pay as the petty officer. Then as regarded the Coast-guard, there were very erroneous notions on that subject. He had read in the newspapers that in the event of a war we could blockade the whole coast of France, and he wondered where the men were to come from, and be found it was the Coastguard which was depended upon. The Coastguard numbered about 7,000; and they were composed of the best men who had served five years before they could get into that service; and every man, at the end of fifteen years in the Coast-guard, got the same pension as the sailors who served at sea. Living on shore as they did, and sleeping on four-post bedsteads, they could not be such good seamen as they would be if they were obliged to serve five years of the fifteen at sea. The present system of the Coastguard was the wisest thing the Government ever did. Before the present system they were in the hands of the Treasury, and of course there was a good deal of jobbery. He knew that the Coast-guardsmen were in the Baltic fleet, and in many respects they were very excellent men; but now they were all to be really seamen. Again, he gave the Admiralty every credit for the establishment of the naval Coast-volunteers, but he could not forget that twenty years ago he recommended the raising of such a corps. He thought Her Majesty should have the power of calling out men by sections to serve her in the navy, whether in peace or in war, and regretted that the Coast-volunteers were not obliged to serve except in cases of emergency. The First Lord had not told the House how many vo- 907 lunteers were actually enrolled at the present moment. Whatever their numbers might be, they were called out for twenty-eight days only. They might learn their drill in that time, but that was not enough. Why should the coast-volunteers not be told off regularly, and appointed to ships at the different ports? The coast-guardsmen ought to be exercised in the same manner, and then there could be no doubt that an excellent set of men would be introduced into the naval service of the country. If, as he believed, before we could get a fleet ready, the French could have a powerful naval force at Spithead, it was absolutely necessary that we should have a Channel squadron. That squadron must be manned; and if the present Estimates were not sufficient, new Estimates must be framed. He ventured to say, that if the First Lord of the Admiralty boldly declared that unless Parliament supplied him with men and money enough to fit out a Channel fleet he would no longer remain in office, he would become a very popular Minister, and a liberal response would be made to his appeal. He now came to the last point upon which he desired to touch. How was the Admiralty governed? At its head was the First Lord, who ought to be a Secretary of State. He had five advisers at the Admiralty, all able men; but, not satisfied with that amount of assistance, he had other five advisers at Somerset House, who were also excellent officers. The first five were continually interfering with the Surveyor of the Navy, the Accountant-General, the Controller of the Victualling Department, and the other officials at Somerset House, who ought to be allowed to perform their own duties and to be made responsible for them. For a Lord of the Admiralty to run to Somerset House, append his signature to a number of papers there, and then return to his own office, was a sheer waste of time, besides an obstruction to business. He intended, when the proper time came, to move that the authorities at the Admiralty should be reduced to three— the First Lord and two naval officers— whose duty it should be to look after the management and discipline of the fleet. When the First Lord wished to have a fleet of ten sail of the line, let him issue the requisite orders to the officers at Somerset House, and no doubt his instructions would be carried into effect without the intervention of third parties. If not, let the officials be punished; but to send a Lord of the Admiralty to interfere with them was tantamount to say- 908 ing, "We believe you are all rogues, and we are determined to control you." The work would be much better done by the First Lord and two advisers for naval purposes only, the officers at Somerset House being left to manage their own business; and such, he believed, was the opinion of nearly all the persons employed both at the Admiralty and at Somerset House. Let a Commission be appointed to inquire into the management of the navy. If it reported in favour of the existing system, everybody would be satisfied; but on the other hand, if it recommended that a change ought to be made, no delay should take place in making the requisite alteration. He might be permitted to cite a single instance of the loss of time incurred under the present system. The other day he was made a full admiral, and he first received a written letter from the Secretary of the Admiralty informing him of the fact; then he received a printed letter, then he received a letter from all the Lords of the Admiralty. When he was appointed to the command of the Baltic fleet, he could not reckon up all the official letters he received, all announcing that single fact. What was the use of all that correspondence? Let the Gazette tell officers that they were made admirals, and do not let the authorities at the Admiralty waste their time in communicating useless knowledge. In conclusion, he was glad that we were at last to have a Channel fleet. He hoped that a new era was about to dawn upon the navy, and he could assure the First Lord that he would give him every assistance in his power for carrying out the views which he had so ably and clearly expressed to the House.
§ SIR J. PAKINGTON
wished to supply an omission which had been pointed out by the hon. and gallant Officer. The total number of naval coast volunteers at present enrolled was 5,800, and of that number in the course of last year 4,600 were taken on board ships and practised in gunnery.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
(who was imperfectly heard) said, he was once told by an old friend of his that it was incumbent upon anybody who undertook to address the House upon the Estimates to make his speech as interesting as possible. The hon. and gallant Member for South-walk (Sir C. Napier) had certainly fulfilled that condition, and perhaps no part of his speech was more amusing than that in which he stated that last year he (Sir C. Wood), being then First Lord of the Admiralty, 909 looking forward to the approaching election, and yielding to the pressure put upon him by various Members of that House, gave orders that 3,000 continuous-service men should be discharged, and that, too, without deigning to consult his colleagues. When he heard that statement from the gallant Admiral, he ventured to ask the date of the order referred to, and he found it was issued on the 15th of May, 1857, being subsequent to the elections. The estimates themselves must have been prepared in January, before there was even any expectation of a general election; and, therefore, he very much regretted, however entertaining the hon. and gallant Member's statement had been, that his information had proved so inaccurate. He was sorry that the First Lord of the Admiralty gave some countenance to the gallant Officer's charge of improper conduct in respect to the discharge of continuous-service men. The right hon. Gentleman had been guilty of the sin of omission, quite forgetting what the circumstances were under which the reduction was made. For the preceding year the House voted the number of men, as really necessary for war at 56,000, but in January, 1857, when the Estimates were prepared, the country was in a state of profound peace and friendship with every neighbouring Power. The number of men to be voted for 1857–58 was then fixed, omitting the Coastguard and marines, at 33,000. Was that, then, an inadequate number for the peace establishment of the Navy? It was the largest number of men voted at any time during profound peace since 1815, and was precisely the same number as was voted in 1853, when war was looming over our heads. He did not know on what grounds the Ministry would have been justified in proposing a larger number than that. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Pakington) had expressed himself satisfied with the number proposed by the late Government for the service of the present year —37,000 exclusive of the Coast-guard — and had stated very truly that on the East India station there were at present 12,000 men, the ordinary number being 3000 men. Now, he agreed that it would be impossible to leave that station with so small a force as 3000 men for some time to come. But there seemed no need for more in 1857, for at that time there was not the slightest expectation of disturbance either in China or in India, and he therefore considered that a vote of 33,000 men was a full peace establishment. He was as much opposed as 910 any man to an unwise economy; hut, on the other hand, no Government would be justified in proposing an expenditure in time of peace far beyond a reasonable peace establishment. What was the number of men in April, 1857? Instead of 33,000, there were then 40,000, being 7,000 above the number sanctioned by the House of Commons. The right hon. Baronet reminded the House that the leaders of the great parties—the present Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Disraeli), the right hon. Member for Oxford University, (Mr. Gladstone) and the noble Lord the Member for London. (Lord J. Russell), urged upon the Government economy and reduction. What, then, was it the duty of the Government to do? It was as speedily as possible and without injustice to reduce the number of men borne on the Navy to the number voted; but it was found that unless they allowed persons entered for continuous service to take their discharge, if they chose, there was no possibility of reducing the number of men in the Navy to the amount voted by the House of Commons within any reasonable time. This course, therefore, was adopted in May, hut no faith was broken, for the men were told that if they liked to go they might, and the Government would not enforce the bond of continuous service against them. In spite of this step, the excess in the month of May was upwards of 3,000 men beyond the number voted by the House of Commons. The right hon. Baronet was not quite justified in saying that a breach of faith had taken place, and he was glad that the right hon. Baronet had retracted that expression. Nor did he in the slightest degree believe that the course pursued operated as any discouragement upon the men, for in several instances the men took their discharge as continuous-service men on one side of the deck and entered on the other upon the terms of ordinary service. The fact was, that many of them did not like to be bound for continuous service, and, though anxious to serve in the navy, they did not like to be bound for ten years. Thus, when the offer was made to them they took their discharge, gave up the higher rate of pay, and entered for a lower rate of pay, not being bound for continuous service. After all, the whole number of continuous-service men was only diminished by 1,000 men—a good proof that by the letter of last year no great discouragement was given to the entry of men for continuous service. And so with regard to the paying off of ships. There was a reduction at the end of the war, when circumstances promised 911 profound peace as far as could be judged at the time. What pretence could the Ministry then have had to keep the ships in commission? The hon. and gallant Officer said, that if the ships had not been paid off we might have had ships in commission to send our troops to India. He did not mean then to enter upon the question of sending our troops to India in ships of war; but he would only remark that, in order to have done so, we must have kept up a war establishment in time of peace. If that was the wish of the House of Commons they had only to say so, and there was no doubt that no Government would omit to provide an ample fleet, or would find difficulty in getting the men; but, in his opinion, the greatest mistake the House of Commons could commit would be to incur unduly in time of peace a large expenditure to maintain a war establishment for the Navy. The circumstances were exactly as he had stated. The Ministry proposed a larger peace establishment than had ever before been proposed, and it would have been ample for the maintenance of a Channel fleet if it had not been necessary to send troops to India and China, and in the then state of Europe they thought that, under the circumstances at that time, the Channel fleet might be dispensed with. He quite agreed in the necessity of maintaining in ordinary years a Channel fleet, and what had been said on this head had merely been a repetition of statements, which he had himself made in the present and former years; and the measures which the late Government took to provide a Channel fleet for the present year would have been found adequate for the purpose. The hon. and gallant Member (Sir C. Napier) had said that, in consequence of the bounty offered to recruits for the army, there had been no difficulty in obtaining men for that branch of the service, while the want of such an inducement had prevented men from volunteering for Her Majesty's navy. The fact was, however, that during the war, in spite of the bounty, the army was always short of the number voted by Parliament, while the full complement of men required was obtained for the navy without a bounty. It was true, that at the present moment there was some difficulty in manning particular ships; but the fact was, that even now there were 1,600 more men on the books of the navy than had been voted. He thought the attention of the Board of Admiralty ought to be specially directed to the maintenance of an adequate reserve of 912 men who would be available for service in the navy in case of any national emergency. Formerly such a force was not maintained to any extent, but it must be admitted that the measures which had been taken within the last few years to make such a provision for the defence of the country had been attended with most satisfactory results. He did not wish to claim any special credit in this respect for the Board of Admiralty of which he had been a member, for the merit of the improvement was equally due to the administration of the Admiralty under the Duke of Northumberland and the right hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham). Last year there were 8,000 men in the Coastguard service, of whom 2,300 were landsmen. The number of civilians had now been reduced to some 1,600 odd, about 600 seamen having been substituted for civilians in that branch, besides the addition which had been made to the naval forces. He had last year inspected a great number of Coastguard ships, and a finer, abler, and stouter set of seamen than those by whom they were manned he had never seen. They had in the Coastguard service a reserve of 6,000 picked and tried men, all of whom had served more than five years, and many of them ten years, and he regretted to find that the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Pakington) proposed a reduction in the vote for providing lodgings and accommodation for this valuable force. He observed that there was a reduction of £10,000 on this Estimate; but if the force was to be increased, a large additional amount of accommodation would be requisite, and he deemed it of the utmost importance that proper attention should be paid to the comfort of the men at the various stations, for the better treated that they were, the more popular would the service become. The naval coast volunteers, to whom the right hon. Baronet had referred, formed, in his opinion, the cheapest and most efficient reserve that could be provided for the defence of the coast. Although a number of men had been enrolled in this force, none of them were drilled until last year, but the result of the experiment had far exceeded his (Sir C. Wood's) expectations. The men had entered most willingly; they had attended drill with the greatest regularity; and they had exhibited the best spirit while on duty. He might read three short extracts from communications he had received from officers who had superintended the drill of this force. The first of those officers said:— 913The coast volunteers of this district are an athletic and hardy race of men, that would form the most valuable reinforcement to the service, far superior to the average of merchant seamen.Another naval officer wrote—I declare I never saw the ordinary gun exercise bettor done on board any man-of-war, nor have I ever seen more accurate target practice.A third officer, who had himself drilled 200 men, said—I am convinced that the 200 men who left on the 20th would have been an invaluable acquisition to any ship of the line, and were capable of fighting a real good action the day they were embarked.Now, all that these men cost the country-was £1 a-year, and their pay when called out for drilling. He trusted that the force, which at present numbered but 1,800 men, would be shortly increased, far beyond its present strength, and would form a most valuable reserve, which would be available in case of emergency for service on ship board. The right hon. Baronet had said that the services of these men would only be demanded in case of emergency; and it was most essential that good faith should be kept with them, for great misapprehension had prevailed as to the nature of their duties when the force was first established. They were enrolled for the defence of the coast if any emergency arose; and he believed that where the object of the force was thoroughly understood, there would be no difficulty in providing a most numerous, valuable, and efficient body of volunteers. The right hon. Baronet had referred to the time for which ships were kept in commission. It had of late been the practice to keep ships in commission a much longer time than was formerly usual, but he believed that injurious results ensued both to officers and men, and to the discipline of the crews, from keeping them together for too long a period, and the repairs required to the boilers and machinery of steam vessels would also operate against a longer period of commission. This was a question of great importance, which he thought demanded very serious consideration. He had heard, with much regret, the announcement of the right hon. Baronet that he proposed to make very considerable reductions in Votes 8 and 10. The first reduction was one of £50,000 in the Vote for Wages, and the other of £75,000 in the Vote for Naval Stores, the greatest diminution under the latter head being in the item for the purchase and repair of steam machinery. There had been of late years an enormous increase of charge in 914 the shipbuilding department, in consequence of the great additional expense of repairing steamships as compared with sailing vessels. The expenditure upon sailing ships was chiefly confined to the hulls, masts, and rigging; but in the case of screw steamers not only were the repairs very costly, but it frequently happened that in getting out the machinery the hulls were injured to such an extent that considerable expenditure was necessary to place the ships in an efficient condition. The amount of repair necessary for a screw vessel was therefore much greater than was required for a sailing ship. He must confess he was astonished at the reductions proposed. After the reductions made at the close of the war in the various dockyards it was found that the work could not be properly performed, and constant complaints came from every port. Unless, therefore, some extraordinary change had taken place in the opinions of the most experienced officers, the right hon. Gentleman was acting now in opposition to their conviction. When he was in office, from no yard did more frequent complaints come than from Portsmouth, that the means were inadequate to the work to be done, and, consequently, in the proposal of the late Government, the largest increase was made at that yard. He himself went down to Portsmouth and inquired into the subject. He sent a Lord of the Admiralty and the Surveyor to other ports, and they came back with the conviction, shared in by the whole Board, that the means of building and of making repairs were inadequate at all the yards. It was in consequence of these visits and these recommendations, together with the recorded opinion of the Surveyor of the Navy, that he proposed an increase of £100,000 and of 1,000 men in our naval establishments. Under these circumstances, knowing that, unless there had been the inexplicable change of opinion to which he had referred, he had proposed the smallest sum compatible with the exigency of the service, he was surprised beyond measure to find the right hon. Gentleman proposing these reductions. He could understand that the Chancellor of the Exchequer might have put some pressure on the right hon. Gentleman. He had known of such cases. In one instance a First Lord of the Admiralty was told to reduce his Estimates, and did so with some remonstrance; but after an experience of a very few weeks he bitterly repented having made these reductions. Perhaps he might 915 give the right hon. Gentleman a word of warning. He quite admitted then the moment of repentance would not come so soon for a retrenchment in the buildings carried on as it had in the case he had mentioned, where there had been a reduction in the number of men. If, however, we were to keep our position among the maritime nations, we must keep up the number of our steam-ships. Sailing vessels, though useful in time of peace, would never he employed again during war. And what was our position respecting steam vessels? He quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that it would be absurd to shut our eyes and mouths in that House to the state of affairs in other countries. Formerly we had an immense superiority over other nations in sailing vessels. This superiority has gradually diminished as other Powers built the same kind of ships; but it ceased altogether when sailing vessels were supplanted by screw ships for the purposes of war. Every nation then started fairly, or pretty nearly so, in the race. Formerly we had twice as many sailing ships as France, but would the right hon. Gentleman say that our screw ships were now on a proper footing as compared with those of that country? She had now forty line-of-battle ships afloat, building, and converting, while we had only forty-two. Many of their vessels were more powerful than ours and could work better than ours, and he did not think such a state of things ought to continue. His proposal to increase the staff employed at the yards by 1,000 men at an expense of £100,000 was made with a view to forward the building of suitable ships, and he grieved that the right hon. Gentleman had not adopted the same course. He trusted there was not to be a quarrel with our neighbours. He believed in the alliance, and hoped it might long endure. But who could predict what would happen four or five years hence? The cessation of building in our yards would tell in no long time upon the efficiency of our navy, and we might have to regret it. Then there was another Power to which we ought to look. We had lately been at war with Russia, and in one summer she had built no fewer than seventy steam gunboats. Must not every one feel persuaded that she would exert herself to make an effective steam navy? He hoped and trusted that peace would last for many years; and he did not wish to dwell upon the subject of a comparison between our exertions in shipbuilding and those of other nations; but the bust mode 916 of preserving peace, it should be remembered, was to be amply prepared for war. He was certainly for maintaining a peace establishment in time of peace; but he considered it of the greatest importance that in such matters of preparation as the building of ships and the buying of steam machinery we should not hold our hand for a moment. No doubt during the Russian war we built gunboats in private yards, but we could not build line-of-battle ships in the same way. Why? Because it was not worth the while of private builders to keep a large stock of timber on hand, much less of seasoned timber. These gentlemen have exerted themselves greatly in preparing the gunboats, without regard to expense, and he even believed that the contractors in some cases lost money by their engagements, as they felt the building of these boats to be a national affair. The right hon. Gentleman, however, probably knew that in some of these gunboats, not two years old, symptoms of dry rot had appeared. This was reported respecting two vessels in the Mediterranean. Now, it was worth while for the country to keep on hand an adequate stock of seasoned timber which would not be the subject of dry rot. Not only did he regret that the reductions announced by the right hon. Gentleman should be made, but he objected to the mode in which they were made. He did not approve the payment of wages for extra time instead of increasing the establishments. The wages of the dock yardmen were fixed so as to be in ordinary times a little below the usual rate paid in private yards. But the certainty of occupation and other advantages counterbalanced this. In times of war, however, you could not compete with the private shipbuilders. Thus, in the autumn of 1855, he believed the wages paid at private establishments on the river where as high as 12s. a day, and the Government workmen at Sheerness all deserted. In this state of things the Government had one resource; they could set the men to work on extra time, and then it was worth their while to stay. It was good policy, therefore, to maintain during peace as many men as would perform ordinary work at an ordinary day's pay, and when a time of pressure came to put them on extra pay. In this way their earnings were increased, and the Government also increased without difficulty their power of meeting an emergency. If the right hon. Gentleman used up that resource in time of peace, and relied upon increasing his establishments in time of 917 war, depend upon it he would find himself greatly mistaken, and would be deprived of that assistance which was found so valuable during the last war. He would, in fact, be killing the goose that laid the golden egg. He was equally at a loss to understand the wisdom of the reduction of £15,000 for stores, and could not conceive what change of circumstances had rendered that diminution possible. No. 11 contained a great number of small matters, which it would be more convenient to discuss when the Vote was before the Committee; but the right hon. Baronet specified three items which were for the purchase of land, and which he proposed to postpone. That was a bad bargain. The longer you delayed the purchase of land, the more you would have to pay through the nose for it in the end, a lesson in which he should have thought that every one at the Admiralty would by this time have been perfect. As soon as you made up your mind that an extension was needed you ought to purchase the land that would be required for it. With regard to Keyham, the right hon. Baronet said that nothing had taken place which compelled the purchase of the land. Probably that was so, and very likely the owners would be glad to postpone the sale of it for a few years; but the longer it was delayed the dearer would the country have to pay for it in the end. The same observation would apply to the cases of Portsmouth and Malta, and he was therefore very sorry that the right hon. Baronet had determined to postpone these purchases. The Committee could not proceed with these Votes because the paper which purported to have been ordered to be printed on the 4th of February was dated April 7. There was no Estimate before them, and therefore he was dealing not with the Votes, but with the speech of the right hon. Baronet. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that he had made these remarks in no spirit of hostility to him, and that he perfectly understood his anxiety to reduce the Estimates, if possible. He had, however, felt it his duty to object to the reduction of the amounts taken for building and machinery, for the purchase of land, and for some minor purposes. Reducing the amount for the latter purpose must lead to the postponement of the completion of works which, as in the case of the two docks at Portsmouth, it was very desirable should be finished this year. This, however, was not of so much importance as the reduction of the sums to be spent upon building and upon steam machinery. Those reductions were of almost vital importance, 918 and could not, in his opinion, be carried out consistently with the maintenance of the superiority of our navy to that of any other Power—a superiority which he was convinced that every Member of that House was anxious to preserve.
§ MR. DRUMMOND
said, that the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had spoken of the folly of keeping up an extensive war establishment during a time of peace. As a general proposition there was no denying that. But what was the meaning precisely of a war establishment, of being in a state of peace, and of keeping up their relative positions with other nations? Now, on all those three different questions it was not merely necessary to show that they had not had a declaration of war. Everybody knew that in the country a gentleman was much more likely to quarrel with a neighbour whose state bordered his own than he was with a gentleman in another county. Naturally, therefore, as a nation, we were most likely to quarrel with our nearest neighbour. What sort of person was our nearest neighbour? Was he a dull, slow, heavy, matter-of-fact, circumlocution-loving, red-tape fellow like ourselves? Not at all, but quite otherwise. The Germans were of that nature. One could not expect any very sudden attack from the Germans; but this was a very lively gentleman. One could judge of how a man was likely to act in future by the way in which he had acted in times past: and had not our neighbour acted always by coups de main? Did they suppose that, they were going to have a declaration of war, and that he would give them a month's notice to bring their coast guards to their ships? Never. He was much too wise a man for that. He understood his own business a vast deal better. When the people of this country spoke of their own position with regard to maritime force, they should observe that a maritime force was not essential to the existence of any other country than Great Britain. Any other country could afford to lose a naval battle without the smallest detriment to her. France was not a whit the weaker when she lost the battle of Trafalgar; but whenever Great Britain lost the mastery of the sea, there was an end of her. It was not merely a matter of a Channel fleet, but if at any time a hostile force prevented our ships of war sailing from Plymouth to the Thames, there was an end of us. We ought to have a Channel fleet at all times, and always ready for action. It was most extraordinary that the Government of this 919 country would never believe outspeaking and honest people. He was of opinion that the Emperor of the French had been always perfectly open and above-board with this country. Since he had come to the throne, he had acted honourably and straightforwardly. He had told them what he wanted them to do, and had acted to his word. The Russians did the same. For the last 100 years, Russia had been telling them that she wanted Constantinople. In the time of Catherine II., she christened one of her sons Constantine, avowing that she intended for him the throne of Constantinople. The late Czar told our ambassador at Vienna that, he wanted Constantinople, and made a similar statement to Prince Metternich; but not one word of that, would any one in the Earl of Aberdeen's Government, from the smallest official up to the Premier himself, believe, and even after the army of the Czar had set out and crossed the Pruth, they would not believe it. There was no secret on the part of the Emperor of the French that it was his interest to keep on good terms with this country. His Majesty was quite aware of it; but he had always said, that the time might come, when the people of this country might have irritated and provoked his people and his army to such an extent, that he might not be capable of restraining them. They had only to look at the intelligence contained in every French paper, to see that the Emperor had called his power of conscription into exercise, and obtained 40,000 or 50,000 additional seamen. He should like to know what could be the object of that. Was not the existence of Cherbourg with all its warlike stores, just like a man who held his fist to one's nose, saying, "I have not touched you; you have no right to be angry, for have I not a right to hold my arm as I like?" Was there any chance of the Emperor of France having a naval war with any nation except the English? Had he a large number of colonies to protect? Surely we were not to shut our eyes and refrain from using our common sense. It might not be a proper question to ask, but he should like to know whether they were really secure from a coup de main against Malta or Gibraltar—whether those places might not be taken before they could know anything of the matter. Probably a telegram a few days after the event would be the first tidings they would receive of it. He would advise them to reduce neither their number of men, nor the means of keeping up their establishments; and he 920 agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that to do so, would be a very unwise proceeding.
said, he readily admitted it would be unwise economy to diminish the efficiency of the navy, but he could not allow that the present Government had done anything which would lead to that disastrous result. Every retrenchment that they had proposed in the Estimates had been so arranged, as not to impair the effectiveness of the service. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Sir C. Wood) had misunderstood what had fallen from the First Lord of the Admiralty, as to the dismissal of the 3,000 continuous-service men in the course of last year. His right hon. Friend had not cast any censure upon the late Government for that step; it was well known they acted under a financial pressure, and he had merely asserted the undoubted fact that, under whatever circumstances it had occurred, the discharge of those men was a misfortune. With regard to the proposed diminution of £50,000 on Vote No. 8, for wages to dockyard artificers, the First Lord had not stated that the Vote, as originally framed, was too large, but merely that he was not prepared, without further experience, to sanction the increase to upwards of 12,000 men, as a permanent establishment in time of peace. His right hon. Friend proposed, in the first six months of the year to spend one-half of the £100,000 proposed by the late Government on hired labour and extra time; and if, at the end of that period, it was found advisable to go on with the same rate of expenditure, he would then ask for a supplementary Estimate for the remainder of the year. There was therefore no risk of the work in the dockyards falling short of what was necessary for the public service since, if more money were required to enable the Government to carry out their intentions with respect to building ships and bringing forward ships for commission, there would be no difficulty in applying to Parliament for the other £50,000. The right hon. Gentleman had objected to the mode in which it was proposed to expend the money, and he would agree with him that the system of working extra time might be objectionable as a permanent arrangement, but the Government did not contemplate making it permanent; and if, at the end of six months, the state of the dockyards showed that a larger force was necessary, they would come down and recommend the increased establishment proposed by their predecessors. Undoubtedly, 921 great and increased exertions were needed in the repairing and building of ships, and particularly of screw-ships of the line, the number of which was now insufficient. Twenty-six years ago, in the year 1832, the right hon. Member for Carlisle then First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir J. Graham), when the number of our ships of the line was eighty-eight, stated that the strength of our line-of-battle was reduced below what it had ever been since the Revolution of 1688; and that right hon. Gentleman kid it down as a rule that, taking into consideration the age of the vessels of the navy, and the number of years they were likely to last, it was requisite to build three new ships per annum, in order to maintain a proper establishment of ships of the line. Now, a Return which he had in his hand showed that, in the thirteen years between 1832 and 1844, only 20 line-of-battle ships had been launched, or 19 less than three a year; and that in the next thirteen years, between 1845 and 1857, the number launched was 25 or 14 less than three annually, making for, the whole twenty-six years, only 45 line-of-battle ships or 33 fewer than would have been launched if the rule of the right hon. Baronet had been carried out. The Committee might not be aware how reduced the strength of our line-of-battle now was as compared with former times. At the beginning of the French Revolutionary War, we had 117 ships of the line; in 1799 we had 125 ships of the line; and in 1814, just before the peace, we had 118. In 1832; the number was reduced to 88, it was now further reduced to 66, the present number, of which only 29 were screwships; and there were 10 more building. Our real effective force of line-of-battle ships afloat was therefore reduced to 291, for our sailing ships had become useless for naval warfare and the whole of those which were considered fit for it, had already been converted into steam-ships. To show the extraordinary amount of labour now thrown upon the dockyards, in consequence of the size of the steam-ships now being constructed, and their enormous cost, he might mention that the hull of a first-rate ship of the line now cost £30,000 more than it did ten years ago, the machinery also costing an additional £62,000; making a total increase of £92,000. The total extra cost of a second-rate ship was £80,000; that of a 50-gun frigate, £100,000; including, in both cases, the cost of engines, and tin's difference increased 922 as they descended in the scale, for the cost of a 26-gun corvette was actually £107,000 more than in former times. Of course, those ships represented a much greater force than the old sailing ships, carrying the same number of guns; but the fact remained that whenever a steam line-of-battle ship, a steam-frigate, or a steam-corvette was built, the cost was now greater than the cost of sailing vessels of the same classes by the amounts he had mentioned, and this alone was sufficient to account for the great increase in the Estimates for labour and material during the last few years. He had quoted those figures for the purpose of proving to his right hon. Friend the late First Lord of the Admiralty that he quite concurred with him in the opinion that the work in our dockyards ought not to be permitted to be relaxed, and he, for one, should be unwilling to assent to any reduction in the Vote for wages, had not his right hon. Friend behind him intimated his readiness, should a larger sum be required, to make a further demand upon the House of Commons to meet the necessary expenditure. With respect to the £50,000 taken off the Vote for steam machinery, he could only say, while he was ready to admit the importance of the Vote, that his right hon. Friend at the head of the Admiralty had every reason to believe that the proposed reduction could be made without at all interfering with the efficiency of the service. Such, at least, was the conclusion arrived at after a consultation which had been held upon the subject; and he believed that the sum of £250,000 which was proposed, would provide for all existing engagements, and leave a surplus sufficient to meet the instalments which would become due on the engines it would be necessary to order during the course of the year. The same observation would apply to the reduction of £15,000 for hemp, with which his right hon. Friend opposite seemed to find fault. From a statement which had been sent in by the Storekeeper General, it appeared that, although the store of hemp was somewhat deficient, yet the quantity of yarn was so great, that the reduced Vote would make sufficient provision to leave a store equal to more than three years' expenditure at the end of the year. In reference to the reduction of £108,000 in the case of the Vote for new works, he might observe that it had, to a considerable extent, been caused by what the Government deemed the expediency of postponing 923 for a time the proposed purchase of land at Keyham and in other quarters. The question of the purchase of land at Key-ham, for instance, was one which was quite new to the present Board of Admiralty. It also found that there were certain legal difficulties in the way of the purchase, and, not having had an opportunity of visiting the spot, it had come to the determination not to propose a Vote for that purpose in the Estimates for the present year. He must, however, add that not one of the items to which the right hon. Baronet opposite had adverted, had been struck out of the Estimate without the consent of the head of the department of works, and without his assurance that the new works which had been so struck out might be postponed without detriment to the public service. He had simply to express a hope, in conclusion, that the Committee would adopt the Votes as they stood.
§ SIR GEORGE PECHELL
said, he was disposed to place confidence in the naval Board, who had already shown, by their treatment of the half pay officers at Greenwich, that they were disposed to take into consideration all claims that could be fairly urged upon them. Moreover, it afforded him considerable satisfaction to find that many of those improvements in connection with our naval service, of which he had for several years been the advocate, had that evening been propounded from the Treasury bench. While, however, there was much which had fallen from the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty which he was gratified to hear, there were some observations of his, and especially those relating to the continuous-service men, to which he felt it to be his duty to take exception. The continuous-service men had been raised through the exertions and perseverance of that most excellent officer Admiral Berkeley, when one of the Lords of the Admiralty. The services of those men had been greatly misunderstood, and he did not think the right hon. Gentleman (Sir C. Wood) had acted fairly towards them. They entered for ten years, and many were allowed to quit the service at the end of the war, but it had come to his knowledge that many of them finding the mistake they had made, had been obliged to make interest to get reinstated in the navy. He thought the mode of raising the men for the navy was not altogether quite satisfactory. The inducements held out to enter the service were considerable, and our ships had been manned, by means of 924 volunteers, during the contest with Russia. Therefore, although the right hon. Baronet had stated that, at the present, the contrary was the case, and that more than one of our vessels of war lay at Portsmouth unmanned, he (Sir G. Pechell) could not help thinking that that circumstance was attributable, in some measure, to the captains, who were too particular as to the men and boys who offered themselves for entry. He was of opinion that the required standard of height—five feet four inches for young men and five feet for boys—was somewhat too high, and he had no doubt that there wore many useful and active fellows rejected upon that score, who possessed all the qualifications necessary to render their country good service. He was also satisfied that many a sailor had been deterred by the ten years' service. He (the gallant Admiral) had hoped the right hon. Gentleman would have given the House some idea of the policy Her Majesty's Government intended to pursue, with respect to the slave trade on the coast of Africa and of Cuba. If the House voted large sums of money in the shape of increased Naval Estimates, it had a right to expect that a portion of it would be employed in the extinction of that infernal traffic, the abolition of which had already cost this country so much in men and money. When he had recommended the late First Lord to employ gunboats for this service, he was told that men could not live in the tropics in vessels of that description. Nevertheless, gunboats had at last been sent out; and he (Sir G. Pechell) should have been glad to receive some information as to the success of the experiment. Gunboats would be able to pursue the slavers into those numerous shallow waters on the coast of Cuba, from which they had hitherto laughed at our heavier craft; and he read in the papers of that morning, that one of them, the Jasper, had taken a most valuable prize, that had 2,000 doubloons on board. With respect to the operations which were going on in the dockyards, he was of opinion that they might have ships a great deal too big. He was afraid they would find that vessels of the enormous size they were now constructing would not be found to answer the end for which they were designed. He thought that the composition of the Board of Admiralty required alteration. He would have no lay Junior Lords at all; for, while a naval Lord could perform all the duties of a civilian member of the Board, there were duties which none but a professional mem- 925 ber could properly discharge. There was one point on which the speech of the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Pakington) had given him great satisfaction; and that was the manner in which he had spoken of the long-mooted claims of the poor old lieutenants and captains at Greenwich. These officers had been treated most unfairly by the right hon. Baronet's predecessors, and he (Sir G. Pechell) begged to return the right hon. Gentleman his sincere thanks for the course he had taken with regard to this subject.
§ MR. BENTINCK
agreed with the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark (Sir C. Napier), that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty was the first which, for many years, bad held out the promise of amendment in the conduct of our naval affairs. He had certainly regretted to hear the right hon. Baronet announce an intention to reduce the Estimate for works drawn up by the late Government, who, he thought, were not likely to be guilty of extravagance in these matters; but, as the right hon. Baronet and the Secretary for the Admiralty had explained that those reductions would not be persevered in if they should be found injurious to the public service, he was content with that explanation. He had heard, with great satisfaction, the declaration of the right hon. Baronet, that the country ought never to be without an efficient Channel squadron. He (Mr. Bentinck) had, upon two occasions, endeavoured to call the attention of the late Government to the subject of the defences of the country, but was met with the stereotyped answer, that his apprehensions were wholly unfounded, and that our defences were in an admirable condition. But what turned out to be the fact? The right hon. Baronet had shown that, up to a very recent period, there was not a single man of war in the Channel available for home defence. It was true the right hon. Baronet said there were now three or four men of war able to act upon an emergency, and that, in a month, twenty sail of the line, including block-ships, would be available, in case of emergency. But an emergency did not take a month to arrive. A country which could not prepare itself for war in less than a mouth had no right to consider itself a great country; and that which allowed a whole month for preparation had no right to be called an emergency; for an emergency was an affair of days, and even of hours. He considered that this country 926 ought to be ready with her fleets in as little time as ships could be got out of harbour—that was what he regarded as the true measure of a state of preparedness. He wished to treat this question in a mere mercantile point of view; and to ask as a mere matter of business, as a measure for insuring much valuable property whether it was not advisable to keep up a sufficient force to secure the defence of the country from the danger which had been hinted at—a foreign invasion? No one believed that such an invasion would be successful; but the landing of a few thousand foreign troops, even for a few hours or days, would do such injury to the credit, the character, and position of England, that it would take years and millions to repair. We should keep up such a force as would make invasion utterly impossible. He had been glad to hear the late First Lord of the Admiralty say that the defences of the country ought to be kept in an efficient state; but he thought that right hon. Baronet, when in office, had not acted upon that principle; but he (Mr. Bentinck) did hope that the naval defences of the country would never again be allowed to fall into the state in which they had been during the administration of the late Government. It was truly said, the important question was, how to raise men; and he believed that, unless the system of continuous service was kept up, there would never be a sufficient number of men at the disposal of the Government to enable them adequately to meet any emergency that might arise. One tiling had greatly pleased him in the course of the debate. They had not heard any of those frivolous and absurd arguments in favour of what some persons chose to call "economy," but which was, in reality, nothing but an ill-judged parsimony, which was certain ultimately to tend to the most wasteful extravagance. He might refer, for instance, to the waste of money which might have been saved, under a better system, at the commencement of the Russian war. If our naval armaments had at that time been in a proper state, a shilling would have sufficed where, in point of fact, pounds had been spent. He considered that £30,000,000 or £40,000,000, at the least, had been uselessly squandered away, in the course of the Russian war, owing to the undue reduction which had been effected in the strength of our naval armaments. So long as the present composition of the Board of Admiralty continued, it would be perfectly impossible to have an 927 efficient administration of the navy. The constant political changes which took place necessarily involved additional expenditure; and, so long as the Board was made, in any degree, subject to political jobbing, they must never expect a perfect system.
§ ADMIRAL WALCOTT
Sir, the decrease in the Naval Estimates for the years 1858 and 1859 is too observable to pass without comment. The revision is effected by the following method of saving:—On naval yards, service afloat, trams, and police, £50,000; purchase of hemp, £15,000; purchase of steam machinery and repairs, £50,000; for vessels building by contract, £10,000; new works, improvements, and repairs in the yards, £108,756; conveyance of troops, freight of ships, £45,000; coal steam transports, £40,000: Total, £308,756. I entertain some misgivings in respect to several items of this proposed reduction, especially as regards a deduction of £50,000 on machinery, and the postponement of completing the purchases of land for the enlargement of the dockyards at Deptford and Keyham, and reconstructing and extension of docks at Portsmouth and Woolwich; but I will trust that this revision of the Estimates is the result of careful consideration and deliberate judgment, and that the efficiency of the naval service will be in no degree impaired. Such a course would be most repugnant to the good sense and wishes of the country. No expenditure is more willingly voted than for the support of the navy, when it is clear that its administration is conducted on sound principles. I therefore desire to impress upon the First Lord of the Admiralty the paramount necessity of making the numbers, strength, and armament of the British Navy, proportionate to the known capabilities, the improvements in scientific appliances, and augmentation of the fleets of foreign countries, whether in actual being or in progress. Any default of such information or state of preparation would, in the event of unexpected hostilities, expose to the most serious disadvantage that arm which is the immemorial, I may say natural, safeguard of England. Much, I admit, has been done to advance the popularity of the Naval Profession by an increase in pay and amount of pensions. Our gunnery has been improved to the highest perfection and accuracy. We have organized a Coast-guard of 7,500 men, composed of petty officers and seamen, and established a force of 5,800 Naval Coast Volunteers. Still three points present themselves as of the utmost importance 928 and consideration: —1st. A just estimation of the influence which the introduction of steam is calculated to exert on those former advantages which were derived from the superiority of our seamanship. 2ndly. The corresponding dependence of the safety of our shores upon the efficiency of our home fleet. 3rdly. The absolute requirement of the highest excellence in the discipline and training of the men, as in numerical strength and perfection of structure in our ships. I would therefore suggest, as a measure of ordinary prudence, that every coastguard line-of-battle ship should have a training brig attached, in which, for periods, say a month to six weeks, its officers and crew in successive reliefs should be kept in active employment and practically instructed in sea duties, while the gunboats already attached to each of those ships might be allotted for a similar purpose to the Naval Coast Volunteers. I will only add, that in our Naval Estimates stint is not economy, for the deficiencies, which must be the inevitable result of such short-sighted policy, would have to be made good at an extraordinary cost, and in an emergency would be wholly irreparable, while a state of preparation for war has always proved the best security against the infraction of peace. I, on a former occasion, observed, regarding the vast extent of our commerce, the remoteness of our most valuable dependencies, the uncertainty of any political relation, and the duration of Continental peace, that I trusted this House would be careful to maintain at all times a fleet adequate to the necessities of our occasions, for on this depends the prevention of national disaster, on this bangs the supremacy of England. I wish for no vain parade—I desire no idle ostentation—but then, as now, I protest against deficiency, for in default of an efficient navy, a glorious opportunity may be lost of dealing an effectual blow against an enemy, and crushing him by a decisive stroke in the infancy of a war. I admit, with the gallant Admiral (Sir C. Napier), that as a ship once properly and efficiently fitted out, ought not to require any essential repairs during the five years next following, therefore the expenses and loss entailed by the additional equipment and dismantling under the present system might be spared to the country. But I must observe that it is at once for the advantage of the service and the interests of the country to afford sufficient—and so, necessarily, frequent— opportunities of active employment, in 929 order that they may preserve a practical knowledge of their professional duties to naval officers. Their numbers are ample to meet every demand made upon them in the event of war, while in peace there is a proportionate decrease in the amount of force maintained at sea. If, then, the plan to which I allude was adopted, I foresaw that those opportunities of service must be sacrificed. A change of officers, and not of men, is proposed to occur at intervals of two years and a half, an arrangement which could not be carried out if a ship were on a remote station, and one eventually distasteful to the sailor, and calculated to indispose him to enter for five years. A blue jacket is a creature of caprice, and likes a complete change of his ship and station at the termination of the present period of a commission of three years. These reasons will, I trust, weigh with the Admiralty against the mere saving of a few thousand pounds, and induce them to pause before they commit themselves to a change so open to question, and likely to prove pernicious in effect.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
said, he had so often unsuccessfully attempted to catch the Chairman's eye that he almost began to think he must have some resemblance to the phantom ship. He had risen at least seven times; but had not been so fortunate as to catch the eye of the Chairman; and now that he had been successful he would not at so late an hour fatigue the House with any lengthened remarks. What had passed that night proved more than ever the justice of the complaint so often made, that those Estimates were not drawn up in such a way as to enable professional men to analyze them with effect. There were two mysterious Votes, Nos. 8 and 10, which seemed to depend upon each other, the two forming indeed one Vote, and it was to that part of the Estimates he wished particularly to allude. The two Votes amounted, in the revised Estimates of the Government, to £2,326,663; but he defied any one to say how that money was to be expended, or to give a professional opinion as to whether the expenditure was such as would combine economy with efficiency. Whether it was to be spent in constructing line-of-battle ships, or frigates, or corvettes, he could not say. If line-of-battle ships, he believed it to be the opinion of the Navy, that it would be wise to pause in the construction of these enormous vessels. That opinion was gaining ground in this country and much more was it gaining ground in 930 France. He had been lately at Paris, and had conversation with French officers on the subject, and, whatever reports the late First Lord of the Admiralty might have heard respecting the French navy, he could give him positive information that, so far from there being any activity there in building large ships, they were waiting to see what would be done in this country. He was persuaded, and it was the general opinion of the naval profession, that line-of-battle ships were not destined to play an important part in future naval wars. It was believed that these ships would be superseded in the line-of-battle, and more particularly in attacking forts, by ships with one tier of heavy guns and their sides cased with iron. He believed with the hon. and gallant Admiral the Member for Southwark (Sir C. Napier) that in ten years three-duckers would be unknown, being cut down into single deck ships; and, holding that opinion, he thought it was a wasteful expenditure of the public money to go on year by year constructing that class of vessels. There were, as far as he could learn from the Navy List, fifteen of these vessels under construction now, and the Secretary to the Admiralty bad understated the number, unintentionally he was sure, when he said there were twelve. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admirally was untrammelled with the old prejudices of the Admiralty, and the antiquated rules by which, he was sorry to say, his right hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Sir C. Wood) was governed. Though he greatly admired the general policy of his right hon. Friend, and the care which he took of the Navy, yet he was too much bound down by antiquated rules that seemed to be unchangeable. He would, therefore, recommend the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Pakington), who from his statement that night, and the careful way in which he seemed to attend to the details of the service, would, he was convinced, make a most efficient First Lord of the Admiralty, to select a few of the naval officers, for whom, alas! there was no employment and who were kicking about the streets of London, and form them into a committee to give their professional opinion on the construction of man-of-war ships. Don't let them be taken into the four somber walls of the Admiralty — they would be alarmed at the sight of the Admiralty, for no naval man ever went within its gates without feeling a certain amount of trepidation. Let them sit any where but within the walls of the Admiralty, and let 931 them give their professional opinion as to the class of ships that should be constructed. But his principal object in addressing the House was to urge upon the Government the duty of giving more information regarding Votes 8 and 10. The Vote —for there was really but one—should be confined to two objects, one for the construction, and another for the altering and repairing of ships. If the Government would bring in estimates for building so many frigates of thirty or forty guns, so many line-of-battle ships, and so many corvettes, then professional men would be able to give a decided opinion upon the matter; but as matters stood they could give no opinion. As an illustration of the present system, he would take the instance of the new frigate called the Diadem, just built—a very fine ship under canvass no doubt, but that ship could do nothing more than the old Leander did fifty years ago. It was true that by means of an enormous engine she could be driven at the rate of eleven knots an hour for a few hours, but the ship was totally unfit to go any distance, because she carried only four days' coals, and could not be employed in going to India, or to any part round the Cape; whereas he believed there could be no difficulty in constructing a class of frigates that would carry from ten to fourteen days' coal and six months' provision, besides a regiment of soldiers, and go at a speed of thirteen knots an hour. After the outbreak in India every naval-man naturally turned his mind to consider how ships of war might be made available for carrying troops. It was one of the old ideas at the Admiralty that naval officers did not like carrying troops, but it was a libel on the profession. They were proud, every one of them, of carrying soldiers, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle could vouch for the fact that very many volunteered for the duty during the late war. They all felt that, as they could take no share in the business before Scbastopol, the least they could do was to assist in the carrying troops, and so to save the country some of the enormous expense to which it was put by paying for transports. He himself had put this question to an eminent shipbuilder, in conjunction with a first-rate engine builder, who built for the Admiralty,—"Can a man-of-war be constructed, carrying 12 pivot guns of 95 cwt. each, under a covered deck, the tonage not more than 2,600 tons, carrying 16 days' coal under full steam, with a speed of 13 knots, to carry six months' provision for 500 men, with a draught of water not more 932 than 21 feet?" In a fortnight models and drawings of such a ship were brought to him. There was nothing like that in the navy. There was not a man-of-war steamer that could carry four months' complete (including bread) provisions, few that could carry more than four days' coal. Of course he would not guarantee that such a vessel could be built, but he was certain that the persons to whom he had applied would have no wish to give him an exaggerated statement. He entirely concurred in the high encomium passed by the gallant Admiral the Member for Southwark on the Surveyor of the Navy, but he thought too much responsibility was thrown upon that officer. The question of shipbuilding was discussed exclusively by the First Lord and the Surveyor, it was never brought before the other members of the Board at all. The naval members rarely had their opinions asked about the question—it was a sealed book to them. He was aware that the late First Lord had begun to make some improvements in this respect, but until a committee of naval officers was called together and asked for their opinions on the subject of shipbuilding we should never get any thoroughly efficient ships built. On the question of manning the navy he had a simple suggestion to offer to the First Lord—not one of his own, but one which had long been talked over by naval men among themselves, and be trusted that the right hon. Baronet who now presided over. the Admiralty, and was evidently determined not to be trammelled by precedent, would listen to it. The Royal Albert was a magnificent three-decker, and every one know the services which she had done in the late war under Lord Lyons; her officers were attached to each other, the men too were attached to each other and to their officers; she might be said to be the beau ideal of a three-decker. When she came back to England the process through which she would go would be this:—She would be brought into the dockyard, her men would be paid off and allowed to go home, and such of them as had a longer period to serve would have to make their re-appearance in six weeks. They would then be put on board a receiving ship, made supernumeraries of— or "stupid" numeric of, as they call it—looked upon as in everybody's way until they were draughted off east, west, south, or north, as chance might direct. This was what sailors abominated. They felt that they were not being treated as sailors. He would suggest, therefore, that when the Royal Albert came home the 933 Admiralty, for the sake of the officers and of the crew, should try the experiment of keeping the crew together. Let them borrow a barrack at Portsmouth contiguous to the dockyard, from the Secretary for War. [Sir J. PAKINGTON.—He has just borrowed a ship there from me.] And in this barrack let the crew be quartered. Let the petty officers, who were mostly married men, have the benefit of their wives. These were comforts which sailors appreciated as well as other people. They would do the work in the dockyard, and in the Crimea they had proved themselves capable of doing garrison duty. There their camp was in as good order, and the discipline was as strictly preserved, as in any part of the army. The accounts which came home from India at the present time spoke in the highest terms of the excellent conduct of the Naval Brigade there. Then, when they were wanted, if it was for a three-decker, there would be a splendid crew ready; or, if frigates were needed, there would be three frigate crews. Let their officers go with them, and let them all be made to feel that they belonged to each other, just as the officers and men of a regiment. Such an experiment would have an excellent effect. It would be a great boon to the Navy if a system of open competition for cadetships, both naval and marine, assistant-surgeon ships, clerkships, and assistant - masterships, were introduced. It was an old saying, that sailors were beggars from their births. No youth could got into the Navy except by begging, but it was time the system was put an end to. On this point a passage from the report of the examiners for admission into the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich in the year 1857, was very important:—9. The desire to obtain admission by competition to the Academy has brought into our class some young men of the highest order of ability, who would do honour to any profession in which they might engage. In several instances we have known parents and friends to oppose the wishes of these young men, on the ground that they would obtain more distinction and better incomes in other avocations, but in the end the ardour for military life has prevailed. Is it not better, we ask, to have such men in the command of troops than those who creep in by the old way of lazy, spiritless patronage?11. In addition to the observations we have made as to the intellectual superiority of those young men who have already fallen under our notice, we think it right to add a few words as to their physical and social condition. With regard to physical condition, we venture to assert that among those who have succeeded, some are to be found who both as to appearance and muscu- 934 lar condition cannot be excelled in any of Her Majesty's regiments. As to moral and social condition, they are without exception gentlemen well fitted to associate with others, no matter how high their standing may be.The chaplain of Woolwich Academy corroborated the statement that, so far from lowering the class, if anything, the cadets were higher. It was an injustice to the higher classes to suppose that they would lose by competition. They could afford to educate their children, and assuming that they were only equal in intellect with the lower orders, at all events the additional advantage of a more expensive education ought to give them a better chance. He was sure that the Lords of the Admiralty, to whom the patronage principally belonged, would gladly give it up, and he trusted the Government would take into consideration the propriety of introducing into the Navy the competitive principle.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey (Mr. Drummond), the hon. Gentleman the Member for Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) and others who have spoken tonight, as to the great importance of having an adequate naval service for the defence of the country. It is, indeed, quite obvious that it is absolutely necessary for our security that our navy should be in an efficient condition. There are three great naval Powers — France, Russia and the United States. They are all of them almost without colonial establishments, and so far independent of naval warfare that, even a naval reverse does not materially affect them; while, on the other hand, our insular position makes naval protection essential for our security, and we have vast colonial possessions scattered over the face of the globe which also require naval protection for their defence. In considering, however, what should be the application of the funds which Parliament may place at the disposal of the Government for naval purposes, it seems to me that between providing a large number of men and what may be called materials of defence, in ordinary times preference should be given to the latter over the former of those demands. In periods when there is no immediate danger, if the amount of your shipping, the state of your dockyards, and the quantity of your stores be not such as they ought to be, I think it is a wiser and more prudent application of the funds at the disposal of Government to apply them in building ships, in organizing the dockyards, and in filling them with stores, 935 rather than having a greater number of then actually employed. And the reason is obvious. Your are not at all the more secure next year in consequence of having had a greater number of sailors employed in this year, hut you are more secure next year if in the present year you increase the number of ships and place your dockyards and stores in a more efficient condition. That was the principle upon which the late Government acted upon the occasion which has been alluded to in the debate of this evening. Last year, when the war with Russia was over, there was a great demand, not only in the House but throughout the country, for the cessation of the war income tax, which rendered it necessary for the Government to reduce the amount of money applicable to the naval service; and my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty judged properly, that it was bettor to reduce the number of men actually employed, and to go on with those other applications of the public money to which I have alluded. Therefore, when I am told that it was an unwise and improvident act to reduce the number of men last year, I say it was the inevitable result of Government acting in deference to the opinion of Parliament and the opinion of the country. We have been told that the Prime Minister ought to come down and say that he requires that means should be given to supply a certain number of men for naval purposes. It is all very well to say that a Minister should hold that language; but when the declared opinion of Parliament and of the country is that certain taxes should cease, it will be utterly in vain to urge their continuance as to appeal to the House for a larger sum of money than they arc inclined to grant. On the contrary, I say that it is the duty of the Government to submit to the opinion of Parliament and the country, and to make the most prudent application they can of the moneys which may be placed at their disposal. Applying that principle to the course which the present Government is about to adopt, I confess that I think the course which they are pursuing is not the wisest or the most prudent for the interest of the country. I think they are very right in saying that there ought to be a Channel fleet, that we ought to have the number of men which they propose to provide for by the Estimates; but I think the reductions which they are making in the amount of shipping to be built, in the stores to be provided, in the improvement and enlargement of the 936 dockyards, are improvident retrenchments, and I cannot conceive that there is any financial necessity for any of those reductions, because it is impossible to imagine that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer will find when he produces his budget that that difference in expenditure can make any material difference in the means which will have to be provided for the year. With regard to building ships, my noble Friend (Lord C. Paget), to whose speech the House had listened with the greatest attention and interest, and whose practical knowledge makes him a very high authority, has stated that the building line-of-battle ships is an antiquated prejudice. With all deference to him, it seems to me that until I see other nations have abandoned that practice it is not yet antiquated, and that it would be very imprudent for this country to act upon a different principle. I do not think it would be acting with ordinary prudence to allow England to have no adequate supply of line-of-battle ships when France and Russia are multiplying their fleets of that description. My noble Friend tells us that he has been informed by naval officers in France that they consider line-of-battle ships useless, and it is much better to have smaller vessels. I am not sure that opinions coming from what must be called the rival service of other countries are exactly the opinions by which the Government of this country ought to guide their conduct. Perhaps if my noble Friend had to advise the French Admiralty he would say—"You had better not increase your line-of-battle ships. Content yourselves with gunboats! Don't follow the error of having a large fleet of line-of-battle ships! It is better for you to have very few, or perhaps none at all." I think that as long as other naval Powers build an increasing number of line-of-battle ships it is essential that we should be provided with ships of that description. It may be quite true that, although great improvements have been made of late years in the construction of ships, still greater improvements yet remain to be made, and more especially as regards the bows and the lines connected with their rapid transmission through the water. No doubt, those improvements may be made, but I should hope that the present Government will not he led even by the opinion of my noble Friend to discontinue the provision of line-of-battle ships to cope with those which other nations are constructing. We know that the French Government are 937 taking measures which, in the course of a very few years, will give to France a fleet of screw line-of-battle ships very nearly the number we shall have at the same time. In additition to that, we know that the Russian Government arc constructing as fast as they can a formidable fleet of large line-of-battle ships. It would be the greatest, the most extreme imprudence for this country to lay aside all idea of increasing the very inadequate number of screw line-of-battle ships which we have at the present moment. We must recollect that the application of the screw as a motive power has rendered it necessary to rebuild the whole of the fleet of this country, and, as has been stated, the cost of building screw-ships, as well as the cost of working them, is infinitely greater than that which attached to the building and working sailing-vessels. I hope, therefore, that the present Government will reconsider the course which they intend to pursue. The right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty said, that if he found in the course of the Session that more money was required he would come down with a supplementary Estimate for the purpose; but I would submit to him and to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether when the right hon. Gentleman has submitted his budget, has made his financial statement, and has proportioned the Ways and Means to the supply voted by Parliament, it will not be eminently inconvenient if at a later period of the Session any Department conies down to Parliament with a considerable Estimate for services not covered by the Ways and Means which have been provided. With regard to the dockyards it is well-known by those who have attended to those matters that most of them arc inconveniently small in area. I believe that Cherbourg is as large as many of our dockyards taken together. The increase in the length of ships consequent upon the application of the screw has been such that I believe we have very few docks now which will hold the line-of-battle ships we are building. It is very necessary, then, to increase the size of the docks. We require, also, factories for steam machinery; because the machinery by which the screw is driven is liable to perpetual accidents, and unless we have the means of rapidly repairing and rapidly supplying new machinery it will be in vain that we build the ships. The gallant Admiral says that ships are of no use without men. That is true, but it is also true that men are of no 938 use without ships; and men can be procured in a much shorter time than it is possible to build ships. I say again, that the most pressing application of the funds voted for the naval service is in providing ships which, when once built, will remain, rather than in employing men who, after the year is over, will not add to your strength next year unless you continue the expense. With regard to the purchase of land, there is a power to have land valued by a jury of assessment when it is wanted for purposes of military defence. But there is no such power with respect to land wanted for dockyards, and if the Government give up purchases for which arrangements have been made and assent has been obtained, they may either not be able to obtain the land when it is wanted at a future time, or else the price will naturally he raised. I submit that the Government have taken an injudicious course in the reductions they have made in these Estimates, and I think that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty will better consult the interests of the country by reconsidering the subject, and proposing the full amount of the Vote formerly laid upon the table.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, that he had listened with great pleasure to the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty, which he regarded as the precursor of better times for the Navy. In vindication of the proposed reduction in the Vote for steam machinery he would say that it had become highly necessary to pause and consider the circumstances under which that machinery was applied. There were now at Spithead four ships, three of which were the finest of their class. One, the Renown, was a 90-gun ship, and another, the Diadem, a 32-gun ship. They were both of 800-horse power, yet they sailed within half a knot of each other. The third was the Racoon of 22 guns, one of the most servicable ships in the Navy, which sailed within half a knot of the Diadem, the 32-gun ship. The Imperieuse, one of the finest vessels in the Navy, with 360-horse power, sailed within three-quarters of a knot of the Diadem, although the latter had 800-horse power. When results so various were obtained it was clear that the application of steam power and the science of building steamships were still in their infancy. It was therefore requisite to pause till some Commission or inquiry had been appointed to consider very maturely be what means steamships could 939 be propelled not only fastest, but cheapest, and bad reported to the Government. He believed that it would be well to select some one model in each class, which the Admiralty should endeavour to improve upon. The gunboats he regarded as an entire failure. It appeared that they ought to have been mortar-boats, [Sir CHARLES NAPIER: Hear!] and that we had built 120 of the most useless rubbish ever collected together, which would neither sail nor steam, nor carry their crew with any degree of comfort. If they had been constructed upon proper lines they might now be used on the coast of Africa, or Cuba, or in China. A sum of £70,000 had been voted for a place where they could be hauled up, and now that they they were there they put him in mind of the old puzzle of a reel in a bottle. They had been put up on a slip, and a great deal of ingenious machinery had been contrived to place them there and to launch them into a creek; but, unfortunately, that creek contained no water. They might get one vessel launched; but before they could get an-other down the tide was gone, so that, let the emergency be ever so great, the whole could not be launched in less than ten weeks. With regard to the competitive examinations for the Navy, suggested by the noble Lord (Lord C. Paget), he would submit that the boys entered the Royal Navy at a much too early age for competitive examinations. What was Wanted for the Navy was good, thick, stout boys, with plenty of growth in them, and good common sense, and if they were examined when they were twenty years of age the Admiralty would find out what they were good for. At present when boys got a cadetship they went down to Portsmouth and got crammed, and they then passed a juggle of an examination. When he belonged to the East India Company's Navy, boys were taken a year later, and were never examined except when they were put upon the quarter-deck to take charge of a watch. Their midshipmen were fine strong young men, not likely to become unserviceable and to leave the service, which he believed was the case to a great extent in the Royal Navy at present.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
I listened with sincere pleasure to the remarks of the noble Lord the Member for Sandwich (Lord C. Paget), whose high standing in his profession will obtain the due consideration for every suggestion that has fallen from him. I think that the noble Lord is 940 mistaken in saying that the Diadem only carries four days' fuel; I think she carries six days' fuel; but, whether it is four or six, it is not desirable that vessels of this class should steam at full power. It is perfectly true that vessels steaming at half power will frequently sail within a knot as fast as at full power, and the Diadem in carrying four days' coal will therefore, under ordinary circumstances, carry coal for eight days. I submit to the noble Lord that these screw steamers are not intended to use steam power except as an auxiliary, and that it is not desirable they should resort to steam except under pressing circumstances. The noble Lord has expressed a wish that we should not continue to build line-of-battle ships; but I cannot agree with the noble Lord to the extent to which he would carry his principle. So long as line-of-battle ships of great power and force are built by other nations, I cannot think it would be wise in us to abandon the building of similar ships. It was the complaint of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax that we had not line-of-battle ships enough. Between these two opposite statements there is great discrepancy, and I would suggest that the wisest course is to have a sufficient amount of all sorts of ships for our own protection, but not to enter into those races with other nations which are most unwise. I think that if we confine our preparations to taking care of ourselves, and if we set an example of moderation and reduction, other nations will follow it. I had not intended to advert to the comparative question of force between France and ourselves. I purposely omitted it from my opening statement. I should be sorry to say one word which could give rise to the idea that the Government entertain any feeling of alarm. We entertain no such feeling. We feel that at this moment, as at other moments, England ought to be protected—that she ought to be adequately defended—but at the same time we see no cause for alarm. Therefore it was that I did not think it desirable to enter into any comparison as between the French and ourselves; but the right hon. Baronet the Member for Halifax (Sir C. Wood) having referred to that question, I am bonnd to say that he did not state it quite accurately. He informed the House that we had only two line-of-battle ships more than the French. Now, that statement is strictly true if we take the line-of-battle ships actually afloat, and if we altogether exclude what are called our block- 941 ships. I grant to the light hon. Baronet that these blockships ought to he superseded by better ships as soon as possible; they are not ships which we would wish to send out to meet the line-of-battle ships of other nations, but still they ought not to be excluded from our calculation. Out of the nine which we have, there are some four or five in good condition; they did good service in the Baltic during the Russian war, and I say, therefore, it is not fair to exclude them, as you must do when you say that we have only two line-of-battle ships more than the French. Again, if we include the ships building and convertible, as well as those afloat, the superiority of England will be still more manifest. The right hon. Baronet has, moreover, fallen into another error. He stated that the French ships are more powerful than ours. That is true to some extent, for the aggregate horse-power of the French steamships is greater than our own; hut there is another ground of comparison which is, perhaps, the more conclusive of the two. If you look at the armament of the two fleets you will find that the number and weight of the guns in the English fleet arc superior to the weight and number of the guns in the French fleet. The same holds good in respect of the frigates of the two countries, indeed our superiority over the French in respect of steam frigates is still more decisive than in respect of line-of-battle ships. The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton made some remarks upon our proposed reductions, saying that we were about to suspend the building of ships, and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Halifax held much the same language. A more erroneous representation of the views of the Government could not be conceived. We have no such intention; on the contrary, we propose to maintain in our dockyards precisely the same establishments as were upheld by the late Government, the only difference being that we intend to take an additional Vote for hired labour. That was the course adopted during the Russian war. In the years 1855–6–7 the late Government did not propose to increase the establishment of our dockyards, but they met the increased demand by hired labour. We wish to adopt the same method of meeting what we believe to be an accidental pressure. If the pressure turns out to be permanent, and not accidental, it will be our duty to come down later in the Session and ask for an in- 942 creased Vote; but if, as I hope and believe, there should be no necessity, I think the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton is the last person who ought to object to the course we mean to pursue, seeing that it is the one which his own Government adopted during the last year, when they asked Parliament, at the end of the Session, for an additional Vote of 3,000 seamen. I deny, then, that we are open to the charge of neglecting the national defences. The reduction which we propose has been carefully considered, and our opinion, after ample inquiry and deliberation, is that the sum we have cut off is not required for the efficiency of the service. The Votes we propose to take will be enough to cover all our liabilities, provide the requisite engines and machinery for the ships about to be launched, and leave a margin. We do not think we should ask Parliament for more money than necessity requires. The only remaining point to be noticed is, that we have omitted certain Votes for the extension of dockyards. Now, the Votes in question were intended for the purchase of land and other purposes unconnected with the extension of our dockyards, and one item in particular, £15,000, for barracks at Gosport, may be very well postponed, seeing that the Government has already a quantity of land there of which no use has been made. We would not have postponed any of these items bad we thought them essential to the efficiency of the service; but in the present state of the public finances the Government would not be justified in asking for more than is absolutely necessary, and, therefore in deferring those Votes we have only done our duty.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
admitted that he had not included the blockships in his calculation as to the comparative forces of England and France. Those ships might be perfectly efficient for the defence of our coasts but they could not be sent to the Bay of Biscay or the West Indies, and he repeated that of ships fitted for cruising purposes we had only two more than the French. That was true, whether we took the ships-of-the-line afloat or included those building and convertible. From a statement which was prepared for him in December last by the Surveyor of the Navy it appeared that we then had 25 screw line-of-battle ships afloat while the French had 23. Of ships building the French had 8, and we 9, while of ships converting there were 8 English and 9 943 French, so that the proportion of all, afloat, building, and converting was as 40 to 42. [Sir JOHN PAKINGTON: I can give the names of the ships.] So can I. The explanation of the right hon. Baronet with respect to the dockyard establishments was most satisfactory. The plan of employing hired labour instead of increasing the permanent establishment should be reserved for a time of actual war. It was also a mistake to suppose that the Votes omitted by the Government were not intended for the extension of dockyards. Two of them at least had that object directly in view.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, that he had no wish to be an alarmist, but much had been heard to-night from the right hon. Baronet which was deserving of the serious attention of the House. He should have been glad if the First Lord of the Admiralty, instead of apologizing for adopting the Estimates of the late Government, had asked for larger Votes. It was clearly the duty of the House to inquire whether the sums they had voted in past years were sufficient for the protection of our shores. At present they were under the rather uncomfortable conclusion that they were not sufficient. Very lately, as they had heard to-night, Government had been dismissing the continuous-service men, and they had been told, too, that the French had forty ships of the line to our forty-two, and, said the right hon. Gentleman who had spoken on the subject, theirs are more powerful. Now, what was the conclusion to be drawn from this, but that at the pre-sent moment, when we were professing to be the first maritime power in the world, with our vast and extended commerce to watch over, and our shores to be protected, we actually were not in command of the sea. Reference had been made to certain disturbing and menacing influences in the territory of our nearest neighbour. They all wished that the present Governor of France might live long, and that war between this country and his Government might be impossible. But it was their duty to be secure against accidents and possible contingencies. The present French Government might not endure for ever, and they knew that one of the first proposals made to the Republican Government by one of the French generals was, that he might have a force with which he offered to invade England. Well, a change of Government in France was not, at least, extremely improbable, and in case of change 944 England must be prepared, not only for war, but also against surprise. The blow might come suddenly, and be levelled against this country unawares. And what was its condition? Reference had been made to the enormous works at Cherbourg, and a railway to Cherbourg would be opened in July next. Then the French Government had a magnificent army and a superb navy, to which they could furnish 100,000 men as easily as this country could 30,000. Their steam transports were each capable of transporting 2,000 men and with a railway between Cherbourg and Toulon they had the power of manning two fleets by conveying the men from one port to the other, as most convenient. What was the position of this country? Even with a fleet numerically equal to that of France, this country wanted the power to man it. At this moment England had lost the command of the Mediterranean, for the French Government maintained there double the force of the English. That was not creditable to this country. Supposing war to break out between France and England, France would at the commencement have the advantage from the rapidity with which they could man their fleet, and they all knew that the first month was the most important period of all. It was well known that Napoleon I. desired the command of the Channel for only twenty-four hours, and it must be admitted that if a French army landed upon the English shores the position of this country would be critical. He agreed that there was nothing in this for alarm, but there was great reason for precaution, and as the right hon. Gentleman had deviated, and had received credit for so doing, from the routine course pursued by his predecessors in office, he advised the right hon. Gentleman to deviate in another respect. Let him not in future allow that unjust charge to be made against the House of Commons, that it refused to the Minister the necessary supplies for the defences of the country. He had heard many discussions and witnessed many divisions in that House on the subject, but he had not seen any division which had not been carried by the Government by large majorities, and he had never known an important minority divide against the Government on a question of our military and naval establishments. It was true, as stated by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, that last year there was a pressure on the Government to re- 945 duce taxation; but that was always in relation to the ease laid before the House by the Government, and if the Government would be mysterious on the subject of the national defences, and if they had not the heart to tell the truth lost foreign Governments should learn it (though all the while they knew a great deal more about the matter than many Englishmen), and if they did not in consequence make out a case, then the House would not vote the necessary supplies. But let the Government take the course which the right hon. Gentleman had most properly taken tonight, let the state of our Navy and our dockyards, which was as well known to the French Government as it was here, be fairly explained, and not, from a false delicacy, concealed, and then, if the Government called on the House for supplies, he ventured to say that the reply to an appeal on such a subject would be on the part of the House generous and magnanimous. When the House was tested and unnecessarily refused what was asked, then let the responsibility be thrown upon it; but until the demand was refused, he hoped the House of Commons would not allow any Minister of the Crown to evade his responsibility, and throw it on the House.
§ MR. KINNAIRD
said, he would suggest the propriety of assimilating our mode of retirement to that which prevailed in France, according to which retirement was secured at a certain age, and thus a great benefit was conferred on the officers in command.
MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, he must complain of the great increase which had taken place in the Estimates for naval and military purposes since the time of the Duke of Wellington's Administration, and also of the Administration of Lord Melbourne.
§ Vote agreed to, as were also the following Votes:—
§ (2.) £1,401,599 to complete the sum for Wages to Seamen and Marines.
§ (3.) £577,357 to complete the sum for Victuals.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, he wished to inquire whether the Government intended to proceed with the Army or Navy Estimates on Friday?
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
With the Navy Estimates first; and if there should be time we shall afterwards go on with the Army Estimates.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
said, it had been usual to take the Votes for the two great services before the Budget was introduced, and he wished to know whether the Government intended to obtain all the Votes for the service of the Army and Navy before the financial statement was made?
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he was aware that such a course was usual, but it was not necessary. The Navy Estimates, he thought, would not occupy much time, and it was possible the Army Estimates might be got through rapidly, but it was certainly his intention to bring forward the Budget on Monday.
§ House resumed; Resolutions to be reported to-morrow.