HC Deb 16 April 1858 vol 149 cc1227-48

Motion made and Question proposed,— That a sum, not exceeding £70,439, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Salaries of the Officers and the Contingent Expenses of the Admiralty Office, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1859.


said, he had often before found fault with the constitution of the Admiralty, but he thought this vote so extravagant, that he could not allow the opportunity to pass without again calling the attention of the House to the subject. When the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle was at the head of the Navy, he effected very great changes. He established the offices of Surveyor of the Navy, Controller of the Victualling Department, the heads of the Medical Department, the Accountant's General Department) and the Storekeeper General's Department. That arrangement, he confessed, had appeared to him (Sir C. Napier) to be and the time the best that could be devised for securing departmental responsibility, but now he was obliged to say that in consequence of the number of the Lords of the Admiralty, a Lord had been nominally placed over each department, by which the duties of the several Lords had become almost a sinecure, the business being transacted almost entirely by the inferior officers, and thus the responsibility of those naval Lords had been very much weakened. At a time when we were doing away with double governments it was desirable to abolish that which now existed at the Admiralty. And he believed that it would have a most beneficial effect to reduce the number of Lords of the Admiralty from six to three. He believed that we had now five as good officers at the head of the several departments of the Admiralty as could be found And it would be far better that each of them should have the entire responsibility for his department than that it should be weakened by the nominal control of a Lord of the Admiralty who did not exercise any efficient control over the business. The great defect of the Admiralty administration was the division of the business between Whitehall and Somerset House, which rendered communication and control difficult. The Surveyor of the Navy had no fewer than six masters, according to the nature of the business he had to transact. To a certain degree this inconvenience was remedied by his being brought to the Board of Admiralty. But still he was always under some one. Neither he nor the Comptroller of the Navy had the power to do anything without the assent of the Board of Admiralty, which involved much correspondence and considerable delay. He would give the whole power of the Navy in these departments to those officers, who should be responsible for their conduct. There should be at the head of the Navy a Minister of Marine, and a Vice and Hear Admiral of Great Britain, who should not be changed with each Ministry. The two latter should act as counsellors of the first, who should be at liberty to take their advice or reject it, as he thought fit, but should bear the whole responsibility. It was impossible that there should be any efficient responsibility when power and the control over the various departments of the Navy were divided amongst six Lords. Another serious defect in the present administration of the Navy was that the different Lords of the Admiralty who were placed at the head of the several departments worked in different rooms, and the result of this was that the most contradictory orders were given to officers in command of fleets. He recollected, when he was in command of the Channel fleet, some years ago, having an order one day to take the Queen, three-decker, out for the purpose of exercise, and another immediately afterwards to send her home. Again, he had one order one day to take the lower deck guns out of the St. Vincent and try her without them, and a second communication, immediately afterwards, blaming him for doing so. When he commanded the fleet in the Baltic also, he received the most contradictory orders from the Admiralty. It was clearly impossible that officers could execute their duties satisfactorily if they received different orders from different Lords. He hoped that the present First Lord would grant a Commission to inquire into the working of the present Admiralty system, and he would then find that the entire system was one in which a change was loudly demanded. There were Lords of the Admiralty present who would probably rise and say he was all in the wrong, but if a Commission was appointed, he believed there was not a clerk at the Admiralty who would not give evidence against them. If, however, the Government would not consent to a Commission, he (Sir C. Napier) must move as an Amendment that the present Vote should be reduced by a sum of £3,000.

Motion made and Question proposed,— That the item for Salaries of the Lords Commissioners, for executing the office of Lord High Admiral, he reduced by the sum of £8,000.


said, that he thought it would be better that the constitution of the Board of Admiralty should be defended either by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham) or the right hon. Baronet the Member for Halifax (Sir C. Wood) who had each presided over the department with great ability for some time, than by himself, who had been only a few weeks in office. At the same time he must say, that so far as his experience enabled him to form an opinion, he could not concur in the greater part of what had fallen from the gallant Admiral. He regretted, however, that the hon. and gallant Admiral had given no notice whatever of the proposal he was about to make, as until he rose, he (Sir J. Pakington) had no idea of the nature of that proposal. The hon. and gallant Admiral complained that there should be a civil Lord at the Admiralty. [Sir C. NAPIER was understood to dissent.] At all events it appeared to him that the duties appertaining to finance and to the superintendence of the buildings going on in the different dockyards might be as well attended to by a civilian as by a professional man. Then the hon. and gallant Admiral said that the Admiralty was a system of double government. He must say, that he could see nothing of the nature of a double government about it. [Sir C. NAPIER: Somerset House and Whitehall.] There were double offices certainly, but that was a different thing from a double government, and no doubt great inconvenience rose from the division of the business of the Admiralty between these establishments; but it was impossible for any vole of that House to correct that evil. Certainly it could not be done by such a reduction of the Vote as the hon. and gallant Admiral had proposed. The division of the offices arose from the great amount of business transacted by the Admiralty. That business required the services of 200 clerks, a number the Admiralty buildings at Whitehall were not adequate to accommodate. It was, therefore, necessary that all the business of the several departments, except that of the Surveyor General, should be conducted at Somerset House. The attention of Parliament had been drawn during the last few years to the necessity of constructing new Government Offices, and he hoped that, when the arrangements contemplated were carried out, the whole of the Admiralty business might be conducted under one roof. He understood the gallant Admiral to say that the officers of the several departments might carry on the business of those departments without the superintendence of the naval Lords. But although his experience was sufficient to enable him to agree with the gallant Admiral, that it was impossible to speak too highly of the ability with which the gentlemen referred to performed their duties, he did not think it followed that they were not to be superintended and aided by the Lords of the Admiralty. The Admiralty business was of a very peculiar kind, in which civil and professional matters were mingled together; and he must, for his own part, say that he thought the public advantage was promoted by naval men acting as junior Lords, and exercising a superintendence over the various departments. The practical effect of the proposition of the hon. and gallant Admiral would be to reduce the naval counsellors of the First Lord from four to two—the Vice and Hear Admiral. He could not sanction that. He believed that the advice, counsel, and experience of which the First Lord gained the advantage from having four professional gentlemen to advise him were not only an assistance to himself, but highly beneficial to the interests of the country. Under these circumstances he could not assent to the Motion of the hon. and gallant Admiral, and he trusted that it would not be pressed to a division.

Question, "That the said item be so reduced," put, and negatived.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

(3.) £118,592 to complete the sum for Coastguard Service and Naval Coast Volunteers.


said that, having bad the opportunity given to him by Commodore Eden of inspecting the coastguard, he thought that the present condition of that body was highly satisfactory. The principle of a naval militia, as embodied in the Royal Naval Coast Volunteers, was a, suggestion of his own, made so long ago as 1819, and repeated by him half-a-dozen times since. The plan had not yet been carried out far enough, for the term of twenty-eight days was not sufficient for exercising the men. At present, a man having entered the coastguard service, might remain there for ten years without seeing any active service afloat, and thus lose his serviceableness as a seaman. There was another point to which he wished to draw attention. The coastguard obtained their pensions too easily, and it would be better to call upon them to serve a longer period afloat before they became entitled to a pension. At present the privileges given to the coastguard were calculated to cause great discontent among the seamen, who had to serve twenty years afloat before they got a pension, while the coastguard obtained theirs after five years' service. The great object of the Admiralty should be to hold out more encouragement to seamen to enter the Royal Navy. Faith had been so often broken with the sailors that they did not believe in the promises of the Government, and if the Government wanted to man their ships with facility, they must consult the feelings of the sailors a little more than they had done. It was no wonder, under such circumstances, that ships were now four, five, and even six months before they could be manned. Why should not the Government give both a bounty and a kit to the sailor as well as to the soldier? The Admiralty ought to have, during the summer, a fleet of ten sail-of-the-line exercising at Spithead and in the Channel, and that from time to time the block-ships at the different ports on the coast should be telegraphed to join the exercising squadron at the shortest notice, in order to test their efficiency.


I wish once more to impress upon the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty, a, suggestion which I made on a late occasion, when these Estimates were before the House. It is of the utmost importance that a training brig should be attached to every line-of-battle block-ship, in order to provide adequate opportunities to the petty officers and seamen of the coastguard to be constantly and practically employed in the knowledge of their duties at sea. The vessel should be thus manned in successive reliefs, and kept on a cruize extending over a period of one month or six weeks.


said, he wished to express the pleasure with which he received suggestions on those points from naval men. He would, however, remind his hon. and gallant Friend that under the regulations of his predecessor at the Admiralty one or two gunboats were attached to each of the coastguard ships. He felt the force of what the gallant Admiral (Sir Charles Napier) had said upon the danger that the coastguard men, however good and valuable in the first instance, would become less efficient as they remained on shore, unless some steps were taken to keep up their sea-going experience. He would not lose sight of this subject, but he did not deem it necessary then to enter into the general question of the coastguard men and naval volunteers after the manner in which he had referred at length to these points in his general statement in moving the Naval Estimates on the Monday evening previously.


The First Lord of the Admiralty will pardon me if I remind him, that gunboats not being square-rigged vessels, would be unavailable for the purpose which I recommend; their only use when afloat (for I regret to find that at present they are staged with such extraordinary caution as to be launched with considerable difficulty and delay) and whilst attached to these ships would be for the service of the coastguard volunteers, to inure them to the blue-water by correcting a disposition to sea-sickness, and to teach them the management of fore-and-aft-rigged vessels.


said, that when they wanted to increase the number of coastguards it was necessary, as an inducement, to reduce the number of years' service; but having filled up the numbers it was no longer necessary to spread their net so widely.

Vote agreed to; as was also

(4.) £30,615, to complete the sum for Scientific Departments of the Navy.

(5.) £81,634, to complete the sum for Naval Establishments at home.


said, that as this Vote was connected with the Victualling Department at Deptford, he wished to put some questions to the right hon. Gentle- man the Late First Lord of the Admiralty, with reference to a letter he then held in his hand. In consequence of his being Chairman of the Committee on contracts which sat last year, a letter had come to him, dated the 4th of April, 1857, in these terms: — My dear Sir, — After all the assurances which we have received that the Government never give out important orders hut by contract, and always accept the lowest tender for stores, you will be surprised to hear that a very large private order for prepared meats, upwards of half-a-million pounds weight, has been given to Messrs. So-and-so for the service in China, without any public notice of the requirement, and consequently Messrs. So-and-so have had an unrestricted price. Besides this being an act of injustice to the trade, the public service will be injured by the inferiority of the articles arising out of the haste and the unseasonable period at which they are preserved, particularly should meat form a portion; whereas, if the contract had been thrown open to competition, the Government would have found themselves amply provided with meats in a state ready for immediate shipment, and which had been put up at a proper season in good order. On the contrary, an unfair preference has been given, to the detriment of the public service. This is sad jobbing, and I am not at all surprised at the general expression of discontent whenever public contracts are mentioned. [Cries of "Name!"] He would rather not give the name of the 'writer, but he would show the letter to the late and the present First Lord of the Admiralty, and when he had done so he was sure they would both admit the respectability of the authority, and that it was such as could not for a moment be supposed to give information not founded on fact. The Admiralty invariably obtained their supplies by open tender, and they accepted the lowest tender, provided the contractor was proved to be a man of substance. It was also the system of the East India Company. It was not the system of the Army. They had three courses by which to obtain supplies—by open tender, by an office list, or by purchasing on the spur of the moment. The questions arising out of this letter which he wished to ask were— whether the supply referred to was delivered, and, if so, was it received or rejected? What was the money value? In what part of the Estimates the transaction appeared? And why it was not an open tender?


said, he was afraid he could not answer the questions which referred to last year's Estimates. The hon. and gallant Officer was rather behind time. This was an order given in April, 1857, in reference to preserved meats, which must have been sent out to China twelve months ago. Why, on earth, did not the hon. and gallant Member put his questions last year when the Estimates were before the House. [Colonel BOLDERO said the letter was not in his possession.] He had certainly understood the hon. and gallant Member to say that it was received a year ago. It was impossible to remember the details of a transaction which occurred a year ago, or to answer questions on those details, especially when put without notice. With regard to the general statement, the hon. and gallant Member was entirely mistaken. It was not the invariable rule of the Admiralty to obtain all the supplies which they might require by open contract, and as invariably to take the lowest tender. The practice which he pursued, and which was pursued twenty years ago, when he had the honour to be Secretary to the Admiralty, as a general rule was to take the lowest tender. That was the object, indeed, of calling for tenders and putting the matter up to public competition; hut he had never held himself bound, under all circumstances, to take the lowest tender, if he did not consider it to be most advantageous for the public service. With regard to preserved meats, it was one of those items on which they were bound to be most careful. It was quite impossible to be certain that the meats were properly preserved. A quantity bad been sent to the Crimea, and some was bad before it got there, and some was good when it came back. Of meats preserved by the same person sometimes a portion would fail at the end of three months, and a portion not fail at the end of three years. It would be, therefore, exceedingly unwise to throw a contract of that kind open to public competition, as the only security was to go to a person whom they had reason to trust, and upon whom they could rely.

MR. MILRS, as a member of the Committee on preserved meats, which sat in 1852, said, that if there were one thing of primary importance to the Navy, it was that it should be insured a good supply of properly preserved meats; and he believed, that if once the supply were thrown open to competition, the result would be, that they would get such trash that, when they were required to save a ship's crew from starving, they would turn out to be of no use whatever. It was the unanimous conviction of the Committee of 1852 that, notwithstanding certain individuals might generally be relied upon for supplying good preserved meats, yet that they could not always command an adequate supply. Almost every description of preserved meat was produced before the Committee, who tasted most of them, and found some to be remarkably good. Of course none of the bad samples were brought forward, but only the best; and the Committee, one and all, arrived at the conviction, that the lowest tender, as regarded preserved meats, ought never to be accepted, unless the Admiralty were certain that they were of the very best quality. Indeed they had thought it desirable that the Admiralty should preserve its own meat.


said that, to show the inequality of the supply, he had lately tasted some of Mr. Goldner's preserved meat, the contractor of whose supplies so much complaint had been made, which had been six years in store, and very good it was.


said that, so far from its being the rule at the Admiralty to accept the lowest tender, when the Arctic expedition was fitted out, an order for the preserved meat was given to a contractor, in whom confidence was felt, to furnish the quantity required entirely without reference to price.


said, he was not at all sorry that he had mooted the question, his solo object being that the food supplied to the Navy and Army should be of the best quality. So long as it proved to be good, he cared not a straw whether they paid a penny, twopence, or three-pence a pound more for it than they would have done had they taken a low contract. All he wished to learn from the late First Lord was, that the contract was fairly entered into, and that the food was of good quality, and was now being consumed without detriment to the health of the service.


said, that two questions had to be considered in looking at this matter of preserved meats; one was the accuracy with which the chemical preparation was conducted; the other the quality of the meat preserved. And he believed that neither of these points had ever yet received proper attention. Good meat, preserved in a proper manner, would maintain its strength and purity for many years, provided these two conditions were properly regarded. But it was of no use to preserve bad meat. The animal preserved must be a well-fed animal. It must be good meat. They must not attempt to preserve coarse and inferior; if they did, the juices and fats were entirely lost, and it was like eating rope-yarn. He grounded what he had now stated upon his own personal experience, having commanded a troop-ship, and had occasion to servo out those meats; and it was his belief that when men had been kept for any considerable time upon salt provisions it was very necessary that they should have at least two days in the week preserved meats supplied to them. The attention of the Admiralty might very advantageously be turned to this matter, for if proper chemical anti-scorbutics were administered to the sailors, many more years' work might be got out of them.

Vote agreed to; as was also the following one:—

(6.) £17,279, to complete the sum for Naval Establishments Abroad.

(7.) £516,921 to complete the sum for artificers at home.


said, that before this vote was discussed, he felt bound, although he did so with reluctance, to call attention to an error in the Estimates as prepared by the late Government. He did not mean to impute any blame to the right hon. Gentleman his predecessor in office, nor to those who had assisted him in drawing up the Estimates; but, of course, it was of the greatest importance that accounts of this kind should be stated with accuracy. If the items of expenditure printed in the estimate did not correspond with the real amounts to be defrayed, the result was that both the Members of the Government and the House of Commons were misled. The Committee would recollect that he objected on Monday night to adopt the number of men intended to be proposed by the late Government for the dockyards—namely, 12,190; but proposed to take a vote of £50,000 for hired labour to meet the existing pressure in the dockyards, that being half of the apparent difference between the establishments of the last and the present years. the Committee would perceive by the Estimates that the proposed establishment of 12,190 men was estimated at £737,751, while the smaller establishment of 10,850 of last year, was estimated at £637,751, showing a difference of £100,000. It was on that ground that he proposed on Monday to take a vote of £50,000, to carry on the works in the dockyards for the next six months. On Tuesday he requested the Surveyor of the Navy to draw up a programme of those works on which that sum could be must beneficially expended. The answer he received from that gentleman surprised him very much; for he said, "You have not got £50,000; you have only gut £20,000." He asked for an explanation and received an answer to the effect that £30,000 of the £50,000 that he had obtained on Monday would be required to make up a deficiency which by accident occurred in the Estimates for the preceding year. He (Sir J. Pakington) believed that the error had arisen entirely by an accident. He ought to have explained that £10,000, or thereabouts, of this deficiency arose from an increase in the wages paid to the labourers in the dockyards last year. The remainder of the deficiency arose from asking for less than the establishment of last year required. That error he believed was owing to the haste with which the Estimates were cut down last year. The original Estimate for 10,850 men last year stood correctly at £659,761, being exactly £22,000 more than the Estimate actually submitted to Parliament. The Vote for Deptford dockyard, for instance, was £30,573, but the original Estimate was £40,472; for Woolwich dockyard the vote was £75,27, but the original estimate was £79,771, and so on. So that it seemed as if some one had gone through the entire Estimate of the dockyards, and reduced the money items by a small amount, but had forgotten to make a corresponding reduction in the number of men employed, 10,850. The result was that instead of £100,000 being proposed by the late Government for increased dockyard expenditure, not more than £70,000 had been so proposed. He did not mention this matter to cast blame upon any one. It was in fact a business affair, and the error must be corrected. Of course the officer of the Admiralty upon whom the blame might be supposed to rest was the Accountant General; but he thought it due to that able financier, who was deservedly mentioned in terms of great praise on Monday night, to state that by a most objectionable arrangement made in 1850, this particular Vote was taken out of his control and placed in that of the Surveyor of the Navy and the Board of Admiralty. Since that time all that the Accountant General had to do was to place in the Estimates the sum which they thought necessary to the dockyard establishments. He had no power to subject their proposals to the revision to which he subjected all the other amounts proposed to be inserted in the Estimates. That system led to great inaccuracies and incon- veniences— for example, the Committee would observe that in the Estimates for one year, there was a vote for 319 men in a particular department, and for 538 men in another; but there was no entry in either case of the amount of money required for their wages. He could not understand why the particular Vote in which the error which he had first mentioned had occurred, should not be inserted like any of the other navy Votes in the Estimates. He had now but one course to take—namely, to ask the Committee to grant £30,000 more than he asked for on Monday night, in order that the deficiency might be covered.


said that, to a certain extent he understood the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, but he could not see the error in the estimates of which he complained. He did not know on what authority the right hon. Gentleman asserted that the late Government made reductions in the Navy Estimates so carelessly as to ask for less money than was necessary to maintain the number of workmen agreed to by the House as the establishment of the dockyards. The statement of the right hon. Gentleman was altogether unexpected, and he was, therefore, not prepared with documents to answer it. The inadequacy of the Estimate for the present year must depend upon whether £737,751, which the late Government proposed to Vote, was too little for an establishment of 12,190 men. To a certain extent it would have been impossible, even if the House had agreed to give the whole of the additional men requested by the Government, to obtain the entire number in the course of the first few months of the year, and, therefore, a sum less than the whole amount of the wages of the whole number of the men for the whole year would not have been an inadequate Estimate. He believed, however, that the sum taken was the full amount for the year. The statement of the sum voted last year was perfectly true. There might have been an excess of expenditure for wages in the dockyards; he did not know whether the fact was so or not; but there could be no doubt that the sum voted was £637,751. The late Government were, therefore, bound to put that sum in the Estimates, and hence the only question could be whether the sum proposed to be voted for the present year was adequate for the establishment which could by possibility be obtained within the year. He concluded, therefore, that the right hon. Baronet meant to say that £737,751 would not pay the wages of 12,190 men. [Sir J. PAKINGTON: I have not said anything of the kind.] He could not see, then, where the alleged inaccuracy lay. It could not be in the Estimate of last year, because the late Government were bound to state the actual sum voted, and then they proposed to add £100,000 more for the present year, in order to provide for as many additional men as the Surveyor might think right, thus raising the Estimate for wages to the amount of £737,751. The object of that increase was to get rid of payment for extra hours and of hired men. The right hon. Baronet had charged him with departing from the recommendation of the Committee presided over by Lord Seymour. Now, the recommendation of that Committee was that, if an increase were necessary it should be done by an addition to the permanent establishment and not by the employment of extra men. During the Russian war, finding that job and task work and hired labour was the most available means of increasing the work done in the dockyards, the late Government had recourse to it; but he repeated now what he had stated before, that a worse system could not be adopted during peace. He believed that £737,751 was an adequate sum for paying the establishment for the present year, and therefore, unless the right hon. Baronet told him that those persons who were answerable for the details had miscalculated the amount of wages necessary for the payment of 12,190 men, he could not admit that there was any inaccuracy in the Estimates.


observed that he did not impugn the Estimates for the present year. What he stated was that the Estimates for last year, as it appeared in the papers before the Committee, was incorrect. The Government last year took £22,000 off their Estimate, but made no reduction in the establishment, and the result was that instead of having £100,000 for extra labour in the present year he had only in round numbers £70,000


stated that £637,751 was more than enough to pay the establishment of workmen in the dockyards.


said, that gentlemen in office possessed peculiar advantages when commenting upon the conduct of their predecessors. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty had been kind enough to inform the House that certain alterations, of which he did not approve, were made in 1850; but, fail- ing in that courtesy which was usually shown by one official man to another, he had not given the slightest notice of his intention to make that statement to anybody who was connected with the Admiralty at that time. He did not know whether the right hon. Baronet had obtained his information from Mr. Bromley, but that gentleman was not at the Admiralty when the alteration in question was made; and although the change itself might appear wrong to the right hon. Baronet, who had been only a short time in office, the Committee should know that it was effected under the sanction of a most intelligent officer who was Accountant General to the Admiralty in 1850. For his own part he was still of opinion that the Surveyor of the Navy was better able to frame an estimate than the Accountant General, who merely kept the accounts; and at all events, when the right hon. Baronet next travelled out of his way to attack the conduct of his predecessor in 1850, he would take it as a favour—or rather as an act of justice—if he would have the kindness to give him some previous notice of his intention. He confessed that he could not understand the explanatory statement of the right hon. Baronet. The result of it, however, was the very uncomfortable one that the House would have to vote an additional sum of £30,000. He might be permitted to say, that the discrepancy which the right hon. Baronet had pointed out was not so remarkable or uncommon as he seemed to imagine. When an establishment was reduced, it did not follow that the reduction in the expense would be equal to the reduction in the number of the men, because, as the right hon. Member for Halifax (Sir C. Wood) had pointed out, the whole number of men was not likely to be employed throughout the year.


said, he could not too strongly express his regret at finding that, most unconsciously and unintentionally, he had given offence to the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir F. Baring). The best proof he could give of the innocence of his intention was, that, at the moment he spoke, he did not recollect that the right hon. Baronet was the First Lord of the Admiralty in 1850. If he had recollected that circumstance, he might have given him notice; but still he was not quite certain that he would have done so, inasmuch as he did not attack the right hon. Baronet or anybody else. He simply stated a fact which the right hon. Baronet had now confirmed, that in 1850 a change was made with respect to the management of these Votes. The right hon. Baronet thought the alteration a good one; but that it was bad the Committee had a practical proof in the errors which had crept into the Estimates. His own opinion was, that those errors would not have occurred if the Votes had been brought under the supervision of the Accountant General. The right hon. Baronet had stated that 630,000 was wanted to cover a deficiency of last year. There was a deficiency to that amount to be covered, but he understood it was partly met by a surplus of £20,000 in another Vote, and therefore no larger sum than £10,000 would have to be provided in some other way.


said, that such an arrangement might have been made in 1850 as that referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, but he did not recollect it.


said, that if there were a mistake it was quite of the right hon. Gentleman's own making. The right hon. Gentleman said that he (Sir Charles Wood) improperly reduced the Estimate last year without regard to the establishment to be maintained, and that the Estimate was below the requisite amount to the extent of £22,000. Now, he found that the whole sum voted for the year 1855–56 —the last year of the war—was £801,000. That sum included £250,000 for additional wages for extra work to be performed by task and job, and for the pay of hired men. Deducting £250,000 from £864,000, there remained £614,000 as the sum required for the regular establishment. For the next year the sum voted was £839,000, which included £225,000 for extra work by task and job, and for the pay of hired men. Taking £225,000 from £839,000 there remained £614,000 as the sum due for wages for the establishment. Now, the sum voted last year was £637,000, which exceeded the sum shown on the two preceding Estimates as due to the establishment by £23,000; being £1,000 more than the sum which the right hon. Gentleman said he (Sir Charles Wood) had improperly dealt with. The right hon. Gentleman had made something like a charge that the Estimates had been misstated, but all that was done was according to practice to put down in the Estimates for the present year the Vote of last year, and he did not understand that the right hon. Gentleman denied that the Estimate the late Government had pro- posed for the present year was adequate for the men proposed to be employed. Therefore the Vote of last year was correctly stated, and the Estimate for the present Tear was also correct in reference to the services to be performed. When an end was put to task-work, a sum of £23,000 was provided for any occasional labour that might be required in the course of the year, and therefore the attack made by the right hon. Gentleman was totally unjustifiable. The fact was obvious. The right hon. Gentleman was determined to make a reduction from what had been proposed, and somehow or other took off £50,000, not knowing why or wherefore, and in order to justify himself made an attack against him (Sir Charles Wood.)


said, he could not too strongly express his regret at the tone in which the right hon. Gentleman had spoken. As a matter of business he could not avoid mentioning the circumstance, and now the right hon. Gentleman charged him with making an utterly unjustifiable attack. He did not like these criminations and recriminations, and had not intended to indulge in them in the present instance. He said at first that he thought it was an accidental error; but let him tell the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Charles Wood) since he held such language, that he had got the right hon. Gentleman's letters in his hand, though he did not wish to make use of them. He had got the old Estimates and the new Estimates and the changes—two changes — of the figures in red ink. He had got, too, the right hon. Gentleman's letters directing those changes. The fact was incontrovertible that, the Government last 3"ear prepared an Estimate for 10,850 men, and the sum put down to meet that establishment was £659,751. At the last moment, however, they knocked off £22,000, without making a corresponding reduction in the establishment. The result was that the Estimates presented to the House gave an erroneous view of the expenditure in last year. He had made no charge against the right hon. Gentleman, supposing that the error arose from the precipitation with which the Estimates were produced last year, and he regretted the tone adopted by the right hon. Gentleman.


said, he was sorry if he had said anything to annoy the right hon. Gentleman, but he thought an attack had been made on him. He was speaking to a great disadvantage, because he could not refer to official documents and to letters, which, under ordinary circumstances, would be in his possession. He proposed last year an establishment of 10,850 men, for which £614,000 were taken as an adequate payment; and he also proposed a sufficient sum, as he believed, beyond that to provide for hired artificers and extra labour, because it was not till the present year he proposed to put the whole on the establishment. If the right hon. Baronet told him that £637,000 was not enough to pay for 10,850 men, then he (Sir Charles Wood) was wrong; but if it was sufficient, then he (Sir Charles Wood) had not fallen into any error. No doubt, in the first instance, the Government had entertained thoughts of taking a larger sum than they afterwards resolved to ask Parliament for; and they did not propose any reduction in the number of men until they heard the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty He (Sir Charles Wood's) belief still was that £637,000 would be sufficient for 10,850 men.


said, he had been concerned all his life in making estimates, and he thought it would be very hard, indeed, if the First Lord of the Admiralty were to be held responsible for every item of the Navy Estimates. He rose, however, for the purpose of referring to the amount of wages given in the dockyards, as he thought that the men were very much underpaid. The expense of house rent in such places as Chatham, Portsmouth, and Devon port, was very high, and it could not be expected that men in the receipt of 13s. 6d. a week, who had to pay 3s. or 3s. 6d. a week for rent, could support their wives and families adequately upon the remaining 10s. a week. The consequence was, that these underpaid labourers, although honest, could not be zealous in the discharge of their duties, but they husbanded their energies during the day, in order that, by working in the evenings, they might make some addition to their miserable wages. He was informed that bricklayers in London earned from 3s. to 3s. 6d. a day, while the artisans in the dockyard boroughs only received 2s. 2d. a day. He hoped the First Lord of the Admiralty would direct his attention to this subject, as he believed that the rate of wages in dockyard towns did not depend upon the question of supply and demand.


observed, that workmen in private ship-building yards received 5s. or 5s. 6d. a day, and he thought it was a mistaken economy to give so low a rate of wages to the artisans on the public establishments. It was the opinion of Mr. Stephenson, Sir S. Peto, and other competent authorities, that men employed in such labour as was performed in the dockyards ought to have a good meal of meat daily; but many a time during his can-vass—[Hear]—he found the working men employed in the dockyard making their dinner on bread, cheese, and potatoes. He believed that the saving effected by underpaying these labourers was fully counterbalanced by the inefficiency of their work, and he could corroborate the statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir F. Smith), that many of the labourers had to work till late hours at night, in order to make up the amount necessary for the support of their families. He regretted that the Motion made last year by the noble Lord the Member for Cockermouth, did not extend to civil servants paid by the week, for the consequence was, that while these civil servants who were paid by the year had been relieved from the superannuation tax, the shipwrights, blacksmiths, and joiners, who received weekly wages, were subjected to a superannuation tax of 20 per cent.


thought the present First Lord of the Admiralty, and the two right hon. Gentlemen who formerly held that office, had occupied the time of the House very unnecessarily about a small amount of £30,000, for any one who looked to the reports of the Board of Audit would find that some of these Estimates were formed upon mere guesses, and under one head in a former year £516,000 more than was voted by the House according to the Estimate had been expended, while under another head £300,000 less than was voted by the House had been disbursed. Since the termination of the French war, not less than £77,000,000 had been expended upon our navy. What had become of it? It had been spent, to a great extent, upon rubbish, and also in waste and jobbery. There was no remedy for this state of things, except the adoption of the American system, under which an account was given each Session of the manner in which the money voted during the preceding year had been expended.


said, he was fully aware of the placid, he might almost say contemptuous, indifference, with which the House received the representations made by hon. Members who represented ports at which there were dockyards, and therefore he was not surprised at the derisive cheers which greeted the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. P. W. Martin) when he spoke of what he saw during his canvass. For his own part he had never canvassed a single dockyard voter, and therefore in saying a few words in support of the claim to consideration which had been advanced on the part of the dockyard labourers, he did so without reference to any political interest. There was now no dockyard at the borough for which he sat, but he had visited that of the neighbouring borough of Devonport, which had the advantage of being represented by the late Secretary of the Treasury (Mr. Wilson). He would not say how gratified the electors of that borough were at having for their representative a gentleman so nearly connected with the Treasury, or what he had promised them; but he was informed that, by some occult influence which he could not explain, the wages of some of the artisans at Devonport had been advanced, while the wages of others, who did not belong to the same class, were allowed to remain as they had been. The wages of some of the labourers had been reduced 2s. a week, while those of the ropemakers and some other classes, had been raised 3s. a week. This was a distinction which they could not understand. When he looked at the state of the representation, and thought how very little the House did for the class to whom he referred, he thought it would be no waste of the public time to inquire a little into their condition; and he assured the right hon. Baronet who presided so efficiently at the Admiralty, that if he would pay a little attention to the wants and wishes of those poor people, he would reap a rich harvest of popularity. He looked to the First Lord of the Admiralty to set matters on a right and proper footing.


said, that no doubt the House smiled when canvassing was alluded to, because they knew that there were various modes in which canvassing was carried on. The hon. Member was, however, mistaken in supposing that any feeling of contemptuous indifference existed in that House towards the representatives of the working classes. Against any such construction he strenuously protested. It was most essential for the general prosperity of the country, that the working classes should be contented and happy; and when any hon. Member brought forward facts to show that they were treated with injustice, it was the duty of that House to pay every attention to his statement. He was quite prepared to admit the possibility that the wages of labour might be unduly depressed by competition. With regard to the wages paid in the dockyards, he could only say that he looked upon that subject as one well worthy of attention; and when he visited the dockyards, as he pro-posed to do in the course of the summer, he should investigate the whole circumstances.


said, that he was much obliged to the hon. Gentleman (Mr. White) for the interest which he manifested in his constituents; but so far as he was concerned, he should never feel it to be his duty to urge upon the Executive any increase of expenditure beyond that which in their judgment was necessary. With regard to the alterations made last year in the wages of the workmen at Devonport, and referred to by the hon. Member (Mr. White) he was not aware of those eases, but his right hon. Friend (Sir Charles Wood) would probably be able to explain them. The inference which the hon. Member apparently sought to draw from the facts he had mentioned ought to be pretty well rebutted by the course which he (Mr. Wilson) had pursued last year in opposing the repeal of the superannuation allowance abatements. That course was naturally in opposition to the feelings of a large number of his constituents. By the Bill of the noble Lord (Lord Naas) the wages of our most highly paid public servants were increased immediately to the extent of £70,000, and ultimately of £100,000 a year. This was in the face of the fact that hundreds of men in Government employ were dragging out a miserable existence upon 13s. a week, out of which he knew they had to pay 5s. or 6s. per week for their lodgings in consequence of the high rents in the towns where they were compelled to reside. This was the class of persons to whom he had referred last year as being most underpaid and as most demanding the attention of the Government, and who, while those he had mentioned had received a lavish grant of £70,000 a year, had not their pay increased by one farthing. In pleading the cause of these men, the representatives of dockyard towns were pleading the cause of non-voters against those who possessed the suffrage, and they could not therefore be accused of interested motives.


said, the Government possessed the larger part of the property in the town which he represented (Portsmouth), and consequently the poor rates fell very heavy upon the dockyard labourers there. These latter were 6,000 in number, many of whom were in a most depressed condition. It would be a disgrace to any country gentleman if his labourers were in no better state. He was glad to hear that the First Lord of the Admiralty meant to take these circumstances into consideration. It was urged some time ago in that House that if the rate of labour rose much higher, Government would have their ships repaired at merchants' yards, and he thought any such plan as that would be most injudicious, as be felt certain the Government would not get labourers at a private yard at 13s. a week.


said, he would suggest to the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Board of Admiralty, and to the House generally, that many of these complaints would be obviated if they left to private enterprise a great portion of the work at present done in the Government dockyards. He was convinced that the men would then be more highly paid, while the work would be performed better and more cheaply.


said, he thought it extremely desirable that the Government should, by a distinct announcement of their intentions, put an end to the agitation which at present prevailed in the dockyards in reference to the question of the wages of the labourers. He could state that, although hon. Members had disclaimed the imputation of allowing themselves to be influenced by canvassing in that matter, such canvassing was going on, and expectations were excited on the part of these poor men which were not likely to be realized. He, therefore, entreated the Government, if they had not already made up their minds on this subject, to do so as soon as possible, in order that the agitation which now existed might be set at rest. With regard to the question of Superannuation, together with the deductions to which the Civil Service was subjected, the Committee had recommended that it should be referred to two impartial actuaries. If the actuaries had made their report, perhaps the Government would say whether they had any objection to lay it on the table.


said, he was glad to hear a promise of inquiry from the right hon. Gentleman. He might observe that there was a great difference between the wages paid in the arsenal at Woolwich and those paid in the dockyard. The dockyard received the inferior labourers, and a constant change of hands took place, which was detrimental to the proper execution of the work.


observed, that in the payment of salaries to the Civil Service the remuneration ought strictly to correspond with the amount and quality of the work done. They ought not to complicate the question by having to calculate what deduction should be made on account of the superannuation pension.


said, that the late Government had regulated the wages they paid according to the principle of supply and demand. They had raised the rate of pay of that class of artificers whose services they could not secure at the previous scale of remuneration. With regard to the wages of the labourers, the rate was the same in all the Government dockyards, and it would he difficult to make it otherwise; whereas the wages paid by private employers in the various neighbourhoods often differed considerably. If varying rates were adopted by the Government they would create a good deal of heartburning. At Plymouth the wages of the established labourers had been raised, but those of the class of labourers who were not permanently employed, and who could come and go whenever they pleased, had not been increased. The opinion that he had previously expressed as to the Estimate for wages, &c, was confirmed by the memorandum which the First Lord of the Admiralty had handed him for perusal.

Vote agreed to.