HC Deb 12 March 1858 vol 149 cc110-34

Order for Committee read.


said, a Motion which had been given early in the Session, stood in his name for referring the Army and Navy Estimates to a Select Committee. As, however, the right hon. Gentleman had stated that it was only intended on the present occasion to move for certain sums on account, and had asked the House not to enter upon the general discussion, he would not bring forward his Motion at this time. He wished to state, however, that the Estimates for the Army and Navy were the largest by many millions that had ever been submitted to Parliament since the termination of the French war, with the exception of the two or three years of the Crimean war.


said, he wished to express a hope that something would be done to raise the compensation given to the staff officers for the deprivation of servants. the sum of 1s. a day in England and 1s. 6d. in the Colonies allowed by the late Government, was utterly inadequate to provide the labour necessary to take care of the horses. He hoped the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Secretary for War would take the matter into consideration and raise the amount, and also give the option of employing soldier servants when civilians could not be found.

House in Committee; Mr. FITZROY in the Chair.

(1.) 59,380, Men and Boys for four months.


Sir, I rise to move the first Vote on the Navy Estimates, but before doing so I beg to express my acknowledgments to the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Williams) for the courteous manner in which in deference to the urgent position of public business, he has waived the Motion of which he had given notice, and which he had a perfect right to bring forward. I hope also that the urgency of the occasion will induce the hon. Member for Dovor (Mr. Osborne) to waive the course which he indicated in his speech he would take on going into Supply, unless some statement was given of the policy of the Government. The hon. Gentleman has been of late years so little in the habit of addressing the House that now he has recovered his liberty he seems to have forgotten what is the usual mode of designating the hon. Members to whom he wishes to allude, and therefore I had some difficulty in making out who the gentleman was to whom he referred a short time ago. I am inclined to believe, however, that he did me the honour to refer to myself, and to some observations which I made elsewhere; but the fact of the speech to which the hon. Gentleman alluded having been made should, I think, hare shown him that he had little ground for the complaint that the present Ministry had made no statement whatever of their policy. Sir, a statement of our intended course has been made most distinctly in another place by the noble Earl at the head of the Government. A very full statement has also been made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli.) I availed myself of a similar opportunity likewise to make a statement, and other members of the Government have done the same thing. I really think, therefore, that if my right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli) had now given us a repetition of what has already been so fully made known, the hon. Member for Dovor would have been the first to rise in his place and complain of so great a waste of the time of the House. Sir, the state of the public business renders it desirable that we should have every assistance in obtaining some grant of money on account. The House has already been made aware of the necessity for doing so, and I accordingly rise to move the first of a series of Votes connected with the Estimates for the Navy. I have to state, in the first place, that the Votes on account, with which I shall conclude, are founded entirely on the Estimates of the late Government. My right hon. Friend stated the reason why it is essential that we should ask the House for this Vote immediately; but I hope the House will bear in mind that I have succeeded too recently to the arduous and important office which I have the honour to hold, to be able to come forward at once on the part of the Government with a distinct and definite opinion with regard to the Estimates of our predecessors for the maintenance of the Navy. I am bound to admit that I have received every possible courtesy from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Sir C. Wood), my immediate predecessor in office, and that my right hon. Friend has given me every explanation that was necessary to enable me to proceed with the duties the discharge of which I have undertaken. But, notwith- standing that assistance I think it will be admitted that if on the present occasion I should attempt to make a full statement on the subject of those Estimates and announce distinctly the policy of the Government—in regard to them, instead of fulfilling the duty which it is incumbent upon me to discharge, I should be guilty of an act of folly and presumption which could not fail to deserve and to receive the censure of the House, considering how elaborate and important they are. Undoubtedly, it would be in my power to come down to this House and declare that we had adopted the Estimates of the late Government for the whole year, and to shelter myself and the Government under the course which the late Government adopted. But we do not think that this would be either an advisable or proper course. Considering the present state of public affairs, and the demand upon the resources of the navy which the state of affairs in China and India has created;— considering, too, what all parties in this House must admit, the necessity on every ground of prudence and propriety that the navy at home and in the home ports should be maintained in an effective state, the House will think that the Government are only taking a proper course when we announce our intention to take Votes on account for four months, founded upon the Estimates of the late Government. At a later period of the Session I shall move the remaining Estimates, and I will then state distinctly the views of Her Majesty's Ministers, and move those Estimates upon the responsibility of the existing Government. This is the course which we think it our duty to take, and which we are more inclined to follow on account of the very large Estimates that we find were prepared by the late Government. It would be inconsistent with the announcement I now make to go into details, but I will state the leading points which justify the course which I propose to take on the part of the Government. In the first place, then, if the Committee will permit me, it is not unnatural to point out the difference between the amount of the Navy Estimates for 1858–9, prepared by the late Government, and the amount of the same Estimates in 1852–3, when my colleagues and myself were in office during the Government of the Earl of Derby. In the year 1852–3 the gross amount of the Estimates for the service of the Navy was £6,7 05,746. I find that the gross amount of the Navy Estimates for 1858–9, including the packet service, is £10,128,615, the difference between the two years being £3,422,869, or in round figures not less than 50 per cent. I am quite aware that there are many circumstances which explain this large difference between the Navy Estimates of 1852–3 and those of 1858–9. In the first place the war with Russia led to an enormous increase of the Navy Estimates. I am bound next to refer to the war with China, or—to use a more appropriate expression—I might rather call it our quarrel with Commissioner Yeh, which has also led to a great increase in these Estimates. The House will also bear in mind the increase of steam ships, the great expenses incurred in the dockyards in consequence of that increase, and the recent transfer of the Coastguard service from the Customs to the Admiralty. All these are circumstances which, I readily admit, go in a great degree to account for this enormous difference between the Estimates of 1852–3 and 1858–9. If, however, I compare the Estimates now upon the table for 1858–9 with the Estimates for the present year of 1857–8; here again I find a very large increase, which I think imposes upon the present Government the duty of carefully investigating its causes. I will first take the difference in the number of men. The number of men voted for the current year, 1857–8, was,—officers, seamen, and boys for the fleet, 31,000; officers and men for surveying, troop, and store ships, 2,000; for the coastguard service, 5,700 making a total of 38,700 men. To these may be added 15,000 marines;—and thus we find that the Estimates submitted to the House by the late Government this time twelvemonth amounted to a gross total of 53,700 men. At a later period of the Session, however, in the month of July, the late Government came down and proposed a supplementary Estimate of 2,000 men, which made a gross total of 55,700 men for the year. In the Estimates now on the table for 1858–9 the number of men is very considerably in increase of that Estimate. The number of officers, seamen and boys, for the fleet is put down at 35,000 instead of 31,000; for surveying, troop, and store a hips the number is the same as last year—namely, 2,000; but for coastguard service the number is increased from 5,700 to 7,380. The number of marines is the same— namely, 15,000, for both years: but the general result of the number of men pro- posed by the late Government to be voted for next year is 59,380 men. the difference in men between the original Estimate of the two years therefore stands thus:— There is an increase of 4,000 in the vote for officers, seamen and boys, for the fleet, and an addition to the coastguard of 1,680, being a gross increase of 5,680 men for next year as compared with the. original Estimate for the current year. If, however, we take into account the men voted in July last, the difference between the two years will be 3,680 men. I am bound to add that as we stand at the present moment this increase of men is, in my opinion, absolutely necessary, [Sir C. NAPIER: Hear!] and I will show it to the House in this way:—The total number of men and boys voted last year for the service of the navy, including the supplementary Vote of July, amounted to 35,000. The number of men and boys borne on the books of men-of-war and vessels in commission by the return of last February was 35,915. So that the number of men in commissioned ships was 915 in excess of the number voted by Parliament during the year. The marines, however, fell short of the number voted by Parliament by 55, and the general result is that, including seamen and marines, the number of men last February exceeded by 860 the number voted by Parliament for the year. If, however, the numbers were raised to the full complement, so that all the ships in commission were fully manned, in addition to the present excess of 860 men, we should still require 1,356 men; showing a total excess above the men and boys voted in 1857–8 of 2,216. Well, Sir, the Estimates on the table prepared by the late Government for next year show an excess of only 2,000 men, and therefore if these Estimates should be agreed to, and if the ships now in commission were fully manned, we should still require 216 men more than are mentioned in the Estimate of the late Government for 1858–9. I mention this to show that the number of men is not in excess, but somewhat short of the requirements of the navy. With regard to the amount of money proposed to be voted, I find that the total estimated expenditure of the present year, 1857–8, including the packet service, is £9,172,509. The gross total Estimates on the table exceed this very greatly, amounting to, for 1858–9 £10,128,615, being an excess over the present year, 1857–8, of 956,106. I shall not trouble the House with further details, but I have mentioned these figures to show that Her Majesty's present Government are only taking a proper course when, under pressure of our position, we only ask the House to vote supply for four months upon the Estimates of Her Majesty's late Government. I will once more appeal to my own personal position. In consequence of the forms in making out the patents of the new Board of Admiralty the present Board did not commence their sittings until Tuesday last, and it would be idle to suppose that any Board of Admiralty could in three days make themselves masters of all the complicated details of these Estimates in such a manner as to justify their pretending to deliver opinions upon them. Before the four months have expired we shall be prepared, upon our own responsibility, to state what we think those Estimates ought to be. But, in making this statement, I wish to guard myself against two possible misapprehensions. I do not wish it to be understood that I at all intend to hold out to the House that there is now on the part of Her Majesty's Government any deliberate intention or any fixed opinion that it was likely when the time comes for a more elaborate statement, they will be able to propose any reduction in these Estimates. I wish to reserve to the Government the most unfettered discretion, that they may investigate these Estimates and then come down to the House and state what they think ought to be done. I deem it equally due to the late Government to disavow the least intention of implying, from having mentioned these figures, any censure on them, or of leading the House to suppose from the limited experience I have as yet had, that there is the least reason to think that either with regard to the amount of force or the amount of votes the late Government have been negligent of the interests of the country. With this brief statement, I beg to submit to the Committee the first Vote, which, is the number of men for the Navy. I shall therefore conclude by moving that 59,380 men and boys be employed in the sea and Coastguard service for four months ending the 31st of July, including 15,000 Royal Marines.


said he could assure the right hon. Baronet that he would throw no obstacles in the way of his administration of the affairs of the Navy. He was happy to observe that the late Government appeared to have come to their senses, and had agreed to increase the number of men in the Navy. Last year the Government, or rather the Parliament, had reduced the Navy to a very low figure, both with regard to the number of ships and men; but he was glad to find that what he had proposed last year, but which was then pooh-poohed, was now about to be adopted—namely, to put the block-ships in an efficient state, and send them as guard ships to different points of the coast. He would suggest some changes with regard to the Coast Volunteers, who were not to be confounded with the Coast Guard. There was a sum of money taken for the Coast Volunteers, but it was done in perfect ignorance of what their numbers might be. These men received a small sum for enrolling their names as ready to come forward when they were wanted. But it must not for a moment be supposed that they alone were fit to man our ships. They would be valuable as assistants no doubt, but it was absurd to suppose, as he had seen it stated in speeches and in the newspapers, that we were now able to blockade the whole of an enemy's coast at a week's notice. It was all very well to talk about; they might depend upon it they were not in a condition to do anything of the sort; and the best proof of that was the difficulties they had had in finding men for the Renown, which had been lying at Spithead for four months, and even now she was very imperfectly manned. So it was with the Marlborough, which was under orders for the Mediterranean. He did not say that if a war were to break out men would not be found to enter more freely than they did at present; but then they must remember that it was not men only that were wanted, but discipline. On former occasions he had proposed an increase in the number of Royal Marines. They were at present in want of soldiers. He did not say that numbers of recruits were not coming forward, but for the most part they were more children—lads of fifteen and sixteen. Now, the marines was a more popular service than the army, though he did not know why. His plan would there fore be to increase considerably the marine force, and to hand over to them the garrisoning of all the sea ports in time of peace, which would at once set free a number of line regiments for India; and if a sudden war broke out the marines would be ready to go on board ship, and the militia regiments could take their place. He had made this suggestion to Lord Panmure before he left office, who told him he had no objection to hand over the garrisoning of our sea-ports to the marines, if the House of Commons would consent to increase their number. He could not support the Motion of the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Williams) to send the estimates to a Select Committee, for he believed that a Committee of this House was a very unfit tribunal to inquire into those matters; but he would strongly suggest to the right hon. Gentleman opposite to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the management of the Navy from first to last. It was not the men or the provisions that cost the money; it was the increased wear and tear caused by paying off the ships; and until they gave up the system of increasing the number of ships in one year, and then paying them off in the year following, it was impossible they could ever have a thorough and efficient navy. The First Lord of the Admiralty was yet, perhaps, hardly aware that a ship was commissioned only for three years, when she might just as well be commissioned for five. The ships on the Chinese coast had been out for five or six years; if it had not been for the war they would all have been home by this time—the men would have been turned adrift, the stores taken out or sold as old stores, the ships pulled to pieces, and all sorts of alterations made to no purpose, and then they would have been commissioned again. But in consequence of the cry for economy which was raised last year a number of ships were paid off which were now all commissioned again; and he was sure that this system would be found to have been more expensive than if the services of the officers and men had been retained all through. There was another point he would recommend to the First Lord's notice. He had at present ten councillors; five of them were at Somerset House, and five at the Admiralty. Those gentlemen, whether from jealousy or some other cause, seldom agreed; and if the number were reduced the work would be done a great deal better and at a less expense. He would not throw any obstacle in the way of the Estimates being voted; but, on the contrary, would do everything possible to keep the Navy in proper strength, because he did not think that affairs at the present moment were in a state to justify any negligence.


said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman was making too largo a demand upon the House, in asking a Vote for so long a period as four months; and as he certainly did not agree in the amount of the Vote, he wished it to be distinctly understood that, in allowing the Government to take this amount without opposition, that course would not be held as binding him to support the Estimate when it came before the House at the end of the four months; and that when he came to propose to refer the Estimates to a Select Committee he did not expect to be met by the argument that the House had already voted a third part of them. The right hon. Gentleman had carefully guarded himself against being thought to hold out any expectation that the Estimates would be reduced. He had confined himself entirely to the number of men. Now, he (Mr. Williams) had always been an advocate for the efficiency of the navy; and though it had not been a fighting navy for a great number of years, still the gallant exploits of Captain Sir William Peel and his comrades showed that the men and the lower class of officers were at the present day, as they had always been capable of performing daring and glorious deeds. He would not, however, appeal to the right hon. Baronet, but to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had a general superintendence over the expenditure both of the Navy and Army, and who would not have forgotten the difficulties he had in providing for the expenditure in 1852. The expenditure for the two services was upwards of £6,000,000 more now than it was in 1852, when the present Government were last in office. There were some other legacies which the predecessors of the right hon. Gentleman had left him; and, therefore, it behaved him, for his own sake, to reduce the expenditure as much as possible. He did not complain of the increase of men, but in the officers, who had of late years increased out of all proportion. For instance, in 1846, there were only 153 admirals; in 1851 there were 235; last year there were 316; and in the present Estimate provision was made for 341—about an admiral and a half for every ship in commission. He thought this was monstrous. By the new arrangements of 1846 it was proposed gradually to reduce the number of admirals to 150, but instead of that there were now 341, while only fourteen were employed in active service, and of these half were port admirals, or superintending dockyards. The right hon. Baronet had spoken of the increase required for China, but the fact was that only a few additional small steamers had been employed. The city of Canton had been taken by one regiment and a few marines; in fact, the French claimed to have had the most important share in it. With regard to the dockyards, the waste there was perfectly astounding, showing that there must be either gross corruption or mismanagement. He had letters from persons who were in a position to know, though he was not at liberty to give the names of the writers, showing that the system of waste that went on was perfectly disgraceful, and that no control was exercised on the part of the public. A million and a half was now asked for, on account of timber and other stores, though it was a fact that, since the termination of the war with Prance, scarcely one of our ships had been damaged in action. Our ships had not been called upon to fight at all, and yet £77,000,000 had been spent upon them in a period of profound peace. If the right hon. Baronet would look well to the dockyards, he would render the most essential service to the country. He must say, to the credit of the late First Lord of the Admiralty, that his Estimates were put forward in a very clear and intelligible shape—there was no difficulty in understanding them; though how the right hon. and gallant General opposite was to understand the War Estimates of his predecessor passed his comprehension—for a greater mass of confusion he had never seen.


said, he would express his thanks to the hon. Gentleman for the compliment—though he could not take to himself the credit for the undoubtedly clear and intelligible shape in which the Estimates had been laid on the table, as they had always been presented in the game form for the last few years. He rose, however, to say that he quite approved the course which the Government proposed to take with regard to the Estimates. Of course, it was quite impossible that the right hon. Gentleman opposite could have had time to make himself acquainted with all the details of the Estimates, or even to form an opinion on his own responsibility of what they ought to be. The Estimates for the year ought certainly to be brought forward on the full and clear responsibility of the Government, and under the circumstances they had done quite right in proposing only a Vote on account at the present moment. For the Estimates, as they at present stood, he held himself responsible, and when the Estimates for the whole year were brought forward he should be happy to give the Government all the assistance in his power to pass them—always supposing that they were such as the knowledge which he had acquired told him were necessary for the public service. As, however, the voting of the Army and Navy Estimates would form almost the most important business of the Session, he hoped that they would be brought forward at the earliest possible period after Easter.


Sir, I have heard with great satisfaction the proposal now made to augment, by 5,600, the present number of seamen and boys; nor can I doubt the ready acquiescence of this House, which has always been willingly granted on occasions when the country demanded a similar increase. At this moment our force at sea is unworthy of our pretensions to be the first maritime Power in Europe. Without doubt, our docks and harbours present an imposing array, and we had stages with gunboats jostling each other, a magnificent fleet, comprising sailing and steam ships of unrivalled strength, capabilities and speed; yet we lately paraded to the world the humiliating dearth of transports adequate for the conveyance of a few thousand troops, and were compelled to press into the service, as one only resource, the merchant navy. It was only last year that I recommended, as indispensable, the maintenance at sea of not less than twelve sail of the line, fully manned and ably officered, in the highest state of efficiency and preparation, because it would afford the immediate means, on the most sudden emergency, of supplying twice that number of ships for the service of the country, independently of frigates and smaller vessels. At a period when science is making fresh advances, hitherto unexampled, and other maritime Powers are strengthening their navies in proportion, no caution can be too great in a timely consideration of the construction of our ships before they are commenced. The position—one of the highest importance and responsibility—of the Surveyor of the Navy demanding, as it does, the display of great ability and a judicious expenditure of the public money, requires that he should be accompanied by a seat in the Board of Admiralty, by which opportunity and authority would be afforded to him to represent his opinions with freedom and cogency. The Navy requires, from its peculiar character, a far-seeing policy and a generous system of rewards. Encourage those officers who exhibit zeal in acquiring the knowledge of their profession and in the discharge of its arduous duties. Let merit constitute the only claim to promotion. To ensure fidelity in the seaman you must show a scrupulous adherence to every promise, and discrimination with liberality of reward. Economy and retrenchment must be employed in careful forethought before incurring expense, and only as they are compatible with the integrity of the national defences. The Navy of England can never be reduced with impunity. Neither gunnery nor navigation are the acquirements of a few months; the landsman is only by long experience ripened into the practical seaman. The fleet undermanned can scarcely be called a questionable defence; there must be risk, and if there be ignorance of the profession on the part of the officers there might be a sad reverse. Here I might remind the Committee, that in order to fit out the Baltic fleet it was necessary to strip the coastguard service of men, and then, when the landsmen had been turned into good sailors, they had been sent adrift on the sands at Portsmouth, Plymouth, and Chatham, to carry their energy, their zeal, and their vigour, it might be, into the service of any other nation which would find them employment, We wanted not ships, but the living hearts of oak—the gallant Tars—to quicken the mighty mass; but poor Jack was disregarded when be was no longer wanted, and he was discouraged when he should have been bidden hearty welcome in the name of England. I warn you, then, to be wise in time, and to show a more generous consideration, a wiser policy, and n more far-seeing system as regards the Navy. Justice requires imperatively one reform. May I ask the First Lord of the Admiralty's attention whilst I press it? I allude to the disheartening impression prevalent in the Navy, that no officer, unless possessed of family influence, or able to command official favour, can ever entertain a reasonable hope of attaining the object of an honourable ambition—the rank of Admiral on the active list. At present it is confined to the case of those who have held command as captain during four years in war time, five years at a period of war and peace, and of six years while there is peace. I am at a loss to reconcile the restriction with the dictates of wisdom or justice. Small as the residue of the required time may be, whatever the amount of his courage or 2eal, his energy or capacity, he has neither appeal nor redress. The reserved list is his destination, and that of too many instances of a similar exclusion, which excite universal regret and enlist the widest public sympathy. The hardship is increased by the frequent reappointment of the same officers to commands. By their death the country is debarred the advantages it expects from their experience, while it is deprived of the services of their survivors, who have been unduly and capriciously denied the opportunity of that employment for which they have iri vain reiterated the most earnest desire. The easy and obvious redress, if the present system continues in force, is to allow the time spent by a Commander in actual service to qualify for the Flag on the Active List. The Navy List is surcharged with the names of officers who despair of promotion. In the Royal Marines, or in the corps of Engineers and Artillery, as well as in regiments of the Cavalry and the Line, the officers destitute of patronage and means of purchase, by perseverance in the service, can obtain the highest rank, while the grey-headed lieutenant in the Navy is a proverb of neglect and hopelessness, and a standing reproach to the administration of a national profession. I can assure the Committee, that in offering these observations I am actuated by no party spirit or personal motive; but so long as I may possess a seat in this House, and on whatever side I may sit—and I have had a very comfortable seat on the Opposition side for about five years and a half—I shall do my utmost to maintain the welfare of the naval profession, because I believe the prosperity of the country to be inseparably bound up with it. The hon. Member for Lambeth has, as usual, remarked on the number of Admirals on the list; but those gallant men have deserved well of their country. During the war which extended from 1792 to 1815, with but slight intermission, near a thousand men-of-war were in continual employment and necessitated the services of a considerable number of officers. To hostilities which lasted over twenty years succeeded a peace, in which the happiness of England entailed a death-blow to the aspirations of these officers. During a term of twice that extent they were not required, their most earnest offers of service were denied opportunity; but they had fought the battles in time of war, and surely no generous mind would grudge them that rank which had been so well earned. If it would be any satisfaction, however, to the hon. Member for Lambeth, I can tell him that these brave men are being fast removed from amongst us, and that not many of them will much longer need their country's bounty. They demand only this moderate requital in their age and compulsory retirement from service, for activity, energy, and fidelity, the aggregate of which rendered their country secure, and ennobled its national history.


said, he had given notice of his intention, on the Navy Estimates being brought under the consideration of the House, to press upon the Government that a sufficient additional sum should be granted to Her Majesty, in order that the wages of the dockyard labourers might be increased from 13s. to 16s. per week. His notice applied more particularly to Vote No. 8; but as he understood that there might be a long delay before that Vote would come on, he trusted that he might be allowed to bring before the Committee the claims of the dockyard labourers upon the present occasion.


said, that it would be quite irregular to discuss an item in Vote No. 8 in the present stage of the Estimates, and the hon. Gentleman was therefore out of order.

Vote agreed to.

(2.) £1,000,000. on account, Wages.


said, that as the Committee had come to an agreement to waive all discussion upon the present occasion, it was not his intention to raise one; but he gave notice that on a future occasion he should call attention to a mode of proceeding by which, as it appeared to him, the voting of Estimates was rendered of no avail whatever. In the years 1856–1857 the grant, including the Supplementary Estimates for No. 10, naval stores, for the building of ships, &c, had been exceeded by £516,452, and that a sum of that amount had been applied to the purposes he had mentioned, without any authority from Parliament. That was a subject to which, on a future occasion, he should call attention; but in the meantime he wished to elicit an assurance from his right hon. Friend at the head of the Admiralty that all moneys voted for a special service should be applied to that service, and to that service alone.


said, that the circumstance to which the hon. Baronet referred had occurred when he (Sir C. Wood) was at the Admiralty, and it would be his duty, therefore, to explain it when the hon. Baronet should direct attention to it more in detail. He would only now observe that the course which was then taken was in accordance with the provisions of an Act of Parliament, and he had no doubt that he should he able to satisfy the House that there had been no irregularity in the proceeding.


said, that the particular subject to which his hon. Friend referred was one entirely between his hon. Friend and the right hon. Gentleman opposite. In answer to the appeal of his hon. Friend, he bad no hesitation in saying that he entirely concurred in the principle that money ought to be strictly applied to the purposes for which it was voted. Under the terms of the Appropriation Act, considerable latitude was allowed with respect to the appropriation of grants; but how far it might be desirable to amend the terms of that Act he was not prepared to say.


said that a clause had been introduced into the Appropriation Act of last Session,— clause 26,—by whose authority he knew not, which entirely upset the whole system of appropriation, That clause had passed unnoticed in this House, and was not discovered until the Bill reached the House of Lords, where they took the precaution of printing their Bills before they passed them, At any rate he trusted the House would never agree to such a proposition again.


said, the hon. Baronet was entirely mistaken about the clause to which he referred, and which was numbered 27 and not 26, in the Appropriation Act. That clause was originally inserted in the Act long before either the hon. Baronet or himself had a seat in Parliament. The Act was discussed clause by clause, and the clause alluded to was unanimously adopted. It would be in the recollection of the Committee that last year's Estimates were taken in two separate Sessions, part before and part after the dissolution. The same tiling occurred in 1841, and as it was doubted whether the Estimates granted previously to the dissolution could be applied to the service of that year, a short Act was passed in the Christmas Session, declaring that the Votes of the two Sessions should be treated as applicable to the service of the entire year. The clause to which the hon. Baronet re- ferred was inserted in the Appropriation Act of last Session, to avoid the inconvenience experienced in 1841.


believed that the clause was a very mischievous one, He opposed it last Session, and would have insisted on a division if he had had any hope of success. He wished to see laid on the table a statement of every deviation from the Votes as they passed that House.


was anxious to prevent a false impression being made on the public mind by this discussion. In old times the whole of the naval vote was considered by the Government of the clay to be applicable to any purpose. That however was put an end to in 1S30 by Sir James Graham, who was First Lord of the Admiralty, who brought the subject before the House and induced them to effect a change. Hon. Gentlemen, however, must know perfectly well that it was altogether impossible to estimate accurately the expenditure under each head. If the House desired to prevent any surplus being applied to any purpose but that for which it was voted, it would be necessary for them to vote much larger sums under each head than the Government thought requisite at the time of proposing the Estimates. That would be a very inconvenient course; moreover, it was rendered unnecessary by the change effected by Sir James Graham, for by the Bill which he then brought in, the Board of Audit could revise the accounts under each head, and if any particular head fell short, then the Board was authorised by Act of Parliament to apply the surplus upon one Vote to the deficiency upon another, so that the whole sum should not exceed the whole sum voted for the naval service. As to the largo expenditure which had been complained of by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Williams) he did not propose to enter into that question now, but would be prepared to do so on a future occasion, when the House would find it was entirely justified by the extraordinary circumstances under which it was incurred.


said, that the clause to which he referred was much wider in its scope than the principle enunciated by the right hon. Baronet. The right hon. Baronet appeared to suppose that he had referred to the 27th clause, whereas he had directed his observations to the 26th clause of the Appropriation Act, under which any Vote of last year might be applied to such purposes as the Government might direct.


said, he must express his concurrence in the observations of the hon. and gallant Member for Christchurch (Admiral Walcott) as to the false economy pursued by this country for some years past, by which millions of money had been wasted. He contended that the naval department could never be efficiently conducted until the system of placing civilians in positions with which they could not possibly be conversant was done away with— until the Navy was, like the Army, administered by men of competent professional knowledge. He also contended that the principle of responsibility was not enforced against the Board of Admiralty. There was a total want of system in that department, and the responsibility was so divided that it was merely nominal. Another objection to the present system was the constant changing of the Lords of the Admiralty, occasioned by a change of Ministry; for no sooner had the civilians placed there begun to get conversant with the nature of their duties, than they had to go out to make room for fresh and inexperienced hands. he hoped the time would soon arrive when all these absurdities of the system would be abolished; and it would be a matter of astonishment that they were ever allowed to exist.


observed, that he had formerly thought that a naval man ought to be at the head of the Board; but experience had shown him that the important position of First Lord of the Admiralty was better filled by a civilian than it would be by a naval man, because the former would probably be able, as having no professional predilections, to take larger views than the latter. He by no means wished to decry professional experience, but the First Lord of the Admiralty at present was assisted by naval lords of great experience. There was one thing in the management of late Boards of the Admiralty which had frequently astonished him, and that was the non-employment of the magnificent screw-ships which formed part of the naval force of the country as guard-ships, instead of the inferior class of ships at present so employed. At Sheerness, Portsmouth, Plymouth, and other ports, the custom had been to have a flagship, but not a flagship of the first class; so that it often occurred that our finest vessels, the moment they were launched, were laid up in ordinary. Now, every practical man was aware that a ship deteriorated more when laid up in ordinary than when employed on active service; and, independently even of that consideration, he believed that the finest ships in the service ought to be employed as flagships at the various ports, to be prepared in case of any sudden emergency either for defensive operations or to go to sea. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty would take into consideration the suggestion which he had thrown out.


remarked, that he quite agreed with what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman who had last addressed the House, in reference to employing a better class of ships as guard-ships; but he could not help saying that, in his opinion, that branch of the naval administration of the country which related to the construction of ships was in a most anomalous condition. Ships for the Royal Navy were constructed without any reference to those principles of shipbuilding which obtained in the merchant service, and which were proved to be the sound principles for obtaining speed combined with safety. A class of frigates had only lately been constructed, of which he would take the Diadem as an example: that ship had cost an enormous sum of money in the endeavours to force her through the water, a thing which, from the appearance of her bows, it appeared almost impossible to effect; but at last, after an enormous expenditure of power, she was forced through the water at the rate of thirteen knots an hour. He considered that the plans of ships to be built ought to be submitted to a committee of practical men, and, even if they were laid before that House, there was enough practical experience in that House to prevent such blunders recurring as had already been committed. He believed that in the United States, where many a fine ship was built, the lines of all ships of war were laid on the table of Congress. He understood that a new frigate, the Orlando, was expected to prove much superior to her predecessors; but the experiment which had been required to arrive at her model, lengthening ships four or five feet at a time instead of fifty feet, had been most costly. For his own part, he did not think that the Board of Admiralty would ever be properly managed by a civilian, for no civilian could be expected to know anything about the matter, and under the guidance of civilians a sum of money had been wasted which would have sufficed to construct two navies.

Vote agreed to, as were also the following Votes:—

(3.) £450,000, on account, Victuals.

(4.) £70,000, on account, Admiralty Office.

(5.) £60,000, on account, Coast Guard Service.

(6.) 30,000, on account, Scientific Departments.

(7.) £70,000, on account, Naval Establishments at Home.

(8.) £10,000, on account, Naval Establishments Abroad.

(9.) £450,000 on account; Wages to Artificers, &c. at Home.


said, he would beg to urge upon the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Admiralty the propriety of giving to the artificers employed higher wages, as it was impossible to secure the services of the most efficient men without giving them an adequate remuneration.


observed, that he desired to impress the same view upon the right hon. Gentleman, and that riggers should be paid at the same rate as the ropemakers.


said, he wished to press upon the attention of the Government and of the Committee the propriety of raising the pay of the labourers in our dockyards from 13s. to 16s. per week. The pittance now paid to dockyard men was so miserably small, that they were utterly unable to support themselves and their families. Many of these men received but 13s. a week, whilst the rate of payment of artificers in several firms with respect to which he had made inquiries, was never lower than 18s. He had himself been in the habit of employing many men, and he never paid them less than 18s. a week. He would remind the House that large sums had been yearly voted for luxuries. A sum had been given for a park in Finsbury. Other large sums had been voted for pictures. He was as fond of pictures as any man in England; but he thought that before we spent money upon them, we ought adequately to remunerate our working men. Then, again, the House had given £40,000 to the Princess of Prussia. Surely, if they could afford to do that, they could afford to give a body of poor men whose services were so essential in maintaining the national honour "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." He had reason to believe that, had there lately been no change of Government an additional 3s. per week would have been granted to these hard working operatives; and he therefore appealed to the present Ministry, whether they would not fitly inaugurate their advent to power by doing an act of justice to an humble but deserving class? The men complained that they had been deprived of a superannuation pension of £15 per annum which they formerly enjoyed; and they asked why it was that they were the only class of Government employes to whom this advantage was denied? At present one or two Lords of the Admiralty walked round Woolwich Dockyard periodically, and picked out annually five or six, or at the most seven poor labourers broken down with ago and infirmities, and recommended them for a pension of £12 a year. But this was an entirely voluntary and spontaneous act, there being no regular system of superannuation on which the men could depend. It might he said that the measure he recommended would cost the nation £20,000 per annum; but he confidently believed that the public would not grudge such a sure to maintain those poor won and their families in comparative decency and comfort. Let them be just before they were generous. He had received letters from many working men, urging upon his attention the necessity for some measures being taken for ameliorating their condition. To whom were these poor fellows to appeal hut to the Government, and in their default to the House of Commons? He had put a notice of Motion on this subject upon the paper, and he regretted that owing to his Motion not being in order, it was not competent for him to divide the House on this subject; but he trusted that the appeal which he now made would be generously responded to.


said, he; doubted whether he should be able to give to the appeal addressed to him by the hon. Member for Greenwich an answer which the hon. Gentleman would regard as perfectly satisfactory. He could not, on the part of the Government, offer any distinct pledge that they would grant that application; and, as far as he could judge, the Members of the late Board of Admiralty were not less indisposed to make the proposed concession. He could only state that, from a sense of justice, he should be prepared to take the subject fairly into his consideration, and to do all that he could do in the matter consistently with a due regard for the public interest. But the question could be more fully discussed when the Estimates should be brought for- ward for detailed consideration, and he would remind the Committee that it was absolutely necessary they should that evening pass the Votes which had been submitted for their approval.


said, that the question raised by the hon. Member for Greenwich was merely a question of demand and supply, and it ought not to be settled either at the Admiralty or anywhere else on any other principles than those of sound political economy. The late Board had no intention even of considering the subject, and he hoped that a similar course would be followed by the present one. If the right hon. Baronet held out any hopes of an increase of wages, he would be overwhelmed with petitions from all the duck-yards. Indeed, he (Mr. Osborne) did not know, but he should then trouble the right hon. Gentleman with a representation of the claims of his own constituents at Dovor.


said, he could assure the hon. Member for Dovor that he had not intended to hold out any false hopes. His promise of consideration referred rather to the question of superannuation than to that of wages, and he had carefully guarded himself by intimating that in whatever he did, he must have regard to the interests of the public service. Now, he was afraid that if men could be obtained for 13s., it would he rather hard to prove that it was for the interest of the public service to pay them 16s.


said, he was quite ready to accept the inexorable law of supply and demand as laid down by the hon. Member for Dovor, if they were applied in all cases; but without disparaging the labours of the late Secretary of the Admiralty, he had no doubt that a person could have been found who would discharge the duties of that office, he would not say as well as they were discharged by the hon. Member for Dovor, but certainly for much lower wages. If the strict rules of political economy were not applied in the higher branches of Her Majesty's service, he did not see why they should be so rigidly enforced in the lower ones. He, however, believed there prevailed among the labourers in the national dockyards an amount of discontent which was not creditable to the country, and the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Board of Admiralty would earn a well-de-served popularity by honestly endeavouring to remove that evil.


said, the hon. Member for Dovor (Mr. B. Osborne) was mistaken in supposing that the late Board of Admiralty had refused to take any step in that matter, for the fact was that they had last year raised the wages of the Dockyard labourers from 12s. to 13s. a week. The rate of those wages, when they had been fixed some years ago, had been higher than the average amount of wages in the agricultural districts; hut the price of labour had since risen considerably in those districts, and it appeared to him to be desirable that a corresponding rise should take place in the payments made in our Dockyards.


remarked, that he thought that a great principle was involved in the question now before the House, for labour was to all intents and purposes a marketable commodity like everything else, and therefore this was essentially a question of demand and supply. He certainly regretted to hear that so much distress existed in the Dockyards; but how did it happen, he would ask, if there existed so great an amount of dissatisfaction, that persons were so anxious to get into the Dockyards? The effect of the Government raising the wages of labour in the Dockyards would be to raise them in private establishments in the same proportion; and the Government had no more right to entertain such representations than he would have to ask the House to fix the rate of wages for labour in the building-yards of the town which he represented.


said, there was no doubt but the payment of labour in the public departments ought in general to he regarded as a question of supply and demand. But under the present low scale of remuneration in the Dockyards, labourers entered those establishments for their own mere temporary accommodation; and it was for the Government to consider whether, under the constant changes which were thus taking place, they could expect to get their work performed in the most satisfactory manner. At present the Government Dockyards were considered only as the receptacle for inferior men when things were good outside; but, in his opinion, what the Government ought to consider was the rate of wages which would yield them a continual supply of the best labour.


said, he would admit that the Government could get plenty of men to enter their service for 13s. a week, but he feared, from their not acting as a good master would to a good servant, their workmen were not such as the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Lindsay) would employ in his yard. In addition to their low rate of wages, it should be recollected that the families of the Dockyard labourers were tied to certain spots where the local burdens, in consequence of the Government not contributing to the support of the poor, were excessively high. He would take another opportunity of referring to the subject.


said he should support the Vote, as his experience was in direct opposition to what had been stated by some hon. Members. The rate of wages had fallen considerably during the last few months; and if 13s. a week was deemed sufficient a year ago there was no reason for increasing it now.


said, he hoped the Committee would look with jealousy upon applications from the representatives of particular towns for an increase of wages among their constituents. It had been said that the Government paid 13s. a week, and did not get good work for it. Were they quite sure that they could improve the quality of the work merely by raising the rate of wages? It seemed to him that the difficulty lay deep in the nature of Government establishments. A labourer was apt to go into one of those establishments with very different sentiments and feelings from those with which he entered into the service of a private owner. When he went to serve a private individual he knew that he must stand upon his own merits, and that his work would fetch its real value, but no more. On the other hand, he obtained admission to a Government establishment generally by solicitation; the whole course of his ideas was dislocated, so to speak, by the manner in which he got there, and it was wrong to suppose that by merely raising the rate of wages we could secure a supply of good labour. How that difficulty was to be overcome he would not undertake to say; but he believed the wise and practical conclusion would be to have no Government establishments whatever for manufactures, except in cases where they were absolutely necessary. No Government could carry on manufactures except at a great disadvantage, and he trusted, without meaning the slightest reproach to hon. Members, whose duty it was to stand up manfully for the interests of their constituents, the House would receive with a jealousy proportioned to their fidelity and zeal the representations which they made in favour of increasing the wages of their local friends.


remarked, that he was also a representative of a dockyard borough, and he was sorry to say that he had often incurred no small degree of unpopularity by telling his constituents that the Members for dockyard towns did more harm than good by pressing for an increase of wages. He was not surprised that an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer had met the demand for such an increase by saying, "Dismiss all your dockyard labourers, and get the work done by private contract." Such, he was convinced, would be the result if the expense of the dockyards were very considerably augmented. At the same time he could not but enter his protest against what had fallen from those hon. Gentlemen who said that the work done in the Dockyards was badly done. He believed that the labourers in those establishments performed their duties as fairly as other labourers; and he would appeal to all the officers employed in them, whether they had not during the late war received the fullest support from the men under their charge?

Vote agreed to; as was also,

(10.) £20,000, on account, Wages to Artificers, &c, Abroad.

(11.) £600,000, on account, Naval Stores.


said, he believed that we were at present building the finest navy in the world; and he considered that the improvements which had of late years been introduced into that branch of the public service were beyond all praise; but there was one point to which he wished to direct the attention of the Government. It was a fact—a fact which the present Emperor of the French was one of the first to discover—that an iron-lined ship would resist shells, but a shell would blow a hole in the bottom of a wooden ship through which a man might drive a wheelbarrow. He wished the Government would make an experiment; but he believed it would be found that an iron-lined frigate of twenty guns, within musket-shot of a wooden three-decker, would totally destroy the three-decker, let her fire on the frigate how she might. He admitted that they had not yet got the means of preventing iron ships from fouling, but he hoped the Government would offer a reward for some invention that would enable them to send such a ship to sea without being obliged to dock her immediately on her return.

Vote agreed to; as were also the following:—

(12.) £250,000, on account, New Works and Repairs.

(13.) £20,000, on account, Medicines and Medical Stores.

(14.) £30,000, on account, Miscellaneous Services.

(15.) £300,000, on account, Half Pay.

(16.) £200,000, on account, Military Pensions.

(17.) £70,000, on account, Civil Pensions.

(18.) £250,000, on account, Freight.

(19.) £400,000, on account, Packet Service.