§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
moved an Amendment to the Question "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair."That, in conformity with the practice of Public Departments of laying before the House detailed Estimates for works costing above £1,000, it is desirable that a Statement in the following form, showing the proposed expenditure in the construction and conversion of Her Majesty's Ships be annually laid before this House with the Navy Estimates:—(form)He believed his Resolution was founded both in reason and good policy. If the rule that applied to all other public works were adopted with regard to the building ships of war, the country would not be liable to those periodical panics that now frightened the public from its propriety. There would therefore be nothing unusual so far as precedent went in such a rule as that which his Motion established. With respect to all other works, such as docks, warehouses, piers, &c, the Minister proposing their construction was obliged to tell the House of Commons what he proposed to do, and asked for the money to do it. The expenditure for great works of this kind was generally spread over several years, and the House of Commons had year by year an exact account of the sums expended, and to be expended on such works according to the form above mentioned, and were most wisely jealous of any tampering with those estimates and of any proposition for additional sums. If any additional votes of money were asked for on account of those works they were always met with some inquiry in the House; but if the works to be constructed were vessels of war the House knew nothing about them. In the present Navy Estimates more than £2,100,000 was asked for on account, they were told, of the cost of materials for shipbuilding; but they were not told whether it was to be used for building frigates, line-of-battle ships, or corvettes. They were asked for the gross sum, but they had no means of judging whether the money would be wisely laid out, or whether it had been wisely laid out in former years. He admitted that the First Lord of the Admiralty had this year to some extent broken through the old routine and reserve; he had actually taken the House of Commons into his confidence and told the House what he wanted to do; and consequently they were ready to vote him the money he required. But at the Admiralty they were all aghast at the innova- 40 tion; they could not believe there that the First Lord had told the House of Commons what he was going to build—what, in fact, he was going to do with the public money. The object of his Motion was simply to oblige—not the right hon. Gentleman, who, he believed would be quite ready to do it, but—his successors to adopt the same course, he wished to have it placed on record as a rule not to be broken through, that the House of Commons should have the same control over shipbuilding as over the construction of docks and barracks. The expense of those works could not always be estimated; their cost was liable to be increased by unforeseen circumstances—an irruption of water, or defective foundations. But the cost of ships of war could always he exactly calculated; and he wished the House to have, every year, a list of the ships the Admiralty had built in the past year, and of those it intended to build in the year following. If this Motion were accepted, he believed that such statements as the right hon. Gentleman (Sir John Pakington) made on a former night, and which had created such a painful sensation out of doors—namely, that after laying out £20,000,000 on a steam navy, simply for the construction of the ships, and exclusive of the cost of their engines and machinery, we were both in numbers and quality inferior to the French in line-of-battle ships, would be impossible. There was another reason, and a very strong one, that induced him to propose this Resolution. There had been a system of extravagant expenditure pursued by the shipbuilding department of the Admiralty, which, he maintained, ought to be thoroughly looked into. In the statement he was about to make the figures he should have to quote to the House really appalled him. If the right hon. Gentleman could correct or controvert them no one would be more pleased than himself he had last year brought this subject under the attention of the House during the discussion of the Navy Estimates; and the Government was then asked why it did not furnish some detailed statement of this expenditure for its own credit he had looked with some anxiety for this year's Estimates, hoping that the right hon. Gentleman, in deference to the opinion of several Members who spoke last year, would have given some little information in those Estimates as to what ships he was going to build. He had looked carefully through the estimates, and only in vote No. 10 41 could he see anything thing to show what the Admiralty was building. The only item for ships in course of construction was for two dredging machines and some mud barges; that was all there was to show what was being done for £2,000,000 of money. This really looked like a bitter pleasantry on the part of the First Lord. He had been requested by many Gentlemen last year to go into an examination of the expenditure under this head, and he had done so during the recess. He had taken the expenditure of four years, and had gone through the dockyards to see what the public had got for its money, with the view of calling the attention of the House to the subject. But since the meeting of Parliament the right hon. Gentleman the Member fur Halifax (Sir C. Wood) had moved for a return of the number of steam vessels added to the navy since 1848, or during a period of eleven years; and he had in consequence carried his inquiries back to that period which he would now present to the House. The result from this return was that we had during those eleven years built in the dockyards 24 line-of-battle ships, 21 frigates, 35 corvettes and sloops, I floating battery, 2 gun vessels, 14 gunboats, 2 tenders, and 1 yacht. During the same period we had converted from sailing ships to screw-steamers 9 line-of-battle ships, 7 blockships, 4 mortar ships, and 1 troop and store-ship. During the same period we had also purchased a great many vessels; but that did not affect the present inquiry. By the courtesy of the First Lord of the Admiralty he had obtained from the Surveyor's-office a statement of the cost of building these vessels. The line of-battle ships were as to cost divided into two classes, represented by the Duke of Wellington, which cost for the hull, £106,291, masts, yards, rigging, sails, and stores, £19,224; total, £125,515; (this was exclusive of the engines; and he begged the House to bear in mind that on both debtor and creditor side he entirely avoided any allusion to engines); and the Agamemnon, which cost for hull, masts, and yards, £106,000. Taking the mean between these two sums (which was rather favourable to the Admiralty)—namely, £116,000 the cost of the 24 line-of-battle ships would be £2,784,000. of the frigates, the Shannon cost £91,000. There had been twenty-one ships built called frigates, most of which were much smaller than this vessel; 42 but as the Mersey, Orlando, and one or two others were larger, he had taken the cost of all at that amount, which would make the expenditure upon frigates £1,911,000. Of corvettes, the Surveyor reported that there were three classes, the Pearl class, the Harrier class, and the Swallow class. The Pearl cost £46,850; and it was worthy the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty that, while that ship cost that sum for labour and materials alone, exclusive of the charge for plant and stock, a similar ship with the same scantling, only longer in the bow, of 1,524 tons builder's measurement, and surveyed by the surveying officers of Lloyds', was built for the Portuguese Government for £40,624. The 35 corvettes were built at a cost of £1,050,000; the floating battery, the iron plates for which were taken from the vessel which was burned in Mr. Scott Russell's yard, £30,000. (this amount he got, not from the Surveyor of the Navy, but from a private yard where one of these vessels was built); two gun vessels, £26,000 each, £52,000; 14 gun-boats, £8,000 each, taking the mean cost of the different classes, £112,000; two tenders, £2,000 each; and one yacht, the Victoria and Albert, £50,000—£54,000. The whole amount paid for building during the eleven years was therefore £5,993,000, or in round numbers, £6,000,000. He now came to the conversions. During the eleven years we had converted in the dockyards 9 ships of the line, 7 block-ships, 1 troopship, and mortar-ships, making a total of 21 ships. The right hon. Baronet stated the oilier evening that the cost of converting these ships ranged from £10,000 to £40,000. he (Lord C. Paget) had taken the average at £30,000, which he believed was much above the real cost, but which he intended to include masts, yards, and sails. That gave a total for the 21 ships of £630,000. He now approached a part of the subject in which he was sure that no practical commercial man would have any difficulty in following him; but which perhaps the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Admiralty, not being a practical sailor, might not so well understand—namely, the cost of the maintenance of ships during this period of eleven years; he could, however, assure the right hon. Baronet, that he had not arrived at the results which he was about to state to the House without consulting practical men both in the Government dockyards and in private establishments. He was ashamed to trouble the 43 House with so statistical a statement, but be was convinced that unless they once for all went into details upon this subject, some day or other there would be a catastrophe. The House of Commons and the country would willingly give to the Government any amount of money which might be required, if it could only be assured that it was spent with economy; but it was right to look into these matters, and require the Government to give them a proper debtor and creditor statement. In arriving at the cost of ships in commission, he had been obliged to revert to the system of average. He lad obtained from the Admiralty a list of the ships in commission on the 1st of January, 1848, 1st of January, 1855 (at the height of the war), and 1st of January, 1859. The fine-of-battle ships in commission were, in 1848, 17; in 1855, 35; and in 1859, 25; the block-ships in 1848, 1; in 1855, 4; and in 1859, 9; making the total number of line-of-battle ships (because he wished rather to err for than against the Admiralty, and would therefore count all these vessels as of that class) in 1848, 18; in 1855, 39; and in 1859, 34. The mean of these numbers was 30, and that he had taken as the average number of line-of-battle ships in commission. The question was the percentage of wear and tear which occurred to one of Her Majesty's ships when in commission. Upon that point there would necessarily be some difference of opinion; he had, however, consulted men who had nothing to do with the Admiralty, and also men who had a great deal to do with it, and he believed he was as near the truth as possible when he stated that wear and tearat6 percent. The mean number of line-of-battle ships in commission during the last eleven years was 30; the average cost of each ship was £116,000, and 6 per tent on this would be about £7,000, which would represent the annual wear and tear of each of the 30 line-of-battle ships. This was exclusive altogether of the machinery, for the subject was so great that to mix up the inquiry into those two heads would be to spoil the inquiry in both. If he met with any encouragement from the House he would undertake to investigate into the steam department, where things were much worse he believed, than in the shipwrights' department. Allowing 6 per cent for wear and tear for eleven years, £7,000 each for 30 line-of-battle ships gave a result of £2,310,000. The mean number of frigates during the eleven years was 18. The mean cost of frigates he had suited us 44 £91,000; and taking the wear and tear at £5,400each,the total would be £l,089,000. Of corvettes and other vessels of the smaller classes, the mean number was 192, and the wear and tear of them in the eleven years at 6 per cent per annum was £2,530,000, making a total of wear and tear of the 240 ships in commission of all classes during these eleven years of £5,929,000. We had now about 500 old ships in ordinary—the sooner we got rid of them the better; but there they were, and cost something each every year, say £100, which would give £550,000 for the eleven years. This gave a grand total of building, converting, and maintaining ships for the eleven years of £13,102,000. This document he had shown to a great many people, in order that any errors in it might be set right; for it was his desire that a perfectly faithful statement might be laid before the public. The only point which had been suggested to him was, that there might now be an excess of stores over the year 1848, which might amount, perhaps, to £300,000. However, he had allowed £500,000 on that head, and £400,000 for sailing ships which might have been built in this time, making a total of £14,000,000 in round numbers for the eleven years. That was the creditor side, and now for the debtor side. The money which had been voted by Parliament during that time to build and maintain these ships was contained in Votes 8, 9, and 10; at least, he only took these Votes, because he wished only to reckon the material and of the labour employed on it; but he was bound to say that in a commercial point of view these figures were false, for in stating what a ship cost the country, you must take into consideration the cost of the plant and the cost of superintendence, the cost of the master shipwrights, master blacksmiths, master ropemakers, &c. These he had excluded, and taken only the mere cost of the labour to work up the materials, and the cost of the materials. Vote 8 comprised a large number of items, wages of artificers, labourers, &c, employed in Her Majesty's establishments at home. He would take the shipbuilding branch only, exclusive of labour in the steam factories, medical and victualling departments, &c, and for eleven years he found that they had taken for Vote 8, £6,968,844. That was what they had paid for labour. Vote 9 was for artificers and labourers employed in the dockyards in the colonies in repairing ships, with the same exclusions. It amounted in the 45 eleven years to £389,752. Vote 10 was for the purchase of timber, masts, deals, and other stores; and he had excluded the purchase of coal, the purchase and repair of steam machinery, and the cost of building a yacht for the emperor of Japan. The only information as to ship-building which he could get from these Votes for the eleven years was that we had built a yacht for the Emperor of Japan. Vote 10 for eleven years was £10,180,194. Besides this, during the last four years there had been expended a large sum for what was called "an excess." What that was for he had never yet discovered; but the excess for the four years amounted to £1,861,154. He was not at all disposed to aver that that sum was wholly on account of shipbuilding, for part, of it had no doubt been for coals, steam machinery, &c., though it was not mentioned to what the "excess" was applicable. From these figures they derived a grand total of expenditure of £19,399,944. This constituted the debtor side. In round numbers the figures on one side of the account were £19,000,000, and on the other £14,000,000, leaving a deficit, or discrepancy, or whatever they pleased to call it, of £5,000,000. This was a very serious matter. The House would permit him at once to state, upon his honour, that he had no notion that there had been any malversation—far from it;—he was personally acquainted with all the officers of the dockyards, and he knew them to be good, honest, and zealous servants, and he hoped it would be clearly understood that he had no intention whatever of imputing anything improper to them. He had no intention of attacking any individual whatever; he attacked the system. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to correct these figures; but, at all events, what he had adverted to showed the miserable system we went on. Were they to be left in utter darkness on these matters, and was all the world to be informed that after spending millions on millions upon the navy that we were unfit to cope with other maritime nations? He was bound to say that he did not share in the alarm, and he was bound! also to say that although the right hon. Gentleman's statement was the truth, and nothing but the truth, it was not the whole truth. He hoped that he made that statement without offence. What he meant was, that it was a very able statement to make out his case, first to attack the right hon. Gentleman who preceded him in office, and 46 secondly, to induce the House to grant a large sum of money to increase our line-of-battle ships, but he must say it also tended to create an alarm which he for one did not share. The First Lord for example, did not tell the House of an admirable class of vessels in which we possessed an immense superiority over the French—a superiority measured, according to the right hon. Member for Halifax (Sir Charles Wood), by 200 excellent small ships. He was not going to enter into a discussion upon the comparative merits of line-of-battle ships and gun-boats. But if he had a large sum of money to lay out he would prefer, not gun-boats exclusively, but certainly small vessels. However, without stopping to discuss that point, be would proceed to state how he could account for a considerable part of the enormous sum which he had mentioned bad been spent, how it was we had got so little to show for it, and how it happened that after an expenditure of £19,000,000 we had a fleet which, according to the First Lord, required "reconstruction." Much of the money had, in his opinion, been spent in reckless and extravagant alterations, both in building and in fitments. He did not think the House had the smallest notion of what had been going on in our dockyards in the way of tinkering vessels, amputating them, performing all sorts of surgical operations upon them. They had their heads cut off, they had their tails cut off, they were sawn asunder, they were maltreated in every possible way. Ships built ten years ago by Sir William Symonds were not in fashion at the present day, and nobody could blame the Admiralty for lengthening and altering them, because, as originally constructed, they were not now fit to go to sea; but he wished to speak of the reckless alteration of new ships. Their name was legion; almost every ship was altered; there was scarcely one that had not undergone some frightful operation some time or oilier. Take the case of a three-decker, the Howe, 121 guns. She was laid down only last year or the winter before, but the dockyard people were now pulling her down to put a new bow upon, her. Had any great improvement been made in the bows of ships within the last two years? Nothing of the kind had taken place that he knew of. Another case was. that of the Immortalité, a 51-gun frigate, now being built at Pembroke. That unfortunate ship had gone through a great deal of trouble. She was first of all 47 lengthened amidships. Last year, orders went down from the Admiralty to lengthen her five feet by the bow. Certain parties—he did not know who, but he had no doubt persons at Pembroke—thought that to lengthen a frigate five feet by the bow would be to make an imperceptible alteration, and would have no effect whatever. We lengthened yachts fourteen or twenty feet by the bow. But the authorities were inexorable, their orders were reiterated, and the poor ship was lengthened five feet by the bow. The result was, as might be naturally supposed, that either the First Lord himself, with his fine nautical eye, or some other member of the Admiralty Board, saw upon visiting her that she was not fit to go to sea, and ordered her to be pulled down again and lengthened fifteen feet. Such instances of official blundering would be amusing if they were not so costly. The Orlando,the Mersey, and, indeed, al-most all that class of ships, had been more or less treated in a similar manner; but, not to detain the House, he would now ask their attention to a case which was almost incredible. Some time ago a frigate, the San Fiorenzo, was being built either at Deptford or Woolwich. She was a great favourite with the London folks, who used to visit her in large numbers, and a beautiful model she was. [Sir JOHN PAKINGTON: Where is she now?] The First Lord asked where she was now. Echo answered where. Why, she had vanished into thin air—gone, he hoped, to another and a better world. Vessels of the Lyra, and Racer class began life at 450 tons, but their tonnage grew with their growth until they arrived at 750 tons, when they were launched. Was not that a reckless expenditure of money? The fact was that scarcely a ship went to sea without costing more than the sum fixed by the original estimate. His object by his present Motion was to put an end to so extravagant a system. If his Motion were carried, the Admiralty would no longer
|Name of ship.||Tonnage.||Horse Power.||Total Estimated Cost.||Amount already Voted.||Gross Sum already Expended.||Amount proposed 1859–60.||Further Amount required to complete.||Remarks &c.|
§ instead thereof.48
§ have the power to poll a ship down without their intention becoming known to that House. If they could show a good case every Gentleman would be ready to vote the money; but this reckless expenditure they would have the means of stopping. Nothing could have induced him to submit such a Resolution if he had thought or suspected that it would impair the efficiency of the service; but he had no such fear:—his object was to introduce economy, and without economy there could be no true efficiency. If he was right or anything like right in his figures, there was an unnecessary expenditure of £5,000,000 of money, and what did that sum represent in ships. The cost of a line-of-battle ship with engines, coals, and provisions on board, was a little short of £250,000, and if they took the cost at £200,000, we ought to have, in addition to our present vessels, 22 line-of-battle ships, with engines and all complete, ready for sea. The Royal Commission on Manning the Navy proposed that they should have a large reserve at a cost of something like £500,000 a year, and they had the money for that reserve if something like economy were introduced. They had heard a great deal lately about reconstruction, and he was fast coming round to the opinion of the hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) and the gallant Admiral the Member for Southwark (Sir Charles Napier) that they wanted a little reconstruction at the Admiralty. The noble Lord then proposed his Amendment. MB. W. S. LINDSAY seconded the Motion.
To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words ' in conformity with the practice of the Public Departments of laying before the House detailed Estimates for works costing above one thousand pounds, it is desirable that a Statement, in the following form, showing the proposed expenditure in the construction and conversion of Her Majesty's Ships, be annually laid before this House, with the Navy Estimates:—
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
I am sure that every one who has listened to the speech of the noble and gallant Lord, must appreciate the difficult task which I have to perform in answering it, inasmuch as it consisted throughout of details of the most minute character. Let me do the noble Lord at the outset the justice to say that he has addressed the House both with that ability and in that tone of moderation which he has shown on many former occasions. I am also perfectly confident that the object of my noble and gallant Friend is most patriotic. I entirely accept his statement at the close of his speech that his object is solely the benefit of the service. But recognizing the spirit of the noble and gallant Officer to this extent, I must add that I have heard this speech with the deepest regret, and that my belief is, that had he wished to do injury to the public service instead of to promote it, he could not have taken a surer mode than by the speech which he has just addressed to us. I assure hon. Gentlemen that I intend to meet the speech of the noble Lord as fairly as I can, and I will presently give reasons for the opinions which I have just stated. This is no ordinary moment with regard to the affairs of our navy. I stated the other night, with a fairness and candour which has been recognized by the noble Lord, as I felt it my bounden duty to state openly, the exact position in which our navy actually is. I told the House in what respects our navy had become inferior to the navies of other neighbouring countries. I pointed out the duty of Her Majesty's Government to ask Parliament and the nation to face that state of things and to grant an unusual sum of money to redress that inferiority and to restore our supremacy. My noble and gallant Friend now comes and makes a speech which, if it has any effect at all with the world, can only have the effect of shaking all confidence in the shipbuilding department of the Admiralty, and making the public believe that at a moment of great importance, when we are bound to make a great effort, those by whom alone this effort can be made are not to be trusted with the expenditure of the money which Parliament grants. [Lord C. PAGET: I did not say that.] I do not say that the noble and gallant Lord said it, but that is in the inevitable result of the speech which he has made. He told us that he was not making any attack; but, from the beginning to the end, his speech can only be rightly characterized 50 as one of the severest attacks on the shipbuilding department of the Admiralty which any man could possibly deliver against any public department. The obvious tendency of the speech was such that, instead of moving the future adoption of a particular form of the Estimates, I submit to the noble Lord that he ought rather to have concluded with a Resolution that Sir Baldwin Walker and the shipbuilding department of the navy are unworthy of public confidence. I submit to the House gravely that that is the Motion he ought to have made. And let me remind the House of a point that in fairness bears materially on the question, that as regards the subject matter of the noble Lord's speech I am wholly unconnected with it. It does not touch upon anything that can have taken place during the twelve months that I have been in office. I appeal to the House as regards my sense of partiality. I am not the champion, and on no grounds am I called upon, excepting from a sense of justice, to be the champion of the system. The results alluded to by the noble Lord occurred when the right hon. Gentleman who preceded me (Sir Charles Wood) was First Lord of the Admiralty, and when the right hon. Member for Carhsle (Sir James Graham) was in office, and during whose time these evils, if they exist, must have arisen, and not from anything that I have done during the last twelve months, and regarding which I am perfectly prepared to give the best and fullest explanation. It is clear that the censure of my noble Friend, and his intimation of want of confidence, applies to a state of things long before I had anything to do with the Admiralty. My noble Friend says that he wants to see something like decent economy. I may be allowed, in connection with this Motion, and another for to-night for referring the Navy Estimates to a Select Committee, to state how far I have endeavoured, since I have been at the Admiralty, to promote the observance of a decent economy, and what, in that view, I propose to do for the future. I stated to the House last year that I intended to appoint a Committee to investigate the state of the steamships. I stated the other night that I had appointed such a Committee, and that they had reported. I also stated that I had appointed a Committee to inquire into the dockyard expenditure with the view of seeing that the public money was spent with the greatest advantage, and that the public had full 51 value for their money. I told the House at that time that the Dockyard Committee had not yet presented their Report, nor have I received that Report, but I am daily expecting it; and what I wish to state to the House now is, that as soon as that Report is in my possession it is my intention to lay it and the Report of the Steamships Committee on the table of the House for their information. I am bound to add that Sir Baldwin Walker has been called upon to submit a reply to the Steamships Committee, and it is only an act of justice, also, to give that answer with the Report. There is another step which Her Majesty's Government have taken. Impressed with a deep sense of our responsibility in the proposals which it became my duty to submit for the increase of the navy, and impressed also with the conviction that the House had a right to expect the fullest possible explanation of the rapid increase during late years of the expenditure for the navy, Her Majesty's Government thought it desirable in the early part of the winter to appoint a confidential Committee, consisting of certain Members of the Government, in order to investigate what were the causes of that great increase. The years selected for examination were the financial year, 1852–3, and the now current financial year, 1858–9. The inquiry was intrusted to four most competent persons. The first was my right hon. Friend the Secretary of the Admiralty (Mr. Corry), and I cannot revert to the part which he took without recording my gratitude and my sense of the great zeal and extraordinary ability with which he has assisted me in my arduous duties at the Admiralty. Another member of that Committee, whoso name is enough to prove his efficiency, was the present Accountant General of the Navy—Sir Richard Bromley. The other two Members were Mr. W. G. Anderson, and Mr. George Hamilton, of the Treasury. Those four gentlemen went thoroughly into the question as to the cause of the increase of expenditure, and the other causes which made it the duty of the Government to propose to Parliament a large increase of the navy. The House will understand that there are portions of that Report which it will not be my duty to submit to Parliament; but every part of it which relates to financial matters and the increase of expenditure in the Navy, it is my intention to lay on the table for the further information of the House. I shall therefore within a few days submit 52 to Parliament the Report of this confidential Committee, so far as the finances are concerned, together with the Reports of the Committees on the Steam Navy and Dockyards. I hope this statement will convince the House and my noble and gallant Friend that on the part of Her Majesty's Government there is no desire to evade the duty which rests on them to promote to the utmost judicious economy. Then my noble and gallant Friend talks of the extravagant expenditure of the shipbuilding department of the Admiralty. Now, I cannot help saying that, looking to the inevitable tendency of his speech, it is very much to be regretted that the noble and gallant Officer should make any statements to this House of such a nature without having gone into those statements in such a manner as to satisfy himself of their certain accuracy. Those statements were calculated to shake public confidence. Now, to shake public confidence unnecessarily is a great misfortune. [Sir CHARLES NAPIER: NO, no!] If the noble and gallant Officer would listen to me he would not seriously dispute that assertion. To shake public confidence unnecessarily is a great public mistake and misfortune That is my proposition, and I think he will be willing to concede it. It is my firm belief—of course I speak under correction—that my noble and gallant Friend has not taken the pains that he ought to have done to verify his assertions, and that, perhaps from inability to obtain better information, his statements cannot in substance and in fact be borne out. The noble and gallant officer took a period of eleven years, and he lumped together a number of line-of-battle ships, a number of frigates and a number of corvettes, and then assumed the cost of each, taking the cost of the Duke of Wellington and the Agamemnon as the standard of cost for the whole.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
begged to explain that he had taken the mean of the two classes of line-of-battle ships as the cost of a line-of-battle ship, and that he had estimated the frigates and corvettes in the same way.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
Precisely; and my belief is that, in calculating in this way the noble Lord inevitably arrives at an erroneous conclusion. The other day I took three 50-gun frigates, of which the Shannon was one, built at three different periods of ten years. The first cost £5,000, the second £71,000, and the third between £90,000 and £100,000 53 This shows that in dealing with figures of the cost of shipbuilding it is very clangorous to take a mean. I believe that varying in cost as ships do according to their size and scantling, it is necessary to ascertain the cost ship by ship, and not to take so fallacious an estimate as the mean cost. The noble and gallant officer assumed the mean number of line-of-battle ships to be thirty. That was the number during the Russian war; but the number at that time was much greater than at any other, because after the war many were paid off. In a case where accuracy is essential it cannot he arrived at by assuming the number in this way. Then, my noble and gallant Friend arrived at the conclusion that the total cost of building ships during eleven years had been £6,000,000. The whole cost of building, converting, and maintaining ships, during eleven ye us, my noble and gallant Friend estimated at £13,000,000, or, with excess of stores and contingencies, £14,000,000. But has my hon. and gallant Friend in his calculation excluded machinery? [Lord C. PAGET: Yes.] If I rightly understand the noble Lord, although he may have excluded machinery in his estimate of £14,000,000, he has not deducted the cost of machinery from his estimate of stores. [Lord C. PAGET: I excluded machinery on both sides.] The noble Lord also went into a detailed statement of the cost of stores and the cost of labour and materials; bringing up the whole to £19,000,000, and then showing that there was a deficiency of £5,000,000. The noble Lord then told the House that this deficiency of £5,000,000 had been spent in reckless extravagance. If such a statement is not true—and I have the firmest belief that it is not true—or even if it cannot be substantiated, it ought never to have been made. I think that it is a very harsh charge, and that it does not rest on proof. I will not follow the noble Lord through the eleven years; but, as he told me the nature of the observations he intended to make, I thought it my duty to communicate with Sir Baldwin Walker, the Surveyor General of the Navy—[Lord C. PAGET: I said nothing against individuals]—and I hold in my hand some figures which do not travel over eleven years, but which accurately give the expenditure of the years between 1852–3 and 1857–8. I have here the cost of ship-building, converting ships, steam-machinery, repairing, fitting for sea, and in commission, troopships, yachts, tenders, &c, fitting for 54 steam ordinary, maintaining in ordinary, hulks, taking ships to pieces, and incidental expenses. The greatest items are shipbuilding, steam-machinery, and the third, the heaviest item of all, to which the noble and gallant Officer never alluded, is the labour devoted to fitting ships for sea, and the cost incurred upon them in commission. The aggregate for the six years is £12,286,517. The item for ship-building is £2,821,406. The cost of steam machinery is £3,423,023. The expenditure under the head "fitting for sea and commission," during these six years, was £3,825,922. So that the heaviest item of the whole my noble and gallant Friend took no account of, and this runs away with the greatest portion of the labour and outlay of our dockyards. The theory of our dockyard expenditure is, that you can launch every year three line of-battle-ships, three frigates, six sloops, and smaller vessels. The rest of dockyard labour is devoted to fitting ships and accidental expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Sir C. Wood) knows that during the time he held office at the Admiralty immense sums were spent upon these accidental expenses, to which the noble Lord hardly adverted at all. The noble Lord said that, in my speech on bringing forward the Navy Estimates, I attacked my predecessor, and omitted alt reference to the smaller vessels which he had constructed. I know that my noble and gallant Friend was prevented from being in his place on that occasion; but, if he had read what I said, he would have found that both accusations are unjust. I said,—It will be seen that during the time that that right hon. Gentleman was at the Board of Admiralty considerable additions of the smaller vessels were made, such as corvettes, sloops, and, above all, gun-boats. I am not sure whether the addition of gun-boats had not commenced in the time of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle; but our present gun-boats were chiefly added by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Halifax, and I do not think a more valuable addition has ever been made to the navy than those gunboats.I hope that, after reading that passage, the noble Lord will acknowledge that he was not justified in saying" that I had not done justice to my predecessor, and that I had not made reference to the small vessels. On the contrary, I fully admitted, whatever might be our position with regard to large vessels, our position with regard to small vessels was very satisfactory. I have endeavoured to follow the noble Lord 55 through his statement, and I hope that by the paper to which I have referred, and which I shall be happy to hand the noble Lord, and by the information which I have received from the Surveyor General, I have showed that, so far as the six years are concerned, there is no deficiency whatever. And in the same way I hope I shall be able to show that, instead of there being a balance of £5,000,000 unaccounted for, there is no balance whatever unaccounted for. Then, the noble Lord spoke of reckless expenditure. With respect to the San Fiorenzo frigate, I can make no answer, for I never heard of her before, and the noble Lord says she has gone to some better place. He has the advantage of me there. I really know nothing about her. However, of the Immortalité, I have heard. She was lengthened in the bows. I am not bound to defend everything done by the Admiralty during the last eleven years, or to explain any mistake in ship-building which the Department has at any time made; but this I may say, that the change in naval architecture in consequence of the introduction of steam-power has been very apparent of late years. It takes several years to complete a ship, and if the Surveyor of the Navy finds, in consequence of the more advanced state of science, that he can, while she is still in progress of construction, improve the sailing power of a vessel, alter its lines for the better, and give it finer bows, it is his duty to do so, and the duty of the Board of Admiralty to sanction the alteration. How is it that we have acquired our great naval superiority and reputation? Has it not been from the spirit and liberality with which at all times Parliament has voted whatever money has been necessary to effect and carry out these improvements? The noble Lord has made charges of a grave and painful application to those who have to bear them. I am not the man who has to bear them, and therefore I can speak impartially. The noble Lord has spoken of reckless extravagance. I believe that such a change is not just, and that the noble Lord will regret the language he has used. Those who are responsible for the efficiency of the British Navy ought not to be blamed for making changes rendered necessary by circumstances, and groundless fears, if excited, have only a tendency to paralyze the hands of those who are endeavouring to make our ships efficient, and to prevent them from carrying out improvements. Then comes the question whether the Motion of 56 the noble Lord will really cure the evil of which he complains. My deliberate opinion is, that it will not. The noble Lord says that if the form he prescribes were once adopted, there would no longer exist the power to indulge in all this expense. I do not believe that the adoption of that form would have the slightest effect whatever in preventing any such expenditure as the noble Lord has adverted to, if it were desirable that that expenditure should be made. Indeed, I should be sorry if the effect of the present Motion were to prevent any expenditure for the improvement of our ships. But my first objection to the Motion is, that it would only tend to delude the House. The noble Lord requires that on the commencement of the building of any ships we should give the names of the ships, the tonnage, and a great many other particulars, and the noble Lord says that thereby the House would know what at the end of each year would be accomplished. Now, I gave proof to the House, in my statement the other evening, that for ten years previously the plans of the Admiralty had never been carried out. And why? Not because there had not been a bonâ fide intention to carry them out, but because, on account of the exigencies of the public service, the labour had been diverted to other objects. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Halifax will correct me if I am wrong, but I refer to the year 1855 or 1856, as affording a remarkable instance of this fact. At that period, in consequence of the pressure of the Russian war, the labour of the dockyards, instead of being devoted to the construction and preparation of line-of-battle ships and frigates, was devoted to the preparation of smaller vessels adapted to the peculiar nature of that war. The current year affords another remarkable instance of the same kind. Supposing I had come down with a form such as the noble Lord has suggested, to give the House a notice of what was to be done during the year. Why, no such programme as I could have produced would have been carried out. And why? Because in the month of August, owing to what we discovered with respect to the navies of other Powers, we diverted the labour of the dockyards from all the objects to which, under this form, they would have been devoted, and gave the whole strength to ships of the line. My opinion is that the House should look, not to a form, but to the responsible Naval Minister of the Crown in all such matters. That would 57 be a much better plan than tying down the hands of the Admiralty by such a form as that proposed. If there is to be a form of this kind, lot it be a retrospective one. Let it state what has been done during the year, not what it is intended to do in the year to come. I hope, then, the noble Lord will not press the adoption of this particular form. I think I should not promote the public service by accepting it, but I shall be happy to concur with the noble Lord in concerting the best mode of carrying out the object which we hold in common. My object has been to do justice to a Department of the public service to which I think the noble Lord, though unintentionally, has not acted impartially or justly. I believe he will find that the charge of reckless extravagance cannot be sustained—that it is, in fact, utterly unfounded. I hope I have been so far successful as to show the House that reckless expenditure cannot be fairly urged against that Department; and if the noble Lord will only look to this paper, to which I shall be willing to give publicity, I think he will agree with me that the charge falls to the ground.
§ SIR CHARLES NAPIER
said, he could not agree with the first Lord of the Admiralty that the speech of the noble Lord had done much to shake public confidence, on the contrary he thought it would establish public confidence. The right hon. Baronet suggested that the noble Lord, instead of moving the present Resolution should have made a Motion for the removal of Sir Baldwin Walker from the office of Surveyor of the Navy. He believed the noble Lord had no intention whatever of attacking Sir Baldwin Walker, but that officer must not be held responsible for what was done, for he had no power; he was not allowed to do what he pleased; the Admiralty decided what should be done. The Board of Admiralty was the source of the evil, and he (Sir C. Napier) thought that instead of the noble Lord moving for the dismissal of Sir Baldwin Walker, he ought to have moved for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the construction of the Admiralty. How was it possible that the naval department could be efficiently conducted when upon every change of Ministry the First Lord of the Admiralty, and generally all the other Lords, were replaced by new men? He believed this was the cause of all the waste and extravagance that existed. It was impossible with new Lords constantly 58 coming into office to have anything like harmony in the business of the department or economy in the expenditure, for every new First Lord came in with fresh crotchets and generally made changes turning everything topsy-turvy. Some doubt had been thrown upon the accuracy of the figures quoted by the noble Lord; but he (Sir C. Napier) found from papers in his possession that the cost of the Queen was £101,462 and his noble Friend bad stated that the cost of the Duke of Wellington was £125,000. When it was remembered that the Duke of Wellington was a much larger ship than the Queen, he thought it must be evident that his noble Friend's calculations were pretty accurate. In his opinion, the greatest evils arose from the constant changes at the Admiralty. It very rarely happened that the same Lords were in office for more than two or three years, and their successors brought with them new subordinates, whose notions were widely different from those of the officers who had preceded them. He complained of the system of altering and lengthening ships which had been partially completed. Such a system led to wasteful expenditure, and had been strongly condemned by Lord Auckland, who held that when a ship was begun they ought to finish her and any improvement should be tried on the next new ship. He could mention the ease of one ship whose magazines had been altered no less than nine times, and it was thus that the enormous expenditure complained of was incurred. He thought the noble Lord did not deserve the censure of the First Lord of the Admiralty, for he merely asked that before new estimates were proposed an account should be given by the First Lord of the outlay of the money previously voted. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir John Pakington) had given such an account, but it was the first account of the kind that had been given in that House, and might have been very considerably extended. If the right hon. Gentleman remained in office—he (Sir C. Napier) did not mean to say he hoped he would, nor would he say he hoped he wouldn't—he thought he might get on tolerably well,—indeed, as well as could possibly be expected for one who knew nothing whatever about ship building or naval affairs in any way whatever. Unless, however, the present constitution of the Admiralty was entirely changed it would be impossible to avoid enormous and wasteful expenditure of the public money. He (Sir C. Napier) 59 believed that a great improvement would be effected if the principal officers of the navy, the Surveyor and the Superintendents of the Victualling Department, of Stores, and of the Medical Department, were permanent officers, with full authority, but responsible for the efficiency of their respective departments. He thought his noble Friend deserved the thanks of the House for the manner in which he had brought this subject before them, and, whether his suggestions were adopted by the Admiralty or not, his statement could not fail to produce some good effects.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
said, he felt sure the House had listened with interest to the able statement of the noble Lord; but, whatever gratitude might be due to him, he thought the House would pause before expressing that gratitude to do justice to an absent man. It was all very well for the noble Lord to say that he attacked the system and not the men; but, having taken a period of eleven years, he contended that during that time there had been what he called a deficit of £5,000,000 in the expenditure of the Admiralty. Now, it so happened that during those eleven years, the only permanent officer of the Admiralty had been the Surveyor of the Navy, Sir Baldwin Walker, who must naturally think that this was an attack upon him. Sir Baldwin Walker had been created a baronet and a K.C.B. for his eminent services, and he would, no doubt, read with considerable astonishment to-morrow morning, that he was charged with having created in that Department, over which he had presided, in his (Mr. Osborne's) opinion, with so much credit and ability to himself, a deficiency of £5,000,000. He (Mr. Osborne) thought all who had listened to the noble Lord, however they might have been gratified by the lucidity of his statement, must have been astonished at the lame and impotent conclusion of his Motion. After maintaining that the system was so bad, so profligate, so rotten, that there had been a deficit of £5,000,000, for what did he ask? for a tabular statement of the ships built every year! If the noble Lord believed in the allegations he had made, he was hound not to stop there, but to call for a Select Committee to inquire into the whole administration of the Admiralty. If the Admiralty was so corrupt, and the Surveyor of the Navy so unfit to be trusted in the discharge of his duties, he repeated that the noble Lord was bound not to stop there, but to move for a Select Committee, before 60 whom an opportunity would be given of verifying the charges he had made, and to Sir Baldwin Walker of defending himself. He would not follow the noble and gallant Lord into his figures, but there was one matter as to which he would make a remark, as it showed that in one case, at any rate, his facts were liable to mislead. He spoke of a ship that was built on the same lines as the Pearl; but the noble and gallant Lord must know, though persons who were unacquainted with the subject, would not know, that it by no means followed that the ship was of the same size as the other, or of the same tonnage, because it was built on the same lines. The question was, was she of the same exact scantling? That was the only thing they could judge by. He (Mr. Osborne) merely rose in defence of Sir Baldwin Walker. The office of Surveyor of the Navy was a permanent one, and when the noble and gallant Admiral got up and said, "Let bygones be bygones," it might be very well to assume that there had been a deficit of £5,000,000; but the House of Commons would not be satisfied with a bare allegation like that. He (Mr. Osborne) said, in defence of Sir Baldwin Walker, and a former Board of Admiralty, the noble Lord was bound to prove his accusations. He (Mr. Osborne) having acted as Secretary to a Board of Admiralty, by whom it was asserted £5,000,000 had been unprofitably squandered, challenged the noble Lord to prove that allegation. It was totally impossible to answer off-hand a statement of figures made unexpectedly. He had not, for a moment, apprehended that such an indictment was to be preferred against Sir Baldwin Walker, or he would have been prepared to meet it. He suspected the noble Lord had made a mistake of something like £3,000,000; and that when the noble Lord presented himself before a Committee of that House, where ad captandum appeals would be inadmissible, and his figures would undergo a severe scrutiny, he would find that, instead of there being a deficiency of £5,000,000, his credit for accuracy would be materially impaired. He (Mr. Osborne) had said so much on behalf of an absent friend As for what was said about the total alteration that took place in the management of the naval yards, and the mode of constructing ships, he begged to inform the noble and gallant Lord and the House that Sir Baldwin Walker was not the man to hold such a position as that described—he was not the man to be made a tool or a 61 catspaw of, either by a First Lord or Secretary. He thought that, in justice to Sir Baldwin Walker, he ought to have been informed of these charges that were to be preferred against him, before they were brought forward, and then he would have had an opportunity of defending himself. There were, however, some points in which he himself felt inclined to agree with the noble and gallant Lord, namely, as to the old ships in ordinary, which amounted, in number, to about 500. He had always been of opinion, that it would be better to wipe them off the list altogether; they were a considerable expense, and were only a navy on paper, and deceived nobody. He thought that the suggestion made by an hon. Member the other night, was not a bad one—namely, to present some of these old two-deckers to our Australian colonies. They would serve to protect them, and it would be by far the cheapest way for us to deal with them in the end. As to the gallant Admiral (Sir Charles Napier), who had got on his old hobby for the reconstruction of the Admiralty, let him move for the Select Committee on the expenditure for the last eleven years, and he would see how the present system had worked.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he shared in the opinion which he believed was entertained by the House, that the object of his noble and gallant Friend was anything but to make an attack on the Surveyor or upon any absent man. If he understood his noble Friend he did not mean to attack the man but the system, and in this attempt to attack a system which he (Mr. Bentinck) had always maintained was founded on a most erroneous principle, he had earned the thanks of the House. Moreover, he (Mr. Bentinck) had not heard one word from his noble Friend which was capable of being construed into an attack upon the Surveyor of the Navy in particular, nor would it have occurred to him that his noble Friend had done so if it had not been suggested by the First Lord of the Admiralty and the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House. Neither did he believe that his noble Friend meant to attack his right hon. Friend the First Lord, who, when he found himself in the position he now held, without a Channel fleet, and in the midst of circumstances of great difficulty, contrived to learn his lesson, and do his duty in a manner that reflected the greatest possible credit upon him for his ability in adapting himself to the situation, and acquiring a knowledge 62 of a trade of which previously he could have known nothing. The hon. Member for Dovor (Mr. Osborne) said that the error he assumed in the noble Lord's figures was to the extent of £3,000,000. [Mr. OSBORNE: No.] He had so understood him. But he it what it might he had not heard from the First Lord any refutation of the statement of figures made by his noble and gallant Friend. He was inclined to think, however, that his noble Friend, though he had done good service on this occasion, had not taken the best course which circumstances would suggest, and that the proposition he had made would not meet the difficulties of the case, supply the information required, or tend to the attainment of the object he had in view. It had been truly said that the House of Commons was prepared to vote any sure of money for the defence of the country, and he believed that any man who would grudge money, well expended, for the naval defence of the country, must be either a madman or a traitor. But because he would not put into the mouths of such men an argument for objecting to the Navy Estimates, he would gladly co-operate with any hon. Member who might originate such a system as would satisfy the House and the country that the money voted was faithfully and judiciously expended in the public service. He was prepared to contend—and he begged it to be understood that he was not attacking men, but a system—that under the present constitution of the Board of Admiralty efficiency and economy were utterly impossible; that so long as the present constitution of the Board of Admiralty existed so long would the House hear annual appeals like that which had been made to them to-night by his noble Friend, and the only result would be that they would have a continuance of the same want of economy and efficiency that had characterized their naval arrangements for so many years past. He had asked many of the most eminent owners of private yards in the country this question: "Supposing you were to carry on your yards upon the system on which Her Majesty's Dockyards are conducted, what would be the result?" And the invariable answer had been, "If we were to approach that system with the Bank of England at our hack, we should be ruined in six months." From that opinion he had never yet heard any deviation, and he would undertake to say that if a Committee were appointed to inquire into this 63 question the gentlemen to whom he referred would probably be examined before that Committee, and he pledged himself that if a similar question were put to them they would, word for word, give the same answer. He was glad to see the late First Lord (Sir Charles Wood) in his place opposite. He remembered that when that right hon. Gentleman was called upon, at a time of great emergency, to construct a powerful fleet his efforts were attended with the most successful results, and at the close of the Russian war the country possessed one of the finest, if not the very finest, fleet that ever floated on the ocean. But what was the course then adopted by the right hon. Gentleman? He did that which his predecessors in office who were civilians, had always done, and which all his successors, so long as they were civilians and Members of this House, actively employed in the struggles of political life would continue to do, he lost sight of the nautical interests of the country, in order to adapt the position of the navy and its expenditure to the convenience of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and so reduced the most magnificent fleet which the country had ever possessed to so low a limit, that we were now in the very act of voting large sums of money to supply the deficiences created by the right hon. Gentleman. No doubt the right hon. Baronet could give plausible reasons for the course he took; but the fact was that as long as political arrangements were more considered than the interests of the navy the same thing must occur. It came to this, in fact, that the Board of Admiralty was made nothing but a political jobbing office, and one of the temptations that were held out to distinguished men to become members of a Cabinet. He contended that the navy ought to be placed upon the same footing as the army, and that if they were to reverse the case, and proposed to place a civilian at the head of the army, the outcry raised in this House would be loud. He undertook to say that they might find 500 civilians who were tolerably competent to become commanders in chief of the army at the shortest notice, for one civilian who possessed the slightest fitness for the duties of First Lord of the Admiralty. In private affairs they selected for the head of a department a man whose antecedents, education, and acquirements best fitted him to discharge the duties of the office. What was the case with the Board of Admiralty? They selected men to pre- 64 side over it without any reference whatever to their antecedents, and without asking them if they knew a line-of-battle ship from a jollyboat, or were acquainted with the views and opinions of naval men. All they asked was, "Will this gentleman acquiesce in the arrangements that are necessary to compose the Cabinet?" and if he consented, they at once stuck him at the head of the Admiralty. But was that the way in which the most important arm of the country was to be dealt with? He repeated, if they must have such a system in operation anywhere, monstrous and absurd as it was, in the name of common sense do not let it be in the navy. Transpose it; he should infinitely prefer seeing it practised in the army rather than in the navy; and if any hon. Gentleman would propose that the system should be reversed for the future, and that a naval man should be placed at the head of the navy, and a civilian at the head of the army, he should be glad to second a Motion of the sort. It was said that naval men were too prejudiced, or entertained too strong professional notions, to be fitted for the chief control of that department; but that was a suggestion which he could hardly adopt, and he could not agree that it was better to select men who knew nothing at all of the subject with which they were called upon to deal. Then, again, it was sometimes said that it was necessary to have at the head of the Admiralty men of enlarged ideas and political influence, and that civilian First Lords were guided in circumstances of difficulty by the advice of the naval Lords. What was the result of that system? The civil First Lord could do nothing of himself, for the simple reason that he knew nothing, except as he was primed; that the naval Lords at the Board of Admiralty, who were said to be unfitted for the post of First Lord, actually pulled the strings, did the duty of the First Lord, and instructed him what he was to do and say when he came down to this House, whilst the responsibility for all that was done rested not upon their shoulders, but upon those of the First Lord himself. It was his strong conviction, then, that so long as the present system continued it would be perfectly impossible that either efficiency or economy could be secured in the Department of the Admiralty. He believed that the maintenance of an efficient navy involved the very existence of the country, and no man was more willing than he was to vote all that might be required 65 to secure that object; but seeing that the demands on the public purse must henceforth be very large, and feeling the necessity which existed for scrutinising the expenditure, he was prepared to support any investigation or inquiry which would tend to prevent the possibility of a mal-expenditure of one shilling for the service of the navy.
§ SIR FRANCIS BARING
said, that no blame could be attributed to the noble and gallant Lord for having brought the subject forward, but he thought that his Motion was very little calculated to remedy the evils which he thought existed, because the Return asked for would be hardly worth the paper on which it was written. Why did not the noble Lord go to the real way of doing business and move for a Committee, in which the noble Lord's figures might be fairly tested? Nobody could follow the noble Lord's figures as they were delivered; but why not have a Committee and see if they were correct? Probably it would be found there that the noble Lord was a better sailor than calculator, and that he had omitted a great many items which ought to be taken into account. His (Sir Francis Baring's) impression, however, was, that an inquiry into our increased naval expenditure was advisable; and he was sorry that the House allowed such statements as had just been made to pass without an inquiry. An hon. Friend had defended Sir Baldwin Walker. Now-a-days nobody was attacked. If any jobbery or wasteful expenditure were pointed out, it was always "the system," not any individual, that was attacked. But he knew Sir Baldwin Walker well enough to feel that the speech of the noble Lord would give him great pain—for everybody knew that the actual responsibility was in his bands—and that he would look anxiously for au opportunity of meeting statements which, though no personal attack was made, must in a great measure affect him. He (Sir Francis Baring) would again press the House not to be content with these vague accusations, but to go to work like men of business, and examine into the general expenditure of the navy. He was quite sure that good would come from such an investigation; the Admiralty, like other folk, were liable to mistakes; and these revisions of the establishment were from time to time extremely valuable.
§ SIR GEORGE PECHELL
thought the Motion of the noble Lord would be attended with the good effect of bringing about 66 an inquiry. He hoped his noble and gallant Friend would push his inquiries till a conclusion had been arrived at. As to Sir Baldwin Walker, he was sure his noble and gallant Friend meant no attack on him. There never was a more able, a more amiable, and a more excellent public servant than that gallant officer.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, that if the noble Lord had moved for a Committee he would have supported him, for he thought that inquiry into the constitution of the Board of Admiralty was much needed. That a civilian should be First Lord of the Admiralty seemed to him as great an anomaly as if an Admiral were put into the Court of Common Pleas. As to the reconstruction of the navy, he did not think the Return asked for by the noble Lord would help to effect that object. He should recommend an examination of the American mode of dealing with their navy, for he thought there many points which might be advantageously adopted by us. What he blamed the Admiralty for was, that at the time when steam was first introduced they had not caused the whole subject of naval architecture to be thoroughly investigated, and had not pointed out to the country that the then existing navy would soon be utterly useless. He was convinced that, had a proper investigation taken place at that time, large sums of money would have been saved to the country. Even now we had not arrived at anything like perfection. Perhaps our 90 gun ships were as near the mark as it was possible to be; but the question yet to be determined was, whether they could maintain their stations during the winter off a given point. There were many similar questions which ought to be investigated by a Committee. The noble Lord opposite in bringing forward the subject that evening, had, he believed, no intention of making any personal allusions; but he was nevertheless of opinion, from the turn which the debate had taken, that it was absolutely necessary the inquiry should be pursued further, and that a Committee should with that view be appointed. With respect to our frigates, of which mention had been made in the course of the discussion, he could only say that he looked upon them as being unequal to the expectations form-ed of them; the same class of American vessels he understood to excel them in mint of stability. In support of that opinion, he might observe that he had a Few days before seen a letter which had 67 been received from Greytown, in which the writer stated that having little or nothing to do he and his friends amused themselves in looking at the Diadem rolling. Now, if such a vessel as the Diadem, which was one of the handsomest ships in the navy, could be spoken of in that way, was it not fair, he would ask, to suppose that there were others still more open to objection upon the score of being ill fitted to encounter bad weather? As to the gun-boats which the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Admiralty seemed to think the most efficient class of ships in the navy—[Sir JOHN PAKINGTON: I said they were very valuable vessels]—he must pronounce them the most miserable specimens of naval architecture which were ever constructed for sea-going purposes, though, no doubt, they had answered the purpose for which they were constructed. The justice of that opinion it would be easy to ascertain, if a return, setting forth the length of time occupied by some of those gun-boats in their passage to China, were laid upon the table of the House. In one instance the time so occupied was, he believed, eleven months, while none of them, he was informed, had reached India in less than six months. He understood, also, that one of their number was thirteen days off the Cape of Good Hope, running before a gale of wind, no victuals during that period having been cooked on board, so that her crew were obliged to eat raw meat. He heard that some of those vessels were to be despatched to Vancouver's Island, but how such creatures were to get round Cape Horn, he, for one, could not make out. All he could say was, that he should be very sorry to be on board one of them if they were to make the voyage in the winter time, for he deemed them to be thoroughly inefficient as foreign-going craft. In stating his opinion thus candidly he did not seek to cast blame upon the shoulders of any person or party in particular, but he could not refrain from expressing his conviction that a great deal of the money which had been laid out upon our navy had been misapplied. As a single illustration of such misapplication he might mention the case of the Sanspareil, which had come under his own observation. She was built on the lines of one of the finest line-of-battle ships we had ever succeeded in taking from the French, but having been so built she had been changed into a screw. Long 32-pounders had been placed upon 68 her main dock; 8-inch guns on her lower deck, a 96 cwt. gun on her forecastle; an engine of 400 tons between her main and mizen masts; the result of the alteration having been that she looked more like a sand-barge than a man-of-war, and on her way out to Lisbon rolled to such a pitch, that she was only righted by being struck by the sea. At one time she was over forty-seven degrees. It was into transactions of that description that inquiry ought to be instituted. Such an investigation might lead to some result, but inasmuch as that was not the course which it was proposed to take, and as he did not think the Motion of the noble Lord was calculated to be of any practical operation he could not support it.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
rose for the purpose of observing that if they were to have a Committee upon the naval expenditure of the country—which he thought was generally assented to by the House—it appeared to him that whether the Estimates should be presented to the House in this particular form would be a very fair subject for the Committee to inquire into and report upon. That was a matter which should come from the Committee rather than that the House should lay down any particular form. He would, therefore, respectfully suggest to his noble Friend not to press his Motion to a division, but rather to substitute for it a Resolution to the effect that a Committee should be appointed to examine into our naval expenditure, as proposed by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth (Sir Francis Baring). He must, however, observe that he had felt rather taken at the first blush by the proposal for a Return, for it appeared to him but reasonable to suppose that if those connected with our naval departments were required to submit beforehand a statement of the amount of expenditure which they contemplated making for any particular purpose, they would be much more likely to deliberate upon the undertaking duly, than when they had merely to receive the money and lay it out without question. As in the case of erecting barracks, so in the case of shipbuilding—the necessity of furnishing such a statement might operate as a practical check on unnecessary expenditure. For his own part, he never heard that Mr. Cunard, or any of our other great steamship proprietors were continually making alterations in their vessels, such as was constantly being done by the Board of Admiralty. He believed, however, the expe- 69 diency of framing such a formal naval Estimate as was proposed would be best decided upon by a Committee of the House of Commons on naval expenditure. Having stated that to be his opinion, he might be allowed to allude to the observations which had fallen from the First Lord of the Admiralty in reference to the comparison which he had drawn upon a former occasion between the English and French navies. Now, he had read with great care the speech in which that comparison was made; and having done so, he could not help arriving at the conclusion that the right hon. Gentleman had underrated the strength of our own navy while he had exaggerated the efficiency of that of France. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to him, indeed, to have instituted a comparison rather between a particular class of ships in the two countries than between the aggregate of the steam naval force of both, and he regretted that a more complete account of our relative positions in that respect had not been laid before Parliament. He should next advert for a moment to those 500 sailing ships, of which it seemed no use whatever was to be made, and which were permitted to block up the river Med-way and the upper part of Portsmouth harbour, to the great annoyance of those who were connected with the merchant shipping of the country, and to the obstruction of our navigation. Of course, if it were necessary for the public service that those vessels should be thus maintained, the inconvenience must be borne; but as he understood all idea of converting them to any useful purpose had been abandoned, he should like to know from the Secretary for the Admiralty whether any plan had been formed for disposing of them? Some time ago Baron Dupin made a report upon naval affairs to the French Chambers, in which he alluded to a "formidable armament" which England was creating under the "inoffensive name of steam coast guardships," and represented it as an absolute necessity that France should complete an armament of the same kind—the armament referred to, which had excited such apprehension, being nothing else than these very block-ships to which he (Mr. M. Gibson) had alluded. He believed that the vessels which had been built by the French in imitation of those block-ships had been included in the Estimate given by the First Lord of the Admiralty of the steam navy of France. ["No, no!"] He believed that it was so; but he only mentioned the circumstance to 70 show how apt we were to exaggerate the forces of other nations. He suggested that the noble Lord the Member for Sandwich should withdraw his Motion, and move the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry instead.
§ LORD JOHN HAY
said, he would not have trespassed upon the House but for the statements made by the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir James Elphinstone). That hon. Member had made an attack on the gun-boats; now he knew something about them, and he begged to observe that they were a class of vessels that had rendered the greatest service during the Russian war. They were not built to go long distances, and when the hon. Member talked of the time they had taken to go to China, he thought it was highly creditable to them that so many had gone to the other side of the world without an accident. If any of the crews did not cook on their voyage out, it must certainly have been from their preference for raw meat, because he could testify that the gun-boats had every facility for cooking, the same as other ships. He spoke with the more confidence because a considerable number had been placed under his direction to test their merits, and though he did not mean to say that they could contend with an enemy on the open sea, yet they would do good service in protecting our commerce and putting down piracy in various parts of the world. With regard to the Motion, before the House, he thought it would he better to have a Committee of Inquiry; but he believed that the noble Lord had greatly overstated the case. The hon. Member for Portsmouth had recommended them to adopt the system of the United States, where the plans of vessels were submitted to a Committee of Congress; but the results of that system were as bad as possible. They had no doubt heard a great deal about the magnificent American navy, and the vessels of that country went, he might say, "swaggering" over the world and creating a great deal of fuss; but a close inspection of those vessels did nut bear out what was said of them. He supposed there was not a Member in the House that had not heard of the extraordinary powers of the Merrimac. Well, he had gone on board that vessel, and he found, in the first place, that she could not carry all her guns. Next, though she was very long in the how, which was a shape much in fashion at present, and all the advantages which American vessels 71 were supposed to possess, she could only go seven miles and a half under steam in the most favourable circumstances. Then she certainly carried very heavy guns; but he observed no signs of their having ever been cast loose. Then she could only carry coal for a few days—every hole and corner was stuffed with coal bags in the case of a long voyage. So much for the Merrimac. There was another vessel much talked of, the Wabash; but it was admitted now that she was an extremely slow sailer. Then there was the Niagara, but he thought the House would do well to pause before they adopted her for a model. She could not steam any faster than our own vessels, and though she was of 5,000 tons burden she only carried twelve guns. These were not results to tempt this country to imitate the system of the United States. The hon. Member for Portsmouth had spoken of the Diadem rolling off Greytown; but it must be remembered that there were heavier rollers in that neighbourhood than in almost any part of the world; and, therefore, it was no proof, because a vessel rolled there, that she would do so in other places. He thought that the noble Lord had rather exaggerated the estimated expense of building, and he joined in the suggestion that it would be better to appoint a Committee than to agree to the Resolution before the House.
§ SIR JAMES ELPH1NST0NE
would say one word in explanation. The reason why the crew of the gun-boat to which he alluded ate raw meat was, that they could not cook because they were obliged for twelve days to scud before a gale of wind.
§ MR. LINDSAY
said, that instead of the Motion of his noble Friend the Member for Sandwich doing injury to the navy, he who exposed what he considered to be its abuses or shortcomings rendered a service both to the public and to the navy. His noble Friend had investigated the subject with great labour and great industry through a period of eleven years, and he found, to his great regret, that there was a deficiency of no less than £5,000,000. In point of fact the right hon. Baronet the First Lord had admitted some days ago the substance of what the noble Lord had now stated. The right hon. Baronet was aware of the figures which his noble Friend had stated, and he had armed himself on the present occasion with statements from the Surveyor of the Navy in explanation. That statement in effect confirmed what his noble Friend had said as to the large 72 expenditure incurred. The hon. Member for Dovor had stated that his noble Friend had in his comparison of the Pearl not made allowance for the difference of the scantling. But scantling was determined by the tonnage of the ship, and his noble Friend had shown that a vessel of the same tonnage and scantling as the Pearl built in a private yard cost considerably less than a similar vessel built in a Government yard. He suggested that his noble Friend should withdraw his Motion, and substitute one for the appointment of a Committee to inquire—not into the administration of the navy, because that was far too comprehensive a subject for one Committee to deal with—but into the expenditure incurred in the construction of Her Majesty's ships. He much doubted the policy of these conversions and lengthenings and rebuildings of vessels which the right hon. Baronet had stated were taking place. He would suggest that it was worthy of inquiry whether it would not be more advantageous to dispose of those ships for what they would fetch and build new ones in their stead. He believed that £7,000,000 properly applied would go as far as £10,000,000 now went in building our ships of war and in our naval expenditure generally. There was a strong opinion abroad that there was a very unnecessary expenditure in our public Departments, especially in the navy, and that was another reason why he thought that some such inquiry as had been suggested was necessary. He hoped, therefore, that the right hon. Baronet would not object to the appointment of a Select Committee.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
I am as willing, as others have been, to bear testimony to the ability as well as the calm and moderate tone with which the noble Lord has brought forward his Motion. I quite acquit him and other hon. Gentlemen who have spoken of any intention of intending to make an attack on the right hon. Gentleman (Sir John Pakington) or myself, or any of the other gentlemen who were my predecessors in the office of First Lord of the Admiralty during the last eleven years. The noble Lord says, that only the system is assailed; but that does not prevent some of the statements that have been made from being a most painful attack on Sir Baldwin Walker, one of the most valuable and efficient officers ever employed by the Board of Admiralty. I am rejoiced to find that this attack has elicited such a general expression of opin- 73 ion of his services which is as just as it is called for. It is perfectly true that the Admiralty is responsible for the orders it gives as to the building and alteration of ships of war. But the Surveyor of the Navy is the responsible adviser of the Admiralty on the form and construction of those ships, and many of them have been loudly condemned by the noble Lord; and the inference is that if the Surveyor of the Navy has advised so imperfectly, he is unworthy of the position he holds. Now, the character and ability of Sir Baldwin Walker are known, not only to those under whom he has served, but even to those unconnected with the Admiralty; and I will quote to the House a very short testimony to the merits of that officer from one very competent to form an opinion. It is a portion of a paper read before the Society of Arts, and I cannot better express my sense of the services of Sir Baldwin Walker than in the words of the passage which states that "the ships of Sir Baldwin Walker are the embodiment of all the soundest principles and improvements essential to vessels of war." The noble Lord says it is an error to alter the construction of any ship after it has been laid down; other hon. Gentlemen have made the same assertion. What is it they would do? It is well known that the science of naval construction advances rapidly, and calls into existence many changes and improvements. Even while a ship is in course of construction improvements are discovered which it is necessary to adopt—such, for instance, as finer lines, or increased sharpness of the bow; or, a vessel laid down as a sailing ship is to be converted into a steamer. A more extravagant mode of employing the public money, or a system more fatal to the efficiency of the navy, I cannot well imagine, than to bind yourselves to complete a ship, although she has been laid down on bad lines, but might be easily improved at a small expense. I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir John Pakington) did not bear testimony more strongly to the merits of Sir Baldwin Walker; he said he was not bound to be the champion of the Surveyor of the Navy, or his predecessors. As to his predecessors, they can take care of themselves; but I must say, that a public servant in the position of the Surveyor of the Navy, when he is attacked in this House, has a right to be defended from those attacks by his official chief, who has a seat in this House, The 74 head of the Department is bound to defend those under him from such imputations. As to the amounts and sums of money cited by the noble lord (Lord C. Paget), it is quite impossible for us to follow him through such a mass of figures; even the First Lord of the Admiralty, with the advantage of having received a previous intimation of the sort of statement the noble Lord was about to make, said he was utterly unable to deal with them. Many suggestions might be made that would tend to show the noble Lord's figures to be inaccurate. The right hon. Gentleman said, and said truly, that in matters of this kind any averages involve a great possibility of error. The noble Lord estimates the cost of wear and tear of our navy at 6 per cent on its cost, which in eleven years would amount to a sum total of £6,000,000. Suppose the rate to be 10 per cent instead of 6; or, as one hon. Gentleman estimated it, 15 per cent, He would then have to allow £10,000,000 or £15,000,000 on this account; and more than the whole sum which he says has been wasted would be accounted for by this simple change in the rate of wear and tear. In dealing with figures of this kind in such a general way it is impossible to know whether they are trustworthy or not; yet on their perfect accuracy rests the whole assertion that there has been wasteful expenditure in the construction of the navy. I am not called on now to go into the question of the expense of building our vessels of war; it is quite enough at present to show there is a possibility of inaccuracy in the figures assumed, sufficient altogether to impeach the authority on which the noble Lord makes his charge of extravagant expenditure. With regard to the Motion itself, there appears to be a general opinion that no good end would be obtained by affirming it. If the Return the noble Lord wishes to see were made out and laid before the House, it would only be of the nature of a programme of what ships are to be built in the year; and that scheme would probably not be carried out. When the First Lord of the Admiralty has been a little longer in office he will find out what all his predecessors have discovered, that the amount of work to be done in the course of a year is always over-estimated. In the course of twenty years I do not believe any programme laid down by the Department at the beginning of a year has ever been adhered to. If hon. Members suppose that such a paper would 75 give them any idea of what was likely to be done in any year they are entirely mistaken. The hon. Gentleman the Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) has stated that in the year 1846 I improperly reduced the navy in compliance with the request of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that in consequence of that proceeding we now have to incur the great expense of reconstructing the navy; and a few nights ago the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty made observations which seriously impugned the character of the Board over which I had the honour to preside, as having neglected the building of certain classes of ships, and thereby subjected this country to the humiliation of being inferior to her neighbours in those classes of vessels, and exposed our coasts to great danger. It is true that at the same time the right hon. Baronet disclaimed any intention of making an attack upon his predecessors. Such, however, is not the construction which any one will put on the language he employed. That statement was one for which, from what had previously fallen from the right hon. Baronet, I was so little prepared that I had with me no papers which would enable me to meet it; and I have been looking forward with some anxiety to our going into Committee upon the Navy Estimates, in order that I might have an opportunity of vindicating the Board with which I was connected from so serious and so grave an imputation. I entertain no doubt whatever of being able to satisfy the House that we did not neglect our duty, but that we were alive to the necessity of increasing the number of ships of a large class, and had provided means of effecting such additions to our naval forces. It would, however, be impossible for me to enter upon such a discussion at this hour (ten minutes before eleven o'clock), and in the course of a debate raised upon a different subject. I shall, therefore, not refer further to the statements of the hon. Member for West Norfolk and the right hon. Baronet than to say that they are not justified by the facts, and that I hope to be able, when the proper time comes, to satisfy the House that the coasts of this country were not, when I left the Admiralty, in any danger from a deficiency of ships of the larger class, quite independently of that number of small vessels to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton (Mr. M. Gibson) alluded, in which our superiority is manifest, undoubted, and unquestioned, and 76 which, in connection with the ships of the larger class, constitute a means of defence as large or larger than any that this country has for many years possessed.
said, he regretted to learn from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down that his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty had been understood not to have defended Sir Baldwin Walker against the attacks of the noble Lord the Member for Sandwich in the speech with which he introduced this Motion. He (Mr. Corry), on the contrary, had understood his right hon. Friend to have made such a defence, and to have denied that any extravagance had taken place under the management of Sir Baldwin Walker. For himself, for his right hon. Friend, and for every Member of the Board of Admiralty he could say that they entertained the highest opinion of Sir Baldwin Walker who was a most able and efficient officer, and a man of the highest integrity. The right hon. Member for Ashton (Mr. M. Gibson) had stated that his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty had under-estimated the English steam navy, and had over-estimated the steam navy of France; but he (Mr. Corry) could undertake to state from authentic documents, to which the First Lord of the Admiralty had adverted, and which had been produced before the Committee which had inquired into that subject, that the statement of his right hon. Friend was completely and literally correct. An hon. Member had asked what was the use of our old sailing ships, and he had to observe in reply that many of those ships could be converted into efficient steam vessels, and those which could not be so converted would be wanted to serve for training ships, hulks, harbour ships, and for a variety of other purposes. With reference to the statement that no less a sum than £5,000,000 could not be accounted for, he did not hesitate to say that there was not the slightest foundation for any such a charge. If the subject was fully entered into, it would be shown to the satisfaction of every reasonable man that every farthing of the money voted for the navy could be accounted for. In proof of this he quoted a return showing the sums which had been expended during the six years from 1852 to 1857, both inclusive. The return did not go far enough back to include the whole of the eleven years referred by the noble Lord the Member for Sandwich; but an account could easily be 77 prepared for the whole period. The whole amount expended during the six years on materials in the dockyards and in the purchase of timber, steam machinery, and stores of all sorts, was, omitting fractions, £20,000,000. Of that sum £3,130,000 was spent upon building and converting ships; £2,441,000 on the purchase of contract-built ships; £3,423,000 on the purchase of steam-engines; £2,867,000 on coals; the repairs of ships and bringing them forward for the steam reserve, of which the noble Lord took not the slightest notice, cost £668,000; maintaining the ordinary harbour ships and hulks, £447,000; establishments, namely, salaries of officers, &c., £624,000; fitting ships for sea, including wear and tear, £4,616,000. These items accounted for the whole sum of £20,000,000, with the exception of £2,218,000, which he suspected his noble Friend bad entirely overlooked, and which was expended in the general service of the yards, and was accounted for in what was technically called No. 88 return. That was for only six years, and the expenditure on that account for the whole eleven years, which the noble Lord had included in his statement would, along with the expenditure on the steam reserve, account for the whole of the £5,000,000, which the noble Lord said he could not find. He therefore denied that any portion of the expenditure remained unaccounted for. Instead of 6 per cent., as the noble Lord had calculated, the wear and tear of ships, including machinery, hull, and rigging was 8½ percent. A 90 gun ship cost for wear and tear about £12,000 a year; a 50-gun frigate, £10,000 a year; a 30-gun ship, £6,800 a year; and a corvette, £4,600. The noble Lord had stated, that ships cost much less to build in a merchant's yard than in Her Majesty's dockyards. That was, to some extent, true, but then the work in the dockyards was very much better done, and there was, at least, the money's worth in greater strength and durability. The cost per ton of a sloop of war built in the dockyards was £25 13s., while the cost of a corvette built in a private yard on the Thames some years ago was £23 10s., and at this moment there were several corvettes being built in private yards for foreign Governments at £25. The noble Lord maintained that the Admiralty could not build ships, and in the course of last year he sent in a design for a frigate which was to do everything that the Ad- 78 miralty ships, according to him, could not do. This design was referred to the Surveyor of the Navy, and he (Mr. Corry) would read an extract from his report respecting it:—From the above estimate, it appears that the displacement is too small by 615 tons. Hence the ship would be immersed two feet beyond the draught of water given, and the greatest transverse section would be increased from 645 square feet to 720; and that when all the guns, as was intended, were fought on one side, the inclination of the ship would leave only seven feet three inches for the height of the mid-ship port in smooth water, and that to carry, as proposed, 1,000 tons of coals, it would be necessary to stow COO tons on the lower deck.So much easier it was to find fault than to suggest any real improvement. If hon. Gentlemen had the duty of weighing arguments for and against adopting particular courses, between which the Admiralty had frequently to choose, they would be ready to make more allowance for mistakes even if they sometimes happened. The hon. Gentleman concluded by expressing a hope that the noble Lord would not press his Motion.
§ LOUD CLARENCE PAGET
said, that the estimate was drawn by a gentleman who had built a corvette for the Portuguese Government, which had beat all our ships of the same guns and with the same machinery.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I cannot but think that this question is not in a satisfactory position. There are two matters before the House—the Motion made by my noble Friend, and his statement with regard to the Motion. I do not think it would be satisfactory to the House, in the imperfect state of information in which it must always be about shipbuilding, to prescribe a particular form in which ships should be built or altered. On the other band, I do not think that it can be satisfactory to the House that the whole statement of my noble Friend, which he has evidently studied with great care, and which he makes on his own responsibility, should be entirely set aside. His statement, and that of the gallant Admiral, leave an impression on my mind that there ought to be some further inquiry. In 1818, 1828, 1838, 1848, we had Committees of Inquiry on naval and military expenditure; so that the course is not unusual, and these statements do call for some answer by way of inquiry. It is not fair to say that statements and motions of this kind are attacks 79 upon Sir Baldwin Walker. I have the greatest respect for that officer, and I am aware that he deserves the confidence which the Admiralty repose in him; but I should like to know whether he has unlimited discretion in ordering what vessels are to be built and how they are to be built, or whether the Admiralty ever interfere with him? When money has been voted by Parliament for a ship of 400 ton, is it in his power to increase it to 700 tons? If this House had voted a certain sum for the Foreign Office, it would be rather astonished to be told that the Commissioner of Works did not think it enough, and had ordered twice as much to be spent. If the increase is caused by the continual advance of scientific improvements, that may be some answer; but it is not satisfactory to the House that the Estimates should go on increasing as they have of late years, and that we should have no means of knowing whether the money has been properly expended. In saying so I do not wish to impute blame to any person. I have no doubt everything has been done for the benefit of the public service; but we ought to know whether due economy has been observed. My noble Friend put the wear and tear of vessels at 6 per cent, the right hon. Member for Halifax says it may be 10 per cent, and the Secretary for the Admiralty tells us it is 8½ per cent, with the machinery. But then, perhaps, the machinery requires 15 or 20 per cent for repairs; and therefore that is not an answer to the statement of my noble Friend. If an inquiry should be made I do not mean that it should take place in any inconvenient shape. I have no doubt the First Lord of the Admiralty and my noble Friend could arrange the terms of it; but some inquiry appears to me to be necessary. I should be unwilling to vote for the Motion as it stands; but certainly I would rather do that than express myself contented to pass by all the statements which have been made by competent persons, who are themselves distinguished in the naval service, or to allow the House to go on spending enormous sums of money without asking whether it is properly expended or not. I still hope that the Government will agree, instead of forcing us to a division on the present occasion, to accede to an inquiry of some kind, which is so far from being unexampled, that it is without precedent that we should go on for more than ten years without an investigation into the administration of naval affairs.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The Government, as a general rule, have no objection to inquiry into any branch of public expenditure; but if a proposition of that kind is made, let it be so fairly, let it be brought forward with due notice, let us have time to consider so grave a proposal, and let us not be hurried into a Resolution to inquire into the expenditure of a great Department without being convinced that there are valid grounds for taking such a step. It is not our duty, nor would it be advantageous to the public interests, to accede to so important a proposition when made in an incidental and casual manner. But the Government have been inquiring. We have had three inquiries of a very laborious and minute character with respect to the expenditure of the navy, and my right hon. Friend the First Lord has offered to place the results of those investigations before the House. It would be better for the House to be in possession of the facts and statements which we are prepared to submit before they come to a resolution that more information is necessary. There has been an inquiry into the dockyards; there has been an inquiry into the expenditure upon steam machinery; and there has been a confidential inquiry into the general expenditure of the navy. All those inquiries have been, conducted by men of the greatest ability, whose devotion of time and intelligence has been eminently praiseworthy. The First Lord of the Admiralty has voluntarily offered to submit the results to the House; but before they have been so submitted, before the noble Lord had seen them, before he can judge whether there are any points on which additional information is desirable, before he has satisfied himself whether further investigation is necessary, he is surprised that the Government, without any notice whatever, should not at once agree to the appointment of another Committee of Inquiry into the general condition of the navy and the expenditure of that Department. I must say that the noble Lord is somewhat unreasonable. Let him avail himself, in the first place, of the offer which my right hon. Friend has made. It may be that he and the House will then find themselves in a position to form, from the most ample materials, an opinion upon the subject now under consideration. That opinion may be favourable or unfavourable, to the administration of the navy, but when there are materials in existence which the House does not possess, but which the 81 House will soon possess, surely it would not be premature for the Government on the present occasion to accede to the institution of a fresh inquiry into the general condition of the navy. I do not know what information the noble Lord may have received respecting the relations between Sir Baldwin Walker and the Board of Admiralty. I can only inform him that he is labouring under a complete misconception if he supposes that Sir Baldwin Walker is interfered with in any maner in the execution of his duty. Sir Baldwin Walker has the entire confidence of the Government, and there has been no interference whatever with his conduct of affairs, beyond being subject to that inquiry from us which was natural when so vast an expenditure was incurred, and when so great a responsibility attached to the Executive Government. I repeat that when the House has been put in possession of the results of the three inquiries which have already taken place it will then, in my opinion, be more competent than at present to decide whether further investigation is necessary or desirable.
MR. T. G. BARING
said, he would not venture to enter upon the general question, raised by the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) but would merely make a few observations on the remarks which had fallen from the noble Lord the Member for Sandwich. The House would recollect that the noble Lord had said that, after close inquiry, he could not account for the sum of £5,000,000 sterling in the accounts of our expenditure upon shipbuilding. He thought he (Mr. Baring) could satisfactorily account for at least a part of that sum amounting to £2,000,000. The noble Lord compared the expenditure upon shipbuilding, repairing and converting, with the receipts in Votes, numbers 8, 9, and 10. That comparison gave £14,000,000 for expenditure, and £17,000,000 for receipts. That made a difference of £3,000,000. Then the noble Lord added £2,000,000 for excesses under those Votes during the last eleven years. He (Mr. Baring) had taken the pains to examine the accounts, in order to investigate how far the noble Lord was justified in taking that excess into account. That excess did amount to £2,000,000, but when he turned to the expenditure of this excess, he found that it consisted, for the most part, of outlays for steam machinery, which, the House would recollect, had been expressly excluded by the noble Lord from his calculations; and of this £2,000,000, therefore, as far as he (Mr. 82 Baring) could judge, the noble Lord should have taken but £500,000, at the outside, as expended upon shipbuilding. But, further, the noble Lord, while he calculated the excesses, bad omitted to calculate the surpluses. The exact sum voted was not always expended. Some years there was an excess, and others, a surplus, and on these Votes there were surpluses to the amount of £780,000. The noble Lord had not only calculated £2,000,000 instead of £500,000, but he had omitted to place to the credit of the shipbuilding fund this surplus, amounting to £780,000. There was, therefore, in the calculations of the noble Lord an error amounting to about £2,200,000. He did not say that the remaining sum of £2,800,000 was not a sum that ought to be inquired into. He thought the House was indebted to an officer of the distinction of the noble Lord in bringing forward this subject; but as this omission occurred in one of the noble Lord's calculations, perhaps some others might not be so conclusive as the noble Lord seemed to think. Connected as he (Mr. Baring) had been with the late administration of the Admiralty, he looked forward to the result of this inquiry with the greatest confidence, knowing that the shipbuilding department of the service had been pre-sided over by an officer than whom no one-was more capable, or more deserving of the confidence of the House and the country.
§ MR. JOSEPH LOCKE
said, he believed that if the debates in the House were compared with the Notice on the Paper, there would be found to be very little connection between the two. They had heard a great deal respecting the nature and the number of their ships, but all that had nothing to do with the question. This was a Motion for an inquiry into the mode of conducting business by the Admiralty; and the discussion about Sir Baldwin Walker had for two hours been treated as a personal question, although no one had attempted to take exception to the capacity, integrity, or honour of Sir Baldwin Walker; on the contrary, every one had admitted his ability and energy. The hon. Member for Dovor (Mr. Osborne) had gallantly proposed a Committee of Inquiry, and the House was met with the statement that, as inquiries of a confidential nature were being made by the Admiralty, they ought to wait until the result of those inquiries was before them, and then the House, if they thought proper, might institute further inquiry. He did not think that was 83 the right way in which to treat the noble Lord. His was a substantive Motion. It was not pretended that it was impossible to furnish an estimate of the cost of each ship, by which the House might see how far the expenditure tallied with the Estimate. Netley Hospital was a case in point, because if there had not been an Estimate of the cost at £154,000, the House would never have known that it would cost £260,000. In all public works there ought to be an estimate laid before Parliament. Every mercantile establishment in the country which was engaged in the manufacture of all descriptions of machinery, knew the actual cost of each particular machine, and there was no reason why the Admiralty should not be prepared to give the same information. He bad often been ashamed of the manner in which the House had voted millions of money without knowledge of what they were voting, or how it was to be expended; and, if there were one department more than another which required super-vision it was the navy, because in that department there were facilities for making changes, such as they had heard to-night, of an extraordinary, complicated, and expensive character. He hoped that a Committee would before long be granted; but, meanwhile, he would accept this as an instalment. He should vote for the Committee when proposed, and he should now certainly vote for the Motion.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 117; Noes 97: Majority 20.
§ Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, he trusted the right hon. First Lord of the Admiralty would not compel him to bring forward, at that late hour, the Motion of which he had given notice, that the Navy Estimates be referred to a Select Committee. He would move the adjournment of the House.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the House do now adjourn."
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he hoped the hon. Gentleman would not press his Motion; but having voted the men and wages, he would now consent that the House should go into Committee to vote the Victuals.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
also consented to postpone 84 to another Supply night the Motion of which he had given notice, relative to the Destruction of the 26th Native Infantry.
§ Motion agreed to.