§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, he rose to move that these Estimates be referred to a Select Committee. He wished to advert for a moment to the cause of the merriment which he had created the other night, no doubt by his being too late to get to his place. The House was so full that there was no seat vacant. He had consequently to go into the gallery. He hastened down when the House went into Committee; but being unable to find a seat, he attempted to address them from another part of the House, which he understood was contrary to etiquette. He thought that a very strong case for granting the Committee for which he moved had been made out by the noble Lord the Member for Sandwich (Lord C. Paget) when he said that, out of an expenditure of £19,000,000 in eleven years there was a sum of £5,000,000 which could not be accounted for. The First Lord of the Admiralty had said that he would lay papers on the table giving an account of the expenditure or waste of the£5,000,000. He (Mr. W. Williams) had no doubt of the light hon. Gentleman's ability to do so, for it had never been suggested that the money bad been disposed of in any dishonest or dishonourable way. He had gone through the Estimates since 1816, and found that since that period the astonishing sum of £281,000,000 had been voted for the navy, or, with the additional Votes, 130 nearly £300,000,000; and yet now they were told that they had only twenty-nine efficient ships of the line, and that their navy was inferior to that of France. This arose from great neglect and mismanagement in naval affairs. There could be no proper investigation of these Estimates in. a Committee of the whole House, for the Votes were passed so rapidly that there was hardly time to turn from one Vote to another before they were passed. The other night, when the House went into Committee, he went to fetch his copy of the Estimates, and before he returned, in about a minute, four important Votes were passed; and upon one of them he had intended to take the opinion of the Committee. On the other hand, a Select Committee could deliberately investigate the Votes, He did not intend the Committee to be appointed in the usual way—in which case the Government would of course have a majority in it—but to be selected by the Speaker, and to consist of only five Members. Such a Committee as he proposed could finish their labours in ten or twelve days, so that there would be no delay in considering the Estimates. The right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty had made an able speech on the subject of the Navy Estimates, but without being acquainted with all the facts, and had obtained his information from various departments where the red tape system more or less prevailed. These Estimates were double what they were in former years. When the right hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham) was at the head of the Admiralty he reduced the Estimates to £4,500,000, without impairing the efficiency of the navy. The expenditure remained at that point for about seven years, but it had gradually increased since, and the Estimates for the present year amounted to the enormous sum of £9,800,000 odd, exclusive of an addition of something like £1,000,000 for the proposed increase of the navy. It was admitted that the French had as large a navy as we had, and yet their Estimates last year amounted to little more than £5,000,000. He found from the report of the auditors of public accounts that there was an expenditure of 800,000 more than was voted, and that in the case of stores there was an expenditure of £600,000 more than was voted. If the House would not inquire into this useless and wasteful expenditure, it was useless to bring them forward in separate Votes. The econo- 131 mists of the House were charged with the dilapidated state of the navy, but he did not think that during the last twenty years there had been any Motion to reduce one man from the Estimates proposed by the Government, or a reduction of 1s. in their pay. The Estimates that had been voted from time to time by the House were sufficient to secure the most efficient navy in the world. During the time of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle at the Admiralty stock was taken of the various stores and materials in our dockyards, which ought to be done annually, and this tended to a reduction in the Estimates, and prevented useless accumulation. It had been stated that several ships were waiting to be manned, and yet last year the House had voted 59,380 men, and this ought to have equipped an efficient Channel fleet. He (Mr. W. Williams) had been told by an eminent naval officer that one great cause of the want of men was the system of flogging which still prevailed in the navy. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that there was a deficiency in the lower class of officers, such as mates and midshipmen; but looking at the higher class of officers in the navy, he found that there were 341 Admirals on pay, or rather more than one Admiral and a half to every ship and cockboat afloat; whereas in 1846–7 there were only 153 Admirals; in 1851–2, 232; and, in 1857–8, 316 Admirals; which caused an increase in the list of half pay to £55,000. When the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle was First Lord of the Admiralty there were two Generals of Marines and six Colonels of Marines, costing £4,740; now there were thirty-four Generals of Marines and ten Colonels, all sinecures, and costing £24,000 a year. Of the Admirals, he believed that not more than four or five of them were commanding, and others held comfortable sinecures as Port Admirals. The House ought to insist on the Navy Estimates being placed on the table at the commencement of the Session, and at once referred to a Committee. There should be a fair Committee of Inquiry into the whole structure and management of this voracious department of the public service. Had this system of referring the Estimates to a Committee been adopted many millions of money would have been saved since the termination of the French war.
§ SIR HARRY VERNEY
seconded the Motion, and said, that never since he had had a seat in that House had he heard such an account given of the navy, and it was a matter of the deepest regret, if not of shame, to find that our navy had been reduced to such a state as that which had been described. The right hon. Gentleman had objected to lay on the table an estimate of the future repairs and public works for each year, but was there any objection to doing the same as regarded the past? It would very much facilitate the performance of the duties of the House, in giving them an accurate account of the various sums that had been expended. The right hon. Gentleman had shown the wretched condition of our navy, and especially of our dockyards; but when he took office he struck out of the Estimates 1,300 men that had been placed there by his predecessors, and now he came forward and complained of a want of men and of want of efficiency in our navy. He (the hon. Member) would support the proposal for a Committee. It was not against the Admiralty, or its representatives past or present, but against the system that he supported the Motion.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, he was very much disposed to concur with the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Williams). At the same time he thought the inquiry as proposed would be rather too extensive, and that it should be confined to the salient points, and one of these points to which inquiry should be directed was, the extraordinary and unsatisfactory manner in which the Estimates were prepared and laid before the House. A Vote was taken the other night irregularly in the middle of the Army Estimates of £133,000 for an excess of expenditure in 1857–8; but was the House aware that in that year there was an expenditure over the amount of money granted by the House to the extent of £790,000? The sum granted was £9,172,000, and the sum spent was £9,962,000. It was clear that Her Majesty's present Government had nothing to do with these expenses, but he did feel surprised that some of the items had not appeared in the accounts for the year 1858–9. Of course emergencies would arise, and he was not the person to quarrel with the fair discretion of the Executive; but this House had nothing to do with the Executive. All it had 133 to do was first to vote the money, and next to see that it was properly applied. That was the true function of the House, and it should never allow that duty to be mixed up with the duties of the Executive. But he would ask the House to look at Vote No. 10—" Naval stores for the building, repair, and outfit of the fleet," and observe what had taken place under that reading in the course of the last six years. They now talked of the extremely dilapidated state of the fleet, yet during the six years the House of Commons had voted for naval stores alone not less a sum of money than £13,587,000. So far as voting the money was concerned, no doubt this House had done its duty; but where he must say it had been lax was, that after voting the money it had not looked sufficiently close to see how it had been applied. What was really wanted was that a little more confidence should be reposed in the House on the part of the Executive. They should let it know what was required to be done, and what they proposed doing, and then come down the next year and show that they had done it. He was quite sure that if a Committee were appointed who directed their attention to the question of how the Estimates should be prepared, they might render inestimable service. And he thought that the recommendation which had been made, and which had been alluded to this evening, that the Speaker should nominate a Committee at the beginning of every Session, was a very good one. That Committee might prepare their report, and on the question that it be now received, a financial debate might at once ensue. Such an arrangement would, in his opinion, be a very good check, and conduce to a wise economy. He was the last man to attempt to starve the public service, but he had a strong conviction that there had been a considerable waste of the public money in all departments, but more especially in the department of the navy.
§ MR. LINDSAY
said, that if the hon. Member for Lambeth had moved for a Committee to inquire into the naval expenditure in the dockyards he should have voted with him. He could not, however, support the present Motion for referring the Naval Estimates to a Committee, be- cause that would be to take the responsibility of the Estimates from the Executive, upon whom it ought to rest.
§ COLONEL SYKES
said, that the people of this country were lavish in their expenditure to support the natural defence of the 134 country—tho navy—in the most efficient manner, but they expected that the money which was voted for the purpose should be expended in the most efficient way. By the accounts which he held in his hand he found that the amount voted for the navy in 1835 was £4,245,718, manned by 26,500 seamen, and that for every successive year there had been a gradual increase, until for the present year it had risen to £9,839,859, or more than 100 percent, with 48,000 seamen. Of course the country expected that there had been a proportionate increase in the force, in the number of men and the number of ships. Let them see if that were so. In 1848 the expenditure had increased from £4,245,000, in 1835, to £7.764,020; the number of seamen was 40,500; the ships of the line built were, none; converted, none—total, none. Frigates built, 1; corvettes, 2; tenders, 1, total—4. The next year the number of seamen voted was 42,000; ships of the line built, none; converted, none—total, again none. Frigates built, 2; corvettes, 4; tenders, 1—total, 7. The following year the Vote was £6,883,747, and the number of seamen was 40,000; ships of the line built, none; converted, none—total, again none. Here, then, were three successive year3 during which there was not a single case of increase in the ships of the line, either built or converted, or addition made to the weight of metal and strength of the navy. Well, did facts like this demand inquiry or did they not? No doubt the money had been spent; but the question was, had it been spent to the most advantage for the country? The first year in the period to which he had referred, that a ship had been built at all, was in 1851, but he believed that even that was a "convert." Still it was an addition of one ship of the line. In 1852 there were two ships of the line built; in 1853 six were converted; and in 1854 five; but in neither year was there an absolute increase. In short, it was not until the year 1854 that any great increase took place in the numerical force of the navy. Then four gun-boats were built, and thirty-eight purchased; and in 1853 eight gun-boats were built, and 100 purchased, but no ships of the line were built, and only two converted. The navy began then to cut a figure in numbers, but not in power. Such craft would not do for a Channel fleet; and the result was, that after doubling the Estimates, we were at this moment destitute of a sufficient Chan- 135 nel fleet, and yet it is to be supposed that the Navy of England in 1835, costing only £4,245,718, was deemed capable of protecting the honour of England.
§ ADMIRAL WALCOTT
I entertain a very decided objection to a proposition which would refer the Naval Estimates to a Select Committee, because it would remove from the Executive power a responsibility which, I believe, it is most important to retain and enforce. If there be one man who would rejoice more than another, if the accounts for buildings and repairs of ships were so submitted, it is the present Surveyor of the Navy. For commanding ability and untiring zeal no officer more efficient could be found, and, I must Bay, his position requires that he should occupy a permanent seat at the Board of Admiralty. At no time could any argument, even on the plea of additional expense, be alleged against such an appointment; at the present moment, one most worthy of consideration, when the construction of ships, so as to ensure the highest qualities of speed under sail or canvass, was of the utmost national importance, and. every first-rate ship cost between £200,0p0 and £300,000. While I give full credit to my noble and gallant Relative (Lord C. Paget) for the highest motives, I would divest both him and hon. Members of some wrong impressions conveyed in his speech on the 11th instant. The noble Admiral referred to the instance of the San Fiorenzo frigate, and the First Lord of the Admiralty declared his ignorance of her very existence. He might well say as much, for there never was such a vessel; she was, indeed, laid down as a sailing ship, and it was found advisable to discontinue further building in that character, and her scantling being found unequal for a screw, her conversion into a steamer was impracticable, the portions which had been framed were carefully taken to pieces, and employed in building a sloop-of-war. Some amusement was also at the same time created by a remark of a similar kind, with regard to the lengthening of the Immortalilé, which conveyed an impression that the ship had been sawn in sunder to admit of the process, whereas it actually occurred when only her keel and ribs were in frame. The addition of fifteen feet was made in the length of her bow at the cost in labour work of about £200; and I would ask what is such an inconsiderable sum when the beauty and efficiency of such a ship is at stake? My noble and 136 gallant Relative alluded to the expansion of another vessel, from 450 to 750 tons. Let me ask, could any improvidence be greater than rigid adherence to certain lines of construction, which the advance of science demonstrated to be ill designed? The Surveyor of the Navy would have been unworthy of his position had he neglected to advise the Admiralty that the change was indispensable. The ship, therefore, certainly grew, but the enlargement was productive of no loss, and was that which alone rendered her valuable to the country. Comment has been made by the hon. Member for Lambeth, that there is a very large number of admirals, captains, and commanders, on the Navy List, whilst, to my regret, the First Lord of the Admiralty informed us that there was a deficiency of mates and midshipmen. The number of admirals was the inevitable consequences of the protracted war, which lasted with scarce intermission from 1794 to 1815; at one period there was 965 vessels wearing the Royal Pennant, which the return of peace reduced to about 200; the officers whose services were no longer required were sent on shore, and this country continues to support them. It is a debt of honour contracted by the nation which every year diminishes, and the cold hand of death will entirely cancel. The House will pardon me if I remind hon. Members that in my person is felt the hardship of removal to the Reserved List; for a period of thirty years my untiring efforts for active service, with offers to undertake any description of service of command or station, were all to no purpose, while by favour or interest the same officers were constantly re-appointed to command, a system injurious in effect to the country, and a death-blow to the hopes of the most enterprising and ardent spirit, displacing a large number of naval officers from serving at sea. Sir, it is under this chilling award that the whole service languishes, gallant men fret and chafe under this injustice, every door of advancement is closed upon them; they are condemned to inactivity on shore, while their hearts burn to serve their country afloat, and they learn with sorrow, and might I not add indignation, that this their heavy misfortune is visited upon them as if it were a crime. No man, Sir, can exceed me in a heartfelt desire to see the navy raised to the highest state of efficiency; but let me observe that in achieving an object so important, no language should be permitted which conveys acute 137 sorrow to the breasts of those men who jeopardize their lives and fortunes to uphold the honour of that profession, the compulsory deprivation from whoso service is a pang which will go down with them to the grave.
§ SIR FRANCIS BARING
said, no man was more desirous than he was of exerting an effectual supervision over the public expenditure, and he thought it very important that there should be an inquiry, but it was impossible for him to vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Lambeth, because he did not think it advisable to transfer the consideration of the Estimates from the House to a Select Committee. He thought the preferable course was that the Estimates should be brought forward and discussed in the House under the superintendence of the Government. He deemed this course the more advisable on the present occasion because time was pressing, and as they heard statements which were not of a very comfortable nature, he thought the House of Commons ought at once to give the Executive Government the supplies which would enable them to proceed with such preparations as upon their responsibility they might deem necessary for the defence of the country. With regard to inquiry, he had no doubt they would ultimately have one. Some hon. Gentlemen demanded an investigation on the part of the country, but in his opinion another strong reason for inquiry was that accusations had been made that evening against different members of successive Boards of Admiralty. It was impossible that all those gentlemen could enter upon their defence on that occasion, but he thought that in justice to Sir Baldwin Walker, and others whose conduct has been impugned, an opportunity for a searching inquiry into the truth of the accusations ought to be afforded. He had no doubt it could readily He shown that there was the greatest misunderstanding with regard to some of those accusations. A charge had been made against him that he had not ordered the building of steam line-of-battle ships when in office. That subject was carefully considered by the Committee of 1848, and if the Report of that Committee were referred to it would be found that at that time we had four block-ships and were considerably in advance of France with regard to a steam navy, but it was also shown that, in consequence of the scientific improvements which were constantly made, the probability was that if 138 a screw line-of-battle ship were then built, she would before long be perfectly useless. Under these circumstances, it was thought advisable, in consonance with the advice of nearly every witness examined before the Committee whose opinion was worth having, not to proceed too rapidly at that time with the building of large screw ships for the navy. One was built by way of experiment—the Sanspareil—and, he believed, did not turn out very fortunately. As an instance of the changes which took place, he might state it was stated in evidence in 1848 that scientific men had come to the conclusion that it was advisable to have full lines for screw ships, while it was found practically that fine lines were absolutely necessary; so that if the original opinion had been acted upon, they would have had screw line-of-battle ships which would have proved totally inefficient. When it became necessary he had proceeded to build screw line-of-battle ships, and he did not think the acts of the Admiralty, of which he was a member, had in this respect been unfortunate in their results. The first line-of-battle ship they built was the Agamemnon, and he believed it would be admitted by naval officers that she had not proved a bad ship. A great deal of ridicule had been thrown upon the "conversion" of ships. He would mention an instance of what had happened when he was at the Admiralty. A ship was laid down called the Windsor Castle, which was intended to be a sailing vessel, but when it was seen that screw ships were superseding sailing ships, it was determined to endeavour to turn her into a screw ship, The Windsor Castle was accordingly cut in two, and many hon. Members would remember the ridicule with which the Board of Admiralty were covered for their decision, which was pronounced by the newspapers to be foolish and absurd. Well, the Windsor Castle was launched on the very day upon which the Duke of Wellington died, and her Majesty was pleased to direct that her name should be changed to that of the Duke of Wellington, and the Windsor Castle, about which so much ridicule was thrown upon the Admiralty, was now the Duke of Wellington, one of the best ships, he believed, in Her Majesty's Navy. He did not suppose he would now be told that the Board of Admiralty had acted unwisely because, instead of building a sailing ship, which would have been useless, they had, at an expense he believed of about £12,000,con- 139 verted the sailing ship into one of the largest and best screw ships in the navy. He had seen articles in the public journals in which the writers blessed their stars that there were no longer at the head of the Admiralty persons who cut ships in two, while they were quite ignorant that the Duke of Wellington was the very ship respecting which the Board of which he was a member had been so unsparingly ridiculed.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he thought the remarks which had fallen from the right hon. Baronet were most valuable with regard to the expediency of going into Committee. But he wished to set himself right with the House on one point. He had always argued, and he thought justly—[An hon. MEMBER: Hear, hear!]—he thanked his hon. Friend for that cheer—that the present constitution of the Admiralty required great alteration. But, having made that statement, he would add that he thought no course could be adopted by the House more prejudicial than that suggested by the hon. Member for Lambeth. He could see nothing calculated to be more detrimental to the well-being of the country than the appointment of a Committee—even were that Committee presided over by the hon. Member for Lambeth—and he hoped the House would negative the proposal in so decided a manner as that on future occasions such Motions would not be interposed to delay the business of the country.
§ LORD HARRY VANE
said, he rose to express a hope that it would not be considered that those hon. Gentlemen who dissented from the views of the hon. Member for Lambeth did not therefore entertain a desire for inquiry on the subject of the navy. He believed it was undeniable that the statements which had recently been made on the subject of the navy had produced an extraordinary effect upon the public mind, and his decided opinion was, that it was absolutely essential that the public feeling should be satisfied by means of an inquiry. He thought it absolutely necessary that the present, or any other Government, should consent to such an investigation; but at the same time he conceived that it would be highly injurious to the interests of the navy and of the country if the Executive were allowed to divest themselves of responsibility, and to throw it upon a Committee, which was the course proposed by the hon. Member for Lambeth.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
said, he 140 wished to protest against the idea that he had, either directly or indirectly, intended to attack an old and valued friend and brother officer, Sir Baldwin Walker. So far from considering that Sir Baldwin Walker was responsible for the shortcomings to which he had called the attention of the House, he believed he was wholly irresponsible for them; but, at the same time, he (Lord C. Paget) would not hesitate for a moment to find fault with Sir Baldwin Walker, were he his best friend, merely because he was not a Member of that House, if he considered that his public acts exposed him to criticism. His (Lord C. Paget's) remarks had been addressed to the First Lords of the Admiralty and to other hon. Members of that House who were, or had been, officially connected with the Admiralty. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated on a former occasion that Sir Baldwin Walker was not interfered with, but that he was regarded as an almost supreme director with respect to ship-building. He (Lord C. Paget) could inform the House, however, that so completely had Sir Baldwin Walker been in the hands of the Lords of the Admiralty, that, until within a very short period, he had not been empowered to give an order for the alteration of ships in the dockyards, even in the slightest degree. It was therefore impossible that he could have applied his observations to Sir Baldwin Walker.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
Sir, I hope the House will think the view taken by my hon. Friend (Mr. Bentinck) and by the right hon. Baronet (Sir Francis Baring) a sound one, and will not accede to the Motion. I hope also that the House will not forget what has fallen from the right hon. Baronet with regard to that noble and magnificent ship the Duke of Wellington, Those remarks were most apposite to the present occasion; and when we hear charges made—whether against Sir Baldwin Walker, or against the Admiralty—of reckless and extravagant expenditure because certain ships have been altered, let us bear in mind the testimony of so competent a witness as is the right hon. Baronet to the fact that these alterations have in some signal instances tended to the public service and have given us some of the finest ships we possess. I shall not detain the House by discussing at any length the Motion of the hon. Member, but I think it will be admitted that the speech in which that Motion was introduced was one of a 141 very discursive character. In the first place the hon. Member stated that I had admitted the existence of great mal-administration in the dockyards. [Mr. WILLIAMS: Hear!] Now, I beg to say that I never admitted anything of the sort, and I was not at the time in a position to make such a statement. What I said was, that on taking office I found a gigantic expenditure going on in the dockyards; that I did not feel satisfied that the public had their money's worth; that I thought it my duty to endeavour to ascertain if such were the case, and that I therefore appointed a Committee of Inquiry. I may add, that that Committee have most diligently attended to their duties for the last six months, and that their investigation has been of the most minute character. I am now awaiting their Report, and I am informed meanwhile by the Chairman that he believes their recommendations will tend to promote both efficiency and economy; but I never stated—and I should have been acting very unjustly if I had stated—that I had satisfied myself of the existence of any mal-adiministration in our dockyards. Then the hon. Member informed us that since the great war with France £300,000,000 have been spent in our dockyards. Why not go back to the time of the Commonwealth? Why not tell us how much has been spent since the days of Oliver Cromwell? I am certainly not in a position to say what the expenditure on the navy has been during the period to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, but this I can say that such statements, whether true or un- true, have really no bearing upon the question now before the House, which is, whether the Estimates for 1859–60 shall be referred to the consideration of a Committee. The reference made to the Motion of the noble and gallant Lord (Lord C. Paget) was equally inapposite. The hon. Gentleman dragged in that Motion as a reason for the inquiry now suggested. Why it has nothing to do with the question. Let me here remind the hon. Member, who may not have been in the House at the time, that I this evening gave notice of my intention to wait for no Committee of Inquiry on the subject of the noble Lord's Motion; that in justice to the building department of the Board of Admiralty, as well as to past Boards of Admiralty for the last eleven years, I intend shortly to lay upon the table a full statement of the appropriation of the moneys which have been voted by this House during the last eleven years for 142 dockyard purposes; and that that statement will contain the greatest amount of detail which the office of the Surveyor of the navy can supply. That is the effect of the notice which I gave to-night, not out of the slightest discourtesy to the noble Lord, but simply that justice may be done to those who have been gravely attacked by him. I believe it will be shown that the noble Lord is mistaken in saying that there is a balance of £5,000,000 unaccounted for, and I am also ready to state that the noble Lord has been misinformed in what fell from him as to particular ships. This is not the right moment to revive the subject, but I am sure nobody will be more satisfied than the noble Lord himself to learn that he is in error on these points. I repeat, however, that his statements afford no ground for the Motion of the hon. Member (Mr. Williams). The hon. Baronet who seconded this Motion (Sir Harry Verney), has asked whether I have any objection to furnish retrospective information. If I remember rightly, when I replied to the noble Lord I stated that the form which he suggested could not be complied, with, and that his proposal for information should rather have a retrospective than a prospective bearing. I will not commit myself to any promise, but I can assure the House that I do not wish for concealment, that I have no objection to furnish information, and I think I have proved on previous occasions that I have no such objection, provided only that the inquiry is so shaped as not to impede or injure the public service. I must now glance at one or two remarks of the hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham (Sir Henry Willoughby.) My hon. Friend alluded to a supplementary Estimate which I proposed the other night, and stated that that Estimate had been taken in a very irregular manner in the middle of the Army Estimates. Let me remind him, however, that that supplementary Estimate was taken after full and ample notice given in the usual way, and that it therefore came on in a strictly regular manner. My hon. Friend went on to say that that Vote of £133,000 ought to have appeared in the Estimates for 1858–9; but it was part of the expenditure of 1857–8, and could not therefore have appeared in the Estimates of 1858–9. The hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Sykes) represents me as having said that we were destitute of a Channel Fleet. Now I never said anything of the sort; on the contrary, I have exerted my- 143 self, not I hope without some success, to establish a Channel Fleet; and the hon. and gallant Member must, therefore, have entirely misunderstood me. But the question before the House is, are we or are we not to appoint a Select Committee? I earnestly hope that the House will reject the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, for I believe that if acceded to it will tend to the injury of the public service. I repeat that I have no objection to any investigation which is consistent with the public interests; but when hon. Gentlemen are pressing for inquiry, I hope they will recollect that I am going to present a Report bearing on the statements of the noble Member for Sandwich (Lord C. Paget.) On this point I appeal more especially to the right hon. Baronet (Sir Francis Baring) who has himself held office at the Admiralty, to consider whether, at a moment of unusual pressure and of unusual exertion there, it is possible to institute such an inquiry as he has suggested, without so burdening the Department as to render it very difficult to carry on the business of the country. At this moment every nerve is strained almost beyond its power; it is difficult for the existing establishment to perform the duties which press upon them; and, considering the great amount of additional work which has now to be performed, I do hope the House will pause before it further taxes the Department to provide the means of carrying on the inquiry proposed.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
said, he hoped the hon. Member for Lambeth would not press his Motion to a division, as there seemed to be a general feeling that it would be inexpedient to refer those Estimates to a Select Committee. He would not go into details on the subject; but after the serious charges which had been brought by no common Member of the House, but by an admiral of great distinction in Her Majesty's service—one not only distinguished on his own element, but having peculiar opportunities of knowing all the arcana connected with ship-building—when that Member got up in the House and accused a Department of having wasted £5,000,000 of money of which there was no account, he thought it could hardly be expected that that House would be content with the offer of the right hon. Gentleman. He knew that he, as one of its Members, and having been connected with a former Board of Admiralty, should not be content by the offer of settling the question by producing 144 a paper of accounts. However inconvenient it might be for the Admiralty to have the time of their clerks taken up by an inquiry, he considered that that Department had been so damaged by the statement of an Admiral—one, too, who had possessed rare opportunities of knowing all the peculiarities of ship-building—that the House was bound to appoint a Committee to inquire into the circumstances; and he (Mr. Osborne) for one should not be satisfied—inasmuch as he disputed the noble Lord's figures, challenged his facts, and dissented from his conclusions—he should not be satisfied unless he had an opportunity of showing before the Committee how very badly that gallant Admiral had been informed, and that however great he might be on the water he was a very lame duck on the land. He would not take up the time of the House by going on this occasion into the gallant Admiral figures; the time would arrive for this. He would only give an instance to show how possible it was for even the frankness of an Admiral to lead away the House by a clap-trap assertion. The noble Lord cited the case of the Immortalité, and the expense of lengthening her by 14 feet, as constituting one of the particulars in his list of charges with reference to the squandering of £5,000,000 of money. But would the House believe that the extra expense thus incurred was in reality somewhat under £200? He could also account pretty satisfactorily for the case of the San Fiorenzo, were it not that he was unwilling to weary the House by entering into details at that moment. He entreated the House, however, to grant the inquiry for which he asked into the shipbuilding expenditure in our navy, and he pledged himself, should it do so, to controvert the statements which had been made by the gallant Admiral. However great the inconvenience to the Admiralty might be—and he admitted it would be great—the inconvenience was greater that a statement damaging to the efficiency of a Department should remain uncontradicted; and neither the House nor the country would be satisfied unless here was an inquiry into the ship-building department and expenditure.
§ SIR CHARLES NAPIER
said, he was of opinion that a Committee should, both. in justice to the noble Lord the Member for Sandwich, (Lord C. Paget) as well as to the Admiralty, be appointed, and he might also observe that, as a notice of Motion for inquiring into the state of the Navy stood 145 upon the Paper for Thursday next in the name of the hon. Member fur Newport, the hon. Member for Lambeth had better not press his Motion that evening. As an instance of the mismanagement which prevailed at the Admiralty, he might mention that shortly before his right hon. Friend near him (Sir Charles Wood) left that department he had ordered efficient vessels to be placed at different ports. The captain of the Duke of Wellington had accordingly been ordered to put her in commission for that purpose, while directions had been issued that the St. Vincent was to be paid off; but the moment, however, the succeeding Board of Admiralty had come into office the order had been countermanded.
§ MR. JACKSON
said, his experience as a shipowner led him to the conclusion that the hon. Member for Dovor (Mr. B. Osborne) must be labouring under a mistake if he supposed the Immortalité could have been lengthened 14 feet at a cost of £200. Indeed, if a cipher were added to the figures he thought they would be nearer the mark. But be that as it might, it was, he thought, absolutely necessary that steps should be taken to inquire into the expenditure of the money under the control of the Admiralty. One circumstance had come within his own knowledge which tended to show how essential it was that such investigation should take place—he alluded to the cost and quality of the anchors which were employed by that department. The subject was one into which a Committee had been appointed to inquire, and eight different qualities of anchors had been tested, the worst being that which had been found to be used by the Admiralty. But not only was that the case, but the cost of the Admiralty anchors was 75s. per cwt., while the cost of Trotman's, which were the best quality of anchor, was only 35s. per cwt. Now, if that were a fair specimen of the way in which things were managed in the navy it was no wonder that the expenses in connection with it were greatly and to no good purposes increased. He was therefore prepared to maintain that his noble Friend the Member for Sandwich, having brought forward the charges which he had made, was bound to substantiate them, and ought to have the opportunity of doing so afforded him. There had been an inquiry into the system of army contracts, and an investigation into the affairs of the Admiralty might also bring its Weedons to light. The country. 146 at all events, was determined that the public money should be properly laid out, that it should receive 20s worth for every sovereign which was voted by Parliament, and that no Government should be suffered to exist which did not render a just and accurate account of the national expenditure. He should, under those circumstances, recommend the hon. Member for Lambeth to withdraw his Motion.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
said, he fully agreed that the Amendment was not convenient at this period. But he rose to offer an observation or two. The last; speaker had expressed his conviction from his experience as a shipowner that the lengthening of the Immortalité by 14 feet must have cost more than £200. [An Hon. MEMBER: He said £2,000.] The hon. Member must admit that the cost must depend on the state of the vessel at the time of the alteration. He (Sir Charles Wood) was responsible for that lengthening of the Immortalité. The ship was simply in frame at the time the alteration was determined on. It was necessary merely to unfasten a few bolts, to put in new bow timbers, and to move the stem a few feet forward. The alteration was very simple, and the cost very small. Last Friday night he asked the Surveyor of the Navy what was the cost of the alteration, and on Saturday morning he was assured that the cost, being for labour only or for labour mainly, could not by any possibility have exceeded £200.
§ Question "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.