§ House in Committee;
§ (In the Committee.)
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £3,189,477, be granted to Her Majesty to defray the Charge of Naval Stores for the Building, Repair, and Outfit of the Fleet, Steam Machinery, and Ships built by Contract, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1862.
said, that they could only hope to draw attention to the Estimates by singling out items and dwelling on their details; and, therefore, he wished to say a few words on this Vote. For many years the Admiralty confined the manufacture of steam-engines for the navy to two firms. After knocking at the door of the Admiralty Session after Session, they were at length convinced that there were many other firms which could supply equally good engines, and it was then found that engines for which they had hitherto paid £70 to £80 per horse power could be built for £55 per horse power. But, even now, tenders might with advantage be received from a larger number of manufacturers. With regard to anchors one firm had held the contract for twenty years. For a certain number of anchors the Admiralty paid that firm £3,434, and these same anchors could be had from equally eminent firms for £1,428. In other words, they were paying nearly three times the market price for anchors. It might be said that the prices were subject to revision; but somehow, notwithstanding the invention of the steam hammer and other improvements, the prices seemed to be increasing. The noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty might wonder what was the reason of his hammering, year after year, upon this subject, and would, perhaps, think he had some interest in the matter. His personal feeling, if any, in the matter, was, however, in favour of the particular firm that had the monopoly of the anchors. He wished to know why the particular firm of Brown, Lennox, and Co., retained that monopoly—why the supply of anchors had not been thrown open to competition, and why other eminent manufacturers had not the opportunity of tendering? He had given notice that the Vote of £500,000 for the purchase of steam machinery for Her Majesty's ships should be reduced by £100,000; but before dividing the Committee on that proposal he wished to know from his noble 524 Friend for what ships this steam machinery was required?
§ MR. CONINGHAM
said, he could not understand why the supply of anchors should not be offered to competition. It was only necessary that the contractors should be under proper control. There was no difficulty about that. The contractors for the fortifications of Paris had been ruined because they had to complete their contracts under the superintendence of Government engineers. The great thing was to take care that contracts were not made with those who were incapable of executing them. He rose, however, more particularly to object to the system of iron-ship building. He should certainly, at the proper time, take the sense of the Committee on the Vote of £55,000 for steam machinery for iron-built ships, to see whether a wholesale system of manufacture was to be sanctioned by them or not.
said, that if the Motion to reduce the Vote of £685,000 for steam engines by £100,000 were put, the lion. Member for Brighton could not move the reduction of the minor item.
said, he should await the explanation of the noble Lord the Secretary for the Admiralty before he troubled the Committee to divide.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, there was no item in the Navy Estimates on the expense of which he would place less stress than for anchors. But the Admiralty were sticking to the old heavy anchors, when the necessity for heavy anchors had gone by. For ships of 300 or 400 feet long, with such fine lines as they were now building, they required light anchors. Rogers's and Trotman's anchors were very much lighter than the Admiralty anchors. It was objected to those anchors that they did not bite; but having inquired into the subject he found their great defect was that they bit too sharp, so as to produce what was technically called "snubbing," when the ship being brought up too sharp, the cable broke, but not the anchor. He would give his support to the first part of the proposition of the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay), but not to the second; for though eventually we should be obliged to substitute iron for wooden ships, the time for doing so had not yet come; and as, in case of war, we should look for a combination of the whole world against us, we should be prepared to put steam-engines in the ships now laid down. The 525 subject of the reconstruction of the navy demanded at least as much consideration as was vouchsafed by the House to the establishment of country post-offices, or the expenditure of a sum of money on Kensington Museum. But what was now proposed was to alter the character of the navy in a wholesale way, under the direction of the Surveyor of the Navy and his assistants. He believed the country ought to have better advice than was to be found in the Surveyor's-office, and that the men most capable of dealing with the question and who had turned their attention to it in a practical manner, ought to be assembled immediately, and invited to give their opinion on this all-important question. The adaptation of the steam-engine to the sailing ship was merely a change of the motive power, and did not trench to any great extent on the qualities of the ship; but in iron vessels the primary principles of construction were unknown. The point had yet to be ascertained, at which specific gravity overcame flotation. A wooden ship would stagger and recover herself; but if the Warrior were sent to sea in a gale of wind, and she was pooped with one wave and caught on the lee bow with another, it was impossible to tell how she would act. In one point that vessel was singularly malconstructed, for she was wall-sided, and thereby exposed to danger from boarding, which he was informed by competent authorities would be only way of taking these iron-plated frigates.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
said, he quite concurred in the belief that, regard being had to the immense cost of these new frigates, it was almost impossible that the subject could be too fully considered. Very anxious attention, he knew, had been given to it by the noble Duke at the head of the Admiralty, and he had availed himself of the opinions of a very valuable committee, consisting of Sir John Hay, Dr. Percy, Mr. Fairbairn and other officers who had been for some time engaged in experiments with regard to the various qualities of iron, and had extended their investigations into still larger questions. A great deal of attention had lately been paid by foreign nations to the subject of iron-cased ships, and all the maritime nations to a greater or less extent were commencing the construction of this class of vessels. Her Majesty's Government, therefore, thought it necessary to increase our force in this respect. We had seven vessels of this description. The Warrior, Black 526 Prince, and the Achilles belonged to the first class, measuring somewhat about 6,000 tons. The two former were now nearly ready. The Achilles was about to be laid down at Chatham. [Sir JOHN PAKINGTON: But not actually laid down.] She would shortly be laid down, but a great deal of her material was ready, and when commenced it was hoped that she would progress satisfactorily. There were two others of the second class, the Resistance and Defence, measuring between 3,000 and 4,000 tons, and the remaining two vessels were of about 4,000 tons. These seven ships were now under construction, and in addition to them Her Majesty's Government had thought it wise that we should undertake the construction of five more iron-cased ships. It was a question whether they ought to be of iron or wood; but it so happened that they had the timbers of five line-of-battle ships of the latest and best 90-gun class, and it was accordingly determined that the whole of these vessels should be put up, lengthened about 20 feet, and cased entirely with iron plates. Midships they would be of the full thickness of 4½ inches, but at the two ends, with a view to their sea-going qualities, they would be somewhat less solid. It was intended that these vessels should each carry fifty guns, and the engines which it was intended to place in them would give them a high speed. He was not prepared to say that at a future time the Government might not be prepared to go on building iron-cased ships, indeed, he believed, they would be called on to do so, but what he had now stated was all that had been decided on up to the present time. The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay) declared that his course with regard to the vote would be affected by the reply given to him with regard to the engines now in course of construction. Sixty-four engines were now being constructed for the Admiralty, but of these only one was for a line-of-battle ship, far advanced towards completion; and four were for other vessels in process of conversion, which he hoped would be out of dock during the present summer. The rest of the engines were intended for vessels of a smaller size. In reference to the anchor question, on which they had an annually renewed discussion, he could only say that if his hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland would give the name of any firm prepared to supply anchors such as the Admiralty could approve 527 on terms greatly beneath those at present paid to contractors, the application should receive the fullest consideration from the Board. [Mr. LINDSAY: Why not advertise.] It was true they might advertise; but would the Government be justified in allowing strange parties to tender for the manufacture of first-class anchors any more than they would for first-class engines? The practice of the Admiralty was to allow firms who had submitted to have their yards inspected with the view of ascertaining whether they bad the requisite plant, to tender for the manufacture of engines of the lowest class, then if they built engines which gave satisfaction for those of a more powerful description, and. so on to the highest and best class of engines. He had received offers from one or two firms saying it was not worth their while to make the lowest class of chains, though they were quite prepared to tender for the best description. But it was a very grave question whether the Admiralty would be justified in departing from the rule they had hitherto acted upon. All he could say was that their case would meet with due consideration at the Admiralty. He hoped the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Coningham) would not persist in his threatened opposition to the Vote for steam machinery for the iron-cased vessels building at Chatham. The experiments going on at Chatham might or might not be successful. He was not prepared to say that the Government would build either better or cheaper vessels at Chatham, but when we wore embarking largely in the construction of iron-cased ships it was right that we should have at least one dockyard where we could repair them. Private builders knew that repairing old vessels was more remunerative work than constructing new ones, and the Government, in order to protect the public, wished to have a dockyard where they could repair iron-cased vessels when they had got them.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he had heard with considerable disappointment what had just fallen from his noble Friend with regard to the intentions of the Government as to the increase of the iron-cased ships of the navy. He wished he had been fuller in explaining what he proposed to do. He did not clearly understand what was to be the character of the five ships when completed, nor what was their condition now. His noble Friend had spoken of them as line-of-battle ships; but he (Sir John Pakington) apprehended from 528 what he had heard elsewhere that they were to be cut down to ships of one deck.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
One of the questions which he was about to ask was, what condition those ships were in, or what progress had been made with them? The noble Lord had not told the Committee how far they were advanced, or what was to be their character when completed. He understood now that they were laid down as two-deckers—line-of-battle ships. ["No, no!"] Then his noble Friend had better explain, for he certainly could not understand what was meant.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
explained that the frames of three of them were not yet laid down, but they would soon be so. The intention was to build them on the model of the Bulwark, which was the latest model of a 90-gun ship. Of the remaining two the frames were already laid down. At little or no expense the whole of them would be lengthened by 20 feet as compared with the Bulwark, and they would be built as iron-cased frigates carrying 50 guns.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, the fact was that these ships would be built de novo, and would be all single deck ships. The important point at which they arrived was that it was the intention of the Government to add five iron-covered ships to the force in progress. Therefore, the iron-covered ships proposed to be given by the Admiralty, and already in progress, would be twelve. Now, after the information with which they had lately been furnished, he wished that the Admiralty had stated that they intended going further. He found that he had understated the case on Friday evening. He had omitted to mention one iron frigate called the Invincible, which had been launched at Toulon early in the last month. He had stated on Friday that Admiral Elliot had not visited Toulon; he was not aware, therefore, of more than La Gloire, La Savoie, and La Provence. The present strength of the French navy in these ships, either built or building, was fourteen frigates, two line-of-battle ships, four batteries, and five armour-covered gunboats. Our Admiralty thought that it was a sufficient answer in these circumstances to say that they would shortly have twelve vessels in progress. That was not satisfactory. It 529 was not meeting the preparations of France) to the extent they ought to meet them, especially considering the formidable character of the French iron-cased vessels, and considering the large number of other ships belonging to the French Navy. He also regretted that the noble Lord had not given a clearer and more satisfactory answer to the hon. Member for Portsmouth with respect to the appointment of a competent Committee, not only to test the quality of the iron, but to ascertain, if possible, the best mode of constructing iron-cased ships.
§ MR. FINLAY
said, he concurred with the right hon. Baronet in thinking the statement of the noble Lord hardly satisfactory, lie did not, see why the Admiralty might not act with more energy without putting the country to additional expense. We were told that our wooden fleet was of little use for coast defence. We had several large wooden three deckers; and he wished to know why some of the hands now engaged on wooden ships could not be set to work to cut off the upper deck of these three deckers in order to cover the lower decks with iron plates. Altered in that manner, those ships would defend our ports and coasts, although they might not be fit for long voyages. In company with officers of experience he had visited some of the iron-plated ships which we had in course of construction, and he was sorry to say that the opinion of those gentlemen was not very favourable. They considered that the Warrior, although a splendid model of a vessel, would not under certain circumstances be able to meet at close quarters a vessel like La Gloire. The latter had 34 guns under casemated batteries, while the former had only 26, and was perfectly exposed, fore and aft. She was too long for the defence of coasts, and would not be handy in such a service. He, therefore, hoped that the Admiralty would not depend on vessels of the Warrior class for our coast defences.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, his noble Friend had talked of the observations of the hon. Member for Sunderland and the hon. Member for Portsmouth with respect to anchors as the "annually renewed discussion." It was true that the discussion was renewed annually., and he did not wonder at it, because after each renewal they appeared to leave off pretty nearly where they had begun. His noble Friend had told them that the Admiralty did not wish to shut up the contracts for anchors, 530 and that those who tendered for anchors would be treated in the same way as those who tendered for engines; but if he (Mr. Bentinck) understood the matter rightly, those who tendered for anchors were not in the same position as those who tendered for engines, because the practice had been virtually to exclude all tenders, and leave the manufacture of anchors solely in the hands of one person. He had no iterest, like his hon. Friend opposite, in Trotman's anchors; but the case was simply this:—Some years ago Trotman's anchors were subjected with others to trial before a committee of scientific men, who pronounced Trotman's the best, and the Admiralty anchors the worst. The Admiralty might choose not to accept that as an authority, but the fact remained unanswered,—that Trotman tendered to construct anchors subject to the Admiralty test at a much cheaper rate than the contract now existing for Admiralty anchors, and that up to this time he had not been allowed to make the experiment. He (Mr. Bentinck) considerd, therefore, that the tender for anchors was virtually closed to the public. His hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, with reference to the iron ships, complained of the system generally. He (Mr. Bentinck) was inclined to think that there was a great deal in the present system that was objectionable, but his hon. Friend seemed to forget that they both had had the advantage of sitting twice a week on a Committee for the purpose of investigating the merits or the demerits of the present Board of Admiralty; and his hon. Friend would agree with him that a more hopeless task could not have been undertaken. He believed that the labours of that Committee would be perfectly ineffectual, and he could only repeat what he had said from the first—that he looked upon the whole thing as a broad farce. His hon. friend ought to remember when he was making those complaints that he was complaining in vain. Until they could arrive at some investigation which should bring the constitution of the Board of Admiralty before that House all complaints would be useless. He would suggest to his hon. Friend to give up the inquiry that was at present going on, and endeavour to institute one that was likely to lead to practical results. He hoped, however, that the Committee would not agree to either the reduction proposed by the hon. Member for Sunderland, or the one proposed by the hon. Member for Brighton, because it 531 was quite clear that so long as the Board of Admiralty was constituted as at present, they must put faith in that Board. Under the present circumstances of the country and of Europe, any attempt to cripple them would be impolitic. He agreed with the right lion. Baronet the Member for Droitwich, that the exertions of the Admiralty with regard to the iron-cased ships, were not equal to the occasion. They ought to make greater exertions to put themselves on an equality with their Galic neighbours. They must all know perfectly well that there could be no object on the part of France in going to the enormous expense of ship-building, particularly of this new class of vessels, except that of obtaining and of maintaining a maritime superiority over this country. On the other hand, no man could believe, either in France or England, that there ever was or ever would be, an attempt on the part of this country to invade France. That was absurd on the face of it, because the number of troops we had were not sufficient for the defence of the country. It was only about one-fifth of the number in France. They were bound to consider that the only possible object of France in going to her present enormous expense in the construction of the new class of vessels, was to obtain a maritime superiority over this country, and the Committee ought to bear in mind that if the maritime superiority of this country was lost, the commerce of the country would be lost also; and if that power should be obtained by France, it would only be used for the purpose of invasion of this country.
§ MR. DALGLISH
said, that an attempt had been made by the right lion. Member for Droitwich to startle the country, but that attempt had failed. He hoped the noble Lord the Secretary for the Admiralty would avoid going on too rapidly in the building of iron-cased ships. Let the Admiralty first fairly try one of the ships and let the Committee now sitting consider the subject before more ships of that kind were built. If they proceeded deliberately in that way they might hope one day to have an efficient navy, but that object would never be accomplished by rashly building a new class of vessels for the success of which they had no security.
SIR FREDERIC SMITH
said, there was no doubt that the French iron-cased vessels would be more numerous than ours, but before we plunged into a vast expenditure for the erection of that class of vessels, 532 we should have the best grounds for believing that they were necessary. He suggested that they should case with iron some of the wooden vessels that were in a forward state. At all events, it would be unwise to build more iron-cased ships till a fair experiment was made of their value.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
said, he wished to correct an impression that seemed to exist that the Admiralty never consulted anybody but the Comptroller of the Navy in the construction of ships. They had consulted several of the most eminent shipbuilders, including Mr. Laird, of Liverpool, and Mr. Napier, of Glasgow, as to the construction of these ships. It must be remembered that they had had no experience to guide them, that they were groping to a certain extent in the dark, and that it was impossible to arrive at any certain result as to the value of this class of vessels till experiments had been tried. The hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) found fault with the composition of the Committee now sitting on the subject of the Admiralty. It was an unfortunate circumstance that his hon. Friend did not regularly attend the meetings of the Committee, but he had no doubt that it would be able to arrive at important results. With regard to Mr. Trotman's anchors, all he would say was that he was not aware Mr. Trotman had offered to make anchors cheaper than the Admiralty now made them; but if he would make such an offer, he would take care to lay it before Board of the Admiralty.
§ MR. CONINGHAM
said, that if the noble Lord meant to say that the contracts would be thrown open, that would meet all the objections that had been raised, and must be satisfactory to Mr. Trotman and his friends. He should not press his Amendment, hoping that his hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland would take the sense of the Committee on the essential question.
§ MR. E. BALL
remarked, that he had always understood that when various anchors were tested, the reward of merit was given to Trotman's, as being that which exhibited the greatest amount of tenacity. Yet he had since been treated with the greatest discourtesy. He had been much impressed by the statement they had heard last Friday from the right hon. Gentleman on that great national subject. This country possessed great wealth, much exposed, and extensive colonies, and we must maintain our naval supremacy. They had heard on very high authority that the French were 533 in advance of us in respect to their ironclad ships, and it became the imperative duty of any Administration to be on the alert, and to see that we were placed in a position to command and maintain that naval supremacy which was essential to our national independence. He thought the best way of proceeding was to go on building iron-clad ships on the best possible mode of construction, making them fully equal to compete with the ships of France. He could not help thinking that we were in a very perilous position, for he found it impossible to believe that France would make so great an effort to strengthen her navy as she was making had she not some ulterior object in view. If, under these circumstances, £1,250,000 of revenue by means of which we could build five ships of war of the best class every year had not been recklessly thrown away by abandoning the paper duty, what a benefit would have been conferred upon the country.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
The subject which was started by the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir John Pakington) is one of infinitely greater importance than the relative merits of different anchors, or the best mode of fitting steamships with boilers. It is, moreover, I can assure the Committee, a subject which has not escaped the notice of the Government, and which still intensely occupies their attention. It is, in short, a subject of vital moment, because—as everybody must see at a glance—if any other Power were to acquire a superiority to us at sea, the most vital interests of the country would be imperilled. The question, therefore, which presents itself to our consideration is—seeing that other nations, and especially our nearest neighbours, are making efforts to commence a career of very extensive construction of iron-clad vessels—what we can do to meet the corresponding demands of the country. The right hon. Baronet opposite stated the other day very accurately the number of iron-clad ships-of-war which the French Government had either already built or ordered to be constructed, the total number, as far as we are informed, amounting to fifteen. [Sir JOHN PAKINGTON: Sixteen.] The right hon. Baronet thinks there is another; and of the fifteen I have mentioned, the greater proportion have only recently been ordered to be laid down, so that it will be a very considerable time before the whole of these vessels are launched and ready for sea. We, upon the other hand, have at the pre- 534 sent moment, either built or building, seven of these vessels, as was stated by my noble Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty, and the Government have considered which would be the best and readiest method for providing a large and valuable addition to our iron-clad ships. The most effectual and expeditious method, we thought, would be that which my noble Friend has stated—namely, to take advantage of the preparations which have been made for the construction of a certain number of wooden line-of-battle ships, to put five of these up and fit them to be clad with iron. By adopting this plan it is quite obvious we shall be saving time, because the materials are, in a certain degree, ready to our hand, and these five ships will, as a consequence, be fit for sea sooner than five iron ships now laid down for the first time. The French ships, I may add, are chiefly built of wood and cased with iron—[An Hon. MEMBER: All but two]—and the five vessels of which I am speaking will, therefore, be of exactly the same description as those which the French are building, while, armed as they are to be with guns of the heaviest calibre, they will be found very formidable, and, we trust, owing to the arrangements which have been made, good sea-going vessels as well as batteries. These five ships being added to the seven which I have already mentioned will give us twelve as against fifteen French vessels. France has, in addition, a certain number of floating batteries; but so have we, so that we may set those vessels one against the other. I wish the House clearly to understand that, although I have stated the measures which are now at once prepared to undertake, we do not consider ourselves precluded, by the adoption of those measures, from taking any others which we may deem expedient with the view of constructing ships of iron of a larger and more formidable description. It is evident, however, from what has passed in this discussion, that it would be unwise to launch at once into ordering a great number of iron ships of a new description until the Government has arrived at a clear and definite understanding as to what is the best manner and the best form for their construction. The building of such vessels would, of course, involve a large expenditure, and although that expenditure would be far from being thrown away in providing for the security of the country, yet it is expedient to ascertain beforehand, as far as possible, how the 535 money may be laid out in the best way to accomplish the object which we all have in view. Ships of this description must be built by contract, mid before the Government undertake to give a large order for them they think it prudent to place themselves, by communications and experiments, in a better condition to know what are the best and most useful ships of the kind. The steps which we have taken will put us in possession of five iron-clad vessels of the best sort, armed with the heaviest guns; and my opinion is that those five will be ready sooner than any five of those which the French Government is beginning to lay down. We have the materials already provided, which it is to be supposed they have not, and we shall, I feel confident, find ourselves on a par with the preparations they have made.
SIR, MORTON PETO
said, he was sure that no Member of the House would refuse to sustain the honour and to promote the security of the Government. But underlying all these discussions there was one fatal feeling—a want of confidence in the administrative power of the Admiralty. They could not commence these operations without great preparation. With all deference to the lion. Member opposite (Sir Frederic Smith), he was surprised to find that Chatham Yard had been selected for the building of the first iron ship. The Government were compelled to come to the House for smithies, and a Vote of £180,000 had to be taken for iron and appliances for that purpose, and a staff must be organized as wooden ships only had been constructed there. Why was not Keyham selected? It was said that the docks at Keyham were not large enough. If so, they ought to be enlarged, if Keyham was to retain its position as the great steam building factory of the kingdom. With respect to the construction of these other five vessels to be clothed with iron, he should like to know in what yards the Secretary of the Admiralty meant to build them, because it was desirable to avoid creating large establishments in connection with these matters. What was really wanted was that the money granted should be applied in the best way. At present these vessels could not be built in the Royal dockyards without an enormous increase of establishment; and it was, therefore, the duty of the Committee to consider whether the better course to pursue was to build them by contract or in Her Majesty's yards. Let the House have the opportu- 536 nity of calmly considering this matter, without rushing headlong into the expenditure. He deprecated the discussions which so often took place in reference to Franco, for he knew the feeling they excited in France, and he must say that the present French Government were doing nothing but what this country ought to have been doing long since. In 1858 they profited by the experiment that was made, and with great practical skill went on producing an iron navy instead of a wooden one. This country had enough wooden vessels to meet all the world, although those to whom she was likely to be opposed were building nothing but iron ships. They were desirous of strengthening the Government by adopting the most practical mode of obtaining the end they had in view. The noble Lord had had a great experience in official life, but he had not had much experience of commercial life. He (Sir Morton Peto) remembered the instance of a man connected with one of the staple manufactures of the country, who made a large fortune, and left it to be maintained by his sons after him. Relying upon the-reputation of his name, the business was continued, but the sons failed from want of practical superintendence and skill, allowing others to supersede them by improvements in fresh applications of machinery, while they relied on the machinery by which their father had achieved his success. That was just the position the Government were in at present. They went on perpetuating their expenditure in the old direction, because they were not subject to any commercial check, or influenced by anything like a commercial feeling; but now, for the first time, there was a ruler in an adjoining country who took a different course. Nothing in France was spent that could be saved, for every shilling was there applied with the best scientific skill to obtain the required result, and £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 was made to go further than £12,000,000 in this country. They must, therefore, take care that this nation did not go to decay in consequence of the want of sufficient energy to remodel the establishments, and place them in that state of efficiency which circumstances demanded.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, that no doubt there had been an enormous change in the construction of the navy of the whole world. They had spent a largo sum on wooden ships, and now they found that they were compelled to build 537 ships in some way connected with iron. The real question, then, was, how they could best build those iron ships—whether in Government dockyards or by private contract. He had no doubt that in this ease, as in many others, the truth lay in the middle; and that while the private establishments in the country might well be called in to aid, yet the Government of the country should have the means of exercising a certain control. But he wanted to know whether the Government were prepared to state to the nation the cost of the Achilles? Unless a good system of accounts were established, which would explain the entire cost of every one of these ships, he should hesitate before placing in the hands of the Government these millions of money. He was quite content that the Government should build a first-rate iron ship at Chatham; but upon the condition that they should be bound to explain to the House what they did with the money voted for it. At present the accounts were so kept that the cost of a ship built in the dockyards could not be got at.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
said, that the hon. Member for Finsbury (Sir Morton Peto) was mistaken in supposing that these five new iron ships would cause an increase in the dockyard establishments. The wooden frames would be constructed by the ordinary artificers. The only extra sum required would be for the iron plates, which would be bought by contract. In answer to the hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Willoughby) he had to say that the Admiralty had directed stringent measures to be taken for ascertaining every element of cost in constructing the Achilles, with a view to a future comparison with vessels built by private contract.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, he would remind the Government that unless they constructed those ships on proper principles they would be worse than useless and it behoved them, while those ships were being constructed, to have a committee of scientific men to consider such questions as to the form and rigging of the new vessels. The inquiry might be carried on simultaneously with the building of those ships. The country had ample resources, and if they gave the French six months' start they could easily overtake them. He was convinced that if such a report was made it would enable them not only to avoid in future all recrimination, but would form a groundwork for the reconstruction of the whole navy.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, that he had taken particular care to be present at the Admiralty Committee when his noble Friend was examining the witnesses in the hope that he would elicit some information; but he had so signally failed in doing so that he (Mr. Bentinck) felt himself bound to express the opinion that the labours of that Committee would end in nothing.
said, it appeared to him from the statements which had been made, that a very alarming state of things was going on, for it was said that in France those formidable ships were springing up like mushrooms, and that in no country in the world could they build ships so fast as in France. Now, he had no hesitation in saying that in an emergency we could turn out six ships for every ship built by France in the same time; but where was this expenditure to end? If they were to build 100 ships, and France were to build 100, their relative position would not be altered. No doubt when the French heard of the debates in that House on Friday and that night, they would build ten iron ships more, and then the noble Lord would come down and ask for the means to build fifteen. He always maintained that they should be the first maratime power of the world. But he believed the necessity of that expenditure might be avoided by coming to an understanding with France. After the explanation of the noble Lord he would not divide the Committee on the whole Vote, but he should move that it be reduced by £200,000, which comprised £140,000 for two troop ships, and £60,000 for machinery. They had six troop ships at present. Four of them had been in China for the last three years, and two remained at home. He believed that six troop ships were ample, and he did not think they ought to spend more money for that purpose. They could hire ships for the purpose of conveying troops cheaper than they could build them, and that was the opinion of Sir Alexander Milne, who was a competent authority on such a subject.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
said, he hoped the Committee would not agree to this Amendment. No doubt the ships which were hired for the conveyance of troops were sometimes cheaper, but the question was not whether contract-ships were not cheaper in the long run than Government transports. The Government had to find a large amount of tonnage for the conveyance of troops suddenly at all times, par- 539 ticularly between the Mediterranean and the home ports; and if they were without transports of their own they would have no control whatever over the freight?. What they asked was simply that the Committee should keep up the transport establishment to what it was until recently. Two' had been lately lost, and the Himalaya and the Adventure, as well as another ship, required very extensive repairs. He might add, that if the Governments had no transports at all they would have no check at all on the price of the freight. It was always necessary to fit up troop ships with expensive fittings, and to employ merchant ships for short voyages would positively cost a larger sum than the Government troop ships.
said, he thought the Government did quite right in keeping a considerable number of transports in their own hands; but after what they had heard that night about the exertions necessary to get iron-plated ships, and of the chance that wooden vessels would be useless for war puposes, he was of opinion that they might take some of the frigates now lying in ordinary and employ them in conveying troops, applying that £200,000 towards providing another iron-plated ship.
said, he must complain that the hon. Gentleman opposite should have alluded to the evidence given before the Admiralty Committee while it was still sitting. It would have been better to have waited to see the effect of the whole of it before he expressed an opinion. Economy was, doubtless, a very good thing, but it was not the first consideration when the safety, interests, or honour of the country was concerned; and he certainly did not think that there was any economy in employing our men of war in conveying troops to stations only a short distance off. They ought always to have eight or ten troop ships in the hands of the Government.
§ MR. J. C. EWART
said, he would support the Amendment, because he believed, in the present state of the mercantile marine, the Government could never be at a loss for trasport ships.
SIR FREDERIC SMITH
said, that no doubt they could always get plenty of merchant ships to convey troops on long voyages at a cheaper rate than the Government could, but taking the long and short voyages together, they did nothing of the kind.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
said, that the new frigates were an eminently useful class of vessels, which it would be a waste to turn into transports; and the old frigates were all sailing vessels.
said, there were plenty of steam-vessels in reserve, unfit for fighting purposes, which it would be as well to wear out in that way, while they were building the iron-cased ships.
Motion made, and Question put,
That the item of £60,000, for the purchase of Steam Machinery for two Troop Ships, be omitted from the proposed Vote.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 68; Noes 85: Majority 17.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £469,835, be granted to Her Majesty to defray the Charge of New Works, Improvements, and Repairs in the Naval Establishments, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1862.
§ MR. CONINGHAM
said, the Vote contained items relating to Chatham which ought to be matter of further inquiry. He thought the whole matter ought to be submitted to a Committee.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
said, he hoped the hon. Baronet would allow him first to state the object of the Vote. At present Great Britain had only 528 acres of dockyard accommodation, and 37 acres of basin accommodation, against 678 acres of dockyard and 188 acres of basin accommodation possessed by France. If the House of Commons decided to enlarge the dockyard and basin accommodation to the extent required by the wants of our fleets, it was considered by competent authorities that no better site could be found than that selected at Chatham. He would not for a moment conceal from the Committee that if they agreed to the Vote they would agree to the commencement of a great work, involving an expenditure of £902,000. The Government would offer no objection to the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the merits of the scheme.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
observed, that the question was especially a ques- 541 tion for the Executive Government to decide.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
said, the Committee which sat in 1848 complained that the Keyham works had been commenced without the House of Commons having an opportunity of expressing any opinion upon them.
§ Motion made, and Question,—"That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again,"—put, and agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Resolutions to be reported this day.
§ Committee to sit again on Wednesday.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before Two o'clock.