HC Deb 12 March 1861 vol 161 cc1859-84

moved the nomination of the Select Committee on the Board of Admiralty.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Sir James Graham be one of the Members of the Committee on the Board of Admiralty."


said, the course which he was about to take might be somewhat unusual, but he had not decided on taking it without sufficient grounds. He was glad that the first name on the list was that of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, because if his right hon. Friend had been present—and they must all regret his absence, and still more the cause of it— he would have confirmed the statement that from the long and intimate friendship which subsisted between them there could be no possibility of his (Mr. Bentinck) being actuated by personal motives in objecting to his name. When the gallant Admiral moved for the Committee he then took the liberty of stating that one of the principal questions for its consideration would be whether civilians and men distinguished only for their Parliamentary career should or should not be placed at the head of the Admiralty. Now, if the right hon. Baronet, who had more than once been at the head of that Board, and on each occasion had done all that great talents and abilities could enable a man to do, were appointed on the Committee, he would be at once both judge and jury in his own cause. Another objection to the composition of the Committee was that the official element was so represented in it as to give it a preponderance. The House well knew that the great experience of official members and their familiarity with details often enabled them to decide the opinions of a Committee even where their numbers were small. He fully admitted that the Admiralty should be fairly represented; hut it would have been sufficient to nominate the present Secretary to the Board (Lord Clarence Paget), the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry), who had already filled the same position with credit, and one of the Lords of the Admiralty (Mr. Whitbread). For these reasons he thought that the name of the right hon. Baronet ought to be struck out.


said, he would be occasioned considerable regret should he be misunderstood or expose himself to any misconstruction in the few words he was about to address to the House. He emphatically declared he was actuated by no personal hostility, private feeling, or party spirit. He rose upon an occasion of national importance when an inquiry by a Committee of the House was about to be instituted into the working of a large executive department of the Government, to express his honest convictions which led him to protest against the nomination of any ex-First Lords of the Admiralty upon the Committee, important their evidence doubtless would be as witnesses, but not sitting in a judicial capacity. If this Committee was to impart satisfaction to the country—if it was to prove of permanent advantage to the naval service—it must be composed of Members upon whom not a breath of suspicion could rest that they had been actuated by selfish bias. Every professional witness should absolutely be convinced when called before the Committee that no possible injury could be inflicted upon him in having given his evidence honestly; but if the Committee was to he composed of the Members to whom he now objected, the result would not he satisfactory to the country or the naval service for the reasons he had named.


said, that without going so far as to say that no ex-First Lord ought to be on the Committee, he could not but find serious fault with its composition. Out of the fifteen Members, seven were, or had been, connected with the Admiralty, and it was but natural to suppose that Gentlemen who had served in that department would have a natural bias in favour of it. He was afraid that even the hon. and gallant Admiral who had moved for the Committee (Admiral Duncombe) had not shown himself so free from bias as a man ought to be who was about to undertake a searching inquiry into the shortcomings of the Admiralty. On a former occasion he had told the House that he did not think it necessary to have Sir Baldwin Walker as a witness before the Committee, and he gave a most curious reason for that opinion. It was because Sir Baldwin Walker had recently given evidence before a Commission appointed to inquire into the administration of the dockyards. But the present was not a Committee to inquire into the dockyards; it was a Committee to inquire into the mode of doing business at the Admiralty; and surely there could not be a more competent witness than a gentleman who for a period of fourteen years had been the chief executive officer of the Board. Then the gallant Admiral gave another most extraordinary reason for not wishing for the presence of Sir Baldwin Walker. He told the House that the Admiral was a most cautious man—that he never gave his evidence without dwelling maturely on every word. That was the very reason which would make him the best evidence. The Committee did not want witnesses who would give their opinions without consideration. They wanted men who would give their opinions after mature deliberation, and then they would he able to place implicit reliance on their evidence. On a former occasion he had expressed his opinion that the Committee was not likely to lead to much result. He agreed with his right hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) that this Committee, without Sir Baldwin Walker, would be like the play of Hamlet with the part of Hamlet omitted — by particular desire. What had occurred had only confirmed that opinion, and he was afraid the labours of the Committee were not likely to be brought to any satisfactory termination.


It might almost seem unnecessary for anybody sitting on this bench to mix himself up in a difference of opinion which seems to prevail on the other side as to the Committee which has been moved for by the hon. and gallant Admiral opposite, and which is now objected to by an hon. Gentleman sitting two benches below him; but at the same time I think that the objection which has been taken to the name of Sir James Graham, and which is also applicable to the names of Sir John Paking-ton and Sir Francis Baring is not founded on any good reason. If this were a Com- mittee appointed to inquire into the personal conduct of those who have been First Lords of the Admiralty for any series of time, if it were a Committee of incrimination, I could perfectly understand that those who were the subjects of a personal charge ought not to be put upon it; but, as I understand it, this is not a Committee to inquire into any personal demerits or delinquencies, it is one to inquire whether the present organization of the naval department is or is not the best adapted to the public service, and whether it would be advantageous to the public service that the Admiralty department should be constituted in a different manner from the present. It appears to me that to appoint a Committee to inquire into the structure and working of a complicated department, and to put upon it men who are totally ignorant of the working of that department would not be a method by which the Committee would be likely to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. It must be advantageous that there should be on the Committee persons taken from different sides of the House, who at different periods have been at the head of the department, the organization of which is to be the subject of inquiry, and so far from thinking it an objection to have upon the Committee three gentlemen who have successively, and under different circumstances, superintended the administration of the Admiralty Department, it appears to me that they are precisely the persons who would be useful in directing and assisting the other Members in the inquiry. The same argument applies, in a lesser degree, to those who have held other appointments at the Admiralty, but the hon. Member opposite states that he did not object to those who had been Secretaries of the Admiralty and to my hon. Friend who is now a Lord of the Admiralty. But it appears to me that when the subject to be inquired into is the internal working and construction of a department, those who have been at the head of it, and who have the greatest and most complete knowledge of all the internal workings of the system, would be the most useful Members. It is said that they would be very useful witnesses, and so they might be; but for witnesses to be useful those who examine them ought to know on what points the questions are to be put. But it is impossible that those who have not themselves conducted the department, and who do not know all the complicated relations of the different parts of the machine to each other can direct the examinations of First Lords in a manner most likely to bring out the truth and to arrive at a satisfactory result. I humbly submit, therefore, that the objection urged is not one which ought to guide the House, and I think the House would not be appointing a Oommittee really satisfactory and useful for the purposes for which it is intended unless they put upon it those three names which are objected to.


Sir, I am the last person to take exception to the name of Sir James Graham as a Member of the Committee. But I object altogether to the appointment of this Committee. I consider that by nominating it the Government are abdicating the functions of the Executive. The shortcomings of the Admiralty have been exposed on many occasions, and by no one in stronger or more emphatic language than by the noble Lord the present Secretary to the Admiralty. The Government have given way without saying a word in defence of the Admiralty, but although I acknowledge that there have been some shortcomings, I never will go so far as to concede the truth of the charges against the Admiralty which have been made by the noble Secretary; and I shall show presently that from the noble Lord and his appointment all the abuse and misconstruction which have been heaped on the Admiralty have emanated. The sins of the Liberal man in opposition have descended upon the Secretary in office. The noble Lord in his vain attack on the Admiralty said that no naval man could enter the building without trepidation. The country understood that when the noble Lord was put in his present situation a great naval reformer would overhaul the department, yet strange to say not one change has been made in the Administration. The noble Lord said it would be a great boon to the navy if there were open competitions for cadetships— both naval and marine—that no youth could get into the navy except by begging, and that it was time an end was put to such a system. I, for one, do not approve the system of competition. I have never approved it. But when it was brought forward the other day by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Bass) the first person who opposed the Motion was the noble Lord. The noble Lord commenced these attacks en the Admiralty in 1858. In 1859 he made a most elaborate Motion and a speech as full of details as the speech which we have heard to-night from the hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeen (Colonel Sykes). And what were his charges? He said there had been a system of extravagant expenditure pursued, which he maintained ought to be thoroughly looked into, and that in the statement which he was then about to make the figures which he should have to quote perfectly appalled him. He accused the Admiralty of having left unaccounted for £5,000,000 of money. To this day no contradiction that I am aware of has been given to that statement, and to this day we are left to believe that £5,000,000 of money have been wasted by the Admiralty. I am not surprised that the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite should have proposed a Committee; but I am surprised that the Government in the teeth of these statements by the noble Lord the Secretary should abdicate these functions and not reform a department which so much needs reform. The noble Lord in that famous speech impugned the whole constitution of the Admiralty. "He had no intention," he said," of attacking any individual whatever"—no one, by the way, ever has—[laughter]—"he attacked the system. Lately they had heard a great deal about reconstruction; and he was fast coming round to the opinion of the hon. Member for Norfolk and the gallant Admiral the Member for Southwark —that they wanted a little reconstruction of the Admiralty." The noble Lord has taken his seat as Secretary, and I want to know what has become of the reconstruction? The Department has become so perfectly odious that Parliament is obliged to overhaul the Executive, and to enter into nightly squabbles whether Sir Baldwin Walker ought to be retained or not. With reference to whether Sir Baldwin Walker ought to be retained to give evidence, I must say I think his evidence is positively necessary. This Committee opens the whole subject of Committees appointed in this House—a quiet arrangement—from which all Members are excluded except the Member who moves for the Committee and the Gentlemen on the Treasury bench. On this Committee, of which five are to be a quorum, we have seven members of the Admiralty. I must say that I think in all conscience three members of the Admiralty are quite enough. I have no objection to the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Paking-tou) who has come out in the character of an Admiralty reformer, but I would not put on the Committee the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty. God knows what awful reform he may propose, if he is to carry out the speech of 1859. The noble Lord ought not to be put on the Committee, because naval officers and the navy will look with great trepidation at the sweeping measure of reform which may emanate from him. It is time the House should take the matter into its own hands, and if it does grant a Committee let it be a real Committee, whose Report shall not only give satisfaction to the Treasury bench, but to the country. I must say I have no confidence in the construction of this Committee. They will consume the whole Session. A large blue-book will be produced, and we shall hear no more of reform. I believe that Admiralty reform can be simply and easily managed by the Government themselves. Eliminate the political element from the Board. Do not make the naval Lords change with every Administration. Put the Surveyor of the Navy at the Board, and let him have a real voice there. The only accusation which the noble Lord the Secretary can substantiate is that the ship building of the navy is completely managed by the First Lord in a private room with the Surveyor. We have heard a great deal about a Dockyard Commission. We have heard very little about their Eeport. Why was it not laid on the table when Parliament met? We are told that Sir Baldwin Walker gave important evidence before the Commission, but I have never heard of anybody who has seen it. I should like to hear something about that Commission. I believe my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-upon-Trent (Mr. Ricardo) was the first chairman, and I have never heard why he resigned in a hurry. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury was the next chairman, and he was Boon transferred to the Treasury. This Commission, which originally consisted of five members, dwindled down to three, and what their Report is we do not know. If there is to be a real Committee, we must recall Sir Baldwin Walker wherever he may be. Whether we send the Avon to intercept him or a faster vessel, he must come before the Committee. But before we decide that point let us look at the Report, and see what his evidence is, and whether it opens out disclosures which I believe Sir Baldwin Walker will make. I believe the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty was also examined before the Commission, and failed to substantiate the charge about the £5,000,000 of money—at all events, I am told so. I hope some hon. Member of the Commission will tell us the state of the Report, and when it will be laid before the House; because as to appointing a Committee to inquire into the construction of the Admiralty, it is positively wasting time and deceiving the public. I hope the House will take the matter into its own hands, and not allow a sham Committee to be nominated by the hon. Gentleman and the Treasury bench. Let us have a real Committee. Let us have men upon it pledged to a searching inquiry, and I believe the Admiralty will come out of it much better than it was represented by the noble Lord in his celebrated Opposition speech. For the satisfaction of the country let it be a fair Committee. I have not the least objection to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Droitwich. He seems likely to take it up in a very good terrier-like spirit. But do not let us have the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty on the Committee; do not let any one serve on the Committee who has prejudged the question, and I have no doubt the Admiralty will come out of the inquiry much better than is expected.


said, that as a member of the Dockyard Commission he felt bound to inform the House that they had sent in their Report for the previous day. He begged to correct the hon. Member for Inverness-shire. The Controller of the Navy was not the chief executive of the Admiralty with regard to the navy; but with regard to the dockyards, Sir Baldwin Walker had been examined, and he thought when hon. Members had read his evidence they would be perfectly satisfied it was not necessary to recall him.


— Sir, I agree with the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Bernal Osborne) that it is much to be regretted that the Government have not taken up this question themselves instead of remitting it to a Committee. When it was first mentioned last year I expressed my opinion that the task proposed to be assigned to a Committee was one which the Government ought to perform, and that we ought not to diminish injuriously the responsibility of the Government by delegating their duties to a Committee of the House of Commons. The House will forgive me if I remind them of what they have done in that way. We have now been sitting for little more than a month. It ha3 been said that the month has not been distinguished by any remarkable events; but such an opinion could only be expressed by those who have not vigilantly observed what has taken place in this House. In the course of that month we have delegated to six Committees of the House of Commons an examination into the whole administration of the Poor Laws; into the consolidation of the entire criminal law; into the military expenditure of the colonies—and, if I understand rightly, the Committee on this subject will be called on to settle even the amount of colonial garrisons; into the administration of the Admiralty; into the principles upon which the chief arm of our direct taxation is established, and upon which at this moment £12,000,000 of taxation is raised, and into the conduct of our diplomatic service. No doubt, at first sight, it may appear very gratifying to the House of Commons to feel that they are appropriating to themselves the functions of the Executive; but I beg to remind the House that while they obtain some of the power of the Administration they are really accepting all the responsibility. It is quite possible — this is not a personal matter, as the hon. Member for Liskeard has observed, and, therefore, I can refer to the hypothesis—it is quite possible that a Government with a very weak and unsatisfactory system of government at home might be carrying out a very violent and dangerous policy abroad, and with complete impunity, because, all the important questions of finance and administration having been remitted to Select Committees, the ready answer of the Government when called to account on such matters would be, that the House must be perfectly aware of everything connected with this or that branch, because at that moment it was under investigation by a Committee upstairs. Hon. Members would thus be precluded from proposing any Motion of censure or inquiry on important questions, such as I have mentioned, which have been remitted to Committees. Therefore, I think it would be well for us, as we are yet in the early part of the Session, to reflect upon the course into which we have so precipitately entered, and to endeavour, as far as possible, to retrace our steps and revive in its full force and salutary vigour the responsibility of the advisers of the Crown. If there are deficiencies in any department it is for the Ministers of the Crown to sup- ply that deficiency. If there are errors it is for the Ministers to correct those errors. It is for them to revise and improve the various branches of the Administration. If the House of Commons has a strong opinion, founded on the facts in its possession, that any branch requires alteration, then the constitutional and proper course for hon. Members to pursue is not to demand a Committee of Inquiry, but to move a Resolution upon the subject. When the House has arrived at that Resolution, it is for the Government to accept or refuse it. If the Government refuse the Resolution, we know the consequences; if they accept it, then they are strengthened by the opinion which the House of Commons has given, and, aided and abetted by that opinion, have the power of effecting those changes and reforms which are required. The particular question before us refers to the name of a right hon. Gentleman who has long been an eminent Member of the House, and who possesses the respect of all parties. The argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk appears to me to tend not so much against the admission of Sir James Graham to the Committee as against intrusting the inquiry to a Committee of the House of Commons. If there be anything in the objections of my hon. Friend to the name of Sir James Graham and to the names of the other two Gentlemen who follow him in the list and who have filled the same office, it merely proves that the House of Commons is not the proper means of effecting such an inquiry, since the primary step is to deprive it of the services of some of its ablest Members, who on this question possess the best information and the greatest experience. Therefore it is clear to me that if the House believe — as I do not believe — that an inquiry is necessary, the proper instrument of which we should have availed ourselves would have been a Royal Commission, and not a Select Committee of the House of Commons. As it is the duty of the Ministry to select the men who are most qualified to inquire into the subject, the responsibility of the investigation would thus remain with them, and the objections to the present Committee would be obviated. I wish the Government would consider this point well. There is another Committee closely connected with this question which the Government intend to ask the House to rescind. I own frankly that I dislike very much to see the House rescind a Resolution to which they have once agreed. But when I take into consideration all the circumstances of the Resolution which was passed the other night, and the propriety of which the Government are now going to impugn after dividing against it, I cannot but regret that the House of Commons adopted that Resolution. At least, I think they ought not to have done so without a graver and more prolonged debate. This, however, is to be said in excuse for the House of Commons, that during the five weeks of this Session they have been assuming or proposing to assume, the duties of the Executive without any resistance or even remonstrance from the Ministers, and have, of course, been encouraged by their success in that direction. That is to be remembered as a reason why at a late hour, and in a thin attendance, the House was induced to pass a Resolution which, after the calmest and gravest consideration, I feel is by no means advantageous to the public service. Of all the Committees proposed this Session only one was really opposed by the Government, and that under circumstances which rendered defeat almost inevitable. The Committees on the consolidation of the criminal law, on the administration of the Poor Law, and on the diplomatic service were not opposed. The Committee on the income tax was virtually not opposed, because last Session the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said that, though he was not prepared to propose a Committee on that question himself, yet if any hon. Gentleman chose to propose it the Government would not resist the Motion. [The CHANCELLOR of the Exchequer: No !] I regret to say that such is the impression prevalent in the House. It has been men tioned to me by Gentlemen on both sides, and it was under that impression that my hon. Friend (Mr. Hubbard) brought forward his Motion—a Motion, I may say, which I did not sanction and for which I did not vote. Then the Committee on the Admiralty was decided on by the Government without the knowledge of the House, and the Committee on the Military Expenditure of the Colonies—one of the most objectionable questions that could be intrusted to a Committee—was also not resisted. I was in my place perfectly prepared to resist the Motion for it; but the noble Lord rose and gave up any resistance and, therefore, to speak against it would have been useless. After acceding to that Motion, with what chance of success did the Government think they could resist a similar proposition with respect to naval affairs made later in the evening? Therefore, I say, the Government has made no resistance to the appointment of these Committees, which, I think, have been granted on somewhat unconstitutional grounds, and which, though at first sight, they may appear flattering to the pride and power of the House of Commons, will, in reality, only render the Ministers irresponsible. The course which I should propose— I wish the Government would agree to it— is this; that we should not press to-night for the appointment of this Committee, which is now so much objected to; but that, instead of a Committee on the Admiralty, the Government should have a Royal Commission, and that to the reference on the subject of the Board of Admiralty there should be added an addendum containing that portion of the reference in the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, to which the Government appear to make no objection; but excluding that portion which relates to the pay and position of the several classes of naval officers. That plan might, under existing circumstances, prove useful; though I might still prefer that the duty should be performed by the Government itself. There is no reason why the point now under discussion should be pressed rusher. Indeed, the present proceeding seems somewhat irregular, because it is felt that it is not the question of naming particular individuals in which the House is interested, but that of the general scope of the policy of this Committee. A rumour of a circumstance which I deeply regret has reached me. It is that my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) does not intend to serve on this Committee in consequence of the addendum proposed by the Government, and of the absence of Sir Baldwin Walker. I have no authority to make the announcement; but if the hypothesis turn out to be a fact it will be an additional reason for the course which I suggest, for if we are to be deprived of the services of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham), one of the ablest and most experienced men that ever sat in the House of Commons; and if we are to be deprived of the assistance of his distinguished colleagues who follow on the list, and if my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire, to whoso efforts on this Committee we look with so much confidence, is not to grant us his invaluable services, it appears to me that we shall get into the very unsatisfactory position of having a weak Committee to deal with a strong subject. In my opinion nothing tends so much to degrade our proceedings as dealing with a strong subject through a weak Committee. This being my conviction I would myself move that the debate on the Motion for the nomination of Sir James Graham on this Committee be adjourned.

Motion made and Question proposed,—

"That the Debate be now adjourned."

said, that there appeared to be considerable difference of opinion among hon. Gentlemen on the Conservative side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down agreed with the noble Lord, the Prime Minister, in his desire to rescind the order for the Committee obtained by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, the Member for Portsmouth; and, if he rightly understood the right hon. Gentleman, he also wished to rescind the order for the appointment of the Committee on the reconstruction of the Admiralty. The right hon. Gentleman said, he thought this was a matter that ought to be dealt with by the Admiralty. ["No."] He supposed he meant by the Government, fie agreed with him that these were not matters that ought to be left to a Committee of the House of Commons; hut he wanted to know what hon. Members were finding fault with in the construction of the Committee, if Committee they were to have at all. The right hon. Gentleman had proposed a Royal Commission. For his (Mr. Ricardo's) part, he must say that a Commission was very much the same as a Committee. He could not see much difference. It had been his misfortune, a few days before, to sit on a Commission on one of those matters; and he found that in some respects they would have been able to deal better with it if they had been a Committee of the House of Commons. It had been asked why he resigned the Chairmanship of the Commission to inquire into the state of the Dockyards. He had no objection to state the reason. It had been said that it was because he could not have it all his own way. He was bound to say that there was a good deal of truth in that assertion. It was because he could not have his own way that he did not think he could serve on it with advantage to the subject which the Commission had to investigate. He should, however, much rather not go into that question in detail at present, because when the Report was presented to the House he should have an opportunity of stating the reasons of his resignation. He was, however, bound on the present occasion to state that one of the reasons was that after examining the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Admiralty, on his speech made in a former Session, in which he asserted that £5,000,000 had been wasted under the Admiralty, he thought they were bound to hear what Sir Baldwin Walker had to say in refutation of what had been said by the noble Lord who had been under examination for three days. His colleagues did not, however, think that the time was come when such a refutation ought to be made. He was of opinion also that a different line of examination ought to have been taken, and a different course of investigation pursued. He had, however, no doubt that his colleagues were right, and that they had very good reasons for what they did; and that they would produce a much better Report than he could have drawn up. Returning to the question before the House, he wanted to know what right hon. Members had to assume that right hon. Gentlemen who had been First Lords of the Admiralty would have any motive for obstructing or preventing inquiry into the subject? He wanted to know what motive could his noble Friend, the Secretary for the Admiralty, be supposed to have for preventing Sir Baldwin Walker from giving evidence before the Committee? Why was a cry raised on that point, and why was his noble Friend called to account for not stopping Sir Baldwin Walker and bringing him back to give evidence at any inconvenience to the public service? When the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Oxfordshire, said that he would not serve on the Committee unless Sir Baldwin Walker were brought forward as a witness, why did not the right hon. Gentleman propose to delegate to Sir Baldwin Walker all that was to be done? ["Oh!"] If hon. Gentlemen only had the patience to wait until they read that gallant Officer's evidence before the Commission on the Dockyards, they would see that there was no one question which he could be asked by the Committee on the Admiralty that he had not already been asked by the Commission. Why did any hon. Member say that the fact of the right hon. Baronet, the Mem- ber for Carlisle, having been First Lord disqualified him from serving on the Committee, when every right hon. Gentleman who had filled that office had in his own mind a perfect consciousness that there was something wrong in the construction of the Admiralty? He could not vote with the hon. Member for Norfolk, as he was anxious to see persons upon the Committee well informed as to the business of the Admiralty.


said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had, unintentionally no doubt, somewhat misunderstood what he stated on Friday night, when he asked his hon. and gallant Friend to postpone the nomination of the Committee. The hon. Gentleman had an advantage which he had not. He knew what was the evidence given before the Dock Commission, which he (Mr. Henley) did not. [Mr. RICARDO: No.] Then the hon. Member was in the same position with himself—he was ignorant of the evidence. He did not know what Sir Baldwin Walker had said in his evidence, or whether it might have told against some one who had no opportunity of meeting it; nor did he know but that in the Committee now proposed things might be said against Sir Baldwin Walker, and as a member of the Committee he would have been unwilling to hear allegations brought against him in his absence, when he had no opportunity of replying to them. He told his hon. and gallant Friend (Admiral Duncombe) on Friday night that he would consider till the beginning of the week whether he would or would not be a member of this Committee, His hon. and gallant Friend asked him last night if he had made up his mind. His reply was that if matters had stood as they did last week he could have gone into the Committee on the understanding that if he found any of the inconveniences which he expected would occur he should be at liberty to withdraw from it; that he had added that things did not now stand on the same footing as they did last week, for a notice had been put on the paper by the Government, which would add to the inquiries of the Committee a new and a very large subject—namely, the promotion and the retirement of the officers of the navy. He had voted against that subject being referred to any Committee, and that was an additional reason which operated upon his mind in determining not to be a member of the Committee. Many persons had said, with re- ference to this Committee, that it was entering upon inquiries which would not end in one Session; while some said it would probably go through two Sessions. There might be some exaggeration in that; but certainly no Committee could hope to consider the wide subject of the promotion and retirement of the officers of the navy and the large question of the constitution of the Admiralty in one Session. He had, therefore, come unwillingly to the conclusion to ask his hon. and gallant Friend to withdraw his name from the Committee. As to the question brought before the House by his hon. Friend (Mr. Bentinck), he thought it would be a misfortune not to have those members on the Committee who were best informed as to the affairs of the Admiralty; but, at the same time, looking at the fifteen members of which the Committee was to be composed, he thought the Admiralty element was a very large one, and he should like to see it somewhat lessened.


Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) has made several observations on this subject with which I cannot but agree. I am ready to admit that there is great public inconvenience in the appointment of a great number of Committees, and especially when any of these may be said to interfere with the functions of the Executive. At the same time, it is to be observed that there is nothing which makes a Government be odious as opposing itself to inquiry. It is always said in such cases that there is something to conceal, that the Government is conscious of some faults in the performance of its duty, and, therefore, is anxious to resist inquiry. On the other hand there is nothing so agreeable to the House of Commons as the nomination of a Committee of inquiry, because at the same time that it affords a prospect of additional information it in no degree pledges the House to any particular course of conduct. But the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire seems to infer that the Government have too easily or too willingly given in to the appointment of certain Committees that have been lately agreed to by the House. The first Committee proposed was one on the income tax, the object of which was to lighten the burden on trades and professions and increase it on the land. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer opposed that Committee. He had given no pledge, as the right hon. Gentleman supposes, to support such a Committee. All he said last Session was that if it was the general wish of the House to have a Committee this year he would not stand in opposition to it. There was another Committee proposed with respect to colonial military expenditure; that was not an unprecedented proposition. I remember that a similar Committee was appointed when the Earl of Derby was Secretary to the Colonies. I sat on that Committee with the Earl of Derby. It was named with the consent of the Government, and for two Sessions entered into every detail of military expenditure in the colonies. Now, though it would be objectionable in principle to have Committees year after year sitting on such subjects and inquiring into the conduct of the Executive Government, yet an inquiry from time to time into particular departments of the Government, and after a considerable number of years has elapsed, cannot be regarded as an unconstitutional course. It appeared to be the general wish of the House to have a Committee on the army expenditure of the colonies, and it was not opposed by the Government. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said nothing against the appointment of that Committee, though my noble Friend (Lord Palmerston) took care to state, before agreeing to it, that it was not likely to be of any public advantage. Then there is the Committee the order for which my noble Friend proposes to rescind to-night. That Committee was opposed by the Government, and they divided the House upon it. Now with regard to the Committee which is under our consideration at this moment, I have always understood that it was the wish of the House generally, and of the public generally, that there should he an inquiry into the constitution of the Board of Admiralty with a view to consider not the merits of any particular person who has served on that Board, but for the purpose of ascertaining whether its constitution was such as enabled it usefully to superintend the naval affairs of the country. The right hon. Gentleman says the inquiry ought to be by a Royal Commission. But if the Crown had been advised to appoint a Royal Commission, every one would have said that the Government had condemned the construction of the Admiralty, and that no other question but the best substitute for the present Board of Admiralty could occupy the Royal Commission. I for one could not have given that advice to the Crown. The Board of Admiralty, I daresay, have faults like other Boards; but I have not been convinced that we could have a better machinery for the performance of the duties of the Admiralty. It may be that there is some mode by which the navy may be better governed. If the House entertains that opinion, I can understand that the Government should he willing that an inquiry should take place—an inquiry, however, which has nothing to do with the exercise of the executive functions, but only as to the constitution of the body that shall exercise the executive functions. The hon. and gallant Admiral proposed that a Select Committee should be appointed "to inquire into the constitution of the Board of Admiralty, and the various duties devolving thereon; also as to the general effect of such a system on the navy." Now it is quite obvious that a general inquiry into the system and constitution of the Board has nothing to do with the merits of the particular persons who have served upon that Board. I think I am right in supposing that the right hon. Gentleman would not have objected to such a Committee if the right hon. Gentleman (Sir John Pakington) had moved for it. If so I do not see why he should object to the Committee when moved for by the hon. and gallant Admiral. The Committee is not appointed to inquire into the conduct of past First Lords. All the right hon. Gentlemen named upon it are able men, and their opinion will be much more valuable than that of Members who have had no experience. I say that those who have been First Lords of the Admiralty ought above all others to be named upon such a Committee. Nor do I see why we should not name the Committee at present, or why the debate should be adjourned. If the House of Commons had chosen to address the Crown to appoint a Royal Commission, then the objection which I have named to such a Commission would not exist, for the appointment of a Commission would not, then, be the spontaneous act of the Crown, but would he made at the desire of the House of Commons. The House, however, has chosen to have a Committee; and it, therefore, seems to me very desirable that the three right hon. Gentlemen whose names come first on the list should especially be on such a Committee.


said, that as the debate had taken a different turn to what he had expected, he would take the liberty of offering a few remarks. In the first place, then, it seemed that everything he heard on Friday he had to forget on Monday, for when he had cause to complain of want of courtesy on the part of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir John Pakington), his right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli) said, "Do not visit your indignation on him, but on myself, for it was at my instigation that my right hon. Friend gave notice of his intention to move for such a Committee." Now it seemed a Committee was wrong, and that a Commission ought to be appointed. Now ho, for one, had no great confidence in Royal Commissions. He believed that a Committee of that House, properly constituted, was a much more efficient tribunal. The hon. Member (Mr. Baillie) said he had no confidence in him, and that the Committee would be a sham. The hon. Member must be of a different constitution from himself if he would take so much trouble for what was to be a mere sham after all. There were so many applications to be on such a Committee, and the disappointment to those whom the mover was unable to put upon it was so great, that he was by no means disposed to undertake so much trouble in vain. If the Amendment were carried the Committee would be virtually shelved, and if the House adopted it he should beg to be absolved from sitting upon the Committee. He ought, perhaps, to apologize to his right hon. Friend (Mr. Henley), but the truth was that he did not understand his refusal to serve upon the Committee to be quite final, and he was so anxious to have the assistance of his right hon. Friend that he did not quite like to take upon himself the responsibility of removing his name, when, perhaps, he ought to have done so. The hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Bernal Osborne) said that the manner in which Committees of that House were proposed was by a very questionable arrangement. He believed that the appointment of Committees ought to be quietly arranged among the various parties in the House; for nothing could be more unseemly than quarrels, such as were now taking place, over the names of particular Members. He deprecated the admission of party feeling into a Committee of this description. He was, therefore, glad that the noble Lord (Earl Gifford) who was upon the Dockyard Commission had borne him out in saying that the evidence of Sir Baldwin Walker was not necessary. If Sir Baldwin Walker's evidence was necessary, why not that of Admiral Milne and Admiral Martin equally so, both of whom had formerly been on the Board? He believed that there was ample material at present in this country for conducting the inquiry with advantage.


Sir, I rise to protest against the theory of the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Bucks, that the House has not a right to inquire into the administration of any or every department of the Government. When the Government happens to be not very competent to perform its duties, we usually have many Committees, and I recollect that no Government conceded Committees more freely than that of which the right hon. Gentleman was a member. If there is a single Member of this House at the present time who doubts that it is desirable to have an inquiry into the constitution of the Admiralty? It maybe matter for consideration whether that inquiry shall be conducted by a Commission, or a Cabinet inquiry, or a Committee; but I have heard from high officials of the Admiralty that it is just that sort of government where there is not a particle of real responsibility, and that, although it was a Board responsible for £12,000,000 of expenditure, yet that no one could put his finger on the man who ought to have arrested waste or directed expenditure to more profitable channels. If, then, an inquiry is to be made, I agree with the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) that it is impossible to have a tribunal more efficient and more competent than a fairly chosen Committee of this House. But the question is whether this Committee is likely to be such a body. I agree with the hon. Member for West Norfolk that it is not so constituted. I do not object to the name of Sir James Graham. He is not here, and, therefore, I have the less hesitation in saying that there is no man more competent to be of service on this Committee than Sir James Graham. He does not always do what I think he should do on Committees, as happened in a Committee on which I sat with him last summer. But he knows as much as any one on this particular subject, and he will be anxious to have it adjusted to the satisfaction of the House. But, not content with Sir James Graham, we have two other First Lords on the Committee, and four other Members who have been in that particular branch of the service. And it is known to every hon. Member of this House, and I have seen repeated instances of it, that when you get half a dozen men together who have been connected with a particular department there is a strong bias among them, I will not say to defend any one, for here no one is attacked, hut to defend the general system which they have been concerned in working. I think, therefore, that it has got much too large an infusion of the Admiralty element. I agree with the hon. Gentleman opposite in viewing this question without the slightest feeling of party, and I hope these are questions which we can approach without anything of that kind. It appears to me that the noble Lord will have discovered, from what has been said to-night, that there is no indisposition to the appointment of a Committee, hut that a general feeling does exist that these names are not the best that might have been chosen, if it be intended that we shall have an honest inquiry and a real amendment. I have no objection whatever to the names of the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Carlisle, and the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Droitwich, but I would put on that Committee no other man connected with the Admiralty — none of what are called" the subs," who look up to their superiors in the service" as a maiden looks up to the hand of her mistress." Those right hon. Gentlemen can put the pertinent questions, and can lead the Committee to the proper materials for forming a correct judgment. The noble Lord proposes to rescind the Resolution that was passed the other night. I am told that, if the Committee were to report in favour of the view held by the hon. and gallant Memher for Portsmouth, it would put the country to very considerable expense, and I am, therefore, not disposed to feel very favourably towards it; but, if the noble Lord was disposed to get rid of that Resolution, I think it would have been better to do it openly, and not to have mixed it up with an entirely different question, and to have shelved it by a side-blow which will deceive nobody, and which must he rather offensive to the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth. I would recommend that, in case the House thought this Resolution ought not to be carried out, it should be distinctly rescinded; and the Committee now to be appointed should be confined to the purpose—amply sufficient for any Committee—with which its nomination was originally sanctioned. The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Buckinghamshire, has proposed that the debate he ad- journed. That it should be adjourned merely for the purpose of getting rid of the Committee I think would he an injudicious and a weak proceeding on the part of this House; but if the adjournment be with a view of enabling the Government to frame a revised list of members of this Committee, although I do not think I ever before seconded anything which the right hon. Gentleman proposed, I shall be glad to do so on the present occasion.


I must protest against the imputation on the noble Duke at the head of the Admiralty and myself of desiring the absence of Sir Baldwin Walker, which was cast by the hon. Member for Stoke.


said, his noble Friend had fallen into a most extraordinary error. In his remarks he had rather defended the noble Lord from such an imputation.


I am very sorry that I should have misinterpreted the expressions of the hon. Gentleman, but I certainly did understand, at all events, some hon. Member to say that we had sent away Sir Baldwin Walker, and were rather glad of his absence. I can assure the House that the noble Duke was most anxious from the first to keep Sir Baldwin Walker at home, and even communicated with him with a view to recommending him to Her Majesty for a command at home. The hon. Member for Liskeard seemed to accuse me of having been the firebrand who originated all these complaints against the Admiralty. [Mr. B. OSBORNE: Hear, hear!] I can assure him that he entirely wrongs me. I never accused the Admiralty, or any representative of that department, of anything save with regard to the expenditure on shipping. I think he said that I was in favour of a reconstruction of the Admiralty, and had stated so to this House. [Mr. B, Osborne: Hear, hear !] I deny that I ever said anything which could bear this construction, except on one occasion, in allusion to a former notion of my gallant Friend, the late Sir Charles Napier, for a Committee for the reconstruction of the Admiralty, at the end of a speech which I made with regard to naval expenditure, I made use of the expression that I was fast coming round to the opinion that the Admiralty wanted a little reconstruction—I think those were my words. That was by no means a direct statement that I was in favour of his views. My proceedings towards Sir Baldwin Walker have been very much misrepresented. In the remarks I made I had no personal feeling towards him or any gentleman. I merely called attention to a vicious system, and to the want of proper supervision of the accounts. [Mr. B. OSBORNE: The five millions?] The five millions had reference to a statement which I made as to the expenditure on shipbuilding, and what in the absence of all accounts I conceived it ought to have been after calculating the number of vessels built during four years and the proper cost of those vessels. I may mention that when the noble Duke the first Lord of the Admiralty came into office, he immediately agreed to the issuing of a Commission to inquire into the shipbuilding accounts. I know no more of what the Report of that Commission contains than the hon. Member for Liskeard, but we shall have it before us, and I am content to abide its terms. If it should state that the accounts are satisfactorily kept, I shall admit that I was wrong; but if the contrary should prove to be the fact I shall have no reason to regret having called the attention of the House to the subject. I positively deny that in doing so I was actuated by any other motive than that of a desire to benefit the public service.


Sir, my name is one of those involved in the Motion, and I would not have intruded myself on the House were it not for what has fallen from the noble Lord, Her Majesty's Secretary of State, with reference to the second inquiry proposed to be delegated to this Committee, and I think that the House will feel that that proposal influences very much the question of the names to be put upon the Committee. I would only say that my hon. Friend, the Member for Norfolk, has put his Motion in a manner which deprives it of any personal feeling, and puts it entirely on public grounds. With regard to myself I should be much obliged if I were exonerated from serving upon this Committee. Considering the comparatively short time I was in the Admiralty, I think whether I am on the Committee or not is not a matter of much importance. With regard to the immediate question, whether Sir James Graham should be a member of the Committee, having regard to the estimation I hold of that right hon. Gentleman's position in the House, and his knowledge of the subject, I think that if this Committee was appointed without Sir James Graham as one of its members, and without Sir Baldwin Walker as one of its witnesses, it would become an absurdity which this House would do well to avoid; and, moreover, I have so strong an opinion as to the way in which Sir Baldwin Walker was allowed to leave that I reserve to myself the right, should I find his evidence necessary to the proper conduct of the inquiry, to retire from the Committee. As to what has fallen from the noble Lord as to the other Committee, the duties of which it is proposed to transfer to the Admiralty Committee, it has been said that the Government propose to rescind the Committee; in point of form that is true, but in point of substance it is not so. The Government propose to rescind the portion which refers to the pay of the navy, and to transfer to another Committee the more important part, namely, that which relates to promotion and retirement in the navy. I think a Commission would have been the best mode of conducting this inquiry. I am free to confess that there is a constitutional difficulty in referring to a Committee of the House of Commons the question of the pay of the navy. I hope, there" fore, that when the noble Lord makes the Motion which stands in his name the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth will not object to it; but on the other hand I could not in any way be a party to the rescinding of the other part of the Motion, which relates to the questions of promotion and retirement. I do wish that instead of referring that inquiry to the Committee on the Board of Admiralty the Government had proposed it in the shape of another Committee or a Royal Commission to make a separate inquiry. I think the House will agree with me that if the question of promotion and retirement in the navy is to be referred to the Admiralty Committee it is desirable that in the appointment of the Committee some regard should be had to the duty to be imposed on it. In the first place I express my earnest wish that the House will consent to a postponement in order that her Majesty's Government may consider if this matter, even now, cannot be referred to a Royal Commission; but if the Government persevere in their preference for a Committee, I strongly press upon them the necessity for taking further time to consider the names of the Gentlemen to be appointed on it.


I do not see that a sufficient ground has been shown for adjourning this debate; the House is very full, and is in as perfectly good a po- sition as it can be on any future day to decide the question as to the composition of this Committee. Under the present circumstances it would not he consistent for the Government to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into a subject with regard to which we did not originate inquiry or think it necessary that any reconstruction should take place. With regard to the names my opinion is that the names selected are those of persons competent and well adapted to conduct the inquiry. As to the observations of the hon. Member for Liskeard that Committees ought to be appointed in a discussion in a full House, that is an impossibility. The only way in which the names of a Committee can be well selected is by communications out of the House between the different parties interested. It has been stated that the official element is too strong on this Committee, but this can be easily remedied by adding to it some three or four Members, so as to alter the proportions between the official and non-official elements. As to the Motion of which I have given notice, which is to follow this, it appears to me that it is the general opinion that any inquiry into the pay of the officers of the navy is not one that the House ought to undertake, and I, therefore, anticipate the general concurrence of the House in my Motion for discharging the order to which we agreed somewhat hurriedly a few nights back. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Henley) thinks the question of promotion and retirement of the navy too great an addition to the labours of the Committee, but, even if this is found to be so, it will only cause the re-appointment of the Committee necessary next Session; and the matter is not one of that urgent importance which renders it necessary that there should be an immediate Report. At the same time I do not see that the Committee will have any difficulty, if the House should agree to the proposition, in reporting before the end of the present Session.


Sir, I will not press the Motion I have made. I am perfectly prepared to support the Government on the Motion for the discharge of the Resolution of the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, and I hope he will not object to that course. I, therefore, will, with the leave of the House, withdraw my Motion for an Adjournment.


suggested that the Government should give the House an op- portunity of reading the evidence as well as the Report of the Dockyard Commission before they proceeded with the nomination of the Committee. Perhaps when the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henley) had read Sir Baldwin's Walker's evidence he would modify his present views as to the importance of re-examining that gallant officer; and both he (Mr. Jackson) and many hon. Members about him were most anxious that the right hon. Gentleman should sit upon the Committee. Nothing could be done before Easter, and he urged the Government to give hon. Members an opportunity of reading the evidence during the recess.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Question, "That Sir James Graham be one of the members of the Committee on the Board of Admiralty,"

Put, and agreed to.

Nomination of the Committee was then proceeded with.

The names of Sir FRANCIS BARING and Sir JOHN PAKINGTION BARING were agreed to.

On the name of Mr. HENLEY being read,


expressed a wish that his name should be withdrawn, for, as another subject was proposed to be added to the labours of the Committee, he might not feel equal to the second inquiry.


said, he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would allow his name to remain, and if he found more to do in the Committee than he could undertake he could at any future time withdraw his name.


said, that on that understanding, he was willing to allow his name to remain in the list.

Sir FRANCIS BARING,' 'Sir JOHN PAKINGTON, Mr. HENLEY, Lord CLARENCE PAGET, Mr. CORRY, Admiral DUNCOMBE, Sir HENRY WILLOUGEBY, Mr. BEAMISH, Mr. FINLAY, Mr. BENTINOK,, Sir JAMES ELPHINSTONE, Mr. STANSFELD, Mr. PHILIPPS, Mr. WHITBREAD, Sir MICHEL, Mr. AUSTIN BRUCE, Mr. DEEDES, and Mr. CLAY, nominated other Members of the Committee:—Power to send for persons, papers, and records; Five to be the quorum.