HC Deb 29 July 1862 vol 168 cc986-1000

rose to move as a Resolution— That in the opinion of this House it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government, during the recess, to prepare a measure for Reform in the Naval Administration. He said, I feel that I owe an apology to the House for bringing this question forward. It has been submitted to their notice in former years by more influential Members than myself—by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington), by the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir James Elphinstone), and by the gallant Admiral the Member for the East Riding (Admiral Duncombe). I have hoped throughout the Session that one or other of them would have called the attention of the House to the subject, and it is only in consequence of their default that I have felt it a paramount duty not to allow the Session to terminate without making an endeavour to obtain an expression of opinion on matters of the gravest importance to the country.

Sir, let us inquire how this question stands? I think I may fairly assume that there has been growing discontent not only in this House, but in the country, ever since the war in the Crimea, with the naval and military administration of the country. We have had Committees and Commissions on almost every department of the navy, on gunnery, on gunboats, on harbours, on pensions, on dockyards, on promotion, on the manning of the navy, on the Estimates of the navy, and lastly on Admiralty administration. These have been so many expressions of want of confidence in the present naval administration of the country. The time of the House, during the last Session, was taken up to an immense extent in the discussion of every branch of naval administration. On the very first night of the Session of 1861 the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich gave notice of a Committee of Inquiry, which he subsequently abandoned. On the 28th of February the hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth gave notice of a series of Resolutions, which commenced with a declaration that "the mismanagement of naval affairs is due to the inefficiency of the present means of naval administration." Those Resolutions led to an interesting debate; and they were only withdrawn on a proposal of the Government to agree to a Motion of the hon. and gallant Admiral the Member for the East Riding, for a "Select Committee on the Naval Administration of the Country." That Committee was appointed, although there was great difficulty in nominating it. The discussions on the appointment of the Committee opened up the whole question of naval administration. In the course of the debates the hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth stated that "with the present system of naval administration it was wholly impossible for the affairs of the navy to be carried on with efficiency." The hon. and gallant Member for Christchurch said, "the country was thoroughly dissatisfied with the constitution of the Board of Admiralty," and the gallant Admiral the Member for Devonport said, it was "quite clear that some change was necessary to meet the complaints of the unsatisfactory manner in which the business of the Admiralty was conducted." All this related to the Board of Admiralty itself, but expressions were made use of showing the state of opinion in the navy with regard to this matter. The gallant Member for Christchurch spoke of "the discontent which had long been smouldering in the navy," and the Secretary to the Admiralty "admitted that there was dissatisfaction." The hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth said— The bounty had brought utterly unfit men into the navy; it had collected the scum of the seaports—men who were both morally and physically incapable of forming good seamen, who required punishment to keep them up to a proper state of discipline, but whose enfeebled and diseased bodies were unable to bear that punishment." [3 Hansard, clxi., 1126.] And Sir Michael Seymour said— Every attempt recently made to man our ships or to form a reserve had been a failure. The bounty had not succeeded, and the measures adopted upon the Report of the Manning Commission of 1853 had produced only a comparatively small addition to our force of seamen. At present we had actually not the means in reserve for manning a single ship." [3 Hansard, clxi., 1159.] The gallant Admiral the Member for the East Riding said— There could be no doubt that there was widespread dissatisfaction on board our ships. … It behoved those who had the management of the navy to devise a scheme which would induce seamen to enter the service, and to make them more satisfied with it when they had entered it." [3 Hansard, clxi., 1243.] Even the right hon. Baronet the Member for Halifax, who had been a First Lord of the Admiralty, admitted "the necessity of inquiring into the ground of these complaints;" and another First Lord, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich, expressed his "strong opinion of the unsatisfactory position of the Department generally."

After, Sir, such expressions of opinion as these, the Government had no choice but to consent to the appointment of a Committee. There was much difficulty, as I before observed, as to the members to serve on it; but at length a Committee was appointed. The Committee met, and examined thirteen witnesses. Of those witnesses five had been civil First Lords, three had been naval Lords, and five were independent naval officers. The Committee made no Report: they contented themselves with laying on the table of the House the evidence they had taken. No one who has looked through the evidence will feel the lenst surprise that the Committee should have taken this course. Most of the witnesses were themselves members of the Committee, and of the eight witnesses who had filled office it may fairly be said that no two of them agreed upon any one point connected with the administration of naval affairs. Such diversity of opinion has probably never been before exhibited by the chiefs of any one profession. It was most extraordinary. But what was still more singular was, that whilst all the official witnesses differed hopelessly, all the non-official witnesses agreed at least as to one all-important fact—namely, that our present system of naval administration is irredeemably defective.

Now, Sir, as I fear that there are comparatively few Members of this House who have waded through the 1,000 closely-printed pages of evidence which was taken by this Committee, I shall venture to submit to their attention an analysis which I have made of the evidence, which, I think, will convince the House of the propriety of the Motion I have now the honour to submit to it. I am sure that the House will be both informed and amused if they will give me their attention whilst I read to them the evidence of the various First Lords. The first witness examined by the Committee was His Grace the Duke of Somerset, the present First Lord of the Admiralty, who discussed the present state of naval administration pro and con., Summing up his views as follows:— A Board has many advantages, and some disadvantages. I will state shortly what I consider its advantages. I think, in the first place, that it affords to the Minister, on his first appointment to the office of First Lord, great facilities for becoming acquainted with the details of business. It gives him an opportunity, if he feel doubt upon any point, of raising a discussion, and hearing the question argued by naval men with different views. I think the Board also constitutes an excellent tribunal to judge of many personal questions that must arise in the management of the navy, such as differences between naval officers, applications for special allowances or exemptions, the propriety of ordering a court martial, the review of sentences of courts martial, the remission of punishment, and the propriety of ordering prosecutions in some cases. All these are questions for which I think a Board forms an excellent tribunal; and I think there would be very great difficulty in performing that duty well, except it were performed with the assistance of something similar to a Board or council. I think, again, that a Board offers to its members opportunities of proposing a great variety of change in the regulations connected with the navy. All matters connected with the comforts of the sailors, and all questions connected with improvements in the fittings and armament of ships may be brought forward by any member of the Board and discussed there. I think that is a great advantage. I think a Board has a further advantage in one respect, that it increases the responsibility of the First Lord, if he should determine to act without consulting it, or hastily to overrule its opinions. I think that that is a great security which the country derives from having experienced naval officers at a Board to consult with him. I think, again, that a Board places at the disposal of the First Lord naval officers whom he can ask to act as a Committee to inquire into many professional subjects which arise, and upon which he would wish to have a special report; and he can ask any two officers of his Board to look into it, and having examined into it, to report to him. I think, again, that a Board affords great advantages to naval officers themselves. I think officers who have served as members of the Board, and who may be afterwards employed in great commands abroad; for instance, Admiral Milne, who is in the command of the North American station, must derive great advantage from the knowledge of political and professional questions that have been brought under his notice while he was at the Board of Admiralty. That was his Grace's opinion as to the constitution of the Board of Admiralty. When he came to speak of details, his Grace admitted that "there were great anomalies in the formation of the Admiralty." For example— The signature of the Secretary and two Lords is sufficient to order any description of vessel to be built, although the other members of the Board, even including your Grace as First Lord, might not know anything about it?—It would be done in the board-room. It is quite true it might be done when two members of the Board, or three members of the Board were absent, and two members might then perform that act, as they might any other act, with the signature of the Secretary. But that would be a very unusual course; I think they would not do it unless they thought they were acting generally with the concurrence of the Board. I believe that on various occasions papers may go and have the signatures of two Lords and the Secretary, and therefore make them Board orders, but that the actual effect of those orders has never been discussed or decided by the general Board of the Admiralty?—The signatures to all documents of the Admiralty seem to me to be in somewhat an anomalous position. There are some orders that require the signatures of two Lords and the Secretary; there are others that require the signatures of two Lords; there are some, I believe, that require the signature of three Lords; and there are others that require only the signature of the Secretary. Equally making it a Board order?—Yes. The most important orders may be sent out from the Board of Admiralty, and only signed by the Secretary. I believe orders may be sent to all commanders abroad signed by the Secretary alone. So that it appeared from the evidence of the First Lord of the Admiralty himself, that the Board of Admiralty was not, in point of fact, a Board at all, but something very different. Such was the evidence of the present First Lord. The next most important witness was Sir James Graham, who was First Lord of the Admiralty from 1830 to 1834, and again from 1852 to 1855. The following is a summary of Sir James Graham's evidence relating to a Board:— The Board of Admiralty never could work unless the First Lord was supreme, and exercised constantly supreme and controlling authority. If that supremacy be shaken in time of war, it would be impossible that the system could work, and in time of peace I do not think it would work satisfactorily. The powers of the First Lord are exercised not under the patent, but by usage and prescription. Objects to any attempt to make the patent more in conformity with usage. Thinks an entire change of the Board with every new administration inexpedient. Objects to the Secretary being a naval officer. Thinks it much more advantageous that the First Lord should be a Member of the House of Commons. The First Lord should consult the opinion of his colleagues, but decide for himself. Admits that the Junior Lords do not exercise the powers which the law has given them. Thinks they should be regarded as without official power to contravene a decision taken by the heads of the Board. Objects to measures calculated to elevate their position. Those were the views of Sir James Graham relating to the working of the Board. But when he came to speak concerning details, it was quite clear, from Sir James Graham's evidence, that the state of affairs at the Admiralty under the existing system was most unsatisfactory— Are you of opinion that there is a want of harmony and concert between the chief departments of the Admiralty?—I have already admitted that I see traces of it with sorrow, and I have endeavoured to explain what I thought were the causes of it. Am I correct in supposing that you would not recommend any change in the constitution of the Board of Admiralty?—If the supremacy of the First Lord be admitted, and be not contradicted, I think that it is right now. If, in consequence of all these inquiries and commissions, the strict terms of the patent of equality be insisted upon, and the supreme power of the First Lord be shaken or negatived, I think the system is brought to an end, and must be changed. On the other hand, if the supreme power of the First Lord, as it has been exercised for centuries, be maintained inviolate, then I think it can work well as it is. I think you say this: 'I am for giving him the largest powers, but I am at the same time, for concentrating responsibility upon him; and if his powers be not sufficient (and there is some ground to doubt whether it be so now), then, I say, that the whole question of the command of the navy must be considered, because you must have a responsible Minister?—I adhere to that distinctly; and you must permit me to say, that the doubts to which I refer there partly arise from some suggestions in questions which were put to me of a state of affairs which I did not think possible. Is it not clear that the whole state of the Admiralty and the Navy, so far as they are questions of valuation, are not in a satisfactory state?—I have given you a statement, as strong as I can put it, and from which I do not recede, that the state of the accounts with regard to labour and materials is in a most unsatisfactory state, and calls aloud for immediate remedy. The next witness is Sir Francis Baring, the Member for Portsmouth. He said— He was First Lord of the Admiralty from 1849 to 1852. Thinks any change in the constitution of the Board would be inexpedient. Sees nothing better than the present system. Admits, however, that it would be very inconvenient for a First Lord not to have colleagues to work with him. He should have found much difficulty in effecting reductions which he was obliged to effect without the cordial co-operation of every Member of his Board. He could only have overcome such a difficulty by removing it (that is, removing the unwilling colleague). Considers it absolutely necessary that the First Lord should have power to form 'a Board' without summoning any other member. A Board, in official language, means almost anything. It appeared, however, that the right hon. Baronet was himself scarcely sure as to what "a Board" really meant; for in answer to the question, "Is it not generally considered that a Board means a Board to the meetings of which it is necessary that the different members should be summoned?" he replied, "You may attach that meaning to it, but I was not aware of that meaning." The next evidence to which I will call attention is that of the present Secretary of State for War, who was Secretary to the Board of Admiralty from 1835 to 1839, and First Lord from 1855 to 1858. Sir Charles Wood was— In favour of a Board as at present constituted; but always, when First Lord, deferred to the opinion of his professional colleagues upon purely professional questions; obtained their concurrence in all appointments and promotions; disapproved of any permanent members. The First Lord 'has quite as much power as he ought to have.' In extreme cases he must be supreme, and must make his Board subordinate to his will; but such cases should never arise. Dissents from the opinion that a Board only works well when the head of it makes it as unlike a Board as possible. Never read his patent, but was guided entirely by prescriptive usage. Thinks the naval Lords should be in Parliament, but that the Secretary ought to be a civilian. So much for the right hon. Baronet's views. It will be seen that he differed in many important matters from his colleagues. But I now come to the evidence of a First Lord who differs from all the other living occupants of that office. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich gave the strongest evidence against the present constitution of the Board of Admiralty. He commenced his evidence by comparing, greatly to the disadvantage of the Admiralty, the business as transacted by the Colonial Office and the Admiralty. Whilst at the Admiralty, he said that he never felt that he had either the knowledge, the control, or the responsibility which the head of such a Department ought to have. A Board," said the right hon. Baronet, "is not a good machine for conducting the administration of a great Department. It is a feeble and unsatisfactory mode of administering the navy. He had serious and painful differences with the naval Members of his Board—the first respecting a change in the position of the medical officers of the navy; the second respecting an improved system of promotion and retirement. Was prepared to overrule his colleagues and act on his own responsibility on both occasions. Attributes neglects at the Admiralty to the system. The forcible exercise of supremacy by the First Lord is a painful proceeding, and is not wise, and is inconsistent with the view that the supremacy is unquestionable. A Board of Admiralty is a bad arrangement, and does not work well for the public service. The supremacy of the First Lord is nominal rather than real, and a sole Minister with sufficient advisers is better than the cumbrous machinery of a Board. The right hon. Baronet explained at length the causes of his serious and painful differences with the members of his Board; and, if I remember rightly, there was another and a further painful difference, which caused the retirement of one, if not of two, members of his Administration, during his tenure of office. All these facts show that the present system does not work. The evidence of the several first Lords has, Sir, come to this:—The Duke of Somerset thinks the present system has advantages and disadvantages, the balance being in favour of the former. Sir James Graham is in favour of the existing system, if the First Lord is rendered an absolute despot; if not, he thinks the system had better be broken up. Sir Francis Baring is in favour of a Board, "which means anything," except, it would seem, that any members should be summoned to it. Sir Charles Wood is for the existing system, with power to remove the Junior Lords, and to abolish a Naval Secretaryship. Sir John Pakington, on the other hand, is opposed to any Board whatever, and is most anxious for an entire revision of the existing system. Well, then, I submit, Sir, that in the evidence of these great authorities my case is proved, and that it is the imperative duty of Her Majesty's Government to apply themselves to consider, during the recess, the present position of naval affairs, with a view to measures which will provide for their more efficient and economical administration. Having considered the opinions, or rather the conflict of opinions, respecting the office of First Lord amongst those who have filled that office, I now come to consider the evidence of another class of witnesses—the naval Lords. I will first quote the evidence of Admiral Bowles— Was a member of the Board of Admiralty from 1844 to 1846. He was in favour of a Board. Thinks the present number of members would be totally insufficient in time of war. Even now thinks that the Comptroller of the Navy should have a seat at the Board. Thinks that the Board interferes too much with minor details, and that the Lords of the Admiralty should confine themselves more than they do to their peculiar business. Thinks that they waste much of their time in interfering with the duties of port admirals. Thinks that since the abolition of the Navy Board there is no sufficiently serious means of bringing the state of the fleet under the notice of the First Lord. Thinks our fleet was in a very imperfect and dangerous state when the Syrian war threatened in 1840. Thinks the Russian fleet sent to the Baltic the worst fleet ever sent to sea by Great Britain since our naval history commenced. The men were entirely new, but few seamen amongst them, and the ships were in a much less fit state to go into action than the British fleet ever was before. They were totally unfurnished with mortar vessels and gunboats, or with any of those appliances which a Baltic fleet should have. Attributes the defective state of the navy, &c., to the frequent political changes at the Admiralty. Thinks the Junior Lords have too little to do, the Senior Lord too much. Thinks the arrangement of a Board should rest entirely in the discretion of a first Lord. Nobody would accept the situation of First Lord of the Admiralty, and at the same time have fixed upon him a set of men he disapproved. The next witness was Sir Maurice Berkeley, now Lord Fitzhardinge, who had been eighteen years a naval Lord— He was in favour of a Board, although he had not always been able to carry out his views, and had, on one occasion, resigned his seat at the Board in consequence. Formerly wrote a private letter to Lord Auckland, complaining, as a member of the Board, that he had no responsibility and nothing to do. The members of the Board have now more to do, but the Board does not work so smoothly as when he was on it. Great disad- vantage results from the constant changes of the First Lord and other members of the Board. Thinks a naval Lord should be substituted for a civil Lord, and that the naval Lord should be in Parliament. Complains of interference of the Secretary with the province of the Lords. Had the whole management of the manning of the navy under his control for many years. Thinks the frequent changes at the Admiralty have a tendency to interfere with the proper manning of the fleet. The third naval Lord examined was Admiral Sir George Seymour, who was a naval Lord under Lord Haddington— He approves of the whole system of the Board of Admiralty, but considers that the Board should be more administrative and less executive. A First Lord who is a civilian must have professional advisers. It would be an advantage if the Board were appointed for five years, and did not change with the Government. There should be another Lord, who should be Comptroller of the Navy, and have power over the dockyards. Too much work is thrown on the naval First Lord. A high engineer officer should also be added to the Board, who should take the department of works and consider inventions. Another naval Lord should entirely devote himself to manning and reserves. It would relieve the Admiralty, if more latitude were allowed to port admirals. Is of opinion that the First Lord has too much power, and that the professional element at the Board requires strengthening. Lord Haddington did not exercise supremacy. He submitted to the opinion of Sir G. Cockburn on all professional questions. All professional questions should be decided by a majority of votes. The House will observe that the tendency of all the evidence of the naval Lords is in favour of vesting more power in the naval authorities, and is entirely opposed to the supremacy of the First Lord, which all the First Lords insisted on as essential to the well-working of the existing system. Here, then, is another argument in favour of my Motion. If the views of the First Lords are not only in conflict with each other, but also in conflict with the opinions of the naval Lords, it is quite clear that the duty of the Government becomes imperative to review a system which is open to so many and grave objections.

I now come, Sir, to consider the evidence of another class of witnesses, the independent naval officers who were examined by the Committee. The five witnesses thus examined were, unquestionably, the highest officers in the profession unconnected with the Board. The first witness was the distinguished naval officer, Admiral Sir Thomas Cochrane, Commander in Chief, at Portsmouth— He deprecates the whole system of the Admiralty. The constant changes at the Board constitute a crying evil. Nothing can be worse than the existing system. When a man has acquired any knowledge, he is turned out of office. Complains of the whole system of patronage as grossly unjust. Complains of the system of nomination for naval cadetships. The whole system is one of favour, and the annoyance is that boys are introduced into the navy who have to be educated at the public charge. In his evidence, Sir Thomas said— There are cramming masters at Portsmouth and other places, where they go and learn just sufficient to enable them to pass, and then you send them on board ship after they have passed. At the age of fourteen, I know by experience that a boy ought to have navigation entirely at his fingers' ends. In the last frigate that I commanded, they sent to me from college four of the finest boys that ever came out of that college. I had them on board my ship, and I put them in my cabin to work a common day's work, and to work a double altitude, and a lunar, and so on, and not one could do it unless they had Dr. Inman's book before them to study from. I had, at the same time, a boy of the ago of fourteen, from the Bluecoat School, and that boy had everything at his fingers' ends, and I had to put these four boys under him to be instructed. Sir Thomas complained also of the interference of the Admiralty in petty matters. In answer to Question 1818, "If an officer wanted a week's leave, there was a correspondence with the Admiralty, was there not?" He said— Yes; and if there were half-a-dozen officers wanted leave, half-a-dozen letters would have to be written; and I think the Admiralty gave themselves trouble which might have been avoided. Sir Thomas Cochrane objected in conclusion to the political character of the administration of the navy. The next witness was Captain (now Rear Admiral) the Hon. Joseph Denman, C.B., who commanded the Queen's yacht from 1853 to 1861— Strongly objects to the constitution of the Admiralty. The head of departments should be permanent. Believes it is absolutely impossible, under the present system, for any gentlemen, however great their abilities, to administer the affairs of the navy so as to gain the confidence of Parliament and the country. The officers of the navy do not regard the growing power of the principles of administration with respect. There is a very great absence of confidence in the system. They do not feel that in cases of difficulty they will be fairly and liberally treated. Officers who have promises from one Board are commonly told that a now Board does not recognise any promise of a previous Board. Very often an officer does not know what orders to obey. He is often greatly confused by the multiplicity of the circulars. Admiral Elliot and Vice Admiral Sir Michael Seymour gave corresponding evi- dence. The latter was a cautious witness. He said that he knew nothing of the interior working of the Admiralty. He had beard and read much of its sins, and he thought the First Lord ought to be made wholly and solely responsible. Captain Sullivan, however, one of the most practical and efficient men in our navy, fiercely condemned the whole existing system— He complains that the service suffers greatly from the present constitution of the Admiralty. The whole system of promotion is one of favouritism; the Board itself composed of men brought in from family and political connection. Very strong feeling in the navy upon this great abuse. The same names that have ruled for thirty or forty years continue to rule to this day. The higher appointments and the promotions made on the same grounds. Improved measures urgently needed for manning. Our best seamen resort to the American and other services. Our Baltic fleet would have been utterly ruined in consequence of bad manning had it been opposed to the Russian and French combined fleets. Such then, Sir, is the evidence of the best officers of our navy who have never been connected with its departmental administration. I submit to the House that it shows a general opinion that the existing system cannot and ought not to be maintained. When the House considers that in thirty years, from 1829 to 1859, there have been no less than seventeen changes in the office of First Lord, the average tenure of a First Lord's office having been one year ten months and two weeks, and that in the same period there have been no less than 103 other changes of Lords and Secretaries, I am sure it cannot doubt for a moment that the existing system needs revision. During the last eight years, there have been no less than four general changes of the Board, five changes of First Lords, and thirty-four changes generally. Can any system work which involves such rapid alterations, not only of individuals but of principles and policy?

Sir, in April 1861, a Commission which had been appointed by the Government to inquire into the working of our dockyards made a most important Report, containing a variety of recommendations. The Report was referred to the Committee, whose evidence I have analysed, and up to this hour no step whatever has been taken on it. I wish the Government to consider if our naval yards are to remain in their present position. For the last fourteen or fifteen years the firm with which I am connected have been engaged in transactions amounting to £49,000,000 sterling. I may therefore be supposed to know something about the organization of large establishments. Well, Sir, I have visited all the dockyards of this country, and I declare that I think I should find it impossible to conceive anything worse. Upon this point, however, I am able to cite the opinion of one whose judgment will carry more weight than my own. I quote the following from the evidence of Sir James Graham:— I think, in the War Department at Woolwich, there are very large establishments, very much of the same kind as the vast establishments of the dockyards; did you not find that to be the case?—They are becoming frightfully large, both in the military and naval yards, and I regard them with the greatest fear and jealousy. There are immense manufacturing establishments now growing up in both Departments?—Immense. When I look at the Army Estimates, I find they have 12,000 labourers on day pay. Then also as to the navy; if this large manufacturing principle is to be extended, and labourers on day pay, almost without stint, are to be employed, a system of account, accurate as any manufacturer's account, or any shipowner's account, is becoming indispensable, for the public will never be able to check that expense unless they have the means of contrasting the public outlay with the outlay in private establishments, by accounts kept clearly and on the most accurate principles. And now, with respect to the Royal Navy; if these manufacturing establishments are to be maintained, the time has arrived when, at any cost, these accurate accounts must be provided. Now, I only ask hon. Members to contrast for a moment the administration of our naval affairs with that of the French Government. The present Emperor, when he was elected President of the republic, lost no time in appointing a Commission of Inquiry into the condition of his navy. He put the matter into the hands of the ablest men in France, who drew up a programme both as to the constitution of dockyards, the completion of the works at Cherbourg, and the number of vessels of which the fleet should consist. That programme has never been departed from. After the experiment of the floating batteries before Kinburn, the French Government saw that the whole history of naval warfare was changed. What was the course they pursued? They built one iron-cased ship, they tried it; and when they found it answer, they ordered others of the same kind. After Lord Derby's Government, however, ordered the Warrior and the Black Prince, the present Government ordered ten or twelve new ones to see which was the best. The French iron- cased vessels could all sail together. Not so our fleet. When the Resistance and the Defiance were laid down, I ventured to point out that they would not be able to sail within three or four knots an hour of the Warrior and the Black Prince. The noble Lord (Lord C. Paget) told me with the greatest possible politeness that I knew nothing about it; but the result has turned out pretty much as I predicted. The new ships cannot sail so fast as the Warrior by two or three knots, and their carrying capacity is only two or three days. Lord Derby passed the greatest of all censures upon the Admiralty. He had actually appointed a sort of new Board—a Committee of the Treasury—to inquire into the condition of the navy. That Committee reported— France will also have four iron-sided ships, with engines of 800 or 900 horse-power. It is stated that these iron-sided ships, of which two are more than half completed, will be substituted for line-of-battle ships. Their timbers are of the scantling of a three-decker. They are to have 36 heavy guns, most of them rifled 50-pounders, which will throw an 80 lb. hollow percussion shot. They will be cased with iron; and so convinced do naval men seem to be in France of the irresistible qualities of these ships, that they are of opinion that no more ships of the line will be laid down, and that in ten years that class of vessels will have become obsolete. Nevertheless, despite this Report, the Government immediately ordered ten first-class ships of wood, at a cost of no less than three millions sterling. Such a system of naval administration surely is not calculated to inspire public confidence. It is rather calculated to call forth public execration. Sir, the whole evidence taken before this Committee shows that there is no science whatever at the Board of Admiralty. Sir Baldwin Walker, when he was appointed Comptroller of the Navy, admitted that he had no knowledge of the construction of ships; and Rear Admiral Robinson, the present Comptroller, has, I believe, no real control. There is a strong feeling prevailing that the scientific element is needed at the Board: that the Admiralty ought not to be constituted, as it now is, for political objects and objects of patronage, but that, at a time when our fleet must undergo entire reconstruction in order to meet the advance of science, the Board ought not to be without men possessed of practical scientific information—

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members not being present,

House adjourned at half after Seven o'clock.