HC Deb 09 June 1863 vol 171 cc657-71

Sir, I place myself in the hands of the House whether I should bring forward at such a late hour so important a question as that which stands in my name on the paper. [Cheers, and cries of "Go on!"] I have been told that as a supporter of the Government I should not bring forward any Motion which might prove disagreeable to them. It is true, that along with the great majority of the nation, I have supported the foreign policy of the noble Lord at the head of the Government. I have also approved and cordially supported the financial policy of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I believe that I am giving on this occasion the best support to that policy. No Member of this House has more frequently called attention to the extravagance of our expenditure, or more strongly urged curtailment of that expenditure so as to bring it within our means, than the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and therefore I trust to have his support on this question. I have been told that it is not constitutional for this House to take any steps to reform any of the Government Departments, and that such reforms should be left entirely to the Executive. Sir, I entirely dissent from that theory. I hold the opinion, that so long as this House votes large sums of money to be expended on the different Departments of Government, we are bound to carefully satisfy ourselves that the machinery of these Departments is in good and effective order, and that the money voted is prudently and economically expended. The Admiralty has always been looked upon as one of the worst-organized of all our great public Departments. But however that may be, it is evident that we have nothing to look for in the way of reform of the Admiralty system from the present executive at Whitehall. The noble Duke has been at the head of that Department for four years, and I will venture to affirm that no improvement of the slightest importance has been effected during his tenure of office. The maladministration of the Board of Admiralty was never more forcibly brought before the House and the country than by the noble Lord (Lord Clarence Paget), now Secretary of the Admiralty. That speech, made when the noble Lord sat on the opposite side of the House, must still be in the recollection of many hon. Members—probably the noble Lord himself is the only individual who has forgotten it. [Cheers, and a laugh.] However, considering what then fell from the noble Lord on the subject, and how vigorously he attacked not only the inefficient management of the dockyards, the noble Lord will hardly allege now that there is no room for reform. Soon after that speech the present Government came into office. The Duke of Somerset, said to be a great administrator, was placed at the head of the Admiralty; the Government could not pass over the noble Lord after the famous speech to which I have adverted, and they appointed him Secretary to that Board. Admiralty reformers thought that at last they had got the right men in the right places. I need not Bay how entirely we have been disappointed. To prove that the First Lord and the Secretary were not themselves satisfied with the state of the Admiralty, I have only to call to the recollection of the House that in 1860 they appointed a Royal Commission for the purpose of examining and reporting upon the control and management of the dockyards. I shall not allude to the Report of that Commission; but I shall take a Report made by one of the Commissioners, Admiral Robinson, who had been appointed Controller of the Navy and left the Commission, and consequently was not a party to the Report made by the Commission. I may say with regard to Admiral Robinson that his appointment as Controller of the Navy is one of the best appointments, perhaps the very best, that could have been made, when we consider the small number of admirals from which the Admiralty authorities had to choose. The Report of Admiral Robinson, from which I quote, was sent to the Commission by Admiral Robinson, to show his views of what their Report should be. Admiral Robinson says— Enough has been said as to the frequent changes which that Board [of Admiralty] has undergone and is always liable to, and as to the risk thereby incurred of want of unity and consistency of purpose in administering this branch of naval affairs. During the progress of this inquiry, it has been observed that the administration of the dockyards by successive Boards of Admiralty, constituted as at present, has produced the following result—1st. Caution, amounting to slowness, in following up inventions and improvements. 2nd. General efficiency in the performance of all the works undertaken by their direction, combined with great power of expansion when emergencies arose; but owing to causes already referred to, the efficiency has not been accompanied by foresight as to future requirements, nor by a thorough and searching examination as to the cost to be incurred. 3rd. The accounts of expenditure, though kept in great detail, and both numerous and complicated, have not been sufficiently and constantly examined and referred to, and, in consequence, carelessness in compiling them has followed, accompanied by inaccuracy in their results. 4th. The different departments in London have not been sufficiently consolidated, and consequently their co-operation has been imperfect, entailing needless correspondence and references, and in the end a practical irresponsibility. These remarks are entirely based on the evidence taken at the several dockyards, and also on such Parliamentary papers and Returns as have been laid before the Commission; and taking it for granted that the Board of Admiralty is to remain as at present constituted, the following are the suggestions recommended for adoption:—The department of the Storekeeper General of the Navy should be consolidated with that of the Controller, and the Controller's department should consist of four branches—1st, Shipbuilding branch; 2nd, Engineer branch; 3rd, Store branch; 4th, Acccount branch. Each of these branches should be represented by a head or chief officer, responsible to the Controller; in other respects, the shipbuilding and engineer branches should remain on the same footing as at present, with such additional professional assistance as was contemplated by the Duke of Somerset's Memorandum of 6th February, 1860, already referred to. I should be glad to know if Admiral Robinson, since his appointment, has been enabled to carry out any of these, as he then considered, necessary improvements in the management of the Admiralty. The Government, in 1861, consented to the appointment of a Committee of this House, moved for by the hon. and gallant Admiral (Admiral Duncombe) the Member for the East Riding, thereby acknowledging that the affairs of the Admiralty required investigation, and consequently were susceptible of improvement. That Committee sat during the greater portion of the Session of 1861, and took a mass of evidence contained in 630 pages of this blue-book. That Committee, however, was constituted in rather a peculiar manner. It was composed of three gentlemen who had filled the office of First Lord, two who had been Secretaries to the Admiralty, one Junior Lord of the Admiralty, a gentleman who is now a Junior Lord of the Admiralty, and one now Under Secretary in the Home Office. The witnesses they examined were principally ex-First Lords, gentlemen who were or had been members of the Board, and gallant officers of the service. But notwithstanding the amount of evidence taken by the Committee, this is their Report— Have made progress in the matters to them referred, and have taken evidence on a portion of the subject, which they have agreed to report to the House. That Committee took a great deal of valuable evidence as regards the Board of Admiralty; and I will take the liberty, with the permission of the House, to read the opinion given by the lute Sir James Graham—an opinion which must have great weight on all subjects connected with the Admiralty. Before the Commission on the Control of the Navy, Sir James Graham stated in evidence that "the Board of Admiralty can only work by the First Lord exercising power to such an extent as really to render the Board subordinate to his Trill." Again, "that a Board only works well when the head of it makes it as unlike a Board as possible." Again, that "the First Lord is technically not a Minister of Marine, but virtually the system can never work unless he really be so." It appears to us that the power which under the existing system the First Lord is stated to assume, if he would perform his duty efficiently, should be conferred upon him by Act of Parliament. But in the theory of the Board of Admiralty the First Lord has no superiority?—None whatever; he is inter pares; he is one of six; and if it be worked in that manner, if it be a counting of noses, and he is to be outnumbered at his own Board, the whole system of the command of the navy, in my humble judgment, is subverted, and in time of war it could not work for an hour. Before the Committee, Sir James gave the following opinion:— If that supremacy of authority be shaken either by recent discussions or by doubts arising in the public mind from an apparent equality in the patent, I did say, and I still think, that in time of war it would be impossible that the system could work, and in time of peace even I do not think it will work satisfactorily. Another ex-First Lord, Sir John Pakington, gave the following evidence before the Committee:— Then, am I to understand you to be of opinion that the Board of Admiralty is more replete with inconveniences and disadvantages than any other great Department of the public service?—I should not quite like to answer the question in those very general terms. I do think so in that respect of its being administered by a Hoard, which, I think, as I have said before over and over again, is a bad arrangement for the purpose. As at present formed, it does not work favourably to the public service?—That is my opinion. In the late American war, in 1814, we kept our frigates at 1,100 or 1,200 tons, until the Americans built ships which we could not cope with. In 1852 we began adapting our line-of-battle ships to steam ships, after the French had made considerable progress; and latterly, after the subject of iron-clad ships had been completely settled, we delayed adopting that mode of defence until the French were very considerably ahead of us; is not that so?—Yes; we have in repeated instances been behind, where, as a great maritime country, we ought to have taken the lead; and I think it is perfectly fair to attribute these humiliating facts to the inherent weakness in the system of administering the affairs of the navy by a Board. Having in your own mind condemned the Board, it is, of course, necessary to substitute some other plan; but I understand that plan is not quite matured, in your opinion?—No; I should be very sorry to presume now to lay down, with anything like precision or detail, an alternative plan. I hold that this Committee is appointed to consider and inquire whether the present plan works well and satisfactorily or not. If the decision of the Committee, and afterwards of the Government, should be that the present system of Admiralty administration is capable of improvement, then, of course, will arise the anxious and difficult question of in what manner you will improve it? The outline in my mind is a responsible minister, with departments headed by men who might act as a council when advice is required. If those gentlemen who had had experience as First Lords of the working of the Admiralty held such opinions of the inefficiency of the system, surely there is ample reason why the Executive, or this House, failing the Executive, should proceed without further loss of time to consider what improvement can be made in the Admiralty Department. Sir James Graham states that it would be sure to break down in time of war, and in time of peace he did not think it worked satisfactorily. Surely, now when we are at peace, it is the best time to amend, so as to render efficient, such an important Department. I may now refer to the state of the dockyards. I have recently visited three of the principal of these establishments; and judging from what I could see and learn as a private individual, and without authority, I have no hesitation in stating that no improvement has taken place in the management of these establishments since the visit of the Royal Commission in 1860. The whole system appears to be founded upon a false basis. At the head of each of the dockyards you have an admiral or a captain of the navy. No man can have a higher respect for that gallant profession than I have. I believe our naval officers to be admirable navigators, excellent disciplinarians, able negotiators—because, as Sir James Graham says, they obey orders—and brave officers when engaged in action. But with all their excellent qualities, and considering that the best years of their lives must have been spent in the study of their profession, and that they have attained that exellence and their high position after many years' service, I do not admit that they must therefore be eminently qualified for superintending the manufacturing establishments in our dockyards. Let us suppose the coachman of any hon Member represented to him that the coachbuilders of London were ignorant of their trade, not to be trusted in the execution of their work, and incapable of turning out a good carriage—that his master should therefore set up coach building for himself, and place him (the coachman) at its head. In a very short time the coachman superintendent finds that the ornamental lace-makers and the manufacturers of lining do not supply such articles as come up to his standard of excellence, and therefore a factory for that particular branch must he established. He finds that the glass and the leather are inferior, and he must establish tan works, and make his own glass. He finds that the iron for his springs do not stand the test which he considers necessary, and therefore he must go into the manufacture of iron. No one can deny the absurdity of such a scheme; no hon. Member would be so insane as to put it in practice. Yet such is our position in regard to the dockyards—and I, for one, should not be surprised if, within a very short time, we find the Admiralty coming down and asking for money to establish malleable iron works in connection with the dockyards, and ultimately, proposing to become smelters of iron, and ultimately become iron makers. I shall now call the attention of the House to the state of timber in the dockyards, and upon this point I cannot do better than read the following extract from the evidence of Sir Charles Wood before the Committee of 1861:— In your answer to Question 2,683, you stated, if I mistake not, that, in your opinion, a store of timber of 65,988 loads was considered as satisfactory?—Those words are in the report of the Storekeeper General of that year, made to the Board; it is a quotation from that report, and I concur in it. Therefore, at the end of the Russian war, at the time when you left office, which was early in 1858, you regarded that a Store of 66,000 loads was an ample store?—The old understanding of the Admiralty was, that there should be two years' consumption on hand at the end of the year; of course, the demand depends upon the amount of building to be executed. The consumption of timber in two years, and those the two years of war, exceeded 30,000 loads per annum; the average before the war was a little above 20,000 loads: the consumption in the year 1853, in preparation for the war, was only 20,289 loads; and therefore a stock more than twice the consumption in the war, and more than three times the consumption of the year in preparation for the war was, I think, a very adequate store. Owing to the foresight of the Duke of Northumberland and Sir Francis Baring, whom I succeeded, aided by Sir Baldwin Walker, I was enabled, in 1854 and 1855, to launch and convert fourteen sail of the line. In the years 1853 and 1854 there were launched and converted fourteen sail of the line. And after that large amount of building and consumption of timber, followed by your own exertions with regard to gunboats and smaller vessels, upon leaving the Admiralty you thought 66,000 loads an ample provision?—It was the largest stock that had existed for a long time. You regarded 66,000 loads of timber, on leaving the Admiralty, after the large consumption of the antecedent years, as an ample store?—That was the report of the Storekeeper General, who is a very experienced officer, and I Certainly saw no reason to doubt it. The House will observe, that even when we were consuming 30,000 loads of timber per annum. 66,000 loads were considered an ample store of timber. Now, with a very much reduced consumption—in fact, with wooden shipbuilding put a stop to, with the exception of vessels altering for cupola ships, and in which alteration no great amount of timber is expended, we have now a stock of 112,000 loads, which, at the rate of consumption for the last two years, will be at least equal to seven years' consumption. And I would beg to call the attention of the House to the fact that this monstrous accumulation of timber has taken place while the attention of the Admiralty, since 1859, has been turned nearly altogether to the construction of iron ships of war. I do not think it possible to find a parallel case of such total want of foresight as has been displayed by the Admiralty in this matter; and the result is, that when every scientific man, and when the owners of ships for mercantile purposes, have been convinced for years that iron is the only material which can be used in the construction of vessels to be propelled by screws, the Government, having learned by sad experience that their large and heavy wooden ships with screws, driven by powerful engines, were a total failure for all practical purposes, in so far that they could not exert even a moiety of their power in a heavy sea or against a moderate head wind without the risk of shaking their sterns so as to open their seams and render them unsailable—yet, with all this experience, Government proposed to construct new and heavy ships of wood, to be driven by powerful engines and to be covered with armour plates, adding 600 to 900 tons to their weight, and consequently rendering them so much more liable to the injurious results I have just described. It is even said that Mr. Reed has been appointed chief constructor of the navy for the purpose of carrying out the views of the Admiralty in the construction of wooden ships; and that Mr. Watts, the late constructor of the navy, and other scientific men connected with that department of the Admiralty, have given it as their opinion that only iron should he used in the construction of vessels of war to be coated with armour-plates, and that the construction of wooden vessels for that purpose should be entirely abandoned. This will be a subject of inquiry for the Committee. The Admiralty have seen fit to lay on the table of this House a statement relating to the advantages of iron and wood in construction. This statement contains grave and serious charges against the private shipbuilders of this country. The Committee will be able to investigate into these charges, and report to the House whether they are true in whole or in part. I have no doubt the appointment of this Committee will be opposed on the ground that it is too late in the Session for any progress to be made in such an inquiry. Now, I hold that it is most important that the Committee should be appointed this Session, because, even if no progress is made, the Members of the Committee will have an opportunity of studying, during the recess, the evidence taken before the Committee of 1861, and before the Commission of 1860. I shall be told that there would be a difficulty in getting Members to serve on the Committee. I do not for a moment doubt, that if independent Members are appointed to serve, they will fulfil their duty in a matter of such vital importance to the country; and I do trust, that if the Committee be granted, the Government will permit the nomination of a Committee of really independent Members, pledged to no extreme views, but anxious to fulfil their duty. The noble Lord has already granted a Committee on the promotion of officers in the navy. If this Committee at all fulfils the expectations of its promoters, it can only end in a demand upon the country to provide a large sum for the increase of pay of the officers. It there fore renders it all the more necessary that the Committee for which I move should he granted, because it will have for its object to render the management of that great Department more efficient, and bring under better control the enormous expenditure, and consequently to produce economy and save the public money. I beg to move the appointment of the Committee.


said, he rose to second the Motion. He would remind the House that in 1859, when parties occupied different sides, the noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty made a speech which astonished the House and the country, and he gave notice of a Motion for a Committee. When the day appointed for that Motion arrived, a change of Government had taken place, and the noble Lord was comfortably seated upon the Treasury bench. An appeal was made to the noble Lord, whether he intended to proceed with the Motion for a Committee, and the result was that a Commission was appointed. A Report wag made, and he wanted the noble Lord to state how far in office he had carried out the promises he made when he was out of office.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the constitution of the Board of Admiralty, and into the different departments under the control of that Board."—(Mr. Dalglish.)


said, he wished to express a hope that at that period of the Session the appointment of a Committee would not be pressed. Committees, if not of use, did harm. They occasioned expense, and, while they continued to sit, diverted the attention of the officers of the Department from their proper duties, and paralysed the wish of that Department to carry any reform into effect. Besides, some of the questions that would be referred to the proposed Committee, such as the constitution of the Board of Admiralty, were beyond the jurisdiction of any Committee. Such a subject could only be properly treated by Resolution moved in the House.


said, that although he was a Member of the Committee which sat in 1861, he must oppose the Motion of his hon. Friend for another Committee, as he thought the hon. Gentleman was over sanguine in the results he expected from it. It would only end in waste of time, or prove a mere farce. The evidence, as taken before the Committee of 1861 consisted principally of sell-laudatory speeches from ex-First Lords of the Admiralty, and he saw no reason to hope for a different result from the tribunal which the hon Member wished now to see appointed. Did his hon. Friend expect that men would be appointed without preconceived opinions on the question? The fact was, the officials on both sides were united in upholding the present system. On one point he agreed with his hon. Friend—a change was wanted, but he differed as to how that change was to be brought about. The present system was replete with extravagance and mismanagement. But the House, not a Committee, must deal with it. The first fault was to put civilians in places where they were utterly unacquainted with the business they had to transact, and the Admiralty must necessarily be nothing but a political jobbing office. It was dependent on the control and caprice of Parliament, and all their operations must be conducted, not for the benefit of the service, but with a view to the exigencies of the party in office. He objected to building, as his hon. Friend proposed, ships of war exclusively in private yards rather than in Her Majesty's dockyards. For the hon. Gentleman to press his Motion at that period of the Session would injure rather than serve the object he had in view.


Sir, in opposing this Motion on the part of the Government, as I feel it my duty to do, I must protest against its being assumed that we shrink from inquiry into the Admiralty, or into any of the departments under it. The House is aware that we have already had three inquiries instituted into various branches of the navy, and more particularly with regard to the constitution of the Board of Admiralty no opposition has been offered on the part of the Government to full and fair inquiry. If the Committee on that subject had reported that everything connected with the Admiralty was perfect, I could have understood the hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) saying he foretold that the Committee would do nothing but praise everything that was done by the Government, and deprecate any change. But that Committee, so to speak, made no report. Having had many conversations with Members of that Committee, my honest belief is that the reason for that was, that they did not discover any radical errors in the administration of naval affairs which called for the interference of this House. But, at all events, they simply reported the evidence they had taken. Many gentlemen entirely independent of the Admiralty were called as witnesses, and I am bound to say they gave their evidence most frankly, and did not scruple for a moment to criticize the Admiralty wherever they saw defects in it. I own I am extremely glad that that Committee was appointed, because, like many other people, I had my ideas as to the possible amelioration of the constitution of that Department; but I must say the upshot and balance of the evidence certainly was, that although there were defects in the Admiralty, yet those defects were not of that grave nature which made it desirable that there should be any material alteration in the patent of its constitution. The evidence of Sir James Graham—a very high authority indeed—has been referred to. Now, nothing is so fallacious as partial quotations of evidence; at this hour I am not going to trouble the House with long quotations, and I deeply regret that this debate should have come on at so late an hour of the night, because a most important subject like this cannot be satisfactorily treated under such circumstances. As the evidence of Sir James Graham has however been cited, I will once, and only once, refer to it in connection with the constitution of the Admiralty. He was asked by the chairman of the Committe whether he thought the First Lord of the Admiralty was more or less responsible for the whole conduct of the Navy than the Secretary of State for War now was for the whole conduct of the Army, and he replied that he thought the First Lord stood to the public as respected responsibility upon the same footing as the Secretary of State for War; that until the change lately introduced into the administration of the Army, the First Lord of the Admiralty was infinitely more responsible even than that; and that, from the time of the Revolution downwards, the responsibility as regarded the Navy was virtually vested in the First Lord. Nobody who studied the evidence of Sir James Graham, and other witnesses who had filled the office of First Lord—nobody, with the exception of the right hon. Member for Droitwich, would doubt that that Minister was wholly and entirely responsible for the government of the navy. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir John Pakington) did not take that view; and I was extremely interested in his examination of Sir James Graham and other witnesses. The Duke of Somerset was examined by him at great length, and both the noble Duke and Sir James Graham showed that there were very grave constitutional reasons why it would not be advisable to vest by patent the sole responsibility for the Government of the Navy in the First Lord. Sir James Graham, whose evidence on this point had a great effect on the judgment of the Committee, stated that there was a distinction between the Army and Navy—that the Queen retained her control and authority over the Army, but delegated her power over the Navy to the Admiralty; and I must Bay, and moreover I suspect the Committee were of opinion, that it would be a matter of very grave consideration whether, seeing the whole and sole authority over the Navy was vested in that Department, it should be placed upon the shoulders of one individual. We know that the First Lord is responsible for the promotions and appointments of officers of the Navy; but we know likewise that his naval advisers have the power, if they choose to use it, of checking his appointments and promotions.

I come now to the question of the dockyards, upon which the hon Gentleman's Motion seems to be founded. The hon. Member for Glasgow is a great authority on that subject, but let us see what the Duke of Somerset thinks of the recommendations of the Commissioners of the Dockyards. In reply to a question from Sir Henry Willoughby, one of the Commissioners, his Grace's evidence was to the effect that he did not concur in the opinion that the Board of Admiralty was not capable of governing the dockyards; that the Admiralty must be dealt with as a whole, and that it would be unadvisable and mischievous to divide it into a Civil and a Military Department, or, in other words, to separate the duties of building, fitting out, and repairing of ships from the commissioning of ships and the distribution of the naval forces of the country. At the time when the Commission was appointed, there was a want of responsibility with respect to the shipbuilding business in the dockyards; that, indeed, was the strong point of the Commission; but mark what the Duke of Somerset has done The first thing he did was to review the position of the Controller of the Navy, who had no power in the dockyards at all, because the orders did not proceed from him. That has been wholly rectified, and now the Controller of the Navy has placed upon him the entire responsibility of the dockyards under the Admiralty. He gives the orders and therefore is accountable. So far the recommendations of the Commissioners have been carried out, but on some points it was impossible to act upon their suggestions. They proposed, for instance, that the Controller of the Navy should be placed over the Storekeeper General and the Director of Works. I say it would not have been wise to adopt that recommendation. Our object is that the Storekeeper General should be an independent officer, checking the supply of stores and timber to the Controller of the Navy. The Director of Works is the person who constructs the barracks for the marines and all the great buildings connected with the dockyards. Would it be advisable to put either of those officers under the Controller of the Navy? So with respect to the Superintendents. It had been said with a sneer that naval officers are not qualified to discharge the duties of superintendents. The hon. Member for Glasgow ought to know, and does know, something of the business of our dockyards; but when he made that statement, he betrayed a lamentable and surprising ignorance. Why, shipbuilding forms only a small branch of the business of the superintendents, who have also to attend to the rigging and fitting of vessels, the accommodation of officers and others, the guns, and a variety of other matters which a civilian could know nothing about. The same observation applies with equal force to the Controller of the Navy, who, it has likewise been said, should not be a naval officer. Among the recommendations of the Commissioners one was to the effect that the dockyards should be disfranchised. I hope the House will think that we did right when we declined to carry out that proposal. The patronage of the Government in the dockyards is really very small, and the promotion mostly by competition; and the present Admiralty, at all events, have received little assistance in electioneering matters from that quarter. We have consequently little or nothing at stake in the matter, but we could not think it our duty to propose the disfranchisement of all the dockyards in the country. Other recommendations of the Commissioners are in course of being carried out. The shipbuilding accounts, for example, are in process of being reduced to a clear and simple form, in which they would be easily intelligible; and, for the future, they will be subjected to an independent audit. But we have besides done, and are doing, many things which the Commission did not recommnnd. I wish I had time to recount some of them to the House. We have never considered ourselves perfect; on the contrary, we have seen that considerable defects existed, and already we have introduced reforms into various branches of that Department. In one part of his speech the hon. Member for Glasgow let the cat out of the bag as to the real object of his present Motion. Among the great iron shipbuilding firms there exists, no doubt, a good deal of dissatisfaction with the Admiralty. I can understand that the hon. Member has been pressed on by his friends in Glasgow, who find fault with the Admiralty for not giving any large contracts for iron ships during the present year. There may he strong arguments in favour of building iron ships by contract; but I maintain the Government have done wisely in not embarking in any vast expenditure at a time when they do not know what the best construction is. It is well we should pause until we have given a fair trial to the iron ships we already possess; but I can assure the hon. Member, that though we have thought fit to introduce a certain amount of iron shipbuilding into our dockyards, we do not intend to abandon altogether the building of iron vessels in private yards. A few words more, and I have done. I submit that these general attacks on a public Department, unaccompanied by specific charges, are unfair, and tend to damage the due and efficient working of its duties. I do not say that there are no defects in the constitution of the Admiralty, but, on the whole, it has worked well. Let the hon. Gentleman bring specific charges, and I will be prepared to answer them. The experience which we had in the beginning of the past year was sufficient, I think, to show that at a time of great emergency the Admiralty is equal to its duties. For these reasons I must oppose the Motion of my hon. Friend.


moved the adjournment of the Debate.


said, he would appeal to the hon. Baronet to allow the Debate to proceed.


said, he wished to inquire when it was the intention of the noble Lord at the head of the Government to make a statement with respect to Greenwich Hospital?


said, that he was not aware that it was the intention of the noble Lord to make any such statement as that alluded to; an hon. Member had given notice of a Motion on the subject of Greenwich Hospital, and he (Lord Clarence Paget) was very anxious that it should be brought on for discussion.

Debate adjourned till Thursday.