HC Deb 05 March 1863 vol 169 cc1109-14

SUPPLY considered in Committee.

MR. MASSEY in the Chair.

(In the Committee.)

(1.) £433,298, New Works, Improvements, &c.


said, that the Parliamentary paper signed by Admiral Robinson, cast a most extraordinary reflection on the contract iron shipbuilders of this country. He had no hesitation in saying that the ships turned out by private builders in this country were an honour to the country, and reflected the greatest credit upon themselves. The reflection cast upon them had raised a suspicion in his mind that the Government were going to establish a large plant in the dockyards to dispense with private shipbuilding. If that were done, the works would cost them more than at present, and they would not get such good ships. He wished to ask for an explanation of the item for new machinery. He also would draw attention to the Vote for naval barracks, and ask why it was thought desirable to have their seamen in barracks instead of afloat in vessels, as had been hitherto the custom.


stated, that the item in the Vote was for hydraulic machinery for bending armour plates, and other machinery for sawing and other processes in the progress of shipbuilding. There was no intention at the present time to create another establishment beyond that which existed at Chatham. He need not apologize to the Committee for bringing forward a Vote for the construc- tion of naval barracks, because, if there were one thing more than another which had been acknowledged to be of immense importance, it was the getting rid of the old hulks, and the housing of the men comfortably on shore, where they would be when their services were required.


said, he observed a charge in the Votes for gas machinery, and also charges for gas; for instance, at Chatham it cost £900. It was recommended that the Government should make their own gas, and he should be glad to know if that recommendation would he carried into effect?


was understood to say, that he hoped the Government would not go to the expense of erecting works for the purpose of making their own gas for every dockyard.


said, the vitality of the navy depended on the Government having proper docks and basins, and he should like to learn what the Government proposed to do in that respect. Last year they were told that Chatham dockyard would be enlarged, and that it would require a sum of about £1,000,000 to complete the works. The Government now proposed to take the small sum of £22,000, and at that rate the docks would be ready in about fifty years. The country had only one dock that would take in ships of the Warrior class, and he felt anxious that something more should be done. They had not sufficient dock room in time of peace, and in time of war there would be a positive deficiency.


remarked, that he saw for the first time in the Votes a sum of £9,160 for a new establishment on the coast of China, namely, at Kowloon, and he should be glad to hear some explanation in regard to it.


said, he would call attention to the new docks at Bermuda and Gibraltar, and should be glad to receive an explanation in regard to them.


said, the Government were making considerable progress in the construction of docks, and at the end of the year they would have four docks capable of receiving ships of the Warrior class. The reason why so small a sum was taken for Chatham was that it was all that could be expended during the year. The necessary preliminary works were now being pushed on with all despatch, and next year the Government would no doubt be able to ask for and to spend a much, larger sum. When the work was completed, the basin at Chatham would be the largest in existence, and would have an extent of eighty-two acres. The Government had found it more economical to manufacture there own gas, and they adopted that course at all places where they could not obtain it from public companies at reasonable prices. The Government asked that year for no further Vote for works at Bermuda; but if the war in America continued, and they had to keep a large squadron there, it would be absolutely necessary to construct a dock. All that it was at present proposed to do at Gibraltar, was to carry out the superstructure of the mole to the length of the foundations, about 600 feet. Many persons thought that it would be desirable to extend it to a length of 1,000 feet, in order that very long vessels might lie alongside it to coal. The establishment at Kowloon was intended for a coaling station. The situation was, owing to the depth of water, admirably adapted for that purpose. Admiral Sir James Hope, who had lately returned from his glorious campaign in China, had very strongly pressed upon the Government that the completion of the work ought not to be delayed.


said, he wished to ask for an explanation of an item of £8,000 for the breakwater at Plymouth.


replied, that during the last few years the breakwater had given way, and it had been necessary to undertake very considerable works for "towing" it.


wished to know whether the dockyard at Malta was capable of admitting vessels of the Warrior class.


said, he had just returned from Malta, and he could take it upon himself to assure the Committee that they might safely grant the sum required for that dock. Up to that time Malta possessed no dock capable of containing any ship but of the smallest possible class and when lightened of her burden. During the Crimean war there were no means of repairing their first-class ships at Malta, but they had to be brought home. The scheme of the Governor, which had been adopted by the Admiralty, would give a dock for one ship of the Warrior class, with a suitable fitting basin attached to it; and it would, at the same time, restore the best part of Malta harbour, which would be large and deep enough for the Mediterranean fleet, on an emergency, to rendezvous in.


said, he had been informed that officers on the spot were dissatisfied with that work, and that they complained in particular that it was not less than two miles from the Government dockyard at Malta. He was glad, however, that a large dock was being constructed at Malta, because he had heard that the French were building at Marseilles one of a very extensive character, capable of taking in the largest ships in all states of the tide.


said, there certainly was some difference of opinion amongst officers at Malta with respect to the site of the Dock. The colonial Government had agreed to give up for the accommodation of men-of-war a part of the harbour called the French Creek, which, was surrounded with houses, and in order to construct a dock there it would be necessary to purchase those houses, at considerable expense, while the creek itself was so shallow that it would require to be deepened considerably before a man-of-war could enter it. It was, however, convenient to the dockyard, and a dock made there would be very convenient for the purposes of the navy. The construction of such a dock would at the same time, for the reasons which he had just indicated, occasion great delay and expense, and the Government of Malta had under the circumstances proposed to contribute a certain sum towards the construction of a large dock, capable of containing vessels of the Warrior class, at the head of the grand harbour, which was not two miles, but only half a mile, from the dockyard. It had, therefore, been deemed the wiser course to proceed at once with the building of a dock at the head of the grand harbour, but afterwards the French Creek would no doubt be found available for the purpose, if it were deemed expedient to make it so. There would be no difficulty, he might add, in rendering the site at present chosen capable of admitting ships of the largest class.


said, he wished to know whether the amount of the sum to be contributed by the Maltese Government was to be made contingent on the site selected, and also what would be the depth of water in the new dock when built?


said, the Maltese Government would not contribute unless the particular site in question were chosen. There would, he was happy to say, be ample water in the dock, the depth being some twenty seven feet or twenty eight feet over the sill.


wished to ask how it was that the Maltese Government had agreed to contribute to the construction of a dock which could not in the slightest degree tend to the advantage of the commerce of the island? If he were told that the Maltese Council had consented to disburse a certain sum for the purpose, he would simply observe that the elected members of the Council were in a minority, the majority being composed of official persons.


said, he thought it would be well that it should be ascertained beforehand that the dock would possess the necessary depth of water.


said, there was every reason to be satisfied that such would be the case. It was quite true that the Maltese Government was to contribute a portion of the cost of the new harbour works, but these works would be a great benefit, not merely to the navy but to the general trade of the port, which, he was glad to say, was increasing every day.


said, that the Maltese Government agreed to pay a portion of the expense, in order to induce the imperial Government to undertake the dredging of the new anchorage-ground, which was very much wanted.


said, he thought the people of Malta had made a very good bargain, as the improvements in the harbour would bring them a great deal of business.


suggested, that instead of housing the naval reserve in barracks, they should be placed on board of some of the wooden ships which were lying idle, and that a number of the officers, for whom there was such difficulty in finding employment, should be attached to these vessels.

Vote agreed to, as were also the following:—

(2.) £66,000, Medicines and Medical Stores.

(3.) £99,370, Naval Miscellaneous Services.

(4.) £719,341, Half-Pay, &c.

(5.) £483,105, Military Pensions and Allowances.

(6.) £194,932, Civil Pensions and Allowances.

(7.) £270,150, Freight of Ships.

House resumed.

Resolutions to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again To-morrow.