HC Deb 03 April 1865 vol 178 cc678-718

said, that as one who had known Mr. Cobden for seventeen years, he could not refrain from joining in the profound regret which had been expressed at the loss which the House and the country had sustained.

In calling attention to the constitution and administration of the Admiralty Board, he should bear in mind that on many occasions on the Estimates recently this subject had been discussed more or less, and therefore he should confine himself entirely to the terms of his Notice. He desired rather to place before the House the evidence of the dissatisfaction which, the Board of Admiralty had given from its establishment, than to express any unsupported opinion of his own. On the recent examination of witnesses before a Commission, it would be found that almost the whole of them expressed condemnation of the Board, and even where there was approval, it proceeded from circumstances and opinions which would have elicited the strongest condemnation if the witnesses had been in possession of the real facts. His case was that there was no direct responsibility. He had only to refer to the evidence of three or four officers who had rendered eminent service in connection with our naval affairs. The opinion of Sir George Cockburn was, that the establishment at the Board of Admiralty was the most unsatisfactory and least effective for its purpose that could have been devised; and he owned himself to be the advocate for all bodies being responsible for what they did. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) said that the Board was a bad arrangement, and did not work favourably for the public service. He (Sir Morton Peto) therefore contended that it ought to be reformed, and that the present system should not be allowed to exist. Sir James Graham only supported the system provided the First Lord was always supreme. Sir Charles Wood was of opinion that the distribution of the business of the Admiralty had been altered at various times to fit into the peculiar competence of the Lord at the time. Mr. Goulburn, in a debate which took place in that House, said that when the head of a Board was responsible, there was a greater share of responsibility than if you threw it on the whole Board. He also said the responsibility of the Board of Admiralty was a point which never could be ascertained under the present system; that the whole thing was given up, and the Board had no direct responsibility, and it was no longer worthy of the confidence of the country. With regard to the mode in which the business was conducted, Mr. Goulburn said that the correspondence of the Admiralty might be reduced, so that one letter might be written where there were now ten. Other witnesses were equally strong in their expressions against the Board of Admiralty. The Duke of Somerset said he did not hold that a better plan could not be devised, but that a better plan had not been submitted to him for consideration. Now, he hoped that the noble Lord would give to the plan which he would that night suggest, his calm and careful consideration. Sir Richard Bromley was of opinion that only one Minister of State should be in charge of the entire naval service; that that marine Minister should hold office by patent, and rank as a Secretary of State. He further recommended that the marine Minister should have four principal assistants to advise him; two naval officers and two civilians, and that those officers should have seats n the House. They should go out with the Ministry but should not require re-election on taking office. He described also the duties to be allotted to them, that the whole machinery might be set in motion, so that there should be a corresponding action, by each acting and re-acting upon the other. He (Sir Morton Peto) had communicated with Sir Richard Bromley as to the suggestions which he was about to offer to the House, and found they had met with his entire concurrence. With respect to the Constructor of the Navy, Mr. Reed was entitled to receive at the hands of the House the fairest possible trial, and the plan he was about to propose would not trench upon that fair trial. In connection with the Constructor of the Navy there ought to be a Council of Reference, before whom all designs should be brought for consideration. This Council should not be a paid body, and should be composed of eminent men, who had an intimate acquaintance with ship-building, machinery, and engineering, and who would, therefore, be competent to give a sound and practical opinion upon all matters coming before them. In order to obtain the services of such men without any pecuniary consideration the office must be made one of honour. He knew many men who would be most valuable Members of such a Council, and who would be most ready to benefit their country by giving their services in this way. He also proposed that the Constructor should be made responsible to the Minister, and the Minister responsible to the House of Commons. The opinion of the Council of Reference was not to be in any way binding upon them. The Government would have in this Council a valuable Board of advice, and it would not trench in the slightest degree upon the responsibility of the Minister. He did not wish to interfere with the offices of the Controller of the Navy, the Constructor, or the three assistants, but he wished them to have the opportunity of consulting eminent men who had had great and varied experience, and who would be able to give very valuable advice and information. At present the Storekeeper General and the Controller of the Navy had equal power. The officer having charge of the construction of the navy should have supreme control, and the Storekeeper should be subordinate to him. He would next refer to the question of the Department of Works. The public works executed by the Admiralty at the present time were out of place as to the persons who should have the conduct of them. The Board of Admiralty had no efficient representatives who could carry out the public works of the country so far as it was concerned. The Board of Admiralty should simply define its requirements, and say what it wants, and have the works carried out by the Minister of Public Works. A Committee of the House in 1860 on the Miscellaneous Expenditure reported its opinion that all public works not already under the Department of Public Works, except those of naval and military defence, should be under that department. As to the conduct of affairs by the Admiralty, although the members of the Board might be excellent sailors, have an admirable knowledge of ships, able to give sound opinions on naval affairs, and fully competent to deal with all matters properly appertaining to a sailor's duties, they could not be said to have received such an education as qualified them for exercising an efficient superintendence over public works. In France these things were managed differently and more wisely. The Minister of Marine and the Navy Constructor had nothing to do with the superintendence of public works, excepting that they had to define that which they wanted doing, and the works were then left in competent hands. It would be well if our Board of Admiralty would take a lesson from our neighbours. With respect to public works, he would like to see the Minister of that department assisted by a council composed of men of the highest eminence as engineers or contractors, who, having ceased from active business, should be able to devote their time and experience for the benefit of the country. This council might be consulted and its opinion obtained, although that opinion need not necessarily be binding, and the result could not but be advantageous. Would any Minister have made such a mistake as was made in building the gunboat slips at Haslar if there had been a body of competent and experienced persons to advise the Minister? To take another instance of blunder, he would refer to a building—the Herbert Hospital—recently erected at Woolwich, on a slope and overlooking a cemetery. It was found necessary to place the building upon a concrete foundation. The concrete was placed upon the clay, but the drains were placed below the clay, and the consequence had been that the clay had become so saturated with moisture that one-third of the building was shored up. The Board of Admiralty were not responsible for that blunder, but there were plenty of blunders which could be attributed to them. Would Alderney Harbour have been made if there had been a competent Board of Public Works? Would four or five times the original Estimates have been expended upon Holyhead and other harbours if we had had a competent tribunal to decide upon such questions? Again, he must remark that such mistakes were not made in France. In that country the Estimates were framed with so much care, and by such competent persons, that his firm, in the execution of some of the largest public works in that country, had been content to accept the figures of the Minister, which, with all respect, he must say they could not have ventured to do in this country. Then, again, as to the management of the dockyards, there was clearly something defective. Taking Portsmouth as an instance, he found that there was an Admiral Superintendent who was appointed for five years, but as he was usually selected from names very high up in the list, the office generally became vacant in about three years. However, that officer was a naval man, quite unqualified by any previous education to undertake the management of a large establishment. If the Admiral Superintendent was absent his place was supplied by the captain of one of the ships in port, who would no doubt be a very excellent naval officer, but one of the very last persons to be intrusted with the charge of a dockyard. It must be remembered that a dockyard was nothing more or less than a large establishment in which Her Majesty's ships were built and repaired, and in which the object should be to combine the utmost efficiency with the greatest economy. Again, he must observe that the system in France was different to and an improvement upon our practice. Of course he did not mean that there should not be an admiral to take charge of the ships in port, and to superintend everything that properly fell within the sphere of a naval officer's duties, but he did not think that such an officer could be a very efficient manager of an establishment for the construction and repair of ships. It was quite certain that our dockyards would never be efficient while the present system was adhered to. He did not say that there should not be an admiral at Portsmouth, but he ought not to be made the superintendent of the public works or the constructor of ships. In France, the superintendent of the dockyard was well qualified for his post, and not removable on change of administration. The Admiral Superintendent was about as well qualified to make his own uniform as to perform the ordinary duties of the dockyard. Then, as to the cost of the superintendence of labour. He took the figures from the Estimates of 1861–2 and he found the percentage to be 13 at Deptford, 9 at Woolwich, 6 at Chatham, 9 at Sheerness, 6½ at Portsmouth, 7½ at Devonport, and 9 at Pembroke; the average being 8 per cent. He had had as much experience in public works as any man, and he declared that such a percentage of cost of superintendence was unheard of, and in the execution of works to the extent of millions in different parts of the world he had never known anything like such an amount for the cost of superintendence. The very fact of its costing so much showed that the superintendence could not be very effectual, as in the multiplication of checks all individual responsibility was lost. With respect to the system of labour in the dockyards, he approved the day system, but thought that at present there was no adequate motive for men to exert themselves. Nothing could ever be regarded as satisfactory where no motive was held out to a man to exert his energy beyond his fellow labourer, who did as little as possible beyond handling his tools. He had recently been reading a work which had afforded him some amusement—the Biography of Samuel Bentham, by his widow. That person made himself troublesome about naval reforms, and at last he was put upon a Board, which entirely put an end to his declaiming about the wrongs of his country. He would recommend the perusal of the work to the noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty. Then, as to the contract system, he understood that while two lords of the Admiralty were required to enter into a contract, one only could annul it by writing his initials. After finding so much fault with the Board of Admiralty, it was pleasant to express a word or two of approval. In 1858–60, when the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir John Pakington) was First Lord, he, in association with Sir Richard Bromley, originated a system of accounts, which was better than any theretofore in use. The present Secretary to the Admiralty had followed that system up year after year, and now the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) had promised them a system of accounts. But he warned his hon. Friend that if the accounts were to be satisfactory they must show the expense of working each dockyard, the balance value of the stock in hand, the stock issue within the year, and the amount expended for labour employed. Another point to which he desired to refer was that of the great unsteadiness and uncertainty of action on the part of the Board of Admiralty. As an instance of this the hon. Baronet mentioned that in 1805 Lord Melville, acting on a letter from Lord Nelson, then Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean, took steps for raising the position of the medical officers of the navy, and a uniform, and other advantages, were granted, but his successor in office reversed his policy. In 1858 the right hon. Baronet opposite placed the medical officers in the navy on the same footing as those in the army; but the Duke of Somerset had reversed that policy. Until this system of direction by a Board was broken up naval affairs would never be efficiently conducted. The time was come when the question ought to be taken up. They looked to the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) to do much, and what ability and practical acquaintance with business details would effect he would do; but he hoped that his hon. Friend would not be drawn into that official vortex of passive inaction which had swallowed up so many talented men. If he found himself at any time placed in a position in which he could not discharge his responsibility to that House, he trusted that he would know how to resign a post which would be unworthy of a Gentleman of his high character and talents. The country had a right to expect that the governing body of the Admiralty, whatever it were called, should be placed in a position of direct responsibility towards that House which voted the money for the maintenance of the honour of the country. That was not the case at the present, moment. He believed that the £58,000,000 of money which had been voted to the present Government for naval affairs had not been—if the accounts were closely analysed—properly expended, or in a manner which the House ought to be satisfied with. He would have the whole of the dockyards managed upon strictly commercial principles. Why should there be a difference between the management of the nation's establishments and those of private persons? But he believed that there would be no improvement so long as they appointed men to superintend these establishments who knew nothing about the matter, He might say frankly that he did not wish to see all the Government shipbuilding conducted by private firms. But he did want to see a fair share in private yards, in order that by means of the competition which would thence arise there might result economy in the construction of our vessels, and he did complain that the Royal Dockyards were not conducted as efficiently and economically as private establishments. The country had a right to expect that the Government would abandon the system of patronage, and that all promotion should proceed upon merit alone; but the Government were not the only parties to blame in this matter; so long as hon. Members would ask for places for their friends, the Government would not give up this patronage. He believed that this system of patronage was forced upon the Government by the House. As regarded the whole subject, it, in his opinion, demanded at the hands of the Government, an instant course of action. Things were not now as they used to be, when valour in the men and talent in the admiral were all that was looked for. Steam and scientific appliances of new kinds were now seen on every hand. He thought the Government ought not to say, "Leave the matter in our hands, and we will make all the improvements which may be necessary, and then do nothing." If the House desired that this country should be successful in future wars, the affairs of the Admiralty must be better conducted. He would call upon the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and those associated with him, to get out of this system of inaction. This subject was one which required the calm, thoughtful, and careful consideration of the noble Lord, and he hoped that he would in a new Parliament propose measures which would conduce to the welfare of the country.


said, he was very glad that the hon. Baronet had again brought this subject before the House. He agreed with much that had been said on the subject by the hon. Baronet, who had referred to high authorities who had expressed opinions condemnatory of the present Board of Admiralty. He might have gone further and have said that, with the exception of those who were, or had been, members of the Board, he would not have found a single sane man in the country who was satisfied with the present system. He (Mr. Bentinck) agreed with the hon. Baronet in condemning the system of having a Board of Admiralty at the head of the Naval Department of the country. The business could not be satisfactorily conducted by a Board. The first result was the entire absence of all responsibility. This alone was sufficient to constitute inefficiency. But it appeared to him that the system of such a Board as the Board of Admiralty was doubly mischievous, and for this reason—that in a Board of Admiralty, composed as it generally was, with a civilian at its head, and the two senior Naval Lords, a great part of the business must be conducted under the authority of those Naval Lords, without responsibility on their part, the responsibility remaining with the civilian. Thus there was action without responsibility, and responsibility without the power of action. Another great imperfection in the constitution of the Admiralty Board was its political character; and this necessarily led to those constant changes in the members of the Board, which entirely prevented the possibility of any continuous and well conducted system. With respect to the prac- tice of appointing a civilian to the post of the First Lord of the Admiralty, he asked what instance could be found in any other description of business of a person being put at the head of it who could not by possibility possess any knowledge of the business with which he was called on to deal? One of the most essential improvements in the constitution of the Admiralty Board would be to place the navy under the charge of a naval officer, as the army was placed under the superintendence of a military officer. He did not agree with the hon. Baronet in thinking that the business of the dockyards could be as economically managed as the business of any private firm. In private yards there was always some person superintending who had a direct personal interest in the work that was being done. He joined in the wish expressed by the hon. Baronet, that some change would be made in the constitution of the Board of Admiralty; but he was not sanguine enough to expect its realization, and he would explain the reason why by referring to what had occurred in that House within the last few years. After a good deal of discussion a Committee was appointed by that House in 1861 to inquire into the constitution of the Board of Admiralty. Upon that Committee there were several distinguished Members of the House, who had been First Lords of the Admiralty, some others who had been Secretaries to the Admiralty, and one or two Members connected with the Government. The re suit was that the Committee assembled with the conclusion already arrived at that nothing could be better than the present state of things respecting which they had been directed to inquire. He had proposed the removal of some of those members, but as the House did not agree with him, the Committee met and proceeded with the business before them. He had taken his share in the labours of that Committee, and had attended its sittings for about three months. They had had long self-laudations from First Lords and former Secretaries of the Admiralty, all endeavouring to prove that, during their connection with the Admiralty, everything was done for the best. After three months, his patience being exhausted, he stated to the Committee and to the House the reason why he wished no longer to serve on that Committee, and that was that he considered it to be an absolute waste of time. He was allowed to withdraw, and the Committee sat till the end of the Session. In the following Session so unsatisfactory were its proceedings regarded, that neither the hon. Gentleman who had moved the appointment of the Committee nor the Government were prepared to move its reappointment. He wanted to know what hope his hon. Friend had of obtaining a more practical Committee now, or what hope he had of any proposal being made to re-model the Board of Admiralty. As there was no likelihood that those in office, or those waiting for office, would diminish the political power and patronage they enjoyed, or anticipated to enjoy, the only way in which the object of the hon. Baronet could be attained, was by the action of independent Members forcing this question on the consideration of the House, and by a direct Motion calling on the House to declare whether or not the constitution of the Board of Admiralty was of a satisfactory character. Believing the present constitution of the Board of Admiralty to be the cause of inefficiency and extravagance, he thought it would be a better mode of dealing with the question to move a direct Resolution condemnatory of that constitution; and if such a Resolution were brought forward it should have his cordial support.


said, that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had rested his charge against the Board of Admiralty on the ground that almost every man who had been connected with that Board, and who was thoroughly acquainted with its working, had given his support to the present system, while those who were unacquainted with its mode of conducting business accused it of inefficiency. But it was to be hoped that when the Resolution to which the hon. Gentleman had referred was hereafter proposed, the House would be guided by the opinions of those who were practically most conversant with the matter. The whole drift and burden of the speeches made against the constitution of the Board was "the total want of Parliamentary responsibility." What, he asked, was meant by that often repeated phrase? He had never heard any definition given of it, but he supposed that those who used it intended to imply that when the heads of a public Department did anything in the opinion of the House which was wrong, or failed to do anything which in the opinion of the House ought to be done, the House should have the power of censuring them or driving them from office. Well, he maintained that the House had at that moment full power, in either of those cases, to censure or expel the heads of the present Board of Admiralty. He did not see how they could have a more direct responsibility than that which that Board was under towards Parliament. The hon. Baronet had said that if any private undertaking conducted its business in that way it would certainly fail but did he forget how many railways and banks were conducted by Boards, which were not a whit more responsible to their shareholders than the Board of Admiralty was to that House? That was a favourite mode of managing large commercial affairs, and yet many Boards of Directors were far less conversant with the nature of the business they had to transact than the Board of Admiralty was with its duties. If a standing Committee for this, or a standing Committee for that, were appointed, how was it to be made responsible to Parliament? It would act as a shield to the Board of Admiralty. A council of naval officers might be able to give valuable advice; but if its members were to go out of office with the Government, the faults of the present system would remain; and if they were not to be changed, the Minister of the day, when any of his measures were called in question, could easily turn round and say, "Oh, I acted under the advice of my Council." Again, one of the charges against the existing Board was that it was slow; but if they had one council to advise and another body to execute, as had been suggested, he was convinced that the evils of delay would be doubled, the cost of works largely increased, and great confusion, coupled with divided responsibility, introduced. The hon. Baronet the Member for Finsbury had said that 8 per cent was an amount of cost for superintendence such as he had never known to be called for in regard to works with which he had been connected, the expenditure on which extended to millions. But if the hon. Baronet was there referring to the construction of railways or other large works of a similar character, he was instituting a comparison between things which were really very dissimilar, for there was an enormous variety of detail and of different manufactures incident to the operations in the Royal dockyards, which placed them in a separate category from the undertakings which the hon. Baronet had in his mind. What they ought to aim at was to arrive at such a balance between the work done in private yards and the work done under the Government, that the one should act as a cheek upon the other in regard to cost and time of execution. Wherever they could buy the articles they required, and could make sure of having the market always open to them, it was unnecessary for the Government to manufacture them for themselves. He thought articles not of vital importance might be got in the market cheaper and in the quantities wanted, and in this way many of the articles now manufactured might advantageously be struck off the list. He thought the question of the superintendence of dockyards was a point of considerable importance, and the hon. Baronet (Sir Morton Peto) had stated that it was impossible to get the dockyards properly superintended so long as a man was appointed for only five years, and removed whenever he was promoted. He agreed with the hon. Member to a considerable extent in that opinion. He considered it desirable that the superintendent of the dockyards should he a naval man, but he never could see any reason for withdrawing him at the end of five years, or when he got promotion. He thought it would he a beneficial reform if the Admiralty would employ these officers for three years, and renew the term of office if their services should be found efficient. With respect to the Board of Admiralty, it had this great recommendation, that whatever came into the office went directly to the heads of the Department. He knew no machinery better adapted for administering the navy; and as to any more direct responsibility, he could not see it.


said, there was one department of the Admiralty to which he had turned his attention—namely, that of the Director of Public Works, and by way of illustration he would mention two important public works respecting which there were not two opinions both as to their necessity and the advantage both as regarded the efficiency of the navy and in an economical point of view of executing them rapidly; he meant the contemplated improvements in Portsmouth Dockyard, and that at Malta. There was a great want of efficiency in that department. With regard to Portsmouth, on the 18th of February in last year a plan was produced for the extension of the dockyard at that place, hearing the signature of the Director of Public Works, but anything more ridiculous he had never seen or less fitted for the object in view. In the last Estimates there was an item of £7,000, and in answer to an inquiry whether that item had reference to that large plan, he was informed that it was to be applied to the purchase of some property that was required to test the scheme, while the works were likely to cost between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000. Up to the present time nothing had been done towards rendering the dockyard more efficient. A Committee had been appointed to inquire into the subject, but everyone seemed to ignore the plan. They were now asked to vote £20,000 towards carrying out that large plan. Although the improvement was admitted to be necessary, and the House was prepared to vote the amount required, it seemed that not more than £20,000 could be spent during the first year, showing that they had not got the right Director of Works. The case would not bear argument, and all he would say upon the matter was that it was simply too bad. It was said that a model was necessary. Now, a model was a very pretty thing, but it was a mere plaything. A plan was far better, when a proposition was made for expending a large sum of money. Who was now the Director of Public Works? Major Clarke was a man of talent and experienced in his own line, and no doubt he bad superintended some railway works in Victoria; but he thought a man of the highest eminence was required to design and construct important works such as that to which he had referred. There were four or five engineers of experience in Great George Street, who could give the Admiralty a design in six weeks, why bad one of these gentlemen not been selected for this work? There were very able men in the Royal Engineers, but the corps of Engineers was a limited field, and he was of opinion that the public service would obtain a great advantage from a competition open to the profession of Civil Engineers. If the choice were limited to such a narrow field it was impossible to obtain men properly qualified to spend the money in a proper manner. In that department of the Admiralty there was a manifest defect so far as regarded the dockyard at Portsmouth, and the same remark applied to the works at Malta. He had known Boards of Directors amusing themselves with dilettante engineering, and he supposed something of the same kind was going on at the Admiralty. He trusted that before the Admiralty spent this large sum of money they would take the opinions of some engineers of experience, and having selected the best plans, then to select the best men to carry them out.


I am bound to say that of the tone and temper of the hon. Gentlemen who desire to criticize the constitution of the Board of Admiralty I have no right to complain. I have rather to thank them for the valuable suggestions which they have made with respect to various matters. I think, however, that my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury, in making the wholesale charges he has made regarding the responsibility of those who are at the head of the Admiralty, would have done well to take into consideration the opinions of those who held the post of First Lord. Sir James Graham when examined before the Committee on the Admiralty of 1861 deliberately told them that the First Lord was fully responsible for the duties of the Admiralty. I think he mentioned on that occasion that he gave his evidence most disinterestedly, because he never expected to hold the office of First Lord again. I submit, therefore, that the opinion so given by Sir James Graham is one to which my hon. Friend was bound to give every attention. If he (Sir Morton Peto) did not quote to-night, he quoted on a former occasion some evidence which Sir James Graham once gave to the effect that in order to make the Board of Admiralty work efficiently it should be made as unlike a Board as possible. But it is only fair to notice the evidence subsequently given on the same subject by the same distinguished man. No doubt Sir James Graham did once express that opinion, but he afterwards, before another Committee, stated that having given the subject his most careful consideration, he had seen reason to change it. He was asked by the Chairman— Do you think, taking the whole administration of the army and navy, that the First Lord is more or less responsible for the whole conduct of the Navy than the Secretary for War is responsible for the conduct of the army? Sir James Graham replied— I look upon the First Lord of the Admiralty to stand in regard to the public, so far as relates to responsibility, in the same relation as the Secretary for War. But until recent changes in regard to the War Department the First Lord was infinitely more responsible. The Duke of Somerset when asked— Do you consider yourself entirely responsible for the administration of the Navy? Replied— Yes, I consider the First Lord is responsible for the whole administration of the Navy. The Duke of Somerset gave his evidence after he had been two years in his present office, and if any persons be justified in complaining that the First Lord is not in a position to carry out his views they must be those who have themselves filled the office. The right hon. Member for Halifax (Sir Charles Wood) in his evidence told the Committee that various changes had been made from time to time to meet an altered state of things, and, as showing that there is no feeling in the Department against introducing improvements, I may refer to a recent order issued by the Duke of Somerset. This order states that no question of general policy and no expenditure of money shall be undertaken by any of the branches of the establishment without its coming under the cognizance of those who represent the Admiralty in the House of Commons. Going over the various proposals which have been made for the reconstruction of the Admiralty, I am not prepared to say that if we had now to construct the Department I, for one, should be an advocate for having it in the shape of a Board. I quite admit that there are certain disadvantages in having it in that shape; but there are advantages also. Every project submitted to the Admiralty is at once brought under the notice of a Board. A Board meets every day except Saturday, and in this way delay is avoided in the arrangements connected with the active service of the navy. If it was found necessary for example to commission a ship or send out, a squadron the matter was brought immediately before the Board, and the various necessary orders were at once issued. With regard to the suggestion that the Admiralty should seek the advice of eminent private persons either in the construction of ships or of docks and basins, I think undoubtedly there is great force in that. I, for one, have always been of opinion that there are many advantages in obtaining certain external advice before entering upon the construction of great ships or of expensive public works. The question of the construction of ships was brought before the Duke of Somerset, and he expressed his opinion upon it when being examined before a Royal Commission on the Dockyards. In reply to a question asked by Lord Gifford, the Duke of Somerset said he had known alterations sug- gested in the construction of large ships, but they were not brought before the Admiralty scientific men unconnected with the Department. Lord Gifford said the French Admiralty had a council or committee of reference. The Duke of Somerset, in reply to that, remarked that the Admiralty of this country had at one time a council, of which he believed the late Lord John Hay was a member, but it was not found to work well. There were so many checks and so little agreement that the progress of the works was stopped, and it was found necessary to make an alteration. He added that whether any other council could be introduced was a very important question. It would be very desirable if it could, but it was a very difficult matter to decide. With regard to vessels of war, if you bring in men who are not accustomed to that particular style of shipbuilding they will have to learn their business before their opinion will be worth much. "I see (said the Duke) the desirability of having a Committee, but I also see very great difficulty in the way." And there indeed lies the whole difficulty. It would be of very great advantage to us before constructing such a a ship as the Minotaur if we could get any scientific gentleman to assist us, but the fact is that it is only within the Department of the Admiralty that there is sufficient knowledge to give a good opinion on questions of this sort. We do not depend upon ourselves in the construction of large and costly transports, but call upon eminent shipbuilders to furnish their own drawings; but in building vessels of war, as the Duke of Somerset said, it is a peculiar business, which mercantile ship-builders could not give so sound an opinion upon as the officers of the Admiralty. With reference to other public works, such as the construction of docks and basins, it would doubtless, as the hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Robertson) says, be a great advantage if we had some persons in the service of the Admiralty who had great experience in such works. The present Director of Works, however, has carried out great works in one of our colonies; but I do not know that he has had that particular experience in the construction of basins which it has been said is desirable. The House must remember that it is not solely in the construction of basins that our Director of Works is engaged. We have barracks to construct, and warehouses and various kinds of build- ings to erect, and it is therefore impossible to combine in any one individual all the requisite qualifications. I will tell the House what we have done with regard to the works at Portsmouth. We laid preliminary plans upon the table of the House last year, and the reason why we did so was that the House might obtain a general idea of the proposal which we meant to carry out, the locality and other general information, and I stated at the time that there would be full and detailed plans laid before the House before the whole work was commenced. I only asked then for a small Vote of £7,000 in order to take certain lands and make certain preparations before bringing in the more detailed plan this year for the consideration of the House. An hon. Member (Mr. Robertson) seems to think that we have instructed the Director of Works alone to prepare these plans; but, on the contrary, we have a Committee composed of our best officers connected with the docks, who have had; various plans put before them which they have been invited to criticize, and after their united recommendations in favour of one plan we have adopted that plan, and these are the men who, after all, you have to look to for a good opinion on these subjects. The construction of a basin is not more an engineering than a naval question. I hold that it is our naval men who can give you the most practical opinion as to what is the best position for a basin, and the best place to put the entrance gates with the view of getting ships in at certain times, and many other details which are eminently naval in their character. The hon. Baronet (Sir Morton Peto) proposes that the construction of docks and other works should be under a distinct Department of the State. That would be a very convenient course for us, and it would relieve me from a great deal of discussion in this House; but I think the House would not be quite satisfied with the representative of such a Department of works defending the form of a dock or basin. I think it is essentially an Admiralty question, and if you take away the responsibility of that Department and confer it upon another Board I think in the result it will not be found to promote efficiency in the public works. There is another important question which has been raised by the hon. Baronet with regard to the superintendence of Her Majesty's dockyards. No doubt, there are many arguments in favour of appointing scientific civilians to these offices, and there are branches of the business of the dockyards which could be performed by such persons, but I have often stated to this House, and I repeat it, that the business of the dockyard is not confined to shipbuilding. I believe I may say that building forms the smallest portion of the business. There are the numerous details which sailors can alone criticize and determine upon. There are, for instance, the fitting, the rig, the armament, and the stowage of the ships, which sailors alone can deal with. Moreover, if you were to put your dockyards into the hands of a civilian, you would have the captains coming in wanting their ships altered and fitted, and it is well known captains ask for a great many little things which it would be extravagance to grant, and which a civilian would grant, because it is only a superior naval officer that can decide what is really necessary to be done to the ship. There would, therefore, be a great extra expenditurg entailed. The hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) objects to the removal of the Captain Superintendent every five years, and my own belief is, that if you take the advantages on the one hand and the disadvantages on the other, it is better that this officer should be removable after a certain period. It may be advantageous to put a man into any position for life, without the power of removal, but I think the greater advantages are in favour of removing periodically. With regard to the cost of the superintendence of our dockyards, there is no doubt that in comparison with private establishments it would not stand in a favourable light. The case of the private ship yards is not always analogous to that of our dockyards. Some of our shipbuilders are also shipowners, and their case is more nearly alike to our dockyards, so that some comparison can be drawn. A shipowner, however, sends his ship abroad in a foreign trade; she returns at a certain period and takes her proper turn to be docked and refitted. But the business of the dockyards are so multifarious—ships are always coming in for repairs on account of disasters or other causes, for alteration of armament and various other reasons—that it is absolutely necessary to have a much larger staff of superintendence than is required in private yards; and it is an undoubted fact that men who are working for the public do require a larger amount of superintendence than persons who are employed in private establishments. But I also believe that the excellence of the work done in the dockyards counterbalances the additional cost of a closer and more extensive system of superintendence. But let me tell my hon. Friend that in making this comparison and in making out this large percentage he has included many expenses which do not exist in private yards. As an instance, I may mention that he has included all the medical superintendence—an item which is not to be found in the expenditure of private yards, and I have no doubt there are many other items which must be omitted to make the comparison at all a fair one. But what I do most strongly disapprove is the tone in which the hon. Baronet referred to the patronage and promotions of the Duke of Somerset. I would challenge the hon. Member or any hon. Gentleman, to show me any case in which the Duke of Somerset has promoted any officer either in the dockyards or out of them from motives of favouritism. Such a charge ought to be proved, and when it is made against a great officer of State those who made it should be prepared to give the facts. I challenge the hon. Baronet to bring forward any case in which the Duke of Somerset has promoted or appointed any officer upon any other principle than the good of the public service. As to the charges which the hon. Baronet has made of the present Board of Admiralty upsetting what had been done by its precedessors, that is entirely without foundation. The story is that the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir John Pakington) greatly improved the pecuniary and social condition of a very deserving class of officers—the medical officers of the navy. These officers—and I do not blame them,—considered that the additional rank given to them was to be equivalent to the military rank, and that by it they had obtained a right to assume a superior position to officers of the Executive branch of junior standing. On shore there is no great difficulty, but on board ship it is impossible to allow any asssumption of rank by a civilian over an Executive officer. I regret that some of the surgeons—the great majority of medical officers, I am bound to say, thoroughly understand their position—but some few did raise difficulties which rendered it necessary that the distinction between civil and military rank should be precisely defined. I believe if the right hon. Baronet had remained at the Admiralty, he would himself have had to do the same as we did. Well, then, as to the oft-repeated assertions of my hon. Friend, that it is absolutely necessary to change the constitution of the Board of Admiralty. Nothing is so easy as to attack a great Department, to attribute to it all sorts of faults, and to criticize all its acts, but I have failed to hear from the hon. Baronet any proposition of a practical nature. We gave the fullest consideration to the recommendations of the Committee of 1861. I believe, notwithstanding what the hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) says, that every hon. Member who sat upon that Committee performed his duties with a sincere desire to ascertain what would most conduce to the efficiency of the Department upon which the existence of the country mainly depends. If any new system could be devised which would improve the navy, if it could be shown that any steps could be taken to improve the administration, then we should have something to go upon; but my hon. Friend has mentioned specially only the cost of superintendence in the dockyards as being too high. But that might be the case if you had a Secretary of State for the Navy. I think it would be wiser to allow the Minister of the day to make such alterations as he finds to be necessary, as I have stated the Duke of Somerset has done, than to raise annual discussions in this House upon general charges against the Department which do not I am bound to say in any way contribute to the efficiency of the navy.


said, he desired to explain that he had not intended to impute any blame to the Duke of Somerset, but rather to cast blame upon the House for what was notorious. He had heard the noble Lord himself regret that influence of a particular kind was brought to bear upon the Admiralty upon certain occasions.


As the hon. Member for Finsbury had not concluded his speech with any Motion, I should not have troubled the House had it not been that he has referred to the evidence which I gave before the Committee of 1861. I must say that I know no reason for receding from the evidence I then gave. That evidence certainly was not favourable to the present constitution of the Board of Admiralty as being the best mode in which the administration of the great Department of the navy could be efficiently worked. I gave that reluctantly, as I was following three or four witnesses who then held, or had held, the office of First Lord of the Admiralty for a longer period than it was my good fortune to do, and they all gave evidence in an opposite direction to that which I felt it was my duty to give. My reasons for giving that evidence, however, were not those which have been assigned by the hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck)—the extreme impolicy of having a civilian at the head of the Admiralty. When I hear the hon. Member for Norfolk repeating those opinions I cannot help wishing it were possible that he could change places with the Duke of Somerset for a short time. If the hon. Member were at the head of the Admiralty for a few months, I do not think he would afterwards insist upon the impossibility of managing the navy with a civilian at the head of the Board. My hon. Friend talks as though the Admiralty had nothing to do but to judge of the height of masts, the length of yards, the best form of anchors, and such questions of detail of which professional men would be undoubtedly the best judges. He seems to be quite unconscious of the fact that a very large proportion—the most important proportion—of the business to be transacted is really business which has nothing to do with professional knowledge, and of which a civilian is as capable of judging as a professional officer. I do not mean to deny that it is an open question whether there are not grounds upon which it would be desirable to have a naval officer at the head of the Admiralty, but I think it would be impossible for this House to take a more unwise step than to lay down as an indispensable condition that the head of the Admiralty should always be a naval officer. I must say that I do not believe that in the Minister at the head of the Board of Admiralty there is that sense of full, concentrated, and personal responsibility which the head of a great Department ought to feel. It is asked how could there be greater responsibility, and is there not a power to set anything right which is found wrong at the Board of Admiralty? My own experience at the Board was, I admit, short; but I cannot accept this answer. I do not think there exists that amount of responsibility which ought to exist. There is not the necessary degree of responsibility for things which are done; still less is there responsibility for things which are omitted. Looking at the extreme importance of the Board I think there could be a better constitution of the Board than at present exists. My noble Friend opposite (Lord Clarence Paget) has naturally adverted to opinions the weight of which must be admitted—I allude to the evidence of Sir James Graham; but I do not think he gave quite an accurate description of the evidence which Sir James Graham gave. Sir James Graham did not recommend that there should be a change in the constitution of the Board. The ground on which he rested that opinion was a thoroughly constitutional one, but I think he pressed the reason he gave further than it would bear. On the other hand, we must remember that important opinion of Sir James Graham, that the only way to work a Board was to make it as unlike a Board as possible. Sir James Graham, too, a few years, ago was Chairman of a Committee which sat to inquire into the new system of administering the army, and if hon. Members will turn to the Report of that Committee they will find in it a warning to avoid adopting for the army the system which was in force for governing the navy. Notwithstanding, therefore, the general complexion of the evidence which Sir James Graham gave before that Committee, I venture to think that his opinion of the Admiralty as a machine for administering the navy differs little from that which I have expressed myself. There are, moreover, things in the present condition of our navy which entitle me to say that I am not satisfied with the present construction of the Board of Admiralty. In recent debates I have twice alluded to rumours which I had heard as to the conduct of the Admiralty with reference to our fleet and armour covered ships, which certainly, if true, amounted to one of the most flagrant instances of indiscretion and mal-administration that ever I heard of. They were to the effect that at the commencement of a great critical experiment, involving important changes in the construction of our navy, the Board of Admiralty took upon themselves entirely to disregard the opinions of the eminent scientific authorities whose assistance they had at hand, and built ships on their own opinions and in a manner which in the event of war we should have reason deeply to deplore. The noble Lord has never contradicted the statement I then made, and I venture to say now, that if there had been at the head of the Admiralty a Minister acting under a sense of concentrated personal responsibility he never would have dared to commit such an indiscretion. I am bound to admit that it is one thing to find fault and another to re-organize a Department. When I for a short time was Secretary for the Colonies I was also Secretary for War. I said then, both in public and private, that though the thing might do for peace it would break down directly in war. War did come, and the system broke down at once, and the Government, in the face of actual war, had to undertake the task of reorganizing the Department. Even now I believe the re-organization of the War Office is not finally settled. But though the Board of Admiralty is not all that I should like to see it, I cannot give my support by any means to some of the suggestions of the hon. Baronet opposite. If I understood him rightly, he proposed that the head of the Admiralty should have an unpaid council to assist him in shipbuilding, and another unpaid council to assist him in the construction of public works. I quite acknowledge the weight which is due to the opinion of a practical man like the hon. Baronet on a matter of this kind, but my impression is that if the head of the Admiralty were to attempt to manage the navy with amateur councils like those referred to he has described, then he would very soon find himself obliged to look out for an opportunity of getting rid of such Colleagues. There is no doubt that changes may be advantageously made in the present construction of the Board of Admiralty, and I do not think it would be impracticable, still less impossible, for the Government to make them. This is one of the questions which give rise to a great deal of dissatisfaction out of doors. There is a general feeling out of doors that the Board of Admiralty is not the best machine for managing the affairs of the navy, my short experience as First Lord inclines me to adopt the same conclusion; and a matter of this sort is certainly well worthy the consideration of the Government and of Parliament.


said, though he could not agree with him in all respects, he thought the House ought to be greatly obliged to the hon. Baronet (Sir Morton Peto) for giving it an opportunity of again recording its dissatisfaction with the present constitution of the Admiralty. The noble Lord had quoted Sir James Graham, as usual, but, as a sailor, he (Sir James Elphinstone) had always contended that Sir James Graham's administration of the navy was more disastrous than any operations of the French. He came into office, never having held any office before. He was a man of great ability and energy. He worked his Board as if it were not a Board. He destroyed the Naval College, the Transport Board, the Marino Artillery, the Navy Board, and the College of Naval Architecture, and he built a class of the most expensive and unmanageable ships that ever were in the navy. During the Crimean war he sent a fleet to the Baltic without a single light-draught vessel in it, and the war was in consequence prolonged much beyond what it otherwise would have been. And what was the Admiralty Administration at the present day? When screw ships were adopted by the merchant service and ships were lengthened, the Admiralty lagged behind, and when iron ships were built by the Emperor of the French, our Admiralty built them in a square form, and they did not reach Sebastopol, where they were destined, until after the place had been conquered. With respect to our fleet, the right hon. Baronet (Sir John Pakington) when at the head of; the Board had adopted the right course in assembling the School of Naval Architects, and, under their advice, in constructing four iron-clad ships which were practically the only four seaworthy ships in the possession of the Government at this day. The rest of the iron-clad ships were entirely harbour ships. But what was the subsequent policy of the Admiralty? By the most contumaceous and insulting means to supersede the Board of Naval Architects, and substitute a man who had never drawn I a line of a ship, and whose first production in ship construction was a most miserable abortion. What was the consequence? It was this—that those four ships were the only iron-clads that could be trusted at sea, while the iron-clad ships constructed by the successor of the able and scientific men he had alluded to were not seaworthy. Judging from these fruits, he came to the conclusion that the Admiralty tree was rotten. Again, as soon as it was decided that iron ships were to form the armament of this country, it was absolutely necessary that there should be docks abroad for the purpose of receiving and cleaning them. The Admiralty sent out an officer to report as to docks in the Mediterranean. They begun them at Malta, where some £50,000 or £60,000 were expended in the most disgraceful manner, the proposed docks being commenced at a point where they would be the least serviceable. At last the Duke of Somerset went to the spot and perceived that the Board of Admiralty were wrong; but what had the noble Duke done to the officer who led him into the scrape? Why, that officer was made a Grand Cross of the Bath, though he had never seen a shot fired in his life. By a very small amount of expenditure, Halifax, on the other side of the Atlantic, was capable of being converted into a position where ships of the largest class might be put into dry dock, but not one shilling for this purpose was asked for in the Navy Estimates for a graving dock there. The Admiralty had sent an officer to report as to a dock at Bermuda, but not a shilling was asked in the Estimates on account of such dock. What had occurred with reference to the new principle, which was brought to a most wonderful state of perfection by Captain Coles? The Royal Sovereign was put in commission by one of the best officers in the service, and the guns were fired to the admiration of the whole squadron. That ship was put out of commission to make good some trifling defects which did not amount to half the defects observable in the Prince Consort, which was kept in commission; the reason being that Captain Coles was not backed up by the power of the Admiralty. He now wished to make some remarks on the victualling of the navy, the present system being, in his opinion, most improper. The men had not enough to eat. The quantity might be sufficient to maintain life, but it was infinitely inferior to the food given to convicts, and it was given out at such lengthened intervals that the men suffered in health from that cause as well. They dined at twelve o'clock, had tea and biscuit at five o'clock, and then they had nothing till six or seven o'clock next morning. The old men whose stomachs were pretty well toned down by tobacco, did not feel the craving of hunger so much; and the young men, in order to get rid of a feeling which was actually painful to them, took to chewing tobacco. By the scantiness of their diet, and the injudicious mode in which it was administered, they struck off ten years from the age of their seamen. The food was virtually insufficient for the young men especially, and led them to contract that most pernicious of all habits, the chewing of tobacco, which injured their health more rapidly than anything else. He was glad to see the Secretary of State for India in his place, because he wished to ask him why the taxpayers of England had to provide naval defence for India, and why he did not raise the pay of those who protected a race of people to whom our rule had brought greater blessings than to any other race on earth. The people of India had been ground down and oppressed by their own princes, but now they were in the enjoyment of protection to life and property, and many of them had grown so rich that they were putting silver tiles on their verandahs. Why, then, was this country to find naval defence for such a community without receiving any subsidy for that service? He must now advert to the grievances of various classes of naval officers. The emoluments of the superintendents at Woolwich and Chatham were insufficient to enable them to meet the expenses to which they were put by their official position. His noble Friend (Lord Clarence Paget) seemed to think they had been included in the rise of pay granted last year to certain officers, but that was not so. Then, again, as regarded lieutenants, their grievances were very strong, and in reference to them he might notice the death of the Rev. Mr. Harvey, who had devoted his life to improving the condition of naval officers, and who had produced a work on the state of the navy, which he (Sir James Elphinstone) would recommend to the consideration of the Lords of the Admiralty. The noble Lord would find that there were officers in the navy who had been serving fifteen or sixteen years without leave of absence, but the moment a naval officer went on leave he was put on half-pay. Lieutenants now were allowed three weeks and had half-pay, while military men had three months and full pay, and civil servants had six weeks and all their Sundays. He asked that they should have three months' leave of absence at the end of each commission upon full pay, and that those of their number who were on home stations should, instead of three weeks' leave in the year, have six weeks on full pay, like the Civil Service. A grade of first-class warrant officers had lately been created, but it had been extended to so few—those few being men whose acceptance of it would not tend to increase the Estimates—that it had been practically inoperative as regarded the service. The widows of warrant officers had been very cruelly treated. Some thirty years ago Sir James Graham abolished their pensions, on the plea that increased pay had been allowed to warrant officers for insuring their lives. That was a mean and paltry plea, because the increased pay was miserably inadequate for any such purpose; and, moreover, it was not easy to get any insurance office to insure the lives of men employed on the coast of Africa or in China. There were now thirty-seven of these widows who had been reduced to extreme poverty by the arbitrary with drawal of their pensions; and all that was required from the Government to bring some of them out of the workhouse, and to enable the rest to keep out of it, was only £800 a year. This subject had been referred to on a former evening, and he was now authorized to say that these poor women did not ask for payment of the arrears to which they were justly entitled they would be satisfied with the restoration of their yearly pensions. He hoped this righteous demand would be complied with by the Board. With respect to the docks at Portsmouth, no doubt certain officers had been consulted, as the noble Lord had told them. Where public offices were to he erected for the accommodation chiefly of the clerks of any Department, the plans of our public buildings were thrown open to competition; and how much more was it necessary in connection with the proposed works at Portsmouth, to invoke the genius which had constructed the great works at Liverpool, Grimsby, Leith, and Aberdeen, in comparison with which no docks belonging to Her Majesty, were worthy to be mentioned on the same day. It was plans of that description that ought to be considered by the Committee. At present they knew nothing further than that the noble Lord told them that plans had been submitted. In the matter of so great a national undertaking it was incumbent on the Government to bring to bear the whole science and ability of the country before finally deciding on the details of the plan to be adopted. Secretaries to the Admiralty had put down works in Portsmouth Dockyard which were most objectionable. Sir Henry Ward, for instance, who had been a most excellent Governor of Ceylon, when Secretary to the Admiralty, had placed the workshops in a most inconvenient situation, and destroyed the best site in all the dockyards of England, for building slips and graving docks; and they would have something of the same kind again unless these plans were most carefully looked into.


said, that his hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) had agreed that the statements he made on a former occasion, instead of being debateable, were now to be admitted as facts. It would be recollected that his hon. Friend had dented some of his statements, and he immediately offered to meet him at Somerset House to endeavour to ascertain which of them was correct. His hon. Friend, with that desire to promote the public service which he had always shown in that House, and with that frankness of character which belonged to him, at once accepted the offer. A few weeks ago they met at Somerset House, and he would briefly state the results of the interview. On a former occasion he said that in the four years from 1860 to 1864, there was a sum of £2,262,281 not accounted for. He now found there were certain items not put into the Admiralty accounts for which they claimed credit, amounting to £388,075, which had to be deducted from £2,262,281, leaving a balance of £1,870,000 not accounted for in these four years. His hon. Friend's solution of tins deficiency was that a considerable portion of it had gone to stock in the purchase of naval stores. He had then called his attention to the £1,500,000 unaccounted for between 1848 and 1858, but this also was said to have gone in the increase of naval stores. This made, from 1848 to 1864, an amount of £3,370,000 which was unaccounted for. His hon. Friend said that the amount of naval stores at the present time was about £5,000,000, and he now put it to him if he would assert his belief that in the year 1848 the amount of naval stores in all the dockyards was only £1,630,000. If he would not assert that, he must make to the House what other explanation he thought fit. With reference to the amount of stock in 1848, he believed there were 86,507 loads of timber (the main item of stock), and now he fancied there were only 112,000 loads. The difference between 1848 and the present time was only 25,493 loads, which at £8 per load, the average value, came to £203,944. That seemed to account for a very small portion of the deficiency. But there was another matter to which he must call the attention of his hon. Friend. He found on the examination of the accounts that from the year 1859–60 to 1863–4 there was voted under Vote No. 10 (for the purchase of ships), £2,619,644, and there had been expended £3,670,980. In those years, therefore, there was £1,051,336 more voted for ships than the amount actually expended on them; taking that sum with the sum of £339,328—which was expended for stores but not voted that year—it appeared that there was about £1,390,604 more expended on stores than had been voted for them. If these figures were correct, the farce of going through those Estimates had better be dropped; the House had better give the Board of Admiralty power to spend money for whatever purposes they might think fit to disburse it. He had further stated that to the sum for repairing and building ships in the four years he had mentioned—namely, from 1860 to 1864—there ought to be added £1,560,000. He would not trouble the House by going through the details by which he arrived at that conclusion, but he assumed that they were correct. They had been admitted to be correct by his hon. Friend with the exception of an item of £287,948 for pensions to artificers, which his hon. Friend thought ought not to be included in the cost of building and repairing ships. In 1860–1 the total expenditure in building, repairing, and purchasing of ships was £4,017,780. But ships and engines were bought, of the value of £1,273,000, so that only £2,744,780 was left for the building and repairing of ships; £390,000 (the fourth of £1,560,000) added to that would be about one-seventh of £2,744,780, and it would be an addition of one-fifth other years. He mentioned this in order to show the effect it had upon another statement made by him as to the cost of repairing certain vessels. His hon. Friend admitted that he (Mr. Seely) was correct with regard to the amount expended in repairing the Falcon, but he had to add to that expense one-fifth, so that in 1858–9 the Falcon cost £13,491 in repairs, and in 1863–4, £31,970—a total of £45,461, Taking the highest testimony on this subject—namely, that of his hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead—£35 per ton was the value of a new vessel, and £55 per horse-power, which would give a sum of £31,768 for her purchase. But she had cost more than that even in two years for repairs—namely £45,461. Moreover, her speed was only eight miles an hour, and as her armament was only twelve 32-pounders, four 20-pounder Armstrongs, and one 40-pounder pivot gun, it was manifest that she could neither fight nor run away. Then there was the Wasp, in two years, 1861–2 and 1863–4, she would cost for repairs £48,097, and at £35 per ton she should have cost new £39,000. The Lyra, in the year 1863–4, cost for repairs £21,183; new, she should cost £20,380. And in round numbers the Sharpshooter cost for repairs in two years £28,000, and was worth £22,000; the Salamander £43,000, and was worth £39,000. He asked who was responsible for those repairs? There were several other somewhat similar cases, but he would not weary the House by going through all his figures in detail, but hand them to his hon. Friend if he desired it. He thought it of the last importance that the accounts of the Admiralty should be correct. The late Sir James Graham stated on one occasion that an account misrepresenting the facts was infinitely worse than no account at all. The conversion of the timber was another question between him and his hon. Friend. He had stated that there was a difference between the actual cost of conversion and the rate-book prices of somewhere about £35,000, and his hon. Friend told the House that the rate-book was about being revised, and in another year would be made to represent the actual cost price. He thought there was no actual necessity for altering the rate-book prices; it would be better to look to the mode of conversion. He thought the excess of waste was greater than it should be, and in that opinion he was borne out by the evidence of Llewellyn, a dockyard official, given before the Commissioners of 1861. On 180 feet of rough timber there should not, even according to this evidence, be more than 60 feet of waste; and Mr. Llewellyn gives a table of the actual waste on the various sorts of timber at Devonport Dockyard from 1850 to 1854. In 1862–3 there were 222,673 cubic feet of wood wasted over and above Llewellyn's Devonport rate of waste in 1850 to 1854, occasioning a loss of £37,760; that was, deducting from the value of the timber the amount for which the waste sold. He was quite aware that the House would be told, and he hoped with truth, that these accounts would next year be put into better form. That statement, however, had been made again and again from the commencement of the present century. He found on reference that attention had been called to dockyard mis-management as early as 1796. He believed, however, that the present mode of superintendence in Go- vernment dockyards was likely to lead to the results of which they had complained. In the ordinary business of life the services of responsible and competent men were secured, and on proof of incompetency the men were discharged; but the expenditure of £4,000,000 for the purposes of building and repairing our ships was intrusted to superintendents placed at the head of the dockyards, who, according to the acknowledgment of the Duke of Somerset himself, were totally unacquainted with the details of shipbuilding, and who were removed every five years. In the army some sort of examination was required, and commissions were even occasionally given to those who distinguished themselves. But for these appointments no examination was necessary. The noble Lord had said that there were many things connected with dockyards which a civilian could not understand, but the noble Lord must also admit that there were many things which naval men could not understand; and he believed that if men practically acquainted with shipbuilding were appointed to the management of the dockyards the result would be a great economy to the nation. It was well known, too, that there was a good deal of jealousy between the different departments. As an instance of this feeling he might mention a circumstance which happened to a friend of his. The Admiralty sent down an officer from Woolwich to view his friend's works. The officer was very much pleased with one portion of the machinery, and promised to recommend it to the Government for adoption; but his friend on going to Woolwich some short time afterwards not only saw machinery there similar to his own, but absolutely combined with greater improvements. On informing the officer of the fact he was told that the machinery which he had seen at Woolwich belonged to the Arsenal, which was a department with which the officer had no connection. The selection of practical men would secure also the purchase of the best and cheapest machinery, and a great saving would thus accrue to the nation. The change was but a small one, and might be easily effected. It appeared to him that facts, theories, and authority were alike against the present system. The Admiralty would certainly never manage the dockyard business of the country cheaply until they placed at the head of their management men who were thoroughly acquainted with the value and the practical nature of the work which they were appointed to superintend.


said, he should not have arisen but to reply to what had been said with reference to Captain Clarke, the officer who was appointed to conduct the Admiralty engineering works. If the Admiralty had asked any officer in the service whom he would recommend for the appointment, all the elder officers of the corps of Royal Engineers would have recommended that officer, who was one of the most able and intelligent in that branch of the service. The hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Robertson) had stated that the field of selection was a very narrow one; but when made out of hundreds it could not be very fairly considered narrow. He thought, in fact, that the Board of Admiralty, in making that appointment, had done honour to themselves. It had been stated, as a blot in the system, that the captain superintendents were not mechanics nor acquainted with engineering. But had any one ever known an inefficient captain superintendent? He could not understand why it was thought necessary by some hon. Members that the captain superintendent should be acquainted with the details of every branch in the several departments under his control. The hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely) had stated that the master shipwrights, the engineers, the master ropemakers, and other heads of the respective branches, were all efficient. Well, it was a fact that none of them were inefficient. But was any one of them more qualified than the superintendent to conduct any other branch than his own? What was wanted at the head of the yard was a man of judgment, a man of experience in the naval profession, a man of industry, a man of temper. He had to deal with a variety of circumstances. Place a civilian, however well acquainted with mechanics and engineering or shipbuilding works at the head of the dockyard, and he came into conflict almost immediately with the officer of a ship coming in for repairs. Who was to judge of the necessity of repairs? A report was first sent in to the superintendent of the yard; and then the vessel was visited by the head of each branch, the foreman of shipwrights, the carpenter, the engineer, the caulker, the ropemaker, and others—all of whom made reports to an admiral or captain of the navy, one who knew every part of a ship, and then the necessary repairs were ordered on his judgment. He could not conceive a better system to ensure what was wanted—good work, and economical work. If they had not the right man, get him; but the system itself was good. The engineers in the Royal yards were all striving to get to the head of their profession; and some of the master shipwrights had built for the private trade some of the very fastest ships on the ocean. Objection had been taken to patronage. But there were some officers in the Admiralty with no connection whatever with politics. In their cases patronage had not operated; and with regard to the remainder, could any one point out a superintendent and say he was not efficient? With regard to another objection, the Board of Admiralty was not the only Board we have known. He remembered the breaking up of the Board of Ordnance, and he believed it was the worst step ever taken. As to the head of the Board of Admiralty, there were reasons why he should be a naval officer, and there were reasons in the opposite direction. Whether the head should be a naval man or a civilian should, he thought, be an open question, left to the Crown, and to be determined according to the circumstances of the day. It would be rash in the House to attempt to force the Government into a change of the present Admiralty system. At present every question was discussed by the Board of Admiralty the day it was brought forward, and there could be nothing more prompt than their proceedings in that respect. Some of the ablest administrators of the country had been at the head of the Admiralty, and if an inefficient man were placed there it was the fault of the Government; but it had not been proved that the practice of appointing other than naval men to that office had failed. He (Sir Frederic Smith) would be ready to vote for the sum set down in the Estimates, and regretted that a larger amount was not provided. He was sorry that the docks and basins were neglected. At this very moment, supposing we had a war, we had only two docks at Portsmouth and two at Devonport which would take in first-class ships. We wanted ten docks for large vessels and ten for smaller vessels in the Channel. France had four times the dock power that we possessed in the Channel. This state of things ought not to be permitted to remain. The Admiralty did not ask for money enough. They ought to commence at once at Portsmouth making large docks. They wanted means in the Channel to repair a fleet in the event of their sustaining disaster. The French ships could run into Cherbourg and Brest to repair after an action, and then sweep the waters of the Channel; while our ships, which had sustained serious damage, would be waiting for dock accommodation to repair. He trusted that the Government would not allow another year to pass without well considering these points, and bringing up Estimates to put the Channel Dockyards in a proper state. They might erect fortifications around Portsmouth and Plymouth; but the money would be thrown away if they were without docks in which to repair and make good disasters of any kind that might happen to our fleet. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) had remarked that nobody seemed to be responsible for things which were not done. Well, here were things not done, and the Government were responsible. He trusted that no time would be lost in preparing plans for the necessary works. The preparation of plans had heretofore been done in a very incomplete manner. What was wanted was more vigour, more rapid action. As to the medical officers, respecting whom some remarks had been made, he would observe that, in regard to authority, those of the army and navy were now on a par. They were non-combatant officers; they had no control over any portion of either army or navy, except over the hospital orderlies. The observations of the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) were sound; but the hon. Gentleman seemed to push the point a little beyond what was reasonable. The hon. Member for Lincoln, with his usual acute-ness, had shown that there had been a certain waste of materials, such as did not take place in the generality of private yards; but the hon. Gentleman seemed to have been misinformed as to facts, and he trusted that the hon. Member for Pontefract would show the House the real state of things, and that, on the whole, our public establishments were worked with a due regard to economy, bearing in mind that none but the best materials were used in building or repairing ships in the Royal yards, and that, therefore, articles which would be used sometimes very improperly in private yards, were very judiciously placed in the refuse stock by the Government officers, and hence an apparent, but not a real waste.


said, he agreed with the strictures made by the hon. Member (Mr. Robertson) as to the system upon which the dockyard works were conducted. Instead of getting a practical engineer to make a plan and then carrying on the works with the necessary rapidity, Votes for small amounts were passed from year to year, and the work was delayed till a new Administration came into office, when an entire change was probably made in the plan. In looking over the accounts, he found the result of this system to be that in ten years £1,500,000 had been spent upon peddling alterations of works without making them more efficient for the business of the navy. He hoped, therefore, that any new plan would be laid on the table soon, would be properly discussed, and then executed more rapidly than had been the system hitherto. Another point to which he would refer was the expense of managing the dockyards compared with the results obtained in the shape of ships turned out. Next year it appeared the cost of management of the various dockyards would be £132,631, and that it was proposed to build 15,100 tons of ships and to employ a total of 4,802 shipwrights. It appeared to him that the cost of management in the dockyards was quite disproportioned to the work done, and unless his hon. Friend (Mr. Childers) could give some more detailed explanations than the Returns laid upon the table furnished, the House and the country would probably come to the same conclusion. The cost of repairs formed a very large item, and would continue to do so while the present system was in operation. It would be much cheaper for the Government to repair only such ships as were serviceable, or to build new ones, instead of wasting so much money in patching up old vessels that were of very little use.


said, after the three nights' debate which they had had upon questions connected with the Admiralty the House would not probably wish to postpone the subject of the detailed Estimates much longer. He thought that many of the questions which had been asked in the course, of the discussion would best be answered in Committee when the Vote to which any question had reference was before them. However, he would risk detaining them for a few moments while he did his best to reply to some remarks which had been made by hon. Members. With reference to the remarks in the very temperate speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Sir Morton Peto) upon the constitution of the Board of Admiralty, he would remark that he should be very unwilling to go into a general theoretical discussion as to the constitution of the supervising body. That question—as to the comparative merits of a Board, a Secretary of State with a Council or without one was like all those constitutional questions which had agitated all ages—every one had his own opinion upon the subject, and, whatever one or another might say, somebody was sure to find fault. But the fact was this:—If, as the Duke of Somerset had stated, the First Lord was responsible for the business of the Department, and if the Admiralty were represented in both Houses of Parliament, the question whether there should be a Board or a Chief Secretary and Under Secretary, or what assistance should be given to the head of the Department, was comparatively of minor importance. A bad workman always complained of his tools; but the real question was this—whether they got good work out of the men, and whether the men were working harmoniously together? The hon. Baronet had recommended that when large public works were to be executed the opinion of certain able men accustomed to the carrying out of great plans, but outside the Department, should be taken, and that to their advice great weight should be attached. That might be all very well, but as to the specific proposal of his hon. Friend, that the works of the Admiralty should be put under the control of the Board of Works, or some other Department utterly unconnected with the Admiralty, that was a proposition which, in the naked form in which it was put, the House would hardly be disposed to accept. His hon. Friend said that there was nothing in the naval men at the Board of Admiralty which should make the country take their opinions upon public works; but that was an objection which would equally apply to all public Departments with a Parliamentary head, unless they had the good fortune to have in Parliament persons with professional experience willing to take office. His hon. Friend had spoken of what was done in France, and said that the construction of docks and basins was under the control of the Minister of Public Works. He (Mr. Childers) was at Toulon last year, and he went carefully into the subject, and every one to whom he spoke informed him that the responsible Minister was the Minister of Marine. However, as he might possibly be mistaken upon that point, he would not speak positively, as he should be sorry to mislead the House. His hon. Friend had afterwards asked some questions about the supervision by the Board of Contracts. Upon that subject he might be allowed to say that that question had lately received special attention from the Duke of Somerset, and arrangements had been made with respect to them which could not but prove satisfactory. He would now pass to some remarks made by the hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Robertson), whose eminence in his profession entitled anything which he said upon the subject of public works to great weight. He (Mr. Childers) entirely agreed with him when he said that such works as they were carrying on at Portsmouth should not be taken in hand unless they were thoroughly satisfied that the plan was a really good one, and that then they should be prosecuted not bit by bit in one year after another, but as they would be by a private person or a public company. Other hon. Gentlemen took the opposite objection, that the Admiralty were unduly delaying the commencement of these works, but when they came to Vote 11 he should be prepared to defend what had been done. Hon. Members had laid great stress upon the necessity for careful inquiry into the expenditure, and had said that merely taking a plan and laying it upon the table upon the authority of one man was not all that was required. But the Government had done exactly what had been recommended. They had not undertaken those great works this year without the fullest inquiry, and they were coming to the House not only showing the total amount of the Vote in connection with the contracts, but also the amounts for certain portions of the works to be executed by contract, and they should endeavour to obtain the authority of the House for carrying them on as quickly as possible. When they proposed to take only small sums for certain works this year, that course would be justified on grounds which he hoped would be conclusive to all men of business conversant with large works. Upon Vote 11 he should be prepared to go into the details. It had been said that the plans for the works at Malta were open to grave objection, and that Mr. M'Lean's plan of last year was to be preferred. He would not enter upon a comparison of the two plans, but would merely any that the present plan was founded upon soundest principles. The original plan of Mr. M'Lean was an excellent one, with the information the Government then had, but the able engineer by whom it was formed was not then in possession of the facts since ascertained, that the dock could be made upon the land between the French Creek and the old Dockyard Creek without interfering with the defences of Malta. The gallant Member opposite (Sir Frederic Smith) had given a satisfactory opinion as to the capacity of the Director of Works. He thought that the Board were fortunate in the selection of such an officer. Technically the Duke of Somerset alone was responsible for this appointment; but he (Mr. Childers) declined to shelter himself behind this responsibility, and was fully prepared to justify his recommendation to the First Lord. When the works were completed he believed they would be as acceptable to his hon. Friend as to all those with whom the officer in question had been connected. The appointment of Mr. Reed had been adverted to, and it was said that the Government had placed themselves in a false position in disregarding the long services of other gentlemen, and in finding themselves mainly dependent upon Mr. Reed as a shipbuilder. But what had been the tone of bon. Members through out these debates in this and former years? Had it not been that the Government were entering upon a new course of shipbuilding, and that they required the experience of a new class of officers? The Government were building in iron for the most part instead of wood, and in iron of a new kind, and it had been said over and over again that with new works they should have new men. His hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely) went so far as to advise the Government to have business men as managers at the dockyards, instead of admirals and captains. Yet, at the same time, they were told that they must keep the old class of constructors, merely because they had been long in the service. He was sure that no private shipbuilder would take this advice? He thought they were and would be the first to urge the necessity of new blood, and the propriety of engaging men of known ability like Mr. Reed. The building of ships was now more a matter of engineering and less a matter of shipbuilding than it used to be. Were, then, the Government to blame in engaging the services of a gentleman in regard to whom he might appeal to the hon. Member (Mr. Laird) whether he had not done his work with great ability and marked success? He trusted that Mr. Reed would not only receive the confidence of the Government but also of the House. He must now for the fourth time advert to the remarks of his hon. Friend (Mr. Seely) on an exceedingly dry subject, that of figures and balance-sheets, but he could introduce no new matter into the debate. His hon. Friend truly said that he and his hon. Friend met and exhibited certain figures to each other. His hon. Friend quoted certain figures which could not be gainsaid, and he (Mr. Childers) quoted certain figures which were also in black and white and equally undeniable. But his hon. Friend drew certain conclusions which he could not admit, and his hon. Friend refused in turn to admit the conclusions he drew from the figures, and however often they might meet, he feared that the result would be the same. After they left the realms of facts and figures and proceeded into those of the imagination, he could not, he was sorry to say, follow his hon. Friend. His hon. Friend said that there was a difference between the accounts of 1858 and 1863 of £1,870,000; but that difference was easily accounted for by the stock in hand in those years. He had already stated the figures as to timber and other articles, and those figures he had entirely substantiated to his hon. Friend. The hon. Member, however, went back to 1848, and said that between 1848 and 1863 there was a difference that he could not reconcile. But between 1848 and 1858 these accounts did not exist, and, therefore, the remarks of his hon. Friend were no answer to him. He (Mr. Childers) did not go beyond certain plain facts and figures in account, and when his hon. Friend evaded the plain comparison he had shown, and drew conclusions from words spoken years ago as to supposed stocks, at a time when no such accounts were kept, he could not admit that his statements had been shaken. He had found it impossible to follow his hon. Friend in the remarks he had made upon the sum of £2,200,000, but if his hon. Friend had put the figures into his hands a day or two ago, he should have been only too happy to enter upon the discussion with him. What he (Mr. Childers) had really said as to debiting the amount of dockyard pensions in the expense account was that it was exceedingly difficult to see on what principles it was right to add the amount of pensions in any one year to the other expenditure in the same year for wages. He hoped next year to be able to show a satisfactory balance-sheet of expenditure in shipbuilding in the Royal yards, but the details of such an account could only be settled after very careful consideration by able accountants. They all agreed that the accounts ought to be prepared in a certain way, and he trusted that they would be clear and satisfactory to the House.


said, that nothing could be more unsatisfactory than the discussions in Committee on these Estimates. They embraced details which it was quite uncertain whether hon. Members would take up, and the House could never depend upon their being discussed. The House was often asked to give a Vote on account for Estimates that were not before it. It had often been suggested that it would be well to refer the Civil Service Estimates to a Select Committee before they came before the House for discussion; and as he thought that suggestion was well worthy of trial at least, he took this opportunity of submitting it to the House. The only objection that ever he had heard suggested to such a course was that it would weaken the responsibility of the Government, as the Estimates would be those of the Committee not of the Government, but he did not understand that any recommendation of a Committee could interfere with the free action of the House. In Prance and some other foreign countries it was the custom to refer the Budgets of different departments to Bureaux, and the same course might be attended with advantage here. They would be considered item by item in Committee, and the taxpayers would have further security that there was no excess in the public expenditure. He therefore begged to move— That the Civil Service Estimates be referred to a Select Committee for examination, and to report thereon, in respect of each class separately, such matters as may appear to them specially to deserve the attention of the House.


seconded the Motion.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the Civil Service Estimates be referred to a Select Committee for examination, and to report thereon, in respect of each Class separately, such matters as may appear to them specially to deserve the attention of the House,"—(Mr. Augustus Smith,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he thought that the course suggested by the hon. Gentleman's Motion was objectionable, because it would have the effect of taking the conduct of the business of the House very much out of the hands of the Government, as they would be unable to bring forward the Estimates when they wished, and because it would indefinitely extend the time during which the expenditure for the Civil Service would be going on without proper authority from Parliament. With respect to the Report of the Select Committee, if it was intended that they should only call attention to the variations in the Estimates from year to year, he must remind the hon. Gentleman that as the Estimates were now prepared those variations were shown; and if it was intended to do more and to give the reasons for or against such variations, then the Committee would undertake a task which it would be impossible to finish by the time when it would be absolutely necessary the Estimates should be submitted to Parliament. Why should a different course be adopted with reference to the Civil Service Estimates and the Army and Navy Estimates? The Civil Service Estimates were not increasing—on the contrary, their tendency was to decrease. He did not see any reason for a preliminary examination of the items of the Estimates, in addition to the examination which took place at the Treasury. They were now prepared in such a manner as to show the sums taken in the former year, so that the House was enabled to see at a glance whether the items had increased or diminished. As the proposition of the hon. Gentleman, if carried out, would tend to diminish the responsibility of the Government, and to weaken the interest which many Members took in the discussion of the Estimates, he trusted that the Motion would not be adopted by the House.


said, he would not press his Motion.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.