HC Deb 03 April 1865 vol 178 cc726-33

SUPPLY considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

(1.) £175,957, Admiralty Office.


said, he wished to impress upon the Government the expediency of concentrating the various Admiralty Offices in one locality, instead of having them divided, as at present, between Somerset House and Whitehall. He hoped they would state to what, if any, decision they had come.


said, that he agreed with the hon. Baronet as to the great importance, for the better administration of naval affairs, that the whole of the Offices connected with the Admiralty should be under one roof; but the concentration suggested would be attended with considerable expense, and that the only reason he could give the Committee for not having carried out a scheme which he admitted would effect a great public convenience was the enormous outlay which had been incurred in consequence of the change in the construction of the navy within the last few years. He was, however, in a position to inform the Committee that the Director of Works had been instructed by the Duke of Somerset to prepare plans on the subject, and that those plans were nearly ripe for consideration. The question to be decided was whether the whole of the Admiralty Offices were to be concentrated at Somerset House, or whether those Offices now situated at Somerset House could not be provided for by means of additional buildings at Whitehall. During the present year he was afraid he could hold out no hope that that question would be practically solved, but he sincerely hoped he should be able next Session, if he should continue to hold his present office, to introduce a measure for the concentration of the Offices in one or the other of the places mentioned.


said, that he wished to ask for an explanation with reference to the positions occupied by the temporary clerks at the Admiralty, in whose case promotion was very slow, while they received no increase of salary from year to year.


said, it was formerly the system to subject the temporary clerks to two different examinations before they were permanently placed on the Establishment, while others obtained their appointments at once without that double ordeal. The Duke of Somerset had deemed it right to lay down a rule in accordance with which all now after one competitive examination entered the service as temporary clerks and then fell into the Establishment as vacancies occurred. There were a great many temporary clerks both at Whitehall and Somerset House, as owing to the pressure of business the staff had been increased, and he was not prepared at the present moment to say that the Admiralty were about to recommend to the Treasury any increase in the Establishment; but those who conducted themselves properly might in process of time hope to be placed upon it.


said, he understood that some of those clerks had filled their "temporary" position for as long a period as fourteen and even twenty years. He also drew attention to the fact, that whilst the cost of the Board of Admiralty was £9,700, that of the legal department of the Admiralty was £10,713.


said, that for the sum of £2,600 the solicitor of the Admiralty provided an office and clerks. It must be borne in mind that legal gentlemen would not abandon their private practice for the sake of government work unless they had a fair salary. As to the other item, all he could say was that legal expenses of the Department were increasing; there had been a good many contracts and much litigation arising out of them.

Vote agreed to.

(2.) £284,395, Coast Guard Service, &c.


said, that one of the principal objects of appointing a Controller General of the Coastguard was that they might assemble the ships under him in the summer months, as a squadron of evolution. During last year, however, this had not been done; but he hoped that it would be done this year.


said, the customs duties of the country were very much reduced, and he wished to know why, if the Coastguard was kept as a revenue force, they were not reduced in a proportionate degree. He wished to know if there was any prospect of a reduction in the Vote. It was to a great extent part of the navy, and the cost should really be placed upon the Navy Estimates.


said, that the sum of £688,648 was the total cost of the Coastguard, and was a reduction by £16,000 upon previous years. There was a yearly increase in the reserve. The difficulties in the way of assembling the Coastguard squadron for evolutions were that its assembly caused a considerable expense, and occasioned inconvenience to the volunteers. Although the ships had not the advantage of cruising in squadron, which he admitted was of great importance, they went into the Channel singly and practised and manœuvred.


said, that the Vote for the Royal Naval Reserve was exactly the same in amount as last year; the number was 16,000 men, and he wished to know whether there was any endeavour to increase the number.


said, that the number of this force wa3 steadily but slowly increasing. No addition had been made to the Vote this year, because the Votes of last year and the year before had been in excess of the amount required.


said, he wished to ask, what increase of number there was during the year, and what it was intended to raise the number to?


said, the increase in number was about 400 or 500 per annum. They might increase the number rapidly by lowering the qualifications, but they found it desirable to keep the force as select as possible.


said, he wished to ask, how many of the 16,000 men of whom the force was stated to consist were in this country? He also desired to be informed as to the state of the Coast Volunteer force.


said, that on the 31st of January last the number of men belonging to the Royal Naval Reserve at home, and available at once, was 9,613; the number on leave for short voyages and available in six months or under was 4,995; and the number on leave for long voyages, and who could not be got at in less than about a year, was 1,141. Therefore, about two-thirds of the force were available at once. Those only received pay who underwent their annual exercise. The number of the Coast Volunteers had somewhat diminished, in consequence of the Act which authorized their being required to serve at a distance of more than 300 miles from England. The result of the introduction of armour-plated ships was that smaller crews were required than were necessary on board the old wooden line-of-battle ships. Therefore, this year the Vote for the Coastguard would be 500 less. After consulting with officers of the Customs he found that it was no longer necessary to keep up the number of the Coastguard on shore for the purposes of the revenue, and, therefore, the number of that force on shore was being gradually, but steadily, reduced.


said, he wished to know, whether the long voyage men received a certificate entitling them to their retaining fee in cases where the length of their voyage had prevented them from going through the prescribed drill.


No certificate was granted unless the necessary twenty-eight day's drill had been gone through.


said, he wished to ask, when the Admiralty were going to provide a suitable ship for exercising the Naval Reserve at Aberdeen? There were 1,000 first-rate seamen enrolled in that town, and they were compelled to go through their drill in an old frigate of the class "Jackass frigates." He recollected that vessel forty years ago, when she was called the Conway. She had once been under the command of Captain Basil Hall, and she had the reputation of being an exceedingly bad ship, and when the Naval Reserve was established she was the Reformatory ship at Liverpool. It was utterly impossible for the men to be properly drilled on board her, as her decks were not of sufficient width to permit large guns to be worked. So useless was she for the purposes of drill that the officer in command of the men had applied for permission to build a shed on shore in which to exercise the men. In the meanwhile the Admiralty were selling numbers of ships admirably adapted for the purposes of drill. He wished to know why the name of the vessel had been changed from the Conway to the Winchester; the latter having been the name of an exceedingly good ship, why should such a name be given to such an old beast of a ship? In consequence of some supposititious saving the services of these 1,000 men were entirely wasted, as they were not being taught to work the heavy guns now in use.


said, the change of name in the Conway was to prevent confusion in the Paymasters' Office and in the books of the navy. He was aware that every port was anxious to have a large ship for the purpose of drill; but the cost of preparing vessels for that purpose was very large. As soon as possible Aberdeen would be supplied with a more commodious vessel.

Vote agreed to.

(3.) £70,042, Scientific Departments.


said, that the opposition he had offered last year to the removal of the School of Naval Architecture from Portsmouth to South Kensington had been fully justified by the results. It was then stated by the noble Lord that the removal was resolved on because there were already the requisite staff of professors at Kensington for the instruction of the students. It now turned out that, so far from that being the case, it had been found necessary to appoint a Director of Education for the Admiralty, at a salary altogether amounting to £1,200 per annum, and to bring officers from the different naval dockyards to lecture. Thus the Timber Inspector at Woolwich Dockyard; Mr. Reed, the Chief Constructor of the Navy; Mr. Murray, the Chief Instructor for Portsmouth; Mr. Rains, the Assistant Instructor for the Navy the surveyor at Lloyd's, and Mr. Murray, the engineer to the Board of Trade, were all taken to Kensington in rotation to lecture—the whole cost of the establishment being about £5,000 per annum, instead of the £2,500 it was estimated to cost. All this expensive and elaborate machinery was for the sole benefit of sixteen dockyard and four private students. The young men were brought from the different dockyards for six months in the year, for the purpose of going through a course of lectures occupying the greater portion of the day and a part of the evening, by which means these pupils were deprived of all opportunity for the discipline and exercise which was necessary for the preservation of their health. During the other six months these young men were employed in the dockyards without receiving any kind of education whatever. He regarded this system as a most extraordinary one in every respect.


said, he had to complain that no models of modern ships, such as the Warrior and the rams, were to be found in the School at Kensington. They were all old models which appeared to have been dug from the vaults of the Admiralty, and some means ought to be taken to place the school on a better footing.


said, he regretted that the noble Lord (Lord Clarence Paget) should have determined to establish the school of naval architecture at the extreme west end of London, at a distance from all the shipbuilding establishments which existed on both sides of the Thames. He regarded it as an extraordinary piece of official eccentricity. In all probability the present situation was chosen in order to accommodate the protegés of fashionable people at the west end of the town. It could not, however, but be prejudicial to the best interests of the country.


said, that he had distinctly informed the House last year that the probable amount to be asked for the year would be £4,000. The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Augustus Smith) appeared to regard this sum as extravagant, but a comparison with the expenses incurred by the French Government for a similar school at Paris would show that their expenditure was equal to ours. According to the report of Dr. Woolley and a captain of Engineers sent to Paris to inquire into the subject, the number of elèves in the school was twenty-eight, with occasionally two or three free pupils, but usually none of that class, and the cost was 100,000f., or £4,000 per annum. The object of our own School of Naval Architecture was not only to foster our naval shipbuilding, but also to promote the extension of a higher branch of shipbuilding in our private yards, and several pupils from the latter establishments had already availed themselves of the advantages offered by the Government institution. He did not believe that the position of the School was inconvenient. It was a pleasant ride from the east end of London by omnibus. The School was fixed at Kensington because, as he stated last year, the Government had a very convenient building there where the pupils could be lodged at a comparatively small expense. With regard to the models, it was true that they had not such models as they would like to see in a museum of the kind, but the fact should not be overlooked that they had block models of the modern ships, and they hoped gradually to introduce other models of ships of the present day. The collection of models at Somerset House had been removed to the Museum. With regard to the Educational Director, education in the dockyards, the training ships, and the fleet had so increased, that the appointment of such an officer was deemed necessary. The Duke of Somerset had therefore appointed Dr. Woolley, a most efficient person, to the office. Vote agreed to.

(4.) Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £192,415, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Salaries of the Officers and the Contingent Expenses of Her Majesty's Naval Establishments at Home, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1866.


said, he had last year opposed the introduction of machinery into the rope-making department of Her Majesty's Dockyards, believing that it would have the effect of throwing a great many men out of employment. It appeared that since then a great many deserving men, who from six to twenty years had been employed on those works, were thrown out of employment without any compensation, and many of the men with large families. He admitted that those men had no claim on the Admiralty in point of law, but surely on the ground of equity it was most unjust to dismiss honest industrious men, who had served the Government for eighteen or twenty years, on the plea that they were after all but temporarily employed. The only persons who had not been benefited from the increase of wages in our national establishments were the joiners. They were paid only 3s. 10d. a day and had to find their own tools. The ropemakers had been thrown out of employment, because the noble Lord had found it cheaper to employ women to do their work.

SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE moved that the Chairman report Progress.


said, he hoped the hon. Baronet would not press the Motion to a division.


said, it was too late then (ten minutes to twelve o'clock) to go through the Vote that night.

Whereupon Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Sir James Elphinstone.)

The Committee divided:—Ayes 27; Noes 51; Majority 24.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

(5.) £37,332, Naval Establishments Abroad.

Vote agreed to.

(6.) £1,158,797 for Wages to Artificers at home.

SIR JOHN HAY moved that the Chairman report Progress. The Vote was one of great importance, and he hoped it would not then be pressed.


said, he would not press the Vote. He proposed, however, to proceed with the remaining Votes in the Navy Estimates on Friday next, and to defer Vote 11, for works connected with docks and basins, until after Easter.

Motion withdrawn.

Resolutions to be reported.