§ MR. SEELY,
in introducing the Motion of which he had given notice regarding the appointment of Dockyard Superintendents, said, the Admiralty had the power of going to the same market with other shipbuilding establishments for their materials, and he could only come to the conclusion that the reason why the work was to the amount of from half a million to a million a year more expensively done in the Royal dockyards than was necessary was on account of the mismanagement prevailing in them. It could scarcely be expected that the Lords of the Admiralty, considering the rank from which they were taken, would have any practical knowledge of shipbuilding, but it might be reasonably expected that they would take care to appoint persons enjoying that knowledge which they themselves did not possess. He would briefly examine the securities taken for the efficient and economical management of the dockyards. The first 370 gentleman appointed was the Controller, who, as a seaman, could have no practical knowledge of shipbuilding. Yet the duties of the Controller of the Navy were to control all expenditure in building, repair, and outfit of ships both in dockyards and contract vessels, including machinery; to state the number of men for each department; to regulate the number according to wages Vote; to recommend alteration of numbers; to revise expenditure with a view to economy and efficiency; to visit the yards, inspect work, and see that his orders are carried out well; to recommend means of preserving ships, learn their condition, and that of boilers and machinery, so that he may tell their Lordships when they will be ready for sea. To see that the timber is good and suitable; and as to the quantity in store, to carefully observe the quantity of timber and stores so as to report at once any want or waste thereof, to receive and examine monthly a scheme of the progress of work at each yard, and to modify such work when needed; to submit, when required, designs of vessels to be built by Admiralty or contract, with details of cost, machinery and guns proposed; for contract vessels, to give the names of contractors, and other details. It was perfectly impossible that a man, even possessing the most intimate acquaintance with shipbuilding, could discharge all these duties without efficient subordinates. The next step to secure efficiency in the dockyards was the appointment of Superintendents, gentlemen invariably taken from among the officers of the Royal Navy. It was not his wish to confine such appointments to civilians, but if given by preference to officers of the navy it ought to be seen that they possessed the requisite qualifications. They should not be excluded, but the most competent men, whether sailors or civilians, should be selected to control and direct the expenditure of the Royal dockyards. The Duke of Somerset said of the Captain Superintendent—He is a naval officer put there to superintend all the different departments that are under him. He cannot be practically acquainted with shipbuilding. He is in a worse position, in point of knowledge, than the Controller is with regard to the Superintendent who is under him. The Controller has been for many years in the situation, whereas the Superintendents in the dockyards are removed every five years, and therefore cannot be expected to be practically conversant with shipbuilding or the details of manufactures that are now going on in the dockyards.In other words, it was more pleasant for one ignorant man to give his orders to 371 another ignorant man than for an ignorant man to give his orders to one who was possessed of knowledge. It was also stated of the Superintendents—Their hands are very much tied by 'instructions' All officers of every grade are subordinate to them. They are required to use the utmost zeal and diligence in seeing orders of the Board carried out, and must exercise as far as possible a personal supervision over every part of the establishment committed to their care. 'Can' discharge workmen for misconduct, 'but' have no direct control over the expenditure of the yards, 'and' the number of workmen, the rate of wages, and the distribution of labour are arranged in London.'They could not, therefore, be expected to exercise an efficient control over an expenditure of £2,000,000. The next in rank was the master shipwright. They were in some cases very able men, but they were not placed in a position to insure efficiency and economy in these yards. The master shipwrights, moreover, only had the direction of one department; the chief engineer had another; and the master attendant a third. Every one knew that for a manufacturing business to be conducted properly there must be one controlling head in a position of authority, and possessing power proportionate to his responsibility. The master shipwright was not in that position. He would name an instance in point, and that an important one. Many of the improvements in private manufacturing departments took their origin from the working men. If a man in the Royal dockyards thought he saw a thing might be done better and more cheaply he communicated to the foreman. The latter went to the head of the department—say, the master shipwright. He went to the Superintendent. The matter then went to Somerset House, and thence finally to Whitehall. After great delay the communication travelled back downwards to the Superintendent, and so on, unless, indeed, the communication was lost by the way. The master shipwright had to touch his hat to every officer in uniform, naval or military, whom he might meet in the yard. He was insufficiently paid for a man who had charge of so many thousand men. In private establishments such a man would receive nearly the salary of a Cabinet Minister. There were at the present moment men who were superintending private building yards, who were paid nearly as well as the First Lord of the Treasury, and yet the Government expected that a master shipwright with a salary of £600 a year and a retiring allowance would do for them 372 what private firms paid from £2,000 to £4,000 a year to obtain. The thing was ridiculous. The master shipwright was the head of only one department, and he was not in a position to secure the right management and control of the Royal dockyards. The system was also productive of jealousies. The master shipwright and the chief engineer sometimes could not agree, and they had to refer their differences to the Superintendent, who knew nothing about the matter. It was, therefore, highly essential that an officer who knew something about the business of the dockyards should be placed at the head of them. If any private business were managed like the dockyards the principals would come to bankruptcy and inevitable ruin. He was sorry to have to trouble the House with figures, but matters of account could not be dealt with without them. His object was to show the great waste in the management of the Royal dockyards; and as the House was the guardian of the public purse, and it was dealing with an expenditure of more than £2,000,000, he would ask for the patient indulgence of the House for a few minutes. He would first refer to "Return No. 454 on Dockyards and Steam Factories for 1862–3," the last Return published. This Return gave the following results:—Chatham Boathouses.—25 boats fitted, cost £10 6s. 5d., equal to £258 0s. 2d.; ditto rate-book price, £23 2s. 1¼, equal to £577 13s.; cost less than rate-book, £12 6s. 8¼d., equal to £319 12s. 10d."Portsmouth Boathouses.—85 boats fitted, cost £18 15s., equal to £1,593 14s. 8d.; ditto, rate-book value, £9 5s. 8½d., equal to £799 6s.; cost more than rate-book, £10 10s. 4½d., equal to £794 8s. 8d."Thus at Chatham boats were fitted out at half the rate-book price, while at Portsmouth they cost double the rate-book price, or four times as much as at Chatham, according to the rate-book. He would not say that these accounts were accurate, but they were the accounts furnished by the Admiralty, and it was for the Admiralty to explain them. He would now advert to the smitheries of the Royal dockyards. On a former occasion he had called attention to the cost of forging in the Royal dockyards—a subject in which he took some interest, since he happened to be connected with works of this kind. With one or two friends he paid a visit to Chatham, and satisfied himself that the system of forging in the Royal dockyards was most extravagant. On looking to the 373 cost of the different yards he found these results. He was still referring to Return 454—Dockyard and Steam Factories, 1862–3—Sheerness Smitheries,—Common Forgings.— 1,679 cwt., cost 27s. 6½d. per cwt., equal to £2,314; rate-book value, 21s. per cwt., equal to £1,763; cost more than rate-book, £551.Devonport Smitheries.—Common Forgings.—3,503 cwt., cost 16s. 3½d. per cwt., equal to £2,856; rate-book value, 21s. per cwt., equal to £3,678; cost less than rate-book, £822.Portsmouth Smitheries.—Plain Forgings.—2,488 cwt., cost 47s. 1½d. per cwt., equal to £5,864; rate-book value 35s. per cwt., equal to £4,354; cost more than rate-book, £1,510.Devonport Smitheries.—Plain Forgings.— 2,250 cwt., cost 33s. 0¼d. per cwt, equal to £3,715; rate-book value, 35s. per cwt., equal to £3,039; cost less than rate-book, £224.Portsmouth Smitheries.—Middling Forgings.—1,992 cwt., cost 58s. 0¾d. per cwt., equal to £5,785; rate-book value, 44s. 2d. per cwt., equal to £4,400; cost more than rate-book, £1,385.Devonport Smitheries.—Middling Forgings.—2,234 cwt., cost 44s. 11¾d. per cwt., equal to £5,026; rate-book price, 44s. 2d. per cwt., equal to £4,934; cost more than rate-book, only £92.Portsmouth Smitheries.—Extra Forgings.— 727 cwt.; cost 129s. per cwt., equal to £4,696; rate-book price, 70s. equal to £2,547; cost more than rate-book, £2,149.Sheerness Smitheries.—Extra Forgings.— 422 cwt., cost 62s. 7¾d. per cwt., equal to £1,322; rate-book price, 70s. per cwt., equal to £1,490; cost less than rate-book, £168.He wished he could spare the House these figures, and hand them to the reporters to he read to-morrow morning.In the Portsmouth steam-hammer shops, 3,777 cwt. blanks cost 31s. 9¾d per cwt., equal to £6,010; at the rate-book price of 20s. per cwt., equal to £3,778; cost more than rate-book £2,232. In the Devonport steam-hammer shops, 2,813 cwt. blanks cost 14s. 8¾d. per cwt., equal to £2,072; rate-book price was 20s. per cwt. equal to £2,813; cost less than rate-book was £741. Total cost of blanks at all the yards—17,757 cwt. cost 23s. per cwt., equal to £20,570; 17,757 cwt. Devonport rate, cost 14s. 8½d. per cwt., equal to £13,140; excess of cost above Devonport rate was £7,427, or more than 50 per cent.He would spare the House any further figures under this head. He called attention some time ago to the conversions of timber in the dock yards; his figures had never been disputed, and his facts had never been denied. He showed on that occasion the conversion of timber in the years 1862–3, and that if all conversions had been effected at the lowest yard rates, there would have been a saving in that one year of £55,496. The excess of offal timber made in 1862–3, over the rate given by Mr. Llewellyn in his evidence before the Dockyard Commission as the rate actually made at Devonport dock- 374 yard, from 1850 to 1854, was 202,672 cubic feet. The difference in value of this as timber or offal was £37,760, so there was loss to that amount. English elm sawmills' conversions at Sheerness cost less than the rate-book 29 per cent, while at Devonport English elm sawmills' conversions cost £1,469, the rate-book value being only £513; the cost more than the rate-book was therefore 186 per cent, or £956. In 1859 a Committee, which had been appointed to inquire into the dockyards, issued a Report in which was this paragraph, "that small separate workshops are most objectionable, and are at present too general throughout the yards." In corroboration of that he would say that, according to Return 432, Dockyard and Steam Factories, 1861–2, at the Chatham Lead Mills, the labour and expenses in making 11,730 cwt of milled lead from ingot metal at the dockyards was 2s. 6d. per cwt., a total of £1,466; the cost or difference between ingot and milled lead in the market would be 3d. per cwt., equal to £146; difference or loss through the Admiralty making milled lead was £1,320. The labour and expenses in making 3,322 cwt. pipe lead at the dockyards was 4s. 10d. per cwt., equal to £802; the cost or difference in price between ingot and pipe in the market was 3d. per cwt., equal to £42; difference or loss to the Admiralty was thus £760. The total loss to the Admiralty in 1861–2 was therefore £2,080. In 1862–3 the labour, &c, cost the Admiralty for making milled lead from ingot 1s. 8½d. per cwt., market price or difference being 3d. per cwt. (reckoning ingot at market price 20s. 3d., no data being given in Admiralty accounts); thus occasioning a loss in 1862–3 of £1,090; which, added to the loss in 1861–2, makes the total loss 1861–2, 1862–3, amount to £3,170. In 1861–2, ingot lead bought at Chatham cost about 20s. 5½d.; cost at market, 20s. 3d. per cwt. Milled lead cost at Chatham, 23s. 11½d.; cost at market, 20s. 6d.; cost of labour, &c, at Chatham, 2s. 6d. per cwt.; cost of labour, &c., at market, 3d. per cwt. Pipe lead cost at Chatham, 25s. 3½d. per cwt.; cost at market 20s. 6d.; cost of labour, &c, at Chatham, 4s. 10d. per cwt.; cost of labour, &c, at market, 3d. per cwt. Labour, &c, Admiralty milled, 11 times market price; labour, &c, Admiralty pipe, 20 times market price. Ingot being 20s. 3d. in 1862–3, it would appear that the Admiralty rate-book value of labour for milled was 1s. 9d. per 375 cwt., the market value 3d.; Admiralty rate-book value labour, &c, pipe, 7s. 3d., market value 3d. per cwt. for whatever price ingot may be in the market; milled and pipe lead are 3d. per cwt. higher. It would scarcely be contended that the Admiralty could not have gone to the open market and bought pipes quite as good as they could manufacture them. And now he came to another point. For the year 1865–6 the House had voted £30,336 for police for watching and guarding the naval yards; 16,694 workmen were employed in them, and therefore each one of those men cost about 36s. and 1d. for watching and guarding him. A Committee had lately been appointed by the Admiralty and had gone round various yards. His hon. Friend (Mr. Childers) no doubt, had some communication with that Committee, and perhaps he would tell the House whether the Committee had found anything like £4,000 or £5,000 a year spent in watching the different private yards. If not, perhaps the hon. Gentleman would favour the House with the reason why the workmen in the Royal yards required such an enormous amount of police force to watch and guard them. He now came to another subject connected with the question of superintendence, because, if we had practical men of business at the head of our establishments, they would take care that nothing was bought at an extravagant price. He had asked for a Return of the price lately paid for anchors, in continuation of a Return published in 1859. That Return had been laid upon the table, and he found that they were now paying for anchors from 100 cwt. to 120 cwt., 60s. per cwt., while the average price of four makers was 33s. 8d. For anchors from 70 cwt. to 100 cwt, the Admiralty paid 56s. 6d. the average price of the four makers being 33s. id. And so on down to anchors of 20 cwt., for which the Admiralty paid 26s. 6d., while the price of the four makers was 23s. 11d. The average price paid by the Admiralty for all sizes was 45s. 3d., while the average price of the four makers was only 28s. He calculated from a Return just printed (1859 to 1864) that 25,400 cwt. cost the Admiralty £60,330; the same size anchors bought in open market would cost £36,458, the difference or loss being £23,872. In 1856–7 the Admiralty anchors cost £44,856; in 1855–6 they cost £51,553. The Admiralty price, then, of one of each of five sizes from 20 cwt. to 95 cwt was £237 5s.; the market price for same was £127. If these anchors, bought 376 from 1855 to 1857, were all Admiralty patterns the loss in two years was £40,000, and therefore there would have been a saving to the country for those two years, if we bought the anchors in the open market, of that large sum An hon. Friend below him asked "What about the quality?" Upon that point a letter which he received from Mr. H. P. Parkes, of Tipton Green Chain and Anchor Works, would be the best answer. It was as follows:—Sir,—Below I have much pleasure in forwarding my present price list for Admiralty pattern anchors, made in exact conformity with the Admiralty regulations, specifications, proofs, finish, &c, identically the same as now required for the Royal Navy. I have lately completed, under official inspection of an officer from Woolwich Dockyard, a contract for Admiralty plan anchors of considerable extent for the Ottoman Government. Chain makers and anchor smiths are a migratory class working for all makers alike who have work for them to do, and many in my employ at this moment have for years previously been employed at the works of the Admiralty contractors. The supply of Admiralty plan anchors for the Royal navy has been for near a quarter of a century notoriously an exclusive monopoly in the hands of one favoured firm (Messrs. Brown, Lennox and Co.), who have also the sole supply of chain cables for the navy. How this is, or why, has always been a most mysterious affair to myself and the whole trade.The average price furnished by Mr. Parkes was 28s. per cwt. He should be extremely glad if the noble Lord could explain why a price nearly approaching 100 per cent extra was paid by the Admiralty for their anchors. In the Report of the Royal Commission of 1861 the following reason was given by Mr. Thomas Lloyd, Engineer-in-Chief of the Navy, for approving the Admiralty building iron ships:—If for no other, to make a comparison between the cost of a ship built in one of Her Majesty's dockyards and the price at which one can be purchased, and to make a comparison also between the quality of those two ships.It would be highly desirable that the Admiralty should take notice of the prices at which the work in the private yards was done. The Admiralty had omitted £1,000,000 a year from their calculation of the cost to the country of the building and repairing of ships. They had left out many items which would be charged in the calculations of a private firm. For instance, he found that in 1863–4 they had omitted £214,800 (which the Government said would be included for the future). The salaries of foremen, rent, cost of gas, &c, amounted to £214,800. The pensions to artificers and to officers and foremen amounted—the foremen to £73,396; the 377 latter to, say, £60,000. Besides these items it was necessary, in comparing the expenditure of the Royal with that of the public yards, to set down something for interest upon plant and capital. Now the stock of stores was about £5,000,000; the expenditure on shipbuilding for ships in progress of building up to March, 1864, was £1,117,713; on ships commenced as wooden and converted into iron-cased ships while building, £1,338,982, He assumed that in the seven Royal yards there had been expended on plant, workshops, and machinery, at least £2,000,000. [An hon. MEMBER: More!] Very likely; but he wished to state a moderate sum. According to this Estimate the total capital and plant was, therefore, £9,456,695; and the interest on this would be, at 5 per cent, £472,835. This would make a total of £821,031, which must be added to the cost of ships in 1863–4. Again, from the years 1855 to 1865–6, there was spent upon new works, machinery, &c, £1,342,000. This was entirely for the building and repairing of ships, and would represent an average of £122,000 a year. In the same period £5,709,578. was spent on new works, buildings, machinery, and repairs, which would give an average of £519,052 a year. As he had said, the whole sum, including interest on capital, which must be added to the cost of ships in 1863–4, was £821,031. This was excluding every part of the enormous sum spent yearly on new works, machinery, &c, and also the sum of £166,881 for Admiralty Offices in respect of which a sum of £82,306 ought to be charged to ships. Omitting these items, however, the House would see what would be the effect if the £821,000 were apportioned among the ships built and repaired by the Admiralty. The total expenditure on vessels in 1863–4 was £2,848,397, from which deduct cost of ships built by contract, £585,361, leaving cost of ships built and repaired by the Admiralty £2,263,036. To this must be added items not reckoned in Admiralty accounts — namely, £821,031, so that 40 per cent has to be added to these accounts in 1863–4 for purpose of comparison; £958,106, or 45 per cent, in 1862–3; £1,035,216, or 40 per cent in 1861–2; and £1,038,561, or 35 per cent in 1860–1. So that the ships built at Her Majesty's dockyards, which the accounts gave as costing about £2,000,000 each year, really cost about £3,000,000, or £1,000,000 per year additional. And now, what was the effect of 378 that calculation upon the repairs of ships, a subject brought by him before the House on a former occasion? The Wasp, built in 1850, was a ship of 13 guns, 974 tons, and 100-horse power. According to the published accounts her repairs in 1859–60 cost £7,253. Adding 40 per cent, the real cost of her repairs would be £10,154. In 1860–1 her repairs cost, according to the Admiralty accounts, £8,483; adding 35 per cent, they really cost £11,452. In 1863–4 her repairs cost £32,002; add 40 per cent, and the real cost of her repairs would be, in 1863–4 alone, £44,802. Deducting £1,566 for returns, the total net cost of the ship in repairs since 1859 was set down at £46,172; but, adding the percentage stated, which would also be according to the mode in which private firms would deal with accounts, the real cost would be £64,842. Yet this wooden vessel, which could neither fight nor run away, might be bought new for £39,590. He had made the same calculations with regard to five other vessels, but he would not trouble the House with the details. The result was that, according to the published accounts, these six ships cost for repairs from 1859 to the present time £212,859, or, adding the percentages, £292,826, and they could have been bought new for £220,215. These were points which in a commercial country like this ought to be explained, but as to which he had sought in vain for an explanation from practical men. He came now to another matter. In 1863–4 the Sharpshooter, a 6-gun vessel of 503 tons and 102 horse-power, cost for repair of her machinery, with incidental expenses, £9,220. Adding 40 per cent to this, the repairs of the machinery amounted in one year to £13,000. But new engines and machinery might have been bought at £55 per horse-power for £5,610. The House and the country ought to know who was responsible for these things, which could not happen if practical men were at the head of our large manufacturing establishments. He believed that the Admiralty at present wasted every year nearly a million of money, and he wanted to know why it was so wasted. He had shown as to six ships that their repairs from 1859 had cost, without any additional percentage, £212,859; while they could have been bought new for £220,215. The hulls of vessels built in the Royal yards from 1860 to 1864 cost, according to the published accounts, from £24 10s. 3d. to £32 15s. 3d. per ton; while, in the private yards, 379 in 1861 the hulls contracted for cost from £21 19s to £23 15s. per ton. Then he might fairly assume that the Admiralty had not built those hulls or executed those repairs at a less cost, according to its own published accounts, than they could have been done for in private yards. It was clear, then, that the £821,000 was utterly wasted, unless there was some special reason why the country should spend annually nearly a million more than would be spent in private yards in doing the same thing. The Admiralty and the private trade went to the same market for materials and labour; the Admiralty had an unlimited supply of capital, and the only ground of difference was, in his opinion, the mismanagement of details. He thought he knew the argument by which he should be met. It would be said that the work was done well in the Royal dockyards, and he admitted that in one sense it was done well. The materials were sound, the workmanship was substantial; but there was an almost unanimous condemnation of the Admiralty with regard to their mode of the construction of ships. It was very much a question whether, putting these large engines into wooden vessels, making them screw vessels, was not a great mistake. If we had practical men of business in the dockyards to assist the Admiralty we should be in a much better position than we were. The second argument was, that these Superintendents had other things to do besides building and repairing ships. If so, let the House know what those things were. He maintained that a man practically acquainted with shipbuilding was better fitted to superintend the manufacture of ships than a man who knew nothing about it. If they put two or three millions a year into the hands of Government to expend they should have practical men to disburse it. Perhaps his noble Friend would say that it was a saving to the country to have a superior officer in a Royal dockyard when a vessel came in for repairs; for the captain of the vessel, if he had only to deal with an inferior officer, would put the country to expense for unnecessary repairs. Now, he contended that a practical shipbuilder or practical engineer was better able to know what repairs a ship wanted than a naval officer. A civilian in the position of a manager of the works, like Mr. Lumley at the establishment at Millwall, with which the hon. and gallant Member for Wakefield (Sir John Hay) was connected, was less likely to listen to a naval officer who desired 380 something unreasonable to be done than another naval officer whose tenure of office might be about to expire. It was said the other night that some twelve or thirteen private firms took naval officers to superintend their concerns; but he had made inquiries on the point, and he could only find that two naval officers were at all engaged in these matters—the hon. and gallant Member for Wakefield and Captain Symonds—and they each, he believed, occupied the position of a director in a company, and employed a practical shipbuilder as manager. He believed that no man could be found in a manufacturing town to stale that at the head of a large manufacturing business there should be placed a man who knew nothing about it. With regard to authority, there were on the one side the Duke of Somerset, the noble Lord (Lord Clarence Paget), and the hon. Member (Mr. Childers); in opposition to those authorities he placed almost every man in that House, Sir Richard Bromley, Sir Baldwin Walker, the Royal Commissioners, and the Committee of 1859, who emphatically stated in their Report that practical men only should be appointed to positions requiring practical experience. He held in his hand a note from Mr. Beaumont, a Member of the Committee of 1859, in which that Gentleman most emphatically stated his opinion that at present the Superintendents in Her Majesty's dockyards were not only of no use, but a hindrance. But he had higher authority, and that was the authority of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who at Chester the other day argued that a profession should be taken to when a person was young, and should be carried on by a man who knew something about it. He illustrated that doctrine by saying that a smith or a carpeater would not engage a man who was ignorant of those trades, and who was too old to learn. He considered this applicable to these Superintendents, they were too old to learn; the Admiralty, both the present and preceding Boards, were perfectly aware of the mismanagement that prevailed; and they were trailing a red herring across the path by appointing Committees and calling for Reports and recommendations. They began in 1796 to appoint Committees, and they have been appointing Committees ever since. They had a Committee last year to inquire into the accounts, though they might have gone into the City and got a professional accountant to do what they wanted. They appointed a Committee to go into the pro- 381 vinces to inquire into the comparative cost of manufacturing certain articles in the Royal dockyards and in private yards; but what they would not do was to apply to a practical man of business. They would not put the round post into the round hole, but constantly went on putting it into the square hole, and then they complained that it would not fit. In April last there appeared, in an organ which was supposed to represent hon. Gentlemen opposite, a very able article upon dockyard management, which, he hoped, forshadowed what hon. Gentlemen opposite would do if they came to that (the Ministerial) side of the House. As an earnest Liberal he trusted that the present Government, which professed to be a reforming Government, would not leave a great administrative reform to be executed by the Conservatives; but whether a proposal for dockyard reform came from one party or the other, he was sure that if it was in accordance with the principles of common sense it would receive the support of a large number of Members who sat near him.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House it is inexpedient to continue the practice of appointing Naval Officers who are not possessed of a technical knowledge of the business carried on in Her Majesty's Dockyards to the offices of Superintendents there of, and the practice of limiting their tenure of office to a period of five years,"—(Mr. Seely,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be loft out stand part of the Question."
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
Sir, I am far from being displeased that the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely) should have again taken the trouble to go into the various details connected with the expenditure in our dockyards, but the House will see that it is impossible for either myself or my hon. Colleague to follow him through them. Nevertheless, I sincerely hope that the figures will, as the hon. Gentleman hopes, appear in The Times, because we shall then have an opportunity of looking carefully into the statements, and I trust that the public will be benefited. Ever since the present Board of Admiralty came into power they have desired to give the fullest information with respect to the dockyards, and the hon. Gentleman has given the best evidence that we have done so by quoting 382 our figures. No doubt, speaking generally, work done in the dockyards is more expensive than work done in private yards, but I believe in the long run it is the cheaper on account of its superior quality. Whether it is right that we should have Royal dockyards is a separate question. For my own part I think that it is of great importance that we should have such yards, and should not depend entirely upon the trade for either the building or repairing of our ships. I do not intend to follow the hon. Gentleman into his figures, but my belief is that he has taken rate book prices which he has on several occasions been told are now in process of correction. Everybody knows that to establish correct ratebooks of the cost of every article is a very difficult operation, but that is what we have endeavoured to do. Those rate-books are under constant revision, and while I do not believe that the discrepancies are anything like what the hon. Gentleman has stated, I am bound to admit that we have found considerable discrepancies between the prices of articles in different dockyards. I therefore readily acknowledge that it is desirable public attention should be called to these things, and that it is necessary that the rate-books should he carefully revised. I now come to the question which is more immediately before the House. The hon. Gentleman lays all these assumed shortcomings upon the naval Superintendents. The other night, in reply to the rather offensive strictures passed by the hon. Gentleman upon naval officers, an hon. Gentleman opposite asked how it happened, if naval officers were so incompetent to manage dockyards, the principal shipowners of this country were begging naval officers to take charge of their yards. It is the fact that the principal shipbuilding establishments of this country are dependent upon naval officers for their management, [Mr. SEELEY: Name them.] I decline to name them. I have the names of the officers here, but I do not choose to place them before the public. If, however, the hon. Gentleman inquires he will find that four of the greatest shipbuilding companies in this country are now practically managed by naval officers. Is that, or is it not, an argument to show that naval officers are competent to discharge such duties? Then, take the case of foreign countries. The hon. Gentleman is no doubt an admirer of the Government of the United States; did he ever hear of a civilian in command of one of the dockyards belonging to the American Government? The thing does 383 not exist. Or let him go to France. There is not a single Imperial dockyard that is not superintended by a naval officer. Indeed, all the principal countries in the world depend upon naval officers for the superintendence of their national dockyards. Why do they do so? Because they know practically that the work done, I do not say in purely building, but in great repairing and fitting yards, can best be done under the superintendence of naval officers. If we were to appoint a civilian to manage these yards, the country would show its dissatisfaction, because I am certain that the work would not be so well done, and that great additional cost would be incurred. The hon. Gentleman apparently knows nothing about a man-of-war. He has spoken his mind very emphatically about naval officers, and now I will speak my mind to him. I have no doubt that naval officers are quite unacquainted with his business, and I believe that he is utterly unacquainted with the business naval officers have to perform in our great dockyards. From the moment that the keel of a man-of-war is laid down, it is necessary that the practical sailor should give his opinion upon the various details connected with her building and equipment. How can a landsman, how can a civilian, know where to place the magazines with proper precautions against fire, and how to provide suitable facilities for handing up the powder, storing away all sorts of warlike stores, and placing the masts, anchors, chains and internal fitments? Those are all matters that are eminently naval in their character; and so great is the importance of the superintendence of naval men in regard to them, that when the Admiralty have ships built in private yards we are obliged to have practical naval officers continually going to look at them, in order that they may bring their experience to bear upon the construction of those ships. Such shipbuilding is totally distinct from the building of merchantmen. I am quite willing to admit that for the building of transports and merchant ships naval officers are not so competent, but lam satisfied that, if the Royal dockyards were placed in the hands of civilians, the system would break down. There is another circumstance connected with the dockyards which the hon. Gentleman appears to have overlooked when he talks of discharging persons who are not fully competent. If a private individual has in his dockyard a man who does not suit him he sends him about his 384 business. I should like to know what would be said if, in our dockyards, we were to send people about their business because they did not exactly suit us. No public Department and no Government can, unless there are real and fair grounds, discharge their people as a private individul can. We are told that we mistrust civilians. Now, I ask the House to consider what took place last year. We heard of an eminent shipbuilder, a gentleman who had distinguished himself in drawing the lines of ships, a very scientific man. He was wholly unconnected with the Government service, but believing him to be a person who was thoroughly competent, we brought him from private trade into the service of the country. That gentleman was Mr. Reed. Hon. Members will recollect to what an outcry his appointment gave rise. I am very glad that we made that appointment, because Mr. Reed has performed his duties most satisfactorily. So far, therefore, I am speaking in the sense of the hon. Gentleman, but I can assure him that, if he thinks the superintendence of our dockyards could advantageously be handed over to private individuals, he is greatly mistaken. There are many difficulties to be encountered. To take a ship in or out of dock you must have a naval man. The hon. Member could not do it, or any of his civil Friends. And does anybody think that a naval officer of high standing would submit to be put under a civilian? Such a system would not work at all. Instead of getting the work done we should be at perpetual loggerheads on questions of priority among these dockyard officers. I hope the hon. Gentleman will be satisfied with what he has already done, in which so far he has performed good service. We have prepared elaborate Returns, and we have laid them on the table with a view to criticism, which is always useful. We shall all, I hope, meet on a future occasion in the same places to renew the discussion of the price of these articles. But the hon. Member, I hope, will not feel it his duty to press the matter further. On the question of anchors and cables, before sitting down, I will say that there can be no doubt that we pay higher for our anchors and cables than others do. But this is no new subject. I have said, and say again, that I look on anchors and cables as of the first importance to the existence of ships and the lives of their crews, and therefore that anything like mere buying in the cheapest market must be detrimental to the public service. That there are private companies 385 and traders who make first-rate anchors and cables, from whom we might obtain them on more reasonable terms, I am perfectly aware. Two or three years ago we stated that we were willing to open our contracts to private enterprize, only stipulating that, as we dared not risk inferiority in the fittings of our large ships, the private makers should be invited, in the first instance, to make cables and anchors of smaller size. If they had been up to the mark we should then have opened the contracts for the larger size The manufacturers replied that unless the whole business were thrown open to them it would not be worth their while to undertake it, and so we came at once to a point of divergence. I should certainly object to any untried firm making the anchors and cables for such ships as the Warrior. I am sorry that the hon. Member reiterated his censures with regard to the dockyard police. Even if they cost a great deal more than they do I never would consent to have them put down, for I could lay on the table Returns that would surprise hon. Members, of the sums of money saved since their introduction by the driving out of low marine store dealers. I hope sincerely the House will not agree to the Motion of the hon. Member. We have given the subject now before the House much consideration, and, after hearing it discussed many times, I must inform hon. Gentlemen that the Duke of Somerset and the Admiralty are wholly averse from the system of employing civil superintendents.
§ MR. BRIGHT
Sir, I wish to make a few observations on this subject. I think the House will feel that the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely) has given to it a most industrious examination, and has brought it before the House in a manner that was very clear, and that will prove, I hope, very useful in future. I further think the House will admit that the noble Lord (Lord Clarence Paget) has entirely failed to make an answer to the speech of my hon. Friend. For the most part he admitted nearly every charge brought against the Admiralty; he has not disputed one of the facts with regard to the extravagant cost of ships, or the still more extravagant cost of repairs. My hon. Friend has shown that a ship cost in one, two, and three years more for repairs than the ship would have cost when new, and the noble Lord did not object to that statement. [Lord CLARENCE PAGET: I do object to it.] The noble Lord did not object to 386 it in his speech. If he objects to it he has given no answer to it. My hon. Friend referred to the subject of the purchase of anchors and chains, and the noble Lord said the Admiralty think it highly necessary to have anchors and chains of the best quality. He did not answer the statement of my hon. Friend, that the makers of chains and anchors who are not employed by the Government are making them exactly like those that the Government buy from the firms favoured by their custom, and that those chains and anchors are tried by the officers of the Government exactly in the same manner and with the same stringent examination that is applied to the chains and anchors used by the Government, and that those chains and anchors are sold at cheaper rates by those firms to other Governments, who I presume are as anxious to have good chains and anchors for the safety of their ships and the lives of their seamen as the English Government can possibly be. The noble Lord did not explain why a particular firm for a long period had been making chains and anchors for the Admiralty at a price 50 per cent higher than the Admiralty could have bought chains and anchors of equal quality from other firms in the trade. That should have been answered. The noble Lord does not require to go to the pigeon-holes of the Admiralty to show how for a number of years a particular firm has been favoured with the Admiralty orders at a price 50 per cent higher than the chains and cables could be bought from other firms equally respectable and honourable in the trade. That is a matter to which the noble Lord should have turned his attention, but he did not do so. But I think that one part of the noble Lord's speech will have a very injurious effect on persons employed in the dockyards. He says, and we can understand what is meant by it, that the Admiralty have great difficulties to encounter, and that this Government and every Government have to experience such difficulties in the employment of a great number of officers. The noble Lord said, if a man be found entirely inefficient, what are we to do with him? Would it not be thought very unjust if a man who was not so efficient as he might be, should be discharged in the manner that private parties would discharge persons they found inefficient? If that doctrine enunciated by the noble Lord, and that statement of a difficulty for which he points out no re- 387 medy, go forth to persons in the employment of the Government, it appears to me that very injurious notions will be put into their heads, and that they will feel that though persons employed by the Government are inefficient, such is the state of things in the Department of the Admiralty that they cannot be got rid of.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
I never said so. I should be sorry to say any such thing. I did not say Government had no means of discharging inefficient persons. What I said was, that if in a private yard a person does not suit they can discharge him at once; but the Government have not the same, facility for discharging persons that private firms have.
§ MR. BRIGHT
That is exactly what I stated the noble Lord said. I am not charging the noble Lord with neglecting his duty. It may be one of the difficulties of Government employment, and one that cannot be wholly removed or dealt with so easily as it could be disposed of by private firms. It certainly has not been the custom to get rid of such persons with equal promptitude. But that is a doctrine very pernicious to be stated in this House from the Treasury Bench and by the Secretary of the Admiralty, But I do not believe there are not men in the service of the Admiralty capable of undertaking the proper management of the dockyards. Surely he gave us a case in which a very valuable appointment had been made. The East India Company had 800 or 1,000 civilians in their employment, and yet the Government found it necessary to send over a gentleman from this country to look after the finances of India. It was an admission that out of a thousand civilian officers they had not one that appeared to understand the multiplication table or to be able to manage the finances of that great portion of our Empire. If it be true that there is no person in the employment of the Admiralty to do its work properly, it is the duty of the First Lord of the Admiralty and of the Board of Admiralty to take care that such a person should be found. Nothing is so monstrous as to say that while the shipbuilding establishments of private firms are as well managed as in other parts of the world the Government is not capable of finding competent men in their own Departments to do their work. If not, let them bring them from outside their Departments, so that the Government 388 dockyards may he as well managed as private dockyards. What is wanted is, that the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Secretary to the Admiralty, and the managers and heads of the Department, should have, as their first object, to manage that Department well; and if there be men, or rules, or customs that interfere with its good management they ought to break down those rules and establish a better system in the Department which is under their control. But this always strikes me when this question is discussed, that the noble Lord and his Colleagues have in their hands placed every year by Parliament a sum I think exceeding £10,000,000, if it does not exceed £11,000,000. When I look at the trouble which it takes to manage a commercial or manufacturing undertaking which does not expend probably more than £100,000 or £200,000 a year, I can perfectly understand the enormous difficulty there must be in managing the dockyard establishments in various parts of the country and the world where the expenditure is more than £10,000,000 per annum. I believe, and my hon Friend the Member for Lincoln will excuse me for saying so, that it would be impossible, so long as Parliament grants readily and profusely whatever is asked—£10,000,000, or £11,000,000, or £12,000,000 per annum—that]there should not be very considerable waste in the expenditure. Whenever this question has been discussed in this House, this year, last year, and ever since the Russian war—when our expenses were so great—there has been a universal admission on the part of every person not connected with the Admiralty that in that Department there is enormous and extravagant waste, which is not reputable to that Department, and is discreditable to Parliament and oppressive to the community. The noble Lord who is now Secretary to the Admiralty was a great reformer of that Department before he took office, and he hesitated very much when he was asked to take office. He doubted whether, having made speeches compared with which the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln is a mere whisper of discontent—speeches in which he overhauled everybody connected with the Admiralty who sat on that Bench, if he came into office he should be able to fulfil the promises which he had held out of performing the duties which he insisted on his predecessor performing. Well, the noble Lord has been in that office for, I think, 389 about six years, and I have never seen any person in that office who has been so perpetually found fault with upon all sides of the House with regard to the management of this Department. I must say, at the same time, I have never heard anybody who was more confident, or more plausible in the answers he has been able to give to those who have contended with him. I was glad when the noble Lord took office, for I thought we were going to turn over a new leaf and have things done much better. I am sorry that being in office he has not been able to do that which I think he had hoped to do, and which, I think, the House had a fair reason to expect he would attempt to do. I make an excuse for him on this account. I believe the Admiralty is so constituted, the money expended by it is so enormous, the state of things is so chaotic, that, however great was his desire of effecting reforms when he took office, and notwithstanding his ability and industry, it would be impossible for him to remedy all the abuses. And if, besides being an Admiral of reputation, the noble Lord was an accountant in the city, industrious beyond all other men, I believe he could not do what he thought at the time he would be able to do, and which he now regrets he cannot do. I do not know whether my hon. Friend below me is going to divide the House on this question. If he does, I shall certainly with great pleasure divide with him; but I tender him my thanks for the careful, able, and admirable speech which he has made on this question.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided;—Ayes 34; Noes 36: Majority 2.
That the words 'in the opinion of (his House, it is inexpedient to continue the practice of appointing Naval Officers who are not possessed of a technical knowledge of the business carried on in Her Majesty's Dockyards to the offices of Superintendents thereof, and the practice of limiting their tenure of office to a period of five years,' be added, instead thereof.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
Sir, I put it to the House, whether it is fair for an hon. Member to come down to the House with an array of figures on matters of pure detail, and make a statement upon them, without giving us the opportunity of looking at them, or without any notice that he was going into such details. I appeal to 390 the House whether it is fair to a public Department to take such a course. Sir, I feel it to he my duty to oppose his Motion.
said, there were two points asserted in the Resolution. The one was the inexpediency of appointing naval officers who were not possessed of a technical knowledge of the business in Her Majesty's dockyards, and the other was a disapproval of the practice of limiting their tenure of office to five years. Now, many hon. Members might be disposed to agree with the one, but to dissent from the other. Having passed a portion of his life in connection with the dockyards, he thought it would be extremely inconvenient not to have naval officers at the head of those establishments, and he was convinced that the men themselves employed in the dockyards would feel more satisfaction if a naval officer were placed as Superintendent than they would if a mere layman occupied the position, however superior he might be in technical knowledge. The character, and influence, and authority of naval officers were necessary to keep the dockyards in order. He was never aware that the captains of the yards interfered minutely with the details of business; their duty was to superintend the general arrangements. As to the other point, in regard to limiting the tenure of office to five years, he thought that where a captain was superintending, and before the end of the term succeeded to his flag, there might be a modification of the rule so far as not to allow him to retire until the end of the term.
§ MR. NEATE
said, he had always understood from reading works of fiction, particularly the novels of Captain Marryat, which were the principal source of his nautical knowledge, that a naval officer ought to be acquainted with all the details of his ship, and if the offices in the dockyards were open to them as a prize, they would have an interest in acquiring that knowledge. It was very undesirable, therefore, that the present system should be altered.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
said, it seemed to him that the Resolution before the House came to this, that officers who were not possessed of a technical knowledge of the work carried on in the dockyards should not be appointed. A great many naval officers, however, were possessed of that knowledge. There were various other things to be taken into consideration besides the building of ships. 391 The rigging of ships was an important] matter, where the weights should be I placed, where the piercings for the guns should be made, and other things of the same kind. He remembered a time when the ships could not sail close to the wind because the shrouds were placed too far forward. A naval officer was placed at the head of the dockyards; he put the shrouds further back, and the ships were enabled to sail closer to the wind. The same officer also made a great improvement in the sails, and thus a great saving was effected. Here, then, were two improvements introduced, not by a civilian, but by an officer who had served all his time at sea and had gained battles there. Allusion had been made to the French dockyards. They had in France a school of naval architecture similar to that which had been established by the Government, only the French school was on a much more extensive scale. The French Government educated their naval officers there, every officer having to pass two years at the school. There he learned many branches of science applicable to naval architecture, and the result was those officers became so eminent that they were sought by all the firms throughout France, they were sought by foreign countries, and they were placed at the head of the various steam-packet establishments. Considering all those facts he thought the Motion of the hon. Gentleman opposite was not one which ought to be agreed to, inasmuch as the Government had adopted the most proper course. They had established a naval school, by means of which, he firmly believed, most naval officers—if not all of them—would become eminent by their knowledge of shipbuilding.
§ MR. BRIGHT
Sir, I am very much surprised at the course taken by the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty, because he seems to me as if he were anxious to shut out any admonition on the part of the House that should enable him and the heads of his Department to control that Department in a more satisfactory manner. What can be more reasonable and more gentle than the proposition made by my hon. Friend (Mr. Seely)? It is not that you shall not have as superintendents of dockyards naval officers, but that you shall not have them of necessity. Therefore all the arguments of hon. Gentlemen opposite go for nothing. It is that, when you appoint a naval officer, he shall be a man who has a technical knowledge 392 of the duties he is expected to superintend. Was anything more rational ever proposed to Parliament? I shall not say was anything so rational ever refused by Parliament? That would be an absurd question to ask. But if the noble Lord (Lord Clarence Paget) should persuade the House to refuse this Resolution it will be tantamount to obtaining from Parliament an acknowledgment that it is right to appoint to the office of Superintendents of dockyards men who, being naval officers, know nothing of the duties which they are expected to discharge. I will undertake to say that if the proposition be now negatived it will be obtaining from Parliament a sanction to a gross abuse—namely, that you should place men in charge of the expenditure of something like £3,000,000 a year, and that there shall be no blame attached to the Department if these men so placed in charge know nothing of the matters they are expected to superintend. I ask the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty whether it would not be much better not to divide the House, and to accept these words—not to accept them as a stringent rule which shall bind them down to do a certain thing, but that they shall understand that in the judgment of Parliament it is desirable that when officers are appointed Superintendents of dockyards they should know something about the business which they are expected to superintend. With regard to the question whether the Superintendents should continue in office for a longer period than five years, that, perhaps, is not a matter of quite such importance, but it does seem unfortunate that there should be a change in the men just at the time when they become competent in their departments. Aware of the views of reform entertained by the noble Lord in regard to the Admiralty, and of the anxiety which, I have no doubt, he sincerely entertains and feels, that that Department of the Admiralty should be conducted in a manner more in accordance with the interests of the public and the views of this House, I ask him to accept the words of my hon. Friend as a positive assistance to him in the right performance of his duties. I think if he rejects them that he will weaken his own power and that of his Colleagues, and will do that which for years past I have heard him assert in this House most strongly ought not to be done in the interests of the public.
§ MR. W. O. STANLEY
said, he was of the opinion that the resolution was a most 393 proper one. What did the Admiralty themselves do with regard to the officers whom they had appointed to steam vessels? In the first instance they had obtained incompetent men to manage them, but now they would not appoint an officer to command unless he had attended at Portsmouth a regular course of steam instruction. On these grounds the noble Lord would be well advised to accept the Motion.
said, the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) had thrown a new light upon the resolution of the hon. Member for Lincoln. So far as he (Mr. Corry) understood its meaning it went to say, not that naval officers, but that civilians possessed of a technical knowledge of shipbuilding ought to be appointed to the office of Superintendent. He was not present when the hon. Gentleman made his statement, but he was told that that was the sense in which he spoke. He (Mr. Corry) should like to know if the interpretation which was now put upon the Resolution by the hon. Member for Birmingham be correct, what right had the hon. Member for Lincoln to assume that naval officers placed at the head of the dockyards had not that competent knowledge of shipbuilding which he deemed so necessary? He spoke with some experience of the Admiralty when he asserted that the Board always endeavoured to select the best qualified officers that could be found to occupy the post of Superintendents of Her Majesty's dockyards. He should like to hear the name of a Superintendent who had been found to be incompetent. He maintained that, as a general rule, they had been well selected, and performed their duties satisfactorily. It was a mistaken opinion that it was necessary that the head of the dockyard should be a shipbuilder. They might as well say that artists should be canvas-makers, because they painted on canvas. If the object were merely to build ships it would be different, hut after a ship was built there was much to be done to put her into a proper state for sea, and to fit her as a man-of-war, and it was not to be expected that an officer of the rank of Staff Commander, exercising the duties of a master attendant, in whose department this lay, would take his orders from a master shipwright. Although the plans, &c, were laid down in the office of the Surveyor of the Navy, Superintendents of dockyards frequently communicated valuable 394 suggestions respecting the fittings and arrangements of a ship to the Surveyor, and they were in many instances acted upon. The presence of an experienced naval officer, as the head of a dockyard, was of the greatest advantage. So far from dockyard work costing more than contract work, as stated by the hon. Member for Birmingham, he (Mr. Corry) would undertake to prove to the satisfaction of a Select Committee that extravagant expenditure was occasioned by the latter more than by the former. It had been said that it was absurd that the cost of repairing a ship should be greater than the cost price, but he knew of no such instance in the case of ships built in our dockyards, though it had not been rare in the case of contract-built ships. If the dockyards cost a great deal the country had the worth of its money.
§ MR. DALGLISH
said, that he did not think that this Motion had anything to do with the total exclusion of qualified officers of the navy from the superintendance of the dockyards. All they asked was that qualified Superintendents should be appointed, whether officers of the navy or not. There was a prevailing impression throughout the country that the dockyards were not managed with that consideration for economy which was desirable. It was, therefore, most important that Superintendents of dockyards should be men who knew something of accounts, and were qualified to attend to the management of large concerns. As sailors, the present naval Superintendents might be efficient, they might have distinguished themselves in fighting their ships, but, after spending many years of their lives at sea, they were not fit to manage large manufacturing establishments. He hoped, therefore, that the House would agree to accept the words proposed.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, the Resolution was not an abstract proposition as to these appointments, but a distinct assertion that it was inexpedient to continue an existing practice, and therefore implied a censure on the present mode of appointment of naval officers. His hon. Friend (Mr. Seely) bad brought forward a mass of figures, and in doing so he made an extraordinary statement—namely, that his only wish was to see them to-morrow in the newspapers. How was it possible for his noble Friend (Lord Clarence Paget) or himself to refute figures some of which his hon. Friend would not even read, and 395 which he handed over to the reporters to he put in print? What his hon. Friend did on a former occasion was to communicate with him beforehand, and to tell him what were the items he meant to discuss. This was a course which enabled him to meet his hon. Friend, but it was impossible to discuss figures some of which were not even read. However, since the division he had had time to look into one or two of the figures read by his hon. Friend, and he would tell the House what those figures actually were. The hon. Gentleman alluded to the cost of certain milled lead and lead pipes, the items referring to which he extracted from the balance-sheet of 1862–3; and he said that such was the extravagance of the Government system of manufacture, that the Government lost upon the year, he believed the hon. Gentleman said, £1,090. Now, the whole amount of the account of the year was, on the debtor side, £10,048 for materials, £185 for labour, £165 for general expenditure, and £1,015 as percentage to meet those general charges which his hon. Friend said were not brought in at all. The only expenditure, therefore, over which the dockyard authorities could have any control was £185 for labour and £165 for general expenditure, the total being £350. With the purchase of materials the dockyard authorities had nothing to do. The materials were placed at their disposal by the authorities of Somerset House; the price at which they were purchased was furnished to them, and they had to produce a manufacturing balance-sheet. How his hon. Friend could make a loss of £1,090 out of £350 did not appear. Perhaps he would say that he did not find fault with the dockyard authorities, but with the Storekeeper General. But this had nothing to do with his Motion, which referred to the present practice of dockyard appointments as an unsound one, and one which led to extravagance. An instance like this ought to warn the House to be a little careful in accepting general figures like those of his hon. Friend. For the purposes of debate it would have been much more convenient if his hon. Friend, instead of reading off certain figures so rapidly that it was difficult to follow them, had done him the kindness to place those figures in his hands, that he might look into them, and then he could probably have done justice to the department, and have put the House right as to the mode in which the accounts were 396 prepared. As to the balance-sheet of the manufacturing departments, bethought he had wearied the House by his explanations. He would remind the House that he had already stated the changes which were in process of introduction, and which the hon. Gentleman himself had admitted were a great improvement. All the objections of the hon. Gentleman referred to a past state of things—namely, the accounts in 1862; the basis of which had been since revised by himself and his predecessor in office.
§ MR. SEELY
said, he had not his figures with him, and he could not refer to them, but if his hon. Friend (Mr. Childers) would do him the favour, as he did on a former occasion, of meeting him at Somerset House, he would go into the question with him, and he would venture to affirm that in less than half an hour his hon. Friend would admit that he was right. The difference in price between ingot lead and pipe lead in the market was 3d. per cwt., one being 20s. 3d. and the other 20s. 6d.; and in calculating this account he deducted from the total cost of the ingot lead, and then he said so much was for labour, and he put it to the House whether that was not a fair way of estimating the cost of the labour. The cost for labour in the Government manufactory was 1s. 8½d., as against 3d. for the milled lead, and 4s. 8d. or 4s. 10d. for pipes, as against 3d., the cost in the open market. When he met his hon. Friend, the junior Lord of the Admiralty, at Somerset House, he must admit that nearly every statement he (Mr. Seely) made in the House on a former occasion was found to be correct. As regarded balance-sheets it was absurd to say that such charges as interest on capital laid out were not to be taken into account in estimating the cost of an article.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, that as the hon. Member had challenged him as to certain matters, it was necessary that he should explain. The hon. Member had on a former occasion quoted certain figures from a Report, which were in black and white, which it was impossible for him to contradict, and he never had. What he did contradict——
§ MR. SEELY
said, he repeated his challenge to meet the hon. Gentleman at Somerset House, and if he did not make good his statement about the lead he would apologise to the House. With regard to the 397 balance-sheet referred to, it was necessary to take into account the charges for labour, gas, rent, and other matters of that kind, which should be charged in ascertaining the cost of an article. It was an absurdity to argue this question without that were done.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, he hoped he might he permitted to explain. He had been stopped in the middle of a sentence.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the hon. Gentleman might explain what required explanation in his own speech, hut he must not reply.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, he must appeal to the House whether, having been challenged, and the cheers of the House requiring that he should answer it, he was to be stopped in the midddle of a sentence.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the hon. Member was not in order. If it were permitted, he might go on making half-a-dozen more speeches.
§ ADMIRAL WALCOTT,
said, he believed that the Admiralty in selecting the Superintendents were not actuated by party feelings, but chose the officers most capable of presiding over the dockyards. If the Superintendents were acquainted with shipbuilding they would be more efficient, but that knowledge was not indispensable, as they had under them assistants who possessed experience in the construction of vessels. He admitted that the expense was considerably more in the Royal dockyards than in the private yards, but that was owing to the contracts, with the making of which the Superintendents had nothing to do. The present Motion might be of advantage in directing the attention of the Admiralty to many points which had been touched upon, but he thought that naval officers were the most suitable persons to preside over the Royal dockyards. The most important duty they had to perform was to examine ships when they came home from foreign stations, and put them in an efficient state to proceed to some other distant station—in fact, they were called upon to discharge duties which no Superintendent Shipwright would be able to perform. In case of war, or of a ship requiring to be immediately refitted on her coming home from a foreign station, it would be impossible to rely on the yards at Liverpool and Glasgow, and in the Thames. He hoped the hon. Member would not press his Motion.
§ MR. FINLAY
said, he admitted that with regard to economy the Royal dock- 398 yards could not be compared with private yards; hut that was not exactly the question before the House. The question was, whether naval officers who were without a peculiar technical knowledge were suitable for Superintendents. It was impossible for any one person, whether naval or civilian, to have a technical knowlege of all the various branches of the business carried on in the dockyards; but he maintained that a naval man was better qualified than any other for the post of superintendent, because an important part of his duty was to take care that ships were sent to sea in a fit state to meet an enemy. The effect of the Resolution would be entirely to disqualify naval officers from holding these offices, and he therefore hoped that the House would not agree to it.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, it seems to mo that the question is a very simple one, upon which the good sense of the House can hardly fail to come to a right conclusion. My hon. Friend (Mr. Seely) who made the Motion contends, and contends with some force—if all that is required is to construct a wooden frame that shall float and be a good ship to go through the water—that a civilian may be as fit, and possibly a more fit person, to superintend a dockyard than a naval officer. But the business of the Royal dockyards is to construct, not simply vessels to go through the water, but vessels adapted to the purposes of war; and I think that my noble and hon. Friends (Lord Clarence Paget and Mr. Childers) have shown conclusively that none but a naval officer, who knows what a ship of war ought to be and is conversant with all those details which adapt her to the purposes of war, can properly superintend the construction of vessels intended to servo those purposes; and, therefore, that if you were to exclude naval officers from the superintendence of the dockyards, you would be doing a great injury to the public service. The Resolution as it stands seems to me not only to affirm that which I think is erroneous in reason, but to pass a censure which is not deserved, because it says that the practice of appointing naval officers who are unfit for the offices to which they are appointed ought to cease. My hon. Friend ought to show that such a practice exists. We deny that it does. We say that the naval officers who have been appointed to the superintendence of dockyards, and those who are now filling such offices, have been and are perfectly competent to perform the 399 duties which specially belong to an officer who has to produce a ship of war for the service of the nation. I should therefore hope that the House will be content to allow my hon. Friend who made the Motion (Mr. Seely), to meet my hon. Friend the Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Childers) at Somerset House, and fight their battles over pages of figures in the way in which the hon. Member for Lincoln proposed that the duel should be carried on. I have no doubt that, the result of that single combat between the two champions would be that they would come to some conclusion with reference to the facts which would be satisfactory to both. I am quite sure that neither of them will endeavour to arrive at anything but the truth; and, under these circumstances, I trust that the House will not agree to a Motion which points to a conclusion which is not founded in reason and seems to cast an imputation upon officers who do not at all deserve it.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, that he on the contrary hoped that the House would accept the Resolution in the sense in which it was intended. The noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) had entirely misconceived its meaning. It declared that it was inexpedient to continue the practice of appointing naval officers who possessed no technical knowledge of the business of the dockyards. He was sure that the noble Lord would not assert that the naval officers who had been made Superintendents had been appointed in consequence of their technical knowledge. It was matter of notoriety that they were appointed because they were distinguished fighting officers. All that the Resolution affirmed was that if a naval officer was appointed he ought to be a man who possessed technical knowledge, and that if no officer so qualified could be found the Government ought to look elsewhere.
§ MR. LAIRD
said, that he entirely approved that part of the Resolution which condemned the practice of changing the Superintendents of dockyards every five years. He could not see any reason for such a course, except to increase the patronage of the Admiralty. As to the Superintendents themselves, in his opinion the best man to be at the head of a dockyard was not a gentleman who possessed merely a technical knowledge of one branch of the work which was performed there, but a good man of business and practical knowledge, who should exercise control over the heads of departments, and see 400 that the various officers carried out the works intrusted to them.
That the words 'in the opinion of this House, it is inexpedient to continue the practice of appointing Naval Officers who are not possessed of a technical knowledge of the business carried on in Her Majesty's Dockyards to the offices of Superintendents thereof, and the practice of limiting their tenure of office to a period of five years,' be added, instead thereof.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 33; Noes 60: Majority 27.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
said, he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair what was the Question before the House? The original question had been that the Speaker do leave the Chair, to which an Amendment had been moved, and the House decided that ail the words after the word "that" should be omitted. Now the House had decided that other words should not be added, and the consequence was that the word "that" was the only question before the House. He wished to know whether it was competent for an hon. Member to put a Question upon that word.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I beg to move that this House do on Monday resolve itself into Committee of Supply.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The noble Lord (Lord Robert Montagu) has justly pointed out what the course of the House has been. It has negatived the Motion that I now leave the Chair, and it has declined to add the words which were just now the subject of discussion; but I apprehend the hon. Gentleman who has now risen (Mr. Hanbury Tracy) is going to supply the deficiency by suggesting some words to be added to the word "that" which may perhaps be more acceptable to the House.