§ SUPPLY considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
Sir, in rising to move the Navy Estimates for the year 1865–6 I find that, in addition to the many interesting topics on which this House and the public are very naturally and properly desirous of receiving information—and which information I have always been anxious to give—it is my duty on the present occasion to make a very large and somewhat novel proposal to the House concerning the construction of docks and basins, not only in the United Kingdom, but also in the colonies. With so many 1147 of these interesting subjects before me, I am afraid I shall have to ask for a considerable share of the indulgence of the Committee. With these preliminary observations I venture to request the attention of the Committee to the chief features of the Navy Estimates.
First of all, with regard to the form of the Navy Estimates for the coming year 1865–6. There are some items that are removed from one Vote to another, as being more appropriately introduced under those Votes. There is also an Appendix, giving an explanatory statement of the Votes, which I commend to the attention of all hon. Gentlemen who take an interest in questions of detail with regard to the number and pay of officers and men in the navy. They will see a very clear statement of every class of officers, and the pay and the number of officers and men for which we propose to ask.
I will now state to the Committee that Her Majesty's Government propose that the total amount to be voted for the Navy Estimates for the coming year of 1865–6 shall be £10,392,224. Those of the current year 1864–5, including two supplementary Estimates that I brought forward late last Session—one being for £220,000, for the purchase of the two steam rams at Liverpool, and the other of £61,000 for additional pay to the officers and petty officers of the fleet—amounted to the gross total of £10,708,651. Therefore there is a decrease on the gross Estimates of the present year of £316,427. Excluding, however, the purchase of these steam rams, which may come under the head of "Extraordinary Service," and including the additional item for increasing the full pay and the extension of retirement of the officers, which the House in its generosity granted to the navy, and taking that Vote for the whole year instead of for nine months, the decrease of the Estimates for the coming year over the ordinary Estimates of last year is about £116,000. That is the decrease on the ordinary Estimates as compared with the Votes of the current year.
Sir, I propose to deal, first of all, with the Votes which have reference to the pay, allowances, victuals, clothing, and medical comforts of our Officers, Seamen, and Marines in the various services, and which are comprised in Votes 1, 2, and 12. The Votes for the coming year 1865–6 are somewhat remarkable in this respect that they show an increase over those 1148 of the current year although we ask the House to vote a less number of men. This is what I now wish to explain; and I will deal first with the numbers. The numbers that were voted for the current year were 71,950 men, while for the year 1865–6 we propose to maintain 69,750 men, being a decrease of 2,200 men. The decrease of seamen of the fleet is about 700 men. There will be a decrease of officers and seamen of the Coastguard of about 500 men, a decrease of Marines on shore of 1,000 men, and a decrease of civilians of 200 men, but an increase of 200 officers. With regard to civilians, the reduction is of aged persons who were formerly employed under the Customs and who are fast disappearing, and whose places are supplied by the Coastguard men. I propose to show to the Committee why we think it right to propose a decrease in the number of the seamen of the fleet. But lest any hon. Gentleman should feel alarmed when I propose a decrease, let me refer them to page 116 of the Estimates, in which they will observe the number of ships that were in commission on the 1s.t of December last year, as compared with the number in commission on the 1s.t of December of the previous year—I speak of seagoing ships, and not of harbour ships and tenders—and it will be seen that there is a decrease in the coming year of six seagoing ships. That was the state of the navy on the 1s.t of December last, and I am not aware that there is, or is likely to be, any change in these numbers at present. The Committee will, however, observe that while there is a decrease of six ships in commission, there are four more armour ships. I am therefore, entitled to say that, although there is a decrease in our numbers, we are increasing our force. We find that as we go on commissioning the armour ships, the substitute for the old line-of-battle ships, two remarkable changes are coming about—namely, a gradual decrease of seamen and a proportionate increase of officers. I will illustrate this by a reference to the complements of two ships now in commission. The Edgar, a fine line-of-battle ship, the flagship of the Channel Squadron, has a complement of 810 men, or fifteen men to each officer; but the Black Prince, a ship of very much greater power, being armour-plated, has 705 men only, but her complement of officers is greater in proportion, for she has an officer to every twelve men. Further down the list I will take the Wolverine, a large corvette 1149 with a complement of 275 men, and a proportion of nine men to one officer; but the little Enterprise, an armour ship which would blow her out of the water, has only 119 men, but then her proportion is one officer to seven men. These figures will show the Committee the tendency of the change to armour-plated ships to decrease our complement of men, but to increase the proportion of officers. There is another and very important reason why the increase of so many as 200 officers is proposed. We find it is absolutely necessary and particularly in the absence of a proper body of artificers, of which I hare never made any secret, and for which want we ought to provide, that there should be an increase of engineers, who are excellent workmen, and able to repair our engines. These are the reasons for the reduction of the men and the increase of officers. With respect to the Coastguard, we propose a reduction of 500 men. I know that the right hon. Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) and others who take a great interest in that force will look with some jealousy at any decrease in it; but I will state the reasons which induced the Government to recommend the diminution. First of all, the Coastguard ashore is, though an admirably efficient, yet a very costly force, and it was our bounden duty to make inquiries whether, for the purpose of the protection of the revenue, it was necessary to maintain so large a force. The Commissioners of the Customs have been communicated with, and an inquiry is now going on; but they have made a preliminary report to the effect that some reduction of the Coastguard on shore might be made so far as the protection of the revenue is concerned. With regard to the Coastguard afloat, everybody knows the origin of that force. There was a time when we had no reserve for the proper defence of our shores, and hence arose this force of several fine ships attached to certain of our large mercantile harbours. The service the Coastguard afloat have performed has been inestimable. They have tended to break down the prejudices which existed between the merchant service and the navy, have assisted to man our ships, and have been one great cause of the success attending the formation of our Naval Reserve. They have fulfilled their duties admirably, but we find that there is no longer a necessity for keeping up so large a force of them, since we are furnished with a magnificent reserve—numbering, I be- 1150 lieve, nearly 17,000 men now enrolled: therefore the strong necessity for the maintenance of the Coastguard afloat in its present magnitude no longer existing, we propose to make a small but gradual reduction in the force, which shall not at all diminish or impair to any extent its efficiency, but which we think due to the circumstances of the present day. Another reason why we may somewhat reduce this force is that we are looking forward to replacing these line-of-battle ships by armour-plated ships, and the moment we can carry out that object the crews of these ships will necessarily be reduced in number. These reasons will, I think, be deemed sufficient to justify the small reduction now proposed in respect to the Coastguard. With regard to the Marines, we propose a diminution of 1,000 men from the total number of Marines on shore. This is the natural sequence of the reduction of the complement of the ships. The real value of a Marine is dependent on the amount of sea service he goes through. If you have more Marines than can embark and take their proper tour of duty at sea, so as to be able to keep the characteristics of the sailor about them, you lose the value of these men; and we find that we may safely reduce 1,000 Marines and still keep up the corps in its integrity. As to the boys, we propose to maintain the same number; but I will presently revert to them, as I have some interesting facts regarding them to state to the House. As I have before said, it is somewhat remarkable that, while decreasing our numbers, we are increasing the Vote for their maintenance. This increase of cost is due to several causes. First of all, our sailors are, I am happy to say, improving in conduct, and consequently we are obliged to take a much larger sum for good conduct pay. To illustrate this, I may mention that in 1859, when we bore many more men than we do now, we paid £25,900 for good-conduct pay, and in 1865–6 we shall pay £53,628 for the same service—that is, more than double for a considerably less number of men. Another cause of increased expenditure is the increase in the number of expert gunners. While in 1861 we had one man out of every seven who, belonged to the gunners' class, receiving additional pay after passing through an examination and becoming an expert gunner, I find that in 1864 the proportion of the same class becoming expert gunners was one man in three. There is yet another source of additional expen- 1151 diture, and that is the Victualling—there is a slight increase due to the price of butchers' meat; but, on the other hand, all farinaceous food is much lower in price, so the increase is small. But I am now-going to show the Committee that on other accounts these Votes are largely increased. There has been considerable increase to the full as well as half pay in almost every class in the navy within the last few years; but I at present only advert to the former, and I must give the right hon. Member for Droitwich credit for commencing the era of increased pay. In six years the House has increased full pay to officers and men in the Navy and Marines by £268,736. That is to say, the same number of men we bear now cost the country £268,736 more than they would have done six years ago. That, I think, shows what has been done for improving the condition of all classes in the navy. [Sir JOHN PAKINSTON: It is not all my doing.] No, I have done the most part of it. The result is that, taking the average pay of seamen and officers of all classes, barring flag-officers, the cost per head was in 1859 £64 5s. 7d., with all collateral expenses; while in 1865 the cost is £74 5s. 3¾d. per head, or about £10 a year more. The cost of a Marine in 1859 was £58 12s. 6½d. and in 1865 £61 2s. 3½d.
I will now, Sir, advert to a subject of very great importance to the welfare of our navy, and that is the system adopted to replenish the navy with boys, brought up and educated in the service, and becoming the best seamen in the world. This is the first time I have been able to approach the Committee with certain statistics for their information on this subject. In the year 1863–4 the average number of pure blue-jackets in the navy—I mean exclusive of artificers, stokers, and every class but that fine creature that goes aloft to the yard-arm and reefs the topsails—was, including petty officers, but exclusive of Coastguard men on shore, 24,500; and I find that in that year the discharges from all causes amounted to one-eighth, or 3,100. During that year the number of boys whom we had brought up who were rated as seamen was 2,517, leaving about 600 men to be obtained from the merchant service. The actual number of seamen thus entered was 594. That number of 2,517 boys rated, I should have stated, came from a stock of 9,000 boys. Last year I proposed the reduction of the number of 1152 boys from 9,000 to 7,000. My right hon. Friend (Sir John Pakington), and other hon. Members expressed alarm lest the smaller number should be found insufficient to supply the wants of the navy. What we did was this—we reduced the number of boys by 2,000, but instead of entering them at a very tender age we increased the age of entry, and provided that the whole time of the boys shall be devoted to instruction in the duties of seamen on board the training ships. Before this alteration, and while they were entered at a very tender age, many of them became officers' servants, and thus lost a good deal of their time of instruction. In consequence of the changes which we have introduced they learn their duties as seamen quicker, and we are enabled to pass them sooner into the fleet. What we propose and are carrying out is that every boy who comes into the navy shall pass through a training ship, and that, with a very few exceptions, none shall enter the fleet as seamen who shall not have gone through that preliminary instruction. Our Establishment will now be 3,000 boys in the training ships, being an increase of 500, and we expect to rate as seamen about 2,000 annually. That is a considerable reduction from 2,517; but it must be borne in mind that we are looking forward to a small but gradual reduction in the number of our seamen, in consequence of the increase of our armour-plated vessels, carrying smaller complements of men. What we are doing is to substitute skilled labour for what I may call brute force; and in that we are only imitating what is going on in every trade or business in the country. Every year we are increasing the number in the gunnery classes, and what we lose in number we gain in skilled labour. We expect that these 2,000 boys a year will be sufficient; because, as I shall show, before I resume my seat, our waste of seamen is becoming less every year. Desertions are decreasing; the men are becoming more and more attached to the navy; and the waste of seamen diminishes every year. I have only further upon this subject to state the cost per head of the boys. The increase of our training ships has led to an increase of the cost of boys. While in the current year the boys cost £45 2s. per head, the cost of each boy for the year 1865–6 will be £48 18s., being an increase of nearly £4 per head.
I will now pass over several intermediate 1153 Votes and come to Vote 5—the Scientific Vote. In this there is a new item, which, I think, will meet with the approval of the Committee. The education in the navy and in the dockyards, which is going on under the control of the Admiralty, has necessitated the appointment of an officer as Director of Education, and we have, with the consent of the Treasury, appointed a very well known gentleman—Dr. Woolley—to that office. He has for many years been partially employed under the Admiralty; the necessity which has arisen for his undivided services renders it necessary, also, that he should be altogether paid by the Department, and accordingly in this Vote a sum of £964 is taken for his salary. I now turn with some dismay to the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. A. Smith). He will observe that we take a larger sum for the School of Naval Architecture than was voted last year; but when I tell him that the School is working well, that we hear the best accounts of the pupils, and that pupils from the private trade are coming in, I trust that he will admit that of which he or any hon. Member may convince himself by inspection of the school at Kensington—that the money which has been applied to the establishment of this School has been well laid out. At the same time, I am bound to admit that the Estimate which I gave last year of £2,300 has been exceeded during the year by a few hundred pounds.
The next Vote to which I shall ask the attention of the Committee is No. 6, that for the Superintendence of the Dockyards. There is no change in this Vote, nor need I make any remark upon it, further than to state that in a few days we shall lay upon the table a proposal for the entire remodelling of these Dockyard Votes. Instead of spreading the cost of the personnel of the dockyards, and the wages over several Votes, we design in future to collect the whole personal expenditure upon the dockyards into one Vote, of the victualling yards into another, and so on. That proposal will be laid before the Committee upon Public Accounts, and if it is approved by them, the Estimates for next year will, I hope, be brought in in that form by myself, by my right hon. Friend (Sir John Pakington), or by some other hon. Gentleman. We are endeavouring in various ways to carry out the recommendation of the Royal Commission of 1861 upon the Dockyards. We have since 1861 laid before the House 1154 accounts showing the expense of building, repairing, and maintaining our ships, and also of the manufactured articles which are made in the dockyards. This year we propose to go a step further, and to lay upon the table a general balance-sheet of the cost, showing the value of the stores on hand at the commencement of the year, the debtor and creditor operations during the twelvemonth, and the balance at the end of the year. But I will state frankly that I, for one, shall not be satisfied until we are able to lay on the table of this House annually a regular capital and current account with reference to our dockyards, our ships, our plant, and everything connected with the expenditure of the navy. I say this with reference to the remarks of an hon. Friend of mine (Mr. Seely), who, the other night, taunted me with supineness and with having since I have been in office forgotten the earnest desire which I expressed when out of office that these accounts should be rendered. Personally I should not have thought it necessary to reply to such accusations, but they give pain to many able men in the Department in which I serve, and who along with myself, my hon. Friend near me (Mr. Childers), and my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), when he was at the Admiralty, have been and are desirous of laying these matters fully before the House. I think it is hardly generous, considering the progress that has been made, that we should be taunted with coldness and supineness in this important matter. I believe that in a short time we shall be able to lay upon the table the papers to which I have just alluded; but I deprecate any undue haste in these matters, because I know that accounts which are not really correct are worse than valueless. Great labour has been imposed upon the officers who have undertaken to prepare these accounts; and I believe that when they are completed they will be eminently satisfactory to the House and to the public.
Sir, I now approach our great shipbuilding operations under Votes 8, 9, and 10. The amount we ask for the year 1865–6 for the stores for the navy and for contract built ships is £2,930,654, which, compared with the £3,390,833 we shall have expended during the present year, shows a decrease of expenditure in this Department of £460,179; and I may add, as a passing remark, that rather less than one-fourth of both these sums is 1155 due to pure shipbuilding in the present and in the coming year, Happily on this occasion there is no necessity for me to wade through a great many dry figures connected with the operations to be carried out, as I have for the first time laid upon the table of the House a very comprehensive paper containing a complete programme of our intended operations during the coming year. I have done so on this occasion because the Duke of Somerset understood there was a general wish among those Members of this House who take an interest in these matters, that a statement of our proposed works should be laid upon the table. I have always given a verbal sketch of our intended operations for the ensuing year on these occasions, but I think it will be very much more satisfactory for hon. Members to examine this paper, as they will then have a better opportunity of criticizing our performances than they would have if they simply listened to a speech. However, for the information of the House this evening, I may state that for the year 1865–6 we propose to construct 15,115 tons of shipping, while in the current year we shall produce 18,952 tons, being a proposed reduction of 3,837 tons, the decrease in the tonnage for the coming year being in proportion to the decrease in the Estimates. The Committee will probably desire to know what is the force of our armour-plated ships either completed or building, and I shall therefore proceed to give them some information upon this point. We have altogether thirty armour-plated ships complete or in process of construction, and I may state with some satisfaction that the whole of them, with one exception, will be completed and ready for sea, if necessary, by the close of the present calendar year. That one exception is in the case of a very large ship called the Northumberland, and I feel bound to state publicly that it is not creditable to the Millwall Shipbuilding Company that this ship has not been proceeded with at the same rate that her sister ships have been, which were ordered at the same time from other firms. Her sister ships will be ready for sea at the end of the year, while there is little chance of the Northumberland being completed until far into the next year.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
Not 1156 until the autumn of next year. I should have been more uncomfortable about this but that during the last few months we have had greater reason to be satisfied with the progress of this ship, which upon inquiry I found to be due to the energetic exertions of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wakefield (Sir John Hay), who I understand has taken the management of the Company; and therefore we may now hope to see the vessel completed before the time I have named. I have frequently described all these ships before, with the exception of the two to which I intend to confine my observations. Of these two the Royal Alfred has excited considerable interest on account of the alterations she has undergone. This vessel was the most backward of five line-of-battle ships it was proposed to armour-plate, and therefore the alterations, which will, it is believed, greatly improve her as a seagoing ship and as an armour-plated vessel, will be made without very great cost. I should state that these ships which are armour-plated throughout have a considerable tendency to pitch, and that therefore it is desirable, as far as possible, to lighten their ends. Therefore, instead of plating the Royal Alfred all round with 4½inch iron plates, we reduce the weight at the ends, and increase the thickness of the iron plates at the water-line from 4½-inch to 6-inch, at an estimated cost of £15,000, besides the additional dockyard work. An hon. Member has moved for certain Returns which will explain matters connected with this ship, and therefore I need not further advert to it. The only other vessel I shall remark upon—the Waterwitch—is small, and is of a peculiar construction. She is propelled by a volume of water thrown out by a very powerful water-wheel within the ship. If the invention turns out successful it will be of great use, as it gives the vessel the power of turning round on her centre, as upon a pivot; but whether she will be of equal speed for her power, in comparison with other vessels moved by the ordinary propelling machinery, I cannot at present say. The noble Duke at the head of the Admiralty has, however, thought it necessary to give this system a trial, and accordingly the Waterwitch armour-plated gunboat is being adopted to this system.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
No; the vessel is propelled by a volume of water 1157 issuing at her side; when she is wanted to "go ahead" the orifice is turned towards the stern, and when she is required to go astern it is turned towards the bow. So much for these particular vessels. Our armour-plated fleet may be classed as follows:—We have seven ships of great speed, but having a very great draught of water, and therefore they cannot be docked out of this country. This class consists of the Warrior, the Black Prince, the Achilles, the Minotaur, the Agincourt, the Northumberland, and the Bellerophon. The second class consists of vessels possessing less speed, but also drawing less water, and their names are the Lord Clyde, the Royal Oak, the Prince Consort, the Ocean, the Caledonia, the Royal Alfred, and the Lord Warden. The third class consists of the Zealous, the Hector, the Valiant, the Defence, and the Resistance, of still less speed and draught. We have, therefore, a total of nineteen armour-plated ships of the line. The next in order on the list are the frigates, corvettes, and gunboats—namely, the Favourite, the Research, the Enterprise, the Pallas, the Viper, the Vixen, and the Waterwitch; and then we come to four ships which will be for coast defences—namely, the Royal Sovereign, the Prince Albert, the Scorpion, and the Wyvern. These make altogether a total of thirty armour-plated ships. I shall not on the present occasion enter into the controversy of "turret versus broadside," as we shall have time for discussion upon that point hereafter. In justice to the dockyards I feel called upon to remind the House that several of these iron-plated vessels, which this time last year I told the Committee were only just laid down, will be turned out ready for sea, in every respect during the course of the present year. This is a very important circumstance, for if we required three or four years to build these new-fashioned vessels, they might possibly become obsolete by the time they were completed; and, therefore, it is very satisfactory to find that we can now construct them in so short a time. As soon as the Bellerophon is out of dock at Chatham, we propose to construct a sister ship, but with some alterations, which will show to what point we have arrived in the defensive plating of ships. The thickness of the sides of the Warrior is altogether 23⅛ inches, composed of 5⅛ inches of iron-plate and 18 inches of wood. The Hercules, which is to succeed the Bellerophon, is to have 1158 9 inches of iron-plating, 10 inches of wood backing, 1½ inch of double skin of iron inside of that, 22 inches of wood inside of that, and then three-quarters of an inch of iron inner skin. So that she will have a thickness of 11¼ inches of iron and 32 inches of wood, in all, at the water-line. In other respects she will be very similar to the Bellerophon, and as regards her armament she will be armed with the newest fashion of guns whatever that may be next year. We propose to build at Pembroke an armour-plated corvette, a vessel which I will describe when we come to the next Vote, for the reason that she differs from what the Committee of last year recommended. She will be a vessel of about 3,000 tons, with a very light draught, or 16 feet, and with twin screws, and we propose to make her at the water-line of a thickness of six inches of iron and 10 inches of wood, besides a ¾-inch inner skin of iron. We hope that she will be able to carry eight of these 12-ton guns. That is what we propose to do in the dockyards in regard to armour-plated ships. Our further operations in the dockyards will be the building of four swift ships not armour-plated, but trusting wholly to their speed and armament—vessels which I may describe by a name familiar to everybody as an improved class of Alabamas. There are three of these vessels now under construction, and we propose to construct four more of them, making seven. They are entirely intended for the protection of our commerce. They will all be built of wood, and very much of the character of the famous Alabama. These, then, are the operations we mean to perform in our dockyards. But, in addition to this, if hon. Gentlemen will look at Vote No. 10 they will see there a sum of £120,000 to be taken this year, being part of a whole sum of £240,000 for ships to be built by contract. This sum we propose to apply to the construction of one or more ships. The first proposal we have to make is that, if possible, we should endeavour to construct a ship upon the turret principle which shall be a real sea-going vessel. We have never yet succeeded in getting one of these vessels which can be deemed a thorough sea-going ship. I do not deny that Captain Coles will have considerable difficulties to overcome in constructing a thorough sea-going ship on the turret principle. Everybody knows that a sea-going ship for cruising must have masts and rigging—we know that the 1159 turrets must be placed in the centre line of the ship—and therefore in order to get a clear range for the guns from the centre of the ship you must have as few obstructions as possible at her extremities, because those obstructions interfere with the firing of the guns. That is one of the difficulties which Captain Coles has to contend with, but which I feel confident myself that he will be able to surmount./ He has been directed by the Admiralty to prepare drawings, he has had the assistance of draughtsmen from the Admiralty, and he has been furnished with the lines of such of our ships as he might desire to have, with every other assistance that we can afford him, in order that he may be enabled to design a thorough sea-going turret-ship, As yet we have not received his designs; but what we propose is that if these designs are approved by the Admiralty we should invite tenders for the construction of such a ship by contract from the great shipbuilding firms of the country. We aire also desirous of constructing a small armour-plated ship for the defence of harbours. We are preparing plans ourselves, and think it quite possible that we may adopt the turret principle also for that vessel. But, of course, I am obliged to speak very generally as to these proposals; for, in truth, we greatly depend upon the drawings which we shall receive from Captain Coles. This concludes the observations I have to make upon the shipbuilding Votes.
I now approach a Vote which requires perhaps the most careful statement on my part, and the most careful consideration also from the Committee. I allude to Vote 11, for the expenditure on the building of our naval establishments including docks, &c. Perhaps the best course that I can adopt will be to advert to the proceedings of a Committee which hon. Gentlemen may recollect was appointed by the House last year to consider the state of our basin and dock accommodation, both in this country and in the colonies. That Committee consisted of some of the most able men in the House, of men thoroughly acquainted with the subject referred to them; and I am now about to lay before you in as brief a form as I can the recommendations at which they arrived. I hope the hon. Members of the Committee will give me credit for, at all events, desiring to state exactly what their views were. First, then, the Committee very strongly recommended generally, 1160 without specifying any exact number of docks—but their recommendation is in very strong terms—or any definite acreage of basin accommodation, that there should be additional docks and basins at Portsmouth; secondly, they recommended that there should be a third basin and two additional first-class docks at Keyham; thirdly, they recommended the construction of a dock at Cork—that is, in Cork harbour, and also that an agreement should be come to if possible for the deepening of a private dock which exists in the Cork river. These were their recommendations with regard to docks at home. Fourthly, they recommended that at Malta the construction of the Marsa dock, which had been ordered and was just about to be commenced, and for which I last year asked a Vote from this House, should be suspended; that every exertion should be made to expedite the harbour works at the Marsa in order to provide the stipulated accommodation for merchant ships, so that French Creek might be placed as soon as possible at the disposal of the Royal Navy; and they also expressed their opinion that the increase of dock accommodation for the Royal Navy ought not to be limited to one first-class dock. Fifthly, they recommend that a dock should be built at Bermuda, Sixthly, they recommend an arrangement to be made with private parties in colonies, and likewise in the great mercantile ports of the United Kingdom, by which the Government should give aid in the form of a loan towards the construction and enlargement of docks. But the Committee also made an important suggestion towards the end of their Report—that is to say, as some kind of set-off against the great expenditure which they had recommended, they suggested the suppression of some of our smaller dockyards, and they name, among these, Woolwich, Deptford, and Pembroke. The last paragraph of their Report is of such great importance that I must particularly refer to it, because it bears strongly upon the proposal that I am about to make. The Committee there state—Your Committee, before concluding their Report, think it right to direct attention to the evidence of two eminent civil engineers, Mr. M'Lean and Mr. Coode, from which it appears that a great saving of expense, both of employment of plant and in supervision, would result from diminishing, as much as practicable, the time to be occupied in completing the proposed extension of the dockyards, a point of considerable importance in all 1161 works exposed to sea risk during their progress. The Committee, therefore, having due regard to economy, no less than to the pressing necessities of the service, are of opinion that the completion of the works they recommend should be expedited by whatever means may appear most advisable to the Government and to Parliament.The gist of that recommendation was that we should, after deciding to undertake any new work, take every possible means of completing it as soon as practicable. I am now about to state what course the Government propose to adopt in accordance with the recommendations of that Committee. Vote 11 for the year 1865–6 amounts to £527,985; there was voted for this year £444,298. Therefore there is a nominal increase on the Vote of this year of £83,000. But I should say that of this, £53,000 is a transfer from other Votes of some items for repairs which properly belong to this Vote. The real increase this year is about £30,000. Now, Sir, putting out of consideration for the moment all minor patching operations, I shall advert to the new works which we propose to undertake. First of all, there is the extension of Chatham Dockyard. That did not come under the consideration of the Committee of last year, because it had been already inquired into by a Committee which strongly recommended the enlargement of Chatham Dockyard. The original Estimate for Chatham Dockyard laid before the Committee amounted to £943,876. That Estimate was laid on the table of the House as one for the enlargement of the yard by convict labour. It was supposed that, having a large establishment for convicts at Chatham, nearly the whole of the works could be constructed by convicts, and therefore a low estimate would be sufficient. But, bearing in mind the recommendation of the Committee of last year, we now propose to the House an addition to that Estimate of £306,124. That will be entirely for contract labour to carry out the additional works, and will greatly expedite their completion. I should state that, with regard to contracts, our usual habit is, as far as possible, to confine them to the service to be undertaken during the coming year. Parliament votes a certain sum for certain works in certain yards, and generally it is our duty to confine our contracts as nearly as possible to the sum voted by Parliament. We have no right to anticipate the decision of Parliament by entering into engagements beyond the year without their authority. That has been a most proper course, but I 1162 must say it is a source of great want of economy. That was very well a few years ago, when a work requiring an annual expenditure of £30,000 was a large work to ask anyone to undertake; but such men as my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Sir Morton Peto), who employs 30,000 men, could undertake at once a contract for £1,000,000 without thinking it a matter of great importance. In these days, there is no difficulty whatever, if the House sees fit to decide on the construction of important works, in authorizing the Government to enter into a contract for the whole work. If the House will agree to that principle, we can, I believe, by entering into a contract for the construction of the works at a given sum per annum, get contractors to bring a great amount of plant and employ a vast number of men, and, I believe, we shall get the work done at a considerable diminution of cost, and within a much shorter period of time. That is the proposal we have to make. Whether that should be carried out in the shape of a Bill, or in what other form, I am not now prepared to say. We have referred the matter to the Treasury, and as soon as we get the sanction of the Treasury I shall bring the subject before the House in a more distinct and definite shape. Meanwhile, it will be for the House to decide whether, having determined the fact that you are going to construct such and such works, you will give the Government authority to enter into a contract for their completion. I beg distinctly to state that all these Estimates are based on this proposal. If the House in its wisdom does not see fit to grant this power, then I can only say I can no longer answer that these Votes will be sufficient to cover the expenditure.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
Is the cost of the works you are now about to describe included in these Estimates?
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
They are all included in the first column of the Estimate, which includes the whole cost of the works, and is based on the supposition that we contract for the whole work, using convict labour for tidal and dirty work. What we propose to take for Chatham Dockyard for next year is £70,000. Everybody knows that on the commencement of a great work it is of no use to ask for a very large sum the first year; in fact, it could not be expended. You must get your contracts complete. You must induce contractors to bring sufficient plant upon the 1163 ground, and a certain amount of time must elapse before you can really set to work. That will account for the smallness of this sum of £70,000 which we propose only to take this year for the extension of Chatham Dockyard. During the present year I only ask £20,000 for additional works at Portsmouth—the whole Estimate for additional works at Portsmouth feeing £1,500,000. Full plans of these works will be laid before the House. It will be proper also that for the understanding of so great a work, and also interesting, that a model of the plans should be placed in the library for the inspection of Members.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
The land to be taken is Government land to be reclaimed from the sea, subject to certain rights of the inhabitants of Portsmouth, which have been already dealt with under an Act passed last year. I now come to Keyham Dockyard. Here we do not propose this year to follow the recommendation of the Committee of last year, to which I have already adverted. We propose to defer the construction of additional basins or docks until the enlargement of the basin now going on at Key-ham is finished. That work will itself be a great improvement, and when completed there will arise the question of going on with the further works. I may also say that we will lay on the table of the House plans of the proposed extensions at Key-bam. I come next to the new works proposed at Cork, which are in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee. We propose constructing a large dock in the neighbourhood of Haulbowline, on an eligible site close to the island, where there is a small naval establishment already. Here, again, we shall have the assistance of convict labour, but we shall undertake the more important part of the work by contract. The entire cost of that work is £150,000, of which we propose to take this year only £5,000, because that is all that can be expended in the preliminary preparations.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
I should be very glad to state the time to the Committee, but that will depend on the decision of the House as to what sum should be voted annually towards this dock. I will afterwards give more specific views on 1164 the point when we come to the discussion of this Vote. The effect of all these proposals is that we ask for the year 1865–6 £116,000 for the construction of new works at home. I now come to the docks at Malta. On this point I avoid all controversy. I leave that till we come to the discussion on the Vote; I am now merely going to give a brief statement of what we propose to do in consequence of the recommendation of the Committee. The Committee recommended the suspension of the construction of the dock and basin at the Marsa, and that recommendation we propose to follow. The Duke of Somerset, soon after Parliament was prorogued, went out himself to inspect the site, and he took my hon. Friend the Civil Lord (Admiral Drummond) and the Director of Works. He had the most friendly communication with all parties, and the result has been what the Committee, I have no doubt, will deem satisfactory. The Duke found when he got to Malta that there was great alarm about the construction of the dock at Marsa. It was thought if we were to build a dock of sufficient capacity for our men-of-war, instead of being useful for the mercantile navy, and only to be used for the Royal Navy on emergencies, the mercantile navy would be shut out altogether. The Duke considered whether any means could not be devised of overcoming the difficulty at once by constructing a dock in the French Creek. He found all the Maltese of opinion, and their opinion was confirmed by his own observations, that it would have been worse than impolitic to endeavour to commence a dock in the French Creek, on any of the sites that has been proposed, until that Creek was given up to us. He found that the French Creek was a mass of ships, and that every kind of building and trade was going on connected with shipping; and to have interfered in any way with these people until such time as the upper part of the harbour was given up to them and they had cleared out of the Creek would have been unwise. The Duke directed Major Clarke, the Director of Works, to go himself and ascertain if some other site could not be found for making a dock in the French Creek, which could be commenced at once. The Duke felt as we all felt that this was the best site. I have never denied that in this House, but the difficulty was that we could not have the French Creek till the other works were completed and it was given up to us. 1165 The Director of Works, after a careful examination with the engineers of the army, found a better site, not very far from the other, and the plans are already on the table. There is a feature about it that did not exist on the other sites—namely, that a dock could be cut from the Dockyard Creek, and that the commencement of the work should be at the rear and not at the front. They found that this was a better site than any that had been chosen before, and it had the advantage that we could work at it and almost complete it without touching the French Creek at all. It is nothing more nor less than cutting from the Dockyard Creek to the French Creek. When the Duke of Somerset saw this he saw at once that we had got what we wanted, and the authorities at Malta were of one accord on the subject, and we are now at liberty to commence this long wished-for dock. I regret, for the sake of the Maltese more than for our own sake, that the Marsa dock is to be given up; but I think the House will be of opinion that the Government have come to a right determination on the matter. The works we propose at Malta are the following:—First, for the purchase of land round the French Creek; according to the original agreement with the Maltese Government, we are to pay a total sum of £60,000, and on this item we propose to take, for the year 1865–6, £18,000; next, for the construction of the dock and connection with the dockyard our total Estimate is £120,000; and we propose for 1865–6 a sum of £8,000, this being as much as we think can be spent in preparing plant necessary for the works. The other item for Marsa works, exclusive of the Marsa dock—which it will be recollected were sanctioned by this House before the question of the Marsa dock was raised, and after deducting certain contributions from the Maltese Government, but including an additional Estimate for premiums to a contractor for earlier completion of the work, for the removal of the large stones found embedded in the mud, and for carrying wharf walls down to the rock, the whole of which Estimate amounts to £109,930, (of which a portion has already been voted)—amounts to £18,000. The effect of this will be that for works at Malta we take £44,000, which, with the £116,000 which I have already stated for works at home, will make the sum we ask for the construction of works £160,000, being something like double the 1166 amount we took for new works last year. Therefore the House will see that we are entering con amore into the views of the Committee. The next place to which the Committee adverted is Bermuda. Now, every one who knows Bermuda—and I know it well—must be aware that it is probably the most difficult spot on the face of the earth for the construction of a dock of masonry. The nature of the soil there is so very unsuited to the purpose that it is doubtful whether it would be possible to construct a dock of masonry; for the substance through which you would have to work is coral rock, full of fissures; and the engineers who have studied the question are very strongly of opinion that such a dock could not be constructed there. Under these circumstances, my noble Friend the Duke of Somerset thinks it would be folly to ask the House at the present moment for money to construct a dock at Bermuda. What he proposes is to send out one or two able men, thoroughly conversant with the subject, to ascertain whether such a dock can be constructed, or any modification of a masonry dock; and, failing that, whether by any of the new patent floating docks, hydraulic lifts, or patent slips, the difficulty can be got over; because my noble Friend is of opinion that on the whole the advantages of Bermuda outweigh those of Halifax. Our attention will, therefore, be given to finding means for repairing our ships at Bermuda. More than this I cannot say on the subject; but the Government are most anxious to have a dock at Bermuda. The question touched upon by the Committee as to arrangements by which the Government might encourage the construction of large docks in our own possessions all over the world, and also at home, by private companies, will be brought under the consideration of the House at a later period. It will be for the House to say whether, and under what form, it will be their pleasure to carry out the recommendations of the Committee on the subject, whether by Act of Parliament or by other means.
And now let me state what are the intentions of the Government with respect to closing the smaller dockyards in the United Kingdom. I must observe that the suggestion with regard to the closing of Pembroke Dockyard was not adopted by anything like the unanimous voice of the Committee. There is no harm in my mentioning the fact that the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pa- 1167 kington), the right hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth (Sir Francis Baring), who filled the office of First Lord, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry), were all against closing Pembroke Dockyard; and I am bound to say that, although, of course, as Chairman of the Committee, it was not my business to vote, my feelings went altogether with those right hon. Gentlemen. I think it would be a most unwise thing to shut up Pembroke Dockyard. That dockyard being far away from any of the great emporiums of commerce, if you sell it it will not realize anything like its intrinsic value. Remember, too, that it is an admirable land-locked harbour, that we have spent vast sums in building and defending it; we have built forts about it in all directions, so that it is now about as difficult of access for an enemy as any port in the United Kingdom, there is a great command of labour in the neighbourhood, and it is near extensive coal and iron districts; and of course there is economy in building at a place where the men are constantly employed in shipbuilding only; all these things make it very questionable whether we should give it up; much more so at the present time. For these reasons the Government, after much consideration, have decided not only not to think of disposing of it, but to ask the consent of the House to the commencement of another iron building establishment at Pembroke Dockyard. We believe that the necessary outlay will be comparatively small, as, in consequence of the work caried on there in building wooden ships, in which, now a days, a great deal of iron is used, and in bending plates, there is a great stock of plant at present in that dockyard. Under these circumstances it appears to us that it would not be well to shut up Pembroke, and we propose, with the sanction of the House, to commence the building of an iron armour-plated ship at that port. I have further to refer to the recommendations of the Committee only with respect to Deptford and Woolwich. Deptford, as a building-yard, has undoubtedly many disadvantages. There is very little water opposite to it, and, taking into account the size of our ships, that is an important consideration. It is, however, invaluable to the country as a station for the victualling operations of our fleet and army, and also as a depôt for a vast mass of stores. It possesses a large extent of quay space, which is very useful, as will at 1168 once be seen when it is remembered that during the Crimean war we paid considerable demurrage, in consequence of not having sufficient wharfage for the embarkation of our stores. The freight from that dockyard also is cheap, because there are so many vessels loading in the river, which are very glad to take from it portions of their cargo. There are, in short, several reasons why it would be unadvisable to dispose of Deptford dockyard; but, so far as shipbuilding is concerned, I think I may say it will be no longer maintained for that purpose, as soon as we see our way to additional accommodation. With regard to Woolwich, we have it under consideration to dispose of the yard and to remove the establishment, though I cannot state that our intentions in this respect will be carried out this year. I am unable just now to state the exact nature of our proposals on the point, but I can assure the Committee that they will be carefully considered, and, I hope, put into execution in such a way as will be most conducive to the public service.
I have now made all the observations which I think are called for, as to the various recommendations of the Committee and our own proposals in relation to dockyards, and I have very little to add in explanation of these Estimates generally. We have inserted this year a very important item in Vote 12, to the amount of £4,000, which we propose to devote to carry into effect the purposes for which the Contagious Diseases Act was passed last Session. It would be premature on my part to say that that Act has already done great good, but I may inform the Committee that all the indications which we have of its working tend to show that it is likely to be productive of the utmost benefit, not only to the men of the two services, but to residents in our ports themselves. I may add that we have entered into an arrangement with the War Office, that we shall undertake to carry out the provisions of the Act at Plymouth, Portsmouth, and Sheerness, while the War Office will take entire charge of the other stations mentioned in the schedule of the Act. There is another item set forth in these Estimates, as to which I wish to say a word. We are supposed to be very stingy as to the amount of charitable contributions which we afford; but this year there is what I am sure will be regarded as a fair increase in the Vote for religious and charitable institutions—such as sailors' homes in the neighbour- 1169 hood of our dockyards. The last Vote is that for the army transport. Under that head there is no great change for this coming year, but there is, I am happy to say, provision made for the return of five regiments from New Zealand. I trust we have asked for what will turn out to be a sufficient amount under this head; but if there should be any excess on the Vote, I am sure the Committee will, at a later period of the Session, allow me to ask for a small additional sum. I do not, however, anticipate that it will be necessary to take that step.
I have now concluded the observations which I have deemed it to be my duty to make on the Navy Estimates. I have, of course, given but a sketch of the various important matters on which I have touched; but I shall be most happy to give every explanation in my power with respect to the several Votes as they arise. I must, however, before I resume my seat, ask the Committee to be good enough to permit me to make a few remarks relating to the condition of the navy, particularly in reference to our seamen. It is the more important that I should do so, inasmuch as we find from time to time in some of the most respectable journals, reports to the effect that the navy is unpopular, that we cannot man our ships, and that the class of men we do get, is of an inferior description. I am now adverting more especially to what took place last autumn, when a very large ship—the Victoria—was being fitted out for service in the Mediterranean, and when it was stated that there was great difficulty in manning her, my own constituents among others being extremely alarmed at the condition of things thus reported as existing in the navy. It was said that we had to borrow men from other ships to man the Victoria, but what are the real facts of the matter? Why, that the ship was commissioned, or rather ordered to be manned, about the 1s.t of November, and that she was fully manned on the 11th of the same month, with the exception of five artificers, while we had men available in our ports to the number of 735—a number sufficient to man another vessel of the same size. We have been told also that there is a dislike on the part of the men to enter for continuous service; but how does the case really stand? In the year 1861 there were two continuous service men for one non-continuous, while in 1864 there were five continuous service men for one non-continuous. These facts 1170 tend, I think, to prove that the men are becoming daily more attached to the service, and inclined to enter upon it as a career in life. There is another test as to the condition of the navy to which I should like to call the attention of the Committee; but I may, before doing so, state that we intend to lay on the table of the House annually a Report of the crimes and punishments which take place in the navy. There is an old French proverb to the effect that "Dirty linen should be washed at home," but I think it desirable that the real state of the case should be submitted to Parliament. We have compiled lately very carefully the statistics relating to the crimes and punishments in the navy, and I hold in my hand a Return showing the crimes and punishments in the navy for 1862. In a few weeks the Returns for 1863 will be out, and we propose to lay them on the table. They are of such interest, as exhibiting the progress that is going on in the service, that the Committee will perhaps permit me to quote a few figures as a matter of comparison between the years 1862 and 1863. In 1862 we had 54,000 men and boys liable to corporal punishment, and in 1863, 55,000, so that it must be borne in mind that in the case of the latter year we have to deal with 1,000 men more. Yet in all crimes you will find a diminution. The number condemned to the punishment of penal servitude was, in 1862, 17; in 1863, 10; in 1862 there were 1,012 subjected to corporal punishment as against 752 in 1863. The only punishment in which there is an increase—and that is a small one—for 1863 is imprisonment, and the reason is because we have substituted imprisonment for many other punishments which formerly prevailed. In 1862 the number imprisoned was 1,730; in 1863, 1,828. In 1862 there were 97 discharged with disgrace; in 1863, 85; the number of desertions, which in 1862 was 1,876, was reduced in 1863 to 1,570. Then the cases of punishment for theft, which were in 1862, 677, amounted to only 610 in 1863; and the cases of drunkenness—which is one of the worst offences with which we have to deal—fell from 10,375 in the former to 9,903 in the latter year. These facts, I think, show not only that the navy is year by year improving in character and conduct, but that it is being manned by a higher class of men. As for education, I have no doubt that in a short time nearly every man in the service will be 1171 an educated man. We are most anxious to lay on the table statistics as to the education of the navy, which we are now collecting, and also as to the health of the navy. We have already excellent Reports on that subject, but they are not brought close enough up to the present date to be of much practical value except to medical men; this, however, is being rectified. We are told that the discipline of the navy is not so good. But who has risen from reading the account of that dreadful catastrophe the burning of the Bombay without a feeling of admiration for the discipline of our men. The Admiral reports that the men hoisted out the boats in the middle of the flames, that they were working at the pumps until ordered into the boats, although they were expecting every moment that the magazine would blow up. These are proofs of discipline! I may also mention another dreadful loss, that of the Racehorse, where the crew behaved with equal courage and discipline. These are things which would be causes for rejoicing were it not for the loss of so many brave men; but, at least, they entitle us to say with confidence that our navy is equal to what it ever was, and that it may still be relied on for the defence of the interests and honour of the country. The noble Lord concluded by moving the first Vote.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That 69,750 Men and Boys be employed for the Sea and Coast Guard Services for the year ending on the 31s.t day of March 1866, including 17,000 Royal Marines.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
The noble Lord has given, with his usual clearness, his annual statement to the House—a statement which includes unavoidably a great mass of details—but I am sorry to say that in that long statement of details the noble Lord has not removed that desire which I expressed on a former occasion, when I called for certain explanations with reference to what I deem the most important parts of the subject—I mean, of course, those which relate to the actual condition of the navy, and to which he has adverted in the briefest possible manner. In the early part of his statement the noble Lord seemed to boast of his candour, and said that even if the Admiralty had any shortcomings, they were not kept secret. But those shortcomings, if not kept secret, have hardly been touched upon by the noble Lord in the long statement he has 1172 made, and I shall be very glad if, after I have called for explanations on certain points, the noble Lord is able to say the same thing. I will, however, postpone the remarks which I wish to make, or any allusion to details until we go into the separate Votes, except on one or two points. The noble Lord tells us that the Coastguard is to be reduced from 7,500 to 7,000 men—I must say I very much regret it. The noble Lord justifies the reduction by the fact that we have established a Naval Reserve; but, in my opinion, the first Reserve, and the best Reserve for the navy is the Coastguard. The Coastguard is made up entirely of tried and experienced sailors, the very best men it is possible to turn to if any emergency should arise. The reduction, the noble Lord says, is slight, but I regret that it is reduced even by 500 men. I entertain the same views with regard to the reduction of the boys. The noble Lord referred to what took place in the House last year about the reduction of the boys, which I then called a most unwise reduction, and I cannot help now repeating that assertion. The noble Lord boasted towards the close of his speech as to the state of the navy in regard to the men—but he has never denied that the best source from which to recruit the navy is that of the boys trained for the service. I am glad, however, that no further reduction is now proposed. But on another important subject on which I desire information he has said nothing. I want to know what at this moment is the state of the Reserve of the navy. The noble Lord said that when the Victoria was manned last November there were 700 men on hand, and that there were 1,500 men then available. [Lord CLARENCE PAGET: And so we have now.] I am extremely glad to hear it—the more so because it is inconsistent with the information I have received from the Votes. If there are 1,500 men available, ready to be put on board our men-of-war whenever they are required, I am surprised the noble Lord passed over such an important fact in his statement. It seems inconsistent with the statement at page 116 of the Votes, to which the noble Lord referred for other purposes, where I find a summary of the monthly state of the navy. The Committee may not be aware that every month a statement is laid before the Admiralty of the number of men in the navy more or less than those voted by Parliament. I find that in April, the first month of the financial year, there 1173 were 145 men more than the number voted; but that redundance sank immediately, and in May there were 67 less than the Parliamentary number, in June 419 less, and in January, the last month given, 1,637 less than the Parliamentary number.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
I overstated it just now by mistake. We have 1,225 men now ready, exclusive of boys, and 200 and odd boys, making up 1,500 altogether.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
I am exceedingly glad to have it so clearly stated that there are now 1,500 men and boys available. It is certainly a most important matter.
I will now revert to another part of the noble Lord's speech. The Committee could hardly help smiling—the noble Lord himself could hardly help smiling—when he came to that long-debated question, the Malta Docks, and I congratulate him upon the wisdom of the decision to which the Admiralty have at last arrived. Great credit is due to the Duke of Somerset that, after the discussions which have taken place in this House, he should have taken the trouble of going out to Malta to judge for himself, and most satisfactory to us on this side of the House that he should arrive at the conclusion that the Admiralty had made a great and serious mistake at Malta, a fact which we always asserted. The result of his Grace's visit is that he is convinced at last that we were right, and that the Admiralty had been persevering in a great mistake. The Duke of Somerset, I am glad to say, has had the manliness to reverse his policy and adopt that course which we on this side of the House had so repeatedly urged upon the Government. I regret the hon. and gallant Member for Waterford (Captain Talbot) is not in his place to express the satisfaction he must have felt at the noble Lord's statement respecting Malta; and perhaps it was hardly to be wondered at that the Admiralty should send him off to command a gunboat in the Mediterranean to spare themselves the triumph with which he must necessarily have greeted this change of policy. It is not for us, however, to find fault. We have only to give credit to the Admiralty for the wise decision at which they have arrived. I did not listen with equal pleasure to the noble Lord's remarks respecting the docks at Bermuda. We must not close our eyes to actual facts because we wish to avert them from possibilities which we all hope may never become 1174 facts. No censure could be too severe on any Government which neglects all proper precautions. At this moment it is most important for us to have effective docks everywhere, but if in any spot in the world more than another it is requisite to have docks it is at Bermuda. Last year the Committee strongly recommended the construction of a first - class dock at Bermuda. The noble Lord says there are great practical difficulties in constructing them; but we knew that perfectly well. How have the Admiralty dealt with the matter? They propose, we now hear, to send out somebody to inquire—if that be essential, let me ask why that somebody was not sent out months ago? Every Gentleman who has turned his attention to the evidence that was given before the Dockyard Committee, knows they had the strongest possible testimony from Sir Alexander Milne (who had just returned from the West India command) as to the immense importance of having docks at Bermuda—and I confess I was extremely disappointed when I received the Votes to find at page 11 what were the intentions of the Admiralty in that respect. The great necessity of the case will be apparent when it is remembered that whenever an English man-of-war in those latitudes is disabled, and wants repairs, it is necessary for it now to come home before it can go into dock. This state of things ought not to continue, and I regret the Admiralty have not dealt with the necessity more promptly and more efficiently than their proposition now to send out to inquire. With respect to the question of docks generally, the hon. Member for Stamford (Sir Stafford Northcote) put a very important question to the noble Lord, when he asked over what period of time the execution of these works was to depend. The works themselves may be judiciously designed, and be perfectly in accordance with the Report of the Committee, but in future years I should like to see larger Votes than those called for at the present time. When these important works are undertaken, I hope it is the intention of the Government to complete them with promptitude, and not spread them out over an indefinite period of time.
I will now turn to an inquiry I wish to make of the noble Lord—an inquiry bearing upon a most important question. It is, whether or not the condition of the men is at this moment such as it ought to be in the event (if unfortunately it should 1175 arise) of this country being involved in war? I am sure the noble Lord will do me the justice to admit that during the time he has held office I have never met him upon these subjects in any party spirit. I have always endeavoured to divest of a party character the great question of the defence of the country, in which I entirely believe that my noble Friend, and the other Members of the Government, take as deep and as sincere an interest as any Members can do on this side of the House. The question is not whether this Minister or that is anxious that the navy should be efficient—the only question is, whether or not the Government of the day have exercised that caution and discretion, and have evinced that capacity of availing themselves of the means Parliament has placed at their disposal to give efficiency to this great arm of the National defence, which every Administration ought to display. Wishing to approach this subject in the fairest spirit, I should not be dealing candidly with the Government or with my noble Friend, were I not to state that from the information which has reached me from various quarters, I am not free from alarm upon this subject. I am not free from an apprehension that during the last five years the Admiralty have not so availed themselves of those liberal grants which from year to year Parliament has placed at their disposal, as to be in a condition at the present moment to state to the House and the country that they have done all they could do, and that the naval defences of England are now such as we should desire, and as considering all that has passed in the interval, we have a right to expect to see them. I can assure my noble Friend I make this statement in no hostile spirit. I must add that I feel very deeply that no independent Member of Parliament can possess the information which is within reach of the Government. Beyond the statements contained in the papers laid before the House, independent Members can only learn what is going on by reports here and reports there; and I frankly admit that we are always liable more or less to be carried away by statements which are incorrect. I trust, therefore, my noble Friend will admit that I am taking the fairest course in telling him that I wish to call upon him for explanations at the moment when I have reason to know that it will be most agreeable to him to make them. He informed me that he wished I should defer my discussion upon this subject until 1176 he made his annual statement. I acceded to that request—I have heard that statement; and I must confess that it has not removed my anxiety. Let me first of all remind the House of the enormous sums—the unprecedented sums—which we have during the last five years placed at the disposal of the Government. When it was my fortune, in the year 1859, to move the Navy Estimates, I thought it my duty to apologize for what was then their unprecedented amount in a time of peace. I then asked for £9,813,000; and a Supplementary Estimate was, I believe, moved by the present Government later in the year, after I had left office. I pass on to the next year. In the following year, 1860, the Estimates for which my noble Friend moved amounted to £12,800,000; in 1861 they amounted to upwards of £12,000,000; in 1862 they amounted to £11,700,000; in 1863 they amounted to £10,700,000; and in 1864 they amounted to £10,400,000. In this statement I have dropped the fractions; but the result is that during those five years we have placed at the disposal of the Admiralty a sum of £57,794,622. That is a gigantic sum—but I am sure there is no one who hears me that will not bear me out in the statement that these sums have been voted freely, and, I might almost say, without question; or, at all events, that we never made any inquiry of the Minister of the day, except for the purpose of ascertaining that a Vote was necessary; and when that necessity was ascertained, no difficulty was made about the grant. I ask, at the end of these five years, is it or is it not true, as I have heard it rumoured on all sides, that at this moment, if we should become involved in a maritime war, England could not send an effective fleet to sea? I know the gravity of this statement. Pray do not misunderstand me. I am asking for information, and no one will be more thankful than I if any unfavourable impression I may have formed upon erroneous reports should be removed by the explanations of my noble Friend. But these are the statements which we hear. I am aware that we have been passing through a period of transition. I am one of those who have from year to year pressed upon the Admiralty and the Government that, considering the period of transition through which we have to pass, they should not hesitate to make any experiment which held out a fair prospect of adding to the efficiency of the naval service. But, of course, such an opinion and 1177 such advice upon my part—opinion and advice which was, I believe, always supported by the House—were given upon the clearly implied condition that due caution should be exercised by the Admiralty, and that the vast sums placed at their disposal should be expended not only with vigour and spirit, but with that attention to every possible element of success which Parliament had a right to expect from the Administrative Departments of the State. I must confess this, I fear that discretion has not been always exercised.
The first practical point to which I shall advert, and on which I very much wish for explanation, is the state of the first two ships constructed by the present Board of Admiralty—I mean the Defence and the Resistance. I have always lamented that the Admiralty, in building these two ships, avowedly constructed them as vessels deficient in speed. I am persuaded that the first, or nearly the first requisite of a man-of-war at the present day is speed; and I believe the noble Lord will not deny that these are slow ships. Until lately I have always believed that this slowness was their only serious defect; but I have lately been informed that their construction is so defective, that if they were to be injured in their unprotected parts either fore or aft, instead of being only lowered so many inches in the water, they would be utterly unable to float. I ask for an answer to a statement so serious as that. And here I ought to say that I am not unaware of the delicacy of entering into a matter of this kind, showing that the naval power of this country is not so great as we all desire. But, I believe that our wisest policy is to face the truth, whatever the truth may be. If I am wrong, the Government can contradict me, and remove an impression that somewhat extensively prevails; but if there be any truth in the statement we may be certain that it has long ago become known to foreign Powers. I am told that the Defence and Resistance would not be safe ships in an action, because if they were wounded in their unprotected parts they would inevitably sink. But I am further told—and I think the statement still more important—that they were built in opposition to the opinions of the Chief Constructor and of the Controller of the Navy. Now, I should like to know whether that is true or not. I ought to observe that I have not received this statement from either of those gentlemen. Now, if we consider 1178 the state of the navy when the present Government succeeded to power, and the anxious and difficult change which had then just commenced, and which required all the ability the Admiralty could bring to bear upon the subject, I must say I think that the Admiralty—which contained among its members no men of science—if it rejected the opinion of those most competent authorities, the Chief Constructor of the Navy, Mr. Watts, one of the most able, scientific, and accomplished men that ever held that office; and if they disregarded the long experience of the Controller of the Navy, Sir Baldwin Walker—I must say I think that if they rejected that opinion and constructed two ships which are not capable of going into action - they have assumed a responsibility which I could hardly have thought it possible any men would undertake. I ask the noble Lord whether or not this statement is well founded? I did not hear it from Mr. Watts or from Sir Baldwin Walker, but I heard it upon such authority that I must believe it; and if the noble Lord denies it, I should like to have Mr. Watts or Sir Baldwin Walker examined upon the subject. The question relates to a mere matter of fact, and the answer that might be given to it would, perhaps, afford us most important aid in enabling us to determine what confidence we could place in the discretion with which the present Board of Admiralty expend the immense sums of money voted by Parliament.
The next case to which I will refer is that of those three very large iron-plated ships, the Northumberland, the Agincourt, and the Minotaur, the first of which I am sorry to hear is likely to remain unfinished for a long time. I am one of those who have always doubted the policy of plating of ships from stem to stern. I have always thought that such ships would be overweighted. These are gigantic vessels, each of about 6,500 or 6,600 tons, and I understand they were made of that size in order to enable them to bear their complete sheath of armour. The Admiralty have been warned year after year of the danger of plating ships from stem to stern until they should have acquired experience of their success as seagoing vessels. These three gigantic ships, which were the first commenced upon this principle, are not, I believe, completely plated, but so much so that they may be spoken of in that sense. I am not acquainted with the exact cost of those ves- 1179 sels, but I do not believe I am making any overstatement when I say that it may be put down at nearly half a million each. I wish now to ask the noble Lord whether the Report I have heard is true that in the case of some of these ships already launched the Government have not only been spending these enormous sums in armour-plating them from stem to stern, but are now proceeding to incur further expense in taking that armour off. I am told that in the case of the Northumberland the Government were so alarmed at the effect of this plan of iron-plating, upon which so much time and money has been spent, that they are proceeding to correct the error into which they believe they have fallen by removing the armour-plate which they have put on. Of course I only refer to the bow and stern. I ask if that be true in the case of the Northumberland, and whether the same process is to be gone through with the other ships? I want now to call the attention of the House, and the attention of the noble Lord, to a class of vessels which I will term the Caledonia class. This class includes ten vessels, which have been built, or are building, at an enormous expense—I presume at a cost of about £300,000 each. The ships to which I refer are the Caledonia, the Royal Oak, the Prince Consort, the Ocean, the Lord Clyde, the Lord Warden, the Royal Alfred, the Zealous, the Hector, and the Valiant. Of these ten, eight are of wood—that is to say, all with the exception of the Hector and the Valiant, which are of 4,000 tons, iron, and are to be plated round. The Royal Alfred and the Zealous, 4,000 tons, of wood, are to be partially plated, and the remainder to be plated fore and aft. With the exception of the Royal Oak, the Prince Consort, the Hector, and the Valiant, none of them have ever, I believe, been in commission—two of wood, two of iron; of the first the Royal Oak and the Prince Consort, of the second the Hector and the Valiant. The rest are all in course of building. I first of all refer to these four ships in commission. Of the Royal Oak I have not heard much. I have heard a great deal of the Prince Consort and the Hector and the Valiant. They are ships built of different materials, but all of about the same class, of about 4,000 tons burden, and all covered with armour from stem to stern. These are the ships upon which Admiral Dacres has presented a report to the Admiralty. The hon. Baronet the Member for Ports- 1180 mouth (Sir James Elphinstone) the other evening asked to have presented the Report of Admiral Dacres relative to some of the ships in the navy, and the noble Lord then declined to produce it, on the ground that such a course would involve a breach of precedent, and would be highly incorrect. I must say I think that there have been occasions when Reports made by officers to the Admiralty have been produced. My fear, however, is that the noble Lord may have another reason for not producing the Report. If its production were granted, I believe it would show that the Admiralty have been recklessly continuing an erroneous course of iron-plating on ships, in spite of repeated warnings. Nay, more—that, in spite of the French example having been forced upon them—for the French had tried this plating, and sent their ships to sea—the ships could not bear the weight, and that in consequence the French Government have altered their mode of plating these ships. The Government had not been without warnings, and I tell the noble Lord now that his best course is to face the truth and let us see Admiral Dacres' Report. The belief of the public and my belief is this, that the Report goes to state that these ships are not fit to be sent to sea. I have here a letter from an officer whose name if I were to mention it would carry weight, but the communication is a private one; I may state, however, that he is an officer most competent to write on the subject, and I must beg to read what he says—I have no doubt whatever that in plating ships entirely the seagoing qualities are destroyed; and the opinions of all officers, including those who have seen the Hector and the Prince Consort and the Research, are that it is very questionable whether they could weather a gale of wind in the AtlanticI think that is a statement which justifies me in asking the noble Lord what is the truth with regard to these ships. Last year I adverted to the extreme danger which had attended the Prince Consort in the Irish Channel. And what was the answer of my noble Friend? That the scuppers were out of order. I think that ship was carrying too great a weight in bad weather. She got out of the Irish Channel; but I believe that if the bad weather which she experienced had continued she would have gone down, and that in consequence of the great weight of armour which she carried, and against which the Government had been warned. In 1862–3 1181 an animated discussion took place on this subject. I remember that the hon. Member for Finsbury (Sir Morton Peto) took part in it; and much do I lament that, through a dispensation of Providence, another hon. Member who also joined in it (the hon. Member for Sunderland, Mr. Lindsay) is not here to join in the debate to-night. What was the course taken on that occasion? The hon. Member for Finsbury and the hon. Member for Sunderland fearlessly and emphatically warned the Government against what they were doing in plating the wooden ships with iron. No discussion was ever carried on with more fairness. We said to the Government, "If you have commenced ships on a plan, and can complete them by covering them with armour, although we do not believe that is the best possible course, we do not find fault with you; but do not commence any new ships of that description." The Government disregarded that warning. They laid upon the table a paper on the authority of the Controller of the Navy. We felt that that paper went to confirm our objections—that the Government were wrong. But they would listen to no argument—they would persevere in building new ships on that plan; and we firmly believe that you will find that these vessels and the Prince Consort, and the Hector, and the Valiant, already completed, are not fit to send to sea. I may mention it as a current rumour, which the noble Lord can contradict if it is not true, that when Admiral Dacres went to sea last year, he was warned not to take his ships into a heavy sea. Is that true, or not? That his ships, built at a cost of millions of money, are so constructed that the Admiral in command of the Channel is warned not to take them to sea in heavy weather? Then what are we to do with these ships should the necessity arise for our ships crossing the Atlantic? These are heavy questions. And in pressing the point to which I am now adverting, and the extreme impolicy of the Admiralty in persevering in building wooden ships covered with armour, what do we hear now? That they are building wooden ships, and that they are building iron ships; that the Royal Alfred and the Zealous, two of this class, are now to be partly plated. I am told that the Zealous and the Royal Alfred are to be partially plated. Then what does it come to? If the wooden ship, partially plated, goes into action, and is struck with shell in an unprotected part, she must be 1182 burned. Then, I say, by your own want of caution and discretion, you are reduced to this painful dilemma, that if you cover your ships wholly with armour they cannot be sent to sea, and if you cover them only partially they are liable to be burned by the first shell that strikes the exposed timber in action. I think I am only discharging my duty in addressing these inquiries to the Board of Admiralty.
Before proceeding to another point I must say a word with regard to an admission made by the noble Lord, and which much amused me. Whether we are covering our ships in the best mode or not, he said the ships plated all round have exhibited a tendency to pitch. That is a very mild phrase. I think the legitimate construction is what I have stated—that the ships so plated are not fit to go to sea. Nobody, in fact, likes to be on board of them during this process of pitching. Well, of the Royal Alfred I have heard most extraordinary accounts. In The Times of to-day there is a description of her, which I cannot do better than quote, leaving the noble Lord to answer it if he can—It must be evident, therefore, that but slight 'backing' power will be given by the sides of the Royal Alfred to her armour-plating with the short unsupported pieces of timber in the filled-in ports, the destruction of the iron diagonal frame fastenings by the opening of the new ports for the 12-ton guns, and the absence of any iron inner skin to the ship's side on the gun-deck. In fact, if finished on her present plans, she will be, when ready for hoisting her pennant of commission, a monstrous burlesque upon what will then be considered a first-class iron-clad, and if ever sent to the Channel she will be in constant danger of breaking in two amidships, and sinking from sheer weakness of body and overweight of armour and armament.That statement in The Times is only a confirmation of what I have before heard of this ship from persons very competent to judge her condition. Well, what is the secret of the weakness of this ship? I am sorry to say it is to be found in the vacillation and the weakness of the Admiralty, and in their not knowing or being unable to decide on what principle they are to act in building these iron-covered ships. The fact is, that the Royal Alfred was pierced for a certain number of guns of a particular calibre; the Admiralty then changed their plans and determined to arm her with heavier artillery. I do not say they were wrong there; but the result was that they wanted new portholes in other places; that they had to cut new portholes between the old ones and stop up those old 1183 ones, the result of which is that this vessel of war is far weaker than any merchant ship that ever went to sea. I shall be glad to hear from the noble Lord a contradiction of this statement.
I will now advert for a moment to a circumstance on which my noble Friend touched, but on which I am sorry to say he was far from being satisfactory—I allude to the manner and to the extent to which the Admiralty have given a trial to Captain Cole's invention of turrets. It may be presumptuous on my part to pretend to give an opinion on a practical question of that kind, but I do venture to give this opinion—that whenever a work is worth trying it is worth trying well; that whatever experiments you make you should do full justice to. I say it is not creditable to the Admiralty that it should have remained for my noble Friend to come down here and tell us to-night that they are now intending to build a sea-going ship on the turret principle. If they meant to try the turret principle, why did they not try it fairly long ago? It may be said they tried the Prince Alfred. The Prince Alfred was certainly built, but not in accordance with the wishes or views of Captain Cowper Coles. I say that Captain Coles is entitled to the gratitude of England for the ability and perseverance which he has devoted to this invention. I believe it is a great invention; but I think it would have been far more creditable to the Admiralty if they had tried the experiment in the best manner a long time ago. Why did they not go to Captain Coles at once and say, "Your experiment is worth trying; let us see you try your hand at constructing a sea-going ship on the turret principle, that may be fit to meet any vessel which may be matched against her." That experiment ought to have been tried. If the experiment on the Prince Alfred was not a fair one, still less was that on the Royal Sovereign. I have always complained of the Admiralty for cutting down three-deckers in order to construct a ship on the turret principle; and all England was astonished, and I think I may say displeased, at the sudden manner in which, the moment she got to sea, without any reason, as far as anybody knows, the Royal Sovereign was recalled and put out of commission. I should like to know why that ship was put out of commission. There must have been some mysterious reason, for the public have never yet heard the truth about it. Satisfied am I that she 1184 ought not to have been put out of commission. She had on board an able crew of 300, trained to work guns on the turret principle, and more competent, therefore, than any other crew to give her a fair trial. I am afraid there is some ground for the suspicion widely entertained that there is a secret influence at the Admiralty, which is opposed to the turret principle, which found that principle more successful than it liked, and which accordingly procured the paying off of a crew that will not soon be got together again. What explanation have we had of the paying off this ship? The explanation of the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty showed that it was not because they wanted the men. I entirely credit the statement of the noble Lord, though it is inconsistent with one of the reasons put forward for recalling the Royal Sovereign. The other statement was that this vessel was only fit for a harbour defence ship. But if that he the justification it would be impossible to bring forward one more inappropriate, as will be evident when it is remembered that this vessel draws twenty-six feet of water, and my naval Friends near me will bear me out when I say that nothing could render a ship more unfit for purposes of harbour defence than the fact of her drawing twenty-six feet of water.
I must now advert to a part of the subject which, while it is more important, occasions me more pain than any other. I have ventured to express doubts as to the discretion and prudence of the course which the Admiralty have taken; I have ventured to question their conduct with regard to these ten armour-plated ships, to which I suppose we must mainly trust, whether they are fit to go to sea or not; and, granting most freely that the Admiralty are as anxious as any one can be to do their best for the country, I must now raise the question as to the professional advice under which they have acted. I must ask the noble Lord to state whether I am right when I express my fear that gradually the most able and competent scientific men who ever assisted the English Admiralty in the difficult art of shipbuilding have, one after the other, been expelled from the Admiralty. I have alluded to the great ability of Mr. Watts the late Chief Constructor. I have no personal intimacy with Mr. Watts, but I do not overstep truth and justice when I say that a more competent man never held that office. It would be difficult for any Gentleman to 1185 name a more accomplished shipbuilder, one of greater genius or success than Mr. Oliver Lang. I believe I might speak in similar terms of Mr. Peake, the well known chief of Devonport Dockyard, and also of Mr. Abethell. When I turned over the Admiralty to my noble Friend these able men were all in office and able to give their advice to the Admiralty of the day. Where are those gentlemen now? Not one of them is in the service of the Admiralty. The place of Chief Constructor of the Navy has been taken by a gentleman of whom we have all heard a great deal of late years—I mean Mr. Reed. It seems to me that if there was one thing more binding on the Admiralty than another—one point as to which men of sense and distinction would have been anxious—it was that during a period of transition, when questions of great delicacy and difficulty had to be solved and settled, the assistance and advice of those competent men whom they found in office should have been preserved to the nation. This question of construction has grown to be of such vital importance that in dealing with and examining it no stone should be left unturned, I can conceive nothing of more importance than the retention of men of first-class ability wherever you can find them. I have never spoken in this House with anything like unfairness or harshness of Mr. Reed. As President of the Institute of Naval Architects, of which he is Secretary, I have seen a great deal of him, and I believe him to be a very clever man, who would have shone and acquired high distinction as a shipbuilder, if he had only been dealt with in a judicious manner. I freely admit that the Admiralty would have done a prudent thing, and done no more than they were justified in doing, if they had invited Mr. Reed to join the constructive department, and then allowed him to work his own way to the first place. But when you have men like Mr. Watts, Mr. Lang, Mr. Peake, and Mr. Abethell, and of these some through disgust, and some from other causes are got rid of, and at once, per saltum, you put Mr. Reed at the head of the constructing department, I say the Admiralty acted with great indiscretion and imprudence, and in a manner unjust both to the country and to Mr. Reed himself. What have been the performances of Mr. Reed? The launching of two vessels—the Enterprise and Research—the only two of his building at present afloat. Will the House allow me to read the language used in my 1186 presence by Mr. Reed, at the annual meeting of the Institute of Naval Architects, with regard to those vessels? He said—As regards the other vessels which I am superintending—the Research and the Favourite—they differ from the Enterprise in some very important respects. I was fortunately disembarrassed, as regards those vessels, of several limitations that fettered me in the Enterprise, and being anxious to produce a class of ships, of which several might be commenced with confidence, I avoided in them the iron upper works, and have provided for plating them up to the upper deck.Having entered into various details, the paper ended as nearly as possible in these words—The Enterprise, Research, and Favourite certainly represent my ideas, in so far as I could give scope to them, under the peculiar circumstances of their construction, and I am perfectly willing to be judged by a comparison and those vessels with others of like size.The Favourite is not yet launched, so we do not know how she will turn out. The Enterprise is at sea, and Mr. Reed says that he was fettered by several limitations during her construction. The report of her is that she is a good sea boat, but so imperfectly defended by iron armour, and built in some respects on such erroneous principles, that if she were to go into action she would be destroyed almost immediately. But what about the Research, the vessel by which Mr. Reed desired to be judged? I will ask my noble Friend to tell us what he knows about the Research. What does Admiral Dacres say, and above all what does the captain of the Research say? The prevailing belief is that the Research is so constructed that she is, from some cause or other, not fit to be sent to sea, that she is unsafe as a sea boat, and that it would be very difficult indeed to persuade any ship's crew to go to sea in her. This is a question not to be dealt with in any tone of levity; it is a most grave and serious matter. I believe that the Research is as great a failure as ever was launched. I do not mean to say on that account that Mr. Reed is not capable of building a good ship. I hope that he may live to correct the errors which he has made, and to build many good ships hereafter. But this I do say, that with Mr. Reed's present experience and competence, you are trifling with the interests of England, if you allow the men-of-war of this country to be built by him, when you have men of great talent and long experience at your command, whom you should call to your aid. I appeal to this House and to the country whether, when war may 1187 come upon us at any time, you are not bound to ask Mr. Watts and Mr. Lang to come back, and to put yourselves into their hands, instead of trusting the interests of England to a man whose first effort is such a failure, that I challenge you to tell me that you would send it to sea in heavy weather.
I am sorry I have detained the Committee so long in making these remarks and this appeal. I confess I feel very considerable alarm as to the state of the navy. Everything has been neglected for the sake of these iron-clad ships. When the Bombay was lost you had no other vessel to send in her place. My noble Friend told us of a small class of ships that he was about to build. I was glad to hear it; but my information goes to this, that if we were involved in a maritime war to-morrow, we have by no means the class of ships which would be capable either of protecting our own commerce or of assailing that of the enemy. I have endeavoured to lay these statements before the House in as fair a manner as I possibly could. I felt it to be an imperative duty not to shrink from doing so; but no one will rejoice more than I shall, if my noble Friend can dispose of the statements which I have made in a satisfactory manner.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, that the indictment against the Admiralty was that they, having received very large sums of money—much more than had been granted to any other Board in modern times—had squandered it upon vessels which, in the opinion of every naval man, were utterly incapable of keeping the sea. Within the last five years numerous changes had taken place in naval architecture; and yet during the last five years they had seen dispersed the best school of naval architecture in the world. They had forced such men as Mr. Watts, Mr. Oliver Lang, and many others, to retire from the service, having been forced out of it by the most invidious conduct on the part of their superiors; and they had employed a man in the construction of the navy whose first production was an abortion. The Research was now lying at Cowes, and the Admiralty would not dare to send her across the Bay of Biscay. Early in the Session he had asked for the production of Admiral Dacres' report, and he could not obtain it. It was said that it was not usual to produce such reports. Had there been any technical reason why it should not be given, he would not have asked for it. 1188 But when there was a trial of brigs in 1832 a report was made upon the subject, which would be found in the library. Admiral Collier had reported, and so had Admiral Martin under similar circumstances, and the report on the Rattler, the first screw steamer which was tried against the paddlewheel, was also to be found in the Library of the House of Commons, There was no doubt that Admiral Dacres' report would also have been produced, but the Admiralty durst not produce it, because it would have damned them. He had moved for the Report before it was possible for him to know what it contained. But he knew what the concurrent testimony of officers in the fleet was—namely, that of the iron ships that had been constructed, the Warrior, the Black Prince, the Defence, and the Resistance, were alone safe and seaworthy, though not perfect; for the Warrior and the Black Prince were too long, and there was consequently a great difficulty in their taking up their berths and in their steering; but otherwise they were safe. The first two ships ordered by the present Admiralty—the Defence and the Resistance—possessed all the defects which had been ascribed to them; but by adopting iron compartments in them, and by sheathing their bows with wood, their character might be retrieved. Then there was a large class of ships to which the Royal Oak, Caledonia, Zealous, Prince Consort, and others belonged; and if there was any doubt about these ships not being fit habitations for men, he need only refer to a speech of his noble Friend the Secretary of the Admiralty, made to his constituents during the recess. He was defending the sending the Victoria to the Mediterranean—a measure attacked by many, but for which he did not attach much blame to the Admiralty, because the keeping of 1,000 men together in a state of perfect discipline was not so bad a thing as might be. But the noble Lord, in vindicating his policy, said—If you were to put them (a large number of supernumeraries) on board of armour-plated ships, the men would, from want of ventilation, speedily become utterly useless, and have to go into hospital. I ask would the people of this country be satisfied if they heard that we cramped up our men, and caused fevers and diseases to break out among them, because we had thought fit to put them on board such ships as were only fit to go immediately into action.Such was the noble Lord's own account of those ships. And then what had been the treatment of Captain Coles, one of the 1189 most scientific men of the- day? His invention was brought out some five or six years ago, and was submitted to the late lamented Prince Consort, who, with his usual perception, saw the benefit likely to arise to this country from its use, and encouraged Captain Coles to persevere. After a time a trial was given him on board the Trusty, and the report he believed was most favourable. Captain Powell made no secret of his report. But Captain Coles could not get a hearing. In the end they cut down a three-decker, the Royal Sovereign, which was not a ship well adapted for the purpose—a ship that must be very uneasy. But when she joined the Channel fleet the officers who saw her afloat agreed that the vessel had command of the sea, and that if she had been among them for war instead of for peace, she would have scattered every one of them and obliged them to seek harbour. Yet, because she had some trifling defects, one or two of which were put to rights while she was still in commission, the Admiralty recalled her and paid her out of commission. Her crew had been got into perfect discipline and training, the heavy guns were moved about with as much case as old 18-pound-ers, and altogether the ship and crew wore most efficient; but she was paid off because it was alleged that she required extensive repairs. But he would ask, was the Prince Consort paid out of commission when she was repaired? Certainly not, but the Royal Sovereign was paid out of commission that she might not put Mr. Reed out of commission. The noble Lord told them that he was constructing a class of small fast wooden cruisers for the purpose of protecting our commerce. He did not deny that they could not do entirely without wood; but what had happened since—the accident to the Bombay—had modified his opinion with regard to the use of wood. It came to this—with regard to iron ships built in compartments, from their substance there was the chance of splinters, whilst in wooden ships there were the chances of fire and sinking; and if weighed, the one against the other, he thought the result would be favourable to iron ships, more especially when they remembered that in all parts of the world there were docks where 1,000 to 1,500 ton ships could be cleaned and repaired. He was an old stevedore, and it was perfectly clear to him that the turret principle was that upon which you could get your weights most conveniently adjusted to the 1190 stowage of the ship. Therefore, he should recommend the experiment of iron cruisers, capable of running thirteen knots, to be armed with one or more turret guns, and some Armstrongs and Whitworths. The objection to these guns not being able to fire in a line with the keel was removed by Captain Coles's tripod masts, by which the guns could be directed to nearly every point of the compass. Then as to the reserve fleet. It should be remembered that during the whole of the period in which these immense sums of money had been expended, the repairs and maintenance of the wooden ships had not been kept up. Many wooden ships nearly completed had been taken down. At Portsmouth, the Harlequin, a very nice little ship, nearly completed, was taken to pieces, and shortly after the Pearl, which came from China, after being four years in commission, and having badly constructed bows, was stripped fore and aft, and repaired on the old lines, at apparently a greater cost than the Harlequin could have been completed as a new ship. These were the sort of improvident things the Admiralty did; they paid less wages; they were constantly altering their ships; and hence it cost more in repairing and altering than in building new ships. There was a failure in the Controller's office. The Royal Alfred, which belonged to the Caledonia class, was plated with iron; she was completed up above the line of the bends for a ship something like the Prince Consort; she was then ordered to be altered to carry ten heavy guns in midships; gun ports were cut open, in a few cases the old ones were enlarged, in other cases they were blocked up by putting in chocks of wood with a thin skin of wood inside, and planked over outside, reminding him more of the old mode of stopping up windows in Scotland, some years ago, to save the window tax than of anything like shipbuilding. If a shot hit one of these ports it would go right through. The surveyor of Lloyd's would not pass the ship for emigrants, and yet she was to be sent to sea with 12-ton guns on her broadside.
He next came to the question of docks. The Dockyard Committee of last year did one thing which he regretted—namely, recommending the abolition of small dockyards. But they were told to do something in the way of retrenchment, and they felt they could not do otherwise than make that recommendation. He hoped, however, that the Government would not 1191 consent to part with one yard of them. With regard to yard extension and dock construction, he would urge upon the Government that this was a work for which a larger Vote should be taken, and which should be done at once. For Portsmouth he found there was only an item of £20,000 in the Estimates, and yet he believed that £500,000 might be usefully spent there by a good contractor, and the works speedily brought into an advanced state. He asked why they could not take steps for the building of three or four docks where they had building slips at present? Such a work would take the Government out of their present difficulty. In the case of any action occurring in the Channel, they could bring the iron-clads at once into dock. In regard to Devonport still less was proposed to be done by the Government. And as to foreign dockyards, such as Bermuda and Halifax, nothing whatever had been done. Now, Halifax was one of the most important points for us to watch, and to beat work upon. Owing to the peculiar nature of the harbour, by a small expenditure of money we might have a very useful dock there. But at present this important station did not possess a dock which would admit a frigate. Admiral Milne stated in his evidence that he was obliged to lose the services of two of his best ships from the want of a dock in that quarter, and was therefore obliged to send them home for repairs. As to Malta, he congratulated the noble Lord on having now arrived at the conclusion that the French Creek was the best place for the dock. The simple question was, whether we held Malta at a vast expense for Imperial purposes, or for the entire benefit of the small traders of the island. These people might be moved without any considerable inconvenience from the French Creek over to the Quarantine harbour or to the upper part of the harbour, the Marsa, where there was ample room for them. At all events, his notion was that the judicious expenditure of £20,000 or £30,000 among these persons would have satisfied existing interests and removed all difficulties. The Duke of Somerset went out to see for himself, and he administered such a snub to his First Sea Lord that he (Sir James Elphinstone) never remembered to have seen equalled. Before the Select Committee the First Sea Lord most obstinately stuck to a bad bargain, but although the First Lord had laid him completely on his back in regard to this matter, he remained 1192 First Sea Lord notwithstanding. He (Sir James Elphinstone) further complained of the absence of any movement for the construction of naval barracks. The seamen were discharged into hulks instead of being properly housed in barracks. Let them disguise the fact as they might, our men were decreasing month after month, and at the end of the financial year there were actually 1,406 less than the number voted. Notwithstanding this fact, the noble Lord said that he manned the Victoria in one day or one week—he forgot which. How had he done it? First, he sent down the order, "Pay off the Royal Sovereign;" " Pay off the Warrior." The next order sent down was, "Man the Victoria." Presto, the Victoria was manned on the instant by the men paid off from the Royal Sovereign and the Warrior. Where were the 1,500 men to whom the noble Lord referred? They must have been ship-keepers. He could not help thinking that there were a good many dummies among them.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
said, if the hon. and gallant Gentleman desired that he should answer him, he would hand him over a paper by which he would see that the men were all seamen, and available, to go on board ship at any moment.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
hoped that a fuller explanation would be given by the noble Lord at the proper time. With regard to the Royal Sovereign, the men paid off believed themselves very ill-used. A number of good seamen were anxious to follow Captain Sherard Osborn. They were led to believe that she was a harbour ship, and a considerable number of married men joined her, thinking that they would have three years on shore with their families. Suddenly, however, she was paid off, and the men were drafted into ships which they had no intention whatever of joining. He had another word to add upon the important subject of naval barracks. The Admiralty, when they tried an experiment in reference to them, had the peculiar faculty of doing it in the most ungracious manner, and in a way least likely to succeed. In Sheerness, for example, they turned a store-house within the dockyard into a barrack. The men were therein subjected to a kind of prison discipline. The atmosphere, position, and place were desolate to a degree, and no fewer than 1,200 men at one time, from various ports in the kingdom, were congregated in a 1193 place unfitted for Christiana to live in, and placed under regulations almost as severe as if they were convicts. The moment a man showed his nose outside of this barrack he was hunted back again, and where he found nothing to do after cleaning up his quarters and mending his clothes but to smoke and sleep. Now, nothing was more calculated to disgust seamen than this treatment. Every man who had the interest of the seamen at heart ought to try and make their quarters as agreeable as possible to them.
With regard to the increased pay of the officers in the navy, the Admiralty had, no doubt, conceded in some degree that which they required. They had not touched the half-pay, nor had the pay of the Admirals on foreign stations been increased. In China, the Cape of Good Hope, and other foreign stations, where the necessaries of life were dear, those gentlemen received pittances which, contrasted with the pay and allowances of general officers on shore, were shabby to a degree, and which, indeed, did not allow them to live as became their rank and position, without trenching upon their private means. In respect to India, it was a fact that the Indian Government did not pay one shilling for the naval defence of that country. He wished to ask upon what principle were we to find naval defences for a people many of whom were rolling in riches? Why should the Government under such circumstances call upon our officers to protect the shores of that people at the risk of loss of health and the detriment of their private fortune? He trusted this point would not be overlooked when the House next had the Indian Estimates before it. With regard to the captains who had charge of the dockyards—he would specify more particularly those at Woolwich, Chatham, and Pembroke—they had been overlooked in the adjustment of pay, although they were subject, especially at Chatham and Woolwich, to very heavy expenses. There were several points with respect to which lieutenants were ill-used. There were lieutenants of seventeen years' standing who had never had three months' leave, and of fifteen years' standing who had never been on leave at all. He claimed for lieutenants in the navy that they should be dealt with in a manner similar to that in which officers of a like rank in the army were treated. An officer in the army would think himself very badly used if he had not his 1194 two or three months' leave annually. The officers of the civil service had six weeks leave of absence each year, and the Sundays as well. A lieutenant in the navy after returning from foreign service had twenty-one days, at the end of which he was hunted up and was sent on board a hulk if there was no ship to send him to. One officer in the army had his servant, but two lieutenants in the navy had only one boy between them. An ensign had his man servant, a lieutenant in the navy, who ranked with a major, half a boy. He (Sir James Elphinstone) had frequently advocated the construction of naval colleges. It was impossible to educate boys and to keep them in good health on board of hulks. A naval college might be made self-supporting by including education for the mercantile marine; and if that course were adopted it would have the further effect of creating a greater feeling of confidence and friendship between the two services than existed at present. There ought to be training brigs maintained in connection with the college, on board of which one watch of boys could be educated for a time, and then replaced by another watch. Under such a system their health, too, would be better attended to. The Britannia was only six feet below the beams, but the Government required fifteen feet in the certificated schools before they would give them any assistance; yet they crammed the rising generation for the navy into places not above 6 feet under the beams and 6½ feet below decks; and if there were not that injury to health inflicted as would at first sight appear, it was because the boys were all selected and first subjected to a severe medical examination; and the consequence was, that when any of these boys were ill it was a stronger proof against the un-healthiness of the ship than the case of a school where boys were brought promiscuously together.
The noble Lord had created a class of chief warrant officers, who were the men to whom they looked in a great degree for the discipline of the ships, and consequently they ought to be paid much higher for the attainments they were expected to possess. They appointed 12 chief gunners, 27 chief boatswains, 12 chief carpenters; but why they appointed 27 boatswains and only 12 gunners no mortal could understand. All the principal men in the service had been overlooked. If they had, even upon that limited scale, acted on the same proportion with regard 1195 to the gunners that they did to the boatswains, and had appointed 30 gunners, 27 boatswains, and 25 carpenters, it would not have been so objectionable. But the most unjust proceeding of all was that the harbour-duty officers had been excluded from the chief appointments, and only five sea-going men in the whole fleet had been appointed. In fact, some 40 gunners, men with the highest possible certificates, of the first rank, were excluded. Now it was a mockery to the class that only 55 men out of 1,200 had been made chief warrant officers, and, though savouring of some sort of selection, had been given apparently to men who would gain the least possible advantage by promotion; and service had been entirely overlooked. The object had been to produce the most effect with the least possible expense, and the selection that had been made had given the greatest amount of dissatisfaction. The manner in which their widows have been treated was a scandal and a disgrace to the navy, and the principles which regulate the superior grades of the service have been entirely lost sight of in the case of the warrant officers. Many have been driven to the workhouse, and it was not likely men would enter that part of the service with the knowledge that their widows would be treated in the disgraceful manner many of them had been; because the First Lord of the Admiralty of the day chose to say that some of them were persons of indifferent character therefore the whole should lose their pensions, was an act of the grossest injustice. The noble Lord had informed the House that the Naval Reserve force had increased 1,700 men. They were no doubt, the flower of our mercantile navy, but they were not drilled in a manner which was most to their advantage. At Aberdeen the Admiralty had placed an old 28 gun frigate for drilling about 1,000 men, forgetting that she could not mount a 10-inch gun; and there was not a weapon for them to exercise which they would be called upon to handle incase of emergency. In fact, so bad was this ship, that the officer in command had asked the Admiralty to build a shed in which to exercise the men. Captain Browne, the originator of the force, wrote him a letter a few weeks before his death, in which he asked him to bring the subject before the House, and point out the insufficiency of ships on board which to drill the men, and also the impropriety of taking the men away from 1196 the fishing villages, and drilling them in the large towns, where they were subjected to temptations and dangers with which their wives and families did not wish them to come into contact. Captain Browne suggested that one-gun batteries should be built by the men in the neighbourhood of their fishing villages, and that the officer in command of the district should go round and drill them in immediate contiguity to their own homes. He hoped the suggestion would be taken into consideration by the Admiralty. Now the case of the Conway at Aberdeen was a scandalous case. She was stationed at Liverpool, and the Eagle was fitted out to go to Aberdeen. The hon. Members for Liverpool found out that the Eagle was going to Aberdeen, and they went to the Admiralty and got hold of the Eagle, and the Conway was sent to Aberdeen, the Admiralty first changing her name to the Winchester. Now the Winchester was a well-known ship of 50 guns, which had carried Sir George Lambert Hay in the East Indies, and was in every way suitable for the purpose; but to his horror when he went to Aberdeen he found the old Conway, a ship he had known more than forty years ago at St. Helena, one of the most miserable jackass frigates in the service; and yet that ship had been placed at Aberdeen for the purpose of exercising 1,000 men of the Naval Reserve force. He had a great deal more to state to the House in reference to the Naval Service, but he would defer his observations until the Votes, to which the subjects particularly applied, were before the House.
§ MR. SEELY
said, that as he believed none of the facts mentioned by him on a former occasion had been attempted to be controverted by the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty, though some of his statements had been described by his hon. Friend the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) as erroneous. Considering the great importance attached to statements made in that House, it was desirable that every Member should, as far as possible, be accurate in what he asserted. The statement he had made was simply that he believed—as he certainly believed now, notwithstanding the denial of the hon. Gentleman—that certain ships had been repaired at an excessive cost, and in one or more cases at a cost exceeding what a new vessel might have been built for. The hon. Gentleman thought that he had made a mistake, and that in speaking of 1197 the hull, his calculation referred to the hull alone, and did not include masts, yards, and rigging. Now, in using the word "hull," he had intended to express the cost of repairing the vessels, including the hulls, masts, yards, rigging, and everything necessary for the repairs. What he intended to express then, he would express now—namely, that a vessel called the Falcon was repaired at a greater expense than it could have been built new for, and his hon. Friend had documents before him giving the expense of the repairs of the vessel and the various items. The whole cost of the repairs amounted to £26,642. The question, therefore, was for what sum could a vessel of 750 tons, with 100-horse power, have been purchased. In his evidence before the Royal Commission, the noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty said, that according to the statement of the Admiralty, the average cost of the ships of our fleet, exclusive of engines, was £24 10s. 5d. per ton; but he (the noble Lord) did not think that they could be built for less than £28 11s. 5d. He (Mr. Seely) therefore took what he thought was a fair and liberal allowance—£28 per ton. Since he addressed the House, however, his hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Laird) had informed him that vessels of the class of the Falcon could not be built for less than £30 or £35 per ton, exclusive of machinery. Giving the Admiralty the benefit of that statement, he still maintained that it was unreasonable to spend £26,000 in repairing the Falcon, when she could have been built new for a few thousands more. His hon. Friend said something about urgency; but what foe had the Falcon ever met, or what probability was there in 1863 or 1864 that she would be required to meet one? There was also another matter to which he had to call the attention of the Committee. In his evidence before the Royal Commission, Mr. Henwood, the master shipwright at Sheerness, stated that a vessel built in Her Majesty's dockyards, of good materials, ought to last fifteen years without any great repair. He stated the other night that the Falcon was built in 1850. He was now inclined to think that she was not built till 1854; perhaps his hon. Friend would tell him whether that was so? Then he would assume that she was built in 1854. He had now to state that in 1859 there was expended upon her £11,243, in addition to the £26,642 in 1863–4—making a total of £37,885. Surely 1198 some explanation ought to be given of the expenditure of so large a sum upon the repair of a single vessel. His hon. Friend further said that he was wrong in what he said about the conversions of timber; and in order to convey a different impression to the House, he stated that in one dockyard English oak cost £8 19s. a load, while in another it could be obtained for £6 15s. But what he mentioned with regard to English oak, occurred also with reference to other woods. In the case of teak the conversions at Pembroke ought, according to the rate-book, to have amounted to only £9,690, but they reached £12,915. He could give other facts to the same effect, but he did not wish to weary the Committee, and he would now approach a still more serious question. His hon. Friend said that he was in error when he stated that, between 1860 and 1864, there was a sum of £2,250,000 unaccounted for, except upon the theory that it had been added to stock, because he had not deducted from the Votes the value of coals which had been sent abroad, amounting to £1,500,000. He begged to say he had deducted these coals. If his hon. Friend disputed the statements he made, he should be very glad to meet him with the secretary he had employed, and go into the accounts, and if any accountant from the Admiralty could show that he was wrong, he would apologize for having needlessly taken up the time of the House. The fact was that in the Votes there appeared deductions for the coal sent abroad, and he had only taken credit for the amounts voted less those deductions. Thus in the year 1860–1 a Vote was taken for £1,706,000, from which was deducted £312,644 for coals sent abroad; and he only took credit for £1,393,356. There were many items besides those which he stated the other night, which ought to be charged to the cost of building and repairing the ships of the navy. For instance, there was a charge in Vote 6 for salaries to foremen, amp;c, under the head of "Naval Yards at Home," amounting to £117,702. Deducting from that £11,000 for the salaries of surgeons, chaplains, boatswains, and schoolmasters, the remaining £106,702, ought to go to the debit of the account for building, repairing, and refitting ships. There were other items, such as pensions to artificers, repairs, gas, amp;c, which he contended ought to be added to the cost of building, repairing, and refitting Her Majesty's ships, amounting in the aggregate 1199 to £328,105 in 1860–1, £381,286 in 1861–2, £365,524 in 1862–3, and £288,196 in 1863–4. The sums under these various heads amounted between 1848 and 1864 to upwards of £5,000,000, more than the given expenditure, on ships built, repaired, and bought, and there was no explanation volunteered as to what had become of that large sum, except the assumption that it had been converted into stock. But at the present time the stock did not represent that sum, and surely in 1848 the stock must have been of some value. Then, what had become of it? he asked. No doubt the suggestion was that the money had been expended in building, repairing, and refitting Her Majesty's ships; but in that case what became of the accounts? The accounts made no mention of these £5,000,000. His noble Friend was striving to bring these accounts to perfection, but had hon. Members looked at the account headed"Navy—Ships,"which was a specimen of the mode in which the Admiralty kept their accounts? The year 1860–1 was the first in which the account of repairing ships was kept. In the accounts of that year the amount of money voted was put on one side, and the cost of building and repairing ships was put on the other, like a proper debtor and creditor account. In the next year there was a departure from this debtor and creditor system; and in the years 1862–3 a new form was adopted, and instead of giving on the debtor side the money received for building and repairing ships, they gave certain charges under the heads "Ships Building" and "Ships built by Contract," amp;c.; but on the creditor side of the account they gave the expenditure at the different dockyards, both being properly creditor accounts. It would be easy on this plan to manipulate accounts, and give the debtor and creditor accounts to a penny, but it would be a farce of an account. The method in which these accounts were made up was of great importance, for, as Sir Richard Bromley observed in his evidence given before the Committee, unless these matters were carefully watched, the Appropriation Act might be effectually set aside. But he (Mr. Seely) concluded that it went to put aside all Parliamentary control. The real evil, however, was that £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 a year were given to gentlemen who were really not acquainted with the matters they undertook to control. He did not think the affair would be properly 1200 conducted until they had a Government that stood upon its merits. It was not only as regarded economy that he called the attention of the Committee to these matters, but it was also because he believed that an extravagant Department was rarely managed efficiently. He had an impression that the time was coming when their expenses would be greatly increased. They would have to increase the amount of the small payments to the officers in both services, to which the hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth (Sir James Elphinstone) had called attention. But the pay of the soldier and of the sailor would also have to be increased, and their ships were growing in size, and would require more dock accommodation; so that the prospect before them was one of greatly increased expenditure. This made it all the more necessary that the public money should not be wasted. The country grudged no money at present for the navy, so long as the fleet was kept tolerably efficient; but the time might come when the public would refuse to allow their money to be heedlessly spent, and if ever they should come to regard such an expenditure with distaste, those who brought it about by needlessly wasting the money, would have to bear the blame.
§ SIR WILLIAM MILES
remarked, that having been a member of the Committee for Naval Promotion and Retirement, he felt bound to make a few observations upon the grave catalogue of grievances which had been brought before the House by hon. Members sitting near him, He should wait anxiously to hear the answer of the noble Lord to those accusations, as it appeared to him that they might just as well have thrown the enormous sums of money into the sea as to have expended it upon the fleet. But he (Sir William Miles) knew nothing of naval architecture, and would address himself to the matter which had come under his attention. He regretted that the hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth (Sir James Elphinstone) did not touch upon one class of men in the navy who were badly treated—the engineers. He thought a great number of their complaints had been met; but there was one grievance came out before the Committee which constituted one of the greatest difficulties they had to deal with. It appeared that these men, who were subjected to the heat of tropical climates, most oppressive to the constitution, and rendering them less able to stand the 1201 attacks of disease, had no pensions whatever for their widows. Now, he wished to impress upon the Committee that the engineers had as much right to demand public pensions for their widows as any petty officer in the naval service. The men placed their complaints before the Committee to which he had referred in a most proper way. They also said that considering the nature of their service, their pay, both full and half pay, should be increased after the expiration of every three years instead of as at present every five years. He (Sir William Miles) wished to call the attention of the noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty to a point relative to the lieutenants in the Coastguard. He had a letter from an hon. Friend that morning which said that, in the explanatory statement, pages 104–105, full pay was asked for seventy-eight lieutenants commanding stations in the Coastguard, the sum amounting to £14,335; whereas, according to the last official Navy List, there were only twenty-seven lieutenants employed, and the amount was £4,972—a difference of £9,370 odd. There must surely be some mistake in the figures on the part of the Government.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again on Wednesday.