§ Order for Committee read.
§ SUPPLY considered in Committee—NAVY ESTIMATES.
§ (In the Committee.)
(1.) Question again proposed,
That 69,750 Men and Boys be employed for the Sea and Coast Guard Service for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1866, including 17,000 Royal Marines.
§ SIR MORTON PETO
said, that in resuming the discussion, he must first express his regret that the forms of the House did not admit of an evening being fixed for a debate on the whole policy of the Navy, while uncertainty as to the hour when the Navy Estimates would come under discussion was scarcely consistent with the importance and gravity of the subject. Before he proceeded to make any remarks upon the Estimates, he wished to express his regret at the absence of the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay), and he was sure he had the entire sympathy of the Committee when he said that regret was increased by the circumstances which prevented his attendance. The first thing to which he wished to direct the attention of the Committee was the form in which the accounts were presented. It was but fair to the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty that he should say that the House had never obtained so much information, or obtained so good an insight into the affairs of the Navy, as had been given since the noble Lord held his present office. He was also bound to say that he regarded the appointment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) with extreme satisfaction. They had all been sorry to lose the services of the hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), but a better appointment than that of his successor the Government could not have made. They had had a promise from the hon. Gentleman that the accounts of the Navy would be rendered to the House in 1374 an intelligible form; but up to the present time they had never had anything worthy of being called accounts at all. What they wanted was an account in which stock was included, for unless the balance of the value of stock was given from one year to another, they could never arrive at the actual amount of the expenditure in the Dockyards. There was no difficulty in giving such an account, as the Royal dockyards, when compared with many private concerns, were really but very small affairs after all. If Her Majesty's dockyards were treated like the private establishments throughout the country they should be able to obtain clear and satisfactory accounts, for there was no mystery in the case beyond the mystery that surrounded everything undertaken by the Admiralty. But the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely), to whom the House was much indebted for his examination of these accounts, so far as they had been rendered, had shown that it was impossible in their present state to allocate to any particular item its just proportion of expenditure. The next question to which he would call the attention of the Committee was that of our docks on foreign and home stations. The Committee which inquired into this subject had dealt with it in no narrow spirit, but with a wish that due provision should be made for whatever was required for the public service. It was, therefore, a satisfaction to him to know that the noble Duke at the head of the Admiralty had himself recently paid a visit to Malta, and had thus become convinced that the views of the Committee of last year were correct, and that they ought to be carried into effect. He was also glad to find that the noble Duke, on his way home, had looked into the port of Algiers, where he must have seen that the Government of France had constructed much larger dock accommodation than that which the Committee thought ought to be established at Malta, and one dock capable of accommodating the largest armour-plated ship. There could be no doubt of the expediency of having in every part of the world the means of cleansing our ships, so as to make them effective for service, instead of relying on a foreign Government for dock accommodation or sending them home. He would next refer to the case of Bermuda. A promise had been made that some competent person should be sent out with a view to provide dock accommodation at Bermuda, and he 1375 hoped that a really competent and experienced person would be intrusted with this important duty. He desired to express an earnest hope that we should, as soon as possible, have in that island a dock at which our vessels on the West India station could be cleaned and repaired. Seven years ago an order was issued by the Admiralty for a dock at Bermuda, but nothing had since been done to give effect to that order. Another point was the necessity of concentrating our offices at Whitehall, and the great public inconvenience arising from the present divided Admiralty Establishments at Whitehall and Somerset House. This point had not been referred to by the noble Lord in introducing the Estimates. The noble Lord promised last year that he would direct his attention to that subject during the recess, but nothing appeared to have been as yet done in the matter. He would next call attention to the recommendation of the Committee of last year with regard to the closing of a certain number of the small dockyards. The Committee did not treat that subject as one of mere expense; but the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Laird) had shown in the Committee that the saving thus effected in Establishment charges only would, if capitalized, enabled you to place the larger dockyards in a most effective state, and would result in great economy of working. As to the state of the dockyards generally, nothing could be worse than the present regulations with respect to the economizing of labour. In great establishments, where labour was the great element of expense, everything should be so arranged as to economize the labour as much as possible. But the Government did not do this—on the contrary, their whole plan and arrangements of these Establishments were such as to prevent the accomplishment of those results. Thus, at Sheerness there were no tramways; everything had to be carried in the old antiquated way, and the erecting and engineers' shops were placed over the mast pond, though it was necessary, above all things, that the machinery should have a solid foundation. At Chatham two of the docks were occupied with building, and two others covered with flooring and with workshops, so that all the repairs had to be executed in the river, exposed to the inconvenience of the rise and fall of the tide. At Devonport, also, considerable inconvenience and expense were caused by the position of some of the buildings; the 1376 stores were placed immediately opposite the basin, and the erecting-shops were placed at the back, so that everything had to be carried round at a great increase of time and trouble. Again, in most of the yards the smitheries and foundries were of an old type. He was quite aware that a large expenditure would be necessary in order to carry out these improvements, but nothing was so ill-advised as the continuance of a permanent evil of this kind, and he was sure the House of Commons never grudged paying money for effective service to be rendered. Mr. King, the Chief Engineer of the United States, had visited our dockyards; an intimate friend of his saw him immediately afterwards and asked him what he thought of them, and his reply was, he should have thought that the whole thing had been constructed shortly after the Ark, and that, knowing as he did the contrivance for saving labour in America, he was profoundly astonished that the Government had ever permitted a state of things to continue which allowed such a loss of labour to take place. The next, and by far the most important point, to which he (Sir Morton Peto) desired to call the attention of the Committee, was the state of Her Majesty's Navy at the present moment. The right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir John Pakington) the other night drew rather a dark picture on this point; but he (Sir Morton Peto) had made minute and careful inquiry from reliable sources, and his belief was that the statement of the right hon. Baronet was not in the slightest degree over-coloured; on the contrary, he was fully persuaded that the right hon. Baronet might have said much more than he did say, and that all he did say could be fully justified on proper examination. For eight or nine years, whenever the Navy Estimates were discussed, he had called attention to the impolicy of proceeding with the building of wooden vessels. The noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty justified the use of wood on the sole ground that the conversion of wooden into iron-sheathed vessels effected a saving of time. After a certain number of vessels had been thus converted, Mr. Reed was appointed Chief Constructor of the Navy, and then the plan was adopted of building wooden frames covered with iron armour. He (Sir Morton Peto) then called attention to the fact that such vessels would not be effective or serviceable as ships of war, first, because you would not have the necessary cohesion between the 1377 two materials; and, secondly, because it would be impossible to place the wood in conjunction with the iron so as to obtain durability. Every one conversant with shipbuilding was aware if a hollow space was left between wooden partitions without the means of ventilation, dry rot commenced, and so it would be with these wooden frames and scantling upon which the iron plates were placed. From the very moment the plates were fixed decomposition would begin. It appeared from the Report of a Committee laid on the table of the House in April, 1859, that timber vessels, even without being sheathed, and having the timber exposed, required thorough repair in fifteen years, and that during a century the average life of a timber ship had not been on the whole thirty years. He should say that from the very outset wooden vessels were too weak to carry the iron plates. The noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty, in addressing his constituents during the autumn, said that armour-plated ships were unhealthy, and he stated that as an excuse for sending a wooden three-decker to the Mediterranean. The noble Lord must be aware that, were he in command of that ship and were a war to break out, he would be obliged to go with the vessel to Malta and there disband the sailors; for a gunboat with a single gun would annihilate the ship in ten minutes after the commencement of an attack; and if the noble Lord were to risk the lives of 1,100 men under such circumstances he would be fairly answerable for the loss that must ensue. Now, the House had the testimony of the hon. and gallant Member for Wakefield (Sir John Hay) that iron vessels exhibited an amount of healthiness not exceeded by any other portion of Her Majesty's fleet. If, then, the vessels armour-plated on wooden frames were unhealthy, it was simply because the decomposition of the wood was going on; but entire iron ships were not unhealthy as shown by the returns; and that was just the difference between them and vessels constructed partially of iron and wood. He would call attention to another fact in connection with the wooden-framed vessels. The noble Lord was perfectly aware that it had become desirable to remove the armour to a large extent from the bows of certain wooden vessels in order to render them seaworthy. The consequence was that if a shot were to enter the unprotected part of the bow at the water-line the vessel 1378 would be sunk. The case, however, would be different if the vessel were of iron and built with bulkheads and water-tight divisions, like the Warrior and the Black Prince, both of which were designed, he believed, by Mr. Watts, and begun when the right hon. Member for Droitwich was First Lord of the Admiralty. In their case, if a shot entered the bow and let the water in the effect would be simply to alter the flotation line of the vessels some few inches, or perhaps a foot; but her seagoing qualities would not be affected, and she would not be rendered unfit as a vessel of war. He would now draw the attention of the Committee to the Prince Alfred, and he had taken the pains to have careful drawings made of every part of the vessel. What was the history of this ship? In the first place she was a three-decker, converted into one of that class of vessels known as the Prince Consort class. After the Report that that vessel (the Prince Consort) was nearly lost, the Admiralty determined to alter the Prince Alfred again, under the direction of Mr. Reed, and she was converted into a square-box ship. The centre of the vessel was covered with 6-inch armour, the end with 4½ inch armour, and the water-line, which was generally understood to require the most protection with but 4½. The vessel, between the square tower and the end, was without armour at all, so that her steering apparatus and rudder were exposed, and a raking fire from an enemy might destroy her machinery and place her hors de combat. Again, the port-holes were so constructed that if any shots struck them the whole thing must give way, and the ship would be placed in serious danger. He would undertake to say that any one conversant with shipbuilding would acknowledge that anything like the Royal Alfred for inefficiency as a ship of war or unfitness for sea had never been seen; and he was sure that a Committee of half-a-dozen naval officers of the same standing as the noble Secretary to the Admiralty would come to the same conclusion.
He wished, in the next place, to refer to the appointment of Mr. Reed as Chief Constructor of the Navy, He felt from the first that that appointment was a great misfortune to that gentleman himself and to the country. He was told that Mr. Reed had occupied at first the position of editor to a periodical; and, secondly, of secretary to an institution of which the 1379 right hon. Member for Droitwich was President—the Institution of Naval Architects. Before he was appointed Constructor of the Navy, Mr. Reed had never constructed a ship in his life. The House, he was sure, would feel the gravity of committing the construction of the navy of this country to any one person, however talented he might be, who had no previous experience. Prom all he had heard, he had reason to believe that Mr. Reed, in regard to professional talent, was really a clever man, and in all other respects perfectly estimable. Therefore it was, he said, that it was as great a misfortune to himself as it was to the country that he should be placed in such a position. But the appointment of a person so little qualified by previous experience to such a responsible situation induced him to entertain great doubt as to the administrative qualities of the noble Duke at the head of the Admiralty. Everybody who knew the noble Duke must feel for him the highest esteem; but in dealing with the important subject of the navy, all personal or party considerations must be put aside—it was too important to be dealt with other than in the most open manner—and he was bound to say that the right hon. Member for Droitwich exhibited in his speech the other night not the slightest tinge of party feeling. In the case of this appointment of Mr. Reed, he was sure that the Government would have done wiser and better if they had continued in office those who had so long been at the head of the Department. They might then have wisely used Mr. Reed's talents, and the whole thing might have been conducted without displacing those who had already shown so much capacity, while the country would feel that they were in safer hands than by committing that duty to a gentleman who had no practical experience. The Government was at present practically throwing aside all the old talent of the country, and trusting to a single and undisciplined mind. What was the evidence given by men qualified to offer an opinion on these matters? In the Report presented by the Select Committee on the Board of Admiralty in 1861, Rear Admiral Elliot would be found to have said—I think the duties of the Controller are quite sufficiently laborious without his being at the Board to represent his Department there; and I do not think he can give sufficient time to the question of experiments and scientific improvements which are constantly coming before the Board.…There are many things connected with the fittings of ships at this moment 1380 which have been constantly inquired into and reported on, and are still unaltered, owing, I think, if I might say so, to a certain amount of prejudice in the Surveyor's (or Controller's) Department. I am of opinion that these things would be remedied by being ventilated before an independent Committee of scientific men.…The Controller can lay his plans and suggestions before the Board; I think that they should be ventilated by an independent Committee, and I think we should save many mistakes thereby.…I have frequently heard it stated that naval officers are so full of suggestions for improvements that it is impossible to attend to them. I think that a Committee would just be the means of weeding all these plans and inventions, and bringing the best of them to the notice of the Admiralty.He (Sir Morton Peto) could not too strongly press on the attention of the Government the expediency of appointing a Committee of that kind, from which he thought a great amount of benefit would be derived.
He wished now to turn for a few moments to the subject of Captain Cowper Coles's invention of the turret ship. And, first, he felt bound to express to his noble Friend the general feeling prevalent in the public mind that Captain Coles had not received justice at the hands of the Government, or that amount of consideration which the importance of his invention demanded. It was also the conviction of many scientific and practical men that the Government had not at present any vessel of war approaching the Royal Sovereign in effectiveness for harbour defence. They were now, it appeared, about to allow Captain Coles to design a turret ship which should be a sea-going vessel; but he thought that in this matter they had begun at the wrong end. Instead of giving Captain Coles an old three-decker to be cut down for a harbour ship, they ought first to have allowed him to try his hand on a sea-going vessel; and then if she had not answered their purpose as a sea-going vessel, she would have done very well for harbour defence. And here he begged to ask why the Government did not furnish the House with Captain Sherard Osborn's Report? When inventions of this sort were committed for observation to officers of great experience, not to make the report public, gave it the character of a public document. In keeping it from them they were not treated with proper respect; and if they did not give the House the means of arriving at the right conclusion, they must not be indignant with them if they formed conclusions upon such knowledge as could be otherwise obtained. On one occasion a report having been made by Rear Admiral Elliot on the condition 1381 of the ships in the Channel squadron, that officer complained in his evidence that only portions of his Return were produced before the Dockyard Commission, and that these did not practically convey the effect of the whole. All that he said in favour of the ships was given, while all that he said against them was omitted. The day had gone by when there ought to be any mystery about these matters. The House was entitled to have the means afforded it of forming a sound judgment upon them. It was a mistake to suppose that the contents of these documents were not known. The withholding of Captain Sherard Osborn's Report did not prevent the nation from learning indirectly what it contained. He believed that he knew much of what Captain Osborn's opinions were as to Captain Coles's ships; but if he were not quite accurate in conveying them to the Committee he must be forgiven for the reason he had mentioned. He understood, then, that Captain Osborn had stated—On all occasions the ship behaved remarkably well. She is more buoyant than I should have anticipated; very fast considering how coarse a bow she has, and not wetter than might be expected for a vessel purposely cut down for harbour defence only.That gave them reason to believe that Captain Coles would be able to construct a sea-going ship on the turret principle. Captain Osborn further said—The turrets and guns work admirably. We have now fired in all 177 rounds under all conditions; the rolling of the ship does not affect the evolutions of either turret or gun.That indicated the achievement of a great success in those particulars. An important question was how ships could be made to carry most effectively the largest gun. On that point Captain Osborn said—I see no limit to the weight of ordnance which may be worked upon the turret principle, and there are many ways in which the revolving platform, apart from the iron-cased turret, might be applied with the best result to any of our ordinary cruisers, whether of wood or iron. As yet we have not carried away a gun-breeching nor hurt so much as a man's finger nail in the working of our guns and turrets.That was exceedingly satisfactory. Captain Osborn proceeded—I am of opinion that the Royal Sovereign as she now stands is the most formidable vessel of war I have ever been on board of. She would easily destroy, if her guns were rifled, any of our present ironclads, whether of the Warrior, Hector, or Research class. Her handiness, speed, weight of broadside, and the small target she offers, increase tenfold her powers of assault and retreat; 1382 and I believe I see my Way to firing by night from a turret with as much accuracy as by day, so long as the enemy is visible.If that were so, surely the House had a right to demand that the most complete trial of that principle should be made. He had placed himself in communication with several officers in command of Her Majesty's vessels and who were in the Roads when the Royal Sovereign was exercised, and he had it from them that that vessel was without question the most effective ever yet constructed, and that no single vessel, in their judgment—not even the Warrior herself—could possibly stand against the turret principle effectually applied. One of his informants said that—Vessels like the Royal Sovereign are admirably calculated for the defence of the coasts, harbours, and roadsteads of Great Britain. With twelve such converted vessels the fleet might be sent abroad to fight an enemy, and we could feel secure at home, come what might; the more so as any naval officer would undertake to work and fight these vessels, if manned by artillerymen, with only a dozen sailors to steer and take the lead.That was a most important consideration. If the Government had such a vessel, a great question arose as to the necessity of land forts beyond those already ordered. A pamphlet had just been published by a Captain Stewart which dealt with these subjects in a very satisfactory way, and showed that two guns in a vessel on the turret principle would be as effective as a much larger number of guns on a land fort. He had the means of knowing what was going on in America, and he found that the whole of the Monitors now used by the Federals in America were what were technically termed "incompleted vessels"—that was to say, they were built up to a certain height so as to render them useful for purposes of harbour defence, harbour attack, or service along the coast; but they all could be built up the sides, not necessarily armour-plated, but with a thinner casing, so as to qualify them to cross the Atlantic or undertake extended voyages. It did not therefore follow because these vessels had suffered severely in a storm when passing simply from port to port, that they could not be built up at a comparatively small expense, and sent to any part of the world. He wished also to call attention to Fort Fisher. The fall of that fort, after making all due allowance for a little American bombast, seemed to teach us two lessons—first, that a fort unless armed with ordnance that could destroy 1383 ironclads at a considerable distance was useless; and second, that forts on the seaboard built of any material but iron were speedily silenced by the heavy guns now used afloat in turret ships. So effective was the firing of some of the Monitors, and so completely were the embrasures destroyed that, in one instance, of sixteen men at one of the fort guns all were killed within ten minutes after the attack was commenced. Unless the entire face of the fort was covered with iron, no dependence could be placed on it when attached by turret guns. Without raising again the question of ships versus forts, he might fairly call the attention of the Committee to one thing which had been almost lost sight of in the discussion with regard to fixed forts—They had not sufficiently estimated the enormous cost of arming these forts. He did not blame the Government for not having foreseen this; but the lesson he derived from the fact was that it now became the duty of the Government to inquire very seriously into the question how far it was desirable to extend these fortifications beyond what the House was already pledged to, and whether it would not be much wiser to build harbour-defence vessels on the turret principle than to cover other portions of the coast with forts. His opinion on the subject of those forts was so strong that he had divided the House against their erection; but the House having given their adhesion to the policy of the Government, he took the question as decided; but there remained the question of the enormous cost of the ordnance to arm these forts. We were advancing day by day in experience as to the armour-covering of our vessels, rendering them more and more impenetrable by shot. We must, therefore, have guns in these forts of the most effective class. If these forts were completed there must be the number of guns required, about 2,000; whereas there were at present manufactured only something like twenty-one. He could not understand the policy of spending hundreds of thousands of pounds in completing forts without having guns to arm them. In the Defence Commissioners' Report of 1860, which committed us to this extensive system of forts, it would be found that the seaboard guns required for the coast batteries were—for Spithead, 915 guns; the Needles, 81; Isle of Wight, 71; Plymouth, 262; Pembroke, 43; Portland, 200; Thames, 110; Medway, 172; Dover, 45; Cork, 45—in all 1,944. At present there was 1384 not a gun in these forts of the slightest use against ironclads in case of war, they must be supplied with effective guns and steel shot. And what would be the cost of guns and ammunition alone, without carriages and equipment? Taking the average cost of 9, 11, and 15-inch bore guns at £4,066,1,944 guns wouldcost£7,904,304; and with 100 steel shot and 100 steel shells each gun, at £25 per round, 200 rounds and equipments would cost £9,720,000—being a total of £17,624,304, as the cost of arming the forts now in the course of construction. How many pennies per pound would the Chancellor of the Exchequer have to put on the income tax, in order to cover this? How many years would it take before these forts had an armament which would make them of any use? And if ever they were armed, how long would it be before their armaments were again superseded by something better? Further than this, their sea faces must be covered with iron if they were not to be speedily silenced by ironclad ships with monster guns. How many tons of iron would this take, and how much would it cost? Considering the great expense and scarcity of these guns, should we not find greater protection from a smaller number in moveable batteries than from stationary forts requiring 1,944 guns, which could not be effectively supplied?
He now wished to call the attention of the Committee to the position of inventors in regard to the Admiralty. A very important question has lately been decided in the courts of law—he alluded to the case of "The Queen v. Feather," in which the Government had pleaded the Queen's prerogative in bar of the right of a patentee. He had read with great pain the Lord Chief Justice's charge in that case. It was evident the Lord Chief Justice was perfectly convinced that, although, in point of law, the Queen's prerogative might be so pleaded, it was questionable both in point of policy and public morality. They all knew the common saying that corporations had no souls; but it was very important that a Government should have both morality and a conscience, for if inventors found themselves in a position in which the Queen's prerogative was pleaded in bar of their rights, important inventions would be taken to the French Government, or to Russia, where inventors were received with open arms, and treated with every possible respect, scientific men being appointed to examine their various plans, and if they were 1385 adopted fair compensation was awarded. Inventors were at all events treated with respect, and if disappointed in their expectations, they had the benefit of submitting their schemes to a fair examination. This was really a very important question, for he must say to his noble Friend the Secretary of the Admiralty, that some inventions had been brought under the notice of that Department, which had not obtained fair consideration. He would instance the case of a poor but intelligent inventor who had been recommended by one of the most eminent engineer officers in the service, in a letter in which the gallant officer said—I send you a poor fellow who has not a shilling in his pocket, but many brains in his head; and I think you will find him worthy.The report of experiments at Shoeburyness appeared to countenance the idea that the thicker the armour-plating, the more it was to be relied upon; whereas, he maintained that the power of resistance depended not so much on the thickness of the plate as the character of the backing. He (Sir Morton Peto) examined the invention, and undertook to provide Mr. Chalmers with £1,250 for the trial of his target, on the understanding that if the Government bought the thing he should be repaid; that if it failed, he (Sir Morton Peto) should bear the loss, and that in no case would he accept a shilling of profit. Well, the target was tried, and for the time the hopes of Mr. Chalmers, like those of many another poor inventor who had gone to the Government, were frustrated. The Government, no doubt, gave him a check for his expenses, but little more had been done for him. Again, he did not think that Trot-man's anchor had received from the Admiralty the attention which it merited. The short and the long of it was that Boards of Admiralty, as at present constituted, did not treat practical questions of this kind in the way most conducive to the interests of the country, and in his opinion nothing but a radical reform in the constitution of the Board would effect any beneficial change in this respect. Among other evidence taken in regard to the Admiralty in 1861, that given by Captain B. J. Sullivan, an officer of much experience, was worthy of notice. That gentleman complained of the great delay incurred by the Admiralty in adopting the improvements which were brought before them. For example, he stated that it took twenty years to convince them that lightning conductors were required for the 1386 navy, and a great loss of life and property was caused by the neglect to provide these necessary safeguards for ships. Since they were introduced there had not been a single man or spar lost by lightning. Captain Sullivan mentioned a case in which lightning conductors were taken out of a ship that was paid off, and another line-of-battle ship applied for them and was refused. The latter then sailed to the Mediterranean without them, was struck by lightning, and nearly lost altogether, five men being killed by the accident. A great deal of time was wasted in repairs, which also caused considerable expense. That was an illustration of the way in which the Government behaved in such cases. In fact, the witness he was quoting said that the impression was that unless a project emanated from some man in high position, there was great difficulty in getting it adopted of course, in censuring the Government and the Admiralty, he did not refer to the present or to any particular Administration, but to the Boards generally. He held that there ought to be a Scientific Committee connected with the Admiralty to look after these things, and that the decision upon inventions should not be left to the mind of a single man, however accomplished.
There never was a time when the state of the navy could by any possibility demand the attention of Parliament more than at present. He intended in the course of a few nights to ask for a Return, showing the exact state of Her Majesty's ships, and how long it would take to put the ships now in ordinary in a condition for going to sea, if a war occurred. He had been told—he knew not whether correctly—that it would require something like four years to put the engines of vessels now in harbour at Portsmouth into an effective condition for active service. Such a state of things as this ought not to exist. A grave injustice had been done to those who, like himself, sat in the House and night after night drew attention to the state of our naval affairs. It was alleged that they preferred economy to the honour of the country, and that they would rather cut down the Estimates than place in the hands of Her Majesty's Government the means of protecting the safety and honour of the country. He indignantly repudiated the idea. He said that the House of Commons during the last five years had given the Government £58,000,000 of money, and he wanted to know whether at 1387 the present moment we had a navy which, if hostilities unfortunately broke out, was equal to the emergency. He had not the slightest hesitation in saying that we had not. The remarks of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) were not at all over-strained; and from what he observed, and what he heard even from officers in the service, a great portion of the ships recently sent to sea, all armour-plated, whether on iron or wooden frames, were not seaworthy, or such as in a great emergency would render effectual service. Now, that was a position in which the country ought not to be placed, and it was their duty in that House to demand an ample explanation from Her Majesty's Government. He recollected a short time before the Crimean war they were frequently met with the statement that Her Majesty's army was in a most effective state, and equal to any emergency. But what was the result when they came to have that statement tested? There was no Member of that House who could look back to the time of the Crimean war as one by any means honourable to the administrative talents of the country; and he believed that at that moment they would find themselves as lamentably deficient in regard to the fleet as we were then in regard to the army. He made those remarks from a sense of imperative duty, and he trusted that the Government would not allow things to remain as they were. The House had a right to a full inquiry into this question, and he was determined as a Member, to exercise that right. He, therefore, gave notice of his intention, in a few evenings hence, to move for the appointment of a Committee, and he trusted the Government would grant it and thereby afford them the opportunity of examining, without an iota of party considerations, into the truth of the allegations made, whilst simply bearing the fact in mind that on both sides of the House one common feeling existed, without reference to party politics, of maintaining the honour and well-being of the country.
§ ADMIRAL WALCOTT
Sir, I have listened with much attention to the ingenious, ingenuous, clear, and candid statement of the noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty, and with equal attention to the able and manly criticisms of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington). After such able and lengthened statements made in regard to the efficiency or otherwise of the navy, 1388 I am indisposed to weary the Committee by any lengthened observations of my own. I will therefore confine that which I propose to say to a very few remarks, which shall be brief and will, I hope, be strictly to the point. Now, in the first place, I must express how decidedly I deprecate the reductions contemplated by the Board of Admiralty in the seamen of the navy, the Coastguard, and the Marines. With regard to the seamen the proposed reduction is no doubt small. The noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty gave as a reason for this diminution of seamen, that inasmuch as our ships were now constructed generally of iron instead of wood the same number of seamen as heretofore employed were not necessary. I will admit that that fact offered some justification for a reduction. With reference to the proposed reduction of the Coastguard the noble Lord said that as the practice of smuggling had greatly lessened of late years there was not the same reason as existed formerly for keeping up so large a force of officers and men. But I beg leave to call the noble Lord's attention to these facts, that the service of the Coastguard is conducted by men who for a considerable number of years had exhibited the most admirable loyalty, faithfulness, and usefulness in their profession afloat; that it was looked upon by those men who had served many years in Her Majesty's navy as a desirable service to be promoted to; and likewise it afforded an excellent opportunity to the Admiralty by which to obtain efficient seamen should circumstances arise requiring again their active services as formerly had been the case for manning on the moment the Baltic fleet on the occasion of the late war with Russia. Now with regard to the proposed reduction in the Marines, no expression of eulogy that could escape my lips would be stronger than that force deserved. Those men were well trained and possessed all the qualities of good soldiers, and were invaluable on board the fleet. I therefore consider it unjust and ill-judged to reduce or to displace the number proposed in seamen, Coastguard, and Marines, more especially at the present moment, when it is evident that there is a small cloud gathering in the far west which may soon burst into a fearful storm over our heads, when we may need all our resources to stem its violence. I recollect previous to the Crimean war that we had been warned of a small cloud which gathered in the east. We, how- 1389 ever, disregarded that warning. The tempest broke over our heads. It found us ill prepared to cope with its violence. The consequences were that together with the loss of a large portion of our army, who were mainly sacrificed by the want of due preparation, that war involved us in an expenditure, independent of our usual Estimates, of £100,000,000. I will now proceed to remark upon the construction of our ships. It appears to me that no precaution can be too great in timely forethought given to the design of our ships before they are commenced, and although the greatest economy ought to be observed in regard to the taxation of the country, yet only so far as it may be compatible with the integrity of our national defences. We have three or four classes of men-of-war, but there is not even two of them of equal speed. Now, the Committee should remember that in the event of war arising in a distant quarter it is of the utmost importance to us to have an efficient fleet capable of equal speed so as to intercept the vessels of an enemy. It is to be rembered that when in the year 1805, a French fleet escaped from Toulon and sailed for the West Indies they arrived and placed several of our islands under heavy contributions and returned in safety to the shores of France. True it was they were followed by the Mediterranean fleet under Lord Nelson, but owing to the bad sailing of some of his ships he was so retarded in his efforts to overtake them that on arrival in the West Indies he learnt to his dismay they had departed for Europe, and that his anxious chase had been fruitless. No doubt the Warrior in speed is a great success. I have nothing to say against that ship except her length is so great as to make her unhandy as regards management and space in tacking or wearing. Nevertheless, she is a good sea-going ship in many particulars, and able in speed to contend, nay exceed, the finest vessel of any other Power that could be brought against her. If, however, the Admiralty continue to iron-plate our ships all round, and make them thus invulnerable both to shot and shell, they must be reminded they will be placing a dead and dangerous weight upon them, which (though I am no alarmist, and most unwilling to shake the confidence of the gallant men that are to man them) would create in my mind a feeling of axiety as to their safety in a heavy sea and severe weather. The noble Lord the Secretary 1390 of the Admiralty the other night observed, in regard of one of our best ships, that she pitched heavily. Now, that was one of the greatest failures a vessel could have when obliged to encounter a heavy sea. If such a ship was thrown upon a lee shore her destruction, in absence of power in her screw whilst her bow was buried in the sea, would be almost inevitable. Now it appears to me there is something to be said for the Admiralty with reference to these classes of ships. There had been almost a panic in England lest we should lose our superiority on the sea, and this fear has led to a hasty construction of ships, designs, and expenditure, which I nevertheless cannot but regard as ill-conceived, and in some respects most wasteful. I believe I was one, if not the first, in this House to acknowledge the abilities of Captain Cowper Coles and his turret system, and in my opinion he has not obtained from the Admiralty that high-minded and generous consideration to which a brother officer stood entitled by reason of his eminent talents. For my part I have felt pride and gratification in association with such an officer. I am glad at this time to learn that the Admiralty have at length given permission to him to construct a ship on his own design without fettering him as I will hope in any way, and if this be so I then will undertake to predict that the result will fully verify Captain Coles's expectations. Again, I am not inclined to visit the Admiralty with censure for having placed the Royal Sovereign out of commission. That vessel had been sent to sea to test her capabilities and qualities, and though pronounced i successful Captain Coles did not design her for anything but a coast or harbour defence ship, her continuance in active commission was not therefore necessary at the time she was paid off; but, nevertheless, as the management and training of guns on the turret system ought not to be lost sight of, it is in my opinion advisable this should be continued under the control of the captain in command of the gunnery ship in Portsmouth harbour. I am sorry to find that it is intended to vote a small sum of money for the construction of docks. There is a little work lately published which I have no doubt has been seen by the noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty, by Admiral Sir William Martin, one of the most distinguished officers in the service, and in whose judgment perfect reliance may be placed. The writer states 1391 that we cannot be blind to the fact that even victories must be attended with disaster, and that after a naval conflict between England and France the French would be able to carry their ships into harbour, dock, repair, and fit them for sea in half the time we should require, owing to their great superiority in dock accommodation. Our ships, many it might be of them, would have to be sent to the Mersey or the Thames at considerable risk. In fact it was doubtful whether shattered and disabled ships would be able to keep afloat until they were docked unless we had nearer accommodation. The evil was a vital one, and I am therefore sorry to find that it is proposed to carry this dock expenditure over four years instead of at once providing a remedy by a completion of these necessary works at a much earlier period. Dock accommodation, I likewise must observe, ought not to be lost sight of either at Halifax or Bermuda. I gladly heard from the noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty that it was intended at once to design and perfect ships of the Alabama build, because in my belief they will be found invaluable for the protection of our commerce and our colonies.
Sir, I am unwilling to trespass further upon the attention of the Committee, except to express my belief that no amount of money should be withheld to construct and maintain an efficient navy. The sum devoted to this end ought to be considered in no other light by the country than as a mere insurance payment for the safety of England. The fleets of merchantmen who maintain a commerce indispensable to our greatness and independence, and are dispersed over the whole face of the ocean, require the constant protection of our men-of-war. Our insular position; the numerical inferiority of our army; the augmentation of powerful navies by foreign Powers; demand an establishment at sea commensurate with the interests at stake—the security of our colonies; and the safety of our trade. And I venture to express my hope that the means placed in the hands of the Government by this House to provide for all contingencies, and the importance of administering those means in a manner creditable to the nation upon a Bound and effective basis, may successfully be perfected so as to secure the cordial approbation of Parliament, and the enthusiastic unanimity of the country which is its sanction, for after all it cannot be denied that the strength and efficiency of 1392 our navy is the palladium of our liberties and the safeguard of our independence.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, he thought it but fair to congratulate and thank his noble Friend the Secretary of the Admiralty, for the increase of pay which had been accorded to the officers and men of the Royal Navy—an increase which he believed would be found perfectly satisfactory. But while he thought that considerable credit was due to his noble Friend for what had been done, still more was due to his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole) and the Committee over which he presided; because he held that his right hon. Friend and the Committee by their Report and recommendations had strengthened the hands of the noble Lord in a direction to which he was already favourable. He hoped, however, that his noble Friend would consider the question of graduating the pay of the lieutenants, because he held that the case of the old lieutenants was one well deserving consideration. The junior lieutenants were tolerably well paid; but when an officer, after serving some twelve or fourteen years, would have no hope of rising to the higher ranks of his profession, it was, he thought, but fair that he should receive an increased remuneration for his services. Upon the Vote immediately under discussion he would also call attention to the fact that the Admiralty had hardly done justice to the pay of those Commanders-in-Chief whose case had so frequently been brought under the consideration of the House. Sir James Hope, a distinguished officer, stated in his evidence that while on the China station his necessary expenses amounted to £7,000 a year, whilst the pay of his successor was only £3,000 a year. It was not fair to expect officers to spend so much of their private fortune in order to maintain their position. This circumstance also had the effect of limiting the choice of the Admiralty to a comparatively few officers, because there were many officers who were perfectly eligible in other respects, but to whom such an appointment would be utter ruin. Another point to which he wished to call attention was the regulation concerning officers completing the sea time for their flag. The Admiralty had made a rule that no captain serving in a harbour ship should count the time so served as part of the time he was required to serve for the flag unless he had served three years at sea. That rule was a good one 1393 generally, but it had inflicted a hardship in some cases. Captain Craufurd, for instance, had been in command of the harbour ship at Rio, and Captain Nolloth at Hong Kong, under the impression that their time would count; but suddenly they found that they were excluded from the list, and that all the time which they had been serving on those unhealthy stations would go for nothing. Of course the service in those two harbours was not very lucrative to the officers who had accepted those commands for the purpose of having the time of their service there reckoned, and it was very hard upon them now that by a new rule having a retrospective operation they would be prevented from calculating that time. The Committee would, therefore, feel that the Admiralty had acted hastily in that matter, and he trusted that the rule would be reconsidered, so far at least as not to allow it to act retrospectively. He also hoped the Admiralty would reconsider their decision as to time of service in the Coastguard. The Committee presided over by his right hon. Friend recommended that the time should be allowed to count for two-thirds, but the Admiralty had allowed it to count for only one-half, which he thought was an erroneous decision. He would not then trouble the House upon the question of the retired list, nor of the specially ill-used reserved captains, which would be fully considered upon Vote 14; but before that Vote came on he hoped the Admiralty would take into their consideration the very respectful petition which he had presented to the House a fortnight since from the widows of old warrant officers. The Commission on Manning the Navy strongly urged upon the Government the necessity of granting pensions to the widows of warrant-officers, who certainly were a class which deserved some consideration at the hands of the country. That recommendation had been acted upon to some extent in the case of persons who had become widows since 1860; but there were some poor old persons with similar claims who merited similar treatment. For it would be seen by the Admiralty regulation that two persons equally deserving who had the misfortune to lose their husbands with equal services, the one before 1860 the other after that date, would receive very different treatment, for which there could be no justification. He deplored very much the decrease in the number of men for the navy, and he thought his noble Friend hardly satisfied 1394 the House upon that point the other night. The House must have felt that the more probable reason for reducing the number of seamen was, not that the fleet of the future would require fewer men, but because the fleet of the present was not able to obtain more. The noble Lord knew the difficulty of getting men, and was under the necessity of putting the best face upon the matter. Whatever the cause might be he very much regretted the reduction. He still more regretted to find that the number of boys to he trained for the navy had not been so largely increased as it ought to have been. The true policy for this country was to station training ships round the coast, so that the lads belonging to the seafaring population might be trained and then entered in the Naval Reserve. By that means they would be attached to the service, and when wanted they would go into the service without the expense now incurred in training merchant seamen. He was sorry also to find that his noble Friend was not able to give any satisfactory account of the formation of a corps of artificers for the navy. If such a corps was established the Admiral of a station would be enabled, by collecting those artificers from the various ships, to set up a small dockyard upon the spot, and there would be less necessity for the large staff of engineers now required to execute the repairs of a fleet. He agreed with the hon. and gallant Admiral the Member for Christchurch (Admiral Walcott) as to the impolicy of reducing the corps of Marines. In a maritime country like this there could be no doubt of the great value of those amphibious troops, who were held in the highest esteem by all military men. They had done good service in every part of the world, and were always available for land service, either with other troops, or with the less thoroughly trained seamen, and therefore, it was that he considered it most impolitic to reduce the number of that corps. He had been astonished to hear the reasons assigned by the noble Lord for reducing the number of the Coastguard. He understood the noble Lord to say that there was now no necessity for the Coastguard for revenue purposes. But it was well known that the protection of the revenue was not the main object of the Coastguard. The Report of the Manning Commission, and other Reports before the House had shown that the great value of the Coastguard was as a nursery for the navy. The noble Lord said he was going 1395 to reduce the number of the Coastguard because it was intended to send armour-plated ships to all the ports, and for those ships smaller crews were needed than for wooden ships. But where were the armour-plated ships to be found? Perhaps the noble Lord would be so kind as to name them ship by ship, and would also say if the iron-clad ships were to be so employed, where were to be found the armour-plated ships that were required for the other services of the country? He concurred with his noble Friend in congratulating the House upon the diminution of crimes and punishments in the navy. He thought the noble Lord had taken too short a series of years to draw his conclusions from, and in reducing the number of men the Admiralty had no doubt wisely got rid of the worst characters, which might very well account for the decrease in the number of crimes and punishments. But from whatever cause the decrease arose it was satisfactory to the country and creditable to the navy. No more noble example of the discipline on board our ships could be given than was exhibited in the loss of the Bombay, and he was sure that the names of Captain Campbell, and the other officers and crew would ever be remembered by a grateful country. Upon the question of docks he would not now touch, as an ample opportunity for discussing that subject would occur hereafter. He could not, however, refrain from expressing his regret that only £20,000 was to be spent this year at Portsmouth. The noble Lord did not deny that when the Hector wanted docking she was ordered to be sent to Plymouth, because the only dock at Portsmouth was occupied. Only one ship at a time could be docked at Portsmouth, and that could not be regarded as a satisfactory state of things, now that our new ships were iron and required constant docking and cleansing. He did not think the Admiralty had paid sufficient attention to that subject, and he hoped that the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Laird) would tell the House whether he considered it possible to copper our iron-plated ships. For his own part, he (Sir John Hay) believed that the ingenuity of this country was quite able to deal with any practical difficulty, and that an application of copper upon a sheathing of wood over the iron would be found practicable. Without being coppered no ship could properly perform blockading or cruising duties. It was to be regretted that the 1396 hon. and gallant Member for Waterford (Captain Talbot) was not present to be congratulated upon his great victory over the Admiralty in the matter of the Malta Dock. It was a subject the Committee could not consider too much. The Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean, and the Dockyard Admiral reported where the dock ought to be made. Two members of the Board of Admiralty went out and reversed that decision. It was only after two years' argument in the House that the noble Duke at the head of the Admiralty had, to his credit, gone out himself to Malta to see which was the proper site for a dock, and he had at once been convinced that the proper site was in French Creek. It was now to be constructed there but not until something like £50,000 had been spent in the wrong place. The selection of the director of works, which he believed was due to the hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), was an admirable one, and it was greatly owing to Major Clark that the unwise decision of Sir Frederick Grey had been reversed. Upon the subject of guns he must observe that as the Admiralty had taken upon themselves the responsibility of finding guns it was time they should make up their minds as to what it was they wanted a gun to do. What the Admiralty should do was to give to a gunmaker the projectile they wanted the gun to throw, and leave him to produce the gun. In that case they might get a good gun. But now gunmakers were fettered by limiting the weight of the gun to six tons to throw a shot which the gun would be incapable of throwing. What was wanted Was a gun to send a projectile with precision, force, safety, and endurance; and to get a weapon of that kind the great gunmakers should be asked to produce such a gun without any limit as to weight. He could confirm the hon. Member for Finsbury (Sir Morton Peto) as to the number of guns that would be required for the fortifications, which, added to those wanted for the navy, would be between 2,000 and 3,000. When those guns would be made he could not tell. The necessity for large guns had been proved by experiment here, and by practice on the other side of the Atlantic. The enormous size of the American guns was well known, and the Report of Admiral Porter showed what the effect of these guns had been. No doubt some of them had burst from bad manufacture, but we had skill and 1397 power enough to make food guns of that size, and Admiral Porter's Report showed what the effect of those guns had been before they did burst. The great fault of the Admiralty was that they never made up their minds what class of ships they wanted, and what class of duties they required them to perform. One was for having the guns in a box; another in a turret; a third was in favour of broadsides. One considered that broadside guns should be light, another that they should be of the heaviest description. Our ships were unfortunately built without reference to each other and without reference to their service in a fleet. The first thing wanted above all others in a ship was speed—the power of carrying her guns into the best position for annoying an enemy. The next requisite was stability, so that the guns might be fired with precision; and then she ought to have good sea-going qualities in all weathers; she ought to be built incombustible, and therefore of iron. The fate of the Bombay showed what would become of a wooden ship exposed to the missiles of the present day, charged with combustibles of all descriptions. Then she must be built in compartments so as to be unsinkable. It was utterly impossible to combine all these qualities and have armour-plates all round. Therefore, as much protection must be given to the vital parts as was possible without interfering with the qualities he had named. The magazine must be protected, the steering apparatus, the water-line, the boilers, and the screw—protecting all these parts, if doing so would not interfere with the seagoing qualities of the vessel, but omitting those last mentioned if found to make her less efficient, seaworthy, and speedy. The guns must be on a turn-table, and as much protection of the cupola sort given to them as the vessel would carry after the other requisites had been provided. Wooden ships on the broadside principle must be discarded, and he hoped to see it entirely discarded. In a few years, broadsides and wooden ships would be as obsolete, he believed, as the ancient trireme. He had taken a great deal of pains to ascertain what it was that we really required in the way of ships, and he believed that if the Admiralty would make up their minds what class of ships would represent our corvettes, frigates, and line-of-battle ships, they would have removed a great deal of the difficulty they laboured under in arriving at a conclusion as to what should 1398 be done. Our corvettes, he believed, ought to be vessels of about 1,700 tons; they ought to be built on the twin-screw principle, of iron sheathed with wood, and coppered, so that they might be made of a light draught, able to go 13 knots, armed with one or two 300-pounders on a turntable, and protected as far as they could be in their most vital parts. Our frigates ought to be about 2,500 tons, similarly arranged, but more protected, and with a speed of 14 knots. Our line-of-battle ships ought not to exceed 4,000 tons. They would carry four or five turn-tables, with guns on each, a couple of 300-pounders, or a 600-pounder, and then, with additional guns for landing with the marines or for the boats, they would be efficient war ships, which no other ships except of the same class would be able to meet. Their armour-plating should be entirely subservient to the other qualities he had named. The details of the Report of our iron ships had been fully canvassed by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich and other hon. Members, and it was, therefore, unadvisable for him to enter further into the subject otherwise than to state that the Return was most unsatisfactory. They had, however, a costly fleet of seven iron ships. Some of them, however, were not so perfect, or such good seagoing ships as was desirable, and until they had seen the Admiral's Report it was impossible to say what condition they were in. The Return of the number of ships in the navy laid on the table gave the number of line-of-battle ships as fifty-five; but was it true that not one of these ships except those actually in commission was ready for sea? It was said that of all our line-of-battle ships and frigates at Portsmouth there was only one, the Octavia, which could be got ready for sea within six months, and that some would take four years' work to get ready for sea. Certainly, to put them in a Return in this manner was throwing dust in the eyes of the country. They ought to be got rid of altogether, or else they ought to be got ready for sea, and the country ought to know how many of them were ready. Of all the lot he did not believe that there were more than ten which could be put into commission under a considerable number of months of dockyard work. He could not understand what had induced the Admiralty to refuse the production of the Admiral's Report of the cruise of the experimental iron squadron. He had 1399 been in the navy above thirty years, and he remembered there had been in his time various experimental squadrons. Admiral Corry, Commodore Collier, Commodore Martin, had all commanded experimental squadrons, and their Reports had at once been communicated to the House. The Admiralty were always glad to give the reports, and the country was always glad to receive them. If the ships failed—the difficulty of dealing with these questions had always been acknowledged—no fault had been found with the Admiralty—they were only told to do better another time. But here the most important experimental squadron of all had been sent out under the command of an Admiral in whom the Admiralty must necessarily have full confidence, and now in the second year of its existence we could not find out—at least not officially—what it was doing. Certainly, there were reports abroad from officers in the fleet and outsiders frightening the country out of its wits—that the ships dared not go out in a gale for fear of sinking, that they were unable to keep company—that they were unhealthy and so on—rumours which would at once be dissipated by the Admiral's Report if they could only get it. If the fleet were efficient, it would be creditable to the Admiralty that it should be known, and it should be published if it were only to dissipate the fears entertained by the public. If it were inefficient, it would at least be satisfactory to the country to know to what it had to trust. Why blind the country to the real state of the case? Public principle and precedent equally justified them in calling for the Report, and he was surprised that the House of Commons did not compel it3 production. He desired to add his tribute of praise to the excellent character of the Royal Sovereign. The Royal Sovereign was a great success. He had been on board of her in the recess, and directed the guns while they were being worked, and he was certain that, though she might be an inefficient ship of her class, owing to the blunders of those who selected such a vessel for the experiment, yet no more efficient man-of-war floated. If she were so successful under such disadvantages, what would she have been if she had been properly built from the first? Captain Coles had made a name in history; and his invention would be remembered with gratitude by the country when the present Board of Admiralty was forgotten. Before sitting down, he wished to say a few words 1400 about our foreign squadrons. He was not going to refer to France, but in the Mediterranean a great nation had recently been called into existence. Italy had lost no time in securing an ironclad fleet. She had now eighteen ironclads in process of completion, and some of them were very fine ships, although he had seen a story in one of the newspapers about one of them having nearly gone down in crossing the Atlantic. That arose from a confusion of the iron-clad, which came over safely enough, with the Ré Galantuomo, an old wooden ship which made a very bad passage. With these eighteen iron-clad ships Italy could go and collar the British Admiral in the Mediterranean and turn him out of the Gut of Gibraltar, just as a policeman would turn a drunken man out of a public-house. The Admiral would have to take refuge under the guns of Malta—if there were any guns there—or else be turned out of the Mediterranean. That was not a pleasant position to occupy. We had at present in the Mediterranean the following ships:—Garadoc, 2 guns, 350-horse power; Chanticleer, 17, 200; Cossack, 20, 250; Firefly, 5, 120; Gibraltar, 81, 800; Hibernia; Hydra, 1, 220; Liffey, 39, 600; Magicienne, 16, 400; Meeanee, 60, 400; Orlando, 46, 1,000; Pelican, 17, 200; Phoebe, 35, 500; Psyche, 2,250; Racer, 11, 150; Racoon, 22, 400; Resistance, iron-plated, 16, 600; Revenge, 73, 800; Royal Oak, iron-plated, 35, 800; Surprise, 4, 200; Victoria, 102, 1,000; Wanderer, 4, 200; Weser, 6,160. In all 23 sail, and only two ironclads. Both flag ships were wooden. And there was the Enterprise. She was a good boat, but when she steamed with a head wind she would not face the sea, and her speed was 9 knots by the measured mile. That was the fleet we had to compare with the Italian fleet in the Mediterranean. He now came to the West Coast of Africa, where we kept a fleet for the purpose of catching the slavers. The Committee must know that these slavers were the fastest steamers afloat. They were built in New York, and were built for speed only, and when running with slaves they hoisted the Spanish colours. Well, for the purpose of catching those slavers we had the Antelope, 3 guns, 260-horse power; the Archer, 13, 202; the Dart, 5, 80; the Espoir, 5, 80; the Griffin, 5, 80; the Investigator, 3, 34; the Jaseur, 5, 80; the Lee, 5, 80; the Mullet, 5, 80; the Pandora, 5, 80; the 1401 Banger, 5, 80; the Rattlesnake, 21,400; the Snipe, 5, 80; the Sparrow, 5, 80; the Speedwell, 5, 80; the Wye, 100; and the Zebra, 17, 200. Those 5-gun gunboats were the gunboats which were not got ready for the Russian war; and they did not steam over about 7 knots. The Rattlesnake steamed 10 knots, and the Zebra was a fast ship; but of the whole 17 vessels on the West Coast of Africa only two steamed more than 8 knots. It was to be hoped that we should have no hostility on the North American and West Indian station; but if war unfortunately arose we should have to meet the most formidable naval power in existence, for he was sorry to say that we were not now the first naval Power. Well, our ships on that station were—the Aurora, 35 guns, 400-horse power; the Bulldog, 6, 500; the Buzzard, 6, 300; the Challenger, 22, 400; the Cordelia, 11, 150; the Sygnet, 5, 428; the Duncan, 81, 800; the Fawn, 17, 100; the Galatea, 26, 800; the Lily, 4, 200; the Medea, 6, 350; the Nimble, 5, 80; the Petrel, 11, 150; the Phaeton, 39, 400; the Plover, 5, 80; the Pylades, 21, 350; the Rinaldo, 17, 200; the Rosario, 11, 150; the Royalist, 11, 150; the Shannon, 35, 600; the Steady, 5, 80; the Styx, 6, 280; the Virago, 6, 300; and the Wolverine, 21, 400. Of those 24 vessels, not one was iron-plated, and, as far as he knew, not one had guns that would pierce iron plates. They were under the command of Sir James Hope, whom he might, he hoped, without any reflection on other officers, describe as the most gallant man in the navy; hut if Sir James were called on to blockade one of the North American ports he could not do so for one single day with such ships—a single Monitor would come out and set fire to those under his command. And the difficulty the service was in was this: if anything went wrong they had no person whom they could hang. It would be very hard on the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers), doing his duty well as he was in his particular department, to hold him responsible for those things. Again, his noble Friend the Secretary for the Admiraly, whose courtesy and kindness every one in the House acknowledged, was not responsible. He was the servant of the Admiralty; he was in that House to report what decisions the Admiralty came to. In the old time there were two or three naval officers in the House who were responsible for the advice 1402 given to the First Lord; but now the House did not know who gave that advice. Having no general knowledge, but only that knowledge which a man might pick up from information to be got out of doors, he still hoped he had stated enough to induce the House to see that this country should be put in her proper position. If the House did not do this, they would be the accomplices of the Admiralty in some great naval disaster.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Sir Morton Peto) had reference, in a great measure, to the forts and guns which are being constructed, and though, no doubt, guns form an important element in the consideration of iron-clad ships, yet, as we shall have other and more appropiate opportunities of discussing the question of guns, I do not think it necessary to enter into it at this moment, and therefore I shall proceed to the controversy on the subject of ships. I was extremely anxious on Monday night to answer certain criticisms of the right hon. Member for Droitwich the same evening with regard to the construction of our armour-ships, as my right hon. Friend had most courteously given me notice that he meant to advert to this matter; but I regret that, in consequence of many hon. Members wishing to address the Committee, I was unable to answer him before the House resumed. Now, first let me state that the Government have no desire for concealment; and the only thing that displeased me in my right hon. Friend's speech was his impression that we were afraid to face the truth.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
I shall come to that. Now, the terms used by my right hon. Friend were strong terms, and implied that there was a wish on our part to conceal the truth. It is true that on many occasions I have felt it to be my duty to refuse to produce the Reports made by officers on ships of the Royal Navy; and I warn the House that if it be their pleasure to have all reports of officers, whether naval or military, laid upon the table of the House, this is what will happen—instead of the Government getting what we get now, confidential reports containing the most minute details of the opinions of officers, given frankly and freely for the heads of Departments, we shall 1403 have a system of Reports framed for laying upon the table of the House of Commons, and these will be accompanied by "confidential Reports for the head of the Department alone." ["No.no!"] Why, since I first entered Parliament I have been accustomed to hear complaints made that the papers coming to this House from the Foreign Office do not contain all that is communicated by our diplomatic agents abroad; and I feel confident that the Reports drawn up by our officers for the information of the Admiralty would not be framed in the free and frank manner they now are if those officers thought they would be published, It is this reason, ad this only, that has induced my noble Friend the Duke of Somerset to instruct me on various occasions to refuse to produce these Reports. With regard to the Report of Admiral Dacres, I asked my noble Friend to let me have the heads of that Report—the pith of it—for the information of the Committee. But let me observe that some hon. Gentlemen seem to indulge in a habit of getting information—from I do not know what quarter—-often rather gossiping information, as I think, regarding certain ships and certain events, and then coming down here and challenging me to produce Reports. I may illustrate this by mentioning a circumstance which happened last year. The hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth (Sir James Elphinstone) came down to this House and made an alarming statement about the Research, stating among other things that in firing her guns she became a perfect wreck. The question was asked me whether this was true, and I assured the House that there was no foundation for such a report; that the damage done amounted to the breaking of some crockery, which arose from the vessel not having been prepared for action before the guns were fired. The hon. Baronet then challenged me to lay upon the table the Report of the Commander-in-Chief. I objected to that; and he then made an insinuation that I had given the House untrue information.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
I beg pardon; I never made an insinuation against the noble Lord's statement.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
Well, be that as it may, I understood it so, and under these peculiar circumstances I thought I ought to lay on the table the Commander-in-Chief's Report. But my hon. Friend has never referred to it, and never repeated his statement; because, as I conclude, he saw 1404 by the Report that what I had stated was true. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) referred the other evening to the reports of various officers. Now, officers like to gossip about their ships, and, especially, they do like to cram landsmen. From some of the details stated by my right hon. Friend I rather think that some of his informants must have been midshipmen. My right hon. Friend is very anxious for the production of Admiral Dacres's Report; but if we gave Admiral Dacres's Report why should we not give the Reports of other Admirals; Why should we not give Admiral Smart's Report? He commanded the Channel fleet; he is a distinguished officer, and his Report is as interesting as Admiral Dacres's. Both are distinguished officers. With respect to the Reports of these Admirals I have received the permission of the Duke of Somerset to state the heads of them to the Committee. I will tell you what the opinions of both these officers are, having condensed them for the convenience of the Committee. Admiral Smart was in command of the squadron in which were the Warrior, Black Prince, Defence, and Resistance. As to their sailing qualities the gallant Admiral reports that they stood in the following order:—Resistance, Warrior, Black Prince, Defence. I beg attention to that statement. The fastest sailing ship was the Resistance. It must, however, be mentioned that the Resistance had top-gallant sails, which the Defence had not. The Black Prince had taken in coal, and was not in such good trim as the Warrior. The Warrior had some sails which were not in the Black Prince. The result of the Admiral's Report was—The stability of all the ships is great—their rolling and pitching did not appear to exceed that of the wooden ship Revenge. The Resistance when under canvass has a superiority over the larger frigates.The Report then proceeds to give many detailed suggestions as to the the rig, armament, and ventilation of the ships; that is an honest summary of Admiral Smart's opinion.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
No; this is the Report of the previous year. Admiral Dacres in the year following had under his command the Warrior, Black Prince, Defence, Resistance, Royal Oak, 1405 Prince Consort, Research, and Enterprise, Of the Warrior and Black Prince he says—For long voyages, and where the power to make rapid passages is of importance, these vessels are unrivalled. Even as at present rigged they can keep pace with vessels of the old class. Their great drawback is their extreme length; they are unhandy, and even with experienced officers the risk of taking them into such harbours as Cork and Lisbon is great.Those are both, as the Committee knows, very fine harbours, into which anything like handy vessels could go with ease. The Admiral adds that "they are dangerous in scudding. On one occasion the Warrior came to nearly eight points against the helm."
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
But is my noble Friend able to say with certainty, because that is an important distinction?
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
I feel certain that she had sails set and was under steam likewise on that occasion. "In common weather," the Admiral goes on to say, "they are remarkably steady," but he does not think highly of their qualities in a heavy gale—Their want of buoyancy, even with unprotected ends, is manifest, though in this respect they are superior to vessels completely armour-plated. Their want of armour belt at the water-line lessens their efficiency as large chasing ships, when they would be exposed to dangerous fire from a slower vessel.Hence the Committee sees the difficulty we are under in combining fighting qualities with sea-going qualities; and when criticizing these vessels you must remember that these must be always matters of compromise. To make a vessel sea-going you must lighten her ends; if you lighten her ends you reduce her fighting qualities. To proceed with the Report—In all varieties of general service, "Admiral Dacres says," I prefer the Defence and Resistance to any of the ironclads I have seen.These are the ships the right hon. Baronet informed the House the other night could neither fight nor swim, or words to that effect.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
The Defence is now improved in her sailing qualities, and Admiral Dacres says she has 1406 always been as handy in stays and in wearing as any one could desire.
She is a safe vessel, and can at all times be trusted with her screw up. Under steam she is a good serviceable vessel, and a very healthy ship. She is like all the fast ironclads, vulnerable at the ends, and her stern and rudder are exposed,The Committe will see how gradual the progress has been in these matters. In the first ships of the kind that were built, the rudder was not secured from attack; but the Committee will bear in mind that in these matters foreign nations were going pari passu with ourselves. The right hon. Baronet probably has some respect for the French navy, and yet every ship in the French navy, except three, is plated all round. Why, then, I ask, is the British Government subjected to this extraordinary outburst of disapproval, when another nation with equal or probably greater knowledge of shipbuilding than ourselves has pursued a similar course? We come next to the Hector—a vessel of very peculiar construction. Before we got to armour-plating at the waterline, it was considered advisable to plate all round the battery so as to protect the men. The Hector and Valiant were both built on the same principle, and have, of course, the same defects. Of the Hector the Admiral says—This vessel, from the weight of her armour, is the worst of the large class of iron clads. She pitches deeply, and is quick in rolling. Her sailing qualities are bad.I should state with regard to the sailing qualities of this ship that alterations have since been made by which, doubtless, these have been improved. We now come to the Royal Oak and Prince Consort. These are the ships of which the right hon. Baronet said that if the Report of Admiral Dacres could be produced, it would tell how totally unfit they were for any service, and what a disgrace they were to the country.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
At any rate that was the argument of the right hon. Baronet. Admiral Dacres says of the Royal Oak and Prince Consort—These ships are invaluable for Channel service as block ships. Both are handy, though slow under sail. Their steaming powers even against a moderate sea are considerable.TheRoyal Oak he regards as the superior ship, and of both he says that their rudders are well hidden. By the time these were 1407 built the Committee sees we had made an advance in that respect. "All ironclads," he says, "if completely plated round, will make bad weather of any heavy sea in the Atlantic." That I admit. "The plating necessarily renders them dark and less healthy." Now we come to the Research and the Enterprise. I beg the particular attention of the Committee to this branch of the subject, because upon these ships are founded the sad complaints against the Admiralty for having employed Mr. Reed. Of the Research Admiral Dacres says, "This vessel is very much over-weighted, she makes very bad weather of a moderate fresh breeze." I am telling the Committee frankly the quality of these vessels. I wish to conceal nothing—She is comfortable below in fine weather; has good accommodation for officers and men, for stowage of provisions and stores; her ventilation is excellent.Perhaps I may advert now, since I was challenged to do so by the right hon. Gentleman, to the opinion of the captain of this ship. It was said that if his opinion could be elicited he would declare how utterly unfit this vessel was to go to sea, and that even her crew would hesitate to go to sea in her. The right hon. Gentleman evidently does not know the feelings which animate the navy when he says that men would stop to ask whether a ship was fit to go to sea or not. Sailors will go wherever their officers order them, and there has not ever been a complaint that I am aware of of her not being fit to go to sea. I have here a letter from the captain of that ship. If I break through official rules and commit a certain irregularity in reading this letter it is because I am compelled to do so in defence of the Government and of these officers themselves. Captain Wilmshurst wrote to me this morning, telling me frankly what he thinks of the qualities of the ship. He says—In Sir John Pakington's speech, as reported in The Times of the 7th instant, he desires to know my opinion of the seaworthy qualities of this ship. I give you my opinion in a few words, which you are at liberty to make any use of you may think proper. I don't consider her, in the old acceptation of the term, as wholesome seagoing ship as compared with wooden ships'—nobody ever did consider one of those armour ships to be wholesome as compared with a wooden ship;' but, at the same time, I don't consider that she would be in danger of going down in a gale, provided proper precautions were taken to batten her down securely, the means of doing which I think may be improved.And with that opinion I entirely agree; 1408 but I beg the Committee to bear in mind that in dealing with ships of this tonnage our object was to discover the smallest class of ships that could be armour-plated with safety. Of the Enterprise, Admiral Dacres reports—This is the best iron-clad yet built, and vessels of 4,000 tons built on this plan with some improvements, and with the same careful attention to interior arrangements, would be safer and better for every purpose than any iron-clad we have afloat.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
The hon. Gentleman knows that with an ironclad vessel of 900 tons you cannot get high speed. Nobody knows better than he does that it is quite impossible to combine all these matters in a small ship. You cannot have light draught of water, small tonnage, and great speed combined with efficient protection from armour. These are all matters of compromise; and if you have only vessels of 6,000 tons, and have to attack batteries in narrow waters, I ask you what will be accomplished by vessels like the Warrior, the Agincourt, and Minotaur? You require vessels for various services, and accordingly you must have different models. Admiral Dacres proceeds—The Enterprise has only a belt round her water-line and a covering for her battery. She steams and sails fairly, and is exceedingly buoyant. She is well ventilated and berths officers and men well. Her construction is excellent; her rudder, hidden and safe, acts upon the ship remarkably well. A lining of wood inside the iron skin is required to obviate inconvenience arising from sudden change of temperature.That ship has gone to the Mediterranean, and it does so happen that on her passage out she fell in with very bad weather, and her captain reported that no ship could have behaved more beautifully than that vessel had done. The Admiralty had ordered Mr. Reed to build these two vessels, the Research and the Enterprise, one of which was to offer the greatest possible amount of battery and armour-plating protection, and the other to be built as much as possible for sea-going purposes with limited armour protection. The Research was accordingly armour-plated with a belt round the vessel extending above and below the waterline, and plated up to the upper deck. It was consequently necessary to bring the upper deck nearer to the water, but we got a vessel thoroughly protected by armour-plating, assuming that the plates are thick enough. The Research was constructed on a perfect principle of defence, 1409 but we had to sacrifice seagoing qualities. The Enterprise could not be plated up to her upper deck, because that would have weighted her too much for sea; she was therefore plated a little above her water-line, and then we carried an iron skin to her upper deck. She was a better sea boat and a better sailer, but not so good a fighter as the Research. Both these vessels have fulfilled our expectations—the one as a sea boat, the other as a fighting vessel for coast defence. I do not wish to tell the House that the Research is a good sea boat, but she is invaluable for Channel defence, and her captain spurns the idea of being afraid to go to sea in her. Sir, these are statements that hurt the feelings of the officers and men of our navy. Another assertion has been that we are afraid to send our iron fleet to sea—that we had ordered them not to go to sea in bad weather, but to sneak into port and save themselves. My answer to that assertion is that we always give orders to our commanders-in-chief not to expose the fleet unnecessarily to bad weather. I could show such orders issued long before armour-plated ships were afloat. Here are the orders given to Rear Admiral Smart, dated the 24th of June, 1861, when in command of the Channel squadron, before armour ships had yet been to sea. He was to proceed to the northward with the following ships:—Revenge, Edgar, Trafalgar, Hero, Conqueror, Aboukir, Centurion, and the Porpoise tender. He was to visit such of the ports on the coast of Scotland and in the Orkney Isles as he might select, and he was told—In the case of meeting with bad weather, you are to avoid all unnecessary wear and tear by taking shelter from it when practicable.On the 17th of October, 1862, Admiral Smart was ordered to proceed to cruise with the following ships:—Defence, Resistance, Revenge, Black Prince, and Warrior, making Lisbon his head-quarters, and anchoring in the Tagus when expedient. He was told—Every opportunity is to be taken for trying the qualities of the ships and for exercising their crews, but we do not wish the ships to be exposed to the risk of damage from bad weather, and you are, therefore, to consult your own discretion in taking the squadron to sea or remaining at anchor in the Tagus.Such was the nature of the instructions given by the Admiralty; and what, then, are the House to think of such assertions 1410 as were made by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
I must really correct the noble Lord. I made no assertions on the subject. I mentioned certain things as rumours, and asked if they were true. I did not say they were true, as I had no personal knowledge of them; but I thought it fair to give the noble Lord an opportunity of explaining them.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
said, I cannot acquit my hon. Friends opposite for quoting rumours—it is a sort of skirmishing in which they might naturally indulge; but when a Gentleman who had held the high office of First Lord of the Admiralty tells the Committee that he has heard rumours that our fleet is unfit to go to sea, that it could neither fight nor encounter a gale, it is a much more serious matter. But to proceed. Admiral Dacres was ordered on the 20th of August, 1864, to proceed with the following ships:—Edgar, Warrior, Black Prince, Prince Consort, Hector, Defence, Aurora, and Enterprise, to cruise to the westward, anchoring from time to time in such ports as he might find convenient. He was told—Steam evolutions are to be performed at convenient opportunities, and my Lords desire you will test the qualities of the ships under sail and steam, avoiding their exposure unnecessarily to damage from bad weather.These are, as I before observed, the orders that are always given, and no one who knows the cost and damage incurred by the injuries a fleet sustains in bad weather will doubt that it was wise to order them not unnecessarily to go into bad weather. I have now faithfully given to the House all that we know of those ships, whether good or bad. I cannot acquit the right hon. Gentleman of blame, because his voice has naturally great weight, and when such statements as he has made go to the country they produce a great effect. But the real fact is that the persons, whoever they might be, who gave him this information, had told him nothing but what was positive gossip—gossip, and nothing but gossip. They have given him even the wrong names of ships. The right hon. Baronet made an angry denunciation against the Admiralty for not having built the Royal Alfred according to the wishes and designs of Captain Coles when he proposed to build a cupola ship. If the right hon. Gentleman had come to me at the Admiralty I 1411 would have given him every information. The ship he meant was the Prince Albert, and not the Royal Alfred.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he had referred to the Royal Alfred as a most extraordinary instance of the Admiralty way of dealing with a ship; but the ship to which he referred in connection with Captain Coles's designs was the Prince Albert. The report in The Times was a mistake. He said the Prince Albert, and not the Royal Alfred.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
It is not a mistake. I took down his words and tried to correct him at the time. The fact is, his gossips gave him the name of the wrong ship. The Royal Alfred is one of five line-of-battle ships that were begun in 1861, very much in consequence of the eloquent denunciations of the right hon. Baronet. He told the House that Admiral Elliott had been to France, and had seen armour-plated ship3 rising there like magic; that we had nothing to bring against them, and he implored the Government (and was joined in his appeal by many hon. Gentlemen) to build more armour-plated ships. Hence resulted the building of these armour-plated wooden line-of-battle ships which the right hon. Gentleman now so unsparingly condemns. We were positively driven by the House of Commons, and, I will admit, by public opinion, not to confine ourselves to iron armour ships, but to convert what wooden ships we had in the dockyards into armour-plated vessels, in order, as it was said, to put ourselves into a proper state of defence. The Royal Alfred is the last of the wooden ships then begun. Since that time we have gained great experience. I have adverted to what Admiral Dacres and others say, that you are coming every day to reduce the area of armour-plating, so as to have a belt of armour-plating at the water-line, and to clothe the battery also with armour-plates. The Royal Alfred was in so backward a state that we were enabled to make certain modifications in her construction, limiting the armour-plating to the battery and to the water-line instead of going full round. Was it not a wise measure to make these modifications? I am sorry my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Sir Morton Peto) did not go to the Controller's Office and make inquiries there. I have never refused information to hon. Gentlemen. If they will come to me at the Admiralty they may look at the draughts and the cost of any ship, and if my hon. Friend 1412 had come to me I would have shown him the arrangements we are making to open other ports, to place iron girders along the sides, and to strengthen the vessel in various directions. I can assure him that he need be under no alarm that the ship will not be sufficiently strong.
I come now to the question of Captain Coles's cupola ships, and I must say that the criticisms which have been so freely enunciated concerning them have been very ungenerous and very unjust. As long ago as the autumn of 1861 Captain Coles was desirous, after certain experiments with the Trusty, to prepare drawings for a cupola ship for coast defence. In those days Captain Coles's plan was not for a turret but a cupola ship, which is very different. One of the principal advantages of his plan was supposed to be the form of the cupola. He said—If you let me make a cupola of such a peculiar shape that it will have a very small top and a very large base, the shots will glance off.Well, that was the original plan; but he soon saw that it was not sound in principle, because it would not give room enough for the guns. Captain Coles brought out a design for a turret ship. Now my hon. and gallant Friend and other hon. Gentlemen say, "Why did you not give him authority to construct a sea-going ship on the turret principle?" Now I, as an officer of the Government, am bound to tell you that Captain Coles, though a clever and enterprising man, is not a shipbuilder, and when he produced his original design in January, 1862, it was found that he had not made provision for sufficient flotation, and therefore the plan could not be approved. But finally, in January, 1862, a design was got out between Captain Coles and the Controller of the Navy, and Captain Coles expressed his consent and satisfaction at what had been done. Now, you see that up to January, 1862, Captain Coles and the Admiralty were working on a perfectly good understanding with regard to the turret, and hence has arisen the Prince Albert, the ship which my right hon. Friend has spoken of as the Royal Alfred. Now, Captain Coles himself will tell you that I am one of the most devoted adherents of turret ships for coast defence; but I never saw my way to a sea-going turret ship until he brought out his invention of tripod masts, and for this reason—that whatever number of turrets may be in a ship, you must have a clear space all round in order to give your guns proper training. You 1413 must give them a clear range all round. Hon. Gentlemen who know a good deal about square-rigged ships, and the great quantity of rigging which they take, will readily understand that this is one of the difficulties in the way of making sea-going ships on the turret principle. But Captain Coles devised a ship on the tripod principle, by which the difficulty of the rigging interfering is obviated, and I am hopeful about it, but many naval men even now are very sceptical. They say, "If one of the legs of your tripod is shot away, the whole concern will come down." Well, the difficulties in the way of making a seagoing turret ship did not deter us. What we did was this. We said, "First let us see the system tried in the Channel, and whether we can get a good vessel of the kind for coast defence, and then we shall go further. "Now what would have been said if we had originally ordered a great cupola ship, and when we had sent her to sea she was found to be totally inefficient on account of want of range for her guns, and without room to work them inside the cupola? It is not Captain Coles but the Admiralty that would have been blamed, because it is the Admiralty, and not Captain Coles, that are responsible, And now I come to the Royal Sovereign and her history. The Prince Albert was commenced before we ever heard of American Monitors, and, therefore, before the action between the Merrimac and the Monitor. But when the House heard of that action they rose up almost as one man to urge us to have more turret ships. Well, what happened? The Admiralty consulted as to the best way of producing a turret ship in the greatest possible haste, and as we had a very fine vessel, the Royal Sovereign, that appeared adapted for the purpose, we decided upon making her a turret ship. Now, the delays which have taken place are not owing to any desire on the part of the Admiralty to condemn the system, or to defer its adoption. I can honestly assure the Committee that there is no foundation for those reports which have been set afloat that the Admiralty desire to keep back the adoption of the turret system. On the contrary, we have the most earnest desire to forward it. But let hon. Gentlemen consider the difficulties which are in the way, the delicate nature of the machinery, the enormous armour-plating that is required, and the time that is necessary to prepare all these things. Every piece of iron in the turret has to be bent in every 1414 direction before it is suited for its purpose, and above all the constant alterations that have been made by Captain Coles during the progress of the construction are the causes of delay. The Controller of the Navy has masses of letters on the subject from Captain Coles, all suggesting alterations and modifications which have been carried out wherever practicable. We desired to construct the Royal Sovereign as carefully as possible, and I am thankful to say that the ship has been a great success. I can assure the Committee that the Admiralty are delighted at its success, and if we can see our way we are desirous of getting a sea-going turret ship. And now about paying off the Royal Sovereign. She went out last year under a very distinguished man, Captain Sherard Osborn. There were necessarily some defects in her, but I do not blame Captain Coles or anybody else for that. The ship was a novelty, there was great difficulty in keeping out the water round the turrets, she required alterations, and since she has been in port we have been carrying out various improvements in her. But, as far as the trial of the turrets goes, it has been a great success. And now it has been asked, why did we pay her off? We did not pay her off. She was never paid off. She is attached to the Excellent, which is our school of gunnery. It is upon the Excellent that we depend to supply our turret ships with gunners. My hon. and gallant Friend (Sir John Hay) smiles, but will he be good enough honestly to tell me in what consists our blame?
§ SIR JOHN HAY
In taking efficient men out of the Royal Sovereign and putting them into the Victoria, an inefficient ship.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
They were not taken out to be put into the Victoria. Some of the men volunteered to go. I have not the figures at hand, but I do not think there were forty men in all who did so. [An hon. MEMBER: There were sixty-five.] Well, it is possible that there were. We had 600 or 700 men at our command, and did not depend for the manning of the Victoria upon the crew of the Royal Sovereign, and the Royal Sovereign will soon be sent again into the Channel to go on with her trial. I fear I have wearied the Committee, but there are many more ships to which the right hon. Gentleman has alluded—for instance, the Minotaur and the Northumberland. I admit we are 1415 making alterations in the Northumberland, and will continue to do so. It is our bounden duty to make them, and, so far from its being a cause of blame, I think it would be highly culpable in the Admiralty if they did not make such improvements as the experience of the past suggested during the progress of the construction, always provided, as in the case of the Northumberland, that they are not attended with undue expense.
I will now advert to one or two remarks which have been made with regard to the appointment of Mr. Reed, Those remarks of the right hon. Gentleman gave me more pain than anything else that he said. If the right hon. Gentleman were unacquainted with the merits of Mr. Reed I should not have been surprised, but no one knows that gentleman's merits better than the right hon. Baronet. But I will ask the Committee to look at the facts. We were told that we should never build ships of any use for modern warfare as long as we were tied to the old Admiralty officials. It was said that they were men who could do nothing new—men who could build wooden ships, but could not enter with zeal into the new system. [Sir JOHN PAKING-TON: They built the Warrior.] Yes; but who built the Resistance and the Defence, ships which the right hon. Baronet condemned on rumour as unfit either to fight or to swim? Mr. Watts built them. I do not blame Mr. Watts. He was a man of great ability, and I greatly regret that his age has obliged him to secure the quiet of a retired life; but, remember in criticizing these ships you are criticizing Mr. Watts and the gentlemen who were then our naval constructors. As to the attacks on Mr. Reed, I trust that he is above being made unhappy by them. I have only to say that since he has been at the Admiralty Mr. Reed has shown great and marked ability; not confining his attention to proposals of his own, but showing himself as anxious to proceed with the turret ships which the Government proposes as any one can possibly be. I think it is not fair thus to criticize the conduct of a public servant who is doing his duty honestly and faithfully, and I think, moreover, that the right hon. Gentleman whenever he comes back to the Admiralty will have cause to remember what he has said—namely, that we are bound to take back all these gentlemen, although we know that they are no longer sufficiently active for the present business 1416 of the navy. [Sir JOHN HAY: They will not come back.] At all events, the fair inference from the argument of the right hon. Gentleman is that he would bring them all back. With regard to patents, the question is a very difficult one, and certainly nothing can be more unwise than to treat inventors ungenerously or without due consideration. In regard to the case lately tried, I can assure the hon. Baronet that the Admiralty are extremely anxious to make some arrangement with Mr. Feather, and I trust that some arrangement will ultimately be come to. My hon. and gallant Friend alluded to the time of captains, and instanced the cases of Captain Craufurd, Captain Schomberg, and another. It is true that by the new regulations no officer can become qualified for the active flag-list until he has served three years in a sea-going ship; but as I understand the order, those three years may be served either at the beginning or the end. Perhaps I may be mistaken, but if my hon. and gallant Friend will meet me at the Admiralty I will go into the case with him and see how it stands, in order that those officers may have full justice done to them. Meanwhile I may say that I have heard of no representations on the subject. Another point alluded to has been the claims of the widows of warrant officers. Our feelings must always incline us to favour such claims as far as we can properly do so; but I do not see how we can make a retrospective law in their favour, giving them pensions for all the back years, dating from the time—I think it was in 1833—when the pensions were taken away. All the widows who have become so since the late regulation now receive pensions.
SIR FREDERIC SMITH
said, it was impossible for any person who had either listened to or read the speech of the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty the other evening, not to have felt the greatest satisfaction at his statement. It was lucid and explanatory; but he confessed the observations of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) had somewhat dispelled the bright illusion. From that time to the present evening he (Sir Frederic Smith) had been in a state of great uneasiness, fearing that as regards the navy we were not in that state of safety and security that was desirable; but his noble Friend had now removed to a great extent his fears, and he hoped that all which the noble Lord had said as regarded 1417 the future would be entirely realized. He feared, however, that his noble Friend and the Admiralty were not soundly advised, and he should like to know on whose opinion they were acting as to the armament of our ships. He moved last year for a Commission to inquire into the present system of naval construction, and to consider what course should be adopted if there were found to be any cause for a change; but it was objected to by the Government, and they were still in ignorance of the course which the Board of Admiralty was pursuing. Was their course of action determined by the Controller, who was not a shipbuilder, or by the Chief Constructor, of whom he was glad to hear the noble Lord speak so highly? Because he (Sir Frederic Smith), when the appointment of Mr. Reed was before the House, had stated that he had not had sufficient experience to justify the selection. There was another point to which he would allude. The Admiralty were about to build two ships of a novel construction. One of them was to succeed the ship now building at Chatham, which was plated with six inches of iron, and, as he understood, she was to be succeeded by a ship plated with ten inches of iron. It was said that the great weight of iron prevented a ship being plated at the bows and at the stern, and yet they were told that a ship was to be plated with 10 inches of iron on 10 inches of wood, with an inch and a half of iron inside, and 22 inches of wood inside that skin, making in the whole 11½ inches of iron, and 32 inches of wood; whereas the Warrior and the Black Prince were only 4½ inches of iron and 18 inches of wood, and the cost and weight would be nearly double, [Lord CLARENCE PAGET: It is the same weight as the Bellerophon.] He was not comparing this ship with the ship building at Chatham, and it was quite clear that the cost and weight would be much greater. Had any experiment been made to test the power of resistance as compared with that of the Warrior target? If such a test had been made, he would be satisfied; it would be satisfactory to the Committee to hear the result. If there had been no such test, he thought they might be incurring great expense on experiments which might prove a failure. The noble Lord had not stated how far below or above the water line the 6 inches of iron were to be placed, so that practical men might be able to form some idea of the weight. Then, a new kind of 1418 vessel was to be propelled, said the noble Lord, by a water-wheel within the ship. He knew the noble Lord's ability and knowledge of his profession; but he (Sir Frederic Smith) should be glad to know who upon God's earth had advised him in this matter? The principle was to be water acting upon water; and he supposed an orifice behind and in the two sides, so that the ship could turn in the water like a teetotum. The ship was to be called the Waterwitch; it would be better to call her the Teetotum. Had any experiments been made to test this new scheme? He knew a little as to the effect of water acting upon water, and he wanted to know what experiments had been made to test this new scheme. When the Duke of Wellington was Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, he took a great interest in Dover Harbour, in front of which there was always a bar. The attention of the Lord Warden was directed as to the best mode of getting rid of that bar; he was advised by a celebrated engineer to try this principle of water against water; but after spending about one million of money, the experiment turned out a complete failure. If, however, by the use of water with a water-wheel a moderate speed could be obtained, there was no doubt that to be able to dispense with fuel and engine works would so far be a great advantage, and if the noble Lord would show that his principle was likely to act successfully, he for one should be glad to see it carried into effect. The whole question of shipbuilding, no doubt, as the noble Lord observed, was more or less a matter of compromise; but he (Sir Frederic Smith) should be glad to know whether the Admiralty were going in one direction or another. What was the chief object to be sought, speed or security? In actions on shore they did not protect the guns nor the gunners; but in great actions at sea they must look to the safety of the ship first, and the gun and gunners afterwards. If the cupola principle could be got to work satisfactorily there could be no doubt that that principle was the best for fighting the guns. But the noble Lord said there was great difficulty in carrying it out because of the rigging being in the way; but the guns might, he (Sir Frederic Smith) thought, be placed in such a position that the difficulties in this respect might be overcome. He was, he alight add, very unwilling to say anything on the present occasion on another question—the appointment of Chief Constructor 1419 of the Navy; but he might be allowed to state that he was very sorry if he had given the gentleman who held that office pain by the observations which he made some months ago. In making those observations he was simply discharging what he believed to be his duty. He had pointed out that the gentleman in question had not had sufficient experience in shipbuilding, although, being possessed of great natural quickness, he might since have picked up considerable knowledge. That, however, was no justification of such appointments, and nothing would, he understood, induce Mr. Lang—who, he believed, was now the adviser of the Messrs. Samuda—to return to the Government service. But while complaining of the appointment, he hoped the efforts of Mr. Reed would be attended with success. He should like to know whether the Chief Constructor of the Navy was the principal adviser of the Admiralty as to shipbuilding, and whether larger or smaller ships were to be constructed, what was to be their cost, their powers of resistance, and the nature of their guns? The noble Lord had also adverted to the subject of the Marines, and he might take that opportunity of saying that he had never in the whole course of his service seen a body of soldiers more ready to perform the duties required of them. They were hardly excelled as gunners by the Artillery, and there were no better marksmen with the rifle; he therefore hoped the Government would weigh the matter well before they reduced such a valuable force. As to the other topics which had been adverted to in the course of the discussion he had but very few remarks to make. He was glad to learn that it was not proposed to give up Pembroke Dockyard. There would be very little difficulty in making it secure; it was in a position which gave easy access to the ocean, and it had besides the great advantage of being a good harbour of refuge. With regard to the construction of works, he would recommend expedition in the construction of those works which the Government had determined upon, for he quite concurred in the opinion that there was a great waste of public money in spreading its expenditure over an extended period of time. The cost of superintendence and the difficulty of getting contractors in a large way of business to undertake works was thereby increased, and he felt quite sure that if the works about to be carried out at Chatham were constructor 1420 ed under contract instead of by convict labour, they would be in a greater state of advancement. He was, therefore, glad to find that that course was to be taken in connection with those works, one which he had recommended some years back. He might add that Chatham was in a position which would enable it to be defended with the greatest possible ease; and after the rumours we had heard of late we should lose no time in making Chatham and other places secure. If, unfortunately, the war with America with which we were threatened should break out, it would be found that no American vessel would attempt to attack Chatham, which was much less exposed than either Portsmouth or Devon-port. As he had alluded to the apprehension of a war with America, he might remind the noble Lord of the danger which we should run in that event of losing possession of the Canadian Lakes and the command of the St. Lawrence; for the position of Canada would then be perilous in the extreme. He thought, therefore, that the Government should lose no time in constructing gunboats and batteries for the protection of the Lakes. As to increasing the pay of the artisans in our dockyards, he should like to put it to the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers), who had said that to make the increase of 6d. a day would necessitate an expenditure of £150,000 a year more, whether he did not think that by procuring the services of men who were satisfied with their wages that amount would not be recouped. It had been stated that one of the reasons why the old master shipwrights had been got rid of was because they knew nothing about iron shipbuilding; but he should like to know whether those who were put in their place possessed that knowledge.
§ COLONEL SYKES
said, that some alarming statements had been made in the course of this debate. He regretted to have heard it said that after spending £58,000,000, in case of an emergency the British navy would not be competent to meet an adversary on the sea; because such statements would have a prejudicial effect throughout the country and also abroad. It had been said that ships which were armed from stem to stern would not be seaworthy. This was very lamentable, if true; and he was more disposed to agree in the statement, because a distinguished engineer had said to him that the heavy-armoured ships would be likely to be proved divers, but that unfortunately 1421 they would never come up again. But there was at least this consolation, that if our iron-plated ships were a failure, those of foreign nations would be equally failures, and we should not be worse off than our neighbours. Out of doors there were continual cries for reduction of expense in reference to the army and the navy, and yet in the House many Members who spoke made some proposition which, if adopted, would increase expense. We ought to have a fleet competent to meet the naval force of the maritime nations of Europe; with America we need not trouble ourselves, as they were so far off, and had too much to do at home at present. Now, dismissing the ironclads on one side and the other, how stood the comparison between us and our nearest neighbours in respect to the number of ships, seamen, and marines? If there were 100 on one side, with 50,000 seamen, and only 50 ships on the other, with 20,000 seamen, the nation with the largest force would surely be able to meet its opponents. From an Admiralty Return on the table of the House it appeared that, besides 27 armour-plated vessels afloat, and 8 building, this country had 330 screw ships and 88 paddle ships afloat, making a total of 445 ships afloat, independent of 69 effective sailing vessels. According to the French Budget for 1865, which he held in his hand, the French had afloat 81 screws and 57 paddles, and 50 sailing vessels, making a total of 188. Surely as far as the number of vessels was concerned, England had no occasion for alarm. The French had also six iron vessels which were afloat for the purpose of experiment, and they had twenty ships in reserve. We were also building other armoured ships, and we had sixty-nine sailing ships against the French twenty. He mentioned these facts because he did not wish it to go forth that this country was incapable of meeting her enemies. She never had been, and never would be so. He would now refer to the manning of the ships. By the Navy Estimates at present before the House it was proposed to maintain 52,000 seamen and boys, and 17,000 marines—69,000 in all. There were 750 civilians attached to the force, increasing it to 69,750. What were the numbers in the French navy? There were 1,592 officers and 28,889 seamen. With these figures surely there was no ground for fear that we should be able to meet our enemies upon the 1422 ocean, as had been stated in the debate. We had also 16,000 seamen who had received a retainer of £6 each, and this reserve force had cost altogether upwards of £142,000. He should like to know, however, how many of these men the Admiralty could put their hands upon when they were wanted; for there was no doubt that some of them were now in India, China, Japan, and elsewhere. The time was probably coming when there would be nothing but iron ships without armour, and then there would be no difficulty in reference to the question of floating. In regard to the question of finance, he could not congratulate the Admiralty upon their success in bringing about retrenchment. There had been a great flourish of trumpets throughout the country in reference to retrenchment; but while our Estimates for the Navy last year were £10,708,621, the Estimates this year are £10,392,324; and this showed but a small saving. The French Estimates were, of course, very much smaller than ours, because their navy was less; but he wished to mention that the French Budget was singularly perfect in giving the most minute and elaborate details, and he was glad to see in the English Estimates the effects of the handiwork of the present Civil Lord and the late Civil Lord of the Admiralty exhibited in the Appendices. But there was room for still further improvement. There was an enormous discrepancy between ourselves and the French in reference to the cost of establishments, and this arose from the fact that the French officers worked harder, and with fewer officers, and got less pay than ours. The cost of the French navy for the present year was £6,129,649, but this included £998,228 for colonial expenditure; so that the real cost of their navy was reduced to little more than £5,000,000, or about one half the cost of ours. But we in addition spent something like £4,000,000 on our colonics. He had made these observations in order to allay alarm at home, and to dispel any feeling of exultation which might exist abroad at the idea that all our attempts to improve our navy had failed and that we had no adequate force with which to defend ourselves at sea. He now desired to warn the House against the mischief which had arisen, and was continually arising, from the manner in which schemes for public works were presented to that House, and 1423 the facility with which they were adopted. In the first year a small sum was asked for, and in the next one a little larger, and these sums went on accumulating, until when, in three or four years, Members of that House began to be alarmed for the future, they were told that they had already spent so much money that it would be folly not to continue the expenditure, and that they were embarked in responsibilities of which, at the time of undertaking them, they had no idea. At Chatham, £1,250,000 was to be spent, of which £70,000 was required this year, and a balance of £1,026,120 would remain to be voted. At Portsmouth, £1,500,000 was to be spent; £7,500 was voted last year, and £20,000 was asked for this year, leaving £1,477,500 to be voted. At Keyham, the sum to be spent was £1,425,000, and after the £21,000 to be taken this year there would remain £58,500 to he voted. The Committee would remember how money had been thrown away at Dover and at Alderney. If the House had voted enough money to buy gunpowder to blow that island out of the water it would have saved the country a couple of millions. Without going into other cases he might state generally that the expenditure to which the Admiralty was committed to be voted in future years would, after the grants of this year, amount to no less than £4,001,120. In conclusion he said that he thought that it was unfair to the Admiralty to give currency to one-sided statements as to the inefficiency of our fleet, or to engage in verbal disputes which were unworthy of that House.
§ MR. LAIRD
said, he would confine himself to two or three points which he considered of much importance. First, he was glad to hear from the speech of the noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty, that those most important and desirable works—namely, the extension of docks and basins—were to be completed at the earliest possible time. When he first became a Member of the House it was considered that the extension of these works would cause a great expense without a corresponding benefit; but he was glad to hear that the noble Lord had never changed his opinion upon the matter. Before he became a Member of the House he was asked to give evidence before the Committee upon the extension of Chatham Dockyard, but he was unable to do so. The Report, however, was sent to him, and 1424 statements in it showed the importance of immediately carrying out the works necessary to remedy the defects of our dockyards. The Report, which was drawn up by a late Civil Lord of the Admiralty in 1861, stated that we had only forty-one acres of basins for the reception of ships while being repaired or refitted; and he believed that at the present time we had only a few acres more. The want of adequate basin accommodation was most prejudicial to the interests of the country, and added greatly to the cost of repairing ships and putting their stores on board. He believed that the cost of the Achilles was increased by £25,000 or £30,000 in consequence of her having to lie in the stream three miles away from the dockyard to be finished. Having been a dockowner and a shipowner himself, he might perhaps be accused of looking at the question in a commercial way; but he knew the value of docks to the merchant marine, and what was suitable for general trade could not be unsuitable for the navy. In time of peace the want of accommodation caused serious delay and expense; but Admiral Robinson himself had stated that if we had not proper accommodation for repairing our ships we should in time of war be compelled to double our fleet. Even in a sheltered river like the Thames, it was found necessary for commercial purposes to construct such docks as the London, the St. Katharine, the Commercial, the Victoria, and others on the south side, because commercial men found them necessary to cheapen the working of trade, and those who did not use them could not compete with those who did. In the Mersey there were 400 acres of dock space, on the construction of which £12,000,000 had been expended, and he believed that if a change took place in the American trade more would be required. Graving docks of the largest size had been provided, but there was a constant cry that more were wanted. A merchant who attempted to transact his business in the stream of the Mersey could not compete with one who took his ships into dock and did his business there. The docks on the Mersey yielded a return of more than 4½ per cent upon the outlay; and he believed that the extensions now contemplated would yield the country a return of 20 to 30 per cent in a few years. As to the sale of useless dockyards, the Committee of that House unanimously recommended the sale of the yards at Deptford and Woolwich, and se- 1425 veral hon. Members voted for the sale of Pembroke also. He himself voted for the sale of these dockyards, because it would save the country £40,000 a year in mere expenses, and because he believed it would be to the interest of the country to concentrate the building as well as the repairing of ships at Chatham, Portsmouth, and Devonport. If that was done, when vessels came in to be repaired, men might be taken off new work to do what was required, and the ships might be refitted and immediately sent to sea again; while at Pembroke it might be necessary to be always building ships to keep the men together. The noble Lord (Lord Clarence Paget) seemed to be against the sale of Pembroke; but he hoped the Government would consider well before they went to any great expense in respect of that yard. Of the £1,500,000 which was to be laid out at Portsmouth, only £20,000 was asked for this year, and the noble Lord said that that was as much as they could spend in a twelvemonth. He thought that the noble Lord must have been badly advised upon that point, because he knew works on the Mersey on which £600,000 or £700.000 had been judiciously expended annually. In his opinion it was the interest of the country to complete these works as rapidly as possible; and it was more advisable to raise money for the purpose of completing these public docks, which were essential to the well-being of the service, than for the purpose of erecting fortifications to protect dockyards which were utterly inadequate for the requirements of the service. He hoped they should hear that Government had taken some measures for the completion of the dockyards at Chatham, Portsmouth, and Devonport within the next three or four years. Then there was the question as to dockyards on foreign stations. He regretted that nothing had been said relative to Bermuda, as ships were constantly coming home from the American coast for repairs, which if there were proper accommodation might easily be repaired at that station. This was a point that in case of war would be of the utmost importance, as half the fleet might be disabled and have to be sent home in that condition to be repaired, and thus a great deal of time would be wasted and a great risk incurred. He had no hesitation in saying that if proper accommodation for repairing our fleet were provided at that station, its efficiency and, therefore, the 1426 power of this country, would be greatly increased. Another point he would refer to was the much debated question as to what description of vessels were required for our fleet, and what kind of guns ought to be placed on board them. In his opinion, it was essential that the vessels should be of great speed and that the guns should be of large size; and the only question then was how were those large guns to be carried? It had been clearly proved by the case of the Alabama that if a shot or a shell from those large guns struck a wooden vessel the result would be fatal. That ship was struck by an 11-inch shell, which made a hole in her side four or five feet in diameter, tore up her deck, and so injured her that she went down in a few minutes, as any other wooden vessel would have done under the circumstances. He held in his hand a letter from a naval officer on the subject of the comparison between the English and the American fleets, and it should not be forgotten that during the last American war this country found the American vessels both larger and better armed than our own, and we were placed in consequence in a very bad position compared with our opponents. In that letter it was asked—What ship have we to blockade New York?—The Defence and the Resistance are, I believe, the only two that would keep the sea then. The Warrior and Black Prince might; the rest could not.What cruising ships have we to protect our trade?—The Orlando, Mersey, Galatea, Ariadne, Doris, and Diadem—that is the lot.What could one of our common 50-gun frigates, with their present thirty-five guns, do against the Minnesota American class?—The last official reports of the Yankee Minnesota class give them, 309-inch guns on main deck; 168-inch, 1150-pounder rifle, and 111-inch pivot, on upper deck—total, 48 guns. Brooklyn class.—229-inch and 2 pivots, as above—gun frigates. Entaw class.—2 pivots as above, 49-inch guns—total, 24 guns. She would be more than a match for our 35-ineh 2 24-pounder rifled. According to officers recently come from America, these ships go good twelve knots at sea.Would our improved Alabamas escape from them; and what chance would they have alongside of them?—Four guns against eight guns.What description of vessel was required to carry these large guns? It was stated that many of the ships now building were to be armed with 300-pounder guns, and that they would be furnished with machinery for training them. But no gun larger than a 6½-inch gun had yet been worked broadside. Was it not almost a waste of money to build ships for broadside guns of this calibre until it was settled whether or not they could be worked in 1427 such a position? What he suggested was, that one or two of these enormous guns should be put on board wooden vessels as broadside guns, and that the ships should then be sent into the Atlantic for two or three months in order to see whether or not the guns were manageable under such circumstances. A somewhat similar experiment was tried in the American navy a few years ago, when it was found that they dare not cast the guns loose in a seaway. But assuming that these large broadside guns could be carried and worked safely, why not arm the Warrior, the Agincourt, and the Minotaur, with them at once, as a few 300-pounder or 600-pounder guns would be far more effective than a number of smaller ones? But all the fresh evidence they obtained on the subject tended to confirm his impression that the only safe mode of carrying heavy guns, with advantage, was in a cupola ship. By means of the turntable, which was one of the principles of Captain Coles's system, the heaviest gun could be trained with the greatest ease—that was the principle on which locomotives were so easily turned on railways. There never was a greater error than was to be found in the impression which had got abroad that good sea-going cupola ships could not be constructed. The hull of a cupola vessel was exactly the same as that of any other vessel, the only difference being in a superior mode of carrying the armament. Mr. Reed attempted to effect the same thing by a box in the centre of the vessel, so that the weight was removed from the ends of the vessel, the result being that she sailed much better. But by Captain Coles's plan that advantage was also obtained. So that the notion that good sea-going cupola ships could not be constructed was simply absurd. He did not make these statements off-hand; for it happened that the firm with which he had been connected constantly received applications for the construction of such ships. It had been stated that what was required was a vessel capable of earring four 300-pounder or 600-pounder guns, and of steaming fourteen knots an hour. Now, he had stated last year that vessels of 1,200 or 1,300 tons could be built capable of going twelve knots an hour, and of carrying two 300-pounder guns. Such vessels would cost comparatively a small sum. He should like to know what vessels in our navy, of moderate size, could compete with ships of such a class? He was delight- 1428 ed to hear his noble Friend say that they were going to try double screws as applied to large vessels, because he thought a cupola vessel carrying large guns, turning by means of double screws on her centre, as on a pivot, would be the best man-of-war that could possibly be obtained, as she could take up and remain in any position her commander chose, He did not intend to go into details relating to our present cupola ships—namely, the Royal Sovereign, the Prince Albert, the Scorpion, and the Wyvern; but in his opinion both the Royal Sovereign and the Prince Albert drew too much water for coast and harbour defence, for which purpose the two latter vessels, as drawing only sixteen feet of water, were much better adapted, although even they were only designed as occasional sea-going cruisers. We must have, in addition, a class of vessels drawing about fifteen or sixteen feet of water for service, in the event of a war with a foreign country, the coasts and harbours of which were too shallow to be approached by the Warrior. Such ships were required far more than the larger class of vessels; and to render them good sea-going boats they must be lightly plated at both ends and the weight kept in the middle. The old question as to the relative advantages of wood and iron for constructing vessels had been revived. He need hardly say that he had always consistently advocated the construction of vessels of iron in the place of wood. He was sure that the wooden armour-plated ships would soon go to pieces, and that all vessels so constructed would get into constant trouble. He believed the real reason of the enormous amount expended in the repairs of vessels was to be found in their being constructed of wood in place of iron. In reply to the inquiries made by the hon. Member for Finsbury (Sir Morton Peto) as to the durability of iron ships, he would not undertake to say how long an iron ship would last; but he might say that an iron vessel, the firm with which he was formerly connected had built thirty years ago, was examined a short time since, when it was found that an expenditure of a few pounds would fit her for active service, and that she would last for many years to come—all she wanted was new engines. Again, in 1839, the same firm had built the first iron vessel for Government service, she had been on the coast of Africa and elsewhere, and he had never heard any complaint of her; she had been in constant employment and was 1429 still in use. His hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely) made a Motion a few days ago in favour of which much might be said, but the real cause of the excessive cost of the repairs was that when ships came home from foreign service in bad order they were at once paid off and laid up in ordinary, when they got worse daily. Then they were required in a great hurry and were repaired at any cost, instead of due forethought being taken as to what vessels would be required, and those kept in proper order to meet any emergencies that might arise. This course of proceeding would be far better than repairing obsolete vessels at half or two-thirds their original cost. The noble Lord had stated that he was sorry the contract ships being built for the Government were so much behind time. But it should be remembered that they had in that case to undertake an entirely new business, and that the specifications they received from the Admiralty were not strictly defined. It was impossible to build a vessel and complete her to time without a clear specification; and one clause in the building contracts—namely, "all other details as may be required by the inspectors"—was very loose and vague. Hearing so much of the Bellerophon, and how rapidly she was progressing, he had thought it best to go to Chatham and see her. He went last July with a friend who was a very experienced shipbuilder, and every facility was afforded him by the authorities. He was much struck with the vessel, and he thought it only fair to say that the greatest possible credit was due to Mr. Reed for the improved mode of constructing her. That gentleman had simplified the mode of construction, and he felt that that vessel must cost the Government 25 or 30 per cent less in wages than the Achilles. The foreman said to him, "We can build this ship in half the time taken by the Achilles," and he could see that he was right. Everything about her was plain, strong, and easily got up, and he only wished, for the sake of the contractors, that something of the kind had been introduced before. He did not want to cry up any man, but if he bad occasion to say a thing which might disparage a man—not willingly, but because he honestly believed him to be wrong—he would do so; on the other hand, when he found him right it would be just neither to him nor to the Committee not to state it. The men said to him, "Oh, if we 1430 had only tools, sir, we could do the work so much better;" and they added that they had no stock of iron there. He would tell the Committee that if it were decided that their ships should be built in the Royal Dockyards they ought to be prepared to vote any amount of money that would enable the work to be done in the cheapest way. It was, of course, for the House and the Government to decide whether the ships should be built there, and if they arrived at the conclusion that they should, then the Admiralty ought to be supported in providing themselves with docks, sheds, tools, and every kind of machinery, and appliance which could simplify and cheapen their operations. As to some of the ships now building on Mr. Reed's plan, the fault he found with the Admiralty was that they had not worked night and day in getting one of Mr. Reed's ships to sea before going on and spending large sums in constructing ships on that particular plan, without knowing first whether it would answer or not. He hoped Mr. Reed would find all the ships that he was building fulfil his expectations; and if he could get them to float well and sail well he trusted the Admiralty would encourage him; but although he had given the Admiralty every credit for simplifying the construction of the Bellerophon, he thought they were to blame for proceeding to build a number of ships without first trying one as an experiment. As to the building of wooden ships, he would say, in justice to Mr. Watts, Mr. Abethell, and one or two other officers who bad been in Her Majesty's service, he believed that no men could have been more averse from the building of such ships than these gentlemen. They thought the only way to build iron-clad ships was to make them of iron, and not of wood. But, as the noble Lord had said, the Admiralty yielded to the pressure of the times in that matter. They had been warned of the result; and they, if they remained in office, or their successors if they did not, would hereafter find these ships causing them great trouble. As to plating their ships from end to end, he did not so much blame the Admiralty for that. He recollected that when the Warrior, the Defence, and the Black Prince were built some gentlemen said they were undefended, and not fit to go to sea. But ships plated all over were not found to answer, and doubtless the Admiralty would lighten their vessels at the ends. But he would caution them against building wooden 1431 ships, or to leave their ships too much exposed, because a few shells would send them to the bottom, as in the case of the Alabama. But they might knock away with shells at an iron ship having numberless compartments, and if she had got her hull all right she would be, as the hon. and gallant Member for Wakefield (Sir John Hay) said, unsinkable. As an old builder of iron ships, he believed they could be made so strong by bulkheads and other appliances as to remain sound and effective long after the Prince Consort and vessels of that class were forgotten.
desired to express his satisfaction that the Government had come to the determination not to adopt the recommendation of the Committee for the suppression of Pembroke and one or two other dockyards. With every possible respect for private enterprise, he thought some things rather beyond its sphere. He did not wish to see the Royal Navy depend mainly on private building yards. He believed the public and private building yards had a beneficial effect on each other, and would be extremely sorry to see building at the public yards discontinued. It was very difficult to make an exact comparison of the work done in the two classes of yards. In the one case they knew everything that went wrong; in the other they only heard of what went right. Very large profits were made out of private yards. He had the honour and the misfortune to be a shareholder of the Great Eastern, and if half the work in her had come from a Royal dockyard they never would have heard the last of it. He quite agreed with all that had been said of the necessity of providing docks for the repair of our vessels. He was sure the country would not grudge any sum of money to establish docks wherever they were required. Considering the small Votes taken this year for the great works contemplated at Portsmouth and Chatham, he rather compassionated future Chancellors of the Exchequer, who would have to provide large sums for the completion of those works if the proposal as to making large contracts for works were adopted.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
observed, that although many important questions had been raised and ably discussed, they were not necessarily involved in the consideration of the important Vote which the House had to determine. He did not mean to enter upon the great question of ship building, particularly as the question must 1432 come again before the Committee on Vote 8. The Committee had been placed in a situation of some difficulty by the course which the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty had pursued. If it was right for him to quote the Report of Admiral Dacres that document ought to have been laid on the table. It was a grave question whether they should press the Government to produce documents which were confidential; but certainly they could not pursue a double line. The noble Lord had an important document in his pocket, which, if produced, would have saved many of the observations of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington), who had been obliged to speculate on what was in that Report. There should be some clear understanding that if documents were to be quoted they should be laid on the table, in order that every Member might form his own opinion respecting them. He did not quite understand the Estimates as they had been presented to the Committee. He understood the Government to take credit for a reduction of £316,000, for from that sum the cost of two rams and a supplementary Estimate had to be deducted; so that the real saving did not amount to much more than the small sum of £25.000; and this small diminution of expenditure had been obtained by the sacrifice of 2,200 men and 1,000 marines. He certainly did not expect to find the reduction in that shape, and he honestly believed there were many other points on which a saving might have been made without injury to the efficiency of the public service. He wished to know whether the number of seamen and marines which had been voted had been employed during the year which would expire on the last day of the present month. It appeared that in the year 1863–4 the sum of £368,000 was voted for the wages and victuals of seamen more than was required. That showed a miscalculation of rather a serious nature, particularly if it should be found that the money was expended upon other things. The House voted large sums for one thing, and then, after some time had elapsed, found they had been spent upon another. The Committee on Public Accounts found that millions had been spent in this way, and although upon their Report some improvement had been introduced, and a Vote of the House was now required, the matter was of serious importance. He would be glad, therefore, to hear from the Government some explana,- 1433 tion as to whether there was any miscalculation of this kind in the current year, and, if so, what had been done with the money. Another point he thought required looking into. The number of vessels in the Royal Navy had diminished in the current year from 630 to 540. We thus had now ninety vessels fewer than we had last year. It was extremely desirable to know what had become of those ships, or what had become of the money for which they had been sold. They probably cost the nation a million and a half, and they certainly must have produced some considerable sum when discarded. He hoped that the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) would give some explanation on these points; and also on the very considerable increase which appeared in the sums taken for flag officers and the principal officers in the Dockyard Departments, amounting in one case to double, and in the other to treble what they were last year. Probably some portion of the increase arose from the change which had been made in the form of the Estimates; but he should be glad to know how much was attributable to that and how much was bond fide increase of expenditure The noble Lord (Lord Clarence Paget) omitted in his speech all notice of these points; but the House ought to have full information as to everything it was about to vote. A good deal had been said in the course of the debate, and particularly by the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely), on the subject of navy accounts. He believed that the noble Lord (Lord Clarence Paget) honestly wished to have the accounts put on a fair footing, and the facts detailed by the hon. Member (Mr. Seely) showed that there was considerable improvement. But, after all, accounts were only a means to an end—namely, that of a wise and economical expenditure of public money; and there he was afraid they were as far off as ever. It was utterly impossible for Members of that House to go into the details of Vote 6, for the repairs and refitting of ships involving many hundreds of thousands of pounds. How could they know anything of the merits of the case when they found half a million spent in one item on thirty ships, and £350,000 in another on twenty ships, and £60,000 in two years on two small yachts? This was really the question. It was quite clear that the Government had no good system on which this expenditure was managed. What must be the remedy? Nobody knew more about these points, 1434 and particularly when he was in a candid humour, than the late Accountant General, Sir Richard Bromley. The Royal Commission closely investigated the matter, and reported on it that the dockyards all required a better system of accounts. They noticed the total absence of all direct responsibility, and showed that it was impossible for the Civil Lords, being in London, to control this enormous mass of expenditure. They recommended also that all large expenditure should be done upon regular estimates. But something was wanted beyond all this, or they would continue to have, as they frequently had had before, repairs done to vessels which cost more than the value of those vessels. The Commissioners recommended that in every case proper estimates should be prepared which should be signed by two or three chief officers, who should be bound to explain the necessity of what was done and be responsible for it. Sir Richard Bromley said that during his time he had served under fifteen First Lords and ninety-seven other Lords and seven Secretaries; and it was not surprising that the springs of action did not work with much unison. The Accountant General was asked by the Commissioners if he were responsible; and his answer was decidedly in the negative, as the Civil Lords always signed the documents on which he acted. It was, therefore, clear to him (Sir Henry Willoughby) that until they had some system by which responsibility was fixed upon somebody there never would be any economical expenditure of the public money.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he had listened with great pleasure to much of the speech of the noble Lord who opened the debate, and only regretted that he could not regard the whole of it with the same feelings of satisfaction. He heard of an addition to the wages of the seamen with pleasure, because he believed that up to the present time they had always been underpaid; and that whenever there was a difficulty in manning the British navy, it was because they were not willing to pay the market price for the article wanted, and were always outbid by the mercantile marine. He also heard with great pleasure the decision to which the Admiralty had come with respect to the dock at Malta; for he never could understand how anybody could arrive at such a conclusion as that announced by the Government last year, and he thought it did great credit to the First Lord that he had the good sense to go out 1435 and judge for himself. Differing from his hon Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Laird), who was so high an authority on these subjects, he could not rejoice that Pembroke was to be retained at the cost of losing two other establishments. He would not give up any establishments already in existence, because in the event of a war the requirements of the service made it advisable not to concentrate the dockyard power in one or two places, but ships ought to be able to go in for repairs near the localities in which they might have been damaged. This brought him to another question, the proposed abolition of the dockyards at Deptford and Woolwich. In the course of the proceedings of the Committee of last year on this subject, it transpired that a spirit of compromise had entered into the disposal of questions of this nature; and it was said if they wished to retain Pembroke they must give up Woolwich and Deptford. That was, he feared, too much the system on which naval affairs were conducted. But when they came to the necessity of sacrificing one thing for the purpose of saving another, it was a compromise which ought not to be submitted to. Much had been said about the necessity for increasing dock accommodation; and, for his part, he regretted that a larger Vote was not asked for the purpose. If Great Britain had all the ships in the world of what use would they be unless this country had the means of docking them? Without docks there must be three or four ships required to take the place of one, and there must be two or three navies instead of one. This was the reason why he regretted that there was not a larger sum asked to provide dock accommodation. But to come to a more grave and serious matter. The House had heard that it was the intention of the Admiralty to decrease the number of seamen and Marines by 2,000 men. Considering that there was nothing in the aspect of political affairs to ensure permanently the pacific intentions of other countries, and that this country must depend on its naval supremacy in the event of a war breaking out, he feared that any reduction in our seamen was most unadvisable. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had shown that part of his policy was to build coast fortifications. With such a policy the reduction in the force of marines—a body of men who could serve as well by land as sea—was incomprehensible. And in what condition was 1436 the fleet? The noble Lord the Secretary for the Admiralty had stated that there was to be a great decrease in our shipbuilding, but he proceeded to console the House by the promise of four more ironclads. The building of these ships was certainly a step in the right direction, because, as far as we could see, the ironclads were the only vessels on which reliance could be placed. But at the end of the present year there would be only thirty armour-plated vessels complete, with the exception of one, and out of those only nineteen would be sail of the line. He would be glad to know what proportion those bore to the fleet of line-of-battle ships which were in times past considered necessary for the honour and safety of England, and what had occurred to justify a decrease of that number. They had heard a good deal in the House of Commons about reconstruction of the navy, and he would be glad to know when they were to see some proof of it. Hitherto the reconstruction, had been really a systematic reduction. As it was admitted that wooden men-of-war were useless for certain purposes, the navy of Great Britain must consist at the end of this year of only nineteen sail of the line upon which this country could depend for the defence of its shores and the protection of its commerce. He was glad to see the noble Viscount at the head of the Government in his place, and he would be glad to hear from him whether in his opinion the general aspect of affairs was such as to justify what could only be described as a great reduction of the maritime power of this country. Hon. Members below the gangway on the other side of the House were continually calling for economy, and with the exception of the hon. Member for Finsbury (Sir Morton Peto), who was anxious to maintain the defences of the country in their efficiency, they appeared to imagine that hon. Members on his side of the House advocated extravagance without having any object in view. That, however, was not the case. Hon. Members on his side of the House were as much averse to taxation as any Englishmen could be, and that for the simple reason that they paid taxes. What they objected to was any policy which would have the result of leaving our armaments in an inefficient state; and any economy which would have that tendency must be regarded as the worst kind of extravagance which could possibly be imagined. He believed that the proper eco- 1437 nomy was to keep the fleet in the highest state of efficiency. They had lately heard an extraordinary doctrine about providing for emergencies when those emergencies arose by working double time. He could hardly conceive a more extravagant and—he would say it with all respect to hon. Members who held that view—a more insane policy, because he believed it must necessarily lead to a hasty and wasteful expenditure. He doubted if any hon. Member would rise in his place and deny that if we had been in a more efficient condition at the commencement of the Crimean war our expenditure would have been enormously decreased. He believed that any reduction of our naval power was most uncalled for and inexpedient, and he hoped that the turn which the discussion had taken would not only elicit from the noble Lord at the head of the Government his opinion upon the subject, but would also induce the Government to reconsider the policy which they appeared inclined to pursue.
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, a number of questions had been brought before the attention of the Committee which turned upon the general policy of the Estimates that had been laid upon the table. He would leave the subject of increased dock accommodation until Vote 11 was before the House, but would wish at present to speak of other matters. The Votes that were most important were Votes Nos. 1, 8, 10, for they indicated the views of the Admiralty on the mutual relations of men, ships, and guns—relations which had undergone, and were in the process of undergoing, changes which would bring about results second only in importance to the effects which the invention of gunpowder had produced upon warlike operations both by sea and land. His hon. Friend the Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck), if he would allow him to call him so, had dwelt upon the reduction of seamen and Marines which would follow the passing of Vote 1. It appeared to him that that reduction had been explained in an extremely satisfactory manner by his noble Friend the Secretary of the Admiralty, not only on the point of mere economy, but of efficiency and real power. He showed in a clear manner that the decreased number of men with an almost identical money Vote meant increased pay and increased comforts to officers and men, a higher class of men and a greater proportion of officers, and more educated skill in manipulating the engines of naval 1438 warfare. He (Mr. Stansfeld) maintained that a diminished number of men with an increase of powerful machines meant an increase of power. Though hon. Members below the gangway on his side of the House had been reproached by the hon. Member with dwelling on economy, little had been said to-night on this subject; but he would, for himself, venture to put out the proposition that the real question was whether the reduction of men consequent on the Vote could not be safely and wisely carried to a greater extent. He was not dealing with the total of the Naval Estimates or the necessity of a reduction therein, as such a question would be better argued on grounds of national policy. But taking the total as it was, he had to consider how it was best to be apportioned between ships and men; and he asserted confidently that if it were to be appropriated so as within the shortest time to increase to the greatest possible extent the naval power of this country, we ought to take it from the men and give it to the ships. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich would not deny that we had more men in these Estimates than we could wisely and safely send to sea in the ships we now had in the only contingency worth calculating for—a serious naval war. He gave the Admiralty the greatest credit for their courage in laying on the table for the first time the Controller's programme of the work for the next year, and of the manner in which they meant to apportion their labour power in the yards. It afforded satisfactory evidence of the progress, already referred to by the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Laird), made in the three great armour ships—the Lord Clyde, the Bellerophon, and the Lord Warden. The Lord Clyde was nearly finished; she was launched within eleven months of her keel being laid down, and the other two had been completed 5–8ths; and, looking to the dimensions, the strength, and the novelty of construction, no one would say that that progress had not been most satisfactory. But on looking at the document which he had mentioned, he observed that the completion of two of the vessels, the Bellerophon and the Lord Warden, was put down as uncertain within the financial year. He thought his noble Friend should understand, in these days, the immense importance, and, he would say, the great money value of time in the production of the new engines of warfare, whether of ships or of guns. Now he (Mr. Stansfeld) 1439 knew something of the time it had been the custom to take in building ships; but he knew also that in these days of transition, by the time some of these ships were launched they would be already out of date. They had had a good many discussions in that House relative to the comparative capabilities of private and Royal Dockyards. No one would deny that the Royal Dockyards could compete, in point of quality of workmanship, at least on equal terms with the private yards in the production of ships, or that they could compete with positive advantage in rapidity of construction. The private builder, having a number of customers, could not afford to concentrate all his energies in the production of a single ship within the shortest possible time. But this was just what could be done in a Royal Dockyard. He said that the Admiralty would, in fact, be justified in paying a moderately-increased percentage cost for a powerful and novel instrument of warfare, produced and ready to be sent to sea in one year and a half, instead of in two, three, or four years. He noticed in the programme that a new ship still stronger than the Bellerophon was to follow her; but that this new ship was to be advanced only 3–8ths in the course of the year, while the Bellerophon would be advanced in this year to the extent of 5–8ths. He did not see why the new ship should not be pressed forward as rapidly as the old one. There were four vessels of what were called the Amazon class. They were to be advanced, on the average, 4–8ths. It would be better, he thought, to have two of those ships completed in a year than the whole four merely advanced, so as to be completed in two years. It might be in the recollection of some hon. Members that in the last year he moved for a considerable increase in the labour Vote for the Royal Dockyards; and he based his claim to the liberality of the House on two grounds: the first was the necessity and advisability of concentrating the labour on a few ships, and getting them out of hand in the least time possible; the second was the necessity of working off some of the arrears in the repairs of our ordinary cruising squadrons. In the programme for the coming year, the shipwright strength to be appropriated to repairs and yard work, as compared with the strength to be deyoted to the completion of new ships, was put down as three to two. This ought to suggest the question whether they could effect a saving in that expendi- 1440 ture for labour which, if necessary, was not entirely remunerative. We had a double source of expenditure in our dockyards. We had to maintain and repair our ordinary cruising squadrons, which had almost ceased to be part of our real naval strength; and was it not a matter of pressing immediate importance to consider whether we could not effect a saving with reference to our harbour ships, our Coastguard ships, and ordinary cruising vessels, which were said to fulfil the functions of the police of the seas, and to keep up the prestige of this country—though he had little faith in the prestige which was not based on real power—and whether the sums saved might not be applied to building some of the new ships? He would now say a few words on what had been the particular subject of discussion that evening—namely, the armament and construction of the navy. They had heard from his noble Friend the other night the progress which had been made in ships and in guns; and he thought the noble Lord had put the case very fairly. We were now building ships to carry 300-pounders, and which we had reason to believe were impervious to any guns of lighter calibre. But still everybody knew that there were being made other guns heavier than 300-pounders, which would pierce any ships built or building. Two years ago he went down to Shoeburyness and saw the effect produced by a gun well known as "Big Will." He did not mean to say that the 600-pounder of Sir William Armstrong was the only gun that could produce the result, but he mentioned it because it was admitted to be a safe and a serviceable gun. It seemed to him that we ought not to have a gun of that kind, which we had had for two years, and which we could repeat, without considering how that gun was to be sent to sea. He thought it ought to be an axiom that no gun should be produced which we could not find a ship to carry. He knew that he was here venturing upon professional ground, but he was fortified in his opinion by high authority; besides, he had a strong opinion of the efficiency of what was called general reasoning—that was, that general reasoning would safely reach to a certain point, when more intimate knowledge could be called in to aid. And he had an almost unbounded confidence in the capacity of science to meet a necessity which general reasoning had shown to have arisen. He would ask the Committee, then, to look back to what had been the course—the rationale—of armour-plated ship- 1441 building, and at the point to which we had now arrived. The first notion of an armour-plated ship was one that would keep out shell. That was the object of the Gloire. The Warrior was the reply of this country to the building of that vessel by the French. The Warrior was a great success. Her merits had been attested to-night, and on other occasions. She was practically impervious to the guns against which she was built, and he believed he was correct in adding that, with the experience of successive years, the only fault that could be fairly attributed to her with reference to the point of view for which she was built, was the want of handiness, owing to her great length and the want of adequate turning power, and some of that want of buoyancy which all armour-plated ships exhibited. He could not but think, however, that, as our first armour-ship—although we were passing to the solution of problems which would leave her far behind—she would remain a monument of courage in conception, and skill in design, on the part of those who originated her and carried out the design. Well, then came the turn of the artillerists, to invent guns and missiles that should be able to pierce this armour-plated ship. They succeeded in their turn; and since then it had been nothing but a duel between guns and ships. The most famous instances of these ships were, first, the Bellerophon, which was built to carry 300-pounder guns, and which he believed would resist any guns of inferior calibre, and even those guns at long ranges. Next we had the turret ships of Captain Cowper Coles. Captain Coles was of opinion, and rightly, that if the tendency of invention was towards the use of enormous guns—of guns so large that we could not hope to carry more than half-a-dozen on board our largest ships—it must be a matter of vital importance to be able to turn those few guns rapidly, and direct them with certainty against a given point. Thus we started building ships against guns, and we had now got to building ships of the kind in which there was a give-and-take partnership with guns. But we had not got beyond the 300-pounder; whilst we had a 600-pounder which would pierce any ship built or building; but which we could not carry to sea. He did not find fault with what had been done or was doing, and it would be an ungracious task, with the knowledge of the present day, to look back minutely or critically on the process, which he must say was one 1442 of experiment and of trial—and he might observe that Admiral Porter's Report showed that even iron broadside ships might be made powerful means of offence. But without making any criticisms of this kind there was something else which we ought to think of and attend to. In these days of transition and invention we ought to be asking ourselves what was the most advanced problem waiting for solution—what was the most advanced starting point from which we ought to begin to think out the design of a ship. That was a most interesting question. To his mind it was this—that the guns had beaten the ships, in the sense that we could not build an invulnerable ship, and that we could not carry many of these monster guns in any ship. If this were true with reference to the carriage by sea of those monster guns, the starting point for our naval constructors must be the gun and not the ship. The ship must no longer be considered a floating fortress, mounting so many guns, manned by such a force, and provisioned as if to stand so many months' siege; but, under the more modern and advanced notion, of the speediest and best designed, seaworthy water-carriage for a gun or guns. He ventured to carry this matter a little further, because one ought not to be contented with criticism alone. One was bound to express his ideas, even if they turned out to be wrong on trial. He would venture to make a practical suggestion to his noble Friend. He would summon the Controller of the Dockyards and the private trade to a general competition, not only in manufacture but in design. He would furnish them with the following indication of the necessities of the case. He must observe that he went almost entirely with the hon. Baronet the Member for Wakefield (Sir John Hay). When he spoke of a seaworthy boat, he did not mean a vessel capable of carrying coals or stores for a given number of months, because it was not necessary to send a single vessel, but he meant a vessel that would be able to cross the Atlantic. The following essentials should be put forth, and in the following order of merit:—The first thing should be speed, with a capability of carrying big guns, or a gun of 22½ tons. Speed was necessary to place the big gun where it was wanted. If it were necessary in order to attain that speed to build the water-carriage of such dimensions that three or four guns could be carried as well as one, then he would accept that condi- 1443 tion; but if the same speed could be got out of a vessel not larger than was necessary to carry one gun he would like it better, because the carriage would be less and the target for the enemy's fire would also be less, which would half solve the problem of defence. It might be said that it was not safe to carry one gun unsupported; but if two supporting guns were wanted, provided you could get your speed out of the smaller vessel it was safer to have them on two vessels than on one. The next essential would be handiness; that was of vital importance; and the twin screw would give that. Then, lastly, came the quality of defence, which problem, from his faith in his starting point, he believed would be found half solved before it came to be considered, because, fighting with a big gun on board a small ship, the gun would be capable of throwing very heavy shot or shell at long distances, and the fighting would take place at a long distance, and generally stem on, so that but a very small target would be offered to the enemy's fire. He would put it to his noble Friend whether two such small vessels as he had described, which, if vitally injured or sunk, would not involve any serious loss, would not be more efficient than the Warrior, the Minotaur, or even the Bellerophon, which were so much more exposed, and which would be so much greater loss if destroyed. Reference had been made in that debate to the progress of shipbuilding in America. There was a country which had of late' been building up its ships and guns—it might be in haste—of inferior materials, and of worse workmanship than our own, but still with a fearless logic and to meet the fearful and immediate necessities of a gigantic civil war. He should not be suspected of mentioning the naval progress of the United States of America as any source of alarm to this country. There might be differences of opinion upon that question, but he disbelieved in the prognostication of danger and evil to fall upon this country when that great civil war should come to an end. But that was no reason why we should not take a leaf out of their book, and learn a lesson from our own kindred, who had gone on in this course under the pressure of the strongest necessity, who possessed the greatest resources, and who had almost boundless ingenuity and fertility of invention. If we only took a lesson from what had been done on the other side of the Atlantic we should rapidly better our instruction. We had better 1444 armour-plates than they had in America. Our workmanship was better, more careful and safer; we should not have to work under such a pressure. Our resources were greater, and therefore we should have better work. We should start with the sine qua non of a sea-going ship. Whatever the American Monitors might be, no one could imagine that they had been built with the idea of their crossing the Atlantic. He hoped his noble Friend would be able to tell the House before the close of the Session that an attempt had been made to solve the interesting problem they were discussing that night, and that the country was in a fair way of getting that class of vessels which were essential for our naval defence. And he would venture confidently to predict that if the Admiralty applied itself to this task, such a course, while enormously increasing our means of defence, would tend materially to keep down the costliness of the naval service of this country.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, he was sure he expressed the feeling of the House when he said they were glad to have heard his hon. Friend the Member for Halifax again in a naval debate, and he thought there was no hon. Member, whether a naval officer or a civilian, who must not have derived instruction from the logical speech of his hon. Friend. He rejoiced to hear the clear statement of his hon. Friend on the naval problem of the day as to attack and defence. His hon. Friend had commented on the word "uncertain" being placed on the margin of the programme opposite the names of the Lord Clyde and the Lord Warden—[Mr. STANSFELD: The Bellerophon and the Lord Warden]—and in reply he had to explain that there was no uncertainty as to those two ships being finished within the time stated in the programme. The uncertainty was as to the number of 8ths which would be finished within the present financial year. The hon. Member for Lincoln had taken a somewhat unusual course in referring to the details of a former debate; and as he (Mr. Childers) had not expected it he was not prepared to follow his hon. Friend with the minuteness he could have wished. He was unwilling to enter into a controversy with the hon. Member, because his object and that of the Admiralty in the changes they had made, and those which they intended to make, in the accounts were the same. The object of the Department was to put before the 1445 House the results of the year, not merely as a matter of account, but so as to give themselves and the House an effectual control over the operations in the dockyards. He could not, however, in courtesy omit all reply to the hon. Member. The hon. Member said that when he compared the finance account with the expense account, the amount applied to ships, he found a large margin which he was unable to understand; but in several respects the hon. Member had misunderstood his explanation. For instance, the hon. Member said that he had himself excluded the element of coal in his comparison. But he (Mr. Childers) had distinctly given the total figures of the four years—not the reduced figures of the hon. Member. What he had stated on the occasion to which the hon. Member referred was that the sum of the finance accounts of naval expenditure under Votes 8, 9, and 10 in the four years 1860–1 to 1863–4 was £17,169,267; that the sum of the expense accounts for the same period was £13,175.977, showing a difference of £3,993,290. Of this difference a sum of £2,061,381 was for items not in the expense accounts, the chief of them being that of coal. Again, the stock of timber and other articles had doubled during the period, and as the total stock at the end was £5,000,000, a very large allowance should be made on this account. The Committee would remember that a complaint had been made that the stock was getting too low, and hence the increase that had been made in it. Prom these figures the Committee would see that the difference between the finance account and the expense account, as far as the total expenditure on shipbuilding was concerned, was capable of fair approximate explanation. Nothing more could be given, as no valuation stock account had ever been taken before last April; but he hoped in future to be able to give a statement showing the difference between the amount of stock at the beginning and at the end of the year. The hon. Member had again commented on what he considered to be the extravagant expenditure on different ships, and stated that the Falcon had been repaired at a greater cost than that at which it could have been built new. Subsequently the hon. Member, from information which he appeared to have acquired from the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Laird), raised his estimate of the cost of such a ship; but he still complained of the sum 1446 which had been spent on the repairs of the Faloon. The true figures were that the hull of the ship cost in repairs £14,051, the original cost having been £20,800. But so far from this being evidence of dockyard mismanagement, the fact was, that she was repaired in a private yard. As far, therefore, as expenditure was concerned his hon. Friend had fixed on the wrong ship. Into the question of conversions he would not enter beyond stating that the rate-book had been adjusted so as to furnish for the future more complete and accurate information. His hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Sir Morton Peto), complained that nothing had been done in constructing a dock at Bermuda. He thought his hon. Friend could not have been present when his noble Friend was addressing the House upon this subject, or he would have heard that the Admiralty had decided to send out an engineer, with the view of ascertaining the nature of the works that might be constructed, and he was in hopes that before the end of the Session the Admiralty would be able to make a satisfactory Report on the subject. As to the necessity of bringing the Admiralty under one roof, if the advantage of such a concentration were apparent to his hon. Friend, how much more so must it be to Members of the Department, the transaction of whose business such a step must amazingly facilitate? The preliminary expense, however, involved in such a proceeding, though ultimately it must be productive of great economy, necessarily required that very great care should be exercised in submitting to Parliament any proposal on the subject, and the Department, he hoped, would not be unduly hurried in the consideration of those plans which they might feel it their duty to recommend Allusion had been made to the old-fashioned character of the buildings in the dockyard, which, it was suggested, must have been put up soon after the Flood. Perhaps it would have been more logical to say a little before the building of the Ark. His hon. Friend, however, on entering into the Estimates, would see that in the present year, instead of patching and altering these buildings, a large sum had been taken for desirable extensions, and a great reduction had been made in alterations. In fact, the item "alterations and reconstructions" no longer appeared in the account. The right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir John Pakington) and his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wakefield (Sir John Hay) had 1447 somewhat crowed over the alteration in the intentions of the Government with regard to the works at Malta; but although the Government had adopted a plan differing from that originally proposed, they by no means took up the project of the hon. and gallant Member for Waterford (Captain Talbot). That project was for docks at the head of French Creek; in his opinion, an impracticable scheme. But there was another and more important difference. He had read over carefully the speeches delivered in the last Session on this point, and even in the course of the present debate he thought he had heard an expression of opinion to the effect that, after all, the local interests of Malta were nothing to those of the Imperial Government, and, therefore, that possession ought to be taken of French Creek nolens volens. That was not the proposal of the Government. They held the same language now which they had done last year as to the advisability of keeping faith with the Maltese people; and consequently their proposal differed very widely from the suggestions put forward on the other side of the House. Again, the Government had been accused of wasteful extravagance at the north-west basin. What they had done was merely to carry down the walls to the rock, leaving the basin itself to be deepened by the Maltese, and the arrangement, he maintained, was one which was not merely right in itself, but eventually would prove economical. He would now pass to other questions. It was quite true, as stated by the hon. Member for Somersetshire (Sir William Miles), that the Estimates provided for seventy-eight lieutenants commanding Coastguard stations, though only twenty-seven were actually employed. The fact was, that in these days lieutenants were not easily to be procured for these commands, and the number was therefore made up from second-class chief-officers, of the rank of warrant-officers; but as soon as lieutenants offered themselves the others would be reduced in equal proportion. The Estimates showed the authorized establishment. Taking up the French Estimates, his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Aberdeen (Colonel Sykes) had entered into an able statistical comparison of the expenses of the French service compared with our own. His hon. Friend, however, had somewhat underestimated the amounts of the French budgets, which were divided into three classes—ordinary, extraordinary, and rectificatif. 1448 To arrive at just conclusions it was necessary to add together those three divisions, and the two latter, when tacked on to the ordinary Estimates, would show an addition of nearly £2,000,000. Remarks had been made as to the inadequate amounts taken for great public works. At the proper time he should be able to justify both the amounts proposed to be voted, and the prospective expenditure. In preparing the Estimates for the present year the Government had been very anxious to remove objections on the score of uncertainty and inadequacy, and to show clearly what was meant to be undertaken. They wished to act in the same way as any public company and any man of sense in England would act, by determining, first, the works to be executed, then the time over which the expenditure was to be spread, and then seeing that the work was carried out in the best manner. The amounts, however, which the Government were taking were not so small as might be supposed. The hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham (Sir Henry Willoughby) had asked whether there was this year a surplus on Vote 1. It was not very easy to tell what would be the exact position of the Vote by the end of the financial year, but he did not believe there would be much, if any, surplus on this Vote. He had also been asked in regard to the diminution in the number of ships of the Royal Navy. He had a Return on this subject, from which it appeared that there was a difference of 53,000 tons less on the 1st of February, 1865, as compared with 1864. The accounts, if moved for, would show every ton added to or taken from the navy. He was also asked as to the two first items of Vote 1. There was no real increase, but the Vote had been recast. He trusted that the details contained in the Appendix would have clearly shown this.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
Sir, I thought it my duty a few evenings ago to call the attention of the House to the state of our navy, and to raise a question the importance of which no one will deny—namely, whether that vast sum of £57,000,000 granted by Parliament during the last five years has been expended advantageously and with proper judgment and discretion. Sir, I raised that question as fairly as I could, and I called upon the noble Lord opposite for an explanation. The noble Lord has this evening given us this explanation, and I should be quite content to leave the explanation which he 1449 has given to the judgment of this House and the country, were it not that my noble Friend has so much misrepresented several portions of my speech, that I feel it my imperative duty to offer some observations to the House. I pass by the tone in which my noble Friend spoke. I confess that the only inference I draw from it is that he felt his case not a very strong one, and that he resorted to it with a view of concealing its weakness. If the case of the noble Lord had been a strong one I do not think that he would have spoken in a tone which I trust the House will do me the justice of saying was very opposite to that in which I addressed the House. But, Sir, I will pass now to the substance of what fell from the noble Lord, and I think I may venture to say that when I separate that substance from the tone of injured innocence which it suited the purpose of the noble Lord to assume to-night, he has left the case pretty much where it was before he addressed the Committee. I agree with the hon. Baronet the Member for Fins-bury (Sir Morton Peto) and the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Sir John Hay) in the way they have put the case. What were the points pressed to-night by the hon. Baronet and the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and which were repeated distinctly and ably by the hon. Member for Halifax? They were these—that our men-of-war should have speed, that they should be seaworthy and, if possible, that they should be unsinkable. Experience has taught us that our armour-plated ships may be built with speed, that they may be rendered seaworthy and almost unsinkable. Now, the speech of the noble Lord did not explain or justify what the Admiralty has done with these £57,000,000—his speech went distinctly to this admission—that the men-of-war built by the present Board of Admiralty have not speed, are not seaworthy, and are not unsinkable. The noble Lord, adverting to the inquiries which we had made for certain reports, directed a good deal of his attention to reading Reports from Admiral Smart. [Lord CLARENCE PAGET: No; I only stated the substance of them.] Well, but that makes the case of the noble Lord still weaker than I thought it was. Instead of extracts, it appears that the noble Lord has only given us the Admiralty version of the Reports. He has given us the substance or something of the Report of Admiral Smart on the Channel fleet when he commanded it. The noble Lord in- 1450 tended, I suppose, to give us the views of Admiral Smart as to the sailing qualities of the Warrior, the Black Prince, the Defence, and the Resistance. Now, why the noble Lord took up the question of the sailing qualities of those ships I cannot imagine. We have never raised the question of the sailing qualities of those four vessels, and the substance of the extracts which my noble Friend gave us had nothing whatever to do with the subject under discussion. The noble Lord then gave extracts or the substance of Admiral Dacres's Report. [Lord CLARENCE PAGET: The substance.] Oh, the substance only. The hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham (Sir Henry Willoughby) in his speech took exception to the fairness and propriety of this proceeding. I think it is open to great exception, and that the House of Commons has a right to complain of being put in possession of a document of such importance in this indirect and partial manner. It would have been better if he had kept it back altogether. The noble Lord would not have done wisely had he kept it back, but if we are to have it at all we ought to have it in its entirety. So far as I am able to judge of the Report it seems to me to confirm entirely what I said the other night, and what has been said by several hon. Members to-night. The Report appears to confirm our views and the idea that Admiral Dacres did not find his armour-plated ships to be seaworthy and good ships. But the point on which I am desirous of touching is as to what he said in reference to the Defence. Now, I must ask my noble Friend's attention to what I really said about the Defence. The noble Lord stated that I told him that the Defence would neither fight nor swim. I said nothing of the kind. I think when he did me the honour to refer to the speech I made only three days ago he should have quoted it correctly. I distinctly stated that the Defence had the reputation of being a good sea boat; but I put to the noble Lord a plain question to which he has given no reply whatever. The hon. Baronet the Member for Finsbury (Sir Morton Peto) has stated that the Warrior and the Black Prince were so devised by the able builder who designed them, that if they were wounded in an unprotected part it was a matter of calculation that would be brought down into the water so many inches. What I stated the other night with regard to the Defence and Resistance was, that I was informed that in building 1451 these ships—the first which the present Admiralty constructed—they disregarded the advice of the Controller and Chief Constructor of the Navy; that they had taken it upon themselves to build them, though they were not men of science, and that the result was that if the Defence and Resistance went into action and were wounded in their unprotected parts, instead of being brought down a few inches in the water, they would sink altogether. I asked the noble Lord whether the facts were not so, but he has not thought proper to reply to any part of my statement. He leaves me, therefore, to come to the conclusion that at the very commencement of his official career the Admiralty did commit, as it appears to me, an almost incredible indiscretion in taking it upon themselves to disregard the advice of the competent men they had at their command, and the consequence is that the ships are not what the public had a right to expect. The noble Lord, in the most triumphant part of his speech, asked me, "How can you reproach the Admiralty with having plated ships from stem to stern when the French have done the same?" Why, the French experience was the very ground of the objection which I took to the course pursued by the Admiralty. In all the discussions of the last year the Admiralty were warned not to plate their ships so; that warning was founded upon the French experience, and the French are proceeding to alter their armour-plating. But, in spite of warning, the Admiralty persevered at enormous expense in plating eight or ten of these ships in such a manner that they cannot be seaworthy. [Lord CLARENCE PAGET: NO, no!] It does not, however, require the noble Lord's admission, for it is admitted on all hands that such ships are not fitted for heavy weather. I never, however, questioned that the Enterprise was a good sea boat. I am glad to have elicited from the noble Lord, though he was rather severe on me, that the instructions given to the officer commanding the Channel fleet not to expose the ships in heavy weather were those which are properly and systematically given every year to the Admirals commanding fleets, not to unnecessarily expose their ships in heavy weather. That, there can be no doubt, is a judicious instruction. The noble Lord has greatly misrepresented what has been said by various speakers in this debate with reference to wooden ships. He says that I was the cause of it because it was the con- 1452 sequence of the alarm I raised two or three years ago with regard to the progress the French Government was making with reference to armour-plated ships. But surely the noble Lord cannot have not forgotten that on that occasion he was entreated by the House not to persevere with the building of wooden ships beyond those that were commenced, it being the opinion of every competent person that iron ships were the best to carry armour; but nothing could prevent the Admiralty from going on with them—nothing could alter their determination. The noble Lord has tried to fasten on me a mistake between the Prince Albert and the Royal Alfred made in The Times. When I saw the error in the report I thought it one not worth noticing, and I hold it to be a strong proof of the weakness of the noble Lord's case that he has attempted to found an argument on—supposing it to be a mistake of mine—what was a mere verbal error. But what answer had the noble Lord given to the charge made against the Admiralty with reference to the cupola ships? The Prince Albert was commenced three or four years ago. [Lord CLARENCE PAGET: Five years ago.] Is she finished now? Other ships have been hurried forward. Why has not the Prince Albert? I say the Admiralty ought to control these things, and I suspect very strongly that if the Prince Albert had not been a turret ship she would have been pushed forward and would have been in the water long ago. And what explanations has the noble Lord given of the extraordinary proceedings going on with respect to the Royal Alfred? The hon. Member for Finsbury said that I had understated his case, and declared in the same language that I would have implied that she had been so dealt with by the present builders of the Admiralty that she was not fit to be sent to sea, and that the only prudent thing that could be done with her would be to break her up. What answer did the noble Lord give to that? None, absolutely none. He very prudently passed over the subject. My noble Friend said, in conclusion, that the part of my speech which had given him most pain was with reference to Mr. Reed. I said the same for myself the other night; it was most painful to me to speak as I have done. But I would appeal to the House whether the noble Lord has given any answer to what I said upon the subject, and I think that by far the most serious of all the complaints 1453 which have been made as to the conduct of the Admiralty. Has my noble Friend advanced anything which could be reasonably considered a vindication of the conduct of the Admiralty in placing Mr. Reed at the head of the Construction Department? I spoke the other night of Mr. Reed in a spirit of the most perfect fairness. I said that he was likely to become hereafter a very eminent shipbuilder; but I still retain the opinion which I then expressed, that no great Department of the State ever committed a greater error or a greater indiscretion at such a moment of transition as this than the Board of Admiralty committed when they set aside men of great eminence and experience and put in their place a gentleman quite untried, like Mr. Reed.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
I wish to say one word in explanation. The Resistance and Defence are built precisely on the same principle as the Warrior. If a shot struck her in the unprotected parts it would depress her fifteen inches in the water, instead of sinking her.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
We were advised from all parts of England that we could not combine all the qualities we required in the Warrior without going to that size. When the Admiralty built the Defence they built her 2,000 tons smaller than the Warrior, and therefore her flotation was proportionately less, so that a shot which would merely depress the Warrior some fifteen inches would render the Defence incapable of making way in the water at all.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
thought the person who had most right to complain of the debate which had taken place was Admiral Dacres, for the noble Lord had merely given what he called the substance of his Report instead of giving it in extenso. He contended that they were entitled to have the Report before them in extenso, and judge of its contents themselves. The hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham, who was an authority upon these matters, had stated that it was not customary to refer to the substance of a paper which was not before the House; and he, therefore, called upon the noble Lord to produce the Report of Admiral Dacres. With reference to the noble Lord's charge of his (Sir James Elphinstone) coming to that House with gossip picked up at Portsmouth, he begged to inform the noble Lord that on going over Portsmouth Dockyard he neither conversed with midshipmen nor 1454 lieutenants, but derived his information from much better sources. The noble Lord had also found fault with him for not having brought the state of the Research before the House last Session after he had moved for papers. What he stated was that that vessel had been materially damaged by the first discharge of her ordnance; but the Admiralty took refuge in the fact that there was no material part of the ship hurt. But the bulwarks and other parts of the ship were broken, and the carpenter was wounded by the glass which fell upon him. The vessel, however, was not rendered unsea worthy by the discharge. The Admiralty sent her to Sheerness, where she was repaired at a cost of £3,000, and then disappeared, dodging about from harbour to harbour on the coast of Scotland. The gossip was that the Admiralty did not wish to intrust her to Admiral Dacres, as he would have subjected her to too stringent a trial. Since then he (Sir James Elphinstone) had had no opportunity of bringing the performances of this ship under notice until the other evening, when he called her an abortion. The captain commanding her spoke of battening down the ship in a gale of wind. Now, during his seventeen years of sea service he had only seen battening down once, and that was in a hurricane. It was only resorted to in former times in cases of extreme necessity and danger, and if the Research had to be battened down in every gale of wind, she was entirely unseaworthy. With regard to the Royal Alfred, she had been pulled completely to pieces, and he felt persuaded that it was practically impossible to strengthen her so as to carry the ordnance it was intended to put in her. Of the Hector and Valiant but little account had been given; but they were, no doubt, the greatest failures which had ever been put upon the water. The machinery of the Hector went wrong as she was coming up Channel, and she would have gone on the French coast had the engine not been repaired and the ship got round. If the Royal Oak and Prince Consort were to be made harbour ships, where would be our fleet? [Lord CLARENCE PAGET had never said that they were to be placed in harbours.] The noble Lord seemed to look on Mr. Watts as a very ancient gentleman, who had retired from active service under the pressure of years; but he was only sixty-four, and if shipbuilding was regarded as an art requiring great mathematical knowledge and 1455 practical experience in order to become proficient in it, the age of sixty-four was certainly no disqualification in Mr. Watts. In addressing his constituents the noble Lord said that it was under consideration to ask for a considerable vote on account of docks. But where was this Vote? At Portsmouth only £20,000 was asked for, though he was told on good authority that it would be good economy to spend £300,000 there during the present year. He suggested, however, that the plans for these docks should be considered by a Committee upstairs.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
said, the hon. Baronet (Sir James Elphinstone) appeared to be very angry with the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty for not having produced Admiral Dacres's Report in extenso; but he recollected that in 1859 the late Sir Charles Napier having risen to move for a copy of letters from Sir Baldwin Walker to the Admiralty, a right hon. Gentleman made to the Motion the following short reply:—The documents in question were confidential papers presented to the Admiralty, and it would be neither in accordance with precedent nor beneficial to the public service to produce them. He had already communicated the substance of them to the House in the statement he had made in introducing the Estimates."—[3 Hansard, cliii.300.]Now that was the answer of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich, who, in reference to the Report of Admiral Dacres, contended that it might have been either kept back or produced in extenso, but that the substance of it only ought not to have been communicated to the Committee.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
The state of the navy. But, passing from that subject, he wished to observe with respect to Malta Dockyard, about which the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich, the hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth, and the hon. and gallant Member for Wakefield were so jubilant, that the decision which was at first arrived at in reference to it was perfectly reasonable, although the lapse of time might have made a difference in the bearings of the question.
§ MR. SEELY,
referring to the Admiralty accounts, said, it was quite evident from what had taken place that he and his hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) could come to no agreement with respect to them. He therefore begged to repeat the offer which he had made 1456 on a former night, which was that he would meet his hon. Friend and go carefully over the figures, and if it turned out that he was wrong, he would apologize to the House for the statements which he had made. He was, however, perfectly convinced that he had stated what was correct when he said there were several millions of which, on the face of the accounts, no explanation was given. With regard to the Falcon, he would simply observe that it mattered not whether she was repaired in an Admiralty or in a private yard if it were true that the repairs cost a great deal more than was necessary. He would add that when Vote 11 came under discussion he would call the attention of his hon. Friend to two or three items, such as the repairs of plant and machinery, and ask him how those repairs were charged under that Vote instead of under Votes 8 and 10.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Surely, as you have voted the men you must give us the money to maintain them.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again,"—(Sir James Elphinstone,)—put, and negatived.
§ (2.) £2,945,006, Wages.
§ (3.) £1,325,694, Victuals and Clothing.