§ (1.) £527,985, New Works, &c, Establishments.922
said, he was rejoiced to find that reflection had brought conviction to the Admiralty as to the necessity of extending the accommodation in our dockyards. Three years ago when he proposed an expenditure of £1,500,000 in the Channel Dockyards for works necessary to the accommodation of the modern fleet of this country his noble Friend the Secretary of the Admiralty treated his proposal almost with derision. On that occasion his noble Friend said that he (Mr. Corry) was a great advocate for brick and mortar; that his time at the Admiralty was looked on as the golden age, when he was the Palladio of that establishment; that he used to go down to the Board and propose gigantic works; that in going round the yards, if a person asked who constructed this or that great work, the answer was sure to be "Mr. Corry;" and the noble Lord concluded by asking him to sit down contented and not to alarm the House by statements such as he had made, because on a calm review there was no cause for alarm as to any evil results in time of war from a want of accommodation in the dockyards. But I his moderate proposal was now very much exceeded; for, assuming that the works now proposed were carried out in the most economical way—that was to say, partly by contract, and partly by convict labour—the estimated cost was £4,600,000; and the Estimate would be increased to £6,000,000 if the works were carried out in the manner and with the expedition which he thought ought to be used. He did not taunt his noble Friend with the gigantic character of these works, which threw those that he had suggested completely into the shade—on the contrary, he freely admitted that though the Estimate of his noble Friend was much larger than his (Mr. Corry's), it did not go beyond the necessities of the case. The plans proposed for works at Portsmouth, at Chatham, at Cork, and at Malta seemed on the whole to be good, and he would give them his cordial support. But though he was satisfied on the whole with the designs, he was not equally satisfied with the mode in which it was proposed to provide the means for executing them. In proposing the Navy Estimates the noble Lord said—The last paragraph of their Report is of such great importance that I must particularly refer to it, because it bears strongly upon the proposal that I am about to make. The Committee there state—'The Committee, therefore, having duo regard to economy, no less than to the pressing necessities of the service, are of opinion that the 923 completion of the works they recommend should be expedited by whatever means may appear most advisable to the Government and Parliament.'He need hardly tell his noble Friend that he concurred in that recommendation of the Committee, because he was aware that he (Mr. Corry) had drawn it up himself. The noble Lord then went on to state that—If the House will agree to that principle, we can, I believe, by entering into a contract for the construction of the works at a given sum per annum, get the work done at a considerable diminution of cost and within a much shorter period of time.But it was difficult to understand how any Bill could provide for the payment of the amount due under contracts at a given sum per annum. There was only one mode of doing this—namely, by borrowing money as was done in the case of the fortifications. An Act of Parliament would be mere waste paper so far as it attempted to bind future Parliaments, especially if there was an economical Chancellor of the Exchequer or an economical House of Commons; and the Bill proposed by his noble Friend, therefore, would give very little security for the punctual payment of fixed sums from year to year towards the expenses incurred under the contracts about to be entered into. The course which would be adopted by future Parliaments would depend to a considerable extent upon the amount asked for from year to year; but the papers laid before Parliament hardly gave a fair representation in this respect. From the letter of the Director of Works it appeared that the whole cost of the works, £4,650,000, would be distributed over fifteen years (which he thought was a great deal too long a time), and that there would be required an annual Vote of £310,000 for the new works during this period. The annual cost of maintenance was estimated at £275,000, so that according to that calculation a total Vote of £585,000 per annum would be necessary. But, in his opinion, this was not a correct view of the case, because the Admiralty did not propose to distribute the expenditure in equal sums over fifteen years. On the contrary, they proposed that the works should he pushed on with expedition during the first three or four years, in order to obtain a certain amount of accommodation as soon as possible. Thus at Chatham it was proposed to spend in the three years next ensuing £665,000, and at Portsmouth during the same period £822,000, making a total of 924 £1,487.000, or an average per annum of £495,000 for Chatham and Portsmouth alone. The maintenance of the yards involved, as he had said, an annual cost of £275,000, so that the annual Vote necessary under these three heads would be £770,000. Besides that, other great works were to be provided for. The works at Cork were to cost £150,000, and were to occupy five years; so that this would involve an additional annual outlay of£30,000. A like sum of £150,000 was required for the dock and purchase of land at Malta, and as the works there were to occupy three years another annual sum of £50,000 must be added. Then, as his noble Friend had privately informed him, it was intended to construct a floating dock at Bermuda, and to spend there £250,000 in two years. This would add another £125,000 to the yearly Vote, which would thus amount to £975,000, or nearly a million a year, exclusive of the extensive additions to Key-ham which were a part of the scheme of the Government, but for which no estimate had been made. This was more than double the average expenditure on dockyard works, which had gone on for some years, and he much doubted whether any Act of Parliament would bind a future Chancellor of the Exchequer or a future House of Commons to such an amount from year to year. At all events the present Chancellor of the Exchequer had taken good care of himself, for the sum taken in the present year for docks and basins and other new works was only £166,000; and it was questionable whether the right hon. Gentleman would approve next year of a Vote of nearly a million. When the Duke of Somerset was examined before the Dockyard Committee, he (Mr. Corry) asked him whether the Admiralty had turned their attention to the expediency of borrowing money upon terminable annuities for the completion of the great works in the dockyards as they had done for the fortifications; but the Duke gave him no reason to suppose that any such plan would be adopted. It would be impossible to find any arguments more applicable to the case of the dockyards than those which were advanced by the noble Lord at the head of the Government in favour of a loan for the completion of the fortifications. On the 23rd of July 1860, when proposing that £11,000,000 should be raised upon terminable annuities in order to complete the fortifications as soon as possible, Lord Palmerston said— 925I hold it to be absolutely necessary for the safety of the country that these recommendations should substantially be carried into effect. Now there are two modes of doing this—you may either vote annually such a portion of the annual income of the country as the country would like to spend on a matter of this kind, and by so doing defer for perhaps eighteen or twenty years the accomplishment of these defences; or you may take that course which it will be my duty to recommend, and endeavour to complete them at the earliest possible period, without, at the same time, laying upon the country a larger annual burden than would be incurred if you prosecuted those works more slowly. I mean you may by raising by terminable annuities to run for thirty years a sum that will be sufficient in the course of three or four years to complete those works, get within a short period the security you require. … My opinion is that if these works are necessary—and I think common sense shows you that they are necessary—if they are necessary they are necessary as soon as we can get them, they are necessary for time present, and it would be folly to postpone for eighteen or twenty years the completion of defences against dangers which I hope may not arise; but dangers which we may contemplate as possible, and which, if possible, may be possible in the course of a comparatively short space of time."—[3 Hansard, clx. 20.]But the Chancellor of the Exchequer was indignant the other day when an hon. Gentleman suggested that the expense of the dockyard works should be defrayed in the same manner. He did not know on what principle the right hon. Gentleman objected, for he was Chancellor of the Exchequer when the fortification scheme was proposed, and it must be supposed that it had his entire concurrence. Why should the right hon. Gentleman object in the one case to what he had assented to in the other? In point of fact, it was more important to complete the dockyard works without delay for several reasons. In the first place the fortifications were required only to meet the probably remote contingency of war; but additional docks and basins were urgently required to meet the demands of the service even in time of peace, as the whole of the evidence taken before the Committee went to show. The every day work in the dockyards required that the contemplated extensions should be immediately carried out. It was far more important to keep an enemy out of the country than to foil him when in it, and the best mode of defeating an attempt at invasion would be to have the means of maintaining our fleet in a state of efficiency, for which the present accommodation in the dockyards was wholly inadequate. Besides, the works in the dockyards would endure for all time, while the fortifications might be rendered comparatively useless 926 by a change in the art of war. In every respect the urgency of the case was greater than in regard to the fortifications. The dockyards were the jewels, the fortifications only the caskets to protect them; and yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer saw no impropriety in sanctioning a large immediate outlay by means of a loan on the caskets, but he would not hear of such an expedient in the case of the jewels themselves. He should have been glad if the Chancellor of the Exchequer were in his place, but it appeared that now the Estimates were not deemed sufficiently important to induce the right hon. Gentleman to attend, even when it was a question of spending five or six millions of money. He hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would re-consider the subject. The works, even if completed before the end of fifteen years, might yet be deferred too long. And here he wished to correct an error, or rather oversight, which occurred in a letter of the Director of Works dated January 23, which appeared in the papers laid before Parliament. It was there stated that the original Estimate for the Works at Keyham, which were commenced so recently as in 1844, was only £400,000, while they had cost upwards of £1,500,000. But the £400,000 was merely the Estimate for the south basin; and it was the practice at that time to specify the amount required in future years for the particular work only for which a Vote was taken in the Navy Estimates. In 1845 the Estimate was increased by £275,000 for two docks, making £675,000. Afterwards £300,000 was added for the north basin, and £250,000 for factory buildings and so on. The plan followed in 1844 was a bad one, and was amended upon the recommendation of the Committee of 1848, over which the Duke of Somerset presided. He wished to give that explanation in justification of a Department with which he had been connected, and especially in vindication of the late Colonel Brandreth, of the Royal Engineers, an officer of great ability, who then held the office of Director of Works, and who was incapable of making any such mistake. In conclusion, he had to express his satisfaction that at length we were about to get decent accommodation for our ships, and he only hoped that the Government would expedite the works by every means at their command.
SIR FREDERIC SMITH
thought the Secretary for the Admiralty could 927 hardly feel flattered at the interest manifested in this discussion. Though approving of the Votes asked for, he did not think they were adequate for the required purposes. He thought the annual instalments to be of much use, and ought to be much larger. If the Government did not like to ask the House of Commons for a sum sufficient to carry out the works at once, there could be no reasonable objection to the proposal to raise money in the same way as they had done for the fortification scheme. As much money as could be expended ought to be expended at once, and the works ought to be completed in five or six years instead of being spread over twenty. In the way in which the Government were proceeding, the money that was laid out was producing no results. Either the works were not required, or, if they were, they ought to be pushed forward with the greatest vigour. The Channel ports were very badly provided with dock accommodation. One of the most extraordinary things he had ever seen was the charge of £20,000 for lowering floor No. 7. That sum was paid in two instalments, whereas the operation must have been done at once. For Keyham there was a charge of £21,000, and only £30,000 more was required to complete the work. Why not take the whole of it in one year? With regard to barracks, there were certain artillery barracks that might be completed with speed, and for which only £73,000 was necessary; but all the money now asked for was £21,000. If the Government would only ask for large sums for proper objects the money would be granted at once, and he thought that would be a far better course than taking small sums year after year, inasmuch as it would be far more economical in the end to use immediate despatch.
§ MR. LAIRD
quite agreed with the right hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry) as to the importance of completing works rapidly, but he found on looking into the Estimates that the completion of some of them would require fifteen or twenty years. The Report of the Inspector of Works pointed out the disadvantage of the system which had hitherto been pursued, and snowed that out of an expenditure of £550,000 per annum about £250,000 per annum was virtually thrown away, because it had been expended in alterations which had not proved efficient. He therefore thought 928 the Government had done perfectly right in bringing in a comprehensive scheme with respect to Chatham, Portsmouth, and Plymouth. The prompt execution of these works would save a large amount in the annual cost of the navy, for the present dockyard accommodation was quite inadequate to do the work in an economical manner. In private establishments vessels were completed within the yards; but in the national yards vessels had to be fitted partly in the yard, partly in the stream, and partly in the harbour. The Report of the Dockyard Committee of last year recommended the sale of the dockyards at Deptford, Woolwich, and Pembroke, because they did not afford accommodation commensurate with the annual outlay, which was £40,000 per annum. None of them could accommodate ships of the largest class. He trusted the Government intended to make some proposition with respect to the disposal of these yards. They seemed to be under the impression that Pembroke was valuable as a building yard; but he entertained an entirely different opinion, and was fortified in that opinion by the large majority of the Committee which adopted the recommendation. A dockyard which was mainly available for building purposes was not so economical as one which was also available for the general purposes of repairs. The Government were going to expend large sums on alterations and improvements at Chatham, Portsmouth, and Plymouth; and he believed they could, by dealing with private dockowners and shipbuilders, obtain better accommodation for the repair of ships than in the Royal Dockyards; and by that means the £40,000 a year spent on Woolwich, Deptford, and Pembroke, would be well saved. Propositions had been made with regard to private docks on foreign stations, that if the owners would deepen them so as to receive ships of war the Government would pay the cost on certain conditions. In this country there were plenty of builders on the Thames, the Mersey, and the Tyne, who could provide suitable accommodation, without any charge to the public, for repairing Her Majesty's ships in case of war. If such a plan were adopted there would be a great saving, not only in respect of outlay for works, and machinery, but also as regarded the expense of the staffs. He was glad to find that the Government proposed to construct a wet basin and 929 two large docks at Cork, and thought the people of that district greatly indebted to the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire) for his long-continued advocacy of that measure. The only objection he entertained to the course proposed by the Government was that they did not ask for money to proceed with sufficient rapidity. The result would be that the works would be stopped, the contractors would have to be compensated, and the country put to a larger expenditure than it would be if they adopted the same plan which they had done with regard to the fortifications, and borrowed money to enable them to complete the works with rapidity.
§ MR. AUGUSTUS SMITH
remarked, that the attendance of Members on these occasions seemed to be in an inverse ratio to the largeness of the Vote to be proposed. He had the same fault to find with this Estimate as with many others—that a variety of items involving a large expenditure were all lumped together; and then followed a lot of minute sums, as if to show how careful the Department was about trifles. He held that there was economy in executing these great works as speedily as possible when once they had been decided upon; and now that we were in a state of transition as regarded our ships and other defences, the best means of providing against increased Estimates in future was to construct our docks in as scientific a manner as possible, so as to meet any changes that were likely to arise.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, he was glad to find his hon. Friend (Sir Frederic Smith) taking an active part in the discussion of the Estimates, for too many of the hon. Members dealt in generalities about keeping down the public expenditure, and afterwards absented themselves from the House when the Estimates were under consideration. So far as the port which he represented was concerned, the officers there were thoroughly satisfied with the plans which had been brought before the House. With regard, however, to the mode in which the works were to be carried out, and the manner in which they were to be paid for, he differed from the noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty. About three years ago the noble Viscount at the head of the Government brought forward a proposition to expend a large sum of money upon fortifications. Well, those fortifications were intended in a great measure to protect the dockyards. In 930 1863 the noble Viscount introduced the Bill which provided that the money for those fortifications should be raised by terminable annuities. Now, when he (Sir James Elphinstone) had the courage to propose that mode for raising money to pay the expenses of the new dockyards, the Chancellor of the Exchequer thought it his duty to read him a lecture upon the heresy of his doctrines on political economy. In making that proposal, which it was his intention to renew on a future occasion, he was only following the example set him by the Government in respect of the fortifications; and certainly he was at a loss to know how, in 1865, the Government could call that black which in 1863 they had declared to be white. He now gave notice of a Resolution he intended to move on the Dockyards Bill, that the whole of those works should be paid for by money raised upon terminable annuities, in the same way as the expenses of the fortifications were met. It was of the greatest importance that those works should be accelerated as much as possible, as the loss suffered by the country by the protraction of them was greater than any one could suppose. For example, it was of the highest importance to Chatham that the ships lying in its neighbourhood should be laid up in docks and basins. The Admiralty, however, were po tering about making shoes, pumps, and so on, instead of expending the money upon the docks, which were so essential to the interests of the country. He was afraid that those docks and basins would not be completed until half the plant of the country would be sacrificed. Having made up our minds to lay out £1,500,000 upon docks there was no difficulty in the way of the immediate completion of them. There were many great preliminary works to be undertaken. For example, the harbour of Portsmouth was encumbered by banks which could be removed and kept under control by a single dredge. At present the want of accommodation for our large ships in that harbour was notorious, and these vessels were often detained at Spit-head, where the difficulty and expense of communication were so great, or sent round to Portland in inclement weather, because the Admiralty would not go to the expense of £20,000 or £30,000 for dredging the banks to which he referred. An expenditure of a comparatively small amount would double the extent of anchorage in Portsmouth harbour. Only about £38,000 931 was required for the completion of the Keyham docks, which were of equal importance with Chatham and Portsmouth, and yet those works were unaccountably delayed. He was also glad to notice the Vote for Cork, because a station to the westward of all the English ports would be of very great importance in the event of a naval war. It was satisfactory to find that the Government had determined to do something at Bermuda, but he regretted that they had not also determined to improve the harbour of Halifax, which was even more important than Bermuda, as had been proved in the last war with America.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
congratulated the Government on having at length realized the promise made to Ireland to expend some of the public money upon the construction of harbours and docks there. He believed that in making the docks at Cork the Government would be really carrying out a work of great national importance and one absolutely necessary for the public service. Six years was the period proposed for the building of a dock at Cork. When the work was absolutely necessary, why should it not be completed in three years instead of six? A ship could enter Cork harbour at any state of the tide—a fact that could not be stated in regard to many of the other docks of the United Kingdom. He knew that the public service had been often sacrificed for the want of proper dock accommodation at Cork. On one occasion a ship full of troops, having met with an accident to her machinery, was obliged to put into Cork harbour. The vessel, however, after landing the troops, was obliged to go to Portsmouth for repairs, by which a delay of several weeks was incurred, and that at a time when the troops were wanted in a great emergency at another place. There was no want of private and individual energy in Cork. The Messrs. Brown had docks and yards of great dimensions. What was wanted was a Government yard. It was of the utmost importance that such dock be obtained, and that at the earliest possible period. Only £150,000 was required for that purpose—a very small sum, when it was considered how much speed, and consequent saving of coals, would arise from the removal of vegetable accretions from the ships' bottoms. There was no reason why all that was wanted should not be constructed in three years, as well as in six. He thanked the Government for having turned over a 932 new leaf, and given Ireland a share in the public expenditure.
§ MR. C. P. BERKELEY
said, before he could concur in the expression of satisfaction at what had been done at Portsmouth, he would like to know whether the plan of Sir William Martin, marked H, was laid before the Admiralty before they came to their decision? His own opinion was that that plan was the best, as it gave a very large wharfage accommodation in the smallest space.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, it was satisfactory to the Government, and to the professional officers who had given their utmost attention to the subject now before the House, to find that their exertions had met with the general approval of the House. It was natural that in the early part of the Session hon. Gentlemen should criticize the intentions of Government with reference to the dockyards, as at that time no papers explanatory of the course which Government intended to adopt had been laid upon the table. Most of these hon. Members had subsequently expressed their satisfaction; but notwithstanding that every possible information upon the subject had since been given, a few hon. Members on both sides of the House had that evening raised objections of the most opposite character to the propositions of Government, and therefore he proposed to explain the plan which it was intended to carry into execution. In the first place, remarks had been made upon the smallness of the Vote taken for this year for the works at Portsmouth, Chatham, and other places. Now, the papers relating to the proposed extension of basin and dock accommodation in the Royal dockyards laid upon the table on the 27th of April last show distinctly the course which Government propose to pursue. It appeared from the memorandum of the Director of Works that assuming the time required for the execution of the proposed works to be fifteen years under the combined system of civil and convict labour, the annual liability would be about £310,000; but that assuming Parliament should have so approved the scheme in its entirety as to justify the Government in incurring a larger charge in the event of there being a necessity for expediting the execution of the works £500,000 per annum might be expended. In answer to that memorandum the Secretary of the Admiralty sent the following reply:— 933My Lords having had under their consideration your memorandum of the 28th ultimo, No. 83, in reference to the Report of the Select Committee on Dockyards, desire me to inform you that they approve generally of your submissions; but in bringing forward detailed proposals for the great extensions contemplated, you should, without increasing the aggregate cost, so arrange that the contracts for the more essential portions of the works urgently required for the public service, should be executed as speedily as may be consistent with efficient construction; while the employment of convict labour should be spread over the longer period contemplated, and the less important parts of the works should be executed after the completion of the first contracts.The proposal to execute all the important portions of the works as rapidly as was consistent with efficient construction, and to leave the minor portions to he finished at leisure, was a very sound one, and that proposition Government intended to adopt. With regard to the small amount of the Vote taken for the works this year, had the hon. Member for Finsbuiy (Sir Morton Peto) been in his place he should have asked him whether it was usual for rail way contractors and others engaged in the execution of large works to expend a large sum during the first year of their operations. Any Gentleman conversant with the subject would be aware that there was no great expenditure during the first year. The expenditure upon the proposed works would, therefore, be but small during the present financial year, hut it would increase considerably during the next and following years. The works intended to be executed at Chatham were, first, a large fitting-out basin of thirty-three acres; secondly, a factory basin of twenty acres; and thirdly, a repairing basin of twenty one acres in extent. The factory and the repairing basins were to be completed writhing four years by contract, while various subsidiary works were to be carried on simultaneously by convict labour; and thus by the autumn of 1869 those large works would he ready for the use of the navy. It was proposed to take during the present year £70,000, which was the largest amount that could be expended, as, owing to time which would he required to remove the convicts employed there at present, with the plant, the contractor would not be able to commence operations until the beginning of the winter. The sum which would be required next year was £190,000; for the year following, £205,000; and for the fourth year, £255,000. In the fifth year £136,000 would be required to complete this part of 934 the work, and eliminating the convict and dredging expenditure, in five financial or four actual years, no less a sum than £610,000 would have been expended by way of contract in the execution of these works. [Mr. CORRY: If you get the money.] He would touch upon that point presently—at present he was only replying to the objection that they were not spending money fast enough. With regard to Portsmouth, so far from Government only intending to ask for a miserable £20,000 for those works, they intended to expend the sum of £842.000 upon them within the next three years. The chief charm of the plan for these works was, that the works would be completed in sections, so that each section as completed would be available for the purposes of the navy without there being any necessity for the whole of the works to be finished before they could be of service. In reply to the inquiry as to Sir William Martin's plan marked H, he begged to state that the plan had been duly submitted to the proper authorities, but they had unanimously selected the one which was before the House marked E, and which he was happy to say had met with general approval. They would spend next year, in round numbers, at Chatham £200,000; at Portsmouth £260,000; in the year following at Chatham, £200.000, and at Portsmouth, £312,000; and in the year following, that at Chatham £250,000, and at Portsmouth, £250,000. Me ventured to say that that was as large an expenditure as the Government would be justified, by the necessities of the navy, in proposing for hydraulic works of this magnitude. His right hon. Friend the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry) made two objections. The first was that the Government ought to raise this money by loan, and expend it in larger sums. Now, he put it to the House whether it would be worth while for so limited expenditure on works of this description, the effect of which would be greatly to reduce the expenditure upon constant changes, repairs, and patchwork, to make legislative provision for raising the sum required by means of a loan. If hon. Members would look to the Estimates, they would see that while the Vote for the extension of the dockyards was largely increased this year the expenditure of alterations, revisions, and patchwork was reduced. [Mr. CORRY: The Marine Barracks?] Quite irrespective of the Marine Barracks there 935 was such a reduction that the Vote stood at very little more than the amount of last year. The same effect would be produced in future years; so that as these extensions went on pari passu the expenditure for patchwork would be reduced. It would not, therefore, be worth while, for the sake of an extra expenditure of £400,000 or £500.000 upon Vote 11, to resort to a loan which, however well adapted that mode of raising money might be to particular cases, generally ended in financial extravagance. He therefore, hoped that the House, while authorizing the Government to spend this additional £200,000, £300,000 or £400,000 for these great works would resist the temptation to extravagance which was held out to them by the suggestion of a loan. His answers to some detailed objections which had been raised by hon. Members must be similar to that which he had given upon the general question. The hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire) complained of the smallness of the amount which was to be taken for works at Cork, and of the time—six years—which was to be occupied in their completion. It must, however, be borne in mind that in addition to the £150,000 included in Vote 11a considerable sum would be spent annually upon convict labour which was to be employed upon the works. He therefore did not think that the amount was so niggardly as the hon. Gentleman seemed to suppose; and he believed that if at the end of six years there was created at Cork so efficient an establishment as was contemplated by the Bill the people of Ireland would have no reason to complain. As to the caisson at Sheerness, the order could not be executed until late in the present financial year, and £500 was as much as would be required in that period. The hon. and gallant Member for Chatham (Sir Frederic Smith) objected to spreading the lowering of the dock at Portsmouth over two years. The fact was that since the Estimates were prepared arrangements had been made which would enable the work to be completed within the present year, and would lead to a considerable saving of expense. As to the barracks at Eastney, the expenditure which was proposed would meet all the requirements of the marines without overburdening the Estimates with large Votes which were not needed. The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Augustus Smith) had complained that in these Estimates all 936 sorts of things were mixed up in the same Votes, and had instanced the placing of the charge for gas, which was an item of expenditure, under the head of "permanent works," which belonged to capital. If his hon. Friend referred to a paper which had been laid before the House, he would see that the Admiralty had requested the Committee of Public Accounts to look into this matter and had suggested that all items of this kind should be transferred to the ordinary Votes for the establishment. He believed that he had now replied to most of the objections which had been taken, and he trusted that the House would be satisfied to accept these Votes, taken in connection with the Bill for the contracts upon which they should go into Committee tonight, and which would pledge Parliament to the carrying out of these works, as indicating a policy not of reckless extravagance in the way of the extension of the dockyards, but of fully considered and matured expenditure required by the wants of the navy, spread over a reasonable number of years, and meeting the requirements of different places, both at home and abroad, where dockyard accommodation was needed. He was sorry that after what his hon. Friend (Sir James Elphinstone) had said about Bermuda, he was not satisfied with the proposal of the Government. It was difficult to satisfy every one, and that was a question about which something would have to be said hereafter. The plans both for Bermuda and Keyham would, he anticipated, be completed during the present year, and he was sure that they would be received with satisfaction by the House.
§ MR. BENTINCK
admitted that there was great difficulty in satisfying everybody; but here the question was about satisfying the country, and he doubled whether even the able statement of his hon. Friend (Mr. Childers) would succeed in doing that. The total Estimate for Chatham was £1,250,000, and the gross sum expended in three years was £130,000, or about £43,000 per annum. At Portsmouth the original Estimate was £1,500,000, the amount voted £7,500, and the sum to be taken this year £20,000, leaving a balance of more than £1,400,000. At Haulbowline the Estimate was £150,000, and the amount expended £5,000, leaving a balance of £145,000. Now, one of two things—either these docks and dockyards were indispensably necessary for the good of the country, or the whole proposal of the Go- 937 vernment was a piece of wasteful extravagance. If they were essential to the well-being and safety of the country—and he made no question whatever about that—then, as a matter of common sense and economy, they ought to be completed in the least possible time. Do not let them peddle with £7,000 or £20,000 here or there to meet contingencies which, if they were ever to occur, were as likely to occur within the next six months as within the next ten years. He believed that if the noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty and the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House could follow their own inclinations in this matter, the work would be completed more speedily; but the real obstacle to the efficiency of the public service in this and many other respects was the conduct pursued by one of the most prominent Members of the Treasury Bench. He believed that the real bar to the construction of these docks in the shortest possible time was the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and not the excuse that had been put forward with reference to efficiency of construction. The excuse from more rapid construction did not arise from efficiency of construction or the impossibility of construction, but from the want of money. And when the hon. Gentleman talked about the course now pursued being sanctioned "by men of business," he (Mr. Bentinck) understood these "men of business" to be embodied in the right hon. individual to whom he had alluded, who would not sanction any larger annual expenditure for the purpose of cutting controversy and meeting the requirements of his Budgets. They ought to understand whether the works could be carried on more rapidly than the Government proposed; but they were cutting their coat according to their cloth. The hon. Gentleman, referring to a remark of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry), that it would take a million a year to carry on the works in an efficient manner, said the Government were asking as much money as it was possible to ask. But where was the justification on which the hon. Member relied? Was it to be found in engineering difficulties which would render it impossible to carry out the works with greater rapidity, or was it from a disinclination on the part of the Government to advance the sum necessary for the rapid completion of the works? If the latter was the case the principle was a bad one, as they were neglecting to carry out works which were essential to the safety of the 938 country for the sake of economy, and thus were penny wise and pound foolish.
§ MR. LAIRD
, said, he should probably be able to answer the question which the hon. Gentleman had purposed asking the hon. Member for Finsbury (Sir Morton Peto), if he had been present, as he himself had had occasion to contract for the construction of extensive graving-docks and other works. He had always made it a part of the contract that the works should be completed at the earliest possible moment, because he found that until they were completed he could get no return from them. He believed, too, that such a course would be the proper one for the Government to pursue. The dockyards were essential to the interests of the country, and the money which was required should be raised upon the same principle as that adopted in the case of the fortifications, which could not be compared with our dockyards in point of utility. He felt convinced that the hon. Member for Finsbury, if he were present, would bear him out in saying that it was much better that the works at Chatham, Portsmouth, and Keyham, should be completed in the most rapid manner possible, instead of being subject to the dilatory course proposed by the Government. Looking at the works that were to be carried out, he thought a million a year could be spent with advantage; and, moreover, if they would set about the completion of the works with spirit, they would save the expense of the modifications which succeeding Administrations were sure to suggest. Before sitting down he wished to know from the Government when they intended carrying out their proposed sale of dockyards. The question was an important one, because it involved a large annual saving of £40,000 to the country, and he hoped, therefore, that he should receive a satisfactory answer.
§ MR. H. ROBERTSON
urged the necessity of hastening on the works as speedily as possible. The Government had undertaken the manufacture and repairs of ships; but until those works were completed they could not be in a position to carry out the repairs. Thus every year of delay brought a loss to the country, and he, therefore, thoroughly concurred in the remarks of the hon. Member for Birkenhead. The plans of the works at Portsmouth were well adapted to the wants of the case; but he would have wished that the Government had taken more advantage of the talent of the country in procuring the plans. With- 939 out entering into details he might point out that the plans showed only seventy feet of quay space, and if there were to he laid down three lines of rails they would have little left for other purposes. The estimate would not be sufficient for all the works set out in the plans.
§ MR. ALDERMAN SALOMONS
expressed a wish to know what determination had been arrived at by the Government in reference to the dockyards at Woolwich and Deptford?
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
, in replying to the observations which had been made in the course of the discussion, said, an idea appeared to prevail among hon. Members, especially on the other side of the House, that the Admiralty would have been glad to have proposed larger estimates had not objections to their doing so been raised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The truth, however, was that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had raised no difficulty with regard to the proposed expenditure which had been laid before him, and that the Admiralty Estimates had been submitted to the House in their integrity. Some hon. Members, he might add, seemed to think that the proposed works ought to be carried out at once, and without any reference to cost; and his hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Laird) talked of entering into a contract for the purpose, forgetting that the Admiralty had in the first instance to prosecute the work of reclamation of ground from under the sea, which it was necessary to shut out before the masonry could be proceeded with. That tidal work it was, of course, impossible to prosecute continuously, whatever the amount of money voted might be. A large sum, it would be seen, was taken for Portsmouth, while there was a considerable increase for Chatham over the Vote of last year, because the works had arrived at a stage when they could be carried on at all tides. He thought he might reasonably express his satisfaction that Ireland was a participator in the advantages of the proposed schemes. When the preliminary works at Cork were completed by convict labour there was nothing to prevent Government from entering into contracts and proceeding with vigour. In reply to his hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Alderman Salomons), he might observe that the Government had come to the conclusion that it was not desirable that Pembroke dockyard should be shut up; while their intention with respect to Woolwich, and he might add Sheerness, was that when ample 940 provision was made for building and repairing ships by means of the contemplated extension of the larger dockyards, those two yards should be closed. As to Deptford, the Government were of opinion that although it would be well to give it up as a building yard, it still was desirable to maintain it as a station for landing and shipping stores, and transacting the enormous victualling business of the country. He must not sit down without apologizing to his right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Corry) for any remarks which he might have made some years ago, with reference to his great ability in constructing dockyards, and which might have given him offence. His right hon. Friend might, he thought, take great credit to himself rather than otherwise in connection with the matter, and might fairly regard himself as the Palladio of our dockyards.
§ MR. ALDERMAN SALOMONS
thought that considering the large portion of the river at Woolwich occupied by the yard, it would be almost a scandal to have it shut up in the way Deptford Dockyard had been. He should therefore be very much obliged to his noble Friend if he would state what was meant by being "shut up."
§ MR. AUGUSTUS SMITH
asked if these yards were shut up whether claims to the ground would not be put in by the Woods and Forests—the property belonging to the Crown?
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
said, they had not yet gone the length of considering to whom the ground would belong when the Government gave up the yards.
§ MR. ALDERMAN SALOMONS
said, it was very natural for his constituents to wish to know what was meant by being "shut up." Did the phrase mean disposed of for other purposes, or kept unappropriated?
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, he wanted to know whether the Admiralty was in communication with the War Office, in order to have the ground required at Portsmouth Dockyard squared off, there being at present only 600 feet available from the head of the docks, while there was no room whatever for naval barracks. If the means of military defence bad been condemned by the War Office, a great 941 amount of land would be at the disposal of the Government, and if the obsolete fortifications were done away with the Government could recoup themselves for the expense of laying out some portion of that land in such places as it was not required for the public service. He had been a Member of the Committee which recommended that the small dockyards should be done away with; but that was under the impression that the Government could not otherwise he induced to supply the funds necessary for the great works which had been undertaken; but now that the Government had given the money he must say, as, indeed, he stated in Committee, that it would be a great misfortune to abolish those yards. Pembroke was a most useful yard for the construction of ships—it was peculiarly adapted for that purpose, and had the advantage of not being exposed to the fluctuation of the labour market. They could not possibly do away with Deptford, for the victualling of the navy was there carried on, and if the Admiralty killed and cured their own meat the provisions in the navy would be most materially improved. Woolwich was necessary for the repair of the smaller class of vessels, and he regretted few things more than having sanctioned the recommendations of the Committee.
saw no reason why the works at Cork should not be completed within the space of three years.
§ MR. BENTINCK
thought if the works undertaken were necessary, the most economic and advisable mode of proceeding would be to complete them as soon as possible. He wanted an explicit answer to this short and simple question—if the Admiralty were not hampered by any financial considerations—if they were free to expend what money they thought necessary on these works would they not take a larger sum than they asked in these Estimates? The noble Lord (Lord Clarence Paget) said the Chancellor of the Exchequer had made no difficulty. Surely the noble Lord had addressed the right hon. Gentleman in peculiarly favourable circumstances, for he believed this was the first time when money was to be granted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not made any difficulty. His question was this, was it the opinion of the Government that it was not expedient to expend a larger sum for the completion of these works than they now proposed to do, assuming that they had the money at their command?
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
said, he 942 did not exactly make out what his hon. Friend meant. The Government had taken into their consideration the proposals of the Committee of last year. The Committee referred to certain works which were immediately required, and the Government had taken a sufficient sum to commence their execution. They had not thought it their duty to propose to Parliament a larger sum than was named in the Estimates. Of course, if they had an unlimited sum at their disposal, the Admiralty might have undertaken larger works; but they had asked for money enough to proceed with these works in a satisfactory manner.
§ MR. LAIRD
thought the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir James Elphinstone) was rather hard upon the Government. As a Member of the Committee that hon. Member had joined in the recommendation that certain dockyards should be sold, the sale of which would go towards providing the means of executing additional works. But, because the Government were about to engage in those additional works, the hon. Member now turned round and said they should not sell those dockyards.
§ MR. H. ROBERTSON
called attention to the proposed expenditure on the new dock at Malta. There was "an additional Estimate for premium to contractor for earlier completion of works" at the Marsa; but in what time would that secure their completion? Much would depend on their getting possession of the French Creek, all their operations with regard to which appeared to be hampered by their engagements with the authorities at Malta. For the construction of the dock at the French Creek only £8,000 was asked this year, although the total Estimate was stated in the Votes at £120,000. The plan of Captain Clarke, which had been adopted, was far inferior to that of Mr. M'Clean, and it would cost more money and take more time to execute, owing to the rock which had to be excavated. Mr. M'Clean's plan would give them two docks and a large spacious open quay at a cost of £100,000, or double the accommodation to be obtained for a much greater outlay under Captain Clarke's plan. The Government were attempting to gain time and save money when, in fact, the result would be just the opposite. The item of £8,000 ought to be deferred until they had a plan of how the French Creek should be treated as a whole instead of a part.
§ MR. CHILDERS
hoped the Committee would be satisfied with the decision at 943 which the Government had arrived on the matter of the French Creek and the Marsa after the fullest consideration. The plan finally determined upon had been concurred in by all the professional opinion, naval and engineering, which could be got at Malta; and the result arrived at was such a solution of a difficult question as was highly creditable to those who proposed it.
§ MR. LAIRD
thought that after the ample discussion which the subject of the Malta Dock had undergone in that House, it was not desirable that the battle should be fought over again; and he trusted the Committee would not interfere with the course now proposed to be taken by the Government in that matter.
§ Vote agreed to.