HC Deb 26 February 1866 vol 181 cc1142-73

SUPPLY considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)


said, he hoped the noble Lord (Lord Clarence Paget) did not intend to go into the Estimates at that late hour of the evening (twenty minutes past nine o'clock). It was not probable the noble Lord would obtain a vote that night.


Sir, in rising to move the consideration of the Navy Estimates for 1866–7, I should have no right, under ordinary circumstances, to claim the indulgence of the Committee, because the performance of the duty for the eighth time ought, ordinarily, to present no great difficulty. To-night, however, I approach the subject under some oppression. First of all, I miss, on both sides of the House, many familiar faces of those who used to take part in these discussions, and thereby render very great service to the navy—Mr. Lindsay, Mr. George Bentinck, Sir Frederick Smith, and many others. I cannot but regret their absence on the present occasion. Another cause of greater oppression and difficulty is, that in past Sessions, when I have had the honour, on the part of the Government, to conduct these debates, I have always had the assistance of the great statesman who is gone from among us. Few in this House and few in the navy appreciated the extent of his knowledge of every detail connected with the navy, and the extraordinary interest he took in everything which had reference to the welfare of the seaman. Under all these circumstances, I am sure the Committee will give me every indulgence. The Estimates for the year 1866–7 are very much changed in many respects, and I am afraid the change will involve hon. Members in some difficulty when they attempt to make a comparison of the Estimates with those for the present year. In accordance with the recommendation of a Committee of this House, the Estimates for 1866–7 are altered as respects the Votes having reference to the dockyards in several particulars. Hitherto the salaries of officers and superintendents have been in one Vote, and the wages of artificers and others in another Vote. The Committee wisely, I think, recommended that the whole expenditure of each dockyard and each victualling yard, and of all other naval establishments should be shown distinctly under the Vote for each. The Committee will, therefore, find that the figures of the Votes are very much changed. For the convenience of hon. Members who may wish to make comparisons, I have added in the appendix the Vote in the old form. The Committee I have alluded to also advised that many items in the Estimates which were under certain Votes should be transferred to other Votes, as being the more appropriate places for them. An instance of the difficulty of comparison which this' change will involve is afforded by the Transport Vote, which shows an increase for 1866–7 of £82,208, whereas there is really a decrease of £47,104. I will explain that when I come to it; but my object now is to inform the Committee that, with the best intention to do everything that can be done to make these matters clear, I am afraid there will be some difficulty owing to these changes. Still further, to facilitate the understanding of the Estimates, I have added at the end a table of contents; and I have also inserted two Returns which I have previously placed before the House as single papers. One is a list of ships afloat and building, and the other is a programme of shipbuilding works. I thought it was more convenient that these should be attached to the Navy Estimates than that they should be published separately. The Navy Estimates for 1866–7 amount, in the gross, to £10,388,153. They are the same as the Estimates for the present year, for I will not venture to call a sum of £4,000 a reduction. If anyone, however, were to suppose that the ordinary naval expenditure of the coming year would be equal to that of the present year, he would do a great injustice to the Department, because, in truth, there is a considerable reduction, as I shall show, upon the ordinary expenditure. I will state at once to the Committee how this matter stands. They will remember that for several years past there has been a great and a proper demand that the dockyards should be placed in an efficient state as regards basin accommodation, the provision of additional facilities for the building of armourships, and various other purposes connected with the matériel of the navy. This House resolved last year that we should put our dockyards in a proper state, and that that should be done, not by mere annual Votes alone, but by a Act of Parliament to empower the Government to enter into contracts for the completion of these great works. The result of that is that, in accordance with the terms of the Dockyard Extensions Act, the Vote for the Dockyards will be increased during the coming year by a sum of £350,000 over the Vote for the present year, and I have to inform the Committee that, so far from my being able to hold out a hope of any reductions in the Vote for New Works, there is a certainty, as I think, during the next three years of a considerable increase. The Votes this year for New Works under the Act of Parliament, amounts to upwards of £800,000, and must during the next three years amount to upwards of £1,000,000. With regard to the other Votes you will find that there is throughout the Estimates a fair reduction in consequence of a certain diminution in the number of men and in the Votes for Stores, the only increase of any importance being in the Vote for the Dockyards. And now, Sir, with regard to the Vote for the personnel of the navy. We take this year, as I will presently show, a somewhat smaller force of men, and consequently our Vote for the personnel of the navy will be less during the year 1866–7 than it was during the present year. And here, again, I want to call the particular attention of the Committee to what our prospects are in future years. Now, it is all very well to talk of reducing the naval expenditure, but the fact is, that I cannot hold out any hopes of a reduction in that which principally governs the expenditure of the navy—the number of seamen of the fleet. We have carried on during the last two years a gradual reduction of our seamen to what has come to be a very considerable diminution, but if we are to make the naval force which we have afloat adequate to the demands upon it, that reduction cannot go on. I have a paper here which, if hon. Gentlemen wish mo to quote from, will show that, so far from there being a prospect of a further diminution of our fleet, we are pressed from all quarters of the globe for additional assistance. We are pressed from China. We are told that the seas there are infested with pirates, and large demands are made upon us for additional forces. In Japan, they tell us that, in order to carry out the treaties which have been made with the Tycoon, we must be prepared to have a large force in the inland sea. In the River Plate, Chili, Peru, the presence of ships is asked for, and let it be remembered that most of all these demands come at the desire of our merchants. In short, such are the calls upon the Admiralty, that I confess I should be deceiving the Committee if I were to hold out a prospect of any further reduction in the number of men. Now, that being the case, let us take a glance over the future expenditure of the navy. Setting aside altogether Public Works, which have no reference to the number of men, and which, when they are completed will, no doubt, cause a great reduction in the expenditure under that Vote; setting aside also all the other Votes—the Non-effective Votes and the Vote for the Transport of Troops, which have nothing to do with the navy—I think it will be seen from a very important paper which I should like to quote to the Committee, and which will be found of very great value, that the expenditure for future years does not appear to afford much hope of reduction unless our forces at sea are to be diminished. Now, the expenditure for the personnel of the navy from the year 1855–6 down to the coming year, including everything which is due to that expenditure—that is to say, the pay, the victualling, the medical stores, and various other things—has been set down on one side. On the other side I have put together the Votes for the matériel of the navy, which includes dockyards, stores, and, in short, every cost of the ships in which we put the men. If you have so many men you must have so many ships, and if you have so many ships in commission, you must have so many more in reserve, and others to replace them when they are worn out. The Committee will see, therefore, that there is a direct relation between these two classes of Votes, and that they really depend very much on one another. Well, the expenditure on men since the year 1855–6 up to the next year—including these Estimates now before the Committee—the expenditure on the personnel is in round numbers £48,000,000, and upon the matériel of the navy the figure is nearly £47,000,000. [Sir JOHN PAKINGTON: Sincewhen?] From 1855–6—that is, eleven years—I give you the proportion of the cost of the personnel to the matériel. It is as forty-eight to forty-seven, or very nearly equal. I will now proceed to show the House what is proposed to be taken for the year 1866–7. We ask you for the coming year for the personnel £4,173,550, for the matériel we only ask £2,586,653, that is, we are asking for our matériel a very much smaller proportion than the average on the eleven years. In 1865–6 we took, in round numbers, £4,500,000 for our personnel, and for our matériel £3,000,000. I have given this Return, which I think extremely valuable, and which I would honestly recommend to the attention of the hon. Gentleman, because I think it a fair guide to the probable expenditure of future years. I will tell you why we have asked so small a sum for matériel during the present and coming year. We have made great exertions during the last five years in constructing armourplated ships. The fleet may now be said to be in a very fair condition as regards the wants of the country, and it is that which has enabled us gradually to lower these Votes for the matériel. It is also because we had a good stock of timber, which we laid in by our providence, instead of our improvidence, as was supposed by some hon. Gentlemen at the time. It was that valuable stock of timber which has enabled us at present to keep the Votes for the matériel so low; but I desire to express my deliberate opinion that, unless the force of ships in commission is reduced, this sum will in future years be inadequate to the maintenance of our matériel, indeed the Return I have quoted from distinctly points to this result. Votes 1 and 2 are for the pay and victualling of the fleet, and upon them there is an apparent reduction of £172,808 shown at page 5. The real reduction is only £80,000, and the history of this is that we have transferred from Vote No. 1, which is the Vote for the pay of the seamen of the fleet, the whole expenditure upon our Government transports, and transferred it to Vote 17. Hence, although the reduction in the Vote is shown on the Estimates to be £172,000, the real reduction is, as I have said, only £80,000. I now pass to the reductions we propose in the personnel. We take 185 officers less, 17 fewer subordinate officers, 12 fewer warrant officers, 486 fewer petty officers and seamen, 50 fewer Coastguards afloat, 600 fewer Marines, and 200 fewer civilians, being a reduction, in all, of 1,550. That is qualified by an increase of 200 added to the Coastguard on shore, and I think it will be satisfactory to those who take interest in these Coastguardmen, to hear that we have now come to an arrangement with the Treasury by which, as far as Government is concerned, the Coastguard forces shall be established at a fixed number, and not, as heretofore, be liable to a yearly fluctuation. We propose now permanently to increase the force by 200 men, and to finally fix the number at that which it will be after making this addition. The result of all this is that we have a reduction of 1,350 in the number of officers, seamen, and marines; so that we shall have during the coming year a total force of 68,400 men, against 69,750 men in the present year. I now come to the ships in commission. If hon. Gentlemen will turn to page 140 they will find there a list of all our ships in commission. The total number of our sea-going ships is 148, of which 12 are armourplated, or at least that was the number at the commencement of December, since which time we have commissioned another armour-plated ship and paid off a line-of-battle ship. This is exclusive of the Coastguard district vessels. That disposes of Vote No. 1; and, passing over intermediate Votes, I now come to Vote No. 4, which relates to the Naval Reserve. That force, which was established within the last few years, goes on, I am happy to say, increasing. We are now much more careful in selecting the men, and we take none but first-rate seamen. That force now amounts, in round numbers, to about 17,000 drilled men and 200 officers, while the Royal Naval Volunteers amount to about 5,100 men. In the Vote for Dock- yards you will find there is an apparent increase of £64,766, but that increase has to be qualified; and the real increase in that Vote as compared with that of the present year is about £35,000. The addition made to it arises in the first place from the fact that we have transferred to it from other Votes the whole of the expense for the superintendence of the dockyards, while we have also been obliged to enter a number of new men for breaking up ships and to substitute at Portsmouth a large number of labourers for convicts. I now pass to Vote 10—the great shipbuilding Vote; and in bringing it under the notice of the Committee I shall try, as I have always done upon these occasions, to avoid matters of mere controversy. I will not here enter into the question of broadsides or turret or box ships, or into any other topic of the kind, but I will confine my observations to a general estimate of the condition of our fleet; and I hope that the Committee will deal this evening with the subject in the same comprehensive spirit, and will reserve the discussion of details for a more fitting opportunity. In the first section of Vote 10, which amounts to £1,003,501, there is an apparent reduction of £131,071, but the real reduction is only £81,071, the discrepancy being due to a transference of the Vote for coals for the Government troop ships. When we come to the second section of Vote 10, which is the Comptroller's Vote, or the Vote for contracts for building ships, we find there is an apparent reduction of £246,700, and that is a real reduction, and one of the solid reductions in the Estimates for the coming year. There is an increase in the Vote for steam engines to the amount of £40,000; but there is a great decrease in the contracts for building ships—a decrease to the amount of not less than £239,000—and here occurs a very interesting subject to which I must shortly advert. That question is the desirability of continuing the present system under which a considerable number of vessels are built for the navy by contractors. That question is so important, and so likely to give rise to discussion, that I would ask hon. Members not to discuss it to-night. I think it is a question to which a separate night may well be devoted. There can be no doubt that there are disadvantages connected with the present system. When a contract is entered into with a private firm, of course the Government must abide by the terms of its contract, and the firm are only bound to do what they originally covenanted. When we give a contract for a vessel which is to be completed at the end of a given time, say of two years, there is no doubt an advantage in such an arrangement, provided we can specify beforehand what is the precise character of the work to be performed. But there is no year in which the state of naval science is not greatly improved as compared with the year preceding. Owing to the rapid advances of naval science, owing to the discoveries which are made almost every day, it is most important that there should be an opportunity for modifying the original design as the building of a vessel proceeds; but we cannot go to a contractor and tell him to change his plates and make other alterations, without incurring a great additional expense; while, if we build our ships in the dockyards, we have the advantage of having the works under our own control, and of effecting in them any changes we may think proper. As long as our ships are built by contract, the Government must abide by its original contract, and cannot expect the contractors to make the alterations in the work necessitated by the constant changes in naval architecture. I do not hope that my opinion will meet with the unanimous assent of the House, but I wished to state what I believed to be disadvantages connected with the present system. With reference to the present condition of our ironclad fleet, it will be found in full detail in page 146; but for the information of the public, I will now mention that on the 1st of April we shall have afloat thirty armour-plated ships of various classes, and we shall have one only on hand which will not be afloat by that time; so that we shall then have a total of thirty-one armour-plated vessels built or being built. [Sir JOHN PAKINGTON: Are they all sea-going ships?] No, I do not say they are all sea-going ships. There are several that we do not consider sea-going ships, and I shall be able to show hereafter what we think a sea-going ship ought to be. We are going to construct a sea-going cruising turret-ship, to be called the Monarch. I do not see the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Laird) in his place. [An hon. MEMBER: He is very ill.] But our views of the proper size of a sea-going ship and his somewhat differ. After going very carefully into this question, and studying the thickness of the plates, the thickness of the backing, what the height should be out of the water, the speed, and the offensive and defensive power of this ship, we have come to the conclusion that the least tonnage we can give to a two-turreted ship, carrying four guns, is 5,099 tons. [Mr. CORKY: What sized guns?] The turrets are prepared to carry a 22-ton gun, but the ship is a little in advance of the gun, for it is not yet settled whether those guns will be introduced into the service. The Committee are aware that there exists a gun of 22-tons that has been tried at Shoeburyness, and our artillerists think that they can construct guns of that calibre. Whether they will succeed or not I do not know, but we must provide for guns of that weight, and if they fail, we can easily carry guns of a smaller calibre. The thickness of the armour-plating will be seven inches, and there will be two inner skins of three-quarters of an inch each, so that she will have 8 inches of iron round her battery and water-line, with a backing of 12 inches. She will be of 1,100-horse power, and have an estimated speed of fourteen knots an hour. She will carry four guns in her turrets, and two 100-pounders—one in the bow and one in the stern—behind armour-plated shields. The other ship which is going to be commenced—the frames are already prepared—is the Hercules, a sister to the Bellerophon. I described this vessel very minutely when the Estimates were before the Committee last year, and I will not further advert to her here. That will make thirty-three armour-plated ships that will he built or in course of construction during the year. The other operations we propose will be found under the head of the "Programme of Works," in page 147. We propose to build two enlarged vessels of the Amazon class, not armour-plated, but carrying four heavy guns and having an estimated speed of thirteen knots, and one or two smaller vessels. That will be in addition to two Amazons already built, and four that are building, besides one small vessel building with a double screw. The result is that we propose to construct during the coming year, 1866–7, 15,907 tons, or, in round numbers, 16,000 tons of shipping, This is our intention; but shipbuilding is dependent upon accidents, and we are not always able to carry out our full programme. Last year we lost the Bombay and other ships, and the result of the various casualties was that instead of carrying out our programme and executing 15,000 tons of shipping we only executed 12,500 tons, owing to the fact that the repairs had been greater than we antica-pated. I am sure the Committee will be perfectly aware that although our programme varies in this way, it is wise that these things should be stated to the Committee, even if we do not come quite up to the mark. I have just given our estimate of the constructive power of the Admiralty during the coming year. I will now give the Committee an idea of its destructive power. We are often called upon to get rid of the rows of old ships and hulks that encumber our harbours. Since July, 1859, we have sold, taken to pieces, lost, lent, or given away 320 vessels. No complaint can be made, therefore, of our not destroying them as fast as we can, and there still remain a great number to be dealt with. Sir, I have already said a few words on the subject of Vote 11 of our new works. With regard to Woolwich and Sheerness, in accordance with the feeling of the Committee on Dockyards and the public, we think it unadvisable that there should be any great expenditure upon those yards, because many people look in the end to their being swallowed up and merged in the great establishments. We propose to spend very little on Woolwich, Sheerness, or Deptford. At Chatham very good progress has been made with the extension works. The whole of the sea has been shut out, and we are now ready to deal with the contractors. I shall be obliged to ask for the extension, for three months, of the Admiralty powers in the Dockyard Extension Act, to enable us to defer the contracts until we get the specifications ready; but the director of works reports that there will he no delay, because the interval will enable us to collect the machinery, plant, and matériel that is necessary. A small item in these Votes will be brought before the Committee, but it involves a new principle. We want to connect the railways with all the dockyards. There were two ways of doing this; either we must make the branches ourselves, or make some terms with the railway directors with a view to the construction of the branches by them. With the sanction of the Treasury we have agreed to allow the railway companies to make the branches, and we paying them a certain interest upon the capital employed. [An hon. MEMBER: At what rate?] I cannot exactly state. It is not quite settled, but that is the principle on which we intend to go. For the works of Portsmouth we ask £192,000. We are already commencing the new basins; all the legal questions are settled; and we hope, as the item shows, to make considerable progress during the coming year. There is an item in the works at Portsmouth to which I will now advert. Although we have two great armour-plated ships building in that dockyard, still it is a fact that if any disaster of a serious character happened to our armour-plated fleet we have not got the means of very extensive repairs at Portsmouth. Yet Portsmouth is evidently the dockyard at which any extensive repairs would have to be executed. We therefore ask for £18,000 to provide for the repair of armour-ships, including machinery, building, &c. My hon. Friend the Member for Rochester found fault with me for adopting steam-spinning at our dockyards, and complained that it tended to take away the valuable occupation of hand-spinning. I am afraid that my hon. Friend will find fault with me still more this year, for we intend to extend our steam-spinning. We propose to introduce steam-spinning machinery at Devon-port, with the intention of abolishing the ropery at Portsmouth, and contenting ourselves with the two steam-spinning establishments at Chatham and Devonport. Sir, the next important item is for the dock at Haulbowline, Cork, and I am happy to inform hon. Gentlemen that that work is progressing. There are a large number of convicts employed upon it, and we trust that in the course of the year 1866–7 the sea will be excluded, and we shall be able to commence the dock with its basin. These are all the great and important works at our home establishments as regards the dockyards. With respect to marine barracks, we have nearly completed a fine set of barracks at Eastney and Chatham. And here I may observe that an important question is arising at the present day in connection with the marines. Great facilities are given to marines who are married to live with their wives and familes. Considerable sums are paid as lodging money to those men who are allowed to reside outside the barracks. Well, Sir, whether some measure may not hereafter be adopted, founded upon the Bill of my hon. Friend the Secretary of the Treasury, or by some other means, to provide cottages and lodgings for our married soldiers, I am not prepared to say. It is a question which ought not to be lost sight of, because it is a very costly system to give our married marines lodging money, and the purlieus of the barracks are not fit places for them to live in. I believe that sooner or later something will have to be done to provide a certain portion of our married marines, and, indeed, our married sailors who happen to be in port, with quarters, I turn next to Malta, and here I am glad to say that all the disputes with the Maltese authorities have vanished, and that those authorities are giving us cordial assistance. So well, indeed, have they and the contractors also behaved that we may expect by the end of next June—a year before the time fixed—to have that fine artificial harbour completed for the merchant service, and the French Creek will be given up to us. The dock in the French Creek is progressing satisfactorily; about one-third of the excavations has been done; the nature of the rook promises well; and I am informed by the directors of the works that unless some difficulties that cannot be foreseen arise that dock will be finished in two years. The only further work connected with this Vote relates to the proposed dock at Bermuda, We propose to construct a great iron floating dock, and there have been various plans before us for the execution of this work. One of these is quite of a novel and ingenious character. I do not venture to describe it, but I intend to lay a model of it in the Library, that hon. Members may see it for themselves. The plan, although it is one of a hydraulic first-class dock, dispenses almost altogether with any steam machinery; and, what is still more remarkable, the inventor proposes to build it here and to go out in it. The only other Vote I need notice is No. 17, for transports. Here there is an apparent increase of £82,208 in comparison with the Vote of last year; but in reality the amount is lower by £47,104 than that of last year, because there has been a transfer from other Votes of £129,312 for wages, victuals, coals, &c, which are now brought under the head of "transport." I have necessarily passed over the Estimates very lightly, for it would make a very long story were I to advert to all the items; but I think I have not neglected to place before the Committee all the important points. I have now only to make a few general observations on the condition of the fleet, which I have always found to be a matter of interest to the House, and to which on the present occasion it affords me special pleasure to refer. I regret to say that during the last few years the flow of pro- motion among the combatant officers in the navy has not been satisfactory. I am bound to give my right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) credit for always having desired to carry the retirements of officers further, with a view to create a better flow of promotion from the junior to the higher grades of the service. I, for one, should always have been very glad to do the same thing, but his scheme would have been a very expensive operation; while the scheme which in a few days I hope to lay on the table, and which will, so to speak, be a self-acting measure, will, I believe, produce that fair and proper current of promotion in the navy which is necessary, without very great cost. Although the scheme is almost entirely complete, I do not think it would be right on the present occasion to enter into any of its details; and, therefore, I now only mention the fact that I hope in a very short time to propose to the House a measure which has received great attention, and the object of which is to give a better flow of promotion from the junior to the higher grades of the service. There is another valuable and important class of officers in the navy, though one not included in its combatant sections. I speak of the medical officers, whose professional services being much sought after and far better remunerated in private practice than in the navy, it has become absolutely necessary that better prospects should be held out to attract them to that service. The Duke of Somerset, therefore, called together during the autumn a committee, which was presided over by Sir Alexander Milne, a distinguished admiral, and on which officers of the army and navy were placed, together with two eminent medical men, the one a member of the College of Physicians and the other a member of the College of Surgeons. Both of those bodies have also given us their most cordial assistance with a view to put the medical officers of the navy in such an improved position as that, while no unreasonable demand shall be made on the public, greater inducements than heretofore shall be offered to tempt them to make the navy the field for the exercise of their profession. Sir, a scheme founded on their recommendations will be laid before the House. There are some proposals with regard to Greenwich Hospital pensions to which I need not now advert, as they will have to be brought in as a separate measure. A few days ago I placed on the table certain statistical Returns having reference to the general condition of the navy. Some of those Returns, unfortunately, are not quite finished, but there is one from which, although the actual Report is not yet out, the Committee will, perhaps, permit me to read a brief extract. It is the Report, made up to the end of the year 1864, on the discipline, crime, and punishments of the navy, and it states— The report on crime and punishment in the navy, made up to the end of the year 1864, will show the satisfactory state of the discipline and condition of the fleet. The convictions are fewer than in the year preceding. There have been fewer cases of drunkenness, theft, and gross acts of insubordination; and even the offence of being absent without leave has very much declined, although the amount of leave given has been greater than at any former period. The number of persons discharged with disgrace or as objectionable was only 200 in 1864, against 530 in 1863. In 1864, 577 men and boys were corporally punished against 1,012 in 1862, and 752 in 1863. The proportions are as follows:—In 1862 one in every 54 persons; in 1863 one in 66; and in 1864 one in 84. On the home station, including the Channel Squadron and the Coastguard ships, the proportion, irrespective of boys, is only one to about every 600 men. Imprisonments have declined, so also have the other major punishments, such as disrating, deprivation of good conduct badges, reduction to the second class for conduct, and so forth. If any further proof be required of the improved and improving conduct of the men of the fleet, that proof is afforded in the statistics of courts martial, where we find the remarkable fact recorded that the convictions in those courts have fallen from 140 in 1863, to 97 in 1864. The desertions are decreased from 5 per cent in 1862 to 2¼ percent in 1865. Everybody, I am sure, will listen to the indications of improvements such as those spoken of in the Report with great pleasure. For the first time, I have been collecting statistics concerning education in the navy, and I am sure Members will be surprised on learning the progress it has made among all classes and all ranks. In the same Return the religious denomination to which the men belong is indicated. There is one thing they lack, although it is supplied to every other class of people in the country, and it is the savings bank. In this direction much may be done. If we can induce men to become frugal, and invest their money in savings banks, which, in my opinion, ought to be introduced on board our ships, they would be more likely to resist the temptation to go ashore, get drunk, and get into trouble. If we can once tempt the fleet to these habits of frugality we shall have done much to improve its morality. Were the men to have an easy opportunity of investing their savings, I have no doubt much money now squandered would be put by, and the morality of the navy greatly promoted. Military men will correct me if I am wrong when I state that every regiment has its savings bank—an institution which has done much in improving the character of the army. Hitherto we have failed in this respect to do for the navy what has been done for the army; but I do trust that this matter will not be allowed to drop until something satisfactory has been accomplished, for I am perfectly convinced that all we desire can be carried out. The project, I have no doubt, will be attended with expense, because we have not the requisite machinery in our ships. I must say that while my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has provided such banks in almost every little village in the country, it does seem very hard that sailors in particular are to be debarred from investing their money and receiving a dividend for it on board their own ship. It is true we allow them to send their money home to their friends, but they should be able at any time to place their money in the bank themselves, and themselves receive the dividends. I sincerely hope that the measure I now suggest will be carried out, whoever may occupy the position I now hold. Last year I stated that it was requisite that a corps of artificers of the fleet should be organized. We are now establishing a school-ship. In every other respect, I think, the fleet is thoroughly organized. When we get a proper class of artificers on board our ships we shall be ready to go into action whenever required. When we reflect what these ships are, and the delicacy of the manufacture of much that is on board ship; when we consider that not only the engines but the guns (with respect to which we are introducing new mechanical appliances) come within the province of the artificers, it is necessary that they should be a properly organized body. These, Mr. Dodson, are the general observations I have to make to the Committee in connection with the Navy Estimates, and from which, I think, it will be seen that our fleet is keeping up its position, and is ready for any service that may be required of it. I have only passed lightly over the various branches of the Estimates, and would recommend the Committee to defer any lengthened and detailed observations, particularly any controversy with respect to the construction of ships, until we arrive at the particular Vote relating to them. I thank the Committee for the attention with which it has listened to me. The noble Lord concluded by moving the first Resolution.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That 68,400 Men and Boys be employed for the Sea and Coast Guard Services, for the year ending on the 31st day of March 1867, including 16,400 Royal Marines.


Sir, my noble Friend commenced his address by referring to the number of years in succession in which he has brought the annual statement touching the navy before the House. He has uniformly made that statement with so much frankness and fairness that it really always became a very unplensant duty to enter into any part of it in which a difference of opinion would arise. I am therefore rejoiced that, at all events in one very important portion of those Estimates, the first, I think, to which my noble Friend referred, I am enabled to state most cordially my concurrence in the course which the Government has adopted. Looking at the magnitude of the sum for which Parliament is asked, the reduction is so trifling that, as my noble Friend stated, the Estimates must be considered the same as they were last year. The saving made is to be found in the Votes for the men and shipbuilding, and the first part of my noble Friend's statement was devoted to the explanation of the circumstance that, while this saving had been effected, the general amount of the Estimates remains the same. This is explained by the fact that there has been a great increase in our dock accommodation. The total expenditure in this respect has been no less than £1,500,000 for Portsmouth, and I think very little less for Chatham. New Members may not be aware that this part of the Estimates is the result of the deliberation of a Committee of the House of Commons appointed the year before last to consider the amount of dock accommodation at Portsmouth. The result of the inquiries of that Committee was that the whole of our system of shipbuilding, having been in a state of transition, rendered it imperatively necessary for the public service that the great increase in the size of our ships should be met by a proportionate increase in dock accommodation for the care of them. This is the true explanation of this matter; and feeling, as I do, the imperative necessity for providing that additional dock accommodation, I am very glad that the Admiralty has introduced these items into the Estimates, which I, for one, will most cordially support. My only doubt with regard to this item for the increase of our docks is, whether or not the expenditure might not be judiciously incurred in a shorter period of time. The cost of the works at Portsmouth and Chatham is to spread over a period of not less than six or seven years. [Lord CLARENCE PAGET: The most essential pans will be completed in four years.] I cannot help thinking that these works might have been carried out more economically if they had been carried out in a shorter space of time; but this is a point of detail with regard to which my noble Friend may perhaps give a satisfactory explanation hereafter. Another item which the noble Lord has not referred to, but which I am glad to see in the Estimates, is £50,000 for the establishment of a dock at Bermuda, as there is no part of Her Majesty's dominions where the establishment of a dock is more necessary. I am aware of the great difficulties in connection with the locality from the nature of the rock on which Bermuda stands; and, therefore, I believe the Government has adopted a very wise and prudent course in deciding to carry out the intimation which my noble Friend gave us last year, to the effect that the Government would endeavour to overcome the practical difficulties of the case by establishing a floating dock. Here, again—though I cannot pretend to judge of a matter of detail of this kind—I am disposed to think that it would have been better, when £250,000 is to be spent in making the dock, if the Government had proceeded somewhat more rapidly, and taken a larger sum this year than £50,000. My noble Friend next made a statement respecting the average expenditure of the navy during a series of years, showing that during that series of years the expenditure for the personnel and matériel of the navy had been nearly the same, and that in the present year the expenditure for shipbuilding was much less, as compared with the expenditure for the men, than it had been in former years. But I think it is more important for this House to take into consideration whether or not the amount to be voted for the building of our ships is wisely and judiciously expended; and, in reference to this, I am obliged to say that the statement of my noble Friend is not so satisfactory as I had hoped it would be, nor so satisfactory as he led us to expect when he made a similar statement last year. In the first place, I wish to make a few remarks on the question of turret-ships. My noble Friend said he would not on the present occasion enter into any comparison between turret or broad-sided ships, but I cannot help thinking that at this moment, when the general statement of the Department is made, and the House of Commons is invited to incur an enormous expenditure to support and keep up the strength of the navy of the country, the natural and proper course is to enter into a full statement of questions of this sort. My noble Friend himself adopted this course last year, and therefore I was surprised to hear him say that this was not the moment to discuss that point, and that we must wait till we came to that particular Vote. On the contrary, I wanted him to go fully and clearly into this important subject. I think, moreover, that on this most interesting and important question the statement of the noble Lord has not been so satisfactory as I had hoped to hear. I do not want to involve the House in controversial matters more than is necessary; but, after the statement made by my noble Friend, I cannot altogether forego the right I have to say that that statement has not been so satisfactory as I had hoped he would make. Will the Committee allow me to remind them of what fell from the noble Lord last year on the subject of turret-ships? He said— The first proposal we have to make is that, if possible, we should endeavour to construct a ship upon the turret principle which shall be a real sea-going vessel."—[3 Hansard, clxxvii. 1158.] How has that promise been fulfilled? During the past year has the Admiralty taken any steps whatever in building a sea-going turret-ship? I have not heard of the commencement of any such vessel; indeed, my noble Friend now makes exactly the same promise which he made a year ago. I am extremely surprised to hear that this projected ship is to be a vessel of upwards of 5,000 tons; for are we to understand that no sea-going turret-ship can be constructed with less tonnage? I am very sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Laird) is prevented by illness from being in his place this evening, because he would probably have been able to give us particulars respecting a sea-going turret-ship which he built last year. That vessel, which was of 1,100 tons only, made a long voyage in bad weather, and proved herself possessed of every quality requisite for a sea-going ship. I cannot give particulars, but my hon. Friend would have confirmed what I state, I wish to ask the noble Lord why so much delay has occurred, and how it happens now that we are a second time promised a sea-going turret-ship, that it is to be a vessel of 5,000 tons? Above all, I desire to know who is to design that ship, and who is to be responsible for its construction? I think the conduct of the Admiralty, in regard to this most interesting question, has not been satisfactory. Captain Cowper Coles is the originator of this plan, and the Admiralty long ago acknowledged that that gentleman's invention was one well worth trying as an experiment. Now, I think no one will deny that if an experiment relating to a great national question of this kind is worth making at all it ought to be made fairly and promptly. In my opinion, however, the Admiralty have not tried Captain Cowper Coles' plan either fairly or promptly. They began by cutting down a three-decker, the Royal Sovereign, and converting her into a vessel which, in the event of a war, may, indeed, be found useful for the protection of our own coasts, but which is not, in any respects, the kind of ship which Captain Cowper Coles from the first designed. The Admiralty have evaded the request of Captain Cowper Coles that his experiment might be fairly tried, and, besides that, it is notorious that the present Chief Constructor of the Navy, Mr. Reed, has himself adopted a rival system. I wish to put it to my noble Friend whether, during the course of the year, the Admiralty have not allowed the inventor of this rival system to have all the advantages of official support and protection, while Captain Cowper Coles' proposal for a sea-going turret-ship has never up to this hour been fairly tried, notwithstanding the admission that it was worthy of such a trial? I have, I think, a right to ask, and the House has a right to ask, these questions, when we are told that the Admiralty are going to build a ship unnecessarily and unwisely large, incurring thereby an enormous expense, while it would have been far better to test the qualities of the system as to its sea-going powers by means of a much smaller and less expensive vessel. But, after all, what is this ship to be? Is it to be built under the guidance and ac-cording to the plan of Captain Cowper Coles, or on the plan of Mr. Reed, who, it is known, favours the rival system? We have a right to expect a frank and open statement as to the course the Admiralty will take on that point. I wish now to call the attention of the Committee and of my noble Friend to another subject which he introduced into his statement last year, and which he has again touched upon, though very lightly, this evening. Last year he said, somewhat to the surprise of the Committee, that at that time when so much attention had been given to armour-plated ships, the Admiralty had decided to build a class of ships which should be not armour-plated, but wooden ships, which my noble Friend described as Alabamas. [Lord CLARENCE PAGET: They are the Amazons.] The noble Lord said— Our further operations in the dockyards will be the building of four swift ships, not armour-plated, but trusting wholly to their speed and armament—vessels which I may describe by a name familiar to everybody as an improved class of Alabamas. There are three of these vessels now under construction, and we propose to construct four more of them, making seven. They are entirely intended for the protection of our commerce. They will all be built of wood, and very much of the character of the famous Alabama."—[3 Hansard, c lxxvii. 1158.] The Committee made no objection to this plan of the Admiralty; but I think I am speaking the opinion of every hon. Member who remembers the circumstance when I say that the Committee acceded to the plan only on this understanding—that, as the vessels were not to be armour-plated but wooden, they should be vessels of the greatest speed. Indeed, as they were to be built for the protection of our commerce, they would be of very little use if they were not of great speed. Well, the Amazon was the first of these ships; and I understand—of course I speak under correction—that, in point of speed, she is a complete failure. I am informed that the greatest speed which can be got out of her is 12J knots an hour. Is that such a rate of speed as my noble Friend contemplated? Why, the Agincourt goes at the rate of 15½ knots an hour. In case of war one of those new vessels would not be able to cope with the fast sailing ships which would be then on the seas, though to be of value she should excel them all; and, of course, if they came in contact with an iron-clad they could not stand against her for a moment. How are they valuable if they do not bear out the promise made by my noble Friend last year, that they would be built for swiftness. I am sorry to be finding fault, but I must say a word as to one of our armour-clad vessels. I allude to the Pallas, which is constructed on such principles that she has no speed. She drives each wave before her, and so makes it impossible that she can get through the water at a high rate. So defective is the construction of her bows that she fails in that important element which is now the first requisite of a man-of-war. I fear that these mishaps may be attributable to the fact that the Government have allowed themselves to lose the shipbuilding talent which they once possessed. I see opposite me my hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock (Mr. Samuda), and I am glad that a gentleman so eminent in shipbuilding has now a seat in this House, and will be able to join in these interesting discussions on the navy. If I am correctly informed my hon. Friend is now paying a large and handsome salary to Mr. Oliver Laing, one of the most eminent shipbuilders in Europe, who, through the injudicious course adopted by the Admiralty, has been driven from the public service of the country; and I am very much afraid it is owing to that injudicious course we find these failures in the new ships. Year after year Parliament, with unbounded liberality, is ready to vote any sum which the representative of the Admiralty in this House tells us is necessary for the maintenance of the naval power of this country. Only one condition is made on the part of this House—that the money shall be beneficially expended—that we shall have the best ships which can be procured. This being so it is most unfortunate and vexatious that we should find these striking instances of want of success on the part of the Admiralty in providing the country with ships such as it has a right to expect. I thought I should not find it necessary to trouble the Committee with any further remarks on this stage of the Estimates; but there is one point in the Estimates which I would like my noble Friend to explain. The amount involved is not a very large one, but it is an item which has an important bearing on the future welfare of the navy. I mean the great reduction in the Vote for the Schools of Naval Architecture. [Lord CLARENCE PAGET: They are in the Civil Service Estimates.] I hope the Admiralty have not relaxed in their efforts in regard to these schools, and that reduction is caused by a mere transfer of change. [Lord CLARENOE PAGET: That is all.] There is only one other part of the speech of my noble Friend to which I think it necessary to allude. I mean the concluding portion, in which he intimated the intention of the Admiralty to establish a new system of retirement for officers, and also, as a result of the recommendation of the Committee, to improve the position of the medical officers of the navy. I did not understand him to say whether the Committee sitting on the subject had made their Report; but I shall be glad to find the noble Lord coming down to Parliament and proposing some change in the position of these officers, for it was a matter of great regret to me that one of the first acts of the Admiralty was to reverse the changes which I had made for the benefit of the medical officers of the navy. The result has been that this branch of the naval service is left in a most unsatisfactory position. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that, during the last few years, a difficulty has been experienced in getting students to enter the service; and I am glad that the Admiralty appear to think it necessary to retrace their steps. It is satisfactory, also, to learn that it is their intention to propose a system of retirement that will be self-acting. Whether it is to be founded on the principle of age the noble Lord has not told us, but I hope it will lead to a regular flow of promotion in the navy, and that the service may be freed from the disadvantage—I may say the discredit—which attaches to the periodical stagnation which now takes place on the promotion of officers. I reserve for a future occasion any further observations it may be necessary I should address to the House.


said, he could not help thinking that in examining the Estimates a practical result could not be arrived at if hon. Members did not look at those Estimates in connection with the general state of the fleet. In regarding the figures then before them, it must occur to every one that they were asked to agree to Estimates which provided, or purported to provide, an addition to our navy to only a very small extent. It appeared to him, if he understood the figures, that two armour-clad vessels only were intended to be added to the navy, and that the construction of these was to extend over two years, which would give only one iron-clad ship for this financial year. To ascertain whether this was sufficient to satisfy the wants of the public he would review, as briefly as possible, the vessels we now had of that class. It would be in the recollection of the Committee that in 1859 the necessity of reconstructing the navy was admitted, and that reconstruction commenced. It was intended to substitute for the old wooden unprotected hulls, hulls protected by thick armour-plates. When the reconstruction commenced four vessels were laid down—the Warrior, the Black Prince, the Defence and the Resistance. It had been understood that these were to be armour-protected vessels; but, in truth and in fact, they were anything but protected with armour. Their protection was extremely limited, being confined to a small portion of the middle of the ship. Fore and aft there was no armour, so that two-thirds of the whole vessel were completely unprotected. This being so one of these vessels would be destroyed by a ship completely protected if the latter could bring artillery to bear against her. Following these four vessels came three others, on which the protection was further extended, but which still maintain the same character of being only partially protected. Now, all the time we were progressing with these imperfectly covered vessels our neighbours were engaged in constructing a fleet of ships wholly protected by armour; and so actively had they proceeded that the Admiralty took alarm and came down to this House and obtained permission to construct five vessels in their own dockyards. These were to be wooden ships, armour-coated, so as to restore the balance of our naval force. The result was that four out of five vessels of the Royal Oak class were built in the dockyards, and being covered from head to stern with armour-plates were not liable to the objection which he had made with reference to the previous seven—namely, of being only partially armoured, though it was admitted that these wooden hulls could only be looked upon as a temporary, not a permanent addition to the fleet. To the mistaken policy on which the Admiralty were founding their operations he had always entertained very great objections, which he lost no opportunity in making known to the Admiralty, and as far as he could to all scientific assemblies, believing that every one was bound to do all he possibly could to rectify so serious an error, and he urged upon the Admiralty the advisability, and pointed out the course by adopting which they would he able to give perfect protection. The next and most important change which took place in the building operations conducted by the Admiralty consisted in the abandonment of their plan of building partially covered vessels and the laying down of three vessels of the Agincourt class, wholly protected from stem to stern. They also took in hand the two turret-ships they now possessed—the Royal Sovereign and the Prince Albert. To him this change was particularly satisfactory, because it adopted that system of entire protection which he conceived to be absolutely necessary; and the Admiralty having arrived at the decision by slow gradations, he had hoped that under no circumstances would they depart from it. In the Agincourt the public saw not only a very fine vessel, but that the entire covering of a vessel with armour was not inconsistent with the highest rate of speed, for the Agincourt was beyond all doubt the fastest vessel in our own or any other navy. But the importance of these results were in his mind inferior to the influence that the working of the Royal Sovereign turret-ship ought to exert in determining the future policy when adding to the navy. This vessel, though altered under considerable disadvantage, had shown a capability as to mounting and working guns and of maintaining herself at sea which he believed the Admiralty had never contemplated, and which in any event must be highly satisfactory to those who had watched her career. He was very sorry that the same opportunity of trial had not yet been afforded in the case of the second turret-ship, which, being constructed on their own design and of iron instead of wood, was intended by the Admiralty to be, and he had no doubt would prove in fact, an improvement upon the Royal Sovereign, That vessel had now been out of the hands of the contractors more than twelve months, and if up to the present moment it had been tried, he fancied it could only have been partially, and that within the last two or three days. Therefore, viewing the subject from this point of view, we had at this period arrived at the important knowledge that wholly protected ships were capable of being constructed to attain great results in speed, while they practically offered the resistance to shot throughout that was the main object to be attained by the re-construction of the navy, and that cupola-ships were not only capable of carrying the full protection of armour, but of carrying and fighting their guns in a superior manner to anything that our previous knowledge had enabled us to do. After the great success which had attended the Admiralty's change of policy in building vessels wholly instead of partially protected, he was particularly grieved to find that suddenly, at this stage of the proceedings, they ignored all that went before, and, going back to the point from which they started, set to work again to build the vessels of their first love, those partially covered with armour. From that time to the present they had persisted in this disastrous policy, the only two exceptions being wooden vessels, admitted frankly to be merely of a temporary character, and not to be looked on as permanent additions to the fleet. The result of all these details, which he apologized to the House for troubling them with, was that, at the present moment, if unfortunately we were called on to meet the armour-clad navy of any foreign State, we had but ten efficient and well-protected vessels to take their places in the first line of battle. Ten other vessels, which he should denominate of the second amount of resistance, were capable, no doubt, of offensive operations against vessels wholly unarmoured; but acting against vessels protected by armour, they would be placed at such a disadvantage that even if they were not sunk by the fire of their adversaries their two ends would be so beaten to pieces as to render the vessel wholly unmanageable, and an easy prey to an inferior force. The ten remaining vessels, making up the thirty which had been alluded to, were all small craft coming within the same category except the two small turret-ships. The question was worthy of consideration—were ten effective ships a sufficient protection for this country, upon which it was wise, safe, and prudent to rely? His own view of the matter was that if we had twenty, instead of ten, effective ships, we should still be short of the position which this country ought to occupy. We should then only have an equal number to that possessed by one country. His impression had been formed by taking a comparative view of our own strength compared with that of other first-class naval Powers. In France twenty such ships were furnished up to the close of last year. If, therefore, the vessels we possessed were insufficient for the service of the country, what were the best descriptions of vessels with which to improve our position? Clearly, he imagined, they were not the partially-protected vessels. From the evidence which had been obtained, the best description of ships, he thought, would be turret-ships, and of them an addition of six would not be by any means too large a quantity. Those vessels would take two years to build, and consequently the addition to the navy would only be at the rate of three per annum. Viewed, however, in the light in which the noble Lord had put it, the addition to the navy of these turret-ships would be a more serious matter than he was disposed to believe necessary. He was disposed to believe that the size suggested by the Admiralty as proper for a sea-going turret-ship was vastly too large, and if, as the noble Lord had intimated, the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Laird) likewise differed from the view entertained in official quarters, the opinion which be had ventured to express was powerfully confirmed. He had gone very carefully into this matter; and without troubling the House with the details, the conclusion which he had arrived at was that vessels of about 3,500 tons might be constructed to carry the heaviest artillery known, or contemplated at the present moment, in two cupolas, and could be made to attain a speed equal to that attained by any vessel afloat in the navy, and that for a sum of about £280,000, which would include their machinery. He should not ask the Committee to accept his statement without due investigation, but he would ask them to receive with Borne hesitation the statement of the noble Lord to the effect that no less than 5,100 tons would answer. He had no wish, he might add, to interfere with the Admiralty in carrying out the details of the work which might be determined on for the service of the country, but he thought it was within the scope of their duty for this House to decide on the general policy. The Chancellor of the Exchequer would, he thought, do well to agree to the appointment of a Committee to investigate the question whether vessels of such a class as he had indicated were practicable, and could be rendered beneficial to the public service. If a Committee should so report, then the House of Commons ought to be prepared to act upon their recommendation, and instruction might be given to the Admiralty pointing out the general basis of construction on which they were to proceed. The Admiralty would then carry out the details, and the responsibility proper to the Department would rest with it.


said, that while the Secretary to the Admiralty had informed the Committee that a reduction had been effected in the Naval Service of the country, he had not been able to show that there had been any corresponding diminu- tion in the Navy Estimates. That state of things he had explained by saying that it had been found necessary to build large docks for the accommodation of those monster iron-clad ships which it had of late years been the fashion to build. The enormous expenditure of the Naval Department for some years back was occasioned by the supposed necessity for building these monsters. The system of constructing such vessels had, as the Committee was aware, been commenced by his right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington), under whose auspices the Warrior, which cost little less than half a million, was laid down. Then followed the Black Prince, a similar ship, the Achilles, and what, he would ask, was the reason given for building these large vessels? It was said that the constructors in our dockyards were of opinion that it was impossible to obtain a sufficient amount of speed from iron-clad ships, unless they were built of increased size; but had the Admiralty, he should like to know, ever taken the trouble to ascertain by experiment whether that was or was not the case? The Admiralty, on the contrary, had shown itself most obstinate in the matter. They had refused to make that experiment, and had even declined to try the invention of Captain Coles. What had been the result? That that invention had been carried out by a private firm. The Committee had been informed that Mr. Laird, of Birkenhead, had turned out a perfect sea-going turret-ship called the Vesta, on the principle of Captain Coles, which, although she was only 1,100 tons, was as efficient as the Warrior, and had made 12½ knots an hour. She had been out in the recent severe gales, and had behaved admirably. She was, in fact, in all respects, a thoroughly good sea-going ship, and carried in her turrets 300-pounders or 12-inch guns. Her turrets were covered with 10-inch iron; her sides with 6-inch in the centre, and she was clad with iron from stem to stern. Now, such was the result of Captain Coles' principle tried by a private firm, and he could not help thinking that if it had been taken up by the Admiralty, and had proved successful, millions of money would have been saved to the country. He would, under these circumstances, appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, everyone was prepared to admit, desired to economize the public revenue, to say whether he would not agree to the proposal of the hon. Gentleman who last spoke, to appoint a Committee to inquire into the principle on which our ships had been or ought to be built. The noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty had not, he might add, adverted in the course of his speech to the question of guns, except by saying that there was some project to construct a gun of 20 tons. He would, however, perhaps inform the Committee what guns our ships had at the present moment. The Committee had heard something of 12-ton guns, but he should like to know whether they were rifled or smooth-bores. [Lord CLARENCE PAGET: Rifled.] Well, then, what was the principle of rifling? Was it that which was called the New Woolwich, which he believed was an adaptation of the French system?


said, he congratulated his noble Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty on the lucid and comprehensive manner in which he had submitted the Estimates to the consideration of the Committee. He must at the same time observe that in his opinion we had gone on incurring heavy expenditure in the construction of our iron-clad vessels, without being perfectly convinced of the soundness of the principle on which we had proceeded. It was a question open to serious discussion, whether we had adopted a politic course in building these stupendous vessels, and whether a smaller class of vessels might not be more useful and more readily handled. He would urge upon the Government, looking at the rapid strides of science, and the efforts of other Powers to strengthen their navies, to take timely forethought and save expense, so far as that could be done consistently with the national honour. Hitherto the country had gone on incurring expense without satisfaction to themselves or to the public. The vessel of 4,000 tons burden as proposed by Captain Coles had all the advantages which were claimed for the enormous vessels which they bad been building. He was of opinion that vessels of much smaller burden would be found more efficient for the public service than vessels of so large a size, costing so large a sum, and which, in the event of war becoming crippled, we should not have the means of docking and repairing. It was to be stated to the honour of the country, that it had never been backward in responding to any call which it was found necessary to make, in order to preserve the efficiency of the navy. The country had demanded nothing more in return than a rigid supervision of the accounts, and a responsible administration in every department connected with the naval service. Had they always remembered that, and acted in accordance with it, their fleet would have been immeasurably superior to what it was. It had been said that they had not ten of the larger class of iron-clad ships fit for service. He would not contradict the assertion, but was inclined to believe there were more. It was of the first importance that we should possess a perfect knowledge of the rate of speed of our ships. He had moved for a Return on the subject, and the Admiralty had readily granted his request. The French were most scrupulous in their efforts to secure for their ships a commensurate rate of sailing. He believed that we had only three ships that were capable of attaining the same rate of speed. He would repeat for the benefit of new Members the incident of Nelson's pursuit of the French to the West Indies. It was a well-known fact that he was obliged to wait upon the high seas upon several occasions, that the British ships in his rear might overtake him, and the consequence was that the French in the end evaded him. This showed how desirable it was that ships should be built of equal speed. The commerce of England was world-wide; it was not to be expected that her political relations would always remain as at present; it was uncertain how long peace would prevail. The class of vessels which he should wish to see built, and to which immediate attention ought to be given, were those of 1,100 tons. Such a fleet would be able to scour the seas, and give protection to our commerce. He felt deeply the honour of his profession, and he should rejoice at seeing it connected with a class of ships capable of maintaining the honour and independence of the country, and of warding off the evils that threatened us.


said, that practical seamen appeared to agree that great speed was not compatible with heavy weight unless there were a great displacement. In confirmation of this he could appeal to the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Laird). Two of his ships, the Wyvern and the Scorpion, were of 1,800 tons burden, with 350 lb. per square foot. Their speed was only 10½ knots an hour. He did not believe with such an arrangement they could possibly get a greater speed. The fact was, that a two-turreted ship, built with 9-inch plates and mounted with guns to match, could not be made to attain any- thing like the desired speed unless they were made, as the noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty had expressed it, of 5,000 tons. He would, in conclusion, express his concurrence with the hon. and gallant Member who had insisted upon the necessity of having ships of equal speed.


said, he was surprised at one omission in the noble Lord's speech. He alluded to the report with respect to the Masters—namely, that the Admiralty proposed to do away with that valuable class of the Royal Navy, and had already stopped the entry of Masters' assistants. It was an important and, in his opinion, an ill-advised change, for he could bear testimony to the efficiency of the Masters. He did not desire to remove responsibility from the captains of men-of-war; but he was of opinion that they should have such assistance as the Masters had hitherto afforded them. If the proposed change were carried out the duty formerly discharged by the Master would fall upon the lieutenants, who in their young days were not so educated as to enable them to give the needful assistance to the captain. They had had no opportunities of obtaining a knowledge of pilotage and surveying, being occupied with the duties of the ship, and preparations for their examination in mathematics, gunnery, steam, and the amount of navigation necessary to work what is called a college sheet. The attention of the navigating officer should be constantly directed to practical nautical surveying to charts, currents, bearings, &c. It would take a lieutenant a long time to acquire sufficient knowledge, after he had been made a lieutenant, to perform the duties of the Master; and every one could understand how important those duties would become in time of war. The occurrences in the Baltic during the late war might be cited as instances in proof that the present system worked well. It was said the French did without Masters, but their system of promotion was the exact opposite of the English plan. The junior members of the French navy were promoted by seniority, the older members by selection, and he was assured that during the action of the combined fleets in the Baltic almost all the soundings were taken by the English. The Masters had also the charge of stores, which could only have the general supervision of the captain, and if the superintendence of stores was taken out of the present experienced hands, he was afraid the expenditure for stores would greatly increase. They were also a valuable body of men from their knowledge of the Channel pilotage, and if our iron fleets were to be relied on as a means of home defence it would be very imprudent to get rid of a body of men who had made it their study, and especially at a time when the effect of our recent legislation had been not to increase our Channel pilots at all commensurate with the increase of our commerce. It was impossible to do with fewer officers on board our ships than we had at present, and if they amalgamated the Masters with other branches of the service they would have to increase the lieutenants by 356, the number of the Masters which would be given up—an addition of upwards of 300 discontented men, because promotion thereby would be much slower than at present, as there would not be a single more ship to command. There would be no injustice done to the Masters by not promoting them to higher ranks, because they entered the service on the understanding that they were not to be promoted except under special circumstances. Besides that the Masters' assistants were allowed considerably more pay at the time they entered the service than the naval cadet, and their tuition was paid out of the public purse, and not as by the midshipmen out of their pay. The Masters' social position on board ship was good, and when on shore it depended, like every other class, very much on the individual character of the man. The change was not required, and the Committee of 1862 reported against it on the ground that the present system was a good one. If this was intended as an experiment the time was ill-chosen, just when our ships are so greatly increased both in size and value, and when the experiment would involve the loss of an existing body of skilled and experienced navigating officers. He hoped the Committee would be cautious before they assented to the proposed change, especially as the majority of our experienced naval officers were averse to it.


said, the importance of the question required the serious consideration of Parliament, and as it was then too late to fully discuss the question, he moved that the Chairman should report Progress.

Whereupon Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Sir Morton Peto.)


said, he hoped the Committee would assent to the Vote for the number of men. The subject of the navy could be resumed on Thursday.


said, he objected to the Vote being taken, unless it was understood that the Committee might go into the whole question of the navy on a future night. His object was to prevent any hon. Member from being precluded to enter on any subject connected with the navy by the forms of the House.


said, it was desirable that there should be no misunderstanding about the matter. He concurred with the hon. Baronet the Member for Bristol that the Committee should have the right of entering fully into the subject on a future day.


said, he hoped that before the Chairman reported Progress, he might be allowed to take two Supplemental Civil Estimates.


asked the noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty if the Return he moved for on Friday last would be in the hands of the Committee before Vote No. 3 was taken?

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question, by leave, withdrawn.

  1. (1.) £764,829, Advances for New Zealand War.
  2. (2.) £372,943, Deficiencies on Giants for Civil Services.

Resolutions to be reported To-morrow.

Committee to sit again on Wednesday.