HC Deb 26 July 1866 vol 184 cc1501-28

rose, pursuant to Notice, to call attention to the general administration and to the accounts of Her Majesty's dockyards, and to move certain Resolutions thereupon. He said, that when on the 16th of June, in the last Session, he brought forward a Motion on this subject the noble Lord (Lord Clarence Paget), the then Secretary to the Admiralty, said it would be impossible to follow him through an array of figures on matters of detail. The Admiralty had since published their reply in two Returns, Nos. 465 and 465-I. He (Mr. Seely) had disputed the reasons, excuses, &c., given in 465 and 465-I for the discrepancies, and it was arranged in the House early this Session, after a discussion on the subject, that his Secretary, in conjunction with the Accountant General of the Navy, should investigate the matters opened up by his speeches, and the Admiralty published replies, 465 and 465-I, thereto, and that disputes should be settled by some independent accountant named by any Gentleman on the Treasury Bench. This agreement had been summarily violated by the Admiralty removing the books under investigation, and he had, therefore, determined to bring the details and particulars before the House. He had stated last Session from the Returns laid before Parliament that at Chatham boats were fitted out at half the rate book price, while at Portsmouth they cost double the rate book price, or four times as much in one dockyard as at another. In No. 465-I the Admiralty explained that there was an error in the accounts at Chatham, the cost of fitting given in printed accounts being the cost incurred in fitting during the year only, the rate book price being for completely fitting the same boats. And with regard to Portsmouth, as a kind of excuse for its excess cost, there was a vague allusion to a variance of local practice in treating as part of the cost of building at one yard what was entered as expense of fitting at another, though it was not stated that this was applicable to Portsmouth. He wanted to get the cost of completely fitting twenty-five boats at Chatham so as to compare with the rate book price of completely fitting the same twenty-five boats, so as to compare cost at Chatham with cost at Portsmouth. The Admiralty would not give this Return, but he obtained the account of the boats fitting at Devonport. He wanted the cost of fitting each of the eighty-five boats fitted at Portsmouth, with the rate book price of the same. The Admiralty said, "it was not possible to ascertain from the manufacturing accounts as prepared the cost of fitting each of the eighty-five boats fitted at Portsmouth, &c." The books were then asked for by his Secretary, and he found it was quite possible to obtain the cost of each, and the following startling results appeared: —At Devonport, fitting eight twenty-eight feet cutters cost £6 8s. 1d. each, the rate book price being £9 16s. 0d. each; and six twenty-five feet cutters cost £6 5s. 0d. each, rate-book price for fitting being £7 10s. 0d. each; and the balance sheet from Devonport has against these cutters the remark that "the rate book prices for fitting appears to be too high." Notwithstanding this, at Portsmouth fitting a thirty-two feet galley cost £100 13s. 4d., the rate book price (that is, the price it ought only to have cost in fitting) being only £7 17s. 4d., whilst a new thirty-two feet galley, completely built and fitted, should have only cost £31 9s. 4d. Fitting a thirty-four feetcutter cost £93 8s. 7d., the rate book price being only £11 18s. 0d., whilst a new boat completely built and fitted should have only cost £47 12s. 0d. Against these two boats the Portsmouth balance sheet remarks that "they were fitted for an Admiral, and defects made good." Notwithstanding that the cost of fitting was in each case £100 13s. 4d. and £93 8s. 7d., the charge made for fitting these boats to the ship was only £7 17s. 4d. and £11 18s. 0d. (the rate book price). At Devonport, a twenty feet gig cost in fitting £3 4s. 8d., rate book price £4 17s. 6d.; at Portsmouth fitting a twenty feet gig cost £17, rate book price £4 18s. 4d.; and a thirty feet gig cost £47, rate book price being £7 7s. 6d. At Devonport in the same year twenty-two fourteen feet dingies in all had been fitted at an average cost of £2 10s. 7d. each, rate book price being £3 3s. 0d. each, whilst a fourteen feet dingy at Portsmouth cost in fitting £14, rate book price being likewise £3 3s. 0d. In the return of the Portsmouth boat-houses for 1862–3 it appeared that the excess of cost above the rate book price for building boats was as £765 to £490, being an excess above the rate book price of 50 per cent, or £275; and for fitting boats £1,593 as against £799, or an excess above rate book price of 100 per cent, or £794. The Admiralty stated that the accounts for 1863–4 showed a better result, and that the difference of fitting boats at Chatham and Portsmouth was in that year inconsiderable. The instances adduced for 1863–4 showed that at Chatham the cost of fitting twenty-five boats was 10 per cent below the rate book price, while at Portsmouth the cost of fitting forty-four boats was 17½ per cent above the rate book price, and 27½ per cent above the Chatham rate. However, in 1863–4 there were some striking examples of excessive cost, as, for instance, a twenty-six feet barge costing in fitting £73 16s. 9d., when it should only have cost £23 8s. 0d. &c.; but if the cost of fitting appeared to have lessened in that year the cost of the repairs of boats appeared frightful; for instance, he found that a thirty feet cutter had been repaired at a cost of £110, but which if new built and fitted would cost only £42. A twenty-two feet gig had cost in repairs £58, which new built and fitted would cost £21; and three twenty feet gigs had cost £90, which if new would cost £58. The returns of the Portsmouth boat-houses for 1864–5 were next examined. It appeared that the eighty-three boats repaired at a cost of £5,685 had better have been burnt, for the dockyard people might have bought newly built eighty-three boats of the same size for about the cost incurred in repairing them. One cutter had been repaired at a cost of £66, which if new built and fitted would have cost £30. There were several similar instances. The small amount of new work as compared with the increasing cost of repairs was worthy of attention. In 1862–3 the charge for new work for Portsmouth boats was about the same as repairs. In 1863–4 the new work cost £1,346, and the repairs £4,375. The hon. Member cited other figures to show the enormous cost of repairs at all the yards compared with the new work done, the amount in 1864–5 and 1863–4, being very much more than that of 1862–3. When the examination had proceeded thus far the books were removed, and the Admiralty refused to allow any further investigation of the manufacturing accounts, although an arrangement was made publicly in the House of Commons between the then Secretary for the Admiralty and himself that the necessary facilities for continuing the investigation should be afforded. Touching upon the question of the cost of forging, the hon. Member then went into a series of elaborate details, proving that the Admiralty accounts were wrong upon the showing of the Admiralty themselves, and that the system of forging in the Royal dockyards was most wasteful and extravagant; and yet the Admiralty Committee actually recommended that the Admiralty should begin the manufacture of shoes for the navy and half-boots for the Royal Marines! The hon. Member proceeded to justify his computations as to the excess of offal timber. The Admiralty admitted an excess of offal, more than should have been made according to Admiralty data, of 146,724 cubic feet, the difference between the value of this offal as offal or timber, or timber converted, being a loss reckoned as timber of £28,803, and a loss reckoned as conversion of £37,290; but the Admiralty even in this admitted they had compared amount of offal that should be made from "contract timber (that is, rough and sided) only"—with the offal that was made by them from "contract and reserved timber, thick stuff and plant"—so that if offal for like timber were compared it would be found, as he had stated last Session, that the excess quantity of offal made in 1862–3 was about 200,000 cubic feet, and that the difference in value between this as offal and timber was £37,000, and as conversions £50,000. On the subject of English elm conversions he had adduced figures to show that while at Devonport the cost was 186 per cent above, at Sheerness it was 26 per cent below rate book price, or a difference of 212 per cent according to Admiralty printed accounts. The Admiralty in 465-I gave long explanations, their defence being that their own accounts of cost were erroneous, and that the real difference was not so great as their published accounts gave, and that this erroneous method would be discontinued in future. During the investigation, on being asked for correct accounts they wrote— The real cost of English elm conversions at Sheerness and Devonport according to the present (that is corrected) method, &c., would be at Sheerness about 30 per cent less than rate book, and at Devonport about 12 per cent more than rate book, or a difference between the two of about 42 per cent. Thus the difference on Return 454 is 212 per cent, and the real difference with corrected accounts only 42 per cent. Fancy accounts of conversions of timber of which ships are built wrong by 170 per cent, and then ask how the accounts of cost of ships, &c. can be correctly given? Lord Clarence Paget on the 6th of March, 1865, told the House that he should not be satisfied until he was able to lay upon the table a regular capital and current account with reference to the navy, and the Accountant General stated that in future there would be shown the extent and value of the works executed and the amount of the expenses with which they should be charged, in accordance with the principles of account observed in the commercial world. In order to ascertain what the ships of the Royal Navy cost, as compared with what the country could buy them for, there ought to be an account from each dockyard, showing the money they received and the work they produced for it. This was not impossible; for in the army manufacturing establishments for 1864–5 it was really done. Three and a half per cent was charged for capital and plant; 5 per cent for depreciation of buildings, and 10 per cent for machinery. He prayed the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty to this subject of the accounts of the navy. He would have an opportunity during the recess of weighing his (Mr. Seely's) suggestions and of satisfying himself whether the Admiralty could not produce a balance sheet such as the War Office produced for the army manufacturing establishments. The navy accounts might be classed under five or six heads. The Navy Estimates gave the money voted for the past and coming year. The second account under the head "Navy statement of savings and deficiencies upon the grants for the navy," gave the money voted and the money expended. The third, under the heads of "Dockyards and Factories," gave the cost of the manufacturing operations, the articles made for ships, and the timber converted for ships for each yard. The fourth called "Labour Charts" for the navy, gave the materials —namely, the timber and articles, at the rate book price, and the labour cost for each ship and each yard, and the totals. The fifth called "Navy Dockyard and Stock Valuation and Expenditure on Ships, &c.," gave the supposed total cost of building and repairing ships. In this, however, at present the salaries, rents, repairs, incidentals, and interest were all lumped and divided pro rata among all ships. None of the accounts gave all the money had by each yard for ships, nor all the money spent in each yard on ships, and the result was that the economical dockyard had to bear part of the cost of the extravagant yard, while the latter was relieved from a portion of its acts of extravagance. Such a system went far to diminish the desire of the authorities in any yard in favour of economy and the avoidance of waste. The hon. Member next called attention to the manner in which the Admiralty had applied the principle, that their accounts ought to be made out in accordance with the system of account adopted in the commercial world. He had on a former occasion stated that items were omitted to the extent of about 40 per cent which ought to be added to the cost of our ships. Practically the Admiralty had admitted that he was correct, for about 35 per cent had since been added in the latest published account—namely, those for 1864–5. The Admiralty, however, in this account said that 3 per cent interest on the cost of production in labour, material, &c., should be charged "in the nature of a rent to cover interest on capital and depreciation of plant in the establishments where the works are carried on." This Admiralty interest of 3 per cent in 1864–5 on "final productions" was £46,398. Now, he should show that this was nothing like the amount the real interest would come to. Let the House compare this with the principles observed in the commercial world. The private trader charged 5 per cent on capital, 10 per cent depreciation on machinery, and 5 per cent on building. The army did the same. The Admiralty accounts gave the value of the stores, April 1864, at £5,029,126, and the plant at (say) £2,000,000, being a total of £7,029,126. Interest upon this sum at 3 per cent would amount to £210,873, but the Admiralty only put down for interest and depreciation the sum of £46,398, leaving a sum of £164,475 not charged. Now if the House thought fit to pay 40 per cent or any other sum more for the ships of the Royal Navy than they could be bought at private yards, let them at all events do it with their eyes open. Then, nothing was charged in this estimate for pensions to artificers, but that really formed a part of wages, because the Admiralty expected to get the work done at less wages in consequence of the pensions. This item of pensions amounted to £74,607, so that these two items of interest and pensions gave to be added to the cost of ships for 1864–5 the further sum of £239,000. The 35 per cent already added by the Admiralty to their accounts of cost should, in fact, be 50 per cent. To show that this estimate was not overstated, the hon. Member went over the accounts of the navy, and made them out in the same form and manner as the army manufacturing establishments of 1864–5, contending that the total charge for interest and depreciation of plant made out on this method instead of £46,398 should be £605,115. For instance, the accounts made out as the army manufacturing accounts for interest would be as follows:—

Navy Stores, 1st April, 1804 £5,029,126
"Semi-manufactured Stores" as Army, Ships, building spent on to 1st April, 1864, say 2,000,000
Returns to Store and Work in hand, £290,087, say 200,000
Working Capital — namely, one-fifth of Annual Expenditure— that is, £2,500,000 for 1864–5 one-fifth 500,000
Land (?) say nil Plant, Buildings, and Machinery 2,000,000
Total £9,729,126
3½ per cent on £9,729,126, is £340,518
Depreciation as Army, 5 per cent on Buildings, say £1,200,000 60,000
10 per cent on Machinery £800,000 say 80,000
Total interest and depreciation if reckoned as Army £480,518
Admiralty have reckoned only 46,398
That is 3 per cent on final productions, £1,546,600.
To be added for interest and depreciation £434,120
"Superannuations," Artificers 74,607
Do. Clerks and Foremen, £83,846, say 50,000
Or I add only £239,082, and should add £558,727
The amount voted for new works, building, machinery, and repairs for the last eleven years reached the enormous sum of £6,242,029, being a yearly average of £567,457. The hon. Member then adduced examples of the excess of the cost of Admiralty ships. The Frederick William, of seventy-four guns, for instance, had cost £281,691, instead of £134,453, or more than double what she would have cost if built at a private yard. It might be said that the work of the Royal Dockyards was superior to that of the private yards, but the Controller of the Navy, Admiral Robinson, at the launch of the Northumberland, said— I bear most willing testimony to the excellence of the workmanship. I am not going beyond my province when I say that the skill of trained artificers and the care and judgment of a first-rate manager have produced a work that may be equalled, but cannot be surpassed. The expenditure in repairs was equally excessive, for several ships had cost more for repairs than they would cost new in private yards. The Brisk had cost £43,498 in repairs, and could be built for £49,321. The Cadmus had cost in repairs £65,800, and would cost new £68,278. Instances were next adduced of the excess of the cost of produce in dockyards and steam factories over the rate book value, and these the hon. Member followed up by cases of omission of the rate book price. He protested against this mode of putting the Admiralty accounts before the country. These were calculations to delude, whereas the Government and a public department ought to put the truth before the country whatever might come out. He must now detain the Committee for a moment with regard to the price of cold blast pig iron, and the course pursued in paving the workshops, roadways, &c., at the dockyards with iron ballast. He had endeavoured to ascertain the value of the iron used, and if he had fallen into error the right hon. Baronet (Sir John Pakington) was partly to blame, because he had offered to go through all the points of his case before bringing them forward publicly, so that the facts might be ascertained and placed beyond dispute, and then the House would have nothing to do but to come to a judicial decision in the matter. The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Platt), who employed about 5,000 hands, told him that £5 per ton might fairly be put down as the value of all the iron in the yards used thus as paving—and if so, the cost of such paving is £4 7s. 0d. per square yard. He feared he was open to the charge of having taken away a portion of the public stores, for he had brought away a sample of it and sent it into Staffordshire. The ironmasters said universally it was a metal of the highest quality, and when they knew it was at least fifty years old they said "at that time they did not know how to make bad iron." They said it was cold-blast iron, and easy of conversion in the puddling furnace. He could have disposed of any quantity at fully £4 per ton, and the opinion of the best judges was that it would turn out to be worth from £6 to £7 per ton. The account stood thus:—The Admiralty paid in 1815 109s. per ton at the east yards, and at the west yards 108s. per ton for this cold blast pig iron used then for ballast for ships, and it was now worth at the yards 105s. per ton. About 31,000 tons had been employed in paving the yards and building walls, and the value of the iron and the cost of laying he estimated at £172,273. The best paving and brick walls would have cost £19,577, being a loss by the employment of this iron of £151,696. The 4,214 tons in stock now being laid down at 105s. per ton would amount to £22,120, and the proper materials to only £2,500, being a loss of £19,620, and making a total loss of £171,316. While the Admiralty had been wasting this valuable iron they had been purchasing from year to year cold blast pig iron. As well as he could make out there had been bought from 1860 to 1866 1,768 tons of Blaenavon pig iron at £6 10s., making £11,498 for melting in the foundries of the yards, while during that time more than 1,768 tons of this cold blast pig ballast bought before 1815 had been sold by the authorities at £2 7s., being a loss of £7,339. Adverting to the price of anchors, the hon. Member remarked that the Admiralty appeared to have been very liberally inclined to their contractors. From the year 1859 to 1864 they had bought 25,400 cwt., at a cost of £60,330. According to the calculation he bad made last year the market price for these anchors would have been £36,458, so that the country had lost no less than £23,872 during these few years by these Admiralty payments to Brown, Lennox, and Co., of 70 per cent above the market price. He wished now to call attention to a graver matter. On the face of the Return from which he took the above facts there was, to say the least of it, something very suspicious. From the year 1842 to 1849 the price paid by the Admiralty for Brown, Lennox, and Co.'s anchors of 20 cwt. and less was 26s. per cwt. From 1849 to 1853 the price of these anchors was rather less, being 25s. 11d. During these years there was no great quantity of small anchors used. He was now speaking of anchors of 20 cwt and less. In the years, however, from 1854 to 1858 a large number of small anchors were required. Not less than 2,071 anchors of all sizes were bought during that time. Of these, 1,574 anchors were 20 cwt. and less, which were wanted for the gunboats, &c. In 1854, the price of these 20 cwt. and less rose from 25s. 5d. to 33s. per cwt. In 1855 the price rose to 36s.; in 1856, to 40s.; in 1857, it was 40s.; in 1858, 40s. In the year 1854 there were 37 anchors bought; in 1855 the number rose to 524; in 1856 no less than 788 were bought; in 1857 the number fell to 211; and in 1858 it further decreased to 14, after which the price for 20 cwt. and less was lowered again to 26s. per cwt. This Return might admit of explanation, but he said that, on the face of it, there was something exceedingly suspicious in the fact that these small anchors were advanced in prices just in those years when large quantities of them were required. The large anchors during this period were not increased in price even by Brown, Lennox, and Co., but remained as before; and, as there was no advance in the market price of the country, he asserted that this great increase of price for this largely increased quantity of small anchors supplied ought to be explained. It could not be contended that the price was advanced because a large demand suddenly arose, because the greatest quantity the Admiralty required in any one year was about 1,000 tons, and there were at least twenty makers in England who could each make 2,000 tons in any one year of these anchors. That could not, therefore, be the ground for raising the price. The calculations he had made showed that since the date of the contract for anchors enjoyed by Brown, Lennox, and Co., about £170,000 of the public money had been paid to these individuals over and above the market price of anchors. With regard to the pig iron ballast it was sheer waste. If the Admiralty paved their yards with iron, nobody gained by it, but no doubt what the country lost by the arrangement with Brown, Lennox, and Co., those individuals gained. When, last year, he brought this subject forward, Lord Clarence Paget said— On the question of anchors and cables, I will say that there can be no doubt that we pay higher for our anchors than others do. But this is no new subject. I have said, and say again, that I look on anchors and cables as of the first importance to the existence of ships and the lives of their crews, and therefore that anything like mere buying in the cheapest market must be detrimental to the public service."—[3 Hansard, clxxx. 384.] Now, how stood the fact? The Queen's yacht was supplied with one of Trotman's anchors, not made by Brown, Lennox, and Co., but by Hawks, Crawshay, and Co.; so that the life best beloved and most dear to the realm was intrusted to an anchor not made by this favoured Admiralty firm. The fine vessels of the Peninsular and Oriental Company were all supplied with Trotman's anchors, made by Hawks, Crawshay, and Co. The Cunard steamers were also supplied with Trotman's anchors, made by various firms. So was the Great Eastern. When these great public companies and the Queen's yacht were supplied with Mr. Trotman's anchors, made by different makers and not by this favoured firm, he maintained that to throw away £170,000 of the public money in comparatively a few years upon such a pretext as that put forward by Lord Clarence Paget was trifling with that House and with the country. In the Report of the Anchor Committee appointed by the Admiralty themselves, and including the greatest and most competent authorities who could be found, it was set forth that of 1,567 anchors made by Brown, Lennox, and Co., 196 failed under proof, or 13½ per cent, while of 87 anchors made by Hawks, Crawshay, & Co. (all that were proved of these makers) only seven failed under proof, or only 8 per cent. The anchors made by Hawks and Crawshay for the East India Company were of the Admiralty pattern, and were tested by the Admiralty officers in just the same manner as the Admiralty anchor, with the result above given. If he were not afraid of wearying the House he would read the Report of the Anchor Committee. This Report, dated February 1, 1853, was unanimously signed by the following distinguished naval officers:— Admiral Sir W. Stopford, Admiral Charles Hope, Admiral Sir G. R. Mundy; by the two master attendants of Portsmouth and Sheerness dockyards; also by the Chairman of the General Shipowners' Society, and five other experienced members of Lloyd's, acting on behalf of the mercantile marine. They unequivocally declared the Admiralty or navy anchor to be the worst save one of eight competing anchors, and wanting in every essential quality looked for in a good and safe anchor. Putting the Admiralty anchor at 1.0 as the standard, the Anchor Committee placed the other anchors as follows:— Aylen, 1.09; Porter's, 1.09; Lennox, 1.13; Mitcheson, 1.20; Rogers, 1.26; Trotman's, 1.28, or 28 per cent superior to the Admiralty anchor. Thus it appeared that the Admiralty anchor was the worst, and Trotman's the best of the lot. He should like to refer on this subject to the evidence given by Captain, now Admiral, Sulivan, before the Select Committee of 1861. He said— There has been no objection more strongly felt in the service with respect to the material of the navy than the inferiority of the anchors supplied to our fleet by the Admiralty. Again, in a letter which appeared in The Times, May, 1862, Captain Sulivan said— In one surveying vessel in South America we broke one set of anchors in six months. In the Baltic in 1854 most of the vessels of the inshore squadron broke their Admiralty anchors—some as many as two or three out of four. Captain Sulivan was captain of the fleet under Sir Charles Napier in the late Baltic campaign. He was happy to say he had now got to the end of his figures. The first part of the Resolutions he intended to move—namely, that it was inexpedient to pave the roadways, workshops, and other places in the dockyards with iron ballast—was not unconnected with the third Resolution, for if the Superintendents of Her Majesty's Dockyards possessed a practical knowledge of their business they would not have paved the workshops with cold blast pig iron. The House ought to have in the first place reliable accounts that would really give the exact cost as nearly as it could be ascertained of building ships, but the best accounts would be useless unless the parties who superintended these establishments were active, intelligent, practical men. He had attempted to show that the cost of building and repairing Her Majesty's ships was excessive, and that, notwithstanding, the country had not got the article it wanted or the kind of ship it required. In corroboration of this view he should like to read an extract from a letter written by the late Mr. Cobden and addressed to Captain Coles. It was dated October 30, 1864. Mr. Cobden said— I have read Captain Sherard Osborn's report on your turret vessel with the greatest interest. If we were governed in the interests of the great public instead of the great families, this would involve an instant revolution in our defensive naval force. The old block ships would be superseded with a dozen turret coast-guard ships, and every inland and fixed fortification, except those actually commanding entrances to harbours or great waterways, would be abandoned and destroyed. Instead of which, when I was lately on a visit to Seely, in the Isle of Wight, I found the first sod had been turned for a system of ten miles of military strategic roads to connect vast earthworks and fortifications—all constructed on the assumption that an enemy had landed in force and taken possession of the island. 'What for?' is a question nobody answers. There is Osborne in the meantime quite unprotected, with a neat jetty run out into the sea, quite convenient for an enemy to land its boats' crews to carry off the Queen and Royal family. If you and I and Captain Osborn had the power we could, by a competent outlay of national capital which the nation can well afford, contrive such a coast defence as would make us absolutely unassailable by sea, and the cost of which, after the first outlay, need not be one-third of what we are now spending. My own conviction is, that if our whole fleet was what it ought to be, 30,000 men are as many as you could possibly employ in a time of peace. He should like, also, to read the substance of a letter written by Captain Campbell, of Her Majesty's ship Narcissus, dated Montevideo, the 5th of February, 1866. It was addressed to Captain Coles, and described one of the best specimens of the American Monitors, the Monadnock, which was then at Montevideo. The writer said that at half a mile distance from her there was no ship's side to be seen, and as to going into action against a thing like that, the only thing that could be aimed at were a couple of turrets, and if they were stout enough to resist your shot, it was only a waste of time to fire at her. She had two guns in each turret, each gun weighing nineteen tons, and throwing a spherical shot of from 480 lb. to 500 lb. Each turret had its separate little engine to work it. The upper deck was very little above the level of the water—say fifteen or eighteen inches, and there was no gunwale or bulwark of any sort. The difficulty about ventilation was triumphantly overcome. She had six steam-engines solely for the purpose of ventilating the ship below, and the officers declared there was plenty of fresh air. Her officers expressed themselves with the most perfect confidence in regard to her sea-going qualities. She easily kept ahead of the Admiral's ship, the Susquehanna—a paddle steamer bigger than the Terrible —and the first lieutenant stated that the Monadnock, in very bad weather, had never rolled more than sixteen degrees, and that this was very rare. Captain Campbell added that the French officers there were much struck by the appearance and evident business capabilities of the Monadnock, and took a desponding view of the chances of any other vessel against her. In conclusion, the hon. Member said that it was sheer nonsense to send a man to superintend a dockyard who did not understand his business. It was said that a naval officer was required to maintain the discipline of the yard. He would appeal to his hon. Friend (Mr. Samuda), or any other large employer of labour, and ask whether he ever found any difficulty in keeping his hands in order? He doubted, indeed, whether the discipline of the quarter-deck was that which enabled the country to get the best men for the dockyards. He attached no weight whatever to the argument that naval men knew best what was required in a ship. He did not wish to deprive naval officers of their posts if they were fit for them. He would go further, and say that if two men of equal ability and fitness offered themselves—one a naval man and the other a civilian, he would give the preference to the naval man. He did not deny that naval officers, as well as officers of the army, were underpaid; but he would not pay them in the way which took the greatest amount of money out of the pocket of the nation with the least pleasure and profit to the officer. The leaders on both sides of the House had vied with each other in professions of economy, but such professions were of no value unless they bore some practical fruits. Year by year the House of Commons had been squandering money, instead of saving it. Hoping that the facts and figures be had brought forward would do something to bring about a more economical system, he would beg to move the Resolution of which he had given notice.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the course pursued in paving the roadways, workshops, and other places in the Dockyards with Iron Ballast was inexpedient,"—(Mr. Seely,)

—instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, that so far from having anything to complain of in the long and very clear statement of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely), he thought the House and the country were greatly indebted to him for the pains he had taken in investigating this subject. As, however, he (Sir John Pakington) had only held his present office for a short period, it would be impossible for him to follow the hon. Gentleman into all the details which he had brought forward, and to give so satisfactory a reply as he might have otherwise done, It was obvious that in order to make the statement which had just been laid before the House the hon. Member must have gone through a great amount of labour in gathering information; and, instead of being disposed to complain of the course which the hon. Gentleman had taken, he was of opinion that the House and the country were extremely indebted to him. There were, however, several parts of the hon. Member's speech on which he desired to make some remarks. He believed that the present statement originated in statements of a similar kind made by the hon. Gentleman during the time when Lord Clarence Paget represented the Department of the Admiralty in that House. The result of those statements was the production of the two papers numbered 465 and 465-I, to which the hon. Member had referred; and, if he rightly understood the hon. Member, his reason for again bringing this subject before the House was that he was not contented with the explanations given in those two papers. He was very glad to see opposite to him three hon. Gentlemen who had, under the late Government, held the position of lay Lords of the Admiralty and been members of the Department to which was intrusted particularly the superintendence of the accounts, and who, consequently, were better qualified than he was to enter into the questions of detail. With respect to the two papers, he could not see that there had been any disposition on the part of the gentlemen who drew them up to conceal the truth, or to meet the Motion of the hon. Gentleman opposite in any way that was not perfectly frank and fair. In the earlier part of his speech the hon. Gentleman had referred to the different prices which prevailed in the different dockyards; but as he (Sir John Pakington) was not previously aware that there was any ground for complaint on this head, he would leave to his hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Childers) to give some explanation on the subject. Then the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely) had referred to the cost of fitting boats. In some cases he said it was in excess of the prescribed rate, and in others below it. One statement, indeed, was so extraordinary that he (Sir John Pakington) could not help adverting to it, for he thought it must have originated in a mistake. He had understood the hon. Gentleman to state that a twenty-six feet cutter which would cost £30 to build had cost upwards of £60 to repair.


said, he believed that statement was correct.


said, if it were possible for such a thing to occur there must be something which was very seriously wrong, which ought to be explained, and which it was absolutely impossible to defend. There was another question connected with the statement—namely, why a twenty-six feet cutter should cost £30 to build. He was speaking from recollections of another kind, but he had always understood that the cost of a new boat was about a guinea per foot of its length. The hon. Gentleman had next proceeded to advert to the general cost of repairs in the dockyards; but on this point he (Sir John Pakington) must speak with some reserve, on account of the short time he had held his present office, though he might confess that there was no question which more required attention and called for inquiry than that of the cost of the repairs of our navy. During the few days that he had been at the Admiralty the Board had received estimates for repairs so startling in amount that he had reserved them for special inquiry and investigation. In this direction it was not improbable that some considerable saving might be effected. The hon. Gentleman had referred to the professions made on both sides of the House with regard to economy; but there was a very wide difference between economy and judicious outlay, and he did not believe it was desired on either side of the House that under the name of economy there should be any diminution of efficiency. If by economy were meant the prevention of injudicious expenditure, then he might say that no man could go further than he was disposed to go in that direction, for he considered the carrying out of such economy to be one of the first duties of a Minister of the Crown. He could assure the hon. Gentleman most sincerely that he should feel grateful to him or any other competent authority who gave him such information as would enable him to practise the judicious economy which he admitted to be desirable. Without making a charge of intentional extravagance against the existing authorities of the dockyards, he admitted that in public establishments of that kind there naturally was a tendency towards a greater laxity in regard to expenditure than was to be found in private establishments, where the interests of individuals were concerned. This rendered it the more desirable that whoever was intrusted with the administration of public affairs of this character should watch with great jealousy any tendency to undue extravagance. With an air of ridicule the hon. Member had referred to a proposal for making shoes for the navy and half-boots for the marines. The motive for making such a proposal was that shoes and boots when supplied by contract were too frequently made of bad leather and with bad workmanship; so that, at all events, the object of the proposal was a very laudable one. Then, the hon. Gentleman had complained that the annual Navy Estimates did not enter into details sufficiently to enable the House to judge of the expenditure which was incurred. That was quite true; but he did not think it possible so to frame them as to go minutely into all the items of expenditure. Lord Clarence Paget, however, had done a great deal to improve the Estimates. Indeed, he did not believe that any man who ever held the office of Secretary of the Admiralty had shown more anxiety than Lord Clarence Paget to meet the views of the hon. Gentleman, by bringing all the elaborate items honestly before the House. Then, with regard to what had been said about the expenditure on new works, he presumed the hon. Member was referring principally to the expenditure which was being incurred in extending the dockyards at Chatham and Portsmouth. If so, the only question that could be raised was, whether that expenditure was fair, and whether any money was being wasted. As to the building of our ships of war in private yards, he (Sir John Pakington) might remark that that bad been done much more extensively of late years than was formerly the case. As long as our ships were constructed of wood, it did not answer to build them in private yards, because it was impossible to have sufficient security that good sound timber would be used. That difficulty was to a great extent obviated when iron came into use, and since that time our vessels had been built in private yards to a greater extent than formerly. As to the iron-clad ships built in private yards for Government, so far as his experience went, they did the greatest honour to the constructors who built and finished them. He would now leave this part of the subject, repeating that he desired to see the utmost economy practised in the dockyards. Everybody in early life had heard about cities paved with gold, but this was scarcely more wonderful than the state of things which had been brought under his notice a few days ago, when the hon. Member for Lincoln waited upon him, accompanied by the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Watkin) and the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Platt). The hon. Member for Stockport stated that some parts of our dockyards were paved with cast-iron—and said, "If you will allow me to take up the existing pavement, and re-pave the dockyards in whatever mode you may prefer, I shall be happy to give you £100,000 for permission to do so." Well, all he (Sir John Pakington) could say was that if the offer were formally made in writing, and sent in to the Admiralty, it should be seriously entertained, and gravely dealt with. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Seely), said this pavement was worth £5 a ton, but the hon. Member for Oldham estimated its value at upwards of £6 a ton. After this conversation had taken place, he made inquiries on the subject, and he was informed that this paving had been laid down since the year 1815.


said, it was bought in 1815, and had been laid down since 1860.


said, he understood that this iron was formerly used for the ballast of our men-of-war, and was laid down as pavement under the idea that it would be available at any time for the purpose to which it had been originally applied. In consequence of the great changes in modern shipbuilding, such ballast had become no longer necessary, and the iron in question was disregarded. The matter, however, should be fully inquired into. He might mention that Dr. Percy had declared the iron to be of considerable value; though the dockyard authorities stated that when attempts had been made to sell portions of it on previous occasions it had not fetched anything like the sums alluded to by the hon. Gentlemen opposite. He would, however, promise that the subject should be considered, and hoped that the iron would be found suited for the sides of our iron-clads. He had listened with surprise to some of the statements which had been made respecting our anchors and cables. No one was more opposed than he was to monopoly, in regard to any of our Public Establishments. Inquiries should be instituted on the subject; but he might remark that it was a primary necessity to have the navy supplied with the best anchors and cables possible. He believed no one denied that Messrs. Brown and Lennox had supplied anchors of the very best quality, and therefore the only question was whether equally good anchors could be obtained elsewhere at a lower price. As inquiries would be instituted, he hoped the hon. Member would not press his Motion on this subject. The remaining Resolution referred to the practice of appointing officers of the Royal Navy to the offices of Chief Superintendants of the Dockyards. He (Sir John Pakington) thought the practice was a judicious one, and tended much to the public service; but it was a question fairly open to discussion, but he thought the hon. Gentleman relied too much on the assumption that because a man was an officer in the navy he could not be conversant with the duties to be performed in the dockyards. He (Sir John Pakington) believed that many naval officers were most competent for this responsible post, and great shipbuilding firms in this country had sought the assistance of those officers to enable them to carry out works to their own profit and advantage. He was quite ready to fully consider the suggestions of the hon. Member, but at present he could give no engagement on the subject. The hon. Member seemed to have forgotten that in every dockyard there was a very competent chief of each particular department within it, and that every day these officers met in a sort of council, which was presided over by the Chief Superintendent, for the purpose of considering and controlling the affairs of the dockyard. It was a mistake to suppose that any injury had resulted to the public service from this system of superintendence; but he repeated that the point was well deserving consideration. The hon. Member had complained of the disadvantage to which the naval force of England was exposed in the Pacific in consequence of the presence of the Monadnock, an ironclad belonging to the United States; and he might have added that the Powers of South America on the shore of the Pacific were also provided with iron-clad steamers. It was only just to state that the late Administration had taken steps with reference to this, and the Zealous, an ironclad vessel, was about to proceed to the Pacific station. He regretted to be obliged to add that until our navy was strengthened it would be impossible to supply our naval stations with iron-dads to the extent that was desirable. In conclusion, he remarked that he had endeavoured to meet the right hon. Gentleman in a spirit of fairness, and, after the statements he had made, he hoped the hon. Gentleman would not press his Motion.


said, he would not depart from the valuation which had been put upon the cold-blast iron ballast by the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Platt) and himself; but he thought the right hon. Baronet must have a design upon his (Mr. Watkin's) seat, for he must know that if he made a formal tender to the Admiralty, it would be necessary for him to vacate it. He was satisfied that the right hon. Baronet would not seek to evade the questions that might be asked in reference to his office. The past career of the right hon. Baronet showed that he was not opposed to improvement, and that he possessed moral courage enough to carry out beneficial changes even when they were met by official resistance. Certainly, there could be no reason, excuse, or justification for paving the docks with iron ballast. Everybody must admit that it was one of the most monstrous things to which public attention had ever been directed. The nation was losing in interest alone £7,000 or £8,000 a year in consequence of this property being misused. He trusted that the Government would not be disposed to pooh-pooh the questions raised by the hon. Member for Lincoln, who was anxious to co-operate with them in making the necessary reforms. Naval economy was the horse upon which nautical men usually rode into office at the Admiralty. If the hon. Baronet the Member for Stamford (Sir John Hay) should prove to be as ardent a naval reformer as he was before he accepted office, they had reason to hope that a wise economy and efficient management would be introduced in the dockyards. But however well the different departments might be divided, what they wanted in such places, where enormous expense was being incurred, was what the Americans called "a one man power" to exercise a vigilant and practical superintendence.


said, inquiry ought certainly to be made respecting the iron paving and the anchors. With regard to the former, it was simply a question of what the ballast was worth at the present time, and what it was worth when first put down. If it were worth £6, by all means let it be sold. With regard to anchors, he believed naval officers, as a body, thought the best anchors were those of the Admiralty, but if that was not the case, then some change ought to be effected. The safety of Her Majesty's ships, however, signified a great deal more than the saving of a few thousand pounds in the cost of anchors, and if our vessels were safe with the present anchors, they need not care much about the statement that a small saving could be made by employing some other manufacturer's. He might call to the remembrance of the House the disastrous storm at Sebastopol during the Crimean war, when not a single ship of the Royal Navy was lost, whereas many merchant ships and war vessels belonging to other nations perished. Some of the discrepancies as to the cost pointed out by the hon. Member for Lincoln were to be explained by the sudden and large increase in the price of anchors in consequence of the large demand caused by the late Russian war. The hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely) seemed to suggest that there was some malpractice respecting the ordering of anchors at the time when he (Mr. Baring) was connected with the Board of Admiralty—namely, in 1854–6. He courted a full investigation, and if, therefore, the hon. Gentleman really had such a suggestion to make, the proper course to pursue would be to move for a Select Committee to inquire into the subject. For his own part, he was of opinion that there ought to be naval officers placed at the head of the great naval establishments for the purpose of exercising a general control over them. As to the accounts, no doubt the hon. Member had taken great pains to procure information; but it was right that the House should receive some broad reply to the statements which he had made. In the first place, the hon. Gentleman had discussed the accounts of 1862–3; but since then the accounts had been much improved. No Administration, indeed, had paid greater attention to the accounts than that which had just gone out of office. The hon. Gentleman in his first criticisms upon the dockyard accounts compared the castings and forgings in the dockyards with the castings and forgings of his own establishment at Stamp End, and because the former were much the most costly, inferred that the dockyards were mismanaged. But the articles compared were quite different. The hon. Gentleman's castings were prepared for thousands of agricultural machines of the same kind, whereas the dockyard castings could often be used but a few times of the same description. It was therefore apparent that no proper comparison could be made. Now the hon. Gentleman abandoned this ground of attack, and had compared the casting and forgings in one dockyard with those of another, and showed discrepancies in the price; but these discrepancies simply arose from the way in which the castings and forgings had been classified. They were classified in three or four classes—plain, middling, and so forth; but in each class there were great varieties and differences in regard to expense, so that no proper comparison of cost could be made without going into minute detail. In future, however, the price would be put on each article. The hon. Member had gone on to say that 40 per cent was to be added to the cost of all articles produced in Her Majesty's dockyards in regard to certain incidental charges. Now, this involved the question whether or not we were to maintain great public establishments, capable in time of war of great expansion, for the purpose of supplying the requirements of the fleet. The charges added by the hon. Member were the interest of money on stores in the dockyard and the value of the capital expended on the yards. Now, in theory, no doubt, the hon. Gentleman was right that some such calculation should be made; but he maintained that the hon. Gentleman had no right in drawing a comparison between articles manufactured in Government dockyards and those manufactured in private establishments to add 40 per cent to the cost of the former, unless he were also prepared to say that the country would be satisfied if each of the dockyards were only just large enough for the works carried on there day by day. The House must always recollect that these great establishments were wanted not so much in time of peace as in time of war. The Northumberland had been referred to as an excellent specimen of a vessel which had been built in a private yard; but he might remark that in order to launch her it had been necessary to obtain assistance from the Government dockyards. He must be allowed to express his regret at the manner in which the great name of Mr. Cobden had been introduced in this discussion. He thought that the hon. Member would do well to withdraw his Motion, as the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty had stated his willingness to inquire in the fullest manner into any suggestions he might receive in respect to the naval accounts.


said, the persevering industry of the hon. Member for Lincoln in obtaining information with a view to diminishing the expenditure in the manufacturing departments of the dockyards placed him in the same category as the lamented Mr. Joseph Hume, and he heartily trusted success might attend his labours, and that, like Mr. Hume, he might win the gratitude of the taxpayers in the country. There could be no doubt that the cost of the navy was increasing annually without commensurate efficiency. In the French dockyards stock was taken every year, and we might advantageously adopt that practice. Our dockyards were doubtless more costly than those of France, because wages were higher in this country; but if a comparison were made of the number of persons employed in the French dockyards with the amount of work turned out, it would be found that a much greater proportionable quantity of work was done in the French dockyards than in ours. It was obvious, therefore, that the expenditure in our yards might be diminished. He had been informed that since the present Government came into office the hon. Member for Lincoln had been denied access to the dockyard accounts.


said, it was the late Government which refused to allow him to continue his investigations.


thought it was to be lamented that those investigations had been discontinued. The refusal implied that discoveries were being made which were not creditable to the Administration. He hoped that in this respect his right hon. Friend opposite would not tread in the footsteps of the late Board of Admiralty.


said, he did not wish to receive any credit that was not due to him. A few days ago he had been asked by the hon. Gentleman for permission to renew his investigations; but it was found that such investigations would lead to inconvenience, and therefore the application was refused.


was sorry to hear that, because he thought the public accounts ought to be open to the inspection of any Member of the House of Commons. There was one point respecting the navy to which he wished to draw attention. The navy was supplied with cannon and ammunition from the army establishments, and yet these were charged in the Army and not in the Navy Estimates, concealing therefore the real cost of the navy and unfairly swelling the cost of the army. This plan should not continue. In the French Budget, all supplies made to Departments are charged in the Departmental Estimates.


believed that to carry out naval operations successfully there was nothing more important than to possess a clear and actual knowledge of the cost of those operations. He could trace the failure of a number of firms to their inability to ascertain the cost of the works which they were carrying out. When the question was brought forward whether the dockyards should be changed in their character and build iron ships, he suggested that the iron work required for ships should be supplied by private establishments, and the wood work added in the dockyards, and he still believed great advantages would result from adopting this course. The way to get a reformation in the dockyards, would be to appoint a Committee for the purpose of simplifying the accounts. That Committee should be composed of civilians and naval officers; and their labours ought not to terminate until the people engaged in the dockyards knew what each item cost. He differed with his hon. Friend in the statement he made as to anchors; for, in his opinion, it was impossible to arrive at an accurate result in these matters in the way he described. He had been offered finished anchors and cables before now for less money than the raw material alone cost the makers he employed—quality must be taken into the account most carefully, and could scarcely be estimated too highly in all matters connected with shipping, and the difference of 4s. a cwt. or 40s. as referred to, he did not regard as at all important. Great difference was found among even the first-class makers. He believed great advantages would result from the appointment of the Committee he had suggested, and he trusted that no effort would be spared by the Admiralty in carrying out the Amendments which were necessary in the present system.


said, he was sorry that he had not heard the early part of the address of the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely). But even if he had, inasmuch as he was not connected with the Admiralty during the last year, it would be impossible for him to answer off hand all the questions it had been suggested he should reply to. With respect to the Admiralty accounts generally, he thought the House ought to know something of what had been done during the administration of the late Government—how they found the dockyard accounts, what reforms they had made in them, and the position in which they stood at the present time. When the late Government came into office scarcely any account was rendered of the Admiralty expenditure; in fact, in a commercial point of view, no account except a cash account was kept. Before Lord Clarence Paget became Secretary he had called the attention of the House to the deficiency in this respect, and the Board took the matter into hand. The first thing they did was the preparation of the "expense account" — executed on very imperfect principles, he was willing to admit, but still it was an enormous advance on what had previously prevailed. The result was, that from 1860 Parliament had been regularly suppplied with information of the amount of money spent on each ship. In 1862 a further step was taken. Previous to that date no accounts were published which could be called the manufacturing accounts of the dockyards; but the Admiralty now prepared and laid before Parliament a Report of the proceedings of each of those establishments. Up to 1863, there had been no annual stock taking, the importance of which commercial men would admit. It was true that there were stock accounts prepared at certain times, for instance, when a new storekeeper was appointed; but nothing in the nature of a proper annual account. In 1864 his predecessor, the hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), looked into the matter, and from that date there had been prepared a valuation of stock account, showing the stock of all kinds in each of the dockyards at the commencement and the end of each year, and the receipts, issues, and alterations of value. What was done last year the House would allow him to explain, as it concerned business for which he was personally responsible. He conceived, on accepting the office first, that the accounts, although much improved, were too voluminous, and that it was possible to simplify them. Secondly, the accounts of the dockyards were prepared by three separate departments; but he placed them in the hands of one person, and nothing was more simple than the way in which they were now prepared. Thirdly, he thought it desirable that a complete balance sheet and capital account should be rendered; and when that for the current year was produced he believed that the principles on which it was founded would be considered sound, and he hoped they would not be departed from either by the present or any future Admiralty. It had further been suggested that another thing might be done at a slight cost—namely, that a capital account of the whole of the naval affairs might be prepared, showing not only the capital invested in the dockyards, but the capital actually invested in ships. This was a matter which he would submit to the consideration of his right hon. Friend at the head of the Admiralty. With that exception, he did not think the present accounts could be placed on a more satisfactory footing. The accounts for 1866–7 would be completed on strictly commercial principles; and he hoped the House would pause till they saw the account for the current year before adjudging the late Admiralty to be guilty of shortcomings in reference to the dockyard accounts.


observed, that what was wanted at the head of the dockyards was a person of courage, honesty, and impartiality, who would see that all parties discharged their respective duties. With regard to the latter part of the Resolution before the House, he remarked that it was quite the exception, instead of the rule, that Superintendents remained in their offices five years. If the Superintendent, in rank a Captain, became an Admiral, he immediately ceased to be Superintendent.


said, he did not agree with the observations of the hon. Member for Penryn (Mr. Baring) in regard to the letter of Mr. Cobden which had been read that day, believing that that gentleman, had he been living, would have had no objection whatever to the publication of any letter he had written on this or any similar subject. He did not think that the speech of the hon. Member for Penryn was an answer to the speech of the hon. Gentleman who introduced the Motion. With regard to Government contracts, he believed they were frequently supplied by jobbers, who purchased the goods where they could procure them for least money, caring little as to their quality. The best way would be to employ an agent conversant with the article required, and the Government would be served in the same way as a merchant in China or America would be supplied. The goods would then be selected from the best makers, and be properly examined; and as the character both of the manufacturer and the agent would be at stake, there would be no risk of obtaining an inferior article.


said, he had listened with great interest to the account which the hon. Member for Pomfret (Mr. Childers) had given of the reforms which had taken place in the Admiralty accounts. Some few years ago great pressure was put upon the Admiralty for an improvement of the system of keeping accounts, and it seemed that four or five years had been necessary to bring them to the state of efficiency the hon. Member had stated. He must say, however, that he had some doubt as to the practicability of preparing the "capital account" of the whole of the navy which he had alluded to. The hon. Member had also adverted to the difficulties encountered in deciding upon the principles upon which the preparation of the accounts should be based; but if all the ships of the navy were to be valued still greater difficulties would beset those who undertook that task. The report of such a work would form a curious historical document, but he did not think it would possess much practical value. It appeared that one result of the careful preparation of the accounts had been increased economy. He hoped this was the fact; for, spending as we did £10,000,000 per annum, and when it was urged in that House that this country did not keep pace with our neighbours in naval armaments, this was an important consideration. He trusted his right hon. Friend would see that the vast manufacturing establishments connected with the dockyards were conducted, he would not say on the most economical, but in such an economical manner as would insure the required efficiency. This should be always borne in mind, that men-of-war should not be built like ships for other purposes—good enough —they should be built as good as could possibly be done. There was an observation of the late First Lord of the Admiralty (the Duke of Somerset) which deserved to be written in letters of gold, to this effect—that if any misfortune were to happen to this country in a naval engagement through any fault in the ships, a very heavy responsibility would be thrown upon those who had got them cheaply constructed. Our ships must be built as well as possible, and that could not be done by contract work, which was never executed in the best possible manner. He could not agree with what had fallen from the late Under Secretary to the Admiralty, that no account ought to be taken of the value of the plant. Whether the estimate of the hon. Member for Lincoln was too high was another matter.


explained that what he said was that 40 per cent was too great a proportion.


I did not say 40 per cent. ["Divide!] I will not trouble you, Sir, to put the first or second Resolutions. I shall divide upon the third.


intimated that as it was then ten minutes to four, if the hon. Member pressed for a division the debate must be adjourned. ["Withdraw!"]


said, he would withdraw the Resolutions altogether.

Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Committee deferred till To-morrow, at Six of the Clock.