§ SUPPLY considered in Committee—NAVY ESTIMATES.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ (1.) £173,655, Admiralty Office.
§ MR. FERRAND
said, he wished to draw attention to a Return for which he had moved, and which he held in his hand, observing that he should like to know what excuse was to be made for the inaccuracy of the information which it contained. In consequence of the opinions expressed in the House and out of it, as to the way in which the Admiralty accounts had been kept, he had been induced to look into the matter. For years great complaint was made as to the incorrectness of these accounts, and no one had found greater fault with them than the noble Lord himself. The hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), when connected with the Admiralty, had gone on a roving commission, and had made some rather severe remarks on the way in which the accounts were kept. They were told that for the future every farthing of the naval expenditure would be accounted for. With respect to allowances in other departments, the requirements of the Treasury were adhered to, but in the Return referred to be found that no less a sum than £643 was allowed to the Lords of the Admiralty, and to the Secretaries to the Board—the noble Lord opposite and Mr. Romaine—for oil. That allowance he believed to be just and proper, but what he complained of was that no mention was made of its having been converted into a money payment, and that the Lords of the Treasury had not been 1847 consulted with respect to the change. He also found that seventeen allowances were made to clerks in the Admiralty amounting to £1,150, but the Return did not contain the slightest evidence that those allowances had been sanctioned by the Treasury. He should like to hear from the noble Lord how that happened to be the case. In 1861 the hon. Baronet the Member for Bristol (Sir Morton Peto) had moved for a Return, which was afterwards laid upon the table, of the resignations and salaries of the clerks in the Admiralty at Whitehall, but it was not dealing fairly with the House of Commons to keep back until this very day a Return of these allowances. He held in his hand a Return showing that all the allowances granted in the Treasury and the Civil Service were sanctioned by the Lords of the Treasury, but from the other Return to which he had alluded it did not appear that a single allowance had received the sanction of the Treasury. He admitted that the amount was small, but still there was thus a total sum of £1,793 which was paid in the Admiralty at Whitehall to officers of that Department, and which could not be traced in the Return just laid upon the table. He would ask the noble Lord to state from what source this money was derived, whether its payment was sanctioned by the Treasury, and whether a Minute had been made of such sanction having been given. If it had not, then he submitted that it was the duty of Parliament to take care that next year the accounts of the Lords of the Admiralty should be as clear for hon. Gentlemen to understand as the accounts of the army and the Civil Service. It would be found on reference to the Estimates that instead of all the expenses of the Admiralty being set down on the same page, the expenses of the messengers, &c, in the Secretary's department were given in a different part of the Estimates. Now, he was of opinion that the whole of the expenses of the Admiralty Board at Whitehall should be placed under one head in the Estimates so that the whole might be seen at a glance. In the remarks he had made he wished it to be distinctly understood that he did not for one moment dispute the justice of the allowances to which he had drawn the attention of the Committee. On the contrary, he thought it was a wise thing to grant allowances to faithful public servants for any extra duties which they might perform.
§ ADMIRAL WALCOTT
said, that since he 1848 had had the honour of a seat in that House the Naval Estimates had never been produced in so clear and straightforward a manner as they had been of late years, and for this change the Board of Admiralty were entitled to great credit. The hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Ferrand) had, however, noticed some points in regard to which they probably might be made more clear and explicit. The members of the Board of Admiralty occupied a very responsible and laborious position, and in his opinion if their salaries were increased they fully would deserve it. He objected, however, to the allowance of oil, and he hoped for the future it would be commuted into a money payment. As it at present appeared in the Estimates, this allowance subjected these officers to appear in an invidious and somewhat derogatory position, because the sum so apportioned could by no means be expended for the purpose it indicated.
§ MR. HANBURY-TRACY
said, it appeared that no less than £7,816 was paid to seventy-eight messengers and porters. He wished to ask the noble Lord what class of men they were chosen from? There was also one lady housekeeper, and he should be glad to know whether that appointment was bestowed as a reward to the widows of deserving officers.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
said, that with regard to the oil he was afraid he had himself been instrumental in cutting down the allowance at the Admiralty in 1860. In old times the allowances had been made for oil before gas was introduced, but when that change took place the houses were lit at the public expense with gas, but the allowance for oil continued till 1860. Soon after Lord Palmerston's Government came into office he, and the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread), who was then Civil Lord of the Admiralty, ascertained the average expense of the gas for a certain number of years, and assigned a fixed allowance per annum to each of the Lords of the Admiralty and the Secretary. He believed the House would not be disposed to quarrel with that arrangement. With regard to the allowances to clerks it was perfectly true that a certain number of clerks received special allowances for certain exceptional and peculiar business, and that those allowances had not been granted with the sanction of the Treasury. If, however, the hon. Member would look to the dates, he would perceive that the present Government was not responsible for that state of things. For a considerable number of years allowances had been grant- 1849 ed for the performance of certain duties which came under the head of "Contingent Allowances," and which were to be found in the Vote for Contingencies. He agreed that it was advisable that all the particulars should be shown in the Estimates; but if every little allowance to everybody were minutely set forth, the Estimates would be swelled to such an extent that hon. Gentlemen would complain of their bulk. He would inquire, however, whether in future years all fixed allowances might not be inserted in the Estimates, for there was not the least desire for concealment with regard to them. His hon. Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hanbury-Tracy) had asked what class of men the messengers were taken from. It used to be the practice to appoint domestic servants as messengers, but now old sailors and soldiers were almost invariably appointed. The housekeepers both at the Admiralty and Somerset House were formerly widows of meritorious officers, but it was found that though they were most estimable ladies they were very inefficient housekeepers. It was found absolutely necessary, therefore, to appoint a lady who could undertake the duties of the office.
§ Vote agreed to.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £1,368,971, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Salaries of the Officers and the Contingent Expenses of Her Majesty's Dockyards and Naval Yards at Home and Abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1887.
§ MR. SEELY
said, he wished to ask some questions with respect to the principles on which the construction of the navy was to be carried out. In what position was Captain Coles to be placed? Was the controversy between him and the Admiralty to continue, or was he to be allowed to construct a vessel according to his own theories? or were Captain Coles and Mr. Reed to be coupled together to the obstruction of each other. This was not merely a money question, but one which affected even the safety of the kingdom. Captain Coles did not hesitate to say that the ship which the Admiralty proposed to build would not carry out his designs, and would not be a fair test of his principle. The country, therefore, ought to know whether Captain Coles could be left unfettered to carry out his own principle, or whether he was to be clogged, as he had been for the last five years, by the Board of Admiralty. It would be very unfair to couple Captain 1850 Coles with a gentleman opposed to the turret principle. He thought that he should be able to show that Mr. Reed was opposed to that principle now, though favourable to it in the early part of his career. It was not right to refer to a previous debate of this Session; but it might be taken for granted that the noble Lord (Lord Clarence Paget) held the opinion that Mr. Reed was not opposed to the turret principle of Captain Coles. But he (Mr. Seely) could show that Mr. Reed was opposed to it. In the evidence which he gave before the Committee on the 23rd March, 1865, Mr. Reed said—In my opinion no sea-going turret-ship of moderate dimensions and a high speed can be satisfactorily built, if an attempt be made to approach to an all round fire.Again, in answer to another question, Mr. Reed said—But it is necessary to point out that there are great difficulties in the way, and that this vessel (Captain Coles' one turret-ship) is an embodiment of the strongest objections which have been taken by myself and others to the practicability of constructing satisfactorily sea-going turret-ships.Was it fair, then, to couple Captain Coles and Mr. Reed together in the work of bringing out a vessel which was to test the practicability and value of the turret principle? He held in his hand a letter addressed to a gentleman by Mr. Watts, who had great experience as a constructor in the navy, and whose opinion was entitled to great weight, and in that letter Mr. Watts stated—I have carefully examined your design for a two-turret vessel, and I am of opinion that it fulfils, under moderate dimensions, all the reasonable requirements of vessels of this description. The protection afforded against an enemy's shot is as great, or even greater, than in any vessel yet built. The fire throughout the entire circle is secured, and the height of the upper deck above water is, I am of opinion, sufficient to render the vessel safe and a comfortable sea-boat.That letter was important, inasmuch as Mr. Watts stated that all round fire could be obtained in a vessel of moderate dimensions. The opinion of Mr. Watts was confirmed by naval officers of great eminence to the effect that a turret-ship of much smaller dimensions than the noble Secretary to the Admiralty designed to build could be constructed as a most efficient sea-going vessel. They contended that a smaller vessel had various advantages over a larger one; that it was more handy, and presented less target to the enemy, while they admitted that a larger vessel could, though more heavily plated, obtain the same speed. What he maintained was, that 1851 while the Admiralty built their ship, the Monarch, Captain Coles should be allowed to design a vessel in accordance with his own ideas, and that the vessel should be built in some private yard, untrammelled by the Admiralty. Then there would be an opportunity of comparing these two classes of vessel with one another. The noble Lord had expressed an objection to the vessel planned by the hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Samuda), on the ground that it had not free-board enough; that the hon. Member only proposed to give a free-board of 11 feet, while the Monarch was to have a free-board of 14 feet. He had endeavoured to get some information on this point, and he thought that the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company provided for the accommodation of their passengers in quite as sufficient a manner and quite as well as the noble Lord need provide for the seamen of the navy. Of. the ships belonging to that company he found that the Pera, with a length of 303 feet, had a height out of water of 11 feet. The Golconda, with a length of 295 feet, had a similar height of 11 feet. The Delhi, the Baroda, the Tanjore, and the Poonah had the same proportions, and the Mooltan, with a length of 335 feet, was the only one of these seven vessels which had a height above water of 12 feet. Therefore, the hon. Member for Tavistock was justified in thinking that a free-board of 11 feet was quite sufficient. [Mr. SAMUDA said, that his ship was to have had a free-board of 9 feet only.] At all events, it seemed clear that less free-board than 14 feet was sufficient. He repeated that by coupling Mr. Reed with Captain Coles the experiment with regard to the turret principle would not be deemed by the country likely to have a fair trial. He confessed that he had not very great confidence in Mr. Reed's capability. During the last Session the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty stated—Now, I ask the House to consider what took place last year (1864). We (the Admiralty) heard of an eminent shipbuilder, a gentleman who had distinguished himself in drawing the lines of ships, a very scientific man. He was wholly unconnected with the Government service, but believing him to be a person who was thoroughly competent, we brought him from the private trade into the service of the country. That gentleman was Mr. Reed. Hon. Members will recollect to what an outcry his appointment gave rise to. I am very glad that we made that appointment, because Mr. Reed has performed his duties most satisfactorily."—[3 Hansard, clxxx. 384.]1852 He wanted to know whether Mr. Reed had ever been a shipbuilder before he was engaged by the Admiralty—"the eminent shipbuilder" as he was described."[Lord C. PAGET: Ship designer.] The words used were the Admiralty "heard of an eminent shipbuilder who had distinguished himself in drawing the lines of ships." The noble Lord should be extremely accurate in such matters. What private trade was Mr. Reed engaged in? What was his experience? It was well known that Mr. Reed was originally in the dockyard; he left the dockyard, and became sub-editor of the Mechanics' Magazine, and then he became the Constructor of the Navy. Beyond all doubt Mr. Reed was a man of general ability; but they were discussing not his general ability, but his ability as a ship designer—not his power as a writer to persuade men that he is clever, but whether he can build ships. Upon that point he confessed he had his doubts. Mr. Reed, as far as he understood, and he hoped the noble Lord would correct him if he was wrong, came before the Admiralty with certain new notions or ideas; and his first idea was to construct a vessel with a wooden bottom and iron topsides. This was carried out in the Enterprise. Mr. Reed affirmed on the 26th of March, 1863, in a lecture at the Institute of Naval Architects—That the smallest turret-ship, carrying but a single turret, if wholly armour-plated and made seaworthy, must be considerably larger than the Enterprise."Now, he would compare the Enterprise, built by Mr. Reed, with the Minerva turret, built by Messrs. Laird at Birkenhead. The length of the Enterprise was 180 feet; of the Minerva 180 feet; breadth of the Enterprise, 36 feet; Minerva, 35 feet; draught of water of Enterprise, 15 feet 6 inches; Minerva, 8 feet; tonnage of Enterprise, 993; Minerva, 1,000; horsepower of Enterprise, 160; Minerva, 140; speed in knots, Enterprise, 9.94; Minerva 10.5; broadside of Enterprise, 220 lb.; Minerva, 300 lb. They were both plated with 4½-inch iron in midships and tapered off towards the ends. The Times of the 20th of February, 1866, said—The Minerva, the first of the iron-clads ordered in Europe for this war, arrived in Rio on the 12th from Liverpool in thirty days.Mr. Reed, at the Institute of Naval Architects, on the 26th of March, 1863, with reference to iron-cased ships of war said— 1853The Enterprise, Research, and Favourite, certainly represent my ideas, in so far as I could give scope to them under the peculiar circumstances of their construction, and I am perfectly willing to be judged by a comparison of those vessels with others of like size.He (Mr. Seely) would then compare the Research with the turret-ship Huascar, which was as near her size as possible, built by Mr. Laird at Liverpool for the Turkish Government, and which had proved a far superior vessel to the Research—Research, length 198 feet, Huascar 200 feet; Research, breadth, 38 feet, Huascar, 35 feet; Research, draught of water, 15 feet 3 inches, Huascar 16 feet; Research, tonnage, 1,253, Huascar, 1,100; Re-search, horse-power, 200, Huascar, 300; Research, speed in knots, 10.35, Huascar, 12.27; Research, broadside, 2201b., Huas- car, 600 lb. The Liverpool Albion of the 29th of January said, referring to the Huascar—This vessel, after being completed for sea, left here for Holyhead on the 17th of January, 1806, encountered very severe weather on the passage, but proved herself an excellent sea-boat, very buoyant, and rolled easily, even when placed broadside to a heavy sea in the race off Holyhead. She left Holyhead for Brest on the 20th instant, experiencing severe south-west gales in the Channel, but fully maintained her character as a good sea-going ship, and arrived off Ushanton the 22nd instant, and anchored safely at Brest on the following morning. The Huascar had her guns on board—namely, two 40-pounders (broadside guns), equivalent to a broadside of 680 lb. She had also her full complement of shot and shell, and stores and provisions for some months on board, in addition to about 100 tons more coal than she intended to carry for ordinary service. The trial, therefore, of the Huascar during the late severe weather we have had in the Channel, and when loaded unusually deep, is most satisfactory, and proves that armour-clad ships of even small size can be built on Captain Covyper Coles' turret principle, to combine speed and sea-going qualities of the first order, carrying at the same time a much heavier and more effective armament than vessels of similar tonnage of any other construction.Mr. Reed's second idea was plough bows. He knew it was irregular to refer to a past debate of the present Session, but he believed the noble Lord had asked, "Will any gentleman show me a ship of her tonnage that goes as fast as the Pallas," which had been built for speed? Now, he would compare the Pallas with the Newcastle, designed many years ago by Mr. Watts. The Newcastle, a wooden ship, was a much faster ship than the Pallas. [Lord CLARENCE PAGET: But she was an old sailing frigate.] That makes it so much the worse. If the Pallas was outstripped by an old sailing vessel, so much the worse for 1854 Mr. Reed's ship. The following were the figures:—Pallas, length, 225 feet; Newcastle, 250 feet; Pallas, breadth, 50 feet; Newcastle, 52 feet; Pallas, draught, 24 feet 6 inches; Newcastle, 20 feet; Pallas, tonnage, 2,372; Newcastle, 3,027; Pallas, horse-power, 600; Newcastle, 600; Pallas, indicated power, 3,518; Newcastle, 2,453; Pallas, speed, 12,627; Newcastle, 13.28; Pallas, broadside, 5201b.; Newcastle, 1,7001b.; Pallas, displacement on trial about 2,860; Newcastle, 2,665. Mr. Reed's third idea was to build a much shorter ship than the Warrior and make her equally fast. He said at the Institute of Naval Architects in March, 1864—I freely stake my reputation, such as it may be, and all my anticipations of every kind, upon the fact that the Bellerophon cannot fail to steam over 14 knots.Now, the average speed of the Bellerophon was 13.6 an hour, and this was obtained at her light draught of water without armament, stores, provisions, or coals on board. The average speed of the Warrior, with six months provisions and stores, was 14'356; nearly three-fourths of a knot faster than the Bellerophon. The length of the Bellerophon was 300 feet, and of the Warrior 380 feet; the tonnage of the Bellerophon was 4,270, and of the Warrior 6,039; the indicated horse-power of the Bellerophon was 4,707, and of the Warrior 5,469; the speed in knots of the Bellerophon was 13.645; and of the Warrior 14356; the displacement on trial of the Bellerophon was about 5,630, and of the Warrior, 8,852. The fourth idea of Mr. Reed was improved Alabamas. In his lecture at Greenwich, in November, 1863, Mr. Reed said—I state with the utmost absolute fearlessness and confidence that the Admiralty are now building a corvette from which neither the Alabama nor Florida could hope to escape.Now, he (Mr. Seely) would compare the Amazon—which the noble Lord was of opinion was the fastest of her class—built by Mr, Reed with the Flying Fish by Mr. Watts—built many years ago, and a much faster vessel. The Amazon's length was 187 feet, that of the Flying Fish 200 feet; the Amazon's breadth was 36 feet, that of the Flying Fish 30 feet 4½- inches; the Amazon's draught was 16 feet 6 inches, that of the Flying Fish 13 feet; the Amazon's indicated horse-power was 1,660; that of the Flying Fish, 1,345; the Amazon's tonnage was 1,081; that of the Flying Fish, 950; the Amazon's speed 1855 was 12.171, that of the Flying Fish 12.725. In the case of the Amazon everything movable was taken out of the forepart. She was ballasted aft to lighten the bow and bring stern down to give more force to the screw. Eight of these vessels of the Amazon class had been laid down; of these, two were already being altered—one, the Danae, was undergoing no small alteration, for her bow was being taken down to her floor timbers. He mentioned these things for the purpose of showing that it was hardly fair to Captain Coles to couple him with Mr. Reed, considering the strong prejudice he had shown against the turret principle and the failures which had taken place in his own ships. He was exceedingly glad to hear that Captain Coles had been reinstated. He did not concur in the remarks that had been made about that gallant gentleman—such as that he had been intemperate in his language, and had said that which he had no right to say. Captain Coles was then on full pay, and it was said that he had improperly brought his invention before the public. In order that he might be at liberty to press forward his invention he applied to be placed upon half-pay, and his desire was acceded to. It was extremely harsh of the Admiralty afterwards to dismiss him, considering all that had passed. Even had he been a little intemperate in his language, and had said a few words more than were justifiable, his previous services should not have been forgotten. When Captain Coles was at Sebastopol in 1854 he received the thanks of Lord Lyons for his gallant conduct, and he was honourably mentioned in that House. In the same year he first conceived the idea of the turret principle, suggested by the difficulty the fleet before Sebastopol laboured under—heavy ships drawing much water. He saw that small ships of light draught carrying the heaviest guns were required, and he then invented a gun-raft. Lord Lyons was so pleased with the idea that he communicated it to the Admiralty, who thought so much of it that they directed Captain Coles to come home in order to carry out his invention. But peace was proclaimed shortly after, and no more was heard of Captain Coles' invention. Captain Coles, however, never lost sight of the turret principle, and in 1859 he again and again pressed it upon the attention of the Admiralty, until at length the experiments were made on board the Trusty. Those experiments were successful, and to show 1856 the great interest they excited in the highest quarters he begged to read the following letter, written by the direction of the late Prince Consort:—
§ 28, 1861.
§ "My dear Captain Coles,—The Prince desires me to say that he had already seen Captain Powell's official report of the result of the experiments with your cupola gun, and his Royal High ness has desired me to write to you to congratulate you on the complete success which seems so far to have attended them when I received your letter, which I have now submitted to his Royal Highness. You are well aware of the interest which he has taken from the first in your proposed gun and shield, and need scarcely, there fore, any assurance of the gratification with which he has heard of its entire success. For, though Captain Powell reports that there is still room for some improvements in the details, yet this does not affect the principle, and his report concludes with saying that it appears to him the most important invention, both as regards the defensive and offensive capabilities of the cupola gun, that has ever come under his notice. Allow me to add my congratulation to those of his Royal Highness, and believe, &c, "C. GREY."
§ He had no doubt that if the late Prince Consort had lived the turret principle would have long ago been tried. In order that the system should be fairly tried Captain Coles should be permitted to design and build the vessel himself.
§ MR. FLEMING
said, he was anxious that the few observations he had to make should not be regarded as emanating from a factious spirit. He wished to call attention to the present low scale of remunerating the artificers and labourers in the dockyards, which prevented the Government from getting the most efficient men. He thought it unworthy of this great country, spending, as it did, £10,000,000 annually upon our navy, that the Admiralty should hunt the kingdom through in order to obtain cheap labour, and that they should offer far less to their workpeople than was given in private yards. Was it just and was it politic that labourers in the dockyards should be kept down to starvation point by their wages being reduced to 13s. or 14s. per week? It was impossible to expect a fair day's work from men who were so miserably paid. Then, there was the case of the joiners—skilled artizans—men who had to serve a long apprenticeship and to purchase a costly set of tools before they could obtain work, who were also paid far less in Her Majesty's dockyards than were men of the same class in private yards. The caulkers and the shipwrights were also underpaid, and he hoped that Government would take the case of all the people engaged 1857 in the dockyards into consideration. He also wished to know why the wages of the artificers and labourers, amounting to £15,000, engaged in breaking up old ships, were not deducted from the proceeds of those ships. He would not, however, trouble the Committee with anything further upon that point, as it was his intention to refer to the matter again on some future occasion.
§ MR. P. WYKEHAM MARTIN
(Rochester) said, he had brought forward this subject till he was tired. He also could bear testimony that the joiners in the dockyards were paid less than in private yards. Last year he was told that they were paid so much that any discontent that might be reported to him must be the result of an hallucination, and that they could not be tempted into private yards. When he was told this he could answer nothing; he was, in fact, completely floored. But he afterwards made inquiries; and he found that a great strike was going on, and that owing to the influence of the trades' unions no man in the Government yards dared go into private yards for any remuneration that might be offered. He had now the confirmation of the last speaker, who was a large employer of labour, that he could not get joiners for the price paid in Her Majesty's dockyards. The argument used against him last year, though successful, was hardly, as he thought, fair. The Committee should remember that the joiners in Her Majesty's dockyards had practically no redress for their grievances. They could not strike as men engaged in private dockyards could do if they felt aggrieved, and deputations to the Admiralty were productive of no result. He was one of a deputation that went last year to the Admiralty. They were asked point blank, did they understand the business better than the Admiralty? With all due and proper deference he thought they did. When the Admiralty made their periodical visits they asked the men whether they had any grievances. But it was a common remark that the Admiralty knew as much about dockyards as dockyards knew about the Admiralty. Having made numerous inquiries into the matter, he found that the men in the dockyards were paid less than in private yards; in addition to which they had to find their own tools. The consequence was that the Admiralty were not getting the pick of the men among the young hands. It was said that the dockyard men had four holidays in the year; 1858 but, if they were paid as in the private yards, they could afford to pay for their own holidays. He had no connection with dockyards. There were not fifty dockyard voters in Rochester; and he had more of their votes under a Conservative Government than under a Liberal Government. It had been said that the dockyard men would not remain if they were paid so much less than what they could earn in private yards; but there was always an objection to men in employment to go elsewhere, and one reason was the expense of removing themselves and families from Chatham and Portsmouth to such places as Newcastle and Sunderland. He reminded the House that when their services were not required labourers and artizans in the dockyards were just as liable to be discharged as men in private yards. He thought the whole matter ought to be referred to a Committee of Inquiry, because, although he knew very well that the noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty understood his business, and that when he went to the dockyards the men were called on to state their grievance, yet if they did so the matter was pretty sure to be handed over to some clerk in the office, who reported that everything was as it should be. He would say, let the Committee consist of one Member from each dockyard borough; let there be Admiralty officials, and let there also be a few Members connected with the shipbuilding trade of the country in private dockyards. Above all, and this was absolutely necessary, let the men of the dockyards who were called on to give evidence have a guarantee that no harm should reach them in consequence of their evidence.
MR. SERJEANT KINGLAKE
said, he had been informed that the joiners in Her Majesty's dockyards received only 3s. 10d. a day, while 5s. and 6s. a day was paid in private yards. Why this difference? [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Superannuation.] He was much obliged to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and would take up the point presently, but he was not to be diverted from his point by the interruption. Was it true that the joiners in Her Majesty's dockyards were paid 3s. 10d. a day? And was that sufficient? Was it right? Was it right that while ship joiners received 5s. a day, in some cases 6s. a day, in private yards, the payment in the Government yards should be only 3s. 10d.? And was the difference made up by superannuation? Was it not true that scarcely one man in ten received 1859 the superannuation? And if so, what had superannuation to do with the other nine? If a diminution of expenses was requisite it ought to take place not amongst the mechanics, but amongst those who had much higher payments, and little or nothing to do. A saving should not be attempted in the wages of the artisan and the labouring class, who had to work hard from morning to night in order to gain a livelihood; at least not till it had been attempted in the case of those who with little work could much better afford lower payment. Besides the joiners, the case of the shipwrights ought to be taken into consideration. He should like to know whether it was true that when the iron-clads were first introduced 8s. a day was paid for labour to outsiders, and that a suggestion was made to the common shipwrights in the dockyards—who had worked hard in order to qualify themselves for the labour, and who, after so doing, had succeeded the first arrivals—that after a time they might perform the same labour as the men who received 8s. He had been told that these men now received only 4s. 6d., though they were performing the duty efficiently. The noble Lord might answer the question or not. If he did, the answer would no doubt be what his (Mr. Serjeant Kinglake's) remarks suggested. If no answer was given the public would draw the inference that the noble Lord had no sufficient answer to give.
§ MR. FERRAND
said, that as the representative of a dockyard borough, he should be failing in his duty towards his constituents if he did not say a few words upon the subject before the Committee. The statement which he made last Session relative to the claims of the dockyard labourers had never been contradicted, and he believed that no more just claims had ever been submitted to the attention of the House. He hoped to be able to convince the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the matter was more serious than he imagined. It had been stated that the artificers and labourers ought to apply to the Admiralty, instead of submitting their claims to the consideration of the House, but they had been repeatedly refused by the Admiralty. During the last Session the claims of the officers of Customs were brought before the House, after having been repeatedly rejected by the Board, and the result was that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had taken the claims into consideration, and that the salaries of those officers had been 1860 increased. Unless the claims of the dockyards were taken into consideration before long, his impression was that the most serious injury would be inflicted upon them. The result of the present system was that the best men were leaving the Royal dockyards and entering private yards. The wages in the former were so low that the owners of the latter were able to draw away the best men. Those owners of private yards who denied that the artizans in Her Majesty's establishments had anything to complain of, could scarcely be regarded as impartial judges; because, while the men in the Royal dockyards were underpaid, they could, of course, secure the best workmen for their own services. He trusted the Chancellor of the Exchequer would take into consideration the proposition of the hon. Member for Rochester, and consent to the appointment of a fair and impartial Committee to inquire into the claims of the men, and if those claims should be substantiated, he did not believe that the right hon. Gentleman would throw any impediment in the way of a fair remuneration being afforded. When iron ships were first introduced into the Royal dockyards, men from the country were employed in the work. Those who bent armour-plates received 8s. per day, the plates from 6s. to 8s., the riveters 6s., and the men in other branches 6s. These men struck for wages, and the men in the Royal yards prepared themselves for the work. The old yardsmen soon became equal to the new ones who had been introduced, but they were now receiving no more than 4s. 6d. a day, whilst the average wages in the private yards amounted to 6s. 6d. The wear and tear of clothing had increased from 30 to 40 per cent. The price of provisions had also considerably increased. House rent and taxes were higher. In many parts of England the police had received an increase of wages on account of the increased price of provisions, and the advance that had taken place in the rents and rates of dwelling-houses, and these things were worthy of consideration in dealing with the case of the dockyard workmen. Further, a considerable amount of sickness was produced by the foul air the men encountered while working at these vessels, and many of the clubs which formerly supported them had been broken up in consequence of the number of men thrown upon them. With regard to the superannuation which had been spoken of, not more than one man 1861 in ten ever received it, and then the period was so short between its being granted and his death, that not more than three men in 100 derived any great benefit from it. The constant employment agreement had been alluded to, and it was said that the men had four days' holiday. But they were quite willing to give that up, and all they wanted was a fair day's pay for a fair day's labour. With regard to the case of the joiners, the forcible statement of the hon. and learned Member for Rochester (Mr. Serjeant Kinglake) was fully borne out by the facts. In private establishments the average rate of wages was 6s. 2d., whilst in the Royal dockyards it was only 3s. 10d. How, then, could good men be kept under those circumstances, especially as their superiors were so strict that if a man wasted five minutes it would be struck off his wages? In the Royal yards there was the strictest enforcement of labour, and the present superintendent at Devonport Dockyard did his duty so ably that as much labour was now performed in one year as formerly was obtained in two. That circumstance gave additional force to the claims of these men. The Chancellor of the Exchequer could not imagine that hon. Members brought forward this subject year after year unless they believed in the facts which they stated. He firmly believed that if the Committee were appointed it would be found that a good case could be made in support of the proposal to increase the wages of these men. The right hon. Gentleman had lately said that there were Departments of the public service in which the salaries had been raised, and he admitted that there might be others in which the question ought to undergo consideration. Now, he would ask the right hon. Gentleman if the claims of the dockyard workmen were undergoing consideration? They were a loyal body of men, devoted to their respective establishments, and the Government could not make a greater mistake than, year after year, refusing to take into consideration their claims, when they were merely asking for common justice.
§ SIR CHARLES BRIGHT
said, he laboured under the disadvantage in taking part in the discussion of being the representative of a borough which had two dockyards in it. He thought it a disadvantage, because the grievances of the workmen had been so frequently brought forward on former occasions by Members representing dockyard towns, that he feared they would 1862 not be listened to with as much attention as the subject they treated of demanded. He thought that the hon. Member for Devon-port (Mr. Ferrand) had made out a good case. He had been largely concerned in the employ of labour of various kinds, and he knew something of the scale of wages paid in contracts and engineering works outside the dockyards. There could be no doubt there was a great difference between the wages paid in the Royal dockyards and in the private yards, and the men in the Royal dockyards felt that they were unjustly treated. Within the last ten years the wages of the working classes generally had been increased in consequence of the augmentation that had taken place both in house rent and the means of living; but the wages in the Royal dockyards had not been proportionality raised. The reason urged for this was that the men in those yards were entitled to pensions. But these pensions ought to be treated according to their commercial value. The pension was a day's pay for every ten years' service. He would take the case of the joiners, for example, whoso pay in the Royal dockyards was 3s. 10d. a day, whereas in private yards they received 6s. 2d., making a difference of 2s. 4d. day. Supposing a man having entered at twenty years of age had given forty years' service in the Royal dockyards, he would be entitled at sixty to £39 per annum pension. Now, under the recent excellent Act of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if the man in the private yard invested £3 1s. 9d. for forty years, he would obtain the same amount of pension by way of annuity, and the residue of the difference of wages, if laid by for that forty years, would give him a sum of £1,456. But it was said, why did they not seek employment elsewhere? The young men did go elsewhere for employment, but the old men, who had spent many years in the dockyards, did not wish to forego that pension to which they naturally looked forward. He understood that the men were not to be had in the numbers in which they were required, and that the Government were obliged to send them about from yard to yard in steamers to execute the necessary works. He was prepared to admit that he could not suggest any remedy himself, but hoped one would be found if the proposed Select Committee were permitted to take the matter into consideration. There was one point which especially demanded their attention—that was the charge for supervision in the Navy 1863 Estimates. At Deptford the charge for supervision was £10,647, whereas the charge for wages was only £47,879. The increase on the entire Estimates for supervision was £26,053, while the increase for wages was only £10,957; therefore, they were paying£26,000 more for superintending the payment of £10,000 more in wages. In the case of five out of the seven dockyards—namely, Deptford, Woolwich, Chatham, Sheerness, and Devonport, the increase of the salaried establishments or cost of supervision, was £17,145, whilst there was absolutely a decrease of wages to the extent of £4,382. This matter required explanation, and he hoped that the Secretary of the Admiralty would be able to afford it. He was told that at Woolwich dockyard there had been engaged upon one job 240 men and boys. To oversee these there were two foremen, four inspectors, twelve leading men, and two writers, who passed on the orders from one to the other, till at last they reached the working men. In any private establishment such a superintending force would be found very extravagant and useless. Some saving might possibly be effected under such heads as this which might be applied to a fair augmentation of the wages of the workmen, who had not had any increase since 1857. It was not a fitting occasion for going fully into the matter, but he hoped that the Admiralty would appoint a Commission to inquire into the rate of wages paid to the different classes of workmen, their superannuations, and position generally in comparison with workmen in private employ.
said, that if these labourers thought themselves as unfairly treated as appeared from the statements to which he had just listened, it was strange that in his own part of the country he had more applications for employment in the dockyard as joiners than for anything else. But for the strong antipathy which he entertained to asking favours from any one, his noble Friend opposite would be in receipt of daily applications from him on that subject. A little while ago he had forwarded an application on behalf of two men, and the reply was, that owing to the number of other applications, it was impossible to comply with the request. He knew that the labourers set great value on the Superannuation Fund. This chronic annual grievance of the dockyard labourers showed itself in so virulent a form that it was worth while remarking the 1864 quarters from which it sprung. First of all they heard the two hon. Members from Devonport, where a dockyard existed; and then hon. Members for Rochester, where, though there was not positively a dockyard, yet the boundary line, as an hon. Member had told them, was so delicately marked that he threw up his hat for the dockyard. Greenwich, too, had been ably represented in the debate, and if its representative erred at all, it was rather on the side of elaborateness in his complaints. The hon. Member for Chatham (Mr. Otway) likewise advocated the dockyard view. [Cries of "No!" "Not yet!"] Well, at all events, the voice of Chatham was rarely wanting from these debates. It would be a pity that so much disinterested philantrophy should be wasted. He hoped, therefore, that the utterances of hon. Members would reach the ears of their constituents. The effect created upon his mind by these annual discussions was to strengthen his impression that dockyard labourers ought not to have votes. He was of opinion that both for the men themselves, for their own good, as well as for the interests of all other parties concerned, it would be a much better thing that the men in the dockyards should not have an opportunity of bringing their claims before the House in the way they now had, and of saying to candidates at Parliamentary elections as it was known they did, "We will vote for you if you bring our claims under the notice of the House of Commons."
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, he hoped he would not be intruding on the Committee if he said a few words on this subject. Not being at present at the Admiralty, but having had the honour of being connected with the Admiralty last year, and having taken part in the debate which occurred last Session on the question of wages in the dockyards, he felt it right to state some matters which had come within his own knowledge. In accordance with the promise given by the Government in the course of the debate to which he alluded he had felt it his duty in connection with other members of the Admiralty—and a good deal of the work fell upon him—to very closely investigate the question. Each of the dockyards was visited by the Board; and two or three members of the Board, seated round a table, received, without the presence of any of the dockyard officials, deputations, consisting generally of two or three men at a time, from, the different 1865 classes of workmen. The men had received no previous intimation whatever from their officers of the questions which would be put to them; and he was bound to say that they answered the questions put to them on the subject of their wages with great intelligence and fairness. The Board went most narrowly into the question, heard their arguments, and the comparison between their wages and the wages paid in the private yards, and listened to what they had to say on the point of superannuation. In a few days after those examinations were concluded he left the Board of Admiralty, but he was bound to say for himself that he agreed with the decision of the Board. As the Board had to deal with as many as 15,000 men, there might be some inequalities as regarded a few men; but he had arrived at the conclusion that on the whole, considering the permanent nature of the employment, and the system of superannuation, the present rate of wages was sufficient. The rate of wages in the dockyards was now for "established men"£68 a year, and for "hired men" rather more than £45 a year. As to a Committee, he was bound to say that if they followed the recommendation of the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Martin), he thought they would not receive a very satisfactory report from such a Committee as he suggested. The hon. Gentleman said that the Members of the Government knew very little about the matter. But he (Mr. Martin) would have the Committee consist of Members of the present and the late Governments, of dockyard Members, and of one or two gentlemen with a special knowledge of the subject. Judging from the observations made by the dockyard Members in the course of the discussion, be did not think that with no one to help them, except the ignorant officials and the one or two specially informed shipbuilders, they would be likely to bring up a very impartial report. Let him go for a moment into the real question. The hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Ferrand) said, in the first place, that the wages in the dockyards were insufficient, because a number of the men in those yards were leaving the public service. He denied that altogether. He distinctly stated it was not the fact. He asserted that up to the time when he left the Admiralty, which was only a short time ago, that was not a correct representation, and he had ascertained that since then the number of men leaving the dockyards was not 1866 even so large as before. Therefore, he believed anything which could be said upon that point would not tell in favour of such an inquiry as was suggested, but quite the other way. The dockyard men were not dissatisfied. At all events, they did not show it by leaving the dockyards. He would further illustrate this by the way in which the question of wages concerned a very large body of dockyard men. There were three classes of men employed in the yards. First, the "established men," who, in addition to their wages, were entitled to superannuation. There were next the "hired men," who, though they were not "established," might be said to be permanently employed in the yards at fixed rates of wages. The third class were the "factory men," who were only engaged from week to week. The wages of this last class were fixed by the engineers who had a discretion up to a certain maximum fixed by the Admiralty. Those factory men might, if they liked, take their discharge to morrow. Their wages fluctuated, if necessary, with the wages of the market; but those wages had not been increased by the engineer, and simply because the engineer had not found it necessary to increase them. This fact was of more significance when taken in connection with the circumstance that in many cases the wages of those "factory men" had not reached the maximum which the engineer might have given them if he had thought it necessary to do so. Their wages had not been in any case increased for five years. The question of superannuation had also been raised in the discussion, and he must say that with respect to it some hon. Members appeared to him to labour under an extraordinary delusion. One hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ferrand) said that the number receiving superannuation was in the proportion of about three to every 100 in the total number of men. He had referred to the Estimates, which he believed to contain perfectly correct information on the point, and in the Estimates he found that the number of "established men" entitled to superannuation was 9,600, and the number of artificers actually in the receipt of superannuation 3,000. There could be no question as to the value of superannuation to a body of men; and it was to be measured by a very much higher standard than that which the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Ferrand) had applied to it. And did hon. Members think that the prospect of permanent employment 1867 was worth nothing? Hon. Members kept harping on the 6s. paid in the private yards as compared with the 4s. 6d. paid in the dockyards. But did they really think that the 1s. 6d. or 2s. was the real difference between the advantages in the respective employments? He could assure the Committee that in reply to questions put to them the intelligent workmen themselves stated that they put a very considerable value on the prospect of permanent employment. When asked as to the comparative advantages of the dockyards and the private yards in respect of the element of permanency those men did not hesitate to admit that their advantages were enormous, and when asked why if they thought their wages inadequate they did not leave, they at once attributed their remaining to the certainty of permanent employment. Let one inquire from a private builder to what interruptions in their wages his men are liable and he will at once see the force of this. The Committee must allow, therefore, for that very considerable advantage, in addition to the advantages of superannuation, which superannuation was given not only in old age, but in cases of permanent disability when the other requisites of superannuation had been complied with. An hon. Gentleman (Sir Charles Bright) had said, "You never raise the wages in the dockyards." It was perfectly true that they had not been raised recently. But they had been raised twice in the last twenty years, and those increases were, he would undertake to say, quite equal to the rise in wages which had taken place in private yards from the Crimean War up to the present time. Besides that, the agitation which took place on the subject of superannuation should not be forgotten. The superannuation before 1859 was very trifling, and it was thought necessary to increase it and to put the dockyard men on the same footing in that respect as the other servants of the Crown. That was considered at the time a great boon, for it practically doubled their retiring allowance. The facts with regard to pay and superannuation which he had mentioned, the fact that the men were not leaving the service, that there was not the least difficulty in getting hands—as every Member of Parliament must know, for they were overwhelmed with applications to get into the dockyards—and especially the fact that the factory men's wages, which were regulated by the engineer, did not require to be increased—all these things justified the Government in the course they 1868 had taken. All these things required the Government not to yield to the requests which hon. Members for the dockyards made—no doubt with perfect honesty, but in reliance on the representations made to them by their constituents—and not to do that which would have the effect of adding £100,000 a year to the Estimates. He hoped, then, he should be pardoned if he said that these debates, year after year, were not founded upon the real facts of the case. They were told every year that men were leaving, and that the attractions of the dockyards had ceased; and yet every year they knew that the men were not leaving, and that the attractions of the dockyards were not only as great, but much greater than before. That being so, the time had come, he thought, when hon. Members might be appealed to fairly to leave these things in the hands of the Government, and not on the one hand to protest against undiminished Estimates, while on the other they cried out for increased and unnecessary expenditure.
§ MR. SAMUDA
said, that the cases of the dockyard men and of those in private yards were totally different. The dockyard men had, first of all, a very great advantage in having permanent employment, and they valued it exceedingly high. In the next place, they had something in the shape of superannuation. Then there was another important circumstance, and that was that whether it was wet or fine the dockyard man received his wages. That was not the case in private yards. When the day was wet the workmen had to stand off the slips, and then they got no wages. Then there was another considerable difference. The general system adopted in the dockyards was to pay by the day, and the men worked in the ordinary way to earn a day's wages. But in private yards the wages which they had heard so much of were given as a general rule for piece work, in which a man made much greater exertion in order to get a greater amount. The general effect of all that was that the men, knowing the advantages on the one side and the other, did not leave the dockyards, and that private builders could not get them. As to the alleged rise in articles of consumption, having been in business thirty years, he believed that his men purchased everything cheaper now than they did then, and he knew that their wages had been increased 25 per cent. Provisions had very little or nothing to do with the question; it was rather a question of whe- 1869 ther one man or two men were required. The best friends of the workman were not those who put his case most strongly, for they had probably been misled, but those who put it fairly.
§ MR. SERJEANT GASELEE
said, it was unnecessary to defend the representatives of the dockyard towns for having taken up the cause of their constituents. It was all very well for the hon. and gallant Member for Truro (Captain Vivian), who had scarcely heard a word of the debate, to rush into the House, let off his speech, and then rush out again, after crying down the claims of the dockyard workmen. If the hon. Member had so many applications for joiners, that only proved that the men were very badly paid in Cornwall. The hon. Gentleman had thrown out a taunt about disfranchising the dockyards, thus adding insult to injury. But he might have waited to see what Monday would bring forth. He could say that he had found the artificers of the dockyards a most independent class of men. The real fact was, that hon. Members for dockyard boroughs, on both sides' of the House, had taken up the case of the workmen because they had evidence that they were not treated as they deserved, and because every class of labourers in the yards had come forward with complaints. It had been said that the men ought to bring their complaints before the Lords of the Admiralty. He considered it absurd to expect poor labouring men to wait on the Lords of the Admiralty with complaints. For his own part, he never looked forward to an interview with the Lords of the Admiralty without fear and trembling. And in addition to that, the Lords of the Admiralty when in Portsmouth were always in such a hurry that it was impossible to obtain an interview with them. The argument against raising the salaries of the men appeared to be that their present pay was sufficient. It was said that these men received wages equivalent to what they would get in private yards, but it was shown by calculations that the superannuation was worth 3½d. a day, and that the holidays were only four. The permanent employment might be worth something, but the Admiralty had the further hold upon the men that they had wives and children and could not therefore leave their homes in search of other employment; but because they had got them tied by the leg, was it fair, was it generous, to take advantage of them? That they got a man for what they could was an 1870 argument which would apply to all officers of State, and he saw a great many men who were paid much more than they were worth. The question in this case was whether the men were fairly paid, and the best proof that that was not the case was to be found in the fact that every single class was dissatisfied. They could vote money fast enough for particular persons, but when a claim of justice was brought forward it was met with the cry of economy. In addition to being underpaid, the dockyard labourers suffered from a grievance which, in the case of persons of a similar class in life, had been several times brought before the House that Session—namely, they were being deprived of their houses, which the Government officials were pulling down to make way for increased dockyard accommodation.
§ MR. MONK
said, he must protest against the opinion expressed by the hon. and gallant Member for Truro (Captain Vivian), that the dockyard labourers should be deprived of the electoral franchise. A perfect remedy against intimidation and against Government control or influence in the dockyards was to be found in the ballot, which might be tried in that case, though it might not be adopted for the whole kingdom. At all events, he trusted that they would not hear anything more of disfranchising the dockyard labourers at the very moment when the Government was about to propose an extension of the franchise.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, it does not appear to me that any argument has been used during this debate which might induce Government to accede to the proposal for a Committee of Inquiry. The hon. and learned Member for Portsmouth (Mr. Serjeant Gaselee) who has discharged his duty on this occasion with great ingenuity and ability, and with a good humour worthy of imitation, objects to the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Truro (Captain Vivian). Now, the hon. and gallant Member for Truro is not a Member of the Administration, and in making the remarks he has made this evening he could only be influenced by public feeling and spirit. The hon. and learned Gentleman complains that the hon. and gallant Member for Truro did not remain to hear the arguments in answer to his speech. Now, what was the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman? Why, simply, that the places in the dockyard were filled because the people of the surrounding county were poor. If this be true, and I do not mean 1871 to insinuate that it is not true, I ask, why are not the Government, in common with all other employers, to obtain the benefit of it? The hon. and learned Gentleman says, "Let us not bear down the poor, but let us let fly at the rich." I am delighted that the hon. and learned Member has come into the House of Commons with a determination to attend the Committee of Supply through all the Civil Service Estimates, and to propose to cut down the salaries of all who are above the labouring class. The hon. and learned Member has laid claim to being an economist, but says the economy is in the wrong place, that when we come to the salaries of Ministers and official persons he will see what he can do, and no doubt he will be found through the long weeks of Committee doing himself honour in the character of a defender of the people. But we who sit on the Treasury Bench are the most defenceless of creatures, and if the hon. and learned Member is dissatisfied with us he, along with others, has the power to turn us out. But, says the hon. and learned Member, they never get turned out. From certain experience I know that not to be the case, for although I have sat four or five times on this Bench in the course of my life, four or five times I have been driven from it. Falling short of executing capital punishment upon the Government, the hon. and learned Member adopts the milder course of letting fly at the great extravagance of Ministers and other public men. I cannot agree with my hon. and learned Friend when he says, "Let us be generous." I deny that it is the business of this House or of any other body administering funds which belong to others to be generous. Our business is to be just, and not to be generous. We are arbitrators between parties, and we can only indulge our feelings of generosity by a departure from the claims of justice. Generosity to one party in such a case becomes robbery of the other. How does the hon. and learned Gentleman answer the observations made by the Secretary of the Treasury (Mr. Childers)? But it is said it would be impossible for these men to state their case to the Admiralty, because when before the Admiralty they would be subject to intimidation. If that be true as regards the dockyard men and the Board of Admiralty, it would be equally true of the workmen at Woolwich and the War Department; it would be equally true of the men employed in the Post Office and the Post- 1872 master General; it would be equally true of the men employed in the Inland Revenue Department and the authorities of Somerset House; in fact, the same thing would hold good of all branches of the public service. Now, I take the statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman, ingenious as it is, and I ask what it comes to? Why, to this: that owing to intimidation, or to what you like to call it, it is not in the power of the executive Government, and they are not the proper persons, to determine what wages should be given to these workmen, but that that duty should be left to Members of the House of Commons and its Committees. That is a very formidable doctrine, I want to know for what function the executive Government is fit if it be not that of regulating the scale of wages which shall be paid to the public servants? The hon. and learned Gentleman, according to that principle, has found a shorter road to economy than he may have thought of, because if it is not fitting that the executive Government should determine what shall be the wages of the men engaged in the dockyard, surely it is not necessary for him to inquire whether the salaries paid to the Board of Admiralty are too high or too low, but whether they ought to be paid any salaries at all, seeing that Members of this House are better qualified to discharge those duties. I say that if there be one function more than another which this House should delegate to the executive Government, it is precisely this. But the hon. and learned Gentleman said that these workmen are unjustly treated in comparison with the persons occupied in private shipbuilding yards, and that, too, after hearing the statement of the hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Samuda). The hon. and learned Gentleman did not attempt to answer that hon. Member's statement except by saying that an hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Fleming) who is connected with a private shipbuilding yard is of a different opinion. Now, I have no doubt that both of those two hon. Members are men of equal character and experience. Here, then, we have two authorities connected with private shipbuilding yards who come forward and give different opinions, one of them (Mr. Fleming) being the representative of a dockyard borough (Devonport), and the other (Mr. Samuda) not being the representative of such a borough, and having no conceivable motive that we know of calculated to bias his judgment on this subject. 1873 But the hon. and learned Member for Portsmouth rejects the evidence of the witness who is totally unprejudiced. [Mr. FERRAND: No, no; the private yard.] What motive can the fact of a connection with a private shipbuilding yard supply for wishing to keep down the wages in a Government dockyard? But the hon. and learned Member himself also quoted the evidence of a gentleman connected with a private yard. In fact, the rule which we are to have laid down to us appears to be this—that the representation of a dockyard borough is necessary in order to qualify a man to speak as a competent witness on this question. Who are the advocates of this proposal but the Members for a dockyard constituency, and those who bear a kind of cousinship or near relationship towards them? That is the claim which is put forward. But then it is said it is impossible that all classes of workmen in the dockyards should be dissatisfied unless they had real and just cause for being so. It is perhaps difficult to suggest or explain them all, but still there may be other reasons which have led to that dissatisfaction. At any rate I will say this, and I think it will scarcely be questioned by any one, that the servants of the public in general, in common with the servants of every other class of employers, are much better treated now than they were thirty or forty years ago. I believe there is no doubt at all about that fact. And yet if we go back some thirty or forty years ago we shall find, I think, that the servants of private employers then were more discontented than they are now, while the servants of the Government were then contented. At any rate, you will not find any records of their discontent in the debates of this House. And why is that? That question is open to this answer—that when any body of public servants find educated and intelligent men who are ready to tell them that they are ill used, and who are also ready to go before Parliament and argue that they are ill used, in fulfilment of their duty to local constituencies, it is no wonder that the workmen in the dockyards should believe that which is told them by their representatives. I repeat that undoubtedly the servants of the public, like the servants of other employers, are, at any rate, much better treated now than they were thirty or forty years ago, and in conjunction with that I find that there is a machinery annually put in motion to place their case before the House of Commons now which 1874 was not the fact then. Be that, however, as it may, at all events it is the duty of the Government on a question of this kind to take its course decisively. On our part, at any rate, there is neither true humanity, generosity, nor mercy in allowing these workmen to be deluded. It would be the greatest of cruelty towards them for us to encourage them in the indulgence of false hopes. It is our duty to listen, and to listen respectfully, to all that falls from Members of this House; and although there may be some occasional inconvenience arising from it, I am glad that the fullest opportunity is given—and I would not wish for a moment to narrow it—for the free discussion of every subject in Committee of Supply. It is in the power of hon. Gentlemen to take precisely what course they may please; but certainly we are not as free as they are. It is our duty to examine carefully, impartially, and with the best knowledge we can obtain, into the case of these men, with a view to the redress of any real grievances, but it is also our bounden duty to say firmly and decisively that we will not, while we continue to enjoy the confidence of this House, intrust to Committees of the House, or to any other tribunal, our function of determining what are the wages which should be paid to the workmen in Her Majesty's dockyards.
said, that his chief object in rising was to move that the Chairman should report Progress, and ask for leave to sit again, although in the absence of the Speaker from the House, he did not know how it would be managed. The hour was too late (a quarter to twelve) for them to take that very important vote that night. The Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Childers) had held out some hope of action on the part of the executive Government in that matter, which was, however, dispelled the moment the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer refused to allow any inquiry to take place. If a Committee were granted the justice of the case of these men could, he believed, be proved with the greatest facility. He begged to move that the Chairman report Progress.
§ MR. FLEMING
said, he thought it was the duty of a great country like this to secure good labour, and when it obtained it to keep it. It might be true that poor men from Cornwall would be glad to enter Her Majesty's service in the dockyards with the view of getting a little higher wages to save them from destitution; but 1875 the question was—Would good workmen care to remain long in that service? They should be so remunerated as to have an, inducement to remain there. He quite agreed that in administering public funds it was their duty not to be generous; but there was a principle to be observed in these matters, which was quite as high as generosity, and that principle was justice. They had labourers in the dockyards who were receiving 13s. and 14s. a week; and he appealed to any employer of labour whether they could expect such men to give the country the proper amount and kind of labour for such remuneration as that. In a private yard a joiner received 6s. a day, and was not entitled to superannuation, but had constant employment, because there was great demand for labour. In the public yards the wages of a joiner were 3s. 10d. a day, with a distant prospect of a superannuation; but the value of that was not equal to the difference between the wages of the public and the private yard. For able-bodied labourers 13s. or 14s. a week was insufficient remuneration, and it would be better to give the labourer wages on which he could live than to drive him to work overtime. Some worked even all night to earn more money—some kept lodgers, and resorted to other means of increasing their income. After working overtime, men did not give that amount of physical labour which the country was entitled to expect from them. He hoped the Committee would see the justice of the demands made on behalf of the dockyard labourers. Who else was to be the judge of the rate at which labour should be paid? If the Board of Admiralty were of a more permanent character, instead of being a fluctuating body, perhaps it might itself deal satisfactorily with these matters.
§ SIR MORTON PETO
said, that as one largely concerned in the employment of labour, he deemed the subject under discussion unworthy the attention of the Committee, and the discussion itself out of place and calculated to do serious mischief. If the workmen were so badly paid in the Government dockyards, why did they not go to the private yards? If they considered superannuation and allowances worth so little, why did they remain? No doubt the work in the Government yards was admirably done; the only fault was that enough was not done. When hon. Members associated with Government dockyards advocated an advance of wages, they 1876 assumed a position inconsistent with their dignity and independence. The wages in the private yards were nominally higher than they were in the Government yards, but in the latter the men had perpetuity of employment, whether there was little or much to do, and were sure of their places. ["No, no!"] His hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Serjeant Gaselee) said it was not so; but he would tell his hon. and learned Friend that the work done in the Government dockyards was not equivalent to the wages paid. I wish to convey to the Committee the profound impression I have that this kind of discussion affecting wages is calculated to do great injury, and is not worth the attention of the Committee.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, he would like to ask a question on a matter which had not been adverted to in this chiaroscura debate, and it is why, when the expenditure for labour at the dockyards was decreasing, the total increase for wages amounting only to £4,000, the salaries for superintendents were increasing, the increase this year being £17,000. This increase was remarkable, and required explanation. He had never before heard it seriously proposed to discard the Constitution of the country so far as to refer the administration of the dockyards to a Committee of the House. The proposition was so extraordinary that he wondered any one could have suggested it, and he could only account for its being made by the fact that there were many new Members in the House. The duty of the House was to examine the demands of the Crown for public money, and to see that they were not excessive, but instead of checking they had been proposing to increase the supply, which was exactly what they were not entitled to- do. Curiously enough, hon. Members seemed to glory in being considered representatives of dockyards, although hitherto hon. Members had been so designated only in reproach, but he hoped they would not continue to accept the designation, and that they would represent places and taxpayers rather than dockyards and tax receivers, who, on principle, were disqualified to vote for Members of Parliament. That the dockyard men should be voters was an excrescence which bad crept in upon the constitutional system. They were originally employed from week to week, and thus, not being deemed to be in the public service, were allowed to exercise the franchise, but now 1877 that their position was permanent it was doubtful whether they should be entitled to vote at Parliamentary elections. The inconvenience of departing from the constitutional practice was seen in the claims that were every year being most improperly urged upon the House in their behalf. The Chancellor of the Exchequer exhibited a wise firmness in saying the Government would not allow a Committee to investigate the wages paid to the servants of the Government.
said, he wished to ask the Secretary of the Admiralty how it was that on the naval station at Hong Kong the salaries were £5,000, and the wages £5,000 a year? There were there thirty five ships, many of them scarcely seaworthy. From the proportion of wages to the total Vote it appeared that a little economy might be applied. He should like to know whether the thirty-five ships in harbour or afloat in the China seas were really seaworthy, or whether they were kept there as a formality, and officers employed to little purpose?
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
said, in reply to the hon. Member for the Tower i Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton), that the Vote for superintendence was nearly the same as last year, and that it was owing to the new method that had been adopted in arranging the Votes that the charge under that head appeared excessive. For example, the whole of the cost of the superintendence of the dockyards had been transferred from Vote No. 1, with the view of plainly showing what was the real expenditure for such service. The charges of £9,000 for gas and £3,000 for writers had also been transferred for a similar purpose. Next year this charge would bear comparison with the Votes of previous years. Respecting the vessels at Hong Kong, his hon. Friend (Mr. Moffatt) would remember that at the time of the Chinese War a large number of gunboats were sent out; and on its termination, as a considerable expense would have been entailed by the voyage home, it was resolved that a certain number should be retained at Hong Kong, and there used for the suppression of piracy and for whatever purpose they were most suitable. As they became rotten they were broken up.
said, that in the course of the discussion many statements had been made which were calculated to mislead the Committee. He was not aware that hon. Gentlemen had called themselves 1878 "dockyard Members," but he remembered the time when the greatest reproach that could be cast upon any one in that House was to say that he was a metropolitan Member, and especially a Member for the Tower Hamlets. He knew that the metropolitan Representatives had done much to retrieve their fame at the late election, but he was not aware that there were any new Members for the Tower Hamlets. A very unfair attack had been made upon the Constructor of the Navy (Mr. Reed), and it had been asked why the Government did not employ private builders? But the private shipbuilders of the country bad been too highly extolled; for it ought to be remembered that the Wyvern and the Scorpion, though built by a gentleman of great reputation, had turned out two of the greatest failures ever known. He de- sired to be informed what amount of money had been spent by the Admiralty in rendering those vessels fit for service, believing this a subject which should be fully explained to the Committee. With regard to the Government dockyards in the town he represented (Chatham), he held that the Admiralty were guilty of a breach of contract towards the men engaged in them. When they first entered those yards none but wooden vessels were built; but now that the iron ones were being constructed the men had been under the necessity of purchasing new and costly tools, their clothes were more rapidly worn out, while their eyes in many instances were seriously injured by the iron. He knew workmen who had totally lost their eyesight through working on the iron ships. It was said that when so injured they got pensions; but this was no adequate compensation. Another thing was that there was no oculist in Chatham, and the injured men had to incur the expense of going to Maidstone when injured in the eyes for medical assistance. These matters, he contended, required consideration at the hands of the Government. He also thought it an extraordinary circumstance that no surgeon was provided in the dockyards. It ought to be the object of the Government to get the best men to do their work, but they could not expect to do so if they refused to pay the men a fair day's wages for a fair day's work. It had been asked why the workmen, if they were discontented, did not seek employment elsewhere? but such a question was unreasonable. It could not be expected, after they had been in the service of the Government a number of 1879 years, had made some progress towards the time when they would be superannuated, and had established themselves in a place with their wives and families, that they would be very anxious to forego their claims upon the Government and travel in search of employment in the other dockyards of the country. He might mention that at the meeting of the fleets there was no ship which excited so much attention as the Achilles, and this showed that the men at Chatham who built her were good workmen, whom the Government ought to endeavour to keep in their employ, and to keep them contented by giving them sufficient wages. He thought that it was really a national object to retain the services of the really excellent workmen who were now in the public yards, but who would be attracted from them if the present disparity between the rate of wages that they were receiving and that were paid in private establishments continued. He entirely concurred with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and with the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton)—who had spoken in somewhat a cynical style with regard to the constitutional question at issue—that it was not his duty, or that of those who concurred with him in opinion, to fix the amount of wages which the artizans in our dockyards should receive. That, however, was not the proposal for which he contended. He simply said that he thought those men ill-used as things at present stood, leaving it to the Government to say in what mode justice should be dealt out to them. As to any objections raised on the score of economy to his view of the case, he would simply observe that a fund sufficient to satisfy the claims of those on whose behalf he spoke might very easily be realized by the practice of economy in the dockyards in reference to the construction and frequent alteration of ships.
§ MR. FLEMING
said, he would repeat his Question, Why the sum of £15,000, which was set down in the Vote for the payment of the wages of artificers and labourers employed in the breaking up of old ships was not defrayed out of the sale of the materials of those vessels? He thought it would be more advisable to sell the ships at once for what they would bring, and thus save the expense of breaking them up.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, that that had formerly been the custom, the balance accruing from the sale being paid into the Exchequer. The Treasury, however, acting 1880 in accordance with the recommendation of the Audit Commission, had arrived at the conclusion that the better plan was to take a Vote in the Estimates for the whole of the wages of the labourers employed in the dockyards, and to pay the full proceeds of the sale of old materials into the Exchequer.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again,"—(Mr. Otway,)—put, and negatived.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Resolutions to be reported on Monday next; Committee to sit again on Monday next.