HC Deb 14 March 1867 vol 185 cc1824-57

SUPPLY—considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)


Mr. Dodson—I hardly know exactly the position in which I stand, I thought that the Order for going into Committee of Supply was discharged, and that, consequently, the House would proceed with the consideration of other business; but I now see that Mr. Speaker has left the Chair, and I am told that for the sake of the public convenience I am bound to make a statement and move the Navy Estimates for the year. In making that statement I must, in a special manner, claim the indulgence and the clemency of this Committee, who I do not doubt will take into consideration the very short time I have had since I received notice from Her Majesty's Government that, in consequence of the state of public business, it was desirable that I should undertake this most onerous task. Before I plunge, so to speak, into the various Votes which form the Estimates for the year, I will give the Committee a short epitome of the sums required for the Naval Service last year, comparing them with those which we ask the Committee to grant for the present year, and will allude to the salient points in which the present Estimates differ from those of last year. In the year 1866–7 my gallant Predecessor and Relative, Lord Clarence Paget, asked the Committee to vote the sum of £10,434,735, and at a later period of the Session Four Supplementary Votes were added, amounting, in round numbers, to £46,500. One of these was an additional charge for an improved system of retirement for officers of the Royal Navy. Another was for the first three months' increased pay of the medical officers of the navy. The remaining sums were for the first instalment for building of a turret ship by Captain Cowper Coles, and the sum expended for completion of Her Majesty's ship Northumberland. Now, the sum which I shall ask the Committee to vote for 1867–8 is £10,926,253, being an excess of £545,000 over the original Estimate of last year, and of £491,518 over the whole sum voted in 1866–7, including the Supplementary Estimates for the Navy. The Committee must not for a moment imagine that the whole of that sum is required for the Effective Service of the Navy. The impression which has prevailed of late years, that the whole amount which is annually to be found in the Estimates is required for the service of the Navy, is an entirely erroneous one. For the Effective Service of the Navy there is this year required a sum of £9,067,758, that being an increase of £480,260 over the Effective Services of last year. For the Noneffective Services there is required a sum of nearly £2,000,000, and that includes many items over which the Board of Admiralty can exercise no control. There is, for instance, an item for the increase of half-pay and pensions, which, depending as it does upon casualties of life and health, are beyond our control. Then there is the Transport Department, the control of which rests with the War Office, for they alone decide what troops shall be sent out, and where and when they shall be sent, nothing being left to the Admiralty but to carry out those orders. From this cause, as may be imagined, the head of the Transport Department finds it very difficult to give any accurate Estimate at the commencement of the year of what sum will be required, the demand for transports being liable to change, from various causes, and to special and unforeseen demands arising from time to time. Another item of an exceptional nature is the sum of £50,000, being the first moiety of £100,000 towards the building of a two-turreted ship for the colony of Victoria. This, I need hardly say, was a question of colonial policy, and was granted because it was thought advisable to encourage that colony in spirit of self-reliance in its own defences for the future by assisting in providing it with such a vessel. Another £50,000 will accordingly appear among the Miscellaneous Estimates next year. I will now proceed to draw the attention of the Committee to the salient points of difference between the present and last year's Estimates. The principal increase in these Estimates is the excess of £528,000 over last year in Vote 10 section 2; but against this increase must be put a reduction of £175,000 in the Storekeeper General's Department. Before going into detail on these matters, I may remark generally that almost every Vote shows an increase, great or small, and I must ask the Committee to remember how difficult it is to prevent such an increase. When the national wealth is every day increasing, when every class of the community is raising itself in the social scale, and when costly inventions, both in shipbuilding and gunnery, are continually being made, it is almost impossible to keep the amount of expenditure within the limit of former Estimates. I can only assure the Committee that the most careful attention has been given to the subject by the Board of Admiralty, under the presidency of my right hon. Friend the present Secretary for War (Sir John Pakington), and no sensible increase in any Vote has been admitted without the closest examination and the most careful scrutiny. It will no doubt be interesting to the Committee to know the exact number of ships which the country had in commission at the time the Estimates were framed, and I have before me a list showing that that number was 154. The first Vote which I shall have to bring before the House, and which I am surprised to hear is likely to give rise to much controversy, states that the number of seamen, boys, and coastguardmen, required for the service of the year, is 51,683, and this shows a reduction of 285 officers and men over the number taken in 1866–7. The reduction among the commissioned officers is 134, and is the result of an arrangement made some sixteen months ago by the late Board of Admiralty with regard to the engineers. There is also a small diminution in the number of subordinate officers. The reduction in the number of commissioned officers is, as I have said, due to an arrangement arrived at sixteen months I ago by the Board of Admiralty for stopping I the entry of engineers, and was come to in consequence of the great number of those I officers in that service. The reduction in the number of subordinate officers is owing to a Minute suggested by one of the most distinguished Members—indeed, I may say, the most distinguished Member—of the present Board, Sir Alexander Milne, for the purpose of restricting the entries of naval cadets in the course of the present year. On coming into office that gallant Admiral found that the average entries of naval cadets had been of late 172 a year, and allowing twenty-six of these to leave, or at the rate of 15 per cent per annum, there would remain 166 in service; whereas the average number of lieutenants promoted was sixty, and the number of sublieutenants now in the service is 284, that is a four years' supply. In six years, at this rate, the number would have gone on increasing from the want of means of promotion, and at the end of that period there would have been found 430 of these young gentlemen on the list. Under these circumstances, my gallant Friend induced the Board to restrict for a time the entries, and that accounts for a slight reduction in the number of the subordinate officers. There is also a decrease of 145 among the petty officers and seamen; but, as those who have studied the question are aware, the relative proportion in the number of petty officers and seamen depends very much on the class of ships that are in commission. The number of seamen we ask for is 37,015, while last year it was 37,300, and the cost will be £1,990,862, the cost last year being £1,979,048; but adding the Supplementary Vote of £3,655, taken during last Session, for the first three months' increased pay to medical officers, the 37,300 men will actually cost the country £1,982,693, or £8,169 less than the 37,015 men will cost this year. I shall, of course, be asked how it is that a reduced number of men will cost an increased amount of money, and to that I have only one answer to make. The increase is due in a great measure to the generosity of the House, for last year there was a Supplementary Vote sanctioned for advantage of the medical officers, and another for an improved scheme of retirement for officers of the Royal Navy. Moreover, there are accidental circumstances which account for this increase, for there are more officers on higher rates of pay than there were last year, and there is a small increase in number of warrant officers. As the Committee is aware, the number of seamen is very liable to decrease, and the Board have therefore decided to add 418 to the number of boys, that being, as I think will be universally admitted, a very legitimate way of meeting the wants of the navy. The number of boys will thus be 7,418, and they will be thus distributed—4,318 will be employed in the fleet, 68 will be placed in troop ships, and 3,100 in training ships; and owing to the large amount of accommodation in our training ships stationed in the various ports, no additional vessels of the kind will be required to be fitted up for their reception. With regard to the Vote for the Men, it was the practice of my gallant and most successful predecessor (Lord Clarence Paget), when stating the number required, to make a statement respecting the moral and physical welfare of the seamen and the general popularity of the service. I will follow his example. It is with great pleasure I am able to make a satisfactory announcement under both these heads. The waste of seamen at the present time is under 10 per cent, which is less than it has been for some time past, and the number of continuous service men has largely increased. I hold in my hand a Return of the number of continuous service men in the fleet and coastguard at the present time. On the 31st of March, 1866, the number was 31,336; while on the 1st of January, 1867, it was 31,612, being an increase of nearly 300. That is a large increase in the time and very satisfactory, as showing the increased popularity of the service. The numbers of desertions, of crimes, and of punishments is always regarded as a fair test of the state of the navy. From official Returns it appears the average number of men borne in 1864 was 48,507, and in 1865, 47,474; and of these in 1864, 298, and in 1865, 289 only were flogged, and in the former year the desertions amounted to 1,583, as compared with 1,328 in the year following. I will read a table giving the proportion of deserters in the last few years. In 1862 it was 4½ per cent; in 1863, 3¾ per cent; in 1864, 3 per cent; in 1865, 2¾ per cent; in 1866, 2½ per cent; and in 1867 only 2¼ per cent. These may be minute details; but they show the Committee the satisfactory state in which the personnel of our navy now is. There is another point upon which Lord Clarence Paget always laid great stress, and which now presents an equally satisfactory aspect, and that is the increase in the good-conduct pay of the navy. I will not trouble the Committee with the figures; but the increase of the good-conduct pay this year has been very considerable. Another point is also satisfactory—the continued increase shown in the number of trained gunners. In 1861 the number was 2,268; in 1866 it was 5,786—showing an increase of 3,518 trained gunners. But it is not only the moral welfare of the navy to which it is my duty to call the attention of the Committee; its sanitary state has always occupied the attention of Parliament, and the health of the navy, according to Reports of year 1865–6, is most satisfactory. The rate of sickness per 1,000 was 31.4, being the lowest rate that has occurred within the last ten years, while the average ratio of those last ten years has been 35.1 per 1,000 men. The death-rate has also been the lowest for many years past—namely, 10.5 per 1,000; whereas the average for the previous ten years has been 15.5 per 1,000. Excluding deaths from injuries, it was last year only 8 per 1,000, which is l.l lower than the average rate of mortality among the healthiest class of our operatives. I must now touch upon a subject of a painful character; but it is one of paramount importance, inasmuch as it concerns not only the efficiency of our army and navy, but also affects the strength and vigour of the human race. We have provided a wing in the hospital at Plymouth for the reception of a certain class of patients, under authority of the Contagious Diseases Act, and have also provided accommodation for patients at certain garrison towns. Three of these are under the care of the Admiralty, and the others are under the control of the War Office. My right hon. Friend (General Peel), in moving the Estimates for the War Department the other night, told the Committee the steps which he had taken, and was about to take, in this direction. My hon. Friend the Member for Perth (Mr. Kinnaird), whose exertions in this cause are well known, and who is at the head of one of the best institutions of this kind in the metropolis, will confirm what I have to say respecting the favourable effects which have resulted from the legislation to which I allude. The Contagious Diseases Bill was originally introduced under the sanction of Lord Clarence Paget. Its operations were strengthened and its provisions extended last year, and now, under the Vote this year for the Prevention of Contagious Diseases, we ask for a sum of £1,500 in excess of that of last year. It is at Portsmouth that the least success has, up to this time, attended our efforts; but from this very circumstance we may draw a by no means unfavourable augury for the future. As yet there has been a great want of accommodation in that port, and owing to this and other causes little has been done, but better accommodation has now been provided; and in answer to inquiries as to whether at Haslar there had been any perceptible difference in the number of patients and the severity of the disease, I was informed that there had been already an amelioration in the character, and a diminution in the number of cases. From Sheerness, the report of the medical officer is that the disease is almost destroyed. In Plymouth, a wing set apart for these cases has been added to the Albert Hospital, towards which the Admiralty have subscribed a sum of money. There is already accommodation in this hospital for sixty of these unfortunate women, and there will be room for sixty more next June. Admiral Martin, the Commander-in-Chief on that station, writes from Plymouth, that the operation of the Contagious Diseases Prevention Act has been most encouraging. The disease is sensibly diminishing, and is greatly modified in its character. These cases used to amount to 7.¾ per cent of the patients at the Royal Naval Hospital; but by the last Returns there are now not more than 2½ per cent. Last year the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton), when this Vote was before the Committee, drew a comparison between the system in force in France and that in this country, stating that in the former country the authorities endeavoured not only to cure the body of these outcasts, but also to try and save their soul. The hon. Member expressed his conviction that the House of Commons ought not to sanction any Vote of this kind unless some provision for the moral and spiritual improvement of these unfortunate women was made. It is my pleasing duty to state that the Admiralty have taken the hon. Gentleman's suggestion into consideration, and have sanctioned a gift of £100 to the Samaritan Fund at Portsmouth and also at Plymouth, and £50 at Sheerness. The chaplains will also attend at the hospitals three days a week. When progressing to convalescence the poor outcasts are taught household work, such as washing and ironing, at the hospital at Plymouth, and the pleasing fact remains as a testimony to the worth of the promoters, that a large portion of them have been reclaimed and restored to their parents or to society. I be- lieve that there is no sum of money in these Estimates that will be so well he-stowed as the £1,500 excess in this Vote. In Vote 2 there is a slight increase, but it depends upon the augmented price of provisions in the market, and is not therefore an excess over which the Admiralty have any control. The next Vote is for the Admiralty Office, and shows an increase of £2,363, and before I go further, I will express my astonishment that the Admiralty have not been compelled to ask for a much larger increase under this head. The accumulation of work at the Admiralty has, indeed, been so great and so rapid that nothing but the energy of the clerks, directed by the unwearied assiduity of the heads of departments, enables them to get through the work they have to do. In order to give the Committee some idea of the increase in the Admiralty correspondence, I will mention that in 1831 the number of letters dispatched was 30,000; in 1866, it was 75,000. In the Controller's Department alone, from 1860 to 1866, the number of letters has increased from 32,823 to 69,139. This will give the Committee some idea of the immense Increase of correspondence, in comparison with which there has only been a small increase of salaries and of clerks. Vote 5 for scientific purposes includes an increased sum for the school of Naval Architecture; and I have to state that this school is in a flourishing condition. It was actually started by Lord Clarence Paget. But the scheme was, I believe, originally sketched out by the Institute of Naval Architects, and Lord Clarence Paget, with his usual good sense, took up the idea, and set the scheme in motion. The School of Naval Architecture is now going on most favourably, and the small increase in the Vote, for which I have to ask, is in order to enable us to increase the number of students from twenty-four to the full number of thirty. I am anxious not to detain the Committee for a moment longer than is necessary; but I now come to a Vote upon which I wish, as far as I am able, to convey the exact sentiments of my right hon. Friend (Sir John Pakington), who but for an unforeseen occurrence would have been in his place to-night. I refer to Vote 6, for the Wages of the Artisans employed in the Dockyards and Naval yards at home and abroad. After the recent debates in this House on dockyard expenditure, the very mention of this Vote seems to threaten a long discussion. But this question was so thoroughly ventilated when it was recently brought forward by the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely), that I hope it will be agreed that on that part of it which refers to whether the public money is properly expended, whether the artificers work sufficiently long, and whether the articles are produced cheap enough, I think it is not necessary for me to weary the House by entering into details on the present occasion. On this Vote, No. 6, there is a decrease. I am happy to think that at last I come to a decrease—however small—of £1,603. But while there is a general decrease on the Vote, there is a small increase in the amount required for rates, taxes, and police expenses. We have this year a decrease of 297 men in the number employed in the home dockyards and factories. The number in 1866–7 was 18,618, the expense being £1,065,194. In 1867–8 the number will be 18,321, and the cost £1,064,635. Unfortunately, that decrease in the number of men, following, as I venture to think, a law of nature in regard to these things, costs almost as much as the larger number of last year—the saving effected by it only amounting to £559. The next point connected with this Vote which calls for remark is the fact that although the number of men employed in home dockyards and factories is reduced, the number of those borne upon the establishments is slightly increased. Previous to 1850, it was the practice greatly to exceed the number allowed on the establishment; and, in 1864, the Board of Admiralty fixed the number of established artificers throughout the dockyards at 9,610, of which 8,714 were artificers; and at that time there were also first-class labourers who were entitled to pension. These men receive 2s. 2d. a day, and as they die out they are not filled up; but their places on the establishment are taken by artificers who are paid 4s. 6d. per day as wages. This is one cause of increase of cost; but it is only carrying out the policy laid down by the late Board of Admiralty in 1864, when they stated what in their opinion was the lowest point to which the established artificers ought to be reduced. The artificers who are thus placed on the establishment are taken from the apprentices in our dockyards or from the best of the workmen who have served there in the capacity of hired men. When any future Board of Admiralty takes into consideration the question whether or not it is advisable to keep the number of established artificers where it is now, one point that will have to be taken into account is, that this prospect of being absorbed into the establishment has been held out to these men as a boon which they are to look forward to the prospect of which has induced them to accept the wages given in the dockyard instead of higher wages offered by private firms. And here I may mention that during our official tour of the various dockyards last autumn, the Board of Admiralty was besieged—or, at least, had interviews—with deputations from every one of the trades employed in those yards. This, I believe, was the case with hon. Gentlemen opposite when they were in office. All of those deputations urged upon us that as house rent and the cost of food, clothing, and all other necessaries had largely increased, their rates of remuneration ought to be raised. Nothing, I think, could be more distressing than to be unable to accede to their requests, for the appearance, the language, and the respectful manner of these men did much to enlist for their claims the favourable sympathy and attention of the Board of Admiralty. Since then, however, great depression has occurred in all branches of the shipbuilding trade, and the consequence of that is that the principles of political economy forbade our increasing the wages of these men when we could get plenty of competent workmen for the same, or even a less amount. But there is one class of men whose pay we have thought it right to raise. I mean the day labourers, and their position was a truly lamentable one. Their pay was so small that any man with a wife and family to support could scarcely subsist upon it; and the Board of Admiralty have, therefore, decided to raise their pay 1d. and 2d. a day, and also to allow the hired labourers the same advantage, thus placing them on an equality as to pay with the established labourers, a boon of which, by some strange oversight, they have up to this been debarred. I trust that no one in this Committee will grudge this increase, which amounts to about £7,700. The smallness of this concession, and the comparative largeness of the expense which it involves, may give the Committee some faint idea how very costly any change must be which raises the salaries of our dockyard employés. There is another class to whose case our attention was called, and whose claim was found to be perfectly unanswerable; and I believe that the sum of money required for extending to them the boon to which we think them entitled is so inconsiderable, that the Committee will not refuse to grant it. I refer to the masters of bonâ fide in sea-going hoys, which are engaged in conveying valuable stores between the different dockyards and victualling yards. These persons are responsible for the safety of most valuable stores when conveying them from port to port. Hitherto, there has been no classification among these officers, and men who have held this position for only a year or two receive just the same as those who have served in this capacity for a very long period. We propose to divide them into three classes, of which the pay shall be in the following scale:—Those who have served twelve years shall be increased to 7s. a day, and that of those who have served over six and under twelve years, 6s.; and those whose service is under six years will receive 5s. per diem—a boon which will be much appreciated by the recipients, and which, considering the responsibility resting on them, is not more than they ought to have. The next point to which I wish respectfully to draw the attention of the Committee is the very large sum which the country now pays for the service of these yard craft. In 1866–7 the amount of this charge was £110,422, and for 1867–8 it is estimated at £107,958, the cost for those two years combined being £224,380. This head of expenditure has been going on in the same ratio for years and years past, notwithstanding that in some instances railways have been brought down almost to the very doors of the victualling yards', affording, as it would seem, greater facilities for the transport of stores of a perishable nature in sending them by rail instead of by sea from port to port. With a view to clear up this matter I caused a Return to be prepared as to this branch of expenditure. It was, like all other Returns sent to the Admiralty, admirably compiled, and was given with the greatest precision; but it was so voluminous and minute in its details that it entirely confused me, and rendered me utterly unable to come to any more decided conclusion than that there was ample room for further inquiry. I therefore brought the question before the Board of Admiralty, and my right hon. Friend, now the Secretary of State for War (Sir John Pakington), seeing the difficulty of sifting these things at a distance and getting at the truth about them in Whitehall, has decided to nominate a committee, composed of two gallant officers, Sir Sidney Dacres and Admiral Symonds, with two civilians, who will visit the dockyards and judge for themselves by careful inspection whether arrangements might not be made for effecting a diminution of expense, with, at the same time, increased advantage to the public service. Another matter is the unsatisfactory way in which the work in the shipbuilding yard is carried out under the system of day pay. Complaints have been made that we do not get a fair day's work for a fair day's wages. My right hon. Friend the present Minister for War and myself were much struck with some matters that were brought under our notice, and during our official tour, and also subsequently, we have had conversations with the various superintendents of the yards to see whether any other system that would be more economical and better for the interests of the country might not be adopted. Of course,' the quicker a ship is built the more economical it is. At Chatham and at Pembroke we found that there prevailed, in respect to the building of iron ships, a practice of day pay with piecework up to a certain point, allowing the men to earn 25 per cent more than their daily pay. This system has been, in different degrees, tried on the two vessels last built—namely, Bellerophon and Hercules. Both of them are iron-clads; and they were ordered by the Duke of Somerset. I hold in my hand a statement prepared by Captain Houston Stuart, the most intelligent and energetic superintendent of Chatham yard, showing the work that was performed on the Bellerophon and the Hercules, and illustrating the advantages of piecework as compared with daywork. By this Return it appears that the number of tons of material worked into the Bellerophon during the first 52 weeks of her progress was 1,716, while during the same number of weeks the amount worked into the Hercules by piecework was 2,767; the cost of labour in the case of the Bellerophon being £24,196, in that of the Hercules £30,899, the amount, of course, being larger in the latter case, because the men were allowed to earn more than their daily pay. The cost per ton for labour, however, which for the Bellerophon was £14 2s., was for the Hercules only £11 3s. 6d. It further appeared that the average number of tons of material per week prepared and worked into the ships, extending over 52 weeks, was in the case of the Bellerophon 33, in that of the Hercules 53 tons. The average number of tons per week worked into them from their commencement in the dock being in the case of the former 49, in that of the latter, by the extended system of piecework, 86; while the total number of days expended for all trades was on the Bellerophon 119,520, on the Hercules 137,250; the average number of days per ton being 69½ for the Bellerophon, 49⅔ for the Hercules My right hon. Friend the Secretary for War was very much struck by this statement, as I think the Committee will be, and there is every hope that the system will be introduced into our wooden shipbuilding, although whether it will ever be carried out with respect to that most unsatisfactory part of dockyard work, the repairs and re-fitting of vessels, I am much less sanguine. I now come to another point to which I wish to invite particular attention. When the present Board of Admiralty came into office they were very much surprised, on looking over the Returns of the expenditure in our dockyards, to see the large amount of wages of artificers and shipwrights which was annually set aside for the repairs of old as compared with the building of new ships. They consequently examined into the subject very closely, and the result is that we are enabled in these Estimates to effect an entire change in these relative proportions. All through the autumn submissions were sent in to us asking our assent to these costly repairs, in some of which the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely) would have delighted to revel. At length the Board of Admiralty decided that a line must be drawn, and that vessels which were no longer fit to fight or to run away should not be repaired at anything but a very small cost, and for temporary service. I have therefore the gratification of being in a position, to state that, whereas last year £240,000 were taken for the wages of artificers for building ships, and £290,000 for repairs—that is to say, £50,000 more for repairing than building—we ask this year £344,000 for building and £284,000 for repairs—in other words, an excess of £60,000 for building over repairs, instead of £50,000 excess for repairs over building. I only hope that this commencement in a direc- tion which I think is right will find favour with the Committee; and that if, owing to any accident to which Governments are always liable, the present Board of Admiralty should not long retain office, our policy in this respect will not be reversed by our successors. Next comes the question, as to what class of ships we should build. In dealing with this point, I must be permitted to allude to an answer which was given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War (Sir John Pakington) at the close of last Session, which has been somewhat misunderstood. He, on the occasion to which I refer, stated that such was the condition of our reserve of small ships that there was the greatest difficulty in supplying the necessary number of reliefs to our squadrons on foreign stations. That statement at the time it was made was much commented upon in some of the newspapers, as conveying an animadversion on the administration of the late Board of Admiralty; but nothing could have been further from his intention. What my right hon. Friend said was merely a repetition of that which was embodied in a document signed by a distinguished officer who occupied the position of the First Naval Lord in the late Administration. Now, in proof of the correctness of this statement, I may mention that, if any accident were to occur to any of our vessels on foreign stations, we have at the present time only seven vessels ready to be sent out to supply their places. Two of these, the Mersey and the Phœbe, are large frigates and not suitable for that service, two of the others are sloops, Chanticleer, and Cameleon, and other three are gunboats, and these are all the vessels that the Admiralty have in the shape of a reserve if any disaster were to occur. There is, as hon. Gentlemen know, a constant demand for reliefs. I may here add that if there be any station in the world in which it is desirable that ships should not be allowed to remain for a long time without relief it is the African coast, because of the necessity which there is for change in order to preserve the health of the men. From that station the Commodore writes entreating us to send out two more vessels, inasmuch as he cannot otherwise dispense with the services of ships which, for sanatory reasons, it would be well to remove to St. Helena or Ascension. From the Pacific Squadron comes the same cry, and nothing can be done to comply with these requests until ships of a suitable size are provided, some of which I trust will some be in readiness. While upon this subject I may, perhaps, though only a subordinate Member of the Government, be allowed to say that it is in my opinion a grave question whether the time has not come for the House of Commons and the country to consider what is the absolute necessity or advisability of keeping up large squadrons in all parts of the world of small unarmoured ships, which, when a more formidable ship than they approaches them must, what is vulgarly termed, "cut and run." At the present day, especially when, very properly, the principle of nonintervention is in the ascendant, no captain of one of these vessels would take upon himself, in the event of any dispute arising between British subjects and the Government of a country in whoso waters his ship happened to be lying, to demand or exact immediate reparation. He could, in fact, do nothing until he received instructions how to act from Her Majesty's Government at home. Under these circumstances, I, for one, should feel the greatest satisfaction if the moment should arrive when Her Majesty's present Advisers or any other Government should deem it to be consistent with the interests of humanity and of the public service to modify or remove altogether the African coast squadron. By that means numbers of our seamen and officers would be saved from being-devoured by the frightful pestilence which is so destructive on those shores. There are many distinguished officers, who, having studied this subject carefully, and knowing well the position of the slave trade, aver that by keeping up a small force composed, say, of two or three large and swift ships at Gibraltar, ready to pounce down at any moment unexpectedly on the agents of the slave traffic, that odious trade which has greatly diminished might be kept in check. These are questions of national policy which the Admiralty have no power to decide. All that we have to do is, so long as it is the policy of the country to maintain the present large squadrons, to provide a sufficient number of vessels efficiently to relieve them when occasion requires. That being so, our attention has been directed to what class of ships it is most desirable we should construct in our dockyards; and I am happy to say that we deem it, on the whole, the wisest thing to carry out in some measure the policy of the late Board of Admiralty, and to lay down a certain number of vessels of the Amazon class. The Amazon was a most unfortunate vessel; but, though she came to an untimely end partly through the neglect of a young officer, the Admiralty think that that is no reason why this useful class of vessels should be discontinued. They are most useful vessels, have great speed, and have superseded the Roebuck class of despatch boats, which never exceeded 11 knots per hour. The Amazon class have realized 12⅛ and 12¼ knots, and they will carry instead of two 68-poundcrs some light guns, two 6½-ton rifle guns, and two 64-pounder rifle guns. Pour of these are being laid down by us in the various dockyards, and being somewhat altered from the Amazon, are known as the Blanche class. The next vessel which we have ordered to be taken in hand is destined to replace a class of vessels which are very dear to the heart of our admirals, the old paddle-wheel steamers; of this class two are in course of building. They are of 1,460 tons, have admirable accommodation for a small number of troops and supernumaries and for stores. If this class of vessel succeeds, there is no intention of building any more paddle-wheel steamers, as those being screws will be more economical. They will be known as Jano class. Many of the paddle steamers have been running for forty years, and have cost rather more than double their original value in repairs. It has also been thought expedient to lay down some gun vessels, known as the Plover class. Their burden is 678 tons, they carry throe guns—one 6½ton rifle gun, and two 40-pounder rifle guns—are built of wood, and have twin screws, which enable them to turn with great facility. They have also a very slight draught of water, and are consequently fitted for going up creeks and rivers which larger vessels could not enter. They are expected to run as near as possible 11 knots per hour, or at least two knots in excess of the class they are intended to supersede. The Board of Admiralty propose to build ton of these vessels in our dockyards. The next is a useful class of vessels suited well for a peculiar service—namely, the suppression of piracy in China. Our present squadron in the China seas consists of thirty-six vessels, and of these twenty are gunboats built at the time of the Crimean war. They were hurriedly built of green wood, and are now rotting away, and it is therefore necessary to push forward as speedily as possible a class of vessels to take their place. Let me not be misunderstood; these vessels will be suitable for other service. My right hon. Friend the Secretary for War (Sir John Pakington) would never consent to build any class of ships which could be available for one particular service alone, as being vicious and uneconomical policy; and my right hon. Friend would not have sanctioned this outlay for relieving the squadron on the China station, unless the ships to be constructed were serviceable for the wants of the navy in other quarters. With this view we proposed to build ten gunboats of 460 tons; they are of a composite class, with iron frames and wooden planking. They will be of a light draught, and will require 120-horse power. There were in some of the Crimean gunboats, which have been broken up at Portsmouth, engines of 60-horse power, which, by taking two of them, will be of the required power, and rendered available for these vessels. All that it will be necessary to provide will be the boilers. A gentleman wrote the other day to The Times, pointing out what he designated as the extravagance of the Board of Admiralty, and stating that the Admiralty did not seem to know that various pairs of engines were rotting away at Portsmouth. So far from the Admiralty not knowing that these engines were at Haslar, they have for months past destined a use for them, and if the writer of that letter lives another year he will see some of those engines fitted, at a great saving of expense to the country, in some of these twin-screw composite gunboats. Besides these, there are in the course of completion this year, at Haslar, two other gunboats, the Orwell and Bruiser, which were ordered by the late Board. During the official inspection we observed at Pembroke and Chatham two small class wooden vessels far advanced, specimens of a class which had been tried and found wanting in the anticipated speed. They had, therefore, been left on the stocks, where they had remained for six years. One of these vessels was at Chatham—a gunboat of 425 tons and 80-horso power—the Newport, and there being a great want of surveying vessels, and this vessel being admirably adapted for the purpose, the Admiralty ordered its completion, and it is now being brought forward, and will be finished within the year. The amount of money which has already been spent on the Newport is £5,618, and the total estimate to finish it is £13,630. The other vessel, the Myrmidon, at Pembroke, is larger, being 695 tons in burden, and of 200-horse power. The money spent on her up to the present time has been £14,682, and the estimate to finish her is £27,682. There is a larger work on which my right hon. Friend has entered, and which, I dare say, will raise some discussion. At three of Her Majesty's Dockyards persons are confronted on entering with what may be termed the skeletons of magnificent men-of-war. These three, Robust, Bulwark, and Repulse, were laid down as line-of-battle ships; but when the change came over the spirit of modern warfare, the shipwrights were taken off their work, and the vessels remained incomplete on the stocks. One of them, the Repulse, has up to the present time cost £61,711, and if she were broken up she would represent a loss to the country of £27,500. The Board of Admiralty has, however, decided to finish her as an armour-plated ship. She will be an improved Zealous class, and when completed she will take her place among our men-of-war with every chance of success—in fact, Admiral Yelverton, in his Report of the Channel Squadron, declares his conviction that these wooden conversions form a most useful class, and expresses his hope that the Government will provide the service with more such vessels. I do not know whether I have trespassed on the attention of the House too long; but as the Admiralty has now been persistently attacked on all sides, I wish, if a good case for it can be made out, that it should be done by me; and, as a proof that these much abused dockyards are capable of carrying out great works, let me read to the Committee the following programme:—The estimated cost of ships to be built (including completion for sea) in the Royal Dockyards during the financial year 1867–8, is as follows:—Iron-clad ships, tonnage 3,136, cost £216,346; iron-clad turret ship, Monarch, tonnage, 2,072, £124,320; iron frigate, Inconstant, tonnage, 1,801, £72,040; converted ironclad frigate, Repulse, tonnage, 1,393, £83,580; wood corvettes, Juno and Thalia, tonnage, 1,139, £39,865; sloops, Blanche, &c, tonnage, 4,001, £142,936; gun vessel, Myrmidon, tonnage, 130, £4,290; twin-screw gun vessels, Plover, &c, ton- nage 4,248, £140,184; twin-screw gunboat, Cracker, tonnage, 4,345, £139,040; surveying vessel, Newport, tonnage, 212, £6,996; gunboats, Bruiser and Cromer, tonnage, 201, £6,030; tug steamer, Carron, tonnage, 167, £1,775; yard craft, Woolwich, tonnage, 100, £1,715. Total tonnage, 22,945; total cost, £979,117. I must say I think that if the result bears out that Estimate, which I know has been most carefully prepared, the most ardent critic of the Admiralty will not be able to say that the dockyards have not turned out some good work for the Queen's service and for the Nation's money. In Vote No. 7, for the Victualling Yard, there appears an increase of £771, owing to some new machinery, which I will explain when we come to the Vote. I next come to Vote 10, section 1, which is most important, and with reference to which I must notice the great energy and absence of prejudice displayed by my hon. and gallant Colleague (Sir John Hay), under whose supervision the stores of the navy are placed. There appears a small increase of £17,000, of which £8,000 is for capstans for the new ships, and £8,000 for oil, an increase occasioned by the increased size of the engines in our large ships. There appears a reduction of £100,000 for coals, owing to the Indian Government taking on themselves the expense of what fuel is required for the Indian transports, of which there are five, altough the ultimate saving on the year will not exceed one-fourth of that sum. [Mr. STANSFELD: There is a decrease in coal besides that.] You are quite right, but I had better not go into these minute details. The great reduction in the Storekeeper General's Vote is in the stock of timber. The establishment supply of timber is 60,000 loads, but that was fixed not in these days, when wooden shipbuilding is confined to small vessels, but in the high and palmy days of "the wooden walls." We therefore felt that now, when iron ships have almost entirely superseded wooden ones, an establishment supply of 60,000 loads was more than sufficient. The consequent reduction in the Storekeeper's Vote is £149,990. I now come to Vote 10, section 2, and. this shows an increase of £572,000 for iron shipbuilding by contract. On this, the Controller of the Navy's Vote, I should like to be allowed to say a word or two. But for this excess of £572,000, the Estimates would have presented almost perfect identity of amount with those of last year. Therefore, I would wish particularly to draw the attention of the Committee to it. Of this increase it will be found that £83,850 is for the progress of the cupola ship, Captain, now building by Messrs. Laird, Brothers, of Birkenhead, and designed by my gallant friend Captain Coles, who has been allowed to chose his own tonnage, his own specification, and his own builder, in order to give the country a fair trial of his system, on the results of which we may be able with safety to rely. I must say here, in my place in Parliament, that there never was any body of men called to discuss questions of this kind who have brought to their discussion a more favourable feeling as regards the turret system, than did the Board of Admiralty over which my right hon. Friend the late First Lord (Sir John Pakington) presided. Of course, the Secretary to the Admiralty has no power of himself in such matters; but I may assert that from the First Lord down to the Secretary, they were one and all, from the first day of their deliberations, willing and anxious to give, I will not say a partial, but certainly a most favourable consideration to the plans of my gallant friend, and in every way in their power to assist. Unfortunately, various circumstances occurred with reference to the specifications which caused some delay in the laying down of the Captain; but that was owing to no want of attention on the part of the Admiralty, who did their utmost, by agreeing to every wish expressed by Captain Coles, to facilitate the progress of this great undertaking. The next item is a sum of £344,000 for the building of iron-plated ships. This Vote will be spread over two or three years, as occasion may require. But it may be asked where is the necessity of building more iron-plated ships? I have always listened with great pain when numerical comparisons have been drawn between our own force and that of neighbouring Powers with whom we are on terms of friendly alliance. Such comparisons are always liable to arouse a feeling of mistrust and apprehension, while they give to this country a most fallacious idea of its own power. In corroboration of this view I will refer to the fact that two eminent statesmen, now unhappily no longer with us—Lord Lyndhurst and Mr. Cobden—the one in the House of the Lords and the other in that Assembly which will never cease to deplore his loss—spoke, within a very few weeks, the one in favour of an alarmist policy, the other in support of the maintenance of peace and good-fellowship; on every point did they differ, save this, that they both maintained the great inadvisability of making invidious comparisons of force, as tending to produce irritation on the one hand and misconception in the public mind on the other. But it is interesting to know what force such a nation as the French, who can in no way be considered wholly or even mainly a Naval Power, think it right and safe to keep up without in any way menacing the peace of Europe. The French Government have a fleet of forty-three ironclad ships. Of these they have sixteen first-class; but five of these went to sea, encountered a storm, and, according to the account given in a Foreign journal, came back like crippled ducks into the harbour whence they had issued. Four have been taken from the list of sea-going cruizers, and been adapted for harbour defence. There are four building. Of the second-class they have one built and seven building. Of the third-class they have twelve built, some very indifferent specimens, and three building. But the most remarkable feature is this—they have recently followed the example of the American Government, and have laid down in their dockyards four large wooden corvettes, which are intended to have very great speed, and to carry a very heavy armament. They are intended to be used for the defence of French commerce, or to attack the commerce of any country with which they may happen to be at war. The total number of vessels in the Navy of France is 365; in that of Spain, 95; in that of Austria, 70; in that of Italy, 82; in that of Russia 218; in that of America, 234. And let me here say one word with reference to the American Navy. I can only regret that I neglected to bring among my papers a copy of the very interesting Report made by the Minister of Marine to the American Congress, in which he gives the results of the year with regard to the navy of that country. It appears from that document, which entered into a much more minute and elaborate statement than that I have the honour of endeavouring to make, that the administrators of the American Navy have for the present no intention of following our example, and building large iron-clads after the pattern of those of this country. They intend to rely solely upon turreted Monitors, and upon those largo wooden frigates which Lord Clarence Paget last year, I venture to think, rather inaptly termed "improved Alabamas," which are to be used in any future war in which America may be engaged in protecting their own commerce, and in injuring that of their foes. [Mr. CHILDERS said, those vessels were about 3,000 tons burden.] They are of a rather larger tonnage than that. I understand about 3,700 or 3,800 tons. Now, from what appears in the newspapers, there seems to be a prevailing idea that our own coasts are poorly defended, and that it would be advisable at once to build some turret vessels after the American model for the defence of our coasts; but I think that that is the last class of ship of which we are in immediate want. In the first place, I believe that nothing is more improbable—impossible I had almost said—than that our shores should be invaded. Secondly, I cannot forget that Mr. Wells in his report to Congress deplored the fact that in Portsmouth alone there was three times the accommodation that the whole dockyards of the United States could furnish, and that the private dockyards of England were in the same ratio vastly superior to those of America. Still, notwithstanding this want of dockyards national and private—in the course of five months, during the late war, that country converted its wooden ships into a fleet of turretcd Monitors, sufficient to make a network, which would effectually serve to protect the long line of American coast from the most powerful enemy. If then America, with its limited means, could in so short a time produce such great results, what might not be effected by the spirit of Englishmen backed by the facilities derived from vast private yards, were so unhappy a contingency to arise? Under these circumstances I believe that this is a class of ships, the building of which may well be postponed. I may, perhaps, be asked, "Why do you add to your iron-clad fleet at all?" In reply I would ask, are the people and the Parliament of this country content that England shall stand still with regard to her navy, and allow all the other naval Powers of the world—be they great or small—attempt to pass her in the construction and in the scientific armament of their fleets? Upon this point I must, with no invidious motive, draw the attention of the Committee to the following figures:—In 1860–1 the sum of £582,805 was taken for iron- clad ships; in 1861–2, £935,932; in 1862–3, £966,141; in 1863–4, £630,203; and in 1864–5, £668,412. In 1865–6, £120,000 was asked for by my gallant Predecessor for building iron-clads; but that sum was not spent, and last year not a single farthing was asked for that purpose. Under these circumstances, unless the people of England desire that their fleet shall stand still, I think that the Board of Admiralty is justified in applying this year to Parliament for money for building iron-clads. The French naval authorities, whose example in this respect is followed by those of Austria and of Italy, make no unusual efforts at any particular time, but go on adding every year to their fleet, and year after year adopting the improvements suggested by science, and in the end those countries have obtained serviceable fleets. I am sure that that is the soundest policy that could have been pursued, and I only wish that it had been adopted in England. In this way she would not allow other countries to get gradually ahead of her. If we are to adopt the latest improvements, it is time, after two years in which nothing has been spent, that something should be done. I should be the last to act the part of an alarmist, to believe in the likelihood of any foreign invasion of our shores or in the probability of any direct attack being made upon the majesty of England.


said, that the noble Lord appeared to forget that iron-clads were being built last year in the Royal Dockyards.


I have already dealt with the dockyards. I am referring to the Vote for building ironclads in private yards. Having come to the conclusion—rightly or wrongly—that the time had come when we must build additional iron-clads if we wished the country to keep its position among the naval Powers of the world, the question arose as to the class of which the new vessels should be. We had only eighteen iron-clads of the first class, but of these four—the Warrior, the Black Prince, the Defence, and the Resistance—were not perfect specimens. Of the second-class there were two iron-clads afloat and one building. This was a class of ship that was much wanted, but then came the difficulty, what was to be the pattern, whether the new ships should be built on the broadside or the turret principle. We knew that there was a strong bias in the public mind in favour of the latter; but it was the desire of the Admiralty to get a comparatively small class of seagoing vessels. My gallant Friend (Sir John Hay), one of the first authorities on this subject either in the House or out of it, has gone fully into this question; and though by some it was maintained that the turret principle might be applied with success to small sea-going ships, yet one thing was clear with regard to this question, that as the Captain selected and designed by Captain Coles to test the soundness of his views was in course of building, it was not desirable to spend more money in building additional turret ships until the completion of that large vessel. The Controller of the Navy—and every one who has occasion to transact business with Admiral Robinson will be able to testify to the clearness of his head, the calmness of his judgment, and the consideration with which he listens to suggestions from every quarter—has, in conjunction with Mr. Reed, undertaken to design an iron-clad ship, of the following-proportions:—The new frigate will be of 3,778 tons burden, and of 800-horse power. Her draught will be 21 feet 6 inches forwards, and 22 feet 6 inches aft, while her speed is anticipated to be about 13½ knots per hour. Her complement will be 450 men, and her sides will be protected by armour-plates 8 inches thick, diminishing at her extremities to a thickness of 6 inches, the inner skin being 1¼ inches thick. The main-deck port cills will be 8 feet out of the water, and the upper-deck port cills 16 feet. Her armament will consist of six broadside 12-ton guns on the main-dock, and a 64-pounder at both bow and stern. The peculiarity of these ships will be that they are to have a sort of semi-turret on the upper deck on each side, inside which two 12-ton guns will be mounted. There will be four ports—two on each side—giving a range of fire from a line with the keel to an angle of 90° from it. They will have nearly all the advantages of turret ships, while the disadvantage under which most turret-ships labour—that of being so low in the water as to prejudice the health of the crew—will be avoided. The weight of the hull of these ships will be 2,740 tons, the weight of the armour on their sides 850 tons, and of the backing 140 tons. These vessels will belong to the second-class of iron-clads; and of them we propose to build two. We also propose to build by contract ten gunboats on the same principle as those in the dockyard. There is also an intention of building another of those ships of the Inconstant type, which were laid down by the late Board, and which are chiefly intended to protect our commerce and to harass that of the enemy. Some objections, it is true, have been taken to these vessels, one of which will come home to the feelings of Englishmen—that they go so fast that they need never come within reach of the enemy's guns—that is to say, that their best qualities will be shown in their powers of running away. Now, it is quite clear that our iron-clad vessels are eminently unfit for this service, because a ship which is to defend the commerce of our own ports or to harass that of an enemy must be a cruizing ship, fit to keep the open sea for months, and able to go under canvas as well as under steam. These are the considerations which have induced the Admiralty to recommend that another ship of that description should form part of our scheme for this year. There are only two or three points more upon which I need trouble the Committee at any length. Public attention has lately been directed to a paper displaying much ability, written by Mr. Henwood. Now, I can quite understand the inquiry which has been made—Why, when you have got a quantity of magnificent wooden line-of-battle-ships blocking up your harbours and costing so much to the country, do you not cut them down into turret-ships and thus save expense and provide a navy? The Board of Admiralty, however, do not believe that Mr. Henwood's plan would result in obtaining either good or cheap ships. I desire to speak with the utmost respect of that gentleman, who is one of the most eminent shipbuilders in the country; but I must think that not being accustomed to build ships of war he has formed his conclusions rather hastily. His plan has this great drawback at starting, that he deals with ships many of which are worn by age and are weak, through having been converted from sailing vessels into screws, and are, therefore, more or less deteriorated and ill-fitted to bear another conversion. Many of them have engines which are partly worn out, and these would require new engines and extensive repairs. I have here a statement drawn up by the Controller of the Navy showing the results obtainable, under Mr. Henwood's plan, of conversion. Let us take, first, one of the ships best adapted to the purpose—the Victoria—and compare her with a ship well known to many hon. Gentlemen opposite—the Royal Sovereign. It may have the effect of changing Mr. Henwood's opinion as to his own plans. If the Victoria were cut down, the weight of her hull, without armour-plates or equipment, would be, 3,724 tons, whereas that of the Royal Sovereign is 2,496 tons; the weight of her armour of all kinds would be 1,050 tons, that of the Royal Sovereign being 786 tons; the turrets and guns in them would weigh 1,028 tons, against the Royal Sovereign's 685, and her equipments would weigh 2,824 tons, compared with the 1,204 tons the Royal Sovereign. The result would be that the Victoria would weigh 8,631 tons, and her deck would be only 2 feet 2½ inches above the water, whereas the Royal Sovereign weighs but 5,191 tons, and the height of her deck is 7 feet 1½ inches. I will just state what the height of deck above low-water line would be with different ships if they were converted on Mr. Henwood's principle, and fitted with the number of turrets contained in his proposal. That of the Duncan, if fitted with three turrets, would be 2 feet 8 inches; the Prince of Wales, with four turrets, 2 feet 1½ inches; the Renown, with three turrets, 1 foot 11 inches; the Windsor Castle, with three turrets, 1 foot 8½ inches; the London, with three turrets, 10 inches; the Howe, with four turrets, 8½ inches; and the Conqueror, with three turrets, 2 inches. Under these circumstances, the Board, I think, were amply justified in hesitating to cut down these ships upon plans so faulty and ill-considered. I hope, however, to show the Committee that wc have tried to do our best to deserve the confidence of Parliament and the country. We have felt that there was a great objection to these line-of-battle-ships continuing to block up our harbours and rivers. On taking office we found fifty-five ships of the line blocking up our harbours and rivers, the value of which, including those in commission, is about £8,350,000, and to complete and repair which would cost £1,250,000. Each of these ships lying in reserve in our harbours costs at least £1,000 a year for shipkeepers, stokers, boats, moorings, repairs, and stores. Then there are the wages of the shipkeepers, stokers, and engineers, which for the whole of our reserves amount to £98,260 per annum. We must add to this the cost of wages under Vote 6, £15,000, and for stores £4,000 more, making a total of £117,260 a year as the cost of merely keeping up these ships in a proper condition. We felt that some of them were worthless as men-of-war, and could not by any process of conversion be made available for the service of the country. My right hon. Friend (Sir John Pakington) consulted with the Board, and it was decided that the time had come when the worst of these ships might with advantage be sold. Thirteen of the worst ships have consequently been disposed of, and within the current financial year £85,000 will be paid for them by Messrs. Castle and Beach and another firm at Devonport, into the Treasury. Of course, it is not for me to say positively whether any more of them can be sold at present; but I think my right hon. Friend (Sir John Pakington) has in this, as in many other things, shown that he was not crippled by "red tape" prejudices in the office which he had recently the honour to hold; but that he brought his sound common sense to bear on the question, and that, finding how much these ships were costing the country without any corresponding advantage, he decided to dispose of them on the best terms he could. They have been sold under new conditions for which my right hon. Friend is responsible, and I prefer that he should on another occasion explain the details of the manner in which it has been done. There is only one more Vote which I wish to touch upon, and it is one of the most costly Votes—namely, that for New Works, &c. Now, I wish to express my sense of the readiness which the various heads of Departments connected with the Admiralty have shown to give me full information, and the forbearance they have shown towards those who, like myself, enter office with no previous experience of official details. I am afraid the Vote for Works is generally rather extravagant; but this year there is a decrease of £4,277 over last year. The sum voted last year was £892,865, but of that a certain portion was not spent. The sum asked for this year is £888,588. This is caused by a large extension of dock accommodation at Chatham and Portsmouth. For this outlay the present Government are not responsible. The subject was carefully considered by a Committee of the House of Commons, and the present Board of Admiralty have had no option but to proceed with these works, which were sanctioned by an Act of Parliament. They were not proceeded with last year owing to the financial crisis, which rendered it inexpedient to ask for contracts. There is another item of £475,000 for extra receipts and re-payments, upon which I must offer some explanation. The item generally consists of a sum of £140,000, under this head it varies very little, and is generally calculated on an average over three years. A sum of £85,000 has been already got by the sale of ships, and my hon. and gallant Friend (Sir John Hay) authorizes me to say he has not the slightest doubt that, without detriment to the public service, a sum of £150,000 may be obtained by the sale of timber, for some of which there is no present use, some of which has actually deteriorated, and other portions of which are in course of further deterioration. The present Board of Admiralty did not think it desirable to go to the expense of building sheds to cover this obsolete or deteriorating timber. My hon. and gallant Friend will be able to state more in detail than I can do the peculiar quality of this timber, some of which would for certain purposes find a ready sale in the market, especially the Honduras mahogany. I now come to the item in this Vote for pigiron, to which the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely) has called the attention of the House. Last autumn Messrs. By-land, of Birmingham, whose firm is considered a leading one in the iron trade, applied for half a ton from each dockyard for the purpose of testing the quality of the iron. I thought there was no harm in giving them the iron, because if the hon. Member for Lincoln were wrong, it would give me the opportunity of putting him right, and if he were right it might give us a sum of £100,000 or £150,000 to be paid into the Exchequer. With that view half a ton of pig iron ballast was supplied to Messrs. Ryland from each of three dockyards, and at the same time a trial was conducted at Portsmouth Dockyard by Dr. Percy, under the direction of my hon. and gallant Friend (Sir John Hay). Dr. Percy has entirely corroborated the view taken by Messrs. Ryland that this iron might be sold at a high price. The Correspondence on this subject has been moved for and will be produced, and any further papers which will facilitate the inquiry of the hon. Member for Lincoln will be cheerfully given to him. I think the sum of £100,000 for pig iron ballast is a very moderate one, and I am borne out in that opinion by Mr. Ryland, with whom I have had several interviews and correspondence during the last month. Steps have already been taken practically to test the value by giving over to Messrs. Ryland fifty tons of the ballast stacked in Woolwich Dockyard. These items make up a total of £475,000, including £100,000 for pig iron ballast, £150,000 for timber, and £85,000 for sale of ships. And that is exclusive of eight or ten other ships, which it may be for the public advantage to sell, and the proceeds of which would swell the figures in this item, These are the proposals which, on behalf of the Government, I have to lay before the House. It is rather out of my line to deal with such masses of figures; but I have done my best to make them clear to the House, and in the course of the long discussion which will doubtless take place, I shall be ready to give any further explanation in my power. These proposals we believe to be moderate ones; they are the very least which the Government consider they ought to make, and if they are accepted we think that England may for the future, as she has done for generations past, rest with confidence on the navy as the right arm of her strength in the hour of danger.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That 67,300 Men and Boys be employed for the Sea and Coast Guard Services, for the year ending on the 31st day of March 1868, including 16,200 Royal Marines.


I am sure I only give expression to the feeling of the House when I congratulate my noble Friend on the manner in which he has discharged the duty intrusted to him. It was from no objection to him in his personal capacity that I raised a question in the early part of the evening. In listening to my noble Friend, I am bound to say, without entering into any details, that there were some points upon which, not only with regard to manner, but matter, I heard him with great satisfaction. I do not rise to intercept the discussion which usually succeeds this statement, but it also raises a wider question, which has been illustrated by the statements of the noble Lord. So far from being disinclined to accept the noble Lord as the organ of the Government with respect to the Admiralty, there were some parts of his speech which led me to desire that he occupied a more prominent and important position than the one which he actually holds. He alluded to one question of great importance—the proposal to build a great number of new gunboats. The object is that they should be scattered over the whole world, with the view of maintaining on the present scale that system of manning every part of the globe with vessels that have no force of resistance, and which, instead of being a force of security, would either have to be defended or else run away at the first menace of danger. The noble Lord put a query of a most significant character, intimating that the opinion he entertains is adverse to that system. But it has been brought into peculiar prominence by the Estimate; because the largo outlay proposed to be made this year will be followed by a very large outlay next year, which will arrest the progress of certain important vessels now being built intimately connected with the defence of the country. The noble Lord indeed made out my case; because, having adverted to this scattered force constituting one-third of the force of the British Navy, h stated with the utmost candour that it was not his business to announce a policy, or to give an opinion on the case. Many Gentlemen on this side of the House would like to take this opportunity of raising a question connected with this policy, because the building of this great number of small gunboats directly challenges the judgment of the House on this subject. It is natural that the Government, having come to these conclusions, should seek to embody them in the Estimates; but the noble Lord will see that the question is a very large one, not only with regard to the number of these gunboats, but because it tells directly on the number of men who will be required to man these gunboats in different parts of the world. I hope it will be understood that hon. Gentlemen who are desirous of discussing this question at large are not merely certain Gentlemen who have certain speeches in their minds of which they are anxious to get rid, but Gentlemen who wish to make an earnest appeal to those who are responsible in this matter, and particularly to those charged with the conduct of this Department—namely, the right hon. Gentleman the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir John Pakington) who has the most minute knowledge of the principles upon which, and the objects for which these Estimates are framed, and also to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Corry) who has succeeded him, and who, when he returns to this House, must assume the responsibility for them. Supposing Gentlemen on either side were to urge upon the noble Lord (Lord Henry Lennox) the most convincing arguments and statements in support of opinions which he might be inclined to embrace, he might repeat the answer he has given to-night in so many words—that he is not here to announce a policy. And that would be a good answer to us, not only because he is the Secretary to the Admiralty, but because he is not the representative of that Department in this House. If it were convenient for the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) and his Colleagues to make the noble Lord the representative of the Board of Admiralty in this House, I venture to say we should all be ready to accept him as such, and to treat him with as much courtesy as has been extended to any of his predecessors. As has been suggested by the hon. Member for Nottingham, I believe there is no occasion for a Vote on Account, although, if it were necessary, there would be no informality caused by that, because there might still be some reduction made upon the Votes upon the table. But, with a view of securing a clear field for the important and large discussion upon what I may call the principle of these Estimates, I should be glad to learn from the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) that this Vote for the number of men, which virtually fixes the scale of the establishment of the navy, will not be taken to-night. I do not now make the actual Motion that the Chairman report Progress, though I should be ready to do so if requisite.


Without troubling the House with many reasons, I would say that, perhaps upon the whole, it will be advisable not to press this Vote to-night, and we can report Progress. Since I last had the honour of addressing the House, a telegram has arrived from Ireland, informing us that the election of the First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Corry) will take place on Tuesday, and not on Thursday, so that my right hon. Friend will probably be in his place on Thursday, to go on with these Estimates.


said, he wished to ask respecting the production of a certain Return.


said that, as hon. Gentlemen opposite denied that he was the organ of the Admiralty in the House of Commons, it would be presumptuous on his part to commit his Chief in his absence on that matter.


said, he wished to ask how many tons of iron ballast were represented by the £100,000, for which the noble Lord had taken credit?


said, the iron was of various qualities, and he could not then state, with exactness, how many tons it would take to realize the £100,000. The Messrs. Ryland were of opinion that at least £100,000 could be paid into the Exchequer in the course of the financial Tear.


said, he hoped that more precise information on this head would be given on Thursday.


said, there were about 36,000 tons of that ballast which might be got rid of; but it would not do to glut the market with it. From the price which it fetched, it would be necessary to deduct about £1 5s. a ton for the cost of repairing the yards with granite or other materials. The iron was of different qualities, and the estimated value varied from £2 15s. or £2 16s. per ton for about one-sixth of it, up to £5 or £6 per ton for some portions of it. It would be impossible to give the exact sum which might be expected from this source in the course of the next financial year, until the experiment of bringing the ballast into the market had been practically tried. The Admiralty, however, believed it would be a large sum, and it was put down at £100,000.


said, he still thought the House would require to have clearer information as to how much money per ton that iron would yield. Separate accounts should be kept of the produce of the iron, and the cost of paving the dockyards. The skill and knowledge of the officers of the dockyard had been much impugned as to the value of the iron placed in their charge. It was said that a large portion of it was particularly good for the production of shot. If so it might be of great value if transferred to the War Office. On Thursday he hoped they would obtain more definite explanations on the matter.


said, he wished to ask the date of the purchase of the surplus timber which the Admiralty were now going to sell. About five years ago £1,000,000 worth of timber was purchased, and when some Members wished to raise a discussion upon that purchase in the House they were told that they were too late, as the purchase had been made, although the Vote was only just then going before the House.


said, he wished to ask several questions with reference to the two second-class iron-clads provided for by the Estimates. He wished to know if they were to be similar vessels, and if they were to be plated all over or only in the centre, at the extremities, and round the water-line? He also wished to know if the semicircular projections which had been mentioned for guns would allow the guns to be fought below or above deck?


said, they were to be entirely armour-plated, with six and eight-inch plates. The projections would have three ports, taking guns working on pivots under cover. With regard to the purchase of the timber, it was difficult for him to say when it had all been purchased; but a considerable amount had been bought prior to 1860–1, when the great increase took place. Up to 1859–60, it was found that 60,000 loads of timber were sufficient for the supply of the various dockyards, and that establishment was never altered. But in 1860–1 the necessities of the service occasioned a considerable expenditure for timber—60,000 loads being expended in one year, so that three years' supply was used up in a single year. Very soon afterwards, in 1862, the process of wooden shipbuilding was changed into one of iron shipbuilding. At this moment there were 101,000 loads of timber in the dockyards, some portion of which was without cover, and deteriorating more rapidly in consequence. It was calculated that if the House agreed to the proposed plan of shipbuilding, as laid before it by the Government, 25,000 loads would be sufficient for the present year, and 18,000 or 20,000 in succeeding years. Out of the present amount, 35,000 or 40,000 loads might be disposed of, and it was assuming a low price to say that £5 a load would be obtained for it.


said, that the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty had asked, but not answered the question, Why should more first-class iron-clads be built? He should be glad to know why.


said, there was no proposal before the Committee to build any first-class iron-clads. A turret ship on Captain Coles' principle was to be built; but he thought the Committee would be unanimously of opinion that such a step should be taken.


said, he hoped that other colonies, following the example of Victoria, would ask for iron-clads to protect them, at the same time providing for their maintenance. Places like Singapore and Hong Kong might, he thought, be defended by an iron-clad with a much smaller military force than was now required. There should be more iron-clads, and fewer wooden ships built. England should depend more on her navy than on her army, and then the Army Estimates might be considerably reduced. He wished to advert to the statement of the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty (Lord Henry Lennox), to the effect that the African squadron might be entirely dispensed with. If the large squadrons which we kept up in different parts of the world were dispensed with, single iron-clad vessels must take their place, because the commerce of England must be defended. He supposed the speech of the noble Lord was a kind of "feeler" to try what the opinion of the House might be, and if it were well received Her Majesty's Government might have some scheme to propose. The noble Lord shook his head; but he (Mr. Seymour) wished to know whether, if the opinion of the House were favourable, Her Majesty's Government would be disposed to substitute some other means of defence for those which we now employed, and also whether, if a Motion to do away with the African squadron were brought forward, the Government would support it?


said, that in the absence of those whose business it was to give an answer to such questions, the wisest course would be not to prolong the discussion. He begged, therefore, to move that the Chairman do report Progress.

Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To- morrow.