§ (In the Committee.)
§ (1.) £87,179, Victualling Yards and Transport Establishments at Home and Abroad.1144
§ (2.) £64,824, Medical Establishments at Home and Abroad.
§ (3.) £20,709, Marine Divisions.
§ (4.) £592,908, to complete the sum for Naval Stores, &c.
§ MR. ALDERMAN LUSK
said, he wished for some explanation of the sale of ships at less prices than were afterwards given by the Government for the old stores taken from the same ships. One ship was sold by Government for £2,600, and the purchaser received from Government for old materials £3,477. Old ships ought to be sold not privately but publicly to the highest bidder. Sales of vessels by the East India authorities had been made on better terms than the Government obtained.
§ MR. M. CHAMBERS
said, he feared that when selling their old ships the Admiralty proceeded on false principles, and that the result was a very serious loss to the country. From a pamphlet which had been published in reference to these matters it would appear that the Admiralty did not ask for tenders from all the world for those ships, but invited one, two, or three persons to send in tenders for the purchase. It did so happen, too, that the ships were sold for a third or fourth of the sum at which they had been valued by our own valuers. One particular ship would appear in the Estimates as having been purchased for £34,000, but it would be a very great mistake to suppose that the buyer had really handed that sum to the Admiralty. In accordance with the custom, he sold the stores of the ship back to the Admiralty, so that he had to pay them only about£13,000 or £14.000, the ship having been valued at £70,000 or £80,000 by our own valuer. It was alleged—he did not say so—that there was an understanding between the authorities at the Admiralty and those who were invited to send in tenders for the purchase of ships. The Admiralty were discharging workmen from the dockyards. Why did they not employ those men in breaking up the old ships? If they adopted this plan they could keep the stores and merely sell the timbers.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
said, that the ship to which the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Alderman Lusk) had referred as having been sold at a very low price had been so sold because of the prevalence of a disease aboard some time before the sale. The hon. Member had asked why the Admiralty did not sell more of their old ships and get good prices for 1145 them. They would be very happy to do so; and he hoped the hon. Member would induce some of his wealthy constituents to come forward as purchasers. He could assure the hon. and learned Member for Devonport (Mr. M. Chambers) that there was no understanding of the kind referred to by the hon. and learned Gentleman between the Admiralty and any tradesmen or any professional persons. He was not sure that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would concur with the hon. and learned Member in thinking that the country would gain by having the discharged dockyard men re-employed for the purpose of breaking up old ships. Employment might, however, be afforded to those men by persons who bought the ships to break up. The question of the manner in which old ships should be disposed of was now engaging the attention of a Committee, and he did not think it would be respectful to that Committee if, on the part of the Admiralty, he were to pronounce a positive opinion on the question at present.
§ MR. CANDLISH
said, that in reference to an observation of the hon. Member for Finsbury, to the effect that the East India Company used to sell their old ships at better prices than those now obtained by the Admiralty, he wished to remind the Committee that the ships of that Company had been built for commercial purposes, Ships bought from the Admiralty would have to undergo very considerable alterations to adapt them to commercial purposes, and it was well known that the sailing and managing the vessels as commercial ships which had not been built as such was more expensive than sailing and managing under ordinary circumstances. It was an undoubted fact that in one case, where the vessel was sold for £2,000, the Admiralty re-purchased the old copper for £4,000. He thought, however, that it would be as well to postpone any searching inquiry into this subject until the Report upon it was published.
§ MR. GRAVES
said, he wished to draw attention to the cost of coaling vessels-of-war. The cost of coals put on board Her Majesty's ships at Spithead was from 28s. to 38s. per ton, whereas coal was delivered by merchant ships at Gibraltar and Malta at 25s. per ton. He would recommend that Portland should be formed into a coaling station. They had there a magnificent harbour, and at an expenditure of £10,000 or £13,000 they might have a coaling station in direct communication with the 1146 collieries. The railways might bring down the coal from the collieries, and it might be at once put on board the vessels—a plan which, if adopted, would save 30 per cent of the coal now rendered useless for steam purposes by breakage. The expenditure for this purpose he estimated would be only about £10,000 or £15,000, while the yearly saving would be very large. It would be of infinite advantage to us in times of emergency if a continuous stream of coal could be relied upon for coaling the ships, instead of their having to wait for a fortnight before they could complete their coaling. He thought that the subject was one of sufficient importance to justify the noble Lord and his Colleagues turning their attention to it.
§ MR. ALDERMAN LUSK
said, with reference to his previous remarks in regard to the sale of old ships, he knew, not of one, but twenty instances like that he had referred to, in which ships had been sold far beneath their apparent value. He regretted that the noble Lord should have thought it consistent with his duty to tell him that he had better go to his constituents and ask them to buy those old ships. His constituents knew how intelligently to do their own business, which was more than the Admiralty seemingly did. He recollected having been told on one occasion, when he had complained of more anchors being asked for, when there were sufficient in store to supply the Navy for twenty-five years, that they required seasoning. He hoped the present Admiralty were not, seeing they were expending large sums for Dantzic deals, going to lay up sufficient for twenty-five years.
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, he thought the difficulties under which the Admiralty laboured in the sale of old ships and the criticisms they underwent for selling those ships too cheaply, and buying in the old copper, &c., in them at an unduly high rate, arose from the restrictions imposed by Parliament in the Naval Stores Act, and he should like to know whether the Government intended to seek a repeal of that Act?
LORD HENRY LENNOX
said, he was anxious to assure the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Alderman Lusk) that nothing was further from his wish than to appear to answer the Questions which were put to him in a flippant manner, but the fact was that, finding the discussion rather dull, he had endeavoured to promote the hilarity of the evening. What he wished, however, 1147 to say in earnest was that each of the old I ships now cost £1,000 per annum in ship-keeping, and that it was desirable to get rid of them on the best terms that could be obtained, and he should be glad if the hon. Member would bring forward customers for them. If the ships were not sold for what they would fetch, they would have to be broken up by the shipbuilders in the dockyard at Sheerness, which would cost a large sum of money. In answer to the hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. Liddell), he could not pledge himself to recommend the Admiralty to repeal the Naval Stores Act, which was re-enacted last year at their instance.
§ MR. M. CHAMBERS
said, he must draw attention to the fact that the noble Lord had not answered the Question he had put to him concerning the sale of old ships by public tender, instead of by the present system of one or two firms only tendering for the vessels. If they could not get a proper price for the vessels they should break them up themselves.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
said, that the latter proposal of the hon. Member would involve a large expense, as it would be necessary to engage men to break up the ships, and their labour would be just as expensive as if they were building ships instead of pulling them to pieces. In the only instance in which the plan of public tender had been tried the ships had been sold for far less then the price they usually realized.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, that what Mr. Cobden had said was perfectly true, that there should be buyers and sellers who would deal with these matters in the ordinary commercial way of business. It by no moans followed that the system of public tender was the best. Generally it was, but not always.
§ MR. DU CANE
said, he would beg to state in reply to the observations of the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves), that the present system of coaling vessels-of-war by means of pontoons was only temporary. They were in hopes that an arrangement might be made with the railway companies for the transit of coal between Portland and the Welsh coast. But as it would involve a considerable outlay to adopt the proposal of the hon. Member, they thought it better to wait until another year before asking for the sum necessary to carry out any improvement upon the present system.
§ Vote agreed to.1148
(5.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £742,500, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Expense of Steam Machinery for Her Majesty's Ships and Vessels, and for Payments to be made for Ships and Vessels building or to be built by Contract, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1869.
§ MR. SAMUDA
said, he rose to draw attention to the circumstances under which the sanction of the Committee to the building of two vessels of the Audacious class, the Triumph and the Swiftsure, was asked for. Those vessels were of 3,800 tons and 800-horse power each, and of which the House had already sanctioned the building of four vessels of that class. He proposed that instead of the building of these two being proceeded with two turret-vessels should be substituted for them. A great deal of valuable information might be gained from two such vessels as he proposed, although, of course, their relative fighting powers, as compared with those and the broadside-vessels, could only be ascertained after several severe engagements had been fought. We should be in the region of experiment for many years to come; and for the Government to refuse experiment was to refuse all progress. The Admiral of the Channel Fleet had expressed his opinion of our broadside iron-clads in no measured terms. He stated that they rolled to the lower part of their ports in fine weather, and to the upper part of their ports in bad weather. Consequently, in moderately bad weather they could not fight a single gun. This arose from the fact that broadside-ships were always obliged to be placed in the trough of the sea. Turret-vessels could be fought head to the wind, and rolling was thus prevented. Much had been made of alleged objections by Admirals and captains to building turret-ships, but he must remind the Committee that the opinions quoted were not really against turret-ships. The commanders whose opinions were asked had a case put to them in a particular way, and they answered it as all prudent men would have done. The Admiralty said, "We are building two turret-vessels for sea; we shall be able to try them very soon: do you think it will be advisable to build others now or wait till we try those which we are building?" Of course the answer was, "We would prefer to wait till we saw those that are building com- 1149 pleted." That would be a safe enough principle to go upon if waiting involved only delay; but when it involved the building of another and defective class of ship, he said "No; if you must build, build turret-vessels." Everyone knew of the advantages of turret-ships, and it was equally well known that their possible disadvantages would be few; therefore, the balance was decidedly in their favour. To keep the ports of a broadside-ship out of the water it was necessary to build them high above the water-line; they presented a good target to the enemy, and unless loaded with armour would be in the utmost danger from every shot. The alternative plan was to plate the vessel heavily in the centres and leave the ends comparatively unprotected. This he condemned utterly. The French Navy had been often pointed to as a model, and he could tell the Committee that whatever armour it was decided to put on a vessel in the French Navy was with very few exceptions distributed in equal thickness all over. That was a much better plan than the one we had tried of merely plating the centre of a ship heavily and leaving the fore part and the stern part unprotected. The plan could more easily be carried out in the case of turret-ships, because from not having any ports their armour did not require to cover nearly so large a surface and yet afforded complete instead of only partial protection. The turret-vessel had thus two advantages. First, being much lower in the water it presented ft less prominent mark to the enemy's fire; and secondly, what mark in the shape of hull did exist was entirely covered with armour, and was consequently stronger. The turret-ships, moreover, were immensely superior as regarded their offensive power. The whole horizon could be swept by the guns of the former, whereas the range of the latter was limited to some 60 out of the 180 degrees. The Government might say the complete range could be gained by the sponsons; but that plan was decidedly inconvenient. He thought, therefore, he had given very considerable reasons why, in the present instance, the Admiralty should accept the view he had put before the House, and why they should allow the experiment he advocated to be tried. The advantages of the turret system were so great that some allowances might easily be made for deficiencies. So far as as iron-clads were concerned everything partook of the character of an experiment; 1150 but, seeing that be much more could be said in favour of the turret-ships than could be said of the broadside-ships it was surely wiser to try experiments with the former than the latter. The noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty had told; the Committee that there was no such thing as a sea-going turret-ship; but that was a mistake. He (Mr. Samuda) hoped that the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Laird) would address the House, and would read an extract from a communication he had received from one most competent to judge on this matter. That extract stated, on the word of one of the best known naval commanders in the world, that a turret-ship had been tried at sea in the most unfavourable weather, and had proved equal to everything that was desired or expected of her. Much was said upon the point that the turretvessels were but an experiment; but it was to be remembered that the same remark applied to the Audacious class. The noble Lord said the Admiralty had not recommended the building of a turret-ship, because they had not one on which they could rely as a sea-going ship. But that was not always the opinion of the Admiralty, for in the first copy of the Estimates provision was made for the building of a turret-ship instead of one of those ships which he now asked the Committee to give up. The House was then asked to build an additional turret-ship at Chatham, to be called the New Monarch. What he asked was that that ship should be restored. He said at the beginning of the evening that he did not wish to embarrass the Admiralty, and he would now show that he was sincere in that expression, for he proposed to omit from his Motion all suggestion of the class of ship they were to build, and leave it to them to suggest whatever form of turret-ship they might approve of, confining his proposal to the substitution of two turret-ships in place of two broadside-vessels. He would beg, therefore, to move to reduce the Vote by £500.
§ MR. LAIRD
said that, having been personally referred to in that discussion, he wished to make a very few remarks. It had been alleged that there were no sea-going turret-ships now afloat. That was not correct. He knew of one seagoing turret-ship of 3,716 tons which went to South America, and encountered very bad weather in rounding Cape Horn, in which she showed great sea-going qualities. 1151 Another turret-ship, which had been afloat for twelve months, had also encountered all sorts of weather; and with the permission of the Committee he would read first a description of one of our broadside-ships in a gale of wind in the Atlantic, and then a description of that turret-vessel in a gale in the Bay of Biscay. That, he thought, would show the Committee that a turret-ship could encounter bad weather and get out of it as satisfactorily as a broadside-ship. Admiral Warden, in his Report on the Channel Fleet in 1866, at Paragraph 21, said—To have opened all the main deck ports, judging by the effect of opening only five, would have been to have washed the men away from the guns, and consequently they (the guns) would have taken charge of the deck by getting adrift, but with what consequences it would be utterly impossible to predict. The most of the cartridges, if not all of them, would have been destroyed in the guns, and the guns which could have been got off would have hurt nobody.That was the account given by a most experienced naval officer of a broadside-ship in a gale in the Atlantic. He would now quote the description given of a turret-ship of 2,000 tons, with four 300-pounder guns and two turrets (the Prins Hendrik), in a very heavy gale, by her commander, Captain Jansen, a distinguished officer of the Dutch Navy, who was known to many Members of that House. Captain Jansen, in his letter bearing date 21st December, 1867, Cherbourg, wrote—I went to sea at 11 a.m. on the 2nd of December, blowing hard from the N.W., with heavy squalls of hail, which nearly prevented me going through the passage Dufour out, from Brest. When outside I found myself on a lee shore, with a furious storm from the N.W., and a tremendous sea, enough to frighten an old sailor. The Prins Hendrik behaved nobly as long as she was head to sea. She went six knots through the sea, which went over her as high as the chimney, which is now still entirely white with the crystals of salt. The day after, although blowing bard, with a more regular sea, we were able to move in all directions without a heavier roll than 15 degrees. The Prins Hendrik is an excellent ship, and could use her battery on Tuesday with great ease, when all the ships we met were close reefed, and several wrecks that we saw indicated uncommonly bad weather.He would put it to the Committee, after hearing that account of the behaviour of a turret-ship of 2,000 tons in a heavy gale from so good an authority, whether that was not a satisfactory answer to the statement made that night that no sea-going turret-ship had yet been built? That argument had been used before. It had been refuted twice to his knowledge in the 1152 instances to which he had adverted; and although he should not have been able to support the hon. Member for Tavistock's (Mr. Samuda's) Motion, as originally framed, he was ready to support it in a modified form, because he believed that from the experience which the Admiralty had, or which they could get if they chose to seek it, they could give the country two turret-ships of the same tonnnge as the other ships that they proposed to build, but which would he very superior to them in every respect, and which would do much more credit to the Admiralty themselves, while they would be much more useful to the nation.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
said, he had no reason to complain of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Samuda) in introducing his Amendment. Although misinformed on some of the points which he had mentioned, it was natural that the hon. Gentleman should try to press upon the Committee the adoption of his favourite system of the turret. The hon. Member said that in the first copy of the Estimates laid on the table there was n turret-ship to take the place of the Monarch. That would only prove, if anything, the extreme good-will of his right, hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Corry) towards the turret system. [Mr. SAMUDA was understood to say that the vessel was not the Monarch but the Triumph.] No; the turret-ship that appeared in the Estimates was to have been of the Monarch class, which some Gentlemen had so much decried; but, for reasons previously stated, his right hon. Friend could not recommend the building of that turret-ship this year. The hon. Member for Tavistock had dilated in glowing terms on the rolling propensities of the broadside iron-clads; but rolling, like everything else, was a matter of comparison. The old two and three-deckers were not free from rolling propensities in bad weather. The hon. Member had probably read with interest the able Report of Admiral Dacres on the Channel Squadron in 1865. That gallant Admiral was afloat in an old two-decker, and he had two ironclads, the Prince Consort and the Warrior, among his ships; and he reported that both of those vessels rolled less heavily than he did in his comfortable old two-decker. Therefore a sweeping condemnation of the present class of ships on the score of their rolling propensities was not altogether fair. The hon. Member had 1153 been misinformed with regard to the French Navy. The French Navy had adopted, and were now building, their ships upon what was familiarly called the belt and box principle. With regard to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Laird), perhaps in the course of his remarks he (Lord Henry Lennox) had not sufficiently guarded himself on every point; but what he had meant to say was not that no turret-ship had ever gone to sea, but that no model possessing the principal attributes of the turret system had ever been submitted to the Admiralty of which they could approve. The second vessel alluded to was open to the objection of the hon. Member for Tavistock, that the ends were unarmoured, and that a shot would easily penetrate her. In fact there was no such thing as a fully armoured seagoing ship.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
said, that was true, and it was also true that she sailed nearly as well as the Ocean; but she was an armour-plated vessel with only 4½ inches of armour, which would present very little power of resistance against modern artillery. The hon. Member for Tavistock had objected very much to the sponsons or overhanging deck, but in that respect the Admiralty were for once in entire accord with the private builders. In the competitions of designs every one of the competitors sent in a broadside design with an overhanging deck or sponson, which would add to the security and steadiness of the vessel. No doubt the hon. Gentleman was aware that the worst rollers in the fleet were the converted wooden ships, because in them the centre of gravity was lower than the upper deck. The hon. Gentleman was in favour of turret-ships in general, and he (Lord Henry Lennox) did not deny that the two Admirals to whom the hon. Gentleman had referred were in favour of the principle of turret-ships; but as to whether the Admiralty should go on with these two vessels of the broadside class he must appeal to the two Admirals as witnesses in his favour, for they had stated in the letter he had read that it was not advisable to build any more sea-going turrets at the present time. This did not arise from any crotchet or fancy of the Controller's Department; but he was authorised to say that Sir Alexander Milne and Sir Sidney Dacres, two good authorities, 1154 approved these ships, and would regret if anything interfered with their design. And when he had said this he trusted he had said enough to induce the Committee to support the Admiralty in the plans they had laid down.
§ MR. O'BEIRNE
said, that the turret principle had a large number of scientific men in its favour, and a complete series of vessels, forming a turret navy, by Admiral Halsted, were now exhibited at South Kensington Museum. These might supersede the system of building broadside-ships; but he thought that both the broadside and the turret-ships were at present simply experimental. If the hon. Member for Tavistock would limit his Motion so as to stay all further expenditure, until experiments had shown the relative value of turret-ships and broadsides, he would support him.
§ MR. GRAVES
said, that if the Vote were pressed, and if the House were to build two vessels, he must vote against two turret-ships on a design which had been condemned by the Admiralty. With reference to the sponson-ships proposed to be built, they were a great experiment, but he did not think it would be successful. The Admiralty possessed all the information they required, and all they had to do was to apply it. It was professional and practical rather than scientific and theoretical knowledge that was wanted, and there was too much science and theory. The question was, whether the Committee would suspend the Vote altogether, or whether the Government would test the opinion of the Committee as to two turret-ships or two sponson-vessels. He would support the Motion if it were confined to staying any further expenditure on experimental ships which, judging by the past, would prove failures. He believed there was great merit in Admiral Halsted's designs.
Motion made and Question put,
That a sum, not exceeding £742,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Expense of Steam Machinery for Her Majesty's Ships and Vessels, and for Payments to be made for Ships and Vessels building or to be built by Contract, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1869."—(Mr. Samuda.)
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 59; Noes 92: Majority 33.
§ MR. GRAVES
said, he rose to call attention to the defective development of steam in the case of some of the vessels of 1155 the Channel squadron last year. He had some doubt as to the present system of tendering for machinery. The engines of the Bellerophon cost £71,000, yet they had failed to exert the power guaranteed except on flash trial trips, and those of the Invincible and Audacious cost £103,700, although makers of the same class sent in tenders for £72,200. He contended that very great injustice was clone by the present irresponsible mode of tendering, and would on some future occasion bring the whole subject before the attention of Parliament.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ (6.) £564,237, to complete the sum for New Works, Buildings, Machinery, and Repairs.
§ MR. GRAVES
said, he had intended to propose a reduction of the Vote by £500, with the view of closing the Deptford and Woolwich Dockyards; but, in the absence of the First Lord of the Admiralty, he would not raise the question. He was glad to hear that the Deptford yard would be closed, and hoped that Woolwich also would shortly be given up.
§ MR. ALDERMAN LUSK
said, that last year much more money was asked for on account of this Vote than had been expended. He wished to know why that was, and what had become of the excess?
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (7.) £78,164, Medicines, Medical Stores, &c.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, as this Vote contained a charge of £12,500 for carrying out the Contagious Diseases Act in arsenals and garrison towns, the operation of which had been very beneficial both to the army and navy, he wished to ask, whether, during the coming Recess, the Government would be willing to appoint a Commission to inquire into the working of the Act, with the view of extending it to other parts of the kingdom?
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, it was the intention of the Government to appoint a Commission to inquire into the public health, and he thought this subject, to which his hon. Friend had called attention, might very well form part of the inquiry.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (8.) £20,365, Martial Law.1156
§ (9.) £175,800, Naval Miscellaneous Services.
§ MR. ALDERMAN SALOMONS
said, he wished to call attention to an increase of £300 for advertisements in connection with this Vote. He thought the matter required explanation.
SIR JOHN HAY
said, the increase was due to the greater degree of publicity which they wished to be given, in order that there might be a larger competition.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (10.) £500,166, to complete the sum for Half-pay, &c. Navy and Royal Marines.
§ (11.) £400,447, to complete the sum for Military Pensions and Allowances.
§ (12.) £123,498, to complete the sum for Civil Pensions and Allowances.
§ (13.) £200,600, to complete the sum for Freight of Ships.
§ (14.) £42,079, Greenwich Hospital and Schools.
§ MR. ALDERMAN LUSK
asked that the Vote might not be brought on that night, as it was not put down in the Order for the Day, and he knew several Members who were interested in this Vote, but who were absent.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, that on Friday an opportunity would be given, according to the forms of the House, for bringing the subject under consideration. The hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) had left the House on the clear understanding that his Motion on the subject was to come on on Friday. It would be for the public convenience that this Vote should be taken to-night. He therefore hoped the hon. Alderman would allow the Vote to be taken.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, that it might be as well to take the Vote now, provided the present proceeding was not to be made a precedent. He would like to ask the Government what was the Business that would be taken to-morrow?
§ MR. DISRAELI
I do not propose, Sir, to take any Estimates to-morrow morning; but that we should meet at two o'clock to go on with the Election Petitions and Corrupt Practices at Elections Bill. To-morrow evening I propose we should take a Military Estimate, which, I trust, will not lead to much discussion, and afterwards the Civil Service Estimates. Perhaps I may be allowed to say with reference to the Foreign Cattle Market Bill that I said, in answer to a Question 1157 early in the evening, that as soon as I could see my way with respect to Supply and the Corrupt Practices Bill, I should state what would be done. So far as I can judge now, I hope that on Thursday evening hon. Members will have an opportunity of discussing the question, and that the measure will be advanced.
§ MR. ALDERMAN LUSK
said, he wished to inquire if the Government intended to go on with Class II. to-morrow evening?
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, that the whole of Class II. would be taken, and also a Supplementary Estimate, which would be laid on the table to-night.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Resolutions to be reported Tomorrow.
§ Committee to sit again To-morrow.