CAPTAIN MACKINNON moved that there be laid before this House—
A List of all the wooden Line-of-battle Ships and Frigates, together with amount of their tonnage and horse-power; their original value per ton, and price of engines:
Statement of the number of such Vessels which have been sold within the last five years, and the price which the Hulls and Engines sold for in the public market:
Estimate of the number which might be made efficient as Naval Transports, and the number of troops or horses that each Vessel might conveniently carry, with quantity of coals each can stow:
Return of the strength of the Transport Fleet employed during the last five years, specifying whether Steamers or Sailing Vessels, or Government or Hired Vessels, with full particulars of tonnage, horse-power, and capacity for conveyance of troops, and the number of troops conveyed by them during the above period:
Table showing the comparative length of the voyages of Sailing and Steam Transports:
Return of the annual expense of the conveyance of troops:
Copies of Reports of the Officers in command of the troops as to the general efficiency of the Hired Transports that conveyed them:
And, of any Reports which have been, or can be obtained, through our Naval Attaché in Paris, as to the number of French Line-of-battle Ships and Frigates which have been converted into Transports, and an estimate of their efficiency in the Mediterranean, and the number of cavalry, infantry, and munitions of war each Line-of-battle Ship may be expected to carry.
The hon. Member explained that the view he had in moving for these Returns
was to ascertain whether our wooden fleet could not be made serviceable, at all events for the transport service, instead of the vessels being sold, as they were now, for a mere song. In case of declaration of war, this country would have to advertise for a fleet. We had now 283 transports employed in Abyssinia, and what they would cost no one could tell. We ought to turn into transports our old wooden ships that were now rotting away—being sold at £2 16s. a ton, which was a great sacrifice.
explained that the question had been under the consideration of various Boards of Admiralty, and they thought the adoption of the plan would not lead to a good result. The estimated cost of fitting these ships as transports would be £22,000 each, and that would hardly be a wise appropriation of the public money. They could stow so small a quantity of coal that it would be necessary to provide them with masts and yards and canvas, to enable them to make long passages under sail, and they would thus require a complement of 400 men to handle them. This would leave very little accommodation available for troops, and the ships would be deficient in the speed necessary to the performance of quick passages. If such vessels had been employed in the Abyssinian expedition, it was hard to say when they would have arrived at their destination. It was true that the French had converted some of their line-of-battle ships into transports, but their transport service was of a very different character from ours. It was one thing to send troops from Toulon and Marseilles to Civita Vecchia and Algiers, and another to send them on long voyages in stormy seas, across the Atlantic, round the Cape, and to the most distant parts of the world. The preparation of the Returns would cause great labour to the Department, and interfere with the current work of the office most materially. At present the Controller's office could scarcely discharge the calls upon it. The ships sold were useless, and required a staff of officers and men to take care of them; and it was a good bargain to get rid of them, at almost any price. He hoped the hon. Member would not press his Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.