HC Deb 23 July 1869 vol 198 cc633-51

said, he rose to call the attention of the House to the manner in which Contracts and purchases have been made by the Naval and Military Departments of the Government, and to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty to inform the House of the nature of the changes in this respect recently introduced at the Admiralty. The constituencies had a right to look for a considerable reduction of expenditure, without which there could be no great reduction of taxation, and no Government, whether Liberal or Conservative, could expect to retain the confidence of the people, which did not address itself earnestly to the task of economical reform. It would therefore be necessary to trace the growth of Imperial and local taxation, and also of naval and military expenditure, between the year 1835 and the present time. In 1835, our Imperial taxation amounted to £44,422,000, and our local taxation to about £11,000,000. At the end of last year, our Imperial taxation had increased to £70,000,000, and our local taxation to £20,000,000. If our Imperial taxation went on increasing as it had done of late years, by the year 1900 it would reach £144,000,000 per annum. It was mainly to the cost of the Army and Navy that we must look for the means of effecting any important saving. The expenditure for those services amounted in 1835 to £11,720,000, whereas, last year, including the supplementary credit and various odds and ends, it reached to about £30,000,000 per annum. The hon. Member next compared the cost of our Army with that of Continental nations, and showed that the soldiers of countries, in every respect our equals, cost a far less sum per man. He did not wish to reduce the number of men in the Army or Navy, but he asked how it was that each soldier of our Army cost £115, while the cost of the Prussian was considerably lower? and it was an army equal in every respect to our own in discipline and efficiency. He was sorry to say there was an immense system of nepotism which pervaded every Department, and which ought no longer to be tolerated. If he had a clerk who did not do his work he would send him away, but under the Government every man, however stupid, had a freehold interest. [" No, no!"] But it really was so; for whenever an attempt was made, as last night, to do away with an useless office, they were immediately told by the Secretary to the Treasury that the holder, if dismissed, would have to receive full pay, because he had a life interest in it. Some fifty years ago, if a boy were very stupid, it would be said—" Oh, put him in the Church." But now that the Church had many pious and educated men as ministers, the best thing that could be done with a stupid lad was to put him in a Government Office. Although, out of regard to a Ministry but recently appointed, the House had not been very pressing, in regard to economy this Ses- sion, he begged to say that next year they would not be so easy, and that their constituents would no longer tolerate wasteful and extravagant expenditure. With regard to the question of contracts and purchases, he did not know whether the Army or the Navy was the worst offender. Just as in the case of anchors, which for eighteen years had been purchased from the same man, so he ventured to say that the purchase of almost every other article had been confined to some particular person, and that they might have been obtained, if a business-like plan had been adopted, at far lower rates than they had cost. He begged to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty to inform the House of the nature of the changes with regard to the contracts and purchases recently introduced at the Admiralty.


said, he would not follow the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) over the very extensive ground which he had travelled, but would merely answer the Question which he had put on the Paper. That the House might fully understand the nature of the changes in the making of contracts which had been introduced at the Admiralty, it would be necessary to contrast the past with the present organization of that Department. In the beginning of this year the Admiralty consisted of the Departments of the Secretary, of the Controller of the Navy, of the Storekeeper General, of the Coastguard, of the Accountant General, of the Director of Works, of the Medical Director General, and others, making ten separate and nearly independent departments, having a staff of clerks and writers numbering 459. The House was aware that while a considerable portion of this large clerical staff was employed at Whitehall a very much larger portion was located at Somerset House. The inconvenience — he might almost say, the absurdity—of such an arrangement could scarcely be exaggerated. Anyone who had experience of the number of messages daily and hourly passing between Whitehall and Somerset House must be sensible of the great waste of time and money involved in such a separation. The first thing that was done when the present Government acceded to Office was to resolve that all this clerical staff should be brought as soon as possible under one roof. He was happy to inform the House that a very considerable portion of the staff at Somerset House had been brought to Whitehall, and in a short time that great transfer he hoped would be fully accomplished. His right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty had, at an early period of the Session, informed the House of the nature of the changes which, with great wisdom and foresight, he had made in the constitution and working of the Board of Admiralty itself. These changes needed no defence from him, for he ventured to say that no one conversant with their practical operation for the last few months would impugn their success. Then they were called to consider a reform in the purchase system. The system which formerly existed was, he would venture to say, totally opposed to all sound commercial principles; it was one over which neither the Board of Admiralty itself nor that House exercised any efficient control. What was that system? The Storekeeper General located in Somerset House and his clerks bought all the goods he thought necessary for the dockyards. The Controller of the Victualling Department did the same thing for the fleet, and so on. But it unfortunately happened that not one of the heads of these departments, however great their professional abilities might be, had any commercial knowledge whatever. His right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, therefore resolved to take from the different departments all matters connected with with purchase, and to establish a purchase department, presided over by a man of business, supported by clerks chosen entirely for their business knowledge, who should be responsible primarily for all purchases. He said primarily because it was thought desirable that the Lords of the Admiralty whose departments required certain articles should have a voice in the manner in which these articles were procured. All the alterations had not been completed, but already, instead of 459 clerks and writers—the number on the 1st of January—there would not be more than about 339 employed by the end of the year. The saving would be about £30,000. This morning the Controller of the Navy Sir Spencer Robinson, who had rendered able assistance in the work of economy, had given him a paper showing that in- stead of forty-three clerks and writers employed in the material and construction department of the Admiralty, at a cost of more than £11,000, by the present arrangement twenty-two clerks and writers of all ranks would serve every purpose at a cost of £5,405. He had come to the conclusion that the Admiralty in its civil branches had been greatly overmanned, a defect which naturally led to an increase of unnecessary work; for although many of the Admiralty clerks did as fair a day's work as the clerks in any establishment, others were simply ornamental under the old system, and their departure from the service would be highly beneficial to it. He would next give a few particulars as to the savings that had already been effected in the purchase department. The whole amount of the Store and Victualling Votes taken in the last year's Navy Estimates amounted to £1,708,000. A great part of this amount was made up of standing contracts, which, of course, could not be terminated at once, and most of them had a considerable time to run; but the saving on new purchases, as far as actual price was concerned, was at present on an average 13 per cent; so that if we had been able to deal with the whole contracts this year, £231,000 would have been the saving. One article of large consumption he found cost last year £73 10s. a ton; he had made several purchases of what he was told on all hands was superior in quality to former purchases, at an average of £43. [Several hon. MEMBERS: What is it?] He did not deem it prudent to mention the article, on the ground that publicity might lead to correspondence in the newspapers; he would, however, be happy to place the paper containing the information desired in the hand of any hon. Member. In marking cordage, which he would mention, as it was a small matter, he had made a saving of £1,800 by using jute instead of worsted; and the officers told him the jute answered better. The saving on a small-coal contract for the Mauritius was no less than £1,500 a year; and in coal they had already saved up to June £12,000. His predecess or in Office (Lord Henry Lennox) had a question on the Paper as to whether it was the intention of the Admiralty to discontinue the use of smokeless coal. He could assure him there was no such intention, but that the Admiralty as at present advised, intended to use a mixture of North Country and South Wales coal, which was almost smokeless, and was much approved by scientific men. He should be much surprised if that did not save £30,000 a year. He was quite satisfied that the expenditure on coal this year would not exceed £140,000, as against£345,000 for the year 1867–8, made up of £225,000 for what was bought at home, and £120,000 for the purchases abroad; and the coal would be better in quality into the bargain. They had issued circulars to all the admirals abroad, calling attention to the wasteful expenditure of coal at the different stations. Then, in reference to the articles purchased for the use of officers and men on board our ships, a similar supervision had resulted in a similar saving. An article of great consumption bought for 9d. per pound in former years was now bought at 6½d., the quality being superior at the lower price in the estimation of the examining officers. On another article he had effected a saving of 38½ percent. Another article bought last year at 1s.d. was this year bought at 1s. 5d.; and in the case of other articles the reductions made were from 9s.d. per bushel to 6s.d., and from 8s. 4d.> per bushel to 6s. 4d. In the case of another article the price which had been paid was £22 15s. a ton, and the price this year was £16 3s. a ton. Let it not be thought that in making these purchases he had been actuated entirely by a desire to get goods as cheaply as possible. On the contrary, his desire had been to get the best that were in the market, and in one particular instance he directed the payment of an advance of from 20 to 25 per cent in the price of an article which a contractor had supplied for many years at low prices, but of an extremely inferior quality. He was sorry to say this was not all. He found on entering Office that the Admiralty was doing business with a great many firms that were simply not respectable. One of the first things he did was to close the accounts of all those firms; and now a register was very carefully kept of the results of inquiries in regard to the means and the respectability of every firm proposing to do business with the Admiralty. It would not be prudent to state, in detail, all the irregularities, not to say corruption, that had prevailed in connection with, the making of contracts; far less would it do for him to tell the House the precise manner in which these transactions had been managed. At the same time he would not mince matters; he would call spades spades; and he would say at once that a system of what was called "tipping" had prevailed both at Somerset House and at the dockyards — a system which it had been and should be his endeavour to uproot. They all knew that the system was not confined to the Admiralty, nor even to the Government Departments, but it prevailed extensively in railway and other large public companies; and it was high time, if England wished to retain her commercial honour, that an effort should be made to put an end to it. It did not require the Rumble-Gambier trial, the annotations found in the note books of those now in gaol, the subsequent discoveries of detectives, or the representations made to him by firms of the highest respectability in the City of London to convince him that for many years past money had been given in order to obtain contracts and also to pass goods at the dockyards. It had been directed that all contracts should for the future be made by an officer directly responsible to the House of Commons, and a circular was issued stating that when a contractor felt himself aggrieved by the rejection of his goods he had only to write to the Financial Secretary of the Admiralty, who would appoint an arbitrator to investigate the whole transaction. He had not thought it prudent to adopt any particular mode of purchase. Sometimes purchases were made by advertisement, sometimes by tender, sometimes by direct offer, and sometimes by an agent or broker, that course being adopted which at the time seemed to be the best. It was not always prudent, without respect to times and seasons, to advertise the wants of the Government in the newspapers; the result sometimes was to encourage combination and to send up the market price, for as soon as the Government was known to be in the market prices went up immediately. He found that a number of galling and harassing conditions had been imposed upon contractors, such as heavy bonds and stamped contracts for the most trifling transactions. The other day a case came before him in which the value of the stamp was greater than the amount of the transaction. Such things had been going on from time immemorial, and he was trying to put an end to them. An examination of patterns showed that 60 or 70 per cent of them were obsolete, and that fact alone had restricted the supply to certain antiquated sources. Speaking generally, he had endeavoured to conduct the business of purchasing for the Admiralty precisely as he conducted his own business; and he had received great assistance from friends, both in and out of the House, and particularly from junior officers of the Navy, who came forward to expose the faults of the prevailing system. The result had been to show that the business of a great Government Department, as far as purchasing was concerned, might be conducted on very nearly as advantageous terms as the business of a private firm. In the discussion on the Navy Estimates, horror was expressed at the idea of our having introduced copying presses. He had since made another innovation, which was to subscribe to business papers and prices current, so that the officials might know the value of things in the market. Much remained to be done in the judicious disposal of old stores, of timber, copper, and various kinds of iron, the quantities of which lying out were beyond all conception. The other day there came to him from one of the dockyards a demand for an enormous quantity of birch brooms, and that suggested an inquiry as to the cost of cleaning the dockyards, which proved to have been £23,000 a year. Economy, he believed, had only just begun. Without striking off a single sailor on a single ship, without impairing the efficiency of the Navy even in the event of war, there was great room for enormous reductions in these over-grown establishments. With the questions of the amount of naval force to be kept up and of the disposition of the fleet he had nothing to do. His had been the humbler task of assisting his right hon. Friend the First Lord in attempting to show the people of this country that if they still desired to retain a Navy far superior to that of any other Power—and certainly they had that at the present moment— they could do it at a much reduced cost.


said, he regretted that in the absence of the right hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry), and of the noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox), the task of saying a few words on the subject of the reply they had just heard had fallen to him. He could not but feel that the mode in which the hon. Gentleman had spoken of the reforms he had introduced rather reflected upon his right hon. Friend (Mr. Corry) and his predecessors in Office. The object, he believed, of every Administration had been, as far as lay in their power, to endeavour to effect an economical administration of the public service, combined with due efficiency; and if there were any reflection at all it fell much more upon the Administration of which the present First Lord had been a member for five or six years, during Lord Palmerston's Government, than upon the Administration which held Office for two years from 1866 to 1868. The system of public contracts had this advantage, that no member of the Board of Admiralty had ever been charged with complicity with those to whom public contracts were given. He did not for one moment intend to throw any blame upon the present Board of Admiralty for the system they had inaugurated, but they had yet to show that the system was successful. He knew that as long as his right hon. Friend the present First Lord of the Admiralty and the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had the conduct of the affairs of that Department the public honour was safe in their hands; but, he confessed, that where there would be pressure in time of war, and where enormous purchases were entrusted to one individual, there would be more risk to the public, through that individual being tampered with, than there was in the system of public contracts. Indeed, he believed that where large and considerable transactions were involved, the system of public contracts was likely to be more advantageous and more economical than any system of private purchase. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty had stated that by going into the market and entrusting the purchase to a private individual he had succeeded in purchasing what was required at a less cost, and in securing an article of a better quality; and when his hon. Friend made that statement on his official responsibility, he was perfectly willing to accept it. But three or four months' experience was not suffi- cient to prove the efficiency of the system, and he believed that the system of contract had hitherto been fairly, openly, and advantageously conducted by those to whom it had been entrusted. With reference to the coal purchases, as he understood the matter, certain additional orders had been sent to officers on foreign stations, desiring them to exercise economy in the consumption of fuel. But the orders had always been very stringent on that point, and officers, if they neglected to pay attention to them, were liable to reprimand and punishment. He thought it would, perhaps, be well to wait until the Estimates for next year were produced, until they decided whether any reduction had been made in the consumption of fuel, and whether any advantage had accrued to the public service through the change. It had been asserted that the smoky and bituminous coal was more advantageous to the public service than the smokeless fuel which had been introduced into the Navy. That might be so, but the reports from the coast of Africa and the China station, the two stations where it was necessary to maintain our ships at war efficiency, showed that with the former the service was ill-performed, and that the smoke of the steamers betrayed their position; and, if that was so, of course the difference of 2s. per ton was a matter not worthy of consideration for a moment. He was, therefore, very sorry to find the First Lord of the Admiralty and his hon. Friend reversing the arrangement which had been made by the late Board. It was not possible for him to offer much criticism upon the statement made by his hon. Friend the Secretary of the Admiralty with regard to articles unnamed and unknown, and with regard to market conditions about which his hon. Friend had thought it right to be reticent. He was by no means disposed to criticize unfavourably many of the changes made at the Admiralty; but he could not help thinking that the reflections which had been thrown upon the hon. Gentleman's predecessors at the head of the Admiralty, and the mode in which the changes had on that occasion been announced to the House, were unworthy the character of the hon. Gentleman by whom that statement had been made.


said, he thought the House was indebted to the hon. Gentle- man the Secretary of the Admiralty for the clear statement he had made; and he (Mr. Candlish) felt personally grateful to his hon. Friend for the firm and courageous action which he had inaugurated at the Board of Admiralty in connection with the right hon. Gentleman who presided over that Department. He did not understand that his hon. Friend had thrown reflections upon any of his predecessors at the Board. The evils which he denounced were the growth of years, and had become inherent in the system. In a Committee upstairs he was surprised to learn from an officer of the Navy that he did not think it necessary to inquire into the market price of articles at all, but that he trusted entirely to public tenders. He was glad to find from the admirable statement of his hon. Friend that the new system had resulted in so great economy, and he hoped the Secretary of State for War would be able to tell an equally nattering tale as to the Army. He wished to know whether the clerks that were to be superseded were to be allowed a freehold in their services. The country was now spending £4,000,000 a year on non-effective services, or something like 15 or 20 per cent of the whole sum devoted to the maintenance of the Army and Navy; and this would be increased if the unnecessary clerks were to receive life pensions. He wished to ask whether anything had been done to effect a reduction in the number of non-effectives?


said, he thought it but right to congratulate any Administration that was able to make such a statement as that which he had heard that evening from the hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Admiralty. He believed, however, that his right hon. Friend (Mr. Corry), whose absence that evening was a source of regret to them all, would, had he remained at the Admiralty, have carried out many advantageous alterations, as his right hon. Friend was fully alive to the importance and necessity of introducing reforms. Ever since he had heard the speech of the present first Lord of the Admiralty he had felt that a new system was about to be initiated in the Department. He placed great confidence in his right hon. Friend, and might be permitted to observe that he had with great firmness and vigour carried out a system of re- form, which perhaps was partly due to the inquiries of the Select Committee of last year. The members of that Committee were not able to lay their hands distinctly upon any portion of any particular Department in which those reforms could be specified, but they one and all became in the course of that inquiry thoroughly convinced that there was much to be done in the way of reform. He was exceedingly glad to hear that the system of purchase was undergoing an alteration; for, though he agreed with his hon. and gallant Friend that if a spirit of competition existed a system of contracts might be very well, this system depended on the way in which they took their contracts. They had at the Admiralty a contract list, and it was against it the manufacturers and producers of the country had set their faces, because while it existed there was no fair criterion. He was glad the contract list had been abolished, and he hoped it had been abolished for ever.


said, the country had long been indignant at the mode of management pursued by the Admiralty in respect to contracts. He hoped the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty would be supported by the House in his efforts to reform abuses.


said, he thought the House and the country had reason to feel grateful for the able statement laid before them that night. It was hardly fair on the part of the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir John Hay) to say that the remarks of the Secretary to the Admiralty implied a censure on his predecessor, at the Admiralty. The real reason why the business of the Admiralty had been better conducted under the present Government was that that Department, or at least the financial part of it, was in the hands of a man of business. No doubt the heads of the War and other Departments were anxious to conduct the service in an economical manner, but so long as they were at the mercy of subordinates so long would the country have to complain of wasteful and extravagant expenditure. It was notorious to business men that both at the Admiralty and in the War Department, especially the latter, there was a systematic corruption in respect of contracts, and the result had been that the most respectable houses would not accept a Government contract. During the Crimean War the worst articles were purchased at the highest prices. He himself had brought under the notice of Lord Northbrook, when he was Mr. Baring, a case in which a quantity of underclothing had been purchased for the troops under these circumstances. The articles were made at Nottingham and sold to a Dublin commission agent in Dublin, who sold them to an army clothier in that city, by whom they were sold to the War Department at 40 per cent over the original price. Again, he had been asked to inspect a quantity of cotton socks for the army. He found that the pattern had been sealed in 1823; and that for twenty years there had been no machinery at work which could make socks such as the sealed pattern. The goods furnished were no more like the sealed pattern than he was like Hercules. Another great source of waste were the manufacturing departments of the Government. We had gunpowder enough to last us for ten years, if not twice as long, and nearly 70,000,000 cartridges, which were in rapid process of deterioration. He believed that, if pains were taken to investigate the matter, it would be found that we had in store stocks of articles sufficient for five years, though tenders were taken for those articles year after year. During the preparations for the war in Abyssinia coals were required in the Thames. A contractor with whom a contract was made at the time of the Crimean War claimed his right to supply 10,000 tons. Was it not ridiculous to make a coal contract for so long a period as five years? Every one knew that coals had fallen 25 or 30 per cent within the last few years. He could have no hope of at complete reform in contracts for the Army as long as the War Department was under two separate roofs. The dual system was a mysterious and complicated device for showing "how not to do it."


said, he could not congratulate the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty either on the prudence of his financial statements, or the taste which had characterized the remarks in which he alluded to his predecessors. The thanks of the House were eminently due to the right hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry), whose cumulative knowledge and general ad- ministration exceeded that possessed by hon. Gentlemen opposite. There were only two contracts in the Navy which could be regarded as close contracts, and those were for anchors and for steam-engines. All the other articles in use in the Navy had been bought by open contract. The anchors had been bought from Messrs. Brown, Lennox and Co., ever since he went to sea, forty-five years ago, and from that time to the present no ship had ever gone on shore from the fault of the anchor, nor had any vessel parted from her chains where it was at all possible to hold on. In the Crimea the superiority of their anchors and cables enabled Her Majesty's ships to ride out the storms in safety, while the unfortunate transports, supplied with rotten cables by the much-vaunted men of business, were running ashore and being knocked to pieces. This showed that those who had gone before the right hon. Gentleman who now administered the Navy were not such fools as he appeared to think they were. The hon. Member had taken credit for the reductions in the prices of the contracts; but was not hemp 13 per cent cheaper during the present year than it was last, and were not beef and peas also a great deal cheaper, while flour alone was a little dearer? Then they had been told that the firms with which the late Admiralty had dealt were not respectable; whether they were or not, it was not for him to decide; but all he could say was that as a Dockyard Member he should institute a pretty strict inquiry as to the existence of "tipping," to which allusion had been made. With regard to the birch brooms, the hon. Member, being a new broom himself, was naturally a little jealous of them, but surely he could not complain of an annual charge of £20,000 for keeping seven dockyards clean. The First Lord of the Admiralty had so diminished the number of vessels that the condition of the Navy was reduced below what he had ever known it to be before, except when, in Sir James Graham's time, there was only one ship to represent the Channel Fleet. If any complication were to take place now the whole concern would fall on the head of the First Lord of the Admiralty like a house of cards. With regard to the subject of these purchases, he might say that he had a great jealousy of mercantile men. There were scarcely ten firms in existence now that were in being forty-five years since; and in no case had Government officers been guilty of the misconduct that clerks in merchants' offices had been guilty of. Of all persons in the world to attack Government officers mercantile men should be the last. This might be plain speaking, but he was sent to that House to speak the truth, and he would take care to do so. As to coal, he disliked the mixture which had been spoken of, and would prefer to have either a really good smoky coal, or one that did not smoke at all. But if they were to continue to carry on warlike operations with the secresy of movement which was often necessary, and if they did not wish to have the sailors' clothes and the ships' rigging destroyed by the smoke, they would have the smokeless coal. In conclusion, he expressed his satisfaction with the fact that the Abyssinian War Committee would soon be compelled to stop its labours, and he hoped that Parliament would never again see anything of the kind instituted.


said, his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty had spoken very clearly as to the arrangements which had been made in connection with the purchase of stores; but he had not claimed, as he might have done, credit for them as having been entirely worked out by him. The general principle had been stated to the House in opening the Estimates, but the whole of the very difficult details had been worked out by his hon. Friend. One or two questions of some little importance had been raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Stamford (Sir John Hay). His hon. Friend's observations with regard to the subject of coal arose, he believed, from his not having quite appreciated the answer which he (Mr. Childers) had given at the commencement of the Session, when he was asked what change had been made in reference to the purchase of coal. It was quite true that the late Board of Admiralty, upon a report furnished from the West Coast of Africa, had decided upon altering the system which had been in practice, but he thought it scarcely right because of a report in favour of smokeless coal from one station that none but Welsh coal should be used in the Navy. He would like now to refer to the remarks made by his hon. Friend the Member for Shef- field (Mr. Mundella), and he could assure his hon. Friend that they were doing all in their power to ascertain the quantity of obsolete stock, and also to regulate more economically their supplies in all parts of the world. His hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Candlish), in refering to the non-effective services, had asked him whether, while cutting off from the top, they had at the same time put a stop to the supplies at the bottom. In answer to that question, he might state that, with one exception, he had not made a single civil appointment since he came into Office, that he did not intend to make any, and that he believed that none would be necessary for years to come. In regard, too, to the number of officers having the right to superannuation and compensation on their offices being abolished.—what was commonly called "the establishment" —this class would be reduced by the appointment of a class at present known under the name of "writers." The House, too, might have observed that within the last few days a Pensions Commutation Bill had been passing through its different stages. That Bill had passed both Houses almost sub silentio; but under its provisions they would be enabled to reduce the non-effective list, and also the list of officers on half-pay. Although its operation would be gradual, and they would have to take care that justice was done to all concerned, they had every reason to believe that it would lead to a great reduction in our offices and establishments. His hon. Friend who had last spoken had said that he had so reduced the Navy that the whole concern would give way on the first occasion. It was very easy to make such a statement, but he ventured to anticipate a very different result. When he brought forward the Estimates this year he stated that he had not reduced the Navy by a single blue jacket. So far from our Navy being less efficient, he was able to say that it never was stronger, whether at sea, or in our home ports; and he would point to the power of calling out the Reserve fleet, the despatch of the flying squadron, and the condition of the Channel and Mediteranean Fleets in evidence of this.


desired to say a few words in consequence of what had fallen from his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), who had made a very serious charge in reference to Army purchases—such a charge as ought never to be lightly made. His hon. Friend might remember that after the Crimean War Lord Panmure introduced a new system of purchase into the Army. Under that plan, as was now being done by his right hon. Friend and his hon. Friend in the case of the Navy, the Department by which the purchase was made and the Department by which the article was consumed were held entirely distinct. Inspection, again, was independent of the reception of the article, and the vouchers in each case made out by distinct officers, met together in the hands of the auditors, and were subjected to examination before payment was made. He could not suppose that there was anything in the Department with which he had the honour to be connected that could be regarded as winking at a fraud or anything of that nature, but if any hon. Friend of his would bring to his knowledge any fact pointing in ever so small a degree in the direction of "tipping" he would promise that no vigilance should be wanting on his part to thoroughly investigate the matter. He ought to say that the plan established by Lord Panmure, which was conducted at that time under the immediate direction of Sir Benjamin Hawes, was, like that in the Navy, chiefly, though not exclusively, carried on by tender. They endeavoured, as far as possible, to follow the plan adopted by large commercial firms—to buy in the market by private purchase where that plan was the more advantageous, and to purchase by tender where such a plan would be adopted by large commercial houses. [Mr. MUNDELLA: A close list.] It was undoubtedly a close list to a certain extent; but any person who desired to be placed on the list had only to communicate with the Department and to produce satisfactory references of his respectability to enable him to get his name placed upon the list. He had understood his right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary of the Admiralty to say that he had found that the Admiralty had been in the habit occasionally of contracting with firms that were not respectable, and this plan had been adopted to prevent the continuance of that practice. When he came into Office he found that the control sys- tem had been established, a system which, though it dated back as far as Lord De Grey and Lord Herbert, owed its immediate introduction to the action of his right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington). Under that system a thorough examination was now being instituted into all departments of the service. If they found that the system, which had been in force during the last fourteen or fifteen years, could be improved they were anxious and desirous of adopting improvements. With regard to retrenchment, he had no desire to take exclusive credit to himself for the reduction that had been made, but he might observe that the Store Vote was now less by one-third than it was in the previous year, and a reduction was going on in the various administrative departments of the Army. He had made these remarks for the purpose of doing justice to the Department over which he had the honour to preside, and for the purpose of explaining to the House what had been done by his predecessors. It was his intention earnestly and steadily to promote to the utmost of his power that system of economy of which he had spoken, and with respect to the non-effective Votes, all he could say was that, like his right hon. Friend at the head of the Admiralty, he had not made a civil appointment since he came into Office, and he thought the day was distant when he should do so. He entirely approved the system of diminishing permanent appointments as far as possible, and nothing would give him more satisfaction than to select for mere mechanical duties men who had served their country in the Army in earlier life.


wished to say a single word upon the subject of private purchase or contract. He would not offer any opinion upon the general question; but his belief was that if any Government made large private purchases they would become as unpopular as could be desired; for the most unfounded allegations would be made against them.

Motion, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," by leave, withdrawn.

Committee deferred till Monday next.

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members not being present,

House adjourned at a quarter after Two o'clock till Monday next.