§ MR. GOURLEY
said, he would beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty, If he is aware that he is disposing of the Admiralty Steamships at a period of depression in the value of shipping property, and when it can only be sold at a price much below its actual value; and, 1055 if he will state why the Government refused an offer for the vessels which have recently been sold of ten per cent over and above the highest price obtainable by public or private tenders, such offer having been made with a view of giving employment in the breaking up of the ships to the workmen who have been discharged from the Naval Dockyards?
§ MR. BAXTER
Sir, the first part of the Question of the hon. Gentleman appears to be founded upon a complete misconception of the character of the ships that have been recently sold. They are not adapted for mercantile purposes, and, with one or two exceptions, were disposed of for the value of the materials of which they were composed. So far from the actual value not having been obtained, the House will be glad to learn that all the vessels sold on the 13th and 14th of May brought considerably more than the joint valuations placed upon them by the professional officers of the Admiralty and by Messrs. Bayley and Ridley, the well-known auctioneers who had charge of the sale. It is notorious that the ships have been bringing excellent prices, and I think that the hon. Gentleman is very unfortunate in his information. The offer referred to in the second part of the Question is likewise inaccurately stated. It was not for "the vessels which have been recently sold," nor did it make any reference to "private tenders," but was confined to two ships, and was declined on the ground that it was not advisable that a private firm should have the use of portions of the Royal Dockyards for their work. I may mention that one of the ships in question was the Cæsar, the highest offer for which at the public sale was £8,300. She was afterwards sold by private bargain for £9,000, being only £130 less than would have been obtained under an arrangement that would have involved not only delay, but the loan of a dock to a private firm. It appears to me extremely desirable that all the vessels not required for the public service should be disposed of as speedily as possible, as the cost of maintaining them is very great. I may add that the offer referred to by the hon. Gentleman, although refused, has been of great service, and we feel much obliged to the firm who made it, for it has stimulated competition and raised the selling prices of the ships.