§ SUPPLY considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
(1.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £779,090, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expense of Naval Stores for Building, Repairing, and Outfitting the Fleet and Coast Guard, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1871.
§ MR. ALDERMAN LUSK
expressed a hope that the Government would not entirely abandon the contract system. There was a general impression that those who entered into contracts with the Government were not honest; but that, he believed, was not true. He knew men who, during the last two years, had honestly fulfilled their Government contracts at great expense to themselves, and they had, by their contracts, lost a large sum of money. He had himself seen the course of business at Somerset House. He never met a Government officer who was corrupt, or capable of taking advantage of his position; and it was only fair to the officers, and to those who did business with them, that he should say so. As to their transactions in oil, if the Government bought a wrong article, it was their own fault.
§ MR. SAMUDA
said, there was nothing of greater moment than that the Navy should be supplied with the best oil; because the extra money that it would cost was nothing compared with the mischief which would be done by an inferior article. He hoped the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) would be independent of criticism, and do what was really best for the Navy. The great curse of the present day was the desire to subordinate everything to price—a plan which much depreciated the general morality of commerce. The Government had hitherto endeavoured to obtain contracts from persons of experience and integrity, and it would be ill-judged parsimony to institute a competition of a fraudulent description. The 1743 best was certainly the cheapest, although Manchester and Birmingham might look entirely to price, and altogether disregard quality.
§ MR. BAXTER
confessed that he was lost in amazement at the speech which had just been delivered. He had always thought his hon. Friend who had just sat down a candid and accomplished man, who never talked upon any subject on which he was not fully competent to deliver an opinion. His hon. Friend had told the Committee that the Admiralty were wrong in buying colza oil when sperm, which had been used for so many years, was so much better for lubricating purposes; but if the hon. Gentleman had listened to the explanation given to-day, he would have known that they had got the colza oil for illuminating purposes.
§ MR. SAMUDA
said, he understood the hon. Gentleman to state most distinctly that the Admiralty had substituted colza oil at £38 a ton for sperm oil at £134 a ton for lubricating the machinery.
§ MR. BAXTER
said, he had never made any such statement. What he had stated was that the Department had been using sperm oil for illuminating purposes, and that he had substituted colza oil. He knew very well that for illuminating purposes at home they had long been using colza oil; but he did not trust his own judgment merely in the matter. He had sent samples of the colza oil and the sperm oil to the ships; and in every case except one the report was that the colza oil was superior, and in that one case it was said that both were equally good. He had stated also that for Gallipoli oil he had substituted Rangoon oil.
§ MR. RYLANDS
observed that it was most singular that the only return which the Government got for their efforts to promote the public good was an amount of badgering which was almost unparalleled. Representing an independent interest, he must say that the nation at large was very much indebted to the First Lord of the Admiralty and to his hon. Friend (Mr. Baxter) for their exertions to reduce expenditure, and he could not sit in his place without recording a very strong protest against the course which had been taken by hon. Gentlemen opposite. The hon. and gallant Baronet (Sir James Elphinstone) had 1744 stated that the friends of the First Lord of the Admiralty and of the hon. Member for Montrose were engaged in jobbery, and that there was now more jobbery at the Admiralty than ever. [Sir JAMES ELPHINSTONE: Hear, hear!] The hon. Baronet had gone further, for he had said that commercial men below the Gangway were influenced in their support of the Government by their relations with the Admiralty. Now, he would say, in words that were justified by the highest authority, that such language was calumnious of Gentlemen on that—the Ministerial—side of the House.
SIR JOHN HAY
rose to Order. The hon. Member had said he had the highest authority for the statement he had just made. He should move to report Progress, in order that they might tear from the highest authority himself whether he had made any such statement.
§ MR. RYLANDS
explained that what he did say was that the authority of the Speaker had been given that the word "calumnious" was not un-Parliamentary. The hon. Baronet had insinuated that his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose was making use of his position in Her Majesty's Government in order to buy portions of the Government stores at Dundee, a place with which he was intimately associated. That was a very serious charge, and when his hon. Friend rose and denied that he had bought oil there, he was surprised that the hon. Baronet did not at once get up and say that he regretted he had made a most unjust and unwarrantable charge.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, he rose to throw some oil on the troubled waters. When any charge was brought against the Government they always had some friend at hand to rise and endeavour to get them out of the scrape, and on this occasion that friendly office had been rendered by the hon. Member for the minority of Warrington. What he had said was that the oil now used was deficient in lubricating and illuminating power; that it was very dirty, and clogged the engines. He had merely asked the question whether the oil had come from Dundee. ["No, no!"] The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Samuda) and other good authorities had stated that vegetable oils would not do for lubricating the engines; and even if they could not get good animal oil for pur- 1745 poses of lubrication at less than £134 a ton, it would be better to buy it than inferior oil at £38.
deprecated such discussions about so small a matter as oil, for he could not believe the Admiralty were buying oil without regard to quality, and introduced the question of iron plates. He observed that there had been no experiments as to the quality of 12 inch or 14 inch plates, backed by timber and iron skin, such as was being manufactured for the Glatton, the Thunderer, and ships of the heavier class. The target representing the water line of the Hercules fired at in 1865 gave satisfactory results for that time; but no conclusions could be drawn from those experiments to indicate the quality of the plates of which he spoke. The only test to which the Glatton plates were subjected was that of being fired at by a 7-inch service gun, with a 20-lb. charge of powder, and as it had been found that a small charge of 26lb. from a 7-inch service gun had considerably damaged the plates, grave doubts were raised as to whether these plates could not be penetrated at close range. Certainly the experiments as yet made did not prove that the Glatton plates were sufficiently strong. An experiment at Shoeburyness, at which he was present, showed that a 15-inch rolled and hammered plate was defective, and it was generally believed a plate reduced by rolling and working from 20 inches to 15, was not as good in fibre as one reduced from 20 inches to 8. He would not pretend to offer a professional opinion on the subject; but he maintained that it was a wrong policy and a want of economy to put down so small a sum as £3,000 in the Estimates for experiments, and then to expend a large sum of money in placing plates upon the sides of our ships which had not been thoroughly proved. He sympathized with the Admiralty in the bullying they received in small matters, and assured them that what the House and the country wanted was the exercise of sound judgment in matters of larger importance. The subject he had broached involved thousands, to say nothing of the credit of the nation. In conclusion, he protested against large contracts being gone into without further experiment.
SIR JOHN HAY
said, he thought the Committee ought to be indebted to 1746 the hon. and gallant Member for South Durham for calling attention to that subject. He concurred with him in believing that it would be very desirable to have some further experiments as to the power of resistance of the very thick plates which it was intended to use in the construction of some of Her Majesty's ships. It seemed to him very doubtful whether they had sufficient mechanical power to exert the pressure required by rolling or hammering to produce that tenacity and ductility—the necessary combination of softness and elasticity, and hardness without brittleness, which was required in iron plates which had to resist the impact of shot. A very fair approximate law had been recorded in the Report of the Iron Plate Committee, which seemed to hold good up to plates of 9 inches in thickness—namely, that the resisting power of a plate seemed to increase in a ratio, which might be compared by the square of the thickness. Thus one plate of 4 inches in thickness and of good quality might be expected to resist as well as 16 plates of an inch in thickness and rivetted together. It was of great consequence to ascertain this accurately in plates of the great thickness which were about to be used; because, doubtless, where weight was of so much consequence as in naval architecture, it would be desirable, if possible, to obtain protection by one thick plate rather than by a laminated structure, which must be thicker and heavier, to produce the same resistance. But, until machinery exerting much greater rolling power was produced, he doubted if the same law of resistance would hold good in plates over 9 or 10 inches thick, as had been proved to exist in plates below that thickness. It would certainly be better to have two plates of 9 inches, whose quality they could depend upon, rather than one plate of 18 inches which, from deficiency in manufacturing power or from difficulty and irregularity in cooling, might not afford the same protection. He thought that some further experiment was necessary in that matter, and it was a subject to which the attention of Her Majesty's Government might well be directed.
said, this subject was one of so technical a nature that it scarcely admitted of being made popular. The only course open to the 1747 Government was to try what would be the result of manufacture. Unless the Government could state that sufficient experiments had already been made, he strongly urged on them the necessity of not employing thick plates to any large extent in the vessels they were building, until they had made careful experiments in testing the resistance of those plates. Otherwise they might hereafter be greatly disappointed at the result.
§ MR. MUNTZ
quite agreed that nothing but trial, nothing but practical experience, could possibly determine this question. He regretted the personal attack which had been made on his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter). It was lamentable to find an economical House, and particularly the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Samuda), representing an economical constituency, finding fault with his hon. Friend because he had done his best to introduce economy into the administration of the Admiralty. He thought that the hon. Member (Mr. Samuda) had gone out of his way to attack Manchester and Birmingham. Manchester could very well take care of itself; but in regard to Birmingham he could say that she had been taught that real economy consisted in buying the best article at as low a price as the best article could be obtained. He (Mr. Muntz) was not for cutting down and using inferior articles. With reference to oil it had been distinctly asserted that his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose had been buying colza oil from Dundee, and it was said that vegetable oil was not fit for machinery; but it was only an ignoramus that would say so. He sincerely hoped the Admiralty would persevere in the economical course on which they had entered.
§ MR. CHILDERS
felt it was very agreeable, after a good deal of badgering for the last two nights, to get for a few minutes into quiet waters. A very interesting discussion had been commenced by the hon. Member for South Durham (Captain Beaumont); and after what had been stated by the high scientific authority of the hon. and gallant Officer opposite (Sir John Hay), he must admit it was quite true that at the present time they had not the information they ought to have with respect to iron plates of very great thickness. He had 1748 not expected that the question would come on, or he would have refreshed his recollection, which he had not done within the last few days; but his impression was that up to 9 inches they had experiments of the highest kind. Above that—up to 14 and 16 inches—he was not sure that resistance was according to the square of thickness. Here they ought to have a certain amount of information which they had not. It was quite open to the consideration of the Admiralty whether there should not be experiments on a higher scale. All he would undertake to do on that particular point was that the Admiralty would confer with the scientific department of the War Office and consider what further experiments should be obtained on the subject. After all the discussion which had arisen he hoped they would now be allowed to take this Vote.
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, he wished to say a few words before the Vote was taken. He always listened with great respect to everything that fell from his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Sir James Elphinstone), because he was a man of great practical experience, and in everything he said there was always honesty and sincerity of intention. But he regretted very much the remarks which fell from him last night with reference to the coal trade. He said that the North of England coal trade had brought their influence to bear on the Admiralty to take their coal. Now it was perfectly true that they had not once but many times, and during many years, pressed on the Admiralty the advantage, to the efficiency and economy of the public service, of using a proper admixture of North country coal with Welsh coal, and he would say that the result of some experiments that had been very carefully conducted in the North was very favourable to such an admixture. He took this opportunity of thanking the Admiralty for following the advice given by the northern coal-owners. Experiments had been conducted at Portsmouth, which, he believed, had terminated in successful results, likely to lead to a fair use of North country coal for steam vessels; and he was persuaded that when certain Returns he had moved for were laid before the House they would be found to be favourable to the admixture he had spoken of. He therefore hoped that the Committee 1749 would suspend its judgment until that Return was in the hands of hon. Members.
§ MR. GRAVES
asked whether any of the mixed coal had been sent to China and found advantageous there? He suggested that a dash of Lancashire coal might be a very useful element in a mixture of Welsh and Northumbrian coal. If they were to have mixtures he did not see why the coal fields of Lancashire should be excluded.
SIR JOHN HAY
said, that the larger the field from which coal for the Navy could be drawn the better, and if the mixture of Northumberland coal and Welsh coal proved to be smokeless he should be glad of that result. He was a little sceptical on the point, but would be guided by the Returns relating to the experiments. It should also be ascertained how far the combustion of this combined coal would tend to the destruction of the tubes. It was known that shorter tubes were required to produce the combustion of this mixture of coals, and perhaps it might be found that the cost in destruction of tubes and boilers more than compensated the saving in the difference of price between good Welsh coal and a mixture of North country coal with indifferent anthracite.
§ MR. SAMUDA
said, he must protest against the intemperate language that had been used towards him by the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), and he asked in what way such an attack was justified by anything he said? All he stated was, that it would have been better to purchase one description of oil rather than another, and was such a statement sufficient to justify the attack made on him, followed up, as it had been, by many hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, one of whom had even gone so far as to say that the course he was pursuing was that of bullying the Admiralty? If hon. Gentlemen were to be restrained by such attacks from the free exercise of their Parliamentary duties it was high time that a stand should be made against it. He would not support any Gentleman sitting on the Treasury Bench if he felt that in doing so he must compromise his independence, and he was surprised that the hon. Member for Montrose had ventured to castigate him in the language which had so unjustifiably been used, and he hoped that the hon. Member would admit that 1750 he was mistaken. In reference to what the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) had said, he denied that he had ever intended to use any expression insulting to the hon. Gentleman, and he had only adopted the common method of expression in referring to the "Manchester and Birmingham school." He observed that the hon. Member (Mr. Baxter) was laughing. That did not either mend the matter or mend the manners of the hon. Gentleman. If the hon. Member (Mr. Muntz) thought that the articles manufactured by his constituents were always the best, he would direct his attention to a statement which appeared in the leading journal—The Times—to the effect that American-made axes were preferred to Birmingham axes by the people of the United States, because they could rely on the quality of the former and not of the latter. He could assure the hon. Member for Montrose that he was very much mistaken if he thought to overawe him. He was ready to give the hon. Member credit for what he had properly done in the situation he filled; but he should pursue the course he thought right, indifferent alike to the hon. Member's praise or blame.
§ MR. M. CHAMBERS
said, it might, perhaps, be thought presumptuous for an independent Member like himself to endeavour to be a peacemaker; but he had observed during these discussions a great deal of personality had been causelessly introduced, and they were getting into a state of private quarrelling. If the Gentlemen who sat on the Treasury Bench would allow a non-official representative to say a word or two to them he thought they might arrive at a different mode of debating great questions. Many hon. Members, perfectly sincere in their opinions as to proceedings at the Admiralty, were a little impetuous in the expression of their disapproval, and the Secretary to the Admiralty was naturally very susceptible and sensitive. The moment an attack was made on some general principle adopted by the Admiralty as to contracts or any other matter, the hon. Member for Montrose rose in his place and treated it as an attack upon himself. Like an honourable man he strongly repudiated any insinuation against his own conduct, and the moment he did so there arose a conflict between him and certain other Members, and the result was a little too much unpleasant 1751 personality. ["No!"] That could not be denied; and he would put it to the Committee whether it would not now be desirable to go on with the Estimates? But this could not be done if any hon. Member who condemned a course adopted by the Admiralty were regarded as making individual attacks. It was a great pity they should institute these unnecessary comparisons between the London and Manchester schools of financial economy, especially at so late an hour.
SIR JOHN HAY
said, he wished to put a question with regard to the sales of timber at the various dockyards. The establishment provided that 60,000 loads should always be retained in store, which was equal to a three years' supply. The quantity used in each year was about 20,000 loads. This arrangement insured the timber being well seasoned. He saw that the sum taken for timber this year was £23,000; whilst, at the same time, large sales were going on of the very large amount of timber provided for by Lord Palmerston's Government in excess of the three years' stock required by the establishment. He wished to know what was the quantity the present Government desired to keep in stock, and also whether the timber to be purchased was teak or other material?
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, he could not give off-hand the information which the hon. and gallant Gentleman asked for. The old rules with respect to the supply of timber had been very much altered; but the Admiralty had not yet drawn up any precise regulations as to the establishments of all articles. At present there was a very considerable excess, which they were trying to get rid of; and the quantity which it was desirable to have in the dockyards would be a subject of consideration in the present year. With the exception of a comparatively small quantity, all the timber purchased this year was teak. He was anxious to say the Admiralty did not complain of discussion. They courted it. What they did complain of was insinuations against the motives of Members of the Board. He hoped the Committee would now allow the Vote to be taken.
, who rose amid cries of "Oh," said that he begged to remind hon. Members who called out "Oh!" that this was one of the most important 1752 Votes in the Navy Estimates, and that he had not uttered a single syllable during the debate. With regard to the subject of timber, the language held by his right hon. Friend opposite seemed to imply that the present Board was the first which had seriously turned its attention to the reduction of the large accumulation in the dockyards. Several causes had contributed to the accumulation of timber, the chief one being the entire abandonment of the use of timber for the frames of ships whether built of wood or of iron, and the adoption of iron in its stead. The consequence was that some of the finest timber the world ever saw remained on their hands. But the late Board had adopted, when in Office, every means in their power to dispose of the surplus timber. In 1867 the Board of Admiralty set apart 1,500 loads at Devonport, and 1,000 loads at Deptford. The cost price of the timber at the former place was £13,000, and at the latter £10,900. The Admiralty placed a reserve price on the timber at Devonport of £9,700, and at Deptford of £4,100. But the highest offer they got was £3,600 in the one case, and £3,200 in the other. To accept the £3,600 for timber which cost £13,000 would have been throwing the timber away; but the price offered at Deptford was accepted. They, however, issued the Devonport timber to the shipwrights' department at the reserved price instead of at the cost price, and under that arrangement a considerable portion of it was utilized by the Controller of the Navy. It was the greatest possible mistake to suppose that they had not made every effort in their power to dispose of this timber. There was, however, a much more important question which arose on this Vote, and likewise on Vote No. 6, which provided for the artificers in the dockyards. He stated on a former occasion that he did not think the Admiralty was making sufficient provision for the maintenance of the naval strength of the country. Of unarmoured vessels the First Lord of the Admiralty said he proposed to build at the rate of one frigate and one sloop or corvette each year. That would give 20 frigates and 20 sloops or corvettes in 20 years, which period was about the average life of a steam ship of war; so that the proposed scheme of work would be sufficient to provide and maintain a force of only 40 unarmoured vessels 1753 above the size of gun vessels—a force quite inadequate to the protection of our colonial and commercial interests even in time of peace. We had now in commission, notwithstanding the reduced strength of the foreign squadrons, 27 frigates and corvettes and 18 sloops; that was, 45 vessels above the rank of gun vessels; but to keep 45 vessels in commission we should require 66, or one-third more, which was the smallest margin which could be allowed for the vessels under repair and fitting for service. And that number would suffice for the existing peace establishment only, irrespective of the reserve of ships which would be indispensable in the event of an emergency. Therefore, the present Estimates were quite inadequate to maintain the power of the British Navy in that condition which our colonial and other interests made absolutely necessary. In his (Mr. (Corry's) opinion the work proposed to be executed in building unarmoured ships of the larger classes, was not more than one-half of what it ought to be, and the Admiralty would have adopted a more statesmanlike and considerate course if they had retained in the service the large number of artificers which were to be discharged from the dockyards, and appropriated to the building of additional ships a portion of the excessive stock of valuable timber which is to be sold for what it will fetch I in the market. As respected armoured vessels he did not so much complain of his right hon. Friend's proposal. The First Lord proposed to build three new armoured ships every year. No doubt a considerable force would be maintained in that way; but he held it to be the duty of the Admiralty to maintain the British Navy in a position of clear superiority over that of the navy of any other country, no matter what might be the number of armour-clads necessary for this purpose. At the present moment England and France had each 40 seagoing armour-clads. France had 33 broadside ships; England 31. She had seven turret-ships and rams, while we had nine. In addition to that France had 11 batteries. That did not show any great superiority on the part of our Navy, which ought to be on something more than a bare equality with France. Considering the many points we had to defend, and our enormous commercial navy, France, with a force equal to that of England, 1754 would have double our power of aggression. With a narrow sea between us we should have a clear superiority over France, whose military resources were so much greater than ours, and he did not think the Estimates of his right hon. Friend would be sufficient for that purpose. As to the unarmoured ships, he was also strongly of opinion that the Estimates of the right hon. Gentleman were insufficient. It would have been, as he had said, a sounder policy had his right hon. Friend retained the 2,800 dockyard workmen who were to be discharged, and placed our Navy in a satisfactory position in this respect.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, his right hon. Friend had raised a question not commonly discussed on this Vote—namely, the comparative power of the English and French Navies. A very experienced Member of the House used to say that there seemed at the Admiralty to be two pigeon-holes, in one of which were accumulated proofs to show that the French Navy was far superior to ours, and that the country was, therefore, in great danger, while in the other pigeonhole were kept proofs that we were remarkably strong at sea; and there never appeared to be any distinct reason for resorting to one pigeon-hole more than another. Now, it was difficult to understand, that the late Board of Admiralty should have reduced the force of the dockyards in six months by 5,000, and should have laid down no new ships at all, and yet that his right hon. Friend should blame the present Board for not building enough ships. It had been his aim to prevent, for the future, the constant ups and downs which had occurred in the past, when in one year no ships were laid down, and in another year many; when sometimes all the ships begun were iron, and sometimes all wood; when one year the number of men was increased, and in another it was reduced; when sometimes large contracts were given out, and sometimes none at all. Such a system, or such a want of system, was most uneconomical. He wished to substitute a steady amount of work applicable to the present state of things, and not liable to change unless there was some distinct reason for it. Instead of stopping shipbuilding altogether—a legacy left to the present Admiralty by the late Board—he had thought it po- 1755 litic to build 19,500 tons a year, about 12,000 tons of which were armoured and 7,500 unarmoured ships. With respect to armoured ships, his right hon. Friend admitted that on the present basis the Board had provided what was necessary, though he said our force might be exceeded by that of some foreign Power. Well, when that time came, or before it came, it would be necessary to build more armoured ships. The right hon. Gentleman contended that 7,500 tons of unarmoured ships per year was not a sufficient provision, as that would only give one frigate, one corvette, and three gunboats. But that was not what he (Mr. Childers) had said. The 7,500 tons would produce one frigate, one corvette, and three small vessels of the sloop class. The right hon. Gentleman said that 20 years might be taken to represent the life of a wooden ship; but he (Mr. Childers) thought that was below the mark. As ships were now built, and according to their present strength, 30 years would be much nearer the mark; though not, of course, if the vessel were constantly in commission. With 7,500 tons of unarmoured ships built annually there would be about 200,000 tons of wooden shipping, and this was quite sufficient for the present requirements of the service. This Estimate was not the result of guesswork. Great pains were taken by those who advised the Admiralty on this point to estimate what the strength of our wooden Navy ought to be, and after careful investigation and comparison they arrived at the conclusion that provision for an annual increase of 7,500 tons was sufficient.
said, this was not the first time that the right hon. Gentleman opposite had stated that his (Mr. Corry's) Estimates for 1869 were based upon the foundation of an entire suspension in the work of shipbuilding. Nothing could be more untrue. Though he had been soundly abused for this in stump speeches made on the subject, the fact was that the late Government had laid down a very large number of powerful armoured ships, no less than ten during their two years of Office, of which seven were ordered while he (Mr. Corry) held the office of First Lord. So far from ship building having been suspended in his intention, the completion of these vessels necessitated the provision of about 1756 £1,300,000 in the Estimates for 1869–70, which he considered a very handsome legacy of obligation to bequeath to his successor. If it had not been for the seven broadside armour-clads laid down by the late Government, in addition to two turret ships and a ram, the comparison which his right hon. Friend had made between the armoured Navies of England and France, and which showed there were 33 broadside ships in the French, to only 31 in the English Navy, would not have been of a very satisfactory character. It was true that he had not proposed to lay down any new ships; but that was because he was waiting to see the result of the experiment with the Captain and the Monarch, and in thus waiting he was supported by the almost unanimous opinion of naval officers. The right hon. Gentleman claimed great credit for his improvements on his (Mr. Corry's) Estimates; but the three turret ships he had ordered to be laid down last year were little more than ships on paper. One of them, although ordered more than a year ago, was not even yet laid down. Only that very morning the Sultan—one of his (Mr. Corry's) ships—was floated out of her dock at Chatham the very dock in which that ship was to be built, and the Estimates for last year provided only about £70,000 towards the building of the three ships—or not one-tenth of their entire cost. In these days of rapid innovation in the designs of ships, he considered this a most unwise policy.
§ MR. GOLDNEY
said, he hoped that, after the long discussion which had arisen on the general question, the Committee would now be allowed to address itself to the practical discussion of the Vote under consideration.
§ MR. GOURLEY
said, he thought they were proceeding upon an erroneous policy in building so many iron-clads, when the experiments at Shoeburyness proved that those ships were not invulnerable either in their sides or their decks. Besides half those vessels were fitted with machinery of the old style, and half with machinery of the new. And what to his mind was the special weakness of these iron-clads vessels was that they could only only carry fuel sufficient to enable them to steam from Portsmouth to Gibraltar. Hence, in the event of hostilities, they would be, for practical purposes, almost as obsolete as the old 1757 wooden ships. If ordered to proceed to Canada, for instance, they would only be able to steam for five or six days consecutively, and a swifter vessel of greater power carrying one or two heavy guns would, at the end of that time, be able to compete successfully with many of our armour-clads. He asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if these were the kind of ships which a great naval Power like England ought to possess? He considered the amount proposed to be taken for repairs, refitting, &c, excessive, and accordingly moved that the Vote be reduced by the sum of £33,000. He did not wish to interfere with what was done by contract.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £746,090, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expense of Naval Stores for Building, Repairing, and Outfitting the Fleet and Coast Guard, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1871"—(Mr. Gourley.)
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ (2.) £466,173, Steam Machinery and Ships building by Contract.
§ MR. SAMUDA
said, they had now got to the second part of the subject. The amount proposed to be taken was extremely small, only £184,000 being allowed for contract shipbuilding. Since the present Board of Admiralty came into office they had not built a single ship of war by private contract. He confessed he did not altogether approve the course intended to be pursued by his right hon. Friend the First Lord, who proposed to build 20,000 tons of shipping annually for the next 20 years. Looking at what the Admiralty had done in the last 10 years, he did not think it very probable that in the next 20 years they would produce the best possible results. During the last 10 years they had adopted no fewer than eight distinct types of vessels; but, in his opinion, the later types were not always improvements on the previous ones. In 1867 his right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Corry) acted on the suggestion that all the shipbuilders should be asked to propose what in their judgment would most contribute to the suc- 1758 cessful production of armour-plated ships. This wise appeal was responded to very extensively, and the results would have been very beneficial; but unfortunately his right hon. Friend lost his self-reliance at the last moment and handed over his jurisdiction in the matter to an official in the Admiralty, who looked with disfavour upon every suggestion which emanated from without. He regretted, more-over, to add that the present First Lord voted against him when he brought the I subject under the consideration of the House. The Admiralty had always been behind the age, and had even gone on building sailing vessels long after persons well qualified to form a judgment had expressed their opinion in favour of steamers. The country owed a great debt of gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Corry) because in his official capacity he was the first to adopt the screw for most of the vessels in our Navy. Within the last few years the whole question of constructing ships of war had been materially modified by the experiments set on foot to ascertain the effect of torpedoes. If it should be found that torpedoes could be effectually used on a large scale, the whole of our present iron-clad arrangements would be comparatively useless. He had no doubt it was our imperative duty to keep ahead of all other nations in regard to the strength of our Navy. When the right hon. Gentleman had attained this object he might deliberately consider the plans necessary for the future progress of the service. He ventured to express an opinion that it would not be necessary to keep on building very heavy armour-plated. vessels. A very large weight of armour was a radical mistake, for he felt convinced that no quantity of it could keep out shot from the guns of the present clay. A smaller amount of armour would suffice, however, to keep out shells, and this was all we ought to aim at. From six to eight inches of armour was all that was necessary or advisable. He therefore implored his right hon. Friend not to be led away by the impression that the right thing was to go on building 20,000 tons a year without reference to the considerations he had just brought forward. Nevertheless, he thought it desirable to build vessels at a uniform rate, because nothing tended more to degrade and demoralize the working classes than to force on them for a short time an unusual 1759 amount of prosperity, to be followed by a corresponding amount of adversity. He thought that a larger sum might be appropriated for experimental purposes. It was proposed to increase the tonnage of the ships to be built in the course of the next financial year, and yet the work contemplated last year had not been completed, no less than £55,000 of the sum voted in respect of two ships being yet unspent. He wished, in conclusion, to make a few remarks with reference to the Captain and the Monarch. They had not yet been tried, and he was afraid that in those matters right hon. Gentlemen, whether they sat on one side of the House or on the other were very much in the hands of those in their Department. It involved, at all events, a very long process to get any of those vessels tried so as to enable anything like an adequate conclusion to be arrived at with respect to them. The best course to adopt was, he thought, that the Admiralty should rely on the judgment of those who were most qualified to advise them, while they used their own discretion as to accepting or rejecting that advice.
§ MR. GRAVES
expressed his regret that, although he had on more than one previous occasion urged upon the Admiralty the expediency of adopting the new type of engine in our Navy, there was only one of those engines as yet to be found afloat. In our Mercantile Marine, what was known as the compound type of engine was coming into universal use, why was it that the Admiralty were so slow in adopting the greatest known improvement in steam machinery? The outside world had shot ahead, for no one would now think of putting into a ship the engines in use in the Navy. He knew of an instance of obsolete types of engines ordered by the Admiralty eight years since being still in the hands of the makers, because improvements had sprung up in the manufacture; the result being a loss to the country, in one case, of over £20,000. There were engines now being made for ships in the Navy, which he did not hesitate to say would never be put into them; and seeing the economy of fuel which was the consequence of the adoption of the compound system, he was surprised that the generally-condemned coal-consuming old type of engines should be preferred to the economic double compound. Economy of coal was 1760 an increase of power in whatever light we regarded it. To be able to put on a ship an increased weight of armour by reducing the quantity of fuel, would be, it was obvious, a great advantage; or if continuous steaming was required, a gain of one-third to one-half would be obtained with the same quantity of coal now used. He was able to state that many to whom proposals had recently been made to send, in tenders for engines had expressed their astonishment that they should have been applied to to furnish a class of engines which were become obsolete. They also complained that they had been asked to send in those engines within five months—far too short a time for any maker to supply them in, unless it might be the firm who possessed the designs and models of similar engines previously supplied to the Admiralty. If the orders had been given sooner—as they might have been, he saw no reason why seven or eight months should not be given, so that the whole competitive power of the engine-makers of the country might be brought into play, instead of having the supply turned into a monopoly. He must also express his regret that Papers had not been laid before the House to show the results of the trials of the Invincible, the Audacious, and the Vanguard, and he should like to have some explanation as to the singular results of the trials in the case of those three vessels, for he found that whereas the maximum speed of the Invincible and the Audacious was only 13½ knots an hour, the Vanguard had attained a speed within a decimal of 15 knots an hour. The three vessels had been built on the same lines, had the same kind of engines, the same power, and, in all respects, sister ships; two of them must be regarded as failures if no higher rate of speed could be realized, and one was a remarkable success. In the Channel fleet last autumn there were three new vessels—the Northumberland, the Monarch, and the Hercules, all of which were fitted with a new steering apparatus, which it was reported did not act in a satisfactory manner. The reports on these vessels were most condemnatory so far as the steaming qualities were concerned; the rudders could not be relied on, and anyone who knew anything of a ship could appreciate how dangerous was a bad steaming vessel; it may have been the balanced 1761 rudder, or it may be a defect in construction; but, whatever the cause, if other vessels of that class were built the defect ought to be remedied.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, that as to the result of the introduction of compound engines he could not speak positively; but he must point out that there was a difference between merchant ships and vessels of war, and that difference led to a difficulty which the skill of constructors would probably overcome. Last year the Admiralty entered into contracts for two pairs of engines on that plan, and at no distant date he should be able to say to what extent they were satisfactory. His own impression was in favour of the system, which he knew had been very successful in merchant ships. As to the three vessels which the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves) had mentioned, it was true that the Vanguard had shown qualities superior to the other two; but the trials of those ships were still proceeding, and he, therefore, would not prejudge the official Report which should be presented to the House. As to the balance rudder, considerable difficulty had been experienced in steering with it, especially when under canvas; but he could not call it a failure, as it was in some respects a decided success, and as far as his experience had gone he did not feel at all disappointed. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Samuda) had set him a problem which, he confessed, he despaired of solving. He was to save more money, and to reduce the building in the dockyards; but he had been wrong in closing Deptford and Woolwich, and he ought not to have discharged so many men. For his part, he utterly despaired of reconciling these objections. With respect to the proportion of shipbuilding to be done in the dockyards and that to be given to private contractors, he thought he had last year laid down a fair plan of adjustment, not off-hand, but after much consideration. He proposed to expend £184,000 this year on ships built by contract, and £200,000 next year, and he would abide by the decision arrived at last year until he was convinced to the contrary.
SIR JOHN HAY
said, that he desired some information as to the course the Admiralty intended to pursue with regard to further experiments in the use of 1762 hydraulic propulsion. He thought that all the experiments had shown it to be very satisfactory, and he thought that that invention would certainly be extensively adopted in future. It was free from many of the objections which might be urged against screw propulsion. It was under the eye of those in command, and had not the liability to fouling to which the screw was liable. It left the action of the rudder unimpeded when the ship was not under steam, and gave facilities for stopping, turning, and steering, which no other propeller possessed. The only doubt seemed whether it could give the highest velocities; yet the experiments in the Nautilus seemed to show that it could, and the Waterwitch was quite as successful as the Vixen and Viper with the single and twin screw respectively. He thought it a pity that the Admiralty had not caused one of their new ships to be fitted with it, and thus lead the way and show the great advantage of this system, both to the Navy and the Commercial Marine.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
read a passage from the letters of The Times' correspondent, who accompanied the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty last year upon his cruise, stating that upon one occasion, in wearing round, the Hercules for more than half-an-hour refused to answer her helm, while the Monarch, in like manner, refused to stay; and said that this occurrence in the case of the two ships was to be explained by the fact of their having adopted that greatest absurdity in naval art, the balance rudder. This description of rudder was acted upon in two different fashions by the water, the result being to "put the ship in irons." And the only way in which the defects thus arising could be cured was by cutting off the upper or balance portion of the rudder, and turning it back again into one of the original pattern. He warmly approved the class of engines referred to by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves), and gave to the House his personal experience of a recent voyage from India on board a vessel fitted with these engines. If the Admiralty would only make patent coal for themselves, instead of squabbling with Members representing the different coal ports, they would save a great deal both of time and money. Good stokers, however, were indispensable to the suc- 1763 cess of such a scheme, and the right hon. Gentleman had discharged all the trained stokers and taken men from the shore, who nominally received less wages, but cost the country vastly more through waste of material. It was deeply to be regretted that the Admiralty had not taken up the hydraulic propeller and given it a fair trial. That appliance, originally invented by a Scotch mechanic in Ayrshire, was adopted and supported by Lord John Scott with, the hope of facilitating the towing of fishing boats, and thus of saving life among those engaged in the Scotch fisheries. After his death, however, the invention languished until taken up by Admiral Elliot, who, by persevering effort and considerable expenditure out of his own pocket, at length induced the Admiralty to give it a trial. But, as the invention was not one to which the Department could lay any claim, it was tried on a vessel not sea-going and essentially unseaworthy, and then apparently thrown aside. He was perfectly convinced that the hydraulic principle would supersede every other.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, if anyone was to blame for not carrying the hydraulic principle further it was not the present Board of Admiralty. He was not, however, disposed to throw cold water upon experiments which, if successful, would be of considerable advantage; but he could not at that time give any distinct pledge upon the subject.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (3.) £744,232, New Works, Buildings, &c.
§ MR. CHILDERS
observed that as he was desirous to reciprocate the confidence displayed by the House in the Vote recorded, before dinner that day, it was his intention to lay upon the Table the whole of the correspondence between the Admiralty and the Director of Works and the contractors with reference to the contracts for the Chatham and Portsmouth Extensions since these contracts were made. He would, therefore, take care to put the House in possession of all the documents and Papers relating to the subject.
§ MR. WHITWELL
said, he was quite prepared to place confidence in the right ton. Gentleman, and had exhibited that disposition by his vote that day; but as the question of the extension of the 1764 Chatham Dockyard was a very serious one, it would be more satisfactory that nothing should be at present undertaken beyond the completion of the docks and the two basins which it was proposed to construct.
concurred in the remarks of the hon. Member, and said he was glad to hear the First Lord of the Admiralty intended to lay the correspondence on the Table. He desired some further information with respect to the employment of convict labour provided for in the Vote.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, he would lay upon the Table of the House everything that he could which could furnish information upon the subject of this Vote. He trusted to be able to restrict the works in the manner suggested by his hon. Friend the Member for Kendal; but he could not at that moment give any more distinct pledge upon that subject.
§ MR. SAMUDA
trusted that if it was proposed to spend more money than was now contemplated, his right hon. Friend would first obtain the sanction of Parliament to such expenditure.
SIR JOHN HAY
referred to the Act of Parliament for the purpose of showing that his hon. Friend (Captain Stanley) was perfectly correct in his description of it. The sum stated was £1,190,000 for the completion of the works specified. One dock had been taken off the hands of the contractors, and all the money was spent, while the House was pledged to £490,000 more.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, that the Act did not prescribe the total expense, but only limited the amount for which Parliament would be liable under a contract spread over a series of years. If this was exceeded, the contractor would have to take his chance of the approval of Parliament. In the original Papers laid before Parliament, the chances of the large sums now likely to be required being incurred were distinctly stated. He (Mr. Childers), however, would take care that the Vote for Chatham Extension was not exceeded this year.
§ MR. SAMUDA
said, there was one other subject to which he wished to direct attention. The sum stated did not include machinery. Now, he found on his table a catalogue of an enormous quantity of machinery, of recent construction, which was about to be sold at Woolwich, probably for little more than 1765 the price of old iron. Now, what he wished to know was whether that machinery might not be made available elsewhere?
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, the greatest possible pains had been taken, with reference to that machinery, to see whether any portion of it could not be used at Chatham, or elsewhere.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, he would pass over Votes 12 and 17, in order to take the Greenwich Vote, on which his hon. Friend opposite (Mr. T. Baring) wished to make some observations.
§ (4.) £133,996, Greenwich Hospital and School.
§ MR. T. BARING
said, he wished to know under what authority a sum of £500,000 stock had been sold in December last, and invested in Indian securities? Was there any distinct authority given by any Act of Parliament to enable the First Lord of the Admiralty for the time being to make a change in the security; and if the change was made to Indian securities, were they considered of equal responsibility with the British funds? There was another question—whether, in making that sale of £500,000, thus transferred into these Indian securities, the right hon. Gentleman had communicated with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, on the same day, had £7,000,000 of stock to dispose of? Certainly no intimation had been given to the public of this financial operation. He put these questions without at all intending to call in question the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman; but he thought it desirable to know the principles on which he had acted.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, he had much pleasure in answering the questions of his hon. Friend, and he did not hesitate to say there was no Member of the House who was more entitled to ask them. The Admiralty was distinctly empowered by the Act of 1865 to invest in or transfer to the special securities mentioned in the Act—that is, stocks, funds, and securities payable by way of guarantee or out of the Revenues of the United Kingdom or India. Part of the Greenwich funds were vested in mortgage, partly in the Three per Cents, and partly in the Guaranteed Five per Cent Fund payable out of the Revenue of India. The change of security was distinctly 1766 contemplated by Act of Parliament, and it was very desirable to add to the revenue of Greenwich Hospital a sum of £7,000 a year, which was the result of the change of security. The second question put by his hon. Friend was whether he had communicated with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In answer to that he had to say he was aware of the arrangement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he must at once admit, that it might have been better if the purchases had been made a few days sooner; but the market was, in fact, not in the least affected.
SIR JOHN HAY
said, he had listened with some attention to the reply of the right hon. Gentleman to his hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon. He confessed he did not think that he replied in a satisfactory manner to his hon. Friend. He was for some time a member of the Royal Commission, and therefore saw with some surprise the financial arrangement now under discussion. The revenues of Greenwich Hospital were derived principally from land and from about £2,000,000 invested in the ordinary public debt of the country. The Act to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded, no doubt, authorized him to invest the accumulations in the securities of Indian Railways or other stocks guaranteed by England; but he could not believe it was ever contemplated that large quantities of stock were to be sold at the pleasure of the Minister, and transfers effected such as those shown by the Return he held in his hand. It appeared from that Return that nearly £600,000 Three per Cents and other cognate securities—the exact sum was £591,568—was sold at a price a little over 92, producing £544,484, and this, again, was invested in £500,000 Indian Railway Stocks, thus diminishing the capital by a sixth or £91,000. It was true that the revenue has been increased by above £7,000 a year; but that, of course, represented diminished security, and he could not believe that it was statesmanlike to raise the revenues of Greenwich Hospital by such a process. If Greenwich required £7,000 extra, he was sure it would have been wiser to have obtained it by a Vote of that House rather than by a transaction which was, in his opinion, questionable and unprecedented.
§ Vote agreed to.1767
§ Resolutions to be reported upon Thursday 9th June;
§ Committee to sit again upon Thursday 9th June.
§ House adjourned at a quarter after One o'clock, till Thursday 9th June.