§ (In the Committee.)
§ (1.) 61,000 Men and Boys, Sea and Coast Guard Services, including 14,000 Royal Marines.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I cannot enter upon the difficult task which I have to perform to-night without saying in the first instance how deeply I regret that my right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) is not himself moving these Estimates. Every Member of the House must regret his absence on account of illness, and that feeling of regret must be heightened by the fact that his illness is in great part due to the exceedingly zealous and public-spirited manner in which my right hon. Friend discharged his duties. I feel confident that, although some of his proposals may for a moment have produced a little discontent, the permanent services which the right hon. Member for Pontefract has rendered in the administration of the Navy will prove of great value hereafter, and render it much easier for his successors to deal with the questions connected with the administration of the Navy. It is very difficult to make the Statement which falls to my lot to-night after the very short time which has been at my disposal for preparing myself to do justice to the great interests at stake in this matter, and I can assure the House that I feel the difficulty in the strongest manner. I feel the difficulty the more because it cannot be de- 690 nied that the events of the past year have been extremely interesting as regards naval affairs. The events of the war, the loss of the Captain, and many other circumstances, have excited an interest and attention as regards naval matters which make it peculiarly incumbent on those who are responsible for the efficiency of the Navy to be equal to their task. I feel confident, therefore, that the Committee will, under the circumstances, be indulgent towards me this evening. I spoke just now of the events which have happened in the course of the year. One of those events has been already alluded to this evening—namely, the expedition of the French fleet. It cannot be denied that the fact of that fleet, gallant and efficient as it was believed to be, and as I believe it was, being unable to accomplish anything, seriously excited the attention of all persons who were seriously interested in naval affairs. Certain questions have been raised which must continue to excite the careful attention of everyone interested in matters of this kind, and, as far as I am concerned, I can assure the House that the causes which led to the failure of the French Expedition shall be most carefully examined into, with a view of ascertaining whether any lessons can be learnt from that result in the administration of our own Navy. If there had been any naval action, we should doubtless have gained ample experience with respect to the experiments which we and other countries are making. Other countries have constructed iron-clads; and, while continual strictures are being made on our iron-clad vessels, it remains to be proved that the ships in the possession of other Powers are either safer or more powerful than our own.
I will now approach the subject of the amount of money for which the Government ask, and the number of men whom we desire to employ. The amount which we ask the Committee to allow us for the whole service of the year for the Navy is £9,756,000. That is an increase of £385,000 on the Estimates of last year, exclusive of the Vote of Credit granted in August. When I say the total amount is £9,756,000 I do not take into account a reduction which must be made from that figure, in consequence of the extra receipts, amounting to about £400,000. The expenditure on the Navy is so large that 691 the country may well expect to know, and to see clearly in every respect, how this vast sum is distributed, and especially how much goes to what my right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract used to call the personnel of the Navy, and how much to the matériel. It is important to draw this distinction in order that the country may know how much money is really disposable for new ships, new armaments, new docks, and increase of stores, irrespective of the large sums which go into the pockets of our officers and seamen, because among all the many questions of doubt and controversy connected with the Navy Estimates, there are few persons who think that either our seamen or naval officers are overpaid. If, then, there is to be a reduction, it can hardly be made on Vote 1, for the wages of the men; but it must be made in regard to the number of the men employed. I do not think any reduction can be made in the pay of either seamen or officers. Therefore, it strikes me that the country will be interested to know how much of this total amount of £9,756,000 really goes into the pockets of the men. The amount is a large one. If you take not merely Vote 1, but also those Votes which deal with the half-pay and with the retirement of officers—for that must be considered as part of the cost of the personnel of the Navy—together with the wages and the sums allowed to the Reserves, you get the sum of £5,518,000 as the total given, directly or indirectly, as I shall presently show, to the personnel. That amount, £5,518,000, includes the wages, the victuals, and the clothing. I will now show how I arrive at the figures. Vote 1, exclusively for wages, gives £2,693,000. Then there is for the wages of Coastguard on shore and Reserve, £130,000; half-pay Votes, exclusive of half-pay of civil officers, £1,460,000; therefore, the actual amount of pay, pensions, and retiring allowances, is £4,283,000. For clothing and victuals, £1,040,000; victualling establishments, £70,000; medical establishments, £125,000. These sums give a total of £5,518,000. Taken as a whole, I submit that these figures represent the cost of the personnel of our Navy, excluding entirely the administration, the pay of all the civil servants connected with the Admiralty and the expenses of the Admiralty itself.
692 I will proceed to give the figures which represent the shipping and matériel. First, there is Vote 6 for the Dockyards, £967,000, to which I must add about £200,000—a sum representing pensions and retiring allowances to officers and artificers connected with the dockyards. Then there is £751,000, for steam-engines, and ships building by contract, under Section 2 of Vote 10; and £837,000 for naval stores under Section 1 of the same Vote. To that I should also add a sum of £765,000 for the extension of the dockyards. The total, therefore, under this head is £3,520,000, as the cost of our shipbuilding and dockyards, including £765,000 for the extension of our dockyards, which latter sum, although a heavy liability, cannot be regarded as a permanent charge, although we shall still have heavy liabilities on that score. Under Vote 11, or the Works Vote, as it is usually called, there is naturally a large sum annually set aside for new works, buildings, machinery, and repairs, and I have stated that this year it amounts to £765,000. I now come to what may be called the miscellaneous charges of administration. For the Admiralty Office, £163,000; administrative expenses of the Coastguard, £48,000; scientific branch, £67,000; miscellaneous services, £144,000; the conveyance of troops, £173,000; retiring pensions not hitherto included, £112,000. Therefore, in round numbers, we ask for £5,500,000 for officers and salaries, and £3,500,000 for shipbuilding and dockyards; while about £700,000 represents the miscellaneous expenditure of the Navy. I think it most important to separate these matters, so that when the public see a sum of upwards of £9,000,000 they may know how much really represents the emoluments of the men, and how much the expenses of the construction of ships and administrative and miscellaneous charges.
Now, Sir, as I have already remarked, we ask for £9,756,000, which I regret to say is £385,000 in excess of the Vote of last year. What is the position of this sum as compared with the Estimates in previous years? The Navy Estimates were in 1866–7, £10,434,000; in 1867–8, £10,976,000; in 1868–9, £11,157,000; and in 1870–1, £9,370,000; when my right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract was responsible for the Estimates. I quote these figures to show that, although 693 we have the misfortune to be obliged to ask the House for more money than the Vote of last year, yet the Estimates are the lowest that have been presented since 1866, excepting those of last year. It will, of course, be the duty of the Government to justify thoroughly this increase of the Estimates by putting the figures side by side with those of former years, in order that the Committee may appreciate the amount of the increase. There may be some who prefer high Estimates, and we are continually being told that we ought to spend more; but I think, notwithstanding all that has been said, that the Government is bound to show good cause why there should be any increase of the Estimates. It was said when my right hon. Friend came into office, "It is easy to make low Estimates, but it is not so easy to keep to them." Have the Estimates been accurately framed by my right hon. Friend? In 1867–8, when the Estimates were £10,976,000, there was a deficiency of £336,000. In 1868–9, when my right hon. Friend came into office, and when, owing to the substitution of one Ministry for another in the course of the year, there was a divided responsibility, the Estimates were £11,157,000—there was not a deficiency but a surplus of £100,000, exclusive of the Abyssinian Expedition, the items of which I have not regarded in this comparison. In 1869–70, when the Estimates had been reduced by £1,200,000, there was a surplus of £200,000. That is the last year of which we have the complete accounts, but with regard to the year 1870–1, I think I may say there has been no miscalculation whatever at the Admiralty, and that the Expenditure has been lower than the Estimates. By "surplus" and "deficiency" I mean the difference between the Estimates and the Expenditure. Those figures will show whether the Estimates have been made aright; because it is easy to ask only for a limited sum, and then to exceed it in our expenditure.
I have now made a comparison of the Estimates as regards money. As regards men—including boys and Marines—the figures are as follow:—In 1868–9, 67,000 men were asked for; in 1869–70, the number 63,300; and in 1870–1 it was 61,000; and the number we ask for is precisely the same this year.
Before I proceed to analyze the Esti- 694 mates of the present year it may be convenient that I should briefly state the result—upon the Estimates of last year—of the Vote of Credit which was given in August last, when it will be remembered that in consequence of the outbreak of hostilities the Government asked for a Vote of Credit of £2,000,000, of which the sum of £600,000 was asked for and used for the fleet. The employment of a sum of money such as that affords a test of the condition of the Navy, for the uses to which the money was put will show whether there was any truth in the numerous allegations that our Navy was perfectly unprepared, and that there was no ship which was fit to be sent to sea. When a war arises every country in Europe puts its Army and Navy upon a war footing, and asks for more money, and, therefore, the fact of our asking for that sum is not in itself a proof of the want of preparation. I will state to the Committee what was done with that £600,000. There was spent for victuals and clothing, £39,000; wages of artificers in dockyards, £98,000; naval materials and stores, £150,000; steam engines and ships built under contract, £230,000; dockyard extension, £92,000; and for the conveyance of troops, £2,000. I will now show the Committee the bearing of these figures. Why did we require to spend £39,000 for victuals and clothing? Was it because our stores had been too much reduced? £39,000 is a very small sum to take for stores if we had been unprepared. Was that sum spent on some of the essentials of the Navy? Was it found that our dockyards were so devoid of materials that when war broke out we were obliged to hurry to buy them? We spent £29,700 to increase the stock of provisions at Malta, Gibraltar, and Bermuda, and £7,000 to increase our store of salt pork at home. It may, however, be said that Malta, Gibraltar, and Bermuda were insufficiently provided, and I dwell on this point because so much has been said with regard to stores that I feel this to be an important point as regards our naval administration. There are two courses which the Admiralty might pursue—to have either large stores or moderate ones; but in hot climates large stores are subject to continual deterioration and waste. Are we to conceive that with our powerful Navy we should not, when war breaks out suddenly, be able 695 to send out stores to those places which require a larger stock of provisions? The amount—£39,000—is not large, and it appears to me to be far better to spend that sum of money when the need arises than to accumulate large stores of food in hot climates, because you can obtain such stores at a moment's notice. It must not be assumed that we cannot lay our hands on these stores at any given moment, because if there is one circumstance which more than another makes this country stronger than others it is the great resources that we have at our command for producing large quantities of stores at the shortest notice. That £7,000 worth of salt pork was provided because the autumn was the most convenient time for obtaining it. There are proper times for laying in stores of all kinds, and it would be a wasteful policy not to observe common sense rules in that respect. The same remarks apply to clothing, and I think the general rule which ought to guide us in our administration is that we ought to provide large quantities of those articles which cannot be produced or manufactured at a short notice, and moderate, or small stores, of such things as can be readily obtained. I think the expenditure of £39,000 for stores does not prove that the Navy was unprepared. The next sum was £98,000 spent on the wages of artificers in dockyards, and I will take that in conjunction with the sum of £150,000 for naval stores, because those two sums represent the increased shipbuilding that was immediately resorted to. I may remark that nearly the whole of that £600,000 was employed to produce more ships, and for hastening towards completion the dockyard at Chatham, as we considered at the time that both courses were necessary, and I think they were natural courses for any Government to take in a time of danger. The sum of £230,000 was provided to hurry on the engines of ships that were already contracted for; to provide engines for those new ships which were commenced; and also for giving out several new contracts for ships. That brings me to a consideration of the class of ships that were put in hand. It was felt to be necessary to provide ships of small draught of water, and four ships such as are known as the Cyclops class were immediately put in hand. Another measure was taken which I am sure will 696 be peculiarly satisfactory to the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves)—namely, six gunboats of the Staunch class were ordered, most of which, I am happy to say, are finished, and are at this moment ready for sea.
With regard to this Vote of £2,000,000, I have only one thing further to say, and that is that £90,000 was taken for "extension of dockyards," especially at Chatham. The whole of that amount has not been utilized, but only one-half. I am happy to say that two large docks, and a very large basin, will, I believe, in a few months' time be available at Chatham. The whole of these works have been conducted in a most economical manner, and are in a very forward state. And on that question of docks I wish to remark that those gentlemen who are continually croaking as to the state in which this country is, compared with others, do not appear to be aware of the enormous advantages we have in our large dockyards. It is difficult on these occasions to steer clear of two dangers—the being too reticent on the one hand, and the saying anything as to the possible aggressive intention of any foreign Power on the other. But I may say this, that if I look to the Powers from whom aggression might possibly come, I do not see that their dockyards are in such a position that they would be able suddenly to produce fleets which would sweep down upon us, and render necessary the enormous extension of our naval power. At this moment one of our greatest naval competitors is, unfortunately—and I say that most sincerely—in such a position that, as regards our great fighting fleet, we, relatively speaking, cannot be said to have been stronger at any previous time. What is maritime power? We do not wish, I suppose, to have an ideal fleet; we do not wish to say what number of first-class ships we ought to have in the abstract. What we want to know is what our power ought to be in order to meet any combination of Powers against us which may be considered possible or probable. I do not think it is possible for us to go too far in insisting upon absolute security. I am quite confident that the commercial classes of this country would support the Government in any expenditure which they think really necessary to secure not only immunity from attack, but that confidence which the country ought to possess. The 697 confidence of the country would be much greater if there were not hon. Members, writers in newspapers, and professional croakers, who are continually bringing out exaggerated statements as to defects in our ships which do not exist, and who are endeavouring to frighten the country by making out that the ships of all other nations are perfect, and that ours must necessarily be imperfect. Foreign Powers think otherwise, and they take exceeding care to secure all the designs we invent.
And now I will ask the House to consider these Estimates which I am introducing. There is a net increase of £385,000. There is an increase in the victualling and clothing of £70,000; for dockyards, wages to artificers, £90,000; for naval stores and other materials, £60,000; for steam engines and ships built by contract, £285,000; for works, £20,000; for pensions and allowances, £25,000; making a total of £550,000. On the other hand there are reductions in three Votes—in the transport of troops, £64,000; in the half-pay Vote, £73,000; and in various miscellaneous Votes, £29,000; making a total reduction of £166,000. That amount of reductions being taken from £550,000, the amount of increase, leaves a balance of £384,000 against the present year. I wish, in the first instance, to deal with the question of the reductions in several Votes. The most important, perhaps, is that in conveyance of troops—namely, £64,000. That item, I am happy to say, is one of those, which for some time past have been showing a decrease. In 1867–8 this item for the conveyance of troops was £406,000; in 1868–9 it was £350,000; in 1869–70, £316,000; in 1870–1, £237,000; and in 1871, £173,000. The Committee observes that this Vote has gone down from £406,000 in five years to £173,000. I think that reduction of expenditure is the more gratifying as this item of charge represents sheer waste—I mean we get nothing for our money, and it does not increase our power. It is the mere shipping of troops to and fro. To what is this great decrease due? It is due partly, no doubt, to improved administration, and in the last year great good has resulted from an improvement introduced as regards the hiring of ships. The matter has been treated commercially. Brokers have 698 been employed to get the best ships at the cheapest price they can, and I am assured that the result has been a reduction of 20 per cent in the expense of the ships, and a reduction also in the cost of coal. But the reduction on the Vote has been mainly due to a circumstance connected with policy. If you keep fewer troops in your Colonies, you will have fewer to move to and fro. The general policy pursued in this respect has lightened the Navy Estimates by the sum of £250,000; and while some of the items in which our expenditure has been increased are mere temporary matters, this item of decrease is of a permanent character. Then there is a decrease on half-pay; but that is only apparent, arising from the fact that we took credit last year for £120,000 more than was spent in that item. That larger sum was taken to give the opportunity to officers of being paid monthly instead of quarterly; but few, if any, officers availed themselves of that opportunity.
I come now to the least satisfactory point—namely, the question of increase. Before I proceed with the question of increase in the Votes, which increase is mainly in the Shipbuilding Vote, I wish to say a word on the Vote for Victualling and Clothing, in which there is an increase of £70,000. Last year was a singularly favoured year in this respect—that the stores were large enough to enable the Admiralty to take so much less money for victuals and clothes. This remark applies to clothes rather than provisions. There are articles of which you need not keep a large store. Discovery was made that some of the stores deteriorated by keeping, and, therefore, it was determined, to allow the amount of those stores to drop instead of replacing the outgoings by an equal amount of purchases. Last year, therefore, was a very fortunate one as regards clothing, inasmuch as it was unnecessary to buy more, the existing stores having been utilized. Such a process, however, cannot go on for long, and this year we have returned nearer to our normal state, and we are obliged to ask for an increase in Vote 2, for the purpose of buying clothes, that increase, however, not rendering the Vote larger than it was in previous years, with the exception of last year. I was anxious to ascertain what was the comparative cost under this head in previous 699 years as compared with what it will be in the present year. If the amount of the Vote be divided by the number of seamen, it will be found that the cost per head for expenditure incurred under this head was, in 1868–9, £19 18s.; in 1869–70 £18 10s., and that it will be only £17 in the present financial year. The calculation by which these figures have been arrived at is an exceedingly rough one; but the results obtained by it are sufficiently accurate to serve us as a guide in comparing the amount of the present Vote with that of those of former years.
I need not detain the Committee with reference to any increase in the smaller figures, such as that in the sum asked for the extension of dockyards, and £20,000 for further machinery in those yards, and, therefore, I will proceed at once to the great elements in the Navy Estimates—namely, the cost of the men, the classes of the men, and the classes of the ships. We have to deal with four great subjects—namely, men, ships, guns, and dockyards. In reference to the number of men, I may state, in the first place, that we have asked for the same number of men for the present year as were taken last year, and the question arises upon this point whether it was our duty to ask for more than we have done. In discussing this question, we must not forget that, although our vessels are infinitely larger and more powerful, yet they require considerably less complements of men to work them than the old style of ships. Every one of these new turret-ships have a very small crew compared with their enormous fighting power. I should be the last to suggest that we should take a single man less that was necessary for the proper defence of this country, or for the adequate manning of the ships; but I can prove that, even as compared with that of former years, the number is satisfactory. Looking at the composition of the 61,000 men we now ask for, it will be seen that a very large number of them are not blue-jackets, who, indeed, only number 18,000 or 19,000 of the whole. The total number of men asked for is composed of the following classes:—Officers, 5,314; blue-jackets, 18,900; artificers, 2,600; stokers, 3,800; non-seamen class and servants, 3,600; and Kroomen, 286—making a total of 34,500 men who may be said to belong to the fleet 700 proper. Then there are 4,300 Coastguards ashore, 4,000 boys for service, 3,000 boys in training, and 1,200 men in Indian troop-ships. Lastly, there are 14,000 Marines—making a grand total of 61,000 men and boys. But then we have to ask ourselves this question—if the Government thinks that the country requires this number of men, can it get them; and, if so, how can it get them? The number at present borne on the books is 60,573, and I regret to say that the difference between the number of the force voted, and the number borne on the books is not inconsiderable, there being a deficiency of 500 blue-jackets. I admit that that is a deplorable circumstance, and the more so when it is known that that deficiency is due, in part, to the loss of the Captain. There were, I deeply regret to say, more than 300 blue-jackets lost in that vessel. The men so lost have not hitherto been replaced. It is certainly a curious fact, the cause of which I do not wish to discuss at the present moment, that it is difficult in times of peace to induce a large number of blue-jackets to enter the service from the shore. I will frankly state to the Committee that since September last it has been wished to secure an additional 400 or 500 blue-jackets for the Navy, but that we have only succeeded in obtaining 50 out of that number from the shore. That is a very serious fact. We are to a certain extent, however, independent of the usual sources for obtaining blue-jackets from which the mercantile marine obtains its seamen. That is due to the circumstance that we recruit the Navy on a system which, I am informed, is a very successful one—namely, that of training our own blue-jackets in the schools. The Committee will notice that we ask in this Vote for 7,000 boys. These represent our future blue-jackets; and the real problem that the Admiralty and the Government have to solve is whether that number of boys is sufficient to supply the wear and tear, and the loss from desertions and discharge of our blue-jackets, or whether they should ask for an additional 500 boys in order to keep up the proper supply. What the Government propose to do, therefore, is not to attempt, at present, to obtain the number of blue-jackets in which the Navy is deficient from the shore, but to increase the number of boys in training. It is, doubt- 701 less, a somewhat costly thing to train a large number of boys, more than half of whom are of no present use, but I am assured by those who are competent judges that the seamen from this source are very superior to those whom we could obtain elsewhere. I may also add that the seamen so obtained, are, as a rule, highly educated. They not only read and write, but they receive much excellent training, which fits them to become seamen-gunners, which is a most important matter. The possession of this large nucleus of trained men and seamen-gunners is a matter to which the country may justly attach the greatest importance.
The next questions to which I wish to call the attention of the Committee in connection with this point are—where are the men? are they at home, and can we lay our hands easily upon them? and what is our present force as compared with the force we used to maintain, for the defence of our coasts and our position at home? On all these points I may say our position is satisfactory. The Committee may recollect that we had 67,000 men some years ago, and that therefore we are now asking for 6,000 less than we then had, but have we that number less for the protection of our coasts? The Committee will not forget the interesting statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) as to the reduction effected in our ordinary squadrons, and the substitution for them of flying squadrons—a change that, in the opinion of officers whose opinions are entitled to the greatest weight, has been followed by the most excellent results. This reduction has been rendered possible not only by the fact that our ships are so much more powerful, but by the policy which the Government initiated two years ago of reducing our foreign squadrons. I may state that, having been in some of the Transatlantic republics myself, I found that the occasional visits of single men-of-war belonging to America were much more feared than was the continual presence of powerful squadrons belonging to other nations. Those Republics looked not to the force of the squadrons, but to the despatches which the Admiral had in his pocket. If they thought the commander of a single man-of-war was not likely to be very scrupulous in carrying his point, he was dreaded far more 702 than the Admirals of squadrons, whose instructions were known to be of a pacific character. I do not think that the fact of our having fewer men in those distant regions can be cited as a proof of the diminution of our power, considering the increased strength of our men-of-war sea-going ships, and considering also the mode in which the men withdrawn from distant stations can be utilized at home. I would state for the information of the Committee the following facts:—There are now, or there were on the 1st of March, in our ships on foreign stations, 14,840 men and boys. On the 1st of December, 1868, before this policy had been inaugurated, the number was 19,153. Therefore there has been a diminution in our foreign squadrons of upwards of 4,000. But if I take the detached squadrons, the Channel squadron, the home ports, particular service, survey ships, and ships ordered home, the number is now 16,596, as against 17,898 in 1868, showing a diminution of 1,000. It will be apparent, therefore, to the Committee that this diminution in our number of men is accounted for by the reduction of our squadrons abroad, but that we are as powerful at home as we ever were. And let me say one thing about the character of the men who are at our disposal. Nearly the whole of our blue-jackets—in fact, 17,500 men out of the 18,000—are continuous service men; and we cannot lose them except by casualties or desertion. The terms on which we have engaged them, they having entered as boys and being bound to render continuous service, obviate the danger that would otherwise exist of our losing the blue-jackets we have. The Committee, therefore, need be under no apprehension lest, through any sudden cause, we should be deprived of any number of these men. Another circumstance worthy of notice is that of the entire 18,000 blue-jackets no fewer than 8,000 are seamen-gunners or men trained at the guns. I think that is a most satisfactory state of things. It takes a great deal more time to produce a seaman-gunner than any other class of seaman; and it is exceedingly difficult, as I am told, for foreign countries to compete with us in that respect.
Such, then, is our condition in respect to men; slightly unsatisfactory as regards the number of our blue-jackets, 703 very satisfactory as regards the quality of the men whom we have got, and the service we may expect from them; and satisfactory also, I hope, in the circumstance that they are stationed at places where we can readily command their services when they are required. The Reserves in the home ports, I believe, were never stronger than they are at this moment. And this leads me to the general subject of our Reserve and auxiliary naval forces, a matter which naturally excites considerable attention. Of the Coastguard on shore we have 4,300 men; then there are the Royal Naval Volunteers—a small force of 2,000, to which it is unnecessary to allude; then there is the Royal Naval Reserve, amounting to 14,000 men; and there are also the Seamen and Marine Pensioners to whom my right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract alluded in his speech last year. As regards the Coastguard, I may mention that more stringent regulations have been made than were ever before adopted in reference to that force. They are entered now straight from the Navy, and every effort is made to eliminate from the Coastguard every element that is not purely naval. The men come, as I have said, straight from the Navy; and if there has been a break beyond a certain time in their sea service they are not allowed to go into the Coastguard at all, the object being to secure that every Coast-guardsman shall really be a seaman available at once for the Reserve in case of emergency. The Committee may remember that my right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract introduced the system—and a most excellent system, as it appears to me—of sending the Coastguard to sea in alternate years, in order to accustom them to the service. I am informed that heretofore in the Coastguard there had been a large number of civilians, but that civilian element has also been gradually withdrawn; and not only are the Coastguard seamen, but I believe the preference is given to seamen-gunners and trained men. Of this Coastguard force 75 per cent are either seamen-gunners or trained men. Thus we have a nucleus of artillery which appears to me to be exceedingly valuable. As regards the second force—namely, the Royal Naval Reserve—if its numbers are not satisfactory, it must be remembered that the policy has 704 been adopted of endeavouring to secure a force possessing the highest efficiency rather than a large body of men who would be of little use when their services were called for. I will read to the Committee one or two of the changes which have been made in the constitution of this force upon the recommendation of the Committee of 1870. Previous to 1870, men were examined and passed by any officer in the Coastguard, and by a chief boatman in charge. Now they have to be examined by a commander and surgeon on board one of the First Reserve ships. Again, candidates used to be eligible who had served five years at sea within the previous 10 years. Now they must have served at sea within the last six months; and if they permanently quit the sea service they become ineligible for the Reserve. Again, a large number of men—upwards of 4,000—were formerly drilled at the shore batteries, where they could not be efficiently trained. Now, some of these batteries have been closed, and the men are sent to the First Reserve ships, and drill ships for practice, their travelling expenses being paid. It is obvious that these regulations may diminish the number of men by excluding many possible candidates; but, surely, to have men in your ships on whose efficiency you can thoroughly rely, is much better than having on paper a greater force on which you cannot depend in time of need. Then, one word as respects a new force to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract referred in his speech last year—the Seamen and Marine Pensioners. These men are liable to be called out in case of war in the same way as the Army Pensioners; but it would be of comparatively little use calling them out if they had become entirely unaccustomed to the sea. It has, therefore, been thought advisable to offer them a small pecuniary inducement to come to drill for a certain time every year. An inspection has also been made of the whole of the Pensioners to ascertain what number of them were fit for sea service, and it was found that 6,000 Seamen and Marine Pensioners were in that condition. The regulations have been only very lately issued, in consequence of its having been a question whether the Marines should become Army Pensioners or form a Reserve for the fleet. I ought, perhaps, to allude 705 to the second class of Naval Reserve, which was mentioned last year by my right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract. The proposal that the men of that force should go to sea instead of being trained in the usual drill ships has proved to be unpopular, and the numbers who have entered are insignificant. It has been suggested that the matter should be re-considered as to whether those who enter the First Reserve ought not previously to pass through the Second Naval Reserve.
I now pass from the question of the men and Reserves, and come to a subject which is possibly more interesting—namely, the ships. And in the first place, I wish to state to the Committee what was done under that head last year. The Committee will remember that we are asking for an excess upon shipbuilding—namely, £90,000 on Vote 6; £60,000 on Vote 10, Section 1; and £285,000 on Vote 10, Section 2; making a total increase of £435,000. I must state that the ships which have been finished in the course of the year 1870–1 are the iron-clads Vanguard, Iron Duke, the Sultan, and the Glatton. Then the Swiftsure and the Triumph, also iron-clads, were nearly completed. The Glatton is a turret-ship. In the class of "rams" the Hotspur is nearly complete for sea. Of corvettes the Druid, and of sloops the Tenedos are nearly ready for sea; while of gunboats the Plucky and four others of the same class (Snakes) are practically completed. Of despatch-vessels we have the Lively and the Vigilant nearly completed. The addition to the Navy accomplished in 1870–1, therefore, was one ram, the Hotspur; five powerful iron-clads besides the Glatton; one corvette, one sloop, seven gunboats, and two despatch-vessels; and progress was made in 1870–1 with one ram, the Rupert; two large turret-ships, the Devastation and the Thunderer; four smaller monitors, the Cyclops and three sister ships; two frigates, the Raleigh and the Blonde; one corvette, the Thetis; one large gun-vessel, the Woodlark; six gunboats of 245 tons; one large gunboat of 295 tons, the Coquette. I submit that this is not at all a bad programme, and that we shall be at the end of the year infinitely more powerful than we were at the beginning; but the House may ask how it is, if so much progress has been made in shipbuilding, that we ask for an in- 706 creased grant of £425,000. The increase of last year was partly due to the fact that the gunboats and monitors were ordered under the Vote of Credit, and the circumstances of the war have impressed the public and the Government with the fact that it is advisable to build vessels for coast defence and coast attack rather than push on so much with the large iron-clad fighting ships, so that we may have a fleet capable of offensive operations in shallow water, as well as of protecting our merchantmen on any part of the ocean. The possibility of Russia coming down the Baltic to attack us has been suggested to-night; but although I do not believe any of the Russian fleet could pass our iron-clads, I agree that every precaution should be taken to meet every contingency that may arise, and that we should not only be able to put a strong fighting force in the Baltic Sea and the Channel, but be ready to meet other combinations which recent events may have made possible. For the defence of our own coasts, therefore, and the attack of the enemy's, the Admiralty have contracted for the construction of four new turret-ships of the Monitor class, designed as sea-going ships. The hon. and gallant Admiral, in the course of his remarks, alluded to a Report made on the Cyclops, and the other three ships of that class. [Sir JOHN HAY: I alluded to a rumour, not a Report.] A Report is sometimes called a rumour; but some of the information which the hon. and gallant Admiral has obtained—especially in reference to a particular wave—so closely resembles the actual Report, which was placed on my Table only two or three days ago, even as regards the words used, that I presume the rumour must be traceable almost to the fountain head. I have stated what was done last year, and I now come to the programme for this year. We purpose building a total of 22,210 tons, of which 15,512 tons will be built in our own dockyards, and 6,698 by contract. 4,747 tons will consist of large iron-clads now in hand; but we do not intend to lay down any new broadside iron-clads this year; 3,907 tons will consist of unarmoured frigates; 2,846 of unarmoured corvettes and sloops; and 4,012 of gun-vessels and gunboats and miscellaneous vessels. The ironclads now in hand are the Thunderer, the Devastation, the Fury, and the Rupert. The Devastation is to be completely 707 finished, the Thunderer to be nearly finished, the Fury, as the gallant Admiral was perfectly well-informed, is to to suspended for the present, and until reported on; the Rupert is to be finished. This makes up the total 4,747 tons. The unarmoured frigates now in hand are the Blonde and the Raleigh. Of the Blonde 1,750 tons are to be built, completing her to about one-half; and of the Raleigh 2,150 tons, leaving 650 tons. We do not intend to lay down any new frigates in this year. Of the unarmoured corvettes and sloops we purpose building 496 tons of the Thetis, which will complete her, and to build three new vessels of the Blanche class, about two-thirds of each, making 2,350 tons, and a total of 2,846 tons for this class. Of gun-vessels and gunboats, we purpose building 463 tons each of four new Kestrels, also called Boxers, composite twin-screw gun-vessels, making 1,852 tons. Of the Coquette class, the Coquette itself to be completed 54 tons, and six new Coquettes to be built and completed 295 tons each, making 1,844 tons. The total gunboats and gun-vessels is 3,696 tons, and of the miscellaneous 316, making 4,012 tons. The total tonnage proposed to be built under contract is 6,698 tons, and comprises the completion of the Triumph and the Swiftsure, which are nearly ready, the Cyclops and sister ships to be completed to about ⅞, making 5,002 tons; ¼ each of two iron corvettes of the Blanche type, making 532 tons; two gun-vessels of the Kestrel type to be advanced to about ⅖; and two Snakes, to be completed to about ½, making a total of 1,164 tons. We have therefore projected of quite new ships, unarmoured, six Coquettes, 1,800 tons; three composite gunboats (Kestrels), 1,395 tons; and parts of three Blanches, 750 tons each, making a total of 5,452 tons. It is our desire to make all the progress in our power with the three classes of gunboats which are considered specially useful. Therefore our practice is practically in accord with that of the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves), except that we do not think it necessary to order 50 gunboats at a time. The Committee will remember that these gunboats can be produced much quicker than the large ships, which take one, one and a-half, or even two years to build. If any of those Powers of whom we appear now more 708 especially to be afraid were to design attacking us, they could not obtain these gunboats quicker than we could produce them, for our docks are larger, and we have coal and iron, and everything necessary to produce these ships. Certainly unexpected events do occur, but I do not think it possible that any combination of Powers could venture to attack us without our receiving warning of their intention. Now, the Committee must remember that we practically require three classes of ships. We require the large fighting ships to maintain our supremacy at sea. In these, I believe, we are exceedingly strong. One or two rams, with all the known improvements in shipping, will add considerably to our power in that respect, but it does not appear necessary to go further in that direction at present. We should concentrate our efforts upon the rapid corvettes, and upon those gunboats to which I have so often alluded, and in so doing we should, I believe, be best consulting the interests of the country.
Now, let me allude for one moment to the Committee which has been mentioned by the hon. and gallant Admiral opposite (Sir John Hay.) After the deplorable loss of the Captain, and looking at the experiments which were being made in shipping, my right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract thought it desirable that, besides his own professional advisers, eminent as they were, and who had already, from time to time, given their opinion on the experiments in question, to intrust the task of considering the scientific questions and problems which had arisen, and the connection between them and shipbuilding, to a Committee composed partly of naval men and partly of men eminent in science. Lord Dufferin is the Chairman of that Committee, and the naval element is represented by Admirals George Elliot, Ryder, Hornby, and Houston Stewart, Captain Goodenough, and Lieutenant-Colonel Pasley. The scientific element is represented by Sir William Thomson, Professor Rankin, Mr. Lloyd, formerly Chief Engineer to the Admiralty; Mr. Bidder, Mr. Rendell, and Mr. Froude, Civil Engineers; Dr. Woolley, and Mr. Denny. The Committee will perceive from these names that every effort was made to secure the services of men eminently qualified for dealing both with scientific and practical problems. Cer- 709 tain special designs were referred to this Committee, and upon some of these they have already reported. Now, I confess it struck me as questionable how far it would be wise to publish the materials collected by this Committee. I thought it a matter of some importance; and, viewing the publicity which everything obtains in this country, I thought it a matter that required consideration. However, I unfortunately feel no longer able to delay a decision upon the subject; and as the hon. and gallant Admiral opposite has alluded to a rumour which tends to the prejudice of the ships now building, I must quote some passages from the Report and lay it upon the Table. Now, the Committee state that—They are of opinion that, whether completed as originally designed, or with the superstructure subsequently suggested by the Constructors' Department, the Devastation will prove a formidable and efficient warship, a safe and stable vessel, and a valuable addition to Her Majesty's Navy.Again, they say—The question of her stability, even under conditions of wind and sea far more unfavourable than any she is likely to encounter, has been carefnlly examined by the scientific members of the Committee.Then the Committee proceed to suggest several alterations in detail, and the sub-Committee add—The sub-committee conclude that ships of the Devastation class have stability amply sufficient to make them safe against the rolling or heaving action of the waves.
SIR JOHN HAY
observed that his remark in the earlier portion of the evening had reference to the Cyclops, and not to the Devastation class.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
With reference to the Cyclops class, the sub-Committee reported—The general principles of the stability of this class of unmasted ships of low-freeboard are the same as the Devastation class.I submit, therefore, that the Report, and the scientific data on which it is based, are eminently satisfactory with regard to these vessels. The Cyclops and her sister ships have been built specially with a view of being used near home and in the Channel for fighting purposes, and not as cruisers. But the statements made by this Committee amply justify the construction of these ships, and, in fact, compliment the design. I trust that good may come out of these controver- 710 sies, and that the scientific opinions elicited may be made available in guiding us for the future. It seems to me, as one understanding, I confess, very little of these matters, that it may be found an impossible problem to combine first-rate fighting with first-rate sea-going qualities, and that it may be necessary for us to have ships constructed, some for one purpose and some for another. But the question of stability is one of such enormous importance that I am glad the right hon. Member for Pontefract has brought together a Committee to elicit opinions on this subject. If the Committee were to find that our ships were unsafe, and to decide against any of these designs, I am quite sure the House of Commons would deem it right that all the money should be considered as wasted rather than we should use ships which were likely to endanger the lives of our sailors. If that were to be the result, we should consider it our duty at once to eject the design without regard to the money which it cost, and to set about building a better class of ships. But the Committee will not fail to notice how, what is regarded as the best ship which can be built at one period, is before long condemned as inferior to some other of more modern design. We must look, therefore, not only to the present but to the future in determining how we can best arrange the various classes of our ships. We consider it our duty to make progress with some of our great fighting ships, to increase the number of our cruisers, and especially to make progress with our gunboats.
I have dealt with the questions of men and ships, and I come now to the third point—that of guns. The guns do not appear upon these Estimates, it is true; but it will be interesting to the Committee to know how far we are prepared with guns for the ships which we are building. I am able to submit to the Committee a statement to show exactly how we stand upon the subject of guns, and it is advisable to say something upon this, as I have seen it stated in newspapers that we are very ill provided with guns for our big ships. The total number of guns available for the naval service is 1,901; the total number requisite to complete the armament of every ship built or building, which is retained for sea service, is 1,876; we have, therefore, an excess upon the total 711 number of guns. But it may be said, perhaps, that the excess is in guns of an inferior class; it will, therefore, be necessary to examine the list a little more in detail. The vessels of the Devastation and Thunderer class will carry 35-ton guns, which are believed to be more powerful than those at the disposal of any foreign Power; 12 of these guns in all will be required, and provision having been made for them in the Army Estimates, they will be ready in the course of the year. Of the 25-ton guns 7 only are wanted, and 9 are already in store. Of the 18-ton guns 44 are wanted, and 32 are already in store; these will be required for gunboats of the Snake class, which vessels will require 1 each. There are 140 of the 12-ton guns wanted, and 150 are now in store; 115 9-ton guns are wanted, and we have 131. Then of the 6½-ton guns we require 529, and have 566; and of 64-pounders we need 1,005, and 1,000 are actually in store. Thus, with the exception of the very heaviest guns, we have a supply ample for arming the whole of our vessels with the best weapons of the day. But, of course, it would not be considered wise or prudent to depend on the actual numbers of guns; a reserve must be provided to meet casualties, and in the Army Estimates sufficient money is taken to provide these additional guns, amounting to about one-eighth of the original number. In that case 213 guns would still be necessary to be provided, and the whole of these additional guns will be provided before the end of the year. The House of Commons, therefore, and the country may rest assured that we are, in this respect, in a satisfactory position. For the purposes of docks, a slight increase of money is taken; but it is satisfactory to be able to state that great progress has been made at Chatham; the major portion of the works have now been completed, and the country will before long be in possession at this point of two first-class docks of 20 acres each, and before the end of the year of a noble basin of water, leaving only one to be added; the whole of which will be constructed by convict labour. The amount of the Vote for the extension of dockyards will, in consequence, be reduced in future years; but this year the diminution in the Vote as regards Chatham has been compensated by increased expenditure elsewhere.
712 I have now come to the end of the long story with which it has been necessary for me to trouble the Committee, and I cannot adequately express the strong sense which I entertain of the responsibilities attaching to the great questions with which, at a moment's notice, I have been called on to deal. But I can assure the Committee that I have approached the consideration of these questions with an unbiassed mind, and that if the Committee should manifest a decided opinion that any one design is preferable to another, or that any change in the policy of the Government upon these matters is desirable, such opinions will be received by the Government with great deference, and with every desire to weigh them in the most favourable spirit. I cannot conclude without expressing my hope that there may be as little party difference or professional difference in these matters as possible; for while we desire to be strong in men, in ships, in guns, and in docks, we must look also to be strong in the professional feeling of the Navy. And it would be a source of great regret if there should be anything like a conflict of opinion between the Navy and this House. Every member of the Navy, be he officer or seaman, ought to be aware, and must be aware, that the disposition of this House is to be generous in its treatment towards them. If the House at times is economically disposed, it is never as regards the men, but as regards the administrative expenditure and the outlay on the building of ships; it is when the House fears that there is an expenditure of money without adequate results. It is essential to our security and our strength that there should be that sympathy of feeling between the naval profession and this House which I, for one, desire to see established and maintained. I believe that we are really strong, and that many of those persons who are continually saying that they apprehend danger, are exaggerating even in their own eyes, and that they do so rather to strengthen their demand for improvement than because they believe that there is really any cause for panic. If there were any cause for panic, I repeat the observation which I made at the beginning of my remarks, that the security of the country is the paramount consideration, before which all others must yield. But I believe we are at 713 this moment strong enough to maintain our own, to protect our coasts, and to keep our shores inviolable. I beg, Sir, to move that a sum not exceeding £2,693,336 be granted to Her Majesty to defray the charges for seamen and marines.
SIR JOHN HAY
Mr. Dodson—I regret extremely that the absence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry), who is suffering from a severe cold, and of the noble Lord the Member for Chichcster (Lord Henry Lennox), who is suffering from a similar calamity, has rendered it necessary for me to address the Committee on this occasion. It is advantageous on all occasions that the Committee should receive at the hands of those who have had any experience of the business of the Department some comments on the subject; and as I had the honour of being a Member of the Board of Admiralty, from 1866 to 1868, I trust the Committee will afford me their kind indulgence whilst I address a few remarks to them on the subject of the Navy Estimates which have just been explained to the Committee. I would desire to compliment the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty upon the statement which he has made to the Committee, and I can assure him that, in my opinion, the Navy has lost nothing by the recent change in the person at its head. I wish to approach this subject, as the right hon. Gentleman has suggested at the conclusion of his speech, with a desire not to allow the Navy to degenerate into an affair of party. I desire to criticize the statement which he has made, and the Estimates which he has submitted, without reference to anything but their bearing on the national strength and the national honour. There are three or four points which have been incidentally alluded to with reference to the Navy which I am about to avoid dwelling upon at present; because, according to the Notice Paper, the subjects will more properly form the subject of separate discussion—I mean with regard to the change in the Board of Admiralty caused by the dismissal of Sir Spencer Robinson; and also with regard to the very serious national calamity, the loss of Her Majesty's ship the Captain; and with regard to the question of ordnance, which, on this occasion, has been introduced by the First Lord. The first sub- 714 ject which I should like to comment on is the number of men. The right hon. Gentleman will understand that, looking to the fact that he has just come into office, no personal blame can attach to him with regard to any deficiency in the present Estimates. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in the opinion which he has expressed with regard to the character of our seamen; but I also concur with the right hon. Gentleman in the remark which he made when he said they were singularly few—[A laugh]—I mean with regard to the number now on our books, as well as with regard to those who are available for the service of the country. Owing to reductions which have taken place in the last two years—I speak of the seamen and boys—the reduction in the Navy has been 4,077; and these men having been discharged, we now find that only 70 seamen could be obtained during the autumn, when it was desirable to increase the number of men. The Vote for 1868–9, excluding Marines, was 52,070; but my right hon. Friend the Member for Tyrone discharged certain pensioners and ship-keepers, reducing the Vote for 1869–70, if it had been proposed by us, to 51,077. The Estimate, however, of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) was, in 1869–70 actually only 49,000, being a reduction of 2,077 below what we intended to propose, and in 1870–1 a further reduction of 2,000 men, leaving 47,000 for the Fleet, being the same as that now proposed. The total reduction since the Estimates of 1868–9 is 5,070; but of these, 993 were reduced by the Conservative Admiralty, making, as I have said, a reduction of 4,077 of the seamen classes by the present Government. Now, if we cannot obtain more than 70 seamen of 4,077 discharged, it seems to show that the reduction which then took place was not a prudent reduction; because the plan, as I understand it, about to be introduced into the Army with regard to the Army of Reserve is, as you train your men, to discharge them into the Reserves. It seems to me that it will be desirable that the boys, who have been trained at a great cost to the country, should not be discharged entirely from the Navy; but that they should be transferred either into the Naval Reserve or Coastguard, so that 715 they might be made serviceable to the country in time of danger. And the question with regard to the Marines also is of considerable importance. The Marines were reduced 700 men by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract; but preparation for the reduction had already been made. The preparations for the reduction were nearly completed, because 566 were below the Vote when that Gentleman came into office; and the intention of my right hon. Friend the Member for Tyrone was not to discharge the number of seamen in addition to reducing the Marines, but to give the Marines an opportunity of being more afloat, and so to make them as serviceable as they ought to be for the defence of the country. It was found that the Marines were not receiving that service afloat which was desirable and necessary to give them the requisite information and the requisite capacity for serving at sea. In addition to the great reduction of men which has already taken place, I find the Estimates placed upon the Table of the House show that not only are the Estimates reduced, but they are 951 men below the Vote. Now, 951 men is a very considerable number, and the number of seamen actually below the Vote is 747, for I find that there are 121 boys over the Vote who are included in the total. It may be said by the right hon. Gentleman that when the Member for Tyrone left office he left the seamen below the Vote; but he left them below the Vote with reference to the reductions which were then in contemplation. [Mr. GOSCHEN said the Vote had been increased 400 men.] I am very glad to hear that; but even excepting your 400 men, and deducting them from the 951, there are still 551 men below the Vote. I was merely alluding to that for this reason—that we may not be liable to the objection that we left the Vote also considerably below the number; but, as a matter of fact, it was only 24 below the number, for we left 1,583 below the Vote 1868–9—namely, 566 Marines in anticipation of the 700 to be reduced, and 993 ship-keepers and others, being 1,559, or only 24 below the number proposed to be voted had we remained in Office. Before I pass from the subject of men, I should like to allude to a point which has not been touched upon by the right hon. 716 Gentleman, and it is one which gives great dissatisfaction to the Navy at present—and that is the total absence of promotion. Since the sudden alteration of promotion by the retirement scheme, which was discussed in this House last year, there has only been 1 flag officer promoted, 6 captains, 13 commanders, and 27 lieutenants; and there have been 71 cadets entered; whilst there are 415 sub-lieutenants, 357 midshipmen, and 205 naval cadets, being 977 officers in the lower ranks, waiting anxiously for promotion. Now, the proposal of retirement which was put forward was with the view of decreasing the list; but calculations which have been made will show that there is no improvement in reference to promotion, and that there is that dead-lock on promotion which throws a damper on the spirit of the profession. To obtain an effective and contented list of officers the country voted a large sum of money: in 1869, the Vote for retired officers was £700,166, and in 1871–2 £829,238—an increase of £129,072. I desire to call attention to that on behalf of the public interests as well as in the interests of the Navy, and to show what a difficult thing it is to manage in any profession promotion by selection, and to show also what a dangerous thing it is to have a retired list always increasing, and yet failing to give that just amount of promotion which is necessary to maintain a vigorous and contented service. There is a presumed decrease this year in that Vote of £72,862; but hon. Members will see that that is only dependent on the Supplementary Estimate of £120,000 of last year. The actual increase this year is £47,138. There is one other point which has not been alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman, and that is the supposed saving, under Vote 3, of the Admiralty Office. The Vote of the Admiralty Office has been, to a certain extent, reduced; but the civil pension list, bearing upon retirements, has been very largely increased, and the amount of saving to the country has not been such as will commend itself to the Committee. In the last year that the right hon. Member for Tyrone was at the Admiralty the decrease in the civil pension list was £3,448, and in 1870–1 the net increase is £28,749. In 1868–9 the civil pensions were £91,435, and in 1869–70, £87,987, being a decrease of £3,448; 717 but, in 1870–1, we find them raised to £119,893, being an increase of £31,906. In 1871–2 they were £116,736, being a decrease of £3,157. The net increase by the present Government of the civil pension list in connection with the Admiralty Vote 3 has been £28,749; of this, £9,559 12s. 2d. is for the Admiralty Office alone, which we may compare thus under Vote 3–1869–70, decrease £13,660; 1870–1, decrease £13,442; being a total of £27,102. From this deduct increase, 1871–2, £4,131, we have the actual reduction claimed of £22,971; from this abate the civil pensions £9,560, and the excess expenditure, 1869–70, of £9,074, we have an actual saving of only £4,337. But against this supposed saving of about £4,000 a-year, it must be recollected that the strength of the Admiralty Office has now to be largely recruited from officers paid under Vote 1. I allude, among others, to the Director General of Naval Ordnance, as well as to the Chief of the Staff, to a Rear Admiral employed last year with the Coastguard, and to a Paymaster employed for clerical duty by the First Naval Lord. The salaries of these officers, and certain others, goes far to swallow up the presumed saving of £4,000 a-year by the changes at the Admiralty. The House must not, therefore, go away with the idea that a great saving is effected by the recent changes. I think, moreover, that this seeming reduction has not been obtained without great loss of efficiency. There is one Naval Lord of the Admiralty, for the proper administration of the Navy, less even than was considered necessary by Sir James Graham when the cold fit of economy was most aggravated; there is no Controller General of the Coastguard; there is no Chief Constructor; there is no Chief Engineer; there is no Storekeeper General; there is no Controller of Victualling—all these great officers have been placed upon the pension list, and they are enjoying unwillingly considerable pensions in idleness, instead of devoting their abilities to the great advantage of the country. While I am on that point, there is a question I should like to draw attention to, as the right hon. Gentleman had made no reference to it in his speech. I see in the Vote which is proposed that the First Lord of the Admiralty is no longer 718 to reside on the premises. I believe that it is of great advantage to the service that the First Lord of the Admiralty should be on the spot. I do not think that any arrangements of certain departmental offices can compensate the country for the loss which it will sustain by having the First Lord of the Admiralty living at a distance; and I would urge very strongly on the Committee that they should not agree, without careful consideration, to make this important change. I may mention an old historical anecdote worth remembering. When Lord Nelson was returning from his famous chase of the French Fleet under Villenouve, he despatched a swift sailing ship, under Captain Bettesworth, to carry the news to the Admiralty. Lord Barham was awakened at 1 o'clock in the morning, and issued orders which resulted in Cape Ferrol and Trafalgar before 3 o'clock in the morning. The captain of the Curieux was travelling back to his ship with these orders in an hour from his arrival; and England was saved from invasion by the presence on the spot of Lord Barham the First Lord of the Admiralty. The recent arrangements of telegraphs, and other rapid means of communication, make it absolutely requisite that the First Lord should be on the spot to receive and decide on the movements of the Fleet. I must, before leaving this subject, call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the fact that none of these changes in the Admiralty Office have increased the efficiency of the Department. In the late Controller's official Report, I find that he reports as follows, with reference to scarcity of clerks in his Office:—[Paper 37, page 8.] The current work in the Constructor's department was at the time excessive, and overtasking them for its due performance.A ship is therefore lost because, for economical reasons, clerks are discharged and pensioned. Now, as the Admiralty is worked at high pressure, when any extra work comes to be done, it falls into arrears. I find, from the Report of Sir William Dunbar, the Controller of Audit, that accounts which should have been rendered on the 30th of November are not received till the 24th of January; and the reason is, that the Department was so pressed with work that they were unable to complete their current accounts. That is not the condition in which a 719 public Department ought to be. While I was commenting upon the reduction of the men just now, the right hon. Gentleman observed that some portion of them were stokers. It is somewhat difficult to understand the policy of the Admiralty in regard to stokers. The right hon. Member for Pontefract stated that—We have made an arrangement under which a number of blue-jackets will be employed as stokers at an increased pay, the plan being similar to the one which has been effected with success in the French Navy.And, at the same time, the noble Earl, who represents the Admiralty in "another place," stated that "he feared stokers would, in future, be of more account than seamen." And the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontetefract (Mr. Childers) thereupon obtained the discharge of a considerable corps of stokers, who had been got together with no inconsiderable difficulty during the Administration of which I was a humble Member. However excellent our seamen may be, their ability in that respect does not make them good stokers, because the latter require special training. If an untrained man be put to stoke, he will only waste fuel, instead of getting up steam. I have always considered that this sudden discharge of stokers was an inconsiderate proceeding; and I should like to know what policy the right hon. Gentleman proposes to take in that particular? I now come to the ships. The right hon. Gentleman has said one thing in which all of us concur—namely, that it is desirable the ships should not sink. We all agree that their stability should be ascertained. The right hon. Gentleman has congratulated the Committee on the large number of ships we have; and I am only too happy to know we have them; but to whom does the right hon. Gentleman owe these ships? Let me review our iron-clad Navy, adopting the classification proposed by the late First Lord, and I think that in recapitulating that list the Committee will forgive me if I remind them to whom the country is indebted for the powerful fleet for which the right hon. Gentleman takes credit. He has reminded the House that his predecessor has conducted affairs with low Estimates. What have his low Estimates produced? The first-class iron-clads are 720 the Hercules, built by the Duke of Somerset, and the Sultan, built by the Conservative Admiralty. The second class are the Audacious, the Invincible, the Iron Duke, the Swiftsure, the Vanguard, the Triumph, all of them built by the Admiralty of which I was a member, and all of them amongst the most powerful ships in the world, and capable, from their light draught, of being manœuvred in the Baltic and the St. Lawrence, or in the narrow seas. The third class are the Bellerophon, Lord Warden, Minotaur, Agincourt, Northumberland, Royal Alfred, Repulse, Penelope, and Lord Clyde, all built by the Duke of Somerset. The fourth class are the Achilles, Royal Oak, Prince Consort, Caledonia, Ocean, Valiant, Hector, and Zealous, all built in Lord Palmerston's time. The fifth class are the Black Prince, Warrior, Defence, and Resistance, also built under Lord Palmerston by the Duke of Somerset. The sixth class are the Pallas and Favorite, with similar parentage. I shall not allude to the Enterprise, Research, Viper, Vixen, and Waterwitch, failures of an early date in the history of iron-clad construction. But we now come to turret-ships, of which we are reported to have 15. The first three are the Devastation, Thunderer, and Fury. Now, with regard to the Devastation and the Thunderer, I am glad to learn, from the Report of the Committee which is to be laid on the Table, that the Devastation is to be a satisfactory ship of her class. I took the liberty, at the time she was proposed to the House, of criticizing the design for that ship. I have never believed in a low freeboard, and I cannot but think that 4 feet 6 inches out of the water at one end, and 9 feet at the other, is not consistent with safety; but as the Committee, I am told by the right hon. Gentleman, have given their sanction, it is not for me to offer any criticism until the Report is before us. But the Committee evidently do not approve of her very highly, because, as I understand, the Fury, a similar ship, whose history is very singular, is not to be proceeded with. It will be in the recollection of hon. Members that about a year ago the Fury was, notwithstanding the opposition of the right hon. Member for Tyrone, and other hon. Members, agreed to by the Committee. In the month of August last a friend of mine happened to visit the dockyard at which 721 the Fury was to be built; but he could not discover even the slightest symptom of the work. However, very soon afterwards an article on the war appeared in one of the daily papers, and reference was made in the article to the British Navy. The writer remarked that our Navy was not suffering in consequence of the dismissal of the Chief Constructor, Mr. Reed, because one of the finest men-of-war ever designed was being built and was rapidly approaching completion—the ship was to be culled the Fury, and the persons whose skill had mostly contributed to the production of the vessel were the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract. On inquiry, I found that so much of the vessel had not been created as was supposed (only ⅞ths of ⅛th), and now the Committee has arrested any further progress with the work. So that even the Prime Minister and the right hon. Member for Pontefract are as liable to fail in their constructive skill as humble individuals are. As only 1/56th of the ship has been completed, it is hoped the Exchequer may not suffer. But what becomes of the statement that the Fury was rapidly approaching completion? I remember, when it was proposed to the Committee that these costly ships should be proceeded with, the Member for Tyrone protested, and urged the Committee to try such costly experiments one at a time. The result, however, now appears to be that we are going to have two ships of enormous draught of water, of an uncertain construction, with very low freeboards. With regard to the other ships—the Hotspur and Rupert rams—the latter is the creation of the present Admiralty; but I am afraid that is the only ship ordered during the last two years of which we have a satisfactory account. All the others are experimental in their character; they are on their trial, not at sea, but before the Committee. The last class of ships to which I shall allude are those mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman as drawing 16 feet of water—namely, the Cyclops, Hecate, Hydra, and Gorgon. If they were more stable, they would be very good vessels; but they are of a class the stability of which I very much doubt in the midst of oceanic waves. I fear that if they venture out of harbour into the Atlantic, and meet the oceanic 722 waves, they may come to the fate of the Captain. Their steam-power—250 horsepower, is far too little for ships of 2,171 tons. As to the gunboats, I am happy to concur with the right hon. Gentleman in the course he is taking. At present, it appears to be decided to build them of the Staunch class. And here I must allude to the fact that the Staunch is a class of which the right hon. Member for Tyrone is the parent. All these vessels—the Arrow, Blazer, Bloodhound, Bustard, Comet, Kite, Scourge, Snake, and Mastiff—are in process of construction and near completion. They are very valuable for the defence of our harbours, and I agree with what has been already said—that we ought to increase their number for the more complete defence of our ports and harbours. I have a word or two to say on the Vote for the Dockyards. I think Chatham Dockyard ought now to be completed for the service of the Fleet, seeing that Woolwich and Deptford have been closed; and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will press forward the work. There is a decrease in the Vote for Chatham extension this year of £61,556. Only £480,000 is required to complete this most necessary work, and of this only £205,000 is to be voted this year. Before we come to Vote 11, I trust the right hon. Gentleman will have reconsidered this matter, and will have decided to expend within the year the whole of this terminable expenditure, which is so necessary for our safety. There are other questions, on which, as only Vote 1 is to be taken this evening, I will defer any observations I may have to make. When my right hon. and gallant Friend the Surveyor General of Ordnance produces his Report, I shall take an early opportunity of drawing attention to the condition of our ordnance. With reference to the estimate of the guns, I think the right hon. Gentleman is mistaken when he reckons the number required for the effective list of the Navy at 1,800; for I believe that they rather approach 6,000 altogether, including gunboats, launches, and field-pieces, and the 1,800 must apply to rifled guns alone. I regret to learn that several of the ships still supposed to be in readiness for commissioning, and to be effective, have not been altered for the modern ordnance. This is a subject to which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give his particular attention. I would urge 723 upon the War Office and Admiralty to have a reserve of 500 guns for the use of steamers and other vessels which might be hired from shipowners in this country in the event of war breaking out, which would be so useful in a naval war. I am inclined to believe that the Surveyor General is imparting considerable vigour to the creation of ordnance, and that he will do his best to place us in a satisfactory position in this respect. I offer these few remarks to the Committee with an earnest desire, which the right hon. Gentleman has himself expressed, of introducing no party animosity into the debate, and with a view solely to assist him in increasing the efficiency of the Navy.
§ MR. SAMUDA
considered that the House had a duty to perform which went much beyond criticizing the details. A great change was occurring in the organization of the Navy, and their duty was to assist as far as they could the head of the Admiralty in carrying out that policy. With respect to ships, the Estimates divided themselves into three heads—first, great fighting ships; second, large cruisers; and third, smaller defence vessels. The great fault of our naval administration had always been found in the continual changes it had made. There had been hitherto a total absence of anything like a general, comprehensive, well-understood principle with regard to the description and character of the ships that should form the different classes in our service; nor, so far as he could see, were we making any advance towards the adoption of any such principle—which, however, was a matter of the utmost importance. Practical schemes had been suggested and Motions made; but they had been uniformly rejected, because those who sat on the Front Benches on both sides combined to throw them out. He believed it was in 1866 that the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely) proposed a well-considered, and sensible Motion, the object of which was to urge the Government to obtain the assistance of a Scientific Committee with reference to the best description of ships to be built to complete the Navy; but the Motion was opposed by the Government in power, and on a discussion it was rejected, the majority being swollen by the right hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) and other official Members of 724 the Opposition. But when the right hon. Gentleman found himself in power he appointed a Committee such as had been suggested, and the appointment of which he had resisted when it was proposed by an independent Member. At the same time the Government resisted appeals made to them to obtain the best advice as to the building of well-arranged turret-ships; and, instead of doing that, they went on adding to our broadside Navy, and again the right hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) took a leading part in the opposition. When, however, he became First Lord of the Admiralty he took great credit to himself for proposing in future to build turret-ships. Again, it pointed out at that time that the Admiralty proposed designs which were capable of improvement; and we were now told that the matter had been submitted to the Scientific Committee, who recommended that the turret-ships should have the protection of more buoyancy than they had in the first instance—the very improvement suggested to the right hon. Gentleman that he totally ignored. Such things as these were not satisfactory; and the interests of the country would be promoted if the Government would take the House more into its confidence, and if it would discuss with the House more frankly the policy to be pursued and the character of the ships to be built. There were several things in the Estimates which were of a magnitude sufficient to warrant the discussion of them on the first Vote, and the first of these was the effect of the change introduced last year in the economy of the dockyards. The First Lord then said that he was selling off the old vessels; that he would reduce the number of men; and that he would employ a larger number usefully in the building of iron-clads, and a smaller number uselessly in repairing old ships. He said that, whereas in 1869–70 5,800 men were employed in building ships and 8,100 in repairing them, he would employ 6,300 in building, and 4,700 in repairing, and that he should be able to build 15,500 tons of shipping—a greater tonnage by 300 tons than was built in the preceding year, and that with a smaller number of men. At the end of the year however, it appeared that, instead of 15,500 tons, only 9,600 had been produced, and that £399,000 instead of £726,000 had been spent.
§ MR. SAMUDA
said, the figures given showed that 1,980 tons had been "advanced" at Chatham, 3,206 at Portsmouth, 826 at Devonport, and 3,603 at Pembroke, and that gave a total of 9,669 tons.
§ MR. SAMUDA
said, he had every confidence in the accuracy of the right hon. Gentleman, but he had searched the Estimates with great care, and he could find only the figures he had quoted. Again, he could not find evidence of the economy we were to look for from rotten ships being sold, and useless repairs being done away with. Indeed, instead of having maintained the proposed relative proportions of men employed in building and in repairing, we had now 5,200 employed in building and 7,500 in repairing; and therefore we had got back as nearly as possible to the relative proportions which were considered so disadvantageous in 1869–70. Although £2,000,000 were so freely voted last year for the defence of the country, of which £600,000 was, he believed, apportioned to the Navy, the four armour-clad vessels then ordered had not really been paid for in excess of anything voted last year, but in substitution of a decreased tonnage which it was intended to build in the dockyards. Against the whole sum which it was contemplated to spend in the building of ships by contract in the present year was £45,000 only. The cost of new ships ordered would be £153,000, but they were to be advanced so slowly that £108,000 was reserved for the future, and therefore the country was to receive only £45,000 next year. Was it not trifling with the country to propose that so small a sum as £45,000 should be thus spent put of the enormous sums proposed by the Estimates for the naval service of the country? They were not looking the difficulties sufficiently in the face if they deceived themselves by the mass of figures that was presented to them into the belief that more was done than was really accomplished. There was another matter on which he wished to make a few remarks—the recent change in the constitution of the Admiralty. Sometimes proposals were agreed to so hurriedly that one hardly knew how they 726 passed through the House, and he confessed that before he was aware that any alteration was being made at the Admiralty he found the right hon. Member the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) standing at the Table and explaining that the whole state of things had been changed and that he no longer required the consultative advice, to say nothing of the control of the Board of Admiralty, to guide him in his deliberations, but that he had been elected the absolute head of the Admiralty, every Department being responsible to him only, and he himself being responsible to the Queen. He could not say how it was done, but it appeared to him most wonderful that a right hon. Gentleman who, to say the least was a very young Minister, should have been allowed by the House to usurp a position so different from that which all previous First Lords of the Admiralty had occupied. Something might be said for such a change if the position of First Lord were held, by a man who possessed a greater amount of knowledge than the heads of the various Departments with which he had to deal; but any man acquainted with the operations of great manufacturing establishments must know that a person to stand in that position must possess a greater amount of practical knowledge than any of the others with whom he had to deal, or that inevitable confusion and failure would result. The House must be aware that it would be impossible to find on either of the Front Benches anyone who was more thoroughly acquainted with naval affairs than the experienced heads of Departments at the Admiralty. Therefore the First Lord not having a superior amount of knowledge, must absolutely accept the advice of his subordinates in consequence of his inability to refute it without the assistance that the discussion of any matter when submitted to the Board would have furnished to guide him in accepting or rejecting it. Nevertheless, the House had placed the Member for Pontefract in this extraordinary position. He was astonished that a matter of so grave and serious a character should have been permitted to pass through the House without a protest on the part of those who usually took a prominent part in the discussion of naval affairs, and indeed he had expressed his surprise in private to some of the leading Members 727 on the other side, and among them the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry), that they had not pointed out to the House the great leap in the dark they were taking in confirming this arrangement. If it had not been for this change which had been effected, it appeared to him possible that the country might not have had to bewail the unfortunate loss of the Captain. In conclusion, he complimented the present First Lord on the able way in which he had introduced the Estimates, and assured him that the foregoing remarks could not be regarded as criticisms on any acts of his, because every hon. Member was aware that the Estimates had been framed independently of the right hon. Gentleman's guidance.
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, two or three points had been raised by the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty to which he wished to allude—namely, first, the provision made by the Government for our coast defences; and, secondly, the condition of our Reserves—because the country would consider the right hon. Gentleman's statement on both points very unsatisfactory. There had been, no doubt, considerable supineness in the conduct of other Governments with regard to both subjects. When the Vote was granted last year, a war of vast proportions had broken out on the Continent, which required this country to renew her solemn engagement to defend the neutrality of Belgium. Had it been violated by France we should have had to side with Germany, in which case we should at once have found ourselves confronted by the naval power of France, with every harbour from the Forth to the Thames in a defenceless condition. Impressed with the defenceless condition of our harbours, Her Majesty's Government ordered six gunboats of the Staunch class to be constructed, which was taking a miserably small gauge, not of the wants only, but the necessities of the occasion; and of these, two only, he had been informed, had been completed within the year. When it was considered the gigantic transactions which we carried on with foreign countries, we must see the importance of having all the ports and harbours of the country placed in a proper state of defence. A few years ago he visited Liverpool; and, after seeing the whole of that port, he asked—"Supposing an enemy's ship 728 should come up to the Mersey, what is there to stop her?" The reply was that the only defence of that port was a wooden frigate, which would probably be sent to the bottom by one shot from an iron-clad, at whose mercy the whole of the shipping and wealth of the port would then be left. That was not a condition of things which ought to be allowed to prevail, and those who represented vast commercial interests had a right to complain of their harbours being left in a defenceless state. In respect to our Naval Reserves, every Government had fallen far short of the recommendations of the Manning Commission; that Commission recommended a complete and ample system of "Reserves," that the "Naval Reserve" itself should consist of 30,000 men; that the Coastguard should number 8,000 or 10,000 men, and that we should have good training ships for boys in all the principal ports. The Government had, however, shown much supineness and neglect in the establishment of a proper system of training and education for our reserved forces. It was true we had several training ships in the ports of the country, but they were supported almost wholly by voluntary contributions. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the decrease in the annual charge for the conveyance of our troops—stating that the transport service had fallen from £400,000 to £170,000—the Vote of the present year. But could the Committee rely upon that decrease being permanent? The basis of the Army re-organization scheme proposed by the Secretary for War was short service; and, as the relief of the vast Army of 63,000 men, which was necessarily maintained in India could only be effected by a great increase in the transport service, the prospect of the present low Estimate being permanent was illusory; for it would be necessary, under a short service system, to have a continuous stream of men constantly passing between this country and India. The Manning Commission recommended two distinct classes of Naval Reserves. A first and a second class at a smaller retaining fee of £2 10s., to be composed of "ordinary seamen" and fishermen. In respect to the latter, the whole number that the Admiralty had induced to join was half-a-dozen men. One of the reasons of that failure was the absurd requirement insisted upon that every 729 man belonging to the northern ports who wished to join must go to Hull to present himself either for enrolment or for training, and our poorer seamen could not afford the cost of the journey with the risk of rejection at the end of it. On those points he thought that the statement of the Government was unsatisfactory, and that the question of our "Naval Reserves" and of our "coast defences" demanded prompt attention at the hands of the House.
§ MR. CANDLISH
called attention to page 3 of the Estimates, from which it appeared that, for the year 1870–1, the gross Estimates were £9,370,000; whereas, when put before the House last year, they were only £9,250,000. Again, the net Estimates for last year, after deducting extra receipts and repayments from India, stand in this year's accounts £8,926,000; whereas, when put before the House last year, the figures were only £8,740,000. Taking the figures as put before the House in last years' Estimates it followed that the gross Estimates were, of this year, £500,000 in excess of those of last year, and £539,000 net increase. Now, he should like to know the grounds for this large increase in the Estimates, and also for the large increase of tonnage of the ships proposed to be built. There was a great increase upon the amount of tonnage to be produced as compared with what had been stated to be necessary by the late First Lord of the Admiralty. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) proposed to build 22,000 tons per annum; whereas the right hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers), in the comprehensive scheme that he brought before the House two years ago, said it would be necessary to build 15,000 tons per annum. Would the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what were the European dangers which made that increase necessary? The French, not having vessels of light draught, could not enter upon our coasts any more than they entered upon the Prussian coast. He (Mr. Candlish) thought, too, that much more new tonnage should be entrusted to private yards, and less to the Government yards; for it had been demonstrated that the Government could contract more cheaply than they could build themselves. He regretted our greatly increased expenditure in extending our dockyards; but it would, probably, not be wise policy 730 to arrest their progress now that three fourths of the money had been spent upon them. But there were ample opportunities of revising and reducing the details of the Vote for Pay, especially of the high officers. While the pay of two admirals was £1,825 per annum each, their extra allowances exceeded their pay. The total of their pay was £3,650, while their extras, under the head of allowances, amounted to no less than £3,738. Then the vice-admiral received £434, and the rear-admiral £342, in extra or supplementary payments. He hoped these would soon disappear from the list. The total increase in our Navy and Army expenditure this year would be about three and a-third millions—a sum unprecedented in our history during a time of peace. He could not have been able to face his constituents if he had voted for such enormous and extravagant Estimates.
§ MR. HERMON
said, the people of this country would look with jealousy at the large increase in the Army Estimates, although they wished that the Navy should be kept in first-rate order. In fact, they were determined to support any Ministry who would propose such measures as would put the Navy in such a position as would maintain our security at home and our prestige abroad. He did not urge excess in our naval expenditure; but the country should be put in such a state of preparation that we need not fear any attack upon ourselves, or apprehend that our commerce would suffer through our not having vessels of light draught to protect it.
§ MR. MACFIE
, referring to observations of the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Candlish), said, he should be ashamed to face his constituents if he grudged any money which the Government thought necessary for the Navy, and asked whether there was no other country than France from which we might apprehend attack? But take even that case. France had the power of obtaining in a few weeks such vessels as could be sent to those shores. We ought to be prepared for all contingencies, and in times of peace we ought to make preparations, because we could then do so without offence, and properly. He differed completely from the hon. Member for Sunderland as to the extension of Royal Dockyards. All along the east coast there was no depôt 731 of any considerable dimensions where a fleet could be sent for repair. He had no selfish object in stating so; but if the Admiralty authorities came to Scotland on their summer cruise they would find that the Firth of Forth presented advantages in that respect such as was possessed by no other country in the world. Some general system of defence should be adopted, not only for the home, but for the colonial portions of the British Empire.
§ MR. GRAVES
had for the last four years insisted upon the necessity of training up boys who might in time become available for recruiting our Navy and he was glad to hear that the Admiralty had at length opened their eyes to the importance of the subject. He had endeavoured to point out the gradual diminution in the number of our bluejackets, and that, so far from the number being regulated by the Votes of this House every year, the Votes were brought down to harmonize with the number actually obtainable and in the service. He considered the supply of boys quite insufficient to keep up the proper number of men, and trusted that an effort would be made to throw 500 more boys into the service. He pointed out a discrepancy, amounting to 900 men, between the numbers of blue-jackets in our Navy as stated by the right hon. Gentleman and those which appeared in a Return furnished to the House by the Admiralty about a month ago. He regretted to hear from the right hon. Gentleman that so few of the smaller classes of vessels were to be built during the present year. The number of these vessels was quite inadequate to meet the wants of the country, and for the protection of our commercial harbours. The country would not be satisfied with the statement that had been made that night, and it was not impossible that another opportunity would be found to raise the question again, and to test the opinion of the House upon it. He was anxious to know whether any differences of opinion had existed in the Committee upon Designs for Ships with reference to their last Report, and whether they had presented a second Report?
LORD HENRY LENNOX
repeated the inquiry which he made a short time since as to the time for which the Committee on Naval Science was likely to sit, and the cost of the inquiry.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
remarked that the various objections which had been taken to the Government proposals as to shipbuilding, in a great measure, neutralized themselves. But, in the first instance, he begged to state, in reply to the hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. Liddell) as to the cost of transport being increased by short service, that the Government of India defrayed the cost of the conveyance of troops to and from that country. In reply to the noble Lord (Lord Henry Lennox), he had to say that the number of sittings of the Committee on Designs would depend on the rapidity of their progress. He must also explain that the civilian members of the Committee, although mostly professional men, had very handsomely voluntarily declined to receive any remuneration for their services, with the exception of one gentleman, who received the sum of £200, which he had to pay a substitute. The Committee would last until they had concluded their inquiries, which were of a very extensive character. The travelling expenses of the Committee were paid out of the £2,000 annually voted towards the expenses of that Committee. An hon. and gallant Admiral (Sir John Hay) had spoken of the necessity of increasing the number of seamen last autumn on account of the war. That was not the circumstance which rendered it necessary to look for more blue-jackets. The necessity arose from the loss of the Captain and another vessel, and they were short 300 or 400 men on that account. As regarded the employment of stokers and other minor points, he must defer an explicit explanation till he had had time to look carefully into them. As to the discrepancy pointed out by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves), the Return referred to by the hon. Gentleman was probably for the month of January, and since then it had been discovered that there was an error in the Return, and that they were not so short of men as had been supposed. At the same time, he admitted that they had fewer blue-jackets than was voted in the Estimate, and measures would be taken at once to increase the number of boys. With regard to gunboats for coast defence, the reason why they had not more of those small vessels was because, for several years past, they were completing the large ships. Was the country to be asked to do everything 733 at the same time? But, in fact, never had there been so great an increase of vessels for our coast defences as during the last six months. The total addition to their gunboats during the 18 months dating from August last to the end of the present year would show a greater increase than had ever occurred during any corresponding period. 12 vessels of the Staunch class for coast defences had been completed, or would soon be completed. There were, further, 10 gunboats that either had been commenced or would be immediately. But he dissented from the opinion that those small vessels were the only coast defences we had. Large ships which would protect the Channel, the North Sea, and prevent the approach of an enemy's fleet to our shores were coast defences also, and could not be wisely neglected. An hon. Member (Mr. Macfie) had said that France might improvise a fleet to attack us; but he did not think any Power could do that. At all events, if any Power could improvise a fleet, it would be England, which possessed more resources of rapid production than any other country. He regretted that the proposal of the Government in regard to gunboats was not satisfactory to some hon. Gentlemen, and he admitted that it was a question whether one of the large frigates might be delayed to hasten the completion of more gunboats. That was a point which could be considered hereafter. But at a moment when our maritime power was, relatively to that of other States, greater than ever it was before, he did not think they would be justified, considering the state of Europe, in going much beyond the expenditure now recommended by the Government. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Samuda) had mistaken the tonnage built in the Government Dockyards last year. It was not 9,000 but 15,000 tons. They proposed to build 22,000 tons, of which 6,000 would be built in private and the remainder in Government Yards. With regard to the 7,500 men employed in repairs, it should be stated that those men were likewise employed in the construction of a large number of materials used in shipbuilding. During last year a large number of men were taken off new ships and put on repairs, in consequence of the desire felt in August to have a large force available 734 at once in case of necessity. Therefore, several older ships were put in repair at that time, thus to a certain extent interrupting the progress of shipbuilding.
§ MR. MACFIE
explained that he had not said that France could "improvise" a fleet, but that she might improvise an Alabama that would harass our commerce.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (2.) £2,693,336, Wages, &c.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow;
§ Committee to sit again upon Wednesday.
§ House adjourned at a quarter after Twelve o'clock.