§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £928,510, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expense of Naval Stores for building, repairing, and outfitting the Fleet and Coast Guard, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1873.
§ MR. HUSSEY VIVIAN
, in calling attention to the controversy which had existed during the past 25 years on the relative merits of Welsh and North-country coal for use in the Navy, said, that Admiral Symonds had reported that the smoke produced by the use of North-country coal rendered the observation of signals almost impossible; that Sir Alexander Milne said that in case of war North-country coal would be entirely unfit for the service, as it would make known the position of vessels, for from his own flag-ship he had seen the smoke at the distance of 30 miles; and that Captain Willes also said that the smoke of this coal damaged the clothes of the men employed. Those opinions were recorded in print, as were also certain remarks bearing upon them which were made by Vice Admiral Sir Spencer Robinson. He (Mr. Hussey Vivian) had perused those remarks with great pain, because he found that their tendency was to snub a number of admirals, captains, and chief engineers who had conducted and reported upon a series of experiments with great skill and care. Their accuracy, too, had been questioned, for the trials of the Urgent and the Lucifer, upon which they were chiefly founded, were, it was maintained, of a special character. He should, therefore, like to hear how these figures were arrived at.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
explained that the Minute of Sir Spencer Robinson was not communicated to the officers in question by way of censure, but was a confidential communication to the Admiralty for their information. It had only been presented to Parliament because some hon. Members had got to know the 51 nature of the Reports, which were unsatisfactory to them, and because the Papers which had been ordered would not have been complete without it.
§ MR. HUSSEY VIVIAN
said, he was glad to hear that the Minute had not been communicated to the officers. If hon. Members would refer to the Reports, they would find that at page 35 there was a summary of the first series of experiments on the Lucifer. Of Welsh coal the consumption was 4.65 lb per horse power per hour, against 5.72 lb of North-country coal, showing a loss of 23 per cent on North-country coal compared with Welsh coal; while in other experiments made with a mixture in equal proportions of Welsh and North-country coal, the consumption per horse power per hour was 5.37, or a difference of 16.4 per cent in favour of Welsh coal alone. In the summary relating to the trials on board the Urgent it appeared that the mixture was 5.176, and the difference 4.77, which was not a satisfactory result for Welsh coal; but it must be borne in mind that in making this experiment the areas of the grates had been made to suit North-country coal, and not to suit Welsh coal. With Welsh coal, when used alone in the first trial, the consumption was 6.45. The difference between the mixture and the Welsh coal alone was not less than 10 per cent, and that 10 per cent arose on one-half of the coal, consequently the difference was 20 per cent. On the former trials the difference was 32 per cent, the double of 16, because it was only on the half quantity. But be it as it might, the difference was very great. Now, these were the experiments on which Sir Spencer Robinson said there was an actual saving of 14.83. He would be glad if his right hon. Friend could show where there was the smallest saving, and where there was not a loss in the use of this mixture. He would find from the Report of Mr. Smith, who was a practical engineer on board one of Her Majesty's ships, that that gentleman did not arrive at the conclusion which Sir Spencer Robinson and Mr. Murdoch had arrived at. Mr. Smith said that when Welsh coal was carefully mixed, and compared with Welsh coal by itself, the Welsh coal by itself exhibited the almost unprecedented loss of 22 per cent; so that he quietly took the Report which Sir Spencer Robinson had 52 used as the basis of his remarks on the Report of the commanders of the Fleet, and set it aside, showing instead of a saving of 14.83 per cent an actual loss of 22 per cent. Again, Mr. Wright, who was a practical engineer on board the Indian transports, had stated the saving derived from the figures of the same Report as that out of which Sir Spencer Robinson deduced a saving of 14.83 per cent to be 16.03 per cent. Looking at these opinions, he was borne out in his belief that the conclusions drawn from these very experiments on board the Urgent and Lucifer were entirely erroneous and unfounded. Trials also had taken place on board another ship, but he could not find that these trials had been reported to the House, and he would pass them over. The next Report was that of Sir Hastings Yelverton, dated September, 1871, who stated that from the late evolutionary experiments with the combined squadrons, he had come to the conclusion that the present mode of using North-country coal was an error; but that looking at the question in a more serious point of view, in the event of war he was satisfied, from the difficulty he had experienced during the late cruise either in distinguishing ships or signals, that it would lead to a national disaster. The next Report was that of Commodore Augustus Phillimore, who calculated that the eight vessels which composed the Fleet to which his Report referred could have stowed 231 tons of Welsh coal alone more than of mixed coal. He put the average saving of Welsh coal over mixed at from 5 per cent to 12 per cent, and calculated that the Fleet could thus have kept at sea from five to seven days longer if the ships had been supplied with Welsh coal rather than with mixed Welsh or North-country coal. It was unnecessary to enlarge on the importance of employing coal which would enable the ships of the Fleet to keep at sea at least one-fourth longer than they could do if they used another description of coal. In reference to the burning of black smoke, the destruction which the consumption of the smoke caused to the boilers was a very serious matter; but from the Papers before the House it appeared that the reason of that destruction had not been at all apprehended, at least by those in official charge at Whitehall. Commodore Phillimore said that great 53 additional expense was caused by the fierce flame of the North-country coal acting on the boilers, and that all the engineers had been kept employed for a week to get rid of the injurious effects caused by the North-country coal. Commodore Phillimore also said that the dense volumes of black smoke were an intolerable nuisance under steam, and could not be tolerated in time of war. The next Paper was a Report by Mr. Smith, Inspector of machinery afloat, on Welsh and North-country coal. He calculated that the average saving was 10 per cent; the saving on the Hercules was 20 per cent, and on the Lord Warden 14 per cent. He also stated, in an engineering point of view, that the question of smoke in itself did not necessarily affect the question of economy; but every engineer knew how much easier it was to remove the grit and dust of the Welsh coal than the tenacious soot of the North-country coal. Mr. Smith further reported that with Welsh coal the ships could have kept at sea 33 days instead of 26; and he referred to the destruction of the boilers in still stronger terms and in more detail than Commodore Phillimore had done. Captain Rice, who had made the experiments on board the Urgent and the Lucifer, in his Report stated that three ships burnt the same quantity of mixed coal as of Welsh, and four burned more. But it was quite clear that experimental trips were of a very different character from the hard work of the service. Experiments of six hours' duration were not calculated to destroy tubes. What was wanted was not what would be the result in a laboratory, but under hard service in any part of the globe. There was one remarkable passage in the Report of Captain Rice, and it was that the packet boats on the East Coast of England on short voyages used North-country coal, which they would not do if it was destructive. It was true that those packets did burn North-country coal, and a precious smoke they made. But then those packets were not fitted with that beautiful smoke-consuming apparatus, and the whole gist of the question lay in that apparatus. It was not the North-country coal that did the mischief, but the attempt to burn the North-country coal without making black smoke. A significant phrase was employed by one of the engineers, who summed up the matter 54 by saying they could store less of the mixed coal, and that they burnt a great deal more of it than of the Welsh coal. Admiral Hornby, referring to the Channel Squadron experiments, said, that as long as a moderate and uniform speed could be kept up, the smoke from the mixture of the North-country and Welsh coal was not insufferable; but as soon as necessity arose for increasing the speed, the smoke became so dense that the advantage gained by the mixture of Welsh and North-country coal was no compensation. Before passing from the point under notice, he might, perhaps, be permitted to allude to a letter written to Admiral Hornby from the Admiralty, in which it was stated that—My Lords cannot refrain from pointing out to you that where the desire and the determination have existed to reduce the smoke emitted by the mixed coal to a minimum, remarkable results have been obtained, notwithstanding the advantages of Welsh coal when supplied in a fresh state.Coming to the second part of the Report—namely, that relating to the Indian troop-ships, it appeared that in 1869–70, the Crocodile, for the first three months, used nearly all Welsh coal, and in the last nine months she used four of Welsh and one of North-country coal. In 1870–1 she used a mixture; and the result was, that her total consumption in 1870–1, when she used the mixture, was 14 per cent more than in the preceding year 1869–70. The Report of Mr. Wright, who was assistant engineer to the Admiralty on board the Indian troop-ships, stated that he could find no fault with the management on board the Crocodile, and could discover no cause for the increase of the consumption, except the larger proportion of North-country coal. As to the Serapis, he could not make out that the Report was of a very satisfactory character, because her furnaces were not altered, and there seemed to have been a good deal of general disarrangement. But in one voyage she burned 321 tons more coal than she had been burning previously. Mr. Wright said this showed an important improvement on former voyages. Her average performance during the season of 1869–70 showed, when her consumption theoretically should have been 631 tons, a consumption of 27 tons less than the actual consumption. Thus, with a clean bottom, the best performance did not come up, with mixed coal, to the average 55 of the season before, when she used Welsh coal. Her average was 174 tons too much per voyage, or 490 tons; that was 35½ per cent too much coal. The Euphrates used 199 tons too much per voyage, being 27½ per cent too much coal, owing to the mixture. The Malabar used 37 per cent too much, and the Jumna 31 per cent. Such serious results did not escape the notice of the Admiralty, and the Secretary of the Admiralty suggested that a trial should be made with two ships going out and home, supplied with the mixture and with the Welsh coal, and he sent out with the ships three engineers, in order that the mixture might have a good trial. Upon this trial there was a diversity in the conclusions arrived at. The captains of the ships—Captains Grant and Parkin—like all other captains of the Fleet, were very greatly in favour of Welsh coal; while, on the other hand, the engineers expressed a different opinion. Captain Grant stated that the amount of speed per ton got out of Welsh coal and out of the mixture showed a difference of 20 per cent in favour of the former. In addition to that, the smoke from the mixture beat down upon the deck and prevented the possibility of a good look-out, whilst in a gale it prevented the men from properly working the ship, in consequence of the smoke getting into their eyes and causing great pain. Captain Parkin said that when going 10 knots the consumption of Welsh coal was 519 tons as against 618 tons of the mixture; and at 9 knots the difference was as between 481 and 564 tons. It would thus be seen from the details he had read that in no single instance had any officer in the Navy or engineer employed on board ship recommended the use of the mixture, though no doubt some of those who had been employed in connection with the experiments had done so. The greatest authorities, however, were unanimously in favour of Welsh coal, and Welsh coal only. At the commencement of the Session the First Lord of the Admiralty said that at certain ports in England only Welsh coal would be supplied; so that at Portsmouth and Plymouth there was to be only Welsh coal, whilst at Chatham this kind of coal was not to be exclusively used. It was to be inferred, therefore, that a deterioration in Welsh coal took place at Chatham, while no such thing 56 occurred at Portsmouth. The difference in ordinary times between the prices of the two kinds of coal was scarcely 1s. per ton. One-third of the coal supplied at Gibraltar was North-country coal.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that the reason was that the further they got south the more Welsh coal deteriorated in consequence of the greater heat of the climate.
§ MR. HUSSEY VIVIAN
would not overlook that suggestion, though he could not find the slightest trace of it in the Report; and he believed that there had been great exaggeration in reference to it. At Malta, also, one-third of the fuel supplied consisted of the mixture; so that the whole of our Mediterranean Fleet was to be supplied with fuel which would show the position of the Fleet 30 miles away, and which spoiled the ships, the men's clothes, and the officers' tempers. This fuel also would make our ships resemble the cuttle fish, which could throw out an inky mixture which hid it from other fish which were going to attack it; and this was certainly not a condition in which British seamen would wish their ships to be placed. The Welsh coal would not deteriorate in hot climates if care was taken of it by seeing to the manner in which it was landed. No such care, however, was taken. He understood that at Bombay the coal was discharged into lighters, and then placed upon the land, where it was allowed to remain without any protection. That being so, of course the coal deteriorated. Common sense dictated that they should have a proper landing place, and sheds to hold the coal when it was landed. Beyond that, he must say that it did not seem as though the Admiralty had ever heard of Welsh Patent Fuel. He would venture to suggest the desirability of their trying that fuel, which was made from Welsh small coal. This fuel ought to be stored up abroad for an emergency. He had seen blocks of this fuel which had been standing in the open for 15 or 16 years, and the corners and edges of which were as sharp as when it was first put there, and no deterioration whatever had occurred. In conclusion, he must say he could find no sort of warrant for the use of mixed coal in any part of the world; and he hoped that the First Lord of the Admiralty would inform them upon what ground he ignored the advice of all the most competent men who had reported to the Admiralty, and why he 57 continued the use of this mixture in the Navy.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, that in the vacation of 1870, which he had passed in India, he came home from Bombay in a 3,000-ton ship which was entirely supplied with the patent fuel. She had bunkers constructed for stowing the blocks in. Notwithstanding that the screw was imperfect, they steamed 9½ miles an hour upon a consumption of 15 tons per diem. Seeing the pertinacity, therefore, with which the Government adhered to a system which could not be defended upon any ground of common sense, he could not help thinking that there was some jobbery at the bottom of it, which would never be exposed until the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Admiralty consented to the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the subject. As to the deterioration of Welsh coal in hot climates, he could corroborate what had just been said. At Aden, the coal store was at the bottom of the volcanic cliffs beside the roadway; there was not the slightest covering of any description; and when the temperature was from 140 to 150 in the sun the coals must rapidly deteriorate as a matter of course. The same thing occurred at Bombay; whilst if the Welsh coal were properly protected it would keep good for any reasonable time. His own opinion was, that Government should themselves manufacture the patent fuel—for which they had the most ample opportunity open to them at Cardiff—and have the ships' bunkers adapted for the stowage of it. In that way, a great saving might be effected in the stowage, in addition to there being a greater degree of cleanliness and comfort to the crews, and a great saving of corrosion in the tubes and in the boilers. He complained that there should be thrown upon Lord Clarence Paget the blame of all those pernicious Minutes which had been issued by the Admiralty, and which had had the effect of placing most of our ships in jeopardy, and of causing an unheard-of amount of rebuke and reprimand in the service. All that Lord Clarence Paget did was to sign, as Secretary to the Admiralty, an Order which was at that time by no means an improper Order. As Secretary, also, he would have nothing to do with originating such Orders, and would simply sign on behalf of the Board. Under 58 these circumstances, his Friends ought not to allow him to be made responsible for the subsequent laches of the Admiralty.
§ MR. HENDERSON
said, he should have no objection to the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the whole subject. He believed, indeed, that the use of patent fuel would prove advantageous in the Navy. This was not the first time that the hon. Member for Glamorganshire had brought before the House the question of the super-excellence of the Welsh coal; but he thought the hon. Gentleman might have had charity enough to admit that there was some excellence in coal found outside Wales. He (Mr. Henderson) thought that the hon. Member had too lightly set aside the evidence that told in favour of North-country coal. Nobody denied the excellence of Welsh coal if it could be had perfectly fresh, when it gave the highest results without smoke; but it could not be had fresh. As soon as it was shipped, it began to deteriorate so rapidly that at the end of a long voyage, in a hot climate, the waste was something serious, and, until mixture was proved to be practicable, thousands of tons were thrown overboard; and, in fact, he had heard of as much as 50 or 60 per cent of a Welsh cargo being wasted. The exclusive use of Welsh coal would, therefore, add enormously to the national expenditure. He was sorry to see the battle between North-country coal and Welsh coal renewed, for so large a proportion of Welsh coal was used that the matter might be allowed to rest. As to the damage alleged to be done by the use of the mixed coal, the Report showed, in the case of a vessel which was worked continuously for a long period, and whose tube plate ought to have been burnt out several times, that it was comparatively uninjured. In the Reports, moreover, to which his hon. Friend had referred, it would be found that Sir Spencer Robinson stated that they had demonstrated by experiments strictly practical, that North-country and Welsh coal mixed in equal proportions could be burnt with less smoke than Welsh coal singly. If the mixture was so bad, how was it that it was so largely used by the Peninsular and Oriental Company, and that years ago it was found so advantageous by the French Government? 59 He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not depart from the present system in regard to the coaling of the Navy, for the change made in the method of purchasing coal was a great improvement. Formerly, there were 50 or 60 kinds of coal on what was known as the Admiralty list, and, as the middlemen could take the cheapest, the system made it almost certain that the Government got the worst coal; but, under the present system, it was as certain that the Government got the best coal.
said, it was only natural that the hon. Member for Durham should speak in favour of North-country coal, and pick from the Reports laid before Parliament as many crumbs of comfort as he could find. A large majority of officers condemned the use of the mixed coal not only because it begrimed the men with dirt and destroyed the sails and rigging, but, still more, because it endangered the safety of the vessels even in time of peace; and in war it would be absolutely inadmissible, because the volumns of black smoke issuing from the funnels would betray the position of our ships to an enemy at the distance of 40 or 50 miles. Stress had been laid on the fact that the experiments in the Lucifer and other ships had been successful; but it should be borne in mind that the experiments made by means furnished by the dockyards were carried on under the most favourable circumstances. All the officers in the command of squadrons had pointed out the positive danger there was in using mixed coal, and yet Her Majesty's Government persisted in its use. [Mr. GOSCHEN was understood to say that it would be discontinued.] That was true as regarded the Channel Squadron; but he had understood it was still to be used in the Mediterranean. The description of coal to be supplied to the Navy was not to be considered with a view to economy so much as the safety of the ships, and in time of war they dared not use mixed coal. It was their bounden duty to look to the safety of our ships, and not to a paltry saving of a few thousand pounds a-year by the use of mixed coal. A great deal had been said about the successful experiments that had been made with mixed coal, but it was experiment against practice. The practical result of its use was failure, although the experimental results were considered satisfactory; 60 and it was not difficult to account for this. Experiments in dockyards were carried on under more favourable circumstances than on board ships at sea. In the dockyards they had picked coal, picked stokers to burn it, and the most skilful engineers to superintend the experiments, in order that they might be carried out to the most successful result. But in the rough work at sea the result was very different, and no care on the part of the officers could overcome the difficulties with which they had to contend. He would not enter at any greater length into the question of mixed coal; because, in the first place, it had already been ably dealt with by the hon. Member for Glamorganshire, and, in the second place, because he flattered himself that during the last two or three years he had himself adduced arguments which had been instrumental in discouraging the use of North-country coal in Her Majesty's Navy. But there was one subject of a cognate character to which he would allude—namely, the Orders that had been issued from time to time by the Admiralty restricting the use of coal on board Her Majesty's ships. On two occasions, two of the leading Members of the Government—the Prime Minister and the First Lord of the Admiralty—had endeavoured to fix on Lord Clarence Paget the responsibility of issuing the Orders which had been said to have endangered Her Majesty's ships. The First Lord of the Admiralty, in answer to a Question put by him (Mr. Corry), immediately after Lord Clarence Paget's first letter appeared in the newspapers, said that the Instruction, more stringent than any in force, was dated 1865, and that it was signed by Lord Clarence Paget. His words were—The House will, not unnaturally, ask the date of these Instructions. The Instruction was dated 1865, and it is signed 'By command of their Lordships, Clarence Paget.' The House will see, therefore, that the Secretary to the Board of Admiralty who proposed regulations more stringent than any of those now in force was Lord Clarence Paget."—[3 Hansard, ccx. 2017.]He (Mr. Corry) maintained that that was a total misrepresentation of the facts, and he defied the right hon. Gentleman to point out a passage in the Circular signed by Lord Clarence Paget which exposed any ship in the Navy to the slightest danger. It insisted on due economy in the use of coal—a very proper thing to do— 61 and called attention to the Queen's Regulations, dated 1861; but it left it to the discretion of the officers in command to determine to what extent steam should be used; whereas subsequent instructions most improperly interfered with their discretion, by specifying the conditions under which steam might or might not be used. It also directed officers in commandto examine logs and call attention to any unnecessary expenditure, and to report the same to the Admiralty,while it impressed on all officersthe very great importance of reducing the expenditure of coal on board their ships to the lowest point consistent with safety and the due performance of the service on which they may be engaged.That Order remained in force from 1865 to the end of 1868, under three First Lords of the Admiralty. But the year 1869 came, and with it the golden age for the Navy. Jam nova progenies cœlo demittitus alto. The right hon. Gentle man the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) became First Lord, and between the beginning of 1869 and the summer of 1870 no fewer than nine Circulars were issued relative to the consumption of coal. The principal object of some of these was to enforce the use of mixed coal. After the details which the Committee had just heard from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Glamorganshire, what was to be thought of a statement like the following in one of the Admiralty Circulars?—The great amount of evidence the Admiralty have now received from all quarters respecting the advantage of having mixed coal makes it necessary to impress on officers that the consumption of mixed coal must be vigilantly enforced.He wondered where the author of that paragraph expected to go to. Why, "from all quarters," from every officer, commanding or belonging to a squadron at sea, who reported on the subject, condemnation of the mixed coal had reached the Admiralty. He wondered how any Gentleman could make himself the laughing-stock of the service by putting his name to such a document. The first of the nine Orders was dated January, 1869, and from its magniloquent exordium he imagined, when he read it in the newspapers, that it was about to tell us how the Navy was to be regenerated. It began—The First Lord and the Board of Admiralty, in accepting the charge of this great department"—62 but it merely went on gravely to instruct commanders in chief—such men as Sir Alexander Milne, Sir Thomas Symonds, and others, who knew their duty just as well as the Admiralty could tell it to them—To see that the necessary duties of their ships were performed without waste; that public property in the establishments on shore must be duly cared for; that officers commanding ships should be careful of the valuable stores entrusted to their charge;and the superintendents of dockyards were enjoinedto economize the use of stores and materials, and see that skilled artizans and labourers were profitably employed.But the culminating paragraph of this Circular pointed out the royal road to the favour of the new Board, and informed the service that those officerswould secure the appreciation of the First Lord and the Board who might distinguish themselves"—not by the display of the qualities which constitute an accomplished naval officer, but by the saving they might effect in the expenditure of stores. That was the first of the nine Circulars, and two of those which followed were, he maintained, absolutely inconsistent with the safety of armour-plated ships, and repeated accidents and disasters must have ensued if they had not been disregarded to a certain extent by the admirals commanding the squadrons. Those Circulars—the first of which was issued on the 7th August, 1869, and the second on the 9th August, 1870—were to the same effect, and ran as follows:—No ship, unless ordered to be at a given port by a given date, or unless her safety would be endangered by observing this rule, is ever to steam when she has a fair wind, capable of sending her between four and five knots, or when she has a foul wind sufficiently strong to prevent her carrying royals, unless when going in and out of harbour.It was true that there was the exception "unless her safety would be endangered;" but it was quite clear that these words referred to some extraordinary occurrence, and not to a normal state of things. If such an order had been carried out, it would have been absolutely fatal to the safety of our armoured ships, and would have sent half of them to the bottom. Anyone who knew anything about armour-clad ships knew that a command of steam was absolutely necessary to their safety. He had not, 63 like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract, hoisted his flag in command of the Channel Squadron; but he had been on board the flag-ship with the Channel Squadron in one of the heaviest seas it had encountered, and he knew that those heavy, lumbering ships were, under many circumstances, absolutely unmanageable under canvas only, when they often refused to answer their helms, and without steam the danger of collision would be constant and inevitable. Only the other day an officer who had commanded one of the largest iron-clad ships in a recent cruise gave him a convincing illustration of this, which the Committee would readily understand. He mentioned that in one of the manœuvres the admiral having signalled the ships to try rate of sailing under canvas only, and for that purpose to disconnect screws, he was only able to maintain his place in the lee line, and avoid running into the weather line, "by keeping the helm of his vessel hard up." The ordinary control of a vessel's steering powers being thus lost, how was the safety of a ship to be preserved if the Admiralty regulations to which he had referred were enforced? These regulations were absolutely inconsistent with the safety of Her Majesty's ships. Long before Lord Clarence Paget's letter came out, a distinguished admiral, of great experience with iron-clads, warned him that some dreadful disaster would be sure to occur if these stringent regulations as to the use of coal were peristed in. Another officer, one of the best seamen in the Navy, told him that his ship would have been run into, or would have run into others, scores of times during the manoeuvres of the Squadron to which he belonged, if the orders had been obeyed; and the officers accordingly took it on themselves to disobey them. But was it a proper thing for the Admiralty to make orders which the officers on service were obliged to disobey? No doubt the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) revised the Orders a short time ago. But how? Why, by practically admitting the objections which had been urged against them. In his Circular, dated the 26th of April, 1872, the words which had previously stood "No ship," &c, were made to read, "No ship, not being an iron-clad," &c, and a new and special paragraph was added as follows:— 64Iron-clad ships may, at the discretion of the admiral in command, have steam all ready up on all occasions, and iron-clad ships making a passage or cruising singly may use steam at the discretion of their commanding officers in crowded or in narrow channels, or where special circumstances may render it expedient.That Order met, to some extent, the exigencies of the case as to armour-clads, but Lord Clarence Paget knew nothing of it when he wrote, and it was not in existence when the accidents to which he referred in his letter had happened. The right hon. Gentleman practically admitted the danger of the previous Circulars issued in 1869 and 1870, and had to revise them. But the Committee must not suppose that these stringent regulations as to the consumption of coal were the only official documents by which the judgment of officers was hampered by the Admiralty. Officers had told him that they would rather pay for the coals out of their own pockets than have to give all the explanations which the Admiralty required when a ton or two of coals more than they chose to consider necessary had been used. The Circulars issued with regard to the consumption of fuel had been numerous, as he had shown, and minute in their directions. If there was the smallest deviation from them the officers who failed to carry them out were required to explain, and severely reprimanded, sometimes, to his own knowledge, for having done what was essential to the safety of their ships. He could give some amusing instances of this. He never before had been quite able to realize the meaning of the phrase "being hauled over the coals;" but that literally was what had happened to these officers. No doubt it was quite right to require proper economy; but it was certainly dangerous to put on too much pressure in matters of this kind. It was most unfair to say that his noble and gallant Friend (Lord Clarence Paget) was responsible for the objectionable Orders; and the Admiralty ought to have taken the responsibility on themselves, instead of trying to throw it on the shoulders of an able and gallant officer.
MR. SHAW LEFEVER
said, his hon. Friend the Member for Glamorganshire had stated that the controversy between the Welsh and mixed coal had lasted for a considerable time, and certainly it would last for a considerable time longer, if it were to be dealt with in the way in 65 which the hon. Member had dealt with it. The hon. Gentleman had dealt with it simply from a Welsh coalowner's point of view, as one of the strongest advocates of Welsh coal, and had made no reference whatever to those facts and opinions which were in favour of mixed coal. His hon. Friend stated that he left it to him (Mr. Shaw-Lefevre) to defend the North-country coal—a position which he, as a Member of the Government, declined to accept. The duty of the Admiralty clearly was not to take upon themselves the office of advocates, but to hold an even balance, and to ascertain which of the two kinds of coal was, having regard to all the circumstances, the best for use in the Navy. The main reason why his right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) adopted the use of mixed coal was, that in hot climates Welsh coal became very rapidly deteriorated in quality by disintegration, and the loss from this cause often amounted to 30 or 50 per cent, as it was found very difficult to get up steam with the small Welsh coal, as it would not burn freely. On the other hand, the North-country coal burnt much more freely than Welsh coal did under such circumstances, and by mixing the North-country coal with the small Welsh, it was found that the latter could be burnt. The great saving, therefore, in the use of mixed coal would be found in long voyages and on foreign service in hot climates, where, as he had said, Welsh coal became disintegrated. The mixed coal system, indeed, was not adopted until after a long course of crucial experiments had been conducted by Captain Rice, one of the most intelligent officers in the Navy, who had invented an improvement in the furnace grates to provide for the consumption of the smoke. A further series of experiments had been tried at Portsmouth and would be repeated, the result being, as far as they had yet gone, to confirm the results arrived at by Captain Rice. These experiments showed that there was a superiority in perfectly fresh Welsh coal over mixed coal of about 5.5 per cent, and of about 10 per cent in Welsh as compared with North-country coal; but as fresh Welsh coal could not always be obtained, and as it rapidly disintegrated when kept in foreign depôts, it was believed that a mixture of North-country coal was expedient on foreign 66 stations. The experience of the Peninsular and Oriental Company went to prove the accuracy of the experiments which had been made by the Admiralty. They employed Welsh coal at home and in the Mediterranean; but in India, China, and the Red Sea, they used a mixed coal, consisting in the summer months of half-and-half, and in the winter of two-thirds Welsh and one-third North-country coal. These, then, were the grounds upon which the use of mixed coal was ordered by his right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract when he was at the head of the Admiralty. The Reports since made by the commanding officers and chief engineers of ships in which the plan had been adopted, convinced him that where Captain Rice's apparatus was carefully used with mixed coal, the appearance of smoke from the funnels could be prevented by its consumption, for out of 110 Reports 40 were favourable and 20 only were adverse, while the remainder were not of a very decided character. It was true that many naval officers had reported against the mixture; but some of those Reports were made before the furnaces for the consumption of the smoke were altered, and it therefore appeared to him (Mr. Shaw-Lefevre) that they were not to be taken as conclusive on the subject. The notion that bituminous coal destroyed the furnaces more quickly than Welsh was unfounded. It might be recollected by some that when first Welsh coal came into consumption, Welsh coal only was burnt; the advocates of the North-country coal asserted that the fierce flame of the Welsh coal destroyed the furnace far more rapidly than the bituminous, and it was long before the delusion could be destroyed. Now the tables were turned, and the reverse was asserted by the advocates of Welsh coal. He believed, however, there was no ground for either the one complaint or the other. Captain Phillimore's Report, to which the hon. Member had adverted, could scarcely be taken as conclusive, because some of the ships on which he reported consumed 80 per cent of the smoke, some 50 per cent, and others only about 5 or 10, and there was similar differences in their consumption of coal. Surely Captain Phillimore, before reporting, should have attempted to account for these differences. It seemed to be an undoubted fact, however, that 67 Welsh, coal was the best if used at once, but that it deteriorated by keeping. He thought it was also clear that there was advantage in using a mixture of North-country coal when the Welsh coal could not be obtained fresh, and with respect to the complaints of smoke, it appeared certain that with a proper use of the apparatus, and with good stoking, it might be prevented. With respect to the experiments in the Indian troopships, the only conclusion he had come to was that there was an enormous margin within which economy of fuel might be effected in these vessels, for already, from experiments in the case of three Indian troop-ships, it had been shown that there was an economy of 2,000 tons as compared with previous experience. This economy had been equally shown whether the comparison were made with mixed coal or with Welsh coal. After carefully considering all these experiments, the Admiralty came to the conclusion that, when perfectly fresh, Welsh coal was the better, but that when it could not be got fresh an admixture should be used. From the home ports, therefore, it was thought advisable to use Welsh coal, but in foreign depôts the mixed coals would be used. It appeared to him to be a matter of importance that we should be able to utilize bituminous coal for the Navy. Nearly all the coal to be obtained abroad was bituminous. The Australian coal, the Nova Scotia coal, the coal of Van-couvers Island, and of Japan, was all bituminous, and it might be most important to the Navy to be able to burn these coals as not to depend wholly upon the anthracite coal of Wales. It should also be recollected that the Welsh coal was, compared to North-country, limited to quantity, and in the hands of a small class. Last year there was a strike in the Welsh districts, and there was great difficulty in getting a supply of coal from day to day. Fortunately, however, the Admiralty had at the time a considerable quantity of North-country coal in stock, or some embarrassment would have been felt in supplying the wants of the service. The extent of the bituminous coal fields in comparison with the extent of the Welsh steam coal fields was as 14 to 1, and, therefore, the Admiralty were not in the least likely to suffer from a strike in the North-country districts. Besides, the owners of the Welsh coal were able to raise the price as they pleased, because 68 they enjoyed a monopoly, and the quantity of the coal was limited; and immediately on the announcement that Welsh coal was to be used in the home ports, the price of Welsh coal was raised 4s. or 5s. a-ton. The saving of £8,000 or £9,000 a-year might seem a small thing—one hardly worth the attention of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Corry); but it was an economy which he (Mr. Shaw-Lefevre) did not despise. The real question, however, was what kind of coal was the best for the service, and if it could be shown that, on foreign stations, a mixture prevented the deterioration of the Welsh coal, then it was to the interest of the country that the mixture should be used. Before he sat down he would state a few figures showing the consumption of coal during the last four years. Taking the iron-clads, he found that in 1868 the mileage under steam was 44,350, the mileage under sail 25,814, and the coals consumed 12,836 tons. In 1871 the mileage under steam was 77,800, the mileage under sail 40,600, and the coals consumed 20,863 tons. With regard to all other vessels on foreign stations, exclusive of iron-clads, the mileage under steam was 302,000 in 1871, the mileage under sail 409,000, and the coals consumed 28,100; while in 1868, the mileage under steam was 404,000, the mileage under sail was 560,000, and the coals consumed 62,400 tons, showing, on the whole, a very great saving in the use of coal. It would be observed that the economy in the consumption of coal which had taken place, had occurred wholly in vessels other than iron-clads. The consumption of coals by iron-clads had increased, but relatively to their mileage, was about the same; while in all other vessels there had been a great reduction in the consumption of coal, and their mileage under sail had greatly increased. The House would be of opinion that it was of importance that our seamen should be trained as much as possible in navigating their ships under sail, and that steam should be used as little as possible. The facts he had quoted he thought showed that officers had rightly interpreted the rules which had been laid down by his right hon. Friend, and had not sacrificed the safety of ironclads to a desire to save coal. With the other portion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech opposite relating to the 69 regulations, he would leave his right hon. Friend at the head of the Admiralty to deal with at a later portion of the evening.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, that the Returns which had been quoted by the hon. Gentleman opposite were perfectly useless.
§ MR. GOURLEY
said, it was a perfect misnomer to apply the term "smokeless" to Welsh coal, and he altogether denied that it was more economical than North-country coal. Besides, it was well known that it was difficult to raise sufficient steam with Welsh coal alone. He therefore hoped the Admiralty would not be induced by the statement of the hon. Member for Glamorganshire—although he (Mr. Gourley) admitted his great authority—to discontinue the mixture of Welsh with North-country coal.
§ MR. LANCASTER
, as representing a district which was not engaged in supplying coal to the Admiralty, said that the great difficulty, in the first place, appeared to turn on the question, whether smoke should be produced by burning bituminous, or semi-bituminous, or anthracitic coal. Although he acquiesced in the assertion that the best Welsh coal emitted very little smoke, yet, owing to the limited extent of the fields from which it was obtained, it would be very unwise on the part of the Government to rely solely on those fields for a supply. Some years ago a series of experiments were made for the purpose of ascertaining whether smoke could be consumed—on which £3,000 had been spent, and in which 60 varieties of coal had been tried—and the result arrived at was, that they could get quite as much work out of other kinds of coal as out of Welsh coal. The smoke could be entirely consumed, and there was scarcely any difference in the effects of the coal—in fact, it was altogether a question of stoking. He was therefore very glad to hear that Government were now paying more attention to that point, and raising stoking into a matter of higher importance. It had been said that the Welsh coal was easier upon the boilers; but if he understood the question at all, the very opposite was the fact, for Welsh coal was so local in its heat that it tended to injure the boilers; whereas the bituminous or semi-bituminous coal distributed its heat over them, and, consequently, had a less injurious effect. Vessels, moreover, which used 70 Welsh coal, felt the want of North-country coal, because they sometimes could not get steam enough up with Welsh coal. He therefore hoped the Admiralty would not be scared into a timid course, as they would find a proportion of hard Scotch or North-country coal better than unmixed Welsh.
§ MR. MAGNIAC
said, he thought it was the duty of every one who had any experience in this matter—where there was so much difference of opinion—to state what had been the result. Now, his experience went over a great many years, and it showed that a mixture of coal—particularly in the East—was absolutely the most economical. Those who had spoken from the opposite side had not taken into account the extraordinary deterioration which Welsh coal underwent in hot climates. The hon. Baronet (Sir James Elphinstone), who very frequently instructed the House on naval subjects, referred to a time when coal was not used in the Navy; and however valuable his experience might be with regard to sails, he could not claim the same right to intruct the House with regard to coals, for the fact was the testimony was universal that a mixture was best. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Corry), who had spoken a short time ago with a disregard of economy, said he cared nothing about economy.
I said no such thing. I said economy ought to be considered; but I said, also, that it ought not to be carried to the extent of endangering Her Majesty's ships—costing, some of them, nearly half a million of money—with the lives of those on board.
§ MR. MAGNIAC
was very sorry to differ from the right hon. Gentleman in his recollection of what he had said. He had taken down the right hon. Gentleman's words at the time, and he understood him to say what he (Mr. Magniac) had attributed to him. The right hon. Gentleman said he wanted efficiency, he wanted safety, and he did not care for economy. But if the right hon. Gentleman stated he did not say so, he (Mr. Magniac) had not the slightest objection to withdraw the remark he had imputed to him. The right hon. Gentleman had made a contrast between safety, efficiency, and economy, and he would put to him a case where he would not find safety and economy in retaining the use 71 of Welsh coal. Welsh coal here and Welsh coal in the East were two different things. In the East, Welsh coal varied very much under different conditions, and coal which had been kept a certain time was as different as possible from fresh coal. In case of war, we could not rely on the regular sailing of colliers; we must have coals kept in store at our stations; and, if the coal so kept in store were Welsh, the result would be that vessels would be steaming four or five knots an hour less than was desired. Two or three days ago a captain telegraphed from Aden asking whether he should give 60s. a-ton for coals, or accept those that were offered at 40s.; and the difference was accounted for by the fact of deterioration. It was, therefore, an utter mistake to condemn the use of mixed coal in the belief that Welsh alone would give efficiency and safety, because, under certain conditions, it would give neither. The Peninsular and Oriental Company, for instance, used 260,000 tons of coal last year; they used a large proportion of bitumen compared with semi-anthracite; they had large supplies of Australian coal, which they used for mixing with Welsh; and it was only by having bituminous coal at command that they could get contract speed out of their steamers. It was also well known that with a mixture of Welsh and North-country coal you could get up steam much quicker than with Welsh coal alone. Fresh Welsh coal might be used without North-country coal; but the more Welsh coal had deteriorated by being kept the more North-country coal was it necessary to mix with it. In the East there was an immense waste of Welsh coal in consequence; but the published accounts did not afford the means of ascertaining the quantity. A Return, moreover, as to the use of coal, showed that 68 ships had used a mixture of North-country and Welsh coal; that the result was satisfactory; that steam was generated very quickly, and little or no smoke was emitted. What could be effected in so many instances could be accomplished in more, and he hoped his right hon. Friend would persist in the course he was pursuing. The men who failed to do it should be "called over the coals." Considering the small area of the Welsh coalfield, the power which its limits placed in the hands of owners, and the unusual 72 strength of the workmen in that district, reliance upon Welsh coal might some day involve the Admiralty in difficulty. Welsh coal required different furnaces from mixed coal, and if all the ships were fitted with furnaces for Welsh coal, we might some day have to fall back upon North-country coal under very unfavourable conditions indeed. For these reasons we ought to adhere to the use of mixed coal, and he therefore thought that the instructions were wisely framed in the widest manner, and left as much as possible to the discretion of officers in command. An unsuccessful attempt had been made to connect recent naval disasters with the coal question, but it had nothing to do with them. The truth was, the Fleet was much more active than it used to be, and the disasters had increased proportionately; but activity was the only way to obtain efficiency.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
said, he had not the least wish to prolong the debate at that period of the Session; but all he and his Friends wished to do was to lay before the House the facts which had come to their knowledge, and the conclusions they had drawn from them, in order that the Admiralty might consider them during the Recess, and come to wiser conclusions than they had hitherto done. He could not clearly make out from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) how far he was going to continue the use of a mixture of Welsh coal. Certainly, he proposed to do so to some extent; but he did not say to what extent. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Corry) had said that he wished to have economy practised; but that that must not be carried out at the expense of the efficiency of the Fleet; and that was a statesmanlike expression. The hon. Gentleman opposite had taunted his right hon. Friend with saying that the use of this mixture might endanger the safety of ships, in consequence of signals not being seen through a thick smoke; but it was evident to anybody who understood the matter, that such a state of things would probably lead to great disaster. The Secretary to the Admiralty had said that they had approved of the use of the mixture, because they tad had such very strong reports as to the rapid decay of Welsh coal in hot alienates. When he and his Colleagues left office, however, in December, 1868, no 73 such reports had been received at the Admiralty, and yet on the 6th of January, 1869, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract issued the Circular, in which he said the Lords of the Admiralty had decided that the use of North-country coal should be considerably increased in the ships of the Navy; and he ordered such coal to be used on all stations, except in China and Africa, where the climate was so hot that the Welsh coal might be most expected to deteriorate. It had been asserted that the trials in the troopships were on the whole favourable to the mixed coal, but a Return which had been presented to the House distinctly contradicted the statement; and upon that subject he (Lord Henry Lennox) must complain in the strongest way of the course pursued by the Secretary to the Admiralty. He had read several private Returns which had been made to the Admiralty; and though those Returns might be perfectly accurate, it was at all events not usual for a Minister to base his case upon Papers which were not laid upon the Table of the House, and which were consequently not within the reach of hon. Members on the opposite side of the House. He thought that the hon. Gentleman would have exercised a wise discretion, and also displayed courtesy to the House, if he had inserted those Returns in the Papers which he had laid before the House.
§ MR. SHAW-LEFEVRE
explained that the Returns which he had read were finished only that day; but if the noble Lord wished to have them they would be laid on the Table of the House.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
thought they would be of little use now the Session was so near over; and he must repeat that it was extremely inconvenient to quote official Returns which were not in the possession of the House. The new system of postponing the Votes for the two great spending Departments until so very late in the Session also caused great inconvenience. The system was introduced last year, and it had never been known in the previous Parliamentary history of the country. He wished also to correct a statement of the Secretary to the Admiralty in reference to Lord Clarence Paget. He (Lord Henry Lennox) thought that the letter and pamphlet of his noble Relative, and 74 the discussion to which they had given rise, would be of immense benefit to the Navy. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Goschen) had corrected his right hon. Friend near him (Mr. Corry); and his right hon. Friend wished him to explain that when he made his statement in reference to Lord Clarence Paget he was simply alluding to the Order issued by the Admiralty through their Secretary in 1865; because he had never seen the special Order which was issued at Malta, when Lord Clarence Paget was in command of the Fleet, but which Order probably the right hon. Gentleman opposite had in his mind. A just compliment had been paid to the First Lord of the Admiralty for excluding armour-clads from the operation of the Order as to coals; but the fact was that Lord Clarence Paget had done the same thing in connection with his Order issued at Malta. He apologized for detaining the Committee, but the question as to fuel was one of vital importance; and he also had been anxious to make an explanation as to what had been said of his gallant Relative.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
reminded the noble Lord the Member for Chichester that this year more time had been spent in discussing the Navy Estimates than had been so occupied, on the average, for many years past, and he regretted to say that right hon. and hon. Members opposite never discussed the Estimates now without going back to the period between the years 1866 and 1869, and consequently much time was taken up in discussing the historical part of the question before the real business of the evening was arrived at. The right hon. Member for Tyrone charged him (Mr. Goschen) with having stated that Lord Clarence Paget had issued Orders more stringent than any now in force. But what he did state, and what he still adhered to, was that Lord Clarence Paget, in 1865 or 1866, proposed and suggested to the Admiralty more stringent regulations than those which were issued by the Admiralty themselves. Lord Clarence Paget understood the statement in that sense, as anyone who had read his pamphlet would see. The hon. Baronet and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tyrone spoke as if it was unfair to bring this charge against Lord Clarence Paget, because he was only a Secretary, 75 and in putting his name to the regulations acted only ministerially. But what he charged Lord Clarence Paget with was, that in his own capacity he had proposed more stringent regulations.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, that what he heard the right hon. Gentleman state was, that these regulations appeared under the signature of Lord Clarence Paget.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
admitted that he made that statement; but he also said that Lord Clarence Paget had proposed more stringent regulations. The fact was, Lord Clarence Paget called the attention of the Admiralty to the consumption of coals, and in his own capacity proposed regulations more stringent than those which were issued. Lord Clarence Paget said himself—When preparing the Order, I suggested to the Admiralty that a more definite result would be obtained if there could be a sub-division of the usual sailing Orders, classifying the services upon which it was intended to send any of Her Majesty's ships.The regulations which he suggested were these—that in ordinary services the voyages should be performed under sail alone; for prompt service they might go under steam to a certain extent, but that the full consumption of coal should be allowed for urgent service only. [Sir JOHN HAY: Nothing about armour-clads?] There was nothing about armour-clads, and only six iron-clads had been added to the Navy since that time.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, that Lord Clarence Paget did not deny that he proposed more stringent Orders; but he issued Station Orders which were an embodiment of his propositions to the Admiralty; and he said in his explanations that the ordinary service had reference only to full-rigged unarmoured ships.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, it was quite true that Lord Clarence Paget issued Station Orders; but the officers to whom the regulations were issued had no reason to think that they were to apply only to full-rigged unarmoured ships. It might be true that Lord Clarence Paget might have explained to his officers, or might have had it in his own mind, that the regulations were to apply to iron-clads alone, but that did not appear.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, the custom of the Commander-in-Chief of a station 76 was to send a copy of the Order to the particular ships only by which it was to be obeyed; and, as he understood, Lord Clarence Paget addressed a copy of the regulations only to those ships.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, the hon. Baronet was very ingenious in explaining things away; but what he maintained was that those Station Orders of December, 1866, were more stringent than the regulations issued by his right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract. There was one point more upon which he felt very strongly, and which he repudiated with indignation. It was made a charge against the Admiralty—which in this case must mean himself—that in order to screen their doings the Admiralty sacrificed the reputation of their officers; and that was what Lord Clarence Paget practically affirmed in his letter. [Sir JAMES ELPHINSTONE: Hear, hear!] That he should have sacrificed the reputation of officers was a charge which affected his personal honour, and one which, if he was capable of doing, would render him unworthy to fill the office he held. If the hon. Baronet thought him capable of acting in that way, he would only say he did not think the hon. Baronet was capable of so acting, and he was surprised that the hon. Baronet should think that any hon. Member of that House could have acted so. The point was, whether it was right or wrong that the officers in question should have been tried by their peers. He believed there was not a single officer implicated who would himself take advantage of the point which had been raised.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
Trial by peers in the Navy means trial by Court-martial; and was not an officer who had been acquitted by Court-martial dismissed by the Admiralty?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that the officer in question had been flag-captain to the Admiral, and ceased to be so when the Admiral hauled down his flag, and under the circumstances that was quite proper. With regard to Admiral Wellesley, the proceedings of the Admiralty in his case commended themselves, he believed, to the service as just; and Admiral Wellesley would be the last man himself to throw the blame on the Admiralty regulations. The Admiral gave orders to 77 have steam, in reserve for six knots, but the ships were only going at the rate of three knots when the accident happened. If the accident had resulted from a want of steam, such a cause would have been brought before the Court-martial; but it was not the view of the officers at the Court-martial that such had been the case. Nothing could be more painful to him than to think that any hon. Member of the House could suppose that he would sacrifice the reputation and future of officers for the sake of a saving of coals. With respect to the question of the use of mixed coal, he admitted that the Welsh coal was more suitable for European waters than any other, but the Government were reluctant to place themselves exclusively in the hands of the constituents of the hon. Member for Glamorganshire. The Admiralty had come to the conclusion to use Welsh coal only in the Channel Squadron, to use Welsh coal mainly in the Mediterranean Squadron, and to use a portion of mixed coal on foreign stations. But it would be very unwise for the Admiralty to limit themselves to a particular kind of coal on all occasions, and they had given directions that inquiries should be made as to the supply of coal that might be obtained at foreign stations, in order that they might not be driven to the necessity of relying upon a supply of one sort of coal.
thought there was nothing whatever in the statement of the right hon. Gentleman to show that he was justified in throwing on Lord Clarence Paget any responsibility for the more stringent regulations as to the use of coal; but as the question had been argued at length, he did not think it would be advantageous to discuss it any further. He wished to call the most serious attention to a question that concerned the safety of Her Majesty's ships in no less a degree that the Orders respecting the use of coal. He alluded to a branch of the policy introduced by his right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract, which he and others on the Opposition benches had protested against in the strongest manner—namely, the practice of re-commissioning Her Majesty's ships on foreign stations, instead of ordering them home to be refitted and repaired before being re-commissioned. The consequence was, that they were frequently kept on service without 78 a sufficient overhaul for a much longer period than was consistent with safety, and he doubted whether even in point of economy anything had been gained by this innovation, as instances had occurred in which ships had proved so defective that it was necessary to send them home immediately after having been re-commissioned, and after the expense had been incurred of sending out the new ships' companies in line-of-battle and other ships brought forward expressly for the purpose. A short time ago an officer who had recently returned from the East Indies told him of the case of the Dryad—a sloop of war of the largest class. She was re-commissioned in the East Indies. The new crew was sent out in the frigate Glasgow, and the old returned in the Forte viâ the Cape. But immediately after having been re-commissioned, she was found to be so defective that the was ordered home to be paid off, and she actually arrived in England, viâ the Suez Canal, with her new crew, before the arrival of the old crew which returned by the Cape. A similar instance occurred in the case of the Vestal, which it had been found necessary to send home and pay off, immediately after a new ship's company had been sent out to her in the West Indies. Numerous other instances had occurred of ships having been found in a defective state after having been re-commissioned abroad. But he wished to direct especial attention to the case of the Ocean, a largo wooden iron-clad which had recently returned from the China station. She was commissioned in 1866, when she went to the Mediterranean, but he (Mr. Corry) had ordered her to China in the following year—as circumstances had made it necessary to reinforce our squadron there with an ironclad. In the Estimates for 1870 she stood in the programme in the list of vessels for whose repair provision had been made; but instead of having been ordered home for that purpose, as she undoubtedly ought to have been, she was re-commissioned, and new officers and men sent out to her in a line-of-battle ship, and it was intended that the new commission should run till 1873. What was the result of this new economical practice? She had been found to be in so defective a state that it was necesary to order her home at the end of last year. The most sinister rumours 79 were spread concerning her before she left China, and she came home in a state something like that in which the Megœra went out—leaking 16 inches every 12 hours, which made it necessary to pump her out twice a-day. She was sheathed with Muntz's metal, which would not last above four years, and was found quite rotten by the divers when they went down to clean her bottom; yet she was kept out six years without the possibility of docking her, as there was no dock in China deep enough to take her in. On her arrival at the Cape it was necessary to detain her there three weeks to repair the tubes of her boilers—the ends of which had been quite burnt away. He happened to be at Portsmouth at the time when her arrival at the Cape was reported, and officers spoke as if it was quite a relief to them to hear that she had performed the worst part of the passage in safety, and the Admiral on the station mistrusted her so much that he would not undertake the responsibility of sending her home by the direct course—from Java Head, south of the Mauritius, to the Cape; but ordered her round by Galle and the Mozambique Channel for the sake of a smoother passage. That was the condition which a flag-ship returned from a distant station—not in consequence of any accident, but entirely owing to the economical innovation of requiring ships to serve a second commission without the necessary repairs. There was another flag-ship—the Zealous, in the Pacific—whose condition had excited alarm among those having friends on board; she, like the Ocean, had been re-commissioned abroad, and the First Lord had himself admitted that she was not in a very satisfactory state, as, in answer to a question which was put to him some time ago, he stated, as a reason why no apprehension need be felt respecting her, that her departure from the Pacific would be so timed that she would arrive before the winter gales. The moral results of the system were hardly less objectionable, for it destroyed the esprit de corps of the officers, and the pride which they ought to feel in their ship. Formerly they prided themselves on bringing their ships home in the highest order, and the favourable reports of Commanders-in-Chief, on their ships being paid off, was looked to by Commanders and First Lieutenants as a 80 stepping-stone to promotion. Now, it was their successors, on their ships being re-commissioned, who profited by their exertions, and this could not fail to have a discouraging effect on the service. He hoped, therefore, on every ground, that the right hon. Gentleman would abandon the system. He would now shortly advert to some matters of detail, but at that late hour he would abstain from noticing anything which was not of essential moment. The safety of our ships depended materially on the condition of their ropes, boilers, and chain cables, and, according to his information, it was at present far from satisfactory. He understood that the Admiralty had been receiving very unfavourable reports as to rope. The spinning of the yarn by machinery had been generally adopted at Chatham for some years, and two years ago arrangements were made for spinning all yarn at Devonport by machinery. Now, hand-spun yarn was certainly the strongest, and he would read a short extract from a letter which an officer of long experience had written to him on the subject—Hemp, which was formerly dressed by hatchelling, is now dressed by machinery which beats and weakens the fibre. Again, in spinning yarn, on coming to a fault, the machinery drives the hemp through when the hand of the spinner used to ease it off.This evil was increased by the recent adoption of the practice of spinning by task and job, which gave the spinners an interest in the quantity only of yarn they could produce, and was a temptation to scamp the work. Another cause was, that the supply of hemp and the store of yarn had been allowed to fall so low that they had been obliged to make the rope of yarn which had only just been spun, whereas nothing was better known than that, in order to obtain thoroughly good rope, the yarn ought to be allowed to remain 18 months or two years, and the rope 12 months, before being used. There was no point more strongly urged by master-attendants and ropemakers than the importance of the yarn being well seasoned before being laid into rope, which was essential to durability and economy. An officer of great experience had expressed himself to him very strongly on this matter.
§ MR. SHAW-LEFEVRE
asked the the right hon. Gentleman whether he would give the name of the officer, and 81 whether he had reported it to the Admiralty?
said, that he thought it better not to give the name. He did not know whether he had reported to the Admiralty; but he had reason to believe that numerous representations to the same effect had been sent in.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that he did not at all complain of the right hon. Gentleman for quoting the officers who had communicated with him, but only that they had made no complaints to the Admiralty, who would have been glad to order inquiry into the matter.
asked whether the right hon. Gentleman would assert that no report of the badness of the rope had been received from the commanders of Squadrons, or the Superintendents of Dockyards? Unless he was much mistaken, a gallant officer, who was to be found not far from the Admiralty, and who had recently returned from service, had reported that during all his experience he had never known the rope supplied to the Royal Navy to be so bad as it was at present. Other reports of a similar character had, he was informed, been received.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that complaints had been received from only one such officer; whereas the right hon. Gentleman appeared to have a perfect accumulation of them, and he should have been glad to know the source from which they came.
reminded the right hon. Gentleman that he had himself given Notice of a Motion for a Return of the complaints addressed to the Admiralty, and that the right hon. Gentleman refused it. It was not his fault, therefore, if the Committee was not in possession of full information on the subject. He was now obliged to prove his case from private information; but these things were well known in the service. With respect to the rope now made, he had been informed that when tried new it stood the test; but that it was so rough and uneven that its wearing property was reduced some 60 per cent; but even in the case of new rope, he knew of an instance in which, when tested against some old condemned rope, the difference between them had been found almost infinitesimal. Apparent economy in avoiding outlay for stock, and in the manufacture of rope, had proved, as in many other 82 instances, to be real waste. With regard to chain cables, upon which the safety of a ship so materially depended, he had always been of the opinion that it was better to pay twice, or even ten times, the market price, if necessary, in order to secure the very best article possible. A single defect—a single imperfect link—and the ship might be lost. In former days the Admiralty anchors and chain cables were notoriously most superior to those sold in the market, as was proved by the fact that in the well-known hurricane off Balaclava, when every merchant vessel, he believed, went ashore, not a single one of Her Majesty's vessels was driven from her moorings. But he was informed that the cables now made under contract were frequently of a very inferior character—that nearly all the deliveries had been partially rejected—and even that the iron used in their construction was often not the proper iron for cables. He trusted that no false economy would be allowed to impair the safety of the Navy in that vital respect. With regard to the boilers of the Navy, he believed that they were in a very different condition from what they used to be. It was of the greatest importance that our ships should have their boilers in good condition; but he could name ship after ship in which the pressure on the boilers had been reduced from 25 to 18 or 15, or even 12lb. per inch. He had also been informed that no adequate measures had been taken to provide new boilers in the place of those that were worn or were wearing out. A flag officer, thoroughly conversant with the condition of the Navy, had stated in a letter to him, that he expected to see a crisis in the boilers of the Fleet before the expiration of a year or thereabouts. If that were so, he need hardly say that a very heavy Estimate under that head might be expected next year. Seeing how much had been said about the economical management of the Navy, he might just observe before sitting down that he had been informed that between 3,000 and 4,000 tons of the best dockyard copper—a most valuable description, as everyone knew—had been sold some time ago for about £70 per ton, whereas its value in the market was now, he believed, £110 per ton, thereby entailing upon the nation a loss of upwards of £120,000.
§ MR. SHAW-LEFEVRE
said, with regard to the article of copper, that no such sales as mentioned had taken place within the last three years.
thought that if the hon. Gentleman made inquiries he would find that he (Mr. Corry) was right. He could only further express the hope that the earnest attention of the First Lord would be directed to the three subjects—the rope, the boilers, and the cables and anchors—to which he had directed his observations.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, there could be no doubt that the great object of the Admiralty, both past and present, had been to economise fuel as much as possible. With that view, he would call their attention to the invention of a Mr. Prideaux, C. E., an ingenious gentleman in the City, by which, as was alleged, an economy of 10 per cent in the amount of fuel would be attained, smoke would be entirely done away with, and the temperature of the stoke-hole lowered to within four or five degrees of that of the after-cabins of a man-of-war. It had been tried by Captain Denman, and also by the commander of the Argus, with the greatest possible success; and no later than a fortnight since it was tested in the presence of three or four hon. Members of that House—one being the hon. Member for Hastings, another the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock, and the third the hon. Member for Northumberland; and he had been authorized by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock to state that anything more perfect or satisfactory he could not imagine than the apparatus in question. The smoke was effectually shut off in a moment and the temperature effectually lowered. For 15 years, Mr. Prideaux, the inventor, had appealed to the Government to give him fair play; and although it was true that there had been an objection to the invention formerly on the ground that the furnace-doors were too costly, the arrangements since then had been greatly improved, and the former price reduced to nearly one-third. He asked the Admiralty to deal fairly and liberally with improvements or inventions, and not to allow themselves to be prejudiced by old reports.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, he had a Notice on the Paper to reduce the Vote for Naval Stores by £150,000, being about 84 the amount of the increase of the Vote of 1870–71. He had no doubt that if the Government went into the market now they would have to pay a higher price for the articles required; but if they deferred purchasing for a few months they would be able to purchase at a considerable reduction. There was about the same amount of stores in stock in March last that there was in the March previous; and as there was no necessity for pushing on the building of iron and wooden vessels the Government might very well wait until they could purchase cheaper before going into the market, and therefore it was that he proposed the reduction of the Vote.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £778,510, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expense of Naval Stores for building, repairing, and outfitting the Fleet and Coast Guard, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1873."—(Mr. Rylands.)
§ MR. SHAW-LEFEVRE
said, that the Votes for the Dockyards and for Stores depended upon each other, and therefore they could not reduce the one without reducing the other. Moreover, on a former occasion the Motion of the hon. Gentleman for the reduction of the Dockyard Vote found not a single supporter, and was ultimately withdrawn. The House therefore being committed to the year's programme of shipbuilding, how could it now refuse to vote the stores necessary? Instead of requiring less money than usual this year, in the face of the high prices, he must tell hon. Members that the amount of the Vote would certainly be exceeded. Since the Estimates had been prepared, the prices of coal, iron, timber, copper—in fact, of almost every article, had increased with unparalleled rapidity. The Estimates for this Vote were framed in December last, when iron bars were £9 10s. a-ton; in April they had risen to £12 5s.; in June, to £14; and now they ranged from £15 to £17. Last year, copper was £86 a-ton; in April, it was £98; and now it was from £109 to £116. Coal also had very nearly doubled in price. In December, Welsh coal was 19s. delivered at Portsmouth; in June, it was 24s.; and now it was 29s. and 30s. This rise in prices had set aside all calculation, and had rendered it impossible to make any estimate, and under the circumstances it was impossible to assent to the reduction 85 of the Vote. In fact, only a few weeks ago he was in consultation with his Colleague as to the expediency of preparing a Supplementary Estimate to meet the enhanced prices. Looking, however, to the very great uncertainty of prices—to the impossibility of saying what they might reach in the course of the autumn, it was thought better to postpone any such application till the beginning of next Session; but if present prices continued, it was certain there must be a large excess of expenditure over the amount he now asked for. The main increase of the Vote, as compared with last year, was due to timber. We had been drawing on our stock of timber for some years, and the time had now come when the stock was so far reduced that it was necessary to purchase in proportion to the average expenditure. One word as to what had teen said by the hon. Member for Cork. The furnace which had been alluded to was a very ingenious, but complicated and costly invention. It was, therefore, concluded at that time that it was not desirable to adopt the invention. He understood that its cost was now reduced; but whether it was possible to adopt it now he could not say, but would institute inquiries with a view to settle the point. Passing over the historical matters in the speech of the right hon. Member opposite (Mr. Corry), he would admit that there were complaints a short time ago about the chain cables that were being supplied under contract. The contract was put an end to, and fresh tenders invited. He might add that the contractor who had failed to perform his contract was the selection of the right hon. Gentleman. The Admiralty test was so perfect that it was believed no bad cables had been received. There were no general complaints about rope; but during the last few months there had been two complaints. One came from the Cape, in respect of rope manufactured in 1861, so that it was difficult to ascertain what was the cause of the defect. The other came from the Flying Squadron, and it was believed the rope was made of yarn which was not sufficiently seasoned. At Devonport, the manufacture of yarn had not kept pace with that of rope, and in a few weeks fresh machinery would be set up to increase the manufacture of yarn, so that 18 months' supply might be kept in store. 86 In reply to what the right hon. Gentleman said about boilers, he might state that the Minotaur went out of the dockyard after repairs, and, when the pressure had been somewhat reduced, she performed the measured mile at the rate of 11 knots with ease, which was not a bad performance. Fresh boilers were being made for her; and having consulted the engineer, he could say that the supply of boilers in stock and in course of manufacture was sufficient. It was not desirable to keep too many boilers in stock, because they deteriorated; but it could not be said the question had been neglected when it was considered, that the Vote for making boilers by contract was £93,000 last year and £20,000 this.
asked whether the Admiralty intended to re-commission ships on foreign stations? That was the most serious question of all.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he did not understand that there was once a rule never to re-commission ships, and that there had since been a practice always to re-commission ships. For instance, he believed it had always been held that gunboats might with advantage be re-commissioned on foreign stations. As to what would be done in future, a great deal must depend upon the ships themselves, and the reports of engineers as to their condition and that of their boilers. A ship never was re-commissioned until she had been fully reported upon; and such reports would be made more searching than before, for the reports of engineers had, in some instances, been found to be very incorrect. It was not likely that an iron-clad would again remain six years on a station. It would be premature now to say what would be done three years hence; it was more probable that the right hon. Gentleman himself would have to consider whether he would re-commission the ships which had lately gone out; but he (Mr. Goschen) did not think any large ironclad would remain out six years.
§ MR. CANDLISH
said, that for once there was a proposal to reduce expenditure for which he could not vote. If the Motion for a reduction were agreed to, the expenditure would be greater in the future on account of the increased price at which the material would be purchased. He thought, however, that nothing should be pressed forward but 87 work that was urgent; for it was probable that before long they would have the ebb of the tide as to prices of which they were now having the flow. He therefore trusted the Motion would be withdrawn.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £459,116, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expense of Steam Machinery and Ships building by Contract, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1873.
called the attention of the Committee to the experiments recently made against the turret of the Glatton. Most exhaustive and conclusive experiments had been carried on at Shoeburyness, with the view of testing the best form and shape to give iron for the purpose of defence; and a most satisfactory result had been obtained from the experiments. The simple point was this—that the whole object of the experiments was to ascertain whether the revolving gear would or would not resist the impact of the shot, and upon that point the trial afforded no conclusive evidence, for the reason that the turret had been struck in a line with the axle, and that therefore the revolving gear could not be affected. All the artillery and engineer officers with whom he had conversed were agreed in the opinion that the trial ought to have been carried further, in order to test thoroughly the protection afforded by the glacis to the turret! and he certainly regretted that, in order perhaps to allow hon. Gentlemen to catch the train to London, another shot was not directed against the Glatton. He earnestly hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would take another opportunity of firing a few more shots at the Glatton, so that the vexed question to which he had referred might be satisfactorily set at rest.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that in accordance with the arrangement already announced, he must now move to report Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Goschen.)88
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
protested against the Motion being now made, seeing that the Committee were ready and anxious to go on with the Votes.
§ MR. RYLANDS
remarked upon the large number of Votes that still had to be taken in Supply, and said, if Progress were reported it would be impossible to guess when Supply would be taken again; certainly it would be upon some very inconvenient occasion, when hon. Gentlemen would not be able adequately to discuss them. Since Monday had been given to the Government entirely for Supply, it would be most unwise to report Progress as early as half-past 10. They had better go on and get through the Army and Navy Estimates that night.
§ MR. SAMUDA
was also of the opinion that it would be better to go on with the Votes. He thought the point raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman as to the experiments on the Glatton need not detain them long. For his own part, the trial had perfectly satisfied him. No one supposed that the revolving gear of the turret was absolutely, and under all circumstances, beyond the danger of being deranged by a shot; but the experiments had proved the immense resisting power of the protection; and in the event of the gear being deranged, arrangements were always, he believed, made for revolving the gun by means of hand power.
said, it was the usual practice of the House to allow the Government, on a Government night, to arrange as to the time to be devoted to different subjects. Moreover, in the present case, the Government had absolutely bound themselves to a number of hon. Gentlemen that other Business should be taken at the hour they had reached, and he therefore hoped the House would not waste what remained of that evening.
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
thought the time at the disposal of the Government ought first to be given to the consideration of the Votes in Supply, which the House, according to the Constitution, had a right to discuss at a period of the Session when they could assemble in full numbers. He had never known Supply put off till so late a period in order to enable the Government to proceed with measures dictated by their 89 own political exigencies. He had a Motion on the Paper relating to the Civil Service Estimates which he should never he able to bring on, because the Prime Minister gave the precedence to measures which might give him a little popularity, such as a miserable shred or patch of a Public Health Bill or a Licensing Bill. The right hon. Gentleman was in favour of personal government by himself; but he was beginning to find out that he could not command hon. Members even on his own side of the House. It was one of the happiest moments of his (Mr. C. Bentinck's)life when the hon. Member for Warrington, about a fortnight ago, asked him to help him to stand up for the independence of the House of Commons; and he gladly accepted that hon. Member as a convert to the great constitutional cause. He was therefore delighted on the present occasion to hold out to that hon. Member the hand of a political brother, and to support his protest against now reporting Progress. The Prime Minister had called upon them on Friday in a most un-Parliamentary manner to sit on Saturday. He himself challenged that proceeding, but the Speaker decided that the Sitting was rightly called, although there was no precedent for it. ["Question!"] Hon. Members below the gangway who cried "Question" pretended to be independent Members.
§ MR. A. JOHNSTON
I rise to Order. I wish to know whether it is Parliamentary to say that hon. Gentlemen pretend to be independent?
The hon. Member for Whitehaven will see that the word conveys an imputation which may be offensive to hon. Members.
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
would, then, substitute "professed to be independent Members." He maintained that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had done more than anyone in that House to abrogate the rights of private Members. If any Saturday Sittings were called, they ought to be devoted to the consideration of the Estimates, and Progress ought not now to be reported without a distinct assurance from the Government that Supply would be resumed at the earliest possible opportunity.
§ MR. GOLDNEY
thought at that period of the year they ought to accept the Government as the best judges in that 90 matter, and unless something was done it would be quite impossible ever to close the Session. They had been for seven hours engaged on one topic without having agreed to a single Vote; and the other Business of the House might fairly be gone on with now.
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
said, his hon. Friend the Member for Chip-penham had not been in Parliament in the time of Lord Palmerston, and that if he had been, he would have known that that noble Lord consulted Parliamentary precedent and would never have brought on Votes in Supply at this period of the Session.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
thought the course pursued that evening was not such as was calculated to bring the Business of the Session to a speedy termination. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty had taunted them with occupying so much time in discussing the Navy Estimates this year; but it must be remembered that the system at the Admiralty had been reorganized, and that questions of great national importance had required consideration. He protested against the progress of those Estimates being interrupted as proposed, when they might be concluded that evening, and contended that it was impossible they could be satisfactorily discussed by the daily waning Members of the House.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow, at Two of the clock;
§ Committee to sit again To-morrow, at Two of the clock.