§ Supply considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ (1.) £1, 035,719,Victuals and Clothing.
§ (2.) £174,983, Admiralty Office.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
complained of the great increase of the Vote as compared with previous years. He would remark that were the £14,000 saved by the abolition of the Coastguard Office added, the Vote would be nearly the same as in 1867–8, an amount denounced as grossly extravagant when the present Govern- 104 ment came into office. After reducing the sum in 1870–71 to £159,368, the Government had restored it to its former dimensions. He thought some explanation of the increase ought to be given.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, he had ascertained the reasons for the increase which had occurred since 1870–71, to the present year. The Vote in 1868–9 was £182,000, but that did not include the Coastguard Office, which was £6,300, which would have made it upwards of £188,000. There had been a total increase of £21,000, of which amount the progressive increase of salaries accounted for £11,000, and the rents of houses, which were really additional buildings at the Admiralty, and ought therefore to be deducted, having been substituted for Somerset House, for £3,000. Then the increased price of coal represented about £500, the increased charge of the Controller's Department was £3,800, and the Vote included £1,400 for the temporary employment of paymasters. Against that there had been a reduction of from £6,000 to £7,000. Not less than 26 clerks, with salaries amounting to £6,000 or £7,000 a-year, had been reduced, and 25 writers introduced, at a total cost of £1,900 a-year. Making a net comparison between the year 1868–9 and the present year, there was a real reduction of about £14,000 in the Vote, which reduction would have been still greater had it not been for circumstances over which the Admiralty had no control.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, that the hon. Gentleman had taken for his comparison the year 1868–9. The Estimates accepted by the incoming Administration from their predecessors were for 1869–70, and the charge for 1869–70, omitting the Coastguard, was £168,000; but in the present year it was nearly £6,000 more than that. The Estimates prepared by his right hon. Friend the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry), in the year 1868–9, the time of the Abyssinian War, were not those on which he had based his comparison. Those Estimates did not bear a fair comparison with other years, and it was the Estimates of 1867–8 that he (Sir John Hay) had referred to.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, they had been informed the other night that the substitution of writers for clerks had been carried too far, and it was now found necessary to turn many writers back into 105 the position of clerks again. If such was the case, the money saved by the reduction of clerks at present would come back again into the Estimates.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
believed that if a comparison were fairly made, it would be found that the Pension Vote had not increased through the reorganization of the Department; for the fact was, hardly any officer during the last two or three years had been pensioned at the Admiralty. The hon. and gallant Member should recollect that the Dockyards were included in this increase, a fact which would account for, as he (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) believed the greater part of it. The question of the employment of writers at the Admiralty had been now determined by the Treasury. It was true that they were to be placed upon the establishment; but it would be at the salaries they were now receiving —namely, commencing at.£80 and rising to £160 a-year.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, it would be convenient if the hon. Gentleman would lay upon the Table such a discriminating Return as would render those charges intelligible to all—showing what the amount was that was fairly chargeable to the Admiralty and what to the Dockyards.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
saw no objection to the production of such a Return, showing the increase since 1870.
§ MR. BOWRING
complained of the Estimates not being framed in a way to enable a comparison to be made between the present and preceding years. He wished to know the number of permanent clerks and. writers employed that year.
§ COLONEL STUART KNOX
thought that the statement of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Admiralty would occasion much anxiety amongst the clerks, who were already suffering very much from the reductions that had taken place, as it appeared now that they would have to serve for a longer time and at a smaller pay than hitherto.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, the prospect had been held out to them of a reduction of the permanent expenditure of the Department; but there was a considerable increase of the pension Vote, while it required all the ingenuity of his hon. Friend (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) to show that there bad been any diminution of the permanent expenditure at all. They had been told that writers were to be 106 employed who were not to be on the establishment, who were to have no increase of salary and no pension; but it appeared, after all, they were to have a subordinate class of clerks, with increasing salaries, and. who would have a right to pension. Not only that, but by-and-by it would be said, that it was a great injustice to limit those writers to £160 a-year, inasmuch as they performed the same duties as the other clerks who were placed upon the higher scale of salaries.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he differed from the opinion of his hon. Friend the Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands), and. thought that the explanation of his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty was clear and ingenuous. The fact was that several items showed an increase of expenditure, which was not real but only apparent; for instance, his hon. Friend had stated that there was £3,000 more paid for the rent of offices now than heretofore, because the Admiralty had given up Somerset House for other purposes. There had been no real increase with regard to the paymasters, and. the item of £11,000 increase by guaranteed increase of salary extended over three years. That item was more than accounted for, if they took into consideration the three years from 1869–70. There had been no new class of officials created apart from naval appointments, and higher pay was given only in the case of scientific men employed in the Controller's department.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, that what he complained of was, that the pension list had been increased to the extent of £48,000 a-year, in consequence of the mistake made by the Government in discharging gentlemen who received the maximum amount of salary, and were able to perform their duties, in order that others might be promoted to perform their duties. The fact was, the pension list had been unnecessarily increased by men who were willing and. able to do their work.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that the Admiralty attached the greatest importance to keeping up a separate class of officers for navigating Her Majesty's ships, but were not prepared to adopt any plan by which officers should be taken at random 107 from the executive staff for that purpose. They proposed, however, to make the experiment of offering to a limited number of the executive officers of the Navy a certain increase of pay and position as inducements to undertake navigating duties.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman had wisely determined not to abolish the class of navigating officers. He wished to ask, whether it was the intention of the Admiralty to restore the rank of major in the Royal Marines? In answer to a Question he (Sir John Hay) had put to him on the subject that Session, the right hon. Gentleman gave the House to understand that he bad some hopes of giving the Marine light infantry, as well as the Marine artillery, the benefit of the creation of that rank. The other two branches of the Service, the Royal Artillery and the Royal Engineers, which had always been looked upon as being in the same category with the Royal Marines, had the rank of major given to them, and it was unfair that the senior captains of the latter should not be placed on the same footing as their brethren in the former corps, whom they were constantly serving. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the rank of brevet-major, but that would not meet the case.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
was afraid he could not give an entirely satisfactory answer on the subject, inasmuch as there were great difficulties between the War Office and the Admiralty in dealing with it. As to the rank of brevet-major, however, he hoped to be able to make, in a short time, an announcement which would be favourably received by the Royal Marines.
§ In reply to Lord HENRY LENNOX,
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, it was true that communications had passed between the Treasury and the Admiralty relative to the duties performed by the Permanent Secretary of the latter, and with regard to the appointment of a legal gentleman. The performance of their duties by the various secretaries at the Admiralty worked very well, and if Mr. Lushington retired, he would retire on the pension promised by the late Government on his accepting the office.
§ MR. KINNAIRD
was gratified to hear that the rank of major was to be restored to the Royal Marines.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, he could not understand why the Marines had been treated differently from any other branch of the service, unless it were on account of some one of those petty economies of which the Government were so fond. The Marines were one of the most distinguished corps of the service, and they had carried the reputation of England all over the world. The First Lord of the Admiralty promised, on a late occasion, that an opportunity should be given for discussing the naval policy of the Government; but he (Sir James Elphinstone) thought at the time that the right hon. Gentleman was making a promise which he would not be able to perform. It was his intention, therefore, to take the present opportunity of discussing the question of the administration of the Admiralty and naval affairs generally; and if that course should be deemed irregular, he should avail himself of the forms of the House and put himself in Order, by concluding with a Motion for the Adjournment of the Debate. In what position, he wanted to know, did the Board of Admiralty stand after the many changes that had taken place. There had been a dictator at the head of the Admiralty, whose rule had come prematurely to grief, and since his time alterations of various kinds had been made in the Admiralty system. He would therefore like to know what was the real position of the First Lord. The Sea Lords, instead of being employed in considering and discussing the policy of the Navy, were employed all day in signing documents of the contents of which they knew nothing. That was evident, from the fact that Sir Maurice Berkeley, in Ids evidence before a Committee of that House, had stated that he had been told to put his initials here, or three ticks there, to Papers of the contents of which he was perfectly ignorant. What was the position of the Navy at the present moment? They had only some eight or nine frigates fit to go to sea, and yet they had undertaken the suppression of the slave trade on the Coasts of Africa and in the South Pacific. Why, he believed they had not got cruizing ships enough to enable them, in case of emergency, to protect the commerce of the country. 109 Forty-five per cent of the corn consumed in this country was brought from abroad; and if, by any combination in Europe, their grain ships were stopped for one month, the country would be in a state of panic. That showed the urgent necessity of maintaining such a Navy as would enable them to cope with their enemies in any part of the world. They had not got that Navy. They had already built quite sufficient ships for coast defence, and what was required was, that a large addition should be made to the cruizing sloops and paddlewheel steam frigates and other seagoing ships of the Navy. The country was in no danger of invasion, and never would be if they were perfectly armed in that respect. They had discussed that monster, the Devastation, which had been a most costly experiment, and so far as was known, she had already ended in failure. She was not a seaworthy or sea-going ship, and any man who signed an order to send her across the Atlantic would be liable to a charge of manslaughter. If they forced her against a head-sea at seven knots an hour she would be swamped, an opinion in which Lord Lauderdale, who was as good a sailor as any man, concurred. And she was unfit for coast defence from drawing too much water. The present Government had come into office with flying colours on the promise of making great reductions in their expenditure; but the Estimates had increased year by year, since they had come into office, notwithstanding they had carried out some petty economies at the cost of some miserable clerks, who had been turned out wholesale. There had been a great many pettifogging reductions, but there had been a yearly increase in the Establishment charges. The pension list had been increased and the best men had been driven into the service of foreign countries. Their dockyards had been stripped and denuded of stores that ought to have been kept for the use of the country, and which in ease of war would have to be replaced at a most enormous cost. There had been an auctioneer in a pulpit going over their dockyards knocking clown articles at a ruinous sacrifice. Their stock of timber, which was greater than that of any country in the world, when the present Government came into office, had been sold, and they had again to compete for the article in 110 the open market. Blocks and dead-eyes had been sold for almost nothing—capstans worth £80 and £90 each had been sold for £7 and £7 10s. each, and some blocks of the old Royal George, that had been dredged up because they had three brass sheaves in them, had been brought under the auctioneer's hammer, so determined were the present Government to get rid of everything. The rope was now made by machinery instead of by hand, and was of inferior quality in consequence. The coal allowed was insufficient for ships to make headway against wind and tide; and. Lord Clarence Paget had attributed the accident which happened to the Agincourt to the parsimonious allowance of coal to the Navy. Under the direction of the Duke of Somerset, experiments had been entered into with the view of ascertaining, in the first place, how smoke on board our ships might be consumed, and, secondly, whether shale and rock oils might not be utilized in place of coal for the production of steam. To save an expenditure of £8,000 a-year these experiments were abandoned. As the price of coal had now decreased so much he strongly advised the Government to consider the matter. If experiments should be made with a view to disarm these oils of their explosive character, it was for the Government to undertake them, and he believed they might be carried to a practical to-suit. The stores which the Admiralty now had at command were so limited, and that more especially with regard to masts and yards, that he feared they would not be sufficient to equip a fleet in case of emergency. With regard to anchors and chain-cables some time ago he obtained a Committee on the subject, and a Bill was introduced for testing chain-cables; but its provisions were so altered that the chain-makers were allowed to test their own cables, and make out their own certificates as to the result of the testing. On the 1st of January the Government put an end to that abuse, the only good thing they had done, and now there was a proper test applied. There was not a single iron-clad in their Navy that had a chain sufficiently strong to hold her; and he objected to the removal of the swivels out of the chains. By doing that, they had run the risk of losing several of those valuable vessels, and the danger of the course adopted was shown in a recent collision which 111 occurred between two vessels at Madeira from a cable parting. The size of the chain was 2½ inches only; but it ought to be at least 2¾ inches to hold one of these ships. In the collision referred to, the Northumberland's cable parted; another anchor was let down, but as it would not bite, the Northumberland came foul of the Bellerophon. As to anchors, he should like to know why the Admiralty provided their ships of war with anchors that would not bite, and why they had given the go-by to an anchor —Trotman's—now generally used in the merchant service, and pronounced better than any other. In a cyclone at Bengal, every ship not provided with Trotman's anchor broke adrift; two vessels that broke adrift were brought up with it, and no fewer than 18 ships held on with it. Yet, in the face of the fact, that it was used in all the vessels of the Peninsular and Oriental Company, the Admiralty had systematically set their face against that anchor. He suggested that the Admiralty should build no more Monitors. What they wanted was a large addition to the number of their sea-going iron-clads, as well as their crusing sloops. He also suggested that a class of vessels, which had been allowed to fall into desuetude should be brought into requisition—namely, paddle-wheel frigates. It was absolutely necessary, during an engagement, that a certain number of vessels should be in attendance to tow ships in or out of action, and paddlewheel frigates were the best adapted for that purpose, especially in such waters as the Persian Gulf. Whatever the Admiralty might do, by all means let them abandon the practice of building expensive toys, which set the whole scientific world lecturing and talking nonsense.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that without wishing to be disrespectful either to the Committee, or to the hon. Baronet who had just sat down, he declined to reply to many of the historical points raised by the hon. Baronet's speech, inasmuch as they only related to allegations which had been made over and over again, and which had been met with repeated denials from the Admiralty. What progress could be made if such topics were reverted to? The hon. Baronet, in the first instance, addressed himself to the question of the Marines, and said that some petty economy had prevented the rank of major being established for the 112 Marines. On behalf of the Admiralty, he emphatically denied that they were actuated by such a feeling in the matter, and he assured the Committee, that the question with the Admiralty was simply one of relative rank. [Sir JAMES ELPHINSTONE observed that the rank carried the monetary advantage with it.] He had told the hon. Baronet that the Admiralty would have been willing to grant the majority, if it had not been in consequence of the difficulty arising in regard to relative rank. Money had nothing whatever to do with it. With regard to the questions which did not affect the past but the present in the hon. Baronet's speech, he must pass over those which related to the question of ships to be built, as that subject would come on at a more subsequent period; and therefore he would not say more now than that, with reference to the assertion that the Admiralty could not fit out a ship, their dockyards were full of stores. As regarded the question of anchors, that was a question that must rest with the naval advisers at the Admiralty, and if the hon. Baronet, instead of discussing the subject in a Committee of that House, would come and discuss it at the Admiralty, and produce evidence to convince them that Trotman's anchor was better than the Service anchor, then a change would be made. The only desire of the Admiralty was to have the best anchors and cables that could be procured. It was fully recognized at the Admiralty that the question of cables was of supreme importance, and upon that subject conferences were now going on between the controllers and the partners of the firms who supplied them. The charge with regard to taking the swivels out of the chains was one which referred to something that took place in 1864, and therefore could not affect the present Government.
§ MR. G. BENTINCK
said, that allegations made upon good authority and personal knowledge frequently met with flat denials from the Treasury bench, denials which subsequent inquiry proved to be unwarrantable. On a previous occasion, when they had been discussing the question of chain cables, the hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Admiralty denied his statement in terms more curt than courteous, and said—"In any case, it was to be regretted that those who "primed" him (Mr. G. Bentinck) 113 had not first of all referred to the Admiralty, so that an inquiry might have been instituted. "Instead of himself having been wrong, it was the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw-Lefevre) who was incorrect. What he had stated respecting anchors and cables, and which, in spite of the hon. Gentleman's denial, he now begged to repeat, was that our men-of war—our largest class of vessels —were not supplied with sufficiently large cables; and, in the next place, he adverted to the fact that, in consequence of the swivels being taken out of the chain-cables, one of our large iron-clads had been very nearly lost. It was to be regretted that the hon. Gentleman did not take the opportunity of making himself acquainted with these matters before meeting statements with denials, which, though inaccurate, carried weight, owing to the authority of his position.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, it was desin able that the matter should be cleared up before the hon. Gentleman went any further. His hon. Friend had understood the hon. Gentleman to charge the present Government with having removed swivels, whereas it was done by a Conservative Government.
§ MR. G. BENTINCK
said, he was charging no particular Government with the blunder, which, as he understood, was committed in order to adapt the cables to some kind of new-fangled capstans. The allegations which he (Mr. Bentinck) had made, and which the Secretary of the Admiralty had denied, had since been fully confirmed. His charge was against the Board of Admiralty; he cared not what Government was in power. He contended that the practice of relegating matters of this kind to non-naval men connected with the Admiralty resulted in great risks to Her Majesty's ships; whilst the custom of calling upon civilians to explain these things to the House of Commons must be followed by equally bad results. With regard to Trotman's anchor, experiments made at Woolwich had, he believed, demonstrated that the holding power of Trotman's anchor was very much in excess of every other anchor tried with it, and that of all the anchors tried on the occasion those of the Admiralty were the worst. Then, with regard to rope, that furnished by the dockyards was not always of the best description, 114 and many complaints of its quality were made by the officers commanding Her Majesty's ships. When the safety of Her Majesty's ships was compromised by this wretched, peddling economy, it was time to discuss the subject in Parliament. The Great Eastern had invariably ridden out every gale with Trotman's anchor, of a comparatively small weight, and her cables were also more efficient than those used in the Royal Navy, being manufactured of a superior description of iron. If these three-inch cables were used by our first-class iron-clads, the latter would not be so frequently parting from their cables, and would not run the risks they now ran. It could not be on account of any difficulty to be experienced in working them, that they were not supplied to the vessels requiring their use; it must be another instance of the unfortunate economy which was always cropping up. Another question was the state of our Reserves. He had asserted that the ships in reserve were not always fit to be commissioned, either with respect to their hulls, their rigging, their engines, or their armaments. The statement was denied from the Treasury bench, but he thought that, with the fuller means of information which the right hon. Gentleman had since enjoyed, he would not now deny the statement. As to the Devastation, he hoped there would be no fatal results from the experiment now being tried, but the impression of those whom he had seen and who had been on board that vessel was that she was not fit to go to sea. It seemed that she could not go under a certain rate of speed, and there was a risk that the ship might be drowned when forced against a head sea. He feared it would be found impossible to run the ship in a gale of wind, and he could only repeat what had been so forcibly said by his hon. Friend (Sir James Elphinstone)— a grave responsibility rested on those who sent this ship to sea; and he could only hope that their rashness would not lead to fatal results. On a former occasion, when he asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he had been considering the question of Ships v. Guns, the right hon. Gentleman said, with some asperity, that he had been thinking of nothing else. It would be satisfactory, therefore, to hear what were now the ideas of the right hon. Gentleman as to the result 115 of the struggle now going on between armour-plates and guns. On the solution of this question must depend the future construction of the British Navy, for if the guns were to beat the armour-plates, the Government had been working on an entirely false principle in the construction of vessels, and all our heavy armour-dads would be useless. His hon. Friend behind him said that we had no sea-going ships, and were not in a state to go to war, and he entirely endorsed that opinion. It was useless maintaining a Navy consisting only of one class of ships. He agreed that we ought to have a class of heavy iron-dads for home defence; but where was our sea-going Navy to be found? And without such a Navy, how was our commerce to be defended, and our colonies to be protected? He asserted without fear of contradiction that we had not a single vessel which could fairly be called seagoing, and was capable of being sent on a long voyage.
thought it unfair to speak of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty as having pursued a peddling and beggarly policy. His right hon. Friend had given practical proof that such was not the principle which guided his naval administration. Through the liberality of the House his right hon. Friend had obtained an augmentation of the Vote for Naval Stores which enabled him to increase the pay of those who built the Navy of the country. With respect to the Devastation, he could not but regret the observations which had been made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth (Sir James Elphinstone) and by the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken. Men of experience and authority ought to pause before they made such a statement as this—that the Administration who sent the Devastation to sea might be liable to an accusation of manslaughter; a statement of that kind was enough to deter a Gentleman in the position of his right hon. Friend from doing what he thought right. It was a safe prophecy, for if, as he believed would not be the case, an accident occurred to the ship, they would be able to point to the warning they had given; whereas, if she proved thoroughly seagoing, as he was informed, by no less high authority than Sir Spencer Robinson, would certainly be the case—for 116 that she was a ship fit to go anywhere—no one would reproach the hon. Members for their injudicious prophecies. With respect to the construction of ships he was disappointed that his right hon. Friend had not taken any notice of what his hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Samuda) had said on the subject of torpedo vessels. It was one to which foreign nations were directing a good deal of attention, and as to which the experiments now being made by the Austrian and German Governments showed that they were in that respect a good way ahead of us. It was also clear that if other nations could destroy our ships by torpedoes, the boasted strength of our Navy was of little use. His right hon. Friend hail alluded to the Navies of France, Russia, and the United States, but he did not refer to the Navy of Italy, to which the Government of that country were now adding ships of a very peculiar character, of enormous size, and likely to be the most powerful ships afloat. He hoped his right hon. Friend would take steps to procure full information on that subject. With respect to the Dockyards, his right hon. Friend had procured a great boon for the employés in those establishments. It would be a great pity, however, if, in the distribution of that boon, satisfaction was not given to all the classes intended to be benefited by it, and such would not be the case if the present system of classification were adopted. He trusted that his right hon. Friend would cause inquiry to be made as to the best manner of distributing the increased grant which he had been the means of obtaining from the House.
§ MR. B. SAMUELSON
said, he did not think the charge made against the Admiralty as to the alleged insufficiency of cables was justified. If a 3-inch cable was sufficient for the Great Eastern, a 2⅝inch cable ought to be more than sufficient for their iron-clads. He would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, whether a survey had been made of the plate of the Northumberland which had been penetrated in the collision at Funchal, and, if so, whether the quality of the iron proved satisfactory, as he had been informed that the iron of the Northumberland was very unsatisfactory. He would also like to ask questions concerning the dockyards of Gibraltar and Malta. At 117 Gibraltar, £4,000 only had been spent during the year for additions to the mole. He believed it was impossible to overrate the advantages of that mole. Two of our iron-clads could anchor under it, and it would be a great advantage if that mole was extended considerably beyond what was provided for by the present plans. He asked Her Majesty's Government whether it was their intention to extend the work, and whether any measures were being taken to improve the sanitary condition of the harbour of Malta?
§ MR. SHAW-LEFEVRE
disclaimed any intention of giving an uncourteous reply on a previous occasion to the hon. Member for West-Norfolk (Mr. G. Bentinck). When, however, hon. Members rose in their places and made accusations against the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty that he had sacrificed the safety of Her Majesty's ships, they must not feel surprised that they were answered somewhat warmly, and, perhaps curtly. He, however, had no intention, of displaying warmth when he replied to imputations of that kind. The hon. Member had stated that the Admiralty had made changes in the chain-cables and capstans for the sake of economy. He had never heard of any such change of capstans or chain-cables, and therefore considered himself justified in denying the assertion in toto. Lately he had taken pains to make inquiries on the subject. The facts as he had ascertained were, that in 1864 a very much improved capstan was adopted in some of Her Majesty's vessels, and it being found that the chain-cable could not be easily turned upon it, naval officers recommended a slight alteration in the latter, leaving only a swivel at each end of the cable. This plan, it was stated, was in operation in the French Navy, and would not affect safety. The recommendation was adopted by the then Controller—a naval man—with the approval of naval Members of the Board, and from that time to this nothing had been heard on the subject. It was true that the recent breakage of a cable had been attributed to the change; but the general opinion was, that it was due to some other cause, and economy had nothing to do with it. As to the anchors which had been mentioned, the naval Members of the Board did not think 118 them as good for general purposes as those now in use; but there was no indisposition to adopt any improvement. The hon. Member for West Norfolk had repeated his imputation respecting rope; but every endeavour was made to supply the best quality, though it might not always be of equal quality; and though complaints were made from time to time that it was not strong enough, and did not last so long as formerly, such complaints had been made from time immemorial. As to the reduced stock of hemp, his right hon. Friend (Mr. Baxter), having had much experience, thought it undesirable to keep a very large stock, fresh hemp being much preferable. Of yarn a large stock was desirable, and 18 months stock was accordingly kept, while sufficient hemp was kept for the manufacture in case of emergency of as much yarn as would be necessary. But neither of the provisions —a short one of hemp and a large one of yarn—was kept up from motives of economy. With that explanation he hoped that the house and the country would be satisfied that the Government did not look on the questions from an improper point of view, but that they would feel that the interests of the Service were really regarded in all these questions. In all these cases, whatever was demanded by naval officers for the fitting of ships was supplied. With regard to the questions asked by the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. B. Samuelson), he hoped that that relating to Gibraltar would be considered when the Committee reached it. As to Malta, the sanitary regulations and the condition of the port were under the consideration of an Engineer officer who had been sent to the spot to inquire, and as soon as an opinion was transmitted to the Government as to what was necessary, the recommendation would be carried out. With regard to the observations of the hon. Member for Chatham (Mr. Otway) as to dockyard wages, it would be more convenient to discuss that question when they came to Vote 6.
§ ADMIRAL ERSKINE
said, that when the plan of bringing cables to the capstans was adopted, the necessity for the swivels ceased. The size of the cable for ships was an important question. Generally speaking they were not sufficiently large. When he took command, a little more than 20 years ago, of a ship which 119 from an 80 had been changed into a 90-gun ship, he found that the size of her cables had remained unaltered. On his remonstrating he was told that the size of the cables was calculated by the area of the midship section, and not by the weight of the ship. He made repeated representations on this subject, but his remonstrances were never answered. He, therefore, hoped that the authorities at the Admiralty would take into their consideration a matter on which the safety of our ships so much depended. With respect to the Devastation, and the propriety of sending her to sea in her present condition, it must be remembered that science was now giving way to experiment; and he therefore hoped that as the Devastation was to be subject to a regular trial at sea, no money would be asked for to build other Devastations till the result of the present experiment had become known.
§ MR. HANBURY-TRACY
believed that if the scheme of retirement which his right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) brought forward in 1870, had been properly carried out, there would have been more retirements by this time, and that it would have tended to improve the service. His right hon. Friend then stated as a reason for bringing forward that scheme, that although officers in command of ships were very gallant, yet from want of constant employment they were not so efficient as could be desired. There was a very great feeling of irritation in the service, owing to so much more attention being paid to its materiel than to its personnel. In bringing forward the present Estimates, the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty spoke for three hours on the materiel, and not more than a quarter of an hour on the personnel of the Navy. Before that general discussion closed, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would state that he had that whole matter under consideration; that he had a sympathy with the large number of officers who were half-starving on a mere pittance; and that for the good of the service and the interest of the country, a system would be adopted by which officers would be more constantly employed, and enabled to maintain their efficiency.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
asked the Committee to believe, that if all the points raised on that occasion had not been answered, 120 it was because it would be impossible in Committee of Supply to get the money which had to be voted, if they were to deal at length with all the serious topics brought forward in the course of a general discussion. No greater injustice could be done to him than to suppose that he devoted less time to the personnel than to the matériel of the Service. Last year he devoted the greater part of his speech to the personnel of the Navy, and it was only towards the end that he was enabled to touch on the mateériel. This year he had reversed this plan, and the simple reason, why so much of his speech, in introducing the Estimates, this year had been occupied with the mateériel was because so many questions connected with the matériel happened to have been raised lately; but he could assure hon. Members that his sympathy with the personnel was not to be measured by the length of his remarks on the subject. With regard to what had been said by the hon. Member who had just sat down, the length of time captains were employed before they could be appointed to ships was one of the great difficulties of the Service, and the same thing applied to commanders. It was a matter of great importance, and it was to meet that difficulty that his right hon. Friend (Mr. Childers) introduced his retirement scheme, but he could not see by what means his hon. Friend (Mr. Hanbury-Tracy) had expected that more retirements should have been brought about. The scheme was self-acting; and the only way in which the Admiralty could increase retirements would be by forcing men out of the Service by not giving them employment, there being a clause which said that, in that case, after a certain number of years they were to leave the service. As regarded captains, that was a system which had not been tried. Contrary to an opinion held out-of-doors, there had been no attempt on the part of the Admiralty to force officers to retire on account of their not being employed—so long, at all events, as there was plenty of work in them; and as regarded pecuniary inducements, his experience since he had been at the Admiralty was, that pecuniary inducements would not influence officers to retire. They clung to the service irrespective of the boons held out to them, because most officers would admit that the terms of retirement offered by his 121 right hon. Friend wore liberal; but he (Mr. Goschen) thought it so important that there should be a constant retirement, that if it was certain any change would induce a large number of officers to retire, that change would be carefully considered by the Admiralty. There were two means of causing retirement—the one compulsory, the other by pecuniary advantages. As to the former, he was not prepared to carry it further than his right hon. Friend had done. As to the latter, it depended on the officers themselves, and he saw no way in which the Admiralty could reduce the lists, if officers were not disposed to accept pecuniary- inducements to leave the service. In reply to his hon. Friend the Member for Chatham (Mr. Otway), with respect to torpedo boats, he might observe that the subject had been carefully examined into, and that the Admiralty had already given orders to have an experiment made to see how far the invention of Mr. Thorneycroft, which had been referred to in a former debate by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Samuda), and which had been tested, and had been found only applicable in the case of smooth water, could be applied to boats which would go at a good rate of speed in comparatively rough weather. He could also assure his hon. Friend that the Government were perfectly aware of all that was going on in the Italian Navy. We had an attaché who travelled about from Court to Court, and who reported not only on the Italian Navy, but on that of other countries also. In respect to the Devastation the Committee must feel that an immense responsibility was thrown upon the Admiralty by hon. Members who said that they would be guilty of manslaughter if they sent her across the Atlantic. They felt that they had a difficult problem to solve, but they were determined to persevere in their attempts to solve it. At the time of the American War, as the Committee was aware, ships which all sailors would have previously denounced had decided actions, and had had the greatest possible influence in bringing the war to a termination. And not only had the Monitors done that, but they had ridden down storms and generally behaved well at sea, although their sea-going qualities were not, probably, as good as those of other vessels. Were the Admiralty, then, to abandon a type of ship 122 calculated to secure our supremacy at sea in time of war, on account of such criticisms and warnings as the Committee had heard that evening, when they had positive assurances from other quarters that no danger was to be apprehended? They were charged with having no vessel to cope with the Peter the Great in the Russian Navy; but that vessel was constructed on precisely the same principles as the Devastation. So long as ships of that class were required to maintain our supremacy, a certain number of risks would, of course, have to be run; but the experiments in the case of the Devastation would, he could assure the House, be conducted with the utmost caution.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, he happened, during the Easter Recess, to be at Portsmouth, and had heard a suggestion made by Colonel Bowers, who commanded the 1st Lancashire Rifles, with respect to the trial of the Devastation, which seemed to meet with very general acceptance, for all the naval officers who heard it had declared that if the ship passed successfully through the experiment suggested, she would be capable of riding out any storm. The suggestion was, that as the Devastation generally had a nurse in the shape of another vessel, she should be sent to sea in rough weather, with a number of nurses, or other vessels who would be capable of taking on board the whole of her crew; that everything in the Devastation should be battened down, and that she should be left completely to herself to struggle against the wind and waves; and that the nurses should watch her movements closely through this experimental trip. If after all the Devastation should stand that test nobody could object to the outlay of the public money upon her, and he had no doubt that his hon. and gallant Friend near him would sanction the expenditure of much more money for the building of other Devastations.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, he would recommend a Return, No. 321, to the attention of hon. Members, inasmuch as they would find from it that owing to the scheme of retirement to which he had already referred, a permanent dead weight had been thrown on the country, amounting to £186,104 a-year. He also wished to say, in reply to the Secretary for the Admiralty, that the Store Vote that year was the largest by the amount 123 of £200,000 which had been proposed for the last 10 years, and yet the supply of yarn was not sufficient for the purposes of the effective ships of the Navy. As to the supply of coal, he was glad the Government had now the excellent advice of Sir Alexander Milne, for the accident which had occurred to the Lord Clyde could have scarcely happened to any ship which was not hampered in the use of her engines. Such was not his opinion only, but that of Lord Clarence Paget, who had commanded the Mediterranean Fleet.
§ MR. CHILDERS
pointed out that although the Vote for Stores might be the largest for many years, there was all the difference in the world until quite lately between estimates and expenditure. The actual expenditure in 1867 and 1868 far exceeded the present Estimates, to say nothing of the great rise in prices. He should also be prepared to show at the right time that the cost of retirement was less than he had estimated.
suggested that retired naval officers might be usefully employed in surveying rivers for the purpose of having the impediments to their free navigation removed.
§ Vote agreed to.
(3.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £167,575, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expenses of the Coast Guard Service, Royal Naval Coast Volunteers, Royal Naval Reserve, and Seamen and Marine Pensioners Reserve, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1874.
§ ADMIRAL ERSKINE,
in moving to reduce the Vote by £14,540 5s. 6d., being the balance of the unappropriated surplus of the sum voted for the Royal Naval Reserve, said, that he had seen for some years past a sum of money employed for purposes to which Parliament had not voted it, nor had the Treasury sanctioned. When the Royal Naval Reserve was originally created, in 1859, it was intended to consist of 30,000 men, who were to receive retainers of £6 each. Since its institution, however, the fact was that the number of men that took their drill never exceeded 16,000, and the Vote was taken on the assumption of the former number. Moreover, from 1866 the number had gradually fallen, until for the present year the Force was expected to consist of only 10,000 men, 124 while the sum asked for in the Estimates on account of the retainers to be paid to the men had been reduced from £96,000 to £76,000, a reduction entirely owing to the representations he had made on a former occasion. There remained in the hands of the Department, however, an unappropriated surplus of the sums voted amounting to over £17,000, and he now moved to reduce the amount of the Vote by the sum he had stated. He did so, for the reason that he could not reconcile the discrepancies, that while £76,000 was asked for retainers, a much less sum was asked for drill, pay, and lodging the men, and that while it was proposed to vote money for 13,000 men, they only expected to get 10,000. He had also to complain that the expense of registering these men had remained the same —namely, £4,000 a year, or 7s. a head—for several years, although there had been a considerable reduction in their number. He thought a less sum than £4,000 should be asked for registering. In conclusion, he must say he was surprised that the Government were unable to give the number of men enrolled at the different outports. He should move that the Vote be reduced by the amount of which he had given Notice.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £153,035, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expenses of the Coast Guard Service, Royal Naval Coast Volunteers, Royal Naval Reserve, and Seamen and Marine Pensioners Reserve, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1874."—(Admiral Erskine.)
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, his hon. and gallant Friend did not propose to reduce the Force, but thought that by the experience of former years the Government were taking too much. It was always a wiser course to take too much than too little. On Vote 1 and on this Vote it was always the practice to take more than was needed, in order to provide for contingencies. The Vote would have been reduced this year if great changes had not been introduced into the Reserve, by which the Government expected that a considerable number of men would be added to it. Under these circumstances he hoped his hon. and gallant Friend would not press the Committee to divide. As to the item for registering, the sums paid the registrars 125 were fixed fees and general expenses, regulated by the Board of Trade rather than the Admiralty; and having two schemes in existence—namely, the First and Second Class of Reserves, there would be rather more than the usual amount of labour and trouble put upon them.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, a great amount of anxiety prevailed at Liverpool, and also a desire to ascertain what were really the intentions of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the Royal Naval Volunteers. The speech which the right hon. Gentleman made some time since in the neighbourhood of Liverpool upon the subject, raised an amount of enthusiasm which the delay that had since taken place, it was feared, would cause to die out. He spoke the sentiments of the leading shipowners of Liverpool, who hesitated to respond to the right hon. Gentleman's invitation to form a Naval Volunteer Force, until the Government gave some evidence of their being in earnest in the matter. There was a growing feeling in Liverpool, that the invitation held out by the right hon. Gentleman was not responded to by the authorities, and unless something was done to remove the impression the enthusiasm created would speedily die out. He wished to know whether the Government intended to give to Naval Volunteers such facilities for drilling as they thought they were entitled to?
said, he was connected with the London Naval Volunteers, and he was enabled to state from having been in communication with the Admiralty, that a practical scheme for carrying on the drill of the London Naval. Volunteer Corps was under consideration by the Admiralty, and he believed that a Bill would be submitted to Parliament by the Admiralty on the subject. It was a matter that could not be decided off-hand. This was clear, however, those who joined the Force could not call upon the Government for assistance, as the essential feature of the movement was that it was voluntary. The 150 persons who had associated themselves for the purpose of naval drill in the port of London had shown the best spirit and deserved a hearty recognition.
§ MR. WHITWELL
trusted that after the announcement made by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, the hon. and gallant Admiral 126 would not go to a Division. He would like to hear that a sufficient drill was performed by the men in the Coastguard Service to qualify them to join ships at once in case of necessity. He asked also whether a Return would be prepared, showing the saving of life which had been effected by the Coastguard in cases of wreck?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, there would be no objection to produce such a Return, which would show results very creditable to the Coastguard men. His hon. Friend (Mr. Brassey) had really replied to the Question put by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Whalley). The subject of Naval Volunteers had engaged a good deal of time at the Admiralty, but it involved so many points of detail with regard to the organization of the Force that it had been found impossible to proceed, at all events, with the rapidity which the gentlemen who had taken up the movement appeared to wish. At the same time, he trusted the Admiralty would be able to utilize the services of the Volunteers, and he hoped shortly to be able to propound a scheme for the approval of Parliament.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he could only repeat that the present plan rendered it necessary that the Vote should be taken, in order to provide for the increased expenditure that would take place under it.
§ MR. R. W. DUFF
hoped the hon. and gallant Admiral would not press his Amendment. It was desirable that there should be an efficient Naval Reserve.
§ MR. WHALLEY
wished to know if the First Lord of the Admiralty was really giving his attention to the organization of Coast Volunteers?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that probably the hon. Gentleman would be satisfied, when he informed him that the day before yesterday he went through a great many proposals for the establishment of Coast Volunteers, and discussed them with some of his Colleagues. There was no disposition on the part of the Government to throw cold water on the movement, and he hoped shipowners would come forward and assist it all they could. In saying that, he thought leading shipowners of Liverpool did not appear to give it the support it deserved. In all probability, it would be necessary 127 to introduce a Bill to carry out the scheme.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
hoped the hon. and gallant Admiral would not divide the Committee. There could be no doubt that the Royal Naval Reserve ought to be better supported than it was.
§ ADMIRAL ERSKINE
said, under the circumstances, he would alter his mind, and would not trouble the Committee to divide.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ (4.) £86,654, Scientific Departments.
§ MR. A. GUEST
asked whether the post of medical attendant to Greenwich Hospital ought not to be reserved as a shore berth for some Navy surgeon, instead of being given to a civilian? Great dissatisfaction was felt, in consequence, by medical men in the Navy.
§ MR. B. SAMUELSON
looked forward with hope to the more scientific education which would be within the reach of the naval officers at Greenwich Hospital. He thought nothing was likely to be of greater service to the Naval profession than the New College. If the commanders of our ships were acquainted, for instance, with the theory of the steam engine they would be able to control the reports of their engineers on the subject of economy in the use of coal. He objected, however, to rudimentary scientific instruction being given there. The officers ought to prepare themselves at the School of Mines or elsewhere, before being admitted to the Naval College. He hoped the subject would be considered.
§ MR. STONE
said, the Committee would like to know how far Naval officers had shown a disposition to avail themselves of the advantages offered to them in the New College. He hoped that provision would be made for affording practical as well as theoretical instruction in the New Royal Naval College.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, it was of more importance for young men, to whom the honour and safety of the country might be some day entrusted, to learn the more practical qualities which would produce courage and promptitude, than to follow the present hard, scientific system, which was emasculating those higher and manly qualities which had hitherto cha- 128 racterized our naval officers, and upon which our naval renown was founded.
§ DR. BREWER
said, there was one subject greatly neglected in both of the Services—namely, dental surgery in its higher branches; the neglect of this was the greatest cause of the disqualification which existed in the Services.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he would communicate with the Medical Director General, on the point raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Colchester (Dr. Brewer). With regard to the question of the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. A. Guest), the appointment of a naval surgeon depended on the extent of the duties to be performed. At present they did not seem to warrant any alteration in the present arrangement. The fee of the gentleman who attended Greenwich Schools had not been included in the Estimate in consequence of an oversight, which should not occur again. A great number of the members of the College went there voluntarily, and he was not prepared to recommend the appointment of a medical man who should exercise any control over them, because in the event of their being taken ill, they might be attended by doctors of their own selection. He would lay on the Table the Minute of the Admiralty, with regard to the general scope of the Royal Naval College, but he wished to say now that hon. Members must dismiss from their minds the idea that it was an establishment for cadets and midshipmen. Sublieutenants went there who had already been four years at sea—those officers who had already acquired the qualities which the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Whalley) so much desired; but it was hoped that the great future of the College would arise from the attendance of half-pay officers, who desired to pursue the studies for which opportunities would be offered. There was every inclination on the part of officers to avail themselves of these advantages. Twenty-four half-pay officers were now studying there, and the number would doubtless be much larger when the College came into full operation on the 1st of October. Young engineers and dockyard apprentices, would also be selected to go to Greenwich, in order to learn naval architecture and marine engineering, and the other subjects which had been taught with such great success at South Kensington. The organization of the 129 whole establishment was likely to be organized under Admiral Cooper Key in a most satisfactory manner.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
agreed with the right hon. Gentleman, that the process of organization under Admiral Cooper Key was likely to prove extremely satisfactory. But he could not concur in what the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Whalley) had said as to the study of scientific subjects connected with the Navy being. enervating. It was very desirable that the Navy should continue to have, what it always had possessed, officers skilled in the highest branches of science. There was no other profession which possessed in its ranks men of higher scientific attainments, or more capable of performing the duties which the country entrusted to them. With respect to the Naval College at Greenwich, he would venture to point out that it was for many reasons desirable that Admiral Key, who was at its head, should have the power and authority of a naval officer, as well as that authority which he already possessed as an officer of the highest scientific attainments, and that he should be allowed to hoist his flag, and appear in uniform. He should also like to see the naval officers assembled at Greenwich allowed the benefit of the attendance of a naval medical officer.
§ MR. A. GUEST
also urged the expediency of appointing a naval medical officer at Greenwich. He could attend both the College and the Boys' School at Greenwich.
§ MR. B. SAMUELSON
explained, that he did not mean to say that naval officers did not avail themselves fully of the facilities offered them for scientific instruction, but the fact of the establishment of this College proved these opportunities had not hitherto been sufficient. He should like to know, whether a library would not be established there.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, the question of a library and the appointment of a naval medical officer had been considered, but that it had not been deemed expedient to incur expenses which did not appear to be absolutely necessary for the efficient working of the College. In the case of the medical officer, however, when the College was full it might be found desirable to make such an appointment.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, that the pensioners were the proprietors 130 of Greenwich Hospital, and that the Government had no right to deal with it without their consent. He complained that the Admiralty were neglecting the survey duties of the Navy, and thought that a special survey service should be established. The survey of India was unfinished, and, notwithstanding what had fallen from the First Lord of the Admiralty on a former occasion, that of the Straits of Magellan was very incomplete. He had also to complain of the miserable accommodation which was provided for Admiral Richards, the Hydrographer of the Navy at the Admiralty, that gallant officer being located in a room which was not fit to be the office of the engineer of a bubble company.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he personally had no objection to place Admiral Key on the footing desired, but that the question of allowing him to hoist his flag at Greenwich was a service question involving a point of naval etiquette; and the naval authorities by whom he should be almost entirely guided in the matter, were of opinion that the privilege could not be well granted to Admiral Key. As to the proprietorship of Greenwich College, he could assure the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth that the Act of Parliament distinctly provided that Greenwich Hospital might be used for any other purpose deemed necessary. He might add that all the structural alterations which had been made in the edifice, had been done so that in case of war, it could within the short space of 24 hours be restored to its original condition—of an hospital; and that none of the Greenwich Hospital fluids were used; they were left at the disposal of the pensioners. It would be very inconvenient that the Hydrographer should be removed from the Admiralty, where he was in constant communication with the Board; but he hoped better accommodation would be provided for him when the new building's connected with the Admiralty were completed. The first survey which the gallant officer proposed to undertake was that of the East Coast of Africa.
§ In reply to Lord HENRY LENNOX,
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, it was estimated that the Challenger would be engaged for three years in deep-sea dredging, in 131 connection with a number of scientific problems in which the Royal Society took great interest.
§ In reply to Sir JOHN HAY,
§ MR. GOSCHEN
stated that, in addition to the Government being in communication with the Representatives of Foreign Governments, Professor Airy was in communication with the astronomers of other countries, in order to obtain foreign co-operation in watching the transit of Venus.
§ Vote agreed to.
(5.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £1,115,080, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expense of the Dockyards and Naval Yards at Home and Abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1874.
§ MR. RYLANDS,
in moving the reduction of the Vote by the sum of £50,000, said, that he wished it to be understood that he raised no objection to the advance in the rate of wages paid in the dockyards. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty had told them that the wages of the "hired labourers" had been raised 3d. a-day, and the "established workmen" 6d. per day, making the wages of the former 16s. 6d. per week, and of' the latter class, 30s. per week. In the present state of the labour market, he (Mr. Rylands) considered that the Government were justified in paying this advance—in fact, they were no doubt compelled to do so, even in the case of the "established workmen." The right hon. Gentleman further stated that the "established workmen" had entered into life contracts at a fixed rate of wages with a pension at the end of their service, and had there been any general reduction of wages, these "life contracts" would have been fairly pleaded by the men as a reason for maintaining their wages; but they were practically ineffectual in preventing an advance under the present exceptional state of the labour market. He did not complain of that, but he thought the arrangement with this class of men a very questionable one. It was said, that in view of pensions they accepted lower wages, and that was no doubt the case; but in many instances the expectation was a delusion, as numbers of the men through death or 132 other circumstances never received a pension, nor was there any real advantage on the part of the country, as the pension list amounted to 25 per cent upon the sum paid for wages. There was also the question as to the amount of work received for the money. If the wages were low, the work was low also; and there was sufficient evidence in Blue Books in the Library to prove that the established workmen scarcely did half as much work as the men employed in private shipbuilding yards. He believed that the wisest plan would be to carry on the national dockyards in a businesslike manner; to engage workmen upon ordinary terms, and to pay them the full value of their labour, without any agreement for pensions. The present system was disadvantageous to all parties, and certainly entailed a serious loss upon the country. The hon. Gentleman the Member for West Norfolk (Mr. G. Bentinck) said the other night that we ought to keep our dockyard men, to the full number, building all the vessels we needed, and that the dockyards should be so kept up as "to meet not only all the requirements of the day, but of any emergency." We were, in fact, never to buy any ships from the private dockyards. But a few years ago the hon. Gentleman stated thatHe had asked many of the most eminent owners of private yards in the country the question—supposing you were to carry on your yards upon the system on which Her Majesty's Dockyards are conducted, what would be the result? And the invariable answer had been, if we were to approach that system with the Bank of England at our back, we should be ruined in six months.Well, that he thought was a conclusive argument against extending our dockyard system. His complaint was that the right hon. Gentleman was extending the system, and was so far reversing the policy of his predecessor. The right hon. Gentleman the late First Lord (Mr. Childers) had laid down a standard in 1870, under which he arranged that the maximum number of men employed in the dockyards should be 11,000, and that at least one fourth of the tonnage required for the Navy should be purchased from private shipbuilders. Unfortunately, the absurd panic at the end of 1870, on the occasion of the Franco-German War, induced the Government to alter their policy of economy by un- 133 necessarily increasing the dockyard expenditure. Last year, he (Mr. Rylands) strongly objected to the increased expenditure, and he was assured by the right hon. Gentleman, that the increase in the number of men was only a temporary and exceptional circumstance dating from the panic of 1870, and that in a few months time the number would be reduced to the maximum fixed by the right hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers.) Now, what was the fact? In 1870–71, the number employed was 11,276, which was slightly in excess of the maximum; but this year the number on the Establishment and the hired men together amounted to 13,500, or 2,500 beyond the maximum fixed by the right hon. Member for Pontefract. But the most singular circumstance was, that while, according to the Returns on the Table, the 11,276 men in 1870–71 were expected to produce 15,272 tons of shipping, the 13,500 men were only expected to produce 13,781 tons. [Mr. SAMUDA said, the 11,276 men did not produce the amount named.] He believed they did not, but First Lords were constantly wide of the mark, and misled the House by their erroneous estimates. The right hon. Gentleman, at all events, did not expect to build this year more than 13,781 tons, and he proposed to employ not less than 8,697 men upon repairs and yard work. That was the explanation. But if our ships were in such a bad state of repair as to require such an enormous expenditure to make them ready for going to sea, it was an alarming state of things. His great objection to having so many men in the yards was that we must find them work whether it was wanted or not. The right hon. Gentleman had evidently that in his mind when he was stating his programme for the year. He said—"We shall have the Superb and the Téméraire building at Chatham, and the Fury and the new Fury building at Pembroke. With these vessels those two dockyards would be fairly full." And he mentioned that Portsmouth would be supplied with work in building another ironclad of a description not yet decided upon. There were two very serious objections to pressing forward work- at the dockyards at the present moment. One was the very high prices of all kinds of material, and the other was the great uncertainty as to the best type of fight- 134 ing ship of the future. The right hon. Gentleman admitted, in his speech on moving the Navy Estimates this year, the great advantage which had been secured by delays in constructing ships during the past two years. He said—It had been urged that the Admiralty had wasted two years' time.…. but it would be din Le nit to tell what ships we should have ordered. Certainly not such good ships as we should be able to order now, with all the knowledge and experience we had gained."—[3 Hansard, ccxv. 45.]The same motives for delay existed at the present moment. Eminent authorities in that House differed entirely as to the best ship to be built, and there was an equal divergence of opinion amongst authorities elsewhere. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of three schools of naval architecture—namely, the advocates of masted turret ships, the advocates of unmasted turret ships, and the advocates of broadside iron-dads. And then he added IR, fourth school, of those who were against building iron-dads at all. Upon that point, hon. Gentlemen were no doubt familiar with the extremely important evidence given before the Committee on Designs of Ships of War. It was a very grave question whether vessels could be protected with armour plates sufficient to resist the guns which were now being manufactured. Sir Joseph Whitworth, and Sir William Armstrong both stated that they could produce guns that would penetrate iron armour plates 20 inches thick. If that were so, many of our best ships would become obsolete. Then again, there was the question of the torpedo—an entirely new force which threatened the security of the most powerful iron vessels, and which, in its development, might have an important bearing upon the best mode of constructing our ships of war. With all these facts staring us in the face, it seemed to him to be a most unwise policy to press forward the building of new ships. Let hon. Members recollect that the hasty and ill-considered additions made to the Navy during the past few years had involved a scandalous waste of millions of the public money. It was to be hoped that the remarkable statement of the right hon. Gentleman would not be forgotten—that during the last 10 years no less than 225 ships, amounting to a tonnage of 215,000 tons, had been struck off the effective strength of 135 the Navy, or to use the expressive words of the right hon. Gentleman, "had vanished." A dozen years ago, the Admiralty precipitately constructed a number of iron vessels at a cost of several millions, which were, considered at the time to be an invincible Navy. They were armed with 4½ inch plates, and in these days, they might almost as well be protected with brown paper. Of course they bad all disappeared from The Navy List—they had "vanished," and the millions which they cost out of the public taxes had "vanished" also. The other day, when he urged similar grounds to these as a reason why the Government should pause in the building of vessels of war, the hon. Member for Pembrokeshire (Mr. Scourfield) replied that—It was impossible to delay building ships until a time of war. It would be ridiculous to ask an enemy to delay his invasion until we had a sufficient number of ships to receive him.That was, no doubt, all very true, and would be very forcible if we had no ships of war at present. He (Mr. Rylands) did not believe in the probability of any invasion, but if there were an invasion, he was quite satisfied that our Navy was sufficient to give a good account of the invaders. The right hon. Gentleman, the First Lord of the Admiralty, had admitted that our Navy was equal to the Navies of France, Germany, and the United States combined. We had 23 ironclads, whilst France, Germany, and the United States had only 11, and we had 91 frigates and other ships of war against their 95.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that the numbers he had given were of the vessels in Commission, and did not include the entire Navy of the several countries.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, that was no doubt so, but the comparison was not the less correct. The right hon. Gentleman also expressly stated that—We had 12 ships which were so strong that all the other maritime countries together could not name 12 ships of equal strength."—[3 Hansard ccxv. 44.]There was therefore every reason why we should proceed with calmness and with caution. If we kept down the Dockyard Vote, it would enable us to complete the ships at present in progress, and to pause before commencing the construction of new vessels. If war were unfortunately to break out, and some 136 unforeseen emergency arose, it must not be supposed that the strength of the country for naval warfare depended upon the Government dockyards. His hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had well stated the other night, that this country had enormous resources in the way of shipbuilding, no less than 391,000 tons having been added to our mercantile navy in 1871, as compared with 212,000 tons in 1861, and his hon. Friend further stated that "were it necessary to renew our fleet, in a short time our private shipyards could do so." Under these circumstances he (Mr. Rylands) had no hesitation in asking the Committee to support his Motion to reduce the vote by £50,000.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £1,065,080, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expense of the Dockyards and Naval Yards at Home and Abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1874."—(Mr. Rylands.)
§ MR. WYKEHAM MARTIN
said, he had no doubt that the Admiralty would get a proper amount of work from those whom they employed in the dockyards. He thought the best work was that turned out of dockyards, which he attributed to the large amount of superintendence which prevailed, and which rendered it almost impossible that a piece of bad work could be slipped in. In the Devonport dockyard, and in some other dockyards, he was informed an increase of pay was given in proportion to the length of service, but in Chatham dockyard a very different system prevailed; because in that dockyard, it was in the power of the Petty officers to give an increase of pay entirely at their own caprice, and without any reason assigned. That was a system which could hardly be expected to work well. To such a height had dissatisfaction gone, that in spite of the rules and of the risk which the men ran, he had received several letters from them, mentioning instances in which the pay had been distributed unfairly. He hoped the Admiralty would look into the matter, as it was of the greatest importance to the well-working of the dockyards.
said, the duty of the Government was to select the best existing gun, and not to wait for the development of an imaginary superior. 137 As to reducing the work in the dockyards, trusting to what had been called "the open market," he was afraid that without the dockyards, the open market would become very close indeed in case of war. The remedy for that would be keeping open both the public and the private dockyards.
§ MR. B. SAMUELSON
asked, what was the actual damage done to the turret of the Glatton when fired at? The House had been told that the damage done to the turret was but slight, yet the vessel had only just come out of dock after being under repair for nearly 11 months.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
said, that although he proposed to move a slight reduction of the Vote, he could not accede to the Motion of the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands), who, in his opinion, misapprehended the whole case of the dockyards as they now existed. The hon. Member was evidently only just beginning his apprenticeship in a knowledge of naval affairs. He (Lord Henry Lennox) had also once been under the impression that there was a waste of power in the dockyards; but he now said, as he had often explained to the House, that repairs governed the strength of the fleet—that was, if the Channel Fleet were compelled to put into Portsmouth for repairs, the artificers must be taken altogether from building and must be employed upon repairs. What he complained of the right hon. Gentleman was that he placed too high the amount of shipping which he expected to have built within the year, for in the last two years this estimated amount bad not been reached by 8,000 tons. As to the type of ship, he did not believe that in our day we could expect to produce a perfect type of ship to fulfil all the duties which a vessel of war was called upon to perform. If every Government in Europe would agree to stay their hands till a perfect type could be produced, we might safely do nothing; but the difficulty was that foreign countries would keep building. Where, then, should we be if the advice of the hon. Member were taken? He cordially approved of the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty in keeping up the number of men employed in the dockyards, and be should, therefore, vote against the Amendment of the hon. Member for 138 Warrington. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would not lose sight of the suggestion given him by the hon. Member for Chatham (Mr. Wykeham-Martin), that the existing system of classification should be well considered in reference to the distribution of the increased pay of the men employed in dockyards.
§ MR. SAMUDA
said, he also could not vote for the reduction of the Vote, for he agreed in the principal cause that had led to its increase—the rise of wages. He would remind the Committee that the increase in the rate of wages in the dockyards was not at all equal to the advance that had taken place in all other classes of labour. It should also be remembered that by keeping a command over the number of men on the establishment the Government was able to fix and. regulate the amount of work they wished to have done, and also insure a fixed rate of wages instead of a fluctuating one. The men knew they would have constant work, and a provision for old age, and they were therefore willing to work for a lower rate than they would accept outside the Government employ. The hon. Member (Mr. Rylands) talked of 11,000 men in 1870–71 building 15,000 tons of shipping, whilst this year 13,000 men were only to produce 13,000 tons; but he forgot that in the former period, the Estimate was not fulfilled, and, instead of 15,000 tons, the amount of work actually done was some 4,000 tons less than that anticipated. He should like to see a less number of men employed upon repairing as compared with those engaged in building. He regretted that upwards of 20,000 tons of shipping had to be struck off from the Navy every year from becoming obsolete or otherwise useless; but the country could not allow the Navy to go back, and the worst possible policy would be that suggested by the hon. Member—to stop building, and wait for improvements in the class of ships required, imagining that by so doing he would avoid spending money in building imperfect ships. The proverb that the best was always the greatest enemy to the good was strictly applicable in such a ease; and it was absolutely necessary that we should keep up our Navy, so as to be ready for any emergency that might arise, because we could not go into the market and buy war-ships as other things could be 139 bought when wanted. We should, at least, keep pace with foreign nations, and always have regard to the fact that the cost of the Navy was the premium of insurance we paid for our national security.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
thought that the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands) had failed to persuade the Committee, that it would be desirable to make the reduction on the grounds that he had pointed out. If these men were not to be constantly employed, strikes and other obstacles might arise when sudden emergencies arose for the execution of important works, and the object of the Government keeping the dockyards at all would be entirely defeated. One of the first changes made by the present Government was to reverse the proportion of men employed in building and repairing, but he was glad to see that a more just proportion had now been restored. In 1869–70 there were estimated 5,899 building and 8,168 repairing. This was altered in 1870–71 to 6,349 building and 4,793 repairing. This year we had nearly reverted to the old proportion, 4,700 building and 8,697 repairing being the number proposed. Considering that the work done in 1871–2 fell short of the Estimate by 1,354 tons, and in last year by 6,768 tons, it was not surprising that the expenditure contemplated in the Estimate had not been exceeded.
§ MR. STONE
thanked the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty for the patience with which he had listened to the complaints of the men, the disposition he had shown to investigate their cases fairly, and the degree of liberality he had extended to them. He doubted whether the "life contract" on which the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands) had dwelt, was so advantageous to the men as he supposed, and he believed that had they been left without any prospect of advance, with wages outside much higher, the Admiralty would no longer have had the pick of the best workmen; while the building of ships of war was so peculiar, that it would not be safe to depend on men trained in private yards. He demurred to the present being deemed a final arrangement, for under similar circumstances, and whenever hardships arose, the door should be still open. He complained that painters, riggers, and sail- 140 makers were not treated with sufficient liberality in Portsmouth dockyard. The painters had recently received an advance of wages; but it was not equal to the extra pay they had formerly received for painting the Royal yachts, which occupied a considerable portion of the year. Under the old wages, and with that extra, the annual income of a painter was £64; with the recent advance and without the extra for the Royal yachts, which had been abolished, it was only £62. The sailmakers received from 2s. to 3s. a-day, as against 4s. outside the dockyard, and the riggers equally grumbled at the inequality and insufficiency of their wages.
§ MR. G. BENTINCK
said, he must remind his hon. Friend the Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands) that he had quoted an observation of his which was applied to a totally different subject. When he had said in reference to the Admiralty dockyards, that if private yards were conducted on the same principle the proprietors would very soon be ruined, he never intended it as an argument in favour of reduction. The work done in the Government dockyards contrasted favourably, he thought, with the work done in private yards, and he attributed that fact to the keeping a large number of men constantly employed. He should like to ask the hon. Gentleman what would be the condition of this great commercial country in the event of a war breaking out. We had no ships capable of protecting our commercial marine. What ships we had would be swept off the ocean, and our carrying trade would be abolished.
said, that considerable injustice seemed to have been done to the young men who had been apprenticed in the naval yards. Why had they not been promoted to vacancies, as they occurred, according to promise?
§ MR. R. W. DUFF
was glad that no Member of the Committee had risen in support of the Amendment. If the dockyards were done away with, where would our ships go for repairs after a naval battle? Would some go into the Thames, some into the Humber, and others into the Tyne? He thought the 100 tons of torpedo vessels which it was proposed to build this year, and the £7,000 which it was proposed to spend in torpedoes was much too small, for he looked upon torpedoes as one of the 141 most important modern inventions in naval warfare. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would state whether torpedoes were to be managed by naval men, or officers of the Royal Engineers?
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, he had not the advantage of hearing the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands), and never listened to him when he could help it. With regard to the increased pay in the dockyards, the men were, no doubt, very glad of it; but the increase was very inadequate, and did not bring the rate up to the standard of pay in private yards. There were very many petty exceptions which it would have been better for the Admiralty not to have made. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that he would continue to agitate this question until the pay of the dockyard labourers was made adequate, though he did not mean that they should be brought up to the rates in private yards.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, it was never intended to bring up the pay of the men in the dockyards, to that of the men in the private yards; because the former had exceptional advantages, one of which was employment all the year round. As to differences between different men, the Admiralty had been animated by a desire to do justice to all, and it was only to be expected that seine should feel aggrieved, because it was almost impossible to meet the expectations of all. It was never professed that there was to be a general advance all through the yards. Every shipwright, high or low, had an increase. [Mr. WYKEHAM MARTIN: I wish it were so.] There might be special cases in which it was not; but discretion had been left to local officers who, as the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. T. Brassey) had often urged, ought to be invested with some authority to discriminate. No doubt, an hon. Member who was open to receive complaints, would have many letters addressed to him on the subject. However, if there were instances of injustice established to the satisfaction of the Admiralty, they should be strictly inquired into, and a local officer guilty of favouritism or the reverse should be called to account. Referring to the point which had been raised about apprentices, the principle which the Admiralty acted upon, was to select the best from among them, and promote them to the higher establish- 142 ment; and as to the general question raised by the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands), it was unnecessary to say much, as the Committee did not take the view that the Vote should be reduced. There was plenty of work to be done, and the reason more money was asked for' was that more might be given to repairs. To avoid the errors in Estimates which had been made on both sides of the House on former occasions, the Admiralty had placed themselves in communication with the authorities in the dockyards, and had gone over ship by ship, making a list of such as ought to be repaired, and consulting with the dockyard officers as to the number of men required. The result had been embodied in a more accurate programme than had ever been placed before the House; and it had been thought necessary to take the men, because it had been deemed requisite that the work should be done. It was not candid of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Henry Lennox), to speak of their falling short by 8,000 tons, because that had been already explained to be the accumulated errors of three or four years in the estimate of work done on ships, which it was difficult to determine precisely. The repairs to the Glatton had not been more extensive or more serious than had boon anticipated. There had been some delay in providing new armour plates, but the work had not been specially hurried on. There had been no more mischief done to the ship than was expected in the first instance. Considerable preparations had been made for the manufacture of torpedoes, although the money spent had not been so large as might have been expected. There were a large quantity on hand, and arrangements were being made in the Channel and Reserve ships to fit them with torpedo rooms for the training of officers and men. Hitherto instruction had been carried on by dummies which were tied to the ships, the torpedoes being kept in reserve. A small and fast torpedo ship was being built, which it was expected would be better adapted for working torpedoes, though of course the Whitehead torpedo could be successfully used from other ships. Arrangements were being made to divide the duty of laying down torpedoes between the Army and the Navy, and there would be a Joint Committee of gentlemen from 143 the War Office and the Admiralty to carry them out on the general principle of leaving defensive torpedoes to the Army and sea-going and offensive torpedoes to the Navy.
§ MR. WYKEHAM MARTIN
said, he wished to explain that, so far as he knew, the men who had brought this grievance under his notice wore in the receipt of the increased pay; but their object was to show the universal discontent that prevailed amongst the other men, under the impression that a gigantic system of favouritism was growing up in the dockyards.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, he was not surprised at the result of the discussion; and, under the circumstances, he would withdraw the Amendment.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
LORD HENRY LENNOX,
who had given Notice of his intention to move to reduce Vote 6 by the sum necessary for the commencement of the new mastless turret-ship of the Fury type, said, it was with some reluctance and great difficulty he had brought forward his Amendment, because his object was not to diminish the sum to be devoted to our iron-clad Fleet, but he was anxious that the money proposed to be spent on that new mastless turret-ship should rather be applied to the building of a fully-rigged cruising iron-clad. It was now four and a-half years since a full-rigged cruiser had been laid down, a fact which implied the consideration of the question as to what was the general condition of our iron-clad Navy, both with regard to the number and nature of the vessels, and their repairs. Last year, the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty came down to the House and earned his (Lord Henry Lennox's) approbation, and that of his right hon. Friend the late Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry), by stating he was convinced of the necessity of laying down and adding to the Navy two large broadside iron-clad ships — the Superb and the Téméaire. Months elapsed without any sign of the Superb or the Téméraire being even commenced; and in the autumn, in consequence of some letters which the right hon. Gentleman described as "scolding letters," but which he thought were only dictated by a patriotic sense of duty on the 144 part of those who looked into those questions, it appeared that the reason why one of those vessels, the Téméraire, was not commenced as a broadside ship was because the Admiralty were going to make it a mastless iron-clad. Such a change in the Naval programme ought never to be made without being submitted to the sanction of the House. The other night the right hon. Gentleman said, the Admiralty proposed to go on with a broadside iron-clad and with the new Fury; and that was all the work in new iron-dads to be done this year. [Mr. GOSCHEN: And one at Portsmouth.] He (Lord Henry Lennox) did not understand so. Then that would make four. Two, however, ought to have been begun and advanced to a considerable extent last year, and virtually the programme for this year was one ship at Portsmouth, to be advanced at the rate of 500 tons, and the new Fury at Pembroke, to be advanced at the rate of 654 tons. He wished to ask whether it was correct that the only iron-clad tonnage to be added to the Navy this year was that which was represented in the dockyards, and which amounted to a total of only 7,600 tons. If so, that was below the average which the right hon. Member for Pontefract, when First Lord of the Admiralty, declared to be right for this country to build, for in 1870 that right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Childers) said they ought at least to add 12,000 tons of iron-clad tonnage annually to the Navy; but, according to the Estimates now before them, they were this year to add, instead of 12,000, only 7,600 tons, even if their programme was fulfilled. That being so, he asked for an explanation why £211,411 was asked for on account of iron armour-plated ships? [Mr. GOSCHEN explained it was a misprint, and was an aggregate liability.] However that might be, he (Lord Henry Lennox) had. been put to much time and trouble in endeavouring to trace the amount. Another fact had greatly influenced him in asking the Committee to reject the Vote for that mastless turret-ship of the Fury type, with a view to spending the money upon another fully-rigged iron-clad. In 1872–3, 10 iron-dads were down for repair. Of that number, four re-appeared this year; therefore it was clear they had not been repaired. One was repaired, and, he believed in commission. 145 But there remained five other iron-clads about which he thought the Committee would like to hear something, and those were wooden iron-clads. In speaking of the Prince Consort, one of the five, the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty said last year that her condition was not serious in the sense of being dangerous; but the cost of removing the partially-decayed timber would be so heavy that it was very doubtful whether it would be worth while to do it. If they were to be told that these wooden iron-clads were to be stop-gaps no longer, but that they had served their time, and were not to be counted as effective for the future, some steps ought to be taken to make up for the deficiency which their removal from the service would cause. The reason, therefore, he wished to have the Fury changed into a broadside-ship was that in cruising broadside-ships of that class we were excessively weak, while we were quite strong enough in ships of the Devastation type, which were avowedly experimental. The Admiralty ought to stay their hands in reference to that type until the trials of the Devastation were completed, and ought not to lay out £380,000 or £400,000 upon a sister ship to the Fury. The noble Lord concluded by moving that the Vote be reduced by £15,150, and said he hoped it would be clearly understood that he did not wish to prevent the laying down of another iron-clad, but to induce the Admiralty to change the design of the ship they contemplated.
Motion made and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £1,100,080, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expense of the Dockyards and Naval Yards at Home and Abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1874."—(Lord Henry Lennox.)
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he did not see how another ship could be substituted for the new Fury that year, and if the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox) were carried, its effect would be to prevent the commencement of a new iron-clad for upwards of a year. It was not proposed, moreover, to produce an exact copy of the Fury or Devastation, but that the ship intended to be built should answer the description given by Sir Spencer Robinson—that was to say, that it 146 should carry the heaviest possible guns, with the thickest possible armour; that it should be of the same size as the Fury, of the same coal-carrying capacity, of the same speed, but that it should be a modification of the Fury. The Admiralty hoped also to be able to place in the new ship guns very much larger than the guns in the Devastation, for there had lately been a great advance in the science of producing big guns, and by some new hydraulic arrangements which had been produced by Sir William Armstrong's firm it was possible to mount guns of 50 to 60 tons each in vessels no larger than the Fury. In view of that arrangement, a re-distribution of the armour would have to be made, as ordinary armour would not be capable of resisting the tremendous power of such ordnance. Under these circumstances, he thought the noble Lord would not wish the Committee to take a course which would prevent the Admiralty from taking any steps which would enable us to remain ahead of other countries in this matter, for the Amendment he had proposed would prevent the Admiralty from proceeding with the building of a class of ships which they thought we required.
§ MR. SAMUDA
said, the discussion of the Amendment involved nothing less than the shipbuilding policy of the Admiralty; whether the Devastation would be the ship of the future, and whether the Government were justified in building several vessels of similar type without further reconsidering the matter. In 1860, we determined to cover our ships with armour—and made the armour more than equal to the guns, and our policy was intelligible, but the power of the gun had now so completely overtaken the power of defence, that the conditions of naval construction were entirely changed, and it had become impossible to make armour thick enough to resist the gun; in addition, other circumstances had to be taken into consideration which had no existence before, and the whole matter had to be re-considered. In his opinion, therefore, we should now give up all attempts to keep out solid shot; we should only have armour thick enough to keep out shell, and rely mainly on the improved power of offence as being of equal or greater importance than those of passive resistance; not only was 147 this powerful armament now available, but so also was the use of the torpedo, and the question took this form, should not the principal feature in new ships be so to utilize these new tremendous powers of offence that passive resistance might to a great extent be disregarded—and this led to the conclusion that the time had arrived at once to decrease considerably the thickness of armour. Now, if we confined ourselves to keeping out shell, only 5 inches of armour would be sufficient, and with this reduced thickness in the hull, he would abandon it altogether round the guns. This would enable a vessel to be constructed, of only about 4,500 tons burden, to go 16 knots, and to carry eight 35-ton guns instead of four only, while by adopting the corvette system, with falling bulwarks, he would obtain the power of concentrating the whole fire on either broadside, and of bringing six out of the eight guns into use if chasing or being chased. A light rig should be adopted sufficient to navigate the vessel when necessary, and a most important addition to the armament should be four torpedo steam launches carried in the davits, capable of steaming 16 knots, or of towing a torpedo 13 knots. He would ask what class of vessel could cope with this— certainly not a Devastation, for with such a vessel as here suggested, her speed would enable her to choose her position, while her guns would be more powerful and effective than any hitherto adopted or even suggested—and while keeping her enemy at any distance she chose, by lowering her torpedo boats under the smoke of her guns, she could harass, disable, and destroy any adversary. We ought not then to go on multiplying ships of the present type, with thick armour, which, after all, was useless against the heavy guns which were now made. But he would not ask the Government to lay aside all their present plans and adopt at once and without due consideration, so great a change, and he was not prepared to abandon the programme they had presented to the House. It was of far less moment to the country to build a ship too much than one too little. The Devastation was a formidable ship, and would be safe at sea; notwithstanding, in his view, she was not the ship of the future. He would suggest that the noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox) 148 should not divide the Committee, but leave it to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty to see whether he could not apply the sum in question to completing more quickly a ship of similar type.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, that the promise of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Admiralty was not satisfactory. His noble Friend did not wish to prevent a ship being built, but he declined to commit the country to another ship of the Devastation type before the Devastation had been tried, seeing that there were already two others in process of construction. No doubt the Devastation, properly handled, would be safe near the coast, but he objected to proceeding with another mastless ironclad until the new Fury was completed. He pressed for some information as to the repair of ironclads. Nine had been put down for repairs without being repaired, and it was important to know how many of these were really on the effective list.
§ ADMIRAL ERSKINE
protested against the Devastation being described as a "mastless" ship. Her mainmast was 96 feet high, which was at least the height of the mainmast of the Monarch, one of the highest in the British Navy. If the experiments made were to be trusted, he would take a more favourable view of the stability and buoyancy of the Devastation than even her constructors or admirers, for they seemed to entertain apprehensions as to her power of carrying canvas. It was of the greatest importance that she should be able to carry canvas as a means of increasing her speed and economizing coal, for she could not carry enough coal to take her across the Atlantic and back.
asked the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty to give them some fuller particulars with regard to the ship which they were asked to build. If the type of the ship were to be altered, it should be with the full concurrence of the House.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that information would be given to the House before the ship was begun. It should be given at once, but that he was anxious to have the design completed before committing himself to details, or else he should lose nine months. The ship, however, would not be of the Devastation type in the shape of her bow and her stern. The authorities in the Construction Depart- 149 ment were considering whether it would be possible to utilize the mast of the Devastation, so as to allow her to carry a certain amount of canvas under jury rig. As regarded the Devastation, she could not carry sails without impeding the bow fire, and that he was most anxious to preserve. These sails might prove serviceable, not in ordinary times, but on an emergency. He did not wish to be in such a position that it might be said next year that foreign Powers had already gained upon us, and had got a better and a stronger kind of ship than we possessed. Therefore, he hoped the Committee would grant the money, no portion of which should be spent until he had stated to the House the exact type of vessel which it would represent. With regard to the wooden ironclads, the Admiralty did not propose to spend any such sums as £60,000 or £70,000 in order to make them as good as now. The thinness of their armour would not justify so large an expenditure; but, nevertheless, they were capable of rendering good service in time of war, and the Admiralty were now considering the amount of money which should be expended on them.
§ COLONEL WILSON-PATTEN
suggested to his noble Friend that after the explanation which had been given by the First Lord of the Admiralty, he should not for the present take a division On his Motion.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
said, as the object which he had in view had been gained, he would yield to the suggestion and withdraw his Amendment.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ (6.) £70,935, Victualling Yards at Home and Abroad.
§ (7.) £62,214, Medical Establishments at Home and Abroad.
§ (8.) £18,683, Marine Divisions.
§ House resumed.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow;
§ Committee to sit again upon Wednesday