HC Deb 13 March 1876 vol 227 cc1918-44

SUPPLY—considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

60,000 Men and Boys, including 14,000 Royal Marines.


, in moving the Vote for 60,000 Men and Boys for the Sea and Coast Defences, of the year 1876–77, including 14,000 Royal Marines, said, the preliminary discussion that had arisen before the Speaker left the Chair must, of necessity, take from the interest which might otherwise be felt in the Statement he had to make, because the question of the iron-clad fleet and how far it was adequate for the defence and honour of the country were the most important of the subjects to which he would have to allude.

It was usual on occasions like the present to allude to changes which had occurred in the affairs of the Navy and the Admiralty, and the first change which he had to notice was one affecting the Estimates, and arose in this way. He had been very much dissatisfied with the financial administration of the Admiralty. For the year 1874–75 he found that there was an excess over the Votes of something like £250,000. The same thing happened the year before, but with that he had nothing to do; but last year, as he said, in the first year of his holding office, the excess amounted to no less than £250,000 over the sums voted by Parliament. Such a thing might have taken place with the knowledge of those at the Admiralty; but he regretted to say that the excess was incurred without his being conscious that the expenditure was going on, and it was not until the very close of the year, when it was too late for a Supplementary Estimate to be brought in, that the enormity of the excess was brought to his notice. In fact, only a few days before, a very small excess had been presented to him as that which had been incurred. The fault, however, he was bound to say, was to be found in the system which had existed, and not in the officials. He found that, although they had a financial department at the Admiralty, the Accountant General was not made aware of the basis of the Estimate, except as regarded a few cases, and the consequence was, that they looked to an officer to present a statement of expenditure who had not acquired a knowledge of the facts necessary to enable him to do so. He had made a change in that respect. He required that the Accountant General's department should be made acquainted with the basis of the Estimate prepared in each branch of the Admiralty, and that full information should be given to him from time to time of every liability incurred, so that the Accountant General should be charged with the responsibility of knowing what was the basis on which the Estimate was constructed, and to guarantee the accuracy of the expenditure in the course of the year according to that basis. He trusted that the change would have the effect of avoiding what he considered to be a great blot in the Admiralty administration—namely a great excess of expenditure on grants without the knowledge of the head of the Department.

He would now pass on to that which was of great interest to hon. Members—namely, the expenditure on the manning of the Navy. The Committee was aware that they had to depend almost entirely for the manning of the Navy on the training ships in which boys were trained for the Service. He found that there was a slackness among the boys of this country in joining the Service, and last year, as an inducement to join, a free kit was offered to them, so that they might have the enjoyment of the money which they earned. That gave a stimulus at first, but, he was sorry to say, it only answered the purpose to a small extent, and he had found it necessary to lower the standard of height by 1 inch, and to be less exacting as to the educational requirements of boys joining the Service. That was only a temporary measure, and what the ultimate effect of it might be he did not know, but he was not at all assured that he was likely to get a worse class of boys on account of reducing the educational standard. The question always arose every year whether the supply had made up the waste of the Service. From the last Return he found that as regarded the men the supply was 215 more than the waste, while with regard to the boys, the supply had been 260 less than the waste, and the difference between the two—namely, 45—showed how far the supply was being kept up. He was bound to add that the difficulty of getting boys had increased, and in the course of a few months he should see how the new system worked. In a few months he should expect to obtain a larger number of boys from the Mercantile Marine training ships. He had told the Committee a few nights ago the inducements he intended to offer, and he hoped to get some boys from that Service.

With regard to the class of naval cadets, he would not go into the vexed question of competitive examination, but a question having arisen last year as to the number required, he calculated that in the coming year about 80 cadets should enter the Service for all purposes, navigating and executive. It might not be possible to enter that exact number each year, but that was the number he should aim at. Last year when he proposed to build a new Naval College at Dartmouth a great difference of opinion manifested itself as to whether Dartmouth was the right spot. He had no predilections in favour of Dartmouth, but it seemed to him, upon the whole, to be the most eligible site. It appeared, however, that hon. Members on both sides of the House wished for further evidence on the subject. Instead, thereof, of deciding at once to build the College at Dartmouth, he had determined to postpone the matter until a small Committee which he ventured to appoint had reported which was the most eligible spot for the College.

An hon. Member had suggested that there should be an amalgamation between the Navigating and Executive Officers of the Navy. He had considered the matter as he promised, but had been unable to see his way to the adoption of the suggestion, because it would interfere so materially with the claims of officers on the executive list by altering their seniority by the number added to the list. It would thus create a great deal of injustice, and he believed it would be better that the navigating officers' lists should be left as they were, with this exception, that he proposed to allow navigating midshipmen, who were only 14 in number, to go on the executive list, either with their present rank, or after passing their examination for sub-lieutenants, and the wish of the navigating officers would be so far granted. The increase would be so small in amount as hardly to interfere with the executive list. The claims put forward on behalf of the navigating officers had been anxiously considered by the Admiralty, and some addition had been made to their pay, not to all, but to those on board the larger iron-clads, who would receive an increase of 2s. 6d. a-day. The total cost of that increase of pay would be £600 a-year, and an Order in Council was being prepared to carry out that increase.

It would be in recollection of the Committee that a new Order in Council had been issued improving the condition of the Medical Officers of the Service. He was anxious to ascertain the operation of that Order, and he found that by the retirement of four Inspectors General at the age of 60, four steps had been given to Deputy Inspectors and four to Fleet Surgeons. Six Fleet Surgeons had retired, and 10 had gained promotion who would not otherwise have obtained that step. That Order in Council had thus operated to procure a flow of promotion. With regard to the inducements to young men to enter the Service, he found that whereas in February, 1875, before the promulgation of the Order, there were only four candidates at the medical examination, last February the number of candidates was 13, so that the operation of the Order in Council had been highly satisfactory in inducing more men to come forward and join the Service.

He now came to the case of the Marines. It would be satisfactory to the Committee to know that he had abolished his patronage as to the first commissions in the Marines. He had availed himself of the examinations of the Army, and had told the Marine candidates that they must go up for the Army examination. That had been done on the occasion of the last examination with very satisfactory results. It had been said that he had only got an inferior set of men, who were not qualified for the Army; but that was not what had happened, because several officers who had qualified for commissions in the Line had preferred to join the Marines, and several of those who were high up in the list had given the preference to the Marines over the Line. He could hardly allude to the Marines without adverting to the stagnation of promotion in that corps. The matter had been several times brought before the House and discussed, and almost immediately after he came into office in 1874 he had had to consider it, and it had been a great annoyance to him that hitherto he had been unable to improve the position of the officers of the Marines. As, however, the question of promotion and retirement in the Army was under the consideration of a Royal Commission, that Department of the Government whose consent in matters involving expense had to be obtained were unwilling that any scheme relating to promotion and retirement in the Marines should be adopted until the Commission on the Army had reported. That decision had, he feared, caused great dissatisfaction in that gallant corps, but all he could say-was it was unavoidable. As soon, however, as the Commission had reported it would not be difficult to lay down a scheme for the Marines, on the lines adopted for the Army. Although the hope was still deferred, he trusted that it would not be long deferred. He was asked the other day by the hon. and learned Member for Reading whether the additional pay given to the Line would not be extended to the Marines. There were many circumstances which had to be considered in the Marines, such as the pensions, the pay of the petty officers of the Navy, and so forth, so that it was impossible after it was decided to increase the pay of the Army to go with proper care this year into the pay of the Marines, and it was absolutely necessary that the matter should be postponed.

He now came to the question of the educational establishment at Greenwich, established by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Goschen), and he thought the right hon. Gentleman would be interested by what he had to say on the matter. There were at the present time 231 officers studying at Greenwich, together with nine naval architects and nine private students. It had been asked how it happened that so many sub-lieutenants had failed to pass their examination. At the examination last December a very large number did so fail, and, being very much startled and in a state of some anxiety at such a result, he had felt it his duty to make inquiry. He had been assured that the examination had been rather easier than the year before; but that a large number of the students going up to that examination had been unusually wanting in efficiency. He was also told that those who instructed them felt sure that a large number would fail, although the examination was such that any sub-lieutenant of ordinary ability and ordinary industry ought to pass it. It was unfortunate that so large a number had failed; but, looking to what had happened before, he did not think that an undue proportion failed on this occasion. Of course, he had since watched the matter with great interest and attention, because it was most important in these days to have officers thoroughly well educated, as they had to take charge of ships and pieces of mechanism which were very complicated. The requirements of the service were greater as regarded scientific attainments than they used to be, and a proper examination for sub-lieutenants was indispensable. If the present standard was too high it would have to be lowered; but he had yet to learn that such a step was necessary. He wished to mention how desirable it was that their young seamen should be practised, and he had availed himself of the brigs that were used as training brigs to send them out for winter cruising. He was happy to say that he had received from the Commander of the Channel Squadron, under whose orders they were, a very good account of them, and he proposed, with the sanction of the Committee, to take money with which to refit the Eurydice, because he felt that the great fault of the Service with regard to seamen was the want of practice at sea. Young sea-men rated as ordinary seamen at the age of 18 now passed a long time in harbour ships. They learnt no good, and it was only fortunate if they learnt no harm, whilst practice at sea must conduce to their efficiency.

The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. P. A. Taylor) had called attention last year to the absence of Returns of Crime and Punishment in the Navy. Since then, he (Mr. Hunt) had considered the matter, and as there was no objection to those Returns being published in a general form, he had given orders for their preparation, but it would be some time before they were ready. As soon, however, as they were they should be laid upon the Table of the House, and he hoped they would be satisfactory to those who wished to have an opportunity of seeing how far the morality of the Fleet was improving or not.

The Committee were well aware of the importance attached to torpedoes. He thought the time had come when an independent torpedo school should be established, and he had accordingly given orders to that effect. The great part which torpedoes were likely to play in future rendered it necessary to have special instructions in that branch of warfare.

Another change which had been made was the addition of 1,000 men to the Dockyard establishment. In view of the probable agitation in the labour market, it was deemed extremely desirable to attach to the Dockyards a larger number of men.

The next subject he had to touch upon was the Naval Reserve. He had paid great personal attention to this subject, and had placed Sir Walter Tarleton at its head, in order that greater attention should be paid to their enlisting and drilling. As a result of that attention, he had to report a considerable increase in the number of men. In February, 1874, the total strength of the Force was 13,728; in February, 1875, it was 16,991; and in February, 1876, it had increased to 17,958. Of this last-mentioned number of men 12,603 belonged to the first class and 5,355 to the second. Taking the two years, the addition to the first class was 1,000, and to the second class 3,200 men. He had given directions that the last satisfactory Report of Sir Walter Tarleton on the men of the Northern District should be laid' on the Table, and hon. Members would find in it an excellent account of the fishermen of the North of England and of Scotland. Of the Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers there were now three brigades—the London, 405; the Liverpool, 172; and the Bristol—a new brigade started since he came into office—52.

He could not very well make a statement on the Navy without referring to the Arctic Expedition, which was a matter of great interest to this country, for fear lest it might be thought that because they were to be away for a long time, they were not in our minds; but he had only to repeat what he stated the other day—namely, that an arrangement had been made with Mr. Allan Young, who intended to go into the Polar Regions this season in his yacht, for the purpose of making explorations on his own account, to go to Smith's Sound. It was extremely doubtful whether any despatches would be found there; but as Captain Nares had expressed his intention of sending them, if possible, this spring, it was thought advisable to make the arrangement referred to. Mr. Young had consented to make this the primary object of his voyage, and if he found any despatches he would either bring them himself to England, or put them on board a homeward-bound whaler.

Another question which had been much discussed at the Dockyards was the amalgamation of the offices of Chief Constructor and Storekeeper. That was an experiment made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers), and there had been much discussion whether that change should be continued and extended. The question had been referred to a Committee of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shoreham (Mr. S. Cave) was Chairman. In consequence of the right hon. Gentleman's leaving England on a special mission Sir Frederick Peel was induced to take his place, and I hope soon to receive the Report of the Committee.

The Committee on the Deterioration of Boilers had not yet made its final Report. It had made experiments and taken a vast amount of evidence, but the inquiry, it appeared, was still incomplete.

Another subject of great importance, which had also been referred to a Committee, was that of naval engineers. It had long been felt that the present system of engineering ships could not be continued; and there was a great difference of opinion as to how far engineer artificers should be increased in numbers, and engineer officers reduced, also what should be the position of these officers in the Service. The Committee had already reported; but, as the financial effect of its recommendations had not yet been fully ascertained, he was not in a position to state the result to the Committee.

He passed now to the question of shipbuilding in the year 1875–6. As the Committee were aware, the tonnage programme for many years had not been fulfilled; about 20,000 tons had been intended to be built, and the amount accomplished had for a long time fallen short by 4,000 or 5,000 tons. The tonnage intended to be built in the dockyards when he made his Statement last year was 13,812. According to the system of calculation then in force, the actual tonnage built was 13,556, or 256 tons less than was intended. But according to the revised system of calculation there were 14,056 tons built, or 244 tons more than the estimate. Practically, therefore, it might be said that in the dockyards the proposed tonnage had been completed. As regarded the tonnage intended to be built by contract, the result was nearly as satisfactory. The intention was to build 5,853 tons. The tons actually built were 5,566, leaving a difference of only 287 tons. As regarded the wages paid in dockyards, there had been an allowance by the Treasury of £5,000 to Chatham and £4,000 to Portsmouth. As regarded the boiler work done in the Dockyards, it was contemplated that boiler labour to the extent of 14,000 horse-power would be completed in the year, but what would be completed would be 2,276 more than was expected, making a total of 16,276.

He now came to the proposal which he had to make as regarded the building of unarmoured ships. He was sorry that it should again fall to his lot to make a statement somewhat disparaging to the Fleet. Two years ago he made a statement which was complained of in some quarters, in reference to the condition of the iron-clad fleet. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed) seemed to say that evening that he (Mr. Hunt) on that occasion had not gone far enough; but, at all events, what had been stated by the hon. Gentleman would convince a great many people that he (Mr. Hunt) had not taken an exaggerated view of the matter. The condition of the unarmoured fleet, of course, was not so material a matter as the condition of the armoured fleet; but, at the same time, it was a matter which could not be neglected. The condition of the unarmoured fleet did not improve upon acquaintance, and after two years' experience of his Department he did not take so favourable a view of it as he did a year ago. Looking at the Navy List, a great many ships appeared as part of the Fleet, but he was sorry to say that many of them were entirely unserviceable. He thought it better to speak plainly to the Committee on the matter, and he hoped he should not be considered as desiring to create a panic. He did not think it was a case for panic; but he thought it was a case for endeavouring to improve the state of things. With regard to the frigates, there were 20 on the list; eight of these were condemned, and two more would probably be condemned. There were five that required heavy repairs, one required repairs, three were in good condition, and one was altogether new. There were 32 corvettes on the list, eight of them were condemned, two more probably would be condemned, four were under repair, five required to be repaired, 10 were building, and three were good. There were 25 sloops on the list, 11 of them were unserviceable—and when he said unserviceable, he meant for cruising purposes—one required heavy repairs, 13 were good, five were building, and two were ordered last year. The gun vessels were 42 in number; five were unfit for general purposes, and not worth repair; 13 wanted repairs; four were under repairs; and 20 were good. There were 15 gunboats, of which three would want repairs this year. There were, besides, gunboats for harbour purposes, and 18 gunboats for home defence; and there were also ships of different kinds used as store ships, tenders, and harbour ships; but what he referred to was ships for cruising purposes, sent to various stations. When he came to consider the reliefs for the year, he found it was impossible to provide reliefs for all the ships, and he purposed, therefore, notwithstanding the remarks of the hon. Member for Pembroke, to send an unarmoured vessel as flag-ship to the Pacific. They required, in order to keep up their present force on foreign stations, 84 ships, consisting of 40 corvettes and sloops, 41 gunboats, and three despatch vessels. For that purpose he found that they had only 80 effective to serve, or four short. In 1869 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract considerably reduced the ships on foreign stations, and he settled the number after consultation with the Foreign and Colonial Ministers of the day; but now they were 10 vessels short of the establishment which had been fixed by the right hon. Gentleman. If they took into account three ships added to the Indian stations to put down the Slave Trade, they were actually seven short; but these three ships were sent out for special purposes. That was the state of the case with regard to service in 1876, and he confessed that they had been entirely at a loss to know how to supply these reliefs. Under the circumstances, with the consent of his Colleagues, he gave an order for certain ships to be commenced before he obtained the Vote of the House; feeling confident that he should be supported in what he was doing. It was so desirable that no time should be lost that he gave an order for six gunboats and two sloops, the estimates for which he should ex- plain to the House. Although it was open to question whether the ships should be built without the express authority of Parliament, he was not exceeding the expenses sanctioned for the year 1875–6, and he therefore had confidence in throwing himself on the indulgence of the Committee. The Committee were well aware that great complications had arisen in the East during the year in more than one quarter, and he had had the strongest and most urgent applications from the Commander-in-Chief in China to supply him with gunboats with a shallow draught of water and considerable speed. The gunboats that were in use in the last war in China had entirely gone to pieces, and they felt it necessary that orders should be given for the construction of some gunboats for river service. They had, therefore, entered into a contract for the construction of six such gunboats. [Mr. GOSCHEN: Besides the other six?] Yes; but that was not all he was going to ask the Committee to sanction. He should ask the Committee to sanction the construction of 12 such gunboats, and that was not all that he was urged to provide by the Commander-in-Chief in China. After considering the matter with his naval Colleagues, it was considered that 12 might be sufficient; but at present they had no boats of the kind in the service, and he considered it an absolute necessity that the want should be supplied. [Mr. GOSCHEN: Does that make 18 gunboats altogether?] Yes, but 12 are for river service. They were to be of light draught of water, and of nine knots speed, and to carry three 64-pounder and two Gattling guns. He should say that the six gunboats already contracted for would be completed within the year, and that the six river gunboats would be partially built in the same time. But that was not the whole of the demand he had to make upon the Committee. What he had already said as to the state of our unarmoured fleet showed, he thought, a deficiency in fast cruising vessels, and he proposed that six corvettes of the Opal class—it might be with some modifications—should be built. They could not be completed under two years, and therefore about one half the cost would fall upon this year, and one half the next. Those were the proposals which he had to make as regarded shipbuilding by contract in addition to three small vessels for tor- pedo service, one for special fast service, and one of a modern class. Then in the Dockyards it was proposed to commence three new sloops of the Osprey class—one at Sheerness and two at Devonport. The question might arise whether all that addition to the unarmoured fleet was to be made at our Dockyards or by contract, and if the normal state of things had been at work it might have been divided between the two; but the case was a special one, and though he could not say to the Committee that the Vote might not be repeated in future years, he hoped that we should in two or three years have regained the ground we had lost. He had taken, he might add, 16,000 as the normal number of men employed in the Dockyards, and he did not wish, if he could avoid it, to exceed that number, for he thought it extremely objectionable to have constant fluctuations in the numbers employed, now hiring and then discharging men, and thus causing a great deal of distress and agitation. He had stated what was the number of ships required to complete the establishment on foreign stations, as laid down by the right hon. Member for Pontefraet, and adding those to the number which would be necessary to provide proper relief, he found that the total number of vessels wanted would be 118, whereas there were available, striking out those condemned or under repair, only 105. Adding six others of the Mallard class, besides two sloops of the Arab class and six corvettes of the Opal class, we should have 14 additional, which would give one more than the total number required. That, he thought, was a matter of necessity or extreme expediency, and having added the number which he mentioned, we should not have more than one vessel to spare. He thought nothing less than those proposals ought to satisfy the Committee, or would place us in a proper position to protect our commerce in the event of war. He had endeavoured to be perfectly frank with the Committee on the subject, and our exertions ought not, he thought, to cease with the expenditure of this year, but ought to be continued.

He had now stated the proposals with regard to shipbuilding. Before the House went into Committee, he said that it was not his intention to propose laying down any new iron-clads this year, not because he thought that the time had come to discontinue their construction, but because they had so many already in progress which they could accelerate if need be. It seemed to him that the crying want at present was not in iron-clads, but in additions to their unarmoured fleet. The increase of tonnage was about 4,000 tons upon that proposed last year, and the amount of iron-clad tonnage to be built by contract was about 3,200 tons.

He would now state what was the total amount of the Estimates as compared with last year. The gross amount was £11,288,872. From that must be deducted extra receipts and repayments and contributions by the Indian Government, amounting to £215,000, leaving £11,073,872. Then there were cross-charges between the Army and Navy Estimates for Ordnance, Torpedoes, and materiél of that kind. That left a net charge for the Navy of £11,400,000. That sum might be apportioned as follows:—For Effective Services, £9,504,000, and for non-Effective Services, £1,896,000. The charge for Effective Services might be divided thus—For the personnel of the Navy, including Marines, Coast Guard, and Naval Reserve, £4,237,000; and the materiél, £4,817,000; for the administrative and scientific branches, land charges, and miscellaneous, £449,000. At that hour of the evening the Committee would hardly wish him to go through the different Votes, as there would be ample opportunity of discussing them hereafter when the Votes came before the House in the usual way. The Committee, however, would perceive that while making a large addition to one particular Vote, he had endeavoured as far as possible to curtail the expenditure on other Votes; and that, to use the old expression in Her Majesty's gracious Speech, the Estimates had been prepared with a view to economy and efficiency. The Vote which stood out beyond all the others and showed a very considerable excess, was Vote 10, Section 2. There had been a slight decrease on Vote 10, Section 1, but the increase on Vote 10, Section 2, was £450,000. That, of course, was a very grave matter to present to the Committee; but he hoped that after hearing his statement as to the necessity of taking urgent steps to supply the deficiencies in our unar- moured Navy, hon. Members would think he was justified in making that proposal. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Vote.


said, the Committee had listened with interest to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. After the right hon. Gentleman had been two years in office, and had moved the Estimates for the third time, it appeared that there was no crying want with regard to our iron-clad Navy, but that there was a deficiency with regard to certain sloops and gun-vessels for foreign stations. He thought the right hon. Gentleman might fairly congratulate himself that in the course of two years, with the extra men that had been voted, he had been able to reverse the picture he had formerly presented to the House, and to say now that the further commencement of iron-clads had become of second-rate importance, while the urgent want was for a large and somewhat sudden increase in our unarmoured ships. The right hon. Gentleman had not, however, gone through the forces required on our foreign stations or shown the existence of urgent need on any foreign station, except China, for gunboats or gun-vessels. The right hon. Gentleman assumed that the state of things fixed in 1869 by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract must still continue; that there must be a particular number of vessels on various stations; and that, in order to keep up that somewhat arbitrary number, he was right in ordering gun-vessels even before Parliament met. He did not know whether he quite understood the programme of the right hon. Gentleman as to gunboats. He understood that liabilities had been incurred in this financial year for the construction of six gun-vessels in addition to 12 gunboats laid down for China. [Mr. HUNT: Not to be paid for this year.] But put out to contract, so that the liability was incurred; and they were not required for China, but for the ordinary service. Further, there were to be 12 other gunboats laid down for China, so that there were to be 18 gunboats and six vessels of the Opal class also. He would not now speak of the gunboats for China, because they were required for a distinct political object; but the other ships would not add to the fighting or aggressive power of the country, they being required rather for routine and police duties in our foreign possessions, and he knew there was a constant tendency at the Admiralty to press forward the vessels required for routine and police duty rather than those which were required for the higher interests of the country, such as iron-clads. If the right hon. Gentleman were content to offer this programme of gunboats to the Committee as his policy for the present year, it was a distinct admission on his part that as regarded the most important point of the fighting power of the country, we could wait a year and postpone it to the routine part of the service of the Admiralty. He thought the right hon. Gentleman could not object to the way in which he (Mr. Goschen) had just stated the case. Earlier in the evening there had been an interesting discussion on the subject of our iron-clads, and the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed) had made a statement in which he excluded from the fighting force of the country as compared with the Navies of foreign nations, all the principal ships on which the right hon. Gentleman had expended money during the last two years. That brought him (Mr. Goschen) to the Dockyard programme. The right hon. Gentleman had omitted this year to state in Appendix 11 what vessels were to be repaired. That information was given only in the case of Chatham Dockyard. Perhaps the omission would be supplied on a future occasion; but, at present, it had made it somewhat difficult to follow the right hon. Gentleman's proposals. For the last few years it had been customary to state in a note how many men were employed in the various Dockyards in repairing ships. This year 5,700 men were required for shipbuilding and 10,300 for repairs. Were the latter required for repairing the iron-clads, or the frigates and corvettes? On that point the Committee was absolutely without information. Looking at the 16,000 men who were to build 5,600 tons, it was to be lamented that the right hon. Gentleman was unable to build a larger tonnage in the Dockyards, instead of putting out so many ships to contract. He quite admitted that it was undesirable to make a sudden increase in the Dockyards, with the prospect of having soon to throw the men off again; but he thought it should be made clear to the Committee why the right hon. Gentleman was not able to produce more in the Dockyards with the large number of men now employed there, especially as he said he had now turned the corner with the iron-clads. It seemed that the right hon. Gentleman was going to build three small sloops of the Osprey, or rather of the Pelican class. Surely it was rather a disappointing programme that, with so large an expenditure for the coming year, a larger addition was not to be made to the fighting force of the country. On the other hand, he cordially congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on having been able to build the 20,000 tons which he had estimated, with the help of additional money granted by the Treasury and of the extra amount voted by the House. It must also be satisfactory to the Controller of the Navy and his assistants that for once they had been able to build the amount of tonnage proposed at the beginning of the year. The right hon. Gentleman had read a list showing how many frigates, corvettes, and sloops we were short. But the right hon. Gentleman did not propose to build a frigate or a large-class of corvettes, though he proposed to build six corvettes of the Opal class. He understood that there were six gunboats already contracted for, and that they were of the Mallard class, and that there were to be six of a different class. [Mr. HUNT: The 12 were to be river service boats, with light draught, and fast.] But those were all small vessels; and he thought that the right hon. Gentleman, when he talked about frigates, might have added to his statement that no country in Europe was building frigates, and that, therefore, the question of frigates was becoming a subsidiary one. Light armoured ships of the Shannon class would, it seemed, supersede the old frigates, and it was unlikely that any more frigates would be constructed. He questioned the policy of sending a large frigate, the Shah, to the Pacific Station. What was she to do there? Was she to fight those Chilian iron-clads of which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Reed) had spoken? To send a large ship of that type to those distant waters involved the important question of desertion. Vessels sometimes lost almost half their crews upon the Pacific Station, and he doubted the expediency of sending a frigate there at all. There was the same difficulty with an iron-clad; but it was always held desirable to have one iron-clad upon that station to meet the iron-clads of any other country that might be there, and he did not see why the practice should be changed. Passing to another point, the Committee would remember that since last year we had lost the Vanguard, worth about £500,000. He had, therefore, said to himself—"If the right hon. Gentleman proposes to replace the Vanguard, and increases the Estimates by a similar amount in order to make up this loss of power by new iron-clads, I shall probably think it my duty to support the proposal." The right hon. Gentleman had increased the Navy Estimates by £400,000 or £500,000, and yet he did not replace the Vanguard. We were, therefore, short of some 5,000 tons, which was about the tonnage of the Vanguard, and about the amount which the right Gentleman built in a year. Comment was superfluous on that point. He read in it the confidence which the right hon. Gentleman felt in the force at his disposal. It was not that he could not persuade his Party to vote the money. Hon. Gentlemen opposite would have been better pleased to vote £1,000,000 increase to the Estimates than £500,000. ["No, no!"] He ventured to say that a Vote of £500,000 to replace the Vanguard would have been received with acclamation; but he would be glad if hon. Gentlemen opposite took the view that, notwithstanding the loss of 5,000 tons, we were still in a position with which we might be perfectly satisfied. That was an answer to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman two years ago. There were some other matters to which the right hon. Gentleman had called attention to which he wished to allude. The excess of expenditure over amount voted was not without precedent; but he trusted that means would be taken to prevent a recurrence of that excess. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of an increase of pay to the Marines, and of the absolute necessity that it should be deferred. The question was, whether this body of 14,000 should have this increase of pay assigned to them. He could not help regretting that after an increase of pay had been announced to the Army, it should be thought necessary to postpone an increase to the Marines. The corps of Marines, being neither sailors, nor in a sense soldiers, it would be said that they did not receive the same amount of attention as sailors received from the Admiralty and soldiers from the War Office. The result of the postponement was to be regretted, inasmuch as the increase of pay would now be agitated for, instead of being regarded as a spontaneous act of grace. With respect to the College at Greenwich, he rejoiced to hear that the attendance of officers was so good, and that the College was likely to do a large amount of benefit to the Service generally; but he trusted that no pressure would induce the right hon. Gentleman to consent to lower the standard once fixed. The question relating to engineers was a most important one, because it not only affected their promotion, but their actual position in the Service. He hoped, however, as the subject, together with those relating to boilers and promotion generally, had been referred to Committees, their Reports would be made within a reasonable time, so that they might have the opportunity of discussing them before the Session closed. He was glad to hear there was a great increase in the number of the Reserves, particularly of the second class, which had been established shortly before the late Government left office. He rejoiced that their anticipations in that respect had been verified, and he believed that the Report of Admiral Tarleton would be looked for with great interest. With respect to the Third Class Reserve, established for boys, he was afraid that there would be some difficulty in obtaining a sufficient number of boys for that class. With reference to them, he thought the proposed payment of £25 to training ships for every boy that entered the Navy was a very fair arrangement; but he wanted to know whether that payment would relieve the Admiralty of the expense of the boys' education. That would, of course, depend on the age at which they left the training ship. If they left at 16, how would they be utilized till they entered the Navy at 18? It was very important to look into this question of age, for nothing was laid down in the Regulations which threw any light on the subject. The question of recruiting the numbers was one which would be brought under the notice of the House by his hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), and the right hon. Gentleman opposite might then give them further information on the subject. He (Mr. Goschen) might say that it was his privilege to attach a cruiser to the Mediterranean Fleet, the design being that boys might secure a better training, and Admiral Yelverton had stated that the plan had proved a success. If that were so, the question was whether the plan might not be extended. Some of the changes in minor matters which the right hon. Gentleman had indicated might be very beneficial; but the programme of shipbuilding which he had submitted to the Committee was so important that it would require great consideration before they could give it their final assent.


The right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House, with his usual ability, but in a spirit of hostile criticism, has called attention to the Excess Votes due to shipbuilding in the last financial year; but he seems to forget that my right hon. Friend has completed his programme; whereas the right hon. Gentleman was only able to keep down the Votes by neglecting to fulfil his promises to the House. My right hon. Friend has completed within a few tons all the shipbuilding which the House sanctioned a year ago; and, for reasons which he has explained, has found out that his ships have cost more than was expected. What was the practice of the right hon. Gentleman opposite not in one year, but in every year? I hold in my hand the figures already laid on the Table of this House, which show the differences between promise and performance in every year from 1870 to 1875, when the late Administration was in power. In 1870–1, 3,426 tons less than were estimated for; in 1871–2, 614 less; in 1872–3, 5,175 less; in 1873–4, 2,557 less; in 1874–5, 3,317 less; and as to the money voted for shipbuilding in 1870–1, £153,000 voted for shipbuilding was spent for other purposes; in 1871–2, £267,000; in 1872–3, £188,000; and in 1873–4, £247,000. It is very easy by this process to keep the expenditure within the Votes, and this was the process adopted every year by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London. He came down to Parliament every year and said the programme is not fulfilled but all the money is expended—I have no ships to show and I have no money left. Nor is it right to say that it is always the practice to fail to fulfil the programme or to exceed the Vote. This Return shows that in 1867–8 my noble Friend (Lord Hampton), then First Lord, added to the Navy in one year 33,701 tons, having only promised 33,206 tons in his programme, and that this excess of building was completed, whilst £15,000 was available for other services at the Admiralty. The right hon. Gentleman has challenged my right hon. Friend as if the weakness of the wooden fleet was a new discovery; but I must say I think this is extremely disingenuous. What did my right hon. Friend say in 1874 with regard to reliefs, even in time of peace? He said— I have gone into the scheme of reliefs established by the late First Lord, and although I am not prepared to dispute that that scheme might suffice for the present year, the right hon. Gentleman himself will doubtless admit that it provides no margin, and that if a single important ship in that scheme came to an untoward end there is nothing whatever to take its place."—[3 Hansard, cexviii. 870.] Now, that was never contradicted by the right hon. Gentleman. The number of ships for foreign service were settled by the Administration of which he was a Member, too few, in my judgment, adequately to perform the police of the seas and to protect our commerce; and how did it come about that the ships were so reduced in numbers? The First Lord, in 1870, had assured the House that the ships were then in good condition and amply sufficient for every purpose. He gave due credit to his Predecessors in office, and recognized the fact that Lord Derby's Administration and that of my right hon. Friend had by great efforts left the fleet in good condition. But after that nothing was done to supply the inevitable waste and deterioration of the fleet until my right hon. Friend came into office in 1874. Since that, not by sudden or violent efforts, but gradually, my right hon. Friend has been endeavouring to complete the iron-clad fleet; and now finding that he has only 105 wooden ships to perform duties which require 118, he has asked the Committee to enable him to build 14, or 1 more than we require. Indeed, so pressing is the necessity, that he has wisely taken the responsibility of commencing six of them before the Vote of to-night has been granted, a course which I feel sure the Committee will approve. The right hon. Gentleman opposite taunts my right hon. Friend with having failed to replace the Vanguard, and argues from that, that my right hon. Friend is satisfied that we have more than enough of iron-clads, but the discussion in the earlier part of this evening has, I think, answered that taunt; and it is ominously significant that the loss of the Vanguard has deprived my right hon. Friend of the power to retain an iron-clad in the Pacific, where, as has been seen, her presence is so necessary to the strength and power of England. But, unfortunately, we cannot restore in two years the neglect of five. Sloops and gunboats must be built as well as iron-clads, and at least those must be built which both Administrations have considered to be absolutely essential for the public interest. I do not doubt but that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City did his best with the late parsimonious and niggardly House, which would not cheer a First Lord of the Admiralty who proposed to endeavour to maintain an efficient Navy; but now, fortunately, as the right hon. Gentleman sees, there is a majority which will support a First Lord in all reasonable demands, and which will support him in his endeavour to restore the preeminence of our Navy.


said, it was not his intention to follow the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who had just sat down into the comparison he had instituted of one Administration with another, and of which, he thought, the House, and no doubt the country also, had had enough. To hear the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, any one would imagine that the Government came into office yesterday, instead of having been in power for more than two years. During that time it was open to them to build as many sloops as they thought fit; yet it was only now that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty called attention to the state of the Navy in reference to these sloops. He might, however, have stated what the Government now in office had done in the way of shipbuilding, when he was showing how they had fulfilled their programme. In the first year they were in office they increased their Estimate by £450,000; in the second year they in- creased it by £500,000; and this year they had increased it by £450,000. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that the Government had fulfilled their programme, but had said nothing about the Supplemental Estimates which they brought in, nor anything about the actual tonnage built by their Predecessors. There was one proposal made by the right hon. Gentleman which would require most careful consideration. In our Dockyards there were two classes of workmen—the shipwrights and the factory men. The former had established wages, and in due time retired upon pensions; the latter were paid the market rate of wages, and were only engaged from time to time. The right hon. Gentleman now proposed to place 500 factory men on the establishment, but had not stated how it was to be done. If the factory men put on the establishment were to have their wages reduced so as to afford an equivalent for their pensions, they would think the change no boon, and if the pensions were to be added to the present rate of wages the stop would inflict a considerable loss upon the country.


, in explanation of some remarks in his speech in the earlier part of the evening, said, that when he spoke of displacing ships he only meant taking them from one important branch and adding them to another branch of the Fleet, and in doing so he made the right hon. Gentleman a present of so many frigates. He did not look upon the money spent in the repair of those vessels which he had thrown out of consideration as fighting ships as having been thrown away. Frigates which might not be fit to take a place in the first rank as fighting ships might be useful in other ways. He regretted that while it was intended to send an unarmoured frigate to the Pacific, no step would be taken to replace the Vanguard, a fact which would justify him to urge upon the House on all possible occasions the necessity of increasing the number of our iron-clads. In 1871 and 1872 the cost of iron-clads was £65 per ton; but experience since then had shown that, with the growth of the armour and other requirements of such ships, their cost had very much increased. The present Government, since it had been in office, had laid down, to the best of his knowledge, only four iron-clad-ships —two of the Shannon class, and the Ajax, and the Agamemnon. The two of the Shannon class he believed were the least important sort of armour-clads, and the Ajax and the Agamemnon were practically not begun. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hunt) that he wished to support him in the arduous duties of his office; but he must say he felt disappointed when he found the programme of the year was almost entirely comprised in the building of a number of unarmoured gunboats. The right hon. Gentleman ought to state why he asked for so large a number of that class of vessels. There might be State reasons for building more unarmoured gunboats; but he believed that, in the main, the proposition was the outcome of the naval element in the Board of Admiralty. The Sea Lords wished to keep up the same number of men as there were in the Service before iron-clads, which required only a few men, were introduced, and, in order to keep up the same number of men, they asked for more gunboats to put them in. It might be that all these wooden vessels were required, and the First Lord of the Admiralty might be perfectly right in proposing that they should be built, but the House ought to have more information on the subject.


approved of a number of men being employed in the Government Dockyards, where they could acquire a knowledge of machinery that might be of the greatest value to the country in time of emergency. He wished to know why the sailors on the China Station were paid in Mexican dollars, which were, as a rule, at a considerable discount, a practice which involved much loss to the sailors without any gain to the Government.


thought that the First Lord of the Admiralty, before asking Parliament to grant increased Estimates, should have endeavoured to economize. A reduction of expenditure might be effected in several Departments of the Navy. For example, although in 15 years the number of ships had been diminished by 619, the number of men and boys in the Service remained the same. He contended that it was unnecessary to spend £25,000 on new buildings for the Coastguard, and that a great reform was possible in that branch of the Service; and, further, sub- mitted that the time had arrived for reducing the number of Dockyards.


stated that in the Dockyards it was proposed during the year to proceed with 8 iron-clads, 8 corvettes, 10 sloops, 2 despatch vessels, and 6 gunboats, in all 34 vessels, and to repair 41 vessels, including 7 iron-clads. The Lord Warden was considerably advanced, and would, probably, be ready by August.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Rylands.)


opposed the Motion. There would be plenty of opportunity for discussing general questions when other Votes were under consideration. He was informed by the Treasury that it was very desirable the Vote should be agreed to that night.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 63; Noes 105: Majority 42.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair."—(Captain Nolan.)


hoped that another division would not be taken, as the hon. Member for Beading would not lose the opportunity, if the Wages Vote were agreed to, of calling attention to the state of the Navy on going into Supply.


objected to taking Votes after half-past 12 o'clock.


said, it was usual when the number of men had been agreed to for the Wages Vote to follow as a matter of course. To postpone the Vote was only throwing impediments in the way of Public Business, and he therefore trusted the Committee would come to a conclusion upon it that evening.


said, if the Vote were agreed to it would be competent to raise the Motion of the hon. Member for Reading on the Question that the Speaker leave the Chair on the Navy Estimates.


wished to know whether if the Wages Vote were agreed to now, it would be competent to raise a Motion on that subject when the House next went into Supply.


said, that if the Motion of his hon. and gallant Friend (Captain Nolan) were negatived, he should immediately afterwards move, notwithstanding, that the Chairman report Progress.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 62; Noes 104: Majority 42.

Vote agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Dillwyn.)


said, it seemed to be the wish of hon. Members opposite that the Committee should not then proceed, and he therefore assented to the Motion.

Question put, and agreed to.

House resumed.

Resolution to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again upon Wednesday.

  1. HALIFAX (VICAR'S RATE). 60 words
  2. c1943
  4. c1943
  5. CORONERS (DUBLIN) BILL. 50 words
  6. cc1943-4