§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on going into Committee [11th March].
§ Main Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ Debate resumed.
said, that the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox) in regard to the Inflexible raised a much broader question than the stability of the ship.? It raised the question as to the relations of the Admiralty to the House of Commons; the question, in short, of the control of Parliament over the expenditure of public money by the public Departments. Nothing could be more injurious to the country than that the Constructive Department of the Admiralty should become arbitrary, and that it should attempt to spend money without any control on the part of Parliament, or the public at large. The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed) had made certain allegations with regard to the Inflexible, which the Government had been invited, but had failed, to answer. The complaints of the hon. Member for Pembroke, whether they were 1301 well founded or not, were at all events perfectly intelligible; but they could not understand the answers given to those allegations by the Admiralty. There were several points on which the taxpayers of the country demanded as a right, full and explicit information before the question of the Inflexible was allowed to rest. First, was the hon. Member for Pembroke right in his account of the original design; second, if he was, when, and for what purpose, was that design altered; and, third, why the change of design was never communicated to the House. Why, when a statement was made by the hon. Member for Pembroke last year, the Admiralty did not at once admit the truth of that statement; and why a period of nine or 10 months had been allowed to elapse before it was admitted that the design had been altered? The second allegation of the hon. Member for Pembroke, equally clear and explicit, was that if the unarmoured ends of the ship were destroyed, the central citadel would possess no stability whatever. That statement he understood the Admiralty to contradict. They gave, in the Papers laid before Parliament, a limit of stability of 30 degrees in the condition under which the hon. Member for Pembroke stated there would be no stability. That statement the noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox) had charitably attributed to a clerical error. But how could it be a clerical error? If an error, it was made in April, 1877, and it had not been corrected down to the present time, although the hon. Member for Pembroke called attention to it in May, 1877. The range of stability, it was now said, was 17½ degrees. But even that was in a condition different from that contemplated by the hon. Member for Pembroke. Would the Admiralty now, at the last moment, give the figures which ought to be substituted for the wrong ones of the hon. Member for Pembroke? Would they give the range of stability, and say what was the maximum stability in that condition of the ship in regard to which they said that the hon. Member for Pembroke made a statement that was wrong? If the Government would not answer those questions, surely it was not a proper way of treating the House of Commons. The third statement made 1302 by the hon. Member for Pembroke was that the ship, if each end were riddled but not gutted, would have a feeble stability of 24 degrees. The Admiralty said that the range of stability would be 30 degrees, and that by taking out the masts and placing the cables in the hold, the range could be increased to 35 degrees. At the time that statement was made scientific persons asserted that the range of stability to provide against the ordinary roll of the sea should be 39 degrees. It was, therefore, not worth while discussing whether 24 degrees or 30 degrees was correct; because, according to the state of knowledge existing at the time, either amount of stability was too small for safety. There still remained the important question whether the ship was on the whole a safe ship. To form a judgment on that matter they had before them two documents—the Report itself, and what was called the summary of the Report, said to have been also drawn up by the Committee. Having read both, he could not call the latter document a summary, but rather a series of garbled extracts from the Report; and he asked who had put together those extracts and called them a summary of the Report? The Committee came to the conclusion that when that amount of damage which ought to be provided for had been done to the unarmoured ends, the ship would possess a range of stability of 30 to 35 degrees. These figures could not be altered, and the Committee, therefore, rightly desirous to save the credit of the ship if they could, had proceeded, with the aid of experiments, to inquire whether a stability of 39 degrees was really necessary for the safety of the ship. Their conclusion was that it was not, as a water-logged ship would not roll as much as a free ship, and that, therefore, if the Inflexible were water-logged, she would be safe with a range of stability of from 30 to 35 degrees, although such an amount of stability would be wholly insufficient for an intact ship. They concluded, therefore, that the hon. Member for Pembroke was mistaken, when he said that a ship in such a condition would be likely to capsize. But, although the Committee arrived at the conclusion that the danger anticipated by the hon. Member for Pembroke was imaginary, they discovered another source of danger—namely, that when holes were made in the unar- 1303 moured ends of the ship, if she were moved through the water at any considerable speed, her longitudinal stability might be altogether compromised, and she might go down head foremost. He would leave it for nautical men to say whether such a ship was a safe one? He hoped the First Lord would inform the House whether the Admiralty were now satisfied that the Inflexible ought to have had 10 feet more beam, and also whether it was intended to alter the designs of the Ajax and the Agamemnon so as to give those vessels an increase of beam? Before voting money for ships, the House had a right to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty to state the principles upon which those ships were to be built. He would make a practical suggestion. In the Navy Estimates sums were asked for building four new iron-plated ships, the design of which had not yet been settled. He proposed that the House should refuse to vote any money for the construction of any more iron-plated ships until the First Lord had laid before them, as the Representatives of the taxpayers of the country, the broad principles upon which the vessels were to be constructed. If hon. Members took that course, they would increase the power of the First Lord of the Admiralty and strengthen the hands of Her Majesty's Government, while they would be discharging their proper duty towards their constituents and towards the country.
§ MR. GOURLEY
thought that the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely) had made out a sufficient case for the appointment of the Committee he asked for. If he wanted any evidence in favour of the appointment of a Committee, such as had been suggested, he would find it in the speech of the late lamented First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Hunt). No one who ever held the Office of First Lord of the Admiralty took greater pains to master the details of his administration than the late First Lord, and he admitted that the administration of the Navy was in a state of paralysis, and manifested great incompetence and weakness. The Committee which sat in 1871 reported that the Vanguard and the Iron Duke were so weak below the water-line that if they went aground they would fall to pieces. Had the Vanguard been strengthened as the Committee advised, she would not have 1304 gone down when struck by the Iron Duke, and he now wished to know from the First Lord of the Admiralty, if the Iron Duke had been altered and strengthened in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee? With regard to the Inflexible, any captain who knew what she was, would direct his guns against her unarmoured ends; and if those were damaged, the citadel would be merely a floating log upon the water. As far as he understood the Report of the Committee, it amounted to this, that the Admiralty had made a mistake in constructing such a ship as the Inflexible, and that they ought not in future to build any vessel on the like principle. There seemed to him to be no organization with respect to our ships of war, and if it were necessary to have organization in connection with our Army on land, it was equally necessary that there should be organization with respect to our first line of defence. They could only be guided by experience obtained in actual warfare, and it was during the Austro-Italian war that the discovery was made, that for the purposes of ocean fighting, rams were decidedly the best type of vessel. He would ask the First Lord if the policy suggested by that discovery had been carried out? Then it was demonstrated in the American war that for port fighting and defence small monitors were the best; but that was a class of vessels which we seemed almost to have lost sight of. He would urge the First Lord to build a number of small iron-clad turret-vessels for running in our shallow waters and protecting our coasts. He suggested, also, that torpedo schools should be established in connection with our Naval Reserve ships, and that all officers in charge of our training ships should be obliged to pass a course of instruction at the Torpedo School in Portsmouth. This could be done at very little expense indeed, and would be of enormous benefit, as at the present moment all our large commercial harbours, such as Liverpool, in the warehouses of which there was every day property worth £60,000,000, were completely defenceless. In these days of steam nothing could prevent a daring officer finding his way into our commercial harbours and doing our property enormous damage. He trusted that the First Lord would see his way to the establishment of a torpedo service 1305 such as he had suggested, and believed that if he did establish it he would render our ports impregnable. He very heartily supported the Motion of the hon. Member for Lincoln.
said, that the question with regard to the Inflexible was this, whether she was a safe ship; whether we could send her abroad to defend our interests—and whether we could trust her with the valuable lives of our officers and men? He would not touch on the question whether the original design of the ship had been accurately carried out. He would only ask the hon. Member for Pembroke, whether he could point to any of our modern ships of war which had been completed on the original design? The hon. Member for Pembroke had stated that if the unarmoured ends of the Inflexible were destroyed she would capsize, and he thought it probable that such an event might take place early in an engagement. The Committee of last year, however, came to a different conclusion; they were of opinion that such a contingency was not at all likely to happen early in an engagement, and that it was in the highest degree improbable, even in an engagement prolonged to any extent that could be reasonably anticipated. He wished to show how impossible it was that such a contingency should occur. To whom were they to refer? Admirals Hood and Boys thought it highly improbable that the ship could be so seriously injured. He argued that the target presented by the Inflexible was of such a character that in the case of one-half the iron-clads of the British Navy, she could not be materially damaged by the largest guns. He did not, however, mean to infer that she would be able to withstand the combined attack of a large number of vessels; but that the particular contingency anticipated by the hon. Member for Pembroke—namely, the blowing out of the cork and stores from the unarmoured ends—could not be brought about by the fire of any number of vessels. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) stated the other night that he had taken the advice of an experienced artillerist on the subject, and that it would require that 300 large shells should be fired into that particular part of the Inflexible before anything like the destruction of which the hon. Member for Pembroke 1306 spoke could be effected. On striking a ship, the fragments of a shell were thrown forward into the ship—not outwards—in a cone of dispersion. Now, an experiment had been made in Vigo Bay in 1870 or 1871, in the case of the Monarch and the Hercules, which were taken out to fire at a huge rock 600 feet long and 60 feet high, at a distance of 1,000 yards, and with a calm sea. Arguing from these experiments, Captain Colomb, an experienced gunnery officer, found that a target represented by the side of an iron-clad could be struck only from two to 15 times in 100 shots—that was to say, that this might be the percentage of shots striking a target, say, 350 feet long by 20 feet high; but, in the case we are now considering, our target was about 200 feet long and 7 feet high, of which 6 were under water. Therefore, only 4 per cent would strike, and 7,500 shots would have to be fired. That experiment went to prove that half the sea-going iron-clad Fleet of Russia might fire the whole of their ammunition at the Inflexible without striking her in that part with such a number of shots as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London had mentioned. The hon. Member for Pembroke, however, contended that the water-line might be easily hit; but neither the experience derived from a period so far back as the battle of Trafalgar, nor from the encounter last year between the Shah and the Huascar bore out that view. At Trafalgar the Victory had only received "some" shot between wind and water, the Revenge nine, the Defence five, and the French Redoubtable "several," but it could not have been a very large number, as she did not sink until the next day. In the fight between the Shah and Huascar the Peruvians themselves acknowledged that the hull of the latter was only struck by seven shots, one of which merely went near the water-line. Admiral Hamilton, in a letter to The Times, had stated what was, in his opinion, likely to happen. "Practical experience," he said, "shows how little damage is done by an apparently overwhelming fire;" and he had had as much experience as any one of the behaviour of ships under fire, so that his view of the subject was probably correct. In that particular instance, he was speaking of the old Penelope, which was aground under the forts of Bomar- 1307 sund for a considerable time without sustaining any injury to her machinery, exposed as it was. The experiences of the American War were of the same kind; and, in fact, all the lessons of practical warfare went to show that the contingency suggested by the hon. Member for Pembroke was extremely unlikely. It was singular that neither the hon. Member for Pembroke, nor the noble Lord the Member for Chichester, nor the hon. Member for Lincoln, had been able to point to any authority in support of their assertions. The truth was that their fears were ludicrous, and he hardly understood why the Admiralty had submitted to the Select Committee such a question as the destructability of the unarmoured ends; or how an august Assembly such as this could make it the subject of two nights' debate.
said, that he would not follow the hon. and gallant Member through his speculations as to the number of shots necessary to damage the Inflexible; all he could say was, that if his view was right it would seem difficult to injure an iron-clad at all. As for the Committee on the Inflexible, the verdict, roughly stated, was "Not guilty; but don't do it again." It certainly seemed from the Report of that Committee that the hon. Member for Pembroke had over-estimated the possibility of danger to the ship, and that the views of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) were more correct. Exception had been taken to the composition of the Committee, on the ground that its Members were all more or less connected officially with the Admiralty; but surely no one could be a better President of it than Sir James Hope, while its other Members were men of almost European reputation, whose bias was not all in favour of the Admiralty. One thing he was very glad of, and that was, that the rules of the House precluded them coming to a division on the question. It was far better that it should be left in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty.
§ MR. RITCHIE
remarked, that though he had no special knowledge of the subject, it might, perhaps, be useful for one not possessing such special knowledge to express the opinion to which he had come from consideration of the evidence. He could not by any means agree with the suggestion of the hon. 1308 and learned Member for Chatham, that the Admiralty should take the House into its confidence and virtually ask it to approve of all new naval designs. That would be a very unsatisfactory and dangerous mode of proceeding, as if the House were to be consulted, there would be so much difference of opinion expressed, that there would be little likelihood of any progress in the dockyards; confusion, in fact, would be worse confounded, and we should also be showing our hand to our neighbours, and making public all our designs and all our advantages. That would surely be very undesirable, especially in the case of a new type of ship like the Inflexible. The hon. and gallant Member for Devonport (Captain Price) had rightly said that the question whether the existing Inflexible was identically what she had been designed to be, was not the important point, and the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed) had laid too much stress on his dispute with the Admiralty, and too little on the real merits of the ship. His original charge was a very grave indictment against the ship, and lay in the statement that she was almost certain to capsize if brought under shell-fire, and that she had no reserve of stability for fighting purposes. The attention of the Committee had very properly been drawn to that point, and the fullest possible information was at its service, together with the complete statement of the hon. Member for Pembroke; but the conclusion come to, in his opinion, exploded the charge against the ship. The noble Lord who had brought forward the Motion did not agree with that view of the subject. The noble Lord said the Committee stated that the Inflexible would not be able to turn on her helm if the cork and material were blown out in action; but he had omitted to tell the House that the Committee had reported that that was a condition to which she ought not to be reduced under any circumstances; and that if she had water ballast, as she would have, she could encounter waves of considerable magnitude and turn on her helm. No doubt, she would be in a critical position in the face of a powerful enemy under the circumstances supposed; but the Committee said they could not conceive it to be at all probable that the 1309 ship would be reduced to such a condition. The Inflexible carried guns capable of penetrating the armour of any ship afloat, while her vital parts were protected by armour that no guns could penetrate, and yet they were to suppose that in an engagement she would be reduced to that dreadful state, and that her enemy would be comparatively uninjured. They were to suppose that her fire had no effect on the enemy, and that she was alone in the engagement—two circumstances that were extremely improbable. But the Committee went further, and said that that contingency was impossible, unless she entered into an engagement into which she ought not to enter at all. But even then, with care and with water ballast, she would be capable of being handled and taken out of action. The noble and gallant Lord the Member for Waterford (Lord Charles Beresford) had shown that, in consequence of the very small mark that ship would present to an enemy, it would be almost impossible to hit her while moving amid the smoke and under the other circumstances necessarily associated with naval warfare. It was said that these difficulties would tell also in favour of the enemy; but it would tell much more in favour of the Inflexible, because while the latter presented a very small portion of vulnerable material to be fired at, any other iron-clad ship which attempted to attack her would have the whole of the citadel exposed to the fire of the Inflexible, which he understood would be sufficiently powerful to penetrate any armour she might possess. The conclusion he arrived at, therefore, from the Report was that the only chance of the Inflexible being successfully attacked was by a ship carrying a broadside armament, and. such a ship must necessarily be a thin-plated ship. He wanted to know what the Inflexible would be doing with her heavy guns to allow a thin-plated ship to come up and attack her in the way supposed? The Report of the Committee amounted to this—that, if probable contingencies were taken into account, the Inflexible could not be seriously injured; that in improbable contingencies she might be seriously injured, but that even then she could be taken safely out of action. In conclusion, he thought the opinion which had been expressed by so high an 1310 authority as his hon. Colleague (Mr. Samuda) in regard to using one iron plate instead of two to defend the citadel was well deserving the attention of the Admiralty.
§ SIR MASSEY LOPES
said, that the Admiralty had no reason to complain of the discussion which had arisen about the Inflexible. The noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox) had introduced that subject in a very able and temperate speech, while the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed) was one of the highest authorities in that House on shipbuilding, and the Government did not find fault with any fair criticisms which might proceed from him. That discussion had been neither Party or personal; it had been initiated by the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely), whose object was the appointment of a scientific Council of Construction, to be attached to and to assist the Constructive Department of the Admiralty. Now, he felt that such a Council would tend rather to disorganize, than to help good administration; it would awaken rivalries and jealousies, and he was satisfied it would be the greatest possible mistake to weaken the responsibility, either of the Constructive Department, or of the First Lord of the Admiralty. The speeches and letters emanating last Session from the hon. Member for Pembroke in regard to the Inflexible wore calculated to raise a feeling of alarm and insecurity in the country, and it was then rendered almost impossible but that there should be a Committee to inquire into that matter, although the late First Lord of the Admiralty was exceedingly reluctant to adopt that course. For himself, he was very glad that that Committee had been appointed; and he must say, in justice to the late First Lord, that he believed no man could have taken more interest, or evinced more anxiety, than Mr. Hunt had done on that subject, as to which he had been in constant communication and consultation with naval officers and his Colleagues at the Board. Now, the Report of the Committee was written by the Committee, and the Committee alone. The composition of the Committee was the best that could have been made. The hon. Member for Pembroke had raised a doubt whether all the references to the Committee were written by the same pen. He (Sir Massey Lopes) was 1311 prepared to say that the late First Lord of the Admiralty, after he left this country for Homburg, wrote there himself those references, and sent them from Homburg to the Committee. No one was a party to those references but himself. One of the charges made by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) was that the designs of this ship had been altered. He (Sir Massey Lopes) was prepared to say that in no respect had there been an alteration in the designs of the ship.
I never said the designs had been altered. I said that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London said they had been altered, and I asked the Admiralty whether they had been altered.
§ SIR MASSEY LOPES
begged his hon. and learned Friend's pardon if he had misrepresented him. At all events, the hon. Member for Pembroke said there had been alterations in the designs of the ship. He (Sir Massey Lopes) was prepared to say that the designs had never been altered since they had been verified by the Committee. The only alteration that had been made in the ship since the first design was the alteration of putting in 80-ton guns instead of 60. The cables and masts had not been altered, as was alleged; but it had been suggested that in consequence of the change in the guns, it might be necessary to take out the masts and restore the cables. He thought anyone who read the Report of the Committee must be of opinion that it was a careful, exhaustive, and conclusive Report; that it was an honest, truthful statement; that there was no ambiguity in it. The verdict of the Committee was simply this—that the Inflexible was a safe sea-going ship; that the apprehensions were groundless, and that the allegations that had been made against her were unfounded. That she was safe and stable under the ordinary circumstances of a naval action. That the assumed conditions of the hon. Member for Pembroke, if not impossible, were extremely improbable, and problematical, and that even under the extreme conditions of the hon. Member's hypothesis—that was, destruction of un-armoured ends—there was a requisite reserve of buoyancy. He thought the hon. Member for Pembroke had been somewhat too hypercritical. He admitted the hon. Member's technical 1312 knowledge, but he was not infallible. He was a great authority in shipbuilding, but this was also a gunnery question. He (Sir Massey Lopes) believed it was impossible to build a perfect ship, that an indestructible and invulnerable ship was an impossibility. That absolute safety could not be attained, and that the endeavour to secure absolute immunity from danger in any ship would be illusory. It was the duty of the Constructive Department to employ all their skill and resources in minimizing danger; but he was afraid it would be impossible for them to design a ship which would disarm all criticism, or build a ship which the ingenuity of man would be unable to destroy.
§ MR. D. JENKINS
thought the country might be congratulated on the Admiralty having moved slowly, instead of too fast, in the direction of the views of the hon. Member for Lincoln. We might now have had a large number of useless iron-clad ships, if the Admiralty had gone too fast, for the types of ships constructed 10 years ago were to day absolutely obsolete. And yet, slow as our progress had been, we had kept ahead of every other maritime Power. Notwithstanding drawbacks, our ships had always been found equal to the occasion; and he believed they always would be, so long as they were handled with that skill for which the officers of the Royal Navy were noted. He knew nothing of gunnery, and had no special knowledge of shipbuilding; but he had come to the conclusion that, although the Inflexible had not fulfilled altogether the original designs, she was as safe and as seaworthy as most of the iron-clads in Her Majesty's Navy. He was pleased to hear that the most recent additions to Her Majesty's Navy were vessels of a very high class; but inasmuch as the type of fighting ship was continually changing, he thought the fewer that were either bought or built at the present time the better, provided we kept ahead of all the other maritime nations of Europe. The hon. Member for Pembroke had advocated an increase in the number of the smaller types of ships; but he differed from the hon. Member upon that point, because, as the introduction of torpedoes had lessened the risk of invasion, we now required vessels of great speed and carrying heavy armour, qualities which could 1313 only be secured by increasing their size. It was all very well to race a short and small ship against a large one in the quiet waters inside the Isle of Wight; but in a heavy sea the larger ship would win. The hon. Member for Pembroke had spoken very highly in praise of the circular iron-clads; but those,vessels appeared now to have quite died out, and nothing had been heard of them during the Russo-Turkish War. He could not join in the condemnation which had been pronounced on the unarmoured ships of the Shah type; because those vessels possessed a high speed and carried heavy guns, and were altogether more efficient cruisers than iron-clads would be, while they formed admirable nurseries for our seamen and naval officers. He hoped that the present First Lord of the Admiralty would follow in the footsteps of his Predecessors; because he believed, with all its drawbacks, our Navy was far before that of any other maritime Power in the world.
§ LORD ESLINGTON
observed that the proposal of the hon. Member for Lincoln involved an administrative change in our naval affairs of great importance, and inasmuch as it also involved a question of expenditure, all Members of that House were justified in taking a deep interest in it. It was natural that the chief interest in this discussion should centre round the Inflexible; but that subject having been fully and ably discussed, he should not touch upon it further than to say that the case of that vessel formed the strongest possible argument in favour of the proposal of the hon. Member. The proposal of the hon. Member was that a scientific body of persons independent of the Admiralty should be constituted to assist the Admiralty with their advice and opinion on matters connected with the construction of ships of war. That proposal was not a new one, it having been advocated some 20 years ago by Admiral Elliot and having been supported by Sir Baldwin Walker, the then Controller of the Navy, subject to the proviso that the power of such a body should be limited to inquiry and reporting, in which case it would relieve the Admiralty from some of the most difficult and disagreeable portions of their duty. His view entirely coincided with that expression of opinion. The proposal of the hon. Member had been, as was natural, opposed by two Members 1314 of the Board of Admiralty who had urged two objections against it, one being that if adopted it would disturb the ordinary work of the Admiralty, and the other being that it would relieve the Admiralty from responsibility. The first objection was one which a Department always raised to any proposal for an innovation, and could not be held good when it could be shown that the adoption of the innovation would secure a material advantage for the public. With regard to the second objection, if he thought that the constitution of such an outside body as that proposed to be formed would in any way lessen the responsibility of the Admiralty and of the First Lord, he would gladly range himself side by side with those who opposed this Motion, and would do battle with them on behalf of what he conceived to be the great principle of Departmental responsibility, which he conceived underlay our whole system of Parliamentary government. But he could see nothing in this Motion which attempted to infringe upon the responsibility of the Admiralty or of the First Lord. The Admiralty would select the gentlemen who composed this body, they would refer designs to them, and would accept or reject their recommendations; and, therefore, the responsibility throughout would rest wholly upon the Admiralty. We lived in an age when competition was the ruling spirit that underlay all our public Departments, and he was not going to say whether we were the better or the worse for riding this hobby as hard as we had done, and when science was the ruling spirit of every branch of industry. A ship of war was the most perfect scientific machine we possessed, and it was, therefore, most extraordinary that in a Department engaged in the construction of these machines competition should be a bsolutely tabooed. There was no such thing as competition in the Admiralty, and what was the result? The consequence was something very like a national scandal, because whenever a new ship was brought out there was an unseemly wrangle. It was so in the case of the Captain and the Devastation, and now they saw it in the case of the Inflexible. He could not help thinking if there was a consultative body outside the Admiralty and independent of it, but assisting it by its advice and reports, it would go a great 1315 way to put a stop to these wrangles. That was one of the main reasons why he was very much in favour of the proposal of the hon. Member for Lincoln. The Admiralty Administration was a fortress of no ordinary strength. It had been well defended by the able men who composed its garrison. They must do their duty, but they must expect to be well hammered in the attempt. These attacks would, he hoped, be conducted with good temper and moderation; but they must be persevered in, for they did a great deal of good by keeping the garrison alive to their duty, and preventing wild and foolish sorties. He said nothing against the distinguished men who formed the Constructive Department of the Admiralty; but why should competition, as a rule, be excluded, and why should the officers in that department be judges in their own cause? A Committee might be formed, but the ultimate judge was the originator of the design. That did not seem consistent with what a fair investigation should be. The great spending Departments of the Army and Navy must have at all times great elasticity in their work, in order to meet unforeseen contingencies and disturbing influences; but that argument did not apply to the Constructive Department. It was one of the most deliberate councils, and, in truth, rather slow in its action, being behind both the trade of this country and foreign nations in the adoption of scientific improvement. If a fresh body in the shape of a consultative council were appointed, probably it would go a little faster when the scientific improvements to be adopted were of known value and importance. It could not have a good effect that a great maritime Power like England should be found year after year squabbling about the latest designs of its ships, and it was with the view of putting an end to such a state of things that he supported the Motion of the hon. Member for Lincoln. ME. E. W. DUFF observed that if he thought the appointment of another Committee at the Admiralty would have the effect anticipated by the noble Lord who had just spoken, he should cordially support it. He could not approve the proposal made by the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr, Gorst), that the designs of our ships should be submitted to a Committee upstairs. Nothing 1316 could be more mischievous. They had enough to do upstairs without attempting to solve important scientific questions. With reference to the Inflexible, his opinion was entirely favourable to the ship, and he was glad to find that all naval officers in the House, with the exception of the hon. and gallant Member for East Derbyshire (Admiral Egerton), had expressed general confidence in her. He did not know that it was altogether wise to put so many eggs in one basket, or to spend so much money on one ship; but if we were to have first-class men-of-war, able to carry large guns and resist the armament of the best ships of foreign nations, it was the duty of the country to have ships like the Inflexible, which, he believed, was the most formidable vessel afloat. An absolutely perfect man-of-war—that was to say, a vessel that could carry heavy guns, resist modern artillery, have great speed, carry fuel, accommodate her crew, and have a moderate draught of water—was an impossibility. What they had to consider was, did all those requirements bear a due proportion? He was prepared to maintain that in the Inflexible a just proportion had been maintained. He thought it very improbable that the un-armoured ends would be shot away; and looking to all the requirements of a ship for modern purposes of war, he must regard the Inflexible as extremely satisfactory. In some able remarks that were made by Captain Wilson, of the Thunderer, at the United Service Institution, it was stated that in action at 1,200 yards only 25 per cent of the shots that were fired were likely to take effect; and that was about the proportion that did so in the recent engagement between the Shah and the Huasear. But it was, perhaps, an under-statement that it would take 300 effective shots to produce any result on the unarmoured ends of the Inflexible; for shells penetrating the cork went through it without exploding, and it would require the punching of multitudinous projectiles to get rid of it. As this was almost impossible, there seemed to be full justification for the conclusions arrived at by the Committee. The charge made by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Samuda), that two plates of 12 inches each had been used where one of 16 inches would have been equally strong was, he thought, based 1317 upon an erroneous assumption that the greater resistance of solid plates bore the same proportions for all thicknesses, whereas the proportion diminished with the increased thickness of the plates. They might pay some attention to what was said by foreign critics; and Mr. King, Chief Engineer of the United States Navy, said that the Dreadnought was the most formidable fighting ship in the world next after the Inflexible, which would be the most powerful vessel ever floated. That was the opinion of an independent witness, and it was an opinion which he found was generally shared by naval officers out-of-doors. In the course of discussion reference had been made to the character of our ships on foreign stations; and that was manifestly an important question. He admitted that our Mediterranean Meet was a grand one, and worthy of the maritime greatness of the country; but the ships on our foreign Stations did not correspond with that Fleet, nor with the maritime and Colonial interests we had to protect. Many of those ships were so badly armoured that they could not fight, and so slow that they could not run away. In the encounter referred to the Shah might have been sunk, and the Admiral said it was providential she was not. Talk of humiliation! England had not been so humiliated as when an Admiral's flag was nearly sunk by the buccaneering vessel of a third-rate Power. If the Shah had been sunk by the Huascar, the Admiralty would never have heard the last of it, and he hoped they would take that lesson to heart, and not send such ships out. England ought to have first-rate ships of the Inconstant and Triumph class in the Pacific, at the Cape, and the East Indies, so that the smaller vessels might rally round them in cases of emergency. He hoped the Admiralty would consider this matter, and let them have some ironclads on foreign stations worthy to carry the British flag. At the time of the Crimean War, the appearance of two or three Russian frigates off the American coasts occasioned no little apprehension to those engaged in our maritime trade. He was not an advocate of "bloated armaments," he did not want to see more money expended than was necessary; but we ought to reflect on the enormous property we had on the ocean, and the many Colonies we had to protect. 1318 The value of ships at sea belonging to British capitalists had been estimated by Mr. Cobden in 1863 at something between £100,000,000 and £120,000,000 sterling, and he had been told that it had since then almost doubled. That was some reason for our having better ships than we had at present on our foreign stations. He wished to ask the Admiralty whether it was true, as stated by Sir Garnet Wolseley in The Nineteenth Century, that two iron-clads might sweep the Southern Ocean of our commerce and then come down upon our Stations at St. Helena and the Cape of Good Hope? While we spent £11,000,000 a-year on a Navy in which we had 550 effective ships, the First Lord ought to be able to say that such a contingency was not possible, and that he would not have Admirals writing home that it was providential they had not been sunk in casual conflicts. He trusted that the Government would realize the necessity of placing better ships on our foreign Stations, or be able to show the fallacy of the calculations of Sir Garnet Wolseley.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, he was sorry still to delay the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty with regard to the Navy Estimates; but there were several points referred to in the discussion on which he wished to express an opinion. First, with regard to the Inflexible, he confessed the appointment of the Committee last year had given him entire satisfaction. The name of the Chairman, Admiral Sir James Hope, was a guarantee for the impartiality of its proceedings and the completeness of the inquiry. He could not conceive a Committee selected with more care, or more capable of expressing an opinion upon the questions submitted to them by the Admiralty, and he was sorry to hear the hon. Member for Pembroke cast some sort of slur upon the men who formed that Committee. It was necessary to have on the Committee gentlemen of recognized ability. They were selected with singular fairness, and their Report ought to be a guide to the House, the Admiralty, and the country. They might go on inquiring till Doomsday and they would not get a Report which was more satisfactory. The Inflexible was one of the most powerful ships in the world, and in the severest naval engagement would be the most formidable, 1319 not only at its beginning but at its end. It was impossible to build a ship which was unsinkable or which was not liable to some naval disaster, especially if she was badly handled; and hon. and gallant Officers on both sides of the House had shown how extraordinarily improbable were some of the conditions which were required to sink the Inflexible. She was, no doubt, destined at first to carry less weight in the middle; but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) had fairly stated the reason the additional weight had been resolved upon—namely, that it was found necessary to equip her with heavier guns; and, seeing what foreign nations were doing in the way of naval ordnance, it would have been absurd not to place on the Inflexible, a ship costing £500,000, the heaviest armament she could possibly carry. No doubt, as long as she had only the 60-ton guns she would be absolutely stable even when her ends were destroyed, and the additional weight had given the ends a little more to carry. It was, however, impossible she could be deprived entirely of the support of her ends; and after the Report of the Committee he trusted the House, the country, and the seamen would feel full confidence in the ship. He was by no means sure that, in these days of torpedo warfare, it was altogether wise to build such big ships. They could build ships of 3,000 or 4,000 tons, which could carry the heaviest armaments; and' he congratulated his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty on one of the purchases he had recently made for the nation—he alluded to the Belleisle. That ship had been designed by Achmed Bey, who had designed one of the finest ships in the world. The Belleisle was built in this country, and whoever had the credit of building her—and he thought he saw an hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Samuda) who had something to say to it—she was a model for all shipbuilders. Well, if they could get a ship to carry 80-ton guns which would cost less than £500,000, such a ship would be, in some respects, more available for service than the Inflexible could be. A light draught of water was inconceivably desirable. A ship with a draught of 27 feet could not approach fortifications and harbours as the Belleisle with a draft 10 feet less could. It was true her speed was not so great as 1320 that of the Inflexible would be, but a speed of 12.7 knots—practically 13 miles an hour—was a good and useful speed; and the Belleisle would turn more rapidly than the Inflexible could, which was 70 feet or 80 feet longer. It was true that she had only four 25-ton guns; but they might instead place one 100-ton gun on board of her. Altogether, she was a most valuable addition to our armour-clad Navy. He had seen the Belleisle at Chatham, and every naval man whom he had spoken to on the subject declared that she was the type of iron-clad for which they had been seeking for many years. Allusion had been made to our naval force on foreign stations. He remembered that in 1865 it happened that a large, powerful Spanish iron-clad—the Numancia—proceeded to the Pacific and bombarded the town of Valparaiso in order to enforce some claim. We had there but one wooden frigate, which was anchored in-shore, and the Spanish Admiral requested her commander to take her out of the way, a thing he was most reluctant to do. There was a ship without armour which might have had to encounter a powerful iron-clad. Immediately afterwards there was a change of Government, and the First Lord (Lord Hampton) did, as no doubt his Predecessor in office would have done—he sent out an iron-clad, the Zealous, which was relieved by the Repulse, and thus for nine years an English iron-clad was flag ship in the Pacific. But in 1874 it was difficult to get a relief ship, owing to the unfortunate condition of our Navy three years ago, when we had only 12 or 13 efficient ironclads, but with boilers in a bad condition. The Shah, a heavily armed unarmoured frigate of 6,000 tons, was sent there, and was attacked by an iron-clad of 2,000 tons, which, after attacking her, escaped from the larger and apparently more powerful vessel. He should be glad speedily to hear of the Shah being removed from those waters, because she was a sham, and the Admiral's flag hoisted on board a corvette until a suitable ship, say the Triumph, was ready to take her place. They must remember that not only Chili and Peru, but Russia also had iron-clads in the Pacific. Altogether, there were at the present time nine iron-clads belonging to different nations in the Pacific; and England, no matter what European complications 1321 might arise, ought to have there a much larger force than she had at present. With regard to coaling stations in distant waters, too, the position of England was by no means satisfactory. Russia had coaling stations in that quarter of the globe, from which she could despatch a number of small ships of war to our Australian Colonies before we could be ready, as things stood at present, to meet them. The account recently published of the new Russian dockyard and establishments at Vlactivostoc, in the Corea, by Captain Bax showed the preparations that Power was making in that quarter of the world. Under the system of war now adopted, the Russians would not feel it necessary to burn the towns. They would make them pay for their release from that calamity; but it would be very unpleasant to know that Sydney or Adelaide had been compelled to pay a large contribution to Russia. Observations had been made as to the amount of the Navy Estimates, and he had no doubt that his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty would be able satisfactorily to explain what he had done with the money. He had, without doubt, strengthened the Navy, and it did not matter whether he did this by building ships or buying them, especially if he could go on buying Belleisles. Mr. Corry used to say that we could have an efficient Navy for £12,000,000 a-year, and that was exactly the sum the First Lord asked for, as the Navy Estimate was £10,500,000, and £2,000,000 would be given to him from the Vote of Credit. It had been a fortunate thing for his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, that certain European complications had enabled him to buy in this country two of the finest ships in any Navy, in addition to the splendid iron-clad the Superb.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, it had been frequently his fate to express himself dissatisfied with the Navy, and to appear in the unpopular character of laudator temporis acti. He regretted that he could not appear in any different capacity on the present occasion. He did not regard the Estimates which had been placed in their hands in the course of this debate as satisfactory. His right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty might be able to put the Estimates in a satisfactory light; but the debate had simply shown that, although they 1322 had amongst their iron-clads hardly two types alike, there was not one of them which was not open to severe criticism from the highest authorities. In the Inflexible they had the latest attempt of the Admiralty to construct an ironclad, and it was a moot point whether that ship was fit to go into action or not. The design of the Inflexible was nothing but a barge with a long bow, an enormous packing case with one fine end; and that was what the science of the latter half of the nineteenth century, combined with the present mode of conducting affairs, had brought them to. It appeared to him that there was a total want of system and knowledge. He admitted that the question was replete with difficulties, and that they were in a state of transition; but he thought that they might, after a quarter of a century's experience, contrive to build iron-clads which were not susceptible to the criticism which they had received. He thought that there must be something wrong elsewhere than in the vessels, and that the defect was to be found in the constitution of the Board of Admiralty. In his opinion, a naval man ought to be at the head of the Admiralty. If a civilian were to be placed at the head of the Admiralty, he admitted that no more capable man than his right hon. Friend could have been selected; but he (Mr. Bentinck) had always hold that the duties of the Office could be far better performed by a naval man. In his opinion, there was something radically wrong in the constitution of the Board of Admiralty. He did not consider that any benefit would be derived from the appointment of the Committee which had been suggested. On one occasion he had the honour of being a Member of a Committee consisting chiefly of ex-First Lords and ex-Secretaries. That Committee sat for two months, making speeches apparently for the purpose of explaining to the country that, during their time of office at the Admiralty, everything went well; and at length matters came to such a pass that he came down to the House in order to withdraw his name from the Committee, inasmuch as its proceedings led to a great waste of public time. If the Motion of the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely) was carried, it would lead to a repetition of that solemn farce, and he therefore hoped the House would 1323 not revert to that old system. He could not help thinking that the House of Commons now found itself employed in trying to repair the errors of previous legislation, and in trying to find a remedy for one of the greatest blunders that had ever been committed in connection with the naval affairs of the country, and that was the abolition of the old Navy Board. He thought the best thing that could be done would be to re-constitute that Board. In his opinion, the country had not a sufficient reserve of ships. In the old days, when a Fleet was sent to sea, there was a reserve of three or four ships to supply the place of any casualties that might occur. But where was our reserve of iron-clads at the present time? Such was the deficiency of our Navy last year, that we had not an iron-clad available to send to sea, and had to despatch an unarmoured frigate, the Shah, to the Pacific Station as flag-ship. That was a most serious state of things that ought not to be tolerated for a moment, considering that so large a portion of our Navy consisted of vessels which, like the Vanguard, might sink from a mere poke in the ribs. There was another point to which he wished to call the attention of his right hon. Friend the First Lord. He had always contended that at foreign Stations we should have ships that were not entirely dependent upon steam, but ships which were capable of being handled under canvas; but he doubted whether at present we had more than one or two ships of that kind. He was convinced of the necessity of having a large fleet of fast cruisers, which should be able effectually to protect our commerce in the event of war, with sufficient power to defend themselves, and to enable them to destroy the ships of any Power with which we might come into contact. Nobody, he supposed, imagined for a moment that if we went to war we should consent to be bound by that piece of folly called the Declaration of Paris, and a fleet of fast cruisers was, consequently, a necessity. This country depended upon the Navy for the protection of her greatest interests, and if the Navy was inefficient, England would cease to be a great country. Every Englishman, therefore, was bound to do his utmost to support the Government in maintaining the efficiency of the Navy of this country.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he would endeavour, as shortly as possible, to answer the remarks which had fallen from several hon. Members during the two nights the present discussion had already occupied. It would probably be most convenient to the House if he first referred to the Motion of the hon. Member for Lincoln, who had asked for a Committee to consider the way in which the business of the Admiralty was conducted, especially with reference to the construction of ships; and he should be the very first person to approve an inquiry into evils which had been shown to exist, and the very last to object to criticism, especially the criticism of the House of Commons. Nothing was, he believed, more healthy or more calculated to produce good in the administration of a Public Department than that the full light of criticism, both from the House of Commons and the Press, should be shed on its proceedings. At the same time, he ventured to think that the present was not the best occasion for the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry into the conduct of the Constructive Department of the Admiralty. The proposal was inopportune. Many hon. Gentlemen had referred to the fact that the Department was overworked, that its duties were exceedingly heavy; and although they might have disapproved of a portion of the work it had done, they admitted that, upon the whole, the work was exceedingly valuable. Yet, although differing among themselves as to the grounds on which a Committee should be appointed, many hon. Members supported the Motion at a time of difficulty and grave responsibility, in order that the members of the Board of Admiralty might be practically put upon their trial, and that they should be brought down to the House at least two days in the week to give information to hon. Members sitting upstairs, at great cost of time and trouble, and to the consequent neglect, to some extent, of the grave and important duties with which they were charged. Now, in his opinion, no good case had been made out for granting the proposed Committee. It had been admitted that, with all its shortcomings, the result of the work done by the Admiralty as it now existed was a good result; that we had very fine ships heavily armed, and capable of going at great speed; that there had 1325 been a great development of inventive genius, and quite as much readiness as there ought to be to accept inventions which had been proved to be useful. He, therefore, must deprecate in the strongest possible way an attempt at the present moment to interfere with work which was, he thought, on the whole, well done. And if it was not well done, who, he would ask, was responsible for that state of things? He was responsible for it at the present moment, the same as his Predecessors in the Office of First Lord were responsible when they were at the head of the Board of Admiralty, and the responsibility of the Admiralty included the Constructor's Department. It was a mistake to suppose that the Constructor's or any department of the Admiralty were an irresponsible body. The Constructors were responsible first of all to the Board of Admiralty itself, and the Board of Admiralty was responsible to Parliament and the country. It would not, in his opinion, be possible to lay down a more unsound or dangerous doctrine than to say—"Well, these gentlemen are a powerful body; they have done their work as they thought fit to do it, and you, a Minister of the Crown, really cannot be held responsible for their conduct." If the Minister of the Crown was not responsible, he was not fit to be in the position he held. If a Minister of the Crown did not see that the work of his Department was properly done, and if he was not prepared to accept the full responsibility for all its shortcomings, he ought no longer to occupy his Office. He was therefore prepared, unequivocally, to accept the responsibility of the Department over which he had the honour to be placed, and, as experience might show to be necessary, to ask the House for additional strength for the discharge of its duties. He would now endeavour, as far as he could, to reply to the other observations which had been made in the course of the debate, believing that he had said sufficient by way of answer to the speech of the hon. Member for Lincoln. Reference had been made to the French system, under which there was a Conseil des Travaux, which assisted the Constructive Department of the French Government. It was, of course, impossible to speak too highly of the intelligence, skill, and 1326 scientific ability of the French Naval Constructors. They were a most competent body of men; but he thought it would be found, on inquiry, that the system which prevailed in France at the present time could not be accepted as one which conduced to the rapid execution of a successful scheme or design. He believed it to be the opinion of the most able and most trustworthy Constructors that the very Council which had been so strongly recommended by some hon. Gentlemen was in itself an evil. Considerable care was devoted to the examination of designs for ships; but the Council was in itself an irresponsible body. It was not charged with the grave responsibility of executing the work. In the nature of things, a body of gentlemen called upon to examine a design submitted to them could scarcely endorse and pass it en bloc, and the result was, not unfrequently, that modifications were suggested which the constructor who had submitted the design accepted; but the Constructor did not accept those modifications as improvements of his design, but as, on the whole, the best course which he could follow under the circumstances in which he was individually placed. The result was that an inferior design to that which would have otherwise been adopted was taken, because responsibility was frittered away and lost; and undoubtedly there was great delay. The hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely) had remarked that some of the ships had been a long time building, and that changes had been made in the course of their construction. He had asked that very day for a Return which referred to three French ships, and he found that one was commenced in 1870, launched in 1876, and remained yet incomplete. A second was begun in 1870, launched in 1875, and finished about the middle of 1877; while a third, which was commenced in 1865, was not launched till October, 1873. Those facts, he thought, showed that our system did not involve greater delay in the building of ships than existed in France, although he admitted that there had been great delay in the case of one or two of our ships. The Dreadnought had been delayed because, while she was in the course of construction, it occurred to those charged with the responsibility of building Tier that improvements could be made in 1327 her. But delay, under those circumstances, had its advantages, for what was the result? Why, that the Dreadnought was a faster, more powerful, and altogether a much more valuable addition to Her Majesty's Navy than she would have been if she had been completed on the original design, instead of waiting, as the Admiralty of the day did, for the results of investigation. It was, he might add, hardly necessary for him to toll the House that the constitution of the Constructor's Department made it in reality a bonâ fide council. There were five constructors, who themselves had a personal knowledge of the art of construction, and they were assisted by two engineers, all of whom concurred in the design which was ultimately submitted to the Lords of the Admiralty; who must not be supposed to be incapable of exercising some discretion and judgment when the design was laid before them. He, for example, was assisted at the Board, not only by his able Colleagues in that House, but by three naval officers selected because of their skill and knowledge of naval affairs, naval construction and artillery, and their general capacity for the discharge of their duties. One of those gallant gentlemen had been referred to to-night as an officer well known as an artillerist and a man of great scientific knowledge, whose judgment was probably equal at least to that of any officer of the present day. He would not pursue the subject any longer, and thought that he had said enough to justify himself in asking the House to believe that there was a real and sufficient judgment exercised upon the designs entertained from time to time. Next, with the permission of the House, he would refer to that which everyone felt to be the most important question, and which had given force and strength to the debate—he meant the anxiety of the country with regard to the Inflexible. He had no complaint whatever to make of criticisms which had been passed on that ship, or of any independent opinions which had been formed concerning her. It was only right and proper that Departments and Ministers should be the subjects of such vigilance; but when, as in the present case, the inquiry made in answer to the appeal of the public had been close and searching, when the Committee entrusted with that inquiry had 1328 been almost unanimously accepted as a Committee chosen from the most competent men, and when its verdict had been given in terms of which there could be no doubt as favourable to the construction adopted, then he thought the public might be allowed to rest in the assurance that the Admiralty, the naval profession, artillerists, and all acquainted with such matters wore satisfied with the ship that was about to be added to the Navy. He was afraid that he could not avoid passing over ground that had been already well trodden; but his responsible position entitled him to the indulgence of the House. Hon. Members well acquainted with the subject had remarked that there could not possibly be a ship which should be absolutely invulnerable, and it was necessary to accept the proposition that a ship, if she was to fight, must also be prepared to endure the consequences of fighting. He wished to lay it down as an axiom that a really effective ship should, in the words of a very high authority, possessthe greatest possible offensive power; and the defensive power should be such as to ensure her, as far as possible, and in equal degrees, against all the various modes in which she may be disabled or destroyed. From this it will follow that it should not be in the power of the enemy to disable the ship by one single blow delivered by any means at his command, if this could have been prevented by causing other defences; where he has not this power, to surrender a portion of their strength to succour the weak part.That was the case with the Inflexible, and it had been thought right not to place armour on her ends; because it had been conclusively shown by every professional authority that they were not likely to be perforated in such a degree as to impede her usefulness in action, due regard being had to the power of her guns. The Admiralty contended for the Inflexible, and accepted responsibility on her behalf, that she was the most perfectly designed vessel afloat for the purpose of resisting heavy guns and heavy blows, and that she was likely to remain seaworthy for the longest space of time. The right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) had referred to the fact that at least 300 heavy shots would have to strike her unarmoured ends before she would be reduced to a riddled and gutted condition; but the hon. and gallant Member for Devonport (Captain Price) had remarked 1329 that those shots must strike her, not all in one place, but must be equally distributed over her like the squares of a chessboard before the ship could be thoroughly riddled. He need not refer to the evidence of experts to point out the improbability of such a thing, for, indeed, he might call it impossible as well as improbable. He would only remark that the 24-inch armour of the Inflexible could not be penetrated by any gun now in any ship—that was, the belt of the Inflexible. The 81-ton gun could not pierce 24 inches of armour; but the Inflexible gun, which was the 81-ton gun, could pierce the armour of any other ship now afloat; so that one discharge from the guns of the Inflexible, if it took effect in a vital part, would expose any other existing iron-clad to the greatest possible danger, while a similar gun discharged at the ends of the Inflexible would neither pierce her citadel nor inflict any very serious damage; because her ends were not her vital parts. The discharge from the gun of the Inflexible, if it struck the boilers of the Devastation, or at her vital parts, would probably send her to the bottom; but if a shot from the Devastation were to hit either the bows or the stern of the Inflexible, it would do comparatively little injury. They had, therefore, in the system which had been adopted, security that, unless some more powerful gun was used against her, the Inflexible would be able to hold the sea against the most complete iron-clad afloat. That brought him to the question raised the other day by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Samuda), who had stated in most distinct terms that a 16-inch iron plate was equal in resisting power to the two 12-inch plates surrounding the battery of the Inflexible. He confessed his surprise at that statement, though he knew that the theories on which it was based were true up to a certain point; but they gave way under the force of actual experiment. He would state what those experiments were, and they would demonstrate the error of the hon. Gentleman, and show that the extra eight inches had not been thrown away on the Inflexible. The statement that the resistance of iron plates to projectiles increased as the square of the thickness was a very rough estimate, and only held good up to six or seven inches. With 1330 thicker plates we had direct proof it was not so. In 1871 two targets were fired at from the 18-ton and 25-ton guns with projectiles from 400 lb to 6001b weight at 200 yards. The first target consisted of a 14-inch plate in one thickness; the second target of two plates of 8 and 6 inches, with 9 inches of oak between. The total thickness of each target was 14 inches iron, 15 inches oak backing, and one inch and a-quarter iron inner skin. The indentation, as measured from the face of the target, was necessarily less with the single plate; but the absolute amount of resistance to shot or shell—that was to say, the protection afforded to the inner skin, or the inside of the turret—was shown to be practically the same in both targets. The deduction from this was that the double-plate system was to be preferred for many reasons, because the plates could be more easily manufactured; they could be made larger, so that no horizontal joint would be required in a turret; through joints could be avoided; the number of fastenings could be diminished; better quality of material could be ensured; and, finally, the cost would be less. Again, at Spezzia, in 1876, a compound target of iron in two thicknesses of 12 inches and 10 inches, with 12 inches of wood between, also a single plate target with 22 inches of iron, were fired at with 2,000 lb shells from the 100-ton gun. In these trials, also, there was a larger amount of penetration in the double plate than in the single plate; but the more serious cracking in the thicker plates made the comparison between the depths of penetration in the two systems of little value. Upon this Report the question was referred to the War Office whether the recommendations of the Committee of 1871 should be re-considered. The reply, after reference to the Heavy Gun Committee, was in the negative. In this conclusion the Director of Naval Ordnance and the Director of Naval Construction concurred. In 1877, at Shoeburyness, two targets were fired at from the 38-ton gun. The first target was a solid 16½-inch plate, with the usual backing. The second target had three 6J-ineh plates, with 5 inches of teak between. The result was that both targets were penetrated; but, in the second target, the base of the shot remained in the last plate, while the whole 1331 of the projectile went completely through the solid plate target. The deduction from that was that a solid rolled plate of 17 inches, or 17½ inches, was equal in resisting power to three 6½-inch plates, separated by 5 inches of backing—that was to say, that 17½ inches of iron in one solid plate equalled 19½ inches in three separate plates. It might, therefore, be safely deduced that 24 inches of iron in two separate plates would, at least, equal 22 inches of iron in one solid plate, and that the structural advantages of two separate plates would more than compensate for the two inches of iron of one solid plate. That would show that the proportions which the hon. Member had stated to the House were not sustained by the actual proof they had had of the resisting power of iron. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the Tower Hamlets had also spoken of a comparatively thin plate keeping out shell. Now, it so happened that the only projectile which penetrated the hull of the Huascar was a shell which passed through her armour, and burst inside the ship. There were other subjects to which he must refer. The noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox) had complained that the reference to the Committee was cramped. That point had been already referred to by his hon. Friend the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes). For himself, he could not conceive how it was possible to charge the Admiralty or his lamented Friend Mr. Hunt with cramping the Reference to the Committee. What did his right hon. Friend (Mr. Hunt) do? He first of all summarized the charges made against the ship by the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed), and then he asked this last question, which was intended to cover everything—Whether, all points considered, the ship is, so far as can be ascertained from the design and calculations, a safe sea-going vessel; and whether, when the amount of damage to which her unprotected ends would be exposed in action is borne in mind, sufficient provision has been made to ensure, in all human probability, her safety under such conditions?An hon. Gentleman who did not see in those questions the fullest possible direction to the Committee to give the most complete answer as to whether the ship was a safe and a good ship must be in some degree prejudiced as to the con- 1332 dition of the ship, and also as to those who were to put those questions respecting her. He was sure that his right hon. Friend had desired in every way to afford the fullest possible information to the House and the country. Everyone who had known his right hon. Friend must feel that he was far too honourable and straightforward a man and far too zealous in the discharge of his duty—and, unfortunately, he fell in the discharge of his duty—to omit anything which words could do to obtain from the Committee, in whom he had the most complete and perfect confidence, a true statement of the facts of the case. For himself, he believed that that statement had been made. The hon. Member for Pembroke, who he was sorry was not in his place, had asked—Would the House believe that up to this moment they had never had a description of the state of the Inflexible's stability as it was on the date when The Times' article first appeared last year and when the debate arose in that House upon it?And the hon. Gentleman then went on to say—He would now ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he would tell them what the stability of the Inflexible was when the debate arose in that House?Now, the facts of the case were these—Parliament had been informed of the stability of the Inflexible as it existed when the letter appeared in The Times, and the debate arose on the 18th of July last year. The Paper, No. 285, which was laid on the Table on June 28, 1877, contained a diagram of the curves of stability ascertained in 187G, as they existed in July, 1877, with lower masts in and chains and cables stowed on the main deck. And it was upon that diagram, with masts in and chains and cables on the main deck, that the Committee had framed their verdict as to the stability of the ship. If, however, the masts were removed and the cables stowed below, the ship would have increased buoyancy and stability, and that was shown in a foot note of the same Paper, page 11. He therefore believed the most complete information was given at the time in the most straightforward and honourable manner by those whose duty it was to furnish it; and there had been no withholding 1333 in any shape of the facts necessary to enable the country and the Committee to form their judgment upon the value and stability of this ship. He now came to another question. He had been asked why no reference was made in the Report to the Ajax and the Agamemnon. Now, reference was made in the Report, or rather in the Papers sent to the Committee, to the Ajax and the Agamemnon. If they looked to paragraph 4 in the letter of Mr. Lushington, addressed to the Committee on the 30th of August, they would see it stated that those ships were designed on the same principle as the Inflexible, and that the opinion of the Committee in regard to that vessel, whether it was favourable or adverse, would cover them also. What would have been the use of extending the Reference of the Committee, so that they should consider whether the Ajax and the Agamemnon were safe vessels, when they were constructed on precisely the same principle as the Inflexible? They might as well say that if the die of half-a-crown was enlarged from a florin it was not satisfactory, and that it would be necessary to see whether the die of the florin was satisfactory. The case of the Inflexible covered the case of the Ajax and the Agamemnon. If the Inflexible was unsafe, so were the Ajax and the Agamemnon; but if she was safe, then it might be fairly inferred that they were safe also. A great deal was said by the hon. and learned Member for Chatham about our bringing the designs of future ships of war to be discussed on the floor of this House. [Mr. GORST: Not the designs, but the principles of the designs.] They had had a very long debate upon the design of the Inflexible, and it certainly did not show much uniformity of opinion, or anything to induce the Admiralty to come down and ask for a full and free discussion in that House on the designs of their ships. Complaint had been made that there had not been uniformity of design. That, he thought, was one point on which the Admiralty might claim some credit. Taking advantage of invention and of experience, they had moved on from time to time building better and more powerful ships, as they believed, than they had before. But if new principles were to be discussed in that House without any hope of arriving at unanimity on any principle, the Admiralty would then probably go on 1334 building on an old type rather than on a new one. With regard to the stability of the Inflexible, in the letter addressed by the Secretary of the Admiralty to the hon. Member for Pembroke, and which was included among the Papers on the Table, it was not stated that there would be a large amount of stability in the circumstances supposed by the hon. Member—namely, in the event of riddling and gutting; but it was stated that even in that case there would be stability. He was prepared to tell his hon. Friend what that stability would have been in the event of the masts remaining in the ship—that was to say, in the event of the condition of the ship being that which was submitted to the Committee. There would have been a curve of stability of 14½ degrees, if she were in a riddled and gutted state. In the event of the masts being removed and the chains and cables stowed below, there would have been a stability of 17 degrees. And that agreed with the Minute of the Admiralty laid before the House, which stated that an ample reserve of stability was left; and that in the case contemplated by the hon. Member for Pembroke, the model remained upright and did not capsize, although the amount of stability was small. He could not refrain, in connection with this subject, from making some reference to other countries, although he concurred with the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) in thinking that comparisons, with regard to foreign countries, were not at all desirable from the mouth of the First Lord of the Admiralty; therefore, it was not his intention to make those comparisons. But we might derive advantage from the practical experience of our allies and friends. He held in his hand a communication from the Minister of Marine in Italy, which conveyed to him the information that the Italian Admiralty were building ships which were not intended to have any armoured stability at all. They were larger ships than existed in the English Navy; their displacement would be 2,000 tons greater than that of the Inflexible. They would be protected by armour only so far as the batteries were concerned. Without any regard to armoured stability, the weight of armour from which they were relieved, as compared with the Inflexible, 1335 would enable them to carry engines of more than twice the power and coal for many weeks' consumption. The Italian Admiralty had no doubt whatever as to the wisdom of the course they were pursuing. They had gone a great deal further than we had. They had altogether dispensed with armoured stability, and did not believe in its necessity. But he had also a letter from one of the most experienced naval constructors in France, who, speaking of the Inflexible, said—I received with a great deal of pleasure the Report of the Inflexible Committee, which you had the kindness to send me some weeks ago. I took a good deal of interest in perusing this valuable Report, and was sincerely happy to find the conclusions arrived at by the very competent persons who were members of the Committee were quite in accordance with your views of the question. I am truly glad to see the final award decided in favour of the ship.He thought he could say little more as to the wisdom of the course which had been taken. He trusted the House would now permit the Speaker to leave the Chair, and that they would be permitted to see this ship proceeded with, confident as he was that she would be a valuable contribution to the offensive and defensive force of this country. He believed no better ship existed in Europe—if, indeed, in the world—and none that would give greater confidence to the officers and men who might have the good fortune to be placed in her for the defence of the honour and interests of this country.