HC Deb 14 July 1881 vol 263 cc841-2

asked the Secretary to the Admiralty, Whether he will lay upon the Table of the House Copies of the Reports of the trial of the centrifugal pumps in Her Majesty's Ships "Mutine" and "Espiègle," with the Letter on the subject from the chief engineer of the first-named ship; and, whether he will give the Copy of a Telegram from the Admiral Superintendent of Devonport Dockyard to the Dockyard Officers and Captains of Steam Reserves in that port, with reference to the defect discovered in the shell room of the "Mutine" when commencing to store gun cotton and live shell on 26th May last?


Sir, while the Mutine was being fitted the chief engineer reported that on letting water into the ship for the purpose of testing the performance of the centrifugal pumps, it was found that some water was leaking from one compartment to another. The fact was that the compartments had not been completed, and the superintendent gave orders that the pumps were not again to be tested until the bulkheads were in a finished state. I may say, further, that in composite vessels like the Mutine—that is to say, vessels with an iron skeleton frame with the wood bolted on to it, the wood must and will shrink to a slight extent until the inside has been well wetted, and the bulkheads cannot be perfectly water-tight, though sufficiently so for the safety of the ship. The telegram alluded to in the second part of the Question was simply an order from the Admiral Superintendent in his office at Devonport to the officers in Keyham Yard to examine and make good a defect reported in the shell-room light box of the Mutine. The defect was reported to the Admiralty, and as, under the system pursued at the Dockyard, all work, good and bad, can be traced, the foreman of shipwrights and two leading men were punished for passing imperfect work. I may say that, in the case of both shipwrights and fitters, the authorities have occasionally to animadvert upon imperfect work, but very seldom, considering the great amount that is done in establishments where, as in our Home Yards, 16,000 artificers and labourers are employed, and upwards of £1,000,000 a-year is paid in wages.