HC Deb 20 April 1882 vol 268 cc1037-81

in rising to call attention to the strength and condition of Her Majesty's Navy; and to move— That, owing to the enormous increase in the Iron-clad Navies of the World, the Trade and Commerce of the Empire is endangered, and that it is desirable that steps should be at once taken to make an adequate addition to the strength of the Navy, said, that the difficulty of interesting the public on this subject was, strange to say, very great. The fact was, that from their cradle upwards Englishmen were taught to believe that England must needs be the mistress of the seas, and were accustomed to hear incessant praises of our Navy, and the reiterated statement that it was strong enough to meet all the Navies of the world. It had always been said that our Navy ought to be a match, not only for the Fleet of any one Power, but for those of any probable combination of Powers. That was the doctrine held at the be-ginning of this century, and he only regretted the prevalence of the delusion that our Navy was actually sufficient for that purpose in the present day. At the beginning of the century the victories that covered our naval heroes with glory were due to the excellence of our seamen and of our seamanship. A revolution, however, had taken place in shipbuilding, and another revolution, under the able direction of his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty, was also in progress, by which gunners and stokers were substituted for sailors. Several circumstances combined to make it more and more difficult for our Navy to maintain its old superiority. Eighteen years ago there were only four or five considerable Naval Powers. But now every single State endeavoured to possess men-of-war. Italy built enormous vessels that were unmatched by any of our own; and even China had steel gunboats with guns heavier than those of the Inflexible. And to say nothing of the fact that steam and electricity favoured rapid combinations, England was unquestionably more vulnerable now than formerly. Her Navy, it was evident, had always had to perform far more difficult duties than that of her most powerful neighbour. According to Admiral Fanshawe, England in 1805 had 83 line-of-battle ships in commission, while her enemies, France and Spain, had respectively 37 and 24; but when the hour of danger came we could assemble only 27 ships—the other 56 being engaged in protecting our Colonies and our trade—as against 33 vessels of the combined French and Spanish Fleets. He would venture to quote a few figures which would show the magnitude of the commercial interests that would have to be protected by our Navy. He found that the trade of the United Kingdom amounted in 1878 to£614,254,600, and our Colonial trade to no less than£964,000,000—that being more than a fourth of the trade of the world. The tonnage of the trading steamers during the same time was—British tonnage, 4,200,000; and French tonnage, 420,000. He quoted these figures to show the relative duties which the Fleets of the two countries had to perform in time of peace. Then, again, the increase of our food supply during the last few years had been most remarkable. In 1846 the imports of corn and flour into the United Kingdom amounted to 17 lbs. weight per head of the population. In 1858 it had risen to 70 lbs.; in 1865 to 93 lbs.; and in 1878 to 188 lbs. Our Colonies and Dependencies, too, which we had to defend embraced one-seventh of the land surface of the globe and nearly one-fourth of its population, and the total area was estimated at 7,647,000 miles, or more than 60 times the extent of other countries. The total area of the French Colonies was 335,629 square miles. In referring to the condition of the Fleet of our nearest neighbour he was not actuated by any feeling of hostility to the French Government or to the French nation. He wished that this country would remain on terms of the strongest amity with the French Government. Yet, above all things, he was an Englishman, and he thought it was his duty to call the attention of the House of Commons, and especially of the Admiralty, to the statement which he had made elsewhere, when he had not the advantage of the presence of the Secretary to the Admiralty. He began with a comparison of the two Fleets, and for that purpose he would begin with our iron-clad fleet absolutely built—that was to say, the iron-clads that were in commission and in reserve. There were 28 iron-clads. Of these, 14 were of the first class, 9 of the second class, and 5 were for coast defence. The French had now in reserve and in commission a total of 19. Of these, 9 were of the first class, 3 of the second class, and 5 for coast defence. Of the British Fleet, those that were at home at the present moment for the protection of our coasts were 9 first-class, 3 second-class, and 5 coast defences, making 17 in all. The French had at home 6 first-class, 4 second-class, and 4 coast defence vessels, making 14; so that while our iron-clad navy numbered 28, and the French 19, the ships at home were only 17 in our case and 14 in theirs. It was an absolute fact that of our 17 first-class seagoing iron-clads 3 were purchased during a panic by the late Government; and he thought the Secretary to the Admiralty and his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Wigton Burghs (Sir John Hay) would agree with him that ships bought in a time of panic were not likely to be of the class which you would deliberately select to be added to the Navy or would build in a dockyard. It was a most remarkable fact, and he hoped the House and the country would take it to heart, that while the French laid down a programme which they carried out carefully, steadily, and completely, our naval policy was a system of spasmodic efforts—at one time of going back for the purpose of economy, and at another time, in the face of a panic, of jumping in and buying what ships could be got. We had five coast defence vessels. He would say nothing of their seagoing qualities. They were ordered during the panic which followed upon the outbreak of the war between France and Germany. They were brought under the notice of the Committee of Designs and strongly condemned by Admiral Ryder. His right hon. Friend the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. W. H. Smith), who was now present, declared in a work recently published that, in the opinion of the Committee, the coast defence vessels which were purchased in a time of panic were only able to go safely from port to port, and that in fine weather. There was another point to which he wished to draw attention, and that was that, while our iron-clads were knocking about in the Mediterranean and wearing out their engines and their boilers and straining themselves so that after four years' service an enormous sum was required to repair and refit them, the French vessels in reserve remained quietly in port and were as good as on the day they left the dockyard, the police duties being performed by what were called obsolete ships. He had been charged with leaving vessels out of his English list that ought to have been in it. All he could say was that he had never left out a single vessel from the list of iron-clad ships except those included in the Admiralty official documents as obsolete ships. [Mr. TREVELYAN: Included in what list?] The ordinary Admiralty list. We knew now exactly how we stood. We had 28 iron-clads against 19, and 17 for home service against 14 which the French also had in reserve. The next part he had to deal with was the most important of all, and that was the building programme. In discussing the building programme of the two countries they must always remember one thing, and that was that wages were much lower in France than they were in England, and that the money voted by France for the Naval Estimates embodied a larger amount of work than the same amount of money in England. In the English Dockyards during the Administrations of Lord Northbrook and the right hon. Gentleman opposite, 15,963 men were employed; while this year that number was raised to 16,844, being an increase of 800 or 900 men. The policy which induced the hon. Member to sanction this increase he entirely approved of, and he congratulated the hon. Member upon it; but, after all, it was not an absolute increase, for large numbers of men were discharged last year, and a Supplementary Vote of£50,000 for overtime was the consequence. They now had 16,844 men; but the French had at least 22,500, or something between 5,000 and 6,000 more men than we had. During the French year, which was reckoned from January to the following December, they contemplated building 16,000 tons according to our reckoning, or 21,000 tons according to their own measurement, which included hulls and machinery, in 1882, and 26,000 in 1883, thus showing an increase of 5,000 tons in the year 1883. This was not a spasmodic effort or the result of panic on the part of France. It was a careful and well-measured system of carrying out the programme which they started with great vitality two years after a disastrous war, in 1872, which they revised in 1879, and which was to be completed in 1885. They would then have no less than 38 iron-clads, 12 second-class ironclads for coast defences, which had been suspended during further torpedo experiments, 34 cruisers, troopships, and other vessels. Their determination to carry out this scheme was evinced by the enormous sums of money voted year by year for the purposes. In 1882, 269,342,422f., and in 1883, 280,618,343f. was to be applied to that object, though, he was bound to say that 8,275,921f. only of that sum was a real increase in the Vote, the balance, amounting to 3,000,000f., accruing from the sale of old stores, one-fourth of the whole being devoted to the service of the New Construction Department. The Vote for this portion of the Service amounted in 1882 to 35,842,000f., and in the Estimates for 1883 to 40,336,400f.—that was to say, an increase of 5,000,000f. in the year 1883 as compared with 1882, and of 14,000,000f as compared with the year 1881. If evidence were needed of the determination of successive French Governments to carry out the programme they had originally laid down, these figures would supply it. The French Government had also made estimates as to how far the work begun upon each of the new iron-clads had progressed in a manner similar to the plan of the hon. Gentleman. During the naval year in England, three ironclads would be built and added to the Navy, seven would be commenced, and two so little advanced that they could hardly say they had been commenced. He would say they had been talked about. In the French Estimates for 1883, there would be five iron-clads built, nine commenced, and two talked about. That would give us in 1883 three more iron-clads than the French, but if we consider the French Dockyards, with their enormous staff and their unlimited Votes of Credit, and if both nations maintained their relative rate of naval progress, where should we be in 1885? These Estimates, moreover, for 1883, were moderate Estimates, were such as moderate men would accept, and they would not sanction any less; but they were not such Estimates as the "Grand Ministry" of M. Gambetta would have voted. By 1885 the French would have added to their Fleet a number of most powerful ships, and with steel armour. Five of these ships would have their guns protected by 18 inches of steel armour. Five others would have their guns protected by 16 inches of solid steel armour. Four of them would have at the water-line 20 inches of steel armour. Two of them would have at the water-line 21½ inches of steel armour, and four others would have 18 inches of steel armour. If the state- ment he had made was mythical, then the statements made before the French Chamber of Deputies were mythical too. They could not avoid coming to the conclusion that it was highly probable—nay, more than probable—that in 1885, France, who did not depend upon the sea for her food supplies, who had few Colonies, and an insignificant trade—France, who had a Standing Army of nearly 1,000,000, would have an armour-clad Fleet equal in number, if not superior, to that possessed by that Empire which used to be considered the mistress of the seas. He hoped that public opinion might be brought to bear, in some measure, on this subject, and that the Secretary of the Admiralty, who, while addressing audiences in the country, expressed his determination to keep up the strength and prestige of the Navy, would have the backbone to insist upon the making the necessary additions to the Navy. The additions to the French Navy would be completed much sooner than had been originally intended, and with this view arrangements had been made for pushing on the ships with still more activity. They would be finished, in fact, in three years, instead of six years. The immense additions which the Minister of Marine made to the Estimates were for the purpose of finishing the ships in three years. As to unarmoured ships, certainly we had made great efforts to add to our cruisers; not that England had done all that he could have wished to see done. While we had been very active in completing our cruisers, the French had not been idle either. They were building two first-class cruisers which would be able to steam at the rate of 10 knots an hour over 5,000 miles at a stretch. This must add greatly to the strength of the French Navy. With reference to the difference between the system of artillery adopted in France and that adopted by England, it seemed to him that, during the last 20 years, successive Governments in England appeared to have been asleep. They did not seem to have been able to keep pace with the naval artillery of France and Germany. There was one suggestion which he had very much at heart, and that was the absolute necessity of establishing a Department of Naval Ordnance. ["Hear, hear!"] He was very glad that the lion, and gallant Member (General Sir George Balfour) cheered that remark, as when he came to bring the subject before the House he would claim the support of the hon. and gallant Member. Perhaps one of the most important points of all was the personnel of the Navy. They could not guide ships and fight them without men. Attention had been called to the personnel of our Navy some years ago, and the folly was pointed out of looking upon the petty officers and seamen as fighting men. It was observed that 9,000 were stewards and others who could not be regarded as fighting men. They did not know how to hold a gun, as they had never been trained. What he wished to impress on his hon. Friends opposite was the advisability of introducing a system by which every man who appeared in the Estimates as connected with Vote 1 should be trained as a combatant. Our total of petty officers and men was 31,000, the French had over 35,000; and, in 1873, when it was argued in this country that the more powerful ships required a less number of men, in France the number of seamen was increased by 845, and the reason given was that it was required on account of the more powerful character of the ships. With regard to the Marines, that force had been reduced by the Government to the extent of 600. This year the Marine Force of Great Britain stood at 12,400, while that of France stood at 22,014. The French Marine Force formed, perhaps, the most highly-trained and valuable body of combatants in that country. He might mention that this was the force that defended Paris with the greatest success. In addition the French had a Marine Reserve Force of 10,752 highly-trained and disciplined men, so that their Marine Force really amounted to more than 32,000 men. Even if we were permitted to add our 4,000 Coastguards to our Marines, the preponderance in favour of France was found to be 16,354. What, he asked, could be the object of a Power which was not dependent upon foreign food supplies, which possessed but few Colonies, and which had only an insignificant trade to protect—what could be the object of her having, in addition to 1,000,000 men in arms, an iron-clad Fleet equal to or greater than that of the greatest maritime Powers, and a Marine Force larger than our own? On another occasion he should tell the House what class of ships he wished the Government to add to the Service of the country. He could not think that the Government would grudge such an addition to our Navy on the ground of expense, for the First Commissioner of Works was going to introduce a Bill which would legalize the expenditure of millions in building and gilding some new public palaces; and if the Government did not grudge money for such a purpose as that, they surely could not regret the sum which must be spent in improving the Navy. He had been told that it was unpatriotic to publish the facts which he had brought before the House. He agreed that it would be unpatriotic, if the facts were only known to the Secretary to the Admiralty and himself. But as they were known to every Government in Europe, and as the only people in the world who were ignorant of them were the English people, who were deeply interested in the subject, he thought he was taking a right course in giving publicity to the facts in question. He deprecated panic, and he deprecated optimism; the former, because, under its influence, the Government might fill the Navy with indifferent ships at a great cost, and the latter, because it might lead to a fatal assurance. It was optimism that characterized the French Army at the commencement of the Franco-Prussian War, and the result of that optimism was crash and ruin. He ventured to press upon the Secretary to the Admiralty the absolute necessity of asking for further funds in order that large additions might be made to our armour-clad and cruising navy. A demand of that kind made by the Government would be received with popular favour, for the taxpayers of this country would rejoice to see the Royal Navy in a thoroughly efficient state. The noble Lord concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.


said, that he had a Motion on the Paper somewhat similar to that of the noble Lord. But he was glad that his noble Friend had been able to bring forward his Motion first. In rising to second his noble Friend's Motion, he had only one fault to find, and that was that his noble Friend, by his exhaustive statement, had left him very little to say. He regarded this question as, perhaps, the most important question of the day, in as much as upon it the very existence of the country depended. It appeared strange that in the present condition of Europe, and in the present aspect of foreign affairs, there should be any doubt existing in this country as to the efficiency of the British Navy. Yet there was no doubt such doubts did exist, and he grieved to say that, in his opinion, they were well-founded. The first explanation that suggested itself to him as to the cause of this remarkable state of things was one which he had had occasion to bring before the attention of the House many years ago, without success, however, so far as convincing the House of the correctness of his views; but he was still convinced that the present condition of the inefficiency of the Navy—which he held to be a matter of fact—arose chiefly from the prevalence of the civilian element in the constitution of the Board of Admiralty. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Trevelyan) had stated the changes which it had been thought advisable to make in the constitution of that Board; but he naturally did not advert to any such doubts existing. In deprecating the presence of civilians in the most responsible positions on the Board, he (Mr. Bentinck) was not casting any slur upon those distinguished men. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty the other day, in introducing the Navy Estimates, accomplished that which was rarely achieved; he made the subject an interesting one to all classes. He was said to have made an eloquent speech—an opinion which he endorsed. Nobody doubted the hon. Member's talents, and nobody doubted the talents of the noble Lord who was at the head of the Department. Other distinguished men on the other side of the House, who were civilians, had also presided over the Admiralty Board, and nobody doubted their talents; but, in spite of their admitted ability, he contended that the real cause of what he might almost describe as the unnatural condition of the British Navy was to be ascribed to the presence of civilians in the more prominent positions at the Board of Admiralty. He made these remarks in no Party spirit. The question was entirely a general one; but he held that, in consequence of the present arrangement, the Navy virtually had no Representative in the Cabinet or in Parliament. The question was one of the utmost importance, and one which ought to be brought before the country. He would quote, in support of his views, the opinion of Admiral Sir George Cockburn, who said that our existing system was the most unsatisfactory one which could be well devised, and that the ultimate decision on important professional questions rested with men who could not, without elaborate explanations, understand professional statements or even expressions contained in professional documents. He (Mr. Bentinck) contended that the man who was to give opinions upon the condition and requirements of the Navy ought to be the man who was able to take command of a fleet, and to take it into action, and it was owing to the total want of such representation that the present painful condition of the Navy was to be attributed. He trusted, however, that the time would come when the advocacy of the cause which he was pleading would fall into better hands than his own and meet with better success. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty had told the House most truly that our safety depended upon our having plenty of armoured vessels, and yet it was perfectly plain, from a perusal of the Estimates, that our fleet of armoured ships fell far short of the necessities of our position. We had many more interests to defend than any other Power, and our Navy was being worn out with service in all parts of the world; while that of France, for instance, remained in harbour, ready for any emergency. Independently of that consideration, it was a doubtful question whether, in point of weight of guns and of speed, we were at present equal to the French Navy. The French had heavier guns and faster ships than we had. In the event of any combination of another Power with France against Britain, we should be in a position of inferiority. The superiority of our Navy was essential to our national existence, whilst the Navies of other Powers were to them comparatively unimportant. So great an authority as Admiral Sir Thomas Symonds held that in order to enjoy the same relative superiority as we did 100 years ago, we ought to possess 92 first-rate iron-clads. It should be remembered, moreover, that wars were now-a-days begun and ended in a few months, so that there would be no time after hostilities opened to remedy our naval shortcomings. In view of these facts, he was forced to the painful conclusion, though he was afraid the House of Commons would not allow itself to be convinced, that our naval position was at present utterly unsatisfactory, and that our national honour was in jeopardy.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "owing to the enormous increase in the Ironclad Navies of the World, the Trade and Commerce of the Empire is endangered, and that it is desirable that steps should be at once taken to make an adequate addition to the strength of the Navy,"—(Lord Henry Lennox,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he felt bound to say that the speech of the noble Lord (Lord Henry Lennox) was not only eloquent, but able and instructive. So far as he could understand, neither the present nor the late Boards of Admiralty seemed to have any policy with regard to the ships they built, which were of all sizes, and all sorts of power as regarded guns. The noble Lord showed very clearly that the French were now building ocean cruisers very much superior to any which we possessed. Our Inconstant, for example, could carry only two and a-half days' fuel, and the Iris, which was our latest type of cruiser, was incapable of steaming with her own fuel for more than five days. It was a suicidal policy and waste of money to build such vessels, while other countries had cruisers carrying more fuel, which, in case of pursuit, would inevitably escape from them. The noble Lord, therefore, in calling attention to what the French were doing and had done in this respect, did good service to the House and the country. Nor in the event of war would it be possible for us to convoy the large amount of property which we had afloat in our Mercantile Marine. If the Government would turn its attention to an amendment of the Treaty of Paris of 1856, it would take the right course. The Americans were no parties to that Treaty, for the simple reason that they knew it would be out of the power of any nation in these days of steam to convoy its ships and merchandize effectually. Such an extension of our naval power as would enable us to do so would be next to impossible. During; the American Civil War the United States had a very large mercantile fleet, and three Alabamas destroyed the whole of their trade. If we happen to be at war with a nation which had only a few swift vessels, the very fact that these vessels were known to be in search of our ships would be the means of raising the amount of insurance to such a height that our trade would be driven into other hands. In his Report upon the Naval Reserve, Admiral Phillimore said he was positive that there was one fatal defect in connection with our inshore reserve, or fighting ships—that was, their very deep draught of water, ranging from 17 to 18 feet. These vessels, such as the Resistance, the Lord Warden, and the Hercules, in the event of war, instead of being able to perform the duties of coasting reserve, would be compelled to seek shelter in some of our deep-water estuaries, either behind forts or behind torpedoes. Those vessels were so obsolete, and so utterly useless, either for ocean cruising or for fighting, that they would be totally incapable of competing with or beating vessels of a more modern type—even such vessels as were recently built by Sir William Armstrong's firm for the Chinese Government. That firm built a number of steel gunboats or floating batteries for inshore fighting on the Coast of China. Why should our Government allow a possible hostile Power such as China to have a more useful class of ships than we possessed? It would be said that those Chinese vessels were unarmoured; but then our own were limited with respect to the power of their guns. If we could have some 20 vessels such as those of the Chinese Government, the draught of which was only 9 feet 6 inches, it would be very much better than to carry so many eggs in one basket in the shape of one large ship. In a contest with 10 or 20 such vessels an iron-clad, while she might sink a number of them, would herself ultimately be sunk. A comparison between the gunboats built for the Chinese Government and our own large iron-clads like the Dreadnought proved the superior advantages and convenience of the former for purpose of coast de- fence. He wished to impress on the Government that the time had come when some attention ought to be paid to the necessity of having some organized system in regard to the vessels we possessed for coast defence, as he understood there was no organized system of that kind, and he thought we should have vessels of an improved type, not of the same size of those which had been built for the Chinese Government, but much larger, with powerful guns. That might involve the expenditure of a large sum of money, perhaps, of something like£1,000,000; but he was sure that if there was one thing besides education on which the taxpayers of this country would be willing to spend£1,000,000, or even£2,000,000, without grudging, it was in having a thoroughly efficient Navy.


said, that the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Gourley) had alluded to very interesting topics, as to some of which he should have desired to follow him; but he himself had on the Paper for that day a Notice entirely in the same sense as that of his noble Friend the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox), and, perhaps, it would be better for him now to confine himself to the want of iron-clads, which he believed to be at present the great want of the Navy. They required large iron-clad ships to protect their base of operations, and they also wanted light vessels with heavy guns, for other purposes; but he would address the House on that matter of vital importance—the small number of iron-clads which we had for purposes of war—and he believed he would carry with him, though not, perhaps, to the same extent, the feelings of his hon. Friends the Secretary to the Admiralty and the Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Sir Thomas Brassey), who sat opposite. His noble Friend the Member for Chichester had placed before the House most clearly the condition of the Fleets of France and England; but he had not alluded, to any extent, to the Fleets of other countries, which must be taken into consideration when that subject was under discussion. In addition to the iron-clad Fleet of Great Britain and that of France, the numbers of which his noble Friend had given, they had the fact that Germany had 15 iron-clads and Italy had 18, He would not trouble the House with any reference to other Powers; but if, under any conditions, the Navies of France and Germany or Italy combined, they would outnumber us nearly two to one, looking at the duties which we had to perform. It must be remembered that our Navy had much more extensive duties than any other to perform; that our Colonies were in all parts of the world; that at no time was there in this country four months' provisions for our population; that it was necessary to convey along great lines of communication our food supplies, as well as to convey safely the commerce by which we bought those supplies. We had six great trade routes to attend to. There was the route through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal to the East, passing under the guns, so to say, of the French, Spanish, Austrian, and Turkish Fleets; then there was the route by the Cape to our Australian Colonies; then the route by Cape Horn to the Pacific, with which we had trade, where Russia at Vladivostock, and France at Tahiti and Noumea, as well as the South American Republics had always iron-clad ships, and that was also the route home from Australia; then there were the routes to the West Indies, North America, and the Baltic. All along those routes there were 20,000 British mercantile vessels to be protected, and 12,000 Colonial and Indian—32,000 ships that had to be convoyed and protected in time of war. For those duties what force had we to show? He would only speak with regard to the iron-clad fleet, because that was the base of operations of all our small ships and frigates. Many foreign countries had fortified harbours in distant parts of the world. France had three fortified harbours in the Pacific, and in the Indian and Pacific Oceans she kept, he believed, some smaller vessels and one iron-clad. It was only necessary for France to have one ironclad far away from home; but this country kept 11 iron-clads on service in distant parts, even in time of peace. According to figures which he did not think could be controverted, in 1885 the British Navy would consist of 38 armour-clad ships and 20 obsolete vessels, besides one iron-clad which, he believed, it was intended to build. It was with great dissatisfaction, however, that he saw the Vixen, the Viper, the Water- witch, the Scorpion, and the Wivern included in the list of ships which were of service to the country. They might be useful enough for the defence of harbours; but as some of them had only 3-inch armour, and none were of great speed, they should not be placed in the fighting line and reckoned among the 20 obsolete vessels. Among the 38 iron-clads, the Cyclops, the Hydra, the Hescate, and the Gorgon were ships which had been reported upon as not being satisfactory seagoing iron-clads, though of use under certain conditions. Taking those four away, the number of armour-clad vessels was reduced to 34, while the list of obsolete vessels was reduced to 15, by the five he had mentioned being deducted. The French Navy consisted of 33 new vessels and 23 obsolete ships, exclusive of 11 other vessels not serviceable, except under certain conditions. The result was, that this country would only be able to place 39 iron-clads against 56 of France. Great exertions had been made by France to complete her Navy. In 1872, after recovering from her disasters, she set to work to complete her Navy at a time when the Naval Expenditure of this country was being reduced. From 1860 to 1870 the Naval Expenditure of Great Britain averaged more than£12,000,000 a-year; but from 1870 to 1880 it had averaged a little more than£10,000,000. Except in the year in which the Turkish iron-clads were purchased, the Naval Expenditure of this country had not exceeded in any single year£11,000,000 since 1870;£2,000,000 a-year had been saved during the last 12 years, and that£24,000,000 represented exactly the amount of iron-clad shipping, of which they were short. Representing, as it did, 48 iron-clads, in his opinion, the relative proportion he had shown to exist between the Navies of France and England ought not to be the rule. Italy and Germany also had respectively 15 and 18 iron-clad vessels. England was thus becoming a second-class Naval Power. If the£24,000,000 saved since 1870 had been spent, they would now have had about 48 more iron-clad vessels, which would not be at all too many, and would only represent the French and Italian Navies combined. There were 166 iron-clad vessels in the world; in his opinion, this country ought to possess as many of these as any two Great Powers put together. The question was how the state of things which now existed could be remedied. Many iron-clads could not be built at the same time; but he believed that 12 could be built at one time, besides those building at the Dockyards. They would take three years in building, and the expense could be spread over that period at the rate of£2,000,000 a-year. In his opinion, the country expected the Navy to be brought up to the strength he had indicated. He hoped to hear from the Admiralty that the deficiencies in the protection of this country, which were owing to parsimony during the last 10 years, would be made up by expenditure, which would not be an extraordinary expenditure, but merely a going back to the rate of expenditure when Lord Palmerston was Premier and the present Premier was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that an iron-clad Fleet would be created which would restore us to the position of the first Naval Power in Europe.


said, this debate had been anticipated by the Government for a considerable time; but it was a little difficult to know what line the Representatives of the Board of Admiralty should take. This was an extremely delicate subject for discussion, because it consisted of comparing our Fleet with that of a friendly Power, for the purpose of stimulating the production at the Admiralty. The details of the French Fleet were very familiar, he had no doubt, to the late Government; but up to the present time it had not been the custom to recommend the Navy Estimates by referring to the strength of a friendly Power, any more than it was the custom to recommend the Army Estimates by referring to the Force of any particular Power on the Continent. The noble Lord had made a speech which was marked with ability and considerable knowledge, and undoubtedly it was his (Mr. Trevelyan's) duty to say something, and he would say it as speedily as possible. Calculations relating to the strength of particular iron-clads were sure to differ. No one could have read what had been written without seeing that it was the most elastic of all topics. For instance, the noble Lord gave the names of first-class iron-clads available at home and abroad for the defence of the country as 10 first-class sea-going ships and four doubtful ones on the side of the English, and seven on the side of the French. According to the information of the Admiralty, out of these seven French iron-clads only four had been completed at all, and of the other three two had never yet been classed by any authority, except the noble Lord, as first-class iron-clad ships. There was not one of the 14 English ships alluded to by the noble Lord which was not ready for sea at a moment's notice. That was, in itself, a very great difference. Again, the noble Lord spoke of the speed of the French ships as exceeding that of English ships; but the noble Lord, he thought, was not aware that of those French ships only two had been tried for speed, and it was extremely doubtful whether they would ever fulfil the speed which they were supposed to have, while the speed of the 14 English ships was as well known as though they were packets trading between Liverpool and New York. The noble Lord spoke of four of our iron-clads as being scarcely sea-going ships; and he said they were bought during a panic. With regard to the Rupert, she had a most successful commission under Captain Gordon. The commission, he thought, was for three years, in which she encountered severe weather in the Mediterranean. The Hotspur went to sea for a year, and a favourable account was given of her by the Naval Lords. The noble Lord said that 16,000 workmen were employed in our principal Dockyards. Sixteen thousand were employed last year, and 16,800 this year. He did not know whether the noble Lord included Malta among the six principal Dockyards; if he did, then there were employed this year in our principal Dockyards 17,600 workmen. The noble Lord, however, had raised a much more serious difficulty on the question of quality. In regard to the Sea Force, they must consider what the ships were, and what the men were who would have to fight in them. The noble Lord talked of our only having 12,400 Marines, while the French had a powerful Marine Force of 30,000 men. There was really no comparison between our Marines and those of the French. Our Marines were amphibious—they were really seamen; whereas the French Marines were the Colonial Army. They were nothing more nor less than the First Army Corps for foreign service. The noble Lord, in his pamphlet, made a comparison between the tonnage of the English Dockyards and the tonnage of the French Dockyards. So far as he could judge, the noble Lord had committed a grave error, which had unfortunately been before the country in a very attractive form during the last six weeks. The noble Lord, in his pamphlet, said the French proposed in 1882 to provide 21,600 tons of armour-clad ships, and the English only 11,000 tons; but he thought the noble Lord now admitted that the calculation was wrong, because he took what was called the displacement tonnage, whereas we calculated by the proportion of the weight of the hull, as was always done in the shipbuilding accounts. If both calculations were brought to a common standard, the English estimate would be 11,466, and the French 15,250 tons. But the English always worked up nearly to their programme; whereas in 1878 and 1880 the French fell 5,000 tons below the estimate of each year, and, so far as they could judge, that was the amount to which they always fell below their estimate; and in the case of 1882 the difference in the calculation of the 10 ships, amounted to 17.3–100hs, or a ship and three-quarters. The noble Lord had also raised the question of the French expenditure. He quoted the French Estimates of 1882; but he (Mr. Trevelyan) declined to enter into that, because the French year began in January and ours in April. The French Estimates were voted in July, and a certain part in December, and until they were voted they could not know what they were to be. But it was very different with the English Estimates; and as the French year 1881 was coincident with nine months of our year of 1881–2, he maintained that they had no right to compare the year 1881–2 with the French year 1882, with which it was coincident for only three months. The noble Lord had said that, according to the best judgment he could form, the French Estimates for the year 1882 were£9,500,000, or 238,000,000 francs. The Admiralty had carefully examined the figures, and came to the conclusion that£8,500,000 was nearer the mark than£9,500,000; and a person of great authority had said there ought to be a further deduction of 18,000,000 francs. But he would not accept that reduction, and was content to leave the figures at 214,000,000 francs—that was£8,500,000 of our money. Then the noble Lord talked of two French ships with 100-ton guns.


said, he never alluded in his speech to any ships with 100-ton guns. He only alluded to the subject in a pamphlet which was not under the notice of the House, and the figures were taken from the interesting book published by a Colleague of the hon. Member the Secretary to the Admiralty.


begged to withdraw anything he had said as to the 100-ton guns. The noble Lord spoke of French ships to be armed with the 72 and 75-ton guns, and compared them very unfavourably with the ships we proposed to arm with the 60 or 64-ton gun, which was, as far as he could gather, an actually heavier gun than that which the French had decided upon. He had chosen those instances for the purpose of showing how impossible it would be to lay the state of the Navy before the country by entering minutely into the figures which were given by previous speakers. He did not wish to say anything that could be attributed to a Party motive; but it was absolutely necessary in discussing this question, when hon. Members rose to call for a rapid increase of shipbuilding, for the Admiralty to put itself right, and to show that an increased rate of shipbuilding was certainly not a matter in which they were wanting. In regard to the efficiency of the Fleet for the time being, he quite allowed that the present Government were absolutely responsible. The Government that had been in Office for a year or two ought to have brought the Fleet into a thoroughly efficient state by attending to repairs; but, as regards the numbers of the Fleet, it could not be denied that previous Governments were responsible. It was the Government of four years ago that were responsible. The Government might have followed the obvious course of taking a cursory view of the English and French Navies respectively, for the purpose of showing that the French had a real Fleet, whereas ours was a mere phantom Fleet, and of gaining popularity by such a course. But they took a course more consonant with the loyalty which ought to subsist between two successive Governments, and assumed that their Predecessors had good reason for adopting the course which they had followed. They, therefore, went quietly and steadily to work to ascertain the real state of things. Now, what was the actual conduct of the late Government, which was just as well aware as the present Government were of what the French were doing? In 1874–5—the year they came into Office—they built 8,457 tons of iron ships. In 1875–6, while efficiently and thoroughly repairing the Fleet, they built 14,276 tons. Then, in 1876–7,they built 11,448 tons. In 1877–8, they built 7,113 and bought 14,808 tons of vessels more or less complete. 8o that during their first four years of Office they built at the rate of more than 10,000 tons of iron-clad shipping a-year, and likewise purchased 14,000 tons more. But after that the late Government began to relax their efforts. In 1878–9 they built only 8,430 tons; in 1879–80, 7,427tons; and in the Estimates of 1880–1 the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. H. Smith) only proposed, to build 7,231 tons. When Lord Northbrook became First Lord of the Admiralty, it became their business to examine the state of our own and Foreign Navies, and the conclusion at which they arrived was, that the time had come when they ought to increase the rate of iron shipping; and so, without making any noise about it, they began building the ships which the right hon. Gentleman opposite had commenced at a faster rate. In 1880–1, instead of 7,231 tons, Lord Northbrook actually built 9,235, and in 1881–2, 10,816tons; and this latter estimate was adhered to within 100, or, he might say, 40 tons. In the coming year his noble Friend proposed to build no less than 11,466 tons. That was the quiet and unsensational, and not ineffectual, way in which they had dealt with the situation. What was the evidence on which the charges of negligence against the present and the late Board of Admiralty rested? The right hon. and gallant Baronet opposite (Sir John Hay) had been constantly urging the Governments to increase their iron-clad Fleets, and he deserved well of the country, because, while he kept the subject before them, he was careful in his statements, and did not try to throw the country into a panic. But that was not the case with all critics. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Bentinck) had quoted Sir Thomas Symonds as a great authority. Sir Thomas Symonds had said that the French had six sea-going armour-clads, armed with 72 and 75-ton guns, while the English had only one with 80-ton guns, and that the French had also nine armour-clads armed with 48-ton guns. If he (Mr. Trevelyan) had read one he had read 20 leading articles on that sentence; but the French had no ships with 72 and 75-ton guns; and as regarded the vessels with 48-ton guns, five were either building or progressing towards completion, and of the four others, the keel of only one was laid at this moment, and another was going to be built on the slips on which another ship, which was always quoted as a French ship afloat, was still being built. Those ships of the French were balanced by English ships with regard to which Sir Thomas Symonds was absolutely silent. The fact was that in 1872 the French came to the conclusion that they wanted more ships. Of their Fleet 31 ships were wooden, with iron plates. The programme laid down in 1872 had been more or less adhered to; but, instead of a ship costing£330,000 to£360,000, it now cost from£520,000 to£560,000. The English had 26 iron-clads, including the Polyphemus, in commission, and 23 in reserve, making a total displacement tonnage of 320,000 tons. The French had only 11 iron-clads in commission, and 29 in reserve, with a displacement of 225,000 tons. But of the French ships 21 were wooden with iron plates, whereas only two of ours were of wood. The French Admiralty had actually condemned no fewer than 17 wooden iron-clads, with an aggregate tonnage of 71,780 tons, and even after this great clearance there still remained 12 wooden ships in the French Navy as against two of ours. This was the case as regards the armoured ships that were already built. As regards those in course of construction, the number of the French iron-clad ships designed, building, or completed appeared on paper as 19, and the English ships as 13. The rapidity of the French work fell much below the Estimates; but in spite of that it was ascertained that the progress of the French ships was such that Lord Northbrook increased the outturn of our iron-clad tonnage by half as much again as was thought sufficient during the last two or three years. Last year he stated that no great Fleet was better armed than our own. Having made that statement in Parliament, he repeated it in the country, and it attracted the attention of the noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox), who made some rather strong observations about it. Among other things, the noble Lord said that a formidable weapon now universal in the French Navy did not exist in our Navy, and that the French Fleet was undoubtedly better armed than our own. Since this question had been started again, he wished to put it absolutely beyond dispute. Therefore, he had had a Report made of the number and weight of the armour-piercing guns now actually mounted in the two Navies. The total number of armour-piercing guns in French iron-clads was 284, and their weight was 4,476 tons. In the English iron-olads the number of armour-piercing guns was 480, and their weight was 6,224 tons. In unarmoured French ships there were 26 armour-piercing guns, their weight being 201 tons, while in unarmoured English ships there were 79 armour-piercing guns, and their weight was 880 tons. So much for the weight and numbers. As regards their quality, so far from their vastly superior weapon being now universal in the French Navy, only eight guns of the new type were mounted in finished vessels. The rest were guns of the old type, certainly not superior to our own, which the French were engaged in superseding as fast as they could, just as we were doing with ours. There was at this moment only one French ship afloat which could not be pierced in every part of her frame by the 38-ton gun, with which our more powerful ships were armed, leaving out of account the 80-ton guns of the Inflexible. But the real point of the controversy turned not on the old guns, but on the new. On this point he was bound to make two observations—first, that if our heavy guns of the new type were not sufficiently far advanced, it was the late Government which should bear the responsibility; and next that since this question had been started and pressed with such extreme energy, the Government were not prepared to affirm that the undertaking—the long and complicated undertaking—of providing the Navy with new guns was in a sufficiently advanced stage when they took Office. Less than this he could not say, and more he certainly did not wish to say. Now, the providing of heavy guns for the Navy was a question of detail, and the most important detail was to have ships ready to carry them. Sir William Armstrong said— What should our Government do in regard to the great work of re-arming the Fleet? I take for granted that all new ships will be armed with the best guns that can now be made. So the first matter was to see what these new ships were. The order in which our new iron-clads would come into the effective list was first the Ajax and Agamemnon; then the Conqueror; then the Edinburgh and the Colossus. Now, if the late Government had seen their way to press forward our new guns earlier, the Ajax and the Agamemnon, like the latest French ships, might have been armed with guns of the new type. But they did not see their way to it. On the 23rd of December, 1878, the Admiralty came to the following decision:— The First Lord is not prepared to delay the ships (the Ajax and Agamemnon) any longer. The change to longer guns and breech-loading or loading outside the turret, as proposed in the model, involves large considerations which cannot be disposed of hastily, and the long guns are not yet made, and, therefore, untried. The ships must be completed for the service 38-ton gun chambered as it now is. Well, that settled the question of the Ajax and Agamemnon. They were armed with the 38-ton gun; only it was chambered so as considerably to exceed its former range. From the first, it always carried a charge of 160 lb.; but on board the Ajax and Agamemnon it carried a charge of considerably over 200 lb. So much for the Ajax and Agamemnon, whose armament was settled by the late Board, and not by the present one. The next ship coming on for armament was the Conqueror, and the War Office engaged positively that three of the new 43-ton guns—equal, or, as far as they knew, slightly superior to the new French 46-ton gun—would be ready next December; two to be mounted in the Conqueror and on for reserve. Two more were to be ready in March, 1883, and six more in July, 1883; so that the eight guns required for arming the Edinburgh and the Colossus were promised us as soon as the ships were in a state to receive them. The 10 9-inch 18-ton guns of the new type would be ready in July next to be mounted in the turret of the Rupert and in the broadside of the Hercules; and that was the date which Woolwich was prepared to name for the delivery of 21 11½-ton guns. As for the 60-ton gun, of which he spoke in the Statement of the Estimates, and which he earnestly hoped was the biggest gun which either French or English authorities would think it necessary to aspire to, the design had already been laid before the Ordnance Committee and communicated to the Admiralty; and it was hoped that a half of the gun would be finished this year, and its construction would be advanced in parallel strides to that of the Howe, the Rodney, and the other ships which were being built to carry it. He thought it would be impossible for the armament of the ships to have proceeded more rapidly than it did under the present Government. Meanwhile, the experiment which, if successful, would secure equal power with a lighter weapon, was in an advanced stage. Sir William Armstrong had sent to Woolwich a wire gun of 10.2-inch calibre, which weighed only 21 tons, as against the 26 tons of the "Woolwich 10.4-inch breech-loader, and that gun was going to Shoeburyness for trial. As regarded the 6-inch and other lighter guns, he did not wish to state over again what he had said at quite sufficient length before Easter; and he would only remark, as a melancholy, but pretty convincing proof, that the task of rearming the Navy had begun in earnest, that the Estimates for Naval Ordnance, which, in the last year of the late Government amounted to£303,000, would next year reach the very formidable figure of£616,000. Those who had been writing and speaking about the decadence of our naval supremacy had insisted on one or two points, and had left out of sight broad considerations which were strikingly re-assuring. In the first place, if they looked, as he was glad to look, to other nations besides France, they found that whereas, in 1872, those nations were building 23 iron-clads, they all of them together were now building only seven. Next, in calculations of fighting power, everything depended, not on what was intended, but on what was accomplished. When it came to a question of comparing military strength, they must look, not to what existed on paper, but to what they had actually ready in wood and iron. Let them take the iron-clads in commission—that was to say, the ships whose condition was constantly tested and tried by the only sure ordeal, their actual power of keeping the sea. They had of iron-clads, armed and manned, which were actually ready to fight the day after to-morrow, at the latest, 26, with a tonnage of 188,000, only two of which had wooden frames, while the French had 11, with a tonnage of 66,000, four of which had wooden frames. If what they looked to were size and strength, let them take ships of upwards of 9,000 tons and with upwards of 9 inches of armour. Of such ships England had eight and France three. Let them take unarmoured vessels. Of frigates and corvettes, counting only those which were equipped for war and not for police or harbour duties, they had in commission on the high seas 19, as against seven of the French. If, instead of taking number, they chose the test of swiftness, they had built or building 11 ships over the speed of 16 knots, and the French had three. If they took the lower speed of 14 knots, they had 44 and the French 29. And then look at their reserves. In time of war, if such a disaster should occur, the whole maritime energy and resources of the country would be directed to warlike purposes, until the country could be pronounced secure. It was not only that for extempore iron and iron-clad shipbuilding our capabilities far exceeded those of all the rest of the world together; but in time of war, the example of the late Government in the year 1878 would undoubtedly be followed, and the iron-clads which at the time were building or repairing for Foreign Powers in British private yards would be a reserve in the hour of danger. And as for cruisers, there were 165 merchant steamers on the Admiralty list, of which the odd 65, with a gross register of 250,000, exceeded 12 knots an hour, with water-tight compartments, and able to carry the new 6-inch guns, just as effectively as if every one of the 65 had cost the country£120,000 to build, and half as much to keep in repair. A naval war was a long business, and had the whole globe for its stage of action; and the power of a country to sustain such a war, and carry it to a successful result, must be founded on its having a great Commercial Marine and a great maritime population. And there was one consideration to which he had seen no allusion, but which appeared strongly to illustrate the declaration of the French Government that their recent shipbuilding was a temporary measure undertaken for the purpose of replacing an obsolete Fleet. The whole of the extraordinary French Estimates for rebuilding their Fleet had hitherto been provided, not out of Revenue, but as an increase to the National Debt. In the French Estimates of 1882 it bad been intended that the shipbuilding should as usual be paid for out of a loan; but the Committee had recommended that for this year and for all the future the shipbuilding should be met out of Revenue. That circumstance, in his opinion, was a strong confirmation that, with the completion of the programme of 1872, the object at which the French Admiralty had been aiming would have been accomplished, and a still stronger guarantee that they would carry it no further. They, meanwhile, without incurring 1d. of debt, had seen their way to raise their shipbuilding to the standard of what they might call the English programme; and, for the second time in 10 years, the figure of 20,000 tons was to be attained, an amount of effort they and their successors might confidently hope to be able to maintain, and which if maintained, as he earnestly trusted it would be, would provide Great Britain with an ample and an efficient Fleet. The general conclusion, then, of the Admiralty was this—that it was not necessary for the safety of the country to ask for any special grant of money for iron shipbuilding, unless the French Admiralty, having completed its programme of 1872 and replaced its obsolete ships, should then go on building as fast as ever, but that it was necessary to build at the rate laid down by the right hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers). He concluded as he began, by saying that he regretted that he should have been obliged to adopt the line of argument he had taken, and to compare our Military and Naval Forces with those of other countries; but the Admiralty, after carefully considering the matter, came to the opinion that they had no choice in the matter. He was relieved, however, from the feeling that the making these comparisons was in any way invidious to the great country which was allied to ours by the freedom with which the French Government had published the facts relating to their shipbuilding, and by the generous admission which they themselves had made. The Commission of 1879, presided over by M. Gambetta, indicated that the idea of naval rivalry between the two countries had passed away. "No one," it was stated, in a most interesting passage of that Report, "disputes the first rank with England;" and it was in the same amicable spirit with regard to France, and with the intention of showing the same amicable spirit towards hon. Gentlemen opposite, that he had made the comparisons which he had the honour of laying before the House that night.


said, that no one could complain of the spirit in which his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty had treated the subject in replying to the temperate and able speech of his noble Friend the Member for Chichester. There had been a feeling that the number of iron-clads was not sufficient for the needs of a great country; but he entirely sympathized with his hon. Friend opposite in the feeling that the comparison of our ships of war with those of other nations was to be deprecated, and was only to be made on those rare occasions when it became necessary to inform the House of the state in which our armaments stood with respect to other countries, while, at the same time, they had no reason whatever to expect that those Powers would be unfriendly to this country. At the same time, he thought it unwise for the Government to ignore the exertions of foreign countries, and he was glad that the present Board of Admiralty had seen the necessity of increasing the strength of the iron-clad Fleet. His hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty had referred to the additions to the Fleet made by the late Board; and he wished only to correct the statement in which he had spoken of the addition of four important ships as having been made by their Predecessors. The four vessels in question were purchased, not in 1875, but in 1878, by means of the Vote of Credit that the Government fortunately had at its disposal; and they were, undoubtedly, a great addition to our Navy. The Secretary to the Admiralty had laid down the principle, with which the House would probably agree, that for the efficiency of the Fleet for the time being the Government of the day was responsible. There could be no question that the Government for the time being ought to maintain the Fleet in a condition efficiently to perform any service that might be required of it; and if he had a fault to find with his hon. Friend—though it was difficult to find fault with him—it would be on the ground that the present Board had failed to maintain the Fleet in a condition to meet a sudden emergency. His view of the case was that the Navy existed for the contingency of a possible war at very short notice. Our iron-clad fleet existed not for the purpose of facing combinations that might be formed after six, or, perhaps, 12 months' notice, but in order to meet events occurring suddenly like the Franco-German War. Any other war that might overtake Europe would probably be equally sudden; and those who were responsible for the Forces of the country would incur a very heavy load of responsibility if its resources were not available at very short notice. His complaint, then, was that the Admiralty had allowed the existing Forces of the country to become more or less inefficient for want of that vigilant attention to repairs which was at the bottom of all efficiency, and without which our ships would become useless. In the Estimates for the year 1881–2 the House was informed that certain ships were being repaired and would be completed in a certain time, and similar promises were made in the following year with respect to other ships. He would read the names of these ships. The Audacious, an ironclad, was promised for 1881–2, and was to be completed on the 21st of March of the present year. The Bellerophon, ironclad, was promised in August, 1880, to be completed in July, 1881; the Rover, 3,460 tons, was promised for 1881–2, and was not yet completed; and the Opal, the Himalaya, the Sapphire, the Pelican, the Rupert, the Active, the Avon, the Volage, the Shah, the Raleigh, the Juno, and the Wild Swan, were all promised to be repaired within the last two years, a distinct undertaking being given by the present Board of Admiralty. They amounted to 54,000 tons all told; and, for the most part, little or nothing had been done to them, and they now remained to be repaired in the course of the present year. Now, as none of these vessels were at the present moment fit for use, the Navy was so far weaker by their absence than it was in April, 1880. His hon. Friend had supplied to him a list of ships that had been removed from the effective list between that date and the present April as being no longer worth repairing, amounting to upwards of 25,000 tons. Adding the 54,000 tons which remained yet to be repaired to the 25,000 tons which had been struck off the effective list, we got a total of 80,000 tons, which in two years had been taken off for the time being, or altogether, from the effective list of the Navy. What was there on the other side of the account? According to the Estimates in the two years, if the contracts were carried out, there would be 19,271 tons of armoured ships, and 16,000 tons of unarmoured ships, making a total of 35,000 tons, against 80,000 tons, or a difference of 45,000tons. The five ships that were ineffective for want of repair were the Resistance, which was not in the programme at present, the Shannon, which was in it, the Audacious, the Bellerophon, and the Rupert, the four latter being good and useful ships. Altogether these represented 30,660 tons of iron-clads, as against the 19,000 tons in the building programme. This subject required the careful consideration of the Admiralty. He did not complain of the expenditure of a single farthing upon the building programme; but he did complain very much that money had not been found to keep efficient the ships which the Admiralty felt to be necessary to the efficiency of the Service. It would have been wiser if the Admiralty had taken money for the repair of these vessels; but the provision made had not been sufficient to carry out the Dockyard programme of building, and also to maintain ships in repair. It should be a canon at the Admiralty that the Navy ought to be in a condition to meet sudden war with all its available resources. He had had furnished to him a list of the ships which, when they were launched, would be efficient; but they would not be available for one or two years. He had given credit for the actual programme which would be accomplished in the two years; and he had set against it the deterioration in the same period. More than two years had elapsed since the order was given by the late Government for the manufacture of a 43-ton gun; and last year they were informed that the present Government, following the example of the late Government, had ordered 6-inch, 8-inch, and 10-inch guns, which would be supplied to the Navy before the 31st of March, 1882. When they got into Committee he should ask how many of these guns were in the possession of the Admiralty; and whether there were carriages for them? He deferred observations which he desired to make on this and some other topics.


said, it was satisfactory that an opportunity had at last been found for bringing forward the important question raised by the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox), which Motion he cordially supported. It must have produced astonishment that throughout the whole course of the statement of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty no assurance had been given that the Fleet for which they were asked to make provision was sufficient for the purpose for which it existed. Obviously that was a very difficult duty to perform, when an examination of the strength of the Navies of other countries had to be made a part of the statement; still, he thought there were higher considerations than those merely of the manner in which a specified sum of money had to be divided between the different branches of the Service. He maintained that in all cases in which the naval policy for the year was sketched out some statement should be made, either by the First Lord or the Secretary to the Admiralty, that the Fleet was being maintained, or that a sufficient number of new ships was being built to keep the country in an efficient state of defence. That statement, however, was one which was generally absent on the occasion of the discussion of the Naval Estimates, and constituted one of the drawbacks of our system of Party Government. Whatever Government might be in power, whether it was a Liberal Government, or a Government composed of Gentlemen now sitting on that side of the House, it was the case that they were guided more by Party considerations than those which he had indicated with regard to the strength of the Navy. The defect which he spoke of was one that was reflected, and naturally reflected, at the Admiralty, where the mode of carrying on business was, as he believed he might say with accuracy, as follows:—The First Lord of the Admiralty, assisted by his Parliamentary Colleagues, and influenced by various considerations, into which he need not enter on the present occasion—sometimes affected by the nearness of a Dissolution, and sometimes by the state of the national finances and the fear of coming to that House for an increased Vote—decided what sum should be asked to be granted for the Service of the Navy. In such a case, to ask was to obtain, for he was convinced that the House would never refuse to a responsible Minister of the Crown any sum in reason which he might ask, upon his assurance that it was required for the maintenance of the Navy in an efficient state. The First Lord of the Admiralty, having decided that a sum of, say,£10,000,000, or less, might be asked for with propriety, and without inconvenience, went to the Naval Advisers of the Board of Admiralty, and said—"Be good enough to inform me how this money is to be spent." Now, he contended that this course was the converse of that which ought to be followed. The Naval Lords were experts in the matters for which the money was required; and instead of the First Lord going to them to ask how a certain fixed sum of money might be appropriated, he should make it his duty to inquire of them what sum was required to maintain the Fleet in a state of efficiency? Were that course followed, he repeated his conviction that the House of Commons would not for one moment withhold any sum which the First Lord of the Admiralty might state to be actually necessary for the Service. He was glad that this discussion had taken place, because it had, at least, elicited from the Secretary to the Admiralty something more than an expression of the usual after-dinner sentiments that one often heard, but which no person who had entered into comparisons of the naval strength of this and other countries could for a moment entertain. General, vague, and sometimes wild statements had been made on the assumption that the strength of our Fleet was greater than that of any other Fleet; and he had once heard the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary state that the Fleet of this country was superior to the combined Fleets of the world. Now, it was said that the subject was a delicate one, and that it was invidious and unwise to make comparisons between the Navy of this country and the Fleets of friendly Powers; but, after all, we were only inquiring into the strength of the Navy—and he understood by that term the relative force of our Navy compared with the Navies of other Powers. What else was there of Foreign Powers besides their Fleets that we could possibly make this comparison with? The only reason why we kept up a Navy at all was because Foreign Powers had Navies which might, under certain circumstances, be dangerous to this country. We had also to consider whether our Fleet was sufficient for the growing duties imposed upon it; and the hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Thomas Brassey) had, on a former occasion, made some remarks upon this subject—referring to the extraordinary growth of the trade and shipping, which our Navy existed to defend—to the effect that— In looking back over a series of years, it would be found that, while an extraordinary growth had taken place in our trade and shipping, the Naval Estimates had remained practically stationary; that the Effective Votes for 1881–2 were£8,662,000, and the exports and imports were£697,000,000. He went on to say that— Under the Duke of Somerset, who was the First Lord of the Admiralty in the Liberal Administration from 1859 to 1865, the Naval Estimates were far in excess of the present amounts. In 1863, and again in 1864,£9,300,000 was voted for the Navy. At that time the value of our imports and exports was£200,000,000 less than at present, and our steam shipping was less than a third of the present tonnage. The facts which he had laid before them, he said, appeared so conclusive as to the strict economy which had been exercised in our Naval Expenditure, that the question would rather be—whether we were doing enough to provide for the security of our vast Empire and our extended commerce? Upon this point it was difficult to be precise without entering into invidious comparisons with other Powers; and he therefore asked them to be satisfied with the general assurance that we were at that moment in a satisfactory condition. Now, the noble Lord, and those who supported the proposition which he had brought forward, had been styled "alarmists"—that was to say, they were persons who foresaw dangers to which they and others were exposed. But, he asked, were not the alarmists in this case authorities upon the question? Of course, he did not refer to himself; but surely the experience of the noble Lord at the Board of Admiralty, and the researches he had made, entitled him to this designation. Again, the view of the noble Lord was supported by Sir Thomas Symonds, Admiral of the Fleet; by the right hon. and gallant Member for Wig-ton (Sir John Hay); and by Sir Spencer Robinson, who was Controller of the Navy under a Liberal Administration, who had published a pamphlet on the subject, and who, directly he left the Board of Admiralty, declared in unqualified terms that the Navy of this country was wholly inefficient for the work it had to do, and that, in many essential respects, it was inferior to the Navy of France. Those who took an optimist view of the qualifications of the Navy rested their case upon a series of probabilities. The first was that we should have plenty of notice of a coming war. Surely that was not a probability upon which we could rely. The second was that this country would be certain to have Allies, and that our opponent would probably have none. That, again, was surely not a probability upon which to rely. The third probability on which hon. Gentlemen opposite rested was that of our ability to concentrate our Fleet in European waters. A fourth was that there was some arrangement on which the food supply could be assured; and a fifth and most important one was that of the iron-clads in course of construction in other than Government Yards. But as to our ability to purchase iron-clads, he asked whether there was a single vessel of the kind ready for use on which we could lay our hands? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith), when First Lord of the Admiralty, was, undoubtedly able, in 1876, to purchase five first-class iron-clads, complete, or nearly so. But he contended that, at the present moment, there was not a single iron-clad to be bought in a similar manner. [Mr. TREVELYAN: There are seven at different stages.] He (Captain Price) had made inquiries on the subject last year, and was informed that there were only two vessels at all advanced. The hon. Gentlemen had spoken of main- taining our Navy upon an equality with of that of one foreign country, and had assumed that so long as it was superior to that one leading Power it was sufficient. But that was undoubtedly a new departure in the policy of this country, which used to be, in regard to Naval matters, that our Fleet should he equal to the Fleets of any two Foreign Powers. The whole of the arguments heard that night went to show that the provision we were making was insufficient. It was altogether beyond the question to say that our Fleet was equal to that of another country. If we took the Fleet as it now stood it was, no doubt, a good deal superior to that of France; but if we inquired into the effect of the policy which was being pursued in our own Navy and that which was being pursued in regard to the French Navy, it would be seen that a considerable superiority would result to the latter in the course of two or three years. He asked who was responsible for that state of things? For the purpose of comparison, he would divide our Fleet of iron-clads into three classes. In the first class he should include ships capable of carrying guns of 43 tons weight and upwards, built, building, and provided for in the current Estimates. He might, at this point, express the surprise he felt at hearing the hon. Gentleman cast doubt upon the statement that French ships now building would carry 72-ton guns, because it was a fact that guns of that weight were now being made in France; and for what were they being made if not for the purpose of being mounted? Then, what right had the hon. Gentleman to say that French ships of the first class were not going to carry guns of this calibre? The fact was that of vessels of the first class, built, building, and provided for, we had 10 ships; whereas France had 18 and Italy 7, the average weight of their heaviest guns being 55 tons in the English, as against 61 tons and 100, respectively, in the ships of France and Italy. Moreover, while the French had 70-ton guns actually building, our 60-ton guns were only on paper, the hon. Gentleman having stated that perhaps two or three 43-ton guns would be ready by the end of the year, while, he believed, the whole of the seven Italian vessels would be armed with 100-ton guns. The average thickness of armour on the English ships was 18 inches, as compared with 19 inches on the French ships. So far as France was concerned, the average speed was the same as our own, while, in the case of Italy, it was somewhat higher—that was to say, the average of our first-class ships was 14.25 knots; of the French, 14.25 knots, and of the Italian ships 15 knots. Thus, France and Italy combined had 25 first-class ironclads, as against our 10, the respective averages of guns, armour, and speed being those which he had pointed out. Of vessels of the second class—namely, those which carried guns of from 18 to 38 tons, England had 26, France 18, and Italy 5. In the weight of guns we had slightly the advantage, as compared with France, the average being 24¼tons, against 22 tons. The same remark applied to the armour, the average thickness of the plates carried by the English ships being 12¼inches, and that of the French 11 inches. But in the more vital matter of speed we were behind, the average speed of the French vessels being 13.6, and of ours 13.25 knots. Of vessels of the third class—namely, those carrying guns of less than 18 tons, and with armour of less than 9 inches in thickness, England had 15, France 13, and Italy seven. At first he thought it would be well to include in the third class every vessel, built or building, which carried, or was intended to carry, armour-plating of any kind; but on re-consideration that appeared to be hardly correct; and he had, therefore, carefully calculated the number of ships which could be made use of, and those which would not be of use to the country in time of war. Of these ships, as he had before pointed out, we had 15 and the French 13. Now, until the commencement of the present year, the French counted on their Navy List, besides these 13 vessels, 14 others, which made a total of 27. They also had 12 floating batteries built since the Crimean War, and which until lately they had looked upon as vessels which might take their place in action. Certainly, they did not consider them useless vessels, for they kept them up more efficiently than the two floating batteries which we had at the present time However, he should not include these amongst their vessels of the third class. But he must remind the House that a number of ships had been struck off the list of the French Fleet which last year actually took part in the bombardment of Sfax. Whether they could be brought forward again he was, of course, unable to say; but it was only fair that, as they had been removed from the French Navy List, they should not be included under the head of vessels of the third class. He said, then, that Italy and France combined had 20 iron-clads of the third class as against our 15; and, therefore, the sum total of iron-clads of the three classes was for England 51, France 49, and for Italy 19. In other words, England would have 51 ships as against the 68 of France and Italy combined. He asked whether or not the comparison he had made was a true one, and for this reason—because, when they made a comparison of the kind, they were not replied to in the terms of that comparison, but some other comparison was set up which was not applicable; and it would certainly be far more interesting to the public to get a categorical denial, if it were possible, of that which he now made in support of the Motion which the noble Lord had brought forward. If it were said that this comparison was not a true one, he asked to what extent it was not true? The Secretary to the Admiralty had made to the House a very lucid and explanatory statement; but, notwithstanding that his speech had been of the most interesting character, he had by no means denied the statement of the noble Lord, or the other statements which had been made on that side of the House. He should like, therefore, to get an answer from the hon. Gentleman, in general terms, as to whether, in the first place, he would deny that the French Naval Estimates were increasing, while ours were decreasing? The hon. Gentleman had referred that evening to the sum mentioned by the noble Lord as being voted this year in France—namely,£9,000,000—which the hon. Gentleman compared with our Estimate of£10,500,000; but, in doing so, he entirely forgot to state that in the French Vote was not included the sum which we include in our Estimate for the Non-Effective Votes. Was the hon. Gentleman also able to deny that the French were employing a very much larger number of men in their Dockyards, and building a larger amount of tonnage than we were? The figures of the hon. Gentleman agreed with his, in showing that the French were building 15,000 tons of iron-clads as against our 11,500 tons; and when the hon. Gentleman said that the French would not carry out their programme, he should be glad to know on what foundation that statement rested. Would the hon. Gentleman deny that their programme for last year was carried out? The French Estimates were published, and they had voted money for building the same amount of 15,000 tons of iron-clads next year. It mattered nothing to the present inquiry whether or not they had carried out their programme in 1878 or 1879. What we had to do was to compare with our Estimates and tonnage the money they had voted this year and the tonnage intended to be built by them in the coming two years. Again, could the hon. Gentleman deny that the French were adding 600 or 700 men to their Navy, while we were reducing our men by a like number? The hon. Gentleman stated at an earlier period in the Session that the number of men and boys asked for was the same for this as for last year; but he added that we were reducing the number of our Marines, whom he justly described as forming part of the ship's company. Therefore, it was correct to say that while we were reducing our Navy the French were increasing theirs. Again, the French, both this year and last year, had voted more money than we for guns, and were progressing with more rapid strides than we in the armament of their Fleet. They were building new types of guns more quickly, and, therefore, their ships would be sooner armed than ours; and, at the same time, they were spending more money on torpedoes. He said it would be satisfactory to the country that some Representative of the Admiralty should, if possible, emphatically deny those statements; and if he could not deny them in toto, then the House should be informed to what extent they were incorrect, or that they were not incorrect at all. The Admiralty, up to the present, had sheltered themselves under the old excuse, that it was invidious to make comparisons and that they must trust the Government. For his own part, he did not believe that the Government of any Party was to be trusted in such a matter as this; and the suggestion which he had to make, although it was not likely to be accepted, and would be considered by a large number of Members as impracticable, was that a Royal Commission should issue to inquire into the question of what was a really sufficient Fleet for this country to possess. The Commissioners should examine experts of all kinds—naval officers, engineers, Admiralty officials, and all those who were capable of giving an opinion on the subject—and then make their Report. But, although this would be a step in the right direction, it would be by no means enough, for it was probable that if Nelson, Collingwood, and all our old naval heroes were to rise from their graves and demonstrate from their own and the accumulated experience of later days that the country ought to be supplied with a far larger Fleet than it had, no Government would ask for the money that was necessary. Nevertheless, the country ought to be supplied with a Fleet sufficient in every respect; and he was quite certain that if the money were voted for this purpose, not one word of dissatisfaction would be heard throughout the Kingdom at the step which had been taken.


said, he had listened with attention and interest to the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox), who, in his opinion, had done good service in calling attention to the Navies of Foreign Powers, not with standing that in his statement he thought he had somewhat over-estimated the strength of the French Fleet while under-estimating our own. Moreover, he thought the reply of his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty went a considerable length in the direction of answering the noble Lord's complaint. At the same time, when they looked on the vast increase of the Italian and German Fleets, quite apart from that of France, he could not feel satisfied that our own Navy was such as it ought to be. He had heard the same statements and arguments that had been advanced that evening used on many occasions during the years he had had the honour to sit in that House; while it was contended, on the one hand, that the Fleet was insufficient for the national requirements, it was usually replied, on the other, that while the Government admitted that the Navy was not quite what it ought to be, it was in the same position when they came into Office. That kind of attack and defence had gone on for years. But what they had to consider was not whether the Navy was better now than it was when the Opposition were in Office, but whether it was what it ought to be for the service of the country. He was bound to say that the noble Lord had brought forward facts and statements which, in his opinion, had not been entirely answered by his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty, although, in dealing with details, he had shown some inaccuracies on the part of the noble Lord. His object, however, in rising was to call attention to the manning of the Fleet. The noble Lord had said very truly that, deducting supernumeraries, the number of seamen amounted to about 18,000, and as he (Mr. R. W. Duff) had not seen any contradiction of the statement which he made last year as to the small number of those who had seen six years' service, he would like to know whether the Admiralty would furnish the House with a statement showing the number of years' sea service which these 18,000 men had? The hon. Gentleman had told them that there were 153 steam vessels in the Merchant Navy, all of them fit to carry guns of great calibre; but he was very much concerned to know where the men were to come from for the purpose of manning these guns, particularly as the hon. Gentleman had, to a certain extent, reduced the Royal Marines. We were now introducing breech-loading guns into the Navy, although our men were always drilled with muzzle-loading guns. [Mr. W. H. SMITH: There are no breech-loading guns in the Navy.] He (Mr. R. W. Duff) had certainly been given to understand that the Navy was actually supplied with some breech-loading guns. Whether that was correct or not, he thought it was high time that breech-loaders were introduced into the Navy; and he felt sure his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty would admit that the sooner this was done the better, for they had been proved to be better than muzzle-loaders. Without detaining the House by entering into details, he was bound to say that, on the whole, his noble Friend had made out a case for increasing the Navy. Although he had been answered to a certain extent, he had not been entirely answered; and, therefore, he trusted that the Admiralty would not, upon any false ideas of economy, shrink from bringing forward such Estimates as would enable them fully to maintain our Naval Forces. He was satisfied that no one was more convinced than the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty of the absolute necessity of keeping up the seamanship of our sailors; and if the statement which he (Mr. It. W. Duff) had made last year with reference to the amount of their sea service were correct, he trusted there would be no hesitation in bringing forward proposals on that important subject that would be satisfactory to the country. He would not, at that late hour, deal with the statements made by his noble Friend (Lord Henry Lennox); he would only say that although he agreed on many points with the noble Lord, especially when he spoke of what the Navy ought to be, he saw very great difficulty in combining in one vessel all the requirements of a naval ship. His noble Friend talked of vessels which were to be very swift; they were not to draw much water, they were to be lightly built, and yet they were to carry very powerful guns. He would like to see his noble Friend design such a vessel. If he were to do so, he would do great service to the Navy and the country.


said, they were indebted to the noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox) for having initiated this discussion; and it was a matter of congratulation that the Navy was no longer an arena of Party politics, and that all of them, whatever their political views, were unanimous in endeavouring to maintain the efficiency, the supremacy of our Navy. There was, undoubtedly, some uneasiness and some alarm—and he thought the debate of that evening was not calculated to allay it—with respect to the condition of our Navy at the present time, and with respect to its strength, relatively, to that of the Navies of foreign countries. It was admitted that our Navy at present was more efficient than the Navy of any other country; and he would give credit to the present Board of Admiralty for having endeavoured to maintain the efficiency of our Navy so far as the limited means at their disposal would allow. The question for them was not whether our Navy was more efficient than it ever was, but whether our Navy bore a more favourable comparison with the Navies of other countries than it did some 10 or 20 years ago. That was the crucial question for them to consider. There was no doubt that the Navies of other countries, more especially that of France and Italy, had been vastly developed of late years. He believed our Navy was absolutely superior to that of France; at present there was no question about that. But then, in order to make a fair comparison, they had to compare relatively the duties of the respective Navies. The duties and responsibilities of our Navy were vastly greater than those of France. In the first place, we had a great length of coast to protect; we had an enormous trade and commerce—he believed double the trade of that of all the rest of the world; we had our numerous Colonies, and, as had already been stated during the debate, we were really dependent for our daily bread upon the regular arrival of ships in this country from abroad. Now, when they considered such enormous responsibilities he thought our Navy did not compare favourably with that of France. There was no doubt of this—that both France and Italy were at present contending for that naval supremacy which for so many years we had maintained. We had far greater interests at stake. It was necessary to our national existence. It made our Colonies, it created our commerce. We could never risk the loss of that naval supremacy. If we lost an engagement on land we could recover our prestige; but if we once met with a naval disaster we should sustain a loss which would be irreparable. If that were so it would never do to risk the loss of our naval supremacy; if we did lose that supremacy we should lose our position amongst foreign countries; we should risk the relinquishment of our Colonies and the annihilation of our commerce. He had in his hand a statement of the Navy Estimates for the last few years. They were asked this year for a Vote of£10,484,000. The apparent decrease in last year's Estimates was£462,000; but the actual decrease was£221,000. The Admiralty took credit for the extra receipts, amounting to£240,000. That was a great novelty. The extra receipts were for old stores, ships,&c.; they were formerly paid into the Exchequer, and now they were to be treated as Appropriations in Aid of Parliamentary grants. He was not sure that that was a good arrangement; but it certainly did enable the present Admiralty to submit to the Committee reduced Estimates. He had no doubt that if they were in power two or three years they would leave very few old ships and stores for the benefit of their successors. If they were going to take the benefit of the extra receipts they ought to have expended them as extraordinary expenditure. Few people were aware of what a comparatively small sum was expended out of the whole Navy Vote upon our Effective Services. Out of the£10,484,000 they had to deduct£2,070,000 for the Non-Effective purposes. They therefore only voted£8,414,000 for the Navy proper. Then they had to deduct the cost of transport, which was£ 120,000, so that only allowed an Expenditure on the Effective Services of£8,294,000. His hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Tre-velyan) took credit to himself for making a great many improvements, and yet for not materially increasing the Vote. Of course, that was very creditable to a certain extent. It was the hon. Gentleman's desire to make both ends meet and balance his accounts; but he (Sir Massey Lopes) did not think they should deal with the Navy in that commercial sort of way. They must first of all secure efficiency, and if they could combine that with economy so much the better. But it would not do to risk our naval supremacy if it was only a question of his hon. Friend asking them for a larger Vote. We were expending now upon our Navy considerably less than we expended 20 years ago. He had in his hand an account of the Expenditure of the Navy for the last 20 years; and, notwithstanding the costly improvements which had been made during that time, he found we were spending less money than we did at that period. Let them compare the Expenditure in the year 1860–1 with the years 1870–1 and 1880–1; and he could not go beyond that, because, as his hon. Friend knew, the Audit of the Naval Accounts had not yet been furnished for a later year. He would only deal with the Effective and Non-Effective Votes, because, in making the comparison, he had excluded all extraordinary expenditure. He found that in 1860–1 we expended a total of£12,029,000; in the year 1870–1 we only expended a total of£9,670,000; in the year 1880–1 we expended a total of£10,115,000. Now, he found that the Effective Vote in 1860–1 was£10,736,000, and in 1870–1 it was£7,957,000; but he need not remind the House that it was during that year that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) was in Office, and that was the lowest Naval Expenditure we ever had. At that time we had only 12,000 men in the Dockyards, instead of 16,000 as at present. He found that the difference between the Effective Vote of 1860–1 and that of 1880–1 was as much as£1,680,000, and that we had got an increase in our Non-Effective Vote in the 20 years of£766,000, which really amounted to the cost of one of our largest ironclads—the Inflexible, for instance. It was scarcely credible that in 1880–1 we were only spending£100 more in our Effective Vote than we did in 1870–1—the year of our lowest Naval Expenditure. One thing was quite certain—that if we were to put our Navy in the same relative position in which it was some 10 or 20 years ago we should be obliged to spend more money. There was no doubt, as had been stated, that the cost of maintaining the Navy had a great tendency to increase; but then they must bear in mind that our wealth and our population was increasing in a corresponding degree. He thought that if there was any probability of France, or any other country, competing with us for naval supremacy, he was quite certain that if his hon. Friend (Mr. Trevelyan) were to make application to the House of Commons and. the country for a large Vote it would be cheerfully given. He would like to say a word with reference to our guns. He was always under the impression that the weak point of our Navy was our guns. He was glad to hear his hon. Friend convey a somewhat different impression. He was certainly under the impression that France, in the matter of guns, was in a better position than England; and they had the authority of Sir William Armstrong—one of the greatest authorities on such a subject—that, weight for weight, the naval ordnance of the French was superior to that of this country. He was glad to hear a remark in reference to the system of the Navy going to the Army for its guns. The system of making the Admiralty dependent on the War Office for guns was most anomalous and unbusi- nesslike. Other countries like Russia, the United States, and France, had their own naval ordnance manufactories; while Germany, Austria, and Italy went to private firms. He did not see why the English Navy could not do the same; the Navy could not order a gun without the intervention of the War Office—it had no control, and, therefore, no responsibility. It ought to be in a position to give occasional orders to private firms, just as it did in the case of the building of ships. If we did not make some real effort to increase our Navy we should find that of France, if not superior, at any rate equal to it. Any Government would incur enormous responsibility if it ever allowed France, or any other country, to be in such a position as to be able to compete with us for naval supremacy.


said, he was so perfectly satisfied with the discussion that had taken place that he begged leave to withdraw his Motion, and to thank the House for the attention it had given to the subject.

Question put, and agreed to.

Motion, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," by leave, withdrawn.

Committee deferred till To-morrow.

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