HC Deb 14 March 1882 vol 267 cc898-915

, in rising to call attention to the work and position of Fitters in Her Majesty's Dockyards; and to move— That, in the opinion of this House, it is detrimental to the public service, fatal to the efficiency of our war ships, and unjust to the artificers concerned, that superintending leading men should he placed in authority over workmen with whose trades they have no practical acquaintance, or that men should be put to execute work for which they are unsuited, either by training or experience, said, he had no intention of attacking the Administration of either the present or the late Government. He feared that the system referred to in this Motion was one which had grown up through the course of a great number of years, and for which responsibility could not be placed upon any particular Administration. The whole burden of his contention would be that it was impossible for men not highly trained and skilled in the working of iron, and in the management of machinery, to do that work satisfactorily, and with advantage to those who employed them. In other words, he contended that a tailor was the most proper man in the world to make a coat, and that a shoemaker was the most proper man they could find to make boots. It was unfair to ask men. who Lad been trained from boyhood to work in wood to succeed in making iron vessels; and especially preposterous to ask them to undertake the work of fitting and arranging most complicated machinery. As workers in wood, there was no doubt that the shipwrights in their Royal Dockyards, as, indeed, in their private yards, would compete most successfully against any workers in wood in the world; but it was not fair or reasonable to expect that those men could turn their hand to learn a new business, after arriving at the middle stage of life. Yet that was precisely the complaint which he had to submit to the House. Speaking generally, about 25 years ago shipwrights who were employed at the Royal Dockyards were put to work in iron, and about four or five years ago another step was taken in the same direction, and shipwrights were put to the highest class of work—that of fitting machinery in the interior of the hulls of their great fighting vessels. Up to 1877, he believed, all machinery, of whatever sort and for whatever purposes—including water-tight doors, stop valves, sluices, machinery for ventilation, and other purposes—was done by fitters; but in that year there was a considerable transfer of fitters from the Engineers' Department to the Chief Constructor's Department, or, in other words, they were placed under the supervision of shipwrights, and a new regulation was made defining the work which should be chargeable to the Engineers' Department, and the work which should be chargeable to the Chief Constructor's or Shipwrights' Department. In that regulation all machinery was handed over to the Shipwrights' Department, except that which was actually required for the propulsion of the vessel; and it would surprise many to hear that that work was not to-day in the hands and under the control of those men who alone could make the machinery, and were capable of fitting it so that it would efficiently answer the purposes for which it was intended. What should be one undivided authority and one responsibility, in order to insure complete efficiency, was now scattered all over the vessels, as it were; and when any of the machinery failed it was all the more difficult to fix upon anyone the responsibility of the failure, as each Department could cast blame upon the other when, in reality, none of the Departments were to blame, but the ridiculous system of allowing one part of the machinery of the vessel to be fixed by workers in wood and under the management of a separate Department to that which looked after the engines and boilers. He wished it to be understood that the shipwrights, who had the responsibility of fitting delicate and complicated machinery, were incapable of making a single inch of that machinery, and, therefore, could know nothing about fitting it into its place. No private contractor would act on the system followed by the Government; and in all private dockyards great care was exercised that the men employed as fitters should thoroughly understand the machinery which they were handling. Those who had the management of affairs in the Royal Dockyards were officials of position and character, who, doubtless, intended to do what was right, and this extraordinary proceeding was the result of drifting as it were. He understood that the present Board of Construction consisted of five shipwrights, one engineer, one engineer's assistant, one engineer-in-chief, and a secretary, who was also a shipwright. Here there was a preponderance of something like three to one in the interests of wood and sailing, and that in the presence of a condition of things when nearly everything on board a ship was done by steam. He would now give some illustrations of the extraordinary work to which he had been referring. On board the Inflexible, which was being fitted at Portsmouth, an important electrical machine, intended for the instantaneous transmission of messages from one part of the vessel to the other, was fitted by shipwrights to the inequalities of the deck in such a manner that it would not work at all. No engineer trained to the fitting of engines would ever have made a fatal and an almost criminal mistake of that kind. Again, on the Agamemnon, two water-tight doors, on which the safety of the ship might in certain circumstances depend, were fitted by shipwrights in such a way that they would not shut, and, therefore, were of no use. On board the Polyphemus, several doors and valves, which had been originally fixed by shipwrights, had to be re-done by fitters. With regard to the keel ballast, on which the safety of this vessel so much depended, it was most important that the machinery for letting it go and tightening it up should be the best that could be got, and fitted into its place by the best possible mechanics. Then there was another matter connected with this extraordinary vessel which he wished to bring under the notice of the House. He had been informed on good authority that the capstan engines, after having been made by contractors, were fitted on board by shipwrights; but, in consequence of their inability to gear the worm properly into the wheel, the shipwrights sent for the dockyard engineer to show them how to do the work properly. He declined to act in the matter, whereupon the shipwrights had to repair the defects themselves. The result was that it took 35 lb. of steam to work the capstans when they were light; whereas, when at full work, they ought not to take more than 10 lb. But there were other instances of defective work on board this vessel. Owing to the unsuitable machinery employed, the launching of the life-raft occupied from 20 to 30 minutes instead of two or three, as it ought to do. Then it appeared that at Sheerness Dockyard it was the custom for shipwrights, instead of ironworkers, to fit the iron water-tight compartments in vessels. Then, on board the Inflexible, the shipwrights had made four attempts to erect some important hoisting machinery; but having failed in their efforts, owing to their want of engineering knowledge, engineers were at last called in to do the work. Again, ridiculous designs for rudder-heads having been made by the Shipwrights' Department, it was ultimately found necessary to have other designs prepared by an engineer. Upon the arrival of the Ajax at Chatham, after her completion, it was found that her two ponderous turrets, which had been fitted by shipwrights, would not work, and had to be lifted up from the deck altogether. This was owing to a mistake made by the shipwrights in erecting them; and he had been informed, by persons of the highest experience, that this mistake would cost the country at least £5,000 or £7,000, to say nothing of the trouble, loss of time, and want of confidence caused to those on board. The statements he had made were based on careful investigations extending over the past 12 months; and the facts he had stated constituted but a mere scrap of the many fatal extravagances, blunders, and waste of money that prevailed in the Dockyards through men being employed upon work they did not understand. Shipwrights accustomed to build only wooden vessels were now employed as platers, engineers, iron-fitters, &c, without any inquiry as to whether they were capable of doing such work. At Devonport, for instance, shipwrights were put to bend a stern-plate to one of the vessels lying in the Dockyard; but being unable to manage the job, it had to be handed over to the iron shipbuilders. Then the shipwrights were asked to give an estimate for an iron coal-shoot, when they fixed £20. The iron shipbuilders, knowing more about the matter, fixed £30. The work was then intrusted to the shipwrights, with the result that it cost the country £50. The fact was that many of the shipwrights were supernumeraries, and in order to find them employment they were put upon work to which they were unaccustomed. Although their present ships were almost entirely constructed of steel and iron, 200 shipwrights had entered the Dockyards at Portsmouth as against 12 fitters. It had been said that it was more convenient to employ shipwrights who went on the Establishment than fitters who did not care to do so. What was the reason of that? Some years ago a proposal was made to the fitters with a view to induce them to enter the Establishment. The proposal contained a provision reducing a wage of £1 14s. a-week to £1 10s., and so on in proportion, and offering a speculative pension as an offset for the reduction. The Government could not be surprised at the refusal of the fitters to accept those terms. He complained also of the way in which work, such as patterns made by the chief engineer, was submitted to the inspection of the shipwright, a worker in wood; and when he had approved them, instead of their being executed in the Yard, where men and materials were lying idle, they were put out on contract, for no reason that he could conceive, except that the Dockyard officials had the purse of the nation to dip into. The Government work might often be executed within the Yard when it was sent out. And it was of the utmost importance that every part of the vessels should be perfect. He hoped the House would say with him that these things should continue no longer. Let them remember that their vessels had not been into action. They were all experiments, more or less. The only evidence they had yet had as to what they would do in action was what they had done when they had come into contact with each other—and they knew how they behaved then—in the most unwarlike manner possible, blowing up or going down, as the case might be, and disappearing from the face of the waters. They wanted that these vessels, which carried, as it were, the fortunes of the nation within their sides, should be as complete in the successful production of unity in engineering skill, efficiency, and finish of workmanship as it was possible to make them. Anything he brought forward might be suspected of having a tinge of trade unionism in it. He ventured to inform the House that there was nothing of that sort in this matter. The movement, indeed, had originated with anti-union men; but the unionists were patriots in the work of helping forward a movement of this kind, as they usually were, notwithstanding what was said against them. Every gun they had on board those floating monsters, every monster itself, was absolutely useless, worthless—nay, a mere trap to those who had to go on board, and a trap and a deception to the nation, unless, when called upon to perform its functions, it should answer in even the minutest part of its machinery and work with absolute perfection. These, and these only, were the conditions under which these vessels could successfully discharge the duties for which they had been created. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his Resolution.


, in seconding the Motion, said, that he had satisfied himself that the disclaimer of the hon. Member of the association of this question with trades unionism was perfectly correct; but even if it were associated with the trades union body he should not object to it, because trades unionism was a very different matter from what it was many years ago. The removal of unjust and iniquitous laws which operated to the disadvantage of the working class had placed trade combinations upon a reasonable and just basis; and little objection could now be urged against them, either by employers of labour or economists. Nor was this in any way a matter of wages. His hon. Friend was not advocating an advancement of wages for any section of the workpeople. All he wanted was that the best qualified men should be appointed to do the work for which they were most capable. The House must have been impressed by the descriptions given through many channels of the immense alterations which had taken place in the construction of modern war vessels, showing how steam had almost superseded every other agency as a motive power, and how every branch of science, no matter how abstruse and refined, was brought to bear in the construction and management of their ships. Wood had given place to iron, steam had taken the place of wind, so that sails were little used, and electricity was brought into constant operation in the management of war vessels. From the statement just made to the House it appeared that their Dockyard authorities had been slow to make themselves acquainted with the important changes which must take place in the application of labour to the construction of their vessels in order to keep pace with the immense scientific advance of the age. It was clear that the very great change in conditions and material must involve equally large changes in the accomplishments and acquirements of those who had to deal with these matters. In the olden time it was very easy to take a man from the Coast Service or the Mercantile Marine and make him fit to serve in the Royal Navy. But now they required, not only a sailor, but also a man to some extent well skilled as an engineer, and capable of using the instruments required in regard to iron ships designed upon the most delicate principles. Thus he was a totally different man from the old naval seaman, and he was more costly to train, more rare, and much more important to the community. Such a man could not be trained to efficiency very quickly, and it behaved the House to do all in their power to secure safety to crews composed of such men, and to maintain them in a position in which they would not only be safe, but would absolutely feel safe and have full confidence in the machinery of the ships to which their lives were intrusted. The hon. Member had brought forward a great many cir- cumstances which would appeal to the House very strongly in regard to the shortcomings of their Public Departments in these respects. For himself, as one accustomed for very many years to deal with mechanical forces, he could very fully realize the immense importance of a due distribution and division of work amongst those who were concerned in the construction of these delicate and important machines. From the evidence he had seen on this subject it seemed perfectly clear that the line of demarcation was not strong enough between the engineer who had to do with the fitting of the engines and the man who, while occupying an inferior position, really was put to work which could not be properly done without suitable training and ability. It seemed to be a question where the engineer ended and the shipwright began; and when men with the name of shipwrights were put to work which only trained and skilled engineers were able to do, the Government might be fairly asked to look into the matter, and give some solid assurance that such defects should be remedied as far as possible. He held no brief for any class of workmen; but was concerned only for the efficiency of the Public Service, and for a due and proper expenditure of the public funds. This was a time especially when attention was being drawn to the efficiency of the British workman; and it behaved Parliament to co-operate in everything that could be suggested or accomplished to promote in all respects an improvement of his position. They were beset by rivals on every side, and the supremacy of their industrial and constructive powers was very much questioned. Surely, then, the reproach should not rest upon any Department of Her Majesty's Government that it permitted slipshod work, put the wrong men to the wrong task, or proceeded by any rule-of-thumb system, which would certainly be rejected in the management of any private concern. Neither himself nor the Mover of the Resolution sought to make an attack upon the Government. They had no special case to make out against the present Dockyard administration which did not apply to previous Administrations; but he was sure they should perform a graceful and useful service to the Government by bringing a certain amount of pressure to bear and gently stimulating them so that they might, to some extent, escape those bands of wood and iron which surrounded the best intentioned officials. If in this way they helped to loose those swathings of red tape which always bound up great Departments of the State, they would not have spoken quite in vain.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, in the opinion of this House, it is detrimental to the public service, fatal to the efficiency of our war ships, and unjust to the Fitters in Her Majesty's Dockyards, that superintending leading men should be placed in authority over workmen with whose trades they have no practical acquaintance, or that men should he put to execute work for which they are unsuited either by training or experience."—(Mr. Broadhurst.)


said, the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-upon-Trent, who spoke, as he always spoke, with great special knowledge, and with a personal conviction which always produced a considerable impression upon the House, showed that there were doubts in his mind—and if doubts existed in his mind he was sure they existed very widely elsewhere—which he was very happy to have so very fair an opportunity of trying to clear up. The subject of his Resolution was an important one and a very delicate one. He (Mr. Trevelyan) spoke not only as a Member of that House, and not only as a Member of the Government, but as the representative of a firm employing vast numbers of workmen all over the globe, and speaking on a question intimately affecting the interests and, what was perhaps more important, the feelings of those workmen. Everyone knew how cautiously, in the private trade, an employer would, under those circumstances, open his mouth in public; and he hoped the House would forgive him if, on that occasion, he was very quiet and very tame, though he could assure them he would be quite sufficiently explicit in what he said. The state of the case was this—A generation back, when ships were built of wood, and not of iron, the great bulk of the skilled mechanics in the Dockyards went by the name of shipwrights, and were, as a matter of fact, carpenters, specially skilled in a special class of work. The master shipwright had under him a certain proportion of fitters and millwrights, for the purpose of carrying out certain metal work in connection will the hulls of ships; but the great army of skilled workmen were the shipwrights. They might, indeed, well be called an "army," because they had some of the best military qualities about them. They regarded the nation as something more than a mere paymaster; they were proud of their position; they valued their certain and assured employment; and they regarded with very high appreciation the prospect of a pension for old age. The hired men who were not yet established looked forward, by good behaviour and ability, to succeed to vacancies on the Establishment, and to become entitled to a pension. And their appreciation of these advantages they showed by serving for a much lower paythan shipwrights received in the private yards; and 30 years ago shipwrights took, and took without grumbling, at Woolwich and Deptford, 4s. a-day, when workmen in the private yards on the Thames were earning 7s. Towards the beginning of those 30 years, the entire nature of ship building changed, and so the nature of shipbuilders—the mechanical powers and faculties of these shipwrights—changed also. On this point he would not ask the House to accept his dictum, but would be able to support it with evidence, which he thought would thoroughly satisfy hon. Members. That was a very long period in a generation of working men, and the men now in the yards who were classed as shipwrights had been trained from boyhood upwards—because at every time in their Dockyards they had no less than 545 shipwright apprentices—had been trained to a very great extent, and, in fact, in the case of the great majority of them, in metal and not in wood. Their name had not been changed; but they were doing work as different from that which was done by the shipwrights of 1851 as the work of making a locomotive was from the work of making a mail coach. But in one respect they had not changed, and that was in their relations to the nation which employed them. They still preferred the certainty of the Establishment. They appreciated being Government workmen, with a right to pension. And the Government encouraged them in that view, because, to speak quite plainly, it was a matter of life and death to the country to have in the crisis of a war a great body of skilled workmen, on whose services the nation might count, as it counted on the services of its Blue-jackets and Marines. To what a great extent that might be said of the shipwrights was shown by the fact that of 4,200 shipwrights nearly 3,000 were actually on the Establishment—a fact the value of which, under circumstances that had occurred before and might well occur again, it was hardly possible to overrate. Now, the fitters viewed the question differently. The certainty of employment, the short hours which they worked in the Dockyards—51 hours a-week, as against a much longer period of hours in private yards—had not such attractions in their eyes that they were willing to sacrifice their freedom and their high wages for the certainty acquired on the Establishment. Out of nearly l,300 fitters only 236 were on the Establishment, and the wages which they received were higher by 9d. a-day than those received by shipwrights, either hired or established. The fitters, speaking through his hon. Friend, told them that they did not like to see work which they could do done—and, as they maintained, not well done—by men who did not belong to their branch of the trade. Their contention was that the shipwrights were mere carpenters. A deputation of fitters waited on the hon. Member for Rochester (Sir Arthur Otway), and stated that the authorities had given fitters' work to shipwrights—"Men who are used to woodwork, and know nothing whatever of fitting." Especially (they said) that was the case with the fittings of doors in water-tight compartments. They urged— The iron-clads of the present day cost between £500,000 and £600,000, and if an accident took place from bad workmanship the ship would be at the bottom of the sea with 200 or 300 sailors. The fitters had stood this as long as they could, until they found the very bread was being taken away from them and given to others not entitled to the same. But when the shipwrights heard of the movement among the fitters they, too, were on the alert; they, too, addressed the hon. Member for Rochester, and described themselves as follows:— We are the working constructors of the British Navy in wood, iron, and steel, and, at the same time, principally in steel. Therefore, who can be so capable of fitting doors of all kinds, sluice valves, armour plates, stems, stern-posts, rudders, and all else pertaining to the construction of a ship of war as the shipwright? They, too, stated that a ship of war cost £700,000 or £800,000, and that the lives of 500 or 600 men depended upon the workmanship in it. And they urged these considerations with the warmth of men who felt that their bread, and the bread of their children, depended on the issue of the controversy. Now, these allegations having been made on both sides, and the consequences to the individual fitters employed in Her Majesty's Dockyards being nothing (for, under any circumstances, there was no talk of discharging them), while the consequence to the shipwrights would be very serious indeed, he hoped that the House, in fairness, would allow the shipwrights to be judged by the opinion of those who had an intimate knowledge of the work which they turned out. The opinion of the Constructive Department of the Navy fully and absolutely confirmed their contention, that in technical skill the fitter and the shipwright, who worked in steel and iron, were on an equality. The late Controller, Sir Houston Stewart, summed up the unanimous feeling of the Department, over which he so long and so ably presided, when he said— The shipwrights have become skilled workmen in wood and iron, thus enabling a great deal of the work which in former days could only have been done by fitters to be skilfully turned out by them at lower wages than fitters receive. Captain Parkins, the Superintendent of Pembroke Dockyard—the most purely iron shipbuilding establishment in the whole world—assured him that the shipwrights had, to a great extent, ceased to be carpenters, and had become skilled workmen in iron, and did nothing else. That was the opinion inside. What was the opinion from without? Mr. Henry Laird, of the Birkenhead Ironworks, unsurpassed as a judge, and, perhaps, unsurpassed in his experience of Admiralty work—Mr. Laird, fresh from a complete overhauling of the iron-clad Hotspur, which had been built by shipwrights, said of himself and his partners— We always consider that the work turned out by the Royal Dockyards is of superior quality, and have found such as has come under our immediate observation thoroughly sound and good. Mr. Peter Rolt, the representative of the Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company, wrote as follows:— I beg to state that, from my long acquaintance with work in. the Dockyards, I have no hesitation in pronouncing the work on ships to be of the very best description. There they had outside opinion in this country. What was the opinion abroad? In 1873 and 1874, when it was contemplated to introduce iron shipbuilding on an extended scale into the French Dockyards, some eminent constructors were sent over to examine and study the system pursued and the work turned out in our Dockyards; and their Reports were so favourable that our system of having a foreman of the class of naval architects over each ship, with a special class of shipwrights bred in the Dockyard, was generally adopted-in the construction of modern iron ships in the French Navy. That able writer and excellent judge, Engineer King, of the United States, made similar observations in his official Report— The inferior officers and workmen," he said, "in the English Dockyards are employed solely on their merits, and are mainly well-trained, efficient, and faithful, besides which the permanence of employment adds stability and gives character to the whole staff of employés." And, finally, the work of our shipwrights was submitted to an ordeal through which nothing could pass which was not sound and true. It had to find favour in the eyes of the captain and the officers of the vessel, and that was no slight test of its excellence, as would be acknowledged by anyone who had seen the commanders of such ships as the Nelson and the Inflexible hanging about the lobbies and office rooms of the Admiralty day after day to ask, to ask not for some advantage of pay or rank for themselves, but for some more and more exquisite perfection in the safety and fighting power of that beloved vessel over which they thought that the nation should be only too proud to spend its money. If the shipwrights' work could face the critical observation of such officers as Captain Fisher of the Inflexible and Captain Erskine of the Nelson, it must be good indeed. It was stated by Captain Fisher, in the Report he had made regarding his vessel, that all this most complicated arrangement had fully answered the expectations that he had formed of it. If this Motion were carried, they would be forced to break into their system—to discharge the men by hundreds; and why? Flow did this controversy begin? He would read a letter written by Admiral Brandreth at the time that lie was Superintendent at Chatham— The fitter question refers to an arrangement we made here some months since. Fitters' work has been in arrear from the ships "— the Agamemnon, the Ajax, and the Polyphemus, no doubt— All getting into the fitting stage at once, while the shipwrights' work was well ahead. So, as the Wages Vote would not allow more fitters to be entered, an arrangement was made to remove the ship-branch fitters from on board and work them at the machines and shops, in order to prepare additional fittings, which additional fittings shipwrights have been employed to fit on board. This has been found to help the work much, and has prevented the discharge of shipwrights. Now, he would ask hon. Members to consider what, if this Motion were passed in its present shape, they would be doing. Here was a little shipbuilding crisis, resembling on a very small scale what would occur in war. In order to push on the arrears of work, that excellent manager, Admiral Brandreth, judged that he wanted more of the men in the shops and fewer in the ships; and, therefore, for the first time in the history of our Dockyards, Parliament was invited to step in and remove from the Admiral and the Captain Superintendents the discretion of arranging the national work as in their judgment they thought best. There was really no foundation for the cry of taking bread out of the fitters' mouths. On this very occasion 20 more fitters were entered at Chatham Yard, so far from any being discharged; and the Constructor told the men, with perfect truth, that if it had been the shipwrights' work that had been behind, and the fitters' work had been ahead, he should have made a precisely counter-arrangement in order to avoid a discharge of fitters. He had hitherto spoken with reference to the class of work on which fitters and shipwrights were employed. He should now wish to say a few words on that part of the Resolution which related to superintendence of labour. The case stood thus:—In the steam branch of each of our Dockyards all the skilled workmen were fitters, all the leading men fitters, and the foreman of the branch was invariably an engineer likewise. In the ship-fitters' shop, where ironwork was made destined to be put on board ship, the leading men were likewise ship-fitters. He believed it was nowhere the case that fitters, as body, were under the authority of leading men not of their own trade. But on board ships in process of construction the foreman in charge of the ship was a shipbuilding officer. The essence of the English system was that one and the same foreman, who was, in truth, a naval architect, was responsible for the progress of one and the same ship, just as on land one and the same architect superintended the construction of a building, whether built mainly by bricklayers or joiners; and the Admiralty could not consent that the responsibility for the construction of the ship should be divided between as many foremen as there were men of different trades employed on board, any more than in building a house one architect would be told off for the joiners and another for the bricklayers. The foreman was an officer highly paid, of great importance, and very great scientific knowledge—an officer of an education and standing very much above that which his name might in the ears of the general public imply. Hitherto these foremen of the yard, who had both shipwrights and shipfitters under them, had been taken originally from the shipwright class; but he was perfectly prepared to say that the Admiralty, who were now on the eve of examining into the organization of the Constructive Department, were ready carefully to consider whether promising men of the engineer class might not have a chance with others of qualifying themselves for the arduous duties of general foreman of the yard. To what extent the Naval Constructors of the future were to be taken from a class of special officers educated for the purpose was not yet determined; but, so far as they were drawn from the ranks of the workmen, shipwrights and fitters ought to have an equal chance in proportion to their numbers of being educated for the posts of foremen and constructors. To show the tendency of thought in the Admiralty with regard to this question, it was only last week that he had in his hand Papers carefully discussing the circumstances under which fitter apprentices were to share with shipwright apprentices the advantages of being edu- cated at the Naval College at Greenwich. He thought the House would see that this reform would remove every vestige of the complaint which his hon. Friend made with regard to the class of fitters not having their fair share of authority. He might say that both with regard to the class from whom their Naval Constructors were to be drawn, and still more with regard to the distribution of work between shipwrights and fitters, the Admiralty expected great assistance from the advice of Mr. Rendel, the new Civil Lord, who had had unsurpassed experience in dealing with great bodies of workmen in steel and iron. In conclusion, he must impress upon the House that it was in the interests, to a great extent, of the Public Service, and, he thought, even to a great extent of the men themselves, that their Dockyard administration should not be bound by any hard-and-fast rules. In shipbuilding, and, most of all, in shipbuilding for war purposes, it was unavoidable that ships should be in various uneven stages of advancement, and at one time an enormous amount of one kind of work had to be done, and a few months afterwards the pressure was in the direction of quite a different class of work. Now, in private establishments, in order to meet the exigencies of trades union rules, the redundant men of one class would be discharged, and men of the class required would be entered, and they, in their turn, would again be discharged and give place to others. But in the National Dockyards it was not desirable, and anyhow it was practically impossible, to play fast and loose in this style with the vast masses of workmen whom they employed, depriving them by hundreds a day of the right to a pension which they had been many years in earning; and therefore it was that our constructors were allowed to shift men from shop to ship and from ship to shop whether they were called fitters or shipwrights, as long as they were good workmen able to perform the task on which they were engaged. That power, essential, as he believed, to the national welfare, essential, as he was sure, to the comfort and final well-being of the workmen whom they employed, they must not abandon without greater reason than his hon. Friend had shown. His hon. Friend had brought forward a considerable number of instances of bad workmanship. He was not very willing to go into that question. He should be a pretender and a coxcomb if he were to essay to give an answer in detail to those instances which had been brought forward without Notice. The constructors could, if they thought it worth while, bring forward instances of bad workmanship on the part of ship-fitters. But, with their full and hearty approval, he had agreed to have nothing to do with this line of defence. The Admiralty would not run the risk of fostering a rivalry between two great classes of public servants which, novelty as it was, might soon grow into a positive danger to the State. The Admiralty would not run the risk of encouraging one set of workmen to be ever on the alert to detect imperfections in the work of another set of workmen. Fitters and shipwrights had for many years wrought side by side as brother workmen; and he earnestly trusted that the effect of that debate would be to clear up the feeling which last summer was for the first time visible, and which he could not help hoping that second thoughts had, to a certain extent, already mitigated. The question had received, the attention of the Admiralty ever since his hon. Friend had had his Notice on the Paper, and everything should be done which considerations of the national advantage would permit to see fair play between all classes of our public workmen. It would be to him, personally, a very great gratification, and he thought to the public advantage, if his hon. Friend, having secured any small advantage for the class he so ably represented, would consent to withdraw his Motion.


said, he thought they might well be satisfied with the remarks which the Secretary to the Admiralty had made, coupled with the appointment of Mr. Rendel to the Constructor's Department. His only wonder was that they had secured such a man as Mr. Rendel at the low salary which they could offer.


said, he was much obliged to the Secretary to the Admiralty for the fair manner, generally speaking—though he found fault with many parts of his speech—in which he had met this Motion. Having regard to the concessions made, and the promises held out of such an encouraging nature in regard to future amendment and progress, he would ask leave to withdraw his Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

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