§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ SIR THOMAS BRASSEY
Sir Arthur Otway, in introducing the Navy Estimates my first duty is one which I am sure the Committee will allow me readily to perform. It is the duty of paying a tribute of well-merited praise to the officers, seamen, and Marines, who have been engaged in serving the country on the Nile and at Suakin. The progress of Lord Wolseley's Expedition has been most materially aided by the 1306 able surveys conducted by Captain Hammill, and by the zealous efforts of Captain Bedford and the officers and men under his command. At the engagement of Abu Klea two promising officers—Lieutenants Pigott and De Lisle—and a brave little band of seamen died defending their guns against overwhelming numbers. The rescue of Sir Charles Wilson by Lord Charles Beresford was a feat of arms equally remarkable for the skill and gallantry displayed. I particularly desire to place on record the services rendered by the naval engineer, Mr. Ben-bow, on that occasion. When under fire he succeeded most effectually in repairing a disabled boiler. At Suakin the prolonged defence by Commodore Molyneux and the Force under his command has been a most trying service. We rejoice to have given to the Marines the reward they most value. They are to occupy a post of honour, which must also be a post of danger, in the Army which is about to take the field under Sir Gerald Graham. Passing from these stirring events to the administrative business of the Navy, the Estimates it is my duty to move amount, with the appropriations, to a total for 1885–6 of £13,090,440. The corresponding amount for 1884–5, excluding the Supplementary Estimates for Egypt, was £11,645,711. Of this large increase we have £1,154,000 under the Shipbuilding Votes—a considerable advance on the £800,000 promised in December; £76,000 for pay, food, and clothing, and £173,200 under the Works Vote. Taking the Votes in detail, I propose to deal first with those which relate to the personnel. Commencing with the officers, we have to make provision for an increase of 100 on full pay. The addition is rendered necessary by the large number of ships in commission on the China Station and in the Red Sea; and it is also due, though to a slighter degree, to the appointment of an Admiral on the Australian Station. The growing importance of the duties attaching to the Australian command renders it extremely desirable that an Admiral should command the Squadron. Passing from the officers to the seamen, we have made an important alteration in the term of continuous engagements. The first period of service, under the new Regulations, has been 1307 extended from 10 to 12 years. Our experience shows that the change is not unacceptable to the boys and to their parents, and it will be a great advantage to retain men longer in the Service. In the small vessels, when first put into commission, a large proportion of experienced seamen will not be unwelcome to the officers in command, if caught in heavy weather in the chops of the Channel or in the Bay of Biscay, on first leaving England. The present Estimate provides a considerable addition to the number of boy s. The experience of recent years has shown that the number for which provision has been taken is insufficient. At the present time, the service boys are 650 in excess of the number voted. We expect that the present strength will be fully maintained in 1885–6, and provision has been made in the Estimates accordingly. The total number of service boys in the present Estimates is increased from 2,500 to 3,100; and we propose to take 300 more boys for training. Although steam has been so largely substituted for canvas in the Navy—a change which, I have no doubt, is rather painful to old sailors like my right hon. and gallant Friend opposite (Sir John Hay), and, indeed, to all ardent lovers of sailing—it will be found that the demand for seamen in the Navy has not diminished. We have more ships in commission, more men in the gunnery ships; and at the present time we have no less than 1,000 under instruction in the torpedo, electrical work, and submarine mining. These are some of the reasons which we have to urge for the great increase in the number of boys. In addition to these proposals, provided for under the normal Estimates, we shall ask Parliament to vote 500 officers and men and 500 Marines for service in Egypt. Their pay, as I have already explained in answer to a Question of my right hon. Friend the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith), will be included in another Estimate for the Egyptian Expedition. In connection with the manning of the Navy, I may state that steps are about to be taken to give more general instruction in gunnery. In former days, when the complements of ships consisted mostly of seamen, all of whom were trained at the guns, the non-combatants were comparatively few. At the present time, in our modern 1308 mastless ships the non-combatants are about 30 per cent of the complement. This large proportion of undrilled men is a source of weakness, and we propose to remedy it by the Regulations about to be issued. Although, Sir Arthur Otway, the Charge will fall upon the Vote for Medical Services, it may be convenient, at this stage of my statement, that I should refer to the recent improvements which have taken place in the sick berth staff of the Naval Hospitals. The Navy will be gratified to learn that Her Majesty takes a deep personal interest in this subject; and on behalf of the Admiralty I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without expressing our acknowledgments to Sir John Reid, the Medical Director General, for the pains he has taken in re-organizing the Service. The details of the new arrangements were described to the Committee last year by my Predecessor. The general supervision of the nursing is entrusted to the Sisters, who have had experience either in the Civil or Military Hospitals. In future, all the attendants on the sick will have received a systematic training. The changes, of course, have involved some additional expense; but the country will not grudge it. The modest salaries we give them are, indeed, a very imperfect acknowledgment of the gratitude we owe to these devoted Sisters, who by day and by night are giving their care to the sick and wounded seamen and Marines. And now I turn to a question which will greatly interest hon. Members representing the Dockyards. I need scarcely say that I refer to questions of pay and allowance. Hon. Members will see that without an increase in the number of men there is an increase of charge under these Estimates amounting to £33,000 for allowances to men trained as gunners and torpedo men, and for the larger proportion of petty officers and the increased number of artificers serving afloat. The establishment of the rating of chief stokers is the most recent boon conceded by the Admiralty. We have been glad to give a deserving class of men the advancement and promotion to the rating of a chief petty officer. There are several questions pending with reference to pay and allowances to engineers and paymasters. They have earnestly pressed for the abolition of what is 1309 known as the 11 years' rule. Their appeal has been referred to a Departmental Committee. The Admiralty are sensible that the calculations of promotion have turned out less favourably than was expected, and have not been altogether verified by the result. We agree in the main with the views of the Committee, that one-half of their junior time should be allowed to count for increase of pay and pension until the completion of 11 years' senior service, and then all, as at present. The necessary communications are now taking place with the Treasury; and we hope, in the course of the ensuing year, to make an arrangement which will be satisfactory to the engineers and paymasters. In the numerous and pessimist discussions with reference to our naval position which have recently filled the usual organs of public information our resources for manning the Navy have been called in question. I wish, therefore, to take this opportunity of stating that while in time of peace we sometimes feel the pressure of the new requirements for the training of the Navy which absorb a considerable number of our men, and we are in consequence occasionally short of men available for draft, we have a large reserve to meet a real emergency. We have, in ships serving on foreign stations, a considerably larger proportion of supernumeraries than was formerly the case; and at the home ports, in gunnery ships, in flagships, and harbour ships of all classes, and in the Steam Reserve and elsewhere, we have a Force which may be roughly estimated at not less than 13,000 men. Behind them we have the Marines, 6,200; the Coastguard, 4,000; the Pensioner Reserve, regularly drilled, 1,950; the Naval Reserve, 19,000; and the Naval Artillery Volunteers, 1,600. The total personnel of the Navy, including Pensioners under 50 and the Naval Volunteers, constitutes a Force of 86,000 men.
§ SIR THOMAS BRASSEY
Yes; the total number of men of all classes, on the active list, is 57,000, and the complements of all ships which can be made ready and sent to sea in 12 months are 68,000. If we were engaged in a war of magnitude we should, no doubt, require to strengthen the Navy more par- 1310 ticularly in the lieutenants and engineers and in the engine-room complements. But in the Mercantile Marine we have a practically inexhaustible reserve of skilled navigators, competent naval men, experienced engineers, artificers, and firemen. The Naval Reserve, more especially the Second Class Reserve, could be recruited to any strength required from the fisheries, the source from which the best sea-faring element in the French Inscription Maritime is derived. And now I turn to the Shipbuilding Votes. I have already given the total increase in these Votes. The Estimates supply the details, and I therefore proceed at once to explain the steps taken to accelerate the construction of ships in fulfilment of the undertaking which was given to Parliament in December. I will deal first with the work in the Dockyards. Under the present Board of Admiralty, large additions have, from time to time, been made to the number of men employed in the Dockyards; and it has been thought advisable by the Admiralty, and also, I believe, by the House of Commons, not to increase very largely the number of men employed in shipbuilding in the Dockyards; but it was the general sense of the House that we should rely upon the contract supplies for any large extension of building. In these circumstances, having to undertake additional shipbuilding work without increasing the number of men, we determined to concentrate our efforts on ships in an advanced state of progress, and a sum of £40,000 has been granted to be spent within the present financial year for the purpose of pushing forward ironclads by profitable overtime, in accordance with the scheme which was recommended by the officers of the Yards. By these means, in spite of the unforeseen causes of delay with which we are only too familiar, we have been able to make considerable progress with all of these vessels. The Colossus is now practically complete, and the Collingwood, Edinburgh, Warspite, and Impérieuse will be completed in the ensuing financial year. It was intended to complete the Impérieuse at the same date as the Colossus; but there has been an unforeseen cause of delay owing to the foundering of a steamer carrying important parts of her machinery from the Thames to Portsmouth. The additions which will be made to the strength of the Navy in 1311 the two ensuing years are as follows:—In 1885–6 we shall complete the four iron-clads I have already mentioned, and in addition three protected ships of the Leander class, the Calliope, two fast despatch vessels, and two gun-vessels. In 1886–7 it will be possible to complete the iron-clads Howe, Rodney, and Hero, and probably the Benbow; the two protected vessels, the Mersey and Severn, nine Scouts, the Landrail, and six gunboats; in all 22 vessels. I wish that it were possible to promise further acceleration of the work of shipbuilding. Delays in completion have given occasion for the severest criticism to which the Admiralty has been subjected. Every Board has regretted the delay, and every Board has been unable to bring ships to completion as rapidly as they desire. I am sure that my hon. Friends who have had experience at the Admiralty will concur with me when I say that we see the ships advancing most satisfactorily up to the launching stage. The delays occur later, and they are attributable mainly to the transition state of the armaments of the Navy. "When the prospect of war is not imminent, no Administration of a first-class Power would be justified in refusing to entertain the proposals which are put forward by our able staff of gunnery officers. A great Service like ours demands perfection, and is sensitively jealous of the slightest superiority elsewhere, even in the smallest detail. In the future we cannot hope to be wholly free from the difficulties due to change and improvement; but we believe that we have now settled within certain limits all the problems of gunnery which have in recent years prevented the rapid completion of our ships. And now, Sir Arthur Otway, I turn from the subject of the completion of ships to the laying down programme. The delays in completion, to which I have referred, have necessarily affected the laying down. The Committee will observe that only a small amount of progress—in point of fact, a mere commencement—is contemplated in the two armoured ships which are to be laid down in the Dockyards. We have decided, as I have just stated, that for the present it is better to concentrate our efforts on ships near completion. At the same time, I would remind the Committee that, by placing the two iron-clads in the programme, 1312 we insure that the preliminary works will be taken in hand. The actual building can be vigorously pushed forward as soon as labour becomes available from the completion of the other ships. The laying down programme for the Dockyards includes, in addition to the ironclads, a torpedo ram, to be commenced very shortly at Chatham, and one vessel of the Scout type to be laid down at Devon port. And now, Sir, having stated what has been and will be done in the Dockyards, I have to explain the steps which have been taken to put out to contract the ships approved in December. The sanction of the House to the new programme of construction was obtained on the 2nd of December. The designs for the Scouts were completed on the 31st of December. Those for the belted cruisers were ready on the 27th, and for two iron-clads on the 29th of February. Tenders were invited for the six Scouts on the 5th of January. They were received on the 24th of February, accepted on the 27th, and the keels of four of those vessels have already been laid down. In the case of the Scout class, the Constructors of the Admiralty were extremely anxious to give the firms tendering an opportunity of proposing simplifications with a view to reductions in the cost, or suggesting improvements which were likely to increase the efficiency of the ships. For this reason a longer time than usual was given for the submission of tenders for the Scout class. Another reason I may name to the Committee for the extension of time is this. We have largely added to the number of firms invited to tender for the Admiralty work. No less than 84 firms sent in tenders for the vessels of the Scout class. In the case of the belted cruisers and the iron-clads, the private trade has had less experience in ships of that class, and for that reason the Constructors of the Admiralty did not attach so much importance to any suggestion that might be made, and therefore less time was allowed to the contractors for sending in tenders for the larger vessels. But while less time was originally proposed by the Admiralty, in deference to the expressed wish of the contracting firms, the time for sending in tenders has been extended to the 17th of April. I am very sensible that the public has been impatient at the apparent delay in these preliminary steps 1313 and many hard things have been said of the Admiralty. But I can assure the Committee that we have not been halfhearted or reluctant to obey the will of the country that the Navy shall be strengthened. Those who condemn the Admiralty so readily make no allowance for the inevitable complications which must be found in designs for ships of war, as compared with vessels of the Mercantile Marine. In former instances, as it was clearly shown in the evidence before the Earl of Ravens worth's Committee, loss of time and money has been caused by calling for tenders prematurely. The Earl of Ravens worth's Committee recommended that designs should be more carefully worked out before tenders were called for; and we determined to follow the judicious recommendation of the Committee. I can assure the Committee that time has not been lost by the extra care bestowed on the plans for the new ships. On the contrary, I am assured it, will, in the end, secure an earlier completion and prevent much wasteful expenditure on alterations. The Committee should remember that these designs and specifications control and guide an expenditure of no less than £3,500,000; and that, although the designs were sketched out before a statement could be made to Parliament, the magnitude of the work of settling details may be inferred from the sum which is to be expended. I am assured by the technical advisers of the Admiralty that they are engaged—incessantly and constantly engaged—in the revision of designs. No sooner is a design made perfect than some invention is brought out which necessitates a reconsideration of details, and it is that revision which accounts for the long time required to prepare the designs of which I have spoken. Having explained the cause of the delay in putting out to contract the additional work, I would point out to the Committee that the expenditure proposed on the new vessels is slightly in excess of the amount approved by the House in December last. The amount has been increased from £800,000 to £812,000. We have also made some modifications in the list of ships to be put out to contract. The new contract work includes two iron-clads instead of the one iron-clad proposed by my noble Friend in "another place." My right 1314 hon. Friend (Mr. W. H. Smith) has alluded in the course of his remarks to a discrepancy which I frankly confess exists. Our scheme includes five instead of three belted cruisers, six instead of 10 Scouts, and 10 torpedo boats. Five torpedo boats are to be ordered later under the arrangement which I have already explained to the House in answer to the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Gourley). The two iron-clads which are to be built by contract will be of the single-turret type already described to Parliament in December. With regard to the rate of progress in the building under contract, it is quite unnecessary to remind the Committee that when our proposals for additional building were brought forward in December a strong objection was made that the scheme of construction was to extend over a period of five years. But on this point it is an obvious remark that it is not for us to determine beforehand the Estimates of future years; all we can determine is the extent of the addition to the Estimates in 1885–6, which are alone under our control. We propose to add to those Estimates the sum of £812,000 for the purpose of carrying forward the construction of these new ships. We believe that this provision will be sufficient to make good progress with all the ships for which orders are being given; but if experience should show that we have under-estimated the rate of progress, we shall not retard the operations of the builders in deference to financial considerations. Sir, I have endeavoured to explain in sufficient detail our programme of building in the Dockyards and by contract, and it therefore only remains for me to bring the figures together. Our whole scheme of ships to be laid down is as follows:—Four iron-clads of the first class, five belted cruisers, one torpedo ram, seven Scouts, five gun-vessels, and 15 torpedo boats, of which 10 are to be ordered at once. Having given a list of the ships laid down, let me compare the tonnage proposed now with that in former years.
§ SIR THOMAS BRASSEY
It includes both. I said the ships laid down. Our programme of shipbuilding in the Dockyards gives for armoured tonnage 1315 practically the same tonnage as for the present financial year. In the class of protected tonnage we have an increase of 600 tons; in the contract programme the total building is increased from 4,624 to 11,338 tons. The Dockyard and contract programmes combined give a total of 14,423 tons for armoured vessels, 6,087 tons for protected, and 7,542 tons for unarmoured vessels, or a total of 28,052 tons. If we make a comparison of this tonnage as proposed for 1885–6 with the tonnage of former years we arrive at this result. The armoured tonnage is increased from an average of 8,051 tons per annum in 1877–81 and 11,948 in 1881–5 to 14,423 tons. Our protected tonnage is 6,087 tons, or, together, 20,500 tons for 1885–6. In unarmoured vessels the average construction for the last six years has been somewhat less than the programme for 1885–6. Having given the total tonnage to be built, I would invite the special attention of the Committee to the large amount of building proposed in the new class of protected vessels. The protected class is represented in our Dockyard programme chiefly by vessels of the Mersey type. In the case of the Mersey, the protection is by means of an armoured deck with numerous water-tight compartments. The protected tonnage comprises, in addition to the 1,248 tons we propose to build of the Mersey class, 2,820 tons of belted cruisers. These ships were fully described to Parliament in December. They are of a much more powerful type than the Merseys. They are armoured with a 10-inch belt, and are therefore much more protected on the water-line than any foreign ironclads of the second class. In point of speed they have a marked superiority over any armoured ships afloat or building. We announced in December a speed of 17 knots. By our latest estimate the speed will be increased to 17½ knots. So far as we know, the only vessels of superior speed now building for any Navy are three now building for Italy and two for the Government of Japan. I would point out that those vessels are without armour protection; and it is certain that, owing to their smaller displacement, they could not hold their own in the long run at sea against the belted cruisers. It has been said that we ought to give prefer- 1316 ence to the type represented by the Esmeralda, which has an advantage in point of speed over the belted cruisers. But this, I can assure the Committee, is not the view accepted by the Board of Admiralty. Our Naval Colleagues are of opinion that the armoured belt of our new cruisers gives them a decided superiority over any of the cruisers they are likely to meet. In addition to their armament of guns they will be fitted with effective means for the discharge of torpedoes. Now, I turn to a question upon which much opinion has been expressed in a sense adverse to the course we feel called upon by our duty to take. I refer to the limited number of torpedo boats in our programme. The rate of construction proposed in December has been criticized as insufficient. Well, Sir, I venture to express the opinion that the criticism to which I refer has been occasioned by an imperfect appreciation of the great additions which we are really making to the Fleet, and in a form more necessary than what is technically known as the torpedo boat. The Board of Admiralty do not regard torpedo boats capable of being used only for coast defence as the type most required for the British Navy. We are more anxious to push forward the construction of vessels of a powerful type, capable of keeping the seas for an extended period in all weathers. Our programme of construction in that class of vessels which we think most effective includes, in addition to the torpedo ram already mentioned, two despatch vessels—the Surprise and the Alacrity—specially designed for service as torpedo cruisers, the nine Scouts, and the two steel-gun and torpedo vessels under construction at Devon port. We have 14 vessels of a total displacement of 21,500 tons; and if we compare this programme with the programme of construction for the French Navy, we find that the torpedo flotilla in progress in France includes four vessels of the Condor type, 1,260 tons, and eight of the Bombe type, 321 tons. The total tonnage of these vessels being 7,602 tons, as against 21,500 which I mentioned as being under construction for the British Navy. Turning from torpedo vessels to torpedo boats, we have actually under construction four of the first class and two of the second class. The number of torpedo boats of the 1317 first class now building in France is 10, in Italy six, and in Austria four. Our expenditure on the torpedo flotilla during the ensuing financial year will not be less than £400,000, as against £231,000 taken in the French Estimates for similar vessels. Having explained our policy in regard to the larger vessels, I may point out, in connection with the subject, that for the defence of our ports a formidable flotilla could be extemporized out of our steam pinnaces and launches. We had an example of what could be accomplished in this respect in the interesting operations for the defence and attack on Portsmouth carried out some years ago under the direction of Captain Gordon and the officers of the Vernon. Those who were present, and who saw the steam pinnaces, specially fitted for the purpose, driven at full speed over the booms, would probably be of opinion that for such rough usage as would be experienced in war the pinnaces were better adapted than the swift but fragile torpedo boats. It will be, perhaps, satisfactory to the Committee to be informed that we have 180 steam launches and pinnaces fitted with Whitehead torpedoes, and 170 steam cutters fitted with spar torpedoes. If these boats be reckoned efficient for the defence of our harbours by torpedoes, I think it will be the opinion of the Committee that we are somewhat better provided in this respect than is generally supposed.
§ SIR THOMAS BRASSEY
No inconsiderable number of them are abroad; but we have a very large number available at home. Now, I desire to make a few observations on our repairing programme. Hon. Members may have observed that the wages of men employed on repairing have been reduced in these Estimates by nearly £40,000. That is the very satisfactory result of the improved management of boilers, the greater durability of iron and composite construction, and of the arrangements which we have been able to make for the extended absence of vessels from home. We have been able to keep vessels longer abroad, because our ship yards abroad have become more and more capable of efficiently repairing our ships. I am able to say that in this way two iron-clads have 1318 been ordered for repair abroad, and we are confident that the work will be done in every respect satisfactorily. We send out vessels from England to those stations where the Dockyards are not well adapted for large repairs; but in future, when those vessels have performed a certain period of service, they can be transferred from the Cape to Bermuda, and those on the Pacific to Hong Kong. A great economy has resulted. Turning to the repairing programme, which includes the completion of the Black Prince, I may say that we have taken this ship in hand because the boilers are in good preservation. Ships of the older type are well adapted, in the opinion of the Board of Admiralty, for the training of officers and men, which must be kept in view in connection with ships of the Channel Squadron. The alteration of the Minotaur and sister ship has been considered by the Board during the past year. It has been proposed to give them twin screws, compound engines, and to fit them as torpedo boat carriers at a cost of £250,000. The expense of any attempt to bring these vessels up to the ideas of the day is so formidable, that we have decided that no alterations in these ships should be made. Belted cruisers will do all the work which the Minotaur is capable of doing, and they will do it better. Passing from the iron-clads to the unarmoured vessels, the three large frigates have at length been taken in hand. We have completed the Raleigh. In the ensuing year we shall complete the Inconstant, and make good progress with the Shah. The Committee will be glad to know that the following iron-clads are now ready for sea. The list includes the Devastation, Ajax, Thunderer, Hotspur, Rupert, Orion, and Iron Duke. The Conqueror is practically complete; and with regard to the Inflexible, as no repairs of importance are required, she could be made ready for sea in about three months. The Monarch and Swiftsure will shortly arrive in England, and then they will be at once taken in hand. Of the unarmoured vessels we have an ample number of reliefs. Passing on to the Gun Estimates, I have already stated to Parliament, in answer to a Question by my right hon. Friend the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) with regard to the heavy guns, that the War Office has undertaken to complete them 1319 sufficiently early to prevent any delay of the ships. Of the guns of lesser calibre provision is made for 101 6-inch and 43 5-inch guns, and we are expecting to receive 150 quick-firing guns at the end of the present financial year. We also provide 100 more in 1885–6; and of machine guns of various calibres we take money for 300 during the ensuing year. I would call the attention of the Committee to the fact that the minor armament is becoming more and more an important feature in our Ordnance Estimates. Of a total amount of £418,000 taken for guns in 1885–6, no less than £285,000 is for 6-inch guns and lighter ordnance. The amount taken for naval ammunition, &c. in the Army Estimates for 1885–6 is £297,860, being an increase of £115,476 over the amount for 1884–5. The total provision for ordnance for the Navy under Army and Navy Estimates combined will be somewhat in excess of £1,000,000. Descriptions of new types to be laid down usually form a prominent and interesting feature of the statements made in moving the Navy Estimates. In December last the statement which I was then called upon to make necessarily anticipated much which I might be called upon to say on the present occasion. I desire, however, to take this opportunity of correcting an erroneous impression which may have gained circulation from recent publications in the newspapers. The Admiralty have been charged with deliberately sacrificing the naval power of the country to mean and paltry considerations, and that assertion has been supported with a list of the 12 largest ships which have been lately launched in England and France. Sir, I should be sorry to present myself before the Committee as an advocate of a policy of shipbuilding in which competition in dimensions was to be the primary test of merit; but, in justice to the Admiralty, I wish to put forward the result of the comparison of all the ships which are now building, or which are now included in the programme of the two countries. The average tonnage of our 14 ships is 9,530, as against the average of 8,523 tons for the 15 ironclads in the French programme. We have never insisted on any arbitrary limitation of size. I cannot pass from the subject of shipbuilding without saying that I am not unconscious that the 1320 Admiral class has been challenged by the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed); but as his Motion must ultimately give rise to exhaustive discussion, I feel it my duty to postpone the observations which I might make on behalf of the Admiralty rather than engage at the present time in an imperfect and desultory discussion. In the meantime I am authorized to say that the Admiralty unanimously approve the design of our ships. The trials of the Collingwood are, perhaps, the most remarkable incidents of the past year in connection with shipbuilding. At the measured mile the speed realized in the Collingwood reached 16.8 knots, a very high figure; and at the load draught a speed of 16½ knots is confidently expected. Difficulties have been experienced in perfecting the breech mechanism for the 43-ton guns; but on the occasion of a recent trial the gear was found to work in an entirely satisfactory manner. I am desired by the Constructors of the Admiralty to express their great obligations to Mr. Rendel for his advice, which has so materially tended to this satisfactory result. On the Vote for New Works—Vote 11—we have an increase, as compared with last year, amounting to £173,000. It has been our policy to concentrate our expenditure on the building of ships; but we have now to deal with demands which cannot be postponed. We have to provide torpedo boats, ships, and every other description of vessels of this kind, and we have to provide the means to test the efficacy of those vessels as well as of gun mountings. At Malta we shall make good progress with the new graving dock commenced last year; and we are also making provision for increased dock accommodation in other parts of the world. We take £15,000 for a grant to a private Company at Hong Kong who are completing a dock of sufficient dimensions to receive ships of the largest class; and we are also pressing upon the Indian Government the necessity of providing a dock at Bombay capable of admitting iron-clads of the Admiral class. At the Cape we have availed ourselves of a recent opportunity to purchase a repairing slip and some land adjacent to our present yard. In conclusion, we may ask ourselves this question—Are the Estimates we are now proposing to Parliament sufficient? It 1321 is impossible for those who are responsible for the administration of the Navy to say that any Estimates fully provide for all the wants of our great Sea Service. There must be many things less perfect than we could wish. But if we test these Estimates by another standard, and compare the amounts at our disposal with the sums voted in other countries, the provision we are making should be ample. The present Estimates provide for an expenditure on building, as distinguished from repairs, amounting in round figures to £3,000,000 sterling, or double that proposed, according to our best information, for the Navy of any other Power. The cost of building being certainly not greater, on the whole, here than elsewhere, the additions to the Navy may be taken as proportionate to the expenditure. Such, then, are the facts with reference to the matériel and personnel of the Navy. I say that we are making adequate provision for the development of our Navy; and our Navy is, after all, only the point of the spear. Our resources for construction and manufacture give us a greater power than we could possibly derive from an unlimited reserve of ships and weapons, which the process of invention tends to render obsolete. Every war demands some special type of ship, and our resources for building external to the Dockyards are unrivalled. In the Crimean War, when our industrial resources were far less than at present, three floating batteries of 3,000 tons, and protected by 4-inch armour, were completed in the short space of three months. In less than five months more than 200 gun-boats and 100 mortar-boats were completed for sea. In less than three months from the date of signing the contract, the establishment of Mr. John Penn produced and fitted on board the gunboats 80 engines of 64-horse power. It was thus that we were enabled, as Viscount Palmerston reminded the House of Commons, to raise the strength of the Navy from 212 ships in commission in February, 1854, to 590 ships in commission in March, 1856. The Mercantile Marine, if it is a vulnerable point, is also a valuable resource. The merchant steamers could not meet on equal terms regularly-built vessels of war; but they could defend themselves against ships of their own class, 1322 and could accompany our squadrons as look-out ships, despatch vessels, and store ships. Of the 7,000,000 tons of British steam shipping afloat, more than 1,000,000 is classed on the Admiralty list, and more than half of this 1,000,000 tons is specially capable of performing service as cruisers owing to their high speeds. I would not lightly use language which would lull the country into a false security; but I venture to express the hope that when due regard is paid to our vast resources, to the condition of the Fleet on any fair comparison with other Powers, and to the large reinforcements of the Navy we are now proposing, these Estimates may be accepted as sufficient. We are making a great step in advance in response to a strong popular demand. It will be for the Parliament of the future to provide for these continuous efforts, by which alone a great Navy can be maintained.
(1.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That 59,000 men and boys be employed for the Sea and Coast Guard Services for the year ending on the 31st day of March 1886, including 12,900 Royal Marines.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I am somewhat at a disadvantage in rising at seven minutes past 12 to comment on a statement of an hour and a-half, but which was by no means too long considering the importance of the subject. My hon. Friend (Sir Thomas Brassey) certainly did not say more than was necessary, or more than was expected by the Committee. He alluded to the service of the seamen and officers of the Fleet during the past year. No words which can be used in Parliament can adequately express the gratitude due by the country to those men who have done such admirable work on the Nile, and in other dangerous enter prizes in which they have been engaged. The Secretary to the Admiralty referred to the good service Captain Hammill had done in surveying the Nile, and the good service Captain Bedford had done in superintending the transport arrangements. I venture to say that if it had not been for the work done by those officers and the blue-jackets, the Nile Expedition would have been practically impossible. It is to their work that Lord Wolseley owes his successful arrival at Korti, and the supply of provisions necessary for the enterprize. 1323 Reference has also been made to the loss of men. There has been a heavy loss. The men have died most gallantly in the service of their country, and have shown that they can fight on shore as well as navigate ships on sea, and in most narrow and difficult waters. I am sure, therefore, that the thanks of the country will be given to them most heartily whenever Her Majesty's Government ask for a Vote of Thanks from Parliament. The hon. Gentleman referred to the increase in the Estimates. I will postpone any remarks I have to make as to the increase in the Shipbuilding Vote until I have run through the least important, but still important, question to which he referred. He spoke of an increase in the number of officers. I cannot help feeling, Sir, that there must be a considerable increase in the number of officers employed, especially in the number of torpedo and gunnery officers. That is a question which will require the very serious consideration of the Admiralty. There is no doubt that there is a far greater demand now than there was in the past for skill and scientific treatment in the management of the new and most powerful instruments of warfare. That demand will have to be supplied in some way by the Admiralty. Well, reference has also been made by my hon. Friend (Sir Thomas Brassey) to the importance of the Australian command, involving the employment of a Flag Officer. I entirely agree with him; but that is only another illustration of the growing demands which are made on the Navy in all parts of the world; demands for protection, demands for supervision, demands for adequate representation of the interests and duties of the country wherever Colonial enterprize is found. I entirely concur in the course which has been pursued with regard to the extension of the first term of service. I think that it is an advantage to the men themselves, and certainly it is a great advantage to the nation, because the experience which is gained by the men no doubt adds greatly to the discipline and steadiness of the crews of the ships, whether they were going down Channel, or crossing the Bay of Biscay, or sailing on the West Coast of Africa, or in any other part of the world. Remark was made by my hon. Friend as to the number of men borne. I was 1324 looking this morning at the Estimates with respect to this point; and I find that, notwithstanding the demands which are now made and recognized by the Admiralty, notwithstanding the fact that we are to have 1,000 men in Egypt—500 Marines and 500 blue-jackets—the Navy, all told, will be only 59,000, as against 58,800 in 1881. Well, Sir, I am by no means saying that 1881 was a standard to which we could go back; but if the number was not excessive in that year, it certainly suggests to the consideration of Parliament, and of the country, whether 200 men more are sufficient to counterbalance the drain which a serious war, such as that in the Soudan, involves, and which the circumstances and conditions which we have now to face—much more serious circumstances and conditions than those of 1881—are causing. I should like to know, as the question of manning has been mentioned, and as the question of an adequate reserve has been brought under the notice of the Committee, how many ships and what ships are ready, whether the complements are made up, and in how many days could those ships be fully manned? I have made inquiries myself, and I have been given to understand that it would not be possible to man the ships which are in the first reserve at Portsmouth under three weeks from the present time, because there is a deficiency of stokers and artificers, and you have not got a system ready for immediate application. It is this unreadiness in the present condition of the Navy which we have to complain of. Well, Sir, we are told that there is a very large reserve to meet emergencies. I believe there is a large reserve; but I should like to know whether the Admiralty have any system whatever by which that reserve could be made available in case of a sudden outbreak of war; whether they have any view in their own mind of what they would do in the event of war—how they would find ships to do the work which is required of them; how they would find ships to protect the trade and commerce of the country, and those especially which are engaged in bringing food into the country? We have not been informed by my hon. Friend on that point. My hon. Friend laid great stress upon the building programme for the coming year. I con- 1325 fess I was a little surprised to find that he made no reference whatever to the building which has been accomplished during the past year. It is a usual thing for the Secretary to the Admiralty, or the First Lord of the Admiralty, as the case may be, in making the Annual Statement with regard to the Estimates, to show what they have done in the past year; but to-night the hon. Gentleman made no reference to what has been done in the last 12 months. With regard to the building programme, however, the hon. Gentleman said that in fulfilment of the undertaking made in December the Admiralty had concentrated its efforts in advancing ships, and that £40,000 had been expended, or had been given to the Dockyards this year to be expended, on profitable overtime, so as to make considerable progress with the ships; and considerable progress had consequently been made. Well, Sir, I have taken pains to ascertain from the Estimates what progress was made during the past year, both in the Dockyards and in the contract work. I think it is well to do that, in order that we may judge by the work which has been done whether there is any hope whatever that the promises held out to us as to the future will be realized. I take the Dockyard Estimates for 1884–5, and if my hon. Friend will turn to page 204 he will be able to follow me. The hon. Gentleman will see that in order to realize the promise to build in 1884–5 10,500 tons, it was proposed to advance the Anson to 2,207 tons, the Camperdown, to 2,485; the Collingwood, to 4,978; the Colossus, to 6,150; the Edinburgh, to 4,509; the Howe, to 3,380; the Impérieuse, to 4,900; the Rodney, to 3,935; the War-spite, to 4,414; the Hero, to 1,033; the new vessel, to 387; a total of 38,378 tons. Now, if the hon. Gentleman turns to page 210 of the Estimates for this year, he will find that it is shown that the Anson has been advanced to 2,171 tons; the Camperdown, to 2,486; the Collingwood, to 4,857; the Colossus, to 6,150 (being assumed to be complete, although, I believe, she is not complete); the Edinburgh, to 4,685; the Howe, to 3,581; the Impérieuse, to 3,925; the Rodney, to 3,909; the Warspite, to 3,842; the Hero, 1,032; the new vessel, nothing—that is to say, that between the two sets of figures there is a total 1326 difference of 1,740 tons. Instead of 10,500 tons being built, as promised, only 8,760 tons were built. But on page 197 of these Estimates it is claimed that instead of 10,500 tons having been built, 10,745 tons have been built. In point of fact, these figures are absolutely fallacious. Of course, the promise to build certain tonnage has never been fulfilled by any Government, certainly not by the present one; there has always been a very considerable deficiency. Now, Sir, I will read an extraordinary note which appears on page 197 of the Estimates—It must be understood that the tonnage corresponding to the expenditure of a certain sum of money for labour will not necessarily have any reference to the weight of materials worked into the hull when that sum is expended.In other words, it is here argued that a ton is not a ton. But there is another note here which is equally curious—This amount includes the pay of leading men of shipwrights up to 1st July. These officers were at that date made Inspectors, and have since been paid out of the Salary Vote. By this alteration there is an apparent loss of about 323 tons for 1884–5; and 436 tons for 1885–6.That note means this—that if you double the pay of a man, you get double the work out of him. But that is not so. If you increase a man's pay so that he shall wear a top hat instead of a cap, and you can call him an Inspector, you have no right to assume that you get more tons out of him. If you spend money in building a ship, to a certain extent, and in taking it to pieces again, the tons built, and those taken to pieces, are called additions to the Fleet. That is an extraordinary statement. I have protested against its being made in the past, and I protest against its being made now, because it invalidates the statement which the Secretary to the Admiralty makes. The hon. Gentleman has told us that a certain work will be done. That work will not be done; the ships will not be built in the proportion and to the extent which he desires, and to the extent which he endeavours to lead the Committee to suppose. I make no charge against my hon. Friend; but there is this very curious fact to be noticed—that notwithstanding the inaccuracy and fallaciousness of this Estimate as to the number of tons built, the cost of building has increased enor- 1327 mously during the last three years. In the Estimate of 1883–4 it was estimated that 11,490 tons were built, and that they cost at the rate of £33 6s. 9d. per ton—that is to say, the assumption of the Department was that every £33 6s. 9d. paid in wages and so forth meant a ton of a ship. In 1884–5 the Estimate was increased, and £34 8s. 9d. spent in wages was assumed to be equivalent to a ton, and now we find that the equivalent in wages of a ton is £35 5s. 9d. I do not know why a ship should cost more in wages than it did three years ago. I do not see why the increase should be so rapid as it appears to be, though I should not quarrel with the fact if we got the ships in return. There seems to be a kind of paralysis, or an extraordinary condition of things, which prevents us getting the ships when we spend the money. If we take the case of protected ships—shown on page 204 of the Estimates for last year—it will be found that the Mersey was to be advanced to 1,339 tons; the Severn, to 955; the Thames, to 662; the new Mersey, 814; another new Mersey, 61; Calypso, to 1,470; Calliope, to 1,397; the Pyladts, to 772; the Amphion, to 1,443; the Arethusa, 93; the Leander, 164; the Phaton, 92; the Mariner, to 520; the Racer, to 520; the Icarus, to209; the Melita, 87; the Swallow, 50; and the Acorn, 80. I went through the corresponding figures also, as they are shown on page 210 of this year's Estimates, and I will give them to my hon. Friend if it is necessary. I find they show a deficiency of 1,297 tons, 10,513 tons were promised, and only 9,216 were built. In other words, of protected ships, only four-fifths of the tons promised were built. The Contract Vote shows the same thing. The Benlow was advanced to 3,451, slightly more than was promised; but the other contract ships show a deficiency of 511 tons. Taking the whole together, the programme shows that we had 20,679 tons promised, and that only 17,111 were built, a gross deficiency of 3,568 tons. I will illustrate how this is done by the case of the Arethusa, Leander, and Phœton. It was shown in the Estimates of 1883–4, page 204, that each of these vessels required 251 tons to be built in them to complete making 753 tons in all. Of these tons the Estimates of 1883–4 provided for—Arethusa, 251; Leander, 55; Phœton, 92; a total of 398. 1328 The Estimates of 1884–5 provide for—Arethusa, 93; Leander, 164; Phœton, 92; total, 349. Now, the Estimates of 1885–6 provide for the Arethusa, 214; and for the Phœton, 275; a total of 489. In the three years, therefore, it is provided that 1,236 tons shall be built into ships, in which only 753 tons were required. The ships have not grown bigger, and only one of them, the Leander, is now in course of completion. These facts require grave consideration, for they strike a blow at the confidence which the Committee ought to place in the Estimates of a great public Department like that of the Admiralty. I wish to lay down no rigid rule. I know I that one ship may have to be advanced at the cost of another, and there may be frequent displacements; but when a great effort has been made, and £48,000 more wages have been granted in order to enable the Department to complete their work, and great results are said to have been obtained, and when, nevertheless, we find that that shows a deficiency of about one-sixth on the whole building programme of the year, I say enough is shown to give cause for very serious alarm to Parliament. There is one other point in connection with the speech of the hon. Gentleman to which I wish to refer; he spoke of the desire of the Admiralty to fulfil the undertaking they entered into with Parliament last December. Well, I will remind him of what that undertaking was. It was to contract for two iron-clads, five belted cruisers, two torpedo rams, 10 Scouts, 30 torpedo boats of the first-class, 10 more to be built every year, and two iron-clads in the Dockyards. He said—We shall proceed at the utmost speed, consistent with due economy, in the Dockyards; and with regard to contractors, no obstruction will he imposed upon their exertions.—(3 Hansard,  458.)Then the hon. Member went on to say he proposed to raise the construction of armour-clads in the Dockyards to 12,000 tons—that is to say, 1.2,000 of the tons of which I have been speaking in regard to wages, and to build of unarmoured ships in the Dockyards 5,500 tons, making in all 17,500 tons. He proposed to raise the construction of armour-clad ships by contract 3,050 tons, and of unarmoured 8,940 tons, making 11,990, and adding 350 tons of torpedo boats—the construction of which he said is a very 1329 costly mode of expending money—a total of 13,310 or 12,340 tons. Thus we have a grand total of construction of 29,810 tons for 1885–6 as compared with 20,679 tons for the present financial year, being an increase of 9,131 tons. Already the undertaking of December last has been reduced by 1,760 tons. The hon. Member asks Parliament to believe that they have fulfilled their undertaking. Well, I would much rather that they had come down and said—"We repent of our engagement and our undertaking, and we think we offered to do too much. We believe that a cold fit has come on Parliament and the country, and that we can well retire from the undertaking we made." But instead of that the hon. Gentleman came forward and said—"We have fulfilled the undertaking by proposing in Parliament to do some 7½ per cent less than we stated in the House of Lords on the 2nd of December we would do." Without wishing to say a single word that would be personally offensive to the hon. Gentleman, I must say that I do not think that is keeping faith with Parliament or the country in the way we had the right to expect that the First Lord of the Admiralty would keep faith with us. I am afraid I am occupying a great deal of the time of the Committee, but it is not my fault; these subjects at this moment are of very grave and deep importance. I would ask to be permitted to say a word upon another point which has struck me as very extraordinary in regard to these Estimates. There seems to me to be an enjoyment in the use of figures amongst some persons. An alteration, a change in figures, seems to produce a certain amount of satisfaction. Instead of noting down 7,500, it is very easy to write down 9,500. It is a small matter; but it is an indication of the use and of the value of figures in the Admiralty. On page 211, in regard to the propelling machinery in the Estimates of 1884–5, we find the Benbow, Howe, Rodney, and Camper down, all shown as of 7,500 indicated horse power, and the Hero as of 4,500 horse power. Well, in the Estimates of 1885–6 we find that the machinery has, all of a sudden, gone up in the case of the Benbow, Howe, Rodney, and Camper down to 9,500 horse power, and in the case of the Hero from 4,500 to 6,000 horse power; in that way they show 2,000 horse power above the 1330 Estimate of 1884–5, as regards the larger ships, by a stroke of the pen. How could that change have occurred? It might be that the Admiralty had found some mode of suddenly increasing and developing the power of machinery which is three-fourths constructed, but I am at a loss to know what that mode can be; the circumstance is an unusual one, and it seems to me to require some explanation. Of the four first ships only 9,265 horse power were to have been constructed after the 31st of March, 1885; but there, again, on page 215 of the Estimates of 1885–6, we find that there is a considerable excess in the work to be done. Although it was assumed they were so near completion, the Estimate shows 9,873 horse power to have been constructed, and 985 remaining to be constructed after the 31st of March, 1886. Well, Sir, I now wish to say a word or two with regard to the torpedo boat business. My hon. Friend has spoken with considerable detail on the subject of torpedo boats. He first rests his case on the fact that we have 170 steam pinnaces, varying from nine to 12 knots speed, which are attached, most of them, to ships in commission, in ordinary, or in the first reserve, very few of which, I think, are in excess of the requirements of those ships which will have to go to sea. But he says these are to be a great resource for the defence of our mercantile harbours and of our coasts. Well, it seems to me that this is a new view of the case; but I do not wish to derogate in the slightest degree from the importance of the statement he has made. Let us realize what our position is. No first-class torpedo boats have been added since 1880. Five years have elapsed, and no first-class boats have been laid down. We have none at the present moment which can compete with the French, with the Austrian, or the German new boats. Mr. White's new boats, that were mentioned the other day, are very useful; but although seven have been delivered, only two are fitted. We were told that four first-class boats are building, and two second-class are in course of construction; but it is a curious thing that, although a torpedo boat can be built with economy and advantage, if your design is complete in six months, these boats were building last year, and, according to the Estimates, are not to be completed this year, and it is this delay 1331 and procrastination against which I so strongly protest, both in the interests of the Service and the country, and also in the interests of economy. The additions by the present Board, since 1880, are two wooden boats ready, five wooden boats built, but not fitted, and four first-class and two second-class boats now building. Ten first-class boats are now to be commenced, and tenders have been invited. Since 1880 first-class boats have increased from 84 to 113 feet and 120 feet in length, with corresponding increase of speed. English builders have supplied France, Germany, Russia, Austria, Italy, Greece, the Brazils, and the Argentine Republic with such boats, in many cases as patterns. I say they have served as models, for in Austria, Russia, and France, a considerable number of similar boats have been built like them, and I am informed that they answer quite as well as those the English builders furnished. The hon. Gentleman gave us some information with regard to France. I desire, as much as I can, to avoid reference to Foreign Powers, as I think such reference is not desirable. We have to consider what we have for ourselves, for our own protection, and for the defence of our country, and not so much to take into consideration what other countries are doing. As a matter of fact, France has 56 first-class torpedo boats, Germany 18, and has voted money for 75 more, and Russia 115; whilst England, at the present moment, has only 19 of the older and smaller first-class boats. We at present have none of the improved boats afloat. Austria is building boats 135 feet by 13 feet 9 inches, which are to have a speed of 24 knots light, and 22 knots loaded. If the Government had only ordered these boats, which they admit to be necessary, when they made up their minds that an addition to the Navy was required in October last, they might have been delivered in May or June; and who can say how soon these boats may not be required? Who would dare take upon himself the responsibility of saying that these boats may not soon be exceedingly necessary? Who will say that the time may not come when they would be extremely useful in the defence of the country? I want to know when these boats, which are now to be ordered, but which have not yet been ordered, are to be furnished? I believe that the Go- 1332 vernment would have experienced no difficulty whatever, looking at the state of trade, in acquiring all the 30 which they admit to be necessary in a year's time, or, at the outside, in 18 months. The hon. Gentleman says the Government cannot pledge the Estimates of next year. That is perfectly true. They cannot pledge the Estimates of next year, but they are pledging the Estimates of next year if they leave work unfinished which they have partially undertaken to do this year, and they are pledging the Estimates of next year in a manner which would be most embarrassing and compromising to those who follow the hon. Gentleman and his Government. But, Sir, there is another question that arises out of the torpedo boat question. Where are the torpedos which are to be used in the torpedo boats? I understand that proposals were submitted to the Admiralty with reference to the supply of torpedoes, proposals which were invited by the Admiralty and submitted to them some months ago, but that yet no tender has been accepted. Now, it is notorious that our supply of torpedoes at the present time would not last three months of actual war. Every torpedo in store would most probably be used up in three months in actual warfare; and, as I understand it, we have not at the present moment means at Woolwich of producing more than 80 torpedoes a-year. That number, in the event of our having a serious conflict with any powerful enemy, would probably be used up in the course of a single week. I think the Committee and the country have a right to know whether steps have been taken to provide torpedoes for the torpedo boats. With regard to the Colossus and the Conqueror, it was stated that those vessels are practically complete. Well, last year, at this time, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant said that the Conqueror was complete. I happened, however, to have been at Chatham, and to have seen the tubes of her guns without a breech-piece. Well, a gun cannot be said to be complete without a lock or the means of using it, and that was the position of the guns of the Conqueror at that time. I believe that since then the breech-piece has been settled upon, but the loading apparatus has not been supplied. Though these guns may be 1333 complete as far as the Dockyard is concerned, there is no chance that they will be complete for service for two or three months after the breech-loading apparatus has been supplied, and that has not yet been delivered at Chatham or at Portsmouth. It will not be delivered at Portsmouth until after the breech-loading apparatus has been tried and found satisfactory. We are, therefore, in this position—that if war were to break out, neither the Colossus nor the Conqueror could be made available for service, though they have had enormous sums of money spent upon them, and have been within a measurable distance of completion for very many months. And that leads me to ask another question. We were told that the Anson, the Hero, and the Camper down were all to be completed within four years of the date at which they were laid down; but if I turn to the Estimates I find that the hydraulic mountings for the guns, which take two and a-half years to make, have not yet been ordered. How is it possible for ships to be complete in 1886 when the hydraulic mountings, which will take two and a-half years to make, have not yet been ordered? We are now in the year 1885, and supposing that these hydraulic mountings were ordered before the end of this month it would take at least until October, 1887, before the ship could be ready. It is these unfortunate delays, and the inability of the Department to make up its mind, and to the fact that there were so many minds to be brought together into one way of thinking, that these vessels remained so long incomplete. That is what makes me so exceedingly concerned, and so exceedingly anxious with regard to the future of the Navy of this country. The hon. Gentleman said a word or two about repairs, and we have heard something already about guns. I will not go into the gun question to-night, because that is a matter on which probably the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington) and the Surveyor General of Ordnance (Mr. Brand) will have something to say on Thursday, and the hour is so late that I will not detain the Committee on the question; but the hon. Gentleman's remarks with regard to the Minotaur and the Agincourt remind me of the views of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant expressed with regard to 1334 these ships only a short time ago. He said that the Minotaur, and the Agincourt, and the Achilles would soon be out of order, and as these were important vessels it would be worth while to put them in order. We are told, however, now that this work is not to be done on account of the cost. It is said that the repairs will cost £200,000, and that, therefore, it is not worth while effecting them; and that, to my mind, is another instance of the inability of the Admiralty at any one time to grasp a question and settle it. If the Minotaur was to be repaired in 1884, how is it that the Admiralty have now come to the conclusion that it should not be repaired. I urge this because of the great importance of taking a complete view of the adequate strength of the Navy. Until it is decided to put the ships on one side, they are regarded as being valuable to the Service of the country, and their existence is pointed to as an argument against the building of other ships. It is said, when the necessity of increased construction is impressed upon the Admiralty—"Have you not got these magnificent vessels of 10,000 tons burden? What more do you want?" These vessels, when it answers the purpose of the Government to use the argument, are pointed at to account for so much displacement and so much strength. In reality these vessels should be struck off The Navy List and put on one side, left out of the calculation and not regarded in any way as ships valuable for the Service. A ship which is known to be one that can be no longer relied upon should be at once treated in that way. I will not go through the list of ships to be repaired; but it strikes me—and I say it with a strong desire to assist the Admiralty in dealing with this question—that they have not made a sufficient provision for repairs and for contingencies, and that that is really the reason why they fail to carry out their programme. The truth is that ships come in which must be repaired—ships that are not expected, and for which provision has not been made, and yet the repairs are urgent, and must be effected. The repairs, as I say, being urgent, the ships are forthwith taken in hand, and then down goes the programme. You spend the money, but you spend it on purposes wholly distinct from those originally contemplated. I believe that the figure 1335 put down for repairs this year, compared with that of last year, will be found insufficient for the purpose. Now, there are one or two other questions that I am afraid, even at this hour, I must ask the Committee to consider. There was a Committee appointed to inquire into the condition under which ships are repaired—namely, the Committee on the Building and Repairs of Ships, and that Committee sent in some valuable and important recommendations. It said—That vessels, when designed and laid down in the Dockyards, or contracted for, should he completed to receive the hest armaments and mechanical inventions known to exist, and thus great expense would he avoided and time saved. It appears in evidence that in the case of ships built in the Dockyards at least three years out of six might he saved by this course; and the Committee considers that the gain to the naval strength of the country by the more rapid completion of vessels possessing fittings of the most approved type at the time they were designed would more than counter-balance any advantage that might be gained by adopting the latest improvements at the cost of serious delay during the construction of the ship.Other recommendations of the Committee were—1st. That the Admiralty should obtain the armaments they require, either through the Ordnance Department of the War Office, or by direct contract with private firms, as may from time to time appear desirable. 2nd. That encouragement be given to the general engineering talent of the country to design, manufacture, and supply the carriage and hydraulic arrangements for working and loading the guns.That was confirmed in a Circular sent round by Mr. Barnaby, Director of Naval Construction, to the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors in January of this year. He stated generally that the causes of slow progress are—1. The money voted by Parliament provides for a given number of tons of armourclads each year. If this will just build the equivalent of two ships in a year, and it is desired to build each ship in three years, it will follow that not more than six ships should he in progress together; but, as a matter of fact, twice that number are often found in progress together, by order of Parliament. 2. With so many ships in progress, delays in settlement of questions of armament and alterations are submitted to, and men are withdrawn and sent to other ships, thus spreading the money and the tons built over 12 instead of six ships, greatly increasing the cost per ship, and halving the rate of building.To translate that, I think it means that if only the Chief Constructor of the Navy was allowed to build ships in three years he would be able to do so; but 1336 hitherto he has been compelled to take double the time in order that he might make a show—in order to make it appear that the Admiralty has double the number of ships on the stocks at the time. I want to know whether the Admiralty are prepared to follow the advice given in the Report of the Committee I have referred to, and to act upon the opinion expressed by their own Constructor, because it is absurd to say that Parliament has ordered these ships to be built in this way? It is the Admiralty that proposes them to Parliament, and the Admiralty who are responsible for the policy of shipbuilding and the administration. Are the Admiralty, I ask, prepared to adopt the policy laid down by that Report, and by their own officer, or do they intend to persevere in the course of laying down more ships than they can complete in a specified time, as they ought to complete them, with due regard to economy? I want to know if these recommendations are going to be attended to? Now, what is the cause of this delay and failure? The Committee sat and inquired very carefully—we had evidence brought before us to show that it would be possible to build fast cruisers in 18 months, if the Admiralty put them out to contract. By a letter from Elswick I learn that two or three fast cruisers, 18-knot type, could be turned out in 18 months from the date of the order—turned out complete, with armament and everything on board ready for her crews. The armour-clads would take somewhat longer, from two years to two years and three months. Messrs. John Elder and Co. are prepared to build and deliver two fast protected cruisers to carry heavy guns and steam 18 knots within 15 months after signature of unalterable contract—or an armour-clad of the Conqueror class within 24 months, or of the Admiral class within 30 months, rigged and ready for sea with fittings for armament, the Admiralty providing the guns. Now, I believe that Parliament desires above all things promptitude, vigour, and a rapid completion of all the work that has been undertaken; it does not desire to have a great show of ships which are totally useless when they are on the stocks, or while they are incomplete, and which are an extravagant expenditure every minute they lay in course of construction over and above the time that it ought to have taken to 1337 finish them. What we want is to have the naval strength which is required for the country ready, and we want to know who is responsible for the delay—that delay which nothing seems capable of overcoming, and which prevents that completeness which Parliament requires? Are there divided counsels? Are there intentional delays anywhere? Is it impossible to get questions settled? Is there an absence of an individual who would absolutely order the work to be done? Is it the guns that cause the delay? The Earl of Northbrook says it is not; but the Bellerophon, according to the Estimates, is still, after five years, waiting for the guns she ought to have had years ago. I believe the guns have been changed frequently, and that the old intention as to the armament of the ship has been altered. Then the carriages are referred to as a cause of delay. I am told by some persons that they cannot be had; but the carriages are now entirely in the hands of the Admiralty, and they have the whole of the mechanical power of England to go to in order to get the carriages. Even if there are patents in the way of the Government, by the power they possess they could still have the work done. I came across an old friend the other day—a distinguished naval officer, and he said to me—"I cannot tell how it is, but the whole system is a make-believe of readiness when we are not ready; and that if war were to break out we should not be able to turn out a Meet without delay, which would prove injurious, probably most disastrous to us." I regret that the House did not go into Committee to-day at an earlier hour, so that there might have been a full and proper discussion upon the condition of the Navy, when the whole subject might have been thoroughly sifted and thrashed out. I think that an inquiry ought to be instituted; but I do not think that it ought to be conducted by a Committee of this House. The Committee of 1848 was appointed in the month of February, and it reported in August upon the Navy Estimates; but it did not present a final Report until the year 1851. Now, I do not think we can afford to wait for three or four years for the Report of a Committee sitting twice a week for four hours at a time, and withdrawing probably from 1338 the Department officers who are most urgently required at the present moment for the discharge of important duties pressing on them every day and every hour. Of course, they would find it necessary to defend the policy which is carried out at the present time, and to exculpate themselves; and that exculpation would, of itself, withdraw their minds from the proper discharge of their duties. As I have said, I think an inquiry is necessary; but I do not think that it should be an inquiry by a Committee of the House of Commons. Such an inquiry would probably end in the complete mystification of the country, and the public would most likely fail to arrive at the causes of the evils which exist. I think the Government itself should appoint specially qualified men to inquire into special Departments of the Service which are capable of improvement. I should like to see four or five men deputed to consider the whole question of shipbuilding, to consider whether the system which now prevails is at all a safe or proper one, or whether it is creditable to the capable undertaking of any business operations or enterprize. What is it that we do? We order a ship to be laid down, but we are careful not to order all that is necessary for that ship on account of the circumstances and conditions which surround the Estimates from year to year. The result is that everything is taken in driblets. The engines are ordered by driblets. All the materials which go to make the ship are ordered by driblets. Any private person wanting a vessel would order everything that was required at the outset to be ready to put into the ship, so that no delay should be caused for want of material to the shipwrights and fitters, and there would be an immense economy both of money and of time. Let me refer to the cost of alterations. I happen to know that £ 10 or £12 a ton are lost in armour alone, which would not be the case if the whole design had been completed in the first instance. Then there is something else—we want to know something about the manning of the vessels of which my hon. Friend has spoken. We want to know whether the provision made for manning the ships can be improved, so as to put the manning of all vessels in a complete state of efficiency within a week of a vessel being put in commis- 1339 sion? I do not think it could be done now; but unless we know from the directions given by qualified persons what the system is and what can be done—unless the instructions given are laid upon the Table by the Admiralty, and action is taken upon them in the course of a week or two after they are received, I am afraid we shall make no real progress. I cannot but say that a great deal of the failure to complete the programme from year to year, and a great deal of the inaccuracy which prevails in the figures, is due to the want of cordiality in the working which exists within the Admiralty itself. It arises from a vast number of zealous officers in their several Departments, working most conscientiously no doubt to the best of their ability in the discharge of their several duties, being brought together to decide matters which from their very conscientiousness they are prevented from deciding, and which prevents them from arriving at positive conclusions, simply because their decision has to be given upon work altogether outside their several provinces. The result is that matters of real importance to the country are seriously delayed or sacrificed. What we want is a man of vigorous grasp, with a will to control, direct, and order; with a sense of personal and individual duty and responsibility, who would be responsible for having everything done for the country without loss of time. It should be the work of one man, and I think it is the duty of one man to undertake the task. I am asking this not in panic or alarm, but with a deep sense of responsibility. The Navy exists for the country—it is not a mere expensive toy; not a mere matter of display; but if there were not a possibility of war, if there were no probability of war, if there were not almost the certainty that some time or other the Navy would be required to protect the country there would be no excuse for a Navy at all, and no justification for spending£10,000,000 or £12,000,000 a-year in order to keep up the Navy. But I do insist that if the Navy is to be maintained, as many ships as are necessary should be maintained in a state of efficiency. I am convinced, in my own opinion, that the Navy is not ready to perform the duties it might be called upon to discharge in case of war, and more particularly of sudden emergency. 1340 I am convinced that war, and a sudden war, is quite possible. We have been told by the Secretary of State for War, although it is not necessary for us to be told that by a Minister of State, as we can see it for ourselves, that there is cause for very grave anxiety, and that a sudden emergency might arise, Then if there is cause for anxiety there is an additional reason why the House and the country should see that our defences are adequate for the task they may be called upon to perform. It is essential that we should be secure in our homes, in our trade, and in our commerce, and that there should be no interruption to the native industries of the country, or to our food supply. It is the duty of the Admiralty to see that their arrangements and provisions are adequate to the necessities of the case. I speak strongly and plainly, because I feel deeply the responsibilities of the Admiralty. I feel deeply our own responsibility. I know that the provisions which exist are not adequate, and therefore it is that I express my earnest hope that the Government will take such steps as are necessary to bring order out of chaos, and to re-assure the country that the Navy, as far as the matériel and the personnel are concerned, if the actual service of the country required it, are perfect, and that they deserve the complete confidence and trust of the people of this country.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
said, that those who were acquainted with his career in the House of Commons would believe him when he said that he had no intention of making a speech at that hour of the night (1.15). Still less did he intend to enter into the elaborate criticism which had been undertaken by his right hon. Friend the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith); but he hoped when his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer rose that he would at least give some hope of affording him (Lord Henry Lennox) an opportunity, on a future day, of stating the objections he entertained to these marvellous Estimates which he would refrain from stating that night. If he did not feel that he was more or less responsible for the excitement which had been created in the public mind in regard to the state of the Navy he might have remained silent; but as he felt that his speeches and humble 1341 efforts had had something to do with the arousing of public attention to the subject, he felt that he would be wanting in his duty if he did not rise at once and tell his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty that he had listened to his speech with alarm. He maintained that there had been nothing more nor less than a deliberate breach of faith in regard to the engagements deliberately entered into with Parliament last December. The Secretary to the Admiralty, with his usual ability, had tried to conceal it, by contrasting the expenditure of money the Admiralty were going to undertake this year with that of France. Hon. Gentlemen must know as well as he (Lord Henry Lennox) did that labour in France was much cheaper than in England; and the contrast, which his hon. Friend had considered it desirable to make, was altogether a fallacious one. He had only one thing more to say, and it was this. He desired forcibly to point out to the Committee that, after all that had been stated in December last, all that was promised now was four new iron-clads—two by contract, and two in the Dockyards—and they had the high authority of the Secretary to the Admiralty himself for saying that the two to be built in the Dockyards had scarcely been commenced, and that they were really nothing but paper ships. All that he desired at the present moment was to draw the attention of his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty to that point, and also to ask whether he was right or wrong in pointing out that, according to Vote 6, No. 10, the number of men employed this year, as compared with the number employed last year, notwithstanding the provisions which had been made, was really 47 less? He might have made a mistake; but he would appeal to the Secretary to the Admiralty to put him right. Keeping to his promise, he would not say one word more, except to appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to hold out some hope that this discussion would be resumed at an early day.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
said, that he had been about to make an appeal to the Committee in the sense of what had fallen from the noble Lord. It appeared to him that it was desirable upon this, as upon previous occasions, that they should take the Vote for Men and the 1342 first Vote for Money at once, on the clear understanding that the discussion should be continued on an early day on the next Vote, and also, so far as shipbuilding was concerned, on Votes 6 and 10, which came later. If that understanding were arrived at, and it was the understanding that was followed not only last year, but in previous years, his noble Friend would have a full opportunity of making his comments, and they would be able to get over the difficulty of deferring the Vote for Men and the first Money Vote until a future day. He, therefore, asked the Committee to agree at once to the Vote on that distinct understanding.
MR. A. F. EGERTON
said, he had only one question to ask—namely, when the right hon. Gentleman proposed to renew the discussion? It was very important that it should be renewed as soon as possible; and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give the Committee some idea of the day upon which the Navy Estimates would be resumed.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
said, the course which was pursued last year would be followed this; and the Navy Estimates would be taken, after Easter, on the earliest day consistent with other urgent Business.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
remarked, that if the course adopted last year were practically and substantially followed this year, he thought the Committee would do well to agree, at once, to the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ (2.) £2,728,100, Wages, &c. to Seamen and Marines.