HC Deb 16 March 1885 vol 295 cc1251-78

in rising to call attention to the system of chartering hired transports pursued by the Admiralty; and to move— That the system of chartering and managing hired transports pursued by the Admiralty officials is un business like, extravagant, and detrimental to the satisfactory working of home preparations for foreign wars, said, that two Committees had been appointed to investigate into the conduct of the Egyptian Campaign, one being that presided over by Lord Morley, and the other the Select Committee of the House of Commons to inquire into the working of the Commissariat and Transport Services. He had read the Reports, and anyone that chose to look into them would, he thought, be struck at the extraordinary number of instances in which elaborate and costly preparations at home were neutralized owing to late arrival in Egypt. The Carthage, for instance, was chartered at £7,500 per month, or £250 per day, for use as a base hospital and transport for the sick. She went out to Ismailia, and arrived late The landing arrangements at Ismailia were extremely defective. In order to facilitate landing, a portable pier was constructed at Woolwich, but it did not arrive at Ismailia until a very short time before the conclusion of the campaign—too late to be of any use. There was a line of railway in existence, and in order to utilize it, locomotives were purchased in England and sent out to Ismailia. These engines arrived several days late. Others were purchased at Alexandria, and went round with the Expedition. It was intended to land them at Ismailia by the aid of a vessel named the Recovery, which was fitted for the purpose; but, on their arrival, the Recovery was not to be found, and when she arrived, it was too late to be of use. A telegraph, corps of the Royal Engineers was maintained in this country, so as to be ready in time of war. That corps was sent out to Egypt, but arrived a week late. There was, again, the iron ration—a ration which the men were expected to carry about with them constantly, so that they should not be in want of a meal if cut off from the Commissariat Department. That ration was sent out, but it was not available until Cairo had been seized. Huts were sent out; they arrived late. A siege train was sent out, but was landed only on the day of the battle of Tel-el-Kebir. The transport animals all arrived late; and this was especially the case with 800 mules, which had been in the hands of the Government months before. This delay, some of his friends said, was owing to the Admiralty's penchant for hiring slow-going steamers. A most respectable shipowner wrote him that, in consequence of the manner in which he had been treated at the Admiralty, he had given up all attempts to treat with the Government. Commission and brokerage, another gentleman told him, was at the bottom of the whole business. A Mr. Baughan, who had the charge of giving out the charters, had a brother-in-law in the office of a firm of ship-brokers, and that firm obtained for their clients an enormous percentage of the charters given out, and so difficult was it to get a charter through any other channel that one company of shipowners, itself managed by a very old-established shipbroker, had, his correspondent informed him, thought it proper to charter their vessels through that firm. Another correspondent called his attention to evidence given by the Chief Constructor at the Admiralty (Mr. Dunn) before the Royal Commission on Merchant Shipping. From that it appeared that there was a rule in the Admiralty not to accept vessels which did not comply with certain requirements, and which were technically known as being on the Admiralty list. The Chairman of the Commission, in reply, remarked that, for some branches of the Government service, they took ships which did not comply with the requirements of the Admiralty. Under those circumstances, he (Dr. Cameron) asked for a Return, which he thought might give some light on the subject. He explained to the then Secretary of the Admiralty (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) why he wanted the Return. He told him (Dr. Cameron) that it was unusual to give such a Return; but he did not wish to conceal anything, and he gave the Return. That Return was ordered to be printed on 27th July last. It purported to be a Return of all the chartered vessels for Egypt, and to state whether they were chartered direct from the owners or through brokers. The first thing that struck one about the Return was that it omitted the names of a large number of transports. The names of the following were not contained in it:—namely, Euphrates, Patna, Nautilus, Pharos, Peshawur, Thames, Osmanli, Sesostris, Adowa, and Belgravia. He should like the hon. Gentleman the Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Caine), whom he understood was to reply, to explain why these vessels were not in the Return. Turning to the Return itself, what struck one was this—that out of the 72 vessels chartered, no less than 15 were chartered from one firm of brokers—Messrs. Ellis and Son—and out of £860,000 paid for these vessels, no less than £175,000, or a little over a fifth, was paid for vessels chartered through Messrs. Ellis and Son. Other charters were obtained through other brokers, but the amount paid for these was comparatively small, and there was nothing to compare with the transactions of the Messrs. Ellis. His object in bring- ing forward the Motion was, if possible, to obtain a reform of a state of things which appeared to be most detrimental to the public interest. The hon. Gentleman the Civil Lord of the Admiralty had not long been in Office, and, when on the Radical Benches, used to joke at the red tapeism that prevailed in the Government Departments; and he (Dr. Cameron) could hardly fancy that he had already been so long at the Admiralty as to have become so permeated with red tape and officialism that he would do anything rather than return a straightforward and businesslike answer. He had explained to the hon. Gentleman his points, and had given him time to inquire into them; and he hoped he would reply in the frank, open manner that was characteristic of him a few months ago. He (Dr. Cameron) told him of the alleged brother-in-law arrangement. He understood he had looked into the matter, and it was true that Mr. Baughan, who had the giving out of the charters, was connected with the firm of Messrs. Ellis, or had some connection or relative in the office. That was a matter of fact. He knew that blood was thicker than water, and he should not find fault with a man who did a good turn to his brother-in-law. If, at the same time, he could do a service to a relative and the State, it might be argued that he was all the more valuable a servant of the State on that account. But in this case it was hardly so; and he (Dr. Cameron) objected altogether to the system of brokerage and commissions in this matter. There were very grave objections to the system which divided the responsibility of land and water transport between two Departments. In the first place, if they intrusted one Department with the duty of providing the money and another with spending it, they would certainly have extravagance; while, with two Establishments, they multiplied the chances of breakdowns. The only justification of which the present system was capable was this—that the Admiralty knew all about ships, their management, and chartering, and the War Office knew nothing about them. If all the inconveniences of the present system were to be encountered simply in order that an official at the Admiralty should hand over to a broker his responsibili- ties in the matter of hiring ships, it seemed to him that an official at the War Office might as well be intrusted with the business. He need not delay in talking to any man who had a knowledge of commercial matters of the importance of dealing with principals; when others were dealt with, the purchaser—in this case the nation—must indirectly pay the commission. But that was not the extravagance he denounced. The extravagance he denounced lay in the mismanagement of the system of transport in such a way as to render nugatory the most costly and elaborate preparations at home—mismanagement which, if we had to meet a warlike foe, might be fraught with very disastrous consequences to the nation. He had already made a reference to the very defective landing arrangements at Ismailia. It must be borne in mind that it was intended from the first to make Ismailia the base of our operations, and the Engineer officers, taking time by the forelock, fitted up at Woolwich a portable pier. This pier carried a railway and cranes, and a shears or derrick for lifting heavy weights. At this point, it was proper to remark that there could be no doubt as to the meaning of the word "late" in connection with the Expedition. The date of its commencement and completion were planned from the first. As to the end of the campaign, Sir Garnet Wolseley had stated his intention of occupying Cairo on the 15th of September; and, as a matter of fact, he entered the city on the 14th, so that the end of the war was anticipated by only one day. As to the commencement, the simultaneous massing of the English Military and Naval and the Indian Forces showed that the date of the seizure of Ismailia must have been determined on long in advance. The Engineer officer who was to put up the pier went to Woolwich and inspected it, and he arrived at the Suez Canal before the Expedition. Ismailia was occupied on August 20. The pier was not sent out in his vessel, but in three others. The first of these vessels, the Canadian, arrived on August 23; the second, the Stelling, after a 19 days' voyage, on September 5; and the third, the Lechmere, on September 8; these two List arriving 16 and 19 days respectively after landing of first troops, and eight and five days respectively before the battle of Tel-el- Kebir. The pier, which would have been invaluable had it been received in time, was thus rendered utterly useless; the cranes were never taken out of the ship; and as to the shears, one of its legs was left behind, so that it would have been useless if it had arrived. These preparations for the initial stages of the campaign were sent out in slow vessels of 9 to 9£ knots an hour. Both the Stelling and the Lechmere were chartered through brokers, one of them through Messrs. Ellis and Son. He had mentioned the locomotives sent out for the purpose of working the railway on which it was intended to rely for transport. These were sent in the Lechmere, a 9£-knot vessel, chartered through Messrs. Ellis and Son, and arrived only a week before the battle of Tel-el-Kebir. Happily, other engines had been procured at Alexandria, and brought round with the Expedition. These were to be landed at Ismailia by the Recovery, which was specially fitted with apparatus to lift heavy weights; but when they arrived the Recovery could not be found, and they were sent on to Suez, where there was an antiquated machine, described by Colonel Wallace as— A crane, with a curious sort of engine with belting, not gearing, which gave way with the second heaviest engine lifted. The heaviest lift was 20 tons, and Captain Hext, R.N., who had the charge of the crane, thus described the operation— The two last engines were a heavy lift, and we had to screw the safety valve of the crane's boiler before we could stir them. The Arab stoker bolted when he saw the steam pressure go above 40 lbs.; but we got it up to 52 with a trusty English stoker. I should not care to have a heavier lift; but, if you send them, they are bound to come out. I think the man who sits on a safety-valve and knows his own danger deserves the Victoria Cross. As to the Recovery, Colonel Wallace said he never heard of her arrival. He said—"She may have come, but she was not in time to be of any use to us." It appeared, however, from a question put to Colonel Wallace by the Surveyor General of the Ordnance (Mr. Brand), that the Recovery did arrive, but she was 10 days late, arriving at Ismailia on September 1. She was also chartered through Messrs. Ellis. Being of no use for the purpose intended, she was used as a tug. There was another tug—namely, the Storm Cock, a vessel of 328 tons, which was charged at the rate of £750 per month, or about £2 5s. 8d. per ton per month. The most expensive vessel chartered was the Catalonia, at the rate of 35s. per ton per month. The next highest was the Carthage, which was chartered at 30s., and only four other vessels were chartered at rates above 25s. Every other vessel, including the tug Recovery, was charged more than £1 per month less than the Storm, Cock. She was chartered through Ellis and Son, and belonged to Mr. W. Beckett Hill. Several of Mr. Hill's vessels had been chartered by Messrs. Ellis and Son—the Tower Hill, the Ludgate Hill, for example. The Notting Hill was amongst the vessels belonging to the same owner, but she was stated in the Return to have been chartered direct from Mr. Hill. Of all the cases of mismanagement connected with this Expedition the case of the Notting Hill was, perhaps, the most gross. After the Transvaal War the Government had a quantity of mules left on their hands as surplus at Natal; and, in anticipation of their being required for the war in Egypt, a telegram was sent to Natal asking how many spare mules they could supply. The Commissary in charge of the station was also Admiralty Agent at Durban, and he had told the Committee that there was not the smallest difficulty in obtaining transport on the spot or fitting out, and that it was customary to use small vessels suited to the transport of from 200 to 250 animals each for the purpose, as being more convenient to deal with than larger vessels. He further gave evidence that, had he been intrusted with the business, he could have got the mules to Egypt in good time. On the 24th of July, when the order was given to take up the transport, the Notting Hill was at Algoa Bay, 500 miles from Natal, and laden with wool. On that day Mr. Ellis, of Messrs. Ellis and Son, called at the office of one of the great Cape Companies and asked them if they could not engage to take home the load of wool, in order to leave the Notting Hill at liberty to undertake the transport of mules. Now, in the Return, the Messrs. Ellis and Son were not given as the brokers through whom the Notting Hill was chartered. The order to procure the transport had only been given on the 24th of July, and the bargain was completed on July the 27th. Meanwhile, Messrs. Ellis and Son had been endeavouring to arrange for the transport of the cargo of wool, and all he could say was that if the Messrs. Ellis and Son had not got their commission, it was hard lines on them, and they deserved to get it. Evidently, the Cape Liner people had their suspicions aroused in connection with the business, and on the following day, the 25th, the representative of one of the leading lines applied at the Admiralty and stated that they had an empty vessel on the spot ready to take the mules to Egypt. Their offer was refused; they were told their vessel was too small. About the same date, a telegram was addressed by the Admiralty to the "Transport Officer, Algoa Bay." Such an address was as vague as would be an address to an officer at the Bay of Biscay. Port Elizabeth was the port of Algoa Bay, but there had not been a Transport Officer there for many years. Such was the evidence given before the Committee. Accordingly, the telegram asking the Transport Officer at Algoa Bay to detain the Notting Hill went kicking about South Africa, there being no Transport Officer at Algoa Bay. Ultimately it found its way to the Adjutant General, who forwarded it to the Admiral at St. Simon's Bay. Thus, a great deal of valuable time had been lost. Now, that telegram had been burked in the Correspondence on the subject ordered by the Select Committee. Several telegrams which had been ordered by the Committee had been suppressed, and that was one of them. On July 29th, however, the Admiral at St. Simon's Bay sent home a telegram stating that the Notting Hill was not available, but that empty steamers could be had at the Cape for the transport. On the 27th of July, the regular Cape traders had apparently heard enough to convince them that they were not in the race for the transport of the mules, and they determined to take the wool cargo from the Notting Hill. It was arranged that they were to receive the entire freight for the wool, and a premium of £2,000; and on the very day on which that arrangement was concluded with those trading,. Companies, the bargain with the Admiralty was concluded for the charter of the Notting Hill for the conveyance of the mules, pay to commence on July 28th. The owners of the Notting Hill had agreed to give £2,000 premium on the freight for bringing home the wool, and they got £3,000 from the Admiralty for expenses of transfer of cargo, and £1,000 for the number of days allowed them to get rid of the cargo. Their charter was for £4,000 a-month. As a matter of fact, however, instead of the prescribed number of days for getting rid of the cargo, they had taken 10 or 11 days, and they did not arrive at St. Simon's Bay until August 7. Now, he wanted to know whether they had been paid for the 11 days, or for the number at first fixed? Three weeks more—for which the country paid another £3,000—were wasted at St. Simon's Bay in refitting. Upon arriving at Durban, it was found that the Notting Hill did not contain accommodation for the whole of the mules. She started on September the 5th, and did not arrive at Aden—five days from Suez—until a week after the fall of Cairo. The mules were afterwards disposed of to the Indian Government at a very high figure; but notwithstanding the good bargain with the Indian Authorities, the cost for the chartering of the Notting Hill, the forage for the mules, the equipment for drivers, and the coal expense of the transport which we were put to, more than swallowed up the total price received from the Indian Authorities. From a commercial point of view, the nation would have been a gainer had the mules been slaughtered at Natal for the sake of their hides and hoofs. Everyone must remember the bargain of Moses Primrose, which was regarded as a type of everything foolish in trading; but it was a model of wisdom as compared with this fiasco, which had cost the country from £20,000to £25,000, without having even a gross of shagreen spectacles, like Moses Primrose, to show for it. All those preparations might have been efficiently carried out, if the transport had been ordered through either the Admiralty Agent at Durban, or through the Admiral at St. Simon's Bay. He thought he had said enough about the 15 vessels besides the Notting Hill chartered through Messrs. Ellis and Son, to show that however well their brokerage arrangements might act in practice, they did not turn out for the public interest. It appeared to him, however, that even in other cases the work of the Admiralty in hiring steamers had not been conducted in a business-like manner. The Royal Engineers Telegraph Corps, for instance, was a corps that was maintained in efficiency in time of peace to be in readiness for time of war. In the Egyptian War their services were of the first importance, and yet the Telegraphist Corps had been sent out in the Oxenholme, the champion sluggard of the Fleet, described in the Return as an 8 J-knot vessel. The consequence was that they did not arrive until August 28, after the engagement at El Magfar, the capture of Tel-el-Mahuta, the occupation of Mashama and Kassassin, and on the date of the first attack on Kassassin. Meanwhile the communications had been conducted somehow. Colonel Salmond, the officer sent out to erect the pier, which arrived too late, had turned his attention to the effort of getting together a scratch band of telegraphists. Luckily, Arabi's men, in cutting the telegraph wires along the railway, did not remove them, and Colonel Salmond looked about for someone who could solder them together. He found a man there who, he thought, knew how to solder the wires and "make earth." By means of pantomime he assured himself that the man understood what he wanted, and it was upon that Arab tinker that our Army had been dependent for telegraphic communication during the first week of the war. He (Dr. Cameron) did not know whether the Government had offered him any remuneration or recognition of his services. The chief Army medical officer complained bitterly of the suffering to the wounded, because, as he had said, owing to the defective telegraphic arrangements, the wounded were arriving before the telegrams announcing their approach, and in the absence of the necessary preparations they were frequently left uncared for for some time. Take another instance. The siege train was rather an important item in a campaign, and Captain Rawson, of the Navy, the principal naval transport officer, in his evidence, had said that the Chief of the Staff wanted the siege train so badly that, directly the vessel had arrived with it, he sent a written requisition that they should land it at once, but they succeeded in landing it only on the day of the battle of Tel-el-Kebir. This siege train had been sent out in a vessel of only nine knots an hour. Then, as to the Carthage, he was not going to argue the question, as to which authorities were divided, whether she was the best sort of vessel to employ as a base hospital and transport for the sick and wounded. But she was hired for that purpose, the pay commenced on the 25th of July, and it was at the rate of £7,500 a-month, or £250 per day. He did not dispute that she was quite worth that figure; but it was a large one, and if the nation was content to pay it, it had at least the right to expect that the vessel would be available for the purpose for which she was hired. As a matter of fact, instead of hastening on to Alexandria, and starting thence with the Expedition, she left England on August 9th, wasted 26 hours coaling at Malta, although she could carry coal for three weeks' steaming, and might perfectly well have coaled at home while fitting out—arrived at Alexandria after the Expedition had started, wasted some 40 precious hours there, and did not arrive at Ismailia until after the first engagement had been fought. As a consequence, the wounded and sick were put to great suffering and inconvenience, and all the medical arrangements were upset. It might be said that all these things occurred in the Expedition of 1882, and that there was nothing of the kind in connection with the present Expedition. He was not quite so certain of that. The Authorities were just as complaisant about the management of the Expedition of 1882 before these inquiries had been held. On referring to the Appropriation Accounts for last year, he found some correspondence between the Accountant General and the Secretary of the Admiralty, in which an increase in the pension of Admiral Mends—against whom personally he had not a word to say—was recommended on the ground that the Transport Department had been on several occasions— Successfully tested by the severe strain of war, and this was notably the case in the last Egyptian Expedition, the success of which depended to a great extent upon the celerity of the movement of the component parts of the Force employed. Moreover, in connection with the present Nile Expedition, he might mention one instance which showed that the want of distinct differentiation of responsibility for given duties still existed. Mr. Roper had invented a kind of raft, which he was anxious to have tested on the Nile, and he wrote to Lord Wolseley and to the Admiralty on the subject. From Lord Wolseley he received a letter, stating that he had handed his communication to the Director of Ordnance and Stores for transmission to the Admiralty. From the Admiralty he receivd a letter stating that the matter was one which concerned the War Office, and that accordingly his application had been forwarded to that Department. Again, a want of business management was demonstrated by the manner in which, if he was correctly informed, the Canadian boatmen were brought over to this country. As everyone was aware, there were first-class lines of steamers running between this country and Canada, and the obvious course would have been to bring over these men by the regular line of steamers. However, if he was correctly informed, the Ocean King was chartered, and went out to Canada empty for the purpose of carrying the men here. One improvement, however, had taken place in connection with, the present operations. Since the publication of his Return, the shipowners had ceased to complain of undue favouritism to the Messrs. Ellis and Co. But complaints were as rife as ever of the want of anything like open competition, and that, consequently, the best, cheapest, and most expeditious means of transport were not obtained. He begged to move the Motion that stood in his name.


rose to second the Amendment. In his opinion, enough had already been stated to justify the House in accepting it. He was told that the Committee of last year was not going to be re-appointed. If that was so, the time of the House would be occupied in going into details which would otherwise come before the Committee. The refusal to re-appoint the Committee would be a public scandal, in view of the facts which had already been brought out. It might be said that officials and Members of the Government were busily occupied; but the Committee would not require their attendance at any time when their services were required elsewhere. He did not entirely concur with all that had been said by the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron); but he had no hesitation in supporting the Motion. It had repeatedly been stated in the House that the Commissariat and the Transport Departments should be specially and separately organized if we were to avoid in future a repetition of the scandals which appeared to be always occurring whenever arrangements had to be made in connection with war or rumours of war. He hoped the Government would say that they were prepared to agree to the adoption of some different system. He did not see why the system of brokerage should be maintained with such unerring regularity instead of going into the open market. It was not necessary to approach his hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Mr. Sutherland), who was at the head of one of the largest Steamship Companies in the country, through half-a-dozen brokers. Indeed, business could often times be transacted in a much more satisfactory manner when there was no third party to intervene. This question had been so often discussed that he should have thought some satisfactory system would by this time have been adopted, especially seeing that Members on the Treasury Bench had expressed the opinion that it would be better if Transport and Commissariat arrangements were placed in the hands of one Chief with a separate Department. He considered that open competition, open tenders, and an open market would bring the Government much better arrangements than they had hitherto been able to make. The time must soon come for the abolition of the present system, which not only retarded the progress of our soldiers and sailors when fighting our battles in foreign lands, but which also resulted in a needless expenditure of money. He should like to hear whether the Admiralty had really discussed this matter at all, and he hoped that the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, when he came to reply, would be able to state what course the Admiralty proposed to adopt. He seconded the Resolution with great satisfaction, and trusted that this would be the last time that the House would hear anything of the subject.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the system of chartering and managing hired transports pursued by the Admiralty officials is un business like, extravagant, and detrimental to the satisfactory working of home preparations for foreign wars,"—(Dr. Cameron,) —instead thereof.

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


said, that, as one who had had something to do with shipping affairs and with the arrangement of vessels and transports for the Admiralty, he listened to the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow with very great interest and curiosity. He certainly thought that his hon. Friend, seeing the notion he entertained on this subject, was perfectly right in bringing the matter before the House, and his hon. Friend was to be credited with having discharged, in a manner that few persons could have done, a duty which could not have been agreeable to him. It was no part of his (Mr. Sutherland's) business to defend the action of the Admiralty in this matter; he left that to the able and more responsible hands of his hon. Friend on the Government Bench. But having had at various times a good deal to do with transport arrangements, he should like to place before the House the result of his own experience. Before doing so he would allude to one or two points mentioned by his hon. Friend in the course of his speech. In the first place, the words of the Motion appeared to be somewhat vague in their character. His hon. Friend, in his Motion, said that— The system of chartering and managing hired transports pursued by the Admiralty officials was un business like, extravagant, and detrimental to the satisfactory working of home preparations for foreign wars, which meant that the transport work of the Admiralty was transacted in an un business like manner. That was a very easy way of bringing forward an accusation, because it was quite certain that there was a very great difference among people as to what was and what was not a business-like manner of transacting such affairs. He believed that the Admiralty could only do their work in a business-like manner when they acted as an individual would act in any business transaction for his own interest and profit. If the Admiralty had fulfilled that condition, they would have conducted their business to the advantage of the country and with as great an economy as possible. There were two or three ways in which freight on a large scale might be hired. The first method was to advertise for public faci- lities. Another was to employ a broker to hire ships. Or, thirdly, a merchant might himself have a chartering department in his own office and transact the business himself. As to the first, no merchant or shipowner who understood his business would ever put up at public tender the large amount of tonnage required for transport. In the business with which he was connected he had to find tonnage in the course of the year for between 300,000 and 400,000 tons, and his Company never invited tenders for it, but chartered it themselves. There was a time when they did invite tenders, and they found that when the market was favourable the contractor carried out the operation, and that when it was unfavourable he frequently failed. Other reasons could be adduced why, in the case of the Admiralty, this system should not be adopted. There was such a reason in regard to secrecy. It might be of the greatest posssible importance that they should hire transport without the public knowing anything of it; and another reason was that transports were sometimes wanted in the greatest possible haste, and to endeavour to secure them by public competition would inevitably cause delay. Then the Admiralty might engage a broker and place the whole of their business in his hands; and he believed they could easily find a firm of sufficient credit and integrity to undertake the work. But he thought they had adopted a still better plan in conducting the business in their own Office, for he believed that they possessed in their Department all the knowledge that was required for the work. Such knowledge was not to be picked up in a single day; and if the suggestions of his hon. Friend were carried out, and the work transferred to a new Department, it could only be properly performed if the machinery which had the necessary experience were transferred with it. He had reason to complain of the Admiralty in some respects, because he thought they would do much better for the public if they confined themselves to faster vessels. But, on the whole, he thought that public opinion in all parts of the City of London was to the effect that the business of the Admiralty had been done with the greatest possible efficiency. Mistakes might have been made here and there; but it was easy to be wise after the event. The Expedition to which the speech of his hon. Friend referred was most speedily and efficiently carried out. Nor did he find in his hon. Friend's speech any suggestions as to how the work could have been better done. His hon. Friend thought that the Admiralty paid more than the market price. If his hon. Friend were able to prove that that had been done on a considerable scale, he would have made out a case which a Committee would be bound to inquire into. It might happen, without any fault of theirs, that the Admiralty would be obliged to pay 15 or 20 per cent more than they would have had to do 24 hours before. Various inconsistencies and incongruities might perhaps be pointed out in the hiring of certain ships; but the explanation did not lie altogether on the surface. It might happen, for instance, that a ship of 3,000 tons was taken up at a higher figure than a ship of 4,600 or 5,000 tons. But it might also be the case that the smaller vessel would carry out a battalion much more conveniently and at a less cost for coals and other matters. His hon. Friend had stated that a large sum had been paid for the hospital ship Carthage—some £58,000 or £59,000—which would have covered her cost.


I said nothing of the cost. I merely stated that £7,500 a-month had been paid for the vessel.


The original cost of the ship was something like £150,000, and the Admiralty paid a large sum for the Carthage simply because they could not get her for less. The most expensive ship they hired was the Catalonia, for which they paid £1 15s. a-ton per day. But the Cunard Company had that ship in regular and most valuable employment; and they could not be expected to remove her from that employment for a two months' charter for the comparatively paltry pittance of 15s. or 20s. per ton a-day. Ships now could be chartered at a very much smaller cost than they could be three years ago, because shipping had received an addition of 1,500,000 tons, and shipowners were glad to accept very low rates. His hon. Friend stated that vessels had been chartered which were not on a certain Admiralty list. To what list did his hon. Friend refer? If he mistook not, his hon. Friend alluded to something which had happened during the tenure of power of the late Government, when they were building a large number of ships and Mr. Ward Hunt was First Lord of the Admiralty. The basis of that list was a very simple one—that every ship should be divided into com partments, that in the event of one compartment being filled the ship might still keep afloat. This implied a good deal of courtesy on the part of the enemy, because it implied that he would keep firing into that compartment. There was no doubt that the compartment idea was a good one in itself; but shipowners were not led to believe, as his hon. Friend supposed, that only vessels on the list would be chartered——


I quoted a statement made by Mr. Dunn, and the remark of the Chairman of the Commission upon it.


understood that his hon. Friend had a grievance upon this point; and if not, he did not see the relevancy of his observations. No shipowner thought that the Admiralty would confine themselves to this list. In his view, his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow had not succeeded in establishing that the service of 1882—the period to which his accusations referred—was not, taken all in all, thoroughly well done. What were the facts of the case? In the middle of July the first vessel was taken up for the transport service, and within three weeks of that date 200,000 tons of shipping were engaged for the transport of troops to Egypt. Within some six or seven weeks of that date these 200,000 tons of shipping had conveyed the Army a distance of 3,000 miles, Tel-el-Kebir had been fought, and the object of the campaign had been accomplished. That was a result which was highly creditable to the Mercantile Marine of this country, and none of the statements of his hon. Friend had detracted in the smallest degree from the broad general efficiency displayed by the Government Department in carrying out the work.


said, he very much regretted the speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron), for he had made serious personal charges against Gentlemen who were not present to defend themselves, and who could not have an opportunity of defending themselves from charges which were, he be- lieved, without foundation. He knew many of the vessels which had been named by the hon. Member, and in almost every case he had been wrong in his facts. There was a certain amount of partial truth in what the hon. Member said; but if he had told the whole truth it would have altogether changed the views which he had endeavoured to get the House to accept. He did not personally know either Mr. Baughan or the Messrs. Ellis; but he indirectly knew a great deal about them, and certainly shipowners generally had very different views about them to those adverse views expressed by the hon. Member for Glasgow. The hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Puleston) used the word "job." There was no shipowner who believed that there had been the least jobbery.


said, he did not charge anyone with jobbery; but only said that a system like this, if pursued in another country, would have been called by that name.


said, it appeared to him that both that charge and those brought against the Admiralty by the hon. Member for Glasgow had been made on entirely insufficient grounds. The Admiralty Transport Department had, undoubtedly, sometimes made mistakes. We all made mistakes; but he believed, and it was the belief of the vast majority of shipowners, that the Transport Department of the Admiralty did its work with perfect honesty, and, upon the whole, cheaply. If there was a fault to be found, it hardly lay at the doors of the Transport Department; but it did at the doors of those who were instructing them. If the Department hired slow ship sometimes when they ought to have chartered faster ones, the reason was that the prices which were at this moment paid for ships were so low, that no owners of valuable and fast vessels could afford to give them at the prices. With regard to the Belgravia, which was a Glasgow ship, the hon. Member omitted to tell the House the price at which the owners would give her services; but he was sure they could not give her to the Government at 11s. or 12s. 6d. per ton, which was about the rate for cargo ships, or even 17s. 6d. per ton, which was given for other vessels well adapted for troop-carrying, but not so fast or so valuable as the Bel- gravia. He did blame the officers of the Admiralty for not taking such vessels as the Belgravia and those of the Peninsular and Oriental Company; but it would be utter folly for the owners of those valuable vessels to take such prices as the Admiralty, under the pressure of undue economy, were at present giving. The hon. Member for Glasgow referred to a variety of things connected with the transport business—mules, ships' pumps, railway engines, telegraph wire, and Canadian boatmen. The hon. Member might have finished each story with the words "too late," and he did so by implication. But who was responsible for this constant system of "too late?" The earlier Egyptian Expedition terminated much earlier than was anticipated; but if it had not terminated as early, every one of the things mentioned by the hon. Member would have been required. The hon. Member also suggested that the Admiralty should deal direct with the shipowners when they wanted to charter vessels; but did he know that the Admiralty had quite recently as many as 1,100 steamers offered them? It would have been impossible for the owners of all these to have treated directly with the Admiralty, and such a system would be quite absurd and unreasonable. The proper way for doing it was, as the hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. Sutherland) had suggested, to employ agents to find the Government the vessels they wanted. The hon. Member for Glasgow referred to the price paid for the Storm Cock. This vessel belonged to a class of which there were not more than two or three in the country, being a very powerful twin screw-tug. It was therefore absurd to compare this vessel with trading vessels of any ordinary kind, or to expect that it could be had at the same rate. The Recovery, which belonged to the Liverpool Underwriters' Association, was a vessel with exceptional appliances for lifting heavy weights, and, had the war continued, would have been extremely useful. He doubted if there was another steamer like her in this country, and therefore it was unreasonable to expect that she could be had at as cheap a rate as vessels of an ordinary description. He thanked the House for having permitted him to reply to the very unfair and inaccurate statements made by the hon. Member for Glasgow.


said, he thought the Transport Department of the Admiralty could not be charged with want of energy. In his opinion, the case of the hon. Member for Glasgow that the stores were always too late, broke down on examination. The late campaign in Egypt was fought out before a base had fairly been formed. Sufficient military reasons could be adduced for this course, and therefore the charge that the Admiralty were too late could not be sustained. Looking to the tonnage employed, the result of the Expedition was one of which they ought to be proud. In all wars it always would be found that military exigencies arose against which it would be impossible to provide in a moment. In his opinion, the stopping of the transports and the preventing them entering the Suez Canal, were due to such military exigencies, and not due to mismanagement by the Transport Department of the Admiralty.


thought that the discursive onslaught made by the hon. Member for Glasgow on the Transport Department of the Admiralty was a little exaggerated, and somewhat undeserved. The hon. Member had said the operations of the Transport Department were unbusiness-like and extravagant, and suggested that it would have been well if the Government had issued tenders to the shipowners; but after it had been stated that 1,100 vessels were offered to the Admiralty without tenders, he left it to the House to imagine how many would have been offered if advertisements for tenders had been sent out. It was not too much to say that, had they advertised, every old tub in the Kingdom would have been offered to them. As to the charge of extravagance against the Department, he could only say from his own experience that the shipowners were by no means satisfied with the prices they got, and did not think them at all extravagant. The hon. Member complained that some owners employed brokers; but just as a landowner employed agents, so also many shipowners had their business managed by brokers, and he thought the Government acted wisely in selecting in this way the vessels they considered would answer their purpose. He was bound to say, when he heard the reflections that had been made upon the Head of the Transport Department, that in his opinion they were entirely undeserved.


observed, that though there were many points in the statement of the hon. Member for Glasgow with which he disagreed, yet they had been, he thought, so well answered by the hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. Sutherland) and the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Mac Iver), that he would not again enter upon them. There was only one point upon which he felt compelled to say a few words. That was, the reference that had been made to Sir "William Mends. He had the honour of personal acquaintance with that officer, and could state that it was to his arrangements that the admirable landing of both the English and the French Armies in the Crimea was carried out. From that time forward Sir William Mends had had the greatest experience in the transport of troops. Having held Office in the Admiralty, he could say that no officer of our own or any other Navy had had more experience or been more successful in the many operations he had conducted, including those connected with the Persian War, the Abyssinian War, and the late military operations in Egypt. He thought the House would hardly consider it consistent with his duty if he had not risen to bear this testimony to the great ability of a fellow-officer.


explained that he had specially guarded himself twice against saying one word against Admiral Mends.


said that with regard to brokerage he agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Mr. Sutherland). It was impossible for all shipowners to tender their ships personally to the Admiralty; but he thought that when it could be done it would be a saving to the Public Service. He considered that the Admiralty were rather lax when employing ships on time charters in their conditions as to speed. There could be no doubt that a great many difficulties that had arisen in connection with the service had arisen from the fact that the Admiralty had chartered ships which had not proved themselves capable of attaining the speed contracted for. Some of the ships guaranteed to steam 10 or 11 knots did not make more than seven. He could not understand why the Admiralty should give such extraordinarily high prices for chartered ships. If ships accepted freight and did not come up to the stipulated speed, the owners should be fined. He also thought that the Admiralty were to blame in chartering the Carthage, which was a ship of some 5,000 tons burden, as a hospital ship. Half the capacity of that ship was taken up with engines; and, from his experience, he considered that a ship with a speed of 10 knots would be much better as a hospital ship. With regard to the fresh Expedition, he thought it would have been better if the ships for the conveyance of troops from India to the Soudan had been chartered through the agents at home instead of through their brokers in India. That would have been more economical. He trusted the result of this discussion would be the removal of abuses in connection with the Department which were known to exist.


speaking on behalf of the Government, said, it would take too long a time to go into all the charges which the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) had brought forward; and, perhaps, it would be sufficient, after the speeches which had been delivered by hon. Members on both sides of the House, if he (Mr. Caine) summed up what were the real facts with regard to this Expedition. He would remind the House that this Expedition was ordered on the 21st of July; that over 65 ships were despatched by the 17th August; that everything with regard to the Expedition was over on the 13th September, the date of the victory of Tel-el-Kebir; and all that was done, although the Expedition was more or less complicated by the fact that Lord Wolseley had suddenly adopted a concealed change of base from Alexandria to Ismailia; that he stopped all the portion of the Expedition, with the exception of the troops, and allowed none of the vessels which had come under the hostile criticism of his hon. Friend to go through the Suez Canal until the troops were through; that his object was to secure the position and water supply; and that it was impossible to land any material of war until that was done. What surprised him, knowing as he did something about the chartering of vessels, was this—that under these very exceptional circumstances so few instances of mistake and neglect had been brought against the Admiralty. The hon. Member for Glasgow had, however, brought a deliberate charge, which could not be passed by, against a well-known firm of shipbrokers—Messrs. Ellis and Son—and against a gentleman—Mr. Baughan—whose business it was in the Admiralty to charter ships. Messrs. Ellis and Son had been chartering ships for the Admiralty since the Crimean War. They were one of the oldest firms in the business, and they had obtained a special knowledge of the requirements of the Admiralty, and it was not, therefore, to be wondered at that owners of ships placed their vessels in the hands of Messrs. Ellis and Son for tender to the Admiralty. The hon. Member suggested, as he (Mr. Caine) understood, that they got an extra number of ships engaged in consequence of some favouritism, owing to there being a relative of Mr. Baughan in their office. Those who heard his hon. Friend's speech would be inclined to suppose that this relation of Mr. Baughan's was really a partner interested in the pecuniary results of these transactions. As a matter of fact, however, the person referred to was in the office of Messrs. Ellis and Son, and enjoyed the munificent and remunerative salary of £70 a-year. That would give the House an idea of the influence this gentleman possessed in Messrs. Ellis and Son's office. He was glad that the shipowners in the House had spoken up for Mr. Baughan, and had not left the defence of that gentleman to him. They had, in fact, borne so striking testimony to his integrity and ability as to leave him (Mr. Caine) little to say on that subject. But with respect to the Messrs. Ellis and Son, he must say that they were a well-known firm, having business relations with the largest firms in the Port of Liverpool and other ports. A number of ships were always placed in their hands by shipowners throughout the country, and they were able to submit by far the largest number of ships that came under the notice of the Transport Department of the Admiralty. In the present operations, Messrs. Ellis and Son had furnished, only a week or two ago, to the Admiralty a single list of 75 ships, of which, as yet, only four had been chartered, simply because now, in the unfortunately depressed condition of shipping, the ships offered were greatly in excess of those available during the previous Expedition. He noticed that his hon. Friend, in his speech, paid an unconscious compliment to Messrs. Ellis and Son, in saying that they outwitted a leading firm engaged in the Cape trade. Any broker or any firm that could outwit his hon. Friend the Member for Perthshire (Sir Donald Currie)—who was at the head of the "Castle" line of Cape steamers—must be very sharp-witted indeed. Now, as to the question of brokerage, the hon. Member seemed to be under the impression that the brokerage was paid by the Government. This was not the case; the brokerage was paid by the owners of the ships. Out of the 72 vessels on the list which his hon. Friend (Dr. Cameron) moved for, 34 were chartered from brokers and 38 from owners; and if his hon. Friend examined the list, he would find that the ships chartered by the shipbrokers were not, on the whole, dearer than those chartered direct from the shipowners. The hon. Member had very severely referred to the delay in the arrival of the Carthage, which was chartered at £750 a-month for a medical transport and hospital ship, and which, he said, did not arrive at Alexandria until three days after the departure of the Expedition to Ismailia, and that it was not available until after two engagements had been fought, thus throwing the medical arrangements out of gear. But he (Mr. Caine) had already explained that this ship was one which was stopped by Lord Wolseley; and, indeed, instead of applying the phrase "too late" to this and to other cases, it might be said that they arose from Lord Wolseley being "too soon." It was the marvellous rapidity with which Lord Wolseley carried out the campaign, not that these vessels were "too late." With regard to the Notting Bill, no doubt it had taken longer on its journey than had been expected; but it was by no means a costly ship for what it was required to do, and if its work had to be done over again, it would probably be done in exactly the same way. As to the pier of which the hon. Member complained, because it was sent in three ships, that was because it could not be got into one. The hon. Gentleman had referred to the Recovery and to the lifting of locomotive engines. It must be borne in mind, however, that the Recovery was half a tug and half a salvage vessel, and that the cost of building such a vessel would have been very great. In these circumstances, therefore, £600 per month was a reasonable rate for such a ship. The vessel was not intended to lift locomotives, but to lift sunken ships and lighters in the Canal. The hon. Gentleman had wrongly described the Oxenholme as an eight-and-a-half-knot ship. As a matter of fact, however, in the course of this Expedition, the vessel steamed 10 knots one day and 11 knots on another. The figure quoted by the hon. Member from the Return was a wrong description. Complaint was also made that the Canadian boatmen were not brought to this country and transhipped. They were not brought to this country for the reason that they were taken to Alexandria direct in a steamer, the Ocean King, which was lying in Montreal at the time she was engaged for the service, and was not sent out from London as his hon. Friend alleged. Reference had also been made to the Storm Cook, and it was asked why £750 per month was paid for this vessel, which was also chartered from Messrs. Ellis and Son. It was a very exceptional steamer, there being only two such in existence, and this sum had. been paid because the vessel could not be obtained for less. At any rate, he thought the price paid was exceedingly reasonable. He had endeavoured to go categorically through the various charges brought forward by the hon. Member. He hoped he had shown the House that, although there might have been some little delay here and there, the carrying out of this exceedingly difficult piece of transport work, if summarized by his hon. Friend, would be found to reflect the greatest credit upon the Department, and he felt sure there was not a single firm of shipowners that could have done it so well.


said, he felt bound to congratulate the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Caine) on the facility and rapidity with which he had acquired the habit of making a defence. One would almost think his speech had been prepared beforehand. His hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) had met the usual experience of those who exposed grievances and advocated remedies. He had been accused of and condemned for making many charges which he never made. His hon. Friend had complained not so much about the price paid for the vessels, as for the unfortunate circumstance that the vessels were useless for the purpose for which they were chartered; and, in spite of all the denials that had been given, the fact remained that it was so. For instance, the Carthage was a case in point; for though it was undoubtedly a very fine vessel it arrived too late; and the same remark applied to the Recovery—that it was not at hand when required; whilst, as to the Notting Hill, he did not think there could have been or could be greater bungling. The charges brought forward by his hon. Friend showed clearly that there was a want of cooperation between the Admiralty and the War Office. There was not that cooperation which insured the prompt and efficient discharge of work that had to be done. No doubt, the Expedition was successful; but anyone, in reading over the evidence and noting the mishaps which occurred, as well as the want of organization indicated by the evidence brought before the Committee, would see that they had reason to congratulate themselves that the Expedition was so successful as it really turned out to be, for it was perfectly certain, owing to this want of harmony and divided responsibility, that if we had had to face in Egypt an enemy worthy of the British arms, the result might have been different. He was glad that the question had been raised, because he believed his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow had done good service in bringing it before the House and the country, and he thought if the Admiralty would adopt the plan practised by the firm over which his hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Mr. Sutherland) presided it would be advantageous. He knew for a fact that great complaint had been made by the shipowners in the City, that no vessels, however good they might be, could be chartered except through one particular firm of brokers. He could not see that any harm would result from the Government adopting the practice of allowing the public to know that they were open to receive tenders for the chartering of vessels; because it seemed to him that that was the most advantageous way of carrying out work of this nature. He hoped that when the new Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Caine) brought his business qualifications to bear on the chartering of vessels and the purchase of stores, he would not, at the end of his official career, have so many failures to account for and regret as had been disclosed in connection with the Egyptian Campaign of 1882.


said, he could not help expressing his sense of the amusement he experienced at the judicious vagueness of the defence adopted by the Representative of the Admiralty. It seemed to him that that defence dealt more with the arguments not brought forward by the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) than with the specific accusations which he had brought forward. The evidence upon which his hon. Friend based his case was given before the Select Committee on Transport and Commissariat which sat last Session; and, although he (Dr. Farquharson) agreed with those hon. Members who believed that the war had been a great and a brilliant success, he thought that, as had been said, anyone who had read the evidence taken before that Committee would feel convinced that that success would have been still more marked had the arrangements entered into by the Admiralty in regard to chartering merchant vessels been better carried out. He did not think that his hon. Friend the Junior Lord of the Admiralty had made out a good defence upon this point. At all events, it was quite clear that the present system was capable of great improvement, and he quite agreed that his hon. Friend (Dr. Cameron) had done good service in bringing it forward. He (Dr. Farquharson) maintained that, through these defects, great suffering had been endured by wounded and invalid men in consequence of the non-arrival in time of the ships conveying the hospital appliances and commissariat. He had heard tonight with some surprise that the Committee, of which he had the honour of being a Member last year, was not to be re-appointed during the present year. He regretted that step, for he believed that the re-appointment of that Committee would be a great advantage to the Service.


said, he had hoped that the hon. Gentleman the Junior Lord of the Admiralty would have expressed his intention to confer some mark of honour upon the masters and officers of the Mercantile Marine who had been engaged in the service of the Government for several months during the Egyptian Campaign, and had conducted the Transport Service so satisfactorily, and without any casualty whatever. He thought that the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) had made out a very clear case in favour of the re-appointment of the Transport and Commissariat Committee of last year, and had done good service in the matter. He should support his hon. Friend if he went to a division. If the present system of chartering vessels was not based upon favouritism, it certainly was a very bad system, for the Transport Department of the Admiralty did not always engage those ships which were best adapted for transport, and in many cases they had not chosen the fastest. He thought that in all cases, excepting periods of severe pressure, ships should, as with the Emigration Commissioners, be engaged by public tender. He did not think that the defence of the Admiralty with regard to Messrs. Ellis and Son had been made out satisfactorily, because the Admiralty could, under the terms of the Post Office Mail Contracts demand the use of ships so employed from their owners.

Question put, and agreed to.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," again proposed.