HC Deb 18 June 1886 vol 306 cc1859-60
ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)

said, that, as that would be the last opportunity of calling attention to the subject, he desired to ask the Civil Lord of the Admiralty as to the progress that was being made with the torpedo boats that had been promised. At the time of the Russian scare in 1884, the then Secretary to the Admiralty, the hon. Member for Hastings (Sir Thomas Brassey), gave the House a solemn pledge that the building of torpedo boats should be pushed forward with the utmost possible speed. We were then in the miserable position of having only eight torpedo boats, and of these only two were capable of keeping the sea. France had 60, and was increasing the number to 80. Of the 55 that had teen ordered, the House of Commons was promised 40; but of these only six had been delivered; and, so far as he understood, even if the present programme of the Admiralty was carried out, we should only have 25 at the end of the year. The contractors, it appeared, preferred to carry out foreign orders, on which they got more profit, and were not carrying out the orders of the Admiralty as promptly as they ought. Considering the state in which our Navy was for want of these boats, he thought the Admiralty ought to put strong pressure upon the contractors, in order to keep them up to their en- gagements, and that, if necessary, the penalties should be enforced.


said, he would admit that there had been considerable delay in the delivery of the torpedo boats by private contractors. When the present Government came into Office, this delay was at once noticed; and, since that date, the contractors had been constantly pressing upon the different firms to deliver the boats. This pressure was still being brought to bear upon them. He did not think they would be in a satisfactory position until the Admiralty arranged to build some of its own torpedo boats, instead of depending upon private firms, and the expediency of taking that step was under the consideration of the Board.