§ SIR SAMUEL WILSON (Portsmouth)
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, Whether it is proposed that any new ships are to be built at Portsmouth to employ the permanent hands, who cannot be dismissed, after the Trafalgar is completed; whether it is the case that some hundreds of men are about to be dismissed from the Portsmouth Dockyard immediately; and, if so, how many this year and next; whether extra hands have been put on temporarily at Portsmouth during the past three months; and, if so, how many; whether, in view of the proposed discharges, it would have been possible for the Dockyard hands to have done the work for which extra men have recently been engaged; whether it is still his intention to construct the Melpomene at Portsmouth, as mentioned in the Naval Report of The Times of 20th August; whether, after the enormous expenditure in constructing the Portsmouth Dockyard, and bringing together workmen to be employed there, the Government intend to stop shipbuilding there; whether about 20 ships are now being built at private yards for the Government; what number of workmen have left the Service each year in the last three years from deaths, superannuation, &c.; and, whether the Government 1797 intend to build any more iron-clads, to take the place of worn-out and obsolote ships now in the Service?
§ THE FIRST LORD (Lord GEORGE HAMILTON) (Middlesex, Ealing)
Though the Trafalgar will be launched next month, her completion will occupy many men for some time to come. A considerable number of ships will be built during the ensuing year in the Royal Dockyards sufficient to employ not only the permanent hands, but many thousands of hired workmen. Certain discharges from Portsmouth Dockyard will be necessary during the present year and the next; but the exact number cannot be estimated until the shipbuilding programme for 1888–9 is definitely settled. Endeavours are being made to provide useful work so as to reduce discharges; but their whole effect cannot be foretold. The Melpomene will be built at Portsmouth. Owing to the sudden commissioning of a large number of ships for the recent naval evolutions, it was found necessary to enter 200 extra hands to complete the work, as the regular Dockyard employés could not have accomplished it within the necessary time. There are six, not 20, ships now building by contract, two of which will be delivered in a few weeks. The number of men who left the five Home Yards from the causes named during the last three years were 1,173, 1,391, and 1,229 respectively. It is not proposed to lay down any new ironclads; but our policy is to complete those now building as soon as possible. Between now and the end of the financial year we hope to add to the Fleet five armoured battle ships and five belted cruisers. These are in addition to the ships that took part in the Naval Review.