§ MR.GOURLEY (Sunderland)
, in rising to move the following Resolution which stood in his name on the Paper:—That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the designs upon which ships of war are now being built, and how far they are in harmony with the transition in Naval construction and tactics, and also the necessity for an organized system of harbour and coast defence,said, that on several occasions requests had been made for the appointment of a Committee upon the ship-building policy of the Admiralty. Lord Brassey, when in that House, had asked first for a Royal Commission, and subsequently for a Committee. Other Members had done the same thing, but the Government of the day had always refused. Three grounds had been put forward for their refusal—in the first place, that it would be impossible to find enough Members who would be able to deal with a subject so difficult; secondly, that such a Committee would delay Admiralty work; and, in the third place, that it would remove the responsibility from the proper shoulders. Now, he denied that the first of those objections applied at the present time, whom there was a larger number of Naval officers, Artillery officers, and Engineer officers in the House than over before; and also Members engaged in every kind of iron manufacture and shipbuilding—men who had built ironclads themselves. As to the second objection, would such a Committee, he asked, have delayed the progress of vessels like the Inflexible, which took eight years to build, and cost some hundreds of thousands of pounds more than the estimate; the Polyphemus, which took seven years to build; or the Colossus, which all last year lay in the waters of the Silent, a monument of Admiralty folly in regard to her guns? If there were a Royal Commission or a Committee of this 590 House to inquire into the policy of the Admiralty, it would not, he was confident, delay progress with regard to those largo types of vessels or any other type; but, on the contrary, promote efficiency and progress. In answer to the third objection, about removing responsibility from the officers connected with the Admiralty, he was bound to say that at the present moment, though there was every kind of official at the Admiralty, it was extremely difficult to fix responsibility when anything went wrong; in his opinion, all responsibility should attach to the first Lord. The objections hitherto raised by the Admiralty against his proposal, therefore, held no longer, as the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Government could easily find a sufficient number of hon. and gallant Members quite fit to deal with all the technical problems involved in designing and completing ships of war. The report of Lord Dufferin's Committee, appointed 12 or 13 years ago, after the capsizing of the Captain, was the only detailed Report the House possessed with regard to our designs of ships, with the exception of the Memorandum issued the other day by the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton). That Committee—which, by the way, was a Departmental Committee appointed to inquire into the line of policy pursued by the Admiralty itself—in other words, appointed by the Admiralty to sit in judgment on the Admiralty—considered that the Devastation was the strongest type of iron-clad then afloat; and is even yet—subject to slight additions to her bow armour—considered by experts to be the strongest type of iron-clad yet designed. But the question he would now like to ask was this—how far the policy recommended by Lord Dufferin's Committee with regard to iron-clad armour had been carried out by the Admiralty? Now, it appeared from the Report of the noble Lord that in the case of the Warspite and the belted cruisers, instead of the armour being, as recommended by Lord Dufferin's Committee—and endorsed by Parliament two years age—18 inches the water, it was actually (although designed to be 18 inches above the water) found, on completion of the ships with their complement of coal on board, six inches below the water. If there was no- 591 thing more than that against the designers of the Admiralty, he contended that he had made out a case for a Committee. What must be the consequence if these vessels went into action? The consequence must be that they would be in a worse plight than if they had been built without armour at all. What applied to the Warspite and to the belted cruisers applied also to the Admiral class. These vessels were built on the citadel principle, a largo part of the vessel fore and aft being entirely without armour. He could not help thinking that the millions of money expended on those ships had been spent on the wrong type of vessel altogether. If he was correct in his information, Herr Krupp had already invented a gun which could throw a shell live miles, and designed for the very purpose of destroying, if possible, these unarmoured iron-dads. The shell which would be thrown from the gun carried a very heavy charge of powder, and, being fitted with a sensitive fuse, was certain to be very destructive. He thought that, in regard to the differences of opinion regarding the Devastation and the Admiral class of ships, a case had been made out for inquiry; and he did not think that any hon. Member would hold the opinion that vessels of this class could now be considered fit for ocean fighting. They must be kept within the range of their coal supply. Only fancy a squadron of these vessels having to proceed to Now York; how could they reach that side of the Atlantic on an emergency, seeing that they only carry four or five days' fuel? Why, they would have to be conveyed with huge colliers or become targets for swift belted cruisers, provided with speed, coal endurance, and long-range Krupp shell guns. Another typo of ship to which Lord Dufferin's Committee referred was the Vanguard class, which was too weak in the lower structure. The Committee recommended that the lower structure of vessels of this class should be strengthened. What happened subsequently proved the correctness of the statement of the Committee, because the Vanguard was shortly afterwards sunk. Another type of vessels regarding which Lord Dufferin's Committee made inquiry was the Inconstant class, built for the purpose of cruising. But these vessels were built for ocean cruising; yet, strange to say, without any 592 coal endurance, and the Committee recommended that in future that type of ship should be smaller, and constructed with more power, with large heavy guns, and efficient coal endurance. How did the Admiralty rectify the defects which were pointed out in regard to the Inconstant class? They built two ships, the Iris and the Mercury, to steam 18 knots; but what was the result when they were completed? During the progress of the Egyptian war, the Peninsular and Oriental Company's fleet beat the Iris, which was engaged as a despatch vessel, by between 12 and 21 hours, and this at a time when the Iris was conveying Lord Wolseley on an emergency for the purpose of taking the command of the Army of the Nile; the truth being that those vessels cannot steam more than 14 knots in place of 18 as originally intended. The Board of Admiralty intended to build a number of quick vessels to steam 19 and 20 knots. Judging from past experience, he feared that when these vessels were completed they would find that the Admiralty had made mistakes with regard to these new vessels similar to those which they had made in the past in regard to other types of ships. Seeing that the Admiralty made such grievous mistakes between the inception of their designs and the completion of them, how could they expect the House to have confidence in the present system; he had no confidence in the present system; and, therefore, he asked for the appointment of a Committee, not for the purpose of thwarting the work of the Admiralty, but for the purpose of assisting and enabling it to come to right and proper conclusions with regard to the designs which they were preparing for the defence of the Empire. He also wished to know who was responsible for the defects which were said to exist with regard to the Agamemnon and the Ajax? Who was responsible for the present condition of our Channel Squadron? He believed that on the last occasion on which the Channel Squadron was manœuvred at sea, it was not possible to manœuvre it at more than six miles an hour. In the face of an efficient enemy, the squadron would have but a poor chance of escaping without injury at such a miserable speed as that. Without in any way depreciating our Navy, he believed that, owing to the numerous defects in our naval administration with 593 respect to ships and designs, in the event of war, our chance of success would have to rest mainly, if not entirely, on the bravery, ingenuity, and pluck of our seamen. The noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty and his practical coadjutor (Lord Charles Bores-ford), believed in grouping and in organization. He maintained that if they grouped the ships of all classes and all types, and exercised them in the game of war, there would be a much better chance of discovering the defects than by sending them on such cruises as was at present the practice. The Admiralty had a splendid opportunity of doing this at the present moment. They had the Channel Squadron at Gibraltar, and the Mediterranean Squadron in the Mediterranean. In his judgment, it would be a wise policy if the Admiralty enabled both squadrons to come together, in order to test both men and ships by exercising them in the game of war—a policy about to be illustrated by the French in a sham attack upon Gibraltar. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Motion which stood in his name.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add that words "a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the designs upon which ships of war are now being built, and how far they are in harmony with the transition in Naval construction and tactics, and also the necessity for an organized system of harbour and coast defence,"—(Mr. Gourley.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
said, his hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Gourley) had made a most interesting speech with regard to the vessels of the Fleet. He (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) did not intend to follow him at any great length; but he would shortly state to the House why he did not think it wise at the present moment to follow the advice of his hon. Friend and appoint a Committee to investigate the matters to which he had referred. If the hon. Member had moved for a Royal Commission to inquire into the subject there would have been a great deal more to be said for it at the proper time. A Committee of 594 that House would not at all be a good tribunal to enter into a subject of that kind. It would be altogether wanting in that technical knowledge which was so important, and he did not think its conclusions would carry weight with the country on a subject of such importance. But the question was whether the pro-sent was a good time for appointing such a Royal Commission. Nearly all the large vessels now building in the Royal Dockyards had reached a point of their construction when it was almost impossible to make alterations in them, and therefore such an inquiry could not have an effect on their construction. As to the vessels now proposed to be laid down in the programme contained in the Memorandum of the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton), there was no ironclads and no vessels of a very largo type. It was proposed to lay down five protected cruisers to steam at a rate of 20 knots. With regard to those cruiser vessels there would be no dispute generally that they would be very useful vessels, and, therefore, they might leave it to the constructors of the Admiralty to construct them. But if it had been intended to lay down any largo vessels or iron-clads and protected vessels he should have suggested that there should be a Committee of Inquiry appointed—not a Committee of that House, but one similar to Lord Dufferin's Committee. Such a Committee of Designs—always on the supposition that it was intended to lay down any new iron-clads—would be very useful and would be very advisable before laying down any such vessels of a large type. Last year he had recommended the appointment of a Committee on two vessels, the Nile and the Trafalgar, which had not then reached a point at which it was impossible to make an alteration in their design; and he had thought it was desirable that a Committee having technical knowledge and the highest skill should examine and report on the designs of the vessels which ought to be built of that type. He (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) desired to point out that they were to cost no less than £1,000,000 each—if not more—and he said that he had every reason to disbelieve that their designs were disapproved both by the then Constructor and the late Constructor of the Admiralty, and that all the Constructor's 595 staff had expressed doubts, if not disapproval, of the design of those two vessels. The late and the present Chief Constructor had joined in a Report to the Admiralty, stating that those vessels should not be built of that design, and that a Committee such as he suggested should be appointed to consider what the designs should be. Mr. Hibbert—late Secretary of the Admiralty—told him that there was no such Report as he had adverted to existing at the Admiralty, and the noble Lord who followed would not admit that any such Report existed. But since the debate on that occasion there had been a good deal of correspondence in the newspapers on the matter; and there appeared in one of them a Report purporting to be signed by Sir Nathaniel Barnaby and Mr. White on the subject, and as it was not contradicted he must suppose it was the Report he had referred to. How that Report got into the newspapers he knew not. Sir Nathaniel Barnaby, whom he had lately seen, assured him that he had sent no such Report to the newspapers, and for himself he could only suppose that Reports of that kind got into the newspapers in the same way as the noble Lord stated the other day was the case of another Report—namely, through the waste-paper basket, because that seems to be the channel through which communications were made from the Admiralty to the newspapers. Whether that was the origin of this Report reaching the newspapers he knew not. But the Report was an extremely interesting one, and having been made public and not being denied by the Admiralty, he thought he was justified in referring to it. Sir Nathaniel Barnaby and Mr. White began by saying—Before any new first-class armour-clads are ordered it is desirable to appoint a new Committee on designs, of which the construction should resemble the Committee of 1871;and they ended with a very remarkable paragraph to the effect that—Should their Lordships decide to order the two vessels to be built we would suggest that the plans be signed by the Chief Constructors who have prepared them and marked by order of the Board.They declined altogether the responsibility for those two vessels. He (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) asked whether there had ever been such a thing before in the 596 history of the Admiralty as that two such vessels of such costly construction should have been decided upon by the Admiralty against the advice of their Naval Constructor. That Constructor altogether repudiated the responsibility. It would seem that that last paragraph had been acted upon, because in this year's Estimates a list of ships building was given, and it was stated that these vessels were not designed by the Chief Constructors, whether late or present, but by Mr. Barnes and Mr. Morgan; but the understood that both these gentlemen repudiated having given any approval of the designs, and that they morely obeyed orders in designing vessels. Shortly after the appearance of that Report, there also appeared a letter by Sir Nathaniel Barnaby in The Times stating at great length his reasons for objecting to those vessels, and in the course of that letter he said—I should wish it to be understood that I think these two vessels to be badly conceived as designs, and therefore wasteful of money. I believe, moreover, that if there had been an inquiry by a good Committee these ships would not have been undertaken.It was a most serious matter that the money of the country should be spent on two vessels of such costly construction against the advice of men like Sir Nathaniel Barnaby and Mr. White. The question, however, which he wished to raise now was not whether those gentlemen were right or wrong. It was quite clear that there was a difference of opinion on the subject in the Admiralty If he might judge from the dates of the various letters and documents to which he had referred as having appeared in the newspapers, it would appear that those two vessels were ordered by the noble Lord the present First Lord of the Admiralty and his Board within a very few days of coming into Office in 1885. He had always thought the present First Lord of the Admiralty was remarkable for quickness and intelligence on questions of an official kind; but, quick and intelligent as he might be, he could not within a very few days master the highly technical subject of ship-building to an extent that would justify him in giving his own approval to vessels of that size and type against the advice of his own Naval Constructor, and therefore he must presume that the noble Lord had acted on 597 the advice of his First Naval Lord, who | it was known was the officer who gave his sanction to those two vessels. For all that he know the First Naval Lord might be right and the Chief Constructor wrong. But he said that where a great controversy of that kind had arisen in the Department between the naval authorities on the one hand and one of the highest scientific authorities on the other, it ought not to be decided offhand and at short notice without giving the House an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon it; but it should be referred to a Committee comprising the highest intellect of the country, which should consider and determine what was to be done in the case. He brought this question last year under the notice of the House; but, unfortunately, he was not then able to make use of the Report which he had now read to the House. On the former occasion he could only give a very vague statement in reference to it. He must say he thought the noble Lord assumed a very grave responsibility in withdrawing that document from the Admiralty and not treating it as an official document. It would appear that the noble Lord had treated it not as an official document but as a private one, and had withdrawn it from the cognizance of the Admiralty and his Successors. "When he (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) brought this subject forward last year, the discussion took place on the night when it was announced that there was to be a Dissolution of Parliament. He was not then able to carry the House with him; but it was his conviction that if he had been able to read the Report to the House it would have been impossible for the House to refuse a Committee of Inquiry such as he suggested. In the meantime great progress had been made with these two vessels. He was informed that more than one-fourth, and nearly one-third, of the whole cost had been already undertaken in material and labour, and that it would be impossible now to alter the designs without losing all the expenditure already incurred. Consequently he was not prepared to re-open the question to the extent of asking for a Committee of Inquiry into these vessels; but he did hope that if the noble Lord contemplated, between now and next year, recommending the construction of other large vessels, he would permit the 598 question of design to be referred to a Committee of Design similar to that which was presided over by Lord Dufferin. He desired now to advert to the remarks made by his hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland with reference to the Warspite and the Impérieuse. The designer of those vessels said it was never intended that they should have a coal-carrying power of more than 500 tons. It was true that bunkers were constructed for 900 tons, as in some circumstances it was desirable that they should carry a larger quantity of coal. The reason for this was, he believed, stated by his right hon. Friend (Mr., now Sir George, Trevelyan), who described those vessels in moving the Estimates five or six years ago. His right hon. Friend stated that they were only to have a coal-carrying capacity of 500 tons; and he believed the real reason for that was that French iron-clads of the same size had no greater coal-carrving capacity.
§ MR. J. M. MACLEAN (Oldham)
said, the most novel and interesting feature in the statement laid before them by the First Lord of the Admiralty was that which had reference to the depreciation fund——
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, he must remind the hon. Member that the specific Amendment before the House related to the designs of ships. The hon. Member was not at liberty to go beyond that.
§ SIR EDWARD REED (Cardiff)
said, he had no expectation, nor had he any desire, to see the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Gourley) carried, although he believed that one of the most beneficial things which could happen to this country in respect of its Navy would be the appointment of a Select Committee of the House; and he believed that such a Committee would do more good on behalf of the country and of the Navy than half-a-dozen Royal Commissions. And move than that, he believed that the condition of the Navy would never be thoroughly understood, and the interests of the Navy never be thoroughly protected, until a Committee of the House had sat and inquired, in the closest and most searching manner, into some of the facts which the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord 599 George Hamilton) had so frankly placed before the House. He thought, also, he might perhaps be allowed to say that they ought not to altogether lose sight of the public service rendered by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) in taking the step which had brought about the publication of the Paper which the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty had placed in their hands. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington had done good, not only in causing such a Paper to be produced, but also because, apparently, some of the spirit animating him in making the suggestion had been infused into the document itself. He (Sir Edward Reed) remembered that on the last occasion he had an opportunity of speaking on the Estimates the right hon. Gentleman the present Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) fancied that he discerned something of a Party character in his observations. He, however, claimed never to have spoken in a Party sense on the Navy of the country. He thought the subject was vastly too important to be dealt with in that way. And the House would find that his observations on the present occasion would not be of a Party character, as he intended to speak very plainly as to some of the transactions of the Liberal Government in regard to the Navy. It was only duo to the present Board of Admiralty to say that in the short time it had been in existence the Members had taken general steps which, he believed, in the end would have the result of converting the Navy from an amateur force, played with by politicians, into a Public Service, existing and operating on behalf of the country. He was not satisfied, sitting on that Bench, with the part the Liberals had taken as a Party with regard to the Navy of the country; and he could hardly imagine what his right hon. Friend (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had in view when he on an occasion like the present—which he (Sir Edward Reed) considered to be of the most serious character—made the kind of speech the right hon. Gentleman had just delivered. The right hon. Gentleman brought as an accusation against the Government that they did not allow a Committee to sit upon the designs of the Nile and the Trafalgar because Sir Nathaniel Barnaby and Mr. White had opposed those de- 600 signs. His right hon. Friend passed very lightly over the fact that gentlemen at the Admiralty—every whit as competent as those two gentlemen—had designed those two vessels, and he also passed very lightly over the fact that when those two gentlemen objected to the designs they gave the very strongest possible inducement to the Admiralty to go on with the vessels, because their own designs had been for years past a series of disgraceful failures, to the serious injury of the country. What sort of a state of things had they presented to them in that statement of the noble Lord? He felt rather strongly on the question of the belted cruisers, which had been referred to by the hon. Member for Sunderland. It was due, he believed, to his own action that those cruisers were built—seven of them had been built—and now they were told that they had been so designed and so built that when the coal supply was on board and they were equipped for sea they would either have no armour at all above the water line, or, when they had it, in an infinitesimal degree. Indeed, the noble Lord told them that when they had a proper cargo on board the armour would be six inches below the water. It was very meritorious on the part of the noble Lord to have said that; but he could not accept the explanation of the fact which was given. He would illustrate what had happened by relating what had occurred with regard to two other vessels—the Warspite and the Impérieuse. When those vessels were first projected Lord Northbrook desired Mr. Trevelyan—then Secretary to the Admiralty—to ask him (Sir Edward Rood) to go and look at the designs. He went and looked at them, and found, to his amazement, that they were intended to be fast armour-belted cruisers for service in the most distant seas, and that, instead of having a coal supply adapted to the objects for which they were to be called into existence, they had a coal supply of about half that which any and every other iron-clad vessel in the Navy possessed. One was inclined to distrust His eyes and his souses when he read that those armour-belted vessels were destined for distant seas and were of 8,000 horse-power, yet only were supplied with 500 tons of coal, he found, however, that the designers of those vessels had adopted an 601 ingenious, though, at the same time, a disingenuous, device for assigning to each of these vessels an additional supply of coals. They provided some more holds in which a further supply of coals could be placed. The position was this—That a ship with a capacity for carrying only 500 tons of coal was given a nominal supply of 900 tons. Mr. Trevelyan—when he was Secretary to the Navy—came clown to that House and stated that the coal supply of each of these vessels was 900 tons. That was to say, he gave the merely nominal or fictitious coal supply, and he stated that in a manner so as to lead to the belief that the speed of the ship and other peculiarities of her build would not be interfered with in consequence of this nominal coal supply. The House of Commons was quite deceived by the statement, and afterwards he (Sir Edward Reed) remembered an hon. Member speaking to him in the Dinner Room with regard to the matter. He said—"Did you ever hear of a vessel working up to 8,000 horse-power having only 900 tons of coal on board?" Rut he (Sir Edward Reed) replied—"But what will you think when you find that the 900 tons of coal are a fictitious estimate of what each vessel is to carry, and that she will not carry more than 500 tons of coal at her designed draught?" Afterwards he had something to say to Mr. Trevelyan on the subject, and what passed between them was not very pleasant. He informed Mr. Trevelyan that the Controller of the Navy should not have allowed the building of two such useless ships as the Impérieuse and the Warspite. Those who designed them were competent to design a good as well as a bad ship, and both the vessels ought to have been made efficient, which they wore not. Those two ships were built at a cost of £1,250,000 of public money, and Mr. Trevelyan should have known, Lord Northbrook ought to have known, and the Controller of the Navy must have known, that those ships would fail, as they had failed. The noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton) who now presided over the Admiralty had explained the serious failure of both vessels in the frankest and most honourable manner. There could be no doubt whatever that £1,260,000 of the public money had been deliberately and knowingly wasted. The right hon. 602 Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Gosehen) said that they could not make much saving on the Navy—that naval economy was a difficult thing to bring about. He said there were no means of saving money. First, he said there was the personnel which had to be kept up; there were the pay and the half-pay and the pension list, and, sure enough, they had enough of those who depended upon the Admiralty. It was a list long enough to almost justify the remark of a great and eloquent Member of that House—the senior Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright)—that one of the Services, at least, afforded a system of out-door relief for the aristocracy. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer went on to say that they could not save upon the material of the Navy, because one Government began the building of ships and another completed them. Men who spoke like that were ignorant of the economies possible in the Navy, and ignorant of that economy which the country wanted to see adopted. What he (Sir Edward Reed) should have liked to have seen was the £1,250,000 which was wasted upon the Impérieuse and the Warspite, and upon other cruisers, saved to the nation, and five useful vessels built instead of seven that were of no use to the country. For these seven now belted cruisers were simply traps in which to take officers and men to destruction, and traps in which to destroy the reputation and power of this country. Indeed, it would have been, vastly bettor for the Navy if those cruisers, the Impérieuse and the Warspite, and the other useless belted cruisers, had never been constructed, when they could not perform efficient service. The noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty had, no doubt, made out the best case that he could for the Department over which he presided, and even went so far as to indulge in apologetic remarks in regard to the Impérieuse and the Warspite. He also stated, after describing frankly enough the condition of the vessels, that while some authorities disapproved of the belted cruisers, yet others claimed a certain compensation for them, because they had a coal protection of 6½ feet. But this was an argument which would not stand examination. He might just as well say that a 603 floating water-tank of thin iron would keep afloat longer if filled with coal. The fact was, it would sink all the sooner. But this was, unfortunately, the sort of logic to which the Naval Service of the country was committed. The Government had been warned that some of these vessels would, if constructed, prove failures; but they had gone on with their construction after reasonable warning. Both vessels had proved signal failures, and the country had lost the money invested in them. But he could not understand the line taken by his right hon. Friend the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), when he attacked the only two ships being built that the Navy, and some people not in the Navy, were said to approve of, and this was the first time that difference of opinion had not existed on such a subject for several years. Well, it was the duty of hon. Members, no matter on what side of the House they sat, to consider, in dealing with the construction of vessels for the Navy, only the honour and well-being of the State. Led on by high officials, the Government had built vessels of the Admiral type against his (Sir Edward Reed's) protest, and the protest of others, from the first, and they were in the same condition as to the cruisers of which he had been speaking. The hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Courtney) had been making a great speech in another part of the country, in which he denied that there had been any decay of public spirit in this country. For his (Sir Edward Reed's) part, he thought that if there had not been an alarming decay of public spirit, those responsible for these failures, including the then First Lord of the Admiralty, would be brought to the bar of the House as, under the guidance of these gentlemen, the country had been brought into an exposed and dangerous condition, and had been paying for a Navy which it had not got. The First Lord of the Admiralty held out no hope that the defects of the ships would be remedied. He would like to ask the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty, did he intend to put British seamen into such ships as he had been describing? If he did so, it was certain that they must meet with disaster. The least that the Admiralty ought to do was to take the armour off these vessels, 604 so that they might become, at any rate, as efficient as unarmoured ships. Better still, perhaps, they might cut them in two, and lengthen thorn 60 feet or more. The noble Lord had said that a particular course was now pursued in designing vessels; and he (Sir Edward Reed) had always said that one of the great secrets of the failure of ships built for the Navy was that a great deal too much was placed upon the shoulders of the do-signer. That was the impression he formed when he was at the Admiralty himself. The Controller should receive from the Board instructions as to the qualities and construction of the vessels he was to design. But they had had Constructors who initiated things out of their own heads, and with the bad and unfortunate results which they had all soon. The Constructor, having designed his ship in his own fashion, generally found that it had to be altered, and this increased the expense and caused inefficiency; and in this matter he (Sir Edward Reed) thought that Parliament should assert its authority over the Admiralty. He should like to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty, whether he was not going to do something to remedy the disastrous and dangerous condition of the bolted cruisers? There was one question which, when he put it to the noble Lord, always caused him to get angry and excited in a peculiar degree, he generally got up and explained that what he (Sir Edward Reed) stated was true, but did not seem to see that there was anything bad in it. There had lately been a great scandal, and they had heard a great deal about Mr. Young Terry, who had sold some designs and tracings to some other State. But the Director of Naval Construction was connected with a private ship-building firm, and would remain so for a year or so to come, and that firm could point to Foreign Governments and say that the Chief Constructor of the British Navy belonged to their firm, and that he was in possession of the latest information as to the construction of vessels in the British Navy. The noble Lord said that he appointed Mr. White under these circumstances, because he was a most useful and valuable man. But he would tell the House why Mr. White was appointed. When the Conservative Government came into Office, in 1885, Sir Nathaniel Barnaby was told plainly that 605 many of his recent vessels were most objectionable, and Sir Nathaniel Barnaby being thon in very indifferent health, and very much harassed—and not unnaturally—with many things which had occurred, retired, from ill-health, upon his pension. Then the noble Lord asked Sir Nathaniel Barnaby who was the best person to succeed him?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Lord GEORGE HAMILTON) (Middlesex, Ealing)
The statement is utterly devoid of a word of truth.
§ SIR ED WAED REED
said, he thought he must challenge the noble Lord on this point. Would he say that he did not confer with Sir Nathaniel Barnaby about the appointment of his successor?
§ SIR EDWARD REED
said, that almost made the matter worse. At any rate, there had been great discussion as to the ships designed by Sir Nathaniel Barnaby. There was an uprising in the Navy against these ships, and a resolve that they would have no more of them. There bad been only one man in the country to apologize for these ships in The Times, and that was Mr. White; so, while the Naval Lords were declaring in one room that they would not have such ships as Sir Nathaniel Barnaby designed; the noble Lord in another room was appointing the only apologist for these ships the Director of Naval Construction. He (Sir Edward Reed) had not a word to say against the professional competence of either Sir Nathaniel Barnaby or Mr. White, but both of them were off the rails in this matter. They persisted in designs which raised distrust in the Naval Service, and signally failed to command the confidence of the Navy; and so long as the principal constructing officer in the Navy was the private adviser of a private firm, he would not have the confidence of any member of the Naval Service either in the House or elsewhere. He had said just now that a great scandal had been created by someone at Chatham Dockyard having sold some drawings; but he believed that anyone could have bought the designs of Her Majesty's latest ships for a few pounds for years past. Certainly this could have been done with respect to all the ships built by contract, because, when the Admiralty wanted ships, they invited tenders from private firms, who sent 606 their draughtsmen to study the designs and specifications. Any impecunious draughtsman might obtain a knowledge of them, and in this way the designs of Her Majesty's ships had come into the hands of men who had no interest in the Naval Service, but were merely draughtsmen in the City of London. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Forwood) had on one or two occasions claimed credit for having put a stop, in a largo degree, to the extravagant expenditure in many of Her Majesty's Dockyards upon the completion of ships. But he (Sir Edward Reed) thought he was right in saying that there did not exist at the present moment a complete specification of all the work to be done upon any ship in Her Majesty's Navy. What happened was this—that ships were built very often by contract, and then sent to a Dockyard to be finished, or sometimes even built in one Dockyard and then sent to another to be completed. They were sometimes sent to Yards where they lay for days and weeks without anyone in the Dockyard knowing what they were to be done with or what work was to be done upon them. When the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) was at the Admiralty he saw that this state of things was not satisfactory, and thereupon he came down to the House and proposed that there should be a Director of Dockyards appointed to the Navy, with civil assistants under him at the Dockyards for purely Dockyard purposes. That was to say, they were to be employed in seeing that the work was done and that no waste was incurred in the money voted. Well, a few weeks ago he (Sir Edward Reed) went to Devonport Dockyard, where he saw three ships of the Archer class—the Archer herself and two built by a private firm on the Clyde. He looked at the Archer, and inquired what ship she was, and he was told that they were all the same class of ships. But when he looked at the Archer she seemed to be altogether different from the other two, and then he discovered that very much of the upper part of the Archer, built on the Clyde, had been pulled down and then built up again at the Dockyard. To such an extent had this been done that he did not know that the Archer was, or could be, a ship like the others. Thousands 607 of pounds were being expended in this way upon her. And then he discovered that the other two ships were to undergo the same transformation. That was to say:—Here we are in 1887 paying one sot of workmen on the Clyde to build ships up, and then we are paying a set of workmen at Devonport to pull them down. Then he asked where the civil assistant to the superintendent was—the superintendent's elbow adviser, to whom we were to look to see that those things were not done and to save waste? Well, he was told that this gentleman had not been at the Dockyard for weeks, and that he was not likely to be there for weeks to come, for he was away on the Clyde, seeing the ships building there, and finding out what was to be done to them when they came to the Dockyard. The Government certainly ought not to ask for that gentleman's salary in the present year, for it was obtained previously on false pretences, for the performance of necessary duties which he had left undone in consequence of his services being otherwise employed. There was gross inefficiency at the Admiralty Office. Surely before the Government asked that House for money they ought to know what ships they were going to produce. There ought to be a complete description of what was to be produced given to the contractor who was to build the ship and to the Dockyard which was to furnish it. When the proper Vote in Committee came on for discussion, he should ask for some assistance on this head. He should want to know what the Admiralty were now doing to prevent money being spent and wasted in the constant and expensive alteration of ships, and whether they were yet able to describe the ships they wanted? The present Hoard of Admiralty undertook on entering Office to make a great reform. They said—"We will separate the designing from the building department;" and he (Sir Edward Reed) approved the idea as one likely to make Dockyard building more economical. When he was at the Admiralty he could design a ship, and then could go to the Dockyard and alter it about as much as he pleased. Other Constructors would do the same, and in that way largo sums of money were spent which might be saved if the ship were in the first instance designed as she was to be built, and that design were adhered 608 to. The Conservatives promised to put an end to that state of things; but they had not carried the work out, for it was quite inconsistent with any good plan that a Dockyard official should be going about to do work on the Clyde, or that while the work of the Admiralty Constructors was neglected they themselves should be attending launches and making speeches there, and doing other things of the same kind. He (Sir Edward Rood) was losing all heart in this matter. He never felt so disheartened as he did to know that, although he had a seat in that House and had some knowledge of this question, his remonstrances and arguments were all in vain, and, in spite of the promises that were made by successive Governments, he was still obliged to witness the wholesale waste of public money that was going on. It was not satisfactory to know that the first change was duo to the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington. Why was it left to that noble Lord to initiate economy? The noble Lord did not, as he understood his speeches, mean to attack necessary expenditure. But the fact was that the noble Lord knew the things which were going on, and which he (Sir Edward Reed) had then indicated. He (Sir Edward Reed) believed that when the noble Lord made the speech to which he had referred he knew that this extravagance was going on, and that the time had come when a stop must and should be put to it. He hoped that in the course of the evening they would have some opinion from the Government on this point. At present it seemed as if, after spending £l,250,000 on the 1mpérieuse and the Warspite, and a larger sum on the belted cruisers, we were almost as badly off as we were before.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. FORWOOD) (Lancashire, Ormskirk)
said, he thought that many of the reflections of the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reed) upon the mode in which the business had been done at the Admiralty were just. These reflections, he believed, arose from circumstances similar to those pointed out by the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Gourley) in reference to defective designs. No one would gainsay the importance of the question raised by the hon. Member for Sunderland, nor would anyone deny the propriety of 609 bringing before the House the system under which our ships of war were designed. He did not intend, even if he were prepared, to defend the design of each and every vessel that had been adopted by the Admiralty. Mistakes had, no doubt, been made, and would continue to be made, in those designs; but when constructing fighting machines that had to be worked under so many and such varying conditions of service, he thought they wore yet a long way off making a perfect fighting ship. When he used the term "mistakes," he did not impute blame to anyone, or mean that the errors were errors that should have been apparent to the designers. They were not errors by the light of the information that the designers had at the time that they designed the ships. Experience and use daily developed alterations and changes in the type of vessel required. He could not do bettor than quote from the Report of the Committee of 1871—Lord Dufferin's Committee, viz.:—A perfect ship of war is a desideratum which has never yet been attained, and is now further than ever removed from our reach. Any near approach to perfection in one direction inevitably brings with it disadvantages in another.As he understood the object of the hon. Member, it was not so much to raise questions as to the suitability of this or that vessel, but rather to consider whether the principles on which designs were prepared and adopted by the Admiralty were such as to enable the country to obtain the best form of battle ship. Naturally those who supported the formation of a Committee on Designs illustrated their arguments by reference to failures in vessels that had been constructed. But, to his mind, the real question to be determined was, not whether certain failures had occurred under the existing system, but whether, under any other arrangement, we should obtain, on the whole, a more serviceable Navy than the one we at present possessed. He believed that the general system adopted in regard to approving and designing of vessels by the Admiralty was good if worked out on plain, proper, sensible business lines. No doubt, in theory, a "Committee on Designs" sounded most attractive; but in practice he was inclined to believe that it would be found, not only unwork- 610 able, but prejudicial. What was required in a vessel, especially in a fighting vessel, was a homogeneous design. The scantlings, dimensions, displacement, power, armament, should all proceed upon one common basis. This uniformity could best be secured by intrusting the work to one competent and responsible designer. In no science was there greater room for differences of opinion than that of the naval architect, and two experts were but seldom found, to agree on any one point. Therefore, if a Committee of exports was called together, and that Committee was composed of men of strong minds, the probability was that each would have some special point in construction to which he attached importance; that he would force his particular hobby upon his colleagues, with the result that a patchwork ship would be designed, one that could not possibly fulfil in a satisfactory manner any one requirement. A design prepared under such a Committee would be no one man's production. There would be no individual responsible, and if it did not succeed there would be no on to whom blame could be personally attached. In his judgment the Admiralty system of preparing and approving designs was, as he had said, if conducted on business lines, a more satisfactory form of Committee with individual responsibility than could be devised by any plan of a Committee. No Navy in the world required such a variety of type of vessels as did England. In addition to the necessity of maintaining a powerful fighting fleet, provision had to be made for the naval police of the globe, and for a fleet to protect our extending and ever growing commerce. We required ships for deep sea service, for river service, and vessels that would keep the sea for a lengthened period without loss of speed, or the necessity of being frequently placed in dry dock. The depository of all this knowledge was the Admiralty. The information daily gained from the officers in command of our numerous stations was alone in the possession of the officials of the Admiralty. They alone were able to watch the performances of each and every type of cruiser, and by the vast experience thus gained they were in the best position to know their faults and defects, and to guard against similar errors in new vessels. The Admiralty possessed, in addition, a full 611 knowledge of the progress of naval construction of all other nations. This, combined with their own experience, placed the Department in a position that could not be attained by any Committee of experts composed of gentlemen not daily in touch with the naval operations. The Admiralty had a highly trained Constructive Department, presided over by a gentleman who had attained European note as a designer of war ships. It was at the earnest request of the noble Lord now at the head of the Admiralty that Mr. White was induced to leave the Elswick Works and place his services at the disposal of the Government. "When objection was raised last year to Mr. "White continuing to act as consulting engineer for a certain period to the Elswick Works he determined to cease his connection with them, and in September such connection terminated. During the period after Mr. White had left Elswick and come to the Admiralty, he believed that gentleman had never once been consulted by the Elswick firm as to work which they had had in hand; but it would not have been possible for the Admiralty to obtain his valuable services had not the First Lord allowed him to be consulting adviser to that firm for a short period. With regard to the general question, he had already stated that in his opinion the machinery and system of the Admiralty for providing efficient war vessels was good. He had qualified that statement by the stipulation that it must be carried out in a businesslike way, and he was bound to admit that this had not always been the case in times gone by. The Construction Department had brought forward designs and vessels had been ordered without the designs being properly referred to the officers responsible for the manning, arming, and machinery of the vessels. The Chief Constructor had stated on his designs his views on these matters, and had estimated the displacement of his vessel for a certain weight of armament and engines, and an estimated complement of crow. These conditions had not always been examined by the officers best acquainted with these details. Proposals had thus been accepted without being properly examined. Subsequently, from time to time after the vessel's construction had commenced, serious alterations had been made in these important details, adding largely to the weight to be 612 carried by the vessel beyond her original design. Vessels had also been kept an undue length of time under construction, and, as improvements developed in naval appliances, alterations and additions had been made to such ships incompatible with the ideas of those who designed them. In illustration of this absence of procedure on business lines, to which the mistakes were almost entirely duo, he might cite one or two examples from vessels included in the Estimates now before the House. The Mersey, for instance, was designed and partly constructed to be a flush-decked ship to carry 146-inch guns, four on her spar deck, and 10 on her between-docks. When, however, the vessel was completely framed, a change of idea had come over the Admiralty, and they had altered her from a flush-deck ship to a vessel with a poop and forecastle, and a deep open waist, Her armament was altered by placing one heavy 8-inch gun on board in lieu of two of the 6-inch guns. Her sea-going trim was quite altered, and the increased cost for completing this vessel had been £50,000. It had not infrequently happened that the Admiralty had allowed a ship to be commenced before they had finally determined the armament. The Benbow was an example of this. Her designer had proposed that she should carry two 63-ton guns in each of two barbettes; the Admiralty, instead of determining whether this armament was proper or not, contracted for the vessel at separate prices for the hull and barbettes, so that if they changed their mind as to the armament, they could more readily arrange with the builders the cost of such change; but the most important factor in the whole matter was overlooked—namely, that the lines of the hull were drawn to carry at a given displacement, and the question whether the vessel could carry at that displacement depended largely upon the weight of the armament to be put on board. What was the result? After the work on the ship had gone on for some time, there was no 63-ton gun ready, but there was a 110-ton gun completed which the Admiralty thought might be very well suited for the Benbow. Consequently, instead of the two barbettes being armed each with two 63-ton guns, it was determined to place 110-ton guns in each of the barbettes, rendering necessary serious alterations 613 in the size of the barbettes. They also increased her armament by four 6-inch guns and 12 six-pounders; so that by the time the Admiralty had made up their mind as to the armament of this vessel, she was called upon to carry something like 500 tons of extra dead weight, or equal to one foot extra displacement beyond that at which she was originally designed to float. In a similar way, 250 tons had been added to the weight of the belted cruisers now building beyond their designed capacity. Allusion had been made to the ridiculously small coal rapacity of the Impérieuse and the Warspite; but since these ships were designed, 430 tons of extra armament, machinery, and other things had been added to the weight after the lines of the hull had been determined upon. He gave these facts in order to bear out his contention that whatever fault there might be in connection with the designs of ships under construction, the blame did not lie with the system under which ships were designed, but was clue to a want of business aptitude in giving effect to that system. When every effort was made to minimize weights in the ship, and the designer worked to the nearest ton, the importance of what he had stated would be realized. These matters had engaged the attention of the present Board of Admiralty from the day they came into Office, as the Report laid before the House by the First Lord would show. The policy laid down by his noble Friend at the head of the Admiralty and his Board, was to require that before a vessel was commenced there should be obtained in writing from the Director of Naval Ordnance and Engineer-in-Chief their opinion on the armament and machinery proposed. Then, after the design had been considered by the Controller, and before going to the Board collectively, a paper should be sent to members individually, so as to give them an opportunity of criticising and considering the design before the order was given for the vessel. As the Board included a number of most distinguished and experienced naval officers, he was satisfied that those designs would be closely and sharply criticized from the Naval point of view, as they ought to be; and the faults and defects which he had endeavoured to point out would be remedied by those gentlemen in the 614 course of the careful examination they would give to the designs. Once passed by the Board, the order was most precise that no alteration or addition was to be allowed. When thus approved in every detail the designer could prepare the lines of the vessel, knowing exactly what she had to carry in weight, and what duties she was expected to perform. It would also be the policy of the Board not to be tempted to make alterations in vessels when once their construction was commenced, but to push on the work to completion, adhering to the original design. Such a policy would, he was satisfied, obviate the recurrence of many of the costly mistakes of the past, to which allusion had been made, and would be the best means of attaining the end which the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Gourley) had so much at heart, and with whoso object the Board of Admiralty fully sympathized. The hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reed) would be fully aware of the attempt made in 1871 to obtain the opinion of a Committee of Inquiry on the designs of vessels then being constructed. He would remember the variety of opinions expressed by Members of that Committee, and the difficulty of forming any reliable conclusion from their Report as to the best form of vessel to be built In looking through the evidence given before that inquiry he was much struck by one answer given by the hon. Member for Cardiff, who, on being pressed to express an opinion favourable to the introduction of compound engines into the Navy, said—My feeling is that I prefer to get actual experience rather than evidence—which, even when given from the best authorities, is not always to be trusted—before I would tamper with vessels of that kind.Now, if a Committee were formed, it would have to deal with evidence. For his own part, he preferred the common-sense process recommended by the hon. Member for Cardiff—to be guided by actual experience rather than by evidence. Another point he should notice was that there had been more Committees upon these matters than the hon. Member for Sunderland was aware of. There was a Committee in 1805, the outcome of which was the construction of the Captain. In 1869 another Committee sat, and the Devastation and the Thunderer were produced; there was a 615 third in 1871, after the Captain was lost; and he thought that, broadly stated, the result of these various Committees was that there were about as many opinions as there were Members on the Committee. It was true the Motion did not suggest the appointment of a permanent Committee on Designs, but was limited to an inquiry into the designs adopted within recent years. Such a proposal would have even a more prejudicial effect on the Service than the appointment of a permanent Committee. The inquiry would occupy months; it would distract the attention of officers; rival schools of ship-building would be heard before the Committee, each with its own theory. If upon so contentious and thorny a subject the Committee should by chance come to a unanimous conclusion, the effect might be to cramp the inventive and suggestive faculties of our naval officers, and to stereotype in our Navy some one system or type of ship. Men in official positions were not over partial to accept responsibility, and he thought the temptation would be great to the designers to shelter their future work behind the recommendations of such a Committee. The result would be that for some time there would be a stereotyped typo of vessel, and the country would not keep up with that ever-growing progress which so marked the construction of our vessels in the last few years. It must not, however, before one moment supposed that the present Board of Admiralty considered themselves or their advisers to be infallible, or that they lived in regions above and beyond the reach of outside advice. They were always pleased to receive suggestions, and in the event of difficulty or doubt there would be no hesitation in seeking the counsel of those from the outside who might be qualified to give a reliable opinion. For the reasons, however, that he had endeavoured to lay before the House, the Government could not accept the Motion of the hon. Member—a Motion which, if carried, would make it compulsory upon the Board to appoint a Committee. They hoped by using the machinery they at present possessed, and giving effect to the existing system on business lines, to arrive at the result the hon. Member desired—namely, to provide from time to time the most efficient ships of war that could be produced. The hon. Member for Cardiff 616 had made allusion to his visit to Devonport the other day. What the hon. Member said he saw there was the outcome of the want of business aptitude in the past. The Admiralty at the time were in a great hurry to get the vessels referred to constructed, and he believed the Admiralty had not made up their minds as to the host form of the vessels when they ordered them. At the present time, however, the Admiralty had made up their minds, and they knew what they wanted in respect of the vessels they ordered from truck to keel, and he believed that was the only way to avoid the mistakes which had occurred in the past. There was no doubt that much of the trouble that had arisen in ships now under consideration, had arisen from the overpace at which the work was pushed on. A very large number of ships were put in hand at once, and he was afraid that that care and attention were not given to them which would have been given if the demand had not been so great and oppressive. He was afraid public opinion was somewhat to blame for that state of things. There had been some sweeping remarks by the hon. Member for Cardiff as regarded certain ships which he had named, and, although he had pointed out the differences between their designs and what they would be when they were completed; still he did not wish the House for one moment to suppose that those vessels would be anything but first-class men of war. They might have been better, but there was no hesitation on the part of naval officers of the Board in saying that they would prove good and efficient fighting ships; and if ever the time unfortunately came for their going into action they would be found as good and efficient fighting ships as a British seaman could desire.
§ SIR JOHN COMMERELL (Southampton)
said, what Naval men complained of was that the designers of ships were always in a hurry, but after being in such a hurry to lay vessels down they were not in the same haste to launch them. The speech they had just heard from the Secretary to the Admiralty amounted to this:—"We acknowledge there have been tremendous mistakes in the past, but we mean to do better for the future." What they complained of in the Navy was that they did not get value for their money. 617 They went clown to the Yard, and they saw the money wasted right and left, and he would tell them why. The Admiralty would not make up their minds, and would not send out proper specifications and proper information to the contractors and to the Dockyards before they commenced their work. They were aware that the Admiralty knew how to construct vessels, but what they complained of was that the Board would not make up their minds. He did not agree with the hon. Member for Sunderland, and thought the appointment of a Committee would be a great mistake. It would remove the responsibility from where it should rest—on the Board of Admiralty. What was wanted was that the outside world should be taken into confidence. Tenders should be invited for the construction of vessels from outside contractors, and then they would have designs from all parts of the country, which would result in England being put in a very much better position in respect of her Navy than she was at present. He had been rather averse to the Nile and Trafalgar being built, because he had come to the conclusion that it was like putting too many eggs into one basket, and that smaller vessels would have served the purpose, but still he believed they would be the two most powerful vessels in the world. The right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) was mistaken in what he had said, for Mr. Barnes and Mr. Morgan had both told him that they approved of these two vessels very highly.
§ SIR CHARLES PALMER (Durham, Jarrow)
I would not have risen to take part in the debate, but for the sweeping accusations which have been made respecting very estimable men by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reed). I consider that the remarks of my hon. Friend have reference to the period when he was at the Admiralty, rather than to the present time. Personally I have some knowledge of these matters, the firm with which I am concerned having lately completed vessels of an important character. I am bound to say that the designs and specifications which were sent in before the tenders were made wore of a most complete and perfect character; indeed, they proceeded from the lines laid down and recommended 618 by the Committee of which I had the honour to be a Member, and over which Lord Ravens worth presided. That Committee recommended, amongst other things, that vessels should not be laid down before the designs and specifications were complete, and the result has been that vessels since built have been so with perfect satisfaction. Complete designs have been placed in the hands of the contractors, the work makes steady progress, and, instead of ships being behind time in delivery, I believe that, in almost every case, the time of delivery has been anticipated. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Peed) has asked me if the contractors have delivered the vessels complete? My answer is that the contractors have delivered them complete in all but armaments. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) has referred to the building of the Nileand the Trafalgar. The right hon. Gentleman is right, in my opinion, in bringing the question before the House, because as the action of the Government was of a somewhat extraordinary character, when you have men of such high intelligence and position as the Chief Constructors of the Navy sending out a protest against the building of certain ships, great attention should be paid to their representations, and a proper investigation should be made. I am myself opposed to Committees in such questions as a rule. I am opposed to the Resolution of the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Gourley), because I feel that if we are to have a Board of Admiralty that Board should take upon itself the responsibility of conducting the affairs of the Navy, and experts should not be brought in from time to time, and Committees should not be appointed to supersede the Board and take the responsibility out of their bands. I am also of opinion that the Constructors Department ought to have more responsibility thrown upon it independent of what I may call the Naval Department. The Constructors Department ought to take the responsibility of designing and. building the ships which the Admiralty require, and the Naval Department ought not to interfere until the vessels are put into their hands for navigation. I am aware that naval officers fancy they can instruct the Naval Constructors; but such is not my opinion. But I rose chiefly to express my regret that sweeping con- 619 demnations should have been made against certain gentlemen, because I am satisfied the country owe a great deal to those gentlemen for having so efficiently earned out the construction of ships of war. The progress made year by year in ship-building and marine architecture is such that it is very difficult to keep pace with it; and I believe that these men have endeavoured to the best of their ability to do their duty.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question again proposed. "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair".