HC Deb 17 March 1887 vol 312 c543

These satisfactory results have been obtained partly by policy, partly by improved methods of administration; but a careful review of the expenditure of the past six years is necessary in order that the significance of our present position, and the causes at work in establishing it, may be understood by Parliament and the country.

In the period between 1881 and 1885 every Naval Power in Europe, save England, largely increased its naval expenditure. The introduction of slow-burning powder, and the alterations in the design of heavy ordnance which it entailed, whilst giving increased velocity and accuracy to guns of all calibres, produced a corresponding development in the defensive power of armour-clads and protected vessels. Speed in the performance of naval tactics became an even more essential factor than before, and was so recognized abroad; and on vessels of comparatively small displacement successful efforts were made to realize, by engineering ingenuity, a speed wholly unknown to the smaller craft of a few years back.

These developments of speed and power necessitated increased expense.

England was the last Naval Power to recognize these now conditions. In 1885, under popular pressure, the Government of that day admitted the insufficiency of its previous arrangements, and, with the assent of all parties in the State, Lord Northbrook, the then First Lord of the Admiralty, proposed to expend, in addition to the ordinary shipbuilding programme, a sum of £3,100,000 in the building of ships by contract in private yards. An additional sum of £1,600,000 for guns was also proposed to be added to the Ordnance Votes of the Navy, which are included in the annual Estimates of expenditure) of the War Office

The Chancellor of the Exchequer estimated that this outlay would be spread over five years, ending March 31, 1890, and form a portion of the expenditure of the country for that period.

The work has been executed with such rapidity, that nearly the whole of this expenditure has fallen upon three, instead of five, years. Moreover, the sum of £3,100,000 was found to be insufficient to complete the work it began.

The following Tables show the difference between the estimate of time and outlay made in 1885 and the actual expenditure of the past two years, and the probable disbursements in the ensuing year.

Special Programme.
1885–86. 1886–87 1887–88 1888–89 1889–90 Total
£ £ £ £ £ £
Hulls and Engines (Contract Price) 800,000 800,000 500,000 500,000 500,000 3,100,000


Lord Northbrook's special Shipbuilding Programme, as provided for in the Estimates 1885–86, included—

2 Armour-clads 6 Steel Torpedo Cruisers.
5 Belted Cruisers. 10 first-class Torpedo-boats (4 subsequently added.)

The financial result of Lord Northbrook's special programme may be summarized thus:—

  1. 1. An excess expenditure of £502,000 on the original Shipbuilding Estimate, which provided for hulls and engines only.
  2. 2. An expenditure on account of ships building of £3,390,000 in three years, instead of an expenditure of £3,100,000 in five years.
  3. 3. An extra expenditure (under Army Votes), roughly estimated at £500,000, for the ammunition and torpedoes necessary for these ships, and for which no special provision was made.