HC Deb 07 December 1888 vol 331 cc1396-9
MR. HANBURY (Preston)

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, Whether it is the fact that orders have already been given for guns and ammunition for the Navy about £800,000 in excess of the amount placed in the Estimates and voted by this House; whether a corresponding excess has also occurred over the amount estimated for gun mountings in Vote 8 of the Navy Estimates; whether a large proportion of these excess amounts will become payable during the current financial year, probably to the amount of £500,000 at the least; whether this sum will be provided out of savings upon other Votes; and, if not, whether it is intended to introduce a Supplementary Estimate? The hon. Gentleman also asked, If the noble Lord can state to the House what was the amount voted by this House for shipbuilding and repairs during the year ending 31st March last, and which was not so expended; how far this result was due respectively to over-estimating, to delays in delivery by contractors, and to failure to carry out the year's programme at the Dockyards; whether, during the current year, the amount expended will similarly fall below the amount voted for shipbuilding; and, whether, looking to the requirements of the Navy, and the costliness of hurried preparations, sufficient continous supervision will, in future, be exercised to insure that the sums annually voted by Parliament for shipbuilding purposes shall be so expended, and the expense of hurriedly making up for arrears be thus avoided?


In Appendix No. 26, page 171, of the Navy Estimates, 1887–8, it is shown that it was proposed to expend in the course of the year, out of the sum of £4,850,600 contained in Votes 6 and 10, on new construction, £3,058,255; on repairs, £670,931—total, £3,729,186. The difference between the original Estimate for the distribution of labour and material on new construction and on repairs for the year 1887–8 is set forth in Appendix No. 26 of the Navy Estimates; and the expenditure as ascertained is stated in detail in Parliamentary Paper No. 231 of 1888 (Dockyard Expense Accounts and Shipbuilding Transactions), together with explanatory remarks giving reasons for the difference between estimate and expenditure for each ship under construction and repair. Further information bearing on the same points is given in a series of Papers laid before the Committee on Navy Estimates by the Director of Dockyards, printed at pages 500 to 520 in the Appendix to their fourth Report. It would not be possible to classify the causes for the difference between estimates and expenditure under the heads suggested in the second question. The delays in the delivery of materials and guns by contractors necessarily affect the realization of every part of the year's programme for new construction. So far as was possible, with due regard to the economical employment of the maximum number of men considered desirable to be borne in the Dockyards, the programme was approached. Certain important repairs which had been originally contemplated were, on further consideration, postponed, thus causing a reduction in the amount spent under that head. In round figures, the expenditure fell below the original Estimate as follows:—(a) New construction, £310,000; (b) repairs, £105,000—total, £415,000. Of the £310,000 deficit in the expenditure on new construction, about £180,000 relates to the Dockyard transactions, and about £13,000 to contract work. The amount voted, and the the amount expended, during the present financial year will closely approximate, and I estimate no surrender on these Votes. No supervision can insure that the sums annually voted for shipbuilding shall be also expended within the financial year; as the greater part of the disbursements made for these purposes are to contractors, whose delivery of the orders given them cannot be controlled by the Admiralty. The inconvenience attending the surrender of large unexpended sums at the end of the financial year, especially when they have been voted for contract work which has not been completed, is very great. The liability for the contract remains, though the money voted to meet it is no longer available, and the financial balance of the next year and subsequent years is disturbed. Her Majesty's Government have the matter under consideration, and they hope shortly to be able to make some proposals upon this subject. That which regulates the Ordnance expenditure for the Navy is not merely the amount of orders given, but the rate at which they are executed. For the past financial year there was a very large saving on the Naval Ordnance Vote, on account of the uncompleted contract work. To prevent a similar occurrence this year, I directed that the amount of orders to be given should be increased. I am informed that there may be an excess of expenditure upon this Vote; but up to the present time, which is two-thirds of the financial year, the expenditure is only £697,000 out of £1,863,000 voted for the whole year. There is no likelihood of an excess of expenditure upon the Gun Mounting Vote. If there is ultimately any large excess upon the Ordnance Vote a Supplementary Estimate will be necessary, as it cannot be met out of savings on other Votes.