HC Deb 28 June 1889 vol 337 cc1014-6

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty how many millions sterling the Government have already ordered to be expended in new naval armaments during the ensuing 12 months; what proportion of the sum is to be spent in the Devonport, Keyham, Portsmouth, and Sheerness Dockyards respectively; what proportion is to be spent in private yards; what is the actual number of dockyards- men of all classes who have been discharged during the past eight months from the Devonport and Keyham Yards, and out of what total of men employed; and, whether he can state what is the relative cost of supervision by salaried officials in the Government Dockyards in proportion to the actual cost of production, as compared with that required in the private yards of the firms having Government contracts in hand? I also wish to ask how many more dockyardsmen are to be discharged on Saturday; whether they are all smiths, and, if so, how many of them have been trained as apprentices in the Dockyard; whether it is the fact that the engines for the vessels now building at Devon-port are being built in the Keyham Yard; whether the engine smiths' work is now being done in the boiler-makers' shop instead of as hitherto in the engine. smiths' shop; whether it is the fact that a large number of labourers are to be removed from the smiths' shop and placed under the boatswain; and, whether those who are thus removed have to submit to their pay being reduced from 3s. to 4s. per week?


I have to state in reply to the 14 queries included in the hon. Member's questions that he will find in the Estimates or in Returns furnished to Parliament, and in answers given by my noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty to the hon. Member's previous questions in the House, much of the information which he now seeks. To re-compile the figures so as to answer the inquiries of the hon. Member in their present form would involve time and expense, besides diverting the attention of the officials from the pressing work required in pushing on with the new naval programme. Some of the queries also relate to matters connected with the discipline and executive administration of the Yards, which I submit cannot be discussed in the House without detriment to the public interest. I may, however, say generally, in reply to the questions, that no naval armaments except torpedo carriages and gun mountings, are made in any of the Dockyards; that the discharge of men from Dockyards has been caused by no reduction in the extent of work to be under- taken, but is due to a necessary readjustment in the number of the several trades required in connection with the economical and efficient construction of a modern man of war; and that engines are being made at Keyham, as shown in the Navy Estimates. The establishment and incidental charges, including supervision in private building yards, according to accounts submitted to the Admiralty, amounted to over 20 per cent upon the cost of the work, as against about 10 per cent, which, after careful examination, was considered as fairly chargeable to new work in our Dockyards, particulars of which are given in page 159 and following pages of the Navy Estimates. The work at the Yards is performed by the branch or department in which the executive officers consider it can be most economically carried out, and the men employed are those most suitable for the purpose, having regard to the nature of the work required.