HL Deb 21 March 1870 vol 200 cc307-9

moved for— Copy of Correspondence between the Admiralty and the Treasury and of other Papers relative to alterations in the organization and business of the Admiralty and to reductions in the establishments: Copies of Orders in Council of the 22d day of February 1870 respecting Naval Promotion and Retirement: Copy of the Report of the Civil Commission appointed to inquire into the condition and organization of the Naval Hospitals, with extracts from the appendices thereto: Copy of a Report by the Earl of Camperdown on the arrangements of Her Majesty's Victualling Yard, with the Reports thereon of the officers to whom it was referred: He presumed that as these Papers had been already laid before the House of Commons, no objection could be made to their production. He must say he thought Governments had of late years been rather reticent in giving information to their Lordships on Admiralty matters; but several Papers on military questions had been presented to them by command this Session, and he hoped the noble Earl who represented the Navy in this House would communicate to them whatever Papers of interest were presented or moved for in the other House.


readily assented to this Motion on the part of the Government. He could assure the noble Duke that there was no desire on the part of the First Lord of the Admiralty to withhold from their Lordships any Papers relating to matters of importance, which must, of course, be of the greatest importance to their Lordships; and, in future, he would take care that whatever important Papers were laid before the other House should also be laid before their Lordships.


asked that there might be added to the Papers a copy of the Patent whereby the Board of Admiralty is constituted. Formerly, it was a board the members of which co-operated together; but it was no longer such. It still claimed to be a Board; but it seemed that the First Lord only communicated with the other, members at his pleasure, and, he presumed, in his own room; and, therefore, there was a total change in the character of the head of the service. It was now, in fact, a government of the First Lord, and not of the Board of Admiralty. Further, he should wish for some information as to the First Lord of the Admiralty, being a civilian, proceeding to sea with a fleet; because he thought that such an act was offensive to naval commanders, and dangerous to the safety of the fleet.


said, the Government had no objection to produce a copy of the original Patent constituting the Board of Admiralty. The Returns moved for would show that the recent changes had received the sanction of an Order in Council—of which he could not now give the precise date—and he presumed that changes allowed by Orders in Council were not inconsistent with the original Patent. The noble Earl was mistaken in thinking that the Board of Admiralty never met, though he did not pretend to say that its sittings were frequent, or that the greater part of the business of importance was transacted at the Board as formerly, for its constitution had entirely changed. The First Lord gave an explanation last, Session of the new organization adopted by his advice under an Order in Council. With regard to his taking the fleet to sea, the noble Earl must make a distinct Motion if he sought to remove from the First Lord a power which, whether it was customary to exercise it or not, undoubtedly attached to his Office.


said, that if the alterations in the constitution of the Admiralty which his noble and gallant Friend had mentioned had been effected, they would be a great improvement. He had never known any Department in which business was so unsatisfactorily conducted as it used to be at the Admiralty. He had known a Board, that of Indian Control, which, as a Board, never sat at all; although in the time of Mr. Pitt and Mr. Dundas it did so, and was really what it purported to be.


would not say whether the alteration was an advantageous one or not; but it had been stated in "another place" that, in accordance with the existing practice, parts of the scheme had not been discussed by the Board as a Board.

Motion amended, and agreed to.