SIR FREDERIC SMITH
said, he wished to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty, When he expects to receive the Report of the Iron Plate Committee, and whether he intends to lay it upon the, table of the House? They were building iron-cased ships of war to a great extent, and the time had arrived when they ought to know whether they were constructing them on a correct principle. It would be recollected that about the middle of last Session a Committee was appointed by the Admiralty, in conjunction with the War Office, to consider what should be the strength of the iron plates. The members of the Committee were able men, and they were presided over by an excellent officer, Sir John Hay. They had been sitting for several months, and it was time the public should be told what had been done. The Government were building these ships in ignorance of what the strength of the iron plates should be, which was beginning at the wrong end, and he should-like to know why the Report of the Committee had not been published before. As long ago as 1855, it was quite clear that men-of-war, however constructed, ought to be cased with iron, and yet, until the preceding year, no experiments were attempted upon a large scale. It appeared to him that if due energy had been exhibited, and if proper resources had been placed at the command of the Committee, they would have had a Report of one kind or another long since. He understood that the Committee had been making experiments with two guns on two plates, but in a matter of such vast importance they should have been experimenting with twenty guns on twenty different plates, and any required number of men should have been placed at their disposal. No blame was to be at- 593 tached to the Secretary to the Admiralty. The noble Lord had taken a great deal of pains in the matter, and the country owed him a debt of gratitude for his exertions in sending a fleet and transporting a large body of troops across the Atlantic. It was of great importance, however, that they should know how to construct their iron-cased ships so as to obtain the necessary strength and stability, and he trusted the noble Lord would do everything he could to forward the labours of the Iron Plate Committee.