§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ (1.) 60,000 Men and Boys, Sea and Coast Guard Services, including 14,000 Royal Marines.
§ MR. GOSCHEN,
in rising to move the Navy Estimates, said, the gross Estimates for the year 1873–4 amounted to £9,873,000, and after deducting extra receipts and repayments made to the Treasury, amounting to £240,000, there remained a net charge on the revenue for the coming year of £9,633,000. The present Estimates showed an increase over those of 1872–3 of £340,000. Before he dealt with the causes which had led to that excess, he wished to make a few remarks with reference to the services which had to be performed by the Navy for the money which was voted 33 by Parliament. An hon. Gentleman had spoken the other day of our naval expenditure as our national premium of insurance—words which must be taken to imply insurance against hostile attack; in fact, the insurance of our power and prosperity. For his own part, he wished the Naval Estimates were nothing more, some hundreds of thousands might be saved out of the Estimates—we might even say millions—if that were so; but everyone who was conversant with the conduct of the business of the Admiralty must be aware that there were many duties which the Navy had to perform—costly duties, too—in time of the profoundest peace, a fact which he would beg hon. Members to take into account when they were asked to Vote £9,500,000 of the money of the taxpayers of this country. The Navy, for example, performed the whole of the Coastguard duties, not only for the protection of the coast, but for the protection of the revenue, there being 25 Coastguard cruisers. Then the Navy had to provide for the protection of our fisheries in the sense of police, not in the sense of protection against an enemy, and naval officers on board of men-of-war have often to perform magisterial duties. Then there were costly surveys to be made by our ships in various parts of the world. A great transport service had also to be performed, the number of soldiers to be moved in the course of the present year being 41,000, besides 8,000 women and children, 15,00 officers, and a certain number of horses. All this expenditure was not war expenditure. Again, we had to send ships to various parts of the world to suppress kidnapping, to look after the slave trade, and to discharge various other duties of a similar nature. There were, besides, certain duties to be performed for our Consular authorities, who were constantly, in all parts of the world, making demands on the Navy for the protection of lives and property of British subjects, not against an enemy, but in cases of internal disturbance and revolution. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) had a few days ago stated that our expenditure must depend on our policy; but the duties which he had mentioned were duties which the country desired to see under all circumstances performed, and the Government of the day was always called pretty strictly to account if there was any failure in that 34 respect. It would at once be seen, then, that in performing those duties a large amount was absorbed of the millions which were generally supposed to be laid out in simply making preparations for war, and that but for such expenditure much more money than was now available for the purpose could be devoted to building fighting ships and increasing our real naval strength. He would now call attention, in the first place, to the number of non-fighting ships which had to be continually kept up. There were round the coast for the training of boys, nine ships and six brigs, three ships for training naval cadets, and three ships and eight traders for the study of naval artillery and torpedoes. Then there were drill ships, 11 ships for the Naval Reserve, and 25 revenue cruisers for the Coastguard service. There were also stationary ships of various kinds, receiving ships, store ships, and hulks used for various purposes, 39 in number, four troop ships, five survey ships, and a number of yachts and small steamers for the Channel service. The total he arrived at was 138 ships for peace service only; and those ships had to be repaired as occasion required, and, worse still, replaced when worn out. This year, for instance, we take £15,000 in order to prepare the Marlborough to take the place of the gunnery ship Excellent. There are also five Indian troop ships, and then there are our shore establishments. Not to speak of all our great dockyards at home, we had 14 or 15 small dockyards abroad, each of which was a centre of expenditure. We had victualling yards at Deptford, Gosport, Plymouth, Gibraltar, Bermuda, and other places, and we had also medical establishments, a lunatic asylum at Yarmouth, barracks for marines, marine infirmaries, and all our educational establishments. He alluded to this in order that hon. Members who did not go into the details of the Estimates might see how a large portion of our money was necessarily spent before we came to the expenditure for actual fighting purposes, and he would remind hon. Gentlemen that these 138 non-fighting ships and this vast number of civil establishments for naval purposes abroad and at home are each a centre of expense which requires the most careful watching. While on the head of our centres of expenditure in time of peace, he would not omit the examination of our squad- 35 rons at sea. We had 11 squadrons at sea. There were the Channel and Mediterranean squadrons—which were our great fighting squadrons—and then there were the squadrons for the West Indies, for South America, for the Pacific, for Australia, for China, for the East Indies, and two for the African waters; and then there is the flying squadron. The Committee might think we had too large a number of these squadrons abroad, but he would remind them that when his right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) came into office he reduced the number of ships on foreign stations, organized a flying squadron, and laid down a certain scale in accordance with which the ships were to be kept up. The present squadrons were not in excess of that scale. He would now state the case in a different form. We had 226 ships in commission, but the actual number of fighting ships was not more than 114. Of those 23 were ironclads, 31 frigates and corvettes, 60 sloops and gunboats. France, on the other hand, had 8 iron-clads, 5 frigates, and 36 sloops and gunboats—making in all 49; Germany had 1 iron-clad, 6 corvettes and sloops, 4 gunboats and 1 despatch vessel—in all 12; while America had 2 ironclads, 3 store-ships, and 40 other ships—making in all 45. Thus it would be seen that while England had 23 iron-clads, France, Germany, and the United States had only 11; and we had 91 frigates, corvettes, sloops and gunboats against their 95. Now, it might be asked whether we had not too many squadrons and too many ships in commission. He should like to know the view of the Committee upon that point. Well, where were our squadrons? We had a squadron on the East India station and one on the East Coast of Africa, which latter probably, if he was not very much mistaken, we should have to re-inforce with the concurrence of both sides of the House. Then they had a squadron on the Australian station, which the House, and hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway as much as any other hon. Members, would insist on their keeping sufficient to suppress kidnapping in the Southern Seas. Again, the state of Lagos, Sierra Leone, the Gambia, and other parts of the West Coast of Africa was not such that they could diminish their squadron there by a single ship. Then, in regard to the China squadron, there was a certain number of Treaty Ports to be watched, 36 and the services of that station could not be conducted with a smaller force of ships. Therefore, although the aggregate might appear large, when they came to look into it, it was difficult to see how any of their squadrons could be reduced. He could not, he thought, too often remind the Committee and the country that if they required services to be performed the ships must be ready and prepared to perform them. Then there was another question—namely, how were they to employ their men? And he would here say that he was not prepared to recommend the Committee to reduce the number of seamen we had. The total number of men that appeared on the Votes was 60,000, the blue-jackets of course being only a part of that aggregate force. But it must be remembered that they had to recruit their seamen from boys; they had to train them. Their system was not such that they could enter them straight from shore without training. The consequence was they must always keep a certain number of sailors upon whom we could rely immediately on the outbreak of war. We could not get our sailors ready-made, and especially for the new class of ships and the new kinds of gunnery it was absolutely indispensable that there should be training. What, then, was to be done with those men? They must go to sea. It was impossible to keep in their ports on shore more than a certain proportion of their sailors. They must be kept at sea. If we were placed at a great disadvantage as regarded expenditure, compared with other countries, through our foreign squadrons, on the other hand we possessed an immense advantage as compared with foreign countries, because, having to keep our ships at sea, we were enabled to train our men. Our men, in fact, were making experiments on our ships in time of peace, instead of in time of war; they were learning their qualities, and our officers and crews were familiarizing themselves with these new classes of ships. Although there might be a difficulty in dealing with experimental ships, and although by having so many ships at sea they were liable to naval mishaps, still the Government felt that it would be wrong for any Board of Admiralty to keep their ships at home in order to avoid those risks to which from the beginning all men were exposed who "go down to the sea in ships, and oc- 37 cupy their business in great waters." Notwithstanding that he had a good deal to say to the Committee, he had thought it worth while to indicate what he called our peace establishment, and what were its duties. He would now speak of the excess of £340,000 upon these Estimates. The Estimates, as stated in the gracious Speech from the Throne—Have been framed with a view to the efficiency and moderation of our Establishments, under circumstances of inconvenience entailed by variations of an exceptional nature in the prices of some important commodities.They had had to encounter dearer coal, dearer iron, and higher wages. They had had to pay an increased price on no less than 180,000 tons of coal. Their purchases of iron and metal articles, engines, and so forth, amounted to about £700,000 for the coming year; and business men would know what effect a rise in price must have on such an item as that. Again, by contract their expenditure for building iron, wooden, and composite ships was about £400,000—another item which was seriously affected by the rise in prices. Possibly the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands) and others might say they must meet that increase of prices by reductions in other directions. In order to show how far that would be possible, let him recall to the Committee a statement which he had made on a previous occasion with regard to the proportion of their total expenditure which was spent on the personnel of the fleet on the one hand, and on the matériel on the other, and as to how much of it was elastic, and how much inelastic. Well, the Votes which constituted the personnel of the Navy—namely, the Wages, Victualling, Coastguard, Medical Establishment, Half-pay and Pensions, Marines and Martial Law Votes—absorbed together, £5,565,000. Out of those Votes, it might be possible here and there to make reductions of a few thousands; but he must frankly say that if our Navy was to be equally as well paid, pensioned, fed, and doctored as it had hitherto been, he did not see that there was any great margin for saving on those Votes. Perhaps, it might be said they could reduce the number of men; but in recruiting for the Navy, it was a difficult thing to drop the number in any one year. They could only drop it by diminishing the number of boys, which would not affect the immediate year, but would give them so 38 many fewer seamen in subsequent years. He had taken off 500 boys this year, not to decrease the number of sailors, but because they had found, after experience of the continuous service system for a given time, that with 3,000 boys they would be able to keep up the number of their sailors at about 18,000 or 19,000 the standard which they had fixed upon. Before the continuous service system came into operation, it was almost impossible to say what the necessary number would be. He was happy to say, also, that the waste among the boys had become considerably less. Last year, he had not scrupled to ask for an increase of 500 in the number of boys, because there was a gap through their not having entered the full 3,000 in some years; but, having increased the number, he had come, with the assistance of his naval colleagues, to the conclusion that 3,000 boys should be fixed upon, and therefore had taken off the 500 he had put on last year. He did not do that to diminish the number of men, but because 3,000 boys would be sufficient. Next came the Transport Vote, over which they had no control, the Vote for the Admiralty, the Scientific and Miscellaneous Votes, together making a total of £532,000. We might be able to reduce them by some few thousands, but the most rigid economist could not effect any such reduction there as would make up for increased prices. Then there were the great works at Chatham and Portsmouth, and the Vote for Works in general, and including contracts that had been entered into, which accounted for £682,000; then there was the Vote for Civil Pensions, which amounted to £290,000, over which they had no control. The result was that £7, 077, 000 formed the aggregate of the Votes belonging to the personnel of the Navy. That was expenditure of an inelastic description, and we had comparatively little control over it. If there was to be any reduction to meet the increased prices of materials, it could only come from the remaining Votes—namely, the Store Votes or the Dockyard Votes. Now, the Store Votes and the Building Votes last year amounted to £2,384,000, and this year they were £2,796,000. If he had come down to the House and asked for a Supplemental Vote for 1872–3 in consequence of the great increase in the price of coal, iron, and other materials, he thought the 39 House would have been disposed to grant it; and they could not have complained if, in a year of unexampled rise in prices, they had been unable to keep within their Estimates. During the whole time he had been in office the expenditure had not exceeded the sum voted by the liberality of Parliament, and in 1871–2, after making provision for unexpected charges, a surplus remained over the money voted. With the exception, too, of a vote of £6,000 to be awarded to an officer, as the reward of a valuable invention, and for which the object was to get the sanction of Parliament, the Admiralty had not asked for Supplementary Votes. In the current year £50,000 more than had been estimated had been paid for coal, and there had been altogether an excess of about £90,000 for stores, but the aggregate of Vote 10 had not been exceeded. When we came to consider our contracts for building ships and buying machinery, under Vote 10, Section 2, which we should have entered into in July, we found the prices would be so exorbitant that we should not be justified in proceeding at once to make these contracts. We took the greatest pains to ascertain the probable course of the markets, and, having done so, we postponed our contracts a certain number of months. The result was, that we saved the country some £40,000 or £50,000 upon contracts which we were able to enter into at lower prices in the autumn. On the other hand, the Admiralty had been thrown back as regarded time, and, therefore, had not spent the whole of the money voted, fewer ships and engines falling within the year 1872–3 than had been anticipated. Now, he trusted the Committee would think that in that they had not acted wrongly. It was surely better to postpone the purchase of machinery for some months, and not to spend the whole of their money in the year, than for the sake of taking that amount to purchase at a higher price at the expense of the taxpayers of the country. They must this year ask Parliament for so much more money in order to make up those arrears. As regarded machinery, not the slightest inconvenience would arise from that postponement, because they were well ahead with their machinery as compared with their shipbuilding, so that no ship would be delayed through the engines being ready somewhat later. A similar course has 40 been pursued in reference to ships. They ordered them at a later date and a cheaper price, and, in consequence, the noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox), and others who watched the Estimates closely, would see that our liability for shipbuilding on the 1st of April 1873–4 would be considerably greater than was anticipated. The noble Lord would also see that in this year they had taken a larger amount of money for ships built by contract. This year it was proposed to build 6,000 tons by contract, as compared with 3,600 tons last year, about 1,000 tons of this excess being due to being behind with the shipbuilding by contract in 1872 on account of the orders being given later. Besides, the dearer coal, iron, and other materials, they had also to face a certain amount left as a legacy from the past year, and he had already shown that any reduction could only come out of the Stores and Dockyard Votes. The question therefore arose, could they avoid taking a larger sum this year than last by reducing the number of ships which it was proposed to build. He had shown that a reduction of expenditure could only come out of stores and dockyards, and that this was impracticable, not only on account of higher prices, but of arrears to be made up from 1872–3. For some years past the Committee had been asked to build about 20,000 tons a-year, and it would not be right in times of exceptional dearness of materials to vote large sums for 20,000 tons of shipping, which is the amount he intended to propose, unless he could adduce reasons why this should be done. He had examined the statistics available at the Admiralty as far back as 1855, to ascertain the amount of ships they had built since that time. He found that 550 ships had been built, representing a tonnage of 550,000 tons. Of these 41 were line-of-battle ships, 50 ironclads, 34 frigates, 26 corvettes, 40 sloops, 90 gun vessels, and nearly 200 gun-boats. Nevertheless, and he said it with regret, we must continue to build. For how many ships of how many tons did the Committee suppose had been struck off the effective list of the Navy in the same time? Ships to the extent of no less than 400,000 tons have been struck off. During eight years after 1855 76,000 tons out of 182,000 were struck off; and, worse than that, out of 314,000 tons, launched 41 between 1855 and 1863, 98,000 tons, representing 124 ships, had vanished before the eight years were completed. Some had been lost, others had become obsolete, others had perished from wear and tear. He would lay on the Table a paper showing the causes of this. He would now offer some accurate figures respecting the last 10 years, showing the ships added to the Navy, what amount had been removed, and, above all, in what classes the changes had occurred, so as to indicate what our policy should be as to the ships to be built. During the last 10 years 148 seagoing ships, with 226,000 tonnage, had been launched, exclusive of 20,000 tons for Indian troopships, and exclusive also of tugs and non-seagoing ships. During that time 215,000 tons had been built—this figure of course not entirely agreeing with the tonnage launched. The tonnage struck off the effective list had practically been of the same amount, about 215,000 tons, comprised in 225 ships, thus showing a diminution in the number of ships of 77. On the 1st of January, 1863, there were 329 ships on the effective list, with 397,000 tons, while in 1873 there were 252 ships, with 402,000 tons. Some of the ships, as he had said, had become obsolete, and that accounted for a considerable number, and the reason why others had so quickly vanished was that, being originally built for a certain purpose, they had been converted to another. Ships not strong enough to hold the powerful engines put into them had been turned into screw steamers, and they had not been able to bear the wear and tear of engines. Many ships had been lengthened, and the lines had been fined down so much that they had proved unable to bear the very great horsepower put into them. No doubt some mistakes had been made, but in order to place a certain number of vessels at the disposal of the country in the short time necessary, wooden vessels had had to be made available. It was hoped, however, that the wear and tear in iron ships would be very considerably diminished. He would now state in what classes of ships the 215,000 tons had vanished from the list. Out of the 220,000 tons built, 148,000 were put into iron-clads, whereas of the ships that had been removed only one was an ironclad and 18 were line-of-battle ships. These together amounted to 56,000 tons. 42 Deducting the amount put into iron-clads and the amount lost through line-of-battle ships becoming obsolete, he arrived at the following figures:—206 vessels which were not iron-clad and were not fighting ships had been removed from the Navy, with 162,000 tons, and only 105 had been added with 76,000 tons. During the last 10 years 148,000 tons—a very large proportion of the total built—had been put into iron-clads, and 76,000 tons only had been distributed over other ships. Meanwhile the wear and tear which had been going on in our wooden ships had had these results:—206 had been removed from the effective list; of frigates we had lost 22 and added 2. We had 41; we now possessed 21. Of corvettes we had lost 12 and added 9. We had 26; we now possessed 23. Of sloops we had lost 37 and added 14, so that, having had 56, we now had 33. We had lost 68 gunboats and added 31; we had 81 and now had 44. Of gun vessels we had lost 36 and added 38; we had 41 and now we have 43. It would be seen therefore that the country had occupied itself during the last 10 years with the iron-clad Navy, which it was necessary to create, and that in all other classes of ships there had been a great reduction in number. Consequently, during the last few years, Parliament had been asked to vote certain sums in respect of the unarmoured Fleet. He had seen it stated, in those criticisms which every Administration must expect, that the Government had been frittering away money upon ships which would not give us any actual increase of fighting force. He had only to say in reply that if we were to keep up our squadrons on distant stations we must have ships to relieve them; and for that reason, though the Government did not propose to bring up the unarmoured ships to the old numbers, the necessary reliefs must be provided the would remind the Committee of what had been done. Last year and the year before the the unarmoured fleet had received considerable additions. In 1871–72 we began the Amethyst, the Encounter, and the Modeste, three corvettes. We had made progress with the Coquette and the Kestrel class of gun-boats. We had also begun a large corvette and six sloops; and he was sorry to say they had been obliged to spend a portion of the money on troop ships and tugs 43 —a most necessary but uninteresting class of vessels. The programme of the Admiralty this year was, in round numbers, 14,000 tons of unarmoured ships and 6,000 tons of iron-clads. The 14,000 tons would be distributed in ships which he would specify later on.—[Lord HENRY LENNOX: What is the total amount of tons?]— The programme of the present year gave a total of 20,000 tons—unarmoured 13, 800, and armoured about 6,100. Considering the rapid diminution in the number of unarmoured vessels, he should not think it consistent with his duty to recommend less than the construction of 13,800 tons, in order to carry on the necessary services. He would now, however, address himself to the subject of iron-clads. There again hon. Members might say—"the price of iron is very high, and as contracts for iron plates must be made at a very unfavourable moment, would it not be sufficient to continue building the ships to which you stand committed, and not lay down any new iron-clads this year?" After examining the matter with the greatest care, he had arrived at the conclusion that he could not conscientiously recommend the Committee to build a smaller amount of iron-clads than he proposed. At the same time, he deprecated in the strongest terms any exaggeration or panic as to the state of our iron-clad Navy. He had read with much regret a good deal which had been said upon this subject. Occasionally he had been charged with having boasted of the state of our iron-clad Navy. Now, he had done nothing of the kind, though he had certainly defended it when attacked. Every one who had watched the naval discussions of the last six months would observe the curious modes of comparison continually adopted in contrasting our Navy with that of other countries. Last year, when he compared our ships with the French ships in some respects, the noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox) seemed to think it wrong to institute such a comparison. Certainly some correspondence in the newspapers, and in some important Reviews, had not followed that suggestion, and there had been a very rigid handicapping and contrast. Ministers, however, were not at liberty to make the comparisons which were free to those out of office, and therefore it was impossible for him in this 44 House to speak a Quarterly article in reply, and he must confine himself to such things as were incidental to the arguments he was then advancing. When, however, he sought to persuade the Committee to build these 6,000 tons of iron-clads, it must not be supposed that there was such an inequality in our Navy, compared with those of other countries, as to produce any feeling of alarm. But he would give a specimen of the mode of comparison often instituted. In comparing our Navy with that of Russia, for example, it was said that naval superiority did not consist in the number of ships, but in their quality, and that any Power possessing one ship of extraordinary strength would be able to exercise enormous influence in maritime warfare. Then it was added that Russia possessed in the Peter the Great a ship superior to any of ours. It was supposed that the Peter the Great was ready, whereas the armour-plates of that vessel were at this moment being manufactured in Sheffield. Whether the vessel would be ready in one or two years' time he did not know; but what he might term the scare about the Peter the Great arose from the idea that a single vessel of extraordinary power would be sufficient to lame the maritime ascendancy of any other country. It was forgotten that we had almost completed the Devastation and the Thunderer, which might have thinner armour by two inches in some parts than the Peter the Great, but together would have twice the number of guns; while each would be almost a match for the Russian ship. He thought few sailors would not be glad of the opportunity of tackling it with two ships of that class, which, together, would be infinitely more powerful than the Peter the Great. The argument he referred to was therefore met by the fact that we had two ships instead of one. But he should like to know why this argument was only applied as between England and Russia? When England was compared with France, a perfectly different test was applied. Then attention was directed not to the strength of single ships, but to numbers, and lists were made in which our ships with 12 inches of iron were pitted against ships with eight. He had stated before, and he now desired to repeat the statement, that we had 12 ships which were so strong that all the other maritime countries together could not name 12 ships 45 of equal strength. The ships that he referred to were the Devastation, the Thunderer, the Monarch, the Sultan, the Hercules, the Hotspur, the Audacious, and her five sister ships. What he contended was this—that with respect to our iron-clads we were so strong that, though we could not altogether suspend shipbuilding, we could afford to proceed with judgment and calmness, and, above all, to avoid the fatal mistake of coming to a decision too soon. It had been urged that the Admiralty had wasted two years' time; that we had not made the progress with iron-clads which we ought to have made; but it would be difficult to tell what ships we should have ordered. Certainly not such good ships as we should be able to order now, with all the knowledge and experience we had gained. They had already been charged with laying down, in the case of the Superb, a class of ships which was out of date before her keel was laid; and that charge, if true, was in itself sufficient to show that they ought not to proceed too hastily. It ought to be remembered that it was not English ships only which were out of date. That was not a test for the English Navy only but for foreign Navies. He did not regret that the building of iron-clad ships had been deferred. Now he had no doubt that defects were frequently exaggerated with a view to spurring the Admiralty to fresh exertion; but, as those statements were read abroad, and by foreign statesmen, he thought they were sometimes carried too far. There was another point to which he wished to call attention, on which the public were somewhat misled. We proceeded in this country on a somewhat different footing from what they did in France as regarded the pace at which we build. The practice in France was to lay down a large number of ships at the same time, and to take a long time to finish them; whereas we laid down fewer ships, completed them sooner, and were thus able to avail ourselves of all the most recent improvements for further ships. The practice, however, gave the French a great advantage on paper, for when the French laid down a great number of ships and we only laid down two or three they appeared to have a great numerical majority, and that had over and over again appeared in the comparisons which had been made. Ships which were laid down in France, for instance, in 1865 and 1866, and were 46 not yet completed, had figured ever since in comparisons which had for their object the proof of England's inferiority. There had been an enormous advance made in this country as compared with France. He entered into this matter with some reluctance because he had no desire to depreciate foreign countries, where, too, the comparisons were not made. One ship, for instance, commenced in France in 1865 had only been completed to the extent of 72 per cent on the 1st of January, 1872; and another, commenced in 1866, had only been finished to the extent of 60 per cent. Since 1866, however, we had commenced and finished 15 iron-clads, while France had in the same time only commenced two new ships, which were not yet finished. He would now come to the question of what iron-clads we ought to build. There was the necessity for coast defence, for great line-of-battle ships, such as were to fight the battles of the future, and for iron-clads for distant cruising and for foreign stations. With regard to ships for coast defence, we were never so strong as at the present moment, and, as our requirements were greater in other directions, he did not propose to add to those ships. During the last two years we had to a great extent concentrated our efforts upon that class of ship. Leaving out the Hotspur, the Devastation, and the Thunderer, we had completed the Glatton, the Cyclops, and three sister ships, and we had the Rupert almost completed. When he made that statement he did not confine himself to the action of any particular Board of Admiralty. We had also 18 or 20 gunboats carrying 18-ton guns, a class of vessel that would be of great service to us in case we ever had to defend our ports, and would, he believed, prove more efficient than floating batteries, with 4½ inches of armour. Looking, too, at the Monitors of foreign countries, of which a great deal had been said, very few had more than 4½ inches of iron, and it would be found that they were totally inadequate to compete with these gunboats. In the programme of last year we included four gunboats of the Staunch class. Four vessels of this class had been laid down at Pembroke, but during the ensuing year their intention was to push on with the iron-clads in preference to these. He now approached the question of the type of iron-clads to be built. At present one might say there were three schools of naval architecture 47 with regard to sea-going iron-clads. There were the advocates of masted turret ships, the advocates of unmasted turret ships, and the advocates of broadside iron-clads. He ought not, perhaps, to omit the school who were against building iron-clads at all, a school which thought that in the race of guns v. armour the guns would be so victorious as to make armour useless. Whatever might be the case with regard to the guns of the future, it would be evident that, as regarded existing ships of other countries, it would be impossible to meet them with unarmoured ships, and no country for many years would be able to encounter the armoured squadrons of other countries with unarmoured ships. Another set of opinions pointed to the conclusion that the vitals of the ship only should be protected leaving the unarmoured extremities to be protected by other means. Various suggestions had been made for securing the buoyancy of the extremities in action by other means than armour plating, and the Admiralty was engaged in testing the value of those suggestions. All, however, were agreed that the vitals of the ship should be protected. Differences of opinion also existed on the question as to what formed the vitals of a ship. Some held that the water-line was not vital, others that the batteries might be left unprotected; but all agreed that the parts surrounding the machinery were vital. The views of naval officers were very conflicting on the subject. Some said they would rather fight behind the unarmoured side of a ship than behind an armoured side. Captain Sherard Osborn, he believed, was one of those who would protect the batteries and leave the waterline to chance; but there seemed to be a growing opinion in favour of the presumption that the complete protection of the battery was not indispensable, but he would not go into that argument. Another point on which all were agreed was the impossibility of concentrating in one ship all the desired elements of security and speed, and inasmuch as a ship of a given size would carry only a certain weight, great thickness of iron could be employed in the construction of only parts of that ship, and must be dispensed with in other parts. Opinion was also unanimous in recommending thick armour wherever it was used, and dispensing with it altogether if it could not be used thick. The weight of opinion, in effect, was in favour of a foot of 48 armour at the water-line and on the vitals of the ship, leaving the batteries unprotected, rather than 8 inches on the water-line and 6 on the batteries. Controversy still continued as to the merits of masted iron-clads, masted turret ships, unmasted turret ships, and broadside iron-clads. The number of those in favour of masted turret ships was declining, although one distinguished admiral was in favour of building 12 improved Monarchs straight off, notwithstanding they cost £500,000 each. Masted turret ships as hitherto designed had one great defect, they would not allow a perfect fire all round; bow or right-a-head fire, though considered by many as essential and positively decisive of naval actions in the future, was impossible with them. He did not propose, therefore, to build masted turret ships. Then as to ships of the Devastation class, he was in some dilemma as to the course he ought to take, having regard to the Notice which the noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox) had upon the Paper, because he did not wish to forestall that discussion.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
said, he must leave the matter entirely to the discretion of the right hon. Gentleman, but he hoped that his views might not be prejudged, as he had given way to meet the convenience of the Government.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he proposed not to go into the discussion now, but his difficulty was that without saying something on the subject, he feared he could not complete his argument. He did not wish to assert any dogmatic opinion of his own, but he had consulted on this question with the most competent authorities. The point he wished to arrive at was this—we have had to ask ourselves which class of vessels we ought to prefer, the low freeboard turret-ships, which depend entirely on their engines, or vessels of the Sultan class, which are masted. He would tell the Committee the conclusion at which they had arrived, but he must first refer to the Devastation. There were three sources of danger to which vessels of the Devastation class were said to be subject. One regarded the stability of the ship, another regarded the liability to sink by water getting into her, and the third the danger of her being overwhelmed by the waves and unable to ride over a heavy sea. As to stability, the vanishing angle of 49 stability of the ship as originally designed was 43,½; the vanishing angle of stability at the measured mile with a draught of 26½ was 55½, and the "Committee on Designs" were unanimously of opinion that whether with her superstructure as at present intended, or as originally designed, she could not be capsized under any circumstances which could occur. The Committee would recognize the great difference existing between masted ships and unmasted as regards stability. There was every reason to suppose that if the Captain had been an unmasted ship she would have been now afloat. But, as the Devastation was an unmasted ship, no one who knew anything of the matter would compare her with the Captain, or suppose that the dangers which she might have to encounter could be calculated from the disaster which had happened to that ill-fated vessel. However, it was because he believed that the fate of the one ship had some influence out-of-doors with regard to the other that he had taken the opportunity of pointing out that there was no analogy between them. But, besides being unmasted, and consequently not having the pressure of the wind upon her, the Devastation possessed a stability superior to that of the Captain, and that was another reason why the two ships should not be compared. The maximum angle of stability of the Devastation was 28 degrees, the maximum angle of stability of the Captain was 21 degrees. It would, therefore, be seen to how great an extent the proportion of the stability of the Devastation was superior to that of the Captain, though being unmasted she would not be exposed to the same danger at sea. It was wrong, in one sense, for him to make any comparison between the two vessels; but he did so knowing the conversations which had been held with regard to them. He should abstain at the present time from stating the difference in the stability of the ship which had arisen from additional superstructure, as he did not wish to raise any controversial point; but that was a matter with which he should be prepared to deal on a future occasion. He might, however, state his own opinion frankly that the question of the stability of the Devastation was one upon which few persons entertained any doubt, and therefore the dangers which were to be apprehended were of a different class. The second supposed source of danger was that there was so little of the ship out 50 of the water that she was in danger of being overwhelmed. And here he would give some particulars of the buoyancy of the sister ship, the Thunderer. That vessel arrived yesterday morning at Portsmouth from Pembroke. As she passed the Lizard there was a considerable sea on, such as would be produced in the Channel with an east wind, and the force of the wind during a portion of the time was from 7 to 8. The Thunderer behaved, under the circumstances, remarkably well, and showed great buoyancy. He did not wish to lay too much stress on this point, because the vessel had not all her weights, but so far as the experiment went it was very satisfactory. If he could make out—as he certainly could—a fair case for the Devastation, he was sure everybody would rejoice, because there was not the slightest wish felt by anyone, in-doors or out-of-doors, to depreciate the vessel as one of our fighting ships. [Sir JOHN HAY: What is her speed?] That was a most interesting point, because the great danger apprehended was that the Thunderer and the Devastation would not be able to proceed at the highest speed against a head sea. If that were so it would destroy a great part of their value. Upon that point he had heard many officers speak with the greatest confidence. They said that it would be a loss of power if the Devastation could not steam against a head sea very rapidly, but they added that this defect could be overcome by seamanship, and that she would still remain a valuable ship. Well, on Saturday there was, as he had said, a considerable sea, which was right a-head of the Thunderer. When she was steaming against that head sea she was accompanied by the Valorous. The Valorous, though steaming full power, which ought to be 10 knots, went but five, while the Thunderer went at 12 knots without steaming full power. She ran away for two or three hours from the Valorous. That was an important circumstance, as far as it went. The captain of the Devastation and Admiral Stewart, Controller of the Navy, were on board; he had seen Admiral Stewart to-day, and he expressed the greatest satisfaction at the manner in which the ship performed her voyage under the circumstances. It would be satisfactory to the Committee and to the public out-of-doors to know that that was the case; and, of course, the Committee would under- 51 stand that the Thunderer and Devastation being sister ships, it was allowable to argue from the one to the other. Now, as regarded "overwhelming," that was just the danger which had always been predicted in the case of the American monitors. One of these monitors foundered, and why? Because the water got into her from above. But what was the difference between the Devastation and the American monitors both with regard to freeboard and, what was more important in this connection, the height at which the water would be able to get into the ship? In the early American monitors there were openings in their lower decks, through which it was possible for a sea breaking over to find its way in. But in the Devastation there would not be a single opening into the interior of the ship at a less height than 24½ feet above the water. So far as the water getting into her was in question, he believed that every possible precaution had been taken that no possible means should exist by which such a danger could arise. He could not, of course, give an opinion upon such a question on his own authority; but he was distinctly informed by scientific men that a ship of that kind which was properly constructed would always rise again out of the waves passing over her, provided the water did not get into her, and that if the water was kept out she would float. As to her buoyancy and capability to resist being pressed down by a heavy sea breaking over her, that was one of the points which had most attracted the attention of naval officers. He believed he was correct in stating that the danger apprehended was that of the water breaking on the ship and weighing her down. Upon that point the question was, what was the proportion of the ship out of water as compared with that under water? Was the reserved buoyancy of the ship out of water sufficient? In the American monitors, out of 1,620 tons displacement, there was free ship above water equivalent to 150 tons, or about one-twelfth; but in the case of Devastation the bulk of the ship out of water was one-third. The Devastation, in fact, differed from all those monitors in nearly every particular. There was another point connected with this which had to be considered—he meant the amount of freeboard of the Devastation. The average freeboard over the whole ship was 9 feet 6 inches, which was more 52 than 1,½ feet over the rule laid down by the Institute of Naval Architects as the minimum for ordinary sea-going passenger ships, and it was only a small portion of the Devastation which had so low a freeboard as 4 feet 6 inches. The Russian ship, Peter the Great, had a freeboard of 3 feet 7 inches only, and of course she would be exposed to the same dangers as those which it was alleged the Devastation would have to encounter. The area of the forecastle of the Devastation, which was 8 feet 8 inches out of the water, was 17 per cent of the whole; that of the superstructure, which was 11 feet out of the water, was 67 per cent of the whole, and that of the after deck, which was 4 feet 6 inches, was only 16 per cent of the whole. Now, the point he wanted to show was that the low part of the ship was only 16 per cent of the whole, and it was a mistake to consider the Devastation, as in the ordinary sense of the word, a low freeboard ship at all. It was exceedingly difficult for him, being neither a naval architect nor a sailor, to put this question clearly before the Committee. But he could assure them that the subject had been examined with the greatest care and attention. Every one at the Admiralty, both Lords and Constructors, were fully impressed with the enormous importance of this subject, and they felt they must incur the responsibility which attached to them in that respect. It might be safer for their peace of mind if they did not hold language in accordance with their convictions; but they thought it better to take the responsibility of saying that they believed this ship would be supreme in time of war, rather than shrink in time of peace from making those costly and anxious experiments which every nation must be prepared to make in a matter of such extreme importance as this. As to the stability of the ship, he had put it to the Naval Constructors—"Would you sacrifice any of the fighting qualities of the ship in order to insure greater stability?" The answer was—"No; they had got a stability which exceeded by five degrees the stability which the Committee of Designs recommended as the stability which these ships should have, and they would not be prepared to make any sacrifice to insure greater stability." He repeated that this matter had been considered with the greatest possible anxiety, not only by the Admiralty, but by the Committee of Designs, composed of naval and 53 scientific men. They had gone into the most careful calculations, and they came to this conclusion, which, of course, involved a certain amount of anxiety; but for the satisfaction of those who had doubts he would say this—that they would regard the Devastation as an experimental ship, they would treat her as an experimental ship, with the greatest caution, feeling their way gradually. They would not be anxious to prove her a success at once, and would run no risks on that account; but they hoped and believed—and he believed that every hon. Member of this Committee hoped—she would turn out what they expected—a very great success, both as a fighting ship in Channel and as a sea-going ship. That being their view of the Devastation—and concurring in the opinion of the Committee of Design, who the Committee would remember considered the Devastation to be the fighting ship of the future, they nevertheless proposed last year to build two broadside iron-clad ships. They could not start with an ideal as being the best and most powerful ship. Very much depended on the service a ship would be called upon to perform. That was not a scientific question; it became rather a matter of common sense. What was the service that the iron-clads belonging to England might be called on to perform, and what were the ships they would have to meet? It would be a wrong policy to build ideal ships of enormous strength and cost if other countries were building vessels so inferior that we could meet them with ships very short of the ideal. The common-sense view to take was this. What was the service which our iron-clad ships would have to perform, and what was the class of ships they would have to encounter? He thought it would be a dangerous course for the Admiralty to ask what was the best ship and then say they would abide by that ship. One service consisted in fighting the combined squadrons of the enemy on the coasts of this country, in European waters, and in such other localities where they were likely to be met with, and another service was distant cruising. He had seen statements, especially in the newspapers, that the Admiralty would find it hard to justify themselves if they continued to build any armoured ships except unmasted Turret Ships of the Devastation class. That view had likewise been taken by many eminent men, though he confessed it was a view which could not be conscientiously en- 54 tertained at the Admiralty. It had been said, for example, that the Admiralty would find it difficult to justify their conduct in commencing the Superb and the Téméaire. They took authority to build those iron-clad ships from the House of Commons last year when they obtained an almost unanimous concurrence of opinion in favour of the decision at which they had arrived—namely, that they must build a certain number of masted Iron-clads as well as unmasted Turret Ships. But that opinion was not shared by the more advanced school of naval architects, because the former class of vessels were deficient in some respects, and of course no naval architect liked to produce a ship which was in any way defective, his object being to produce what he believed would turn out to be the best fighting ship. The Admiralty could, however, cite high authorities in favour of proceeding with masted iron-clads. For instance, Sir Spencer Robinson and Mr. Reed had repeatedly stated their opinion that we ought to have seagoing turret ships and also masted iron-clads. There might, indeed, be a division of opinion as to whether precedence ought to be given to one class or the other, but he could produce ample authority to show that the number of our masted iron-clads should not be allowed to be diminished. He might say with reference to the course taken by foreign countries, that while Russia was constructing unmasted ships, Prussia and France appeared to have come to a different conclusion. At the same time he believed that in regard to one of the new ships which was laid down in France it had not been decided whether she should be subsequently fitted with masts or not. He was convinced, however, that we should not be safe if we possessed unmasted turret ships alone, without a large force of masted iron-clads, as long foreign countries had vessels of the latter class. Circumstances might arise in which unmasted ships would prove less serviceable than masted ships. For example, if an unmasted iron-clad got beyond the reach of her coal supplies she would have to return, while a masted iron-clad might remain out and be master of the situation. Therefore, after much anxious thought, the Admiralty had come to the conclusion that we must attempt to be supreme in every class of iron-clad which was built by foreign countries. We must have ships of the Devastation class to fight the great 55 battles wherever they might be expected, and we must also have ships of the class of the Superb and the Téméraire, with armour as thick as they could bear to go to distant stations, and which would not have to rely upon their steaming powers. It was on this account that the Admiralty proposed to build the Superb and the Téméraire. These were two first-class masted iron-clads with regard to which he would presently address a few remarks to the Committee. This year they proposed to commence two new ironclad ships. One of these would be a vessel of the Devastation class. She would be built at Pembroke Dockyard, and would raise the number of our vessels of the Devastation class to four. Here he might remark that, whatever might be the result as to the power of the Devastation to steam against a head sea, everyone must admit that four ships of that class would, under any circumstances, be an invaluable and almost a necessary addition to the naval force of this country. In the event of these ships answering the expectations of the Admiralty in every respect, he should hope to raise their number to six; but until their seagoing power had been amply proved by experience he should not ask the Committee to go beyond the number he had just indicated. We should, then, be in this position. We should have the Superb and the Téméraire building at Chatham, and the Fury and the new Fury building at Pembroke. With these vessels those two dockyards would be fairly full. [Lord HENRY LENNOX: How many new ironclads do you propose to lay down this year?] The Superb and the Téméraire at Chatham, the Fury which was not a new ship, and the new Fury at Pembroke, and with them those two dockyards would be full. It would not be attempted to build more than two of these ironclads in each of these yards. [Lord HENRY LENNOX: That is one new ironclad.] He (Mr. Goschen) said it was so, as regarded those two yards. They had transferred the Téméraire from Portsmouth, where she figured in the programme of last year, to Chatham, which yard had been chiefly accustomed to build broadside ships, whereas Portsmouth had been dealing with turret ships. He further proposed to lay down a new iron-clad at Portsmouth, and he intended her to be a seagoing ship, which could meet any weather. He hoped, however, to persuade the 56 Committee not to ask him to state to-day what the ship at Portsmouth would be. Of course, before the money was voted the Committee would be entitled to ask the question, and he should be happy to inform them. But he wished to point out that they had gained the greatest advantage by postponing a decision respecting new ships from one period to another. As to the new ship to be built at Portsmouth, she would not be commenced until late in the year, and he should be glad to learn the result of the experiments on the Devastation before proceeding further with that vessel, especially as he thought it would be necessary next year to build another ironclad by contract, which additional vessel would probably be ready earlier than the ship to be commenced at Portsmouth. Therefore he wished to be in a position ultimately to decide whether, if we were to have another Fury and Superb, the latter should be built by contract and the Fury at Portsmouth, or vice versâ. At present he thought it would be better that the broadside ships should be built by contract, and that we should continue to avail ourselves of the experience of the Portsmouth officers for ships of the Devastation class. If he were asked which ought to be completed first, he would say the broadside ship, and not another Devastation beyond the four to which he had previously alluded. The naval architects and those who assisted them were engaged in developing further types of broadside ships. While the Gentlemen opposite were in office they strained every nerve to discover an ironclad which should be of not immoderate size, and yet efficient for the distant stations. It was not desirable to have the ships on distant stations larger than was necessary for the purpose to be performed. Consequently the hon. Gentlemen opposite, when in office began the Audacious class. They were very useful ships, with eight inches of armour, and capable of going to foreign stations. [Sir JOHN HAY: And capable of going through the Suez Canal?] Yes. It was extremely desirable that there should be some small ironclads capable of going through the Suez Canal, and into ports and regions where ships of heavy draught could not go. The French had ten ships of what was called the Alma class. They were small and not very powerful ships, but they were useful and efficient. With the exception 57 of the Audacious class, we had no ships of that class, but we were anxious to improve the design, so as to be able to get small ironclads with very thick armour and powerful guns, but less in size than the Téméraire and the Superb. We wished to reserve at present the design of the new ironclad to be built at Portsmouth, in order that we might have further opportunities of studying the question. With regard to the Superb and Téméraire, he thought they had gained much by the delay that had taken place. The Superb was now a more powerful ship than she would have been if she had been laid down six months ago. The result of the trial of the Devastation had shown that her twin screw having been deeply immersed gave greater power, and that a certain quantity of coal would carry her further than had been expected. In the Superb they were now able to count upon calculation as to the consumption of coal, whereby room might be gained and utilized for the armour of the ship and an increase in her defensive power, it being possible to raise the size of her guns from 18 to 25 tons. The naval architects at the Admiralty had now produced a design which it was hoped would compete with any ship that had yet been completed. The Superb would have a bow-fire perfectly unprecedented. She would have twin screws; she would have three distinct batteries—one on the main deck with two 25-ton guns; one also on the main deck, amidships, with six 18-ton guns, three on each side; and one in the upper deck of four 18-ton guns. She would thus have a broadside fire of six guns on each side, one being of 25 tons, and the other five of 18 tons. Right ahead she would have a fire of two guns of 25 tons, and two of 18 tons, and right astern she would have a fire of two 18-ton guns, and would be protected by a foot of armour at the water-line. She would also have a water-tight bulkhead fore and aft, and would have two sets of engines perfectly independent of each other. If, therefore, by the explosion of a shell one engine were disabled, she would be able to use the other. The Téméraire would be 40 feet shorter than the Superb, and 1,000 tons smaller. She would have two batteries on the main deck, the foremost one of two 25-ton guns, and the aft one of four 18-ton guns; but while the arrangement of her main deck would re- 58 semble that of the Superb, it was proposed to introduce—for the first time, he believed—on her upper deck a barbette tower. Being open on the top, this barbette would not give the same protection as other towers; but, on the other hand, the advantage would be gained of a free range over the whole of the horizon, and the tower would be protected by 10-inch armour, while the men would be screened against musketry fire. Much attention would be excited by this barbette tower, which the French had adopted in nearly all their ships. There would be other opportunities of explaining these designs, and if he shrank from going into any further details, he trusted the character of the ships would not thereby be prejudiced. He might, however, say, without boasting, that as regarded the Superb, she was fully equal, and he thought superior, both in her armour and armament to any of the existing turret ships. As regarded the Téméraire, he fully believed she would prove a most formidable fighting ship. He now came to the torpedo ship, the Vesuvius. In the Estimates of last year a Vote was taken for this ship, and if it were said of this vessel also that the progress made had been but small, the Admiralty could reply that further experience had been gained, and that they had been able to improve upon the design originally proposed. The torpedo ship of last year was to have a speed of 10 knots, and to be of 500 to 600 tons. It was found that nearly the same speed could be got out of a smaller ship, and that there was an advantage in discharging the torpedo from a small and almost invisible vessel carrying noiseless engines. Such a vessel ought to be distinguished by great handiness and speed, and it was proposed to build a small ship of this character of about 240 tons with a submerged tube, in order to try an experiment with the Whitehead torpedoes. If the experiment were successful, the principle might be applied to ships already built and in the service. Having now exhausted the question of iron-clad ships, he would very briefly state what they proposed to do with regard to unarmoured ships; but, before describing it, he wished to say something about what had already occupied public attention, and which he had, no doubt, would be mentioned in the course of that discussion—namely, that of the delays in the dockyards, and 59 the comparatively little progress that had been made there, with what had been put forward last year. The noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox) told him last year that if he (Mr. Goschen) accomplished all that he laid down, he would be a conjuror. He had now frankly to admit that he was not a conjuror, and he had not succeeded in accomplishing his task. They were, no doubt, behind in their shipbuilding in not being able to employ so many by 1,000 men as they hoped to be able to do at the beginning of the year. Some of that delay was, no doubt, to be attributed to that result; but it was also to be attributed in part to the errors of calculation as to the state of advancement of the ships at a given date. The Admiralty had been informed at the end of 1871–2 that the Thunderer and the Devastation would be in a good state of advancement on the 1st of April, at the beginning of the financial year, and they anticipated in the Estimates that they should require about 100 men on each ship to finish them off. The result, he regretted to say, was that they had to employ 500 men on the Devastation alone from the beginning to the end of the year, and almost as many on the Thunderer. The reason of that was that the officers of the dockyards, from want of experience in regard to an entirely new type of ship, had not sufficiently appreciated the great and complicated details connected with work of that kind, and conducted their calculations according to their ordinary method, which had broken down in the case of two such ships as the Devastation and the Thunderer. Then he was also prepared to admit that it was doubtful whether the communication between the dockyards and the Admiralty had been sufficient with regard to the amount of work that had to be done; at any rate, it had not been sufficient to make officers of the dockyards parties to the programme that the Admiralty undertook to carry out, the calculations as to the number of men required having been made at the Admiralty and not at the dockyards. It had been his duty last year to propose the appointment of a new officer—the Surveyor of Dockyards—and now there was a distinct communication between the Admiralty and the dockyards, and every detail of their programme 1873–4 had been considered in strict concert with the master shipwrights and en- 60 gineers of the yards. That programme had been framed on a different principle from that hitherto adopted. Not only did they state the number of men they were going to employ on shipbuilding, but also the number of men that would be employed on each ship under repair, and the amount of money to be spent upon her. They hoped that by carrying out the details of that programme in conjunction with the Plymouth and Chatham officers, to ensure accuracy in their Estimates on this subject, not for that year alone, but for years to come, so that they might avoid the vagueness that had belonged to former Estimates. During the year 1,700 men had been employed on iron-clads instead of 1,500 as contemplated; but the anticipated amount of work had not been accomplished. They had had further difficulties to contend with. The case of the Megœra showed the necessity of taking precautionary measures with regard to iron ships that had not before appeared so indispensable in their dockyards. The indestructible nature of iron had been too much assumed, and too little attention had been given to the liability of corrosion going on in certain places—a number of them being inaccessible—in the older class of ships especially, such as the Megœra. Though the examination of many such places as had been reached proved that no very serious mischief had been going on, they had ample cause to rejoice that they adopted that view. This kind of work, examining the bottoms of ships, opening out hidden places, and remedying defects in them, had involved a large amount of work that they did not anticipate, and that did not appear on the Estimates; but it was satisfactory to have such work done, and they hoped that no case like that of the Megœra would ever occur again. As that class of work had taken away a number of men from other classes, they had not been able to build to so large an extent as they expected. Then they had come to the conclusion that, looking to the wear and tear of their finest and largest iron-clads, it was better, when their newest ships had gone through a certain amount of service that had tested their capacity, to keep them at home prepared for any emergency, and that older ships should be sent into their absent squadrons. Accordingly, they had withdrawn the Monarch from the Channel Squadron, not because 61 she had run out of her commission, but because they thought that the class of ships to which she and the Hercules belonged should, after a thorough trial of their powers, be husbanded for time of war. These ships would be kept as perfectly ready for sea as if in the squadrons, but would not be wearing out their engines and boilers. A similar course had been pursued with our best corvettes, it being thought more prudent to withdraw the Inconstant, Active, and the Volage from the Flying Squadron, where there was much wear and tear, and vessels had to be prepared to take the place of vessels thus husbanded. To prepare these, much additional labour and money had to be expended during the past year. Other causes of expenditure were the changes which it had been found necessary to make in the armaments of ships from the increasing power of guns, the number of guns having been multiplied in some cases. An 18-ton gun would be substituted for the 12-ton gun in the firing bow of the Monarch, and the armament of several ships had been strengthened, owing to the increasing power of gunboats. The Flying Squadron had been twice, instead of once, on the hands of the Admiralty during the year, storms more fearful than for many years past having caused a great deal of wear and tear, though few disasters. It was disappointing, when a good many men were employed on building, to have a squadron come back with a number of defects to be made good. These were some of the causes why the estimated amount of work had not been attained. This year it was proposed to employ 650 more men in the dockyards, but not so many in shipbuilding. That, he regretted, but the repairs had been carefully looked into, and it was believed that to insure the carrying out of these an increased number of men was necessary. A further cause of increased expenditure, he might mention, was the necessity of replacing a number of boilers in our iron-clads that had run out their ordinary time of wear and tear. That matter gave the Admiralty some anxiety, not so much in regard to the state of the boilers as regarded the expense in the future. They found that boilers employed in the Navy did not last so long as they did in former days, and they had placed themselves in communication with several private firms, in order that they might compare notes 62 with them as to the wear and tear of boilers in our ships. He was assured by competent judges that the wear and tear did not depend alone on the length of time during which boilers were in use, but that what particularly tried them in our men-of-war was the frequency with which steam had to be got up, and the changes that the boilers were constantly going through. The Admiralty had a question pending as regarded super-heaters, and their effect upon the durability of boilers. In the case of the Nymph, they found that the boilers had lasted only four years, those of the Daphne had lasted four years only, those of the Philomel only four years, and, in the case of another vessel, about seven years. In the year 1873–4, he was sorry to say, it would be necessary to deal with the boilers of six of our iron-clads, including the Defence, the Resistance, the Minotaur, the Black Prince, and the Lord Clyde. The last-named vessel would not have required attention in that respect so soon if the recent accident had not happened to her. It was on account of the urgency of those repairs that they were obliged to ask the Committee to sanction an increase of workmen. It had been stated that in the speech he made at Bristol, he said—"We had never less arrears of shipbuilding than we had now." He did not say that. What he said was—"We have completed up to the present moment nearly all the ships that belong to the past, and we have few arrears as to ships that were laid down by our predecessors." The position at this moment was that, besides 2,200 tons which they had to build on vessels on the point of completion, they had only two ships, the Fury and the Blonde, belonging to programmes prior to 1872–3. On these they would make progress to the amount of 2,600 tons in the year 1873–4. There were about 9,360 tons to be done on ships commenced in the year 1872–3, and they hoped to build 5,500 tons on ships to be commenced in 1873–4. The Admiralty proposed to build a new corvette at Devonport, and a new corvette at Sheerness, and to order a new corvette by contract, believing that corvettes formed the point on which they were numerically weakest. They proposed further to begin a large covered corvette at Chatham, but intended to devote their chief energies there to the Superb and the Téméraire. They propose to order 63 six new gunboats by contract, but he did not bind himself to have them all of the Coquette class. He ought to have mentioned a change which they made in their programme for 1872–3. They had proposed to build a corvette at Devonport, but finding, from causes to which he had referred, that comparatively little progress had been made, they determined, in order not to lose time, and hoping to carry out the intention of Parliament, to build the ship by contract, instead of commencing her at Devonport. Accordingly the Rover, a ship of the Active class, had been commenced, and great progress would be made with her in the current year. The same thing had been done as regarded Chatham, and the Daring, instead of being built there, will be constructed by contract. He had now stated the important points connected with their programme, and he would not detain the Committee by summing them up in detail. They proposed to build during the year 20,000 tons, of which about 14,000 were to be spent on unarmoured ships, and 6,000 upon iron-clads, and of the total about 14,000 tons would be built in their own dockyards and about 6,000 tons by private contract. He trusted that he had made a good defence of their policy as regarded the policy of not hurrying on the building of iron-clads till they were perfectly satisfied with their designs, and that he had shown that they had pursued a policy both economical and efficient in withdrawing their most valuable ships from the constant wear and tear to which they were exposed. There was a total increase in the Vote for dockyards of £136,000. Of that sum, £44,000 was due to an increase in the numbers of labourers employed, and £9,000 to various small items, including £3,000 for metropolitan police. Deducting these two amounts from £136,000, there remained £83,000, which represented an increase which he proposed to make in the scale of wages in the dockyards. He was conscious that in proposing to increase these wages he was doing a very important act, because they had to deal as well with the "established" workmen in our dockyards, who had what he might call life contracts, as with the class called "hired" workmen. Each dockyard was divided into two great branches, the shipwrights' department, and what he might call the engineers' department. 64 The main portion of the shipwrights employed in our dockyards were "established" —that was to say, they worked at a fixed rate of wages and received a pension at the end of their service. On the other hand, the men in the engineers' department were engaged on the mercantile principle, and received wages according to the fluctuations in the market. He was bound, however, to say that it was much easier for a Government establishment to follow the fluctuations of wages when they were upwards than when they were downwards. There were two classes of unskilled labourers employed in the dockyards, established and hired. The wages of the former were in the year 1859 12s. per week; but although they had been engaged on life contracts at that rate various small additions had from time to time been made in their wages until in the past financial year they had received 14s. per week. In August last, however, owing to a variety of circumstances, their wages had been increased by 3d. per day bringing it up to 15s. 6d. at which point it now stood, an increase which would involve a cost of £12,000 per annum; also there had further been an increase in the wages of hired workmen other than unskilled labourers, entailing a further annual cost of £10,000, so that they started this year with an increase under these heads of £22,000. Then as regarded the engineers' department—the factory where the mercantile principle prevails—they were obliged to take £8,000 in addition to meet an increased scale of wages which they felt they were obliged to give. It would be seen, therefore, that the Admiralty had had to face the difficult question of an increase in the rate of wages; but he did not wish the impression to go forth in the yards that there was an intention to raise the wages of every man employed in them. The Admiralty intended to be guided in the matter by sound mercantile principles. He now came to the question what was to be done with the established unskilled labourers. Were they to be left at 15s. 6d. a-week? We have power to say that they shall continue to work at that rate, because they have life contracts with us. But looking to the matter as large employers of labour, looking at the equity of the case, and many other circumstances with which he need not detain the Committee, he was prepared to say that he considered 65 it right and necessary to make an increase in their wages by 3d. per day, regarding that as a final settlement. With reference to the hired labourers, they proposed to raise their wages from 15s. to 16s. 6d.—not to give to every labourer that sum, but to place it in the power of the dockyard officers to raise the wages to that amount, so as to enable them to winnow the inferior men from the good men. He did not for a moment wish to deceive the Committee upon this point. Labourers could be obtained for 15s. per week, but the quality was not in all cases what could be desired, and he believed that this increase in the wages would result in greater economy to the public service. The increase to the labourers hired and established would absorb about £9,000. He would now come to the skilled workmen, with whom they had life contracts. Shipwrights now received 4s. 6d. per day, and he had to ask the sanction of the Committee to increase the wages of the established shipwrights by 6d. per day, and the wages of certain other classes of workmen by 3d. a-day. He fully admitted that this was a very serious increase, but he did not wish to take the slightest credit for proposing it. Nothing could be worse than for any Government to claim credit for raising the wages of those in its employ. Her Majesty's Ministers had never erred in the direction of attempting to purchase a popularity cheap to themselves, but most costly to the public, by being liberal with the money of the taxpayer. Therefore, he by no means wished that this increase in the labourers' wages employed in the dockyards should be regarded as a liberal measure on the part of the Government. It was a grave thing for an employer of labour to state publicly the grounds upon which he thought it right to raise the wages of his servants, and he trusted, therefore, that the Committee would not ask him to state in detail the grounds which had led him to propose this increase in the wages, although he could assure them that those grounds had been most anxiously considered by the Admiralty. He might, however, state that the shipwrights began with working in wood, but were now engaged in the construction of iron ships, a work in which greater skill was required, which was more destructive to their clothes, and in which a greater 66 number of accidents occurred than in the construction of wooden vessels. But besides this the workmen who were formerly workers in wood, and who then compared their position with other workers in wood, were now workers in iron, and compared their position with that of other workers in iron, and workers in iron as a general rule were more highly paid than workers in wood. It should be understood that they did not propose to give that increase in consequence of the high prices of commodities generally; and he ought to add that they thought it was better that that addition should be made to the wages of those workmen without Parliamentary pressure, than that Members of Parliament should be induced to interfere upon this point between the Government and their employés. No doubt 6d. a-day was a large increase, but they thought it was better that the measure they adopted on the subject should be thorough and final, and that no expectations of a further rise should be entertained. This increase in the wages of skilled labour would entail an additional annual expenditure of £44,000. The Estimate for the present year under this head would be in excess of that of former years by the sum of £136,000, part of which as he had shown was due to the rise in the wages, and part to the increase in the number of men employed. He should be compelled to defer stating to the Committee what had been done with regard to torpedoes. The Estimate for the Store Vote was £130,000 in excess of that of last year. There was an increase in the amount taken for timber of about £50,000, partly duo to dearer prices, partly to the fact of more wooden ships being built. The increase in the price of coal had swollen the Estimates by the sum of £60,000, and in that of metal articles by £30,000 or £40,000. He would not enter into particulars with regard to the Vote for engines and machinery and for ships building by contract; but he would state generally that the increase in the Estimates due to dearer stores, dearer engines, dearer iron, and higher wages, amounted to £390,000, which would more than account for the total increase in the Estimates over those of last year. With regard to the personnel of the Navy, he should confine himself to stating that it was only proposed to diminish the numbers to be voted by 500 boys, which 67 would in no way injure the fighting force of the service. He had explained his reasons in the commencement of his speech. He wished also to mention that a new retirement scheme for paymasters would reduce that class of officers from 240 to 200, and of assistant paymasters from 350 to 230, but there would be an increase of 50 writers. The Committee would, he thought, concur with him in the opinion that whenever it was possible to substitute fighting for non-fighting men in a ship the change was likely to be productive of great advantage. The reduction in the Navy Estimates due to the cause which he had just mentioned was £18,000 a-year, and the reduction had been effected by means of the adoption of a better system of ships' books. He might add that during the year an efficient and painstaking inquiry had been made into the system of accounts in the Navy, which had been undertaken with great public spirit by Messrs. Turquand and Young, who gave their services gratuitously. These gentlemen having gone through the accounts in conjunction with the Financial Secretary of the Admiralty and the Accountant-General, pronounced the system on the whole satisfactory, although they specified certain alterations which it might be desirable to make. For his part he thought the Committee would consider that the thanks of Parliament were due to Messrs. Turquand and Young for the valuable services they had thus rendered. As to the corps of Royal Marines, he wished to take that opportunity of saying that he had never regarded them otherwise than as a most important and valuable force, and one with which it would be unwise to tamper. He begged, therefore most emphatically to state that he had no ulterior design with regard to the corps, so that the idea that a reduction or change in the nature of the corps was about to be made might at once be dispelled. The Marines were all trained to the service of guns, and they were ready on any emergency to man our ships and fight our guns with the utmost efficiency, while they could be recruited in the same way as soldiers. He would not deal that evening with the question of the Royal Naval Reserve nor with the Volunteer movement, which he was glad to see had been extended to the Navy. When his hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Mr. 68 Brassey) brought forward his motion on the subject of our Reserves, he (Mr. Goschen) would be prepared to make a statement with regard to that Volunteer movement. In conclusion, he wished to say a few words with regard to the Royal Naval College at Greenwich, which had been started since the close of last Session and under the most favourable auspices. He had been so fortunate as to secure the services as President of Admiral Cooper Key, and he could not speak in terms of sufficient praise of the way in which that gallant officer had thrown himself heart and soul into the work. It had also secured the services of men of very high standing as Professors, and he thought it a great point that by means of the College a connecting link was made between the scientific world and the Navy, and that a scientific spirit would be developed there which would greatly assist in the solution of many of the problems which the authorities at the Admiralty now had to solve. He hoped by every possible inducement to get naval officers to go there, not by taking them away from their naval duties, but by enabling them to spend there with advantage the interval during which they were obliged to remain on shore. He might add, in reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth (Sir James Elphinstone), that an addition had been made to the half-pay of officers below the rank of captain who went to study at Greenwich. He merely wished to add that every effort had been used by the Admiralty to obtain the best assistance in solving the difficult problems with which they had to deal. They had upon their hands more scientific controversies than any other department, and he would conclude by expressing a hope that those controversies would not be increased by others of a party character. The right hon. Gentleman moved a Resolution to the effect that 60,000 men and boys be voted for the Naval and Coastguard service, for the year, including 14,000 for the Royal Marines.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
said, he had, under any circumstances, intended to appeal to the indulgence of the Committee while he made some observations on the statements which had that night proceeded from the First Lord of the Admiralty. He stood there with one absent from his side, who, as his Friend had kindly guided him in his acquisition 69 of a knowledge of naval matters. He felt his Friend's (Mr. Corry's) loss, and he felt his absence, and as such he appealed to the indulgence of the Committee. And how much more did he feel it when he was called on to-night in a somewhat responsible position to answer the speech of a Minister of the Crown which lasted for three hours and a-half. He listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman with great advantage to himself and with deep interest; but he was sure that the Committee would feel that he was under disadvantages in having to reply to so high an authority. He intended to preface his statement by the fact that the Committee had at length arrived at the days when they were called on to examine and to criticize increased Estimates, and it had been his intention to state at the outset that it was not on the ground of increased expenditure that he ventured to think those Estimates were most unsatisfactory, but because he believed that those Estimates would not promote or secure the efficiency of the Navy. He had thought that no Englishman who listened to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) last year on the splendid duties which our Navy was called on to perform all over the globe would think those duties were uncalled for; but comparing the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman to-night with the performances which had since occurred, he (Lord Henry Lennox) was by no means confident that the Estimates now before the House would meet the difficulty. With regard to the dockyards, he was the last person to court popularity. He approved cordially of the increase of wages in the dockyards, but he declined to pledge himself to approve of the details of the increase, because he could scarcely follow what they were. He trusted they would promote contentment among men who in an age of strikes and combinations had remained faithful to the Government, and had not allied themselves with any of those movements. It was very seldom that he agreed with anything proposed by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Childers), but he did concur with a part of the statement that he made in 1869, when he moved the Navy Estimates. He said that he came down to that House not only with the Estimates but also with a definite policy, one that he believed would recommend itself to the 70 House of Commons and to the country. He (Lord Henry Lennox) thought that any great increase or decrease of expenditure should be based upon a definite policy which should be announced to the House; but he was sorry to say that so far as he could follow the speech they had just heard, no definite policy was laid down upon which to place the proposed increase of expenditure. He thought that the want of policy which had existed for the last four years with regard to naval affairs had been productive of the greatest possible mischief. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) had several definite policies, but they had almost all been abandoned by his successor and Colleague upon the Treasury Bench. The right hon. Member was for giving up building wooden ships and confining ourselves to iron ones; but now the Committee were asked for a large increase in the Vote for the purchase of timber for the construction of a large number of these vessels. He also advocated ships of the Devastation class, a proposal opposed by Mr. Corry and his hon. and gallant Friend beside him (Sir John Hay), who divided the Committee against it. But he (Lord Henry Lennox) divided against those hon. Friends with whom he generally acted upon that question, because the First Lord upon that occasion said that he had most anxiously and carefully considered the question, and therefore he (Lord Henry Lennox) declined the responsibility of voting against the Estimate. The main reason of the long delay in constructing these vessels, as to which the Government had satisfied themselves so thoroughly, was that they had been relegated to the mercies of a Committee of 16. He believed the time had come when they should review calmly and carefully the naval policy of the last four or five years, and the expenditure which it had entailed upon the country; and, to show that he had no personal or party views, the would start with the Estimates of 1868, for which he was partly responsible, and which were declared "redundant and bloated" by hon. Gentlemen opposite at the General Election in that year who advocated national economy. The right hon. Member for Pontefract, on acceding to office, certainly redeemed his pledges, for in 1870 he made the wholesale reduction of 71 £1,046,000, and in 1871 a smaller reduction. Since the present First Lord of the Admiralty had been in office the Votes in which the main reductions of his predecessor (Mr. Childers) were made had constantly, yearly and gradually, increased, until they had in some instances greatly exceeded the "redundant and bloated Estimates" of the Conservative Government, and in others closely approached them. No one, he was sure, would more readily endorse the statement that the Estimates he (Lord Henry Lennox) found were for an exceptional purpose than would the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract. Indeed, he had frankly stated that reductions would have been proposed had the official life of the late Government been spared. He observed by Vote that the total number of men borne this year on the Navy was 60,000, as against 64,000 the first year the right hon. Member for Pontefract was in office, and as against 67,000 the year the late Government were in office. He did not object to that diminution in the force of the fleet if the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord was convinced that he had a sufficient number of blue-jackets for the proper manning of the Navy—enough in reserve in the event of an emergency arising for the manning of all the first class ships. The right hon. Gentleman had probably often heard in naval circles of the great advantage we experienced by having a redundant reserve when the difference occurred between our Government and that of the United States with respect to the seizure of the Trent, and by means of which the Duke of Somerset was enabled within 48 hours to man nine frigates and have them ready for service. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would state whether he considered 60,000 would be sufficient in the event of a sudden emergency arising. One of the reductions proposed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Childers) was in Vote 3—that for the Admiralty Office at Whitehall—In 1868–9 that vote amounted in round numbers to 1182,000; in 1869–70, the first year that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract was in office, to £168,000; in 1870â1, to £159,000; in 1871–2 to £163,000; in 1872–3 to £173,000, while in the present Estimate it amounted to within a trifle of £175,000. He would be the last person 72 to grudge anything in the way of reasonable expenditure for the Admiralty Office at Whitehall. During the two years he had been associated with the gentlemen there he had, found them zealous in the discharge of their duties and honourable in their conduct. A set of men more anxious to do their duty to their Sovereign and to those in office, whatever might be their political opinions, it would be impossible to find, and he much regretted that an hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Baxter) who once held a very influential position at the Admiralty, as he now did at the Treasury, should have thought fit to repeat a statement he had made reflecting seriously on the honour of Admiralty officials—a slight at which those gentlemen, if they did not resent it, felt deeply hurt. He would not go into the details on that occasion, but the Committee would see that there was a considerable increase also in the vote for the Controller's Office. He had heard nothing to alter the opinion he expressed last year that to appoint a council of seven to carry on the work of designing the ships of the Navy was a plan for frittering away responsibility, and not for improving naval administration. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract had taken great credit for the reduction he had effected in the Vote for Naval Stores, No. 10, for which, if he understood the First Lord of the Admiralty, the excess for the present year was £90,000.—[Mr. GOSCREN: No; that was the amount for the year 1872–3.] He (Lord Henry Lennox) understood the right hon. Gentleman to have referred to the present Estimates. In the so-called exceptionally "redundant" Estimates of the Tory Government the Naval Store Vote amounted to £892,908. The following year the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract startled them all by announcing a reduction in the vote to £801,000, being a saving of upwards of £91,000. In the following year he followed that up by a further reduction of £22,488. But, like Vote 3, that Vote had since gone on increasing. He was told that the present increase was owing to the high price of coal, but he had taken the trouble to eliminate from the Estimate the expenditure under that head, and found that there was a saving on account of coal of £40,000 instead of an excess. In 73 1870–1 there was a decrease in the Store Vote of £22,488. In 1871–2 there was an increase of £58,800; in 1872–3, an increase of £90,545, while this year the Vote reached the enormous figure of £1,072,380, being £179,472 in excess of the sum asked for by the "extravagant" Government of which he had the honour to be a Member in 1868–9. There was a remarkable circumstance connected with the Store Vote, which tended to show the great sagacity and foresight of his lamented Friend Mr. Corry. In August, 1871, a question arose with respect to the Victualling Stores, when it was found that from the extraordinary abundance we had in the yards, we might send over a supply of biscuits to the besieged poor of Paris. His lamented Friend said that it was all very well to talk of the Victualling Stores, but what about the Naval Stores—the masts and timber—and that if the First Lord had to put in commission all the ships he ought to have done he would have to make a heavy purchase of stores which on a sudden emergency could not be purchased with advantage to the country. What proved to be the fact? The first year that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) held office there was a decrease in these items of £54,802. In the following year there was a further, but small decrease of £797. From that time the Vote had increased. In 1871–2 it was increased by £41,415; in 1872–3 by £86,734, and now it was proposed further to increase it by £44,808. Therefore, since his lamented Friend had given the warning as to the result which must follow from not having a sufficient supply of masts and timber, the vote had gone on increasing. He also observed that last year the First Lord made a remarkable statement with regard to this item. He said that he had effected a saving in the financial year on Section No. 2, and had expended the saving in increasing our stock of stores. The right hon. Gentleman took credit to himself because there was a saving on Section No. 2—in shipbuilding by contract—and that the saving had been expended in increasing our stock of stores, because the price of most articles had gone up. Now, it was very bad policy in the end to attenuate our stores, to the last degree. He considered it a most extraordinary subject of congratulation 74 to find that there had been such a saving in ships built by contract, The First Lord asked for the ships that were necessary for the service, and nothing more, and if he could not have had them launched at that period it would have been anything but a source of congratulation. The next Vote to which he would refer was Vote 6, and here the First Lord had his most perfect sympathy. The right hon. Gentleman said "the noble Lord opposite (Lord Henry Lennox) will say that he warned me that if I were not a conjuror I could not fulfil the programme I had proposed." Now, he (Lord Henry Lennox) denied that statement, and would prove it from the right hon. Gentleman's own words. He told the right hon. Gentleman that repairs and refits governed the strength of the fleet, and that he would always find himself short in his shipbuilding—that if the Channel squadron came in for repairs the builders must be taken off the ship, however important the building might be. He told the right hon. Gentleman so for two year's running, and what did he now say? He was going to enter a large number of men in the dockyards in consequence of the necessity that existed to undertake the repairs of the fleet. He could quite understand why the right hon. Gentleman should glance lightly at that matter, and not give him (Lord Henry Lennox) the credit which was due to him for warning him from a policy which had not proved creditable to the administration. The right hon. Gentleman had made several allusions to letters and articles which had appeared in the newspapers, and more especially to a letter respecting a Russian ship, and entered into an elaborate statement on the subject. Now, he protested against having saddled upon him the statement that he was guilty of a want of patriotism in showing up the shortcomings in our dockyards. As to supposing that anything said here enlightened foreign Governments, the youngest hon. Member of the House would not for a moment credit the statement. The Vote to which he was referring had followed the same order as the Votes which he had mentioned. In 1868–9 it was £1,200,000; in 1869–70 £1,086,000; in 1870–1 it was reduced to £878,000; then in 1871–2 it rose to £967,000; in 1872–3, to £978,000; and in 1873–4 it stood at 75 £1,115,000, or within £100,000 of those redundant Estimates—those "bloated" Tory Estimates of 1868–9 which moved the indignation of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. At that time it should be remembered, great efforts were necessary in order to bring up our ironclad Navy to that of France; while now, provision was made for only one ironclad, or possibly two, and two corvettes. And with that meagre programme the Committee were asked to vote within £100,000 of the Vote of 1868–9. He was somewhat taken aback by the elaborate argument of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the Devastation, but he rejoiced to hear what had been said about the Thunderer, for he had never been an opponent of the mastless turret-ship. But as he had given way to the right hon. Gentleman, he might say, to use a nautical phrase, that the right hon. Gentleman had somewhat taken the wind out of his sails.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I wished to act in all courtesy to the noble Lord, and purposely omitted all controverted points.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
said, that on Thursday week he would mention some points connected with the Devastation, which he did not propose to do at present, and which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) had omitted to notice in his speech. He would now proceed to notice what had been done in our dockyards in the course of the year. In his remarks upon the dockyards he wished to cast no reflections upon the dockyard authorities or upon the Controller of the Navy, feeling sure that all that could be done would be done by that gallant officer. He also wished to say that in any criticisms which he might make on the Board of Admiralty, he did not wish to reflect any discredit on the Colleagues of the right hon. Gentleman. In order to see what had been done during the year, it was necessary to look at the promises which had been made, and he would limit his remarks to two heads—one, the ships that were built in 1872, when the Estimates were brought forward; the other, ships that were then building and to be completed during the year. The First Lord of the Admiralty had told him last year that he had proposed to build about 17,500 tons of shipping, though the Estimates stated 16,041 tons. [Mr. GOSCHEN referred the noble Lord to the statement in Hansard.] 76 Whether the amount were 17,500 tons or 16,041 tons it mattered little to his argument, so strong was his case. The right hon. Gentleman stated that it was the intention of the Government to finish that year every ship in hand, except the Fury and that with her it was designed to make as much progress as possible. How stood the case, then, with respect to the Superb, the Téméraire, the Bacchante, and the Boadicea? The right hon. Gentleman contemplated working some 5,000 tons into the Fury; he had, however, succeeded in adding only 200 tons. At the time the right hon. Gentleman made this promise, 24 ships had been begun, and the commencement of five others of a smaller class was contemplated. All these were to be finished in the year, but only 15 of them had been completed, and these 15 were of the smallest class. Not only so, but they were already nearly finished at the opening of the year, and unless the Estimates deceived him, their completion had cost £1,136,000. The Naval Estimates were drawn up in the most puzzling manner, and it was very difficult for him to be assured that he apprehended them rightly, though he had devoted much attention to them. The 14 ships remaining unfinished were powerful and important ships, and two of them, the Blonde and the Raleigh, were old friends. He believed that in the year 1871 the right hon. Gentleman told the House that the Blonde would be finished before April, 1872, up to half of her tonnage, and that the Raleigh would have only 650 tons to be built in on the 31st of March, 1872; but neither the Blonde nor Raleigh was yet finished on the 31st of March, 1873, nor was it probable they would be finished until the middle of next year. The comparison of the tonnage of the completed and uncompleted ships included in the right hon. Gentleman's promise was still more remarkable. The aggregate tonnage of the ships not completed was 24,973 tons; the aggregate tonnage of the ships that were finished was only 7,093 tons. He thought that was not a proper way of dealing with the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman had placed in the Navy Estimates of this year, besides the builders' measurement, the displacement in each of Her Majesty's ships. He hoped that before next year the right hon. Gentleman would find out a 77 more satisfactory mode of assuring the completion of the ships under construction. Instead of the 16,500 tons that were promised, in fact, only 9649 tons were produced.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that some mistake had been made as to the progress to be made towards the completion of the ships. According to the ordinary method of calculating, 13,600 tons had been built during the year.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
calculated there would be still 3,000 tons short of the promise even on that basis. The right hon Gentleman talked about a mistake; but having gone over the figures furnished in the Estimates, he had come each time to the conclusion he had stated. They had been told that certain progress was to be made with the Fury, but that promise had not been fulfilled. Nor was it clearly stated what was to be done.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he was afraid he had made a mistake. Work was to be done upon six large and powerful iron-clads.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
said, that these vessels were not new as regarded the House of Commons. They had been told that certain work was to be done upon certain ships, but it had not progressed as the House had been led to expect. The right hon. Gentleman said the Government were about to lay down another vessel of the Devastation class, though he could not state the details, nor would the House wish to press him upon that matter. The Roebuck was one of those which the right hon. Gentleman had said would be finished by March, 1873; he had stated last year that she required between 600 and 700 tons to be built into her, but although 968 tons had been added to her during the year, she still required 198 tons to complete her. This was one of the extraordinary blunders which characterised the calculations of the right hon. Gentleman. As far as he could understand the programme of the right hon. Gentleman for the coming year, he purposed going on with several first-class ships for which money had been voted in the year now closing. The money for the Fury was voted in 1869, and yet she had not been advanced. He sympathized with the right hon. Gentleman in having to make palatable Estimates for those who sat near him, when he knew how unpala- 78 table they must be to those who understood the necessities of the case and cared for the efficiency of the service. He gave the right hon. Gentleman credit for his able and lucid speech, but disguise the matter as the right hon. Gentleman might, the bare fact remained of an increase of £340,000 on the current year; which had shown an increase on the year before, and this increased charge was accompanied by fewer men. Besides this, the ships in commission were 30 fewer than they were in 1868–9, and the dockyard programme was feeble in the extreme. Each year fewer ships were added to the Navy, and those which had been added by the right hon. Gentleman were laid down by his predecessors. There was another most important point to which he wished to refer before sitting down, and that was the question of the torpedo. The Admiralty in 1870 purchased Mr. Whitehead's torpedo patent, and last year the right hon. Gentleman asked for £17,800 for torpedo experiments. He would be glad to know where that £17,800 had disappeared. The right hon. Gentleman had over and over again justified his delay in building ships by stating that by that means he had been able to introduce various kinds of improvements which had been discovered in the mean time. But if that argument were good for anything, it would be an argument against building ships at all. The Admiralty bought the torpedo patent in 1870; the Committee was now discussing the Estimates of 1874, and we had not yet got a torpedo ship to try experiments upon. If the right hon. Gentleman's arguments were good for anything we might have to wait four or five years longer, and even then we should find that naval science and invention was not at an end. He (Lord Henry Lennox) was always ready to support any Estimates which would promote the efficiency of the Navy, but he could not sit there and give a silent vote in favour of an enormous expenditure which led to such small results.
§ MR. SAMUDA
thought that the First Lord of the Admiralty must have derived great advantage from the change in the constitution of the Board; but while he expressed his satisfaction at the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that he was in constant communication with his Board, and formed his judgments 79 in every case in conjunction with the scientific branch of the Department, he had hoped to hear that a general and comprehensive policy was about to be entered upon; but he was very much disappointed to find that the Board had not yet decided on the type of the new ship about to be laid down, and feared they were about to return to a hand to mouth system. He had no idea until he heard it from the lips of the right hon. Gentleman himself that so strong a case existed for building ships. According to the right hon. Gentleman's statement, while during the last 10 years we built 224,000 tons we lost 215,000; and if we went back 18 years it would be seen that while we built at the rate of 30,000 tons a-year we did not after all appear to be making any progress in the number of our vessels. He apprehended there was some mistake with respect to the action of the two screws. He had never heard of the two screws being superior in their action to one screw.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
explained that what he had meant was not that the double screw was better than the one screw, but that upon trial the double screw had given results which exceeded the anticipations that had been formed of it.
§ MR. SAMUDA
regretted that our experiments with respect to the effects of the torpedo were so meagre. When he considered the importance of acquiring a knowledge of such weapons of offence, he must ask whether the right hon. Gentleman's attention had been directed to a little vessel which he had seen with astonishment and admiration in the neighbourhood of Chiswick. In the vessel to which he alluded such an extraordinary advance had been made in the use of the screw in vessels of the smallest size, and which could float in the shallowest water, that he could not help thinking the whole face of naval warfare might be changed by properly utilizing the invention. He was now speaking of a little craft built by Mr. Thorneycroft, son of the celebrated sculptor. The little vessel was not more than 53 feet long, and so light that it could be lifted with the greatest ease into the davits of a ship. He had travelled in the vessel on the Thames at the rate of 16 knots an hour, and yet the engine was so small as to be apparently incapable of such a result. One of those 80 little vessels let down from the deck of the Devastation armed with a torpedo, under the fire and smoke generated in action, might produce an immense amount of destruction upon an enemy. Why, they might, at a stroke, destroy the enemy's vessel. Such a matter, which might be productive of enormous results, could not have too much attention turned to it. He believed that these vessels showed an improvement in the action of the screw which would be of greater advantage to steam navigation than even the introduction of the beautiful mechanical apparatus called the oscillating engine, over the beam engine it superseded some years ago. He was greatly surprised with the speed of these small vessels, which seemed to start with the rapidity of a rocket, but which could yet be brought to a full stop in half a length. Indeed, he felt convinced that the well-considered use of these vessels, when their capabilities had been well developed, and efficiently applied to assist in torpedo warfare, would have the effect of revolutionizing the whole of our arrangements of naval warfare.
§ MR. G. BENTINCK
said, he had listened with attention to the very able speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen), and he could not help thinking there were omissions in it, which he regretted; but, before referring to these, he would say a few words on some of the points to which the First Lord of the Admiralty had adverted. The right hon. Gentleman had made a sort of apology for having too many ships; but he did not think that the House of Commons or the people of this country would find fault with him on that score. Nor did he consider it necessary to account for an increase in the Estimates owing to the high price of coal, iron, and other materials. It was perfectly obvious that the fact must be so. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to suppose that exception might be taken to his Estimates, on the ground of their being excessive, by some hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway on the Ministerial side of the House. But certainly hon. Gentlemen who did take such exception would not be actuated by a spirit of patriotism, and the right hon. Gentleman might rest assured that they would not have the feeling of the House or of the country with them. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the maximum 81 angle of stability in the ill-fated Captain as being 21 degrees. But with such a maximum he (Mr. Bentinck) could only feel surprised that anyone should have taken upon himself the responsibility of sending the ship to sea, since it was obvious that she must go down under such circumstances. He was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman talk of the Devastation as an experimental ship, because it showed that the Admiralty had not made up their minds that that was to be the class of ship of which the British Navy was to be composed for the future. The Devastation never could be a seagoing ship. It was utterly impossible to make her fit for that purpose. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to be in doubt as to the propriety of masting or not masting iron-clads; but the masts of nearly all our iron-clads were perfectly useless, and such vessels could be handled solely by steam. Speaking of the larger class of them, there was not one that could be handled as a sailing ship. He was sorry to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that some new ships were to be built in private yards—a state of things that never ought to happen in time of peace. Our dockyards should be kept in a state of efficiency to meet not only all the requirements of the day, but of any emergency. The right hon. Gentleman had mentioned as an excuse for the comparatively small amount of work done in the naval dockyards that all the arrangements of those yards had been upset by the bad weather having driven the flying squadron into port in a damaged condition. But surely the dockyards ought to be in such a condition that their arrangements could not be disturbed by a trifle of that kind. The right hon. Gentleman had not referred at all to the subject on which the efficiency of the Navy must really rest—he referred to the struggle between armour and guns. Had the right hon. Gentleman turned his mind to that subject? If so, would he state his opinion as to the power of the gun that ought to be used in armour-plated vessels? Was the right hon. Gentleman prepared to state what he looked forward to as the future comparative position between armourplating and guns? If he was not, he was not prepared to solve the great problem of the day; and if he had not considered the question, he was setting aside what, after all, was the most im- 82 portant question to be discussed. There was another point. The right hon. Gentleman had not gone into the great question as regards the Navy for the future. For his own part he maintained that for the future we must have two distinct classes of ships—one heavily armour-plated and armed for home defence, and one for seagoing purposes. There was not one of our iron-clads which could be fairly deemed a sea-going ship, and every ship for seagoing purposes should be entirely independent of coal, and should be able to be handled under canvas, and to play her part under canvas under any circumstances in which she could be placed. Again, they had been told that a certain number of ships of each class was kept in the First Reserve, and that these ships were ready for commission at any moment. Now, he wanted to know if it was the fact that these ships were actually ready for commission at any moment, because if his information were correct they were not ready, and they were incomplete in one or more of four points—in their hulls, in their rigging, in their engines, and in their armaments. We had plenty of seamen, but if the ships of the First Reserve in which they ought to be placed were not ready there was no use in having the men. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would give some explanation on this point. He had also been told that the rope supply was deficient in quantity, and was not of the best quality. If that were true there could not be a greater slur on the condition of our dockyards. Serious complaints had been made at home and abroad of the quality of the rope, and he had heard that the rope manufactured at Devonport dockyard had been condemned when received at Portsmouth. If that state of things existed it could only be attributed to that petty system of penny-wise economy which risked the loss of a ship for the sake of a £5 note. It was also said that the stores were not in such quantities as were required for the service. There was another question with regard to our first-class iron-clads. The Committee would remember the accident which occurred to the Northumberland when she parted her cable and went into another iron-clad. He wished to know how it came that a ship of that class should remain with a single anchor in the winter time without steam up 83 ready for immediate use. He attributed it to that same wretched system of economy. He could not understand how it required an hour to get up steam unless there was some uncomfortable restriction as to the use of coal. He was informed that an alteration was made some time ago in order to fit chain cables to capstans which were already made, but, if this was true, he felt confident no sailor had sanctioned the arrangement, as it was known that such a process deteriorated the cables. Moreover, he was informed that the cables supplied to these enormous vessels were not of the largest size that could be manufactured, nor formed of the very best and strongest iron that could be obtained. There was a description of iron to be obtained of such a quality that cables made from it would scarcely part under any circumstances. He wanted to know why these heavy ships were not supplied with the largest and best iron chains that could be obtained. In conclusion, he traced these shortcomings to the practice of placing men of great abilities in positions for which they were not qualified. The misfortunes to which he had referred could not have happened if sailors, albeit men of possibly less ability than the right hon. Gentleman had had the control of the Department over which he presided, and he hoped the House of Commons would soon perceive the necessity of placing at the head of every great Public Department not only a man of ability but a man who thoroughly understood his business.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, that during the last 10 years £100,000,000 had been spent on the naval service of the country, involving a great amount of undue expenditure. There had not been of late years any desire to cut down the expenditure to a reasonable and proper amount. Large sums had been for some years expended on the Navy, for which the country did not receive sufficient benefit. The result of recent changes in naval construction had been to obtain more offensive and defensive power with a less number of guns and men. It would have been quite consistent with these changes if the First Lord had been able to dispense with a number of men, instead of coming down to the House with increased Estimates. It was clear from what the right hon. Gentleman had stated that the Admiralty ought not to 84 be too much hurried in the construction of vessels of war. There was not that absolute certainty at the present moment as to the best ship of the future which should lead the Admiralty to push forward the construction of new vessels; and, as there was no immediate prospect of war, he advised the Admiralty to pause before they proceeded with the construction of new ships, for he felt certain that in the meantime they would derive a still further advantage from delay.
said, it was impossible to delay building ships until a time of war. It would be ridiculous to ask an enemy to delay his invasion until we had a sufficient number of ships to properly receive him. The new ships were very expensive; but it was the inevitable necessity of the case that living in an age of invention we had to incur a great penalty. It would be much less if we were more stupid; but being so very clever, we must pay for it. He begged to express his satisfaction at the announcement of the First Lord of the Admiralty of his intention to raise the wages of the men in the dockyards.
§ LORD HENRY SCOTT
regretted that the First Lord of the Admiralty had taken a Vote for 500 boys less than that of last year. He wished to know if the average number had been kept up in the training ships, or if it had fallen off. He wished also to know if it was contemplated to take boys from the district of the ports where the training ships were stationed, because if that were done he believed they would obtain a better class of boys. He wished to know from the First Lord, whether it was the intention of the Admiralty to carry out the recommendation of the Committee on Designs, as contained in a Report they had prepared with reference to increasing the class of vessels to which the Cyclops and the Glutton belonged. In that Report the Committee stated, not that these vessels were fit to go to sea in bad weather, but that they were fit to cross from port to port in favourable weather only.
§ MR. SHAW-LEFEVRE,
in answer to various questions which had been put during the course of the evening, said, that with respect to the boys for the training ships, the number, it was true, had sometimes been less than the number intended; but the aggregate number of boys afloat in the training 85 ships had been fully equal to the number voted. The Admiralty were, however, anxious to make more generally known the advantages conferred by the service, and with that object a recruiting party had been formed for the purpose of spreading the information in the country districts. A plan with a view to carry out the experiments recommended by the Committee of Designs was under consideration, and would, he believed, shortly be completed. With reference to what bad fallen from the hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. G. Bentinck), with regard to chain cables and ropes, the Admiralty were always anxious that the best articles which could be procured should be supplied. It was the first time that they had heard anything of the story told by the hon. Member, and he, for one, had not the slightest belief in its accuracy. In any case, it was to be regretted that those who had primed the hon. Gentleman with that story had not first of all referred to the Admiralty, so that an inquiry might have been instituted. The Admiralty were equally anxious that none but the best ropes should be supplied to the service, and the machinery employed at Plymouth in its production had with that object been improved. And he might say that a quantity of well-seasoned yarn was always kept in hand, so that it might be used in proper quantities in the manufacture of rope for the Navy. He regretted that the lateness of the hour would not enable him to reply at greater length to the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Chichester, who so ably represented the late Mr. Corry, whose loss they all deplored. In the complaints made by the noble Lord, he appeared altogether to have lost sight of the fact that there had recently been a great rise in the price of iron, copper, coal, and other materials, and of all articles required in the service, and at the same time a considerable advance in wages; these two circumstances involving this year an increase of £390,000 upon the expenditure of former years. The noble Lord had stated that the Store Vote had nearly reached the point at which it stood during the "bloated armaments" of a Tory Government, and though he felt no disposition to quarrel with the phrase, he desired to point out to the noble Lord that, in spite of the increase in cost of 86 materials and wages, the Votes were £1,300,000 below the amount voted in 1868–9. [Lord HENRY LENNOX explained that he had referred to the Store Vote alone, which was in excess of the Store Vote for 1868–9.] That was true; but the noble Lord had forgotten or had ignored the increase which had arisen in the cost of materials. For instance, iron, which in April, 1871, cost a little over £7 a ton, had on the 1st of July last reached £13 a ton, and cost now over £13 a ton. Coal and copper, in the same way, had risen considerably in value. The Admiralty had found it expedient to make arrangements for supplying ships at foreign stations with foreign coals. Coals supplied to foreign stations from the immediate neighbourhood cost less by a third than coal supplied from England. He admitted that coal supplied from Australia, for instance, was not quite equal to the best Welsh coal; but no complaint had reached the Admiralty from our cruisers in Australia with regard to the coal supplied to them. Coal from Nova Scotia reached Bermuda in seven or eight days, but coal from England could not reach Bermuda before the lapse of five or six weeks. It was a matter of the utmost importance that vessels at foreign stations should be supplied with coal at the earliest period. With regard to the timber Vote, to which the noble Lord had adverted, he wished to remind the Committee that in 1867–8 the stock of timber in the dockyards was valued at £1,500,000. It was now valued at about £500,000, and the unwisdom of keeping a large stock of timber was shown by the fact that it depreciated in value about £50,000 a-year. Though there was an increase of £40,000 in the Vote this year—one-half of which was due to increase of price—they only proposed to purchase the normal amount of timber for the dockyards. The noble Lord stated that Vote 3 this year was larger than the amount which was proposed by his Board—[Lord HENRY LENNOX: I said it was nearest in amount]—but if the noble Lord had made the proper comparison, and included the Coastguard Vote, which was then included but now separated from this Vote, he would have found that there was a reduction of 216,000. Then on Vote 6 he would find there was expended, 1867–8, £1,424,000, whereas 87 they asked for 1873–4, £1,115,000, of which sum £83,000 was due to increase of wages. He thought the noble Lord would approve of the policy of completing the vessels which they had begun, rather than laying down a large number of new iron-clads.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty had raised a number of points which could not be discussed that night. He should not object to the first two Votes being taken that night if it were distinctly understood that Vote 3 should be discussed on a subsequent occasion.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
believed that all the more important questions which had been raised to night could be discussed on Vote 6. He would take that Vote on the first opportunity which presented itself, because he was anxious that the question of the wages of the artificers in the dockyards should be settled as soon as possible. He did not think the discussion could be taken on Vote 3.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, that the right hon. Gentleman had not referred to the remarks of his noble Friend (Lord Henry Lennox) on the subject of the number of men and of the reserve. He thought that that question should be discussed at a more convenient time.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, the noble Lord had asked if they had got sufficient men to man all their first-class Reserve. They had more men than would be sufficient; and in fact, a larger number than he liked.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
repeated that if the Votes for the number of men and for the victualling of the Navy were agreed to, it ought to be on the understanding that the discussion might be renewed on a future occasion.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
thought that the application of the hon. Baronet was a fair and reasonable one, considering the length of time the right hon. Gentleman had occupied in his opening statement and the present late hour of the night, ten minutes to 1 o'clock.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that every facility would be given for the discussion consistently with the forms of the House.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (2.) £2,629,884 Wages, &c.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again upon Wednesday.