§ SIR JOHN HAY
, in rising to move—That, in the opinion of this House, it is undesirable to incur expense to build Unarmoured Ships of a speed of less than ten knots, and that it is expedient that the money appropriated to their construction be applied to the necessary repairs of the Iron-clad Ships of the Navy,said, that his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty had shown by the Supplementary Estimates he had laid upon the Table that he was anxious to place our iron-clads upon a proper footing, both as to numbers and efficiency. What he wished to urge upon him and upon the House was that the £50,000, which was the sum proposed to be applied for the completion of the light unarmoured vessels now in progress, would be much better applied to the repairs of the iron-clads. The vessels to which he referred were constructed to steam at the rate of nine and a-half or 10 knots an hour at the measured mile; but everyone knew that the estimated speed might be taken at least at a knot an hour less, in actual practice, under ordinary circumstances. The use of these vessels was to harass, destroy, and capture an enemy's commerce. There were, however, very few merchant vessels of any nation which did not attain a greater speed. These vessels would occasionally have to escape from the large ships of the enemy, but these also attained a very much higher speed. It was alleged that vessels of this class and draught of water could not attain a greater speed, and that to make them swifter would be very costly; but it would be better to go back to the paddle-wheel vessels of former days, which did attain a speed of 11 and 12 knots an hour with a similar draught of water. Twelve vessels of the three smaller classes were in the present Estimates, and he trusted that the First Lord of the Admiralty would stop the building of those which were not too far advanced, and apply the money towards completing the iron-clad fleet, which was the basis of our naval superiority, and upon which we must rely for defensive warfare. Iron-clads could not be got ready in less than two or three years; but there would be no difficulty in improvising out of our Mercantile Marine any number of light vessels to harass an 1847 enemy's commerce if guns and ammunition were forthcoming. He did not say that the Admiralty ought not to possess vessels to perform these duties; but, as there was nowhere a desire to increase the Navy Estimates largely, and as the completion of the iron-clad fleet was at present our most pressing want, he trusted the First Lord would apply as much as possible of the £50,000 proposed to be voted for these 12 ships towards the completion of the armoured ships. He wished to express his entire concurrence in the opinion expressed by the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed)—that we could not have an efficient Navy for £10,000,000 a-year. They could have no higher authority on that subject. Where we formerly spent £100 in the maintenance and repair of a ship it would now be necessary to spend £170, and the £2,000,000 a-year formerly applied to the maintenance and repairs of the fleet must in future be raised to £3,400,000. If this Estimate were correct, the House must expect to find the Navy Estimates increased from £10,000,000 a-year to £11,500,000. Seeing, however, that the House spent £14,000,000 on the Army, he did not believe that £11,500,000 would be grudged by the country to maintain the Navy, which was our first line of defence and our protection in every sea. He also thought that the £15,000 asked for lengthening the transport Orontes ought to be applied to the building of our iron-clads, because in an emergency we could always hire transports. In conclusion, he begged to move the Resolution of which he had given Notice.
, in seconding the Amendment, expressed his entire concurrence in every word which had fallen from his right hon. Friend with respect to the uselessness of these slow-going vessels, which had no fighting qualifications as a set-off to their want of speed. In fact, he would go farther, and say that ships built to maintain an estimated speed of nine and a-half knots an hour would not in ordinary use attain a speed of more than eight knots. When hon. Members knew that a boat on the Thames the other day attained a speed of 20 miles an hour, the Admiralty ought to go to any expense to attain greater speed for a small description of cruisers, instead of going on building 1848 unarmoured vessels of the three smaller classes, which would he sure to be captured by the enemy and to catch nothing themselves. There were hardly any vessels on the ocean, under steam, with so small a speed as eight knots an hour. With whatever nation we might be at war, it was certain that they would equip their fastest vessels as privateers. If, on the commencement of a winter's day, when they could command only eight hours of daylight, one of these vessels sighted a ship at a distance of 12 miles, she must have a superior speed of nearly two miles an hour in order to overtake the ship she pursued before dark, when escape would easily be effected, and in summer even, when the days were longer, her speed must be considerably superior. If we desired to have vessels that would effectually protect our commerce in war time, they must be vessels of great speed, and in peace time one such vessel would perform the same duty, and, in many cases, perform it more effectually, than half-a-dozen or a dozen smaller vessels of inferior swiftness. Upon one point, however, he differed from the right hon. and gallant Baronet below him (Sir John Hay), for, so far from thinking that we ought to go on building fresh armour-clads, his belief was that the days of armour-clads were fast approaching an end. His opinion was one which he had held ever since 1861, and he had stated it publicly in a Report drawn up by himself and a brother officer, Admiral Ryder, in 1871. When he spoke of armour-clads, he meant vessels with vertical or side armour. If he were right in his conjecture, we should then have the pleasing prospect of being able to build our first line of defence at a far less expense than we were doing now. He did not wish to be misunderstood. He did not mean that armour plates would not be used, but that they would not be used on the sides of vessels as at present, the cost of which, as the House knew, was very great. This opinion had lately been supported by the present Chief Construe for of the Navy, who had said that in (ho last ship they had designed—the Inflexible—they had come to the utmost limit of thickness of armour plates which they conceived it possible for a war ship to carry as side armour. If that were so, and such guns as the Inflexible would carry could penetrate her own armour, 1849 this, he believed, was sufficient to show that the system of armoured ship-building was exploded.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words in the opinion of this House, it is undesirable to incur expense, to build Unarmoured Ships of a speed of less than ten knots, and that it is expedient that the money appropriated to their construction he applied to the necessary repairs of the Ironclad Ships of the Navy,"—(Sir John Hay.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be loft out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. E. J. REED
observed that, inasmuch as the Mover of the Amendment thought it desirable that we should increase our armoured shipbuilding, and its Seconder thought we should cease ail work in that direction, it might be desirable to give the Resolution some farther consideration. When he first saw the terms of the Motion he was under the impression that it was a very proper one, because he thought he saw in the large number of the small unarmoured vessels which were being built a tendency to some extravagance in that direction. But it was really only fair to say that the cause of these small unarmoured vessels being built was the demand of the naval members of the Board of Admiralty for them. During the whole period he had the honour of serving at the Admiralty, the Senior Sea Lords felt it was very desirable to have an increased number of small vessels, and it was only proper to add to that consideration the fact that they could not have very small vessels of great speed. There were different classes of small vessels, and the speed increased with the increase in their size. There were vessels of 270 tons which were very slow, going only a little over nine knots an hour on the measured mile, and probably about six or seven knots at sea. Above these there was another class, that of 450 tons, with a speed of 11 knots at the measured mile, and nine or 10 knots at sea. Then came vessels of 930 tons, with a speed at the measured mile of 13 knots, the practical speed of which would be about 11 or 12 knots; and next a class of vessels of 2,000 tons, which were to have a measured mile speed of 15 knots, and a 1850 probable practical speed of 13 or 14 knots. The first proposition he wished to lay down was that it was in the nature of the case that if they were to have small vessels of war they must have slow vessels. Such vessels as the steel one recently built for the Indian Government were very remarkable vessels; but they were built of extremely thin steel—so thin, indeed, that no man could step on board without an apprehension that his foot might slip through if he was not careful. Their machinery was of a very delicate description, their engines limning at the enormous speed of about 600 revolutions per minute; and if they were laden with cargo they lost their speed. These vessels had no sort of analogy whatever to the ships built for Her Majesty's service on foreign stations, which had to carry an armament with supplies of ammunition shot and shell; a crew with six months' provisions; sea stores; masts and rigging, and so forth. It was therefore undesirable that the House should think they could be at all applicable to the service of the Navy except as torpedo vessels. Although the small unarmoured vessels of the Navy which they were discussing were to carry guns, it must not be supposed that they were built with the primary object of making war with the war ships of other nations. Our naval service on foreign stations comprised many duties which had nothing whatever to do with war, and yet which must be performed by armed representatives of the country, such as going up rivers and into harbours, and to out-of-the-way places. He had no doubt the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty would bear him out in this—that these vessels were not built with the primary object of making war, but for the purpose of carrying on the necessary service of the country at distant stations. The hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Admiral Elliot) in discussing this subject had led them on to the question of our armoured and unarmoured ships, and had enunciated an opinion to the effect not that armour would some day come to an end, but that the days of armour-clads were already numbered. He (Mr. Reed) did not at all believe the days of armour-clads were numbered, and for this reason—because he thought the House would consider the subject over very seriously 1851 before they determined to send our officers and men to sea on the top of a steam boiler and powder magazine without any protection whatever. It was not an exaggeration to call an unarmoured ship a construction of that nature. The hulls were mere envelopes carrying those dangerous articles, and they ought to be protected. The Admiralty had done wisely in adopting armour and in increasing its thickness, and he did not think that even in the case of the Inflexible they had arrived at an end. Our armour-clad Navy was, to a great extent, proof against all the guns yet afloat in the other Navies of the world. This superiority was due entirely to the fact that we had continued to increase the thickness of the armour, and to add to the power of the guns. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Samuda) laid down the other night the doctrine that we ought to have a system of shipbuilding and stick to it. Well, the French had tried this. Their system consisted of two parts. In the first place, their iron-clad ships were built in wood; and, in the second place, a number of ships were to be built all alike. The consequence was that the French ships had not progressed to anything like the same extent as ours, and two or three ships in the British Navy were perfectly capable of beating all the ships built for the French Navy during the period when this principle was being carried out. What we should do was to build the very best vessels we could, and if we did that we need have no fear of the competition of other countries. He congratulated the Admiralty on one point. It had been stated that the wooden ships had gone rapidly to decay. He was glad to hear that there were to be no more wooden ships, believing that iron vessels could perform all the services that were required from such vessels, in conclusion, he hoped the right hon. and gallant Baronet (Sir John Hay) would not press his Amendment if the First Lord of the Admiralty would give the House an assurance that next year he would, in framing the Estimates, give due regard to his views.
§ SIR WILLIAM EDMONSTONE
said, that, notwithstanding the opinion of such a scientific and excellent authority as the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed), he did not hesitate to say that he was one of those who thought 1852 that nothing but sheer necessity could justify the gigantic and costly iron-clads now being constructed, with regard to the thickness of the armour of which there appeared to be no limit. Of course if other nations possessed such ships, we must have them also; but if the armour went on increasing in thickness it would, like the armour of ancient times, become intolerable. He quite agreed that they could not build small vessels capable of high speed, and thought that in the Royal Navy every vessel, great or small which went abroad should be prepared for war as well as for peace. He quite concurred in the opinions of his right hon. and gallant Friend (Sir John Hay).
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
remarked that unprofessional men, ignorant of these questions, must necessarily be extremely puzzled by the diversity of opinion among the hon. Gentlemen who ought to instruct them. First of all the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who brought forward the Amendment (Sir John Hay) and who was one of the greatest authorities on naval matters in the House, had expressed his opinion that no unarmoured vessels under a certain speed should be built. He was happy to think, however, that the First Lord of the Admiralty had not yet become a convert to the right hon. and gallant Admiral's doctrine, that we should spend £11,500,000, instead of £10,000,000, which was about the amount of the present Estimates. The First Lord had given them Supplementary Estimates for a ruined Navy—Estimates to replace a "paper fleet," and yet they only included an addition of £55,000 for Dockyards, of which £47,000 were for workmen's wages; £5,000 for repairing a ship as a depot ship at Hong Kong, which could hardly establish our European influence, and £3,000 for repairing a tug at Chatham. But the right hon. and gallant Baronet wanted £1,500,000 to build great iron-clads and fast unarmoured vessels, and he was seconded by another great naval authority, the hon. and gallant Member for Chatham (Admiral Elliot) in reference to the speed of unarmoured vessels; but the hon. and gallant Member belonged to the school of pessimists, and thought there should be no more armour vessels.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
remarked that if the armour were placed at the top or the bottom of a ship, it Mould be just as expensive as if it were affixed to the sides.
said, he had in his speech referred to a Report wherein his opinion was fully expressed as to where he should place the armour.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
offered his condolence to the first Lord of the Admiralty on the contradictory character of advice given to him by the professional Members. The pessimists only agreed in one thing—that we had no Navy—and entirely disagreed as to the way in which we should obtain one. He (Sir William Harcourt) must assume, on his own part, entire ignorance of the subject. Before the right hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Stamford would persuade the English people to spend £1,500,000 in building unarmoured ships to replace its paper fleet, which was to be repaired at an expense of £55,000, he must come to some agreement with the hon. and gallant Admirals near him, and with the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed), who although not in the Royal Navy, was one of the greatest naval authorities in the country, as to what those vessels ought to be. When the House was called upon to embark in this great expenditure would it not be fair, candid, and honest to admit that the people supposed to be the greatest authorities on the subject did not know what it was on which we ought to spend the money. It was not fair to assume that those who were economists were opposed to our Navy being kept up at a proper strength. Economists knew that true economy required that the security of the English nation should be provided for, and that the way to insure that security was for us to have a Navy, not only supreme, but overwhelmingly supreme, in the world he would not be unwilling to vote any sum of money necessary for that purpose. But all parties must be guided in this matter by responsible professional opinion. It was not to be expected that the present First Lord of the Admiralty would come up from Northamptonshire and out of his own inner consciousness evolve a complete naval policy. Of course he had, like every other First Lord, to rely upon the professional advice he received from those he found at the Admiralty. 1854 But, unfortunately, the counsels at the Admiralty were as much divided as they were in the House of Commons, and whatever policy was adopted with regard to the Navy, one side or the other was certain to condemn. A document drawn up by Sir Spencer Robinson, one of the greatest naval authorities in the country, had just been published. He (Sir William Harcourt) said nothing of his discretion in publishing it; but Sir Spencer Robinson had given the country an insight into the manner in which the Admiralty was managed. He himself had always been of opinion that of all reforms needed in this country, administrative reform was the first—and his opinion had been much strengthened by Sir Spencer Robinson's Report which had just been published. That Paper gave a history of what had happened at the Admiralty under three Administrations and under four First Lords. Sir Spencer Robinson pointed out that in 1866 a certain naval programme was proposed by the Duke of Somerset, which the next Government under Lord Derby were not satisfied with, but brought in an amended programme which was laid before Parliament. The programme of 1867 was not earned out revised Estimates being brought forward in May of that year, proposing an entirely different scheme. He was aware that in the meantime there had been a new First Lord of the Admiralty; but that only showed that the policy of the Department changed not only with a new Government, but with every fresh person that became the head of it. Thus in 1867 there were three separate Estimates prepared, founded upon three different schemes, and yet that was the period which the House were asked to look upon as furnishing an example of a perfect Admiralty administration. The number of men in the Dockyards proposed for 1866–7 was 18,618; in 1867–8, 18,321; in 1868–9, 15,272; and in 1869–70, 14,142. So far, therefore, from its being the political necessities of the Government which pressed this policy on their professional advisers, it was their professional advisers which pressed it on the Government. It appeared, then, that just before the outbreak of the Franco-German War Sir, Spencer Robinson recommended a great reduction of the number of men in the Dockyards—from 18,618. the number em- 1855 ployed in the time of the Duke of Somerset; from 15,272, the number employed in the time of Mr. Corry; from 14,142, the number employed under the administration of the right hon. Gentleman the member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) down to 11,276. That number, Sir Spencer Robinson believed, would be sufficient to do the work of our Dockyards and maintain our Navy in a proper state for a first-rate maritime Power; and if a man like Sir Spencer Robinson gave such advice to the Admiralty, what was the Admiralty to do? Was the Admiralty to ask for more than they were thus advised would be necessary? Was the House of Commons to vote more, and the nation to pay more, than the official advisers of the Admiralty considered to be necessary for us as a first-rate maritime Power? Sir Spencer Robinson, reviewing the history of the Dockyards for several years, said—The sudden expansions and reductions which the last few years have witnessed all point to a want of system in regulating this part of Naval administration. These expansions and reductions have occasioned great distress, and have been fur from promoting economical results. On considering the, question in all its bearings, I am convinced that an expenditure of about 2½ millions is amply sufficient for the real wants of the country relative to ships and dockyards, both with reference to structure and to maintenance, and that it would be dangerous and disadvantageous to reduce our normal expenditure below that amount.But the figure now was £3,381,339. He was quite aware there had been an increase of wages and an increase in the prices of coal, iron, and other things; but he was informed £500,000 would cover all that. He came now to something which did not vary—11,000 men employed in the Dockyards would do the same amount of work now as they did then; and yet 14,000 men were taken in the Estimates, or 4,000 more than the number recommended by Sir Spencer Robinson in 1870, as amply sufficient to maintain England as a first-rate maritime Power. He would be reminded that the Report from which he quoted was not the only Paper from Sir Spencer Robinson, and that another had been presented that morning on the Motion of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir John Hay). But that Paper strongly confirmed Sir Spencer Robinson's former opinions. It had been said that it was the political necessities of the late Government which brought about the re- 1856 ductions; but that argument could hardly be sustained when it was remembered that the reductions were recommended by a man like Sir Spencer Robinson, who was not supposed to be a political officer, but was, as he said himself, one of the persons responsible for giving sound professional advice to the First Lord. With regard to the closing of Woolwich Dockyard, Sir Spencer Robinson said that no employers of labour ever acted with greater consideration for their workmen. He further stated that he believed the reforms of the Dockyards in 1869 had been very satisfactory, and he hoped no obstacles would prevent those beneficial changes from being carried out as opportunity offered. Sir Spencer Robinson recommended that the permanent Dockyard staff, which stood at 18,000 in 1866, should be reduced to 11,000 as the normal Establishment in 1870. For 1870–71, Sir Spencer Robinson recommended the employment of 450 more men in shipbuilding, and of 3,375 fewer men in maintenance and repairs. He said, we were in a position to do it, because a thorough understanding had been arrived at as to the wooden ships it was necessary to repair and maintain, and it was resolved not to spend a single sixpence on obsolete ships which could be avoided; great economy would result from that plan, the labour being applied more to the new typo of ships, and less to the repair of those obsolete ships which in former years had been a fathom less gulf of expenditure. The late First Lord, therefore, acted on the recommendation of the most competent adviser in reducing the permanent dockyard staff—advice which he could not disregard. What would the House have said, if the Admiralty had not acted on that advice? It would have turned round on him and said—"the Controller of the Navy advised you that we could do with a less number of men, and that advice has been disregarded." The question of the number of men in the Dockyards was re-considered on the outbreak of the war between France and Germany, and it was proposed to have 12,000. Then, there was some dispute between Sir Spencer Robinson and the Admiralty as to whether the number should be 12,000, or, as he recommended. 13,500. Was the aspect of affairs more formidable in 1874 than it was in 1870? The power of France was then unbroken, and 1857 the ships which had become obsolete I since were more than compensated for by those which had been launched. [Admiral ELLIOT: Are they sea-going ships?] Those he struck out of the list as decayed were not all sea-going ships, and he was comparing the total strength of the British Navy this year with what it was in 1870. He submitted it was stronger now than it was then; and if we were satisfied with 10,000 men in 1870, why should we not be content with that number now? He believed France had launched no ship since 1870, and for six or seven of our vessels that were decayed, there were probably nine or ten of the French Navy which had become useless. We need be under no apprehension as regarded the French Navy. He supposed no one contemplated a combination against us of the French and German Navies, and the only other possible combination was that of Germany and Russia. What we required, while we relied on such men as Sir Spencer Robinson, was that consistent plans should be sketched and consistent advice given to the Admiralty—not so much consistency of opinion in the First Lord as consistency of opinion on the part of those who advised the Admiralty. He despaired of ever having the Navy in such a state as to get an Admiral in that House to admit that we had one. It was as difficult to get an Admiral to acknowledge that we had a Navy as to get a General to admit that we had an efficient Army, or a farmer that he ever had a crop. But if the gallant Admirals would only satisfy the House that the Navy was inefficient, there was no amount of money they would not vote to make it efficient. If the hon. and gallant Admiral opposite (Admiral Elliot) would inform the House where the ships were to be found which would match and overcome those of which he had read, he would have no difficulty in getting the £1,500,000 which the right hon. and gallant Member for Stamford (Sir John Hay) predicted we should have to pay next year. He held in his hand a list of ships such as the fleets of the whole world united could not equal, ship for ship. The Hercules, Sultan, Monarch, the Audacious, the Invincible, the Iron Duke, the Swiftsure, the Triumph, the Vanguard, the Bellerophon, the Albion, the Agincourt, the Northumberland, the Minotaur, the Warrior, the 1858 Achilles, the Black Prince, the Pallas, the Penelope, the Favorite, the Defence, the Resistance, the Valiant, and the Repulse—these were sea-going vessels—he asked the hon. and gallant Admiral, could the sea-going iron-clads in the whole world, ship to ship, compete with them? Whether the Devastation, Thunderer, Rupert, and Hector, were sea-going or coast defence vessels, where were the foreign vessels afloat to compare with them? And so of the Cyclops and the Glatton. Where were the three fleets in the world to match the English fleet? If it were said that other countries were building, had not we resources for building too? What country had such resources as we had in the new Extension Works at Chatham, Portsmouth, and Plymouth? What country had such private building yards as the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Laird) and half-a-dozen other builders? We could build ten vessels against one that any other nation in the world could build. England was the metropolis of iron and coal, and could build better and cheaper than any other Power in the world. He would ask whether we had not ships better than any one, or two, or three Navies in the world?
§ SIR JOHN HAY
observed, that there were three ships in the world more powerful than any which we possessed.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
did not imagine that because a nation had one ship more powerful than all others, it therefore had the strongest Navy. After all, nothing could be more consolatory to the House of Commons or satisfactory to the country than the character of the Supplementary Estimates for the Navy, for they would satisfy the country that a "paper fleet of dummy ships" could be replaced by an efficient one at the moderate cost of £40,000.
§ CAPTAIN G. PRICE
said, he did not profess to know exactly what occurred behind the scenes at the Admiralty; but he supposed they did not go to their advisers and ask what money should be spent, or what number of men should be employed. They would rather say to their advisers—"Here is the sum of money which the country is willing to give, and you must not go beyond it." In the Papers which had just been placed in the hands of Members, Sir Spencer Robinson wrote, in April, 1871, he did not profess to say that in his judgment 1859 sufficient provision had been made for the wants of a great naval Power like this, but only that the work to be done could not be done with fewer hands. He would not follow the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir William Harcourt) into the comparison he had made of our, Navy with that of other Powers; but he believed that the sea service iron-clads of England amounted to three less than the combined force of France and Russia. Of coast defence vessels those countries had 50 per cent more than ourselves. We had 15, and he believed they had 24. Of gunboats, a very useful class of vessels, we had 25, while the combined Powers of France and Russia had 74. Of men we had 60,000, while they had 74,000. Of reserve we had but 11,000, whereas France alone had 130,000. His hon. and gallant Friend (Admiral Elliot) was, he thought, justified in saying that the days of side-armoured ships were drawing to a close. The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed) said that our armour on the sides of vessels had attained such a thickness that no other guns but our own would penetrate them. If that were the case, an enemy would try to pierce our vessels either through the deck or the bottom. No one would say it was possible to have 20 inches of armour either on the deck or the bottom, and thus his hon. and gallant Friend was justified in his assertion. The hon. Member for Pembroke had represented him as having stated in a previous debate that the Devastation was not a match for a gunboat or a steam launch. He had, on the contrary, expressly classed her among the sea-going vessels. What he said was, that under certain conditions of accidents, such as torpedoes, she might only be a match for the vessels alluded to. Sir Spencer Robinson had doubted the wisdom of building vessels of the new Monarch and Fury type, which might by a torpedo be rendered hors de combat at one blow, and which were not likely to be available for service for three years. He did not agree with Sir Spencer Robinson in thinking that new Monarchs and Furies were, therefore, useless. He only said that we ought to have more of them, and that there should be others to replace them. Our great aim should be not only to have more powerful vessels, but more numerous by 10 or 20 per cent than the Navies of any two 1860 other countries likely to combine against us. In former days we had 30 or 40 line-of-battle ships in a fleet; now we might have from 10 to 12 first-class iron-clads, and an accident from torpedoes or otherwise to three or four of them would be a serious matter. No doubt it would be an advantage to have small vessels attaining a speed of even 10 knots an hour; but it would be highly advisable, considering the present state of the Navy in other respects, that the building of such vessels should be postponed, and that the money that might be voted for them should be applied to the construction of armoured ships.
§ LORD HENRY SCOTT
said, he thought that the remarks of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for the City of Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) had, unfortunately, led the House away from the Motion that was before it—namely, the speed that should be given to gunboats of a certain class. If the Correspondence which his hon. and learned Friend had commented upon at such length was to be brought before the House, he thought it should have been done after duo Notice, as it was manifestly inconvenient that it should be discussed when the last Paper in connection with that subject had only been delivered this morning; but his hon. and learned Friend had done more than cause inconvenience. He had not quoted those passages in the last Correspondence which did not so well suit his case; he referred particularly to the strongly expressed opinion of Sir Spencer Robinson, who, at page 14, said—Either the shipbuilding programme will not be fulfilled, or if that be adhered to faithfully, the maintaining programme will fall far short of the necessities of the service—the work contemplated will certainly not be performed.[Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT rose to explain that he had quoted from page 14.] He (Lord Henry Scott) said, that his hon. and learned Friend had done so in quoting some paragraphs higher up in that page, but not that which he had just mentioned. This only showed how inconvenient such an irregular discussion was. However, turning to the main question before the House, his hon. and learned Friend had tried to show that his hon. and gallant Friends on this side of the House were all of different minds on the subject of the best class of ships 1861 to be constructed; but, in reality, their views were not so divergent as bad been represented. They would, probably, find all their views, to a certain degree, developed in the new vessel—the Inflexible—where, in some manner, the reserve of buoyancy required was attempted to be secured in the manner recommended by the hon. and gallant Admiral the Member for Chatham (Admiral Elliot), and the iron plating for the protection of the guns, favoured by the hon. and gallant Member for Stamford (Sir John Hay), preserved. Anyone who had read attentively the Report of the Committee on Designs of Ships of War, could observe that it was their opinion, in the words of that Report, that the time had come when the "gun would assort its final and definitive superiority over the armour-plating." Whereas, it was certain that "no ship of war of manageable size could carry plating of a greater thickness than 24 inches." This opinion was now realized, for the Devastation herself was not proof against the guns she herself earned. It was a fact that guns of a larger calibre than those carried by the Devastation were being made by ourselves and other nations. These guns could only be carried amidships on a platform or turret; and, such being the case, he regretted that the late First Lord of the Admiralty had not carried out the one unanimous recommendation of the Committee of Designs, to ascertain, by means of experiments, on a sufficient scale, in which way a reserve of buoyancy could be obtained by other means than armour-plating. Especially, as in answer to an inquiry last Session from himself, he had held out what was equivalent to a promise, that this should be done. The same might be said as to the Cyclops, where the recommendations of the Committee had not been carried into effect, and these vessels were now, as stated by the Committee, in a state which only enabled them to go with safety from port to port in "favourable weather." Turning to the Motion before the House, he had confidence in those who administered the Admiralty, that means could be devised to give a greater speed than was proposed to vessels of the small gunboat class, and he felt certain that his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty would give his attention to the points raised in this debate, and endeavour to remedy the de- 1862 fects that had been pointed out in the condition of the Navy.
§ MR. HUNT
said, that after the speech of his hon. and learned Friend opposite (Sir William Harcourt), it would be necessary for him to call the attention of the House to the exact issue before it. The Amendment under consideration was—That it is undesirable to incur expense to build Unarmoured Ships of less than ten knots, and that it is expedient that the money appropriated to their construction be applied to the necessary repairs of the Iron-clad Ships of the Navy.He was not above receiving assistance from any hon. Member of the House; but though he had listened with great attention to the able and amusing speech of his hon. and learned Friend—all his speeches were able and amusing—he did not find that it contributed anything practical to the question at issue. His hon. and learned Friend had enlarged on the advice tendered to his right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) by Sir Spencer Robinson, then Controller of the Navy. The other night he remarked that, before we could judge how far his right hon. Friend could throw on the Controller the responsibility of the reductions he made, we ought to be informed how far the Controller had been inspired by his right hon. Friend when he placed that Paper before him. He hoped, however, that this was a bygone controversy. His hon. and learned Friend seemed to throw some doubt on the discretion he (Mr. Hunt) exercised in allowing that Paper to be produced. Well, as far as his own wishes were concerned, he should have been glad if it had not been printed for the use of hon. Members. It must be remembered, however, that he had been making an attack on the policy of his predecessors in regard to the reductions they had effected. He had attempted to show that the economy they professed to have carried out had not resulted, or would not eventually result, in a real saving to the country, and when his right hon. Friend came to him and said he thought the Paper ought to be produced in his own justification, it was difficult for him not to assent to its production. But he must ask hon. Members to read that document in the light of other communications from Sir Spencer Robinson which were now in the pos- 1863 session of the House. His hon. and learned Friend, following the course taken by his right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) the other night, had challenged the House to say that the fleet of this country was not equal to fight any nation or all the nations in the world. When this subject was last before the House he stated that he must decline to enter in that House into a comparison of our Navy with those of foreign countries. He always lamented when such comparisons were drawn in the House, and he thought it was not desirable that a responsible Minister of the Crown should go into details respecting the relative power and perfection, or imperfection of foreign ships. He considered the question at the Admiralty with his confidential advisers; but he could not enter into it on the present occasion. When his hon. and learned Friend praised certain ships as being those with which he would meet the Navies of the world, he could hardly have studied the Papers laid before the House by his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. A. F. Egerton), showing the state of some of the ships enumerated in the list which his hon. and learned Friend had read so proudly. In fact, his statement was subject to a good deal of abatement, as some of the vessels would not be ready for a year or more.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Only three of them are postponed till 1875—namely, the Minotaur, the Black Prince, and another.
§ MR. HUNT
said, he thought that was no inconsiderable reduction in the number he had mentioned. The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed), whose knowledge and experience made him an authority who ought to be looked up to with respect, seemed to think he was wrong in having acquiesced to a certain extent in the suggestion of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Samuda) in reference to having a scheme for the Navy. His idea, however, was not that for a certain number of years we should build a certain number of vessels of a particular class, but that we should endeavour to have a scheme which would give us a succession of ships, to take the place of those which were obliged to come in for repairs. His hon. and learned Friend, with that light sarcasm which the House knew so 1864 well, had cast some ridicule on the propositions made by the Supplementary Estimate which was necessary in order to make good the deficiencies he pointed out that night. According to his hon. and learned Friend, £47,000 was put down for wages of workmen, and with this sum, he remarked, Government was going to supply the place of dummy ships. No doubt, this was an amusing way of stating the matter; but perhaps he could put it in a different light. His opponents alleged that he had condemned all the ships in the Navy as dummies, and the whole fleet as a paper fleet. This was not a fair representation of his statement, as the expressions referred to must be taken in connection with a previous statement in detail of the condition of the iron-clad fleet. Having made that statement, he pointed out that there were a number of ships not worth repairing, and said he never would have a fleet on paper, and would not be content with "dummy" ships, and to that statement he still adhered. If our iron-clad Navy was put down at 55, he said that number existed only on paper, and if he added he would not have dummy ships he asserted now that some of those 55 were dummy ships. He also said that everything counted as forming part of the effective strength of our Navy must under his administration be an effective ship and not a dummy ship. When his observations were fully and fairly considered nothing would be found in them to justify the extreme indignation of those who contested his position. He did not say that the number of our iron-clad ships should be 55; but what he did say was that you should strike off all those which were not efficient, which were obsolete, and which were not in repair, and then you could say what the strength of your iron-clad fleet really was. It had been his intention not to go into the Supplementary Estimates until the Speaker had left the Chair; but after the observations which had been made on the other side it might be convenient if he were to glance at them now. It had been assumed by his hon. and learned Friend (Sir William Harcourt) and also by the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) the other night that the Supplementary Estimates he thought it necessary to bring forward would be the measure of the deficiencies of the late Government 1865 with regard to the Navy. That would be quite a wrong view of the case. It should be remembered that in the Navy nothing could be improvised. That was a very old maxim, and therefore if he were to ask for millions, as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) said he was bound to do according to his view of the case, he should not know how to spend them in the course of the present year. He never said that we had no ships, and that our Navy had been left in a disastrous condition. What he had said was, that no proper provision had been made for a succession of ships, and it was to make such provision that he asked for an increased Tote. His view was that we ought to accelerate the ships we had now in hand, so as to get them ready early to take the place of those which would come in for repairs, and that we might have the means of replacing some of the dummies he mentioned the other night. He never thought a larger sum than that which he asked would be required this year. When his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer framed his Budget he was fully prepared for the expenditure that was now demanded. The matter had been carefully considered by his Colleagues as well as himself, for he had informed them of the state in which he found the Navy. The Estimates which he was submitting to the House were nearly of the amount which from the first he thought he should be obliged to ask them to vote in addition to the Estimates originally presented. He stated when he explained the Navy Estimates to the Committee that he was afraid it would be his duty to propose Supplementary Estimates, but that he felt greatly the responsibility of asking for anything more than his predecessor had deemed necessary, and he would examine the matter further. That was not the statement of a man who thought it would be necessary to spend extra millions on the Navy. His further examination resulted in the Supplementary Estimates which he had laid on the Table, the total amount of which was £150,000. His examination of the matter from the first when the financial scheme of the year was in contemplation pointed to £200,000, and further investigation, continued from that time until, as he might say, the last few hours, pointed to the same amount. 1866 "Why, then," some one might say, "ask for only £150,000 when £200,000 was required?" The explanation was very simple. In consequence of the fall in the prices of some articles in the Store Vote, and advantageous contracts which the Admiralty had been able to make, he apprehended there would be a saving of £50,000 or a trifle more, and that with the sum he now asked would give him £200,000 to expend on shipbuilding more than was proposed in the original Estimates. That might appear a very small addition to make when compared with the total of £10,000,000 in the original Estimates. But compared with the sum for shipbuilding in the Dockyard Vote 6, and that part of Vote 10 which was applicable to machinery in ships, the addition was about 11 per cent. He was surprised the economical mind of his hon. and learned Friend was not staggered at the proposal to add 11 per cent to the money originally proposed, instead of ridiculing him for the small amount he asked for. After that expression of opinion, he expected he should have in his hon. and learned Friend a warm supporter of the addition he was now proposing to make. What he intended to do with the money placed at his disposal by the Chancellor of the Exchequer was to advance three of the iron-clads which were in the programme. The first was the Shannon. The programme proposed to advance the Shannon 1,145 tons, which added to 326 completed last year made 1,471. He proposed to have 250 additional men employed upon the vessel, and that would advance her by 628 tons, giving a total of 2,099, leaving only 271 to be completed the year after. The additional men, if continued until her completion, might be regarded as advancing the Shannon by about 12 months. He proposed to place 100 additional men on the work of the Superb, and that might be considered as advancing the ship, supposing we proceeded at the same rate, by three months. He intended to employ 200 more men on the Inflexible, the effect of which would be to advance the ship about six months beyond what was before contemplated. Then there were certain depot ships which were out of repair, one at Hong Kong, which had been condemned as unfit for human habitation, and for which, as far as he was aware, no provision had been made 1867 in the Estimates. There was also a depôt ship required at Jamaica. Whether it would be necessary to supply both in the present year he was not quite prepared to say. He feared it would. But, at all events, something must be done to supply the place of the ship at Hong Kong. It was further proposed to take on about 100 men for the purpose of constructing now boilers at Keyham. Boilers were wearing out much faster than we thought they would, and it would be absolutely necessary that we should be prepared beforehand to replace them when they were worn out. Different views had been taken as to whether these boilers should be purchased from the private trade or constructed in our own Dockyards. We had workshops which were standing idle. Having workshops calculated for the construction of boilers, could it be economical to have them made by contractors who must charge interest upon the capital invested in their own workshops and machinery? he was told that 25 per cent would be saved by constructing them in our own Dockyards, and he was told we should also gain in quality. He proposed to take 150 men for this work.
§ MR. HUNT
was not prepared to say, because it had not yet been determined what vessels were to take the place of the depot ships. There were 550 men to be employed on the ships now in progress, and about 225 for the boilers and depot ships. That was only a rough estimate, because, until the ships were thoroughly examined, it would be impossible to determine upon the exact number of men required. Then came the question with regard to the tug at Chatham, which might seem a very contemptible matter to the soaring mind of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt); but when it was considered that a tug was the moving power to bring large ships in and out of harbour, it would be seen that if we had no such locomotive power the whole business of our Dockyards might be at a standstill. Although the sum was a small one, the question was not altogether a small one. He had received a representation from Malta to the effect that they had only one tug 1868 available, and that if anything happened to her the whole business of the port might be stranded. It was originally proposed to take a sum for a tug at either Malta or Chatham, but he found that one at each place was wanted. These and the repairs to the depôt ships constituted the demands he had spoken of as those he could not resist. He did not see how his predecessor had resisted them and wished he had not done so. For himself he could not be responsible for the consequences of a breakdown at Malta owing to the want of a tug. A sum of £55,000 was proposed for the wages of men in the Dockyards employed upon the objects he had named, but that did not represent the whole amount. It was quite clear that if we employed additional men they must require additional materials for their work; but by good fortune and by the good management of the officials he was glad to say he saw his way to save just the amount of money for materials for those men by savings on the Store Vote. The sum required for wages and materials was £105,000, or thereabouts—a little in excess of the sum which he proposed to expend upon work to be done by contract, which was £95,000. He believed it to be economical to lengthen the Orontes. He found that the normal requirements of the Transport Service were not satisfied by the number of troop-ships at our command, and the question arose whether we should utilize and improve what we had got, or go into the market and purchase or hire what we wanted. The history of the work done by the Himalaya in connection with the war on the Gold Coast, was exceedingly encouraging, and the gain to the country through owning that ship had been enormous. The cheapest plan was to have at our own command troop-ships for the transport of troops during ordinary years. We had not at present sufficient troop-ships. Four were required; but we had only two which were serviceable as the Orontes was out of the question, and a third for a few months, when it would require thorough repair. But if we were to have four serviceable troop-ships it was quite clear that we should require a fifth to take the place of one which might require repair. We had no such provision without hiring. It had been said that instead of altering the Orontes we should buy a vessel from the trade. Something 1869 might be said for that view of the question; but he believed the purchase and sale of ships by the Government was very much like what they experienced in regard to the sale of horses. If they wanted to sell a horse they got very little for it, while, if they wished to purchase one, they had to give an exceedingly extravagant price. He thought it would be more economical to have the Orontes lengthened and her engines modernized in order to make her fit for service than to sell her.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
asked the right hon. Gentleman to state what would be the cost of lengthening the Orontes?
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that the Supplementary Estimates having been challenged, the right hon. Gentleman was justified in making a general statement in reply; but the discussion of the details was a matter for consideration in Committee of Supply.
§ MR. HUNT
said he would reserve the explanation he was about to give for the Committee. He had stated what his views were with regard to the appropriation of the money he should ask the Committee to grant in order to put the Navy in a more satisfactory state than he thought it was at present. With respect to the comparatively small questions raised in regard to whether it was desirable to go on with certain gunboats which had less speed than 10 knots, he thought the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Peed) had stated very fairly what was the true answer. The answer was that these gunboats were intended for certain special services. On the West Coast of Africa, at the West Indies, and in other places these gunboats had been found to be serviceable, particularly on account of their light draught and their speed; and as to their armament, it was sufficient for the purpose they were intended to serve. They were not designed for general fighting purposes, and, this being so, the arguments of his right hon. and gallant Friend (Sir John Hay) in regard to them did not apply. With regard to the Motion of his right hon. and gallant Friend, he almost accepted it, inasmuch as it was not intended to build any unarmoured vessels of less speed than 10 knots an hour. Three new gunboats were to be commenced by contract this 1870 year. They would be either of the Coquette or the Arab class, with some improvements, and the speed would exceed 10 knots, the draught being 9 feet. Two vessels of a larger class—like the Fantóme or the Magicienne—were being constructed, and would also have a speed exceeding 10 knots. To have greater speed they must have a larger boat, and then came the question whether the draught would be light enough for the service these vessels had to perform? When Notice of the present Motion was given, it had greater force than now, for, with only the original Estimates before him, it was natural for his right hon. and gallant Friend to think that enough had not been done to advance the more important class of fighting ships, and to wish that the money proposed to be spent on the small gunboats should be laid out on the former. Government had to a certain extent fallen in with this view. His right hon. and gallant Friend had quite frightened him by talking about another £1,500,000 being devoted to the ironclads, and in comparison with that view the proposition made by the Government must appear contemptibly small. He had, however, gone all the length he felt justified in going, and perhaps his right hon. and gallant Friend, admitting that there would be a very considerable addition made to the vessels of the class he favoured, would not be inclined to press his Motion.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he was very glad this Motion had been made, because it was of the greatest importance that no more money than was absolutely necessary should be spent upon any class of ships not of the best calibre. The efforts of the country had for some time past been so concentrated on the building of ironclad ships that we had got into arrear with respect to unarmoured vessels, and he had felt it to be his duty to insert in his programme the construction of such ships as those described by his hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Peed). Those ships did admirable duty in every part of the world—in the waters of China, on the East African Coast, at Indian stations in connection with the suppression of piracy, and they had done good service on the West Coast of Africa. The House would see that it would be a sheer waste of power to send out large ships for these duties. 1871 He wished, he might add, to repeat in the most emphatic manner the obligations under which he felt himself placed to his Naval advisers, who had most wisely and consistently supported him during the whole period of his tenure of office. As to the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, he had that evening given the House a most ingenious explanation of what he meant when he spoke of certain ships in the Navy as dummies. If, however, he continued to describe ships under repair and not in the highest state of efficiency to be dummies or ships on paper, he believed he would not be able to realize the programme which he had sketched out. The late Board of Admiralty had pursued no exceptional course in placing on The Navy List ships which had not been absolutely struck off as inefficient, and he was sure some surprise would be felt at finding that the right hon. Gentleman meant so little, seeing that he had said so much. The right hon. Gentleman maintained that his statement on a previous occasion was plain and unvarnished; but the fact was it was obscure, for although he referred to a number of ships, be did not name the ships themselves, and had, in consequence, created a most erroneous impression. The proposal now submitted by the right hon. Gentleman to the House must, he would further observe, be taken as the measure of the shortcomings of the late Government; for, as the right hon. Gentleman had said, nothing could be improvised in the Navy, and it would therefore be his duty, if shortcomings existed, to remedy them as early as possible The probability was the right hon. Gentleman intended to remedy those shortcomings next year on a much larger scale; though, if he had chosen to make greater efforts this year, nothing could have been easier for him than to have adopted that course. If the right hon. Gentleman had chosen, he could have taken on at least 500 more men at Chatham. Instead of putting 100 more men on the Superb, he could easily have put on 200, and also 200 or 300 more on the Téméraire. He thought the 550 more men asked for by the right hon. Gentleman were unnecessary, but what he was contending for was, that if the state of the Navy had been such as to require them to hurry on those ships, it would have been 1872 possible to have made greater efforts in doing it. In all the Dockyards there was no difficulty in taking on men if the requisite wages were given. In the right hon. Gentleman's view it was sufficient, notwithstanding his description of the state of the Navy, to spend £50,000 more in advancing iron-clads in the Dockyards, and £50,000 in beginning two new iron-clads by contract. No additional money was asked for the repair of iron-clads, and a sum was taken which would be about enough for one-third of one first-class iron-clad. He was content, therefore, to leave the country to decide whether the proposals contained in those Estimates did or did not correspond with what was to have been inferred from the right hon. Gentleman's former speech. With regard to receiving ships, he did not approve of the policy of stationing those old ships at distant stations. It appeared to him that the money would be more usefully spent in sending out to Hong Kong a second class iron-clad, which, besides serving the purpose of a receiving ship, would add to the defences of the place. The late Board of Admiralty had been anxious always to avoid spending money on what he might call the administrative ships of the Navy, and to concentrate its efforts, as far as possible, on the actual fighting ships. With respect to the Orontes, the question with the late Government was between lengthening her and buying—not hiring—another ship. The Himalaya and several other vessels of her class which had been bought had turned out most satisfactory bargains. [Mr. HUNT: Did you take any money for buying a ship?] They had not thought it necessary to do so for that year. It was not advisable to hurry a purchase of that kind in the state of the market, unless a ship was urgently wanted, which was not the case in that instance. That was his answer to the right hon. Gentleman's interruption. Whether 1,000 tons, more or less, of iron-clads should be built or not in the year was entirely a matter for the House in Committee of Supply to consider, and when they got into Committee he hoped the House would pronounce an opinion upon it; but he was perfectly prepared to discuss the right hon. Gentleman's proposals fairly, without reference to any party considerations.
§ MR. BENTINCK
, while willing to make every allowance for the difficult position of the present First Lord of the Admiralty, confessed that he should have been much more satisfied if that right hon. Gentleman had told them he was about to take more active steps than he now appeared to contemplate for remedying the unfortunate state in which his predecessors had left the Navy. He could only hope that next year the Government would deal with that question in a much more effectual manner. The right hon. Gentleman laid great stress on the word "we;" but it appeared the other night that his naval advisers made representations which he submitted to the Cabinet, and on their rejection of which he was content to remain in office.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, there had been no contradiction of the statement that the naval advisers of the Admiralty distinctly represented that the condition of the Navy was not what it ought to be; that the right hon. Gentleman submitted this to the Cabinet; and that no action was taken.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, if he had not contradicted it before, he would contradict it now in the most decided manner.
§ MR. BENTINCK
wished to know whether the statement was a complete fiction, and whether during the late Board's tenure of office no expression of opinion was given by the naval advisers that the condition of the Navy was unsatisfactory?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
replied that this was a totally different statement. One statement was that the naval advisers simply made certain representations to the Admiralty; the other was that the Naval Lords made representations to himself, that he refused to act on his own responsibility, that he submitted them to the Cabinet, and that he remained in office without the representations having had any effect. The last statement, he had from the first flatly contradicted. His hon. Friend (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) also denied that any formal statement such as that alluded to had been made to him by his naval advisers as to the inefficiency of the Navy. His hon. Friend stated that there had been constant conversations in the intimacy of the relations between 1874 himself and his advisers, but nothing more. It was hardly fair that when a statement had been denied, hon. Members were to be subjected to interrogatories in order to discover something perfectly different which might have occurred.
§ MR. BENTINCK
entirely acquitted the right hon. Gentleman of any intention to deceive the House; but he (Mr. Bentinck) had been long enough in the House to know that official denials were often very misleading—and, without assuming for a moment that there had been any intention to deceive the House, he must repeat that the right hon. Gentleman's answer was not satisfactory. His belief, from what had been stated in debate, was that the naval advisers remonstrated with the late Board as to the condition of the Navy, and that those remonstrances were not acted upon—a great cause of mismanagement being the composition of the Board. The hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) had ridiculed the idea of any possible combination of foreign Powers attacking this country, or of any possibility of finding ourselves in conflict with two large Powers. That, however, was a very unsafe assertion, as we could never tell what combinations might arise. Our foreign policy of late years had been to irritate and offend every country in Europe, whilst our home policy had been to denude ourselves of every means of offence and defence by which we could make ourselves respected. Europe was rife with causes of strife, yet we had only a Channel and, perhaps, a flying squadron, with no Naval Reserve to fall back on in case of casualty, and with an Army reduced almost to a minimum. This was a very unsafe position, when nobody could tell what iron-clads would do in action; and it was unwise to depend on private yards. He asked the House whether any amount of argument or sophistry could convince them that, considering the insular position of the country and its extended commerce, our naval defences were what they ought to be? The hon. and learned Member had complained of the constant changes of policy at the Board of Admiralty; but how was it possible, with the present composition of the Board, that there could be continuity of policy or system? The most important Department of the 1875 Government was presided over by men I who, although of distinguished ability, knew nothing of the business which they were called upon to undertake. I The advice of high professional authorities, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite knew well, had been from motives of economy or otherwise disregarded.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he could not allow that statement to pass uncontradicted. The advice to which the hon. Gentleman referred had not been disregarded. He had been advised to add 800 men to the strength of the Navy, and that addition figured in the Estimates which he had prepared.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he was obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for admitting that a representation had been made and acted upon. At last he had got at the truth, but it took a long time to extract it—["Oh, oh."]—not from any intention of the right hon. Gentleman to mislead the House, but owing to the tendency of official habits.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I must rise to Order. The hon. Member speaks of official habits making it almost impossible to extract the truth. I submit that it is scarcely right in him to make such a statement. The hon. Member himself seems never to recollect the charges he makes, and drifts on from one to another.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I think the hon. Member was about to qualify his statement, and I trust that he will withdraw it.
§ MR. BENTINCK
assured the right hon. Gentleman that he had not intended to impute anything which was at all derogatory to him, but he had just obtained from him an admission that certain representations had been made and acted upon.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The same admission had been made the other evening by the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre).
§ MR. BENTINCK
It was now quite clear that the impression he had formed was correct, and he gave the right hon. Gentleman credit for having in the first place acted upon the representation made to him, and then for having had the candour to admit it. The House had heard an elaborate defence of the conduct of the late Board of Admiralty; but what was the opinion of high autho- 1876 upon that subject? Admiral Sir Spencer Robinson in September last published a letter in The Times, in which he said he believed that for the last two years the country had been deplorably administered in every Department of the State. He went on to say that "another year of such mal-administration would not only destroy the Liberal party, but be fraught with ruin to all the great interests of the country." Again he said, "There never was a case in which expenditure had so greatly increased, and efficiency had so much diminished," and he added, "As to the Navy, its management was simply deplorable." Those charges were publicly preferred in The Times by a high authority, and he left the right hon. Gentleman to deal with them as best he could. For his part he believed that until the House were prepared to introduce into the composition of the Board of Admiralty the first elements and rudiments of common sense by discontinuing the practice of putting at its head a man who, however able, knew nothing of the business he would have to deal with, all discussion in that House would be only so much time wasted. [Ironical Cheers.] The cheers that his last remark had elicited from hon. Gentlemen below the gangway on the opposite side, implied an indifference on their part on the present occasion to those principles of economy that they usually advocated with so much consistency. Unless the House of Commons took the subject in hand and altered the present system of Naval Administration, so long must the service be in peril and the resources of the country be year by year frittered away in useless expenditure—a consideration to which he especially invited the attention of those who sat below the gangway on the other side.
§ MR. GOURLEY
entirely agreed with the first part of the Motion of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir John Hay), as in these days of steam it was no use to have vessels of a low rate of speed. He disagreed, however, with the second part of the Motion, because many of our iron-clads were obsolete, and were really of no more use than the old wooden ships, and consequently, in his opinion, no expense ought to be incurred in repairing them, unless to fit them for being used as swift cruisers with swivel turret-guns of the longest 1877 range. At present, they were not only very slow, but they had no capacity for carrying fuel, and to lay out a large sum upon them would be mere waste of money. It would be a wiser policy, in his opinion, to build ships of modern type, able to steam not less than 17 or 18 knots an hour, and to arm them with heavy artillery. Those vessels, too, he would have constructed in compartments, so that if any one compartment should be blown up by a torpedo, the rest of the vessel might still remain intact.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.