§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
(1.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £931,400, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expense of Victuals and Clothing for Seamen and Marines, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1880.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, that on the last occasion when the Navy Estimates were under discussion the first Vote was taken at a late hour, after a speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith); and an understanding was then arrived at that after the personal Vote was taken the general discussion should be continued upon the second Vote. They would all regret that the noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox), who was to have continued the discussion, was unfortunately prevented by ill-health from being present. He (Mr. Rylands) therefore rose to go on with the general discussion upon the Vote for Victuals and Clothing for the Seamen and Marines. The total gross amount which was asked for the Royal Navy and Marines amounted to £13,000,000; or, after making deductions for appropriations, to a sum of £12,700,000. Judging from the statement made by the Prime Minister that night—a statement which must certainly have been anticipated by every Member of the House—in connection with the Vote of Credit, there would be a considerable additional sum proposed for Naval Expenditure. In former years, and up to a very recent period indeed, the decision of the Board of Admiralty in regard to the amount of money required and the means of defence necessary had been accepted as being an authorized and a reliable Estimate. It was very curious that it should have been so, and it tended to prove the tenacity of popular delusions. Year after year the conduct of the Admiralty had been shown to be altogether inefficient and unsatisfactory; and yet the House and the public continued to suppose that whatever judgment was arrived 183 at by the Admiralty was the judgment which ought to be accepted by the country without question and without doubt. He was disposed to think, however, that the House of Commons and the public at large were gradually opening their eyes to the fallacy of this position, and were awakening from the delusion which formerly existed with regard to the administration of the Admiralty. Attempts had been made from time to time to draw public attention to these matters; and the public had been urged, again and again, not to shut their eyes, or to continue to accept from the Board of Admiralty the conclusions drawn by that Department under the impression that the Board of Admiralty was an infallible institution. About seven years ago it would be recollected—it was in the days of the former Government—that there was a very large amount of public irritation excited, and most important articles appeared in The Times condemning very strongly the policy of the Admiralty, and criticizing very severely the Administrative Department of the Dockyards. His hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed) at that time brought his great ability and knowledge to influence public opinion, in a manner which was calculated to induce the people to call in question the administration of the Admiralty, and to demand that there should be an improvement in the system of administration. That was at a time when the Government was in a state of excitement, and there were threatenings of war. The Earl of Beaconsfield, by a vigorous policy which a number of Members on that side of the House denounced, had brought the country into a position which seemed to threaten the probability of a great European convulsion. The country now seemed to be in a somewhat similar position under a professedly peaceful Government, but whose policy, so far as the interests of peace were concerned, was somewhat questionable. Whenever similar circumstances arose public attention was excited and directed to the Navy. First came criticisms and letters in the papers, and then the thunder of The Times, with a view, if possible, of stirring up that slumbering body the Board of Admiralty. And what happened? When a period of excitement did occur the Board of Admiralty opened its eyes and began to 184 look around; but no sooner did the excitement and the rumours of war pass away than that Board began to slumber again, and the excited feeling of the country and of the House of Commons was in the same way put to sleep. They appeared to forget that in former times the Admiralty had proved wanting in making adequate provision for that which was required for the exigencies of the country; and the public again fell into the delusion that the Board of Admiralty, so needful for the defence of the country, was infallible. He hoped they were now arriving at a time when this public and popular delusion would be dispelled. What had happened now? The First Lord of the Admiralty got up in the House of Lords and said that there was so great a difference of opinion among naval officers as to the merits of different classes of ships that the difficulty the Admiralty would have to contend with, if Parliament placed at their disposal a sum of £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 to-morrow, for the purpose of adding to the Navy, would be to decide how to spend the money. Some persons thought that in the event of war torpedo boats would be their most powerful weapon of defence, and yet they were singularly destitute of such vessels. When it was remembered that the First Lord of the Admiralty only a very few months ago avowed, in his place in the House of Lords, that if £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 were given to the Board of Admiralty to spend they would not know what to do with it, and when, in the short period which had since elapsed, the Government were coming down to ask for largely increased Estimates, not only in this general Vote, but in the Vote of Credit which would have to follow, surely any reasonable man would see that, if the present First Lord was a fair sample of previous First Lords, he was a sort of person he should not like to trust with the expenditure of any considerable sum of money. Was there anything more preposterous than that the First Lord of the Admiralty should have been so utterly in a mist in regard to the administration of the Department, at the head of which he was supposed to be placed, that he could not possibly form any opinion as to how he was to spend the public money if it were voted by Parliament? Perhaps the Committee would 185 allow him to say, in passing, that he had the highest regard for his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty (Sir Thomas Brassey), who had made his great qualities still better known since he had assumed the position he now occupied. But he thought it was altogether a most objectionable system which placed the First Lord of the Admiralty in the House of Lords. He maintained that the Heads of both the greatest spending Departments in the country—the Head of the Navy, as well the Head of the War Department— ought to have a seat in the House of Commons, so that he could always be ready to reply to any question that might be put to him, and come, as it were, into touch with public opinion in a way that was not possible if he was a Member of the House of Lords. Notwithstanding the opinion expressed by the Earl of Northbrook a short time ago, that the Board of Admiralty would not know what to do with the money, the Government were now asking for a very large sum of money. He ventured to assert that the Committee had so much lost confidence in the Board of Admiralty—not only in the present Board, but in former Boards—that if this Vote rested simply on their recommendation the House of Commons would be scarcely justified in consenting to it and in voting the money required. Before proceeding further, he ought to say that he, for one, was altogether in favour of the sum of money being granted which was necessary to put the country in a proper state of defence. In that respect he was a follower of Mr. Cobden. With all his desire to keep down the Expenditure of the country, he agreed with Mr. Cobden that if it could be shown that the Navies of Foreign Powers, and more especially the Navy of France, was approaching very nearly to the standard of our own, it would be a reason why the House of Commons ought to be prepared to make great efforts in order to place the Navy of England in the position it ought to hold with regard to the Navies of Foreign Powers. He remembered perfectly well that Mr. Cobden declared that he would be ready to spend £100,000,000 in order to keep up the due proportion of relative strength between the British and the French Navies; and Mr. Cobden also said that he considered the British 186 Navy ought to be about double the strength of the Navy of France. He was disposed to think that Mr. Cobden interpreted the feelings of the English people correctly when he made that statement; but he begged hon. Members to remember this—that the mere fact of voting the money did not necessarily get them their money's worth if the expenditure of that money was not properly administered. In one of Mr. Cobden's speeches—he believed in the very speech in which he gave this expression of opinion—Mr. Cobden quoted the opinion of Mr. Scott Russell, a man whom everybody knew was a great Naval Constructor, and who possessed a considerable amount of technical knowledge in connection with that Department. In 1862 Mr. Scott Russell said that they had, during the previous 30 years, spent £30,000,000 in the construction of a class of ships which were then totally useless. Well, he (Mr. Rylands) maintained that they had still, at any given time, been wasting very large sums of money solely through the mal-administration of the Board of Admiralty. The truth was, as had been admitted again and again, that the Board of Admiralty, as a foreign writer of considerable eminence declared, were always wanting in foresight, and did not even know what was going on at their very doors. It really seemed that, although that might not be absolutely correct, the statement was proved by experience to be founded upon very reasonable grounds. Hon. Members would remember that it was seven years after France had abandoned the construction of the old sailing vessels that the House of Commons, in 1851, forced a similar policy upon the Admiralty. Again, when the iron-clad system came up, the Board of Admiralty continued to build the old three-deckers long after the French Government had abandoned the building of vessels of that obsolete type. His object in adverting to those facts was to emphasize his demand, that when the House of Commons granted money to the Board of Admiralty, they had a right to expect the full worth of their money. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith), who was an admirable specimen of an efficient Lord of the Admiralty when he held that Office, would say "Yes" to that view; but 187 the Board of Admiralty, for a long period of years, so far from noting what was going on, had appeared never to be able to make up their mind what was the proper course to pursue. Hitherto they had been unable to arrive at any rapid decision, and incessant delay occurred in the construction of vessels after it was decided to build them. Now, he believed that when the Board of Admiralty, at any given time, had made up their mind as to the best construction of a ship, they ought at once to proceed to have that ship built in the best and quickest manner possible. It had been stated by the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed), or by some other person at the meeting held recently in the City, that at the present moment there was a capital of no less than £7,000,000 sterling absolutely locked up in incomplete vessels of war; and that £7,000,000, granted in previous years by Parliament, if a war were to break out to-morrow, would not be of the slightest use to the country for the purposes of defence. He ventured to think that in spending the money voted by Parliament, they ought not only to take care that the vessels they built were built quickly—not only that they were good vessels, but that they should not spend more upon them than they were worth. It was pretty certain, in his own mind, that they were spending a great deal more for the war vessels they were constructing than they ought to spend, and more by a great deal than they could purchase the same vessels for. He recollected last year a valuable speech that was made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. H. Smith) in the discussion upon the Navy Estimates. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that vessels built in Her Majesty's Dockyards cost more than those built in private shipbuilding yards, and added that that was, perhaps, not necessarily so. Now, he did not know what the right hon. Gentleman meant by the words "not necessarily so." His (Mr. Rylands) experience was that, in the condition under which the Dockyards were worked, the cost of labour must necessarily be much dearer than in private yards. Hon. Members would not dispute the evidence obtained by the important Committee presided over by the Earl of Ravens-worth. He held the Blue Book containing the evidence given before that 188 Committee in his hand. His impression was that the Committee obtained evidence of the most valuable character, and that they had presented a Report in regard to the administration of the Admiralty, which was now on the Table of the House, which contained recommendations of a very important character. He only regretted, upon reading the Report of the Committee, and the valuable evidence they had taken, that the Committee was so narrow in its constitution, and that the Reference was so curtailed, that a great many very important matters, which ought to have come under the purview of the Committee, were withheld from their consideration. Certainly the Committee went to a great extent in the direction of obtaining information, and they heard evidence on the very point he had been alluding to in regard to the comparative cost of constructing ships in the Dockyards and in private yards. The impression he derived from the evidence given before the Committee was that they could have bought the whole of the vessels they now had in the Navy, if they had been purchased in the ordinary shipbuilding yards, at a saving of somewhere between 25 and 40 percent in the cost of construction. Whenever the Admiralty made a comparison of the cost of shipbuilding in a Dockyard and in a private yard, they unfortunately threw out of view a large number of items which ought necessarily to come into the consideration of the cost of a manufacturing establishment; and consequently their Returns did not fairly give the cost of the work done in the Dockyards, as compared with private shipbuilding yards. But if he took the lowest possible estimate, according to the evidence before the Earl of Ravens-worth's Committee, the saving in the private yards was at least 20 per cent; so that there was a loss of 20 per cent incurred by the country in the cost of Dockyard work. That was taking a most favourable view of the matter; and he would appeal to his hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed), who knew so much more of those matters than he did, if it was not the fact that when they laid down a vessel in one of Her Majesty's Dockyards, and the Admiralty had proceeded with its construction up to a certain point, they did not find it necessary to alter the 189 structure, and accordingly they had a new scheme prepared? Then somebody suggested this alteration, and somebody else suggested that; and the effect of all of this was very materially to increase the cost, and enormously to extend the time required for the building of a vessel. The vessels built in private shipbuilding yards could not only be built at a very much loss cost, but they could be built and placed in the possession of the Admiralty, complete, with much greater expedition. He had spoken just now of a slumbering Admiralty; and he might mention, as a matter of fact, that there were vessels now unfinished in the Dockyards which were laid down six years ago. During those six years, the Admiralty seemed to have been reposing comfortably upon a soft pillow, and the Dockyards had been worked by no means under full pressure; so that those vessels were only now approaching completion. What had happened in the meantime? Foreign Powers had purchased from private shipbuilding yards in this country vessels, in some respects, superior to ours, which were turned out in three years. If it took six years to lay down and complete a vessel, he would remind the Committee that the Admiralty could only turn out five vessels in a generation. It seemed perfectly preposterous; and he could hardly imagine how the House of Commons could continue to support a system which produced results like that. He was aware that the Admiralty would say that they did not know at the beginning of the six years what improvements and inventions might arise, and that they wished to have the vessel as perfect as possible. That was a preposterous view; at any rate, they would have had the vessel, even if not quite so perfect, turned out three years ago, and the country would be enjoying the advantage of it now. Unfortunately, the Admiralty were very slow in arriving at a conviction; they were continually raising doubts and difficulties, and the Members of the Board took a great deal longer to arrive at a conclusion than would be taken by any ordinary man of business. And then they wasted a great deal of precious time in experiments. How was that? He would not enter into the controversies which would, no doubt, be fully gone into by his hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. 190 Reed). He would not venture to express an opinion, although he was disposed very much to coincide with the judgment of his hon. Friend, in regard to the construction of vessels. The matter had already been brought before the House of Commons on various points connected with naval construction; and he must say that the ideas of the Admiralty as to the speed that was necessary was altogether condemnatory of their policy. That was a matter which he could understand quite as well as his hon. Friend, and he maintained that the ideas of the Admiralty as to the speed with which a vessel should be furnished were altogether wrong. They were content with a much lower rate of speed than that which prevailed in other countries. Now, when Parliament voted a sum of money for preparing ships for the Navy, what did they require from the Admiralty? First of all, they required from them that they should decide on the best construction of the vessels that existed at the time, to the best of their judgment; and, secondly, that they should carry out the details of the work in the most economical manner, or by purchase, if they could purchase vessels to advantage. It would appear, however, that the Board of Admiralty entirely overlooked those two great points of duty. What was the Board which had to decide on very nice questions respecting the construction of vessels of war? He maintained that the Board of Admirnlty did not necessarily know anything about the best form of construction of vessels of war. After what the First Lord of the Admiralty had stated, only a few months ago, it was quite evident that he knew nothing whatever about the construction of vessels of war. Who, then, was responsible for settling this very serious question—what influence predominated the consideration of what was the best construction of vessels of war? It was the Controller of the Navy, who was at the head of that Department. And what did the Controller know of the matter? Had he had experience? Had he had training? Had he been brought up from the beginning, gradually rising in the scale, and possessing full knowledge of the best mode of construction of these very complicated armoured vessels of war? Not necessarily so at all. He was an Admiral. He had 191 no wish to speak disrespectfully of an Admiral, especially in the presence of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Wigtown Burghs (Sir John Hay); but the Controller was an Admiral, perhaps, of long experience and naval training, who did not necessarily know anything whatever of the construction of vessels of war. Therefore, he ought not to be entrusted with the responsibility of deciding the designs upon which vessels of war were to be constructed. He ventured to say, in regard to the Controller of the Navy, on whom the important duty was devolved of superintending the designs for the construction of vessels of war, that he ought to be the very best naval engineer they could find in the Three Kingdoms; a man with the greatest training, with the most perfect knowledge, and whose judgment would be really valuable and reliable. Then the question arose whether, in their construction of ships, they adopted in their Dockyards, in carrying out the details of construction, a system that was at all businesslike or economical. Without pretending to have an opinion which would justify him in presuming to say what the best mode of construction or the best design for a ship of war was, he would say that, having had a great deal to do with large industrial occupations, the last thing he would dream of doing would be to place at the head of a manufacturing establishment an Admiral, who knew nothing of manufacturing operations, who knew nothing whatever about business, and who was to be placed there for three years, to be an ornament to the Dockyards, able to walk up and down in full naval uniform as the representative of British power. What he thought was that if they were bound to maintain those Dockyards they ought to be maintained on a system that would secure their being conducted economically and efficiently for the purposes for which they were required. They employed, at the present moment, in the Dockyards something like 18,000 men, and they paid, in addition, very large sums for incidental purposes connected with the Dockyards. The management of the 18,000 men distributed in the several Dockyards cost them in salaries and allowances £224,274 a-year. That seemed to him to be a rather large sum for the clerical management of the 192 Department. Then, again, they could not have those 18,000 men without having a great number of police to look after them. They, therefore, paid £34,000 a-year for a police force to look after the Dockyards. He would not say that the Dockyards did not require some protection; but he considered that amount to be altogether excessive. Then, again, he found that last year a sum of £148,000 was paid to established Dockyard men in the shape of pensions and allowances. One of the gentlemen who gave valuable evidence before the Earl of Ravens worth's Committee was connected with the Dockyards; and he (Mr. Rylands) mentioned the fact to show the unbusiness like mode in which the Admiralty proceeded; that this gentleman was asked a question about those pensions, and his reply was that the pensions were not taken into account in considering the wages of the men, although they came to nearly 25 per cent of the entire wages paid to the established workmen. The items which he had mentioned in connection with the wages and other charges for maintaining the Dockyards sufficiently showed that the cost of the Royal Dockyards was much greater than the cost of private shipbuilding yards. Therefore, among the recommendations of the Committee on the Navy which he looked upon as most important was that a much larger amount of work should in future be given out to contract. In connection with that matter, he was gratified to be able to say that the evidence as to the character of contract work, and also the indirect evidence as to the character of the ships supplied to Foreign Powers, left in his mind the fullest confidence that the private shipbuilding yards turned out work of an exceptionally good character. That he deemed to be a most satisfactory matter from every point of view. Then, again, the Committee urged that there should be a larger number of vessels given out to be built by contract, and that in connection with such contracts there should be an insistance on the shortness of time for delivery, and they further recommended that repairs should not be given out for contract, but that, as far as possible, they should be done in their own Dockyards. The general conclusion at which the Committee arrived was that the Dockyards should be used for all repairs, and for the con- 193 struction of experimental ships; but that in regard to the new ships built upon a settled design, they should be contracted for and built in the private shipbuilding yards of the country. He wished to urge upon the Committee how very important it was, in view of the special circumstances of this country, that they should adopt the recommendations of that Committee of the Admiralty. The Committee pointed out that among the advantages of extending the contract work there would be this great advantage—that not only would the resources of the Dockyards be rendered available to a greater extent for repairing vessels and building ships of an experimental type, but that familiarity with the work of building ships of war would be increased throughout the country, and facilities would more readily be given for completing the naval defences of the Empire. As far as he was able to estimate from the Returns, the power of shipbuilding, including both iron and wooden ships in the shipbuilding yards of this country was something like 700,000 tons a-year, and out of that 700,000 tons a-year from 200,000 to 300,000 would be ironclads. In 1874 the great shipbuilding yards of this country supplied Foreign Governments with no less than 12,877 tons of ironclad war vessels, and in 1875 they supplied 13,844 tons, making in the two years 26,721 tons; while in those two years the entire tonnage of war vessels produced in the Government Dockyards was 25,300, as against 26,721 tons. Absolutely, in those two years, more tons of iron-clad war vessels were built for Foreign Powers in our large shipbuilding yards than were built by the Admiralty in the Royal Dockyards. What appeared to him to be of the utmost importance in connection with this matter was that they were, or that the country ought to be, in a far better position than any other country in Europe with regard to their available means of defence, and they ought also to be in a far better position for obtaining a more powerful Navy than any other European country. Nevertheless, they were told that they had not got the Navy they ought to have; and so far from keeping up the relative proportion and having twice as large a Navy as France, they were told that although the French Navy was below 194 ours at present, still in the course of four or five years, if the present rate of shipbuilding continued, France would be ahead of us. If that were so, and he did not dispute it for a moment, it was a state of things that ought not to be tolerated, and could not be justified. It was a remarkable thing that while, according to the highest authorities, the French had been making greater progress, and had been gradually approaching us in naval strength—that was to say, if we made a comparison between the French and the English Navy 12 or 15 years ago, it would be found that the proportion in our favour was much larger than it was now, for during the last few years the French Navy had been more rapidly approaching ours than at any former period. The French Naval Authorities had not been content to remain quite as dormant as the Board of Admiralty in this country. How was it that France had done more than we had done during the last few years? It would really seem that the French Government got more than we did out of a given amount of money. France was not spending anything like what we spent, and was not employing the large staff of workmen we were employing. Last year the expenditure of the French Government did not amount to more than £8,000,000 for her Navy, while our Naval Vote amounted to upwards of £11,000,000; and, in point of fact, in the last few years the sums voted for the French Navy was not much more than half what we were spending. For some time past France had certainly been spending 25 per cent less than this country; and although the expenditure of that country amounted to £8,000,000 last year, we had been spending every year a very much larger sum. Well, in the face of that there had been a gradual approach in the relative strength of the Fleets of the two countries. He believed the reason was that they did not make their money go as far as they ought to make it go, and there ought to be such a reform in the administration as would secure greater results in future from the money they expended. His right hon. Friend the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) alluded, when the Navy Estimates were before the Committee on the last occasion, to the promises of the Admiralty, and showed that their undertaking to spend a certain 195 sum of money and produce a certain result was never absolutely carried out. The right hon. Gentleman gave most striking instances to show where the promises of the Admiralty had failed to be carried out, and the Committee knew that that had been so for years, and that when, year after year, Parliament voted a considerable sum of money for the purpose of constructing a certain weight of tonnage in the Navy, it was found at the end of a few years that a large amount of tonnage had never been built for which the country bad paid, or apparently paid. Certainly it was paid for in this sense—that, according to the calculation of the Board of Admiralty, a certain sum of money ought to produce a certain weight of ships, and as that undertaking had not been fulfilled it was evident that the money had been wasted somewhere, or that the cost of the ships was much larger than the original Estimate. He thanked the Committee for having allowed him to make those remarks; and he wished in conclusion to take that opportunity of expressing a hope that Her Majesty's Government would not lose sight of the importance of these questions, but that every effort would be made to secure for the country a more powerful and efficient Navy, and also to provide that the large sums of money which the country were prepared to vote would be so expended as to secure for the country the best possible results.
said, the hon. Member who had just sat down had made a speech which they had often heard before in Committee of Supply. The burden of the speech of the hon. Member was to induce the Admiralty to spend all the money voted for the Navy in building ships by contract in the mercantile shipbuilding yards of the country; and in order to support his proposition he had thought fit to run down the Dockyards which were supported by the country. He was not going to answer the speech of the hon. Member at any great length, nor to make over again the speeches that had often been made in that House in defence of the Dockyards. He stood in a very much better position than the hon. Member, because in defending the Dockyards it was unnecessary for him in any way to run down the work done in the private shipbuilding yards. That 196 was no part of his case. He was quite aware that ships could be built efficiently and well by contract, and he did not think that in recent years the Admiralty had shown any indisposition to avail themselves, to the full extent, of the advantages which the private established building yards of the country offered. The statement of the hon. Member was not true that in this matter they were very much behind the French, because whereas we had at least 18,000 men employed in their Dockyards, the French employed 26,000, so that, at all events, they employed a great many more men for their Dockyard service than we did. Then, as far as shipbuilding was concerned, last year France spent considerably more than we did in this country. With respect to the use of the Dockyards, it must be apparent, he should have thought even to the hon. Member himself, that a country like this must possess, in a time of war, fortified Dockyards. If they built every ship they required by private contract, it would be necessary and absolutely essential to maintain Her Majesty's Dockyards, in their present state of efficiency, for the purpose of repairing and refitting the Fleet in a time of war. If this country were unhappily at war with a Foreign Power, he presumed that that country would ultimately gain the victory who could most rapidly repair and refit its Fleet. A Fleet could only be repaired in a fortified Dockyard under the protection of batteries such as the Dockyards of Chatham, Portsmouth, and Plymouth possessed.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, he thought that the hon. and learned Gentleman had misunderstood him. He had expressly stated that the Dockyards must be retained principally for the repair of skips.
said, that it was absolutely necessary to keep up the Royal Dockyards in a state of efficiency, and the Committee of the Navy had themselves observed that they must be maintained for the repair of ships. In making that observation they did not recommend that no ships should be built in them while they were so retained. As they must be retained for the repair of ships in a time of war, it became economical to utilize them for the building of ships so far as shipbuilding could be carried on in them. He regretted that those establishments excited so much ire in the 197 mind of the hon. Gentleman; but the hon. Gentleman's notions were very far from correct. The Admiral Superintendent was not always to be found strutting about the Dockyard in full uniform with his cocked hat on his head. At the same time, it was necessary to have someone to superintend the work. It was also necessary to employ police for the protection of the Dockyards, or anybody who liked would be able to find his way into them with a view of stealing and carrying away the property of the country. As it was necessary to keep the Dockyards in a state of repair, it was economical to use them for shipbuilding. He had no wish to go into the question the hon. Member had so often raised in that House on previous occasions as to the pensions given to the artificers. Those pensions seemed very much to excite the objection of the hon. Gentleman. When the Committee came to Vote No. 6, which dealt specially with the wages of the artificers and labourers in the Dockyards, he (Mr. Gorst) should have a good deal to say upon that subject; but he was far from believing that the Government lost anything by giving the artificers of the Dockyards a portion of their remuneration in the shape of pensions. On the contrary, he would be prepared to show that the Government were great gainers. As the Committee were justified, upon this Vote, in discussing the general question of the condition of the Navy, he desired to make a few practical observations on that subject. The hon. Member stated, and he presumed that many other Members would say the same, that the Admiralty, as at present constituted, had to a certain extent lost the confidence of the country. The aspect of the Committee at that time, and the empty Benches of the House, certainly did not look as if the country were extremely anxious to arraign the Board of Admiralty; for it appeared that the Members of the House would not take the trouble to attend in order to take part in the naval discussions which were raised upon these Votes. It would, therefore, seem that upon the whole they were satisfied with the administration of the Navy, and perfectly willing to leave the Admiralty in charge of it. He believed that the real reason of the growing dislike of the House of Commons to attend the discussions upon the Navy Estimates was 198 because Members were beginning to realize the extremely small influence the House of Commons had over the administration of the Admiralty. That was the explanation of that growing indifference of the House of Commons to the discussion of the Navy Estimates which had been pointed out by the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands). It seemed to him (Mr. Gorst) to be perfectly fatal to the administration of the Navy, according to the Constitution of this country, that the First Lord of the Admiralty should be a Member of the other House of Parliament. The Board of Admiralty was a high Scientific Department, and he supposed that a Member of Parliament, when he became a Member of the Board of Admiralty, found himself as soon as he joined the Board in the presence and in the society of men who had made naval construction and naval administration their study and their business from their boyhood. Of course, in the presence of such men, a Member of Parliament so situated could not have any very great influence upon the deliberations of the Board. The real power which Parliament possessed over such a Board as the Board of Admiralty was in the fact of the presence in that House of the First Lord of the Admiralty. He had influence with his Colleagues only because he was the person charged with 'the defence of the policy of the Admiralty in the House of Commons. If a great question of naval construction were raised, what influence could the First Lord of the Admiralty—a civilian who had made no particular study of naval construction—have upon the deliberations of the Board? The only reason why he had any power, or influence, or force in the administration of the Board of Admiralty was because he could say to his Colleagues—"I have got to defend your policy in the House of Commons. How am I to defend it? What arguments am I to use? How am I to answer the objections which may be raised?" The fact that the First Lord was the person charged by the Constitution of this country with that duty was the only thing which gave him influence in the Board of Admiralty. He had no wish to say a single word against the Secretary to the Admiralty (Sir Thomas Brassey). He had the highest opinion of the present Secre- 199 tary to the Admiralty, and also of the Civil Lord (Mr. Caine) who represented the Admiralty in that House, and he was quite sure that those hon. Gentlemen would not understand that the observations he was now making were directed against them. He only wished that the present Secretary was the First Lord of the Admiralty, and if the Government had due regard for the traditions of the Constitution of the country they would make the Secretary to the Admiralty the First Lord, and then they would have a responsible official in that House. But as long as the Admiralty was represented there by Gentlemen who were only subordinate officials of the Department, the House of Commons would have no real voice in the decisions come to by the Department, and could only represent in an exceedingly unin-fluential way the views and opinions of the House to the Board of Admiralty. So long as that state of circumstances continued the Board of Admiralty would treat the House of Commons with contempt, and would have no regard for the discussions which took place in Committee of Supply. As had already been the case in the past, the Board would continue in the future to treat the views and decisions of the Committee of Supply with absolute neglect and supreme contempt. Last year, as if to prove to the whole world how perfectly useless the First Lord of the Admiralty, when a Member of the House of Lords, was to the country, the Government thought fit at a very critical moment to send the First Lord to Egypt. He was absent from this country for at least three months, and presumably he occupied his official position and distinctions all that time, and received his salary from the House of Commons, which salary the House of Commons were again asked that night to attach to the Office of First Lord. But the Admiralty went on perfectly well, as far as he knew, without the First Lord. The noble Earl who now filled that Office (the Earl of Northbrook) was never missed at all, and if he had remained up to the present moment in Egypt the Admiralty would have been conducted with quite as great efficiency, and it was perfectly certain that the House of Commons would have had just as much influence over the decisions of the Board of Admiralty as they had 200 now, with the First Lord in "another place." The Admiralty, as at present constituted, was, he presumed, about the most independent Department in the Kingdom. There was absolutely nobody who had any control whatever over it. The only Body who had a certain amount of control over the Board, or who might have, was the Treasury. But the Treasury control consisted simply of checking the amount of money the Admiralty might spend. If they had a Board of Admiralty very much impressed with the dissatisfaction of the country at the present condition of the Navy, with extensive powers for increasing the efficiency of their Fleets, and spending money, the control of the Treasury would become a reality, because the ardour of the Board would be checked by the necessity of really superintending the expenditure of the Department. But as long as the control was not a maximum, but a minimum control, and the Admiralty remained content with the present inefficient condition of the Fleet, and did not ask leave to spend more money, but was content with spending the actual amount which the Treasury placed at its disposal, there was no control on the part of the Treasury whatever. Control was only felt when the Admiralty was anxious to spend, and it was not felt when the Admiralty was content to save. Therefore, notwithstanding the fact that control theoretically existed on the part of the Treasury, he maintained that the Admiralty, at that moment, if it made up its mind to keep within the expenditure which the Treasury allowed, was the most independent and the most un-trolled Body in the United Kingdom. He did not want to say too much against the Board. He did not agree with all the strong censure which had been passed upon the Board by the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands). The hon. Member said that the Admiralty knew nothing whatever about naval construction. He supposed that there were Members of the Admiralty Board who, perhaps, did not know much about naval construction; but there were also Members of the Board who were very eminent naval constructors; and the Board had the advantage of possessing employés and officials capable of giving them advice, which, at all events, was the advice of instructed and 201 competent persons, upon any question of construction they might enter into. He did not, however, believe, whatever the Admiralty themselves and their advisers might be, that they rendered more efficient service to the public because they were altogether free from control and criticism. He thought the Admiralty would be much more efficient and effective if it was subjected to the control of the House of Commons, and if the criticisms which found their way into the minds of the public through that House produced a greater effect upon the administration of the Admiralty. If they had the First Lord in the House of Commons that would be so; because, if there were a particular criticism upon any point of construction or other matter which the Admiralty knew to be urgent, and the First Lord wanted advice from his naval constructors as to the progress it was necessary to make, it would be given to him, and the criticisms of the House of Commons would, consequently, have considerable influence over the administration of the Admiralty. To illustrate what he meant he would refer to an incident which occurred in the last Parliament, when his right hon. Friend the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) was First Lord. A Motion was made in that House, either by the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed) or by the noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox), in reference to the construction of Her Majesty's Ship Inflexible. At any rate, the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed) spoke in favour of that Motion, and passed some very useful and very favourable criticisms upon the construction of that vessel. He could not say that that debate changed the views of the Admiralty; but, at all events, it had a considerable effect upon them, because, at that time, the First Lord could be instructed upon the subject, the whole matter could be explained to him, and although it was a scientific question, and a question which a layman was not capable of dealing with, yet it was quite certain that that debate had a considerable effect upon the ultimate construction of the Inflexible. He was quite certain that if such a debate were raised now, it would have no effect at all. Indeed, he was not certain that it would ever reach the Admiralty. At any rate, 202 it would only reach the Board as far as such Members of the Board might read it in the newspapers who might be anxious to know what any Member who had a technical knowledge of the subject chose to say. Indeed, it would have about the same effect as if the speeches were made in the Society of Arts or in the Kensington Laboratory. Looking at the general necessities of the Empire, the present condition of the Admiralty was deplorable. Notwithstanding all the agitation of the newspapers, all the speeches made in that House, and all the Questions asked of Her Majesty's Government, they all knew the deplorable condition in which the defence of their own seas, and ports, and harbours was left at the present moment. If, unhappily, they were at war with a great Naval Power, even their own harbours in the United Kingdom were not safe against attack. And if that was the state of things here on the spot, where they had their eyes upon the conduct of the Admiralty, what must be the condition of the defences of their Empire in those remote seas to which the view of the House of Commons was seldom, if ever extended? If anybody would inquire into the state of their ports—for instance, those in the Pacific, which were very near an enemy with whom it was not impossible at an early period they might find themselves at war—he believed it would be found that the ports they possessed in the Pacific, and especially the Harbour of Esquimault, were absolutely defenceless; and no attempt whatever had been made by the Admiralty to defend the latter port, although it was the only station they possessed in the Pacific in which their Fleet could anchor, or obtain the coal or provisions which the result of extended operations might render necessary. If inquiries were made as to the condition of many other of their remote Possessions, he believed it would be found that they were in a most lamentable condition and literally defenceless. Now, under those circumstances, he should have thought that the Admiralty, and the Government generally, would have given every possible encouragement to those Colonies which were disposed to undertake the defence at least of their own ports and harbours, because it was not only the defence of the Colonial ports that would be more effi- 203 ciently discharged by the Colonies themselves, but any Fleet which might be sent into those neighbourhoods would be sot free for other enterprizes. Take the Australian Colonies, for instance. If their Fleet was not required for the local defence of the Australian Colonies, the Fleet employed there, in the event of a war, might be used for offensive, instead of defensive, measures.
pointed out that the hon. and learned Gentleman was going beyond the Question before the Committee, which was the Navy Estimates, and not their Colonial defences.
would apologize if he had committed any irregularity. He was only pointing out how necessary it was for the efficiency of the British Fleet that the duty of defending the Colonies should be intrusted to the Colonies themselves. His point was, that if they were to spend money in clothing and victualling their seamen and Marines, the Fleets they employed must be capable of taking the seas in order to look for the enemy, instead of being obliged to lurk in the harbours along the coast, where they could not act offensively. He would not, however, pursue the matter further if the Chairman thought he was going beyond what was strictly within the order of that Vote. All he desired to point out to the Committee was that the Admiralty was in a most unhappy position at present, because it was relieved, by the conduct of the Government in appointing a First Lord who was not a Member of the House of Commons, from that salutary check which the debates and opinions of the House would exercise over the Admiralty. He was quite sure that, able as the Board of Admiralty might be, and scientific as some of the Members of it were, and earnestly anxious, as he believed all of them were, to discharge their duty to their country and to maintain the Fleets of the country in a condition of efficiency, the Admiralty would never be able to discharge its responsibilities to the country until they were subjected to the criticism of the House of Commons.
§ SIR EDWARD J. REED
said, he would not attempt, after what had passed in the House that night, to offer any large view of the subject. The Committee had no power to increase any Vote whatever. They only enjoyed the power of diminishing the sums which 204 appeared in the Estimates, and the Admiralty had taken good care that there should be very little to diminish or to come under the notice of the Committee in that direction. There was another reason why he should not enter upon any large question that night, and it was to be found in the words which had fallen from the Prime Minister, touching the Vote of Credit to be moved tomorrow. He thought that as they had a naval debate in view, and as a large proposal of the Government was about to come before them, they would be in a better position to-morrow than they were in at present to discuss the naval armaments of the country. It seemed to him that the Admiralty itself had lately been endeavouring to show to the world that all and more than all which had been stated about the deplorable condition of the British Navy was true. It was said that they were in the possible presence of a war with a powerful European nation, but only a third-rate Naval Power; and no sooner did they come within the presence of that possibility than they found the Admiralty bringing forward in the Dockyards everything they could possibly lay their hands upon, and casting about, among the Mercantile Marine, for colossal ships, altogether unfit for warlike purposes, and without a particle of defence, although they might be fit to perform auxiliary services in connection with the Royal Navy. Recently the Admiralty refused to build, from designs supplied to them by a very eminent builder on the Clyde, a ship of great speed, because it was a ship with a very small amount of armour protection—the Admiralty refused to undertake to build her on the ground that they ought not to construct a ship of so large a size with so little armour. He quite sympathized with them in that feeling; but they told the country now that they were purchasing still larger ships without any armour at all. They were told that the Admiralty were, in point of fact, purchasing passenger steamers of 12,000 tons of the most costly character ever built, but which were not eligible for war steamers, and were not expected to be used for warlike purposes when constructed. He mentioned that to show that the Admiralty were demonstrating one of two propositions—either that they were prepared to spend money recklessly for purposes for which they 205 had refused to spend money wisely and economically, or that the Government was in such a condition that they were driven to this last resource. He maintained that there was no escape from one or other of those conclusions. He desired now to make a few remarks upon the Return which had lately been presented to the House by his hon. Friend below him (Sir Thomas Brassey). It would be in the recollection of the Committee that a few weeks ago he had called attention to a Return laid before the House of armoured and unarmoured vessels, laid down to be built in Her Majesty's Dockyards and by contract, in 1880 or since the present Government came into Office, showing the cost and the progress made with them. He had observed in that Return a large number of unarmoured vessels put down as armoured vessels. On calling the attention of his hon. Friend to the fact, his hon. Friend was good enough at once to acknowledge the error. He spoke of it as a clerical error, and proposed to amend it and substitute an accurate Return. The right hon. and gallant Admiral the Member for the Wigtown Burghs (Sir John Hay) drew attention to another point, and his hon. Friend, with an amount of confidence in the people upon whom he had to depend for information which he thought his hon. Friend would lose in the course of time, said he would undertake that the new Return should be correct in every particular. No one in the House would doubt for a moment that his hon. Friend desired and intended that every document he produced in the House should be strictly accurate. It would, however, be his (Sir Edward J. Reed's) business to take exception to this Return even in its amended form, and to call the attention of his hon. Friend to it. In the first place, he would refer to the diagram to which the right hon. and gallant Baronet (Sir John Hay) on the other side of the House had made allusion. This diagram had been amended, and it now showed, in an almost picturesque form, the rate at which the present Government claimed to have added armoured and unarmoured ships to Her Majesty's Navy. He had gone carefully over the figures, and he was bound to say that every year the additions which were claimed to have been made to the Navy by the present Board 206 of Admiralty were exaggerated and untrue. There was only one year in which they were approximately correct; but in the other years they were very much exaggerated, and there was not a single year in which, as far as he could find out—and he had taken a great deal of pains in going through the matter—the figures were truthfully and correctly given. In saying that, he would wish to guard the Committee against an observation which might possibly be made by his hon Friend below him, that he was referring to the fact that, generally speaking, the tons of ships built, or professed to be built, by the Admiralty could only be indicated, while a vessel was in course of construction, by speaking of the estimated tons completed. But when that mode of expression was used for the purpose of indicating the additions made to the Navy, the Returns were misleading to Parliament and the public. This appeared to be the principle adopted— supposing 5,000 tons weight of hull were to cost £500,000, and the Admiralty spent £600,000. Thereupon they stated not that they had overspent to the extent of £100,000, but that they had added 1,000 tons to the Navy, whereas they had only built the same ship. On that ground he naturally took exception to any Return prepared upon that principle. It might be said, and had been said, that that was a conventional mode of expressing the work done by the Admiralty, and that there was no more convenient form of expressing the progress made with regard to a ship. That was a point he would not discuss that night; but what he did wish to discuss was this. When they passed out of the region of the ships in progress, and laid before the House a Return of the tonnage of ships completed, and gave a diagram declaring that in 1880, 1881, 1882, 1883, and 1884 so many thousand tons were added to the Navy, that Return ought to be an accurate account of the tonnage of ships built. But the Return presented by his hon. Friend was nothing of the kind. It gave the fictitious and not the real tonnage. A Return in this form passed all the bounds of reason, and entirely misled the country. That was not all. What he found to be the fact was this—but he did not wish to speak with the same positiveness upon this matter, because, having a great many 207 figures to go over, he might have lost sight of something—all he would say was that he had taken a gread deal of pains in going through the Return, and he found that the tons built, according to the diagram, were 12,864 in the year 1883-4; but he could not find, upon the most careful examination, that the Admiralty had in reality built more than 11,000 tons. He was quite sure that the Return was largely inaccurate in all the years mentioned, except in regard to the year 1881-2, when his figures and those of the Admiralty very closely approximated. This was the first complaint he had to make of the Return, and he appealed to the Government to supply the House with a Return which would express how many tons had been added to the Navy in each year—how many real tons—tons weight of hull, taken in a literal and proper sense, and not in a way in which not one in fifty of the Members of that House could be expected to understand. He would now ask the Committee to allow him to draw their attention to some other figures. The Return professed to show the cost of hull, inclusive of fittings. He would have thought that any Member of the House, taking this Return into his hands and finding a ship in it recorded as complete, with the cost of fittings in connection with the hull and of fittings in connection with the engines expressly included, would infer that the total cost of the ship was given. There was, however, not a single case in which the Returns were, in that sense, accurate and complete—not one, although a great many were given. Again, the Return showed that the present Board of Admiralty had not completed a single ship of over 1,500 tons which they had themselves begun. This paralysis was the more remarkable, because when the Board of Admiralty undertook to conduct the affairs of the Navy, they declared, as their programme, that they would build quickly and turn out ships rapidly. That was the under taking of the Government, and, unfortunately, the country believed them. Not only in that House, but also before his constituents, he had said he believed they were going to do what they had promised; but the Return showed that this confidence had been misplaced. If any hon. Member would take this Return in hand, he would see that directly he laid his finger on a ship of more 208 than 1,420 tons, he found her incomplete. He was bound, however, to admit that there were one or two unarmoured vessels expected to be completed at the end of last month which were possibly complete. But he believed he was correct in stating that these were still in the hands of the Dockyards. The statement which he made, that the cost of every ship was incorrectly given, and given below the actual cost, was a very serious one. He thought if he were in the position of his hon. Friend, and were made the vehicle for conveying to Parliament a document so deficient in this essential and important particular, he should feel a very great amount of dissatisfaction, to say the least of it. He had taken out a list of five vessels. The Satellite was put down as having cost £62,720. He did not hesitate to say, and he challenged the contradiction of his hon. Friend below him, that the cost of that ship was as near to £70,000 as it was to £60,000. The next ship, the Hyacinthe, was put down at £70,000, and he was sure she had cost £73,000. The Heroine, the cost of which was stated to be £66,889, he was satisfied had cost over £73,000. The Rapid was put down at £68,000; he declared that she had cost over £72,000. The Royalist was stated at £67,000, whereas he declared that she cost over £70,000. These increases were not arrived at by taking into account whatever incidental charges went to make up the cost of the ships, although they ought in strictness to have been included. The Admiralty had received tenders during the last few days for the construction of ships by private builders. Did the Admiralty suppose that those builders had left out of their calculations the cost of fuel, furnace labour, and many other incidental charges in connection with the construction of ships? Of course, any builder who did that would come to grief very quickly; and when Returns were made showing the cost of ships, there should be excluded from them altogether the expenditure incurred in this way on the ships themselves was more than he could understand. Of course, in such calculations a fair amount of incidental charges ought to be added. The result of his investigations with reference to those five ships was that when the allowances which the Accountant 209 General was in the habit of bringing against ships in the Dockyards were taken into account, the ships which were put down in the Return of his hon. Friend as having cost £332,000 had actually cost £112,000 more than that sum—that was to say, instead of costing £332,000, they had cost £444,000. That was the actual cost, as he made it out, taking the Accountant General's Returns, inclusive of incidental charges. The estimate might be open to correction; but whether it was or not, a very large portion of the additional charge ought to be taken into account, and some intimation ought to be given in the Returns made to that House of the exact cost of the ships to the country. Now, he had made a few days ago a statement in another place, which excited a great deal of attention, and he thought it right to repeat that statement on the present occasion for the information of the Committee. The expenditure of the present Board of Admiralty he made out to have been as follows:— In the first year of Office, 1880-1, they expended a total of £1,426,360 upon new ships. Out of that they spent £1,165,800 upon ships which bad been finished, a large application of which they, of course, made to ships which they found unfinished on taking Office. Only £261,500 had been spent on unfinished ships, and that he regarded as an excellent sign. In the next year the amount on finished ships fell to £489,500, and the amount on unfinished ships rose from £260,000 to £705,000. Then, in 1883-4, the amounts were £351,000 only on finished ships, and £1,500,000 on unfinished ships. He made out that up to the 31st March last the Government had expended £8,85.3,000 in the Dockyards on new ships, out of which £3,259,000 had been expended on finished ships, including, of course, several ships begun by their Predecessors, leaving £5,596,000 as expended on ships lying unfinished at the present moment. Now, if they added to that the incidental charges, which ought to be added, they arrived at the fact that out of the aggregate sum spent about £6,500,000 was invested money, which, at the present moment, was quite unavailable for national purposes. There was another small but curious point in this Return to which he desired to draw the attention of the Committee. His 210 hon. Friend, as he had already stated, had said that the insertion of some unarmoured ships as ironclads was the result of a clerical error; but everyone familiar with the Admiralty knew that there had been a strong tendency of late to slip in ships as armoured which were unarmoured, in order to make an extraordinary show in that respect; and that many devices had been resorted to in order to produce the impression that ships were protected, the essential characteristics of which ships being that they had no protection whatever; they had some protection over their machinery, but, as a matter of fact, they themselves were utterly devoid of any protection whatever in the proper sense of the term. Not a single 6d. had been expended on their protection, and nothing could be more extraordinary than that they should have been returned as protected vessels. Again, in the Return, there was a column with the heading "Thickness of armour-plate," and he found in that column astonishing entries for the new Scout torpedo boats. Those vessels had not the slightest pretension to any armour-plating whatever. It was said that the "thickness of armour-plate" in the case of the new Scout meant a thin water-tight deck. He confessed that he could not understand that. He hoped his hon. Friend would use his influence to get the Returns rendered in a clear form to the House, and free from those falsifications—that was to say, as far as it was possible for a man, with heroic determination working against the Department, to get them presented in a truthful shape. It must not be understood by the Committee, from what he was saying, that the Admiralty intentionally made low estimates of the cost of building in their own Dockyards. His own impression was that they tried to make fair estimates, and he believed that they proceeded very much in the same way as private shipbuilders in that respect. But the difference was that the estimates of a private firm were obliged to be adhered to, whereas the estimates of the Admiralty were merely taken as a point of departure from which they could go in all directions. There was a small ship at Chatham called the Conqueror. From the fact of her being comparatively small and an iron-clad of moderate armament, all other conditions correspond- 211 ing, there was no reason that her estimated cost should not have been adhered to if the calculations had been correctly made. Now, the estimate for that ship was as follows:—for hull, £246,450; machinery, £52,500; the total estimated cost being £298,950. But what was the actual cost of the vessel? It was £380,000; or an excess of £81,050 upon a comparatively small ship. But then he found brought against this ship by the Accountant General an establishment charge of £67,000, because she had been a long time in course of completion; and that brought up the total cost to £447,000. If the Committee were inclined to think, notwithstanding what he said, that there was some novelty or complications or some unexpected element of cost involved in this case which human intelligence could not have foreseen—in other words, if that were an experimental ship—then he would give an instance of what happened a few years ago in a real case of experimental shipbuilding. The late gallant officer Admiral Sartorius, who really put the spirit into this country to resort to the ram, came to him some time before the Polyphemus was begun, and asked him to design a good sort of ship of the ram class. He said—"I am anxious to have my idea carried out; will you design a ship under my advice? He (Sir Edward J. Reed) undertook to do so, and, having got that promise from him, the Admiral went to the Admiralty, and they undertook to design the ship themselves. They designed the Polyphemus. She was proposed to Parliament, and the cost of the vessel was to be £84,000—that was to say, £42,000 for materials, and £42,000 for labour. He said nothing about the machinery of the ship, because the greater part of that turned out to be an entire failure; and he was not disposed to complain in this case, because the Admiralty had made an experiment which he thought ought to have been made with reference to boilers. He, therefore, confined his observations to the hull alone, and that cost £159,000—that was to say, there was an excess of no less than £75,000 on a ship which was estimated to cost £84,000. And, then, if they added to that the incidental charges—well, he thought he had better not say what the vessel would have cost. He would like to refer to another 212 vessel—namely, the Edinburgh. That ship was commenced two years before the present Government acceded to Office, but, on various pretexts, she had been under construction until the present time, and was likely to remain so for some time longer. The story of the vessel was this. She was to have cost £450,000, and her machinery £82,000. On the 31st of March last year there had already been spent on her, exclusive of incidental charges, £4,000 more than the estimate—that was to say, she had then cost £536,000 instead of £532,000. Well, the Admiralty said if the House would grant £14,460 for labour only they would make progress with her; they had obtained that money, and now they came down to ask for a further sum of £59,000 to complete the ship. She had been six or eight years building, and the delay that had taken place was so detrimental to the interests of the country that he could not understand any man of sense allowing the construction of a ship to be prolonged over the period he had mentioned; and he would say, in passing, that heregretted to observe in that House the tendency to accept excuses on such grounds as that the difficulty of getting guns had occasioned the delay. He said that the time had come when the House should toll the First Lord of the Admiralty that they could not listen to such excuses at all, but that he must have the guns ready for the ships, and that if he were unequal to the work he should give up his Office and make way for someone more capable of doing what was necessary for the interests of the country in respect to the Navy. He was convinced that if the country became involved in war with any Power or Powers of naval consequence this language would be used towards those men who had failed in these great particulars, unless they retired of their own accord and saved themselves from the censure they deserved. He knew that the Admiralty groaned under the delay in getting guns; but they should insist on having them, and he was convinced that that House would back up any Minister who resisted a system which would not enable them to have the guns of the Navy constructed in their own way. Let the Admiralty free themselves from a system under which the Navy of the country was made 213 to depend on the rapidity with which guns could be manufactured in Woolwich Arsenal. Would the Admiralty tell the Committee that if they granted the additional £59,000 they would actually finish the Edinburgh? Without any charge for material during the last 12 months, they had advanced from £532,000 to £610,000 in the cost of this ship. Before concluding, he would like to observe that he should not be satisfied if his hon. Friend, in reply to this statement, harped on the old string of the experimental character of the ships, and the delay involved by changes in machinery and appliances for loading large guns. He should not be satisfied with that, because the same thing went on with regard to ships which were admittedly not experimental. The same excessive cost and the same unreasonable delay occurred in the case of un-armoured vessels which had none of those appliances, and therefore he should not consider himself in any way answered by being told that the ships were experimental, and that unforeseen difficulties had been discovered. He would not trouble the Committee further than to say that the only course open to hon. Members, when imperfect Returns were placed before them, was to ask Questions and probably to receive snubs at the hands of Ministers; and therefore he trusted that the Returns in the case of the Navy would henceforward be placed before them in a correct form. He hoped that his hon. Friend would not fall back on the gun argument; that he would receive this statement as seriously as he (Sir Edward J. Reed) made it; and that he would be able to explain how it was that ships which had cost so much money had been put down in the Returns as costing so much less, and how it was that the Admiralty claimed to have constructed an amount of tonnage largely in excess of what they had actually turned out. They had lately had a new Accountant General appointed to the Admiralty by the Earl of Northbrook; he understood that that gentleman had no connection with the Department, and that he was stated to be a very able and competent man. He would express, but hesitatingly, the hope that this gentleman would not fall into one error of which the late Accountant General was guilty. Amongst the accounts laid before that House there was 214 the annual Return from the Accountant General. Now, the Accountant General was purely a financial Minister, and it was no part of his duty to take up the position of apologist for, and expounder of, all the irregularities in the Admiralty accounts. It was not for the Accountant General to explain why this large waste of public money went on; he was not a competent authority in the matter, inasmuch as he proceeded upon second or third-hand information, and could only repeat what he was told. The House had already had enough of that sort of information. It was, indeed, a paralyzing fact that answers given to Questions in the House on Admiralty matters were inspired answers, and that hon. Members had to direct their attacks against Gentlemen in that House whose only responsibility was that they had consented to be made the channel through which those inspired answers were conveyed.
MR. A. F. EGERTON
Sir, the Committee has listened to a very able speech from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed). I do not propose to go into all the particulars to which he referred; but I should like to make one or two remarks upon the main portion of his speech, which was an attack upon the amended Return of the Navy Estimates that has been recently issued from the Admiralty. I came to the conclusion that he had shown that that Return, unintentionally, amounts almost to a falsification of accounts, because it takes the additional tonnage that has been added to the Navy solely from the Note which is to be found on page 196 of the Navy Estimates, which gives a peculiar calculation of tonnage. It certainly does not show, and would not show under any circumstances, how the tonnage was added to the Navy, but simply how much money was expended upon ships, and the amount of each man's labour upon the ships. Well, I do not know what answer the hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Thomas Brassey) has to give to the hon. Gentleman's (Sir Edward J. Reed's) remarks upon that statement; but I must say that it appeared to me, at the time that I heard it, to be perfectly conclusive, and to be hardly susceptible of any answer at all. Then the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff referred to one matter of very 215 great importance, and that is the manner in which the Estimates are constantly exceeded in the Dockyards in the matter of expenditure on ships. Well, I suppose every Board of Admiralty has suffered from that; and it appears to me to arise in the main from the constant cross references backwards and forwards between the Admiralty and the Dockyards. What happens is this. The Dockyards propose some improvements—and, as far as practice goes, I believe that these proposals come from the Executive officers at the Dockyards, and not from the Civil officers—these proposals are referred to the Admiralty, the Admiralty refers them back again to the Dockyards, after they have been seen by the Constructors' Department, and thus there is a constant communication between the Admiralty and the Dockyards, and the consequence is that, whether rightly or wrongly, there is always a great excess upon the Estimates for ships before they are finished, or anything like finished. I hope that, after the recommendations of the Committee on Shipbuilding have been carefully considered at the Admiralty and the Dockyards, some remedy may be found for this state of things, and that for the future we may have something resembling the state of things that prevails when a private firm gives an order for a ship to a firm of shipbuilders. When a private firm gives such an order the ship is built and delivered out of hand without alteration or delay with these cross references. That is a state of things which, to my mind, ought, as far as possible, to exist at our Dockyards; and I hope that in the future, at any rate, we may see this state of things prevail. But I did not rise to remark so much upon what the hon. Member for Cardiff has said in his very able speech; but I desire to say a few words upon the general principle which I think underlies everything connected with the administration of the Navy. The real question for us to consider, to my mind, is what our requirements are with regard to the Navy, and whether we have anything approaching to a fulfilment of those requirements. Now, it appears to me that the subject of the Navy, both as to defence and as to attack, divides itself under two heads. In the first place, we have the defence of our shores, which implies the power 216 of attack; and, in the second place, we have the defence of our trade, implying the defence of our foreign coaling stations. The real fact for us to consider in the House of Commons is whether the present Administration, not to speak of past Administrations, are doing all in their power to supply these requirements. Now, I would like to make a remark upon something that fell from the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands). In his speech he said, with some truth, that the Admiralty for years—that all Admiralties for years past have been asleep. I think there is a certain amount of truth in that; but I will supplement the observation by saying that if the Admiralty has been asleep, the House of Commons has been asleep also, and the nation behind the House of Commons has likewise been asleep. But he proceeded to say that all Admiralties have neglected the requirements of the country. That is, to a certain extent, true; but, for a moment, compare the state of things that exists now with the state of things which existed under the previous, or under the two previous, Boards of Admiralty. I do not say that the Administration with which I was connected supplied all the requirements of the country; very far from it. I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. W. H. Smith) and his Predecessor, the late Mr. Ward Hunt, would have been very glad if they could have persuaded the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give them a much larger sum for the Navy than it was possible for him to allow. Looking at present circumstances, I have no hesitation in saying that the Admiralty to-day is under far more favourable conditions, as far as our naval requirements are concerned, than any past Administration has been. When we left Office our Navy, relatively to the Navies of Foreign Powers, was in a far stronger position than it has been since. I say that without fear of contradiction. From the year 1877 to the year 1880 there was nothing afloat anywhere completed that was at all equal to four of the ships that we had at that time completed and afloat—I mean the Devastation, the Inflexible, the Thunderer, and the Dreadnought. Therefore, we may say, and I think with perfect truth, that from 1878 to 1880 we were in a 217 far stronger position than any Foreign Navy; and let me also remind the Committee that at that time torpedo warfare was hardly developed at all; no one knew at that time what that might be in the future. The late Government did take certain steps to procure torpedoes; but it has been since 1880—between that and the present year—that that weapon and the modes of using it have been so greatly developed. I only say that in passing, and I do not wish further to refer to what took place under any previous Administration. What I wish to inquire into very briefly, if the Committee will allow me, is, what is the present state of affairs? Now, I do not wish to go into details; there are other Gentlemen, including the hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Edward J. Reed), who are far more capable of going into details on the state of the Navy than I am; but I wish to give a broad view of the subject. What is the state of the case with regard to the Iron-clad Fleets of foreign countries? If the Returns I have are correct, England at this time has 48 efficient ironclads of every sort and description, including three Colonial ships. If we compare that with the Fleets of foreign nations, we shall find that France at this time has 46 efficient ironclads; Italy has nine; Russia has 13—there is some doubt about the exact number that there are in Russia in these Returns—and that Germany has 23. Well, nobody could say fairly, with these figures before them, that England was in a sufficiently pre-eminent position with regard to ironclad ships. But, besides that, it must be remembered that there are ironclads in the Pacific, that Chili has a certain number, that Brazil has some, also Japan; and without going into particulars I may say broadly that the iron-clad Fleet of England is immensely overweighted by the number, and, I may say also, the power of the ironclads of foreign countries. Now, take the condition of the Iron-clad Fleet of Italy at this time. Italy has four ships, every one of which the Italians think— and I have no doubt correctly—is perfectly equal to our strongest ship; and at present they have in them four guns of greater weight than any that we have in our ships. It is true that in the near future we are promised some 100-ton guns for our ironclads; but so far 218 as I know at present there is not one of our ships armed with that weapon; and judging from the procrastination that seems to prevail, I am afraid, in the Department of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Surveyor General of Ordnance (Mr. Brand), as well as at the Admiralty, upon my word I do not know when these guns will be placed in the ships. I hope the hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us. I think I have shown that we are in a minority, as far as the first class of vessels is concerned, compared with Foreign Powers. But now I should like to go a little further, and assuming that a war with two first-class Powers was declared at this moment, I should like to ask what we should have to provide in the first instance? That is the serious test of the power of the Navy—the power of opening a war with effect. Now, what should we have to provide in the first instance in case we were at war with two first-class Powers? We should want a Channel Fleet to begin with, probably with head-quarters in the Downs, and we should unquestionably want a North Sea Fleet. We should want a Fleet to guard the shores of Ireland and St. George's Channel; we should want ships in the Mediterranean; and we should want—I am speaking merely of iron-clads—also a certain number of ships in the Pacific, on the China Stations, and on the Australian Stations. Now, without going into the particulars of the strength of each squadron, I may say that from the best information I can procure we should want at least 33 first-class ships under the Admiralty classification—with which the hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Thomas Brassey) is so familiar—and at least six second-class ships. Besides that, if we were to provide properly for the commencement of a war, we should have also to provide for the possibility of relieving these ships. I have said that for the squadrons in action we should want from 39 to 40 ships, and for these 39 or 40 ships the reliefs we should require—in this matter I speak subject to correction by naval officers present—would be at least 15 first-class and three second-class ironclads fit for sea in harbour. But taking it at a lower figure than that, I do not believe that any Naval First Lord, in the case of a war of the description I 219 have mentioned, would be satisfied with less than 10 or 12 ships for purposes of relief. Taking the larger figure, I say the total requirements under the circumstances I have mentioned would be 48 first-class and nine second-class ironclads. Of course, I am not going into the question, which will be discussed hereafter, as to whether these ships should be barbette or broadside ships. That is a question which experts may better decide than I can pretend to do. But what I would impress upon the Committee is, that out of these 58 ships, at least 48 of them ought to be classified under the Admiralty classification as first-class ships heavily armed. Well, to meet these requirements what have we got in this present year 1885 ready for sea? We have got of first-class ironclads under the Admiralty classification 12 ready for sea and at sea, and we have nine building, adding to the original programme those which are to be built under the sum which has been recently added to the Navy Estimates. Of ships of the second class we have got 13, some of them good ships, some of them bad; but, whatever they may be, there they are afloat and ready to take action at any moment; and we have got five building. Of course, the five building will be better than many of the 13 existing old ships. Well, of these second-class ironclads five ships, like the Orion and Belle Isle, mount guns of 25 tons; and, therefore, if necessary, to my mind, they might take their place in line of battle with first-class ships, of which I have mentioned how many we should want. We may have then, within a few months, I may say, 25 heavily-armed ships to meet the demand above indicated of 33 first-class ships; and of that class of ship we shall then have no reserve whatever. I do not say that these requirements are to be met by any Admiralty at once—that would be impossible; but I think that every First Lord of the Admiralty who considers the subject with care and attention, as all First Lords should do, must work up to a programme of that sort. He must see that in course of time the Fleet of this country must necessarily be far stronger than it is at present. I have no doubt that First Lords bear all these things in their heads, and that they do work out problems of that kind; and I venture to think that it is of some 220 importance that not only should the First Lord carry in his head the programme that he is working up to, but that the House of Commons and the nation generally should have some idea of the requirements of a first-class Power as to their Naval Service. Well, Sir, these are the remarks which I principally desired to make to the Committee. There are many other subjects of very great importance—of the greatest possible importance—which I am afraid have been, up to the present time, rather neglected—I will not say only by the present Admiralty, but by all Admiralties—and amongst these subjects the most important is the fortification of our coaling stations, which has been referred to by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) in the earlier part of this debate. So far as I know at the present time there are half-a-dozen coaling stations that are almost entirely without defence. Take Hong Kong for instance. The noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington) told us the other day, in answer to a Question, that something was to be done there; but, so far as our information goes from Hong Kong itself, it seems that the inhabitants are very far from satisfied with the operations that are being carried on. They do not think that they are in a proper state of defence.
I must remind the hon. Gentleman that the remark I made to the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) applies to the observations he is now making. The question of fortifications is irrelevant on this Vote, and that with regard to the Colonies he can only refer to such subjects as come under this Vote.
MR. A. F. EGERTON
Then I will not refer to this matter any further; I will only say that with fixed fortifications the Admiralty has nothing to do, and that it is connected more with the War Office than with any other Department. But there are other subjects which are of the greatest importance and with which the Admiralty is very greatly concerned; and one of these questions is that of torpedo defence for our ports. I have some reason, I think, to fear that the Admiralty are not sufficiently alive to the necessity of speedily building torpedo boats. There is one 221 point which probably it will be better to discuss under Vote 10, Section 2; but still it has reference to money for providing torpedo boats, and, so far as I can make out, I do not think the Admiralty have proposed a sufficient sum to provide for this class of boat. But, as I have said, this subject will come up again in detail under Vote 10, Section 2, and I will then take the liberty of making a few remarks upon it. But I would point out that it is of the greatest importance that the whole system of torpedo defence and attack should be most seriously taken in hand by the Admiralty, and that the leeway we have made should be compensated for as speedily as possible. At present, there is no doubt we are far behind, not only Russia, but also Germany and France, in our supply of torpedo boats, and in the kind of torpedo boats we possess. I venture to hope that whatever the Admiralty do with a new sum, which it is reported will be charged for this service within the next few days, that at any rate this question of torpedo defence and attack will have their most serious attention.
§ MR. CAINE
The hon. Member who has just spoken stated that from 1878 to 1880 we enjoyed a far stronger position than any Navy in the world, and he went on to state that our Navy today is in a position of inferiority compared with the position it was in during that period. Well, much as I deprecate these continual comparisons with other nations, if they are forced upon us, we must meet them, and in meeting this I do not hesitate to say that to-day we are relatively in as strong a position as regards any other Navy as we were in the years to which the hon. Member has referred. I have with me a list of the battle ships of European nations in 1884—ships built and building. I have put these ships into the first and second class. The first class consists of ships of over 8,500 tons displacement, and the second class of ships of 8,500 tons displacement and under, the minimum thickness of armour being in every case not less than seven inches. I omit the purely coast defence vessels. Without going into detail as to the ships of the first and second class, built and building, I may say that, exclusive of the recent shipbuilding programme laid down in September last, we had last year 37 222 battle ships with a total displacement of 296,430 tons, while France had, built or building at the same time, 35 vessels with a displacement of only 247,848 tons. When we have completed our shipbuilding programme we shall have 46 first and second-class vessels with a total displacement of 361,430 tons, against a condition of things in Franco almost exactly as that which exists today. Italy has nine first and second-class ships, built and building, with a total displacement of 91,603 tons. Germany has 10 first and second-class ships, built and building, with a displacement of 72,557 tons. Russia has nine first and second-class ships, built and building, with a displacement of 70,312 tons, and Austria has seven first and second-class ships, built and building, with a displacement of 37,600 tons. Turkey has five first and second class ships, built and building, with a displacement of 25,810 tons. That is our information with regard to the Navies of the world. Now, it has often been urged that our Navy ought to be equal to the Navies of any two or three other Powers. I am not prepared to agree with that statement; but, as a matter of fact, when we have completed our shipbuilding programme which is now laid down, we shall be stronger than any other two Navies in the world, for we shall then have 46 ships, with a total displacement of 361,430 tons. France and Italy, combined, will have 44 ships, with a total displacement of 339,451 tons; France and Germany will have 45 ships, with a total displacement of 320,405 tons; and France and Russia will have 44 ships, with a total displacement of 318,160 tons. Taking three Fleets combined, France, Italy, and Germany would have 54 ships, with a displacement of 412,008 tons; France, Italy, and Russia would have 53 ships, with a displacement of 409,763 tons; France, Italy, and Turkey would have 49 ships, with a displacement of 365,261 tons; and France, Germany, and Russia would have 54 ships, with a displacement of 390,717 tons. I think that these figures conclusively prove that our Navy to-day is, at any rate, in as good a position as compared with the Navies of Foreign Powers, as it was in 1880, and that it has completely kept up its efficiency. Now, I do not suppose that the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed) 223 will expect us to reply categorically to all the mass of affairs he brought before us to-day? I can only promise him that when the day comes—and I, equally with himself, hope it will come soon— when he brings his Motion before us, that we shall be prepared to deal with his figures on the Shipbuilding Vote. The hon. Gentleman has criticized, with that severity which generally characterizes his criticism, the Return of ships, built and building, which has been laid on the Table of the House. He told us that the figures every year were exaggerated and untrue—that they were wilfully misleading. [Sir EDWARD J. REED: No, no.] I took the hon. Member's words down at the time, and I am glad that my hon. Friend withdraws them. He used the word misleading at any rate. He said that not one of the costs of ships was accurately stated; and he certainly made the remark that devices had been resorted to in making up the Return in question.
§ SIR EDWARD J. REED
I beg pardon; I do not wish to be misrepresented. What I said was that the Return had been framed so as to make as good a show of ships as possible.
§ MR. CAINE
Well, I will not press the matter. The hon. Member has made his remarks solely on his own authority. This Return has been very carefully drawn by the Admiralty; and until the hon. Gentleman sustains the charge which he has made against it, I must ask the Committee to accept it as correct, and to believe that the Department is as well able to make as correct a Return of facts and figures concerning its Office as the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman has made some observations with regard to the watertight decks of vessels of the Scout class. It is true that these vessels have watertight decks. The deck is what it is represented to be, and we do not claim that it is anything else. My hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) spoke at some length about the time taken in shipbuilding, and my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed) commented rather severely upon the same subject. The latter Gentleman spoke of six or eight years being occupied in building iron-clads in our own yards. It is quite true it takes five or six years to build a first-class iron-clad; but that is considerably less time than 224 that taken by other nations. The average time taken to build a first-class ironclad in France is seven years and five months; but in England the average time is only five years and three months. My hon. Friend the Member for Burnley also made some severe strictures on the composition of the Board of Admiralty. He asked whether the Board of Admiralty knew anything about the construction of vessels of war; and he asked further who were the advisers of the Board. The hon. Gentleman expressed the opinion that the Board ought to include one of the greatest engineers who could be found in the Kingdom. My own impression is that the hon. Member does not know what the composition of the Board is, or he would know that we enjoy the privilege of having, as one of our Colleagues, one of the greatest engineers in matters connected with shipbuilding— namely, Mr. Rendel. I think that is a conclusive answer to the hostile criticism which was made by my hon. Friend as to the composition of the Board of Admiralty. When these Estimates were last before the Committee the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) raised several points of interest and importance. The right hon. Gentleman was anxious on the torpedo question, and he recommended an increase in the number of officers and gunners, and also an increase of the training facilities. Last Friday the Treasury sanctioned an increase in the aggregate authorized number of gunners and boatswains on the active list of from 680 to 728. This, I may inform my right hon Friend, is entirely to meet the increasing demands of the torpedo service. Then, we have recently increased the facility for training and instruction. We have, within the last few months, had fitted as additional torpedo schools, the Defiance at Plymouth and the Donegal at Portsmouth. A new torpedo range has been fitted at Malta, and we have decided to proceed with the fitting of a thoroughly complete torpedo range at Portsmouth. In this respect, therefore, I think our arrangements are satisfactory. The right hon. Gentleman expressed anxiety about the number of ships ready and the time in which they could be manned. He feared we were short of stokers and artificers, and he asked if we could readily avail our- 225 selves of our Reserves for the purpose of manning. We have not as many bluejackets as we could wish considering the large number who are always under instruction in gunnery and in the use of the torpedo. If we are short on an emergency it will be due to the great reduction of the boys which was made by the Administration of my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. H. Smith). We have always looked to the Merchant Service and to private trade for our reserve of stokers and artificers, and recent experience has fully justified our confidence. Nothing can be more satisfactory than the manner in which the ships have been got ready in the last few weeks. At no time has the Admiralty been better off for stokers. The arrangements for engine-room artificers are quite satisfactory. Some other classes of artificers, not so important as engine-room artificers, are rather short; but we should have no difficulty at all in filling up all requirements from private trade, in case of emergency. Our London recruiting station is besieged by men of this class seeking employment. It is an interesting fact that large numbers of these men are in employment, but seem anxious to offer their services to Her Majesty. My right hon. Friend stated, in the course of his speech a few nights ago, that we could not man the first reserve of ships at Portsmouth in three weeks. We could have7,000 or 8,000 men ready for sea in a week without calling out the Naval Reserve. With the Naval Reserve we could depend upon 20,000. A Return, recently published, shows the number of men in the Reserve. It is estimated that in the coasting trade and at home there are in the first class 7,829, and in the second class 7,593, or a total in the two classes of 15,422. Of these, 2,496 are on long and short voyages; but nearly 1,200 are expected home within the next two months. The right hon. Gentleman asks how many completed ships are ready, and in how many days these ships could be manned. We have ready to-day 10 iron-clads— the Devastation, Ajax, Thunderer, Hotspur, Rupert, Orion, Iron Duke, Colossus, Black Prince, and Conqueror—eight ships for coast defence, 20 corvettes and cruisers, and 27 gunboats; and I am informed officially that they could be manned, in an emergency, under 10 days. My right hon. Friend also com- 226 plained of the insufficient provision for repairs. We have no efficient iron-clad ship needing repair. It has always been the policy of the present Board to keep the Iron-clad Fleet in a complete state of repair. My right hon. Friend also asked for information on the subject of the increased cost per ton. He said the average cost per ton of ships was estimated in 1883-4 at £33 6s. 9d., in 1884-.3 at £34 8s. 9d., and in 1885-6 at £35 5.s. 9d. In 1884 we were just beginning some new ships. Some of the Admirals were begun in the previous year, and we were working on the old Estimates for the Edinburgh and Colossus; but since that time we have been obliged to increase the Estimates for all the others. The tendency of modern ships of war is to increased cost per ton, and not towards decrease. The programme of new shipbuilding was stated by my right hon. Friend to be less than was promised for the year. I can only assure the Committee that we intend to spend all the money promised. It was always intended to build not less than 28,000 tons in Dockyards and by contract, and that amount will be built. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster also asked for an explanation of the changes made in propelling machinery of the Benhow, Howe, Rodney, and Camperdown, which in 1884-5 were shown as of 7,500 indicated horse power, but which are now shown as 9,500 horse power, and of the Hero, which was formerly shown as of 4,500 horse power, and now shown as of 6,000 horse power. The changes were made in consequence of a decision to apply forced draught with the very desirable result of an additional knot in speed. The engines, in fact, are better than promised. There has been a Question asked to-night on the subject of the recommendations of the Committee on Shipbuilding, and I think my right hon. Friend asked the same question in his speech some time ago. A Paper will presently be laid before the House showing what is proprosed to be done, and therefore I will not say more on that point at present. I now come to the observations made by the right hon. Gentleman as to the alleged non-fulfilment of the shipbuilding programme of 1884-5, and it seems to me that they call for a very careful reply. He has spoken of the figures of the Estimates of last year as absolutely 227 fallacious. That is a very serious charge. The subject has also been referred to by the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed), and the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands). Well, Sir, in the Estimates for the year 1884-5, the tonnage (weight of hull) proposed to be built in the Dockyards was—armoured, 10,500; protected, 2,667; unarmoured, 2,888; or a total of 16,055. The tonnage actually built, as shown in the Estimates for 1885-6, was—armoured, 10,745, a gain on the Estimate of 245; protected, 2,160, showing a loss of 507; un-armoured, 3,261, showing a gain of 373; making a total of 16,166, and showing a net gain in the Dockyards of 111 tons. The tonnage estimated to be built by contract in 1884-5 was—armoured, 2,114; unarmoured, 2,510; or a total of 4,624. The tonnage actually built was— armoured, 2,080, showing a loss of 34; unarmoured, 2,164, a loss of 346; making a total of 4,244. There was thus a net loss by contract of 380 tons. From these figures it appears that, taking Dockyard and contract work together, we built— armoured tonnage, 12,825 tons, as against 12,614 promised, or a gain of 211 tons; protected tonnage, 2,160tons, as against 2,667 promised, or a loss of 507 tons; unarmoured tonnage, 5,425 tons, as against 5,398 promised, or a gain of 27 tons. On the whole shipbuilding programme of the year there was thus a net loss of 269 tons. I think that is as near an approximate result of the promise as anyone could reasonably expect. To take first the armoured ships. Having built 211 tons more than was promised in the past year, how comes it that, as stated by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the armoured ships were not advanced towards completion to the extent anticipated in the Estimates—in fact, that they fell short of such advancement by no less than 1,739 tons? The explanation lies in the use of the word ton in connection with shipbuilding. It seems to fall to the lot of the Representatives of the Admiralty to explain year after year what is meant by the use of the word ton. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster has criticized this use of the word ton, and has repeated year after year that this ton is not a ton at all—we are, in fact, deceiving ourselves. We have only continued the use of a term and method of calculation which was in use at the Ad- 228 miralty during the whole time the right hon. Gentleman was First Lord. The fact is that, as applied to a ship during its construction, the word ton loses its original meaning as a measure of weight, and becomes a measure of progress. At starting the actual weight of the hull is calculated in tons. Thus, if the hull weighs 6,000 tons, and the cost of construction as shown in the Estimates is £400,000, as soon as half this money has been spent, it would be said, and so stated in the Estimates, that half the tons weight of the hull—that is, 3,000 tons—had been constructed. But it is immaterial for this purpose whether or not the half of the hull that has been constructed actually weighs 3,000 tons. Half the money that the ship is to cost has been expended, and it is said, therefore, that half the work is done. This is absolutely true if the ship will be completed by the expenditure of the remaining half of the money; but if at this stage it is found that, for one reason or another—such as changes introduced into the original design of the ship, increased cost of materials, or even through a miscalculation of the cost at the beginning— the remaining £200,000 will not suffice to complete the ship, perhaps a further sum of, say, £100,000 will be required; then, inasmuch as half the total cost of the ship has not been expended, we can no longer say that half the tonnage, or 3,000 tons, has been built. We must put the ship back, so to speak; our calculation will have to be revised; and as only £200,000 out of £500,000 has been spent, we must now admit that only two-fifths of the tonnage, or 2,400 tons out of the 6,000, has been constructed. Here, the right hon. Gentleman will say, is a loss of 600 tons. But this is not so. There has really not been any loss at all. The money provided in the Estimates has been spent, and the corresponding amount of work has been done. But the work necessary to complete the work has turned out to be greater than was anticipated, and hence the ship is not so far advanced towards completion, for the money spent upon her, as she would have been had nothing occurred to interfere with the original design and Estimate. Objection has been taken to the use of the word ton. But what term would serve us any better to indicate the rate of a ship's progress? The French speak of hundredths in lieu of 229 tons, and find themselves in the same difficulty as we do. The fact is, it does not matter what term you make use of, as long as you take care to keep in view the purpose for which it is employed, and the sense in which you use it. Comparing the figures given in the Estimates in 1884-5 with those for 1885-6, there appears, as has been stated, to be a loss of armoured tonnage amounting to 1,739 tons. The ships in which this so-called loss has occurred are chiefly the Impérieuse, with a loss of 975 tons, and the Warspite, with a loss of 572 tons. The total cost of the Imperieuse has been increased by £52,900, and the total cost of the Warspite has been increased by £25,000. The circumstances which have caused this apparent loss are—firstly and chiefly, the changes involved in the adoption of a modified type of boilers. It was intended, in the first instance, to fit them with a locomotive type of boiler, and then it was decided after the trial of the Polyphemus to change the type. The Impérieuse, at the time of making the alteration, was much farther advanced than the Warspite. Secondly, alterations consequent upon the adoption of Vavasseur mountings for barbette guns, and those due to changes in Vavasseur broadside carriage. Thirdly, changes in the hold, to provide the stowage of quick-firing gun ammunition. Fourthly, an alteration in the thickness of the wood sheathing; in the breastwork on the spar deck adjacent to the barbettes, and in the position and number of torpedo ports. In the protected ships there has been a real loss of tonnage in the past year. The tonnage promised has fallen short of the amount executed by 507 tons. This loss is accounted for chiefly by the decision to abandon the construction of a ship of the Mersey typo at Devonport. The apparent loss has been rather in excess of the real loss. It amounts to 590 tons—namely, in the Mersey, 41 tons; in the Severn, 192 tons; in the Thames, 133 tons; in the New Mersey, 314 tons; total, 660 tons, less a gain on the Forth of 70 tons. The excess is attributable, as in the case of the armoured vessels, to changes in the designs and consequent increase of cost. In the case of the Mersey, Severn, Forth, and Thames, alterations were made from the original design, giving 8-inch guns in place of 6-inch on the poop and forecastle, involving special 230 strengthenings of the decks, &c, also substituting teak in place of fir of deck under the broadside guns. In the un-armoured tonnage there has been a real gain in the Dockyards of 373 tons, but an apparent loss of 558 tons. The loss has occurred chiefly on the Calliope and Amphion, and is due to changes introduced into the designs. In the case of the Calliope there was a change of armament involving the building of sponsons for the guns, and in the case of the Amphion the original Estimate for armament and sponsons was altered from what was intended. In the unarmoured tonnage to be built by contract there is a real loss of 346 tons. This was caused by the decision not to proceed with the construction of the new torpedo depot ship New Hecla, combined with minor changes. It thus appears that, while on the whole shipbuilding programme of the past year there has been a real loss of only 269 tons, the apparent loss amounts to 3,488 tons. The right hon. Member for Westminster pronounces the figures in the Estimates to be "absolutely fallacious," and accuses the Admiralty of stating that "a certain amount of work will be done which is not done." This condemnation is not justified by the facts, for, as has been shown, the total amount of tonnage executed in the year, taking all the ships together, corresponds closely with the amount promised in the Estimates. It is only the estimate of the state of advancement towards completion of certain ships that is at fault. It is at fault for the simple reason that a loss which has really been accumulating from the commencement of building is now taken account of, and the loss of former years is added to the loss proper to the year. In fact, our accounts all show the loss proper to the year, but do not include the loss in former years. This forecast is made a year in advance, and is liable to disturbance, as has been shown from changes introduced into the design of the ship, increased cost of materials, or other unforeseen circumstances. Alterations in designs are unavoidable incidents whatever Board of Admiralty may be in Office. Armoured ships necessarily take years to build, and it is almost certain that valuable suggestions will be made in that interval to which it is impracticable for the Admiralty to close their eyes. The most that can be done 231 is to insist that no changes shall be made in the original design, unless it can be shown conclusively that they are of such value as to justify the increased cost, and the delay consequent on their adoption, and such as will give us a better ship in the end. We contend that no such changes have been made except with that object in view. No change of any kind has been made by the Admiralty during the progress of these ships which has not distinctly added to the value of the ships to the full amount of the money expended. Well, Sir, I have endeavoured, as far as possible, to meet the contention of my right hon. Friend, and of other speakers to-night, with regard to the fulfilment of the pledges of the Admiralty as to their shipbuilding programme of last year. My explanation is satisfactory to my own mind, and I hope it will be equally satisfactory to my right hon. Friend the Member for Westminster.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
It is very gratifying to know that the statement which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Caine) has made, and which I am sure he has made in perfect good faith, is entirely satisfactory to himself. I speak in the presence of a great many Gentlemen who are acquainted with shipbuilding, and I think that if they were informed that so many tons of shipping had been built because a certain sum of money had been spent upon a ship they would express great surprise, and their entire unwillingness to deal with any shipbuilding firm who treated them in that way. The truth is this—that these figures to which I refer are fallacious. I repeat the statement with the full consciousness of the responsibility which I assume in doing so—I say that the figures on page 191 of the Estimates of 1884-5, and on page 197 of the Estimates of 1885-6, are entirely fallacious. They give an impression which is not justified by the facts. They say that so many tons of shipping have been added to the Navy; but the truth is that a certain sum of money has been spent in shipbuilding which has not produced the result that was anticipated when the Estimate was framed. If you turn to page 204 of the Estimates of 1884-5, and page 210 of the Estimates of 1885-6, you see there a statement of the work done, which is more or less trustworthy; 232 but, comparing that statement with the statement in the previous pages of the same Estimates, you will find the differences of which I speak. There are two sets of figures. First of all there is the Estimate of the work to be done in the coming year, and then there is a record of the work done. These figures do not correspond with the statement in the abstract of shipbuilding completed for sea in the later pages of the Estimates. The figures in the later pages are more or less correct; but the figures in the earlier part on which the Admiralty rest are fallacious. They are intended to create an impression in the minds of the public which is not justified by facts. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Caine) says it very often happens that the work upon ships turns out to be greater than was expected. "It does not matter," the hon. Gentleman added, "what term is used, provided the money is spent; changes of boilers, alterations in the armaments, and other considerations, have affected the original Estimate of the cost of the ships." The changes have been made, but they do not produce a larger ship; they do not produce, in many cases, a better ship. The result is that we are paying a great deal more for our ships than we expected, and, at the same time, less shipping is built than we were led to believe would be built. Those were figures based, not on any assumptions of my own, but upon the Returns brought forward by the Admiralty itself, and inserted in page 204 of last year's Estimates, and page 210 of the Estimates of the present year. I assume that those Estimates are correct, as they have always compared much more nearly with the expense accounts of the Admiralty; and I think there is reason to believe they are accurate, or, at any rate, that they may taken as more or less trustworthy. I do not wish to go into this matter at great length; all I desire to do is to point out to the Committee that the subject is one which requires very careful attention and consideration. Let us consider how this House has been dealt with in regard to this matter. On the 2nd of December last the Admiralty announced, in both Houses of Parliament, that they had made provision in the Estimates for building 29,810 tons of shipping in the course of the coming year. In the Esti- 233 mates that were presented to this House only two months later, they provided, according to the fallacious principle which I contend they have been acting upon, for the building of only 28,000 tons, so that their proposal put forward in February was less by 7½ per cent than the solemn engagement they announced to this House in December. This, I think the Committee will see, was not only a very rapid change, but a very extraordinary and important change; but it was still more serious, because we were exposed to this danger—that even these 28,000 tons of actual shipping would not be built, but that we should have only a proportion of those 28,000 tons built, having reference to what had been the case during the past year, when there was a deficiency of 3,700 tons of shipping out of 20,000 tons. Bearing this in mind, we have, I say, to look forward to a deficiency of at least 5,000 tons on the 28,000 tons that have been promised; and instead of our having 29,800 tons built, in accordance with the engagement made in this House in December last, I will undertake to say that, unless there is a complete change in the system pursued, we shall only have some 23,000 tons completed by this time next year. This being the case, it would be far better for the Government to say definitely one thing or the other. Let them say at once—"We only intend to build 23,000 tons;" so that the House and the country may really know what they are about. In that case, if the country is content or satisfied with such an engagement, I, at least, shall have nothing more to say. But I do object to expectations being held out to us in the Estimates which are not to be realized, but which, having regard to all past experience, fall short of the Estimates put before this House, just as the performance of last year and the year before has fallen short of the Estimates of those years. Turning to another point, I may say that I have made no complaint that improvements are made in the mechanical arrangements of the ships; I have made no complaint that improvements are made in the armaments of those ships; but I do complain of the system under which these improvements are made, and which I believe to be an extravagant and an injurious system; and I say plainly and unhesitatingly that in- 234 stead of £35 a-ton the cost of our ships is £40 or £45 a-ton under a system which I assert is absolutely fallacious and unsatisfactory. Now, Sir, the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Caine) has spoken of ships which can be put in commission in the space of 10 days. I am not acquainted with all the ships he mentioned, but I am acquainted with the condition of the COLOSSUS and the Conqueror; and I have no hesitation in saying that those two ships cannot be completed under a period of six weeks or two months from the present time, because the loading gear for their guns has only been recently supplied, and it will take about two months to get it on board the ships. Last year we were informed that the Conqueror had been completed; but I object to being told that any ship has been completed until she is ready to hoist her pennant to proceed to sea. What I desire is that the Admiralty should let us know what is our real position with regard to the strength of the Navy. If it is a strong position, well and good, and let them say so; but if our position be weak, let us know that it is so. All we require is that they should make us acquainted with our strength or weakness, whichever it may be. Then again, Sir, my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty (Sir Thomas Brassey) told us on the 17th of March something about our steam pinnaces. He stated that there were 170 steam pinnaces available for torpedo work. But I should like to be informed how many Whitehead torpedoes have been served out to those steam pinnaces? I should also like to be told how many of those steam pinnaces have been fitted for the Whitehead torpedo service; how many have been assigned to the Dockyards for Dockyard service; and how many have been assigned to the harbours for harbour service; and, also, whether there is a single steam pinnace or a single torpedo boat, which has not yet been assigned to the Fleet, which would be available for coast and harbour defence, and whether there is any expectation that even within the next three months, or, I will say, the next six months, there will be a single torpedo boat fitted with Whitehead torpedoes available for the service of our coast and for the protection of our harbours? My own impression is that the deficiency in this respect is so great that there is nothing in the 235 shape of torpedo boats available for the defence of our harbours and coasts, as they are all required for the service of the Fleet; and, as far as steam pinnaces are concerned, anything that may be fit for torpedo service would, I think, be absorbed entirely by the Fleet. We have been told that there is to be a Return laid upon the Table very shortly by the Admiralty in reference to the recommendations of the Committee on Shipbuilding. Now, one of the most important recommendations of that Committee, and one also which was supported by the Director of Naval Construction in a Paper to which I referred on a recent occasion, was in favour of the more rapid completion of the ships taken in hand, no matter whether those ships were armour-clad or unarmoured ships. The Constructor to the Navy gave three years as the time with which an armoured ship could be completed from the moment she was laid down. I believe that if the Admiralty were to insist on the completion of each skip within a period of three years from the time at which she was first laid down, a very large proportion of the incidental expenses, which the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) and the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed) have complained of, would be saved, and all those discrepancies between money and tonnage, to which the Civil Lord of the Admiralty has referred, would disappear entirely. It ought to be sufficient for the Admiralty to procure the design for a ship, and to require that that ship should be completed, whether in one of Her Majesty's Dockyards or by a contractor, as she was designed. It must be possible for the Admiralty to decide beforehand what the armament of a ship should be, and to insist that that ship, with her armour and armament, and all the mechanical appliances she would require, should be put in hand when she was designed and completed within the time specified. The reason for all the delay that takes place, and the cause of all the consequent extra expense, is this. The Admiralty lay down a ship without having, in the first instance, fully determined what her armament is to be; they then wait for six, or even for 12, months, to make up their minds on these points, in order to get over another year's Estimates, and then they wait for a further year before ordering the mountings of the 236 guns, and for the same reason—namely, to get them into a later year's Estimates. In the meantime, some suggestions are made for improvements, certain inventions and alterations are recommended to the Admiralty, which cause still further delay, and have the effect of enormously increasing the cost of the ship. Now, if they would have the ship completed off-hand, they would be able to start afresh with another and as they went on with their shipbuilding they would have in what was done some suggestions that would enable them to effect improvements in the next ship they laid down. But they will not adopt this course. The hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed) has referred to the Edinburgh, which has been put on one side and taken in hand two or three times in the course of its construction; and it should be remembered that during all the time our ships are being thus dealt with the capital employed upon them remains unproductive, as nothing can be done with the vessels. I should like to know whether the new ships which are being built by contract—and we have not yet been told what contracts have been accepted—are to be built out of hand? The suggestion has been made that if they are to be built by contract, it would be to the interest of the contractors to go on and finish the ships as rapidly as possible. I am led to believe that the time given to the contractors for the completion of the ships intrusted to them is much longer than the contractors themselves desire to have, and that it would be more to their interest and advantage that the ships they have to build should be completed in less time than that which is specified in the contracts. I know that there are contractors who would be glad to build iron-clads and complete them in three years, or less than three years, once for all.
The right hon. Gentleman assumes that the long terms given to the contractors have been introduced since he was at the Admiralty.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I know that the system was very much complained of at the time I was at the Admiralty; but I had not the responsibility of building any iron-clads by contract while I was there, or I should have proposed that they should have been completed 237 in shorter periods, as I am well aware of the loss sustained by the country owing to the present system, which has frequently been insisted on as an evil by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House; and I have learnt to follow their good example by calling the attention of this House and of the country to it. I wish, therefore, to know from the hon. Gentleman who will reply OIL behalf of the Government what the time allotted to the contractors for the construction of the new ships really is; whether it is more than the Director of Naval Construction has considered to be necessary for the building of such ships; and whether it is more than the Committee on Repairs and Building Contracts would themselves sanction? The hon. Gentleman has referred to the fact that all the iron-clads, or at any rate all the efficient iron-clads, are in good repair. I am sure that that statement was regarded by the Committee as an exceedingly gratifying one, especially after the very unpleasant series of statements made to us last week, when we were told that the Nep-tune could not steam 10 knots an hour; that the Channel Squadron was suffering from the prevalence of the boiler disease, as it has been termed; and that the Monarch had broken down altogether in the Mediterranean, and was burning blue lights and sending up rockets for help within a short distance from Malta, after having been cast off by a tug which had burnt out her coal. I do not believe that our iron-clads are in such perfect order as has been made out, as far as their boilers are concerned. If they were, I do not think there would be any hesitation in giving a Return showing the condition of the boilers, such as has been given in past years, but which is refused now. If the boilers were in good order, the Admiralty would no doubt be prepared to say they are in good order in regard to each particular ship. Such a Return has been given in times past, and there is a good deal that I should like to know at the present moment about the condition of the boilers. Here is a statement which is a commentary on the very satisfactory state of mind in which the Admiralty would appear to exist with regard to the condition of the boilers. I would also ask is it a fact that there is at least one other iron-clad now in the 238 Mediterranean that can hardly crawl along in consequence of the state of her boilers; is it the fact, furthermore, that the Euryalus, which is not an iron-clad, but which is the flagship on the East India Station, had to be tugged up the Red Sea and through the Mediterranean to Malta, for the purpose of being docked, because her boilers had broken down; and, if so, what is about to be done? I should also like to know what is proposed to be done, or what has been done, in regard to cruisers, now that we have occasion for employing them? Are the Inconstant, the Shah, and the Boadicea to be repaired and made efficient; and, if not, why not? What is to be done with regard to those and other vessels that are required as cruisers under present circumstances? If, as we find has been the case, Her Majesty's Government have deemed it necessary to hire large passenger steam ships from private trading Companies vessels that are to be converted into cruisers, how is it that these fast and powerful war ships have not been made available? Turning, now, to another matter, I desire to refer to what I consider the very satisfactory assurance that has been given to the Committee with regard to the increased arrangements for torpedo instruction. I am very glad to find that the Admiralty has taken this matter into serious and practical consideration. But in regard to the number of blue-jackets, I have on a previous occasion expressed doubts as to whether there was a sufficient supply; but I was told that the reduction in the number of boys which I had effected in 1878-9 had had an influence on the number of blue-jackets at the present time. This, no doubt, may be true; but I would remind the Committee that the present Board of Admiralty reduced the number of boys by 800 more than the reduction I effected; so that the conclusion at which they must have arrived in 1880 was, doubtless, that there was a surplus of bluejackets which it was desirable to decrease. As far as my own action is concerned, I am not at all ashamed to say that I effected every economy I possibly could in the Service, having, of course, due regard to the maintenance of its efficiency; but the present Board of Admiralty has gone far beyond what I did, for they have reduced the number 239 both of the boys and of the Marines, and I am very much afraid that we shall want both the boys and the Marines who have been so reduced. I am glad to see that the number of boys is to be increased; but the result will hardly compensate for the reduction already effected, because those 800 boys to whom I have just referred would now have been valuable constituents of our naval strength had they been retained for the service of the country. There is one question I should like to ask my hon. Friend opposite; and that is whether he will undertake that the 28,000 tons the Admiralty has promised shall really be built in the course of the present year? If the Admiralty will do this they will accomplish a good deal towards the necessary increase of the strength of the Navy, and will have done a good deal also towards satisfying the expectations of the country. Nevertheless, I am still at a loss to understand why Her Majesty's Government should have reduced their original proposal; and I leave it for this House to say whether it is satisfied with a diminution of 7½ per cent in February of that which was promised by the Admiralty in the preceding December.
§ MR. NORWOOD
said, it had not been his intention to have intervened in this discussion; but in consequence of the course it had taken he felt it his duty to offer a few observations. He thought that in discussing a question of this kind the Committee ought to divest their minds of anything like Party bias. He had served on the Admiralty Committee on Shipbuilding, to which so much reference had been made in the course of the debate; and having had the advantage, or the disadvantage, of being present at very many discussions on Navy Estimates, he confessed that it seemed to him to be difficult for any one Administration to point the linger of scorn at the other, and to claim that a particular Board of Admiralty had been more effective in its naval administration than another. He thought that whatever might be the individual views of hon. Members with regard to the present state of naval affairs, it was not fair or right to attempt to shift the responsibility from one side to the other. It had been said on the present occasion, as had been stated on many previous occasions, that the condition of naval 240 affairs was ripe for discussion in that House; and he had often heard hon. and gallant Gentlemen on both sides of the House, as he had that evening heard his hon. Friend the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, institute comparisons between the Navy of this country and the Navies of other countries, especially as to the amount of money expended by this country and by France. To his mind they ought to look upon the naval expenditure of this country as the amount of insurance paid for the vast amount of shipping property it possessed, and the enormous trade it carried on every sea. He regarded the amount of their expenditure in this respect as too small, and considered all Boards of Admiralty equally blameable for the result. If he had regard to the Returns made of the value of our imports and exports, what did he find? He found that for the year 188.3 the combined amount of those imports and exports was stated at £732,000,000. Taking the value of their shipping at £10 per ton, on a total tonnage of 7,026,062, he found that it reached the sum of £70,260,620, the two items together making a gross total of £802,260,620. The sum of £11,500,000, put down in the Navy Estimates, amounted only to an insurance of 1½ per cent on that amount; and in arriving at that result he entirely put out of calculation the all-important considerations connected with the defence of their property on land, and the frightful state of things that would result in this country should it at any time find its first line of defence seriously imperilled. He, therefore, thought it false economy on the part of Her Majesty's Government to limit their naval expenditure to a sum varyingfrom£11,000,000 to£12,000,000 per annum, when there were such vast interests to be protected. He believed that there was much room for improvement in their naval administration, and that they would never get a satisfactory return for their naval expenditure until they had a reform in the constitution of the Board of Admiralty. He was satisfied that the administration of that Board was not based on sound commercial principles; and although he did not deem it his duty on the present occasion to point out where he thought a reform ought to take place, he had no hesitation in saying that it would be impossible for any private shipowever, however wealthy he 241 might be, to conduct his business on the basis adopted by the Board of Admiralty and to keep himself out of the Court of Bankruptcy. Two points arising out of the recommendations of the Admiralty Committee had been dwelt upon by several hon. Members who had taken part in the debate, and especial reference had been made to the constant delay which took place in the construction of the ships laid down for the service of the country. Under the present system they commenced the construction of a large vessel, and after a certain amount of work had been done upon it there was a stoppage. After a long interval the work of construction was recommenced, only to be again broken off, and in that way a vessel that ought to have been constructed in three years was not completed until after a lapse of seven or eight years; whereas, had the work been regularly and systematically proceeded with, the ship might easily have been put afloat in three. That he regarded as a most unsatisfactory state of things, because not only did it involve a loss of interest on the outlay, but it also prevented the addition to their Fleet of a powerful vessel, which it was very desirable to have. As had been pointed out by his hon. Friend below him, there were at the present time from £6,000,000 to £6,500,000 locked up in vessels that remained in an unfinished condition in their Dockyards. A merchant shipowner did not proceed in that way. When he had determined on the construction of a new ship, he gave his attention not only to the form and dimensions of the vessel, but to every detail of its construction. When he had made his contract, he very rarely, if he were a wise and able man, deviated from the course agreed upon; and the result was that he obtained the vessel he wanted at the minimum expenditure of time and money. But in the Royal Navy the system was the very reverse of that. The sanction of Parliament was asked and obtained for a new ship, and after the construction of that vessel had been carried to a certain point alterations were suggested, and she was in some respects, almost entirely reconstructed. A new armament was probably recommended, and that required that the vessel should be specially adapted to the reception of that armament. The result was that, as a 242 matter of course, the cost of construction very considerably exceeded the amount of the original Estimate for which the Vote of the House had been taken. There was also another serious matter, to which he would here refer, in connection with the mode in which the naval affairs of the country were managed. He referred to the great mismanagement that was evidenced with regard to the construction of the ordnance with which the ships were mounted. The evidence taken by the Committee showed that a great portion of the delay in the completion of their ships arose from the frequent fact that, when a vessel was constructed, the ordnance with which she was intended to be armed was not prepared. The Admiralty had been in the hands of the War Department for a long time. The Committee which had been referred to recommended that the Admiralty should be free to purchase their guns wherever they could be best and most easily obtained. It was, however, the practice that Woolwich, and to a small extent Elswick, should furnish the guns for the Navy; but he said, if they could be bought more readily and of a satisfactory kind from private firms, he was at a loss to see why they should not be so obtained. He was rejoiced to find that public attention was being directed to this most important question of the Navy. The Committee would be aware that by far the larger portion of the grain consumed in this country was imported from beyond the seas, and that, therefore, the very means of subsistence of their people depended on the Navy being strong and thoroughly able to protect their Mercantile Marine. He trusted that the foreign political difficulties they were now passing through, and which he hoped would soon disappear, would indelibly fix the mind of the House and the country upon the folly and absurdity of allowing the Navy to sink so much below the requirements of the country as it had done. He could not think it was creditable or proper that the country should resort so soon to the Mercantile Marine for assistance as was now the case. He could have understood that, after a severe struggle with a great Naval Power the Admiralty would have to apply to the Mercantile Marine for assistance; but at the outset of a contest the country 243 ought to have a sufficiency of properly equipped men-of-war at its disposal. The ships of the Mercantile Marine were useful for national purposes, such as despatch vessels and transports; but they were egg-shells, so to speak, as compared with ships of the Navy, and it was a sign of weakness to have recourse to them now as fighting ships. It was impossible to imagine a more complete confession that the Admiralty were unable of their own resources to place a proper Fleet on the seas, in view of a possible war with a single Power, than the recourse they had already had to the Mercantile Marine for the purpose of strengthening the Navy.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, that when the Navy Estimates were introduced, the sum asked for was criticized as not fulfilling the promises made by the Admiralty in December; but since then an entire change of policy had taken place, and they had seen, as the hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Norwood) had just pointed out, the Admiralty going into the market to obtain by hire or purchase a number of merchant vessels to perform the duty of frigates which the country did not at present possess. He did not object to that; it was absolutely necessary that they should have them, and he had pointed out, more than 18 years ago in that House, that it would be necessary, under certain conditions, to arm a requisite number of ships of the Merchant Service. Further, a proposal was made at that time to the War Office that 500 guns and fittings should be prepared for the purpose of arming those vessels when it became necessary to acquire them; but those guns had not been prepared. The change of policy on the part of the Admiralty was even greater than this, inasmuch as he gathered from the ordinary sources of public information that the Admiralty had been endeavouring to purchase the iron-clads of other nations. The Esmeralda was now in the possession of Chili; when she left this country he believed that she might have been acquired at cost price; but now that she was wanted he had no doubt that the Chilian Government would not see its way to selling her. Therefore, it was with great difficulty that they could now acquire ships in different parts of the world, especially as their price was greatly enhanced. They would, no doubt, hear 244 more about those vessels; but, in the meantime, they had the fact that the country was short of ships, and, in spite of statements to the contrary, he confessed that he doubted if there were as many ships available for the Public Service as it was supposed there were. He would now call attention to the number of ships which they at present possessed, and to their position in respect of seaworthiness and trustworthiness for the Public Service. He thought it was fortunate for the country that there should be a scare of the kind which had directed the attention of Parliament to the defenceless condition of the country. The hon. Gentleman the Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Caine) had thought it right to state to the Committee the number of armour-clads which he conceived to be available for the Public Service, and he had compared them with the ships of the French Navy. He should take the opportunity of showing that the optimist views of the hon. Gentleman were not those be would hold if the figures he was about to give to the Committee could be proved to be correct. It was absurd to talk of ships as being efficient that could not carry a sufficient supply of coal, and could not steam 14 knots an hour. He would, therefore, give the speed of the ships of Great Britain. Great Britain had ready of first-class iron-clads, with a speed of 14 knots, the Inflexible, the Dreadnought, the Thunderer, the Devastation, and the Neptune, or five in number. The French had three—namely, the Amiral Duperré, Dévastation, and Redoubtable. England had ready nine second-class iron-clads—namely, the Téméraire, Nelson, Alexandra, Sultan, Iron Duke, Triumph, Invincible, Hercules, and Monarch. The French had also nine of the same class of ships—the Bayard, Turenne, Colbert, Trident, Richelieu, Friedland, Suffren, Marengo, and Océan. England had 14 other ships that were not capable of going 14 knots, and France 12; but they were not worth considering in the event of war. But we were fitting at this moment seven—namely, the Conqueror, the Colossus, the Edinburgh, the Collingwood, the Im-périeuse, the Warspite, and the Rodney; while France had eight— namely, the Tonnant, Terrible, Amiral Baudin, Foudroyant, Caïman, Indomptable, Duguesclin, and Vauban. Then we were building six—namely, the Howe, the Benbow, the 245 Camperdown, the Anson, the Hero, and the New Hero; while the French were building 10—namely, the Formidable, Neptune, Hoche, Requin, Magenta, Marceau, Charles Martel, Brennus, Guerriére, and Regnier. Those ships which were being built by France were capable of steaming 14 knots an hour, or were assumed to do so; so that, when those ships were completed, Great Britain would have 27 iron-clads capable of going 14 knots an hour, and France would have 30. Then, as to obsolete ships, England had 10 and France had 12, to which he had alluded; but if, as it was stated, Great Britain must have twice as many iron-clads as France the Admiralty would have to build 33. It might be said that it was absurd to ask for so many ships; but he did not think so. If they referred to The Three Panics published by Mr. Cobden, it would be found that between the years 1848-50 the French Navy had half as many war vessels as the English. In 1850 the French had 56 line-of-battle ships, and the English had 112. Everyone knew that ironclads now represented the line-of-battle ships of those days; and if it was intended that they should have supremacy at sea it was necessary that 33 iron-clads should be added to the Navy. But that was still more necessary in these days than it was formerly, because then France and Spain were the only two other Powers which had Navies, and the Fleet of France and Spain together was not quite equal to the Navy of Great Britain. In former days also England took possession of the Navies of smaller countries to prevent them having ships in war time, as in the case of Denmark in 1801 and 1807, and the Russian Fleet hold in our ports in 1808. At that time they were supreme at sea, but they were not so now, France having 30 iron-clads as against the 27 which Great Britain possessed. At that moment, from the East of the Cape of Good Hope to Cape Horn France had seven iron-clads; five in Chinese waters, one in Oceania, and one at Otaheite. Russia had four, one of which, the Vladimir Monomach, was a very formidable vessel; while Chili had four very powerful iron-clads. To protect Australia, India, and the West of Canada, they had only four iron-clads. If a combination took place between any of those countries, what would become of our enormous carrying trade in the Pacific, 246 lying, as it would be, exposed to the ravages of a superior force? The hon. and learned Member for Brighton (Mr. Marriott), on a former occasion, had alluded to the defenceless position of the harbours of the Colonies. He was told that if demands were made by this country the great Colonies would build 11 iron-clads, and that India would contribute two more without any strain at all upon the resources of this country, and that arrangements could easily be made by which the ships would be under a British Admiral. In that case, they would have a sufficient force to protect their Dependencies. The Navy of India had been put an end to entirely by this country, and they had promised in doing so to provide a sufficient Marine for India. He did not doubt that if the Indian Government were to arrange with the English Government they would soon place three or four iron-clads on the seas under the orders of a British Admiral for the protection of their coasts. But nothing had been done since the time he was referring to. He knew that New South Wales, New Zealand, and Canada were willing to assist in providing ships, and that the smaller Colonies were also willing to join with them. If that were so, was it not worth while to enter into an arrangement with them?—because that arrangement alone would reduce the number of additional iron-clads to be built by the Home Government from 33 to 20. If 20 of those vessels were added to the Navy, and 13 of them employed on the Indian and Colonial Stations, he had no doubt that they might then rest at ease, for there then would be a sufficient Navy for the protection of their shores. In the event of a war with Russia that would be of the greatest possible advantage in maintaining their great lines of communication. At that moment he believed that the four great Russian iron-clads in Vladivostock would be able to inflict an enormous amount of damage on our commerce and trade on the West Coast of America, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, and India, which it would take many years to repair. He would like to give the Committee an example of the way in which efficient preparation obviated war. In 1789, when a question arose with regard to the possession of Vancouver's Island, they had 26 sail of the line commissioned in the Channel, and in a few 247 months 28 were added; and it was owing to that addition to their strength that the French and Spanish withdrew their claims without firing a shot, and they had been able to hold the Island without having to re-acquire it. That was effected owing to the excellent arrangements made by Admiral Earl Howe as First Lord of the Admiralty, and by Admiral Sir Charles Middleton as Head of the Navy Board. That was the result of being prepared; whereas, had they been unprepared, the result would have been the infliction of a great amount of injury on property and loss of life. He agreed with the hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Norwood) that some change was required at the Admiralty. He did not think that the system of Admiralty government had proved itself to be satisfactory. His right hon. Friend the Member for Westminster knew that on a former occasion he had criticized the arrangements made, especially with regard to the reduction of the number of boys which had been alluded to, and also with regard to the want of energy in pushing forward the construction of iron-clad vessels necessary for the country. There was an impression that, although they had not ships enough, they had only to go to the great shipbuilders, who could turn them out as fast as they were required. But how long did it take to turn out an iron-clad?— how long did it take to finish a man-of-war? He knew that Mr. Samuda had built a powerful iron-clad for Brazil in two years; but how long did it take the Admiralty to build iron-clads? The Benbow had been laid down in November, 1882; the constructors were to have finished her in July, 1886, and the Dockyards were to have done with her nine months later—that was to say, she would take nearly five years to finish. If all that time was to be spent upon the Benbow, a war might be begun and ended long before the Benbow was ready. Although it was true they had enormous resources, unless they availed themselves of them they were no use to them. If the House would insist upon it, he believed that iron-clads like the Benbow could be completed within two years. If orders were given he was convinced that something like eight iron-clads could be laid down on the Clyde, and that there and in other parts of the 248 country the whole of the 20 iron-clads he had referred to as being necessary for the protection of the interests of the country could be produced in two years. As it was, the Government did not ask for the money that was necessary, and it was not voted; and accordingly the building of those iron-clads, which might be completed in two years, was spread over five. That was not because the contractors were not ready to push forward the work; they were ready to deliver the ships in two years if Parliament would vote the money. But the money was voted in driblets, in order to make the Estimates appear small; and the result was as he had described, the country being deprived of the security which would be obtained by the possession of those ships. He wished to say a word or two on the subject of guns. The Inflexible was one of those ships supposed to be very valuable and efficient. He should not go into the question of plating, which the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed) had touched upon, but would simply say that he agreed with the hon. Gentleman entirely on this subject. He assumed that the Inflexible was a valuable and efficient ship. She had been engaged in the action at Alexandria; she had on board four 81-ton guns, one of which was worn out, and that gun had never been changed until now. Strange to say, that gun had never been changed until the present Russian scare. Now it had been changed; but there being no gun available for the Inflexible she had received a gun used for experimental purposes as Shoeburyness. Therefore, for three years the Inflexible had been going about with one gun so damaged as to be perfectly useless, and of no more account than the wooden guns which the Chinese used to display. With regard to the Conqueror and Colossus, he was not assured that the guns of either of them were complete. A statement had been made some little time ago in the House which he had heard with some surprise—a statement of one set of guns having done duty for two ships. When he had inquired into the matter it was said, having been appropriated to one ship they had afterwards been appropriated to another, but that having never been handed over to either ship they were put down as possessed by both.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, he was reminded by his right hon. Friend that the ships were the Edinburgh and the Colossus, and he found that neither of them possessed the guns, though each was supposed to have them, and that was a very good instance of the way in which the public were gammoned. He had thought it right to put this matter before the Government, and he maintained that arrangements of that kind for the arming of ships were really trifling with the House. There were neither the guns, the shot, the shell, the gun carriages, nor anything in the world that was required for those ships. At that moment the Government were making 5-inch guns as fast as they could turn them out for steamers which had been bought; but the carriages were not ready. He saw in his place the hon. Member for Perthshire (Sir Donald Currie), who had done more than anyone, he might say, to give the country efficient cruisers in the present emergency; and the hon. Member himself had been in different parts of the world lately seeing foreign ports and shipping, and he would be surprised to find the scare that had taken place and the number of ships that were being required by the Government as cruisers. The hon. Member would know that the guns were not ready for those vessels, nor the ships themselves indeed, and that at that moment they were engaged at Woolwich Arsenal in manufacturing the necessary ordnance for vessels that were only intended to protect their commerce. The Shah and the Inconstant were the only two ships they had to protect their commerce, and they were not ready, and would not be ready for some time. Great efforts had been made to get ready the Mercury, and with the exception of that they had at the present time no vessels for that purpose. There was a great highway through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal; there was another great highway round the Cape; a third round Cape Horn; a fourth across the Atlantic to the United States; a fifth from the West Indies, and another from the Baltic; and each of those would require three or four fast frigates in them for the protection of their commerce. They wanted at least 24 250 fast frigates to protect their commerce properly, and they had only one. An emergency had arisen, or was imminent, and to make up for the deficiency it was found necessary to acquire 15 fast ships from the Merchant Service to do the necessary duty. But, moreover, there were only nine ships for a duty of that kind in course of building—nine when they required 24. The French had nine. The Committee might rest assured that the scare in the country was entirely justified, and that unless they bestirred themselves, and saw that the country did not go back into apathy with regard to the Navy, which had hitherto existed, they might depend upon it that one of these days they would find themselves at war with a great Naval Power, having their coast towns bombarded, and their commerce destroyed. As had been pointed out in The Revue des deux Mondes a year or two ago by Admiral Aube, they would see their commerce broken up, and would wonder why their Navy had not been able to protect their shores. If ever they were brought to that position, and were unable to protect their shores and their commerce, it would be because that Parliament had refused to listened to those who, made acquainted with the wants of the Navy, had not been ready to urge upon the Government, and support them in obtaining the ships, the men, and the guns, which were absolutely necessary for their national safety. The Prime Minister would remember there was a debate in that House, raised by the then Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) some years ago, in which the right hon. Gentleman himself and the Earl of Beaconsfield, then Mr. Disraeli, sitting where his right hon. Friend (Sir Stafford Northcote) now sat, argued the case with regard to whether a naval officer ought not to be at the head of the Admiralty. At that time the right hon. Gentleman and Mr. Disraeli together combined to deny that that was a good and proper arrangement; and the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, unless he was mistaken, quoting from Lord Brougham, had pointed out what an inefficient First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord St. Vincent, had been. He (Sir John Hay) had at that time moved for a Return on the subject, and it was laid on the Table, and was now in the hands of Members. According 251 to that Return, he found from 1706 to 1806—that was to say, speaking roughly, from the time of the battle of Cape La Hogue to the time of the battle of Trafalgar, the practice had been to put a naval officer at the head of the Admiralty. He found that for 59 years there was a naval officer at the head of that Department, and for 19 years more the Admiral who had been First Lord had, when war broke out, to take command of the Fleet, and show if his own arrangements were satisfactory. For a portion of that time he was taken from the head of the Admiralty, and charged with the command of the Channel Fleet, and many of those officers had held the post of First Lord of the Admiralty for a long time. There had been Lord Oxford, Lord Torrington, Sir John Leake, Lord Dursley, Sir Charles Wager, Lord Anson, Sir Charles Saunders, Lord Hawke, Lord Keppel, Lord Howe, and then had come Lord St. Vincent, to whom the right hon. Gentleman had alluded, and Lord St. Vincent was not the last—Lord Barham was the last. In 1803, when Pitt became Prime Minister, and war broke out with France, it was discovered that Lord St. Vincent, who had been First Lord of the Admiralty, had got bitten with economy, and that the Navy had dwindled into decay; and when Lord Barham became the head of the Department he ordered 40 ships to be built at once, and they were subsequently known as the 40 thieves. He (Sir John Hay) had sailed in them; they were not very good vessels; but they served their purpose. If the hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Thomas Brassey) would turn to Lord Nelson's despatches, he would find that the greatest of Admirals said it was fortunate that a naval officer was at the head of affairs, for he had given him all he wanted to fight with. Lord Nelson had received the means to fight, and he had fought the battle of Trafalgar. Lord Barham retired in 1806, and they had not, since his time, had a Naval Lord at the head of the Admiralty, except William IV., when he was Duke of Clarence, for a few years, and the Duke of Northumberland for one year. But he did not recommend the system of making a naval officer First Lord of the Admiralty, and then, when war broke out, invariably sending him to sea; but he was certainly of opinion that it was advisable 252 to have a Naval First Lord at the head of the Department, and that the process was one by which an efficient Navy could be secured. If they had such an arrangement, the First Lord could either come to the House himself, or, through the Secretary, inform Parliament of what he wanted, and if he did not get what he asked for, he would, of course, resign; an inquiry would then take place, and it would be found whether what he asked for should be granted or not. Since 1806 they had had four ex-Governors General of India and several Secretaries to the Treasury at the head of the Admiralty; but they had never had a naval officer, and the result had been that the Navy had dwindled down and fallen into decay, until at that moment he had been able to point out, without fear of contradiction, that they had neither ships, guns, nor men in sufficient numbers to defend their shores, or to keep the country in the state of defence some believed it to be in.
§ SIR DONALD CURRIE
said, his right hon. and gallant Friend (Sir John Hay) had referred to him, and, therefore, he might perhaps be permitted to say a word or two on this subject; but it would only be a word or two. If he were to say all he could say, it would be to the effect that his experience of the last few weeks, during his absence from this country, had only served to emphasize and justify every word of warning he had formerly addressed to the House and to the country on the state of Her Majesty's Navy. They had, during the recent difference with the French at Madagascar, only one ship at Tamatave, and that one vessel had carried nine guns, eight of which she dared not fire shotted. An attempt had been made to deny that statement, but it had been found that it could not be denied; and he had learned that there were other ships which carried similar guns. But in the present circumstances of the country he would rather not go into particulars, either upon the subject of guns, or with regard to coaling stations, and the necessity of fortifying them. The country had been living in a fool's paradise as to the Navy under the late and the present Governments. We could not have gone to war with France with much hope of a successful issue, as we had not the ships in Eastern waters 253 fit to compete with her on the sudden outbreak of war. Nor would he ask, with regard to Russia, were they in a position to properly maintain their interests?— for when he was in the Bed Sea he was told that there had passed through a Russian armoured vessel of great speed, carrying very powerful guns, and with a large supply of torpedoes, whose captain had been bold enough to say that he was not afraid of any vessel he could meet with on his way for thousands of miles. The French had improvised as naval cruisers one or two merchant vessels to cruise in China waters to help the carrying out of the policy of that country in regard to contraband of war. Had we the guns; the men; the ships; had we the torpedoes necessary for a great war? It was a disgrace to the country that we should be in such a position. An official of the Government had said to him the other day that if they were at war with a strong Naval Power, shipowners might have to put their shipping under a neutral flag. Was such a state of things creditable? The Government were taking up merchant ships to arm them as cruisers in the first line of defence, which clearly proved the Navy was short of cruisers; but they had not the guns to put into them. They had only 64 - pounders in those cruisers; and what would they be against a powerfully armed cruiser? A merchant ship so equipped could do nothing against an armoured vessel but run away. He urged what he had said at first—that they had to look most anxiously into the present position of matters. It was not to be dealt with by mere declamation, or statements in regard to actual or apparent tonnage, or anything of that sort; it was both the apparent and the real danger which they had to consider.
§ SIR MASSEY LOPES
congratulated the Committee upon the fact that public attention and public interest were at last awakened as to the state of their national defences. A great deal of alarm and apprehension had been prevalent in the public mind for a considerable time; and he thought he could say, without fear of contradiction, that there was now a unanimous opinion that the naval defences of the country were not in the position in which they ought to be. He did not think the comforting assurances which from time to time had been given 254 by the Board of Admiralty had in any degree tended to allay that apprehension. He had had the honour for some years to be connected with the Board of Admiralty, and in conjunction with his right hon. Friend (Mr. W. H. Smith) it had been his duty to consider the Navy Estimates; and he did not hesitate to say this—that the money that had been voted for the Naval Services had never been sufficient, and had never been adequate to maintain the naval supremacy of this country, or to enable the Navy to perform the manifold duties that devolved upon it. It had been his duty to revise the Estimates, and he could assure the Committee that the task which had devolved upon himself and his Colleagues had been most hard, and difficult, and unsatisfactory. As the Committee very well knew, the Board of Admiralty was controlled by the Treasury; but if anything unfortunate happened to their Navy it would not be the Treasury that would be responsible, but it would be the Board of Admiralty. Now, he thought the subject of the Navy ought at all times to be beyond Party considerations; and it was not his intention to make any charge against the present Board of Admiralty. He admitted, for the sake of argument, that the Board of Admiralty had expended the money voted to the best purpose; but he contended that sufficient money had never been voted to maintain the supremacy of the country—that was to say, in the construction of ships, and, at the same time, for the repairing of ships, and the consequence was that one Board had attended to the construction of ships and neglected repairs, whilst another Board of Admiralty had attended to repairs and neglected the construction of ships, and so alternately. That seemed to him to be a most unsatisfactory state of things. Notwithstanding the costly improvements which had taken place in their guns and ships during the last few years, the money voted during that period had been very much less than the sum voted 25 years ago; and, that being so, the Effective Votes had decreased, whilst the Non-Effective Votes had considerably increased, and the difference between the Effective and Non-Effective Votes in 1860 and the present time was more than the cost of two first-class iron-clads—something like £1,200,000. He would 255 also mention that he did not think that they had realized this fact—that changes in their modern warfare had been very greatly to the disadvantage of this country. Formerly, they had been very justly proud, both of their Marines and of their blue-jackets, and of their seamanship; but now, though they had not degenerated, to a certain extent they had lost the benefit of all those advantages. Steam had made their coast more vulnerable, and had opened their commerce to greater danger; and, therefore, to that extent also, they were in a worse position than they occupied years ago. He would also mention this point, which had been referred to just now— namely, that the construction of ships in this country could not be improvised. They could improvise an Army, but they could not improvise a Navy; and the consequence was, when an emergency arose, they were obliged to buy ships at an enormous cost—ships which were not suitable for the purpose for which they bought them—and requiring large sums of money to be expended on alterations. Something had been said just now as to the Mercantile Marine, and he agreed with the hon. Member for Perthshire (Sir Donald Currie) in the statement that they were putting too much reliance upon that Service. He did not believe that any of their mercantile steamers would ever be likely to make good improvised armed cruisers. To his mind small iron-clads, which could be built at half the cost and half the trouble, would be more than a match for the best-armed merchantman that was ever commissioned. It was understood that in an emergency the Admiralty had ready certain fittings for merchant steamers to enable them to act as auxiliary cruisers to the Fleet; but that, at the best, could only be looked upon as a makeshift; and he would like to ask the Board of Admiralty whether the understanding as to those fittings had been carried out, and whether, as a matter of fact, there was a single modern gun that could be put on board those steamers at the present moment? He did not believe there was one existing. It was said just now that comparisons were odious; but he (Sir Massey Lopes) did not agree with that. He thought that comparisons were not only necessary, but very often salutary. The hon. Member the Civil Lord (Mr. 256 Caine) had deprecated any comparison between the state of their Navy and the condition of Foreign Navies; but the hon. Member must bear in mind that Foreign Governments knew perfectly well the state of our naval affairs just as well as anyone of ourselves; and, therefore, he really did not think it was undesirable sometimes to bring those matters into consideration. His opinion was that they ought not simply to compare the ships, but they ought also to compare the work that the ships had to do. Now, if the relative duties of the ships of Her Majesty's Navy and of Foreign Navies were compared, it would be found that Foreign Navies were much better circumstanced than ourselves, because our ships had to be scattered all over the world, keeping up our communications with our Colonies, whereas ships of Foreign Powers could be concentrated and brought together at any time into a focus. Then, our Navy had not only to look after our commerce and our Colonies, but our coaling stations; and last, but not least, had to look after our daily bread. Those were matters of vast importance to us, while to other nations they were by no means of the same magnitude. Then, he wished to say a word or two about armaments. The question of artillery was one of the utmost importance to this country. It could not be denied that this country at that moment, so far as their big guns were concerned, was certainly inferior to both Italy and France. That, he thought, would be admitted. They must bear in mind this fact—that they were not only in arrear of guns, but that they were in arrear of plant to make them. Woolwich Arsenal was not adequate to their wants; and it appeared to him to be a great misfortune that Woolwich had a monopoly of this work. More than that, he should like to call the attention of the Board of Admiralty to another point. When they succeeded the late Government in Office, one of the first and chief pledges they gave with reference to the Admiralty was that they said that the last Government had been four or five years employed and occupied in building one ship, and that they intended to initiate a great reform in this respect. They had declared it to be their intention to build an iron-clad in three years. He should like to ask them whether it was true, as had been said by the 257 hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed), that the whole time the present Government had been in Office they had never turned out a vessel of above 1,500 tons, from the time they succeeded to Office to the present day?
§ SIR MASSEY LOPES
Yes. He would say he believed they were wasting a great deal of money in this country upon repairs and refits in their Dockyards. He believed it to be a great mistake, when they had once designed a ship, that they should ever alter it. The best way to get a new design was to finish an old one. He was sure that a great deal of money was lost to this country in that way, and that was one of the reasons why they got ships so much more rapidly and satisfactorily constructed by contract in private yards than they did in Her Majesty's Dockyards. When ships were begun in private yards they were completed as designed. He did not think he need press upon the Committee or the country the necessity of maintaining their naval supremacy. As the hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Norwood) had said, the investment of money upon the Royal Navy was a good insurance. That was perfectly true; and though they might have to pay a high figure, he thought the investment was an excellent one. He thought there was no sum this country would not be prepared to give for the maintenance of their naval supremacy; and he was sure that all classes would protest against parsimony in naval matters which would have the effect of endangering their Navy, and thus imperilling the national interest.
§ MR. SUTHERLAND
said, he was one of those who had always been disposed to believe that the English Navy was fit for any emergency, and he was not willing to abandon that idea even at the present moment, although he was bound to say, judging from the discussion which had taken place that evening, that there must be something rotten in the state of Denmark with regard to the state of the Navy. He agreed with the right hon. and gallant Admiral (Sir John Hay) that it was anything but a satisfactory thing that they should be compelled to employ merchant vessels as cruisers in their first line of defence. It was often said that the Russians 258 had, at certain points, such as Vladivostock, under their flag, certain armed cruisers which would be able to sweep the sea of all the merchant cruisers that could be hired, and all the merchant vessels under the British Flag. Considering the fact that, no less than 10 or 12 years had elapsed since the Admiralty had first promulgated the idea of adopting the vessels in the Mercantile Marine as auxiliaries for the purpose of naval defence, it was almost disgraceful that they were not at that moment possessed of armed cruisers of their own. and that it was only within the last few weeks that the Government had asked for tenders for the construction of vessels of the cruiser class, vessels which, considering that the tenders had not yet been received, would require at least two years to build. He confessed that the apprehensions to which he had given expression had not been diminished by what he had heard that night, in the shape of the ingenuous confession of the hon. Gentleman the Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Caine), as to the manner in which the administration of the Admiralty was carried on in certain respects. He had said the ingenuous confession of the hon. Gentleman, because of all the statements that he ever heard made by a man holding a public Office the statement of the hon. Gentleman was certainly the strangest. The hon. Gentleman had said that it had been customary to measure the capacity of their Fleet by the tonnage, but that owing to alterations made in the designs of ships a ton had now ceased to be a measure of weight or capacity, but had become a measure of progress—that was to say, a measure of the expenditure of the Admiralty over and above the amount estimated to be required. He (Mr. Sutherland) maintained that was a most extraordinary doctrine, and if it stood by itself would be well calculated to cause uneasiness in the mind of any plain and simple business man. He feared, therefore, there was some ground for the statements which were constantly made in the public Press that the public were losing confidence in their Admiralty system. He did not mean to say that the public were losing one whit of confidence in the sailors and officers of their Navy; he was fully persuaded that the public would never have occasion to lose that confidence; but they were losing con- 259 fidence in the administrative capacity of the Board of Admiralty, constituted as it was at present. When he said that, he trusted that his hon. Friends who were responsible to the House for the work of the Admiralty, and hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite who had formerly represented the Admiralty, would believe that he did not mean, in the slightest degree, to underrate their merit, or the work which they individually performed. Unfortunately, the position of his hon. Friends in the House of Commons, of the Secretary to the Admiralty (Sir Thomas Brassey), and the Civil Lord (Mr. Caine), was this—that they were simply the Parliamentary exponents of the ideas of the permanent officials of the Admiralty, and their position at the Admiralty was that of exponents of the ideas of Parliament to the permanent officials. That alone was the function they were able to perform; indeed, it was the only function which their previous experience and knowledge would admit of their performing. Now, he ventured to think that if the impressions the public were forming on this question were just— if they were founded in verity and in truth—the public would not long be content with the present system. What the public would want to know was, where and who were the brains of the Admiralty; and that was a point, he thought, on which the public would have to search for some considerable time before they made any very striking discovery. He need scarcely say that he did not allude to those gallant officers on the Board of Admiralty, who served a certain number of years, first afloat and then ashore. He heard his hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) make some disparaging reference to the appointment of gallant and distinguished naval officers to the Dockyards and to the Board of Admiralty; but, for his own part, knowing what he did about questions connected with naval affairs, he considered that the fact that the Admiralty obtained, from time to time, the benefit of the experience of eminent officers must be of vast advantage to the Public Service, always, however, assuming that the gentlemen were chosen not only because they had served a certain number of years with the flag, but because they also possessed high administrative quali- 260 ties. He believed, and his right hon. and gallant Friend opposite (Sir John Hay) would bear him out in his belief, that a gallant officer like Lord Nelson might very likely have made the very worst First Lord of the Admiralty there could be conceived. He maintained, therefore, that on the Board of Admiralty there must be high administrative capacity. There were two great and important Offices in the Board of Admiralty which required to be filled by men of the greatest ability and experience. The first Office was that which had control of the construction of their ships, and, of the two, perhaps that was of the highest importance. The other Office was that which had to do with financial control, an Office which, if it had to be made successful, must be filled by a thorough man of business. A proof of the success of a concern owning commercial vessels was the fact that its vessels were able to pay; in the case of an Admiralty owning not commercial, but war vessels, a proof of success was the maintenance of a thoroughly efficient Fleet at the smallest and fairest possible cost. They had heard that night, and on many previous occasions, sufficient to show that, in matters connected with the cost of the Fleet, the system which was pursued at the present moment by the Admiralty was a most deplorable one. Decidedly and emphatically he maintained that at the Admiralty there was no financial control whatever. Reference had been made to the Report made by the Accountant General of the Navy. He (Mr. Sutherland) had read that Report with care, and had come to the conclusion that the Accountant General merely fulfilled a clerical duty, and nothing beyond that; he did not inspire the business control, but simply recorded facts. Now, in a business like that of the Admiralty they required more than that. Having regard to his own experience, and to the experience of more than one hon. Gentleman beside him connected with merchant shipping, he did not hesitate to say that the Admiralty required to have men, not as clerks, not as Accountant Generals, not as Secretaries, but as officers holding rank as Lords of the Admiralty, though not with seats in Parliament—men who should have between them the control and the burden of the construction and financial management of this great public concern. Nothing else but that would 261 effect the improvement which he thought the Committee, or, at least, those Members who had spoken during this debate, generally demanded. He remembered very well some slight experience that he had had of Admiralty management in connection with the business with which he was more or less intimately concerned. It was at one time the custom for vessels engaged in the conveyance of Her Majesty's Mails to be placed, as far as their construction and outfit went, under the control of the Admiralty; and the specifications and the elaboration of details had all to be submitted and approved, and not only approved, but from time to time changed and transformed, in order to satisfy the change of mood of the officials in the Admiralty Department. He spoke of a time now 20 years ago; but from what he heard that day he feared that the spirit which governed the in per working of the present system to which he alluded was not very much more business-like, or more advanced, than it was formerly. Well, what was to be the result of this discussion? He should have liked very much the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. H. Smith), or some of his hon. Friends above or below the Gangway on the Ministerial side of the House, to have made some practical suggestion as to what steps the Committee should take with regard to this matter. Probably his hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed) intended, upon the occasion when he would be permitted to propose the Motion of which he had given Notice, to show the whole case in its proper light. He (Mr. Sutherland) asserted that when the time came that they were able to grapple with this matter properly, some mode of improvement should be pointed out. He trusted the discussion they had had that night would not be forgotten, and that, as a result of it, Her Majesty's Government would agree—he hoped they would agree' willingly; but, if they did not, that they would be forced to agree—to the appointment either of a Royal Commission or Committee of the House to inquire into the working of the Admiralty in order to effect such improvements as might be necessary. He was sure that both political Parties would unite in doing whatever was necessary, in this or in any other way, in 262 order to sustain the glory of the British Navy.
§ MR. PULESTON
ventured to say that the oldest Member of the House had never heard so remarkable a debate as they had had that night; without a single exception, everyone connected with the administration of the Admiralty had adopted the same tone and the same spirit. Not the least remarkable of all the circumstances connected with the debate had been the conversion of his hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands). They knew that last year the hon. Gentleman had nothing to say in the way of criticism of the remarks a noble Earl (the Earl of Northbrook) made in "another place" upon naval affairs, remarks which were very severely commented upon at the time. He (Mr. Puleston) was happy to find that the hon. Member for Burnley, and other hon. Members, who last Session were not prepared to say they ought to spend any more money on the Navy, were now disposed to agree to further expenditure for the purpose of increasing their naval strength. Last year the hon. Member (Mr. Rylands), like others of the school of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Hlingworth), thought that they ought to spend less than they did on the Navy. It was quite true, however, that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Rylands) had veiled his remarks that night by saying that he would not grudge the expenditure of millions, provided that the money was spent in the right way; and he went so far as to fully agree with the late Mr. Cobden, who said that they should spend, if necessary, £100,000,000 on the Navy. He (Mr. Puleston) did not think that hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House, even those, like himself, who had been accused, because they represented Dockyard constituencies, of holding rather extravagant views on the question of the Navy—he did not think that any of them, even in their wildest dreams, had ever gone so far as to predict the necessity for so lavish an expenditure as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) had said might be necessary. He regretted, however, that the hon. Gentleman still held the opinion that Her Majesty's Dockyards should be practically abolished. The hon. Gentleman told the Committee that there were £7,000,000 of capital 263 now standing in useless ships; but how many millions would there be useless in the ship and Dockyard property and plant supposing the Dockyards were to be abolished? Then the hon. Gentleman illustrated, from his standpoint, the expensive character of the Dockyards by saying that there was a loss upon Dockyard work of some 20 per cent owing to changes of plant; but that was not the fault of the Dockyards. He (Mr. Puleston) must insist here that night, as he had insisted on previous occasions, that anyone giving a ship of war, or any other ship, to be built by contract, would give out the specifications, and stipulate that the work must be completed within a certain time. So would the authorities of the Dockyards, if they were allowed to do so. The hon. Member for Burnley had answered his own argument to a very great extent. The fault did not lay in the administration of the Dockyards proper, but in the administration in Whitehall. Every string was pulled from Whitehall; and, therefore, if a large ship was commenced, which ought to be built in two or three years, and the plans were changed several times, and the ship occupied twice the number of years to build, and cost twice the amount of money, the fault was clearly not that of the Dockyard authorities, but of those who controlled the construction. He could not but strongly impress upon the Committee once more the utter fallacy of arguing from the standpoint of the abolition of all the Royal Dockyards. His hon. Friend (Mr. Rylands) had referred to Mr. Scott Russell as a great shipbuilder. During the war with Russia in the Crimea two important ships, the Gibraltar and the Rover, were given to Mr. Scott Russell to build; but before they were finished advantage was taken of the emergency by the men to strike, and the builder had to appeal to the Admiralty for assistance, and assistance was sent to him from Deptford and elsewhere. Mr. Scott Russell completed his contract, and the ships were taken to Woolwich and Chatham to be fitted out. A similar contingency might occur again; what had once happened might happen again. Such a state of things as occurred in the yard of Mr. Scott Russell would not occur in Her Majesty's Dockyards. All the men who were employed in the Royal Dockyards felt their position 264 was perfectly secure; and if they worked to-day for lower wages, it was because they felt they received compensation in the shape of the pensions which would come to them after a certain length of service. That argument in itself ought to be conclusive in favour of maintaining the Dockyards, not merely for the repair of ships, but at their utmost capacity. He was sure that if his hon. Friend (Mr. Rylands), and those who thought with him, had a large capital invested, such as the Government had, in the Royal Dockyards, it would not be long before they would have to look in the face the contingency of the Bankruptcy Court if they allowed their capital to stand idle. He thought it a fortunate thing for the country that this change of feeling had come over the House of Commons; and he trusted they would hear more in favour of increasing the utility of the Dockyards rather than the disestablishment of them. As the Committee was aware, his hon. Friend (Mr. Rylands) referred to another matter which had often been referred to during the last few years; and he (Mr. Puleston) was glad it was now coming, for the first time, from the Ministerial side of the House. This was not a Party question; and he was glad that, at all events, that night there had been no question of Party involved in discussion, because, as he had said before, there had been only one universal chorus in the one direction. A very remarkable speech had been delivered by the hon. Member for Perthshire (Sir Donald Currie), who had given them the benefit of his experience during three or four months of recent travelling. The hon. Gentleman had said that what he knew and could tell the Committee was actually too painful for him to repeat. He had, however, told them how eight or nine guns of one ship dared not be fired, and he was afraid the same thing might be said of the guns of other vessels. Hon. Gentlemen like the hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Norwood) knew what they were talking about when they spoke of converting merchant vessels into cruisers, and the impracticability of converting such vessels into a portion of their first line of defence. So far as the defences of the country were concerned, so far as the efficiency of the Navy was concerned, he (Mr. Puleston) thought something would be done by the force 265 of public opinion which had been so thoroughly represented on both sides of the Committee that night. In his opinion, it would be an utterly hopeless task for a Committee of Inquiry or a Royal Commission to reconsider the constitution of the Admiralty. He believed it was out of the question—he said it with great regret—to expect any reform whatever in the Board of Admiralty. His hon. Friend (Mr. Rylands's) contention was that the First Lord of the Admiralty should have a seat in the House of Commons. Now, that matter had been a bone of contention for some time. He thought they would all agree that it was a most unfortunate thing that the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty (Sir Thomas Brassey) was not himself the First Lord, because it was impossible he could exercise in the House that influence in his present position which he would exercise if he occupied the higher rank. He (Mr. Puleston) was bound to speak of the First Lord with very great respect. Some hon. Gentlemen had said that when the noble Earl (the Earl of North-brook) was in Egypt his absence was not noticed. He (Mr. Puleston) echoed that sentiment, because he had occasion sometimes to go to the Admiralty, and he found that the absence of the noble Earl made no difference whatever. That was a very serious thing to say, and he was sorry there was no Cabinet Minister on the Treasury Bench at the present moment. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILLDERS) entered the House at this point.] He thought that if the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been present during the whole of the discussion he must have come to the conclusion that he had never listened to a debate that was so unanimously depreciatory of the administration of the Admiralty. He (Mr. Puleston) confessed he never heard such a debate before, and he was confident his hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) had not. Just as the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer entered the House he was saying a word or two about the First Lord. They knew what the First Lord said in "another place" last Session—namely, that oven if he had at his disposal millions which he did not want, he would not know what to do with them. Now, he (Mr. Puleston) asked the Committee if they could 266 contemplate a more deplorable admission from a person holding such a responsible position as First Lord of the Admiralty? His hon. Friend had spoken of 26,000 tons being the tonnage for two years for all other nations, against 25,000 of their own, those figures referring to war ships. He did not remember which two years his hon. Friend mentioned; but at that time the Estimates for the French Navy were only half as much as their own, and the French Navy was only half as large as theirs. But the French Navy had progressed at a much greater ratio of late, while ours had been practically standing still. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty had taken pains to tell the Committee that the Admiralty always intended to construct 28,000 tons. He (Mr. Puleston) did not know how far that word "always" extended; but they certainly did not do it until very recently— not till after the Autumn Session, which entirely and absolutely reversed the statements made by the noble Earl at the head of the Admiralty only a few months previously. The Representatives of the noble Earl in this House were obliged to actually reverse his statements on the Navy. They did not hear then of 26,000 tons; and what he (Mr. Puleston) wanted to know was, if that was the tonnage that was to be built before the discussion of last Autumn, what addition was it proposed to make now under the new order of things? He wanted to know whether the "always" referred to the time preceding the discussion here last Autumn, when it was supposed that the House succeeded in impressing on the Admiralty the necessity for a very large enlargement of the Navy, for which very little had been done before? It seemed that they were now going to buy wildly everything they could, whether it was efficient or otherwise, so long as it had the appearance of being a ship. However, he was glad to say they were to have other opportunities of discussing this matter, and he hoped the first of those opportunities would come soon; for although there had been a very remarkable debate that night, which would be read throughout the length and breadth of the country, and which would be read in other countries besides their own, there were still many points which required discussion. He hoped that what had already been said would have no ill-effect upon the 267 country at large. But at all hazard the truth should be told, and the sooner the weakness of the Navy was understood the sooner would the ill-effect of disclosures such as they had had to-day be overcome.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
said, he would not detain the Committee very long; but he wished, in the first place, to support his hon. Friend (Mr. Puleston) in the complaint he had made as to the manner in which the Navy Estimates were treated by the Government. He had more than once protested against the Head of this Department being in the other House of Parliament. It was against the principles laid down by the Prime Minister during his last Administration; but it was of apiece, in every respect, with the singular manner in which the Navy Estimates were treated by the entire Cabinet. In the discussion that night, for instance, they had had angels' visits from one or two Members of the Cabinet occasionally; but for by far the greater part of the time the Secretary to the Admiralty had been left there without the assistance of a single responsible Minister of the Crown. Was it true that an order had been issued for the purchase of a large number of steam tugs; and was it the fact that they were to be bought because the Government were convinced that it would be impossible, owing to defective machinery, for iron-clads to go in and out of action without their assistance? If that were the case, it showed the existence of the most serious defects in the Administrative Departments of the country. Without detaining the Committee any longer, he should like to have a categorical answer to that question.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he thought it was worth while to make one observation, though he would not go into the large questions which had been raised. They were now discussing the Vote for Victuals and Clothing; and on that Vote they had discussed the comparative size of the English and French Navies, the condition of their guns, the defence of their coaling stations, the defence of their commerce, the capacity of the First Lord of the Admiralty, the rights and wrongs of having him in the House of Lords; and all this had been debated in reference to the question of victuals and clothing. It was worth while to 268 know how that arose; it evidently arose from the absurdity of the new Rules. Had it been possible to put a Resolution on the Motion for the Speaker leaving the Chair, they might have had all those questions discussed, and then they could have been followed by a Vote in Committee of Supply. As it was, there would have to be another debate of equal length, to be followed by another Vote, when all those questions could be raised again on the Motion of the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed). He did not himself regret those repeated and prolonged debates. Everything which brought the question before the country, and forced the attention of the country to the defective state of the Navy, was good; but the fact that they had debated in that desultory fashion all those important questions for a whole night, and that they would have to debate them again in a few weeks' time, did show a great want of management on the part of Her Majesty's Government. It had been a fact worth observing that all the speaking that night had gone one way—that the Government had found no defenders but those who sat on their own Bench. His hon. Friend (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) had been very much struck with the novelty of this; but it seemed to be the rule now in almost all important controversies. On almost all the important debates they had had on questions of public affairs, every speaker on both sides of the House attacked the Government, and the Government were only defended by Members of their own body, and seldom, or never, found anybody else to say a good word for them. They had even lost the single defender they had in the General Gordon debate—the hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. Sutherland)—who had just uttered a tremendous philippic on. the state of the Navy. That hon. Gentleman was the only Member who rose in the four nights' debate on General Gordon to defend the Government. His hon. Friend, therefore, might have spared his wonder at the course the debate had taken that night.
§ MR. D. DAVIES
said, he thought this was a very serious matter indeed. The country did not know very much about it. In the old time their Navy was built of old English or Welsh oak; and if a bullet went through it, the hole 269 could be easily caulked up again; while the timber of foreign nations tore up and went into splinters. But now all nations were similarly provided. There was a sort of sameness in the iron-clad everywhere. Everyone could build an iron-clad equally well. The foreign iron-clads were just as good as their iron-clads. There was this difference, also. In the old time, if they were turned out of the sea altogether, they could live at home; but now they were dependent on foreigners for their very bread. If that supply were stopped they would be done for—they would starve. He hoped the Government would take that fact to heart. They were then free and happy, and their Meet was able to meet with all others. But now the case seemed to be very different. He would not mind a bit of a brush with one of those foreign nations, just to gain a little experience; they did not really know what they could do. [Laughter.] That was no laughing matter at all. They might, at any moment, have a brush between their iron-clads and those of a foreign nation. It would be a very serious matter if four or five of their iron-clads were sunk. Where would be the rest of their Navy then? At present they were almost without a ship. They were buying some rotten ships, and things that would be of no use at all; and he hoped the Government would take all that to heart. He did not know whether they had proper ships, or whether their ships were what they ought to be—he left that to the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Heed) and other Gentlemen who understood the question. But he wished to draw the attention of the Government to a matter about which the country was very anxious. He did not often intrude himself into debate; but he thought they ought to have some explanation.
§ MR. HARRIS
said, he approached the question from the view of their food supplies. This country, he said, was in a position which no other country in the world had over been placed in in regard to her supplies. They were not producing much more than one-third part of their consumption of wheat. The statistics being a consumption of 26,000,000 quarters; whereas, of the home growth, there was only available for food the small quantity of 9,000,000 quarters.
here interposed, and said, that the statistics of their food supply were beyond the scope of the debate.
§ SIR THOMAS BRASSEY
said, he thought, at that late hour of the night, hon. Members would scarcely desire that he should attempt a full answer to the numerous charges which had been brought against the Admiralty. He would, however, endeavour to take up some of the more important points, and to offer such explanations as he could in reference to the matters which had been brought under discussion. And, first, he would like to refer to the observations made by his hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed) with reference to the employment of mercantile auxiliaries for the defence of commerce. His hon. Friend had raised a question as to the fighting power of ships of that character. The Admiralty did not rely upon mercantile auxiliaries to cope with battle-ships, or regularly built ships of war; but they contended—and they confidently contended—that for the defence of commerce those mercantile auxiliaries were well able to contend with similar vessels which might be employed by a hostile Power for the purpose of attacking and interrupting their commerce. They contended that a wise policy had been pursued, not only by the present Board of Admiralty, but by those who had preceded them, in encouraging the construction of vessels in the Mercantile Marine of a character suitable for conversion into cruisers. They considered that the existence of such vessels in such numbers in their Mercantile Marine formed one of the great resources of this country; and he could assure hon. Members that those ships were regarded with feelings of envy by the Administrators of Foreign Powers. Those who had studied the Annual Reports of the Secretary of the United States Navy would have observed the repeated allusions and expressions of admiration with reference to the splendid fleet of mercantile cruisers which had been 271 called into existence in connection with the British Navy. He would also remind hon. Members that large sums were paid by Foreign Governments in the form of subsidies to encourage the construction and navigation of ships of a class such as it was our happy fortune to be able to procure in such numbers, and of such efficient types, without any expenditure in the form of subsidies. His hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed), and his right hon. Friend the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith), had criticized the mode of measuring the tonnage which was annually built in the Dockyards. His hon. Friend admitted that the system which he criticized was the one which was in force when he (Sir Edward J. Reed) so ably took part in the administration of the Navy. He (Sir Thomas Brassey) concurred with his hon. and right hon. Friends as to the unsatisfactory character of that method of measurement; and he would endeavour to ascertain whether it might not be possible that the tonnage built in the Dockyards should be determined rather by an actual measurement of the work done than by a statement of the money which was annually spent. His hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff called the attention of the Committee to inaccuracies which he alleged to be found in the statement of cost for certain ships. All that he had to say on that point was this—that since he had heard the criticisms of his hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff he had compared the figures which that hon. Gentleman criticized with those which were inserted in the Returns which were in use at the Admiralty, and he found that they corresponded exactly. Those figures, of course, had been adopted upon the authority of the Accountant General of the Navy; and he could confidently say that there was no intention whatever to make a misstatement in the House of Commons. His hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff spoke critically as to the cost of ships, and he instanced the case of the Conqueror. Well, he (Sir Thomas Brassey) believed that the cost of the Conquerot—even the enhanced cost as determined upon a more recent computation by the Accountant General—compared almost exactly with that of the last iron-clad which was put out to con- 272 tract—he referred to the Benbow—and he might say that in former years, when from an independent standpoint he gave a good deal of attention to Admiralty matters he arrived at the conclusion— he was bound to confess that it was not authoritative-—but he arrived at the conclusion that, in a general sense, the cost of Dockyard building might be taken as about 10 per cent more than the cost of building by contract. He had never heard any hon. Member question that conclusion. There could be no doubt as to the excellence of the workmanship which was carried out in the Dockyards. It might be asked why should there be this difference of cost—this great difference of cost—in the case of the Dockyard work? Well, he could give one reason among many others, and that was that it was not possible in Dockyard work to introduce the system of piece-work to the same extent to which it was applied in the private shipbuilding establishments. The reason was obvious. They must maintain their great Dockyards on the system best adapted for the purpose of meeting all the demands which might occur in connection with a great Navy. There were not only the emergencies which would arise in time of war, but the emergencies which constantly arose in time of peace; and in order to deal with those sudden demands it was necessary at times to take off every man from the building, and put them on to the repairing of ships. That being so, how was it possible in the case of any particular ship to carry out the system of construction by piece-work to the same extent as in establishments where they were less liable to those kinds of interruption? Then there were other reasons, which must, he thought, be accepted upon any fair view of the case, why the general charges for the administration of the Dockyards should be larger than in the case of private establishments. It was not possible fairly to compare a Dockyard with an ordinary shipbuilding yard. First of all, a Dockyard required, and essentially required, a somewhat expensive superintendence for naval purposes. They must have naval officers present in those Dockyards, both to superintend on behalf of the Admiralty, and to act as arbitrators between the Service afloat and the professional officers of the yard. They 273 wanted advice at every stage, and that was an expensive feature which would not be present in a mercantile establishment. Then those Dockyards must be laid out in such a manner as to give them a great power of expansion in time of war. The necessary result was that they had widely extended establishments, largo works, and great distances between the workshops, and this involved the cost of transport, and the value of the time spent by the men in going to and fro. Then they ought to have, and must have, an abundance of stores to meet an emergency, and large store-houses, and a large store-house staff, such as was not necessary in dealing with ordinary mercantile demands. He ought not to omit to mention that in dealing with a public business they must have considerable minuteness of calculation and record, for the purpose of giving the information to Parliament which was so frequently called for. Hence arose the necessity for a more extensive accountant's staff than would be maintained in a private shipbuilding establishment. Those were sufficient reasons why the general charges in the Dockyards should be in excess of those which were borne under private administration. Everybody knew that the item for general charges must be larger in a Dockyard than in a private establishment. He would endeavour now to deal with the question of delay in the completion of ships. The hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Norwood) had referred to that subject, and had mentioned, what he (Sir Thomas Brassey) was glad to acknowledge, the indebtedness of the Admiralty to the Committee, of which he was a Member, for their most useful inquiry and very valuable suggestions. The hon. Member for Hull had urged that more care should be used in the preparation of designs before beginning the building of ships. The Admiralty had endeavoured, as he (Sir Thomas Brassey) had lately explained, to follow that advice; and that was the cause of the delay, which at the time was much criticized, in putting out some of the new work to contract. But, as he had said before, he believed the delay was a wise delay, and it was desirable that the utmost care should be used in preparing the designs before they commenced construction. With reference to those delays, it 274 was known to all those who had had experience in the administration of Admiralty affairs that in the initial stages the ships in the Dockyards were built quickly. It was in the later stages that they suffered from those delays, and the cause of those delays was not far to seek. It was connected with constant changes in armament, including the torpedo armament. No doubt, it would always be desired to improve and perfect the armament of the Navy, and where there was no pressing need for a ship there was a tendency to give way in point of time, in order to secure even greater efficiency. He would repeat, what he had already stated on a former occasion, that they entertained sanguine hopes that the gun and torpedo questions were gradually settling themselves. They did not look forward in the near future to the same radical changes with which they had had to deal recently. They were now completing their ships more rapidly than formerly, and were certainly doing better than any of their rivals abroad. In order to show to the Committee that he did not make that statement without some foundation, he would read a list of the ships which it was proposed to complete within the present financial year. They would complete the Collingwood, the Leander, the Arethusa, and the Phæton—ships which were laid down in 1880-1. They hoped also to complete the Impérieuse, the Warspite, the Amphion, the Calypso, and the Calliope, which were laid down in 1881-2. They would complete the Mersey, a very highly protected and fast cruiser of 3,520 tons, laid down in 1883; and if that was fulfilled, as they confidently hoped would be the case, it would be a performance which he thought his right hon. Friend would agree the Dockyards would be fairly entitled to take credit for. They would complete the torpedo and cruiser vessels Scout, Surprise, and Alacrity; and of vessels laid down so late as 1884 and 1885, they would complete the Swallow and the Curlew. Those were torpedo vessels of a very valuable type. The total number of vessels to be completed in the present financial year was no less than 14, including four iron-clads, five protected or partially protected vessels, two despatch vessels, one torpedo cruiser, and three gun-vessels. They had been criticized with reference to their delays, because the ships built for the Navy were 275 not completed so rapidly as certain foreign iron-clads built in private yards. He was sure his right hon. and gallant Friend would do them justice—he would recognize the fact that the class of ironclads which he spoke of as being built for Foreign Navies was not to be compared with the much more powerful ships that were being built for the British Navy. It would not be just to claim that the much larger and more complicated ships built for the Admiralty should be finished in so short a space of time as was found sufficient for the second-rate iron-clads built for Foreign Powers. He had endeavoured to explain as well as he was able the cause of those delays, and in doing so he did not wish unduly to excuse them. On the contrary, he would say for the present Board that it would never cease to contend with the utmost energy against the great difficulties with which they had to contend; and he earnestly hoped that in future they might be able to present to Parliament a more satisfactory record than in the past. His hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. A. F. Egerton) had made certain comparisons; but he did not wish to detain the Committee at that late hour (12.50) with statistics; but, whatever might be the state of their Navy in comparison with the Navies of Foreign Powers, he must contend that the comparison at the present time was more favourable than that which might have been made in former years. Certain it was, if there had been any failing, which he could not admit, it would not be due to any relaxation of efforts on their part. On the contrary, since they had been charged with responsibility, they had steadily increased the number of men employed and the amount of tonnage built; and that process of expansion was going on at a steady, though at a very considerable, rate before that great development which had recently taken place. Turning to some questions which were proposed by his right hon. Friend the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith), he might refer to two ships to which he had specifically alluded. The date at which it was proposed to complete the Conqueror was the 16th of June, and he might add that the Colossus was actually completed, except in respect of certain minor guns which were being supplied from Eiswick. His right hon. Friend 276 asked him as to the number of steam pinnaces available for torpedoes. He had not the figures at hand; but he must refer his right hon. Friend to the answer he gave to a Question put to him a short time ago in that House. With regard to the torpedo, he would point out that the value of those pinnaces for the purpose of harbour defence did not depend on their ability to supply them with Whitehead torpedoes. The spar torpedoes were much more suitable for boats, and in the case of attack by a large iron-clad a small torpedo boat would be found most effective for the purposes of destruction. His right hon. Friend asked him as to the contracts recently put out. Those ships were only ordered that day, and he might inform his right hon. Friend as to the two large iron-clads that the time named for completion was three and a-half years. For the belted cruisers, the time allowed to the contractors was two and a-quarter years, and in two instances the contractors offered to complete in two years. The periods named were thought reasonable for suitably completing work of this magnitude; and as he had repeatedly stated to the House, if they could be built more quickly, they would be grateful to those who could put them into their hands in a shorter time. It had been urged that they had been neglectful in the matter of repairs. He did not say that they had no iron-clads requiring repair; but that all efficient iron-clads requiring repair were taken in hand and pushed forward vigorously as soon as they had completed their commissions. With regard to the ships of the Channel Squadron, he thought it had been generally understood in Parliament that those ships were maintained very much for the purpose of training, and for that purpose it was not necessary that their boilers should be able to bear a full pressure of steam. With regard to the criticism on the Monarch, that vessel was not the flagship in the Mediterranean. [Sir JOHN HAY: She carried the flag.] Lord John Hay happened to be in Alexandria, and wished to take passage to Malta; he was in a position to obtain the best information, and nothing reached him to lead him to doubt that he could make a quick passage in the Monarch. The accident to the Monarch was an unexpected accident, 277 and instances of that kind must necessarily occur from time to time in a great Service. The incident of the Monarch had been mentioned in connection with the deterioration of boilers; but he could assure his right hon. and gallant Friend that the accident did not occur from any defect in her boilers. With reference to the endurance of boilers generally, he confidently believed that under the improved system of boiler management introduced into the Navy they might look in future for a much longer endurance of the boilers of Her Majesty's ships. He did not see why they should not attain to the same success in that respect as in the Mercantile Marine. He was in conversation lately with the managing owner of the White Star Line, which was celebrated for the speed and regularity of its ships; and he was surprised to find that after 11 years the older vessels maintained the same speed as the new vessels of that Line, and none of them had been re-boilered. He hoped they might soon obtain the same result. The hon. Member for Perthshire (Sir Donald Currie) referred to some circumstances which might seem somewhat difficult of explanation, with reference to the suspended use of a gun on one of Her Majesty's ships. After a gun had burst on board the Daring it was ordered that the similar guns supplied to the Dryad should not be again used for exercise. The hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. Sutherland) had been rather severe in his criticisms of the Admiralty. The hon. Member had referred disparagingly to the merchant auxiliaries; but he was greatly mistaken in supposing that they took up those vessels because they had no vessels in the British Navy capable of rendering valuable protection to the commerce of the country. He would remind the hon. Member that there had been ordered in the last five years four ships of the Leander type capable of steaming 17 knots, four ships of the Mersey type of the same high speed— the Calliope, the Calypso corvette, two Scouts, and two despatch vessels of 17 knots. Some of those were ready, and several others would very shortly be ready for the protection of the commerce of the country. He would further remind the Committee that of late years the speed of all their iron-clads 278 had been raised to 16 knots, and in many cases even to a higher speed. He thought he had now gone through the main points that had been put forward; and if he had not alluded to the large expenditure of a special character that had taken place it was because the presentation of the Vote of Credit would perhaps offer a more suitable opportunity to the Committee for discussing what had been done. All that remained for him to do was to ask the Committee to accept the assurance on the part of Her Majesty's Government that they had taken all the steps which they considered necessary in the interest of the Navy; and perhaps he should not be thought indiscreet in saying that the more they tested the resources of the country in cases of emergency the more confident they felt in their ability to meet all the demands that might be made upon the Navy. Having now endeavoured to offer such explanations as had been called for, he trusted there might now be no further opposition to the Vote.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he believed the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would confirm him in saying that provision ought to be made in the Estimates of the year for pay and expenses of the Service which was foreseen. There was a note in this Estimate to the effect that 1,000 men, Marines and Seamen, would be borne on the Votes for service in Egypt, and for which a separate Estimate would be presented to Parliament. That he believed was an entirely new practice; and without detaining the Committee on an important question of procedure at that time, he wished to record his protest against it, and to remark that when they came to discuss the Vote of Credit it would be necessary to raise the question as to the way in which the Estimate was made up.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, the Committee would be glad to receive information as to the contracts that were being entered into for provisions at Chicago and other places. Remembering what had taken place during the Crimean War, as regarded the Goldner preserved meat contract, he would ask his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty to inform the Committee what was the nature of the contracts entered into for 279 preserved meats, and what steps had been taken to ascertain the quality of the meats?
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he wished to remind the Secretary to the Admiralty that his Colleague in the representation of Cork had asked whether any inquiry had been addressed to the Irish Shipbuilding Companies who were capable of constructing such vessels as gunboats. The hon. Gentleman would recollect that they had had several conversations on the subject. He did not intend to go into the question on the present occasion, but would merely remark that his hon. Friend's question bad probably been missed, and that the hon. Gentleman would doubtless be able to give a satisfactory assurance on the subject.
§ MR. PULESTON
said, he would take that opportunity of asking the hon. Gentleman whether anything had been done with reference to the engineers counting their extra time for pensions? The Report of the Committee had been under consideration since November last. He would also ask whether in the Report any consideration was given to the application of the engine-room artificers, who sought to have the rank of Warrant Officers given to them?
§ MR. HARRIS
said, that be regretted that in his previous remarks he had, in the opinion of the Chairman, overstepped the bounds of the debate; but his only object was to show how very necessary it was for Her Majesty's Government to protect their food supplies by keeping the Navy in a thorough state of efficiency, and how lamentable the results would be if, through any inadequacy in their line of marine defence, any interruption should take place in their supplies. He therefore deprecated all parsimony in this branch of the Service.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West- minister (Mr. W. H. Smith) was quite correct in the view he had taken with regard to the placing of foreseen expenditure on the regular Estimates; but the expenditure in the case of the 1,000 Seamen and Marines in Egypt could not be estimated for when the Estimates was prepared.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
remarked that it violated the principle on which the Estimates bad always been framed— that a certain number of men which it was foreseen would be required should not be provided for in the regular Estimates.
§ SIR THOMAS BRASSEY
said, with reference to the question of his right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wigtown Burghs (Sir John Hay), he could assure him that, in the case of the Navy, the most scrupulous care was used to see that the supplies were of the best quality.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
asked, if the agents of the Government were to be present to inspect the meat before it was packed in cases, or if the inspection consisted in taking a sample from the cases, and assuming that the rest was good? He trusted the latter was not the case, because that test had been found to fail on former occasions.
§ SIR THOMAS BRASSEY
said, he must confess that he could not answer the question of his right hon. and gallant Friend; but he would take care to procure information on the subject, and either answer him in that House or personally. In reply to the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), he might say that they were about to invite tenders for smaller vessels, and there would then be an opportunity for the shipbuilders in Ireland to tender for the construction of those ships. With reference to the inquiry of the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Puleston), the subject he bad referred to bad been considered; and the change proposed was that every two years of junior time in the case of engineers would count as one year of senior time. These proposed concessions were even more liberal than those demanded by the engineers themselves.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £194,300, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expenses of the Admiralty Office, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1886.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee also report Progress; to sit again upon Wednesday.