§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ (1.) £203,400, Admiralty Office.
(2.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £1,729,500, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expenses of the Dockyards and Naval Yards at Home and Abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1887.
§ SIR JOHN GORST (Chatham)
I have a Motion on the Paper, Mr. Courtney, to move the reduction of the Vote by £3,000, the amount of the salaries of the Civil Assistants to the Superintendents of Her Majesty's Dockyards. These Civil Assistants have been appointed in the three great Dockyards of Portsmouth, Devonport, and Chatham. I make the Motion for the purpose of eliciting from the Admiralty some explanation in regard to the Report of the Committee on Dockyard Management, and obtaining information as to the general policy of the Admiralty in reference to Dockyard organization. That Committee, I am sorry to say, has taken upon itself the duty of making very general and sweeping charges against a particular class of persons—the employés in Her Majesty's Dockyards. The Committee which took upon itself that function consisted of gentlemen who were very admirable naval officers, but who had no particular experience of Dockyard administration, and were not gentlemen who ought to have taken upon themselves so very obnoxious a task as that of censuring the Dockyard employés. The Committee consisted of Vice Admiral Graham, who had never had any experience in connection with an English Dockyard, and whose only Dockyard experience was gained at Malta; Mr. Main, who was principal clerk of the Accountant General's Department; Mr. Stainer, Constructor and Assistant Surveyor of Dockyards, all Admiralty officers; and Mr. Gordon Miller, of the Transport Department, who acted as Secretary, and whose experience had been derived chiefly from the Transport Department at Portsmouth in connection with the large troopships which carry troops to and from India. The evidence taken by the Committee was confined almost entirely to what went on at Portsmouth, and that in connection with the troopships there; and it will be found that a good deal of the complaint relates to alleged irregularities and inconveniences experienced in Portsmouth Dockyard in the management of these troopships. The Committee obtained a number of state- 1324 ments from the various witnesses by putting leading questions to them, and then they rashly generalized the evidence thus obtained from one particular class of one particular branch of one particular Dockyard, and preferred wholesale charges against all the employés in all the Dockyards. No member of the Committee in any way represented the Dockyard workmen. No witness was called from the Dockyards to make any statement on their behalf; but, nevertheless, this Committee, on which the men were not represented, made most general charges against them. They said that—Idleness and incompetence in Dockyards are practically unchecked. We have confirmed this evidence by an exhaustive personal inspection."An exhaustive personal inspection!" When, in another part of their Report, they state that their inquiry has been confined entirely to Portsmouth Dockyard. They go on to say—In fact, any visitor to a Dockyard must be struck with the purposeless manner in which, numbers of men are constantly wandering about all parts of the Yard, even where no work is going on.Now, if any visitor saw a number of men wandering about a Dockyard, for purposes of which he did not happen to be aware, is that any proof that extensive idleness exists in the Dockyards generally? I think I shall be able to show the Committee some of the purposes for which men have been wandering about the Dockyards, and they are purposes which are not altogether creditable to the Admiralty itself. The Committee go on to say—As to the question of degree, we are of opinion that idleness exists to a grave extent; and that, as no attempt appears to have been made to deal with it seriously, we have every reason to believe that it is increasing, We do not wish to say that idleness is habitual with all workmen. It would be unjust not to recognize the fact that the Dockyards possess many efficient workmen who conscientiously do a fair day's work; but waste of time is habitual and extensive. So far has this been reduced to a system that men are, we believe, deputed to watch the approach of the Superintendent, or of their own immediate officers.That is the statement of the Committee; but I have full information on the subject, and I believe that the statement contained in this Report is altogether inaccurate; that there is not the slightest foundation for it; and that no men have ever been employed to watch the approach of the Superintendent or their 1325 own immediate officers. It is very much to be regretted that these charges against a large body of workmen should have been made. I think myself that it is always a mistake to make general charges against a mass of people. As a matter of fact, men are very much alike, and when you set down an entire class of men as guilty of idleness or vice the charges are almost sure to be untrue. One would have supposed that charges of this grave and wholesale character would have been based on some evidence; but when you come to look at the evidence given before the Committee, you will find that there is no ground whatever for this charge of idleness. There are some statements made by naval officers who were not called before the Committee, but appear to have sent in written statements. I regret to find one from an officer so deservedly respected as Admiral Hornby. Admiral Hornby gives utterance to opinions very much the same as those of the Committee; but he does not adduce a single fact in support of those opinions. He talks about seeing peoplewalking about at a pace which is marvellous for its slowness.But as to whether the men of whom he speaks were in the discharge of their duty or not he says nothing. I am certainly astonished that an officer of Admiral Hornby's experience should have jumped to the conclusion that, because he saw men walking at a pace which was not rapid, they were therefore idling away their time. Commodore Fitzroy was asked if he had noticed any cases of idleness, and, if so, to what extent; and in his reply he mentions, as an instance, that nearly two years before the date on which he was writing he saw two workmen who were supposed to be repairing the Sultan's hawse pipes either reading a newspaper or asleep. He adds—"I saw this myself from the Hercules stern-walk." Now here is an officer asked to give evidence of idleness in a Naval Dockyard on the part of the workmen, and he is only able to mention a case which occurred two years before relating to two individuals. And even in that case he could not know that the men were culpable. It was impossible for him to know whether they were not waiting for stores or some important apparatus which was not ready at the time, and therefore rendered it impos- 1326 sible for them to continue their proper task. During the hour and a-half of which Commodore Fitzroy speaks, the idleness of the men may not have been caused by their own fault, but by the fault of those who ought to have supplied them with the means of going on with their work. Then there is the evidence of Captain Johnstone, who says—No cases of idleness which I could positively identify as such have recently come under my notice; but, from information which I have every reason to believe reliable, it appears that there are still cases in which a deliberate cessation of work during working hours occurs.Thus you have Commodore Fitzroy referring to a case which occurred two years before, and then Captain Johnstone stating that when he has exhausted his recollection he cannot remember a single case of idleness which he can confirm. That is all the evidence there is against the men; but I should like to call the attention of the Committee to the evidence there is on the other side. First of all, let me remind the Secretary to the Admiralty and the Committee of the evidence of Mr. Barnes. Mr. Barnes is the Surveyor of Dockyards, and he is an official of the Admiralty whose special duty it is to inform himself as to the truth or falsehood of these charges, and his evidence is as clear and definite as any evidence can well be. He is asked this question—Are you aware that idling goes on to a serious extent in the Dockyards now?Mr. Barnes says—I should like to know where idling does not go on.Well, personally, I am afraid that idling goes on even in the House of Commons, and I dare say it goes on at the Admiralty. Mr. Barnes continues—I have been about in contract yards a good deal; I was located in one three or four years. I have seen idling in the Dockyards, and I have seen idling in private establishments, and I think that the idling in both places is about the same; that is my opinion.Then we have the evidence of Mr. Barnaby, the Senior Constructor at Portsmouth. He is asked—Do Dockyard workmen, as a rule, work as industriously, and are they equally skilled with those of private yards?His reply is—They are better skilled as a rule, and they work, I may say generally, as industriously as private men.1327 Then we have the evidence of Mr. Huddy, also an official of the Admiralty at Portsmouth. Mr. Huddy is asked—Do Dockyard workmen, as a rule, work as industriously, and are they equally skilled with those in private yards?His answer is—I think they work quite as industriously, and you may look upon them as even more skilled in the Dockyards than in private yards.Then you have the evidence of Mr. Warren, who was lately the Chief Constructor at Chatham. He gives an important illustration in regard to a ship which was turned out at Chatham Dockyard, the Hero, and which was built with great expedition. The Admiralty sent in their plans in good time, and provided all the stores and materials required by the workmen, so that the work was proceeded with without delay. In answer to a question Mr. Warren said—I would like to add that while this ship, the Hero, will be turned out in a very short time, and very complete up to the point of putting the machinery in, she has been produced most economically.I think no better illustration is needed to show that the labour in the Dockyards, when reduced to a money test, is as efficient and as cheap as the labour in private yards. Then I say that when we have all this evidence on one side, and no other evidence on the other except prejudice and mere general opinions, I think it is very unfortunate that the Committee should have disfigured their Report by making wholesale charges unsupported by evidence against a very worthy and very industrious body of men. I say again that if the Committee were desirous, or had any intention, of introducing into their Report an animadversion of this kind, according to all the rules of fair play some of the men ought to have been called, and some opportunity ought to have been given to them of stating what the facts were. As it was, the men were condemned unrepresented, unheard, and really without evidence. I should like to ask what is the good of making this sort of wholesale charge? Even if the charges are true; if they are supported by evidence; and if it is a fact that the men employed in Her Majesty's Dockyards have a double dose of original sin, and are not as industrious and as good a set of workmen as the 1328 average, then the Admiralty are themselves to blame for not obtaining and employing better men. If, however, the men who work in the Dockyards are just as good as any other class of workmen, and the evil is to be traced to the want of proper organization on the part of the Board of Admiralty, and of those conditions which are necessary in order to secure cheap and efficient labour, then I think it is greatly to be regretted that these charges were ever introduced into the Report. I admit to the full that it is most important that improved management should be introduced into the Dockyards. Since I have had the honour of a seat in this House as the Representative of a Dockyard constituency I have always endeavoured to assist every successive Board of Admiralty by such suggestions and criticisms as I could make with the view of providing that the work in the Dockyards should be more economical and more efficient. I think that the country must, at any cost, keep up the Dockyards, and that their maintenance does not depend on the cheapness of Dockyard labour as compared with labour in private yards. It is absolutely essential that we should have Dockyards, because in time of war there must be places where ships can be repaired and refitted under the protection of guns. But it is most desirable that the work in the Dockyards should be as economical, as efficient, and as good as the Regulations of the Service can possibly make it; and if the Secretary to the Admiralty will allow me, I will give him such advice as my experience enables me with a view of improving the existing state of things in the Dockyards. A great deal of what I am about to say I have said before; but I am afraid that my advice has not been attended to. As the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty is new to the Office, I will venture to repeat over again what I have said to some of his Predecessors. Now, I think that the first thing to do is to get rid altogether of the idea that in the Dockyard there is any special propensity to be idle. If you treat the persons employed in your Dockyards as judiciously as private employers treat their workmen, you may depend upon it that you will get just as good and just as cheap work from them; or perhaps you may expect to get a little better and a little 1329 cheaper work than private employers can, because the Government, being a very large and regular employer, can readily get the pick of the labour market, and can select men a little more skilful and somewhat better than any private employer of labour can command; but if you do not treat your workmen properly, and with the same skill, consideration, and ability as private employers, you have no right to complain of the consequences of your own folly, nor to cry out that your men are so perverse that they will not work as well as other people. You may depend upon it that if you get worse work in the Dockyards the fault must be looked for, not in the men, but in the management and organization applied to them. The second piece of advice I should like to give the Admiralty is that they should remedy the causes which interrupt the regular work in the Dockyards, and which demoralize the men by enforcing idleness upon them. Although the Committee have not called attention to the shortcomings of the Admiralty as plainly as to the alleged idleness of the workmen, this Report is full of instances which show that the organization of the Dockyards is so defective as to interrupt the proper work. In the first place, it is a very common practice in the Dockyards to take men from the regular work of shipbuilding, for urgent pressing work in connection with the putting of ships in commission. I do not say that that can be avoided altogether. It may be a necessary evil; but whenever it does occur, and the regular programme of shipbuilding and ship-repairing is thrown out for some great emergency, you derange the regular work, and, to a certain extent, demoralize the men. Now, the next point I desire to mention is certainly one that can be easily remedied. It is that in the Dockyards you have not a proper supply of labour-saving machinery. That, I suppose, is owing to the want of means—perhaps to the desire to reduce the Estimates to the lowest possible farthing, under the benevolent criticism of my hon. Friends the Members for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) and Bradford (Mr. Illingworth). But I believe that even the senior Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) will be prepared to tell the Admiralty that the want in the Dockyards of a proper supply of labour-saving ap- 1330 paratus is really not an economy but an extravagance. I should like, on this subject, to ask the Committee to forgive me if I quote the words of others instead of asking them to take my statement. I find that Mr. Warren, the late Chief Constructor at Chatham, speaks about the want of labour-saving machinery, and tells a little story. He is asked—Is any of your machinery obsolete?And he answers—I am sorry to say that we have a lot of very old machinery, and I may, I think, say too, without any breach of confidence, that two years ago, when the Admiralty Board visited Chatham, a Lord of the Admiralty was directed to look specially at the machinery upon a statement made that a lot of it was obsolete and almost unfit for use, and he made this statement openly—that a private person would not keep it in his yard. He made this statement to the Board—that a lot of the machinery that we had was totally unfit for its work, and that we should save by turning it out and getting new machinery.Now, it seems to me a very extraordinary thing that one of the Lords of the Admiralty should, two years ago, actually form an opinion that a lot of the machinery in the Dockyards was of such a character that no private person would keep it in his yard, and that, if not the whole, at any rate some portion of it, is there yet. The next cause of defective labour is that even of this obsolete machinery there is not enough, and you have constantly to supplement it by manual labour at a greatly increased cost. You are continually employing manual labour to do work which ought to be done by machinery. I do not know anything more calculated to demoralize the workmen than that. They know well enough the mistake which is made; they can tell very well, when they are told off to do certain work, that it could be done much more cheaply and effectively by machinery, and the consequence is that the men themselves become greatly demoralized. Another cause of inefficient labour is that the progress of work is continually kept waiting for plans and decisions from the Board of Admiralty, particularly in reference to fittings and armaments. When the men in this way are kept waiting owing to the want of plans and the absence of fittings they have to be put on unprofitable work. Here, again, I quote Mr. Warren, who says— 1331As a general thing, there is a great deal of time lost in obtaining materials for the building of our ships. Then the other causes of delay are having to wait for armament fittings, consisting of arrangements for big guns, and for shell guns, and for torpedos, and all that kind of work; we find that the decision takes so long to arrive at that a great deal of time is necessarily lost in the building of ships.He is then asked—Does all this involve waste of labour in any way, or do you always have profitable work in hand?And his reply is—No; we often have not profitable work upon which the men can be placed, and therefore there is necessarily a waste of time and money.Now, when work is stopped and men are taken away from their proper employment, and put upon unprofitable work, and when they know that a waste of money is going on, I ask the Committee whether we do not demoralize the labour in our Dockyards? Another great cause of unprofitable work is the way in which the men are constantly kept waiting for stores. Here, again, the matter was very fully set before the Committee, both by Mr. Barnaby, the Chief Constructor at Portsmouth, and by Mr. Warren, the Chief Constructor at Chatham. Both of these gentlemen say exactly the same thing. Mr. Barnaby points out that the existing system involves much loss of labour in the process of getting the stores. Both of these gentlemen say that the Rules and Regulations in reference to the issue of stores are most inconvenient. Instead of the stores being under the charge of some person connected with the shipbuilding, they are usually kept in storehouses at a considerable distance from the place where the shipbuilding goes on, and the men, of course, are kept waiting when stores are required, and have to be sent for. I think that circumstance may account for a good deal of the purposeless wandering about the Dockyards with which the Departmental Committee think that visitors to the Dockyards must be so much struck. The case is put very graphically by Mr. Warren, who gives this account of the way in which its own business is transacted by a great commercial nation like Great Britain. I would like the Committee to listen to this. Mr. Warren is asked—Is the local supply of stores for the building and repair of ships in your opinion of a 1332 satisfactory nature—that is to say, as between you and the storekeeper?He says—No; I think that the proper working relation between the Chief Constructor and the storekeeper should be this—that as soon as the Chief Constructor wants material he should be able to get it without any difficulty from the stores; that is not the case now. In the first place, we have to make out a demand note, and it has to go to the storekeeping officers, and between certain times you can get stores. With the new system of storekeeping you have to go all over the Dockyard wherever the stores are to get this thing and that thing, so that you have people running all over the place for a pound of candles or a pound of nails; there is no present use supply store, as formerly, where these things should be kept together and supplied readily. Then, again, we have not a sufficient supply of stores in every-day use in the yard. We are put to every kind of inconvenience in sending to this and that yard, and having sent to us by train things that ought always to be kept in a large establishment like a Dockyard. I should be ashamed almost to say what trifling things we frequently run short of in the yard: sometimes we have to send out into the town and purchase them; at other times we must wait for a supply from another yard, or until the contractor can send in some little thing, and that is entirely due to what we call in the Dockyards 'starving the stores.' We do not have a proper supply of every-day stores in the Dockyard, and consequently we have often to wait when we have anything special to do. The other day we wanted some blocks and some screws and other things for the torpedo nets for a ship that had to go to sea at once, and we had to telegraph all over the Kingdom to get a few screws, so that time is lost in that way.I presume that that is a correct picture, because I find that it is exactly the same in the other Dockyards. The Chief Constructor of Portsmouth gives almost precisely the same description as the Chief Constructor at Chatham; and if it is a true description of the state of things which exists in regard to the stores, is it astonishing that any visitor to the Dockyards should see a number of men walking purposelessly about? The visitor may not know where they are going, but probably they are going to obtain a few screws, or a pound of nails, or a pound of candles, or something that is necessary from a distant store for the immediate purpose of their work. Another cause of the inefficiency and the unprofitable character of the work is that the men are constantly kept waiting for stores from the constructors, and especially for armour plates, in consequence of which, instead of the work going on systematically, there is obliged to be a great delay. Finally, the Committee, or rather 1333 the House, is to some extent to blame, because so anxious are Members of Parliament to obtain accounts in connection with the Dockyards, and formal Returns, which I do not suppose anyone in the House of Commons ever takes the trouble to examine, that the Chief Constructor, the Chief Engineer, and the other officers of the Dockyards, instead of rendering valuable services in their legitimate sphere, are perpetually kept at their desks in the office making out formal accounts when they ought to be about the Yards superintending the actual work that is going on. I ask the Admiralty to take into consideration some of these reasons which account for work in the Dockyard being costly as compared with private Yards. I think that the Secretary to the Admiralty will admit that they have been fairly stated by me, and that they are the principal causes which have led to the want of efficiency. Let me now give a third piece of advice. Let me recommend the Admiralty to set up a better organization of the labour in the Dockyards; and I ask them to take into their confidence someone who understands the wishes, feelings, and desires of the workmen. I believe that if they would consent to do so they might easily arrive at a settlement of the question. There are many of us who have been long connected with the Dockyard workmen. We know what it is they want; we know where they think the shoe pinches; and we feel quite certain that if the Admiralty, instead of settling the matter by the appointment of mere Departmental Committees consisting of Admiralty officials and naval officers, would make themselves acquainted with the feelings and wishes and even the prejudices of the workmen connected with the Dockyard, and would secure a representative of the Dockyard men upon the next Committee they appoint, they would be much more likely to arrive at a settlement of the question. What is wanted first of all is a better, a fairer, and a more just classification. Men ought to be rated and ought to receive wages and pensions really in proportion to the work that they do. Anyone who has had anything to do with Dockyard management knows very well that the reality is as far from that ideal as possible. You may have half-a-dozen men doing exactly the same work; but you will find that they are all rated dif- 1334 ferently; that they are all receiving different pay, and are all earning different pensions, and nearly all under entirely different circumstances. In fact, it is quite the exception instead of the rule that a man is rated and paid according to the work he is actually employed to do. I remember an instance which was brought under the consideration of a Predecessor of the present Secretary to the Admiralty of a man who occupied a certain position in Chatham Dockyard, but was rated as something entirely different; whereas the man who was rated for the work the substitute was actually doing was employed in an entirely different capacity in Portsmouth Dockyard, and had never been in Chatham Dockyard in his life, although he was rated to an office there. All this sort of classification—where a man is rated for work he is not doing—causes dissatisfaction. Then, in the next place, there is another thing you ought to get rid of, and that is the distinction between hired and established men. I see some of the old Admiralty officials smile; but I have long been of opinion that hired men shall be employed only on probation for extraordinary work. It is monstrous to have two sets of men employed permanently in the Dockyards under entirely different conditions. They are naturally apt to consider themselves unjustly treated. If you have an Establishment at all, you ought to have all the regular men in your employment upon the Establishment. There can be no objection, of course, to maintaining men as hired men on probation until you satisfy yourselves that they are steady, and the sort of men you can take on permanently in the Dockyards. But the probation ought not to be too long. There have been men kept on probation for 12, 14, and 16 years, which is altogether unreasonable. If a man is kept on probation for two or three years, surely by that time you ought to have found out whether he is fit to be permanently employed in the Dockyards or not; and if he is, you ought to put him, then and there, on the Establishment. The other class of hired men I except is that which is employed when there is extraordinary work to be done. If any scare takes place in consequence of the country declaring that the naval preparations of the Admiralty for years past have been inefficient, and a great impetus is ac- 1335 cordingly given to the work of shipbuilding, then, of course, it is necessary to take on extra hands for the extraordinary work. But what I maintain is that the regular staff of men employed in the Dockyards ought not to be divided, as at present, into two distinct classes; but they should be all men connected with the Establishment. Another thing that the workmen ask is that instead of the present system of superannuation you should have an honest and intelligible system of deferred pay. The present system is a tontine—a compulsory tontine—by which the men forego 1s. or 3s. of their wages per week, on the understanding that they will be entitled to pensions on retirement. The man who foregoes 3s. a-week wages if he lives to retire, and lives for a reasonable time after retirement to enjoy his superannuation, no doubt gets back the value of the 3s. a-week he has foregone; but all the men who die before they are superannuated, and all the men who are superannuated in ill-health, in many instances with a certainty of not surviving their superannuation for more than a very few months, feel that they have lost the 3s. a-week which they have for so many years foregone. It seems to me that it would be a much more reasonable plan to carry the 3s. a-week to a deferred pay account, to an account in regard to which a man would forfeit his right if he left before the end of the period for which his service had been secured by the State; but if he dies, or remains until the end of his time, and is discharged, let that deferred pay be honestly accounted for to him, or his representatives. If, at the time of his retirement, he chooses to take it in the shape of an annuity until the end of his life, let it be given to him in that form; or, if he dies, let it be given in the shape of an annuity to his widow, or other representative. All I ask is that, whatever the amount of the deferred pay may be, it should be carried to a clear account, so that every man may be convinced that he gets the full value of the sum of money he has foregone in wages. I have talked to a large number of Dockyard workmen, and I do not find that there is any desire on their part to sponge upon the State. All they desire is to receive fair wages for the work they do, and they are perfectly ready to receive, either the full amount of their wages paid 1336 weekly, or to leave part of their earnings in the hand of the State as security for the continuance of their services. All they ask is that the sums of money thus left in the hands of the State should be accounted for to them when they leave the Service; and that they should not be compelled to go into a compulsory tontine, which may result in the loss of all they have contributed. So much with regard to the organization of labour in the Dockyards. I come finally—and here I shall be very short—to my objection to the particular item of which I have given Notice to move the rejection. I have given Notice rather with a view of eliciting the intentions of the Admiralty in regard to the new officers—the Civil Assistants—than with a desire to press the Motion to a division, if the explanations of the Secretary to the Admiralty are satisfactory. I object primâ facie to any new officers being employed by the Admiralty, which may have the effect of entailing an extra burden upon Dockyard expenditure. The employment of every additional officer tends to enhance the apparent price of Dockyard work as compared with the price of work performed in private yards. It is one of the difficulties which the Dockyards have at present to contend with that there is so much paid for supervision. There are so many highly paid officers employed to supervize the workmen that the price of the Dockyard work is necessarily enhanced as contrasted with that which is turned out in the private yards. Therefore, anyone who studies the interests of the Dockyards is anxious that the cost of supervision should not be unnecessarily high. It certainly seems, at first sight, that £1,000 per annum is a considerable sum to pay for an official in each of the great Yards who, as far as I can judge from the instructions, is to act as a sort of policeman, to walk about the Yard and look out for persons who may be neglecting their work. But the Civil Assistant does not seem to have any power of punishing delinquents himself; he can only report them to the Admiral Superintendent, or some other superior officer. I certainly do not see the use of this officer; but I should not move the rejection of the Vote because I am personally unable to see the necessity for appointing an officer 1337 of this kind. But I have looked carefully into the evidence before the Committee on Admiralty Organization and Expenditure to see what the experience of the Dockyard Superintendents has been. The first thing which struck me when I examined the Report was that Admiral Watson, who was at that time the experienced Superintendent of Chatham Dockyard, from which position he has only recently retired, although appointed upon the Committee which was to draft the instructions to the Civil Assistants to the Admiral Superintendents, does not seem to have signed the Report at all. Not only did Admiral Watson not sign it, but he has appended to the Report a Note or Minute, which looks very much as if Admiral Watson totally disapproved of the Report. I should like to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty how that really was?
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. HIBBERT) (Oldham)
The Note appended by Admiral Watson simply relates to the question of punishments.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
I am quite aware that the signed Note relates to punishments; but I should like to ask whether Admiral Watson did, or did not, approve of the appointment of these new officers, and if he did, what is the explanation of the strange circumstance that he did not sign the Report? Not only is the signature of Admiral Watson wanting, but I find also that Admiral Herbert, who was the equally experienced Superintendent at Portsmouth Dockyard, has not signed the Report. There is a statement made in the Report itself that Admiral Herbert was unable to be present at the Committee meeting at which the subject was discussed in consequence of illness. That, however, would not have prevented him from signing the Report if he had been disposed to do so. Admiral Herbert was examined before the Committee, and when I turn to his evidence I find that he strongly protested against the appointment of any such officers, on the ground that they would be utterly useless. I am not able to give the view of Admiral Watson, because that officer was not examined, and his opinions are not to be found in this Book; but those of Admiral Herbert were given, and will be found at page 81 1338 of the Report. Admiral Herbert was asked—The Captain Superintendent of Pembroke Yard has stated with regard to the supervision of labour—'The supervision of labour in the Yards is not as complete as it should be, and I would propose that a competent professional officer be attached to the Superintendent's staff in the large Yards who would have no charge, but would be constantly about the Yard looking after the work, and would also be professional adviser to the Admiral Superintendent.' Do you concur in the desirability of such an appointment as that?The reply of Admiral Herbert was—No, as it would be sure to lead to unnecessary interference and friction; I should be afraid of its creating jealousy between the Chief Constructor and the officer so appointed. I should prefer to see the Chief Constructor on such terms with the Admiral Superintendent that he should work with him, and if you introduced anyone between them you would be likely to cause a feeling of jealousy.Having formed in my own mind a notion that the appointment of such an officer would be a mistake, having looked in vain for the guidance and direction of Admiral Watson, and having found that Admiral Herbert was opposed to it, I turned in despair to the third great Dockyard—namely, Devonport—and I find that Admiral Curme, who had been the Admiral Superintendent of Devonport Dockyard, condemns these appointments in just as strong terms as Admiral Herbert. He says at page 119 of the Report—I really do not think, if he had been offered to me at Devonport, that I should have accepted such an officer, taking everything into consideration. My intercourse with the Chief Constructor and Chief Engineer was of such a nature that I did not feel the want of such a man. I am inclined to think that such an officer would do more harm than good, unless he was a very extraordinary man. I think that, when proper relations exist between the Captain of the Reserve and the Superintendent, there is little to be wished for in the shape of assistance.I think the Committee will feel that when we find all the Superintendents of the three great Dockyards, to whom these officials are given as assistants, of the same opinion, that they are not necessary, I think the Committee will agree with me that the circumstance, at all events, requires some explanation before we consent to grant this additional expenditure. The hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) always supposes that 1339 the Representatives of Dockyard constituencies are in favour of any proposal to increase the Navy Estimates; but here is a case in which I, as a Dockyard Representative, propose a reduction of the Estimates. I propose to reduce the sum for the expenses of the Dockyards and Naval Yards at Home and Abroad by the sum of £3,000, my principal object being to elicit from Her Majesty's Government and from the Board of Admiralty what is the particular purpose they have in view in the appointment of these officers. I feel that I ought to apologize to the Committee for the great length at which I have been obliged to address them. But, seeing that the Dockyard workmen have been condemned in the Report of the Committee in a wholesale and unjust manner, those who have been sent here to represent them would, I think, be wanting in their duty if they did not say what ought to be said in their behalf.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Item A, Salaries and Allowances, be reduced by £3,000, for the Salaries of Civil Assistants to the Superintendent of Her Majesty's Dockyard."—(Sir John Gorst.)
§ SIR WILLIAM CROSSMAN (Portsmouth)
I have listened with great interest to the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Sir John Gorst), and I agree almost entirely with everything he has said. I regret very much that the Committee which sat last year to inquire into the Admiralty and Dockyard Administration and Expenditure should have made such sweeping and general charges against the Dockyard workmen. I have received letters from some of my constituents protesting in the strongest terms against the charges which the Committee have made against them—of general idleness and incompetence. From what I know of them I believe them to be a very worthy, intelligent, and hard-working class of men. I must say that in the Dockyards there seems to be a considerable amount of mismanagement in regard to the rates of pay given to the various classes of employés. Almost every class appears to have a grievance. The men themselves appear to be paid indiscriminately; one man working alongside of another, and doing the same or even more important work, receives a different, and not unfrequently a less, amount 1340 of pay. I do not think the men ever will be satisfied until the House of Commons or the Admiralty appoint a Committee to go carefully into the whole question and to regulate the rates of pay. The shipwrights and the skilled artizans have for a long period ventilated their grievances, but as yet have obtained no redress. I believe that my right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty has had before him many complaints from the various grades of Dockyard workmen; and I sincerely hope that he, or whoever may be acting in his place, will take their claims into consideration. No class of men can be expected to do their work satisfactorily unless they are properly and justly treated. As regards the appointment of Civil Assistants to the Admiralty Superintendents in the Dockyards, I am afraid I cannot agree with the hon. and learned Member opposite. I believe that the Admiralty Superintendents in the Dockyards are a necessity, and that they ought to be retained so long as there are ships there and a considerable number of naval officers and men to be looked after. But although it is necessary to have a naval officer to superintend each Dockyard, such naval officers cannot be expected to know exactly what the civil work is. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance, if the Dockyard work is to be properly controlled, that he should have a responsible civil officer upon whom he can depend for assistance. I do not feel myself competent to deal with that part of the Vote which relates to shipbuilding, and I will only express a hope that stops may be taken to dispense with obsolete machinery, which certainly ought to have been got rid of long ago.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN (Kent, Faversham)
I desire to say a few words upon the charge of idleness which has been brought somewhat indiscriminately against all the workmen in Her Majesty's Dockyards. The question has been fully dealt with by the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Sir John Gorst), so that it is not necessary that I should say much upon it; but I wish, in the most distinct terms, to repudiate the charge on behalf of my constituents—the Dockyard men at Sheerness. They have made representations to me, in which they resent, in the strongest terms, the imputation cast upon them in the Report of the Com- 1341 mittee upon Admiralty and Dockyard Administration and Expenditure. In a Memorial to me they bitterly resent, as a gross libel upon them, those portions of the Report which endeavours to make it appear that idleness is the general rule among the Dockyard workmen. They give special reasons for their dissatisfaction with the Report. They point out, what I think is apparent from the Report itself, that the evidence on which the conclusions of the Committee are founded was taken from one Dockyard only—namely, that of Portsmouth, and that upon that evidence the Committee have based an indiscriminate charge of idleness, and applied it to all the employés in the whole of the Dockyards of the country. They say that, whatever may be the case at Portsmouth, they must repudiate in strong terms any such charge in connection with Sheerness. They also complain, and I think with some reason, of that part of the Report which is founded upon the evidence of naval officers, who, however competent they may be, and doubtless are, to give evidence in regard to matters of seamanship, are altogether incompetent to give as competent testimony on matters of Dockyard management as experts who have been connected with Dockyard work for a great number of years. Any hon. Member who examines the Report will see that that amount of professional evidence was not forthcoming which the Dockyard men had a right to expect. It is further pointed out in this Memorial that, had the evidence been fairly taken, it is highly probable that a very different result would have been arrived at. There is another matter to which they wish me to give an emphatic denial, and that is the existence of a system of watching know as "the crow," by which a man is employed as a spy to give notice to the workmen of the approach of any officer, so that if they are idling they may at once resume their work. I do not know how this is in other Dockyards; but I am told that it is altogether incorrect in reference to Sheerness. I hope that the Board of Admiralty will be able to give their attention to the whole of these matters, and that they will be able to say that the inquiry of the Committee was imperfectly conducted, and that the charges contained in their Report are indiscriminately made. There is one other matter, to 1342 which, if I am not out of Order, I should like to call the attention of the Committee. It has reference to the dissatisfaction which exists as to the payment of some of the classes of Dockyard men. There is one deserving class, called an apprentice class, of Dockyard writers. There were certain writers appointed in 1869 to fill up vacancies as they might occur. They began at 4s. a-day; but many of them have to wait for 12 or 13 years before they get promoted to the maximum rate of 8s. per day. As I have said, they begin at 4s. a-day, and they have then to wait for two years before they get an increase of 1s. per day; a further period of two years before they reach 6s. per day, and until they get 8s. a-day they have absolutely 13 years to serve. In addition to this, they are invariably called upon to perform two or three hours' work additional per day for which they receive no pay at all. The treatment which they receive gives rise to great dissatisfaction, and I trust that the complaints of this very able, meritorious, and deserving body of men will be fully inquired into. Certainly, something ought to be done to enable the men to reach the maximum rate of pay by a shorter term of service than 13 years, and to receive payment for extra work on such occasions as they are required to perform it. I sincerely trust that their case will receive the attention of the Secretary to the Admiralty, and that he will be able to do something for them.
§ SIR THOMAS BRASSEY (Hastings)
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chatham (Sir John Gorst), with his usual ability, has pleaded the cause of an influential section of his constituents, and has called in question the accuracy of certain criticisms which have been put forth by the Committee upon Dockyard and Admiralty Expenditure over which Admiral Graham presided. I will not enter into the questions of the greater or less degree of idleness which may have been observed by the Dockyard workmen; but I would express a confident opinion that the remedy which has been proposed is incomplete. It has been proposed to remedy the idleness of the Dockyard workmen by the appointment of Civil Assistants to the Admiral Superintendents, officers who are to receive salaries of £1,000 a-year. I am sure that Parliament would not 1343 grudge the payment of liberal salaries for the performance of highly responsible and difficult duties. But, however necessary the appointment of these officers may be, and however valuable the services they may render, it is quite clear that the creation of a certain limited number of highly paid appointments does not go to the root of the evil to which Admiral Graham's Committee has called attention. Why is it that the workmen in the Dockyards, or, at any rate, some of the workmen in the Dockyards, are wanting in diligence? It is because nothing is done to encourage special exertion. The Dockyard men are largely employed in the completion of ships of a complicated character, differing in many important particulars one from another, and in the execution of repairs. In regard to this work, it is not possible to adopt any other system for the payment of labour than the system of payment by time. Well, Sir, the payment by time and at a uniform scale, where there are large bodies of workmen, would have a very deadening effect on the exertions of the men. I believe it is the fact that it was pointed out by Admiral Graham's Committee that there are some thousands of shipwrights in the Dockyards, every one of whom receive a uniform rate of pay. It is quite obvious that that is not calculated to increase their exertions. Admiral Graham's Committee recommended that a system should be adopted under which the workmen should be classified and paid at different rates according to their merits and ability. I most certainly hope that that recommendation of Admiral Graham's Committee will be adopted. As in the case of the workmen, so it must be in the case of those who are appointed to superintend the work. The absence of any pecuniary reward for special exertions tends very much to cripple the administration of the Dockyards; and Admiral Graham's Committee earnestly recommended that whenever special exertions were made by officers employed in the Dockyards they should be recognized, and that a suitable pecuniary reward should be given. Speaking from my own experience at the Admiralty, I would venture to urge that that recommendation of Admiral Graham's Committee should be adopted. Perhaps the Committee will allow me to give an illustration. Some 1344 years ago the Iron Duke, the flag-ship on the China Station, grounded on an Island on the North Coast of Japan, and sustained serious injury. She was brought to Hong Kong and docked, and, after examination, it was the general opinion of the responsible officers on the Station that the injury was of such a character that it could not be repaired at Hong Kong, and that, therefore, the ship should be ordered home. But the foreman of the Yard at Hong Kong was of a different opinion, and he begged earnestly to be allowed to undertake the repair of the ship. He was allowed to have his way, and by immense personal exertion he carried out the work successfully, the consequence of which was that the ship remained on the Station and completed her commission. If it had not been possible to do the repairs at Hong Kong the ship must have been sent home, and it would have been necessary to send out another ship to replace her. The saving to the country by the spirited efforts of the foreman of the Yard at Hong Kong may be put at tens of thousands of pounds; but no reward being permitted under the Regulations, none was paid to this deserving officer, because the Regulations did not permit it. But by the recommendations of Admiral Graham's Committee, when special exertions have been made, there will be some means at the discretion of the Admiralty by which suitable rewards will be given for increased efficiency in the Dockyard Service. My own opinion is that the Admiralty should have more discretionary power in rewarding exceptional services. The same principle should be applicable to the workmen, and the best remedy consists in stimulating men to exertion by the motive of self-interest. For this purpose payment by results could be extended as far as practicable. Much work will, however, still remain to be done which must be paid for upon the basis of time. In order to encourage and to reward diligence upon the part of the men employed, Admiral Graham's Committee recommend that they should be classified according to ability. I hope that this recommendation may be adopted. In the engineers' branch men are paid at widely varying rates. Some elasticity is required in the payment of the thousands of men employed under the shipbuilding officers, and now re- 1345 ceiving one uniform rate of wages, quite irrespective of wide differences in individual merit.
§ MR. PULESTON (Devonport)
I am very glad that my hon. and learned Friend (Sir John Gorst) has brought this question before the Committee. At the same time I quite agree with my hon. Friend who has just sat down that a great deal of difficulty which may attend these appointments would be got over if gentlemen of practical experience could be had to fill them. Very much of the success of the new system will depend upon the men who may be appointed, and a good deal upon the character of the Admiral who may be the Admiral Superintendent of the Dockyard. A good deal of friction, however, will, no doubt, arise from these appointments, especially on the part of the Admiral Superintendents, who may be induced to believe that the new officers are intended to some extent to supersede them, and certainly, to some extent, the duties which the Civil Assistants will have to perform may detract from the responsibility of the Admiral Superintendent and Chief Constructors, and consequently give them less power in the Yard over those with whom they are necessarily brought in contact. The men, too, will regard this as a system of espionage, which casts an undeserved slur upon them. A great deal of the difficulty in connection with the management of the Dockyards hitherto has been—and it is a question which for some years I have brought before the House—the want of uniformity and the very great inequalities which prevail. These have been the causes which have led to the Memorials which have been constantly presented to the Admiralty from one class or the other for an increase of pay. It is a hard thing that one man working side by side with another should receive a widely different rate of pay for doing precisely the same kind of work. I hope the day may never arrive when Members of this House will be paid for the services they render; but it is quite certain that if one Member were paid £500 and another £1,000 a-year for doing the same thing the man who was paid at the lower rate would naturally ask why the difference should exist. I know that the unequal principle upon which the Dockyard workmen are now paid is felt very 1346 much as a grievance, and not only is it the case in regard to work of a similar character, but there have been some conspicuous cases, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chatham (Sir John Gorst) is fully aware, where one man who had performed less important work than another has received 2d. or 3d. more a-day. (Such discrepancies and inequalities have been productive of serious discontent; and I am very sorry to say that the Admiralty have rarely evinced a desire to pay the slightest attention to the Memorials which have been presented to them on the subject. The men have been invited to memorialize the Admiralty; they have been told that they must not use political influence, and that any Memorials they may present will always receive respectful consideration. But, as a matter of fact, the Memorials, when sent in, have never received attention at all. I am quite aware that a good deal of the difficulty arises from the constant changes in the constitution of the Board of Admiralty. During the last six years we have had six Secretaries to the Admiralty, and such changes are, of course, inherent in the present constitution of the Board of Admiralty; and so long as we are liable to have these changes the grievances of the workmen will never receive proper attention or redress. Speaking for myself as a Dockyard Member, I am able to say that no sooner do I got attached to a particular Civil Lord or Secretary to the Admiralty than one or the other is pitchforked into another post—perhaps sent off to Ireland, or even to some less important position. What I maintain is that the persons appointed to look after the affairs of the Admiralty should occupy a more permanent position. I think it goes almost without saying that it takes some little time to serve an apprenticeship and to acquire a thorough knowledge of all the intricacies and complications which enter into the management of our great Dockyards. I must say that I think it would be far more satisfactory to have a permanent Assistant to the First Lord of the Admiralty than to send down a Civil Assistant to each Dockyard to assist the Admiral Superintendent. There are radical evils in the system itself which require reformation. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chatham (Sir John Gorst) has referred to 1347 a conspicuous case—namely, the question of the hired men. The hired men in the Dockyards are a very large and important body of men, and they form an important element in the Dockyard administration. It is almost impossible to defend a system which permits men to be retained in the Dockyards for 20 years, and then at the end of that time allows them to be turned away with a very small bonus, which is scarcely equal to a single instalment of the annual pension of other men who have done exactly the same work and no other, but have had the special advantage of being on the Establishment. My own opinion is that it would be a great deal better to provide some system of deferred pay and an enlargement of the Establishment, so that the services of all of the men should be on the same footing. The men are much indebted to the noble Lord the Member for the Ealing Division of Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) and the late Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Ritchie) for the manner in which they had extended the time of the hired men from 60 to 65 years of age. I believe that my right hon. Friend who now represents the Admiralty in this House (Mr. Hibbert) would have been prepared to do the same thing if it had not been done already, although it has been very difficult to induce the Admiralty to take such a step in previous years. Nothing can be more reasonable than to provide that a man who has reached 60 years of age, who has been 20 years in the Service, and who is too old to start anew, but who has all the physique of a capable workman, and all his faculties about him, should be retained in the Public Service. He must certainly be a much better workman for Dockyard employment than an entirely new hand, to say nothing of the injustice of getting rid of him when he has spent the best years of his life in your employment. I am glad that the late First Lord recognized the hardship of the case, and I can assure him that the decision which the Admiralty arrived at has given great satisfaction to the Dockyard men, who regard it as no inconsiderable boon to be allowed, where there is no physical incapacity, to extend their service for another five years. I have only mentioned the circumstance to show the enormous difficulty that is experienced in getting any 1348 claim of the kind considered and granted by the Board of Admiralty, because it is well known that the request for this extension of time was made for years before it was acceded to. It was a very simple matter, and I have never been able to understand why it should have taken previous First Lords and Secretaries to the Admiralty so long a time to make up their minds about it. It is a concession which is obviously in the interests of the Service, and it is one which is also obviously just to the men themselves. No private firm would think of discharging a man who had been 20 or 30 years in their service because he had reached 60 years of age, and merely for the pleasure of supplying his place by a new hand. No doubt he is an old man; but if he is not physically incapable of doing the work of the Yard there must be advantage to the public in the experience he has gained. Of course, on these occasions, we always have the question raised of Dockyard versus private yard management, and the mode of conducting business in the Royal Dockyards is invariably condemned. I am not at all surprised at the charge of idleness which has been brought against the men by the Committee on Admiralty and Dockyard Organization and Management. If any hon. Member will take the trouble to visit one of our great Dockyards he will not be long before he is able to find some of the men walking about doing nothing. But the fault does not rest with the men. They are prevented from doing the important work on which they ought to be engaged by the necessity of running about from pillar to post for a few screws or a pound of nails. The so-called idleness that becomes necessary in consequence is not the fault of the men, but entirely the fault of the system. The men employed in the Dockyards are not responsible for the system under which they are employed, and it is impossible to dispute that if a better system were in vogue and the inequalities in the treatment of the men were got rid of, the men, whether employed as shipwrights, wheelwrights, joiners, or in any other branch of Dockyard work would not be quite as efficient, even if not more so, than the men employed in private yards. Great complaints are made by the men of the interruption of their work. Every man would prefer to go on with regular work rather than have that 1349 regular work interrupted by the absence of proper tools and machinery. It is frequently a matter of necessity that they should remain idle, or be put to some other kind of work. It is unfair, however, and unjust, because this happens to be the condition of things in the Dockyards, that the men should have a wholesale charge of idleness preferred against them. I maintain that it is a gross insult to the men employed in Her Majesty's Dockyards. I know that the Representatives of the Dockyard constituencies are often charged with trying in this House to bolster up the shortcomings of the Board of Admiralty. My hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) often attacks us. He is not present to-night, being engaged, I believe, in very important work elsewhere. But my hon. Friend the senior Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) is present. He very often takes part in these discussions, and invariably accuses the Dockyard Members of being actuated by a desire to obtain as large an expenditure upon the Dockyards as possible, so that the money may find its way into the pockets of their constituents, and he charges us also with being in favour of paying more wages to everybody. I maintain that such a charge is a slander. There is one thing of which we have every right to be proud, and that is that we on all occasions have, as Dockyard Representatives, endeavoured to secure that the work of the country should be properly done. We have done all in our power to enforce the necessity of increasing and strengthening the Navy, and placing the Dockyards upon a more satisfactory footing, in order that the Navy may be kept in a state of efficiency. There can be no doubt that an imperfect system of supervision, combined with parsimony and want of proper consideration for the Dockyard workmen, has unduly weakened the Navy. Hon. Members now see the mistakes which have been made, and all admit the important fact that if they had been recognized sooner millions of money might have been saved to the country. On the other hand, the system of expenditure we have adopted has been wasteful in the highest degree. We have spent our money by fits and starts. We set to work in the building of some enormous vessel which is to cost an unknown sum. I am not going to enter into the question of large 1350 ships now; but this large expenditure, and the constant delay which takes place, always come back to the workmen in the Dockyards. They are invariably accused of being the cause of all the extra expenditure, whereas they have nothing whatever to with it. I feel with them that it would be much more satisfactory, when once work is commenced, to go on with it regularly, instead of having it interrupted by the absence of proper tools, of labour-saving machinery, and by taking the men from regular jobs for other urgent and pressing work. Hon. Members have already had their attention called to the fact that, instead of the Dockyards being supplied with machinery comprising all the modern improvements, the materials and tools supplied to the workmen are almost as primitive as those which were employed in the earliest days of shipbuilding. I think it would be much easier and more satisfactory to go on with the work in hand regularly and rapidly, and not to do it by fits and starts. Nor is the intermittent way in which you recognize the claims of the workmen at all satisfactory. And it does no good in the end. You receive a Memorial from a certain class of Dockyard employés for an increase of wages, and after long delay you grant the prayer of some of the Memorialists. That very instant another body of men equally deserving ask that their case shall be considered; and so the demands upon you go on, and after a few years you have to begin all over again. I fail to see where it is to end. It is a policy in which there is no continuity. It is absolutely useless to jerk a new man into office to-day—to make a new office to-day and a fresh one to-morrow. You only lessen the responsibility of the Chief Constructor, and do away altogether with the responsibility of other officers, unless you are prepared to take the Dockyards as a whole, and thoroughly re-organize the system under which they are managed and controlled. It is only due to every man employed in the Dockyards that this should be done as speedily as possible. I have ventured once or twice to submit a scheme to the House which I believe would give great contentment to everybody connected with the Dockyards as far as I have been able to gather, and I certainly took pains to ascertain the views of the 1351 various classes concerned before I submitted my plan. I may add that, although my scheme would give satisfaction, it is astonishing how little extra money it would cost to carry it out. The case of the engineers has never been practically disposed of, and I am glad that even so much has been done, although there are certainly one or two points which will still have to be considered. I recollect that the case of the engineers was reported upon by a Departmental Committee some years ago, and that there was a refusal to comply with the request of the men, because it was said that it would cost something like £12,000 a-year. But the Report of this Departmental Committee recommended changes which, if carried out, would have cost £40,000 a-year. Consequently, nothing was done, and the engineers were driven back again to the old system of complaining, and memorializing the Admiralty for a redress of their grievances. It was only the other day that the question of the engineers was disposed of. I may add that it is not the custom for the Dockyard men to combine for the purpose of agitating in any unworthy way. They are always gratified and thankful when the Secretary to the Admiralty and the First Lord will go down to the Dockyards personally and inquire into their case. They are then able to state their grievances in their own way. There is every reason for having more skilled labour in the Dockyards, from the very nature of things, than can be had in private yards. In that I quite agree with my hon. Friend (Sir John Gorst), and if the men remain in the Dockyards they will gain experience. There is another subject I wish to refer to, and that is the discharges of men which are constantly taking place, and which is rather a sore point between my hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Hibbert) and some of us. Of course, if there is no work at the Dockyards on which the men can be employed, there is practically no alternative but to discharge them; but it is most unfortunate that hundreds of men should be discharged at Devonport, for instance, at the most inopportune times. These notices of the wholesale discharge of men are grievous errors. In one case lately 400 men were thrown out of employment without the slightest notice, and you must remember that this does 1352 not represent the whole case, for there are the families of these men to be considered. It is, of course, quite understood by the men on engagement that they may be discharged; but it is the same with Dockyard employment as with employment elsewhere; and although it is well known that many workmen are engaged temporarily, yet it is known that these men are kept on; others, therefore, expect to be treated in the same way, and we can hardly blame them if, when they are discharged, they express dissatisfaction. But it is not for want of work that the men are discharged, because much of the work undertaken by the Admiralty is absolutely not put in hand in a way which would afford employment for these men. As I pointed out the other day, vessels which might have been repaired in a few weeks were lying outside the Dockyard for months; and it is that system which is the cause of all the delay complained of, and of these inopportune discharges of men. Finally, Sir, I trust that we may avoid these constantly recurring discharges, and that we shall in future make more head-way in the management of our Dockyards.
MR. JACKS&c.) (Leith,
I take this opportunity of complaining of the inadequate form in which these Estimates are put before us; and I think I am justified in so doing, because they utterly fail to afford any explanation of things which seem to be extraordinary and unintelligible anomalies. On a former occasion, when I referred to this, the Secretary to the Treasury said that if I had a little more time in which to examine them I should get the information I required. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I have examined these Estimates with great attention; and yet, after all this labour, I am very much in the same position—being just as wise as I was before. I hope the Secretary to the Admiralty will give his attention to the following figures. I take the two first vessels on the list, the Camperdown and the Edinburgh. The first has a displacement of 10,000 tons, and her weight is 6,640 tons; the second vessel has a displacement of 9,150 tons, and her weight is 6,150 tons. There is a gross difference of nearly 10 per cent between these figures; and, making due allowance for extra cost on a smaller vessel, I find that the Edinburgh ought to have cost 1353 £40,000, or £30,000 less than the Camperdown. But what do we find? We find that instead of costing that sum less her cost is actually £29,000 more. And so we come to this extraordinary experience—that, whereas the Camperdown costs £50 per ton on the displacement, the Edinburgh costs £58.42 per ton, or close upon £59 per ton. With regard to weight, we find that the Camperdown costs £75.42, or £75 8s., while the Edinburgh costs £87.66, or £87 13s., per ton. Well, Sir, what is the explanation of these extraordinary anomalies? Here is another. In the last published accounts of the Admiralty we find that between the years 1869 and 1874 the price per ton varies from £53 to £87 14s. 7d. What was the price of material in those years? I find it was about double what it is now, while the cost now is in inverse ratio—it has largely increased, whereas during the same time the price of merchant vessels has receded about 30 or 40 per cent. I take the liberty of suggesting a plan which I think would enable the House of Commons to check the figures in these Estimates; and with regard to that I shall have something to say presently. But what are the proposals made to deal with this question? A right hon. Gentleman opposite said he thought the proper plan would be to appoint another Committee to see how the money was spent. Now, I have great respect for that practice; but I think that any hon. Member who proposes the appointment of a Committee on any question should give his word of honour that he has gone through the Reports of all the Commissions appointed before to investigate the subject, because we have Reports of Commissions which, I am bound to say, will hold their own with the Reports on any subject in any country. I have read over all the Reports on this subject from 1812 downwards, and I find that the Report of 1847 says that the quality of work for the price produced by the Government Dockyards is inferior to the standard of work produced by private yards. In 1859 Admiral Smart produced his Report, of which the present Report is simply an echo; I have taken the opportunity to go through it, marking some of the suggestions contained, and shall be glad to show it to any hon. Member wishing for information on the subject. But I was most 1354 gratified to find on page 2 of the Report precisely the recommendation which I was bold enough to suggest on a previous occasion. Admiral Smart's Committee drew out a form showing with regard to each ship in columns the price of materials—iron beams, wood work, wages, &c.; and there was at the end space for the purpose of giving an explanation of any anomalies there might be. Instead of having new Commissions it would be much better to have accounts of this kind, because it would enable us to check the figures, and, by bringing esprit de corps into the Dockyard Service, would excite managers to do their best. In the expenditure on the Camperdown, as compared with the Edinburgh, the price of materials is about £4,000 less than what it ought to be, considering her size; while with regard to the Edinburgh the wages are in her case actually £42,000 more than in the case of the Camperdown.
§ MR. JACKS
Precisely; different types, and, for aught I know, they were built in different Dockyards: but I wish to bring home to the official mind that we ought to be able to know how these differences occur. Is the smaller expenditure in the case of the Camperdown due to superior management on the part of persons in charge of particular ships? Because, if so, we ought to encourage those persons, and get rid of those who built the Edinburgh. Although the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Ritchie) says they are ships of entirely different types, there is nothing in this list to show that they are not in the same category; and I again put it to the right hon. Gentleman that every information of the kind described should be given in the accounts, and express a hope that we shall have it in future Returns.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
As I think that, in the course of this discussion, some hon. Members have rather digressed, I shall be very careful not to wander from the point before the Committee. These discussions upon Dockyard management are very interesting; but I think they are also very technical, and relate to matters of which this House can scarcely take cognizance. The hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Jacks) has drawn our atten- 1355 tion to the very valuable Report of the Committee over which Admiral Smart presided, a Report which has been lost sight of for a long time. I am glad to find myself in accord with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hastings (Sir Thomas Brassey) as to improving the condition of the workmen in the Dockyards. Everyone who is acquainted with the Dockyards is aware of the number of men employed, and knows that they do not work at full steam on all occasions. I recollect that the hon. Member for Hastings, at an earlier period, was pleased to draw attention to what he called the idleness in the Dockyards. The hon. Gentleman said that in passing Woolwich Dockyard in his yacht he observed several workmen standing still and watching, and then he went into particulars. But these men, I suggest, were not idle; they were simply watching and criticizing the hon. Gentleman's yacht, which was going on a voyage round the world. It was also stated that at a particular time some men were observed reading newspapers in the hawse-pipes of the Sultan. But that I think was most excusable, because the attention of the country was at that time directed to the mismanagement of affairs in Egypt by Her Majesty's Government. But I pass over that, and repeat that it is impossible that every man in the Yards can be working at full steam; it is possible that you may sometimes see men who are not working so hard as others; but I venture to say that the work done in our Dockyards will compare favourably with the work done in any Dockyards in the country. But I admit that some supervision is necessary. It is unfortunate that I, as a naval officer, sitting on this side of the House, should feel it my duty to challenge the Report before us, and to take exception to the action of the late Board of Admiralty. And I may also say that naval opinion in this matter is entitled to a respectful hearing. The first fault I find is with the constitution of the Committee itself, and the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Sir John Gorst) has drawn attention to this. Had these appointments been made by the late First Lord of the Admiralty in consultation with his Colleagues, such is the loyalty of naval men that we should have accepted the decision at once, although we might not have approved it; but I beg to tell 1356 the Secretary to the Admiralty under the late Government that what we object to is the Committee constituted as it was. It is most injurious to the Service that it was so constituted. One of its members was a distinguished officer; one a junior constructor who had not had the charge of a Dockyard; and the third a clerk in the Accountant General's Department; there were two civilians and one Admiral; and on the recommendation of those three men this immense change was carried out. Moreover, I beg to state to this Committee that the Committee in question was appointed for a different purpose. If hon. Members will look at the first Order of Reference, they will see that it was appointed to inquire into the method of keeping the Dockyard Accounts of Expenditure, and that they afterwards asked to have the Order enlarged, in order that they might go into other questions. I suppose that they found wise support in the Secretary to the Admiralty under the late Government, and that he adopted their view, because we find that the Order was enlarged, and that a communication was addressed to the Board of Admiralty to this effect—In obedience to your Lordships' wishes we place the evidence we have obtained and our remarks thereon upon record, and in such a form that action can be taken without delay, if necessary.We find that this extraordinary Report was sent in on the 24th of October, and it seems to me, from the manner in which the Report was drawn up, and the investigation which, took place and ended in a proposal for the reconstruction of the Constructive Department of the Admiralty, that the Committee went altogether beyond their instructions. But why were they in so great a hurry? I do not know. If I were an opponent of the late Government sitting on the other side of the House, I should probably make the remark that there was at the time great excitement in the country, and that it was a wise thing to have certain men standing before the country as able naval reformers; but I do not sit on that side of the House—I sit here, and so I must suppose that hon. Members on this side had no thought of a General Election at the time alluded to. I have not here the names of the members of Admiral Smart's Committee, which was a very different one 1357 from this. If you wanted to go into the whole question of superintendence, Dockyard management, and expenditure, you required the Report of a competent Committee composed of competent men, and not of a Committee like this, whose Report, I am bound to say, is looked upon in the Service with contempt. There should be Admiralty representation on it. It is true that Admiral Graham, who was a member of this Committee, is an able officer; but he has not had experience of Dockyards in England, and, therefore, I hold that he was not the man best fitted for the appointment. There were several able and competent Admirals who might have been appointed; but their opinions were not even asked; besides Admiral Brandreth, the late Controller of the Navy, and Sir Houston Stewart, and many other officers, any one of whom would have been able to carry on the inquiry; but, as I have said, the complaint is that the Committee was constituted as I have described. The Report, therefore, does not commend itself to the Service, and never will; while, at the same time, it has excited a great deal of feeling among naval men, who, without repeating their remarks, speak of it in a manner which is not nattering. Again, I ask whether, before acting upon this Report, the opinion of any competent man was taken, so that mistakes might be avoided? We have many men in our Service whose opinion would have been of great value, and amongst them I would ask if Sir Cooper Key, Admiral Luard, or Admiral Codrington were consulted; and, further, I should like to hear from the Secretary to the late Board of Admiralty whether his own Board were unanimous in the matter? But this rash step has been, taken, the change has been carried out, and the country is asked to pay £3,000 a-year for the salaries of the three Civil Assistants. I do not think it is a nice thing to pay civilians to assist an Admiral, who, if he were asked, might say that he required assistance of another kind. In England, of course, a large amount of labour is employed in the Dockyards. In Boston and New York there are a Commodore, Commander, and two Lieutenants working in the Yards, and the same thing goes on in Russia and France. What we want is more supervision; it is perfectly 1358 clear from the evidence that the weak point was in the supervision of labour, as the hon. Member for Hastings has pointed out. And how do hon. Members suppose that this Committee attempted to remedy this? One would naturally have thought they would have increased the number of Inspectors; but they did nothing of the kind, and the Inspectors, instead of having to look after 20 men, have now to look after 25. I can only say that the way the difficulty has been attempted to be met excites a smile—the weak point is shown to be the want of more Inspectors and foremen, and the Committee appoint just the sort of person who is not wanted—that is to say, a Civil Assistant. An hon. Member states that the Admiral wanted professional assistants; but the hon. Member who made that remark could not have known anything about the working of our Dockyards, or he would have known that the Admiral Superintendent has already two professional assistants—the Chief Constructor and the Chief Engineer. In their evidence these men complain of being overworked. They say they have no time to go round the Yards, because they are so pressed with drawings, &c. The poor men naturally thought that they would have assistants sent in to assist them; but, instead of that, they found that new men were put in between them and their Admiral Superintendent. Instructions are drawn up for the Civil Assistant's guidance. He is not to have an office; but, as far as I can see, he is to be the eyes and ears of the Admiral Superintendent, because he is overworked. Instead of giving the poor Chief Constructor and Chief Engineer assistants who should have had assistance, they were insulted by having these Civil Assistants put over them. Then there is another thing which I have to call attention to, and that is that it is a rule of the Service that juniors shall never be allowed to judge their seniors; but here we have two juniors put on to this Committee to inquire into matters connected with their seniors; and there, again, we have a fresh shuffling of the cards. All I can say is this—that the Service would have accepted these appointments loyally if they had been made direct by the Admiralty after consultation with their Naval Colleagues; but they do object to their being made upon the Report of two 1359 young civilians presided over by one Admiral. Furthermore, I must say this—you have a number of naval officers—able officers, who are now wasting their lives—retired at 50 on half-pay, and I say that you can obtain any number of these men who for a small increase of pay, and not in uniform, would make admirable civil supervisors of the Dockyards. But instead of using what we have on hand, we go and make three new offices like these, to satisfy the ambition of three young civilians; and that is what I say is really the meaning of this Report. I am sorry that I found myself bound to say what I think of the conduct of the late Board in this matter. There are one or two capable naval men who, I know, approve of these new appointments; but I have asked some whether they have read the evidence which was given before this Committee. They all replied that they had not; and, therefore, I have said to them—"Read that first." I also ask the Committee to read that evidence, and if they do they will find that what I have stated is not exaggerated and is not untrue.
§ MR. VANDERBYL (Portsmouth)
I must protest against the imputations of idleness contained in the Blue Book about Dockyard administration. I know that at Portsmouth the system of "crowing," to give notice to men that a superior officer is coming, has never been practised, and I know the men are indignant at the remarks made about them. The leading men of painters, three in number, have to superintend 189 men—that is, 63 men to each foreman—who have to go about and see that the men do their work properly, and only get 4d. per day more than the ordinary workmen, while other foremen get much higher wages. It is quite possible that a stranger may think that these foremen are idling when they are really superintending the work. There are many bonâ fide grievances existing in the Dockyards, and almost every class has its own special grievance. Most of the grievances arise from defective organization, which allows of an inequality of payment for similar services. All men dislike these invidious distinctions, and a Committee should be appointed to make equitable arrangements for all the Dockyards. The system of hired men should also be largely modified. 1360 Twenty years is far too long to be kept as a hired man, with the prospect of getting only one week's pay for every year after 20 years, and the Union in the distance. The hired man should be established after 10 years, and should get at least one month's bonus. At present he gets, after 20 years' service, only £36 bonus; and the established man, under the same conditions, gets £31 4s. annually. I hold in my hand a list of the men, 15 in number, who, during the past three years, have been unable to complete their 20 years' service on account of their age, and have, consequently, been discharged without receiving any bonus. That is a great hardship, as some of these men have actually been serving in the Dockyard for more than 18 years. The number of established men should be increased by reducing the time of hired men to 10 years to qualify them for being established.
§ CAPTAIN PRICE (Devonport)
I cannot help thinking that my hon. and gallant Friend below the Gangway (Admiral Field) has been a little hard upon the Committee which sat upon this question, and upon the Board of Admiralty which adopted their Report. For my part, I take it that these Gentlemen were appointed not to settle this question, but rather to take evidence, and especially in regard to these appointments. I do not say that I agree with everything that they have reported on this matter, and I am not at all sure that this is the best way in which the matter ought to have been carried out. The matter, however, is under trial; but I hope, at all events, that we are to look upon it as a tentative and experimental arrangement, and not as a permanent one. I think that the whole matter is very concisely put in an answer to a question put to Admiral Curme, who says that he does not agree on the whole with such appointments, and when he is asked why, says he thinks it would be very difficult to find the proper men. If, however, the proper men can be found, then he thinks the appointments might be very useful to the Admiral Superintendent; but he has much doubt as to the thing working well. Now, I think the whole pith of the question is in that. As to friction between the Admiral and the Civil Assistant, if you get a good man, a man of great tact and even 1361 temper, and if the Admiral is a man of similar mind and disposition, then there is no reason why they should not work very well together. At all events, as the appointments have now been made, we can try it for a year; and if it does not work well, there is no reason why we should continue it. I quite see what my hon. and gallant Friend says about appointing naval men as advisers; but surely there is the Captain of the Steam Reserve, whom the Admiral can consult if he wishes. Another thing I want to suggest is that frequent changes should not take place in the Admirals Superintendent. It seems absurd that when a man is just beginning to understand his business, because somebody else above him in the Service dies, he should be changed. If Admirals Superintendent could be appointed for a term of years, say five or seven years, I think it would be much better for the Service. In regard to that part of the Report as to idling in Dockyards, I am sorry that it dealt in that way with the subject. I do not think that it was done intentionally, or that the Committee intended to cast a slur upon the employés of the Dockyards; but what they said was cruel and unjust. I am sorry that they did not give more weight to the evidence of Mr. Barnes, whose evidence has already been alluded to by my hon. and learned Friend (Sir John Gorst). Mr. Barnes said—I should like to know where idling does not go on. I have been about in contract yards a good deal; was located in one three or four years. I have seen idling in the Dockyards, and I have seen idling in private establishments, and I think that the idling in both places is about the same; that is my opinion. There is no doubt that quality is peculiar to all workmen. You have only to look at the workmen employed at the Admiralty when any work is going on to see that it exists here; and I will defy any workmen to find worse in this respect than the workmen employed about the public buildings and about our own houses in London.So that it is evidently his opinion that there is no greater idling in Dockyards than there is anywhere else. I must say, for my own part, I believe that the so-called "idling" is compulsory, and only means that men are waiting to be put on a job, or, perhaps, waiting for something from the stores to enable them to go on with their work. Both the Members for Portsmouth (Sir Wil- 1362 liam Crossman and Mr. Vanderbyl) have alluded to the grievances of the various classes of workmen. When there is anything special in the subject I always bring it before the House; but I will not go into the general question to-night, as it is so late. The proper way to deal with these grievances is this—that in the autumn, when the Admiralty go through the Dockyards, they should make a point of seeing the men personally, inquiring into all their grievances, and of dealing with them. I will not ask my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Hibbert) if he will take that course, because I do not know if the result of the General Election will give him the opportunity of doing so this autumn; but I think the Committee will see that this is the best manner of dealing with these matters.
§ MR. RITCHIE (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
As my noble Friend (Lord George Hamilton) and I are responsible for these appointments, I should like to be allowed to make a few remarks. As to the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Devonport (Captain Price) in reference to the grievances and anomalies which undoubtedly exist in our Dockyards, as far as I was able when I had the honour of holding the Office of Secretary to the Admiralty, I did endeavour to give the complaints of the workmen as much personal attention as I could, and in the way which my hon. and gallant Friend thinks is desirable. I inquired when I went round in the autumn, and I made a special visit to Portsmouth, and received a large number of deputations from the men. I was at once struck with the large amount of justice which these men had in their complaints, and no one who knew anything of the matter could help being struck with the great number of anomalies which they complained of. It was my opinion, however, and it was an opinion which would have been acted upon if we had been in Office longer—it was my opinion that the only way in which they could be effectually dealt with was by appointing a thoroughly competent Committee to inquire into all these anomalies and see if something could not be done. It is undoubtedly the case that all the Petitions of the men are pressed upon every new Board; and I am afraid that they are always 1363 referred to the same gentleman to whom they have been referred before, and the Petitioners hear no more of them beyond what they had heard many times before. I do not think that that is satisfactory, and I think that the reference of them to a Committee is the only way to deal with them. In reference to the main question which we are now discussing—namely, the appointment of the Civil Assistants, I am afraid the hon. and gallant Member for the Eastbourne Division of Sussex (Admiral Field) seems rather to think that the Dockyards ought to be entirely entrusted to naval men, and that they ought, in fact, to be treated as a sort of refuge for retired naval men.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD
I did not say that the management should be in the hands of naval men, but that the supervision should be in the hands of naval men, also the appointments, as at present.
§ MR. RITCHIE
We do not think—we feel that it is impossible and it is not desirable—that Admirals should cease to be Superintendents of the Dockyards. We are convinced of the necessity of having them, and nothing would induce me to take any steps which I thought would have the effect of getting rid of them. On the contrary, I am as much impressed as anyone can be with the necessity of having Admirals at the head of the Dockyards, and I believe that what the late Board of Admiralty did greatly strengthened the position of the Admiral Superintendents. We believe that we helped them by giving them just the kind of assistance they required. The Admiral Superintendent is so taken up with routine work; he is confined to his office; he has a large amount of writing to do, that however much disposed he is to do so, I am satisfied that he cannot give to the manufacturing operation that attention which is required. With regard to the Committee to which reference has been made, its principal duty was to take evidence. The hon. and gallant Member for Devonport (Captain Price) has accurately described the duty of the Committee—namely, to take evidence. Well, considering that we had presiding over that Committee a gallant Admiral who thoroughly enjoyed the confidence of his brother officers—a very competent man—I do not think that we could 1364 have selected a better man. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Eastbourne Division of Sussex (Admiral Field) complained that we had not more naval men on the Committee. [Admiral FIELD: More constructors.] Well, we had to consider the main object of the Committee, which was to ascertain the amount of supervision which existed in the Yards—whether it was sufficient, and what were the causes of the very great delay in the execution of the work intrusted to the Dockyards at such enormous expense. Now, I may briefly tell the Committee how it happened that these gentlemen were entrusted with the additional powers with which they have been vested. The Committee will remember quite well that when we first went to the Admiralty there occurred some mistake in connection with the accounts of the Admiralty, and a Committee of this House investigated the matter and made a Report. My noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) appointed a Committee of the Admiralty to consider the Report of the House of Commons Committee. Over that Committee I presided, and in the course of our inquiry the question of the expenditure in the Dockyards also came up. Before the inquiry of that Committee came to an end, the Lords of the Admiralty made their usual visit to the Dockyards in the autumn. Both my noble Friend and myself were very greatly struck by the want of supervision in the Dockyards—a want which everyone now admits. Even the Gentlemen who complain of our appointments admit that there is a great want of supervision in the Dockyards; and I must say, while perfectly understanding the indignation which has been expressed by Members for Dockyard constituencies as to the charge of idleness, there can be no doubt that where there is a want of proper supervision there must be a great deal more idleness and neglect than where everything is properly attended to. I should be sorry to say a single word against the men who work in the Dockyards. I think it would be impossible to find more efficient men in any private Dockyard in the country than the country possesses in Her Majesty's Dockyards; but, as I have said, those who complain of the charge of idleness admit there 1365 is a want of supervision, and that want, I maintain, of itself begets idleness. No one going round the Dockyards could fail to see that there were a good many more men employed in a dock than could well get to the work. Over and over again I have seen half-a-dozen men employed in doing a piece of work which it was impossible for half-a-dozen men properly to get at. There were many other things which I saw in the Dockyards which led me to the belief that there was such a want of supervision and management as could not but be greatly detrimental to the Service. When we returned to our Office I expressed the belief to my noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) that it would be extremely desirable to make use of the Committee then sitting to collect some evidence at the Dockyards, with a view of ascertaining what the amount of supervision existing in the Dockyards really was. However much one may cavil—and I am not surprised that some do cavil—at some portions of the Report of the Committee, there can be no doubt that the evidence the Committee collected showed conclusively that there was a want of supervision and management which was very prejudicial to the Public Service. Hon. Gentlemen speak of the Report of the Committee as if it were upon it alone that the Lords of the Admiralty acted in making the re-organization which they did make. The Report of the Committee, and the evidence collected by the Committee, greatly assisted us; but that was by no means the only source of information which we had when we came to our conclusion as to the necessity for re-organization. Neither did we consider that the necessity for re-organization and the want of management and system were confined to the Dockyards. We were of opinion—conclusively of opinion—that the system in the Admiralty was not a system which was likely to obtain the best results in the Dockyards, and what did we do there? A gentleman has been referred to more than once as the Superintendent of the Dockyards at the Admiralty. I think it was my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chatham (Sir John Gorst) who, in speaking of Mr. Barnes, said that his special duty was to go about the Dockyards. That was a very natural conclusion for 1366 my hon. and learned Friend to arrive at; but, as a matter of fact, Mr. Barnes did not go about the Dockyards. I do not attribute the smallest blame to Mr. Barnes. He was a most indefatigable officer, and no one who has seen him at work at the Admiralty can doubt that his time was fully occupied in the duties he fulfilled at the Admiralty. But he was kept at the Admiralty to do work he ought never to have been called upon to do. He had an immense amount of clerical work, which was entirely foreign to the office he held. It was evident to us that it was a great evil that the gentleman at the Admiralty, who was the Superintendent of the Dockyards, had no time at his command to do the duty which devolved upon him primarily in my opinion—that is, to superintend the work in the Dockyards. Hon. Gentlemen well know that we endeavoured to look at this matter from a purely business-like point of view. What did we find? We found, undoubtedly, that complaints had been made, ever since the earliest period on record, of the great costs at which ships were turned out of Her Majesty's Dockyards, and of the great delays which took place in carrying out the designs. Having arrived at the conclusion that there was a great want of supervision both at the Admiralty and at the Dockyards, it was impossible for us to rest satisfied without endeavouring to remedy the evils we saw existing. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Eastbourne Division of Sussex (Admiral Field) thinks we acted in a great hurry upon the evidence placed before us. It may be we did act in a great hurry; but there have been so many Committees at the Admiralty, and so many inquiries which have resulted in nothing at all, that we were naturally extremely desirous that the inquiries we had made, and the experience we had gained, should be of some avail. I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that it was with a great deal of strain upon those who were responsible that quick action was taken. We felt it was our duty to act promptly—to act as if we really were business men dealing with a private undertaking of our own. We approached the matter from a purely business-like point of view. We saw that at the Admiralty there was no business man whose duty it was to 1367 keep a firm hold of the work at the Dockyards, and we appointed, as the hon. and gallant Member knows, a very eminent man, Professor Algar, as Director of Dockyards; and as far as possible our views and intentions were that while the Director of Dockyards should be an officer, tinder, to a certain extent, the Director of Naval Construction, he should be, to a large extent, independent and responsible to the Lords of the Admiralty. We desired, as far as possible, to draw a line between the designing of ships and the building of ships, endeavouring to throw responsibility upon the Constructor for the design of the ships, and responsibility upon the Director of the Dockyards, and those under him, for the building of the ships. We felt that our appointment would very likely lead to this very desirable result. I may say that previously the two Departments, being entirely in one hand, it did not always come to the knowledge of the Lords of the Admiralty when alterations were necessitated in consequence of deficient designs; delays ensued and expenses were incurred without the Lords of the Admiralty being cognizant of them. We felt that if there was a Director of Dockyards who should be made responsible for carrying out the designs, he would take care that if there was any reason to complain of the designs he obtained the question came before the Lords of the Admiralty. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chatham (Sir John Gorst) said that one of the main causes of the delays in building ships was the alteration in design. Very well, we thought that by the appointment we made and the change which we made at the Admiralty, if these alterations were to continue, and, as a consequence, expense and delay ensued, there would be much more chance of the alterations coming to the knowledge of the Lords of the Admiralty, and of these officials exercising more control over the matter than they had ever before been able to do. In addition to that, we felt that the appointment of a gentleman whose sole duty was to keep himself in constant touch with the building operations in the Dockyards was likely to lead to efficiency both in reference to expedition and also to economy. And what did we do in the Dockyards? We found, as I have said, that the Admiral Superin- 1368 tendents were so occupied with various necessary and important duties as to render it practically impossible for them to give that attention to manufacturing operations which they ought to have done, even supposing they had technical knowledge. But, apart from the want of time on their part, we felt that there ought to be a technical man under the Superintendent to take the management of a manufacturing establishment such as a Dockyard, some such man as is found in every private dockyard in the country, a man who thoroughly understood the work in hand, and who was capable and able to follow into all and every detail the whole manufacturing operations of the Yard. But while we felt that was desirable—and, indeed, we considered it necessary—we also felt that it was an essential thing that the gentleman placed in this position should feel that he was distinctly under the Admiral Superintendent of the Yard, and was put there not for the purpose of overriding the acts of the Superintendent, but for the purpose of rendering the Admiral Superintendent that amount of technical assistance which we felt the Admiral Superintendent was not in a position to exercise himself. I must say I cannot understand why the gallant officers of the Navy are so opposed, as they undoubtedly are, to such an appointment as that. I am not able to place myself in the position of an Admiral Superintendent; but I feel that if I were in that position there is no officer I would more welcome than an officer such as we have appointed. I know perfectly well there are some people who imagine that Admirals might very well cease to be Superintendents of Dockyards; but I do not think any gentleman who has any experience of what takes place in the Dockyards would for a moment hold such an opinion. If, however, there be any ground for such a belief on the part of gentlemen who, perhaps, do not know very accurately what Admiral Superintendents have to do, I say you are taking away from them that very ground by giving to the Admirals men who can assist them in conducting the technical manufacturing work. You are strengthening the position of the Admiral Superintendents by giving them men such as we have appointed in the three great manufacturing Dockyards of the coun- 1369 try. I am firmly of opinion that when the Admirals have had experience of the working of this system they will altogether change their views upon the subject, and find that they have got most valuable assistants in the technical assistants at the Dockyards. And, Sir, I am given to understand, from sources for which I have great respect, that the system is one which is working well. I understand that the gentlemen who have been appointed to the Dockyards are doing their work well, and that there is not that friction between them and the Superintendents which some might imagine would occur. I must say I should not have been surprised if there had been a little friction to begin with because of the feelings the Admiral Superintendents had on the subject. I am glad to think that things are going on very satisfactorily, and that those who succeeded us at the Admiralty have adopted to the utmost the plan of reform, both at the Admiralty and Dockyards, which we left behind us. I must thank my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Hibbert) for the extremely loyal manner in which he has been disposed to give the system we commenced a thoroughly good trial. Some criticisms were passed—I think by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leith (Mr. Jacks)—upon the form of the Estimates. The hon. Gentleman complained a good deal of being unable to understand the present form of the Estimates; but I think he must wilfully have shut his eyes to light. He took the Estimates which dealt with the two ships Camperdown and Edinburgh. He compared the cost, and, finding the ships very much of the same tonnage, he said—"Here is one ship costs a great deal more than the other, though they are similar ships. How do you account for that? It is evident the state of things both at the Admiralty and Dockyards is very defective, or else mistakes of this kind would not occur." Well, now, the hon. Gentleman really must have shut his eyes to light, because on that very portion of the Estimates to which he was referring the explanation is very clearly given, the explanation being that the Camperdown is a barbette ship and the Edinburgh a turret ship. This is distinctly shown on the page of the Estimates from which the hon. Gentleman has quoted.
§ MR. RITCHIE
Do I understand that the only contention of the hon. Gentleman is that the explanation which is given in page 174 is not repeated in another portion of the Estimates?
§ MR. RITCHIE
Surely if he had known that one was a barbette ship and the other a turret ship he would not have made the remarks he did as to the difference of cost. But I will not pursue the matter further. I think my right hon. Friend (Mr. Hibbert) will admit that the present form of Estimate is a great improvement upon the form of past years. We paid a great amount of attention to the form of Estimate which is now before the Committee, and we flattered ourselves we gave a great deal of information which had not been given before and gave it in a better form. And for the improvement in the form of the Estimates we have greatly to thank the officials at the Admiralty who have charge of these matters. I do not mean to say that the Estimates are perfect; nothing of the kind; in fact, already a great many points have occurred to me in which they might be considerably improved. I am sure my right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty will admit that experience may show that there may be many modifications and improvements which may be introduced in the Estimates in the future. I will not trouble the Committee further upon this matter; but I will conclude the remarks I have made, which I am afraid have been somewhat disjointed, by saying that from the point of view of the workmen in the Dockyards we feel that what we have done will be of great advantage. We are satisfied that the changes we have made will cause the work in the Dockyards to be turned out quicker and at a reduced cost. We have really done the greatest service we possibly could to the men employed in the Dockyards, because we know that there are constant outcries by various economists against the delays which arise in the Dockyards, though many of the statements are made without proper foundation and without any consideration of the many difficulties which have to be contended with in 1371 our Dockyards. I think it is not possible, under the very best management, for our Dockyards to compare favourably with the out-turn in the private yards of the country, as the duties to be performed in the Dockyards are so multifarious that it is quite impossible to draw accurate comparison. Private yards are generally engaged upon one kind of work—namely, building—whereas in Her Majesty's Dockyards there is, besides building, an immense amount of repairing and refitting. I am fully persuaded that no one in the Dockyards has more reason to be thankful for the changes we have made than the workmen for whom the hon. and gallant Gentlemen representing Dockyard constituencies have stood up so nobly. I feel satisfied that if this matter continues to be treated as it is being treated now, not as a matter of Party in any sense at all, but as one affecting the welfare of the country, the result of our efforts will be a distinct advantage to our Naval Services.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. HIBBERT) (Oldham)
I think that after the very full and clear way in which my hon. Friend (Mr. Ritchie) has dealt with the question raised by the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chatham (Sir John Gorst) the Committee will not expect or desire me to go into the question. I quite agree with every word which has fallen from my hon. Friend as to the object the late Government had in view in instituting the Committee to which reference has been made, and in carrying out the recommendations which the Committee from time to time made. I have said before that I consider they showed great courage in carrying out the recommendations of the Committee, because they had to make the changes at a time when there was a General Election in prospect. I think they deserve not only the thanks of naval men, but the thanks of the country, for having dealt so courageously, and, as I think, so ably with this question of Dockyard management. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chatham was hardly correct in saying that the evidence given before the Committee was almost entirely confined to the Portsmouth Dockyard; as a matter of fact, gentlemen from Chatham and Devonport were ex- 1372 amined. At the same time, we can easily understand the hon. and learned Gentleman's desire to rebut any aspersion upon the Dockyard men of general idleness. That there is a certain amount of idleness in the Dockyards no one can shut his eyes to. Those who have had most experience generally speak strongest upon this question; but, at the same time, because there is a certain number of their body who are idle, we have no right to accuse the whole of the workmen of idleness. I therefore wish in the fullest way to state that I am sure the Committee, in making the Report, and the late Government, in carrying out the recommendations of the Report, had no desire to cast an aspersion upon the whole of the workmen in the various Dockyards. On these grounds I sympathize with my hon. and learned Friend (Sir John Gorst); but, at the same time, we have a right, in carrying on the Dockyards of this country on behalf of the taxpayers and the public generally, to see that to the utmost extent we get a proper amount of work done for the money we expend. I do not think the country grudges the money expended on the Dockyards; certainly they would not grudge it so much if they knew that the money was properly spent on the works for which it is voted. I feel the late Government were perfectly right in taking the various steps they did take, and in making the different appointments to which reference has been made, for the purpose of improving the supervision of the work in the Dockyards. With respect to one appointment they made, that of the new Director of Dockyards, I can tell my hon. Friend (Mr. Ritchie) and the Committee that it is working in the most satisfactory way. Day after day I see the advantage of having a gentleman going about from one Dockyard to another supervising the matters with regard to which he has written his Minutes. Very great advantage has resulted from the appointment with respect to the repairs which are required to be done. There is no doubt that there has been great waste; but already the Director of Dockyards has, by the control he has been able to exercise, saved many thousands of pounds to the country. Well, then, with reference to the Civil Assistants, I am sorry that they should have been looked upon at 1373 all with anything like disfavour by the Admiral Superintendents. Of course, it is natural that when a new appointment is made it will be received with a little feeling of dislike; but I do not find that there has been any great friction between the Admiral Superintendents and the Civil Assistants. There may have been a little at first; but I believe as time goes on all the feeling of dislike to these officers will wear away, and that when fresh Superintendents are appointed they will find the Civil Assistants of the greatest use in giving them information upon various matters to be dealt with in the Dockyards. Undoubtedly the strongest argument in favour of the Civil Assistants is that they have technical knowledge, professional knowledge, which the Admiral Superintendents can scarcely have, and even if they have they are not able to exercise it. I feel quite certain that the system which has been set on foot by the appointment of these Civil Assistants will be of the greatest advantage—one productive of great economy in the Dockyards. I am able to inform the Committee that already, in one particular Dockyard and in one particular instance, the examinations the Civil Assistant made in regard to some repairs which were to be done on one of our ships were the means of a saving of at least £2,000. One saving has nearly paid the salaries of these three officers for one year. I believe that the appointments will lead to even greater usefulness and economy, and that in the end the Admiral Superintendents will look upon these gentlemen, who have been appointed to assist them in their work, with favour rather than with disfavour. Well, these are not the only improvements which have been carried out by the Committee which was appointed by my hon. Friend (Mr. Ritchie). There are still many improvements which are under consideration. There is now sitting a Committee composed of Dockyard officers, upon the question of General Dockyard Organization, and it is anticipated that much advantage will result from their labours. They will have brought under their notice the questions of the supply of materials, the supply of stores by the contractors, the custody of stores, the regulation of incidental expenditure, the simplification of accounts, and so on. These are all 1374 matters the careful consideration of which will, I believe, lead to great reforms in the Dockyards. Then there is the question, of which we have heard something to-night, of the employés in the Dockyards. No doubt there is at the present time great disadvantage in the mode in which the various classes of workmen in the Yards are paid, and also in the manner in which their salaries and wages are calculated. I believe it would be of great advantage—and the matter is now being considered at the Admiralty—if there were a system of classes adopted under which a workman would enter the Service in the lowest class at a certain rate of pay, and after a time, having shown himself an able and industrious workman, would be raised to a higher class at a higher wage. There should be a still higher class to which those men who show themselves most deserving in the matter of ability, diligence, and good conduct, might be raised. That would do away with the evils to which the hon. Gentleman the late Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Ritchie) called attention; and if some such plan as that is carried out it may not only have the effect of inciting the workmen in the Dockyards to give a very good day's work for the wage they receive, but of inspiring them with a spirit of emulation and desire to improve themselves, so as to rise from one class to another. I mention this to show that this question of the position of workmen in the Dockyards has not been lost sight of. I trust that before long the plan I have been referring to may be brought to maturity. Everyone must admit that it is desirable to have as few grievances as possible in the Dockyards. Grievances, of course, always will exist. They exist in private yards just as they exist in Her Majesty's Dockyards; but the fewer we have the better. I think the suggestion made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Puleston) and the late Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Ritchie) is a good one—namely, that when the Heads of the Admiralty visit the Dockyards they should always be ready to hear the grievances of the men employed in the Yards, and that they should not only do that, but make further inquiries into the subject whilst on the spot. I hope my hon. and learned Friend (Sir John Gorst) will be satisfied with the discussion which has 1375 taken place. I believe that before another year has gone over he will entertain a different opinion of the usefulness of those persons of whom he spoke. Let him give us, at least, a year to see if these officers really are of use.
§ MR. C. H. WILSON (Hull, W.)
In the absence of the Secretary to the Admiralty I do not know of whom to ask the question I desire to put. I may point out that in the Dockyard expenditure for contract work upon vessels there is a large amount of which some explanation ought to be given. There is an item for building two belted cruisers at Glasgow—£150,000; but it will be seen that the amount for similar work at Jarrow is different. [Mr. HIBBERT here returned to the Treasury Bench.] Perhaps the right hon. Member the Secretary to the Admiralty can give me some explanation of this Vote 10?
§ MR. HIBBERT
The question the hon. Member refers to does not come under the Vote we are now discussing.
§ MR. H. G. ALLEN (Pembroke, Haverfordwest)
Like other hon. Members who represent Dockyard constituencies, I have been requested to say a few words by way of objection to the Report of Admiral Graham's Committee. It is obvious that it may be said there is not much value to be attached to the objections made to the Report, inasmuch as such objections are made by the persons whose industry is impugned by the Report. But it seems to me that the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Sir John Gorst) has answered the statements made as to the idling of Dockyard men when he has described the great difference which exists with respect to the scattered nature of the work. It is very well known that in our Dockyards the shops and storehouses are all widely separated from each other, and that a great deal of time is necessarily lost in going backwards and forwards between these places and getting the articles required. That puts me in mind of a question that I was deputed to ask the Lords of the Admiralty when the noble Lord opposite (Lord George Hamilton) came to the Dockyard in which I am interested last summer. We asked him that we might have a new dry dock at Pembroke, the want of one causing us a great loss of money every year. Steamers at present have to go backwards and forwards be- 1376 tween the place where the work is carried on and the place where the stores are kept. Great expense, trouble, and loss of time is incurred through our not having proper Dockyard accommodation. We were deputed to represent to the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman who spoke just now—the Secretary to the Admiralty—the urgent need of this second dry dock. The noble Lord went very much into that matter. He received us with great courtesy, and listened to our representations with attention; but, in reply to our statements, he said he was afraid the dry dock we required would cost the expenditure of more money than the Treasury would be likely to sanction. It was suggested by the noble Lord himself that there was an intermediate course—that a jetty should be constructed which would serve some of the purposes, though not all, for which we desired the construction of the second dry dock. I wish to ask a question about this of the Secretary to the Admiralty. Since that time the Treasury have come to take even a more restricted view of the subject than, I presume, they did at the time of the noble Lord's visit. Though, no doubt, additional activity has been shown in various branches of the Department, still this great local want of which we spoke, and which the noble Lord admitted to our deputation, is unsupplied; and I am afraid that even the jetty which the noble Lord suggested to us as a sort of intermediate matter or compromise the Treasury might be induced to allow, is not to be given, or, at any rate, is for the time postponed. The want of a dry dock at Pembroke is recognised by all Local Authorities and those who visited the place who are competent to judge; and I trust that something may be done in this respect. I was requested to mention this matter by a large body of my constituents, who feel this want very much. There is another matter to which I wish briefly to allude—one that has been already referred to by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chatham (Sir John Gorst)—and that is the general feeling that a larger proportion of men should be put on the Establishment. It seems contrary to common sense that men should be kept in a state of probation for such long periods as 15, 16, and 18 years. I am told that in the days before metal was so largely intro- 1377 duced into the Dockyards as the material for ships, everyone was put on the Establishment after a short period of probation, and became entitled to a pension when retired. When, however, metal began to enter largely into the composition of ships of war, the system was altered. A large proportion of the men are not put on the Establishment, though the men in entering the Service are animated with the hope that they will ultimately get put upon it. It seems to me, as it has seemed to a great many persons conversant with public affairs, that to keep men, as it were, in a state of suspended animation with no immediate prospect of being put in the position of being able to earn a pension is not right. If two or three years' probation is not enough it should be made a longer period; but to keep for a lengthened period off the Establishment men who have proved themselves good workmen, punctual to their time, and attentive to their duties, and against whom there are no adverse marks, is a grievance of which they have a right to complain, and which the Government should lose no time in removing. I am told that at present no one gets on the Establishment under eight or nine years. It seems to me a greater prospect should be given to them of getting put upon it.
§ SIR JOHN COMMERELL (Southampton)
I quite agree with what many hon. Members say—namely, that there is an enormous amount of money spent in the Dockyards. The expense of building and repairing ships is very great; but there is one cause of the great expenditure which has not yet been touched on. I must say that I think one of the real causes of the great expenditure in our Dockyards is to be found in the Constructor's Department and the various Departments of the Admiralty. They do not appear to me at all times to know their own minds; and I do not think that in the present day, when the march of invention is so very rapid, that they can always know their own minds. I remember myself, years ago, fitting out the Monarch. I joined her six months before she was commissioned, and during that time the number of changes that were necessitated by inventions was very great. The consequence was that the expenditure on the ship was very much more than it would have been if she had been built in a private yard, because in 1378 a private yard she would have been completed according to the estimates and specifications. When we recollect that it takes three or four years to build a ship like the Colossus, and that during that period torpedo arrangements and gunnery arrangements are constantly changing, and that differences in stowage are brought about by alterations in shot and shell, we see how easy it is for an enormous expenditure to grow up. We will hope, however, that under the new plan lately inaugurated, by which Civil assistance is made available, the state of things will very materially alter for the better. I must say, for myself, that I was rather against the new plan, involving, as it did, the appointment of a Civil Assistant, and the placing an outsider between the Admiral Superintendent and the other officers of the Yard. The Civil Assistant must be very much junior to the Chief Constructor, and will in all probability be a younger man than the Chief Engineer; and it seems to me very likely that for some time there will be a considerable amount of prejudice against this new official. The Secretary to the Admiralty says that if the Admiral Superintendent and the Civil Assistant are men of tact and temper, the arrangement will turn out very well. I hope that may be so. I am afraid that one great cause of expense in our Dockyards is the mixing up of contract work with Government work. A vessel is built by contract in a private yard; she comes back to the Naval Dockyard to be fitted out, and what is the consequence? A great many of the arrangements that ought to have been finally settled are altered, and when the bill comes to be totalled, you find that you have incurred much greater expense than you ought to have done. I remember, when the Neptune and two other vessels were purchased and fitted out, a sum of money was spent on alterations which, in several instances, were alterations by no means for the better. I suppose that this kind of expenditure must go on; but I trust that, as time progresses, we shall arrive at a state of things in which we shall be enabled, when we order ships by contract, to make proper arrangements for accommodation and other things which will render it unnecessary for us to have to authorize such costly 1379 operations as are at present carried out. The late Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Ritchie) referred to a very estimable officer who it has been found necessary to displace in the reorganization of the Dockyards. Well, I have known this officer (Mr. Barnes) 30 years, and I am bound to say a more excellent Civil officer I never met with anywhere. There is no doubt he did not fulfil the duty originally intended for him, but that was not his fault. He was intended to superintend at the Dockyards, but he was kept at other work at the Admiralty; therefore I do not think any complaint should be made that he did not perform the work. He was not allowed to do it. I must say that, in the carrying out of the reorganization scheme, I look with great satisfaction upon the appointment of Inspector of Dockyards that has been made. I think it absolutely necessary that there should be a close connection between the Admiralty and the Dockyards. The new official should be kept at work reporting whatever he may see that is wrong, without, of course, casting reflection upon anyone, leaving that for the Controller. He should be in constant touch with the Admiralty. I only hope that his time will not be so occupied as to keep him from the duty of going round, visiting all parts of the Yard, and performing the work which it is so desirable he should perform.
§ SIR JOHN GORST (Chatham)
It is quite impossible to resist the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Hibbert), and I should be very unwilling, after the candid and conciliatory speech he has made, to put the Committee to the trouble of dividing on my Amendment, which I will therefore ask leave to withdraw.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD (Marylebone, E.)
I have placed upon the Paper a Motion relating to vessels of the Navy that from various causes cannot be made effective for fighting, which Motion I shall move as an Amendment to the present Vote. I wish my right hon. Friend to understand with regard to those vessels in the list which are abroad that I do not include them in the category of ships to be broken up until they have arrived home. Well, 1380 Sir; I take the first three vessels in the list; and here I may perhaps explain to those hon. Members who are not acquainted with the facts the difference between a gun-vessel and a gun-boat. The gun-vessel is of about 450 tons, with square yards, and the gun-boat is of about 220 tons, having square yards on the foremast only. The vessels in commission at home are the gun-vessel Avon, at Portsmouth, and two gunboats, the Cherub and the Orwell, which I say ought to be sold, broken up, or blown up when paid off. I now pass to Class No. 2, which includes vessels ordered home—namely, the Dido and the Tenedos. Now, it would cost the country £20,000 to repair each of these vessels, to put them in condition to hoist the pennant, and therefore I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to assure the Committee that they will be destroyed. There is also the gun-vessel Flirt, also ordered home; she is in a most rotten condition; I hope she will arrive home safely, and then after the pennant is hauled down that the right hon. Gentleman will add her to the list of vessels to be destroyed. I ask the Committee to pay particular attention to Class 3. These are vessels to be put in Reserve this year; they are in the Navy List, and when John Bull reads over that list he considers that he has so many ships ready for war serving with the pennant or in the Reserve. Now, Sir, of these ships to be ordered home and in the Reserve, I want the right hon. Gentleman to assure the Committee that he will break up or otherwise get rid of 40. Of the ships in the Reserve there is one frigate, the Newcastle; I do not know of what use she is; she cannot fight, and would cost the country £50,000 to repair, and therefore I hope she will be made away with. I now come to the 11 corvettes, one of which the late Board of Admiralty took it into their heads to repair at a cost of £30,000, and she is at the present moment a useless ship. Of the remaining 10 ships, the Blanche, Danœ, Druid, Eclipse, Encounter, Juno, Modeste, Thalia, Thetis, and Tourmaline, not one is worth repairing, and I again express with regard to them the hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give us an assurance that they will be at once distroyed. According to the calculations I have made it would cost the country, roughly, £30,000 for each of those ships to allow them to 1381 hoist the pennant. One of these ships I may mention is in commission; she is taking stores to Australia, and I certainly hope she will be destroyed on her return. Of the 16 gun-vessels on the paper three are fairly useful now, but would be of no use in time of war; these are in the the Reserve, and they are the Arab, Flamingo and Griffin; the remaining 13 are absolutely useless, and would cost the country in each case about £10,000, which would mean a further total of about £140,000, to bring them out of the Reserve and put them in a condition to hoist the pennant. I now come to the nine gun-vessels which are in the Reserve. Of these the Mosquito and Sheldrake are a little better than the rest; the remainder, however, are perfectly useless, and their repair would add a further sum of £60,000. Well, Sir, I give these facts because it is better to know the true state of the Navy. These ships in the Reserve would cost the country nearly £500,000 to put them in a condition to hoist the pennant and go to sea. Now, I contend that it is a most dangerous thing to send vessels to sea in war time in the state these ships are, because they would be sure to be taken, and every ship lost would cause a panic at home. Therefore I say that, in my judgment, the gun-vessels I have named in my list should be destroyed as soon as possible. The remaining 26 vessels in my list are all in commission, and are doing the police work of the seas, which I believe would be done a good deal better by a few smart steamers. Therefore I should like to see them sent home, because wars are declared very suddenly in these days, and they will be easily captured by whatever country we might go to war with. As a further argument in favour of the suggestion I now make, I point out that the money saved to the country will enable you to spend the £1,000,000 I asked for the other night on the building of cruisers, torpedo-vessels, and torpedo-boats, which are absolutely necessary for the efficiency of the Fleet. I will not detain the Committee much longer, having little more to say. It is always said that you have these small boats; truly, and so have other nations; but I want to point out that we have always had the worst class of small craft as compared with any other nation. We do not build our vessels quickly enough, or of sufficient speed. We 1382 ought to have the best that can be had in case war should be declared. I contend that it would be far better to get all these vessels home as quickly as possible and replace them with small steamers. I would rather see merchant steamers doing the police work of the seas, for they are, at any rate, fast enough to run away. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give an assurance that the 26 ships I have named will be broken or blown up when they come home, because, otherwise, I shall feel it my duty to divide the Committee on an Amendment for the reduction of this Vote. I also suggest that it would be a good thing for the ships in our Navy List to be classified. It is very confusing to anybody who does not know what classes are included in the list. We see 520 ships in the List, but we have only about 200 ships in the Reserve and in commission, and of these there are the 74 I have indicated which I hope will be very shortly disposed of.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £1,629,500, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expenses of the Dockyards and Naval Yards at Home and Abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1887."—(Lord Charles Beresford.)
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON (Middlesex, Ealing)
I think there is a great deal of common sense lying at the bottom of these remarks of the noble and gallant Lord. There has been a tendency in the past to keep on the Navy List a large number of vessels which are quite obsolete, and it is therefore misleading as to the fighting strength of the Navy, one of the consequences being that constant attempts are now made to repair vessels that never could be made efficient fighting ships; and in this way £40,000 was recently expended on a ship which never can be effective. The right hon. Gentleman will, I think, hardly be able to assent to the proposal for breaking up all the vessels referred to by the noble and gallant Lord; but still I think the noble and gallant Lord would be satisfied if certain things were done. He perhaps would be satisfied if the right hon. Gentleman, on behalf of the Board which he represents, would undertake that on obsolete vessels no money should be spent, and that those absolutely obsolete should be sold or placed in a class by themselves, so as not to add to 1383 the apparent effective strength of the Navy.
§ SIR THOMAS BRASSEY (Hastings)
I wish to support strongly the proposal of the noble and gallant Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford). It is most distressing to go down to the large Dockyards and see how money is expended on vessels which can be of no possible service to the country. The only remedy for this is to adopt the suggestion of the noble and gallant Lord and place upon our list a smaller number of effective vessels. Some of the vessels in question have, no doubt, been of value for training purposes, but the requirements of the Navy for training can be met by the construction of other vessels for that purpose. I trust the proposal of the noble and gallant Lord will be accepted by the Secretary to the Admiralty.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
Although I am unable altogether to agree with my noble and gallant Friend, I think he has done good service in bringing forward this question. I think there is a little disposition to overlook the fact that other nations have as poor vessels as we have, and it is perhaps better to have those to depend upon than none at all. Still I think many of these vessels may, with advantage, be got rid of, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will, as suggested by the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) consider this matter very carefully.
§ MR. PULESTON (Devonport)
I hope the principle advocated by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down will not be adopted, because, in my opinion, it is by no means better to have useless vessels than none at all—it would be very much to our disadvantage in time of war to have a number of useless vessels, because, as the noble and gallant Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) says, we not only lose the vessels but the men too, and create a panic at home. We have, by the present system, the worst of all ideas raised—that is to say, the idea of false security. For years, in this House, we have had discussions on Naval affairs, in which it has always been pointed out that we have so many vessels fit for service and otherwise. Directly £50,000, or so, is spent on repairing them they are put down as effective. But the 1384 noble and gallant Lord has shown that, however much money you may spend upon the ships he has named, they will still be unfit for the service of the country. Therefore, I agree with the noble and gallant Lord in thinking it better that we should apply the money which would be uselessly expended in repairing those vessels to the building of fast cruisers and ships that would give real strength, and not a false idea of security with regard to our Navy.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. HIBBERT) (Oldham)
I am glad to be able, to a very considerable extent, although not to the extent he has put upon the Paper, to meet the views of the noble and gallant Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford), who, I think, has done good service in calling attention to these classes of obsolete vessels. There is, however, one point on which I cannot agree with him, inasmuch as I should prefer the vessels in question being sold to being blown up or broken up. With respect to the first class with which the noble and gallant Lord deals—the Avon, Cherub, and Orwell—these vessels will doubtless be sold when paid off. Of the 37 vessels and ships which the noble and gallant Lord proposes should be destroyed immediately, it is already arranged to sell six—the Druid, Growler, Hart, Lynx, Pert, and Fly—pronounced by the Admiralty to be unfit for service (in the 4th class of the Reserve); 17—which will possibly be sold either this year or next—the Newcastle, Amethyst, Blanche, Modeste, Beacon, Bittern, Boxer, Cracker, Hornet, Kestrel, Rocket, Teazer, Thistle, Contest, Foam, Mosquito, and Sheldrake (in the 4th class of the Reserve); five—the Eclipse, Encounter, Juno, Thetis, and Arab—will not be brought forward again for service, but ordered to be used for harbour service, or sold; two—the Flamingo and Griffon—named in the programme for repair, but estimates of cost not having been received from Devonport, decision has not been given. The Tourmaline has just been repaired for four years' service. The next ship is the Danae; this vessel has been lent to the War Office, and we do not wish to disturb the arrangement that has been made with that Department. The Foxhound is under repair for Coastguard service; the Slaney is an iron river service gun-boat, one of a class 1385 of 12 vessels with regard to which there appears to be no reason for disposal. The Thalia and Britomart are in commission, but will not be again repaired for service; the Bullfrog, however, I would point out, was only launched in 1881. She is a composite gun-boat, and only commissioned in March, 1882, and there is, therefore, no reason why she should be put aside. There remain of this class, which the noble and gallant Lord proposed should be broken up or blown up on arrival home, and in no case repaired, three vessels—the Dido, Tenedos, and Flirt—which will doubtless be sold on arrival and paying off in England. Again, there are 26 vessels which the noble and gallant Lord proposes should be ordered home as soon as the exigencies of the Service admit of it and disposed of. Of these I am able to inform the noble and gallant Lord that the Philomel is already sold. But there are eight composite vessels launched since 1880 which it would be scarcely justifiable to condemn—the Ranger, Cockchafer, Espoir, Raven, Starling, Stork, Watchful, and Wrangler. Of the remaining 17 vessels the Condor, Frolic, Midge, Coquette, Cygnet, Forward, Goshawk, and Zephyr, will be relieved during 1886, while the Briton, Falcon, Ready, Rifleman, Woodlark, Firebrand, Mallard, Merlin, and Swinger, will be relieved on the expiration of their present commissions. These 17 vessels will not, in all probability, be repaired for sea service, and will be ordered home as the exigencies of the Service admit. Well, Sir, I think, looking at the whole of the circumstances, that I have met the noble and gallant Lord quite half way with regard to the disposal of the ships named in his Motion; and I may add that it is, of course, possible that we may arrive at the conclusion that other vessels may be treated in the same manner. We quite agree that it is particularly undesirable to spend any great amount in repairing these obsolete vessels, and if they are vessels of small speed so much less is to be said in favour of repairing them. Perhaps, then, the noble and gallant Lord will think he has made a good night's work, and will have some satisfaction from knowing that the vessels I have indicated will not come on again for repair.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD (Marylebone, E.)
I quite agree with 1386 the programme of the right hon. Gentleman so far as it goes, and will ask leave to withdraw my Motion. I had no idea that these vessels were intended to be got rid of in the way the right hon. Gentleman proposes, which I consider the best that can be done with them.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
I rise, Sir, to move the reduction of the Vote by the sum of £10,000, for the purpose of raising the question whether the construction of the two ironclads, the Nile and the Trafalgar, should not be suspended until a Committee of Designs, similar to the Committee of 1871, presided over by Lord Dufferin, shall have considered and reported as to the best type of large iron-clads for the Naval Service. My right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Hibbert), in his interesting and able speech on introducing the Navy Estimates for this year, referring to the iron-clads, the Nile and Trafalgar, which had been laid down shortly before the close of the last financial year, said that these were the largest iron-clads ever laid down in this or any other country; he might have added the most costly, for with their engines and equipments they will certainly cost a good deal over £1,000,000 sterling each—not far off £1,200,000 each. ["Oh!"] That is my calculation, when we take into account all the incidental expenditure of the Dockyard, cost of management, and so forth. Anyhow, I will be content to rest my argument upon the fact that they will cost over £1,000,000 sterling each. They will cost at least double the amount expended on first-class iron-clads, seven or eight years ago, double the cost of the Alexandra and Superb, and four or five times the sum expended on the Iron Duke. In describing these vessels, my right hon. Friend said he might safely say that these two iron-clads would probably be the last vessels of this large type that would ever be built in this or any other country. [Mr. HIBBERT: Larger.] I do not think that was in the report of his speech which I read—The last iron-clads of this large type that will ever be built in this or any other country.He is confirmed in this view by many 1387 other authorities. Admiral Sir Cooper Key, writing to The Times a few days ago in reference to these ships, said—I believe the time is approaching, indeed, is already arrived, when no more iron-clad ships will be laid down.During the last two years other Naval Powers of Europe have, with one exception, ceased to build ships with their sides protected with armour; and even the noble and gallant Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford), who is not moderate in his demands for naval construction, said, a few nights ago, that—He would not urge that the country should invest any more money in heavy iron-clads, because France had left off building any more—she had even left off building the two large iron-clads which had been begun.At the same time, there is a general concensus of opinion amongst naval men, and amongst men who are acquainted with the state of the Navy, that the chief want of the Navy at the present moment lies in fast vessels which are fit and proper for the protection of our commerce. The noble and gallant Lord (Lord Charles Beresford), in the speech to which I have referred, pointed out the urgent need of no less than 20 vessels of this class; and I may, perhaps, point out, without committing myself to the number mentioned by the noble and gallant Lord, or admitting that so many vessels of one type should be built, that no fewer than 20 vessels of 2,000 tons each, speeding at 20 knots an hour each, could be built at the cost of the two iron-clads which we are now called upon to provide for. The statement of my right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Hibbert) made a great impression on me when I read it, as I believe it did on many others. It seemed to me to raise at once the question whether it is really wise and necessary and prudent to expend such enormous sums in building vessels of this type; whether we are justified in rushing into these constructions when other nations have just come to the conclusion to discontinue such constructions, when the days of iron-clads seem to be numbered. I determined that if I were returned again to this House—at the time the statement of my right hon. Friend was made I was not a Member of the House—it would be the 1388 first question I would raise; and I have now to ask the Committee to consider this question. I shall endeavour to show that it is not necessary or prudent to expend these vast sums in building these iron-clads; and, secondly, that if the construction of two iron-clads be advisable, it wil lbe well to pause, as the designs of these two vessels have been condemned by all the scientific Constructors at the Admiralty, and by such high authorities as the late and present Chief Constructors. I approach this question with no prejudice against iron-clads. Though I have believed that the time would come when, like the knights of old, ships would cast off their armour and trust to speed and other qualities, yet I have always felt that we could not afford to be the first to do this. I have always recognized that, while France and other countries are building largely in this direction, and providing themselves with ironclads, it would not do for this country, having regard to our great interests in every part of the world, to lag behind. We must be prepared to meet other countries. I have felt also that such vessels cannot be improvised; and that, so long as we believe in them, we must provide them in advance. I have upheld this view when in Office at the Admiralty, and when out of Office. I have rather urged greater exertions in this direction than the reverse. When, in 1880, Lord Northbrook's Board was appointed, and I held the post of Secretary to the Admiralty, I pointed out to Lord Northbrook that the French Government were making very great exertions to replace their wooden vessels, which were all perishing, by new vessels; and I predicted that the country would be alarmed if we did not make more progress in the building of iron-clads. Lord Northbrook concurred in that view, and he set to work steadily and effectually to increase the building of iron-clads, and during the five years he was in Office he gradually raised the tonnage of iron-clads built in each year from something like 8,000 tons to 12,000 tons. The action of the French Government was somewhat the reverse. They continued the building of iron-clads at a great rate up to the year 1882, expending upon them large sums of money which were provided by loan, and not by the ordinary Votes for Naval Services. In 1389 1882 the French Admiralty ceased to pursue that policy; the French Legislature no longer agreed to advance money by way of loan, and the Admiralty had to fall back again upon the ordinary Estimates; and from 1882 the building of iron-clads has greatly fallen off, and is not to be at all compared with our own. In 1884, in spite of this reduction, there arose an alarm in this country on the subject of the French building, and in consequence of that, and in deference to public opinion, a large addition was made by Lord Northbrook's Board to the building of iron-clads. In that year they undertook to lay down no fewer than seven now iron-clads, of which five were to be belted cruisers, and two large vessels of the Admiral class. They laid down the five belted cruisers; they contracted for two vessels of the large type; and in 1885 my hon. Friend the then Secretary to the Admiralty—the Member for Hastings (Sir Thomas Brassey)—proposed to this House, on behalf of his Board, to lay down two more iron-clads. The following year the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton), then First Lord of the Admiralty, carried this policy still further, for he laid down four new iron-clads, two of which were belted cruisers, and two vessels of the larger type. I shall presently have something to say upon the type of vessel; meanwhile I have to raise the question whether the policy being pursued is a proper one. It will be seen that, during the last year and a-half, we have laid down no fewer than 11 iron-clads. [Lord GEORGE HAMILTON: They are not all iron-clads.] I venture to call them iron-clads because they have armour plates on their sides to protect them against shot; at all events, they rank against the second class of French iron-clads. During the period I have named we have laid down no fewer than 11 vessels, and the French have only laid down two. We have now 18 iron-clads in various stages of building in the Dockyards and by contract, including the two vessels the subject of my Motion. Now, I think the Committee will be surprised to hear that, while we have displayed such activity in the building of iron-clads, other countries, almost without exception, have come to an opposite conclusion. Germany has come to the deliberate conclusion not to build any more iron-clads. She has 1390 only one first class iron-clad completed and one building, and for four or five years she has practically abandoned the idea of increasing her Iron-Clad Fleet. She has, however, enormously developed her torpedo vessels, trusting to such vessels for the defence of her coasts. The same policy has been pursued by Austria, who has a small but powerful Navy; she has only one vessel building, and that not of the first class. Italy is, no doubt, building four or five large vessels, but they are not, strictly speaking, iron-clads. They are what we should call protected vessels; their vitals—their engines and their guns—are protected by heavy armour, but the main portion of their hulls are entirely unprotected, and they trust rather to their very great speed to bring them safely out of any combat in which they may become engaged. These vessels have a speed of 18 knots. I know that it is the opinion of able officers like Sir Cooper Key that, if the Italian vessels came to close quarters with our larger iron-clads, they could not stand, but must be destroyed. In the event of our coming into conflict with them, they will, no doubt, take advantage of their great speed. If these vessels are to be taken into account at all, it is certain that we have nothing to cope with them; because neither our existing iron-clads, nor those proposed to be laid down, have anything like a speed of 18 knots. For my part, I do not think it is at all necessary to take these Italian vessels into account. They were built for a special purpose—for the special protection of the Coast of Italy—and I do not think we shall ever find ourselves in conflict with Italy. Then, the United States have for some time past given up all idea of building iron-clads. I think that, at the present moment, they are building some fast cruisers. They have seven powerful Monitors on the stocks; but for the last seven or eight years they have not made any additions to their building. Then, again, Russia has only one iron-clad of the first class, the Peter the Great. She has three ironclads building in the Black Sea, and three iron-clads, not of the first class, building in the Baltic. But Russia has one-half of her Navy boxed up in the Black Sea, and the other half in the Baltic; and, therefore, I do not think we need take very much alarm from her. 1391 Practically, we have only to consider France in the matter of iron-clads. Apart from France, it is absolutely certain that we need not count a single iron-clad. The iron-clads of the first class belonging to other countries are so few that, if we have a reasonable superiority over France, it is certain that we could cope with any possible combination. What, then, is the present position of France with respect to iron-clads? A great change has come over her policy. While we have been increasing enormously our building, France has been reducing hers. We have, as I have already said, laid down 11 vessels during the last two years, and France has laid down two only, and these two—the Brennus and the Charles Martel—which were in their programme two years ago, they have recently suspended, after something like £60,000 had been spent upon them. The determination of the Government was announced in the following communique to the Press:—Orders have been given to suspend all work on the Brennus and Charles Martel, upon which some money has been expended, and which are in the programme for the year 1886. Rather than undertake new largo ships, we shall do well to finish those that are building and completing until experience shall have shown that it is necessary to construct ships of larger dimensions, and until we know what types are necessary for our Fleet.[Lord GEORGE HAMILTON: What is the date of that?] I cannot give the exact date; but it appeared within the last few weeks. Now, that is really the present policy of the French Government—namely, to complete the vessels on which a considerable amount of work has already been expended, and to suspend the building of the vessels which have been most lately laid down, and that is a policy which I venture to ask the Committee to pursue as regards the Nile and the Trafalgar. I ask the Committee to do so on the ground that it will be better to complete the enormous iron-clads we have on the stocks, and on which considerable sums have already been expended, and to see what experience teaches us before constructing two such Costly ships as the Nile and Trafalgar. We have often emulated France in the building and laying down of iron-clads; would it not be well to emulate her in the suspension of operations upon vessels of this expensive character? It may be said, however, that, 1392 apart from the vessels we have now under construction, we have not that superiority over existing vessels which we ought to have. I know nothing so difficult to arrive at as a perfectly fair comparison of the Fleets of the two countries. Each country has a long list of lame ducks—of obsolete vessels, of costly failures—which must be eliminated. By presuming everything against ours and everything in favour of the French vessels, by not meting out the same measure to both countries, it is quite possible for the alarmists to arrive at any result they like. A certain number of the French ships have this peculiarity in the opinion of alarmists here—they may be reckoned either as first-class ships or as second-class ships. When it is desired to press the Government here to renewed exertions in the building of big vessels, these French ships are included in the list of first-class vessels; and when, on the other hand, it is desired to advance the building of second-class ships or belted cruisers, these French ships are included in the second-class. It was by some such process that Admiral Hood recently maintained in The Times that in ships built and building of the first-class the French are on an equality with ourselves. There never was a more misleading statement. The most authoritative comparison we have is one produced by Lord Northbrook and my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Sir Thomas Brassey) in 1884, when they were asking Parliament to authorize a very large increase of expenditure on the Navy, and when they could have no motive for giving too favourable a version of our comparative strength. Lord Northbrook stated then that he had asked his Naval Colleagues at the Board of Admiralty to go through the list of French and English iron-clads, and without reference to any arbitrary classification of ships into first, second, or third class, to see what the general comparison between the ships was, making every allowance in favour of the French vessels, and every allowance against our vessels, and therefore making the comparison as favourable as possible to the French, and as unfavourable as possible to us. The comparison was made with this result—that of modern vessels this country has 30 with a tonnage of 210,000, and France 19 with a tonnage 1393 of 127,000, and of quasi-obsolete vessels this country has 16 with a tonnage of 116,000, and France 12 with a tonnage of 52,000, making a total of 46 English ships and 326,000 tons, and 31 French ships and 180,000 tons. Since then several vessels have been completed and many more been commenced. Taking these into account, and speaking only of the modern ships, and excluding the quasi-obsolete vessels, this country has built and building, excluding the Nile and Trafalgar, 51 vessels with 358,000 tons, and France 32 vessels with 238,000 tons, and these will all be complete within three years. There is, however, to be remembered, with reference to the French vessels, that eight of the vessels included in the list are wooden vessels of which it is well known that 16 years is the limit of their existence. Some of these vessels have already exceeded this age, others are approaching it, and in three years' time they will all have dropped out. A deduction, therefore, should be made of six vessels and 49,000 tons; and the figures will then be 51 English vessels with 358,000 tons, and 26 French vessels with 189,000 tons, ora proportion of nearly two to one. I am prepared, then, to contend that at present the fair relative strength of the English to the French iron-clads is that of three to two, and at the end of three or four years, when the vessels building are complete, and when time shall have worked its inevitable effect on wooden vessels, the proportion will be two to one. This, I venture to say, is a far higher proportion than at any time in the past history of the two countries except just at the conclusion of the Great War. It will be found that, as a rule, the French have endeavoured to maintain a proportion of two to three. I hold, then, that, apart from the Nile and Trafalgar, our present and future supremacy in iron-clads is well assured, not only over France, but over all other vessels which could be brought against us. I have, therefore, come to the conclusion that the building of the two iron-clads, the Nile and the Trafalgar, is at the present moment quite unnecessary, especially in view of the fact that the French Government have suspended the building of two vessels of somewhat similar type, although possibly not quite so large. I ask the Committee to come to the conclusion that we may, having regard to 1394 the present condition of our iron-clads, very safely suspend the building of these two vessels, at all events, so long as the French suspend the building of their two vessels. I have now to deal with another part of the case—namely, the type or design of the two iron-clads I refer to. It was the policy of Lord Northbrook, steadily pursued during the five years of his tenure of Office, not to increase the size of the iron-clads he laid down, but to keep them within moderate dimensions, believing that numbers are of more importance than size. That was the policy he announced, and I have no doubt it was the policy which he would have carried out had he remained in Office. The late Secretary to the Admiralty (Sir Thomas Brassey) did not mention what the type of the vessels which he proposed to lay down in the Dockyards would be; but I have very little doubt that, in pursuance of the policy which I speak of, the two iron-clads, the Nile and Trafalgar, would have been vessels of moderate size. Lord Northbrook's Board had not actually laid down the two vessels in 1885 when they went out of Office. The noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) came in as First Lord of the Admiralty, and had to decide the question what vessels should be laid down. It appears, if I am rightly informed, that within a very few days of the noble Lord coming into Office the Board over which he presided laid down the conditions under which the designs were to be made for these two new iron-clads, and those vessels involved two vessels of very much larger type than any built before. They were to be vessels of 11,400 tons each, 1,400 tons larger than any vessel previously built, and instructions were given to the Constructor's Department to prepare designs for such vessels, the speed, the armour plates, and the various other conditions being assigned to them by the Admiralty Board. The designs were prepared by the Constructor's Department; but I am positively assured on authority I cannot doubt that in laying the designs thus ordered before the Board the late Chief Constructor, Sir Nathaniel Barnaby, on behalf of himself and all the other Constructors of the Admiralty, protested in the strongest terms against them. I asked a Question on the point a few nights ago, and my right hon. Friend 1395 the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Hibbert) answered me in an official manner with which I am very well acquainted. I am too old a Parliamentary hand not to know how to read between lines, and I very well understand that it was not convenient to admit the accuracy of my information. In the absence of a specific denial on the part of the present or late Board, I must ask the Committee to accept as a fact that the whole of the Constructors of the Admiralty expressed an adverse opinion as regards the designs of these two vessels, and that later both the late and the present Chief Constructors of the Admiralty reported against the designs, repudiated responsibility for them, and asked that a Committee on Designs, similar to that of 1871, presided over by Lord Dufferin, might be appointed to consider what should be the types of the newest vessels of war. I believe that the several objections raised to these vessels are in this direction—that with a greatly augmented size there is no advance in essential qualities. The whole of the increase has been devoted to accumulating armour on the sides of the vessel, and for that other much more important qualities have been sacrificed. It is, I believe, the opinion of the Constructors, past and present, that with regard to their great increase of size, it would have been better to have devoted it to increasing the speed. It would have been possible to obtain a speed of no less than 18 knots without sacrificing other qualities of an important character, whereas these vessels will have a speed of only 16½ knots—considerably less than that of the Italian vessels to which I have alluded. They will only carry 68-ton guns also, instead of 100-ton guns with which the Italians are armed; while the guns themselves will be only 12 feet from the level of the water instead of 22 feet. There are other points upon which the Constructors objected to these vessels—points which have been sacrificed in favour of an enormous amount of armour plate. The real fact is, that this is a matter of controversy between the naval officers of the Admiralty on the one side, and the Scientific Department on the other. I will not say which is right; but when we are going to spend £2,000,000 on two vessels of this enormous size, it seems to me an important matter that 1396 these differences of opinion should be considered. It appears to me, therefore, that the wise course for the Government to take, and for this Committee to recommend them to take, is that the building of these two vessels should be suspended for a time, and the question as to the proper type of large war vessels for the future should be referred back again to a Committee on Designs similar to that which sat in 1871. The Committee will recollect the Committee of 1871, which was presided over by Lord Dufferin. It did very valuable service, and its Reports were of very great value to the Admiralty in regard to the vessels which were afterwards laid down. It appears to me that we have reached a time when it is right and proper to make a new departure. The French may be right that the days of iron-clads are numbered, and that we ought not to lay down any more; and, on the other hand, it may be right that we should follow the Italians in laying down vessels of very great speed, protected only in their vital parts. But, at all events, we have reached a point at which it is possible to make a new departure, and before proceeding further with these costly vessels, the true value of which it is not possible accurately to determine, and which may be blown up by a single torpedo. [Cries of "No!"] Well, I have never heard it doubted that a torpedo might blow a hole in an iron-clad so that it must go to the bottom—at all events, that is the common belief amongst a great many people who are acquainted with the subject. But, however that may be, I submit that it is most desirable that we should have the very highest and best advice on the subject. We should, on the one hand, have the best constructive and scientific advice; and, on the other hand, the opinions of naval officers should also be fully considered. There is a difference even amongst naval officers as to the merits of such huge iron-clads. I know that naval officers like Sir Cooper Key are of opinion that it is not desirable to build iron-clads of such gigantic size; while, on the other hand, we have men like Admiral Hood who take an entirely different view. What I ask of the Committee to-night, therefore, is to suspend the building of these two vessels for the present, and refer the question once more to a Committee on Designs, 1397 like that which sat in 1871; and although a certain amount of money has been already expended, it seems to me that the course I recommend may be adopted without any economic disadvantage. On the contrary, I believe it will be better to apply the money which it is proposed to spend in the present year on the Nile and the Trafalgar, in hastening on the other iron-clads building in the Dockyards; and if any money is left over it might be spent in laying down some fast cruisers, such as have been recommended by the noble and gallant Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford). In the meantime, it will be possible for the Committee to consider and report upon what the type of war vessel of the future should be. All I have to do, in conclusion, is to ask the Committee to suspend operations on these two vessels, and to follow the action of the French. For my own part, I have no prejudice on the subject of iron-clads; but when we are called upon to spend these enormous sums upon a few vessels, I think the Committee will do well not to embark on them without having first secured the very best advice that can be obtained. I merely move the reduction of the Vote with a view of raising this very important question.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £1,719,500, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expenses of the Dockyards and Naval Yards at Home and Abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1887."—(Mr. Shaw Lefevre.)
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON (Middlesex, Ealing)
The right hon. Gentleman, who has just addressed the Committee at some length upon the question of the building and design of these two iron-clads has been misled, and if the Committee will give me their kind attention for a few minutes I will show that the right hon. Gentleman's statements are not correct. The right hon. Gentleman grounds his objection to these two iron-clads, first, on the belief that they were an addition to the programme of Lord Northbrook made by me; and, secondly, that these are in excess of the size of any Lord Northbrook contemplated building; and, lastly, that they will be the last of this class. That last sentence can be easily explained. I believe that, as has been said, 1398 the Nile and Trafalgar will be the last of that class if the House of Commons places the Government in possession of funds to complete them, not for the reasons put forward by the right hon. Gentleman, but because foreign nations will not attempt to compete with us if they see we are determined not to be outstripped; but if, on the other hand, we adopt the policy of laying down ships inferior in speed and size, and deficient in offensive and defensive power, then foreign nations will attempt to counteract the advantages which you have in the number of vessels by concentrating more power in a limited number of vessels. I wish to point out that the building of the Nile and Trafalgar forms part of a contract or undertaking into which the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a Minister entered into with the House of Commons. About 18 months ago, it will be remembered, there was a widespread feeling that our Navy was not of sufficient strength; and the Government of that day therefore changed their tactics as far as their Naval Expenditure was concerned. I believe I am correct in saying that so strong was the feeling that had the Government not come forward with a demand for money to strengthen the Navy, and if they had not made a large increase in their Navy Estimates, in all probability they would have been turned out of Office by a hostile vote. Now, what was the understanding? The understanding was that there should be a large increase in the number of ships to be built by contract and in the Dockyards, and it was stated by the Representative of the Board of Admiralty that it was the intention of the Government of that day to build four first-class iron-clads. The Nile and the Trafalgar are two of the four; and, therefore, so far from being iron-clads promoted by the late Board, they are part of the programme which the late Board inherited from its Predecessor in Office. Now I come to the second point. As regards their size, the right hon. Gentleman says that if Lord Northbrook had remained in Office these iron-clads would have been much smaller. Now, the first thing I, as First Lord of the Admiralty in the Marquess of Salisbury's Administration, did on coming into Office was to have placed before me all the documents and figures in 1399 possession of the former Secretary to the Admiralty when he made his speech in moving the Navy Estimates. At that time there was a strong attack made on the Board of Admiralty for laying down ships which in tonnage and speed were inferior to the ships of the French Navy. In moving the Navy Estimates last year the hon. Member for Hastings (Sir Thomas Brassey) said that a comparison between the ships then building or included in the programme of the two countries, England and France, showed an excess of 1,000 tons on the part of England against France. Well, now, Sir, how did the late Secretary to the Admiralty arrive at the conclusion that the average tonnage was 1,000 in excess of that laid down in the French Dockyards? Why, it was by including these four iron-clads, of an estimated tonnage of 10,500 in two instances, and 12,000 in the remaining cases. Lord Northbrook's Board of Admiralty were prepared to lay down larger iron-clads; and the late Board of Admiralty followed in their footsteps by making them of the dimensions proposed. And what is the reason for these iron-clads being so large? I do not wish to go into the relative strength of the English and French Navies; but every student of the subject knows that the French have two iron-clads afloat that are more powerful than any two of ours, and they have four others building in their Dockyards, every one of which is heavier than any iron-clad that we have laid down for several years past. Therefore, we have to consider what the position of this country would be if, unfortunately, we should come into collision with France. No one will convince me that if a war should break out, and we were at war with France, we should not find a difficulty in maintaining our supremacy on the seas if the French could concentrate a squadron of iron-clads, every one of which was more powerful than anything we have afloat. That is the reason why the late Board of Admiralty determined to lay down these four large iron-clads. Now as to the type. There have been many discussions as to how far armour should extend in modern iron-clads. Sir Nathaniel Barnaby always maintained that we should curtail it. Well, but these ships were designed before rapid firing and machine guns were in vogue; and if Sir Nathaniel 1400 Barnaby had known that there would be such a development in that class of guns, he would not have left so large a portion of the Admiral class of ships unprotected by armour. The Navy, as a rule, is opposed to this reducing of the armour. I do not say that their opinion should be supreme; but I think that anybody who is at the Board of Admiralty ought to take into consideration the opinion of the men who have to man and to fight these ships. There is one type of iron-clad which has given almost universal satisfaction to all the officers who have been on board and have had the command of her, and that is the Dreadnought. The right hon. Gentleman wishes the House to assent to the appointment of a Committee like that which inquired into the design of the Inflexible, and which sat about 18 months. The result was that they were obliged to alter considerably the design of the Inflexible, and she has been the most costly vessel ever built by the British Government, through the alterations of her design. I am convinced, with many officers of all ranks, that we have a better type than that of the Inflexible; and the late Board determined to adopt the type of ship which had given the most satisfaction to the Navy, and which was deemed to be the most effective sea-going iron-clad. Now, suppose it be necessary to stop the building of iron-clads that have been laid down—and I would deprecate any such course—I would suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should direct his attention to the Renown and Sanspareil. Therefore, if we are in such a pecuniary position that we cannot afford all the iron-clads which the right hon. Gentleman and the preceding Government undertook to lay down, let us as fast as possible complete those which it is admitted on all hands will be the most powerful we ever possessed. I know that Sir Nathaniel Barnaby did not altogether approve of the design of these vessels; but that gentleman is hardly unbiassed on this subject, for he advocates shortened armour vessels and the concentration of armour in a limited area. But he informed me and the late Board that if those two vessels are built they will be the most powerful iron-clads afloat; and if so hostile a critic admits that to be the case, it may safely be concluded that there is not much defect in their design. I will not go into any 1401 minute analysis in regard to the Navies of foreign nations; but I think the Committee will agree with me that he must be a bold man who would attack Admiral Hood's figures as to what foreign countries are doing. No man alive has so technical and minute a knowledge of what foreign countries are doing as Admiral Hood. I hope the Government will not assent to the proposal made by the right hon. Gentleman. The cost of these vessels, no doubt, is great, but not nearly so great as the right hon. Gentleman has stated. The cost is estimated to be £800,000, and I have an estimate made at the time when I was First Lord of the Admiralty of what the cost per ton of these vessels would be. The Renown and Sanspareil would cost £70 per ton, the Nile and Trafalgar £74 per ton, and I believe that everyone who has looked into the relative strength of the vessels will not object to the small increase which these figures show. I hope, therefore, that the Secretary to the Admiralty will not acquiese in the Motion which has been made. One of the great complaints against the Board of Admiralty for years past has been the delay in completing the vessels that were laid down. The Board of Admiralty have most loyally acquiesed in the joint programme of the two preceding Boards, and are giving effect to it as rapidly as possible; and under the circumstances, if we believe that the completion of these two vessels will put an end to the costly competition between nations in building these large iron-clads, and will put us in possession of two of the most powerful iron-clads ever built, then I trust the House will not listen for one moment to the kind of ad captandum address to which we have just listened.
§ SIR THOMAS BRASSEY (Hastings)
I should like to be permitted to address to the Committee a few remarks on behalf of the Board of Admiralty which I had the honour to be connected with when we were called upon in 1884, in response to a strong public demand, to add to the strength of the Navy. Our view was that we should endeavour to strengthen it in all its parts—that is to say, for the defence of commerce, in its torpedo flotilla, and for the line of battle. For the defence of commerce we proprosed better cruisers; for the torpedo flotilla we proposed large seafaring vessels of the Scout class, and for the 1402 line of battle we proposed iron-clads. The view of our Naval Advisers was that the ships for the line of battle should be designed in contemplation of the continued use of the gun as the principal naval weapon. Against the gun the only effective defence which had as yet been proposed consisted of armour in whatever form it might be proposed. For this reason we thought it our duty to build four iron-clads for the line of battle, and I believe these vessels are necessary to put this country in a proper position of advantage with reference to other countries. Having gained that position of advantage by the construction of these vessels, we might very prudently pause and watch the development of the shipbuilding policy of other countries before we decided to build additional iron-clads. With reference to the types. The types of these two vessels were recommended to the Board over which the noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton) presided by his Naval Advisers. I will refrain from criticizing the designs, but I admit that in the Board over which Lord Northbrook presided there was a strong desire not to go beyond the limit of 8,000 tons in the dimensions of our ships. I accept the advice given to the late Board as advice which should command the confidence of the House and the country. In France there is a general consensus of opinion against the contraction of iron-clads. No doubt, the present Minister of Marine in France is a strong advocate of the substitution of torpedo vessels for iron-clads; but, so far as I am advised, I believe that opinion in France is far from unanimous on this point. To rely upon more torpedo-boats as antagonists to iron-clads and as vessels to cruise npon the high seas is a policy which is not generally accepted by the great body of naval men in France. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) has referred to the defence of our commerce as a matter of special urgency. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman; but unless we have a decided superiority in iron-clads we may find that the enemy has gained the command of the Channel, and is in the position to bar the entrance to our great commercial ports. I hold, Sir, that it is wise that these vessels, which are now considerably advanced, should be com- 1403 pleted; but the question of any further construction of iron-clads must be determined with reference to the progress of naval warfare as it may be developed in future years.
§ CAPTAIN PRICE (Devonport)
I hope the Committee will not consent to the Motion before it. I am bound to say that I have, and always have had, a certain amount of sympathy with the doctrine that has been laid down by the hon. Member. I am of opinion that if the state of the Fleets of other countries would admit of it, it would be far better to have a large number of moderate sized iron-clads than a small number of very large ones. But I think the whole argument rests on the premises that the hon. Gentleman himself laid down. What did he say? He said that whilst other countries are building these large iron-clads, we should not lag behind; and he quoted Admiral Sir Cooper Key as a witness on his side. To my mind this Admiral is by no means a witness on his side. In the letter he wrote to The Times the other day, he said he was in favour of building moderate sized iron-clads, and that he hoped these large iron-clads would be the last. But what did he also say? He said that so long as other countries continue to build these large ships, it is imperative that we should do the same. And he used these remarkable words, that I have not forgotten—If we are to run this race, let us be sure that we do not discontiue it until we feel sure that we have won it.Now, the hon. Member referred to the Fleets of other countries, and mentioned as an argument in favour of discontinuing the building of large ships that France is doing so. But what is the reason that France has temporarily discontinued the building of large iron-clad ships? It is because she has now caught us up in our iron-clad shipbuilding policy. She can now afford to wait. France has made great progress in the building of iron-clads during the past few years. She obtained large loans for the building of iron-clads, and having used the money and built these iron-clads, and so put herself on a footing of equality with the Fleet of this country, she has now discontinued for the present the building of such vessels. He spoke of the two large iron-clads, the Charles Martel and the 1404 Brennus, the building of which the French had suspended. It is true that the work of construction in the case of these ships is suspended; but they are designed, and they can be taken up and proceeded with at any moment. We must not forget that France, having laid down the principle of obtaining money by loan for shipbuilding, can always revert to that policy. This will be a most useful precedent to her. She can always revert to loans for the increasing of her Armour-Clad Fleet. That is a policy which we at present have not pursued. We trust to the Expenditure of the year for the building of these vessels. Then we talk of Russia. I wonder if the hon. Gentleman read the article in The Times of to-day about the Iron-Clad Fleet of Russia. I do not know whether we can rely upon it; but the article was written by a Correspondent who has been in Russia for a long time, and has been studying the matter. He tells us that Russia intends to lay down 11 first-class, and four or five second-class, iron-clads in the Black Sea, and eight first-class iron-clads in the Baltic. I do not pretend to say that that programme will be entirely carried out; but if Russia resolves to go on with it, it will necessarily result in adding very much to the naval force of that country. Then the hon. Gentleman used another argument. He said that Sir Nathaniel Barnaby had expressed himself against the designs of the Nile and Trafalgar. But he did not tell us on what grounds that officer objected to the designs. Were his objections objections of detail? One thing he did tell us was that Sir Nathaniel Barnaby objected to these vessels "because they are not adequated." Does he mean because they are not large enough? If so, we must go on building still larger ships; and I believe Sir Nathaniel Barnaby and others of the Constructive Department have gone as far as to say that if we were to have ships built as naval officers would have them built—that is to say, ships capable of doing everything which can be expected of them by naval officers—we must have iron-clads not merely of 11,000 tons, but of 22,500 tons burden. So that I do not think the hon. Member could put Sir Nathaniel Barnaby, or any of the Constructors of the Admiralty, into the witness-box on his side. As to 1405 having a Committee to investigate this matter, I do not think it necessary to appoint one. The whole question has been well considered at the Admiralty, not only by the Board of which the Earl of Northbrook was the Head, but by the succeeding Board, over which the noble Lord opposite (Lord George Hamilton) presided. The plans have been approved, and will be carried out by the Government now in Office.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. HIBBERT)
I rise to give a decided opposition to the Motion for many reasons. No doubt, my right hon. Friend has a desire to save the pockets of the taxpayers of the country, and in that I sympathize with him; but, at the same time, I am decidedly opposed, and the Board of Admiralty are decidedly opposed, to any system of blowing hot and cold at the Admiralty. Plans have been adopted, not by one, but by two Governments, and now that the recommendations of these two different Governments are being carried out it is said that we should hold our hands and put a stop to the building of these two iron-clads that have been decided upon. This is just one of those things in which we have so often made mistakes in past times. There ought to be at the Admiralty, more than in any other Department of the Public Service, strict continuity. Whether you have one Party in Office or another, you ought to have a system which will enable you to carry on the plans which have been adopted by previous Governments. These two vessels were not decided upon without grave consideration. There is no doubt that Lord Northbrook did intend to build two large iron-clads. He stated, in making his speech in the House of Lords, that he proposed to give four additional iron-clads to the Navy. Well, two of these iron-clads were to be built by contract, and two were to be built in our Dockyards. The designs for these two iron-clads to be built in our Dockyards did not appear to have been completed or decided upon before the change of Government. I think, however, the hon. Gentleman the late Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Ritchie) stated in this House that it was intended to build four iron-clads. Therefore, I say it was proposed by the two Governments—both the late and the preceding Government—to go on with the building of these 1406 two iron-clads in our Dockyards. But though the late Government approved of the designs for the building of these two large iron-clads, we are told that Sir Nathaniel Barnaby, the late Chief Constructor, and the present Chief Constructor, Mr. White, both made protests against these two vessels. I believe theirs was not so much a protest as a criticism upon the two vessels. The Memorandum may have amounted to a protest—I cannot positively say that it did not, because I did not see it—but I am informed by the present Chief Constructor, and I think it only right and fair that his opinion should be made known to the Committee, that the Memorandum he signed contained no opinion as to the continuance of armour-clad construction. He tells me—While I strongly felt the desirability of a thorough and careful inquiry into this question before large armoured ships were begun, I am strongly of opinion that, having begun them, there should be no stoppage of the work.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
I rise to Order. I wish to ask if the right hon. Member is allowed to quote a Memorandum——
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
Then, a private letter written by Mr. White on his previous Memorandum sent in to the late Board of Admiralty. Is it in Order for that to be read without our having the document laid on the Table?
§ MR. HIBBERT
This "Memorandum" to which the right hon. Gentleman alludes was not sent in to the Admiralty, but was sent as a private document to the late First Lord of the Admiralty.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
It seems to me impossible that the document can have been laid before the late First Lord of the Admiralty without a copy of it being kept. If there is such a document at the Admiralty, it ought to be laid on the Table of this House—certainly that ought to be done when the right hon. Member reads a letter commenting on the Memorandum.
The question before the Committee is as to a point of Order. If an official communication is quoted by a Minister of the Crown, that communication must be laid upon the Table of the House. But in this case the Minister of the Crown says the document he has quoted is not an official communication, but a private letter.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I am not referring to that letter, but to the Memorandum from which the quotation was made.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON (Middlesex, Ealing)
No one has quoted from it except the right hon. Gentleman himself.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I beg the noble Lord's pardon; my point is this. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty read from a letter written by the present Constructor of the Navy on that Memorandum which had been signed by him and sent in to the previous First Lord of the Admiralty. I ask whether, if the Memorandum exists at the Admiralty, in consequence of its having been quoted in this private letter it must not be laid on the Table of the House?
No; I think that would be carrying the rule too far. The original document has not been referred to.
§ MR. HIBBERT
I have never seen the document sent to the late First Lord. I wish to say a word or two on the desirability of continuing the construction of these two vessels. I base my argument upon the same ground as the late Board of Admiralty based theirs—namely, that it is desirable to place this country in a position of equality, or even superiority, so far as naval matters are concerned, with the neighbouring country, France. From the Returns I have seen there can be no doubt that if we were to give up these two vessels we should not be in a position of equality with France in respect of vessels of this large tonnage and great power. Even when we have these two vessels we shall not be much superior. I have gone through this matter 1408 very carefully—the comparative strength of the vessels of England, France, and Italy. Of vessels of between 13,000 and 14,000 tons displacement, Italy has five, England has none, France has none, and Russia has none. Of vessels of between 12,000 and 13,000 tons displacement none of the four countries have any. Of vessels between 11,000 and 12,000 tons displacement England has three—taking into account the Nile and Trafalgar—France has three and Italy has five. When we came to vessels of between 10,000 and 11,000 tons displacement, we find that England has six and France five—leaving out of account the two vessels named; of vessels of between 9,000 and 10,000 tons England has 11, France three, Russia one; and of vessels of between 8,000 and 9,000 tons England possesses five, France three, Italy none, and Russia two. It comes to this, that if you take the larger vessels and give up these two, the Nile and Trafalgar, England will be in a position of great inferiority as compared with France. I am not one of those who wish always to be crying out for a large amount of expenditure, or for this country to be placed in a position of superiority to all other countries; but I do think, when we look at the position of this country as regards our Colonies and commerce, and all we have to do for the Empire, that we are entitled to place ourselves in a position of superiority to the neighbouring country, France. I think these two vessels will be the means of placing us in that position. On these grounds I should be sorry if the Committee were to agree to reduce the Vote by the amount necessary for these two vessels, I should like to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) to this. He says that France has given up the building of iron-clads. They certainly have given up the building of these two iron-clads which have been spoken of; but they have commenced them, and they can be continued at any time. I find that though the French have been suspending work on armoured shipbuilding, a Note is attached to the French Budget of 1887 stating that if the experiments with torpedo-boats and torpedoes do not give the anticipated results additional provision will have to be made for armoured vessels. That shows that they are only awaiting the result of the trials of their 1409 torpedo fleets. I believe that these trials which have lately been carried on by France have not proved so satisfactory as they were expected to be. The special organ of the anti-iron-clad party in France has said that no one would dream of giving up the construction of iron-clads altogether. What is wanted, it says, is not pure iron-clads, but more cruisers and torpedo boats. We may say the same thing. We do not want to give up these two iron-clads which have been commenced, and on which considerable sums have already been spent—something like £300,000 or £400,000; and we certainly do admit that we want more fast cruisers and more torpedo boats, and I trust that whoever is in power next year will give them to us. Looking at the whole matter under all the circumstances of the case, I trust that the Committee will not agree to the proposal of my right hon. Friend. It would be a most mistaken policy to first begin to build two large vessels of this kind, and then to cease to build them, using the money—as the right hon. Gentleman suggested—for some other purpose. If we did adopt such a policy as that, we should never know what our policy was going to be.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
There seems to be an impression on the part of some hon. Members that a Committee of the Whole House for dealing with Army and Navy Estimates ought to be made up entirely of experts. The result of that, clearly, would be that those who represent the taxpayers of the country would appear only when the Budget or Ways and Means had to be provided. I think, however, that those who pay the piper should have some voice in selecting the tune. I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman in the observation he made to the effect that it is an undesirable thing that in our naval policy we should be continually blowing hot and cold, although when the hot blast comes it is only right that the cold should follow. What happened only recently in regard to the Navy? There was a naval scare got up by a certain newspaper in this country. It could not have been got up by the Naval Authorities; it was got up from the outside, and unfortunately the late Board of Admiralty fell into it, and the consequence was that the alarmists were indulged with an enormous expenditure, still fur- 1410 ther to increase the defences of this country. Well, Sir, in the first place I wish to urge that this is a most inconvenient time in which to be going on with the expenditure of large sums of money. No one can doubt that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer will find increasing difficulty in providing Ways and Means. I undertake to say that there are numberless infinitely better ways in which this prodigious sum of £2,000,000, which it is proposed to spend on these two gigantic vessels, could be used. I say, as a business man—and I have listened a hundred times to these debates—that, giving all credit for sincerity and ability to the Naval Authorities in this House, we nevertheless always find that when new schemes are proposed there is immense enthusiasm for them; but that the enthusiasm soon wanes, and that almost before new vessels are finished we hear them denounced as of an obsolete type, and the very last that can be built of the kind. Why is it that the Admiralty are advised to suspend work upon these two enormous iron-clads? It is because everyone but the Constructors regard the type as a most miserable type, altogether insufficient for most modern naval purposes. I am unable to enter enthusiastically into the views that are put before the Committee of the House of Commons when new schemes of increased expenditure on shipbuilding are indulged in. I look upon them with suspicion from the outset, and events show that I am far from wrong. As time goes on it confirms the views I have taken. I undertake to say that this £2,000,000 would be infinitely better spent on 10 swift cruisers for the protection of our commerce. I will go further than that, and say that if the money were spent in building not two huge iron-clads, but four of moderate size, they would give greater security to the country. We have heard it said that France may get command of the Channel. Well, it seems to me there would be infinitely less danger of that if our interests were protected, not by two large iron-clads, which cannot be everywhere at once, but by four moderate-sized ships. It is said that we must have a powerful Navy to protect our important seaports. Well, let us distribute our means of offence and defence. Surely we shall be better able to protect all our ports by 1411 means of four swift moderate-sized iron-clads, than by two huge fighting machines incapable of anything like celerity. When we come to consider how much poverty is pleaded from the Treasury Bench, and how badly money is wanted for most useful purposes, we are bound to protest against such an extravagant expenditure as that involved in the building of these two colossal ships. The other day we were discussing the question of providing harbours of refuge along our Coasts—and these are things which are of the utmost necessity—and we heard that in connection with one of these harbours for the past five years it has not been possible to obtain an outlay of more than £200 a-year. As a matter affecting the welfare of the people of this country, I undertake to say that an increased expenditure on harbours of refuge would be much more to the advantage of our commerce and industries, and would redound much more to the credit of the country, than this expenditure on monster iron-clads. One step further I wish to take. What was put before us by the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton)? He gave as a probable reason why France had ceased to build these enormous ships that they have overtaken us in shipbuilding, and that, therefore, they might rest on their oars. That is what I have always said when we are urged to an increased expenditure. When France has put itself in the happy position of being ahead of us, the next step we take is to set them the example of starting again in this mad race of competition. I say there is no limit to it. You may rest assured that these two countries, France and England, relatively speaking, will never be in a safer condition with regard to each other than they are now, however much they both spend in naval armaments. I must say it is a sign of returning common sense to find that a noble Lord in "another place" has given Notice of his intention to move a Resolution in favour of reducing the naval armaments of the country. I sincerely believe that this is a great mistake on the part of the Board of Admiralty, and that their indulging in any such expenditure of public money will in a short time lead to great public dissatisfaction. We are told with regard to these new ships that the French Go- 1412 vernment are spending so much. But, Sir, if it is possible for the French Government to spend so much money, we are not in a position to do so; and I still strongly urge upon hon. Gentlemen on special grounds that this is one of the things which the people of this country do not approve. I admit that the House of Commons is somewhat demoralized, and that the attendance of hon. Members, except those who never stop without there is a chance of increased public expenditure, is small. I see the noble Lord opposite smile, as he always will no doubt; but I venture to prophesy that before these enormous ships are launched there will be a universal condemnation of the folly of building such vessels when much smaller ships would suffice.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
I should not have troubled the Committee were it not for the remarks of the right hon. Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre). But, Sir, I prefer the voice of a former Member for Bradford, to whom the Navy owes a debt of gratitude for the line he took in reference to the late naval scare, and who, especially at a meeting presided over by the Lord Mayor, did much to rouse the country to the necessity of having a Fleet prepared to meet the designs of Russia. If the right hon. Gentleman looks back he will find that the Navy has helped to make him what he is; and I think it is somewhat ungrateful that he should stand up, after the display he witnessed at Portsmouth last Saturday, and make the remarks we have listened to. It was not long ago that he was a Member of the present Government, and a party to spending £80,000,000, and it is certainly strange that the right hon. Gentleman should be now advocating economy. I was saying that I prefer what the late Mr. Forster said, who pointed out the sacrifices our forefathers made in former times—how, when the population was only some 17,000,000 or 18,000,000, they spent £19,000,000 on the naval defences of the country. I do not advocate that now; but it shows the spirit of our forefathers as compared with the degenerate spirit of these times. The hon. Member who also represents Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) deprecates the presence of experts in this House; but I think there are some observations which naval men 1413 may well express that are worthy of being treated with respect within these walls. We do not regard as an insult the remark which the hon. Member once made that naval men should address their communications to the Board of Admiralty in writing—we all look upon I that as chaff. The hon. Member, however, is a great economist, and a disciple of a great man, Mr. Cobden; and I should like to fortify him by some of the remarks of Mr. Cobden himself, who, on a former occasion, had said—I am not one for reducing our Navy in any degree below that proportion to the French which the exigencies of our Service require. England has four times the mercantile tonnage of France to protect at sea, and that surely gives us a legitimate pretension to have a larger Navy than France, and to have a Navy in the same proportion to the French which we find to have existed in the past century.What was that proportion? In 1792 we had 153 sail of the line, as against 86 of the French; in 1803, 146, as against 66; and in 1850, 86, as against 45. It was always in the proportion of two to one. But England is a wealthy Power, and the time may come when it will be necessary to protect your commerce. It is all very well, so long as peace continues, to complain of naval expenditure; but, depend upon it, if you refuse a legitimate expenditure now, you will in time of war turn round and curse those who have failed to keep up the strength of the Navy. Of course, I know that naval opinion is thought little of by hon. Gentlemen who come from Bradford; but, at the same time, I do not think that their opinions on these matters stand so low in the estimation of the public that they would not be preferred to that of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. A great authority, Admiral Hood, said on the 22nd of May last on the subject of these ships—I assert, as a matter of fact, that the Nile and the Trafalgar, as designed, will be far move powerful battle ships than any other in British or French Navies. I also assert that they are most necessary, in order to maintain our battle ships at a proper strength, and I therefore deprecate most strongly the idea of stopping their construction.What naval men deplore are the fits and starts which take place in our naval policy. You have a colossal trade; but probably you do not always bear in mind that it requires defending. That trade is represented by thousands of 1414 millions sterling, and surely it is defended cheaply at the cost of £12,000,000; and I do not think even the hon. Member for Bradford will object to that comparatively small premium of insurance. Now, with regard to France, has the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) seen the Report of the French Minister of Marine? That Minister has given his opinion, since the manœuvres at Boulogne, that France cannot do without iron-clads, and that they are essential to her existence; and let me remind hon. Members that the fate of nations will be decided by actions in home waters—in other words, by battle ships against battle ships. All naval men know that we require cruisers, and by all means let us have what the Service requires. If iron-clads are necessary, let us have them, and give us also the cruisers which the country needs. The hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) says that smaller iron-clads would be better in the Channel than large ones, on the principle that four policemen are more likely than two to catch a burglar. But what is to be done with the large cruisers that may come up against small cruisers? No, Sir; you must have colossal iron-clads to meet colossal iron-clads, and it is necessary for Imperial interests that you should have them. I may here refer the hon. Member for Hastings (Sir Thomas Brassey) to what he said with regard to the completion of ships; his policy, however, and the pledges given by him in this House, have been departed from. I take the hon. Gentleman's words from Hansard. He said—With regard to all the ships in progress, I desire to give an assurance to the House that they will be proceeded with as rapidly as possible.Where, I ask, is the rapidity?We desire to present the protection of commerce as the main purpose of the large additional expenditure on building for which we are asking the sanction of the House. … We shall proceed with the utmost speed, consistent with due economy, in the Dockyards; and with regard to contractors, no obstruction will be imposed upon their exertions."—(3 Hansard,  456–7–8.)Now, I ask whether those assurances have been fulfilled? They were given by the hon. Member for Hastings, and I think the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty should see that they are carried out, and that there will be no delay in constructing torpedo 1415 boats. But I have it on good authority that we are not getting these as fast as we ought; and I am perfectly safe, I think, in saying that by the end of the year you will not have 25 of these boats, whereas you ought to have 40; and if rumours of another war come upon us there will be another scare and panic. Public attention has passed away from the question of these boats for a time; but the matter is a very important one, and it is our duty to press it on the attention of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ SIR EDWARD J. REED (A LORD of the TREASURY) (Cardiff)
I hope I may be allowed to say a few words of remonstrance against some of the observations of the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth). I am quite unable to perceive why the hon. Gentleman always puts himself forward as the special Representative in this House of the taxpayers. Why, Sir, I represent twice as many taxpayers as he does, and my hon. Friend near me three times as many. I refer to this matter with considerable pain. It is well known that some of us were filled with great anxiety as to the ships built by the Admiralty. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), upon whose speech I think a little light ought to be thrown, was in Office during the laying down of many of the ships which are now objected to. The time arrived when the Admiralty was aroused to a sense of the dangerous character of the ships, and stopped the building of any more of them. I am at a loss to understand how the right hon. Gentleman, who has been a party to the construction of ships of this kind, many of them costing as much as the ships he has referred to this evening, should evince his present economical tendencies. [Mr. SHAW LEFEVRE: I cannot admit that.] The right hon. Gentleman says he cannot admit it; but the right hon. Gentleman gave figures which fell short of the expenditure on some of the vessels which went before him. I venture to say that the right hon. Gentleman exaggerated the cost and size of the proposed vessels; he spoke of vessels the size and cost of which cannot be conceived; but will the Committee believe that those vessels exceed by 100 tons only the size of the Inflexible laid down some years ago? Then, speaking of the Italian ships, he made this remark—that they 1416 were fast vessels and would steam well out of action. I should say, however, that they would be better employed. The right hon. Gentleman has exaggerated in an extraordinary manner the figures relating to the Iron-clad Navy of the country. There are some people, into the interior of whose minds I am unable to penetrate, who seem to think it would be a reasonable thing to send human beings into battle in vessels composed of steel less thick than this paper without any protection against the arms of the enemy. I consider that people who would do that approach very nearly to the criminal classes, and I hope we have not arrived at the time when we cannot afford to find for the seamen who fight for us abroad some degree of protection. The First Lord under the last Administration (Lord Northbrook) consented to lay down a number of cruisers with an armour belt to protect them against the first and worst effects of gun-fire; they were vessels with a belt as the first element of protection; they have no protection for their guns, and no protection for that part of the crew employed in an engagement with the enemy; they are solely cruisers protected around the waist; they are to be employed in protecting commerce and in overhauling privateers, and in those respects I have no doubt they will perform their service well. But it is entirely misleading the Committee to come down and include these vessels in the number of our iron-clads, and talk about their engaging the second-class iron-clads of France. I beg leave to state that they could do nothing of the kind. They have no gun protection, and are unfit to engage iron-clads of any class. It is entirely misleading the Committee to persuade us that the iron-clads are of the dimensions which the right hon. Gentleman states. The right hon. Gentleman says that other countries are giving up iron-clads. We have heard a good deal about the building of these vessels being stopped; but we are also given to understand that they are stopped because of a disposition on the part of the French Government to suspend the construction of iron-clads, while the fact is that in an unfortunate moment the Chief Constructor of their Navy was brought under influences which at one time prevailed in this country and laid down two ships of a type approved at 1417 the time by our Admiralty; but having discovered that they were of an objectionable type, after no great amount of progress had been made with them, their construction was carried no further. The stoppage of these ships ought, therefore, to be no guide to us in any sense, except as a reason for casting out this Motion, because if we were to stop building the two vessels in question we should be getting rid of the only really powerful and effective vessels we have laid down for many years and returning to the building of an objectionable class. I have given, I believe, the correct reason for the stoppage of the Charles Martel and the Brennus. My right hon. Friend will say that it is better to build 10 cruisers than these two ships. I should like to state the matter in this way. Suppose some big brutal fellow were to be making his way down Parliament Street and knocking down every decent person he met, the plan of my right hon. Friend would be to get hold of all the small boys in the neighbourhood to stop him. What I would do, however, would be to find out a man big enough to stop him, and not expose the boys to all the risk. Why, Sir, the vessels spoken of to-night would drive before them all the belted cruisers, and all the second, third, and fourth class iron-clads; and I think it is our duty, and certainly it is consistent with the spirit of the nation in the past, as I hope it is in the present, not to allow any gigantic, domineering iron-clad to drive our ships into harbour. I must also deny the accuracy of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that these vessels will each cost £1,200,000. There is no justification for that statement. The figures given by the authorities are in each case £680,000 for hull and £97,000 for machinery; and they are only brought up to the price of the Inflexible by the addition for gun mountings and guns, which were not included in the cost of either of other ships. Further, there is another point in the remarks of my right hon. Friend on which I must express my surprise—namely, that he has left out of consideration the fact that money has been squandered in the shape of interest on unfinished vessels. My right hon. Friend leaves all that loss and waste out of consideration, and forgets that a change had been brought about in respect to the building of ships. 1418 Both parties have agreed that, in future our ships of war shall be built quickly. If that is the case, I can assure my right hon. Friend that we shall certainly have a much better return for our money than we have hitherto had. I do not wish to detain the Committee; but I think it is right I should put these views forward, and express the hope that the Committee will not be at all influenced by this attempt to revive—for that is the object of this Motion—an obsolete type of vessels, and to stop the building of two of the most efficient iron-clads that have ever been laid down in this country.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
Perhaps I may be allowed a few words in reply. I think my right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Hibbert) must unintentionally have made a mistake when he said that £200,000 has already been spent on these vessels. On referring to the Estimates I find it is stated that up to the end of the financial year, 31st of March, £20,000 would be spent in labour and materials on these vessels. I was at Portsmouth a few days ago, and I was informed that about £8,000 had been spent in labour. I do not think it is possible that anything like £20,000 has been spent in labour alone. Possibly a large amount of materials may have been ordered for the vessels; but then that material will not be thrown away; it will be available for other work. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Hibbert) hopes that the Committee will not condemn these vessels. All I ask is that the work upon the ships should be suspended until inquiry takes place. The noble Lord the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) has practically admitted the main portion of my argument. He has admitted that the designs of these vessels have been disapproved of by the scientific advisers of the Admiralty. [Lord GEORGE HAMILTON: I said Sir Nathaniel Barnaby.] Did he not enter his protest on behalf of the other Constructors? Will the noble Lord deny that the late Chief Constructor and the present Chief Constructor sent in the Memorandum which has been referred to in the debate, and which the noble Lord, I think, treated as a private document, and not as an official one. I ask—Will the noble Lord deny that? No; it is admitted that both the late and the present Chief Constructor protested against the designs of these 1419 vessels as being of an inferior character. And, furthermore, it is admitted that both of them asked that a Committee of Designs, similar to that which sat in 1871, might be appointed to consider the types of vessels for the Navy. That, I think, is a very strong case to present to the House of Commons.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
What I have said is this—and the noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton) did not deny it when I put the question to him—that the late Chief Constructor and the present Chief Constructor signed a joint protest or Memorandum, which was sent to the noble Lord's Board, not as a private document, but as an official document, and in that document they protested against these vessels on the ground that they were of an inferior type, declined to be responsible for them, and begged that their names might not be attached to the designs. That is the information I have received, and I believe it to be accurate; at any rate, the noble Lord has not denied it. The Constructors also asked that a Committee of Designs might be appointed for the purpose of considering the designs of these vessels. That, I say, is a strong case to present to the House of Commons. I do not think that such a case has ever been presented before in respect of any vessels laid down; and what I ask the Committee to do, before committing the country to such an enormous expenditure, is to insure a reconsideration of the designs by a Committee of the character I have mentioned. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed) has again expressed his disapproval of ironclads of the Admiral class. His view, however, is not concurred in either by the late or the present Chief Constructor of the Admiralty. The question is a very technical one, and really is unfit for discussion in the House of Commons, and I must decline to be drawn into a discussion upon it. I have my own view upon it; but I should hardly venture to put myself forward as an authority at all equal to my hon. Friend (Sir Edward J. Reed). But if the House were to agree to the course I have suggested—namely, to appoint a Committee similar to that appointed in 1871 to report upon 1420 the designs of these vessels, the design of the vessels of the Admiral class would be one of the questions which would come before the Committee; and I think, considering all that has been said on the subject, it is extremely desirable that the question as to the real value of the vessels to which my hon. Friend objects should be set at rest once and for ever. I am persuaded it would be of the utmost advantage to the country that a Committee such as I have suggested should investigate the question. My hon. Friend (Sir Edward J. Reed) has said that the alternatives before the House are two vessels of this great size, or two vessels of an obsolete type such as the vessels of the Admiral class. That is not the question before us. What I have suggested is that we should suspend operations on these two vessels until a Committee of Designs, taking into counsel the best constructive and scientific opinion, should advise as to what the type of the vessel of the future should be. That appears to me to be the most prudent course under all the circumstances. The noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton) has referred to the fact of these two vessels having been the subject of a compact between the Board of Lord Northbrook and the House of Commons. That, no doubt, was the case. It is, no doubt, the fact that Lord Northbrook's Board promised in their programme two vessels of large type; but I have ventured to point out to the Committee that circumstances have considerably altered since then. At that time we were under the impression that the French Government were acquiring a very large Iron-clad Fleet, and that other Governments were also increasing the number of their iron-clads. I have pointed out very clearly that every country in Europe has stopped the building of iron-clads, and that France has actually suspended the building of two large vessels of war. I entirely disputed with my hon. Friend the reason for that cessation. I quoted the official reason of the French Government for stopping operations upon the Brennus and the Charles Martel, and it is for the same reason—namely, that the value of vessels of this large type is so doubtful that I now ask the Committee to suspend the building of the Nile and the Trafalgar. No doubt the Inflexible cost something not far short of 1421 what each of these ships is estimated to cost; but that is the only vessel we have of similar type. I shall feel it my dnty to divide the Committee upon my Motion, and I hope I shall have the support of a sufficient number of Members to justify the course I have taken.
§ CAPTAIN VERNEY (Bucks, N., Buckingham)
I hope that before the Committee goes to a division someone on the Treasury Bench will tell us whether it is or is not the case that both the late Chief Constructor and the present Chief Constructor disapproved of the types of the these vessels, and declined to be responsible for them. I do not think the Committee ought to be asked to divide until that question is answered; if it is not answered we ought to take it that these vessels are being proceeded with in the teeth of the opinion of the efficient and responsible experts of the Admiralty.
§ THE CIVIL LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. R. W. DUFF) (Banffshire)
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman had been in the House during the whole of the discussion he would have heard the question answered.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 86; Noes 160: Majority 74.—(Div. List, No. 125.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
There is one feature of this Estimate to which I wish to draw the attention of the Committee, and that is the great discrepancy between the amount allowed for the Dockyards in England and that allowed for the one Dockyard in Ireland. As much as £1,238,000 was expended upon the Dockyards of England, while only £1,000 was expended upon the Dockyard in Ireland. Of course, I cannot expect that the Estimate will be changed this year; but I direct attention to the discrepancy for the information of the new Parliament; 1,238 to 1 is altogether out of proportion to the contributions which Ireland pays to the Imperial Exchequer, which has been reckoned at 1–15th or 1–19th, and altogether out of proportion to the difference of the populations of the two countries. It is not owing to the lack of harbour accommodation that so little is spent upon the Irish Dockyards. There is Cork Harbour, in regard to 1422 which many naval officers have spoken in most satisfactory terms, and there is Galway Harbour, which is admirably adapted to naval purposes. I hope that in the new Parliament this great discrepancy will be remedied.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. HIBBERT) (Oldham)
I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman has made a mistake. There is no naval shipbuilding at all in Ireland.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
What I object to is that money is not spent in Ireland on the building of ships. While, as I have said, £1,238,000 is spent upon the Dockyards in England, only £1,000 is spent upon the one Dockyard in Ireland.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ (3.) £623,700, New Works, Buildings, Yard Machinery, and Repairs.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)
I desire to recall the attention of the Committee to the fact that the Haulbowline Docks have now been in course of construction for 20 years or more. I can quite understand that these works have been continued so long for the purpose of employing the surplus convict labour. But the convicts have now been distributed over other establishments in Ireland, consequently it can no longer be urged that the Haulbowline Works are kept on for the purpose of employing the convicts. It is many years since Mr. Maguire, the Member for Dungarvan, brought forward a Motion in favour of the construction of these Docks. The work has been carried on in the slowest possible fashion, no serious effort having been made to complete it. There is, indeed, every reason to believe—the belief is very generally entertained by the people in the neighbourhood—that the Government have no intention whatever of completing the Docks, or of bringing them to such a condition that they can be made available for carrying on shipbuilding to any appreciable extent. Shipbuilding at Haulbowline would be a great advantage to the people of the locality, for it would afford much more employment than the mere construction of the Dock now does. It is a matter of wonderment to the visitors of the country that, year after year, these Docks should remain in the same unfinished condition; the work does not seem to be a bit more advanced than it 1423 was five years ago. Besides the reason that plenty of employment would be afforded to the people of the district, there is another reason why these Docks should be completed as soon as possible. There is, at the present time, in the river or the harbour at Cork another Dock that might be made an adjunct to the Haulbowline Dock. The present Dock is fitted with the most perfect machinery, and is very suitable for the building of vessels of light draught. This Dock is known as the Passage Dock or the Victoria Shipbuilding Dock, and it was inspected by the Lords of the Admiralty under the late Conservative Government. The noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton) who occupied the position of First Lord of the Admiralty was one of the Inspectors, all of whom pronounced the Dock suitable for the holding of vessels of light draught. Now, Mr. Courtney, taking into account the fact that the Haulbowline Docks have now been in course of construction for over 20 years and that they are not yet completed, it is time the Government were asked what they intend to do in regard to these Docks. Do they intend to finish them at all? Do they intend to do any shipbuilding at all in Ireland? Do they intend to expend any of the money they extract from that country upon naval works? I hold that the people of Ireland are entitled to know what it is intended to do with these Docks.
§ THE CIVIL LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. R. W. DUFF) (Banffshire)
The original Estimate for these Docks was £550,000. Of that amount £491,000 has been spent, and the works are proceeding to the satisfaction of the Admiralty.
§ MR. PULESTON (Devonport)
I should like to know what are the intentions of the Government in regard to the seamen's barracks at Devonport? I see that towards the erection of these barracks £8,000 is appropriated this year. That seems a very small sum. Some time ago I called the attention of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hastings (Sir Thomas Brassey), who was then Secretary to the Admiralty, to the advisability of acquiring the adjoining land. I was then told that the question would receive the consideration of the Admiralty. I should like to know whether any decision has been arrived at?
§ MR. R. W. DUFF
I believe that these baracks, which are intended to accommodate 1,000 men, will very soon be occupied. The question of the acquisition of the land adjoining and the enlargement of the barracks is still engaging the attention of the Admiralty Authorities.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
Mr. Courtney, I desire to call the attention of the Committee to a great want of Dock accommodation at Bombay. The Dock arrangements at that place are simply disgraceful to a country like this. When I was in India a few years ago the flag-ship needed repair; but she was obliged to be brought to Malta to be docked. All that was wanted at Bombay was that two Docks should be knocked into one and the sill deepened. Recommendations had been sent home time after time by the Admirals commanding at that Station; but no notice had been taken of them. We are at present in this deplorable condition—that there is no Dock on the Indian Station in which an iron-clad can be accommodated. This is a matter of the greatest Imperial concern, and I hope that it will be immediately attended to.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD
Surely we are not to be told that it is no concern of the Admiralty that there is no Dock accommodation at such an important Station as that of India? The Admiralty send ships there, and, therefore, it is their bounden duty to see that there is Dock accommodation.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (4.) £905,800, Military Pensions and Allowances.
§ (5.) £333,300, Civil Pensions and Allowances.
§ (6.) £252,000, Extra Estimate for Services not Naval.—Freight, &c. on Account of the Army Department.1425
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee to sit again To-morrow.