§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
(1.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £1,732,600, 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 1888.
§ MR. DUFF (Banffshire)
May I ask what is to be the course of Business tonight, and what Votes the Government propose to take in the event of disposing of this Vote at an early hour?
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. FORWOOD) (Lancashire, Ormskirk)
It was stated the other night that it was intended to take Vote 6, and then to proceed in regular order with Votes 9, 10. &c.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Lord GEORGE HAMILTON) (Middlesex, Ealing)
I propose to take Vote 6 first.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
May I be allowed to appeal to the Committee to separate, as far as possible, the discussion upon Votes 6 and 10, both of which deal with matters of vital importance; one in relation to our naval armaments, and the other to the manner in which the money 1190 given to the Admiralty for armaments is spent by them. Nothing would be more unfortunate in the discussion of Vote 6 than for the Committee to be led into a review of the questions involved in Vote 10. If we are to discuss Vote 6 to-night, we ought, as closely as possible, to confine ourselves to Vote 6. If we finish the discussion at an early hour to-night, then my noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty might find it convenient to proceed with Vote 10; but if the discussion upon Vote 6 is continued until a late hour, then I trust that the First Lord of the Treasury will find it convenient to take Vote 10 as the first Vote upon some other evening. I would strongly press upon the Government the propriety of taking that course.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
I am very anxious to make any arrangement that will meet with the convenience of the Committee; but any hon. Member who is anxious to raise any question as to the design of the ships will, of course, be able to do so if he chooses upon each of these Votes, and thus there would be a double discussion, or the same subject might be discussed twice over.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
As a general rule there have been two separate discussions on Votes 6 and 10. It has never been the custom to take a general discussion upon both Votes at the same time.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I have to ask the indulgence of the Committee while I make a close analytical examination of Vote 6, which provides for Dockyard Establishments at Home and Abroad. I am anxious to make the examination as close as I can, and to analyze the details as fully as I can, because, owing to the very late period of the Session at which the Committee on the Army and Navy Estimates was appointed, it has been quite impossible for the Committee to devote an adequate amount of time to the examination of the Estimates; and, therefore, it is impossible for the Committee to assist the House, and the House must itself do the best it can to arrive at a decision upon the question whether this expenditure is rightly incurred or not. The first thing which strikes me 1191 about Vote 6 is its form. I am afraid that I am going to trouble the Committee with a great many figures, but I must ask their careful attention to them. As I have said, the first thing that strikes me about Vote 6 is the form of the Vote; and that is very important. If the Committee will look back to former Estimates, they will find that, until the present year, Vote 6 has always contained about 12 times as much information as it does this year. The detailed information in Vote 6 this year is all put in the form of Appendices. The noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton), in the Memorandum which he placed before the House, said—The Vote for Dockyard labour is taken in the present Estimates as a whole, and is not allocated, as has been the practice in past years, to the several Yards. The object of this change is to afford the Controller of the Navy more latitude in the distribution of work and of the classes of labour, in a manner which may promote greater efficiency and economy in carrying out the varying requirements of the Navy.That is very plausible as far as it goes; but it raises questions of the utmost possible importance. Now, the Controller and Auditor General, and the Committee on Public Accounts, have nothing whatever to do with any matters outside those which are not contained in the Vote itself. They are not concerned with any statement that may be made by the Admiralty in the appendices of the Vote. Such statements never come under the notice of the Controller and Auditor General, or of the Committee on Public Accounts; and, therefore, the more you limit the information in the Vote, and extend it in the Appendices, the more you withdraw matters from the knowledge of the Controller and Auditor General, and the greater are the opportunities of the Admiralty to expend money without the knowledge, and possibly without the consent and sanction, of Parliament. To show the Committee how excessively important this matter is, I now turn to Vote 6. Perhaps the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty will make a note of my objection to the form of the Vote. If you look back to the year 1872–3, you will find that £988,562 was thought sufficient in that year for the maintenance of the Dockyards at home and abroad. You will find that this 1192 year the Admiralty demand £1,732,600, so that the Vote has practically doubled. But you cannot consider Vote 6 without considering Vote 11, for New Works and Machinery in the Dockyards. Both must go together, and Vote 11, in this year, is £553,000. Combined, these two Votes amount to £2,285,000; and they have more than doubled since 1872. Then, Vote 10, for Machinery and Ships built by Contract, has increased by six times since 1872–3. In 1872 the expenditure under Vote 10 was estimated at £375,000; in 1881–2 it amounted to £1,911,000, so that if Vote 6 had doubled, Vote 10 had sex-tupled, or increased by six times as much. The Committee will, I think, allow that these are remarkable facts. I should now like to analyze Vote 6 as it stands in the present year. Vote 6 combines the Home Yards and the Yards abroad. I will take the Home Yards first. The Admiralty ask for £1,538,095 to carry on the work in the Home Yards. If we say to them—"What are you going to give us in return for that expenditure of £1,538,000?" they tell us—"We are going to spend £702,131 on new construction, £322,268 on refitting and repairing ships, and £106,569 on manufactures and materials, making a total of £1,131,968." This is what the country will get in direct return for its expenditure of £1,538,000 in the Home Yards. But a considerable balance, amounting to £406,000, is left; and this balance is entirely absorbed by salaries and incidental expenses. This is a point which I shall probably allude to more than once in the course of my remarks; and I hope the Committee will give their anxious attention to it. The incidental charges amount to £406,000, as compared with £1,100,000 in direct returns to the country—that is to say, your incidental charges, which do not come under the heads of labour and material, amount to no less than 34 per cent on the return of £1,130,000 which the Admiralty proposes to give you. That is an enormous percentage indeed; much larger than in any other country. But supposing we add to this expenditure Vote 11, which is for now works and machinery by contract. We then have to add to the incidental charges connected with the maintenance of the Dockyards no less a sum than £304,150, so that we 1193 have altogether about £700,000 spent in charges incidental to the maintenance of the Dockyards while turning out work valued at £1,100,000. Consequently, the 34 per cent becomes nearly doubled, and becomes nearly 60 percent. I think the Committee will admit that that is a very startling statement indeed, and if it is worked out it will be seen that the expenditure is increasing rapidly, and that there is the utmost difficulty in defending it. If I turn to the expenditure upon foreign yards, I find that matters are still more serious, and I shall have a great deal to say in regard to it before I conclude. The total Estimate for Foreign Yards is £195,322. The direct or effective expenditure, on new construction, refitting, and manufactures, is put down at £87,659, and the incidental charges amount to £107,663. Therefore, comparing the incidental charges with the actual work done in the foreign yards, it will be found that the incidental charges amount to 130 per cent as compared with the direct returns you get from the Dockyards. If I add to the £107,000 incidental charges connected with these foreign yards to the charge of £139,000 equally incidental, which comes under Vote 11 for the extension of foreign yards, I get an item of £246,000 spent upon foreign yards, while your return in direct service amounts only to £87,000, amounting to something like 200 per cent for indirect charges as compared with the returns you get from direct charges. These figures disclose a state of things for which a most elaborate defence is demanded from the Admiralty. Let me go back to the Dockyards. Examining the details of Vote 6, I find that there were some curious facts as to the cost of building ships in the Dockyards. In 1869–70 the average cost was £55 per ton; in 1877–8 it was £80; and in 1884–5 it was £109 per ton. Therefore, the average cost of building ships in the Dockyards has increased since 1870 by more than 50 per cent, and since 1878 it has increased by £29 per ton. This increase is not accounted for by any increase in the cost of labour. On un-armoured ships the cost of labour since 1878 has only increased £4 per ton. On armoured ships the cost has only increased by £6. You thus only get a mean increase of £5 in the cost of labour, but you get a gross increase of 1194 £29 per ton in the cost of building. Will the price of material account for the increase? Again I say that it will not, for there has been an immense fall since 1874 in the prices of nearly all structural materials with hardly an exception. The price of the principal commodities used in the manufacture of ships has fallen largely, so that you cannot quote the price of materials in order to account for the increased charge per ton for the building of ships. Between 1874 and 1883, since which prices have not risen, iron plates fell in price from £19 3s. 4d. to £18 15s.; pig lead fell 36 per cent; zinc, 43 per cent; mill coals, 23 per cent; hemp, 15 per cent; copper, 24 per cent; and red pine as much as 50 per cent. Therefore, there has been a large fall in prices, yet, notwithstanding this fall in prices since the time when ships were built at £50 or £60 a ton there has been a large increase in the cost of shipbuilding. Therefore, you can neither go to the cost of labour nor the price of materials to account for the increase in expenditure—an increase of £50 per ton since the year 1885. That is a very remarkable fact, and it is a point on which I think the House is entitled to some explanation from the Admiralty. I desire, on this subject, to read an extract from an article in the May number of The Westminster Review, an article of great ability upon "the State in its manufacturing attitude" a more moderate and temperate and wise statement of the matter I do not think I have ever read. The article says—If the period 1873–4 is compared with that of 1886–7, it will be found that the items in the Navy Estimates that are liable to be affected by prices were £2,750,000 more in the latter, or cheap, than they were in the former, or dear times. It would appear that there has been an increase in the latter year of nearly £2,000,000 in the item of 'machinery and ships built by private contract.' If this had been the only increase—in other words, if the work formerly largely done in the Dockyards had been transferred to private naval constructors—there would have been little reason to find fault, since there has been a large consensus of opinion in favour of such a transfer on the part of high authorities and responsible statesmen. But this increase has proceeded pari passu with one of £500,000 in the Dockyards and Naval Yards, and of nearly £300,000 in Naval Stores, for which there appears to be no adequate equivalent given.This Westminster Review, after summing up the case, and after examining it care- 1195 fully, says further—and this is what I wish to commend to the attention of the Admiralty, because it is not the statement of a heated politician or of a Party opponent, but the statement of a grave and moderate quarterly periodical—It is, of course, customary to hear it said that this large increase of expenditure has been entailed by the more expensive and complex character of the appliances of modern naval warfare. On this point we do not care to venture any opinion. It is possible that there is force and truth in the argument. But after every possible allowance has been made that the most indulgent and reasonable of censors can allow, after all the difficulties that confront the Admiralty have been fully extenuated, after the necessarily more cautious and circumlocutionary processes common to governmental work have been taken into consideration, there still remains a formidable and apparently unanswerable indictment lying at the door of those who are responsible for our naval expenditure. The charges of wasteful, inefficient, and inadequate administration have been proved to the hilt, not by the impersonal or irresponsible criticisms of the public Press, of anonymous pamphleteers, or of foreign rivals, but by the evidence of Admiralty officials themselves, and by the well-considered and weighty deliberations of successive Committees appointed to inquire into the subject. Of such Committees there are two whose recent Reports are entitled to special consideration—the first being the Committee on the building and repair of ships; the second the Committees appointed to inquire into the Admiralty and Dockyard administration and expenditure. The first of these was presided over by Lord Ravensworth, and included such authorities as Mr. John Burns, Mr. Samuda, Mr. Ismay, Sir Charles Palmer, and Mr. Norwood. They examined authorities as competent as themselves, among others Sir Edward Reed, Sir N. Barnaby, Mr. F. K. Barnes, Admiral Sir W. H. Stewart, Mr. W. Laird, &c. That Committee reported in October, 1884; and the summary of their Report is this—'That the Admiralty system failed to show the entire cost of labour on a Dockyard-built ship; that the whole question of incidental charges was so obscure as to render unreliable any comparison between the cost of shipbuilding in public and in private yards; that the incomplete and meagre character of the specifications furnished by the Admiralty to contractors not only increased the time during which ships were under construction, but also materially enhanced the cost of the work; that the time occupied in building a ship under contract compared favourably with the period of construction in a Dockyard, the whole tendency of contract work being to avoid delay; that a heavy expenditure was incurred in refitting ships that have completed their commission when it was really not required; and that the Admiralty would do well to follow more largely the practice followed in the Merchant Navy of adding new ships to their fleet in preference to incurring a heavy expenditure on old ones.'These are all of them distinct charges 1196 made by the Committee on the Admiralty, who say that they were all proved before them. They did not even limit their condemnation by saying that the work of the Admiralty was well done. Not at all. They go on to say—They found that alike in the general principles of management and in the merest matters of detail the system was inefficient; that in spite of enormous sums voted for machinery and works 'the tools employed were of an obsolete character, which must necessarily increase the coat of the work;' that large sums of money were wasted in patching up old ships when a very little more, or, perhaps, oven less, would provide entirely new vessels; that ships were over and over again stripped and 'torn up' when about to be placed in a new commission, although no such expenditure was required; that there was a want of touch between the several heads of Departments coincidentally with too much centralization of detail, which caused 'delay and unnecessary correspondence.'That the whole administrative arrangements were, in fact, such as no private firm or individual would be likely, even if he could afford it, to tolerate for a moment. That is the Report of the Committee, although it has never been alluded to in Parliament, no doubt to the great enjoyment of the Admiralty. But that was not enough; more still remained behind. That Committee reported in 1884. Another Committee was appointed in 1885—namely, a Committee to inquire into the Dockyard expenditure, and it was presided over by a distinguished officer—Admiral Graham. That Committee presented their Report to the Admiralty last year.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
At any rate, they got it last year, and here is a summary of their Report. It was two years after the Committee on the building and repair of ships had presented their Report when this interesting, but it is to be feared absolutely unheeded, document was submitted to my Lords of the Admiralty, in which the Committee on Dockyard expenditure reported that—'The supervision of labour is unsatisfactory, and that idleness and incompetence are practically unchecked;' that 'the want of co-operation between the superintendent and the officers acts unfavourably upon the cost of works in progress;' that 'we can imagine no more unsatisfactory state of affairs, nor one more calculated to subvert all effectual control over the men;' that 'very serious inconvenience and waste of labour are experienced both in procuring articles from contractors and in drawing 1197 them from stores;' that 'the condition into which Dockyard business has been gradually drifting is, and has been for some years, entirely underrated in the Admiralty Department, and, we greatly regret to add, to the very serious detriment of the Service;' that there is 'no systematic or concurrent financial control over Dockyard expenditure;' that 'duplication of accounts, over-employment of clerks, preparation of voluminous, and, in some cases, useless Returns, and defective audit,' are 'defects common to all yards and to all branches of work therein;' and that, as regards management, 'the system is seriously defective, and does not secure a fair return for the vast outlay annually absorbed therein.'These are the Reports of two Committees within the last two years. Now, what I want to know is what answer the Admiralty have to make to these elaborate heads of condemnation fastened on them by these Committees? The Admiralty have told us that they cannot make any reduction in the gross amount of expenditure, and that any demand for a reduction is intolerable and unjustifiable. Both of these Committees condemn the system as rotten and inefficient, and what have the Admiralty done to meet the charges brought against them? Let me examine these things a little more in detail. I have given a summary of the Committees' Reports; and now, if I am allowed, I desire to lay before the Committee a few figures with a view of comparing the cost of Dockyard ships and ships built by contract. It is possible to examine the cost of ships built by contract in 1880–1, and to compare it with the cost of ships built by contract within a very recent period, and, by comparing that cost with the cost of Dockyard-built ships, the House will see what the Dockyard system costs the country. I propose to take, for the purpose of comparison, two ships—the Constance and the Carysfort, which are recent ships built in 1880–1, and it appears that the Constance, which was built in the Chatham Dockyard, cost £114,886 for her hull and £36,000 for her engines, making a total of £150,886, or £90 9s. 3d. per ton for her hull and £15 3s. 4d. for her engines. I will now go to the Carysfort, which was built by contract at Glasgow. The cost for her hull was £98,480, and for her engines £29,948, making a total of £128,428, or £77 10s. 10d. per ton for her hull and £13 5s. per ton for her engines, which shows a difference of £22,458 in favour of Glasgow upon the whole cost—of 1198 £13 per ton on the hull and of £1 18s. 4d. per ton on the engines. Notwithstanding these striking facts, the Constance and the Carysfort appear in the Estimates this year as each costing £123,000, thus making it appear to Parliament that contract ships and Dockyard ships cost the same price. I hope the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty will give us some explanation of this. I now proceed to the case of larger ships—the Camperdown, built in Portsmouth Dockyard, and the Benbow, built by contract on the Thames. The original estimate for the Camperdown was, direct charges, £668,947; indirect charges, £93,880; total, £762,827. The estimate for the Benbow was £665,718, and Dockyard work £43,831, making a total of £709,559, thus showing a difference of £53,000 in favour of the contract ship. After the Benbow was constructed a change was made in the designs as to armaments, and an extra expenditure of £50,000 was incurred; but even with this additional expenditure added to the cost of the Benbow, which was not fairly incurred, the latest estimate for the Benbow is only £762,000, as against £776,000 for the Camperdown, which is £14,000 in favour of the contract ship. Then, take the case of the Immortalité, built at Chatham Dockyard, and the Australia, built by contract. The direct estimate of the Immortalité was £278,720, and the indirect charges were £45,194, making a total of £323,914. In the case of the Australia, the contract ship, the direct estimate was £245,458, with £20,955 for Dockyard work, and indirect charges £5,966, making a total of £272,379, showing a difference in favour of the contract ship of £51,535. What has the Admiralty got to say to that? Why, in the case of three different classes of ships, should they be built at a higher percentage of cost than in private dockyards? I know that one reason why Dockyard building is so costly is that the Admiralty never know their own mind. They never have the smallest idea when they lay down a ship how much they are going to spend upon it. Now, I will give the Committee an example of this, which, I think, has never been brought before Parliament before. In the case of the Dreadnought, in 1871 the Admiralty of that day came to Parliament and asked it to vote £269,000, and on their statement Par- 1199 liament voted that sum for the building of the ship. The final estimates, about five years afterwards, came to £445,000, and the actual cost of the ship was £491,000, or nearly double the sum of £269,000, which the Admiralty told Parliament when they induced Parliament to vote the money. Now, take the case of the Téméraire a little later, a ship of which the country is justly proud. The original estimate upon which Parliament consented to her being laid down—because these are not supposed to be mere phantom estimates; if you tell Parliament—"I intend to spend so much on this ship," and £500,000 is spent, then Parliament is deluded and deceived, and all Parliamentary control becomes an absolute farce. The original estimate of the Téméraire was £281,000, the final estimate £356,000, and the actual cost £375,000, showing an excess of £90,000 over the original estimate. In the case of the Inflexible, the total estimate was £396,000, the final estimate £607,000, and the actual cost £625,000, showing an excess over the estimates submitted to Parliament of no less a sum than £229,000. Now, take a smaller class of ships. The original estimate for the Shannon was £168,000, the final estimate £218,000, and the actual cost £250,000, or an excess of £82,000. Therefore, even in the case of a ship like the Shannon the Admiralty cannot estimate the cost of building her. Take again the Bacchante, a well-known vessel. The original estimate was £107,000, the final estimate £152,000, and the actual cost £164,000, making an excess of £57,000. Now, what I want to know is this—what would become of any private firm that made such mistakes as these in its calculations? What would become of them when they found that the cost of building a ship was exactly double their estimate? That firm would soon be in bankruptcy. But the Admiralty cannot go into bankruptcy, because they have a deluded Parliament and country to draw upon ad libitum; and these mistakes, which would ruin both the character and the credit of any private firm, are passed over by Parliament actually unnoticed, and with a light and cheerful heart the Admiralty submit estimates they know to be utterly delusive. Again, look at even the estimates of the amount they are going to spend 1200 in labour upon ships. The original estimate for labour upon the hull of the Impérieuse was £147,000, and the final cost £210,000, or an excess of £63,000; in the case of the Warspite, the figures were £147,000 and £202,000, in that of the Mersey, £62,000 and £98,000, in that of the Severn, £62,000 and £90,000, of the Curlew, £19,000 and £26,000, and of the Melita, £19,000 and £23,000. Therefore, the Committee will see that oven in the case of very small ships, where you would think there was no difficulty in estimating the amount, it was not in the power of the Admiralty to ascertain what they ought to pay? Now I come back to the remark I made at the beginning. I want to show the Committee the utterly untrustworthy and deceptive character of the Admiralty statements contained in the Estimates submitted to Parliament. If you turn to the appendices, you will find a certain amount of labour promised by the Admiralty to be expended on certain classes of ships, some to be advanced, and others to be completed. But those statements contained in the appendices are not worth the paper they are written on. All you put in the appendices escapes the control of the Auditor General altogether. If it is in the Vote, the Controller and Auditor General has to report that certain sums put down in the Estimates have not been expended; but if it is in the appendices, the Controller and Auditor General has nothing to do with it, and never notices it, and the Committee on Public Accounts never notices it. The Committee will be surprised to hear this. You have a Committee on Public Accounts; but the only check on your Army and Navy expenditure is a Return called the Expense Account, which is never issued for the Navy until two years, and for the Army three years, after the expenditure has been incurred. Although you have a Committee on Public Accounts, that Committee knows nothing even of the existence of this Expense Account, notwithstanding the fact that that is the only possible check on the Departments, and the only means of finding out how the Departments spend the money. Is not that a disgraceful state of things for the country? The Expense Account is not audited by the Controller and Auditor General, and never comes under the notice of the Committee on Public Ac- 1201 counts. The Appropriation Account has nothing whatever to do with the details in connection with your manufacturing establishments. All the Admiralty do is to tell you that they are going to spend so many hundred thousand pounds on ships in the course of the present year. I have been enabled to furnish some details of your manufacturing establishments which show the utter absence of Parliamentary control. Take the case of the Dreadnought. She was commenced in 1870. Building was suspended for two years, and begun in earnest in 1872, and the Admiralty told Parliament in the appendices that they intended to spend for labour and material upon her £27,000—that is to say, that they proposed to build one tenth of the Dreadnought so far as the original estimate was concerned. As a matter of fact, what do the Committee think they did spend? All they spent was only £11,000. Having got Parliament to vote them money to advance the Dreadnought by one-tenth of her total cost, they only advanced her by one-sixtieth. In 1878 they told Parliament that they were going to spend £12,000 in labour only; as a matter of fact, they spent £26,000. In 1873 the Admiralty informed Parliament they intended to spend £28,000 in labour upon the Téméraire—that is to say, to advance her by one-tenth of her total cost. As a matter of fact, they only spent £5,618, not even a fraction of her total cost. In 1874 they told Parliament they intended to spend £36,000 on the Téméraire; they only spent £24,000. Let me take another ship. In the case of the Shannon, in 1873, the estimate for labour was £15,000, the actual expenditure only £6,000. In 1874 the estimate for labour on the Shannon was £27,000, and the actual sum spent was £42,000; in 1875 the estimate was £26,000, and the actual sum spent was £35,000; and in 1876 the figures were £11,000 and £16,000. In 1877, apparently, the Admiralty did not propose to spend any money upon the Shannon, but they spent £5,500 upon her. Surely this ought not to have been done without the Controller and Auditor General taking a note of it. It shows the utter useless-ness of the Admiralty telling Parliament—"We will advance a ship so much." The money is given to them for a certain purpose, and then it is spent for 1202 other purposes—money that is voted for repairs is spent upon building, and vice versâ. It may be right, but I contend that unless you are going to make the whole thing the commonest and most transparent farce the Estimates submitted to Parliament should be adhered to, and Parliament should know that the money it has voted for a certain purpose will be devoted to that purpose, and not spent at the whim and caprice of the Admiralty officials. Now, I should like to pass to another point. I wish the Committee to see how utterly useless is the Appropriation Act for all purposes of control. There is no control whatever in the hands of the Committee of Public Accounts, or of the Controller and Auditor General. Why, in the case of the £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 you spend under Vote 6, or the £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 you spend under Votes 11, 12, and 13 for the Army, you have absolutely no audit, no Parliamentary control or knowledge, until two or three years afterwards. The Committee, perhaps, has no idea of that, but it is so, and that is exactly what must be put a stop to. And now let me bring the Committee back to the important question of incidental charges. They are very remarkable—these incidental charges—and I want to direct the attention of the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty to the figures. I presume that he is well acquainted with them; that he has examined them; and that he is ready with his reply. I want to compare them with the labour charged direct to ships and other effective services. In 1880 the indirect charges for your Home Dockyards were £662,000, and your direct charges for labour in connection with ships were £884,000—that is to say, your indirect charges amounted to 70 per cent of your direct charges. I do not believe any country in the world can show such bloated charges as those. Your labour charges have gone up from £864,000 in 1880 to £1,152,000 in 1885, an increase of £288,000, still increasing at the same ratio of 70 per cent, in comparison with the money spent for labour. Seventy per cent this year, as in 1880, is the measure of the increase of your incidental charges. Now, what I want to ask the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty is this. In his Memorandum he contrived to hint—if he did not actually state—that he looked for- 1203 ward to a large reduction in the expenditure upon shipbuilding, because many contracts would fall in. Does the Admiralty intend to make a corresponding reduction in the indirect charges? Let us analyze some of those charges. I must tell the Committee that it is quite impossible to find the total cost of any Dockyard either at home or abroad. I hope the noble Lord will make a note of that. I do not believe any member of the Admiralty—the cleverest clerk in the Admiralty—will find out the total cost of any Dockyard within a good many thousands of pounds. At Portsmouth the direct Vote for labour, taking the expense account of 1885–6, was £374,000, while the incidental charges for the establishment amounted to £260,000, or 70 per cent; at Devonport the direct Vote for labour was £277,000; the incidental charges, £182,000, or 65 per cent; Chatham—direct Vote, £272,000; incidental charges, £164,000, or 59 per cent; Sheerness—direct Vote, £95,000; incidental charges, £75,000. or 78 per cent; Pembroke—direct Vote, £133,000; incidental charges, £56,500, or 42 per cent. Then I come to Haulbowline, where the direct Vote was £171, and incidental charges £4,500, or 2,572 per cent. The Admiralty have expended altogether £526,000 in the extension of Haulbowline, and the expenditure has not ceased. I have no hesitation in saying that the whole of that £500,000 has been absolute and total waste, and that if you had taken that money and expended it in real public works you would have done 50,000,000 times more good than you are likely to do as regards the naval expenditure at this yard. [Lord GEORGE HAMILTON dissented.] I am not the least bit deterred by the dissent of the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty from that statement; I assert that the Haulbowline Dockyard is a clear instance of profligate waste, and that the expenditure upon it ought to be stopped. I shall have more to say about the Dockyards presently, and especially about Sheerness. The First Lord takes up this position. He says—"We can make no economy; we must keep ail our expenditure going on; it is all justifiable; and though the taxes are high and people crying out, every penny of these £13,000,000 we must have for the Navy," and yet here you find at Haulbowline expenditure which 1204 is the most utter waste. As regards the foreign yards, in the first place the Admiralty do not separate the incidental charges from the labour in detail. For some reason or other they conceal that from the Committee, and you can only get them in the total. They give the incidental charges, however, in connection with Hong Kong and Malta. Now, the Labour Vote at Hong Kong was £10,000, while the incidental charges were £29,000, or 300 per cent; at Malta the Labour Vote was £48,000, and the incidental charges £63,000, or 133 per cent. If we take all the foreign yards—Antigua, Bermuda, Cape of Good Hope, Esquimalt, Gibraltar, Halifax, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Malta, Sierra Leone, Sydney, and Trincomalee—we find a total Vote of £80,000 for labour, with incidental charges amounting to £213,000, or 266 per cent. Now, make any allowance you like as to keeping up certain expenditure, and still I defy you to say that that scale of incidental charges is not grossly extravagant. There is one remarkable feature in connection with Establishment charges in the Home Yards, and that is the item of salaries. I particularly invite the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty to explain how it is that the salaries of superintendents, officers, and clerks, which were £101,000 in 1878–9, rose to £174,000 in 1885–6, an increase of £73,000? If he pleads that he cannot answer for those years, I will put another question—namely, how is it that the salaries of superintendents, officers, and clerks have increased from £140,000 in 1884–5 to £172,000 in 1887–8, or an increase of £32,000, that increase having only taken three years to bring about? And it is very curious that, whereas your £140,000 worth of salaries superintended £1,200,000 worth of wages for labour, you now require £172,000 in salaries to superintend £1,300,000 of wages—namely, an increase of £100,000 in wages to labour requires an increase of £30,000 a-year to superintendents, officers, and clerks. That is a remarkable state of things, and one that the noble First Lord will find difficulty in explaining satisfactorily. Now, let me take the Committee back to Sheerness Dockyard. An enormous sum of money has been expended on Chatham and Portsmouth. 1205 In their extension there has been expended £4,245,000, and clearly it was intended by the Admiralty that when these extensions were completed Sheer-ness would be shut up. But is Sheerness, which shows 78 per cent for incidental charges, going to be shut up? Not for a moment. On Vote 11 there is taken for new works at Sheerness £8,000, for repairs £4,735, for new machinery £738, and for new machinery by contract £2,200—in all, £15,673 for new works and machinery this year, although you have spent an enormous sum on Chatham and Portsmouth on the express understanding that Sheerness was to be closed. The total cost of Sheerness this year, with these new works, amounts to £100,000, and the Admiralty might as easily save that £100,000 to-morrow as it would be now for the noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton) to rise in his place. And this is the First Lord who said he could not make one single economy in the Navy Estimates. I also assert, without the smallest fear of contradiction, that you might, by mere application for three weeks, reduce the gross charge for incidental expenses by at least £100,000, and by careful and prolonged watching reduce it still more. There the charges remain continually increasing, and the noble First Lord seems to be under the impression that they are to be defended. I must point out that by the proposal to shut up Haulbowline and Sheerness you might not only save a great deal of money, but you might do a very good thing by getting rid of the buildings and land. Now, let me ask the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty to explain some of these sources of waste. I learn that during 1885–6 in the Dockyards you thought it necessary to expend £14,000 on cable chains and moorings, £22,934 for hawsers and rope for guys, and £2,477 for yard boats. Now, I am told by those who know that this is a very large sum of money. I have been told that there are eight or nine lighters which are very rarely used, two men and a boy being kept for each lighter for the purpose of taking care of it. That is the kind of thing which goes on under the head of these incidental charges, and they are matters which the Admiralty cannot possibly defend in this House. The noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty will, perhaps, explain 1206 another matter connected with the incidental charges. You maintain a laboratory at Greenwich, costing £1,000 a-year for professors and teachers; but, for some inscrutable reason, the Admiralty thought it necessary to erect another laboratory of an expensive character at Portsmouth, costing £2,350, and maintained at a cost of £750 a-year. That is the way the money goes. Have the Admiralty ever considered the number of depôts on the South American Station and the North American Station comparatively? Is the Admiralty aware that for the last few years all the depots on the South American Station have been done away with; that the depôt vessels which used to cost a great deal of money have been got rid of; and that the vessels on this station draw stores direct from England? For the North American Station, apparently, a different principle prevails. The Admiralty maintain at a very considerable cost three depôts on that station—Halifax, Bermuda, and Jamaica. I think the Admiralty will hardly differ on this point, that one depôt for the North American Station would be ample, and you might save the money expended on the others. These are economies which undoubtedly might be made if you were bent upon it. I turn now to another subject. An enormous amount of money is spent on chaplains and schools in the Dockyards. A most ridiculous amount is spent altogether on education in the Navy; £2,400 is spent every year for chaplains at Chatham, and £2,980 every year for schools. I cannot conceive that at the Dockyards of Portsmouth, Chatham, Devonport, and elsewhere there is not a large surplus of clergymen who would discharge the religious duties required at a very much lower figure; and, as far as the schools are concerned, there must be a large number of elementary schools to which the Dockyard children might go. But some of the Dockyard schools are for higher education—for engineers and students—and this raises an important question. The system of education pursued in the Navy is a very remarkable one. An enormous sum of money is spent on the education of shipwrights and others who may rise from the ranks in the Dockyards up to high positions in the Constructive Department. It is an extremely extravagant method. You 1207 maintain for that purpose Dockyard schools and Greenwich College, which receives £5,500 a-year. You make all kind of allowances to instructors for apprentices amounting to £5,000; and, having educated several hundred apprentices a-year in order to get a few good ones, you leave them at perfect liberty to seek service in foreign countries or in private yards. It happens, therefore, that after the country has spent a large sum of money in educating these students they instantly leave you and give all the benefit of their education to the enemy or to private enterprize. Is that not an absurd and extravagant system? If any one of us went to Sir William Armstrong's or to Whitworth's we should have to pay a large premium. This might be a source of profit to these firms, but the Navy pursues exactly the reverse method; it pays persons in order to teach them the science of shipbuilding. No doubt, that is a system which is susceptible of a very large reform indeed. The whole principle of your education in the Navy must be reconsidered, and if you do that you must save a very considerable sum of money. That, however, is perhaps a larger question than may properly be brought in to be examined on this Vote. But, speaking generally, besides Greenwich College you maintain the Britannia at £22,000 a-year plus £15,000 contribution; you maintain the Marlborough and the school at Devonport for engineer students at a cost of £13,393, and £3,000 contribution. You maintain, therefore, a most costly system of education in addition to the Dockyard schools. The whole question of Navy education, I think, ought to be carefully examined by the Admiralty, and is worthy of being examined by the House. I have only one more remark to make on this Dockyard Vote, and it is this—I want the explanation of the Admiralty as to the system of spending money on ships that have been completed. I think the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reed) brought before the House, the last time the Navy Estimates were discussed, the question of the ship Archer, which, after delivery at the Dockyard, had enormous sums of money spent on it. But I have found in the Estimates some of the oddest things in regard to sums spent on repairs up to March, 1886. I find, for instance, that in 1881–2 the 1208 Constance was built at a cost of £123,000, and up to March, 1886, you spent £8,000 on her. In 1879–80 the Carysfort was built at a cost of £123,000, and £12,556 was spent on her. In 1878–9 the Comus was built at a cost of £123,000, the sum of £49,595 being spent on her to keep her going. What is the meaning of such sums being spent on repairs? Let me take another ship. The Shah, built in 1876–7, cost originally £249,984, and no less than £40,000, for which the Admiralty is responsible, has been spent on repairs connected with a ship which you are not going to employ. The Leander, built in 1885–6, was completed for £191,000; but in the same year the Admiralty spent £8,947 on her. What is the reason? The ship is delivered to you built according to contract and fully completed; but you find it necessary, either with regard to ships built by contract, or ships built by yourselves, to be continually spending vast sums of money on them. I was told by a military gentleman who had just come back from Malta that the Carysfort just returned from a cruise was redocked, refitted, and taken to pieces from top to bottom at immense cost, although my informant said that the captain had declared that she did not require a penny to be spent upon her. Take some other ships, and see what you spent up to March 31, 1886. Take the Agincourt. She first cost £483,000, and you have spent £202,000 on her. The Northumberland—first cost £490,000; on her you have spent £201,000 in repairs—ships, I believe, perfectly useless for fighting purposes, and yet such enormous sums of money are spent upon them. The Penelope—another useless ship—first cost £196,000; £94,000 has been spent on repairs. The Iron Duke first cost £280,000; £186,000 spent on repairs. The Swiftsure first cost £267,000; £102,000 spent on repairs. The Triumph first cost £268,000; £147,000 spent on repairs. The Briton, £56,000; £50,000 spent on repairs; and so on with the smaller ships. These are the general matters connected with this Vote which I want the Committee to consider. Let me briefly summarize the points—the high proportion of the incidental charges for your labour; the form in which you bring your estimates before Parliament is not only perfectly inconvenient for 1209 Parliament to get any knowledge as to what they are spending, but deliberately calculated and contrived to keep out the control of the Controller and Auditor General; the number of your Dockyards at home and abroad and the enormous amount of the incidental charges connected with them; the utter unreliability of your estimates as regards ships, whether as regards the original cost or the final estimate as compared with the original; the useless amount spent on repairs and in alterations; the amount of money which is spent in the maintenance of foreign yards which might perfectly well be closed; and other matters which I have brought forward as bearing out in every word the condemnation—the strong and deliberate condemnation—passed upon the system pursued by the Admiralty by the two Committees which I quoted at the beginning of my speech. I trust the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty will not put these remarks—thoroughly authenticated and well founded—aside by merely trusting to his official majority. If he does not attach importance to them, the country does. The country will not go on throwing millions of money into the hands of the First Lord of the Admiralty to have them expended in the way in which the official documents show they are expended. Let him show what he has done to produce improvement in these branches of the Service, or, if he does not, looking at the question as not one of Party in the least degree, I do earnestly implore the Committee to refuse absolutely to proceed with the Vote until the Admiralty have furnished the most ample and complete information.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
My noble Friend has made an attack, not only on the Board of Admiralty, but upon different Boards of Admiralty for years past. Well, I say at once that while I do not wish to make political capital by reflecting on the action of our official Predecessors, I cannot, on the other hand, hold myself in any way responsible for what occurred before the present Government came into Office. My noble Friend has not been quite just in his criticisms. I have never said that the Navy expenditure could not be reduced, and the Navy Estimates for this year show a reduction of £800,000 upon the Navy expenditure of last year.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
No. I say that the Navy Estimates this year show a reduction of £800,000 on the Navy expenditure of last year; and if there had not been sprung upon us, at the last moment, a liability which we had not expected to meet, and if we had not had to pay 53 weeks' wages instead of 52 weeks', the reduction shown would have been £900,000. I distinctly stated in my Memorandum that I was satisfied that for years to come there could be a steady reduction of expenditure and an increase of efficiency. My noble Friend has alluded to the Reports of two Committees. With regard to the first Report of the Committee, over which Lord Ravensworth presided, I believe that nearly all its recommendations had been acted upon. But the second Committee made a very strong Report upon the Dockyard expenditure, and especially dealt with a large proportion of incidental expenditure connected with the Dockyards. Let us understand what is meant by this incidental expenditure. It includes every conceivable item of expenditure except labour and materials. What is meant by a Royal Dockyard? It is not like an ordinary shipbuilding yard. It is a great naval arsenal. It has to perform every conceivable kind of work—not only to build and to repair ships, but there is an enormous expenditure in a Royal Dockyard which does not take place in a private shipbuilding yard. In addition to that, there are a multitude of duties which must be performed in a Royal Dockyard as long as you have a Navy at all. Now, what did I do in reference to this Report? As I have said, the Report of the second Committee was a very strong one. Admiral Graham was Chairman of that Committee. He had various conversations with me, and he satisfied me that a great many economies could be effected. What did I do? I took the first opportunity of making him Controller of the Admiralty, and he has effected immense economies. A great many of the criticisms of my noble Friend I admit to be perfectly just. Why do the Dockyards cost so much in the building of ships? I am sorry to say it is, to a great extent, because the idea has got into the heads of the localities that instead of the 1211 Dockyards existing for the Navy, the Navy exists for the Dockyards. So long as the establishments were in excess of the work which they had to perform, the estimates sent in were not regulated by the work done by the number of men on the establishment. We have found that out over and over again. In one instance there were double the number of joiners who could possibly be employed. You could not get rid of them; they were on the Establishment, and entitled to continuous employment. I know that what we did was very unpopular. The result of bringing down the Establishment to its work is, that only the other day the Sheerness Yard competed with private contractors for some torpedo boats, and not only built them below the amount for which the contractors would have done it, but for more than £500 less than the estimates. That shows that if the Admiralty kept the work, and tried to infuse in the minds of all the officials in the Dockyards the sense that it is their business to save money in every possible way, it can be done. But what are the influences against which we have to contend in enforcing economy? We have every political and social pressure to contend against; and if any Government undertakes to cut down establishments, immediately Parliamentary pressure is brought to bear upon the Government so acting, and there is a social pressure brought to bear upon the local officials in the Dockyards, which, in human nature, they cannot resist unless they are strongly supported by the Admiralty, because one great peculiarity of the Dockyard establishments is this—that for generations past members of the same families have been employed, and multiplied, in them, and there is more consanguinity to be found among the Admiralty employés in the Dockyards than exists in any similar number of workpeople in the world.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
No; in the Dockyards. Promotion is very properly given by merit; and the more persons you employ, and the larger the establishments in the Dockyards, the more the localities benefit. Undoubtedly there was a desire on the part of the local officials to run up the establishments. Well, 1212 we have stopped that, and I dare say that everybody else who might have been at the Admiralty would have done it. Without quarrelling with the elaborate analysis of my noble Friend, when I state what we have done, I think I shall be able, in a few sentences, to make good my words. For the first time for many years past there was no Supplementary Vote for the Dockyards last year; for the first time for many years past ships are being built within the estimates. In past years it was the practice to sanction an excess expenditure, and by not keeping proper control over it the localities benefited. But I shall be happy later on to lay on the Table information showing the ships which have been built within the estimates. My noble Friend pointed out that our Votes afforded much less information than previous Votes afforded. Now, if you allot a certain sum of money to every particular Service in every individual yard, you may rely upon it that every farthing of the money will be spent. But, on the other hand, if you keep control of that money, and do not let those in the localities know what they have to spend, the estimate will not be according to the sum which you put in the Vote, but according to the actual cost of the work to be done. I am quite satisfied that the exclusion of the minute information which we gave in past years has resulted in substantial economy this year. My noble Friend has pointed out the great growth of incidental charges; he has pointed out that the cost of labour has not grown, and that the cost of the material worked by that labour has, in many cases, absolutely diminished. But that is a misleading estimate to apply to the work which professional and naval officers have to perform in the Dockyards. Ships of war are now probably the most complicated machines that were ever constructed; and there is not the slightest analogy between the costs of the ships of war which were built a few years back and those which are now laid down. If the Committee will allow me, I will give a few figures to show how continual the changes have been. You say—"How marvellously the cost of ships of war has increased?" There has been more improvement and more development in shipbuilding and in naval ord- 1213 nance during the last 30 years than has probably taken place during the 500 years preceding.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
Yes; but I will take 30 years. Guns have increased in weight from 4¾ tons to 110 tons, and the powder charge from 16 lbs. to 900 lbs., in weight of projectile from 68 lbs. to 1,800 lbs., in energy—measuring the force of blow struck on impact—from 450 foot-tons to more than 50,000 foot-tons at a range of 1,000 yards. You will see from this how much the ingenuity of the Naval Constructor is taxed to construct a ship which would be able to withstand so tremendous a blow. Of recent years it has been the practice largely to subdivide war ships into a number of minute watertight compartments. The Sombruiel, launched the other day, had 80 or 100 of these watertight compartments, together with a corresponding number of watertight doors, sluice valves, drain pipes, suctions, and a multiplicity of other complicated machinery. It is impossible to institute any fair comparison between the cost of such ships and that of ships built some time back, which had no such watertight compartments. My noble Friend has drawn a comparison between the cost of building ships in private yards and in the Dockyards. I confess I do not quite follow the figures of my noble Friend, because the figures which I have here show that the total cost of the Benbow, which was built in a private yard, is higher than the total cost of building the Camperdown in a Dockyard.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I claim that the original estimate of the Benbow was £709,000, and that the estimate was brought to £762,000.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
The Admiralty of that day had not decided what sized guns would be put into the 1214 Benbow, consequently there were a number of alterations, and they made two separate calculations; but, as far as I can judge from these figures, the total cost of the Benbow exceeded the total cost of the Camperdown. But I am quite ready to admit that private yards ought to build more cheaply than the Dockyards. It is the practice in the latter to lay down a certain number of vessels, to put men on, and to take a certain number off for other work as it arises; but, in private yards, they have to ascertain the total number of men that can be economically employed. And, in reference to the ships that we are now laying down, I may say that the cost of the Trafalgar, as far as we have gone, is 50 per cent less than of the Camperdown, because we have put on a larger number of men and taken care that those men are not removed. There is no doubt that my noble Friend is perfectly just in saying that increased cost is the result of the changes that are constantly taking place in the design of vessels after they were laid down; but we are doing all in our power to prevent this. We have passed rules and regulations by which complete co-operation will take place between the various offices—between those responsible for guns, engines, and complement. They will thus find the weight for each ship, and I have every reason to hope that the arrangement will prevent the delay which has occurred through the Department not knowing their own mind as it is called, and also the increased weights which have occurred in the past. Then my noble Friend calls attention to the fact that the Controller and Auditor General has practically little control over the application of the sums included in these Estimates. [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: I said that he had none.] Well, it is the system which I discourage, and my hon. Friend and I are in consultation with the view of arriving at a form of estimate which would give the control which the Committee undoubtedly desires. But in managing a business like the Dockyards it is never possible to estimate with exactitude at the commencement of the year the precise proportion of money required. For instance, we have a considerable number of ships out on contract. We estimate a certain amount of labour required, and we provide it; but the contractors are frequently behind 1215 time, the engines possibly will not pass the trial, and thus we are not able at the time we intended to put on the men. In that case I say that a certain latitude must be given to the Controller and to the Admiralty, so that as these difficulties arise they may transfer the men which they have on their establishment, and which they cannot discharge, to some other work. My noble Friend has stated what I think is practically true—that it is very difficult to give the exact cost of any one of our Dockyards. The expenditure connected with the Dock yards is contained in the different Votes; but when my noble Friend says that it is impossible to give it fully—
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I never said that it was impossible to give it; I said that it was impossible to get it. That is a totally different thing.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
It would be difficult certainly for the Estimate presented to Parliament to contain all the information which would show fully and completely the expenditure of each separate Dockyard. I think it could be done, but it would be difficult. My noble Friend has called attention to the very large proportion of incidental charges of the Dockyards carried to the account of labour. Now, the first part of Vote 10 is for all the stores which are required for ships. You must, of course, take cognizance of labour in this just as much as you must take cognizance of the labour which works with the material. But these comparisons are in many cases very misleading. My noble Friend pointed out that the salaries at the Dockyards in the last two years had increased by the sum of £72,000. Now, in 1883, the Board of Admiralty promoted a number of shipwrights to the position of sub-inspectors, whose wages had previously come under the head of labour. [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: The amount is £28,000.] But, their salaries being transferred, the labour Vote is diminished. That accounts, I think, to a considerable extent, for the very large proportion which the incidental expenditure bears to labour. In fact, the increase is only apparent.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
May I be permitted to say that the increase of £30,000 in the salaries of officers in charge took place in 1884–5, and that the change the noble Lord is 1216 referring to was made in 1883. It does not relate to my point at all.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
I may be wrong as to the exact date, but it was done about that time. The noble Lord has referred to Haulbowline, and he has denounced the expenditure in connection with that place. I was not responsible for that. It was an expenditure advocated by Lord Spencer, who said that the work was an act of justice to all parties. I do not think it is a very profitable expenditure so far. But my noble Friend took the total cost of the Victualling Yards.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
No, no! The labour I took was the labour expended on repairs. The incidental charges wore exclusive of the Victualling Yard and Dockyard.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
Yes; but there is no Dockyard there; there is a graving dock, but it is in no sense a Dockyard. There is this to be said—that in time of war Haulbowline would be a most important post, because it is not accessible to shell fire. We have, besides, added a wall at low-water mark, and we hope that as those works are completed, and as the workshops are put up, the locality and the country will be able to get some little return for the very large expenditure which has been incurred. Then my noble Friend calls attention to the expenditure at Chatham and Portsmouth Dockyards. I am very much disposed to agree with the noble Lord as regards Chatham. The expenditure there appears to be enormous. I cannot believe that it will ever be utilized. But that brings us to a very difficult question—namely, that a great deal of the expenditure is forced on the Government because of the necessity of finding employment for our convicts. But, so far as the expenditure is concerned, we have stopped that of which the noble Lord complained; and I believe that next year there will be a considerable saving in building and works generally. My noble Friend has said that Sheerness might be shut up, and that the result would be the saving of £100,000 a-year. But that is not so, for there is at Sheerness a large establishment of men, who, by the terms of their contracts, are entitled to employment; and if you were to shut up that establishment you would have to put the men elsewhere. But 1217 there are reforms in many directions to be carried out, and although it generally happens that when reforms are made which carry with them reduction of expenditure, the unfortunate individual who makes them gets all the odium, and his Successors the credit; still, we are prepared to undertake the responsibility in this case. It has been pointed out that there are very expensive schools in connection with the Service, particularly the Engineering College, which the noble Lord says is too costly. That College was established about a year before I became First Lord of the Admiralty. I have not been satisfied with the result; I think it is far too costly, and I think we may provide other means than the College for obtaining an excellent supply of officers for the Navy. But a large number of boys have been entered at the College, and their parents have contracted with the Admiralty that they are to be kept for a certain time, and it is not in my power to shut up the College, or get rid of the teachers. I shall look into the matter as soon as I can, and try to reduce the cost of the education, and inquire whether other means cannot be devised by which to attract engineers into the Service. I can assure my noble Friend that we are trying to see whether something cannot be done to keep down the cost of Dockyard schools. But these schools, I would point out, are not in any way ordinary schools. They are rather schools in which the apprentices who entered have received instruction in shipbuilding and other matters, and many of whom have become Inspectors in the Navy. Our attention has been called to the number of apprentices in these schools; and, as we believe that they are more numerous than the needs of the Service warrant, we have largely reduced the number of entries this year—the reduction being something like 50 per cent. My noble Friend has alluded to the great cost of repairs, especially in connection with the Shah. The expenditure was stopped by me soon after we came into Office, and I notice that ships can be re-fitted at Malta much more cheaply than they can at the Dockyards here. My noble Friend also called attention to the fact that after ships are delivered by the contractors considerable expenditure is incurred upon them in the Dockyards. Well, as a rule, these ships are not de- 1218 livered complete, and a certain number of additions have to be made to them. Upon this point, I may say that our attention was called to the fact that the specifications in certain contracts made by our Predecessors were not sufficiently precise, and also to the fact that when ships are delivered at the Dockyards a considerable amount of substantial work was not done. I think we have, to a largo extent, stopped this waste of money. Our specifications are more exact; there is more communication between the contractors who are building and the Dockyards, and a closer system of supervision is adopted. I am, therefore, in hope that this expenditure, if not altogether got rid of, will in future be largely reduced. My noble Friend has referred to the cost of Naval Yards abroad. We have, not had time to go into this matter; but the Inspector of Dockyards is about to make a tour of inspection if he can get away, the result of which I hope may be to enable us to effect gradual reductions. Whether we require so many Dockyards is a question upon which I cannot express a decided opinion. My impression is that some of the Naval Yards abroad might be closed. My noble Friend cannot, of course, expect mo to follow all the details he has brought forward; they range over a large number of years, and many of them have little or no connection with the Estimate which we are now discussing. I think I have now answered all the questions which my noble Friend has put to me. [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: Oh, yes.] I think, at any rate, I have answered all the material points, and I can only say in conclusion what I have stated in my Memorandum. When I first came to the Admiralty, we had been on the verge of war, and our system had not been overhauled for years past; its defects had not been discovered. Undoubtedly, there had been a considerable waste of money; and, undoubtedly, money is still sometimes unwisely expended on the repair of ships which are almost useless for the purposes of war. Many duties, however, are imposed upon the Navy, in addition to those directly connected with war, which it is necessary to provide for; and, although I cannot help thinking that the noble Lord has somewhat over-estimated the extent of the reforms that can be made, I am still of opinion that im- 1219 provement is possible, and that expenditure can be reduced. I have confidence that we can effect improvement, and reduce expenditure; and, although my noble Friend has to-night been a little hard upon us, I trust he will continue to give us effectual assistance in our attempt to obtain a better return for the money which the country expends upon its Navy.
§ MR. R. W. DUFF (Banffshire)
The noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton) takes credit for having reduced the Navy Estimates by the sum of £800,000. I do not quite agree in the amount of reduction, the total of which appears to me, after deducting the amount taken in Army Estimates for additional naval guns, to be £685,000; but I am glad to find that the noble Lord has been enabled to reduce the Navy Estimates, and that he does not now insist on the enormous expenditure which he endeavoured to force upon the late Board of Admiralty. I have one or two remarks to make with regard to the speech of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), with whom I agree when he says that the Board of Admiralty have not paid much attention to the recommendations made by some of the Committees which have reported on Admiralty matters. The noble Lord spoke especially of Lord Ravensworth's Committee, with reference to the policy of repairing old ships rather than building new ones, which I am afraid still goes on at the Admiralty. The noble Lord complains that there is not so much information given in these Estimates as was formerly the case; but I think we must give the First Lord credit, in the case of obsolete ships, of furnishing a little more information than has been given before, because on page 242 I find there is an amount shown on account of obsolete ships which comes up to the very large total of £2,500,000. At the same time, I must say the information given here might lead anyone not conversant with Naval matters to come to an inaccurate conclusion, if he assumed that all the ships built after 1876 were efficient, because there are many vessels on the list which I am sure the noble Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) would not deem efficient. I am afraid that a very large reduction must be made from the list of ships. I should say that the first half- 1220 dozen ships on the list are obsolete—the Black Prince, Prince Albert, Bellerophon, Minotaur, the Agincourt—all those vessels, I think, are obsolete. Then, further down the list, there are the Iron Duke, Swiftsure, and Triumph, which I do not think my noble Friend will consider efficient; and again, when we come to the smaller vessels there is a still larger number of obsolete ships left on the Navy List. I have said that anyone looking at the total in the Appendix would imagine that all the ships built after 1876–7 were efficient. But if you turn to page 250, there are a number of vessels built in 1878 which ought not to be on the list; amongst them are the Osprey, the Pelican, and the Penguin, and there is also the Dragon, built in 1878–9, to which the same remark applies. Most, if not all, of these ships were condemned by the Naval Lord (Lord Charles Beresford) before he went to the Admiralty. Then there is the Kingfisher, on service at the East India Station; she was built in 1880, but I am afraid it would be a very doubtful policy to spend any more money on her. I come now to eight composite vessels, built in 1881–2; these were included in the list of the Naval Lord; they were not, in his opinion, fit to go to sea, but ought to be destroyed. These vessels cost £200,000 for building and repairs; and I hope the Committee investigating Naval matters upstairs will make close inquiry into the circumstances, and ascertain how these vessels came to be built. I am not charging this upon the present Board of Admiralty; they are no more responsible for it than the late Board; but when the Committee get the Controller of the Navy into the Chair, I hope it will be ascertained how it was that these ships of a speed of only nine knots came to be built. I say that, having regard to the qualities of vessels being built by other Powers at the time, we had no right whatever to build ships of only nine knots an hour. I have heard it suggested that we ought to have a Committee of the House to inquire into the designs of our ships. But I do not think Boards of Admiralty pay very much attention to the recommendations of Committees, and, therefore, I should like the Committee upstairs to make a minute inquiry into the system under which our ships are designed and built. 1221 It might be advisable to appoint a Committee to consider the question of designs; but I think the subject should be first investigated by the Committee now sitting upstairs. I think the First Lord sufficiently answered the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) with regard to Haulbowline. Of course, Haulbowline is an entirely new work; there has been expenditure, but nothing has been got from it yet, but I do not suppose the noble Lord would seriously ask the Committee, when they have spent £500,000 upon the work, to give it up, and build a dock somewhere else in Ireland. The expenditure has been made; we were not responsible for it; but I believe we required a dock in Ireland, and I do not think that, having spent the money, it would be good policy to spend more money in building a dock somewhere else. The noble Lord says that we have no depôts in South America. If the noble Lord was alluding to the Brazils, it is perfectly true that we have no Dockyard there; but that is no reason why we should do away with the Dockyards at Bermuda, Halifax, and Jamaica, which are absolutely necessary for the maintenance of our communications and for coaling stations in that part of the world. I do not propose to raise any question on this Vote with regard to gun-mountings, as that will come under Vote 10, although, as I have said, I agree with a good deal which has fallen from the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington, and I think that a great many of his criticisms were very just. On the other hand, I consider that he has overlooked the enormous growth of cost of war material, and that he has also overlooked the fact that, although iron-plates have gone down in value, the value of steel-plates has greatly increased. Another point which has escaped the attention of the noble Lord is, that the overhead protection of our ships is now nearly double what it used to be. I think that will account for a good deal of the increased expenditure; but I can only say that the noble Lord will have an opportunity of examining all these subjects as Chairman of the Committee now sitting upstairs to inquire into the War Office and Admiralty administration. I will only add, in conclusion, that we on this side of the House shall all be glad if by any means the noble Lord can show us how we can 1222 arrive at increased efficiency with reduced expenditure.
§ MR. PULESTON (Devonport)
There are but few observations which I desire to make upon this Vote. The First Lord (Lord George Hamilton) has spoken of a feeling entertained by some that the Navy exists for the Dockyards. I am not one of those who think in that way; but I certainly have the idea that the keeping of the Dockyards in a state of efficiency largely and directly contributes to the efficiency of the Navy; and if it has not done so, the cause, in my opinion, does not lie in the Dockyards themselves, as is implied by some of the speeches we have heard to-night, but in the controlling power of the Admiralty. I know that the Members representing Dockyard constituencies when the First Lord of the Admiralty took Office were brushed aside, and that any advice we were able to give was treated as coming from those who were rather interested in expenditure than economy. I must point out that the increased expenditure in connection with the Dockyards does not arise altogether from the increased amount of labour; and it has been shown that a portion of the increased charge is due to increased salaries, and fie has referred to a transfer which has taken place of a part of the Vote. But that does not account for the whole of the increase. We have been told that it was necessary to give ships to private yards, in order to check prices—that is to say, to give away work that would have been of service in promoting the efficiency of the Dockyards. And it has been said on this and on previous occasions that we could not get rid of the people on the Establishment. That would certainly have been a very strong reason with business men for getting out of these servants the maximum amount of work, because it would not have entailed any additional cost for supervision. But we are told that is not so, and at the same time that, in order to check prices, we do away with one of the chief elements of Dockyard efficiency. I submit very respectfully that both those arguments cannot hold good. Reference has been made to Parliamentary and other forms of pressure put upon the Admiralty; but so far as Parliamentary pressure is concerned, I think the noble Lord has not altogether shown the amount of con- 1223 sideration that might have been extended to the suggestions of those of us who have endeavoured to discharge their duty in connection with these matters in this House, and who have objected rather to the way in which things have been done than to the things themselves. There is a right way and a wrong way in all cases; and, so with reference to the discharges that have taken place in the Dockyards, I say that this could have been done in a manner which would have obviated much of the difficulty which has been experienced. On that ground we still complain, notwithstanding what the noble Lord has said with regard to Parliamentary pressure; and on that point I venture to express the hope that Parliamentary pressure will always be brought to bear upon Ministers in the direction of having the best use of the money which is put into their hands to be spent for the service of the country. Then as to the local and social pressure spoken of, that is a very small matter. I have never heard of it before in these cases, and certainly any amount of local and social pressure ought not, in my opinion, to be sufficient to prevent a First Lord doing his duty; that sort of pressure, at any rate, will not entail any heavy burden on the Exchequer. When the noble Lord says that all increase is stopped, I take issue with him, and say, on the contrary, that having a considerable increase of high-salaried officers, while only the number of labourers and others at the Dockyards is decreased, is not the best way to promote efficiency or economy. With regard to the Engineering College, I think that the noble Lord has made a very disturbing statement with reference to that institution. I do not know what is in the mind of the noble Lord; but I hope he will give us a little more information on this subject, so that we may better understand the position which the College will occupy in future. The idea was that the College was of great advantage to the Navy, and that it was doing useful work, with every prospect of advantage resulting there from to the country. That being so, I say that if there is to be any change with regard to the College, it is of importance that we should hear a little more on the subject. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), in speaking of the cost of our ships, has 1224 alluded to two Reports, which, he say, have not been referred to in this House. We have not always had the advantage of the noble Lord's presence on these occasions; but I am glad we have it this evening, for I can assure him that the Reports in question have been referred to in this House in many ways and at many times. The Committee presided over by Lord Ravensworth urged, and I have also many times urged in this House, that the additional expenditure in the case of ships in course of construction arose invariably from the changes which were constantly being made at the Admiralty. I am perfectly certain that it will be found, from beginning to end, that the apparent increase of expenditure in connection with shipbuilding in the Dockyards, as compared with private yards, has arisen from the changes in the construction of vessels which the Admiralty have, so to speak, in their own hands; whereas, in the case of a contract made with a private yard, the work is estimated, a certain number of men is put on, they are paid a certain price, the work is done, and the ship is delivered. It is beyond doubt, I think, that if we do not build ships in our Dockyards as cheaply, more cheaply, and better than they are built in private yards, it is not the fault of our Dockyards, but of the Admiralty, with whom the control rests. Having regard to the plant and labour at our Dockyards, we ought to be able to turn out ships cheaper than they can be delivered from private yards. When this subject has been brought up, it has been suggested that a great deal of the excess of expenditure arises from the idleness of the men in our Dockyards. I am again obliged to repudiate that statement. There is no class of men who desire to work more faithfully or at less extravagant wages than the men employed by us; but if, on the other hand, obstacles are put in the way of the men working on a ship, the fault, I say, does not lie with the men, but with the system, which I am afraid has not been improved, notwithstanding the large expenditure for the purpose of obtaining better control and supervision, which, after all, comes to nothing, for we have still to get ships, it seems, built in private yards in order to check prices. The question is, whether or no this new policy elaborated by the present Board of Admiralty has been successful. If it 1225 has, nothing is more likely to show an improvement in the figures which the noble Lord presents to the House in the direction of economy than to give as much work as possible to the Dockyards, without making it necessary to increase the staff and the supervising power. If, on the other hand, while you reduce the work done at the Dockyards, you cannot reduce the salaries and other expenditure there, you will by-and-bye have a charge for supervision far in excess of the expenditure on shipbuilding. Such a system would not be allowed to operate in private yards; and I believe it will be stated by a high authority before the Committee upstairs that the cost of our shipbuilding would be cheaper than in those yards if the same system followed in them were adopted in our Dockyards. When the noble Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) sat on the opposite side of the House he gave us a list of ships which he said ought to be broken up. I do not think we have heard quite so much on that subject of late; but I believe the noble Lord to be one of those who would not allow a change of sides to alter his principles—we had from him the statement that it would be a great waste of money to attempt to repair a number of ships, because by the expenditure of a little more money we might build new ships of a more serviceable character. With that view of the noble Lord I entirely agree; and I hope that, as Naval Lord, he will be able to tell us that steps have been taken in the direction which he indicated. I wish, again, to express my disappointment that the idea should have been expressed that Parliamentary pressure has always been in the direction of a large expenditure, to the prevention of economy, in connection with the Dockyards. I absolutely and entirely repudiate that view, and in doing so I venture to express the hope that the First Lord and his Colleagues will be able to arrive at a really economical result by conferring with those who for many years have been acquainted with Dockyard work, and that, whatever we who represent Dockyard constituencies may say here, we may have credit not for desiring the expenditure of money for the benefit of our constituencies, but an efficient naval administration in the interest of the country at large.
ADMIRAL MAYNE (Pembroke and Haverfordwest)
There are one or two remarks I should like to make in reference to Dockyard shipbuilding. I think the Committee upstairs would have been the better place for a minute discussion of this question than the House; but inasmuch as the question has been raised here, I desire to offer a few observations, especially with reference to some of the figures given by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill). I was rather surprised that the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) did not point out, if the Estimates are at all correct, the great mistake the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington made in his comparison between contract-built ships and Dockyard-built ships. I think the House of Commons ought to understand thoroughly that by no possibility can any ship be built by contract cheaper than it can be in Her Majesty's Dockyards, if the accounts are kept and the money is voted in the same way. But if you charge the salaries of the superintendents, and storekeepers, and police, and chaplains, and the expenses of schools, and various other items to ships, the outcome is that a larger price stands against the Dockyard-built ship than against the contract-built ship. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington quoted the case of the Benbow which cost£810,633. If we take the sister ships of the Benbow we find that the Camperdown, which was built at Portsmouth, cost £743,074, and that the Anson, built at Pembroke, cost £752,288. How, consequently, the noble Lord can make out that the Benbow was a cheaper ship than the Camperdown or the Anson, all three ships being of 10,000 tons, 10,600 horse power, and 17-knot speed, I am at a loss to see. Of course I am aware there is a difference in the armaments, but that does not account for a difference of over £60,000 in cost. I want to see the accounts for shipbuilding so kept that a fair comparison can be made. If an account were so kept—my opinion is, judging from the answers which were given before Lord Ravensworth's Committee which has been several times quoted, and especially from the answers given by Mr. Barnes—in which he told us that the incidental charges in the Dockyards are far in excess of what 1227 would be required regarding them simply as workshops—that Dockyard-built ships would be found to be quite as cheap as contract ships. Mr. Barnes told us that there was a good deal of difficulty in the comparison, from the mere fact that the charges were so different in the Dockyards and in private yards; and when he was asked by the hon. Member for the Jarrow Division of Durham (Sir Charles M. Palmer) if the incidentals were sent to the Accountant-General in London, he explained that items So-and-so gave the salaries of superintendents, professional officers and clerks at £38,000, and that of that £21,900 belonged to the "Ships and Services" and the remainder to "National charges." Consequently, I say no fair comparison can be made between Contract-built and Dockyard-built ships until the money is voted in the same way, and the accounts are kept in the same way. A good deal has been said in regard to the repairs of the ships, and the other night I asked my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) a Question in regard to the repair of the Garnet. The First Lord of the Admiralty took credit for stopping some repairs of the Shah; but he did not mention the repairs of the Northumberland, which is an utterly obsolete vessel, simply kept going because there are still left, unhappily for the Navy, some officers to whom royal yards are essential; they cannot believe that any ship can be properly kept afloat unless it has royal yards across. I admit that when the band plays "God save the Queen" it is a very dignified proceeding to "sway across;" but it certainly is not war, and it is certainly not an object for which ships utterly useless for war should be repaired at the expense of some £40,000 or £50,000. Now, the Garnet is a ship which, I believe, never steamed more than seven or eight knots an hour. Perhaps in her most useful days she did eight or nine knots, but anyhow she cannot do more than seven or eight now, and I think that a sum of £30,000 has been, or will be expended upon her, because it is felt necessary to keep such vessels for the relief of foreign stations. Well, I cannot see by what argument the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary to the Admiralty, who, I know, are not favourable to unnecessary expenditure, were persuaded to propose this sum. I 1228 should have supposed that the East Coast of America or the Pacific generally would have done just as well, if not better, with a modern vessel if there had been one ready. There are no ports, or hardly any ports which a vessel of 1,000 tons more than the tonnage of the Garnet or of any of the Gem class could not enter. Now, as to the question of the expenses of the Dockyards, the noble Lord asks why ships cost so much more when built in the Dockyards; I think I can answer that question by saying, because you put on all those ships charges which are not put on ships built by private builders. Take the case of the Pembroke Yard with which I am most familiar. I find there has been an increase of £1,000 in the charge for police during the last 10 years; and in looking at that charge I regret to find it is not an increase of pay given to the police for services, but that it is charged on account of the increase in the number of the police employed. Now, to my certain knowledge, Pembroke Yard has not been in any way increased during that time, and I should like to know why this extra charge is made, because I may say about two-thirds of that charge, if not all, is put down to shipbuilding there. The First Lord of the Admiralty has mentioned another great flaw, one of the greatest flaws perhaps in the Dockyard administration—namely, that the officials cannot be discharged. I mean that although Dockyardsmen can be discharged an Overlooker cannot. The Admiralty, for some reason best known to themselves, have debarred themselves from the right of getting rid of any overseer in the Dockyards under 60 years of age, unless he commits himself in such a manner that he must be discharged. If they really mean to maintain the Dockyards efficiently at a reduced complement, I should think one of the first things to do would be to take to themselves power to maintain a right proportion between over lookers and ordinary labourers; and I hope that in any reductions they may make, they will take some such step as will enable them to maintain a proper proportion. I know that the First Lord of the Admiralty said the other day that the number of over lookers was fixed when the complements of the Dockyards were much lower than now. I think it is a patent fact that the overlooking is not what it might be, or else 1229 an ordinary Dockyardsman does not do the same amount of work as a man in a private yard. I am not able to say whether that is so; but that is the common belief, and that is one of the reasons why we are told the Dockyards will have to be reformed. It is argued that there are too many men, and that the work is inefficiently performed. My own impression is that if Dockyardsmen are set to their work properly, and are properly overlooked, they will do just as good work, if not better, than it is possible to turn out in a contract yard, and do it just as cheaply. There is another very important point, in my opinion, with regard to the Dockyards to which I wish to draw attention, and that is the appointment of Superintendents. I do not think I am mistaken in saying that the present First Lord of the Admiralty is of opinion that the continual changing of the Superintendents of the Dockyards by no means conduces to the efficiency of the Yards. Anyone who has studied the subject must be of opinion that if we wish to have efficiency the Superintendents of the Dockyards must be appointed for three, or, I should say, for live years at least, and that men should be selected on account of their fitness for Dockyard work. I have been given to understand that the First Lord perfectly agrees with that view, but that the Treasury will not grant the necessary money. If that be so, I can only say that this is only another instance of the Treasury standing in the way of efficiency in the Navy. Moreover, it is remarkable how these appointments are made. Instead of people being selected on account of their special fitness for the work, or on account of their having served in the Steam Reserve, we find the very opposite is the practice. Although I have nothing whatever to say against the able officer, personally, who was last appointed, he has never served in the Dockyards, has never been in the Steam Reserve, and knows nothing whatever of the duties he is called upon to perform. That, I submit, is not the way to get the most out of the Dockyards. I have stated several times that, while we cannot find fault with a certain number of the reductions in the Dockyards because we are bound to recognize the fact that whereas 10 years ago there were only 17,000 men employed in the Dockyards, there are now 22,000, the way the reductions have been made is most unsatisfac- 1230 tory, and the doubt as to the future in which men are kept is extremely trying, not only to the Dockyardsmen, but to the Members representing Dockyard constituencies, who are continually being asked for information as to how many men are going to be discharged, &c. We were told by the First Lord of the Admiralty, when he laid his Statement before the House, that the Admiralty had a plan. I have asked several times for that plan. If you have got a system, why do you not produce it? If you know what you are going to do, barring accidents—for which a Supplementary Vote can always be got—if you know what you are going to do in the next four or five years, you must know how many men you will want to do it. Why cannot you say, this Dockyard will be reduced to a certain number of men, and such work will be given to the Yard? I think it would be far better to concentrate all your building in certain Yards, and do all your fitting and repairing in other Yards. I will not detain the Committee further, because I look with hope—and I trust I shall not be disappointed—to the result of the labours of the Committee upstairs in unravelling some of the difficulties which are extremely puzzling to the uninitiated, or even to those who know something about them. The hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Puleston) has spoken of Parliamentary pressure in favour of contractors, and the First Lord of the Admiralty has alluded to a similar pressure in favour of the Royal Dockyards. All I can say is, that considering the number of the Members of the House who are connected with shipbuilding, I should imagine the Parliamentary pressure in favour of the Contractors was every bit as strong, if not stronger, than that which those interested in the Dockyards are able to bring.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
I will not detain the Committee more than two or three minutes. All I desire to do is to make a few observations upon the speech of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill). The noble Lord, in the course of his able speech, dealt with two main principles, and in other respects with details. He made considerable impression on the Committee, I thought, by the comparison he drew between the present cost of labour per ton of shipbuilding and the cost 1231 some years ago. It struck me that the noble Lord had left out some factor in his calculation; and I think that if the Committee considers for a moment, it will observe that the noble Lord left out the factor of the amount of labour required per ton. There are two factors to be considered upon the labour question—one is the cost of the labour, and the other is the amount of labour which is expended on a ton. The more complex is a ship, the greater is the amount of labour which has to be put into a vessel for each ton, consequently the price of the labour per ton must rise. The noble Lord left that factor completely out of his calculations; and, therefore, I do not think he presented a perfectly fair issue to the Committee in this respect. Then the noble Lord drew a comparison between direct and indirect charges. It appears to me that there, again, he did not quite present a fair issue to the Committee, and for two reasons. He altogether forgot to give us any comparison by which we might be able to appreciate whether the ratio of the indirect to the direct charges in the Dockyards was greater than the ratio in other large undertakings. He pointed out that in the English Dockyards it is about 70 per cent. That may or may not be; the fact I do not pretend to say; but certain it is that until we know what the indirect charges are made up of, and what are the circumstances which render these charges necessary, it is a useless issue to offer to the House to say that the indirect charges are the cost of looking after the direct charges, i.e., of labour. Moreover, it struck me that in the figures the noble Lord gave to the House from the constant quantity of 70 per cent, which he said was the ratio of the indirect charges to the direct charges in the English Dockyards, the inference rather was that the indirect charges were not unreasonable, because we find that figure of 70 per cent the constant charge of all English Dockyards, whereas abroad we find that the ratio is very much greater, in some instances 300 per cent. That is not to a certain extent, so difficult to account for, when we remember that the cost of labour in places like Hong Kong and Malta is lower than in England. I venture these two criticisms upon these portions of the noble Lord's speech, because I feel that those hon. Members who were 1232 present when the noble Lord spoke were very much struck with the way in which he placed his case before the Committee. I do not think he placed it quite fairly before the Committee, having, as I say, in one instance, left out the most important factor in the case, and having in the other instance not given us sufficient ground to form a judgment. In the remaining part of his speech, the noble Lord simply repeated other charges which had been made on previous occasions, and which, I think, have been at different times admitted by the First Lord of the Admiralty. The noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton) admitted on a previous occasion that many of these charges were perfectly true, and. that he and his Colleagues were doing their best to meet them. No doubt the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) has made some charges which have not been made before. I do not complain of the noble Lord pointing out where there is ex-travagance, I am quite with him in wishing to see economy introduced into the Navy and extravagance put down where possible, and I certainly hope that the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty and his Colleagues will be successful in carrying out the undertakings in the direction of economy which have been so frequently given to the House
§ SIR EDWARD REED (Cardiff)
The noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty commenced his remarks this evening by strongly disclaiming any responsibility for what had been done before he took Office. I wish I could believe that that disclaimer will be thoroughly carried out. I confess that when the present Government, or rather the present Government in its 1885 form took Office, they made such a decided, and as I think such a correct and worthy stand upon the matter of construction that I hoped for better things from them, and was myself anxious as far as I could to give them support. I felt that the course that the right hon. Gentleman now the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) took was a course of a very peculiar character, because it was a fearless and independent one, within the walls of the Admiralty. I happen to be one of those who think that the curse of the Navy and of the country in its administrative Depart- 1233 ments is the servility of Ministers to their subordinates. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) by the course he has taken has revived, or perhaps I ought to say, has begotten the hope in his mind that some great changes in the spending and administrative Departments will be made, and whatever may be thought by others, I can only say I could not fail to contrast the speech delivered by the noble Lord tonight with the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty which followed it. The First Lord of the Admiralty gave certain reasons for keeping up what he admits to be improper and extravagant expenditure, and dwelt largely upon the difficulties of making changes. Well, I do not think that that is the particular spirit which the country now desires to see men bring to the management of the public Departments. I think it is a totally different spirit we want; we want to see men in Office now who will take these difficulties by the throat and overcome them, and who will relieve the country and the public purse from the incubus under which we have been suffering for so many long years past. Now, strange to say, the course which the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington took in his speech to-night proceeded very much upon the same lines as I had myself intended to take in any observations which I might myself make to-night, but I am happy to say that the noble Lord took a broader view than I had intended to take. I am glad to say that in order to make clear to the Committee my views on this Vote I shall not have to repeat many of the figures the noble Lord gave us, though I shall, from a different point of view, be able to support the noble Lord's argument, that argument being that under this Vote the country is burdened with enormous charges, the nature of which is certainly not made clear, and the causes of which probably are, to a very large extent, unnecessary and extravagant. There was one part of the speech of the noble Lord which I really thought would have elicited from the First Lord of the Admiralty a totally different treatment from that which it received. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington made it absolutely certain in the Committee that one of two things existed, either that 1234 the most lavish waste and extravagance exists in the Dockyards, or else that the Estimates presented to the House are entirely untrustworthy. Now, it is known to the Committee, and to everyone who has acquaintance with this subject at all, that we have been receiving from the Ministerial Bench, for very many years past, the very same answer, a very unsatisfactory one, which occupied a prominent place in the speech of the noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton) to-night—namely, that those who complain of the extravagance in the Dockyards forget that our Dockyards are great naval establishments as well as establishments for shipbuilding. The question arises, why do you not make that clear to us in the Estimates which you present to Parliament? Why do you contend that the Dockyards have other purposes than the building of ships, but so confuse your figures for shipbuilding operations that under that confusion the extravagance and waste of which we complain takes place? The answer which I must respectfully submit ought to have been given to the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington to-night was, we will not henceforth confuse these charges which arise on account of the national character of the Royal Dockyards with the charges for shipbuilding, but we will give the House a fair opportunity hereafter of distinguishing between the two, and of deciding which of them is correct and ought to be allowed to remain. Now, the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington has, as I have said, dealt very broadly with this Vote. He included in his purview the whole of the Royal Dockyards at home and abroad, and the items both for labour and material, and the cost under Vote 11, of buildings and machinery which are employed in the production of shipbuilding work. Now, I will take a different line; and I think I shall be able to show that the result is quite as unsatisfactory as that shown by the noble Lord. I find, on looking through these Estimates, that when you take out the actual result of shipbuilding, ship-repairing, and refitting of ships, the amount expended on labour in the whole of the five Dockyard Establishments amounts to £1,132,000. That is the sum paid for labour in the Royal Dockyards at home, which, I believe, includes Malta—I know it does in regard 1235 to some figures; but whether with regard to all the figures I do not know. The charges for "Salaries and Allowances" in the five Royal Dockyards—the charges for administering this expenditure of £1,132,000—is £172,000, and to that I am obliged to add a few other items. Now, Mr. Courtney, it may tend to make my arguments clear if I, at this moment, take note of what has fallen from several hon. Members—and two hon. and gallant Members—in reference to the figures which the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington gave, and to the general question of incidental charges. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Holderness Division of Yorkshire (Commander Bethell) stated that the noble Lord failed to make clear how his charge of 70 per cent for establishment charges in Her Majesty's Dockyards compared with similar charges in private establishments. Well, now, I can give the Committee some little guidance on this question. It has fallen to my lot repeatedly to have shipbuilding, and ship-fitting, and ship-repairing done in private establishments upon this principle, that the builders were to be paid the net cost of the labour and materials, and so much in addition for establishment charges and for profits. I only deal here with the Establishment charges. In the figures which I just gave to the Committee, and in most of the figures the noble Lord gave, we deal only with one item of Establishment charges—namely, the item that takes the form or salaries of supervisors, storekeepers and the like. But in the Establishment charges of a private yard the charges paid for include all the expenses of the establishment, all the coal consumed in the furnaces and boilers, in fact, all the stores consumed in the performance of the work in respect to which the contract is made. And now, I make this statement without any fear of contradiction, that when you include every item of Establishment charges, builders are very glad indeed to receive 12½ per cent upon the cost of labour and materials, as Establishment charges, and in no case have we ever allowed a builder, or has any builder asked for more than 14 per cent upon the actual outlay upon labour and material. And I may add that 14 per cent was only sanctioned in a case which was exceptional in its way, when the 1236 whole of the armour bolts of the ship bad to be renewed, and that involved a large amount of Establishment expenditure. Now, the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Holderness Division asked how this 70 per cent in Government Dockyards compared with the expense in private establishments. My answer is that it is pretty nearly six times as much. I wish to make it quite clear, indeed it is quite clear from the speech of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington, that the mischief, the worthlessness of the figures which are placed before us in these Estimates arises from the mixing up of matters which should be kept totally separate. Now, sometimes an illustration is valuable in discussions of this kind, and I would point out to the Committee that if they turn to the book of Appendices and Index, page 170, they will find this item under the heading of "Dockyard Work,"—"Steam, Coal, Sea Stores, &c," £560,000. Now, any ordinary Member of the House, indeed anyone looking at this heading "Dockyard Work," is entitled to infer that the Admiralty actually spent £560,000 for coal for dockyard purposes. [Lord GEORGE HAMILTON: No.] Then why is £560,000 taken under the heading "Dockyard Work?" There is no answer to that question. The only answer is that there is a total and absolute confusion of the figures. [Lord GEORGE HAMILTON: Look at the margin.] The noble Lord points to the margin. I admit that it is perfectly true that there you get a contradiction of the heading. But I ask the Committee whether it is a reasonable thing to put, with any explanation at all, under the Estimate for Dockyard work, Vote 10, Section I, an item for coal for the Royal Navy? The fact that the note needs to be pointed out shows that these Estimates are not such as should have been put before the House, and I sincerely hope the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington, who has great influence in this matter, perhaps more influence than any other person in this House, will insist upon the total separation of these items. If these items of Fleet Expenditure and Dockyard Expenditure are separated I am sure that not only a great cause of difficulty will be removed, but a great cause of extravagance and waste. Now, I go on with the labour charge. The sala- 1237 ries and allowances as I have said for spending £1,132,000 amount to £172,000. The storekeeping, a part of which, I admit, goes to these coals and for stores, but still here it is, is £63,592; and there is an actual charge of £35,000 for police in the Dockyards. Then again, the charge for the Controller's Department ought to be attached to this Dockyard Vote as a part of the charge for expending the £1,132,000. In any private establishment all the services rendered to the Royal Navy in the Controller's Department, so far as the Dockyards are concerned, have to be rendered by the staff of the private firms within the private firms, and to be taken into account in making out any Estimate for the building of a ship, so I think the expenses of the Controller's Department ought to be added to the expenses of the Dockyards. And then we come to an item of which the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) took no account. I am rather surprised that he did not, because it really needs a little explanation. He said nothing whatever either about the£90,000 which goes in pensions to civil officers, or the £150,000 which goes in pensions to artificers of Her Majesty's Dockyards. Now, I do not wish, this evening to be understood as expressing any opinion for or against the pensions, but I maintain that this Committee is always informed by the Government of the day that the justifications for these pensions is the fact that we get our labour for a very much lower price than we could get it in the open market. Well, Sir, the consequence of that must be of course that as you get labour so cheaply, you must add the pensions for labour to the actual charge for labour in order to make such an account as any private firm would insist upon receiving; although I cannot imagine that any private firm would ever dream of spending £150,000 a-year in pensions to artificers, and the number of men on the Establishment is actually not larger than is employed in a single private firm in this country. I believe I am correct in saying that the hon. Baronet the Member for the Govan Division of Lanarkshire (Sir William Pearce), whom, if he were present, I would congratulate on his new honours, employed 7,000 men at a time when the wages of engine fitters ranged to nearly £5 per week, and when the 1238 wages of fitters were nearly £4 per week. I have not the smallest doubt that the hon. Baronet's weekly expenditure on labour was then equal to that in the whole of Her Majesty's Dockyards put together, and I should like to know how the hon. Baronet would have got on if he had had to find £150,000 per annum for pensions to artificers who had been formerly in his employ. Why the thing will not bear a thought. I am not speaking, as I say, against pensions, but I am arguing that as you have got to pay pensions on account of Dockyard labour, and as you imagine that you get the value of these pensions in the reduced cost of Dockyard labour it is a perfectly correct and proper thing, as a matter of account, to add these charges to the annual charge for labour. Now, I admit at once that I am exposing myself to a charge of a serious character, but one for which I believe I have a perfect answer. It may be said that this charge should be added to the labour item, and not to the accumulated charges I am dealing with. Well, I would add it to the labour charge, and not to the other charges if we got the value for it. [Captain PRICE (Devon-port): It is added.] Now, let me deal with that case. We have heard here to-night speeches from the Representatives of Dockyard constituencies, and I entirely sympathize with the spirit of those speeches. I am glad I have ceased to be a Dockyard Representative, because as such a Representative I found certain invidiousness in speaking upon naval matters. I sympathize with hon. Gentlemen in all the comparisons they institute between the cost of ships built by contract and the cost of ships built in Her Majesty's Dockyards; but I must point out that hon. Gentlemen simply take the labour and material expended in the Dockyards, and leave out altogether these other matters. [Admiral MAYNE: No, no!] I know my hon. and gallant Friend (Admiral Mayne) is of opinion that that is not so. He said to-night, most distinctly, that we only find Dockyard-built ships dear in comparison with contract-built ships because of the accumulated charges upon them. Now, I want to speak upon that point, and to show that he is entirely mistaken. There are some figures given by the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) which have been disputed. I do not 1239 know whether they are disputed rightly or wrongly, because they are not figures I am now prepared to deal with; but so far as I was able to follow the figures of the noble Lord, they appeared to me perfectly correct, even when they went the length of overthrowing the figures placed in our hands in the Estimates of the year. I believe that they will be found to be so, and that is why I am so anxious that the Lords of the Admiralty should not become the mere tools and servants of their servants. We ought to have their assistance in bringing these things to light, and in arriving at a sound conclusion in regard to them. I should like incidentally to complain of a statement which the First Lord of the Admiralty made the other day in reply to a question put to him by mo as to the tonnage of the Impérieuse. A tabular statement has been put forward on the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Caine), and by the courtesy of the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Forwood) I have been allowed to see an early copy of it, and I quote from it, in order to show what the permanent officials will induce the Board of Admiralty to do if they lend themselves to their purposes. This is the authoritative statement on which the First Lord of the Admiralty contradicted me as to the tonnage of the Impérieuse. The tonnage is given here, the displacement is said to be 7,600 tons, and then a, star is put to it, and there is a note under—Beam was increased by one foot by the addition of the thickness of wood sheating between the date of preliminary design as detailed to Parliament in March, 1881, and the finished design.That is the explanation given by the noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton) to the House; but what will the noble Lord say when I tell him that in every Estimate presented to the House since the Impérieuse was begun, the original tonnage has been given? The tonnage which I gave—7,309 tons—is the tonnage which has been presented to this House every year from that time forth. Then, why does not the noble Lord come forward and justify my statement? Why does he seek to discredit me by making statements which we have no means of verifying, and which I do not in the least believe?
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
I had not the slightest notion that I was 1240 attacking the hon. Gentleman. It has never been the practice of the Admiralty where tonnage is taken by displacement and not by measurement, to take notice of any alteration which may occur during construction. That is the invariable practice, and the Question put to me the other day was what was the extra weight which was added to the Impérieuse during construction.
§ SIR EDWARD REED
The explanation of the noble Lord is this that when a Member of this House gets up and speaks with care and confidence upon the figures which have been year after year presented to this House, he is to be subjected to contradiction, and the explanation for the contradiction is to be found in the fact that an alteration was made in a ship five years ago, and that the Admiralty never took the trouble to acquaint the House with it. That is no explanation at all; or, at any rate, it is an explanation which I myself would be ashamed to be made the organ of in any assembly of gentlemen, and I am surprised, nay, more, I am alarmed, at the conduct of the noble Lord, because it proves that in future we shall not be able to depend upon communications that are made to us through the noble Lord. What we have a right to expect from Ministers is personal examination of all points in which Members of this House require information, and a Minister ought to be able to depend absolutely upon what he says. Now, in the noble Lord's own Minute there is a rigmarole—I hope it is not un-Parliamentary for me to use such a word—about compound engines having a different quantity of fuel supplied to them. I had to deal with compound engines when I was at the Admiralty, and nothing of the kind existed. It is a fiction palmed off upon the noble Lord, and it appears in his Minute as though it were truth. There is another thing. We are actually told that certain ships of a most important character, and costing £2,000,000 sterling, are safe because of their armour having been sunk below the water-line, and have got a lot of coal on the top of the armour to help to sink them. I expected better things of the noble Lord, and even yet I expect better things from him.
§ SIR EDWARD REED
I am sorry to detain the Committee, but it is said in the noble Lord's Minute—Thus, although the position of the belt may have been correctly calculated for the weight of coals it was at the time decided to carry, and which were adopted as their deliberate policy by the then Board of Admiralty, the same is undesirably low if coals to the full stowage—which is the policy of the present Board—are put on board.Then the noble Lord goes on to say—There would be above the armour belt—
§ SIR EDWARD REED
I have not the slightest reason to object to read the next sentence, and I will do so. The noble Lord says—Though the policy which placed the position of the belt so low does not commend itself to the present Board, it is right to say that some claim for it certain compensating advantages, their contention being—(1) That there would be above the armour belts running along 140 feet of its length, when the full fuel supply is on board, a coal protection of 6½ feet in height, and of 11 to 17 feet in depth.I quite admit that the noble Lord put it in the form that "some say" this, but he did not give it a contradiction. If he meant to contradict it or to put it forward as something very absurd it is a great pity he did not add a few words to that effect. But, to return, I want to make myself perfectly clear to the Committee upon the question of the relative costs of ships built in private yards and of ships built in the Royal Dockyards. In order to do so, I will take what I think is a perfectly legitimate and convincing case. I will not take the case of the disputed ships; but I will take the case of the figures presented to us as the estimated cost of certain vessels to be built all alike, to be built, some by contract and some in the Royal Dockyards. Now, I take the case of those belted cruisers 1242 which I so fondly hoped were going to be belted cruisers, but which have turned out to be belted cruisers with their belts below the water line, and in which the noble Lord seems content to be satisfied, for he has made no proposal for redeeming them from that condition. In the Appendices we get the estimated cost of shipbuilding in the private yards and in the Royal Dockyards, and amongst those building in the Royal Dockyard are two vessels of the belted-cruiser class—namely, the Immortalité and the Aurora, and there are given the five vessels of the same class which are building in the private yards. Now, Sir, I hope the Committee will kindly attend to this, because it is perfectly conclusive. The estimated cost of the ships to be built by the private trade are as follows—namely, £266,000, £245,000, £245,000, £275,000, and £275,000 respectively. Now, the two ships, precisely the same, to be built in the Dockyard are the Immortalité £278,000—£3,000 more than the highest contract-built ship—and the Aurora, £284,000. These latter figures are for labour and material alone. So that when you take the labour and material alone, when you do not add to the labour and material of the Dockyard ships a single penny of the many charges for salaries and other expenditure which fall upon the builders of contract ships—when you take labour and material alone, the cost of the two Dockyard ships is estimated to be in excess of any of the five ships precisely of the same kind to be built in private yards. That being so what we have to look to is this—that the argument of my hon. and gallant Friend (Admiral Mayne) to the effect that the Dockyard-built ships become so expensive because of these charges incidental to a great Naval Service falls to the ground. I maintain I am justified in imposing upon the cost of labour in Her Majesty's Dockyards all these extra charges which are numerous for storekeepers, police control, and pensions to officers, which I take to be about £90,000 a-year, and pensions to artificers which I take to be £150,000 a-year. Then I add to that the £111,000 for incidental charges, which gives this result that we have an aggregate amount of £672,000 piled up upon an expenditure of £1,132,000 for work upon ships in the Royal Dockyard. I say there is no way out of this except one. I 1243 must challenge the Government upon that point, and elicit from them at least a promise that in the future we shall have a clear distinction made between the charges that are given for the general Naval Service, and the charges for shipbuilding. That is desirable in the interests of the Dockyards. I agree with hon. Members as to the capability of the Dockyards to do work as cheaply as any private yard. I believe they can do it more cheaply when they are properly looked after. The reason is that these figures are one mass of confusion, and the services are mixed up in such a ridiculous manner that no one can tell what ships cost or what they are likely to cost. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington said to-night that under the existing form of the Estimates you cannot tell what is going on in any Royal Dockyard. I confess that when I began to study this book of Appendices, I made search for Her Majesty's Dockyards. I knew that we were to be called, upon to vote this large sum for Dockyards, and I thought I should like to see what progress was being made with certain vessels. To my amazement not the name of a single Dockyard occurs in the Index to the Estimates. Not even the name of a Dockyard is given, and I do not hesitate to say that it will take anyone half-a-dozen hours to extract from n the Estimates a notion of what is being done in the Royal Dockyards. The First Lord of the Admiralty made a very curious statement. He said that this system had been adopted advisedly, that it had been adopted because he did not want the Dockyards to know how much they were to be allowed during the year, because if they did, they are induced to spend what they are allowed. But will the noble Lord allow me to say that all the fault found with regard to Dockyard management lies in the fact, not that the Dockyards have spent what has been allowed them in the Estimates, but that they have spent monstrous sums in excess of what the House granted? We are deliberately told now by the First Lord responsible for the administration of the Dockyards that he cannot be responsible for the Dockyards being managed satisfactorily unless they are kept in the dark as to what they are to be allowed to spend. In order that the Dockyards may be kept 1244 in the dark, we are to be kept in the dark. All I say is that if we submit to that, our last state will be worse than our first has been for some time. I hope the noble Lord will reconsider this point and give us hereafter an authentic statement of what has been done in the several Dockyards. I agree with what fell from the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Admiral Mayne) upon one point. I think the noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton) deserves our thanks and praise for having given us a good deal of information which exists in these Estimates, and which we have never heard before. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington made very good use, I thought, to-night, of some of the novel information. I was rather sorry to hear him produce it, because I have taken pains to pick out figures bearing on the relation to the original cost of ships, to the expenditure which has been incurred upon them since. I could not help remarking with what scorn my hon. Friend here (Mr. Duff) spoke of a great many of the Jubilee ships which we are to see at Spithead this week. I do not wish to say one word that would seem ungracious, or would mar the pleasure of any hon. Member in looking at that great array of ships, but 1 must say it does seem rather a strange proceeding to assemble at Spithead, as a manifestation of the naval power of this country, a lot of old craft which the Admiralty have not known what to do with for many years past. I could not help thinking of it, when my hon. Friend (Mr. Duff) mentioned the Black Prince, a ship which dates from the earliest days of iron shipbuilding. The Admiralty have really not known for years what to do with half-a-dozen or more of these obsolete ships, which we are to look at on Saturday next, and admire, and feel proud of. I am very glad, however, that we find some opportunity of putting them to some service in a National spectacle, but I hope no Members of this House will come away so impressed with what they see at Spithead as to suppose that they have been looking at more than seven or eight vessels which the noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton) can pronounce as suitable to go into battle. I was rather shocked to hear some facts stated by my hon. Friend, because he mentioned certain vessels as con- 1245 demned which were built not long ago. That is an appalling state of things for the Committee to be acquainted with. I thought it was bad enough; but what do I find as regards Her Majesty's yachts? The Victoria and Albert cost £136,000 a great many years ago; but it has cost £300,000 since. The Osborne, which was built fifteen years ago at a cost of £105,000, has cost £111,000 since. The Enchantress, which cost £39,000 originally, has cost £73,000, and the Helicon cost originally £46,000, and has had £46,000 spent upon it since. There are five other vessels—very old craft—and I am afraid they are kept going for no better reason than that the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty and his Colleagues opposite have not the courage of their opinions, and to come down to the House and propose that a new yacht should be built. The consequence is that these yachts, some of which were built before many of us were born, are kept going, with the nett result that they originally cost £162,000, but have since had spent upon them £193,000. This state of things when it relates to ships that are 20 years old or more, is bad enough, but what is to be said of a state of things in which an hon. and gallant Gentleman who was formerly Civil Lord of the Admiralty, comes down to the House and tells us that ships that we built so late as 1880, 1881, and 1882 are condemned as unfit for the Public Service? Well, that being so, I say the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) ought to have a totally different reply from the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) than that which he has had.
§ SIR EDWARD REED
Because we ought to receive from the First Lord of the Admiralty when such a ghastly array of facts has been put before us, some better assurances of reforms than have been given. That, at any rate, is an important view of the case. I confess I should not feel very much hope in the matter if it wore not for the tremendous accession of force which the friends of economy and reform in finance have received in the person of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington. I for one thank the noble Lord for the very gallant mariner in which he has 1246 devoted himself to the task of bringing about a change. As regards Sheerness, which is my native place, I do not wish to see it shut up; but I must say I was surprised at the reply the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty gave to the noble Lord on that subject. The noble Lord said that Sheerness Dockyard cannot be shut up, because you have a number of officers there who will be entitled to pensions, and some men also. I know something about that question, because it fell to my lot to shut up two Dockyards; and I would call the noble Lord's attention to the fact that, however true his answer may be with regard to some officers, he himself explained in an earlier period of his speech that which it is necessary to do on certain occasions. It is possible to transfer these officers from a yard at which they are not wanted to a yard in which you do want them. It cannot be said—"Oh, but we do not want them any more," because it happens to be a fact that you have only about 6,000 men on the establishment to be provided for, whilst you have 11,000 others in the Dockyards to whom the authorities are under no such obligation. I was very glad, indeed to hear the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty say that he would consider the whole question of naval education—to give something of the nature of a promise that he would have the whole matter considered.
§ SIR EDWARD REED
I should like to say a few words upon that subject, because, having been educated myself in some degree in the Dockyard schools, I know what those schools once were, although I do not know what they are now. They were schools established for the purpose—if the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) will allow me to say so in contradiction to his statement—for the purpose of providing elementary education. There was not, at any rate in. my day, a single particle of professional education imparted in those schools. When I say elementary education, I mean elementary, mathematics, and so on. It was necessary to sustain these schools for a number of years, because in the Dockyard towns there existed no educational appliances worth mention- 1247 ing. But that state of things has passed away; and now in the common Board schools of the country the children of the working classes are receiving in very many cases an education which it is oftentimes very difficult for a wealthy father to secure for his son, so good is it. Therefore, I contend that the maintenance of schools in the Dockyards for the purpose of teaching elementary and somewhat advanced scientific education—apart from professional education—is an anachronism. It is not necessary; but I am sorry to say that, if my information is correct, either the noble Lord or one of his Predecessors is responsible for having recently elevated the class of masters in the Dockyards. I should be sorry to see faith broken with anybody; but I really think we ought to have an undertaking, not only from the First Lord of the Admiralty, but from every branch and Department of the State, to the effect that the face of the Government will be as much as possible set against increasing the number of persons entitled to pensions. The probability seems to be that we have here a case in which three or four men are brought away from the Universities and fixed upon us for the rest of their natural lives, whether they are wanted or whether they are not. If some remedy is not brought about to remedy that state of things we shall get into such a condition that the country will demand that faith shall be broken with these people rather than that these burdens should be any longer borne. Will the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty allow me to ask him to spare us those statements with regard to additional expenses which some ingenious person in his Department is continually furnishing him with, especially with regard to a comparison of the guns of the past with the guns of the present? It is all very well to use these arguments at the Mansion House and other places; but to use them in the House of Commons is nothing more than to raise a side issue which has little or no connection with the main question. I will tell the noble Lord that he must be upon his guard, as he is surrounded by people who will "fool us to the top of our bent." The result of my calculations as to the proportion that the incidental expenses in the Dockyards bear to the working expenses I will now state. The noble Lord showed a charge 1248 of 70 per cent on the cost of working. Well, what I show is that you put £672,000 of expenditure on top of £1,100,000. As I understand the statement of the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty, we are expected to go on in this way without any serious effort being made to remedy this state of things, and the noble Lord's speech is to amount to nothing more than an assurance that he will make little economies where he can. I do not want to challenge the Government now, because it is late in the season—I do not want to be hard upon them; I do not want to put difficulties in their way which would not be to the advantage of the public—but I do think that we ought to have some indication from them that the affairs of these Dockyards will be dealt with in a different spirit. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington was right in what he said as to the chaplains and medical officers in the Dockyards. There is a charge of £10,000 a year for chaplains, medical men, and schools. I should like to ask hon. Members who are connected with large private yards how much they spend in chaplains for their workmen? Do they expend money in this way? I apprehend that they do nothing of the kind. Let us have some explanation of this matter. If these chaplains are not for this purpose; if this money is not devoted to this purpose; if it is devoted to any other object, lot us know it, and do not go on palming these people off upon the Dockyards in connection with shipbuilding. The great complaint against the Estimates in their present form is that we have no means of checking what is done, not only in the Dockyards, but in individual ships. I have looked over the details of several ships to and how the money has been got rid of upon them, and I have not been able to obtain any satisfactory information. We are told how much has been spent; but we are not told how the amount quoted to us in this way has been got rid of, and this is the case particularly in connection with those vessels on which the most extravagance has been displayed, that is to say, those vessels built by contract and brought into the Navy Establishments for completion. On that point I wish to make a brief reference. The noble Lord has told the Committee that he has it from the Chief Constructor that there 1249 are as many as 5,000 new drawings going out of his office every year. Very well; but I should like to know how many of these are prepared by other people and merely submitted to him for approval? When we come to Vote 3 I shall move a considerable reduction if I am in the same mind as at present, and I shall do it on this ground, that a year or two ago a change was introduced—I do not know who brought it about, but, whoever did, it put upon us a salary of £1,500 a-year for a Director of Dockyards, and three others of £1,000 a-year for Assistant Superintendents of Dockyards, the object being to give us better Dockyard administration. The management and inspection of Dockyards was in this way taken out of the hands of the Chief Constructor of the Navy and handed over to these new officials. When I was at the Admiralty it used to take myself and my principal assistants almost an entire day to do this Dockyard work; and if we were able to get into the drawing office by 3 or 4 o'clock in the afternoon, we were very glad to be able to do so. Well, when this enormous labour was taken from the shoulders of the Chief Constructor, the Chief Constructor becoming simply a designer of ships, there ought to have been, as a consequence, a large reduction in the staff devoted to that official. I maintain that at least three large salaries ought to have been saved when the control of the Dockyards was taken away from the Chief Constructor. Instead of that, however, the Chief Constructor at the present time has the same staff to do very little work—for, after all, it is comparatively very little work that has to be done. We ought to have had a great reduction. If the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty can tell me that these gentlemen, who were formerly under the Chief Constructor, have been transferred to the Director of Dockyards for the same duties, then I can understand there being no reduction in the Vote, because if we are to look to the Director of Dockyards for economies in Dockyard working, it is only natural that his staff should be strengthened. Unless we get some satisfactory explanation of this matter, I shall move the reduction of the Vote and leave the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty to deal with those gentlemen as best he can. It appears to me that no question of 1250 Party sentiment ought to induce us to lose the great benefit of the advocacy of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington. We ought to avail ourselves of every advantage that flows from having such a supporter of economy. I congratulate him on his onslaught on the existing extravagance. When the country arouses itself to the fact that every year whilst you are spending £1,100,000 on Dockyard labour you are spending £670,000 on people to look after that Dockyard labour and its produce, I do not think it will much longer submit to these charges, and will insist upon having enormous changes brought about. If I might venture to give advice to the Government, it would be this—that they should be wise in time, and give us a promise of great amendment in the future, which, while ensuring efficiency, will, at the same time, bring about great economy.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. FORWOOD) (Lancashire, Ormskirk)
Whilst listening to the able speeches that the Committee have heard this evening, I could not help thinking that those speeches would have been much more appropriate if addressed to the Boards of Admiralty which have been in charge of the Department in years past, instead of to a Board that only came in in August last, and whose Estimates had to be prepared within a very few weeks of their coming into Office. At the same time, I feel that the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington, and those who have spoken to-night, have done good service to the Admiralty in bringing these matters forward, although—as in the present case—they deal with what is passed. I think that to keep on pegging away is one of the best means of strengthening and assisting those who are in charge of the administration of the affairs of the Admiralty. I believe that the essence of economy is to have our accounts stated in a simple, straightforward, and intelligible manner; and I perfectly agree with the criticisms that have been levelled against the accounts which the Admiralty have presented to Parliament for the present year. I feel that they are not sufficiently clear—that they do not bring under one head all the charges that are properly applicable to that head. But I wish to call the attention of the Committee to the fact that when the present Board 1251 came into Office it was so late on in the year, and the Estimates had to be got into shape so very soon afterwards, that it was utterly impossible for the Board to take into consideration the very serious and important duty of re-casting the form of the Estimates. I believe that the true mode of securing economy is not to start at the top and say—"You are spending £11,000,000 or £12,000,000, whilst you ought not to spend more than £10,000,000 or £11,000,000." That is not the true way to secure economy. The best way is to start at the bottom, and see where the sixpences are spent. Seeing that it was impossible to make any change in the form of the Estimates, having regard to the books and the form in which they were kept at the Admiralty, the next thing that could be done was to place before the House the utmost information, in the shape of Appendices, which could be given. My Colleagues, as well as myself, feel that we cannot be too explicit in our statement to the House; and, therefore, we have laid a great deal of information before it in these Appendices, information which has never been laid before the House of Commons in any former Estimates. I assure the House that we did all we possibly could in the time at our disposal to give the fullest and most complete information in our power. In reference to shipbuilding, for instance, we have endeavoured to give the character and description of the vessels, the cost of each vessel, and the total expenditure upon each ship since its construction. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington commented very strongly—and I sympathize with him in every word he uttered—upon the irregular and unsatisfactory manner in which money has been expended in past years, and as to the unsatisfactory statements which were given out with reference to the cost of vessels compared with the Estimates which were laid before the House. Well, Sir, I just claim, for one moment, the attention of the Committee with regard to one of the Appendices which have been laid before the House in the present Estimates. We have there set out particulars of the amounts voted last year for specific ships, compared with the actual performance or the actual expenditure on these ships, in order that the House may keep a check on the 1252 course of proceeding. Although we only came into Office late in the year, I venture to claim that our performance at the Dockyards, the expenditure upon materials, and work done, have kept up very near to the promises which were made in the Estimates. Where the performance has fallen short of the promises, it will be found due to guns not having been brought up in time to enable the construction of the ships to be proceeded with. It is perfectly absurd, to go on with the construction of the other parts of a ship that depend upon the placing of the guns until the guns have arrived; otherwise we should have to pull down work already completed, and spend large sums of money in alterations. I have alluded to the form of keeping accounts. The best way to keep accounts is to have an accurate expense account. We have heard to-night from the hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Admiral Mayne) and the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Puleston), that we do not keep correct accounts of the expenditure on the ships built in the Dockyards. They believe that if we kept our accounts close up to date we should show the cost of vessels built at the Dockyards to be very moderate as compared with the cost of those built by contract. Allusion was also made to Admiral Graham's Committee. As one of the outcomes of that Committee—as one of the recommendations which we have adopted—we have organized an expense account at the Dockyards. For the future the time of every man employed upon a certain job will be charged to that specific job on the books of the Dockyards. Every atom of material that is worked into a certain ship or work at the Dockyards will be forthwith calculated and brought to account in the debit of the ship in the expense books of the Dockyards. In this way we shall be able to carefully ascertain the amount of labour and the amount of expenditure. We shall be able to find out at once what the expenditure upon a certain ship is, and not be obliged as hitherto to wait, perhaps, a year before we are able to ascertain the particulars. I hold that it is important that when the Dockyards bring forward an estimate and declare that they are prepared to do work which will cost a certain sum of money, and the Admiralty give them 1253 that sum of money, we should have the accounts brought up so closely to date that it would be impossible to exceed that amount without the attention of the Admiralty being brought to that excess. Having organized the expense accounts of the Dockyards upon this basis, I think we shall be able to prepare a much more satisfactory estimate in the future than we have been able to in the past. My feeling is that, instead of scattering the cost of different Services over a dozen different Votes, we ought to bring all the Services of one character into one Vote, so as to show the total amount of those Services. Take an example. We have the Britannia training ship at Dartmouth. A considerable amount is spent on repairing that vessel, and that appears in the account of the Fleet generally. I maintain that it ought to appear as part of the educational charge, seeing that this ship Britannia forms a portion of the educational branch of the Service. Then take the Vote for labour. I feel that the Vote ought to show the amount spent on building vessels, the amount spent upon repairing, and the amount spent upon other Dockyard and manufacturing services, and that we should attach to each Vote such an appropriation of the amounts, that the Auditor and Accountant General may see that we have dealt with the sum the House has voted in the manner that was intended when it was voted. These are matters which have engaged the attention of the Department for some months past, with a view of originating reforms. The object in view, as I have said, is to enable the House to know exactly, or as closely as possible, for what purpose money is going, and how the money is spent, in order that the Parliamentary Auditor may afterwards see that the Board of Admiralty have applied the money in the way the House wishes to see it applied. No doubt, there will be some little difficulty in carrying out this system with precision. It must be obvious that the estimated cost of repairs to a ship made in August, September, or October, when the ship will not arrive home from her commission for, perhaps, 12 months, must be, to a large extent, speculative. Some margin must be left to the Admiralty. Ships on foreign stations, for the repair of which sums are put down in the Estimates, have not been surveyed; and it 1254 is more or less guess-work what the re pairing will coat. As regards shipbuilding, however, the House can have a precise and definite account of what is to be spent; but we shall require to have some margin at the Admiralty in order to deal with unforeseen contingencies—and there are a great many unforeseen contingencies, so far as the repairing of vessels is concerned. The object of the Admiralty, as enunciated by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington, is to bring each account under its proper head—to show every item of expenditure on work done by the Admiralty, so that the House shall vote as nearly as possible the amount actually required to be spent during a specified time. As regards the incidental charges, it is pointed out that they bear a very high proportion to the Labour Vote of the Admiralty; but I beg hon. Members to remember that our Dockyards are not simply constructive departments. They are not merely shipbuilding yards. As I take it, they are kept open as great national institutions—as a sort of pro visional insurance ready, in case of emergency, to undertake repairs and any work which it might be necessary for them to perform were a war to break out. Therefore, we have to keep these establishments upon a very different basis to what would be necessary if they were private concerns, carried on simply for the purpose of making money for the owners, and in connection with which there was nothing else to consider but the question of money making. At the same time, whilst I am making this explanation, I am bound to admit that there are many questions in connection with incidental charges at the Admiralty which I hope to see very seriously reduced in the future. Until we get an exact account of the labour of each individual man, and an account of each individual item in the expenditure, we cannot put our finger upon those items where it will be possible to save money. Only by that means should we be able to grapple with this great charge for incidental expenses. The Committee must not run away with the idea that these charges for incidental expenses are all more or less shipbuilding charges. I should be glad if hon. Members would allow me to call attention to the fact that we have no less than five shipbuilding ports, that each of these five 1255 ports have dry docks and floating docks, and that the incidental charges cover not only the building expenses of vessels, but include the manipulation of these docks, and the passing in and out of the vessels that use them. In other words, great expenses such as those which have to be borne at St. Katherine's Docks, the London Docks, and elsewhere, have to be met in our Dockyards under this head of incidental expenses. There is another item in the incidental charges—all the expenses of constructors, salaries of inspectors, of working, and superintendence. These items ought not to go down to incidental charges. They are as much part and parcel of the expenditure of the shipbuilding as the labour of the men; and, therefore, it is an improper mode of stating accounts to include these things in the item for incidental expenses, when they are strictly applicable to the cost either of constructing or repairing vessels. I will not trouble the Committee by going through the list of these incidental charges, item by item; my eye catches one, however—namely, the dredging of harbours, which costs £28,000 a-year. That large charge is made in order to enable our Dockyards to be kept open for the ingress and egress of vessels. That is put down as an incidental charge. Then, again, we have enormous stocks of stores to keep in our Dockyards—a great reserve of stores which it is necessary for the Admiralty to keep, in order to provide against contingencies. We have the stores, and the cost of the labour attendant on the keeping of these stores, and the cost of receiving them, examining them, and delivering them. This involves an item of £33,000, and that again is included in the incidental charges. There are one or two of the other large items which do not belong to the Shipbuilding Vote, and ought not to be added to the cost of construction. When hon. Members say that the cost of a ship amounts to so much, and the incidental charges amount to so much more, a large portion of the incidental charges ought to be distributed over the ships. Clearly the mode of making out the account requires revision, so that we may see what is the cost of incidentals as applicable to the vessels, and what is the cost of keeping up the Dockyards as a great National undertaking. 1256 An allusion has been made to the cost of ships in years gone by, and the cost of building modern ships. With all respect for the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington, I submit that it is improper to draw a comparison between the cost of modern vessels and that of the vessels of 13, or 14, or 15 years ago. It is quite a misleading comparison. It is a misleading comparison to say that steel in 1874 was £13 a-ton, whereas now the same steel can be bought for £8, and that, therefore, the cost of the vessel ought to be less. Bear in mind such vessels as the Nile and Trafalgar. These ships carry a steel-faced plating which costs £100 a-ton, and when you look at the enormous quantity they carry, it is obvious that an enormous amount of expenditure has to be incurred in connection with those modern vessels which had not to be contemplated in connection with the older vessels. Such plating as this was not known 14 or 15 years ago. Such comparisons as those I describe cannot be made. Then, again, there is the question of power in which, there has been a great increase. The indicated horse-power, as applied to the hulls of the ships, has within the last two or three years increased five-fold from what it was 14 or 15 years ago. It is true the cost has decreased from about £13 per indicated horse-power to £9, yet when we take the enormous powers which are now used—10,000 or 12,000 horses in place of 2,000 or 3,000 horses in the old days—we see that the saving in the price of power is very much more than absorbed byit9 increase in the case of each ship. Then, as regards the Dockyards and their work, there is no one more anxious to keep them employed than the present Board of Admiralty. But there are matters besides the Dockyards to be considered. There is, no doubt, an advantage in going outside to private yards, as they form a guide and a test of what the cost of our own Dockyards ought to be. That is one reason why we ought to go outside. Another reason is, that it is an advantage to have other places in which we can build our ships besides our own Dockyards. I feel that we ought to bring our Dockyard work down to a normal condition—to such a position that year by year we may be able to put down a given quantity of tonnage, and 1257 thereby find employment for a certain number of men; and if then we required any additional vessels to be built, by reason of serious contingencies arising, we could put them in the hands of private firms to build. This brings me to another matter which will in some way indicate why the expenses of the Admiralty have increased, and will show the difficulties that the present Board have to face. The normal number of men employed at the Dockyards between 1877 and 1881 was about 17,000; but when the present Government came into Office, they found no fewer than 22,800 men employed, or 5,800 more than was considered the normal number of men necessary to keep the Navy in an effective state up to 1880 or 1881. I am not prepared to say 17,500 are sufficient. I believe that one reason why we have had to increase the number of men so largely during recent years has been the prevalence of a starvation system prior to 1881, and that the increase of the number since then has been to restore that fair balance of power which we ought to have maintained. Probably there may be a means as to the number of men necessary to be employed between the numbers employed prior to 1881 and the numbers now employed. The adoption of such a standard will involve the reduction of a number of hands in the Dockyards, and it is obviously a most anxious time for the Board to contemplate such a step in these troublous times of depression. We regard it as a serious thing to have to say to these men—"We have no further employment to give you;" but if we are to dispose of the taxes of the people in a satisfactory manner, it is necessary for us to be hard-hearted, and we must be prepared, I am afraid, to hear a great deal said to our disparagement. But these disagreeable conditions have to be faced, and I can assure those hon. Members representing Dockyard constituencies who have spoken this evening that the Board of Admiralty will endeavour to make these discharges in as reasonable and easy a manner as they possibly can so as to enable the men they discharge to obtain fresh employment elsewhere. Now, Sir, some remarks were made by the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reed) as to pensions, and I wish to tell the hon. Member that the present Board have stopped 1258 putting men on the establishment. This is not a time to discuss that matter; there is much to be said upon it pro and con; and, at any rate, until the matter is decided, the Board have determined not to increase the number on the Establishment, which is now 6,130. Then, Sir, I will not go into the question as to the difference in the cost of vessels built by contract alluded to by the hon. Member for Cardiff and the estimated cost of vessels built in the Dockyards, because the present Board had nothing whatever to do with the question of the Estimates that were prepared for ships built in the Dockyards, nor with the comparison between those vessels and the vessels built under contract. As regards fitting ships, the present Board is not responsible for the estimates of fitting in the Dockyards ships built at private yards. The Board's policy has been to put a stop to this as much as possible, and whenever they have put out vessels to contract they have required the Chief Constructor to call upon the contractor to finish the vessel so far as he could. It cannot be denied that hitherto it has been rather the custom to require contractors to do as little work as possible under contract in order to allow as large an amount of work as possible to be finished in the Dockyards. We have come to the conclusion that this is an extravagant system, and we are determined to alter it, and to have our specifications drawn, so as to provide that the ships shall not be taken from the contractor's yard into the Dockyard until there is little else to be done to them than to put in the guns. Then allusion has been made to expenditure upon ships that are worn out. Well, no one has set their faces more strenuously against expenditure of this kind than the present Board of Admiralty; but we have had to deal with the necessity of providing reliefs for foreign stations, and to do so satisfactorily we have been obliged to use vessels of an obsolete pattern in the absence of any suitable now vessel. It has only been when the necessity for relief has been urgently pressed upon us that we have consented to spend large sums on the refitting of vessels that are obsolete. We have selected in those cases ships that we considered of sufficient speed, only regarding as absolutely obsolete vessels which cannot steam 13 knots. 1259 When it has been necessary to find relief we have examined the vessels at our disposal, and in making our selection we have had regard to speed and capacity for fighting under modern circumstances, and endeavoured to avoid spending money in trying to modernize them. The hon. Member for Cardiff has alluded to the Return which was placed upon the Table of the House on Friday, and has only just been put into the hands of Members to-day. As regards the Impérieuse, the hon. Member did an injustice to the noble Lord at the head of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) in reference to those matters. I am one of those who do not hesitate to state the facts as they are. The facts as to the displacement of the Impérieitse will show how correct was the noble Lord at the head of the Admiralty in his statement with regard to the vessel. She was originally laid down, and in the Estimate originally presented to Parliament she was intended to have a displacement of 7,390 tons. Now, as my noble Friend has explained, it has not been the custom to have detailed particulars of alterations presented to Parliament until a ship is completed. Until a ship is completed you cannot have the actual displacement accurately known. With regard to the Impérieuse, let me remark that when the then Secretary to the Admiralty announced that the Admiralty were going to lay down a number of ships of which the Impérieuse was one, the actual designs for the vessel were not completed, having once stated in the House that it was proposed to build such a ship immediately, the Dockyards were greedy for the work of building in order to find employment for the men, they pushed on the work of construction, really before the plans and calculations had been properly made out. They started with a figure—7,390 tons displacement; but, as the hon. Member for Cardiff well knows, constructors when they do lay down ships rather increase upon the lines, and put a fraction of an inch more here, and a fraction of an inch more there, so as to guard against their calculation being increased. The result was in the case of the Impérieuse that instead of the displacement being as stated in the original estimates it amounted to 7,470 tons. That does not seem to me at all an un- 1260 reasonable margin for the constructors to take. As I have stated, it is to be explained by the fact that the constructors were in a hurry to get the ships on to the stocks. By the time the ship had progressed so far that no alteration could be made in her internal dimensions a determination was come to as to her armament, a doubt then arose in the minds of the Admiralty as to the stability of the ship, and six inches of planking were added to the outside of the vessel on each side, which had the effect of increasing the stability, but affected her displacement very little. The ship only gained 15 tons displacement instead of 80, had they put the extra beam into the interior of the ship. This additional planking brought the vessel up to the displacement of 7,600 tons.
§ MR. FORWOOD
The matter is one of the dim and distant past. I have stated the facts simply as they were, and as we found them, and I wish only to take that case as it has been alluded to by the hon. Member for Cardiff. I can assure the Committee that we have endeavoured, by our new regulations which we have laid down, to put a stop to any mistakes of this kind in the future. One of the earliest decisions taken up by the present Board was that the contractors and designers shall have an accurate knowledge of the weight of the ship to be constructed, of the weight of the engines, and of the armaments, and an accurate knowledge also of the number of men to be carried; and we require the officers responsible for the engines, the armaments, and the men to say whether the weights put down in the ledger are correct, so that when a ship is partly constructed, and it is said we want more of this, and more of that, there shall be someone to whom responsibility can be attached for having advised the Board. I have endeavoured to set before the Committee the policy of the Board of Admiralty, which is governed by common sense and by business principles such as would influence any private manufacturing firm; and I hope that that policy will be judged, not by work which the present Board has merely had to complete, but by work which it may itself originate.
§ MR. CAINE (Barrow-in-Furness)
Mr. Courtney, I should like, in the first place, to point out what is the obvious lesson of this evening's discussion. The debate only confirms the impression I have formed, after successive debates in this House, that a Committee of the Whole House is not altogether a competent tribunal to deal with the details of these Estimates, and I hope that every hon. Member of the House will feel grateful to the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) for having moved for the Committee on the Estimates, now sitting upstairs. I think that the existence of that Committee should make us comparatively careless of the result of this debate. Already it has justified its existence by a good deal of work on the Army Estimates, and when it comes to deal with the Navy Estimates I think it will be shown that there is a good deal of foundation for the speech of the noble Lord. I think the noble Lord has a little overdone his case, but I have not much fault to find with him for that. He has endeavoured to make abuses visible to the naked eye; and, in the main, I think it will be found that his speech is justified by the facts. The noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) stated at the close of his speech that he thought he had answered nearly all the points brought forward by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington. The noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty made a very able speech, and one which I listened to with very great attention; but I venture to think that not even he, as he is, would be capable of dealing with one-tenth part of the questions brought forward by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington in the hour which he gave to them. Many of the points brought forward by the noble Lord and other hon. Members it is impossible to discuss in Committee of the Whole House. There is the point raised by the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reed), and which has often been raised before, as to the belts of the Impérieuse and other ships. I do not think it is possible for any layman, or for anybody who is not an expert like the hon. Member himself, to properly discuss that question. We ought to have that distinguished engineer, Mr. White—Chief Constructor— 1262 in the House; we ought to have diagrams hung all over the walls of the House, and Mr. White walking up and down with a fishing rod explaining important points, and illustrating his explanations by the diagrams. It is quite easy, however, to bring experts before a Committee, and to examine them as witnesses. I must say that to my mind, at any rate, a Committee of the Whole House is not a competent tribunal to deal with the various questions which arise upon the Army and Navy Estimates, seeing that Members are not able to examine witnesses or to talk to the experts face to face. We have had a reference made to-night to a custom which has prevailed in past times at the Admiralty, and which I rather gathered from the speech of the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty is to be done away with. We have already had a Parliamentary Paper containing some statements which encourage us to think that the habit of altering the details of a ship during construction will not be continued.
§ MR. CAINE
A Paper has just been laid on the Table in accordance with a Motion made by myself, and it gives a very simple record of the way in which the Impérieuse has been altered during construction. It was decided to build her, I think—I am not sure of the date—in January or February, 1882. There have been six important changes made in the ship during her construction, and the increased cost has amounted to £90,000. Now, the question that has to be asked in deciding whether or not consecutive Boards of Admiralty, who have had charge of the building of the ship, have been justified in their increased expenditure was whether the improvements have been worth the increased cost. I find that of these six important changes the earliest was made in February, 1882, and the last on the 13th of November, 1886. The Impérieuse was a good ship as designed, but the different inventions and improvements brought out whilst she was in course of construction induced admirals, constructors, and other experts to press the Board of Admiralty to make various changes in her. The first improvement was an increase of three-quarters of a knot in speed—to my mind a very important improvement. 1263 Then she had 3,000 additional miles given to her by means of increased coal-carrying capacity. Then her heavy armament was increased, and the number of torpedoes carried by her was increased from three to 18. Subsequently, some very small improvements were made in her many small engines; and, lastly, a torpedo-net was provided. But the result of these various improvements was to put the ship lower down in the water. As far as I can make out, that is the only deterioration which has resulted from the improvements—that is to say, that the height of the armour above water has been decreased by 1 foot 10 inches out of a total of 3 feet 3 inches. I am told that the report of the trial trip of the Impérieuse has been laid on the Table. I have not yet seen it; but I understand that the effect of it is to justify, or that it professes to justify, the changes which have been made.
§ MR. CAINE
Well, that may be so; but what hon. Members who are exports in these matters have to determine for us is whether or not the net improvement—if there be a net improvement—in consequence of these changes is worth £90,000. I do not myself think they are. I am strongly opposed to altering ships during the time of construction, and I think it would be wise, when once a design is adopted, to adhere to it until the ship is completed. If it be necessary to lay down fresh ships to compete with the new ships of rival Powers, by all means do it; but I think the story of the Impérieuse is a very fair instance of the way in which the cost of a ship is increased by altering it during the time of construction. There is, however, an impression among hon. Members who are not experts on naval questions that the increased cost of the Impérieuse was not necessary, and that the whole of it has gone for nothing. I wish to point out that that is not the case. As to the question of engineer students, the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty very justly pointed out, in reply to the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington, that it would be quite possible for an engineer student, after having had six years' instruction in engineering, to escape entering the Admiralty, and so gain all the advantage 1264 of the Government instruction for no thin g by wilfully refusing to answer questions at the examination. Now, I would suggest that this difficulty might be got over by providing that every parent or guardian of a boy entering the Naval School should be called upon to give a bond that if the lad does not enter the Navy, or if he fails in the examination, they will pay a sum of £500 for the education given to him at the cost of the nation. There is another point on which I should like to say a few words—namely, the rival advantages of private firms and dockyards. It must not be forgotten that the men who are employed in our Dockyards constitute a standing army of artificers in case of war. The question we have to ask ourselves is whether or not we are to maintain such a standing army. If we are—and certainly if we have a war with a first-class Power that standing army will have to be largely increased—it becomes necessary to drill the men composing it, and the only way to do this is to keep them employed. The thing to do in your Dockyards is to find out how much shipbuilding is necessary, to give sufficient work to the Dockyards to keep the men employed, and to have the rest done by contract. On the general question of economy I do not wish to say much. A Committee has been appointed; I think that Committee is fit for its work, and when it reports I think the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington will find in it great justification for the attack he has made on the economy and the efficiency of the Admiralty.
§ ADMIRAL SIR JOHN COMMERELL (Southampton)
The hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Caine) has challenged the Admirals in the House to answer a question as to the efficiency of the Impérieuse. I have no hesitation in saying that the so-called improvements in that ship, with the single exception of the one which enables her to carry more coal, sink into utter insignificance when compared with the great detriment she has sustained by reason of the partial submersion of her armour plating. I myself have been always opposed to constant changes of front in the construction of ships. I think that when a ship is once laid down she ought to be completed and launched as soon as possible. It is a perfect impossibility that any ship can be made quite perfect. 1265 You must go the nearest way to work, and in order to do that you must complete your ships as soon as possible. There is another question which the hon. Member (Mr. Caine) touched upon, and one which the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) dealt with in a way which caused me considerable regret—I refer to the subject of the engineer students. I would remind the Committee that a Committee sat on this subject, and that they expressed a unanimous opinion that the time had arrived when we should educate our engineer officers for ourselves. There are other points to be considered besides the main question of getting a sufficient number of engineer officers. There are social questions, for instance, which ought not to be lost sight of. It is desirable that engineer officers should take their place on the quarter-deck with the other officers. It is a necessity that these men should be brought up from an early age in habits of discipline like other officers, and I have no hesitation in saying that it would be the greatest mistake in the world if we did away with the Colleges for engineer students. I am perfectly aware of the fact that sometimes there may be a young man who does not desire to go on with the profession for which he had been intended, but wishes to adopt some other walk of life. I believe, however, that this is not very often the case, and I think that such a case would be met by exacting from the parents or guardians a fine of, not £500, as suggested by the hon. Member for Barrow—because I think that is a great deal too much, and that it would prevent a great many youths being entered in the Colleges—but of £100. This amount might be exacted if a boy did not pass the examination when it was perfectly well known that he could if he chose. There are one or two other questions that I must touch upon. I agree, in the main, with what has been said by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill); but I also concur with the hon. Member for Barrow in thinking that, as far as the present Board of Admiralty is concerned, the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington has been, perhaps, a little bit inclined to overstate his case. I am perfectly certain, however, that there 1266 has been any amount of extravagance in the Dockyards and any amount of want of supervision. I will give the Committee an instance of what certainly occurred some years ago, but of what is, I am sorry to say, pretty nearly the same at the present day. It was determined to fit a certain class of corvette with an auxiliary rudder. Surely, in making an experiment of that kind, it would have been wise to have fitted one vessel first to see whether the thing answered. But the Admiralty insisted on fitting eight, or nearly the whole of the vessels, with the now invention. The whole thing turned out to be a signal failure, and the consequence was that the expense of fitting the eight vessels was thrown away. Well, what did the Admiralty do next? They fitted the Canada with a most ridiculous rudder, which weighed 10 tons and took up a large portion of that part of the ship's space which was most wanted. The consequence was that it was not only an element of the greatest danger, because it interfered very much with the ram, but it was of no good. The fitting of the rudder cost, I suppose, £2,000 or £3,000, and the thing is at the present moment lying in Bermuda Yard perfectly useless. It was found that it only altered the course of the ship a couple of degrees in a quarter of an hour. A similar thing occurred with regard to the Sultan two years ago. Two rudders which were fitted to the ship at great expense were found, when tried, to be utterly and entirely useless. There is another silly thing that the Admiralty do. They build vessels by the half-dozen, instead of building one at a time, so as to find out where the faults lie and what improvements can be made. I have no hesitation in saying that you would be able, on trial, to see the necessity for improvement in any vessel. On Saturday hon. Members who go to the Naval Review will see 10 gun-boats; but I would rather not call them gunboats, for they are something between a clock case and a bathing machine. They are all perfectly useless. One of them is employed as a tender in Portsmouth Harbour, and when it is under weigh all the other vessels sheer off, because those on board are perfectly certain that she will run into something. If one of these 10 boats had been tried first, the other nine would never have been built. 1267 As to the question of the Dockyards, I am not going to deal with it as the Representative of a port in which there are shipbuilding yards, but from a naval point of view. I am not desirous of taking away any work from the Dockyards; but, at the same time, I do think that there is plenty of room for contract work outside the Dockyards. But what I complain of is—and this is the general complaint throughout England—that the contracts are not only not served out fairly, but nobody knows what the contract prices are. I myself think, and I believe it is the general opinion, that kissing goes by favour. I think that if the tenders were issued to a very much larger number of firms the work done would be more satisfactory. We are told—"Oh, such and such a firm is not on the list;" or, "Such and such a firm is on the list." But if a firm is on the list, and is not in the inner ring, it gets no work to do. [Mr. FORWOOD: No, no!] The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty says "No, no!"—
§ ADMIRAL SIR JOHN COMMERELL
I shall be happy to discuss this matter on Vote 10; but I understood that we might do so on this Vote. Well, what I wish to say is, that if there were more firms employed the contract work would be very much better done. I know myself of one or two instances in which really excellent work could have been done by firms which have never had the opportunity of tendering. And why have they not had that opportunity? They have built large merchant ships which have given satisfaction in every way to large Companies, and I have no hesitation in saying that they could give satisfaction to the Government in the same way. At the same time, I. affirm that during times of peace we ought to educate all the shipbuilding yards of the country as much as we can, so that in time of war they may be able to do the work required of them. Government work is a speciality, and people must know how to do it. Then there is the question of torpedo boats. If instead of only three or four firms being favoured with the orders for torpedo boats there were dozens of such firms, the work would be done just as well, and for a great deal less money. I hope that what I have said in this 1268 respect may have a little influence on the First Lord of the Admiralty. I should myself be very averse for one moment to set up the Dockyard system and the contract system one against the other, because I do not think it is at all necessary to do so.
§ CAPTAIN PRICE (Devonport)
The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) has brought charges against various Admiralty Administrations, and has formulated his charges under five distinct heads, three of which I will name. The first related to direct charges for ship-building; the second was the insufficiency of the audit of accounts; and the third was the useless expense in connection with repairs. As regards the question of the audit of accounts, I fully agree with the noble Lord. All I can gather is that the audit of accounts is as inefficient as it can possibly be. But with regard to the question of incidental charges, as compared with direct charges, I am distinctly at issue with the noble Lord. The noble Lord came down with a mass of figures. I do not know where he obtained them from—
§ CAPTAIN PRICE
I cannot find them in the Estimates, and I do not find that they tally with the Estimates now before the Committee. I will give an instance. The noble Lord compared the cost of the Camperdown, which was built in a Government Dockyard, with the Benbow, which was built by contract. He said that the cost of the Camperdown was something like £60,000 more than that of the Benbow.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
No. Perhaps the hon. and gallant Member will allow me to explain. It is as well to be accurate in these matters. What I stated was that in the original Estimates respecting the Camperdown and the Benbow. there was a difference in favour of the Benbow, and that after the contract had been altered there was still a difference in her favour of £14,000.
§ CAPTAIN PRICE
I think the impression given to the Committee by the noble Lord was that the total cost of the Camperdown was much greater than that of the Benbow. I dispute that. I find that, on the contrary, the total cost of the Benbow was £60,000 greater than that of the Camperdown. The noble 1269 Lord has told us this evening what incidental expenses are. I submit that his description of what he calls incidental charges is totally inaccurate and misleading, and I think that if the noble Lord could explain to the Committee what incidental charges really are, he would be a much abler man than I take him to be. I would point out that this question of incidental charges was considered by a Committee of this House in 1884. Part of the duty of that Committee was to ascertain whether the ships made in the Dockyards were dearer or cheaper than those made in private yards. What was the composition of that Committee? Was it composed of men who were likely to tell us that it was cheaper to build in the Royal Dockyards? Not at all. No less than five out of the seven Members were either shipbuilders, or men connected with private shipbuilding yards. You might almost as well take seven Members of the extreme Nationalist Party and ask them to consider whether it was better that Ireland should or should not have a Parliament in Dublin. Well, what was the evidence given before that Committee as to the question of incidental charges? Take the evidence of the Accountant General, Mr. Willis. He says, practically, that it is impossible to state what incidental charges really are in regard to the cost of building ships. At the end, the same witness said it was difficult to ascertain and determine with preciseness the proportion of incidental charges which are applicable to shipbuilding alone; and the Committee themselves, composed, as they were, of private shipbuilders, actually say in their Report—The evidence given by the Accountant General of the Navy is sufficient to show that the whole expenditure on incidental charges is so obscure as to render unreliable any comparison between shipbuilding in public and private yards.
§ CAPTAIN PRICE
I hope that the noble Lord, if he presides over a Committee upon the Navy Estimates, will call before the Committee witnesses who are really accustomed to deal with this matter, and who by experience know exactly what the incidental charges of the Dockyards amount to. Now, on this point the noble Lord (Lord Ran- 1270 dolph Churchill) went so far as to tell us that no less than 70 per cent of the whole charges on shipbuilding in the Royal Dockyards ought to be put to incidental charges. He said that the labour and material expended on the ships this year amounted to £1,100,000, and that the indirect charges were no less than £774,000, which, as he told us, was 70 per cent of the whole. But what are these incidental charges? He takes the whole of the sums voted for our Dockyards, and cuts them up into two parts; he says that the £1,100,000 is due to labour and material, and that the whole of the rest is due to incidental charges which we must heap upon the ships to ascertain what their real cost is. This ought not to be so. It has been shown to-night by others that our Royal Dockyards are not Dockyards only for shipbuilding—they are quite different to private yards. In private yards a ship is built so that she may go to sea; she may go to the bottom for anything the builder cares; at any rate, she is never seen in the private yard again. The duty of a private yard is simply to turn out the ships; that is not so with the Royal Dockyards. The Royal Dockyards are great store-houses. The whole of the labour which is expended in accumulating these vast stores, not only for shipbuilding, but for the whole purposes of the Fleet—stores of coal and material of all kinds—comes under the heading of incidental charges; so that actually when the noble Lord tells us what the cost of certain ships is, he absolutely includes the charges for chaplains, for dredging the harbours, for laying down of moorings, and for 500 other things which have nothing to do with shipbuilding, and which are not chargeable to shipbuilding in private yards. Let me add one or two items. There is a very large charge for the police force in the Royal Dockyards; it amounts to £45,000. [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: £35,000.] I think it is more than that. There is no expenditure for police in private yards; the police are paid for by the locality out of local rates. Then there is a sum of £230,000 for salaries in the Dockyards; these salaries are not all for shipbuilding, but only a small part of them. A very large proportion of the salaries are for work done in the Navy afloat, and not building. My hon. Friend the Mem- 1271 ber for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reed) said something about pensions; he said that in addition to all this you ought to add to the cost of your ships the cost of the pensions which you are giving to the men on your establishments; and the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) cheered my hon. Friend (Sir Edward Reed) when he made that statement, Is my hon. Friend aware, and is the Committee aware, that this sum due for pensions is added to the cost of the ships? The evidence given by the Accountant General upon this point was very clear. He was asked how, when dealing with the question of labour, they dealt with the expectation of pensions; and he said it was decided in 1868 that a charge should be added to the salaries of officers and clerks, and to the pay of the workmen to represent the eventual charge for pensions, and he actually gave the opinion that 70 per cent would fairly represent the eventual charge. Just one word as regards pensions. Does the Committee know that the established men receive from 2s. to 4s. per week less than the hired men, and that this compensates for the pensions we are to pay hereafter? It is absurd, therefore, to try and bring the Committee to imagine that these pensions are perfectly unnecessary. If they are done away with, you must add to the wages of the men to compensate them for the loss they would suffer, and to bring their wages up to the wages of the hired men. You would not give a man who has worked for 30 years continuously a lower wage than a man who has been in the yard for a few months at a time—at least, I think it would be very unwise to do so. Now, again, as to the question of incidental charges. I really think that the noble Lord's own argument shows how absurd it is to charge everything not actually labour or material to incidental charges on the ships. He mentioned the case of Hong Kong, which is a very extreme case. He said that the labour at Hong Kong amounted to about £10,000 a-year, and that the incidental charges amounted to £29,000. But what does the Establishment at Hong Kong exist for? It exists so that in time of war we may have a Dockyard to which our men-of-war may run for repairs. There is no building done there and there is only a very small amount 1272 of repairing; and, therefore, what the noble Lord calls incidental charge is very much in comparison with the amount spent on labour. I think that is sufficient to show that these Dockyards really do not exist for shipbuilding alone, but for great State or National reasons. Now, I come to a further head of the noble Lord's charges, and my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff dwelt a very great deal upon it also—the question of the useless expenditure on repairs. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington said that the Agincourt and Minotaur were perfectly useless. [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: For fighting purposes.] Is the noble Lord aware that in Foreign Navies there are a good many ships which these ships would be fully competent to fight; and, if that is the case, why should you do away with them? My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff talked about the Black Prince, and said what an absurdity it was to trot her out at the Naval Review we are all going to on Saturday. I do not altogether disagree with my hon. Friend; but I want to know what the economists will say to this argument? What will the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), who generally comes down and preaches to us upon economy in naval matters, say, and what will the other economists in this House say upon this subject? What have we been accustomed to hoar in these debates? I and the other hon. Members who are always preaching efficiency in the Navy have been from time to time accustomed on these occasions to make comparisons between the Fleet of England and the Fleets of foreign countries, very much to the disgust of the official Members on both sides of the House, and how are we met? Those who represent the Navy for the time being give us a description, from their point of view, of the French Fleet and other Foreign Navies, which they always very carefully minimize; and then they drag out a long list of the ships in the British Fleet, and invariably in that list figure such ships as the Black Prince, the Minotaur, and the Agincourt, and so on, and they are cheered to the echo by the economists, when they say—"Look at the splendid Fleet we have got! If these ships are worthy of appearing in our Naval Lists, they are lit to be sent down to the Review at Spit- 1273 head." If economists consider that these ships should be done away with, something better should be put in their place. I wish something like that could be done, but it is absurd to use both arguments; either we should have them or we should not. The noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty said that from time to time he had to submit to a good deal of pressure from Members representing Dockyard constituencies, and I was very glad to hear that he does sometimes submit to pressure from local officers not to too largely decrease the numbers of the workmen in the Yards. I am quite certain my constituents do not wish for men to be kept on in such numbers as cannot be employed. My constituents are patriotic enough to know that efficiency is, of course, the first thing to look after, but that economy must be also considered; and all I have ever done and shall continue to do is to ask the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty and the House to take care that these discharges, if they must be made, shall be made at a time of the year when the men can get employment, and that the Admiralty should even go so far as to try and get employment for them. I myself remember that 25 years ago there was a serious reduction made in the number of the men engaged in the Dockyards. The men did not know where to go; they emigrated to America in thousands. What was done then has never been forgotten in the Dockyard constituencies. I hope the noble Lord will bear this in mind, and will be careful how reductions are made, and will do all he can to get the men other employment.
§ SIR CHARLES PALMER (Durham, Jarrow)
I rise with considerable diffidence to speak on this question. As my name is so much associated with a large shipbuilding company, I naturally abstain as much as possible from taking part in these debates; but so much reference has been made to-night to a Committee which was presided over by Lord Ravensworth that I feel it to be my duty to say a few words. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) referred in complimentary terms to the benefits derived by the Admiralty from the Report that the Committee of which I was a Member submitted. But the hon. and gallant Member for Devonport (Captain 1274 Price) has questioned the constitution of that Committee. In the first place, I may take the blame or the credit, whichever it may be, of the constitution of the Committee. It was originated by myself by impressing upon Lord North-brook, who was then the First Lord of the Admiralty, the necessity for a Committee of experts to be formed in order to investigate the management of the Dockyards, and a system of the repairing of ships. The noble Lord acceded to my request, and all the Members of the Committee, with the exception of two, I recommended—the two exceptions being the Gentleman who represented the Admiralty and the Gentleman appointed by the Treasury. Entering upon our investigations, we naturally desired to know how we could accomplish the building of ships within a reasonable time. If the hon. and gallant Member (Captain Price) has read the evidence given before that Committee, he will have discovered that our great object was to bring about that the shipbuilding in the Royal Dockyards, as well as in private yards, should be done in a reasonable time—namely, that specifications and plans should be put forward-in such a perfect state that shipbuilders might be able to give their complete estimates, and to turn out the ships in a given time. Of course, our desire extended to the Dockyards as well as to private yards. It was, in the first place, stated to us that it was almost a matter of impossibility to accomplish this, and the reason given before the Committee was that our armaments changed so materially from day to day that we could scarcely know what the fittings of a ship would be before she was complete. In the end, we came to the conclusion that we must throw aside the question of armaments, and when the work was put out no deviation from the design should be allowed until the completion of the vessel. That was the first recommendation of the Committee, and that very fact really explains away a good deal of what the noble Lord has said as to the extra cost over and above the estimates in shipbuilding. Unless you know what work you are about to undertake and to finish, and when you can finish it, it is impossible to know what extra expense will be incurred. Hitherto, the building of ships has been left to the discretion of the overseers, so that it has been quite 1275 impossible for contractors to know what the ultimate cost would be. The result of all this has been that our ships have far exceeded in cost the estimates, and that altogether the building of ships has been most unsatisfactory. Now, what has been the effect of the Report of Lord Ravens worth's Committee? All the difficulties have been overcome. The Report was followed up, because I took care that it should be followed up by the Admiralty by the appointment of a Departmental Committee to see that the Report was carried out. Specifications are now put forward of such a character that contractors and our Dockyard Authorities know precisely the work they are to proceed with. The result has been beneficial, as proved in the case of two ships which have been built in the private yards connected with my name, the Orlando and the Undaunted. These ships were completed three or four months before the contracted time, and that shows that great progress is being made in that Department of the Admiralty, and that improvements may be made in Dockyard administration. But the House must remember that the administration of such great establishments as the Dockyards of this country cannot be changed in a day. There are great faults, no doubt, in the administration of the Dockyards; but it requires lime and great care before you entirely change it. In pursuing my investigations in regard to these Dockyards I went down to Chatham, and wont through the shipbuilding departments; and I must confess that I was not surprised that the shipbuilding at Chatham should far exceed in cost the shipbuilding in private yards. They have not the proper machinery at Chatham for building ships; and I myself suggested the clause in the Committee's Report which has been read, I think, by the noble Lord, to the effect that the machinery in our Dockyards was very imperfect. Another point has been raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Captain Price)—namely, the pensions of the men. Now, I venture to say that if our men were not under better control than the men in the Dockyards, we should not be able to work at the price we do. The pension question is a very serious one, and one which must undoubtedly be abolished. What is the result of the pension system? Men have 1276 a claim upon the Dockyards. The Chief Comptroller or Director of Shipbuilding in the Dockyards has no control over his own men. He may see a man loitering, or not doing his work properly, and he may report him to the Admiral Superintendent. Considering that the man has a pension to look forward to, the Admiral Superintendent merely gives him a little lecture, and sends him back to his work. We would not do that in a private yard; and, therefore, the time has come when the pension system will have to be reconsidered. If our Dockyards are to compete with private yards, they must be placed on the same footing—namely, the footing of perfect independence on both sides—on the part of the workmen as well as of the authorities. I will not trespass on the time of the House by entering on the question of the system pursued in our Dockyards; but I venture to say that the time must come when you will have to separate the constructive departments in the Dockyards from the naval element. Let the constructive departments take the responsibility of building ships up to the period at which they can hand the ships over to the naval department. Let our naval officers give their advice as to what the armaments should be, but not interfere when the building is going on. Interference with construction by naval officers is one of the most serious difficulties experienced in our Dockyards. Now, I think I have explained away some of the attacks which have been made on the Dockyard system—at any rate, I am quite sure of this, that great improvements are being made in the system, and if the lines which were laid down by Lord Ravens-worth's Committee are followed throughout, I am satisfied that we shall find in future that our ships are not only built at a less cost, but are built in the time specified and at the cost estimated. There is no doubt whatever that, as a general principle—and possibly the Committee may think I speak somewhat interestedly, and that is the reason why I speak with some diffidence—it has become almost a necessity that the large shipbuilding establishments in the country should be entrusted with the building of the ships which the Admiralty require, that the minds of the great shipbuilding establishments should be directed towards naval construction, and that the 1277 Dockyards should confine themselves largely to repairs.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD (A LORD of the ADMIRALTY) (Marylebone, E.)
I should like to make a few remarks in reference to the speech of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill). From his remarks it will probably appear to some hon. Members possibly that the whole of the bad administration of which he complains is due to the present Board of Admiralty. I should like to point out that though, as a rule, the noble Lord's remarks are founded on facts, he exaggerates. The people who communicate with him tell him what is not actually the fact. Many people, like myself, who really wish to reform the Navy, and who really wish to get money's worth, are put in a false position. By having to come down and contradict certain statements of the noble Lord, it appears as if we defend the entire system, whereas we do not approve of it. I shall endeavour to make my remarks without the pomposity about which the noble Lord has spoken. Many points the noble Lord referred to as requiring reform have been found out, as far as the Admiralty is concerned, by Committees which my noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) has started. The deficiency, the maladministration, the want of organization generally have really been found out by the Committee appointed by my noble Friend. It has been remarked in reference to the Admiralty that they do not know their own mind; but I deny that that is so in the case of the present Board of Admiralty. I do not blame the former Boards of Admiralty, but I do blame the system under which they worked, and that system we are now trying to alter. Some remarks have been made as to the Téméraire and Inflexible, but the noble Lord is right about that. They took some years to build, and their armament was altered, and so circumstances connected with their draught were altered also. The present Board have arranged, when we lay down a ship, that it shall be built, and turned out, and commanded as she was originally planned, and all within a third or a quarter of the time which was formerly occupied. The Nile and Trafalgar will be turned out, and will have their pennants up, in three years 1278 from the time they were laid down, or perhaps four years.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
From the time they were laid down. They will be launched in the year and nine months from the day they were laid down, and they will take two and a-half years to finish, whereas the Inflexible took nearly eight years, which is a considerable difference. The noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) touched upon some important points, and spoke about the education of the Navy. Well, I consider that a most important point. You may do what you like; you may undertake what plan of campaign you like; you may build what vessels you like; but all your work is useless unless your officers and men are taught how to use the ships and vessels you put them in. I consider that the most important point for the safety of the country we can imagine. I hold strong opinions on this subject, and am of opinion that our system of naval education must henceforth be changed altogether, just as our seamanship has changed. The art of seamanship has entirely changed, canvas has given place to steam, and the sooner we grasp this fact that the man or boy who can work a torpedo about for three months is more valuable to the Admiral who is about to enter into action than the man who has been in a brig for three years the better for the British Navy. In the olden days the best man in the ship was the captain, and so he ought to be in the present day. In the olden days it was looked upon as a point of honour that an officer should never tell a man to undertake a duty when not prepared to tell or show him how to do it himself. Officers were in the habit of telling their men to do a certain thing, and did not rely upon the men to do it in their own fashion, but told them to do it in a certain way, and insisted upon their instructions being carried out. I do not say that a captain should be able to do an engineer's work; but he, at any rate, should know what work an engineer has to do, and should be able to give proper instructions with regard to the engineering of his vessel. As to the Marlborough, I think she was a very expensive experiment. We should take things as they are, and should not find fault with a plan 1279 which is, after all, merely an experiment. With regard to the question of repairing ships, a point having been raised on that matter by hon. Members, I have to say that the Admiralty have taken it up quite recently. We have given orders that the artificers on the ships shall be employed as much as possible in doing substantial repairs, and shall not be engaged merely in making the ships look pretty with gear and polish and other things. For the future they will be engaged in carrying out such repairs as it is possible for them to carry out without sending the vessels to the Dockyards. Then there was a remark made with regard to Haulbowline. I must say that I think a great deal of money has been wasted there. But as the money has been expended the Committee must look to what might happen; and of all the places on the West Coast, Haulbowline would be one of the most useful to us in the time of war. I believe that the Committee recently appointed will do a great deal to strengthen the hands of the Admiralty and to put matters right. The line the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington takes puts many on the defensive when they do not want to be, because many of his statements are rather more exaggerated than they should be. My experience is that, if you want to get things done, you must put them in the very worst view before the country. [Laughter.] Well, that is my experience. An hon. and gallant Member opposite (Captain Price) made some remark to me about obsolete ships, and referred to what he called the list of my dummies which was presented to Parliament. I think there are altogether 69 on the list of dummies to which he referred; but I would point out to him that of that number 49 have been already got rid of; and though the remainder are ships which are in the same category, they are those which, he will remember, I asked the House not to sanction the repair of when they came home. We have not yet been able to get them home, as there are no reliefs for them; but when they do come home they will not be repaired. The hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reed) made a remark about ships of the Admiral class, which have caused some excitement throughout the country. I perfectly agree with the hon. Member that those who have the administration of our naval affairs at 1280 the present moment will not lay down such ships. We have laid down a totally different class of ships, and I may say that, so far as the present Board goes, the ships that we will sink or swim by, or even, if necessary, be hung by, are the ships which we have ourselves laid down. At the same time, it is only fair to the country that the Admiralty should not take a violent line with regard to those ships we found in the Service when we took Office. We found certain ships there, and we must do the best we can with them. I must say, looking at the ships from an officer's or a seaman's point of view, that I do not think they are quite so bad for fighting purposes as they have been represented to be. Compromises have been made in them, and though it is quite true that their draught has been increased, that has been compensated for by their increased speed and their increased armament. Their speed has been increased by 1¾ knots, and their armament has been increased from 43 to 45 ton guns; their number of machine guns has been increased from four to seven, and instead of having no quick-firing guns they now have 12 such weapons. Their increase of speed has been from 15 to 16¾ knots. The armaments and other improvements have, as I say, brought down the ships in draught; but as fighting ships, and for the money they have cost, they are by no means so bad as some might wish to make out. However, notwithstanding this increase in their efficiency, I quite agree with the hon. and gallant Member that it is not desirable that we should have any more of such ships built. There is another thing with regard to those ships; they have an all-round fire, and everyone who knows anything about ships of war knows what an important thing that is. We know that rapidity of fire in war is an excellent thing to have in your favour in action, seeing that now-a-days an action may be won by a single shot. There is no doubt that I go so far as to say that were one of our ships like the Inflexible in action to burst a single one-pound shell in the neighbourhood of a charge of powder it might, owing to the confined state of the citadel, have the effect of firing the magazine and destroying the ship. I think hon. Members have been very hard upon my Colleague the noble Lord the First Lord. 1281 of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) because they inferred that the present Board of Admiralty approved of the building of ships of the Admiral class, whose draft is said to be too great. If hon. Members will read the Admiralty Memorial they will see that my noble Friend, the First Lord, has with great honesty protested to his Predecessors against these ships. It will be seen of course from the Memorial that he took the ships as they were. Complaint has been made with regard to the form in which the Estimates have been presented to the House. I would ask any hon. Member who has been in this House any little time, and I would ask every individual Member who has studied the question for years, whether the Estimates now submitted are not as a matter of fact in a much better form than any which have ever been laid before the House on previous occasions. This I will say, that they are not nearly good enough yet, but so far as the present Board is concerned, they hope that the next time they have to present Estimates they will be much more explicit, and that many of the points which have been referred to by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington will be cleared up so that all hon. Members may be able to understand the Estimates. The Estimates are infinitely better than they were before; but I acknowledge that there is still great room for improvement. As to the question of the ships at Spithead, there is no doubt that there will be a curious lot there, and there is no doubt that some of these ships would not, under any circumstances, be very useful. Still we have got the men to man them; and we have other ships coming home in the course of a year or two into which these men can change. We are in possession of those old ships, and they have been found of some use for the purpose of training, and for the purposes of the review they have been fitted as they would be in a case of emergency. Some of them might be used against enemies' cruisers, and it would be a great pity to break them up in a hurry. I object as much as anybody to obsolete ships; but at the same time, some of these vessels can be turned to useful account in cases of emergency. What I object to altogether is the repair of ships which can be of no use at all in time of war. The hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward 1282 Reed) has spoken about the repairs of certain yachts. From the manner of the hon. Member's speech it would have conveyed the impression to hon. Members who have not studied the matter that all these repairs are due to the inconsistency of the present Board of Admiralty.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
I would remind the hon. Member that most of these repairs were effected when the hon. Member himself was at the Admiralty. Has he left any protest in writing to the effect that he objected to those repairs?
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
I am glad to hear that, but I would say that the repairs he spoke of lasted over a period of 20 years, and it is not true as some hon. Members seem to imagine that they have only been effected during the period that we have been in Office. This impression, it seemed to me, was likely to be conveyed by the hon. Member's remarks, and it is altogether contrary to the fact. Passing from that point I wish to remark that the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Caine) called attention to the question of Dockyards, and pointed out that those yards really contained men who are a standing army as it were to do work which we may require to have done in times of emergency. That is, no doubt, an important point; but that which it is agreed has conduced to bad administration at the Admiralty has been a want of continuity of policy. You must have continuity in everything—with regard to your Dockyard management, to your shipbuilding, your armaments, your stores, your coals, and everything. You must decide in times of peace upon the system to be followed in time of war. The great expense this country has been put to in regard to naval matters, including the building of bad ships, as has been pointed out by the hon. Member opposite, has all occurred because you have not been ready, because you have not had continuity of policy, because you have acted in a state of panic. It is absolutely necessary that the country should keep the Dockyards as efficient as they can, so that when we start working at high pressure we shall not have to pay the highest price for the 1283 worst article. We shall keep the Dockyards in an efficient state, if the organization began by my noble Friend is carried out, as I believe it will be, in a business-like manner. These matters should be conducted in a business like manner instead of, as they have been hitherto, on Party principles. The Boards that have hitherto been in Office have been afraid to go on with the necessary reforms. The reason why the Dockyards have so many people employed in them, and why the present Board of Admiralty has been obliged to get rid of men in an apparently harsh way, is in consequence of the Party system. Former Governments have been afraid that if they turned men away they would lose the Dockyard seats. For my own part, I believe the present Government will lose every single Dockyard seat at the next Election. [Laughter.] Well, perhaps not every seat, but certainly a great number of them. All I would now say to the Committee is that I took the precaution not to put my own name on the Estimates, as I did not know anything about them, and had not had time to work them out; but from what I have since seen I can assure the Committee that the present Board are doing their best to put things right. They do not mind publicity, and they do not mind being abused, but what they do want is that the system of organization, the Dockyards and everything connected with the Navy shall be managed, as far as possible, upon thorough business principles.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
I will not trespass upon the time of the Committee at any length, but I would crave its forbearance for a moment, reminding it that when the Naval Estimates were last before us, I failed to catch the Chairman's eye, although the noble and gallant Lord who has just spoken (Lord Charles Beresford) and some other hon. Members on his side of the question had the pleasure then of addressing the Committee. I was delighted to hear the last observation of the noble and gallant Lord who has spoken on behalf of the Admiralty to the effect that they are all trying to do their duty on the Board. I am sure they are, and of all connected with the Admiralty, I am sure the noble and gallant Lord himself is specially earnest in his desire to do his duty to 1284 the country, and we all desire that he may long remain at the Admiralty, or at least as long as the present Government exists. I listened with great attention and respect to the hon. Baronet the Member for the Jarrow Division of Durham (Sir Charles Palmer). He spoke very moderately and deliberately as an experienced shipbuilder who thoroughly understands contract work. If he had only stopped there, I should not have had a word to say by way of criticism with regard to his observations; but he went on to say that he thought that the proper thing to do was to separate the shipbuilding establishments from the naval element. I must say that I and my brother officers would be most hostile to such a proposal as that. It is they who will have to command the men and fight the ships, and is it to be conceived that the contractor who builds the vessels can, out of his own brain-box, conceive all that is necessary for efficiency and fighting capacity in a vessel with which another class of men altogether have got to fight and maintain the honour of the country?
§ SIR CHARLES PALMER
I said that the contractor should take the advice of the Naval Authorities from time to time as to the construction of ships.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD
I hold that we want more than advice—we want naval control and supervision. If I could trespass on the time of the Committee, I should have said that the remedy for the evils which have been pointed out would be that there should be more naval men at the Admiralty. What the Service suffers from is the want of more naval supervision instead of less. The noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty pointed out the evil he had to grapple with. He spoke of the relationships between the supervisors in the Naval Yards and the men they supervise. It seems that the supervisors of the gangs of men are frequently the owners of the houses in which these gangs live; and, under those circumstances, it is altogether out of the question that the control over the men would be as strict as it otherwise should be. What we want is better supervision. The motive of self-interest is at present absent in the Dockyards, and for that reason you will never be able to get work done so cheaply in the Dockyards as in 1285 the private yards. I have spoken to many of my brother officers upon this point and they all agree with me. A custom prevails in many foreign yards which ought to prevail in our yards. Why should not the custom adopted in France, Germany, Italy, and elsewhere be adopted here? At present we have numbers of naval men eating their hearts away in idleness. Why should they not be put under the Admiral Superintendent to assist him? You have here at home a number of talented men of great experience who are wasting themselves on shore because, at an age when they are thoroughly efficient to work, you refuse to employ them. If you would put them in the Naval Yards in plain clothes to do the work of supervision and to assist the Admiral Superintendent, I am sure you would obtain a great amount of practical benefit from it. Then I would offer an observation in support of the view of the hon. and gallant Member for Southampton (Admiral Sir John Commerell), and the view of the noble and gallant Lord who spoke last (Lord Charles Beresford), as to the enormous importance of educating the officers. I speak mainly of the engineers, because it startled and angered me to hear from the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty that he was going to re-organize the education of engineer students, and to do away with the present system. The present system was not set on foot in a hurry. It was adopted with a two-fold object. It was adopted to raise the status of engineers, because we felt more than ever with the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reed) that now with your modern iron-clads and your great scientific inventions in the Navy, that it is more than ever important that the engineer should be looked upon as a very important officer. His social status was not years ago that which we could desire to see in view of the great responsibility resting upon him, and now-a-days looking at the intimate relations that exist between him and his commanding officers, I hold that it is necessary that we should now improve his status. The reason this Engineer Student Educational Institution was established was to take the sons of gentlemen in order that we might have engineers of the same social standing as other officers in the Service, and I say that if you interfere with that system you strike a 1286 blow at the efficiency of the Service. The hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reed) drew a comparison between the costs of shipbuilding in private yards and Dockyards, and he complimented the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington on having shown a new-born zeal on the side of what he called cutting down expenditure and reducing redundant Establishments. I cannot forget that the hon. Member (Sir Edward Reed) has for years been a Member of this House—a talented man as he is knowing more, probably, about this subject than any Member of the House, at least so far as shipbuilding is concerned—yet he has not been able to enforce his views on the Government of which he was a Member. Why, he had for weeks a Motion on the Paper to inquire into the state of the Navy, and he never pressed that Motion home.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD
But when he was in the Government he did not show his zeal to the extent of warning the Government.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD
Well, I will pass over that. At any rate, he did not worry them successfully, and now he turns round and worries us. I do not mind how much he worries the Admiralty. He can find fault with them as much as he likes. They are well paid. They do their work fairly well; but the Board is not constituted in the manner I desire to see it. The hon. Member is perfectly at liberty to worry them as much as he likes, and by-and-bye I will come and give him a hand. But I object to a man who has been Chief Constructor finding fault with the manner in which our ships are constructed in the Yards, for if any man is responsible for the expenditure there the hon. Member is that man. At least, I am not aware that he succeeded in reducing the expenditure that he now criticizes. No doubt it may be better now than in his days, but it is only a question of degree. Then he goes on to criticize many of the ships that we shall see at the Naval Review. Those ships are not useless, as the noble and gallant Lord (Lord Charles Beresford) said, but some of them are obsolete. At all events, they are vastly better than the armed merchant steamers which the late 1287 Government proposed to give us if we went to war with Russia. The House is responsible for what we have got. The House makes the Government, and the Government comes down and asks the House for what they think the House will vote. I was sorry to see the manifestations of surprise and dissatisfaction on the part of hon. Members when the noble Lord spoke of the large amount of money spent on repairing ships. For if you come to examine into the lives of these ships, that surprise will vanish. Take the case of the yachts—the Royal yacht, the Enchantress, the Helicon, and run down the list and see the lives of these ships. Take the Helicon. She was built in 1865, 22 years ago, she cost £46,000, and she has cost £46,000 since in repairs. But what is it? £2,000 a-year. That does not seem very much after all. I do not know that if a gentleman should keep a large steam yacht it would cost him loss. And then the noble Lord spoke of the Leander, of the great scandal of her costing within a short time of her construction over £8,000. Yes; but he did not tell the reason. Accidents will happen to ships as to other things; and an accident happened to that ship when she was with the Squadron on the Coast of Ireland. She ran upon a rock coming into Berehaven by the west entrance, and knocked a hole in her bottom. You do not suppose you could repair her for a mere nothing, and that sum represents the cost of the repairs of the ship after that accident. I remember I was once out myself with a big Squadron of iron-clads in a heavy gale, and the Admiral's flagship, plunging into the sea, had 30 tons of water on her in a moment. In a moment, the bowsprit and everything that could move was gone. That one plunge, doubtless, cost the country £2,000 to put right. It is nonsense to talk to the House about the excessive cost of repairs; but you are dealing with a Navy which represents the chief defensive force of this country. You do not want your ships only to put to sea in calm weather. We have known Admirals who go to sea on purpose, because they see bad weather coming on. Your seamen and officers are worth nothing if they are not to go to sea in bad weather, and if they go to sea in bad weather you must pay the bill. In old days, when I was a youngster, the 1288 Admiral of the Channel Squadron was putting in, as everybody thought, for Plymouth Sound, for it was blowing hard, but suddenly he hauled to the wind again, and kept the Squadron at sea for four days facing the gale. There was a good bill to pay; but there was this enormous advantage, that you taught your young officers and your seamen, and qualified them, in the future, to face all difficulties, and to get the better of all circumstances. I do hope the Committee are not going to hug the delusion to their breast that it can have a Navy without paying for it; or that they will criticize the Estimates in a hostile sense because so much is spent on repairing old ships. Take the cost of 10 ships for repairs over a given number of years—say 10. The Admiralty would much rather you gave them 10 new ships at £100,000 each, but the House would not vote the £1,000,000 necessary, whereas it will vote the £100,000 per annum which is necessary in the 10 years for repairs. It is a question of money, and it is nonsense to disguise it. If you want an efficient Navy, you must pay for it, and it is nonsense to find fault with obsolete ships, unless you are prepared to find the money to build new ones. Naval men do not want obsolete ships. You talk about the Black Prince, the Warrior, and ships of that class. Well, though they are not fit to fight the first-class ships of France and other nations, they are competent to fight their inferior ships. We have good first-class ships—and we are building others, such as the Nile and the Trafalgar—ready to fight the first-class ships of other nations, and if the House and the country is willing to spend more money, the Navy will fling up their hats with joy and give thanks. Then, again, one remark of the noble Lord pained me very much. He spoke with a great deal of skill, and I should like to tell him that he will have the united thanks of the whole Service if he can reduce the expenditure of these Establishments. We are not in favour of extravagance. There are no men who are so economical as naval men when they are in command of their ships. I will give an instance which occurred when I was a young officer. All the running gear had been unroved and surveyed and condemned, but the captain looked at the ropes himself, and he ordered us to reeve the old gear end for end. That means 1289 that the ends that wore on deck went up aloft, and those aloft came on deck. Thus the country was saved a considerable expenditure. Naval men are the advocates of economy. Why, our ships are only allowed to steam five knots, so as not to burn too much coal; and every officer knows that if he goes beyond a certain speed he has to justify it when he comes into port. All naval men are friends of economy, and we shall be rejoiced if the cost of the Naval Establishments can be reduced without impairing the efficiency of the Service. But the noble Lord, as I said, pained me by one remark he made. That was about closing Sheerness Dockyard. I do not wish it to be shut up. We have not too many in time of war. It is all very well to look at it from a peace point of view; but we keep up the Navy for an abnormal state of things—which is a state of war—and, therefore, I say it would be wild folly to shut up Sheerness Dockyard. Then, again, he spoke of closing up the foreign yards. But they are something more than repairing yards, they are great coaling stations, and I say we cannot afford to close any one of them. The noble Lord spoke of Hong Kong as of no use; but all naval men know that it is of enormous importance to this country as a coaling station. Then he spoke slightingly of the three depots on the North American station. Well, I speak in the presence of a late Commander of that station (Admiral Sir John Commerell), who will correct me if I am wrong, and I do not think he is in favour of abolishing any one of them. Everything should be looked at from the point of view of war, and looked at from that point of view I say we have not a coaling station too many. We want more. The grievous thing is that they are not defended, and all because the House hampers the Members of the Government, and will not vote the money necessary to fortify the coaling stations; and if there was a state of war we should be in a panic. Much has been said on the importance of maintaining our Dockyard Establishments, although there is a great desire on the part of many to reduce that expenditure. Of the fixed establishments I do not express an opinion; but of this I am quite certain, that one great defect of the present system is that the Comptroller's Department—which the hon. Member for 1290 Jarrow (Sir Charles Palmer) wishes to abolish—is immensely over-worked and under-manned. You have but one naval officer at the head of it, and naval men feel that another naval officer is urgently needed there. Call him what you like—an Assistant or a Deputy Comptroller—but I say such an officer would be of enormous service. I know these views are shared by the noble and gallant Lord (Lord Charles Beresford); at least I should like to challenge him to say whether he does not agree with me. One word more with the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reed.) He spoke rather in favour of building in private yards than in Dockyards, on the score of expense. It has been well said by other Members who have taken part in this debate, that the proper view to take is, that they are National Establishments and a portion of the preparations undertaken for the defence of the country in time of war. We never ought to separate the Dockyards from the Naval Service proper; it is one great Service—and one depends on the other—and if you interfere with the efficiency of the Yards you interfere with the efficiency of the Navy. It would be a bad day for the Navy if, through mistaken views, you were seriously to interfere with the establishments of the great Yards and cut them down to a position of inefficiency. In nine cases out of ten, when a ship comes from a private yard, although it may be well fitted, we have to lay out a lot of money afterwards. Does the hon. Member (Sir Edward Reed), forget the case of the Neptune? She was built for the Brazilian Government, and we bought her out of the Vote of £6,000,000. But we found she was perfectly unfit to be sent to sea without a very large expenditure, she had not even a collision bulkhead. That is only one case of a ship built in a private yard. Then take the case of the 25 torpedo boats designed hurriedly during the late Russian scare. Who designed them? They were designed on the responsibility of the Contractor's Department; but we were told that they were never submitted to the Board as a whole, and, in fact, they were designed by the private yards. But what happened in the case of these boats? We had to spend £246 per boat to alter the bottle-nosed bows; and I believe that is not all the expenditure. I am 1291 told privately that the cost was very much under-estimated. There was never a ship which came from a private yard on which a large expenditure of money has not been necessary. I wish to draw the attention of the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty to this point. In Portsmouth Dockyard there are now some of the new torpedo boats—I mean of the Scout class—which come to us from private yards; and the men at the Dockyards were employed cutting holes in them in order to fit the apparatus for the torpedo. Naturally, the question arises—"Why could not these holes be, if not fitted, at least, left for the reception of the apparatus, instead of its being left for the Dockyard men to do?" I feel I have already trespassed too long on the Committee at this hour, and I thank the Committee for the attention they have given me.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
Before the debate closes, I should like to say a very few words for the purpose of thanking the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) for his very able and effective speech, and wishing him well in his crusade against Dockyard mismanagement, a subject, however, on which it is much more easy to talk than to work with any effect. I am inclined to agree with the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty that in some respects he has overstated his case; and there is a great deal in the remark of the noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford), that exaggerations of that kind do harm by putting the Department on its defensive, and by obliging Ministers to answer them, when in reality they are only too glad to cope with other evils which they are aware of. The noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill), for instance, gave us a long list of ships whose repairs, he said, had cost more than their original value; but these repairs have been spread over a very large number of years, in some cases as many as 15 or 20. In the case of a ship like the Minotaur, which has been 15 or 18 successive years in Commission, the repairs amount in the aggregate to a very large sum, very likely equalling her original cost. That is not to be wondered at. It would be equally the case with any merchant ship in constant service. That is an illustration of how cases may be 1292 overstated. At the same time, there is a good deal in what the noble Lord has said, and I hope he will be very successful in bringing his great influence to bear upon the subject. Some of his instances were rather of ancient date; when he spoke about the Inflexible he seemed to forget that a Royal Commission was appointed during the course of building, and, in consequence of the Report of that Commission, very great changes were made in the construction, which added enormously to her cost, and were the cause of the very great delay which took place. I am very glad to hear from the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty that the Board have set their faces against changes during construction. Every civilian who has ever been connected with the Board of Admiralty has fully appreciated the very serious expenditure and waste arising from changes of this kind. I hope I shall not be imputing anything wrong to naval officers when I say that changes of this kind generally come from them. Whenever a new Admiral comes in as Director of Naval Ordnance, or as Comptroller, or as a member of the Board of Admiralty, there are recommendations of improvements in the vessels under construction, which it requires a very strong First Lord and a very strong Board to say "No" to. For my part, during the time I had any influence there I always used it in that direction, holding that it is better to spend money on fresh construction rather than on improving things which have already been decided upon, and, perhaps, partially carried out. If the present Board will stand firm, I have no doubt that considerable economies will be effected in this direction. A most important part in the speech of the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) was that in which he referred to the very large increase in the Dockyard wages, which, I think, he said had doubled since 1882–3. I cannot help thinking that the employés of the larger Dockyards have now become so numerous that those in charge are unable to control them; and I believe it would be a wise policy greatly to reduce the number of men in the Dockyards, and to go back to the condition of former times when more work was given to private yards. This may not be a very popular policy in the Dockyard towns; but we have been told by the noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Mary- 1293 lebone, that the Board is prepared to act with considerations of this kind; and I hope that, even at the risk of losing a few seats, the present Board will persevere in the policy which has been enunciated by the noble Lord. I agree with a great deal of what the noble Lord the First Lord of the Treasury said of the political and social difficulties in the Dockyards; but I can assure him he will not find any increase of those difficulties from this side of the House. We will endeavour, to the best of our ability, to assist him in any reforms which he may attempt to carry out. I hope the same may be the case in the Dockyards. Next year there will be a considerable reduction in the Dockyard Vote, due to the completion of the works now in hand. An opportunity will be afforded for great economy somewhere, and the question will arise whether that economy shall be made in the direction of private work, in reducing the number of hands in the Dockyards. I hope the noble Lord will seriously consider the policy of reducing the number of men employed there. I will not detain the House longer. I have given Notice of my intention to move the reduction of the Vote by £1,000, with a view of raising an important question as to the expediency of appointing a Royal Commission for the purpose of considering the design of vessels completing. If I do not bring on that Motion at the present time it is because I think it better to postpone it to Vote 10, to which, perhaps, it more properly refers. There is one further point I have to notice, to which I have already, on a previous occasion, somewhat briefly alluded. It is this, that the principal alteration effected by the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty in the Dockyards does not go far enough. I do not believe that the appointment of Civil assistants to the Superintendents of Dockyards is, on the whole, a wise appointment. It is, perhaps, a step in the right direction, but it is not a very small step. These officers have no responsibilities, and have no power to give an order to any single person in the yards. They are highly paid advisers of the naval superintendents. I am not in favour of doing away with Naval Superintendents; but I believe the true policy is to build up, under Naval Superintendents, 1294 a complete system of Civil management, and that you should make a single civilian responsible for the work of the Dockyard. For that purpose there should be an officer immediately under the Naval Superintendent, as responsible on the whole of the administration and work of the yard. But as far as I understand it, the new officer has no responsibility. He has power of giving an order, nor control over the Dockyard in any way. Therefore I cannot but think that his energies will be, to a large extent, wasted. I believe it will be necessary to go further, and to build up, through the means of these officers, a complete Civil management of the Dockyards.
§ MR. MOLLOY (King's Co., Burr)
Before this discussion closes I should like to make one or two remarks on a question of accounts, which I have, in previous years, brought before the Committee. I have looked very carefully through these Estimates to find if there is any account given of the receipts of money at the Dockyards. There is not a single figure or letter to show that any money has been received. All the figures go to show large sums of money spent, but none received. Now, there is a system of sales at the Dockyards of old materials. These constantly take place. The first happened some time ago, and was not in the time of the present or the late Administration. A large quantity of tin had been collected, to the extent of 10 tons, and at that time tin was worth £160 a-ton. Well, it was sold by auction at the Dockyard, and, notwitstanding the value of tin at that time, it was knocked down for £60 a-ton. That represents a loss of £1,000 on this single item. I happen to know the man who bought it, and I got this account from him—that two or three days after he sold it at a profit of £1,000. I take this item to show what a loss there must be in the course of a year. A little later a considerable quantity of wood—of very special value, because it would not warp—was stored at the Dockyard. It had been kept for some time, and its value had increased to a very great extent. At one of these sales, not very long ago, this wood was sold for exactly half its value, and the man who bought it sold it at its full price. Still more recently a boat which cost £66 to build was sold for the small 1295 sum of 36s. These sales—of what is called old material, though it is not old material—are constantly taking place in the Dockyards, and there seems to be a complete want of any supervision of what is sold. I am convinced that a very large sum of money is lost to the country in this way every year, because almost immediately after these sales take place fresh, orders are given for the supply of these very materials. It must be quite clear to the Committee that this system opens the door to a constant succession of frauds year after year. I am not able to say that fraud has taken place; but it is the duty of the House of Commons, as representing the taxpayers of this country, to see that there shall be such a supervision in the Dockyards which, with very little trouble, would prevent these opportunities of fraud altogether. The statements, then, were not absolutely denied, and the Committee was led to believe that they were considerably exaggerated. Therefore, I have risen for the purpose of calling attention to the system of accounts. You give no account of these receipts, whether they be large, or whether they be small, and it leaves the matter open to these constant annual frauds on the taxpayers of the country.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ (2.) £71,800, Victualling Yards at Home and Abroad.
§ (3.) £65,900, Medical Establishments at Home and Abroad.
§ (4.) £21,700, Marine Divisions.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee to sit again To-morrow.