(3.) 56,000 men, Navy.
SIR CHARLES WOOD
Mr. FitzRoy, in placing in your hands the first Vote of the supplemental Naval Estimates, I feel myself called upon to make a general statement, showing the changes that have been made in our original calculations, and explaining some important particulars with respect to two additional Votes. Hon. Gentlemen will remember that when the Naval Estimates were proposed early in the Session, the great majority of the Votes were taken in full, and only four or five on account. It is not to be expected, neither is it necessary, that I should offer any observations with regard to the former, but I will venture to make a few remarks on the subject of the Votes that were taken on account. Hon. Members have before them a statement of the Votes as originally proposed, and those which it is now intended to take. The first Vote under consideration relates to the number of men proposed to be employed in the navy during the last nine months of the financial year. 76,000 men were voted for the first three months of the year, and what I now propose is, that 56,000 shall be granted for the remaining nine months. That is an apparent diminution of 20,000 men, but it is only right to state that the actual reduction of men and boys will not be so great. The reason why so large a Vote was taken for the first quarter of the year was, that it was then apprehended a very strong naval force might be required in the unfortunate event of the war being prolonged. But almost immediately after the House had given its sanction to the Vote, the prospects of peace appeared so favourable that the Government did not think it necessary to raise the additional 6,000 men beyond the number granted the previous year—namely, 70,000. The actual reduction will, therefore, be about 14,000 men. Making allowance for a certain number of boys, the numbers of whom had not been completely filled up, the reduction, indeed, will, probably, be something less than that number. The right hon. Baronet who immediately preceded me in the office I have the honour to hold (Sir J. Graham) raised the numerical strength of the Royal Marines to 16,000 men, and I cordially concur with him in the opinion that it is most undesirable that the number should be reduced. It is to be understood, therefore, that I do not contemplate any reduction of the Royal Marines. The only change as regards the marines I contemplate has reference to that exemplary corps whose value was never more conspicuously apparent than during the late war—the Royal Marine Artillery. In accordance with a new constitution of the corps, about 250 officers and men have been transferred from the battalion companies of the Marines to the Marine Artillery, and in that proportion the strength of the former is of course diminished and that of the latter augmented, but the number of marine corps remains the same. The total number of men proposed to be granted for the service of the navy is, no doubt, larger than has been ordinarily maintained in time of peace, but I do not think that, under the particular circumstances of the present hour, it would be judicious or expedient to reduce our naval establishment below the point that I now propose. Not that I have any serious apprehension of war; on the contrary, I feel assured that the good sense and the good feeling of the country, between which and ourselves differences have arisen, will dispose them to think that war is too serious a calamity to be lightly incurred; but still there are many considerations that should be kept in view, and, having regard to them, it is by no means desirable, in my opinion, to reduce the navy below the standard I have mentioned. Even though we should be disposed to bring it down to a lower permanent peace establishment, there are other circumstances which would render it impossible for us to do so this year. During the war our naval force in all distant stations not affected by the hostilities was considerably reduced, and, moreover, a great many ships were kept on those stations beyond the usual period of the service without being relieved. This state of things renders it necessary that double sets of ships should be employed for a longer time than is usually the case, one set to take out the reliefs, and the other coming home with the men who have been so long stationed in those remote regions. A greater number of seamen than is usual under ordinary circumstances will therefore have to be employed for some months, and the operation will, of course, extend over a longer period than is customary in years when the ships are relieved with regularity one after the other. But, independently of these considerations, I have been anxious that the reduction in the number of seamen shall be so slow and gradual that it shall not hear hardly on the men themselves. It would be most unfair and most unfeeling to neglect the comfort and convenience of a class of men to whom we have such reason to be grateful for the gallant manner in which they abandoned their previous pursuits, and Came forward during the last two years to fight in the cause of their country. I have heard an hon. Gentleman say, that he considered that to reduce the number of sailors was easier than to effect a reduction in the number of soldiers. No doubt, as regarded the actual legal power of discharging the men, it was easier; but it would be most unjust, and most ungrateful, not to bear in mind the conduct of men who had come forward and served their country as the seamen of the Royal Navy had done in the late war. Those who remember the old war may recollect what distress was caused at the close of the war in consequence of the sudden discharge of men both from the army and the navy, and what great efforts were made by the benevolence of the nation to mitigate their sufferings. Warned by that sad experience, we have thought it right so to arrange the time and manner of discharge that the men shall be subjected to no similar suffering on the present occasion. If the Committee will sanction for the present a somewhat larger number of men than is usual in time of peace, that number may by judicious management, and without injury to any one, be slowly and gradually reduced to the proportions of a peace establishment. I am aware that there have been complaints from various quarters respecting the distress said to be endured by certain seamen who have been discharged; it is as well that I should state what has been done in this respect, and to what extent it is possible that distress should have arisen. In the remarks I am about to make I shall confine myself to seamen, for there has been no diminution in the number either of boys or of marines. There were borne upon the books of the navy on the 31st of May 4,000 men less than on the 31st of the preceding March. That represents the nominal number discharged. But of those 4,000, 2,200 were either men taken from the coastguard service, or seamen riggers, who have returned to the avocations which they abandoned when the war broke out. The actual number of men reduced may be estimated, therefore, as something under 2,000. That number represents men who had served upwards of five years. The Committee are aware that when the men who had served for that period were called upon to go to the Baltic, a promise was made to them that they should receive their discharge at the earliest possible moment after the cessation of hostilities. Anxious that good faith should be kept with men who had behaved so well, the Government gave orders, as soon as the ratifications of peace were exchanged, that the coastguard men should be permitted to return to their respective stations, and that the men who had served upwards of five years should be at once discharged. But, at the same time that this was done, it was intimated that any competent man who might desire to re-enter the navy would be received. The "continuous-service" men had six weeks' leave of absence, and those who were not such were informed that it would be competent for them, if they chose, to enter their names for "general service," and after the expiration of a month's leave, during which period their pay was continued, they might return to the service. Therefore, no man who has served in the navy during the late war has been discharged, save by his own free will. A small body, consisting of those engaged in ships which have been paid off and re-commissioned for foreign service, have had the option of transferring themselves to the flagship for home service, it being deemed better to man ships ordered to distant stations with "fresh entries" than to send abroad seamen whose term of three years has nearly expired, and who would probably be at the other side of the globe when entitled to their discharge. There is no pretence, therefore, for saying that any man has been thrown loose on the country unless by his own act and deed. Complaints, I know, have been made of seamen being discharged at Portsmouth without receiving their pay, and of distress being produced in consequence. No doubt there is some truth in this; but here, again, what has happened was the result of compliance with the wishes of the men, and not owing to any fault of the Admiralty. The order issued was, that no man should be discharged on shore until he had received his pay; but as there had been great difficulty in making up the pay lists that had occasioned a certain amount of delay, and as it was impossible to give them their money at once, they were allowed to continue on board their ships, if in commission, or to go over to the flagship and be victualled and paid up to the time when the books were balanced. Many of the seamen, however, being impatient—not, perhaps, Unnaturally—to get ashore, preferred to be discharged without waiting till the necessary calculations were completed, and declined to avail themselves of the privilege of remaining temporarily in the flagship. Appeals being made to Sir George Seymour on the subject, that officer immediately telegraphed to the Admiralty, and a message was sent down to Portsmouth stating that the men had only to go on board the flagship where they would be retained till the pay-list reached Portsmouth, and that they would be entitled to pay up to that period. This was all that the Government could do Under the circumstances. The difficulty of computing the sums due to each man was by no means slight. I took credit, in the statement I made earlier in the year, for the expedition with which the Baltic fleet was paid on its return home; but the seamen in that case had not to receive their "final pay," as it is termed, the calculations requisite to determine the amount of which constitute the difficulty of this task. A separate account had to be kept for each man, and a check must be applied to ascertain whether the proper sums have been deducted for advances. Formerly, when the men entered for three years only, the books of but one ship had to be consulted to determine the amount of final pay due to them—a process which did not occupy any great length of time; but since the system of "continuous service" has been introduced it is necessary to examine the books both of the ships which the men first enter and of those to which they are subsequently turned over. But there is another element of complexity which has been added to a matter already sufficiently involved. Besides those who merely receive the ordinary rates of pay, there are the five years' men, who are entitled to one scale of extra pay, the coastguard men who are entitled to another scale of extra pay, and the "riggers" who receive a third scale of extra pay, the calculations incidental to which are all of the most intricate description. These laborious duties have thrown a heavy burden on the Accountant General's Department during the last six weeks, and the health of a few of the clerks has unfortunately broken down under its pressures. The work, demanding the utmost care, has to be done by the more experienced of the clerks, whom the calling in of additional hands can assist to but a very limited extent. Some conception of the magnitude of the task of keeping the accounts of the navy may perhaps be formed when I mention that the Department has to distribute pay among 70,000 seamen and marines, and 30,000 women and children. This is a branch of duty from which the corresponding Department of the army is exempt. Such are the circumstances that have led to a degree of delay in paying the men which, though Unexpected, was perfectly unavoidable. I have already explained to the Committee the reasons which induce Her Majesty's Government to think that the reduction in the number of men proposed this year is carried as far as prudence permits; but I feel bound to add that the country must fairly look in the face the necessity for maintaining a larger permanent naval establishment than has of late years existed. The events of the recent War prove that We cannot hope to compete with continental nations in the strength of the armies they support; there is therefore the more reason why we should increase the efficiency of that which has ever been regarded as the right arm of England's defence—her navy. The fleets of our Opponent remaining within their ports, it was impossible for our ships to engage them, as was done in former wars; and our Government, under those circumstances, had to devise measures for attacking the enemy on his own coasts. Happily, however, the means thus provided for attack can now be made equally available as a part of our permanent establishment for purposes of defence. The gunboats and floating batteries, recently constructed for other objects, will constitute a valuable and efficient armament for protecting our shores from assault. The expense incurred in their equipment will therefore be money not ill-spent. I think it required the stern experience of war to teach us the value of such a force, for I do not believe that the House of Commons could have been induced, in a period of uninterrupted peace, to vote the additional funds requisite for creating it. No great difficulty was experienced in considerably augmenting the number of our seamen during the late contest, yet the mode by which that end had to be attained is necessarily not very rapid in its operation. Should another war unfortunately break out, its operations may not be analogous to those of the struggle now happily terminated. Other nations may in the interval turn to account the lessons in warfare to be learnt from the events of the last two years. Russia at all times retains a large force of seamen, and a great portion of her artillery at Sebastopol was worked by sailors who had been moved from Cronstadt to that fortress. I sincerely trust that the cordial alliance between this country and France may long continue; but it is well known that our Ally has always the means of laying his hands on from 20,000 to 40,000 able seamen by compulsory enrolment. England possesses no corresponding power, and I would earnestly urge on the House that it is of the last and most vital importance that we should have sure and certain means of increasing our naval force on the breaking out of a war. I have already stated that the naval force of this country was very considerably increased during the late war. Between December 1853 and December 1855, there were added to the personnel of our naval force 16,325 men, 3,501 boys, and 3,986 marines—making a total of 23,812. The fact that this large addition was made without resorting to impressment, but by voluntary enlistment alone, is a proof of the patriotism of our seafaring population, and of their disposition to enter the naval service, a fact of which he thought they had great reason to be proud. All voluntary enlistment must, however, be comparatively slow. The number of seamen in this country at any time cannot much exceed the number required for the Queen's service and the merchant service, and the only means, therefore, of augmenting Her Majesty's navy is by withdrawing seamen from the mercantile service, or from other avocations; and in the latter case they must be untrained men. In the late war we availed ourselves of both these means of obtaining seamen with very great success. Men entered willingly from the merchant service, and a great number of men from various districts of the country were also trained as seamen. I am happy to say that a number of novices who were obtained from the agricultural counties in the south of England became, after a short training, as well behaved, and in many respects as well educated seamen as any to be found in Her Majesty's fleet. It is obvious, however, that such training must require considerable time; and it is equally obvious, that if a greater number of men be withdrawn from the merchant service than that service can afford to lose, the owners of merchant ships will offer such terms to seamen that it will be impossible for Her Majesty's Government to compete with them. We had a curious proof of the inefficiency of the system of bounties not long ago. When the Government required a number of gunboats, the people of Sunderland, animated by a most gallant and patriotic spirit, asked that they might be allowed to man the gun-boats built at that port. Her Majesty's Government were highly gratified by this proof of zeal, and gladly accepted the offer. The authorities of Sunderland issued placards, displaying the effigy of a distinguished native of that town who signalised himself at the battle of Camperdown, and they offered a bounty to seamen who were willing to enter the naval service. Now, Sir, what was the result? One seaman only accepted the bounty, and he deserted the next day. The best mode of attracting men to the naval service is, I conceive, by pursuing that course which has been followed of late by successive Boards of Admiralty—namely, by improving to the utmost possible extent the condition of the seamen. In consequence of the measures which have already been adopted with that object, we have had no difficulty in raising the number of men for whom a Vote was sanctioned by this House, while it is notorious with regard to the army that, in spite of the high bounty, it was found extremely difficult to obtain the required number of recruits. One of the means recommended for facilitating the manning of the navy is by drawing more largely upon the coastguard service. We assuredly did derive most essential assistance from the coastguard during the late war. An hon. and gallant Friend of mine said somewhat facetiously, that the Board of Admiralty supplied the fleet with old baldheaded men who wore spectacles. The truth is that, although many of the men supplied from the coastguard might not he very well adapted for light work aloft, they afforded excellent examples to the crews; and since the discharge of these men I have received communications from the officers of many ships in which they served, stating that the withdrawal of so large a number of steady men has had a perceptible influence upon the discipline of their vessels, for the younger men are now deprived of the examples and of the checks upon their conduct which were insured by the presence of so many experienced and steady seamen. I think provision for a reserve force may be made by the reorganisation of the coastguard and of the Naval Coast Volunteers, and, although I am aware that a naval officer of great ability, who has considered the subject with much attention, doubts whether such a scheme can be efficiently carried out, I am not disposed to abandon it until I am convinced of its impracticability. I must admit that the number of men who have come forward to enrol themselves among the Naval Coast Volunteers has not been very large, and that that force, as at present constituted, has not answered the purpose for which it was established; but I do not despair of being able to reorganise that force in such a manner as to provide a body of men available for our coast defence. It is a point of the highest importance that we should have a large reserve of tried seamen who can be at once placed on hoard our ships of war, and I certainly shall not relax my endeavours to obtain such a force, and the readiest means of doing so appears to me to be by taking the coastguard under the control of the Admiralty and placing it on a somewhat different footing. Another plan proposed for this purpose has been that of giving seamen small pensions after a short period of service, with an obligation to serve again in Her Majesty's navy when they may be required. Many naval officers doubt, however, whether men of good character and steady conduct will accept the pensions on such conditions, but I certainly think it worth while to give a trial to any plan which may supply us with a reserve of experienced men. A proposal has also been made for establishing a naval militia; and a gallant Friend of mine has recently published a pamphlet upon that subject. I certainly think the suggestion well deserves consideration, but it involves compulsory service, and we must be very careful what we do with reference to such a matter. The land militia is a force which is available exclusively for home service, unless it chooses to volunteer for foreign service, and during the recent war several regiments of militia gallantly volunteered to garrison our colonial possessions. Under ordinary circumstances, however, the services of the militia are confined to the United Kingdom; but if men are obtained for the fleet by ballot, they will, of course, be liable to foreign service. In former wars recourse was had to the impressment of seamen, and although I do not say circumstances might not occur in which, salus populi being suprema lex, such a measure might not again be necessary, I am convinced it would only be adopted as a last resort. It is not possible for any one to feel a greater interest in this subject than I do, and no time and attention shall be spared on my part to devise a satisfactory scheme, but I have not at the present moment a scheme so matured that I can bring it before the House. With respect to the next Vote, which is for the purchase of provisions and victualling stores, I took a sum of £1,000,000 on account for this Vote, and no great diminution has been possible in it. The whole Vote will be £300,000 or £400,000 less than the original Estimate, and I have now to ask for £167,338 more than was taken on account. The next Vote in which there is any considerable alteration is that for naval stores, in which there is a reduction of £500,000. At the end of the war with Russia we find ourselves with a larger supply of hemp than we had at the beginning of the war. I shall, therefore, only take a nominal sum of £500 upon this Vote, in order to give hon. Members an opportunity of making any remarks they may deem necessary upon this expenditure. The next is an entirely new Vote for works and improvements in the dockyards. I stated on a former occasion that the alteration and construction of steamships and their machinery required so much greater space in the dockyards that it was impossible to go on within the old limits. The truth is, that we have not a single dockyard where we are not cramped and confined for room, and I may mention to the House that our five largest dockyards are about equal to the one dockyard of our neighbour's at Cherbourg. It is, therefore, absolutely necessary to enlarge them upon a scale better calculated to meet the exigencies caused by the increased size and length of the ships, and the means of preparing the machinery. It is impossible to repair a screw steamer without taking the ship into dock, and it is impossible to repair our large steam fleet without increasing our docks and slip accommodation. A new building for sawing machinery has been necessary at Deptford, and a sum of £40,000 will be taken for the purchase of ground for extending the dockyard at Deptford. The next item is for medical stores, the Vote for which will be about the same as last year. The next Vote, for miscellaneous services, contains a new item of rewards for services against pirates under the Act 13 & 14 Vict., c. 26. It is proposed to vote £1,000 to Her Majesty's ship Prometheus, for services against the Riff pirates. The last item to which I shall call the attention of the House is the Vote for the transport service, in which there is a very considerable reduction. The Committee has already voted more than, under the altered circumstances of the case, will be required, and it will be necessary to rescind the former Vote on the Report and vote the smaller sum. The original Vote was £6,971,000. The House voted £6,000,000 on account, and we think that £4,977,200 will more than cover the sum required. The estimate was framed upon the sum considered necessary for bringing home the army in the Crimea; but in consequence of the Queen's ships being employed in this service the whole amount of that Vote will not be wanted. We cannot calculate the amount to a great nicety, because there will be expenses incurred for short services, such as removing the Turkish Contingent and other troops. It will not be safe to take a less sum, but we think the amount asked for will somewhat exceed the probable expenditure. A noble Lord (Lord A. Vane Tempest) has asked me a question to-night relative to the bringing home the troops from the Crimea. I stated on a former occasion why I had not sent ships of the line sooner. It was not one reason only, but a number of reasons, which led to that conclusion. We began with a steam transport for 32,000 men. We took up all the steam transports that were fit for service, and we directed the Admiral in the Black Sea to do the same. We desired him also to fit up for troops all the cattle and store ships they could employ in that service. A good deal depended upon the information from the Mediterranean as to what they could do there, and also upon the number of horses that would have to be brought home. I did not think, also, that the ships that were at home were in a condition to be sent to the Black Sea for troops. It is not a good thing for the discipline of a man-of-war to employ such vessels in the transport of troops, and so much injury has been done to the discipline in some of the French ships thus employed, that the officers say it will be a couple of years before they can get their crews into good order again. It was desirable that the ships should be sent out in as good a state of discipline as possible. The number of men had been reduced, and the men discharged were those with whom the discipline of the vessels mainly rested. The men belonging to the coastguard had been discharged, and those left were, as I have previously stated, the least experienced part of the crew, who were left without the cheek derived from the presence of older men. Some little time was, therefore, required to reorganise the ships before they were ready. When this was done we sent out orders by telegraph to fit up in the Black Sea five line-of-battle ships and six large steam-vessels for troops. There were also sailing vessels for 9,000 men, ten screw steam-ships, and two frigates. What we have done is this:—About 10,000 Sardinians and 2,600 horses have been sent home. There have passed the Dardanelles about 33,000 British troops and 3,000 horses—making together 43,000 men and 5,600 horses. By the middle of the month the whole of the Turkish Contingent, amounting to 16,000 or 17,000 men, will have been removed. The number of troops removed by us is not very inferior to the number removed by the French, and it must be remembered that, if we had only to bring our men to Marseilles, our vessels could make two trips where they now make one. A great deal of this information has been received by telegraph, and I cannot be so precise in numbers as I should be if we procured them from ordinary dispatches. The Committee will Understand that I am speaking in round numbers, and subject to correction. There are now, as we believe, in the Crimea 32,000 or 33,000 men, and there are in the Mediterranean steam transports, including ships of war ordered to bring home men, for 33,000 troops. I entertain little doubt but that the whole of the Crimea will be cleared before the end of the month. Sailing transports are gone oat for 9,000 men, and, I hope, will arrive there in June. The whole number remaining to be brought home from the East, calculated up to to-day, is under 40,000 men. There is in the Mediterranean tonnage calculated to bring home more than 42,000. Steam transports for 5,000 more are under orders to return, and I think it wise to send steam transports beyond that, probably for 4,000 more, so as to leave the sailing vessels to bring home stores. I believe the Vote for this service will be ample, but I think we should not have been justified in proposing a less sum. I have now gone through all the alterations, and I shall be very ready to afford explanation when particular Votes are proposed. The Vote I have now to put in your hands, Sir, is for the reduced number of men for the remaining nine months of the year.
said, that the right hon. Baronet had moved for the reduction of the number of men serving in the navy by about £20,000, but that the absolute reduction would only be about 14,000 men; and he went on further to state that, under the present circumstances, the reduction in the number of men in the navy was not so large as it might have been under other circumstances at the termination of a war. He (Mr. Bentinck) was not going to infringe upon the line which had been prudently taken by the right hon. Baronet, but he would only say that he entirely concurred in the opinion expressed by him, that in all probability England was not upon the eve of another war. But having stated that, he would also say that he had great faith in the old adage, that the best way to preserve peace was to be prepared for war. Without making any further remarks upon that subject, he would only say, he should have heard the statement of the right hon. Baronet with much greater satisfaction if the reduction in the navy had been made even smaller than it had been. He had heard with great pleasure that it was intended to maintain a large naval force in time of peace than they had lately been in the habit of maintaining. There was no greater mistake, as a matter of precaution or of finance, than the practice of cutting down a large naval force in time of peace to the lowest possible standard. This country never Ought to be without sufficient and ample means of naval defence. If the question were fairly stated, he had little doubt that, so far from those reductions in the naval estimates having been a measure of economy, the efforts which were necessary to the complete efficiency of the navy when suddenly required, led to a very much larger outlay than would have been required, if a sufficient sum had been spread over the consecutive years of peace. He hoped, therefore that in future discussions of these Estimates, they would not have a repetition of the penny-wise and pound-foolish policy which former years had witnessed.
MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, that although he had intimated to the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty, that it would be desirable to furnish the Committee with fresh Estimates, he found that no attention whatever was paid to the expenditure of money for the particular purposes for which it was voted. For instance, a Vote was taken for the sailors of the navy, which might, perhaps, be expended in building the Queen's yacht, or for any other purpose under the head of Naval Estimates. He had no doubt the right hon. Baronet would receive great encouragement from the Committee, similar to that which had been given by the hon. Member for West Norfolk. He (Mr. Williams) was certainly desirous that the navy should be kept in an efficient state; but he did not take the same view as the hon. Member (Mr. Bentinck). The Estimate had been prepared for the third year of the war; and, out of the sixteen items in it, he found that there was no reduction whatever in ten of them. The number of men for a time of peace wits very large, although he must admit he should like to see the atmosphere a little more clear before he advised a reduction in our naval force. But with respect to the dockyards, there had been an absolute increase of £40,000; and altogether a sum of £10,000,000 had been expended upon the dockyards from the termination of the late French war to the commencement of the war with Russia. The country, certainly, had not had, during the war, the results which they, from the use of the best materials, and a very large expenditure, had a right to expect. With regard to the organisation of the Royal Naval Coast Volunteers, for whom a Vote of £20,000 had been taken, he fully believed that the attempt to organise them had been entirely unsuccessful, and the money thrown away. The Vote ought to be struck from the Estimate altogether. He should be glad to know the amount of money expended on the transport service since the commencement of the war.
I fully recognise the prudence of a measure which maintains the navy in a state of efficiency and strength: vigour in the conduct of an actual war hastens its speedy and honourable termination, and the attitude of conscious power will free from apprehension of hostilities and deter the opponent from provoking war. A timid policy enervates the spirit of a nation and encourages aggression and pretensions, which, if weakly admitted or entertained, threaten its security and endanger both its fame and name. With these convictions I rejoice to see that adequate provision is to be made to maintain the navy in a perfectly efficient state, for what would be the heart of oak unless the old race of British tars were our men; but it is no less essential to that fleet to animate it with assurance of regard at home, and that can only be understood by the simple honest seamen's heart, when they find that neither private interest nor political favour shall prevail over individual merit in the race for honour and promotion; let the officer of every rank and the common seaman be convinced that service will alone command patronage, and the country will not lose its reward in the gratitude it will awaken in their breasts, and the renewed efforts they will make to prove themselves worthy of that generous care. Nor will the Board of Admiralty, I trust, fail to recognise the importance of that system (introduced by a Board which deserves every commendation for their act) on board Her Majesty's ship Illustrious, where lads from the age of fourteen to eighteen years are in training for the naval service in every branch of a seaman's duty, with an education eminently adapted to the requirements of their calling. On a personal visit to that ship I found admirable order, great attention to study and practical knowledge, which were only equalled by one of the happiest circumstances, a cheerful and contented crew. Let the Admiralty carry out their reforms and encourage the deserving, under no other influence, and heedful of no other claim but that of personal merit, and a similar spirit will cheer every individual in my profession, raise many a drooping head for the thousand wrongs of the past, a tardy and sincere atonement; and if my humble efforts may hasten the day, I shall not have lived in vain. I must say, I very much deprecate the constant changes which are made in the uniform of officers in the Navy and Royal Marines by the Admiralty; the results of trying their prentice hands on amateur tailoring have not been very satisfactory; it is, however, quite congenial with that strange humour which lately converted the gallant corps I have just named into Light Infantry; though, when they may have to skirmish, passes my powers of conjecture: these alterations of dress bear very heavily upon the purses of those on whom they are imposed. Another topic of animadversion lies in the system of clothing the seamen of the Navy; the number of continual-service men, I believe, to exceed 20,000 men. It becomes, then, of importance to consider their appearance and dress: this could be accomplished by two measures, one by giving the continuous-service men a distinguishing, though simple and serviceable dress which would inspire self-respect, the other by the addition of a clause in the Mutiny Act, rendering persons who purchase seamen's clothing liable to a severe penalty, as is the practice in the case of soldiers improperly disposing of their necessaries. As it is, the seaman in many instances is no sooner clothed than, if permitted to go ashore, he is exposed to the temptation of making away with his clothes and receiving as a substitute a dress of inferior material, which, within a week, leaves him in rags. These men form the national defence of the country, the irregularities of which I complain work injuriously to their comfort and is detrimental to the service. Men are brought on board and mulcted in consequence with straggling money, while they have to renew their clothes—then, having no pay to receive, they become hardened and discontented and lose their attachment to the service. I grant that this is the result of irregular conduct, but the worthless tempters of the seamen encourage them to break their leave and so profit by the offence. The seaman would thus have a pride in his clothing, be protected from imposition, and encouraged to love heartily the profession that regards his best interests and provides for his security and welfare. I will but further say, that I cheerfully concur in the present Vote, for I, in my conscience, believe no Board of Admiralty comes down to this House to ask for instalments for the enlargement of our dockyards, actuated otherwise than by the disposition to promote the best interests and to secure the perfect efficiency of the naval service.
said, he wished to call attention to the sum asked for the corps of the Royal Coast Naval Volunteers. The proposition of forming men employed in the coasting service had been made some time ago with the service, of which the necessary period was limited to a single year. Sums of money had been asked for on that account, and officers had been appointed, but the country had up to the present time derived no benefit. He himself had asked for a return of these Royal Coast Naval Volunteers; he had asked for the number of times they had exercised, and for the number of the volunteers. The Returns stated that the number of men enrolled on the first of March was 4,819. But it appeared that there were none embodied, and in 1855 they had not once been exercised. Yet during the course of that year £50,000 had been voted for embodying the force and making it efficient. Now, how could they make the seamen efficient if they did not bring them together? Again, what were they doing with the officers? At present they were doing nothing. The men were not embodied, and the officers did nothing. Yet they were paying six captains of troops and six paymasters of troops. The salaries amounted to £1,496, and there was a multitude of extraneous expenses, while the value of the whole corps was not worth £60, the charge for the stationery. It might be supposed that some of these men would volunteer into the Royal Navy. That certainly was not the case. Out of the whole only 256 men had enlisted into the navy. He therefore could not see the least use in the corps, or in the £50,000 which had been expended. [Sir C. WOOD: The money has not been expended.] Why, then, were they called upon to vote £20,000 or £30,000 more for this force, which was of no use whatever? He hoped they would have some assurance that the money would not be thrown away, if the plan was not to be carried out. As far as experience had gone, it was a complete failure, and the Vote ought to be withdrawn.
said, he fully concurred in much of what had fallen from the hon. and gallant Member who had just sat down, and he hoped that some explanation would be given to the Committee on the subject. He had serious objections to the system of bonuses. The system had proved a failure, and it was evident that if you could not encourage men in other ways to enter the Royal Navy, you could not do it by means of bonuses. Those bonuses were used for purposes very different from what the seamen required. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman (Sir C. Wood) would afford them some explanation as to his views for raising the requisite number of seamen. As to those who had been already raised, the question in regard to them was, what would have happened if the Baltic fleet had actually encountered the enemy. The seamen were now wanted in the merchant service, and if they were to be kept in the Royal Navy merely as a boon to themselves, it would be much better if they were let loose. He also wished to call attention to the mode of settling with the seamen, and the delays which had taken place. It had been said that the Accountant General's Department was the most overworked of any; but he thought that if the simple system of accounts practised in the merchant service was followed, the settlements might be very easily effected. The hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams) had taken objection to the largeness of the Votes for the dockyards; but he (Mr. Lindsay) did not object to the largeness of Votes, but to the way in which the money was expended, and he thought that any reduction of the Dockyard Vote would be a very false economy. On the whole, he was very well pleased with the Estimates, and the statement with which they had been introduced.
said, that the importance of manning the navy was the first consideration which ought to weigh with the Committee when it was considering the Estimates, and he must say that it was with great pleasure that he had observed the interest which the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty took in this question. He (Captain Scobell) thought that every man, after five years' service, ought to receive an increase of pay to induce him remain in the service. It was quite clear that, notwithstanding the auxiliary power of steam, it was most essential that ships should be manned with crews capable of furling and handling sails in a gale of wind, and therefore no means ought to be neglected for obtaining efficient men. It was said that the navy ought not to be kept at too low a standard. Now, he thought that it was very difficult to define what was a high or what a low standard, and although he thought it most desirable that the navy should be kept in such a state as to be always ready for an emergency, still he should not like to see England maintaining a threatening navy. They must recollect that if they kept up a very large navy other nations would do the same thing. He certainly wished to see an efficient force maintained, but he did not wish to see a war fleet kept up in time of peace. We commenced the last war with only large ships, and it was only after two years' experience that we discovered the gun-boat tribe. If, some time ago, we had had that magnificent fleet of gunboats which had recently been reviewed at Spithead, something would have been done in the Baltic which would have been remembered for centuries. He now wished to say a few words with regard to the transport service. Tremendous expense had been incurred by hiring steam vessels for that service. A steam vessel of 200 tons, for instance, cost the country £48,000 a year. The war had been carried on most efficiently, but the expenditure with regard to the transport service, he must say, had been most extravagant. He had, on more occasions than one, suggested the employment of men of war to bring home the army, and if that suggestion had been acted upon two months ago, a vast amount of money would have been saved. There had been some observations made with respect to giving a bonus to seamen. Those who were connected with the mercantile service of course did not like the plan of giving a bonus, because it attracted the best men to the navy. He called it a bounty, and he could see no reason why they should give it to the soldier and refuse it to the seaman. His opinion was, that if at the commencement of the war they had offered a reasonable bounty to seamen, hundreds of pounds would have been saved to the country. Allusion had also been made to the Naval Coast Volunteers. That force was established when there was a talk of an invasion on some dark night; but it had proved a decided failure, and the sooner it was got rid of the better. He now wished to say a few words relative to the half-pay of naval officers—a matter with respect to which he had given notice, and which he had hoped to have brought on that night. He wished it to go forth that it was solely owing to the forms of the House that he was prevented from bringing forward that Motion, and he begged to say that he would bring it forward on the first opportunity that those forms would permit. If, however, the Admiralty would give him an assurance that they would consider the matter, he would leave the case in their hands.
SIR GEORGE TYLER
said, he thought it must be satisfactory to the First Lord of the Admiralty to find the Committee so unanimous in the expression of a favourable opinion as to his statement; but, though there might be discussion as to the expenditure for ships or other materials connected with the navy, still the great question was how to acquire the seamen in a case of emergency. During the period of the Duke of Northumberland's administration of the Admiralty, a Commission was appointed to consider the best means of manning the navy, but in their Report that point seemed to have escaped notice, though they made many useful suggestions, particularly with regard to continuous service and the employment of ships for the purpose of educating and training boys for the naval service. One of these ships, the Illustrious, was a most useful establishment, and the extension of the system was a matter of the utmost importance. In order that they might have a neucleus for manning the navy in an emergency, he thought that the plan of a naval militia, to which the right hon. Baronet (Sir C. Wood) had alluded, ought to be considered. He did not see why the voluntary system should not be extended, by having a militia stationed on the coast, the men of which should be exempted from service in the ordinary militia. He trusted that the right hon. Baronet would turn his attention to the subject. The Committee were well aware that the hon. and gallant Admiral opposite (Sir C. Napier), who had commanded the Baltic fleet, had stated in that House his opinion that it was not properly manned. The next war might be unlike the last, when we were occupied at a distance without any chance of being disturbed at home. He would therefore suggest that the Commission should be re-appointed to consider these matters. He entirely concurred in the remarks which had been made with respect to the inefficiency of the Naval Coast Volunteers. To look to that force as a nursery for our seamen was altogether out of the question. The plan of continuous service was most excellent, and he hoped that it would be persevered in. He did not wish to prolong the discussion, but he trusted that the suggestions which he had thrown out respecting the reappointment of the Commission, and the establishment of a coast militia, would be considered by the First Lord of the Admiralty with a view to provide for the efficient manning of the navy.
MR. J. G. PHILLIMORE
said, he must congratulate the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty on the manner in which his statement had been received. The hon. and gallant officer who spoke last seemed to think that the best scheme would be to adopt a naval militia; but a naval militia was a contradiction in terms. It was the characteristic of a militia that it could not be ordered out of the country; and such a restriction was incompatible with the functions of a naval force. He was surprised at the hon. and gallant Member for Bath (Captain Scobell) talking about having an understanding with the other naval Powers about the naval force to be maintained by each. The sea was not to France what it was to England, for a navy was essential to the very existence of this country. As Bacon, with the prophetic genius which belonged to him, said, the sea was the dowry of England. Before sitting down he could not help expressing his regret—although it would be out of order for him to go into the question then—that the rights which had for ages past been the foundation of our maritime power—the right of search—should have been surrendered by our Plenipotentiaries at the Conferences of Paris.
SIR CHARLES NAPIER
said, he was glad to hear that a respectable navy was for the future to be kept up in time of peace. The last war had taught us a lesson which he hoped would last us for some time to come. There had always been a great talk about settling some plan for the more efficient manning of the navy, but no plan bad ever yet been produced. The Bill brought in by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caslisle (Sir J. Graham), in 1830, was the best thing that had been done in the matter, but the great defect of that measure was, that it obliged the Government, if at any time it should be necessary, to issue a proclamation offering a bounty to volunteers, and to pay the bounty likewise to all the seamen already enrolled and actually serving. Now such a provision as that was not only unnecessary, but in a time of emergency, as during the late war, it retarded the Admiralty, and therefore he would strongly advise that that part of the measure should be amended or repealed. When the navy was reduced to what was to be the peace strength, there oughr not to be less than ten ships of the line fully and efficiently manned constantly at sea, not to be allowed to lie idle in port or employed in blockading the rock of Lisbon, but to be kept sailing from one foreign station to another, so that the men and officers might learn their duty and be ready for any emergency which might occur. On each of these ships he would only embark half the complement of marines, leaving the other half on shore to garrison the seaports, and supplying their places by an equal number of ablebodied seamen, so that, if it should ever be necessary to commission additional ships, there would be a considerable reserve ready to turn over to them at any moment; and thus, with the aid of a certain proportion of landsmen, our navy might be doubled at a very short warning. It would be very much wiser if, instead of paying off the men at the end of three years, as was now the custom, they were retained for the full five years of their enrolment. He would have the steam gunboats sent to the different ports round the coast, and these should be manned by the coastguard, which body of men he would take from the Customs and put under the Admiralty. Not that they should be required to live on board, but that should be their post, where they were to be looked for when wanted. If the Naval Coast Volunteers were placed on a proper footing they might be made of great use in manning the navy. For instance, they might be made to form part of the ships' companies of the vessels stationed at the different ports. From conversations which he had had with the fishermen at various parts of the coast, he believed they would be very willing, for a small sum, to be formed into some body like the Sea Fencibles of former times, and, united with the coastguard, they might be made very serviceable. The suggestion of the hon. and gallant Member for Glamorganshire (Sir G. Tyler) to appoint a Commission was a very good one, and he hoped the Government would act upon it.
SIR JAMES GRAHAM
I trust, Sir, that the Committee will afford me its attention for a brief space while I make a few observations upon a subject in which I may naturally be supposed to feel a deep Interest; and, first, let me express the great gratification which I experience at not finding myself in angry controversy with the hon. and gallant Officer below me (Sir C. Napier), but sincerely agreeing with him in many of the leading topics of the speech which he has just addressed to the Committee. In common with him I have heard with great satisfaction the speech of my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty. At the same time I quite agree in the opinion, that, even if peace were happily and permanently established, it would be by no means expedient to reduce the naval force of the country to the extent to which it had been reduced previous to the commencement of the late war. I also have long since arrived at the conclusion, that with a view to being at all times ready, without impressment, to man speedily a large fleet, it is absolutely necessary to keep up a considerable force of marines. I, consequently, do not think that 16,000 marines for a peace establishment is at all too large a number. I consider that in time of peace it is most desirable that Woolwich, Chatham, Portsmouth, and Plymouth, should be mainly garrisoned by marines. Barracks at each of those places, capable of containing 2,000 men, ought to be at once provided; so that you should always have ready to embark on an emergency, at least 8,000 marines. That, Sir, would be a nucleus around which a fleet could speedily be formed. The marine, as he is now trained, is one of the most valuable of all armed forces. He is a perfectly well-trained light infantry soldier; he is also accustomed to several most important naval operations; he is an accomplished gunner; he can splice, knot, rig, and perform almost all the duties of a sailor except going aloft; he is, therefore, in a great many respects, both a soldier and a sailor; he realises to the fullest extent the motto of his corps, "per mare, per terras," and on both elements his services are invaluable. Although the system of impressment, even in the emergency of war, is, to use the mildest term, in abeyance, I agree with my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty that the right must be maintained, and when the necessity becomes overwhelming that it can and will be exercised. Still, in the ordinary circumstances of war, we must regard the power of impressment as in abeyance. If I am right in that conclusion, I cannot be wrong in urging that preparations should be made in time of peace to meet the emergencies of war without having recourse to impressment. Now that, Sir, can only be accomplished, I apprehend, by establishing a permanent and effective naval reserve. The first mode of attaining that object is, by keeping up at all times a larger fleet properly equipped than the country has been accustomed to maintain in time of peace. In addition to that, it is absolutely necessary to obtain a permanent reserve by the mixed use of two or three measures to which reference has been made this evening in separate detail, but not in combination. I shall commence my observations with the question of pensions. I hold, with almost all naval authorities, that it is necessary to enter and maintain in time of peace a large number of boys, who, trained in the navy, become accustomed to its discipline, and who, so far from disliking it, remain in the Queen's service in most cases in preference to the merchant service. Those boys acquire a knowledge of the profession with their growth, and going out to a foreign station boys, they return top men. Well, if you persevere in time of peace in keeping up a large proportion of boys, you will be enabled to allow at an early period your A. B. seamen to retire upon small pensions. As the law now stands seamen may retire, after ten years' service, upon a low rate of pension. I certainly think it desirable in time of peace that you should allow them so to retire. See what the consequence will be. Take care every time that a man comes to receive his pensions to see him yourself; make him appear every half year, or even every quarter, if deemed necessary; keep your eye upon him, and know his whereabouts, so that, in case of an emergency, you can at once put your hand upon him. That will give you a reserve of the most effectual kind. Those men will form the very flower of your navy; they will not be above twenty-eight or thirty years of age; they will have spent ten years in the service, and they will be expert and able seamen. Here, then, to a certain extent, is an effectual reserve. Then, again, there is the force of Naval Coast Volunteers. Almost immediately after that corps was formed the Russian war broke out, and our whole naval force was then required for other purposes than the defence of our own shores; but I think, when peace is restored, that attention may well be given to the training and nurturing of that body. I believe that the whole force in Scotland which was provided in pursuance of the Act of Parliament was only 1,500 men. Unhappily, Scotland has volunteered in a less degree to the naval service than any other part of the United Kingdom; but it would be satisfactory to have in that country a force of even 1,500 men, trained as a militia, willing to submit themselves to martial law, and exercising on board ship for one month every year. As we shall now have spare line-of-battle ships, I believe that it would be most wise to execute the purpose which I originally had in view. Embody that force for a month at a time; send them out on short voyages; train and instruct them kindly in naval discipline, and I believe that they would soon become reconciled to the naval service, and would constitute an admirable and constant source of supply to the navy. What is available in Scotland is available also throughout England and Ireland. I agree with my right hon. Friend at the head of the Admiralty that we have attained a great deal by having prepared a large force of small craft impelled by steam. The war being over, I should desire to see the whole of those ships retained in harbour ready for service; or, better still, that they should be used as substitutes for the sailing vessels now engaged in the revenue service; that they should be employed in providing the whole of the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland with a defensive and revenue force at the same time; and that they should be manned by the coastguard. Now, Sir, this brings me to a subject which I wish particularly to urge upon the Government, because, to make it effectual, legislation will be indispensable. I am strongly of opinion that this is the moment in which we ought to effect a great change with respect to the coastguard. I believe that the coastguard should immediately be taken from the control of the Revenue Board and placed under the direction of the Admiralty; that not a landsman should be admitted into the force; that it should consist of prime seamen only; that entrance to it should be a reward for meritorious conduct; that it should be officered by the Admiralty; and that it should be placed under martial law. When you shall have done that—when you shall have combined with the coastguard your Naval Coast Volunteers, having the same officers commanding both, the former force being constantly afloat, and the latter embodied and under training for a month at a time & when, in addition to that, you have the pensioners passing quickly out of the service after ten years' service, ready to be re-enlisted, and their places supplied with large numbers of boys, I believe that you have a combination of measures which will provide you with a real and efficient naval reserve. I do not desire to conceal from the Committee that increased expense might be incurred in taking the coastguard from the Revenue Department and placing it in the hands of the Admiralty; but the entire cost, whatever it might be, would come annually under the view of Parliament in the Navy Estimates. The accounts for the last five years, or for any similar period, will show you exactly what the expense of the coastguard, as defrayed by the Revenue Department, has been, and I think the average charge of those years should be transferred from the Civil Service to the Naval Estimates. In that way the precise amount of the increase—if, indeed, there should be any increase, about which I venture to entertain some doubts—would be known to Parliament, the whole expense would be under our control; and that which is now a sort of hybrid service, neither naval nor revenue, would be rendered really efficient as a great arm of defence attached to the British navy. I should say that very short and simple legislation is required, and it would be impossible to conceive a moment more favourable than the present for carrying out the change I have suggested. We have a House of Commons resolved to uphold the naval strength of the country; the measure I propose is no extensive change, and there is nothing violent in the course of bringing the coastguard manned by sailors under martial law. It will not injure either the expectations or the feelings of the men, but will ensure their efficiency, and I am satisfied that if you wish to put the navy in a thoroughly effective state, and to do so with the greatest certainty, you will adopt what I have proposed. The hon. and gallant Member for Glamorganshire (Sir G. Tyler) has suggested that we should have a Commission on this subject. Why, Sir, we have had a Commission, and, without flattery, I may say that your best Commission is the Board of Admiralty. I do not believe you could find in the service more able officers than those who sit at that Board at the present moment. They understand the subject thoroughly. I know the opinions of the hon. and gallant Member for Gloucester (Sir M. Berkeley), to whom the country is under great obligations for manning the fleet promptly without impressment, and, if I am not much mistaken, they coincide with my own. And there is, fortunately, at the head of the Admiralty, my right hon. Friend (Sir C. Wood), who has great official experience in naval affairs. He has served for many years at the Board—first, as Secretary, and now as First Lord. Having been also charged with the finances of the country, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he knows the revenue part of the question, and he is the person who can most satisfactorily, in concert with the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer, effect the great object which I have in view. The difficulty of the measure does not appear to me at all commensurate with the magnitude of the benefit which I anticipate as certain to be derived from it. I know nothing like striking when the iron is hot, and there is at present a strong sense, both in Parliament and the country, of the absolute necessity of establishing, and without loss of time, that naval reserve, the want of which we felt so seriously at the commencement of the late war. Let us at once then, remedy a defect which has been proved by experience. My humble services either in or out of this House in framing such a measure would be gladly rendered. I should regard it as a duty that I owed to the public to give every assistance in my power to any such scheme, which I am satisfied would do honour to the Administration of my noble Friend at the head of the Government; and if I mistake not, be at once satisfactory to Parliament and highly beneficial to the country at large. With regard to the system of bounties, I do not wish to discuss that question adversely; but I agree with the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Lindsay) that it only involves us, after all, in a competition between the Queen's service and the merchant service. The market naturally is limited. If you bid high the merchant service will outbid you, and really, as a substitute for a permanent reserve, reliance on bounty in time of war will always be found, as it has been, inadequate and disappointing. The hon. and gallant Member for Southwark (Sir C. Napier) has done me the honour to refer to a measure which I introduced at the close of my naval administration in 1834, with the view of diminishing the necessity of impressment by giving to the Queen the power of issuing a proclamation to the effect that a bounty should be given to all seamen who should present themselves within a week, but that those who failed to do so would be liable to compulsory service. He stated, however, that there was an imperfection in that Act; and I readily admit it. It afforded too great a premium by extending the bounty, not only to those who should come in as volunteers, but also to all the seamen then in the fleet, and on more than one occasion the executive Government were deterred from using this measure on account of the very great expense that would have been incurred. But I think the hon. and gallant Admiral was not aware that it was my good fortune, induced by his demonstration at a very appropriate time—two years ago—to correct the error of 1834, and that the imperfection to which he referred is now removed. We may now try the bounty at the first outbreak of a war, without the risk of incurring too much expense; and here again is a measure which in the last extremity would altogether, in my opinion, remove the hardships of impressment, because an ample period would be given to volunteers to present themselves before the enforcement of compulsory service. Before I sit down, I must again express the hope that, notwithstanding the advanced period of the Session, it may be thought possible to introduce and pass a measure for transferring the coastguard from the Revenue Department to the Admiralty. My right hon. Friend at the head of the Admiralty has no need of a Commission. He has the valuable assistance of the hon. and gallant Member for Gloucester and of the Surveyor of the Navy, and his own good sense and experience will enable him to complete the measure more speedily than any new Commission appointed to inquire. That the change would be a good one there can be little doubt, and if carried out in a proper spirit it would, as I have already said, do honour to the Government, give satisfaction to Parliament, and prove extremely beneficial to the country.
SIR MAURICE BERKELEY
said, he fully concurred in all that had been said with regard to the necessity there was for keeping up a large naval force, and the still stronger necessity that existed for forming an efficient naval reserve. With respect to the observations of his hon. and gallant Friend (Sir G. Tyler), and of the hon. and gallant Admiral (Sir C. Napier) as to whether the Baltic fleet were properly manned, and whether or not the Admiralty were right or wrong in building those line-of-battle-ships, which had been so much criticised, he would only say that he Board had taken every possible pains to man those ships in the best manner they could. The matter had often been discussed in that House, and on the present occasion he would let bygones be bygones, and not further refer to the subject. He must, however, say that he congratulated himself greatly on the speech of the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham). Almost the first speech he (Sir M. Berkeley) had ever delivered in that House was to recommend the incorporation of the coastguard with the Royal Navy, and to make the coastguard the nucleus of a naval reserve. So long ago as the naval administration of Lord Minto he had written a pamphlet which contained almost verbatim the same plan as that now proposed by the right hon. Baronet; and Lord Auckland was pleased to order that that pamphlet should be published for the benefit of the officers of the navy. Many objections had been made to the scheme; but from that day to this it had been his hobby. He was ready to admit that, as at present constituted, the Naval Coast Volunteers had proved a failure; but if the force were to be combined with the coastguard he should have some hope of it. The late war had shown our weakness with regard to manning the navy; and he declared honestly that we could not have manned more ships than we did when the war broke out. We had got to the length of our tether, and what we should have done if we had had a maritime war he really did not know. He trusted, however, that the Committee would leave the subject in the hands of the Board. They were the proper, because the responsible, persons; and they would not shrink from any labour or pains to bring about what was so much to be desired—the improvement of the present mode of manning the navy.
SIR FRANCIS BARING
said, he was afraid that the unanimity which now existed in the Committee could not always be relied upon. It was certainly his opinion that an efficient naval force ought to be kept up, but he considered that it ought not to go beyond that which was really efficient for service in time of peace. He concurred in the opinion that Europe had a right to expect that this country would not keep up what might be termed an aggressive force. Another reason for not fixing the expenditure at too high a sum was, that, though all agreed to-day, hon. Members should bear in mind that the war fit did not last for ever. If the expenditure was fixed beyond what the country required the time would come when the pressure would compel them to reduce the Estimates perhaps even below what was proper. Lord Auckland had kept the naval force considerably above what the House of Commons thought right, and as he succeeded Lord Auckland, he spoke from experience when he said that they were compelled to reduce very considerably its efficiency. Nothing was more unfortunate as regarded the navy itself than these ups and downs as to the number of men. With respect to the manning of the navy, he admitted that the first and most important point was, that the naval reserve should be afloat. Another point of great importance was, that gunnery ships should be kept in a state of efficiency at the chief ports. With respect to the coastguard he might be somewhat prejudiced, because he had entered the Admiralty with doubts as to the expediency of transferring the control of that branch of the service to the Admiralty, though he must admit that he had changed his opinion on that point while at the Admiralty. He looked on the coastguard as a most valuable body of men, and he should be ready to give his support to any measure for making the alteration proposed. At the same time he hoped the Admiralty would not lose sight of the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Member opposite for a naval reserve. When First Lord of the Admiralty he had obtained from the House a Vote to try the experiment of a reserve on a small scale, but his successors in office doubted the feasibility of the plan, and appointed a Commission of officers, who had reported, without giving reasons, that the plan was impracticable. With respect to the Naval Coast Volunteer force, he might observe that they ought not to despair of its future efficiency, because it bad not as yet come up to the expectations which they had formed in its regard. The question of our naval reserves generally was one of the utmost importance, and one from dealing with which he hoped the Board of Admiralty would not shrink.
said, he wished to say a word with reference to the transport service. He believed that if they had a Return showing the number of transports employed, the number of men conveyed, and the cost of their transportation during the late war, it would be easy to show that if, during the forty years of peace which we had enjoyed, a certain sum had been expended in the construction of troop ships, we should have had in time of emergency a large fleet for the conveyance of troops, and that at a much smaller cost than by hiring ships in time of war. He wished also to make a single remark on the question of the right of search. There was hardly any one who had studied that subject, uninfluenced by diplomatic considerations, who was not prepared to avow that if on the outbreak of another war this country was prepared to maintain the integrity of the declaration adopted at the Paris Conference, from that moment this country would sink from the position of the first maritime Power to that of a third-rate Power; that from that time forth all aggressive power on the part of this country would cease to exist; and that the only service to which our navy could be devoted would be the defence of our shores from foreign invasion, so long as the gallantry of the people could maintain their position in this island. He considered that when they were discussing what was to be the amount of naval power in this country they were justified in looking to the circumstances in which they would be placed by the maintenance of the declaration adopted at the Conference at Paris. The present might not be the time to go into details on that question; but he would regret if in every discussion that took place on naval affairs the subject were not mooted.
SIR GEORGE PECHELL
said, that, during a long Parliamentary experience he had never heard a more satisfactory discussion. He wished to add his testimony to that of the naval officers who had preceded him, as to the high efficiency of the navy. He was old enough to recollect the miseries occasioned by the method of paying off the ships in the last war, when sailors were left to starve in the streets. Nothing of the kind could now take place. He highly approved of the suggestions that had been made for rendering the coastguard an efficient naval reserve. As it at present existed it unfortunately was of little use. It was discovered, when they were called on in the late war, that many of them were not even seamen. In 1853, a Committee had recommended that larger squadrons should be employed on the coast of Africa and at Cuba for the prevention of the slave trade. He regretted to find that the strength of those squadrons had been, reduced, but he trusted that now they would immediately be reinforced, and that vessels of a smaller draught of water would be sent.
SIR CHARLES WOOD
said, he felt much gratification in the general concurrence which had been expressed by the Committee at the proposal of the Government. He thought that the gunnery vessels would form excellent training schools. One had been recently established at Devonport, which he hoped would soon become as efficient as the Excellent at Portsmouth. Reference had been made to the necessity of dividing the marines amongst different ports. That House had already voted no less than £166,000 for providing marine barracks in places where they had not hitherto existed. It was said that a large amount was spent on the dockyards. He only regretted that that expenditure had not been made fifteen or twenty years ago, when the land might have been obtained much cheaper. As to a naval reserve, he should have been glad had he been able to state any organised plan. This he could not do; but he would say that, to be efficient, the plan must combine various measures and various forces—the coastguard, as well as others—that the gunboats must be substituted for the revenue cruisers, and that the whole must be placed under martial law. Of course the Committee must be prepared for an additional expense; but that would not be greater than what the Committee would probably think essential. He saw no advantage in reappointing the Commission, as had been hinted at by the hon. and gallant Member for Glamorganshire (Sir G. Tyler).
Vote agreed to.
The following Votes were then agreed to without discussion—
(4.) £601,922, Wages to Seamen and Marines.
(5.) £167,338, Victuals for Ditto.
(6.) £500, Naval Stores.
(7.) £40,000 (Dockyard at Deptford.)
said, he regretted to say, that amidst all the unanimity which prevailed with respect to the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty, he was compelled to be a dissentient to a certain extent; for while the right hon. Gentleman stated that the Government "required an enormous increase of space for their works," and that "there was no dockyard in which they were not confined and cramped for room," no notice whatever was taken of the capabilities and resources of Cork Harbour, one of the finest, as well as the most important, in the United Kingdom. The First Lord of the Admiralty complained of the want of adequate accommodation in England, but he overlooked altogether that which Ireland had so long offered in vain. On a former occasion, when bringing this subject before the House, he was taunted with having taken rather a narrow view of the question, and having put it on grounds not likely to weigh with the judgment of the Government or of Parliament; but he should take care, on that occasion, not to fall into a similar error. Perhaps he was unduly surprised that while a sum of more than £3,500,000 was demanded for outlay expended and works done in the naval ports of England, and while work to the amount of more than £700,000 was executed by contract in private yards, no larger sum than £4,500 was demanded for all Ireland. Perhaps, in asking for a fair share of the public expenditure for an important portion of a common empire, he had erred; and, if so, he would now, by a ready declaration of extreme penitence, make due atonement for his grave fault. He would now deal with the question of Cork Harbour exclusively as an Imperial question, and as one intimately connected with the safety and security of the empire; and he was fortunately enabled to do so with a weight of authority on the present occasion which he could not command before. Having placed on the paper notice of a Motion which he did intend to move, but could not now, as the rules of the House would not admit of it, and having shortly after returned to Ireland, he (Mr. Maguire) made it his business to call on the distinguished Admiral who then held the command on the Irish station at Queenstown, and acquaint him that he was about bringing the subject before the House of Commons on an early day. He naturally desired to have the opinion of an officer so distinguished in his profession, and of such long experience, as Sir George Sartorius; and that gallant Admiral placed at his disposal, with full liberty for its use, a document in which that able and experienced officer deliberately expressed his opinion that the gravest imperial interests were involved in the continued neglect or immediate adoption of Cork Harbour as a place for the construction of dockyards, a steam factory—in fact, as a regular naval arsenal. He need not tell the Government who Sir George Sartorius was; but he might remind the Committee of the fact, that not only did he hold high rank in Her Majesty's service, but that he enjoyed high rank and title in the service of the Crown of Portugal, for eminent services done to that country, and that the Sovereign of this kingdom has formally granted him permission to accept and wear the insignia of orders conferred on him by the Queen of Portugal. So that the opinion, the deliberate opinion, of such a man was entitled to every consideration, especially on a question connected with the profession to which he belonged. But, before quoting the opinion of Sir George Sartorius, which ought to be quite as interesting to Scotch as to Irish Members—for Scotland was included in his plan—he would show that former Governments had promised to commence works in Cork Harbour, being fully persuaded of the importance, in a national point of view, of such a step. A public meeting was held about four months since, at Queenstown, presided over by Lord Fermoy, once a Member of that House; and at that meeting lord Fermoy stated that a deputation, of which he was a member, had an interview with Lord Auckland in the year 1848; and so impressed was his Lordship—then First Lord of the Admiralty—with the statements and views of the deputation, that he sent for Captain James, one of the engineers of the Admiralty, in whom the Government and the Admiralty placed the highest confidence, and desired him to repair to Queenstown for the purpose of inspecting and reporting on the facilities for the establishment of docks and a steam factory, and other matters. Captain James did go over to Ireland, did inspect the harbour of Cork, and did report as to its capabilities. There was, in fact, a promise given by the Government of that day.
I must call the hon. Member for Dungarvan to order for discussing a subject foreign to the Vote before the Committee. It is competent for the hon. Gentleman, if he objects to the Vote, to move that it be reduced or wholly negatived.
With all possible respect for the right hon. Gentleman, he would venture to think that he had not assumed a wider latitude than that which has been taken by other hon. Members who have spoken on a previous Vote, and which had been sanctioned, he would say most wisely sanctioned, by the right hon. Chairman. For instance, one hon. Member discussed the Slave Trade, another made most valuable suggestions with reference to the coastguard, neither of which questions was properly connected with the Vote under discussion. However, In order to make his remarks perfectly regular, and obviate the little technical difficulty in his way, he would, at the close of what he had to say, move that the Chairman report progress, in order to enable the Government to amend the Estimate, so as to embrace the object he had in view. He was about to observe that the deputation also waited upon the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord John Russell), the then head of the Government, and that that noble Lord said "They were determined to do a great deal for the harbour of Cork." To do Lord Auckland justice, an Estimate was introduced by him for a small steam factory at Haulbowline, but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth (Sir F. Baring), a few moments since explained how the Estimates of that period, which were committed to his hands, were cut down in consequence of the demand for retrenchment which then prevailed. At any rate, the report and the plans of Captain James have been, up to the present hour, as profitless to the public interest as the promises of Lord Auckland and his colleagues have been to Cork Harbour. Certainly, on the last occasion that he had the honour of calling the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty to the capabilities and resources of that neglected harbour, he was kind enough to express his admiration of its natural beauties, at which he (Mr. Maguire) felt duly flattered; but he must confess that, however gratifying it was to listen to the admiration expressed by a right hon. Gentleman, of undoubted taste, as to the natural beauty of a place in which he (Mr. Maguire) felt a personal interest, he should have much preferred that the right hon. Gentleman had appreciated its capabilities with the favourable judgment of a First Lord of the Admiralty than admired its picturesqueness with the eye of a tourist. He would now take the liberty of quoting the description of that harbour as given by Sir George Sartorius, who, not being an Irishman, could not be suspected of speaking with a national bias, but was solely influenced by a broad view of the Imperial interests involved—
The gallant Admiral then proceeded to recommend the formation of a naval arsenal at Cork, and another on the north-east of Scotland, condemning, as most unwise, the present system of collecting all the great and small naval establishments in England only, and even in one portion of England. In his humble opinion, the safety of the empire might be compromised if an emergency should arise-and no one would attempt to say that it might not arise before a twelvemonth expired—by the want of the means of repairing, not to say a squadron, but a single ship, in Cork Harbour. Lord Auckland, as he had previously stated, promised, in 1848, that a steam factory should be established there; but up to that hour that promise had not been realised, and, so far as the Government were concerned, there was not in that important and much frequented harbour the means of effecting the slightest repair. On broad national grounds he asserted that such neglect was not wise on the part of the Government. Sir George Sartorius expressed his opinion that, as the rendezvous for all expeditions destined for the southward or westward, Cork was incomparably the most convenient position; and that, if it were a naval arsenal, all deficiencies could be remedied and damages repaired that might be incurred by any ships of the expedition. And for war carried on in the north and north-east, for the same reasons an efficient naval arsenal would be equally advantageous in the north-east of Scotland. He would now come to an important point, important because it dealt with a favourite delusion of successive Boards of Admiralty. The establishment of a naval arsenal at Cork had been often opposed on the plausible ground, that it was desirable to have all the arsenals nearly in the same vicinity, and as near as possible to the seat of Government in London. But the introduction and the universal use of the electric telegraph have altogether done away with that advantage, for it was now as easy to communicate with the most remote as with the nearest arsenal through that agency. He would give the Committee a case in point, to show that a complete revolution has been effected on this head by the new mode of communication. Some six weeks or two months since the Admiralty transmitted an order from their office in Whitehall to the Admiral in Queenstown, directing the sailing of two ships—the Russell, and another then anchored in Cork Harbour; and in two hours after the order was received—that is, in little more than two hours after the order was transmitted from London, one of those vessels was moving out of the port. The Government might believe it was of great advantage to have the naval arsenals of the empire in one place, or on the eastern and south-eastern coast of England; but there might be far greater danger than advantage from that system. On that point he would ask the serious attention of the Committee to the following deliberate opinion of Sir George Sartorius—"The position of Cork Harbour, on the southwestern extreme of the United Kingdom, gives to this port the highest importance in military, naval, and commercial points of view. Its magnificent basin can hold any number of vessels. The entrance is well lighted and well buoyed, and can be safely entered without a pilot. Ships coming from the southward can run for it without fear; and if they should be afraid of missing the port, they will have long drifts along the Atlantic side or the St. George's Channel, and, therefore, cannot be well caught on a dead lee shore. In its immediate neighbourhood is the first and safest land-fall which is generally made on coming from the south. As a port of call, it is the most convenient and most frequented; sometimes 300 vessels have been lying here wind-bound or for orders.***** The local advantages of this port as a packet station have been incontestably proved by the answers given to the Transatlantic Commissioners by the Cork Committee. Their arguments are much strengthened by the subsequent completion of the railway to Dublin and the electric telegraph. All this is independent of the reasons already given, which are as applicable to men-of-war as merchant vessels."
But, perhaps, Hon. Members will say how is an arsenal to be established at Cork? Sir George Sartorius stated that of which the Government were perfectly aware—that there are about 1,300 convicts at Spike Island, in Cork harbour, who were employed in work of no real importance or necessity, and whose united labour might be fairly valued at £30,000 a year; and if that labour, so valuable and so costly, but which is now absolutely going to waste, were applied to the improvement of the harbour, a great addition would be made to the means of protecting and defending the empire in the hour of danger. Now, in order to show the Committee the present condition of the naval establishment at Cork, he would state what he knew to be the fact, that the Admiral in command has at his disposal the following force:—A small and badly-manned sloop of war, as a guard-ship; a pleasure yacht, a brig called the Frolic, for the instruction of boys—a most useful purpose, and most beneficial to the service; and a small steam tender, the boiler of which, he was told, the other day, instead of being able to bear a pressure of 12 lb. or 14 lb. to the inch, could not bear more than 3 lb. or 4 lb., and if worked at a higher pressure would most probably blow up. Now that was the grand naval establishment kept up on the Irish coast, and in the most frequented of any of the ports of the United Kingdom! Of course, it follows that the Admiral must he helpless in all cases of emergency, and that the station, as a source of strength or a means of affording succour, is a practical mockery. As an instance in point, let the Committee take the following fact:—During the recent prevalence of easterly winds, there were hundreds of ships, destined for various ports, principally of England, lying wind-bound off the south-west coast of Ireland, the crews of which were literally famishing for want of provisions. The leading merchants of Cork implored the Admiral to afford them assistance, but, as might be expected, he was unable to do so; an application was then made to the Government in London, but they were at a great distance, and it took a long time to send a letter and receive an answer—for on this occasion the telegraph was not had recourse to. Providence, however, did for the poor fellows in distress what admirals and Governments could not do; the wind changed, and the vessels were enabled to reach their destined ports; whereas had they remained wind-bound off the coast of Ireland for a longer time, deaths must have ensued, and mainly in consequence of the inefficiency of our naval establishment at Cork. There was an injury to the trading interests of the empire; but there have been cases, and within a short time, too, where vessels of Her Majesty's navy, which had put into Cork harbour in a crippled condition, had been obliged, disabled as they were, to encounter stormy and tempestuous weather, in proceeding to Portsmouth or Plymouth for repairs. There had been a discussion that night as to the best mode of procuring volunteers for the navy; but he had reason to believe, and on the best authority, that if the Admiral at Cork had an efficient staff at his command, in fact such as he ought to have, a much larger number of volunteers could be obtained than had hitherto been procured from that district. The right hon. Gentleman, the First Lord of the Admiralty, said, on a former occasion, that Irishmen did not freely enter the navy; but there must be some error in that statement, for it is computed that nearly one-third of the navy is Irish; and as a proof that a considerable number of men have been given to it from the neighbourhood of Cork, he could mention that about £30,000 a year was paid at Haulbowline and Cork to the wives and relatives of sailors serving in the navy. Now it was not because Ireland had a claim on this as on other grounds that he urged it; he did not, as he might have done before, ask for a fair share in the public expenditure—he simply asked that the advantages afforded by one of the most valuable ports in the United Kingdom should not be neglected. Before concluding, he would refer for a moment to the evidence given by a naval officer of rank, Captain Sir Robert Hagan, in 1850, when the question of the best port for a packet station was agitated; and, in doing so, he could assure Irish Members interested in other ports, that his only object was to show the value of the port of Cork. [The hon. Member then read some extracts from the evidence of Captain Hagan, with reference to the availability and excellence of Cork harbour.] From those and other testimonies he considered he was justified in asserting that it was essential to the interests of the United Kingdom that the splendid capabilities of that harbour, which presented so many natural advantages, should be fully developed. At any rate, the present state of things was most dangerous as well as discreditable; for, if one of Her Majesty's vessels were to break down off that harbour, the Admiral could render but little assistance, not even having a tug at his disposal, save the vessel of a private company that he might hire. He did not bring forward the question in any spirit of mendicancy. He asked no aid for private enterprise. The citizens of Cork, as private individuals, need no Government assistance. Besides building docks in the city, two enterprising gentlemen had constructed large docks at deep water, about seven miles further down towards the harbour. One firm, that of Messrs. Browne, had expended £100,000 in the construction of their fine docks, in which he saw, about a month since, four or five foreign vessels undergoing repairs. That firm could receive the largest vessels in the navy into one of their docks. And on the other side of the harbour, Mr. Wheeler had lately constructed docks, which were nearly completed, and which would also admit vessels of the greatest draught. All he asked was, that the Government would perform their duty, and construct docks and a factory for Government purposes, which no private individual could attempt to do. From an accidental conversation with the First Lord of the Admiralty, he found that the right hon. Gentleman had an idea that, to construct docks, the Government should purchase ground; but there was nothing of the kind required—the bank that runs from Haulbowline down the centre of the harbour offered the best possible site for their construction, and that bank was the property of the Crown. He would now conclude by respectfully maintaining that the interests of the empire rendered it imperative on the Admiralty to avail themselves, as early as possible, of the great advantages offered by the harbour which he had described; and in that belief he ventured to impress the subject, which he had dealt with in an exclusively national and public point of view, on the most serious attention of the Government."If a sudden and powerful attack were made, with the same secrecy as that of our attack on Copenhagen, by France or Russia—separately or combined—without any previous declaration of war, all the nest of arsenals from Portsmouth and on the rivers leading to London, would be in flames before we could have time to assemble means to resist the enemy. Even Plymouth might be included in this general destruction. How important, then, that the great naval establishments, upon which so much depends, should be not only in positions where they can be of the most service, but also where they would be less liable to share in any such general and unexpected catastrophe; besides which, the electric telegraph, and the certainty and rapidity of steam communication, remove all the advantages, supposed or real, which might have been claimed in other days for the contiguity of the ports."
said, he should support the Motion of his hon. Friend on the ground of the defenceless state of the Western coast of the county of Cork, and the necessity of keeping an efficient fleet in Cork for its defence. Though he trusted there would be no war, the time might come when it might be necessary to despatch a fleet in haste to the Western hemisphere. With respect to the great value of the port, he would call attention to the case of the Atlantic steamship, which was obliged to be towed from Cork to Liverpool when disabled. The property at Deptford, it was stated, was to be purchased for £40,000; but the ground at Haulbowline was the property of the Crown. At a time when news from America was of such importance, if there was a telegraph to the extreme point of the county of Cork, seventeen hours would be saved in transmitting that news. If we were unhappily again at war, a hostile fleet might pass the southern coast of England in a fog, and find the harbours of Ireland totally defenceless. He did not wish, nor was it necessary, to occupy the time of the Committee, as they were anxious to proceed with the Estimates; but when all parties were unanimous in increasing the naval strength of the country, he did not think it irrational to call the attention of the Committee to the defenceless state of a port of Ireland.
MR. MONTAGU CHAMBERS
said, he wished to draw the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty to the hardship imposed upon the parish of St. Nicholas, Deptford, in consequence of a considerable portion of that parish being the property of the Crown, which threw a heavier burden upon the ratepayers. He would beg to suggest that the rateable value of the land occupied by the Crown should be ascertained, and that the Government should pay the rates upon that land, as the other occupiers in the parish were obliged to do.
SIR CHARLES WOOD
said, he was quite ready to admit that the subject mentioned by the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire) was one of considerable interest; but he could only say that whatever it might be desirable to do at some future time in respect to Cork harbour, it was more important to finish works now in progress than to commence new ones. With respect to the state of the fleet at Cork to which the hon. Member had referred, he (Sir C. Wood) would only say, that a line-of-battle ship was in future to be stationed in that harbour.
SIR FRANCIS BARING
said, as the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty had not answered the appeal of the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. M. Chambers), he would remind him that similar injustice was going on in many other towns. The best portions of towns were taken by the Government, and then the remaining inhabitants had not only to pay their own rates, but the rates which had been formerly paid upon the land now occupied by the Crown. The suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Greenwich was a reasonable one—that when the Admiralty took land it should also assume the burdens which that land had previously borne.
SIR JOHN TROLLOPE
said, the case of Deptford came before him two or three years ago, when he had the honour of holding office, and that parish appeared at the time to be subjected to great hardship. Before the establishment of dockyards there Deptford formed one entire parish, but it was subsequently divided into two, and in the process of division the better class of houses were entirely separated from the poorer dwellings. The consequence was, that those houses which were inhabited by the working classes were so heavily burdened with taxation, that frequently it had been found impossible to obtain it from the tenants, and in some instances houses had absolutely been pulled down by the owners, having been rendered valueless by that means. The burden would be greatly increased if the Admiralty took possession of a portion of the ground, which, by becoming Government property, would be free from rates. He thought, therefore, that the proposition for retaining any houses taken in the same position as respected liability to rates, was a most reasonable one. At the same time it opened a much larger question, namely, whether Government property generally ought not to be liable to rating.
SIR CHARLES WOOD
said, he fully admitted that the real question they ought to consider was the latter one referred to by the hon. Member opposite (Sir J. Trollope). In the present case the property taken was chiefly land, and its extent was four or five acres. The rating, therefore, was not nearly so large as hon. Gentlemen seemed to think. There was no doubt that the abstraction of property from a parish inflicted an injury upon the rest of the parish if the land so taken was rendered free from the imposition of taxes; still the injury in this particular case would be very slight.
said, that in this case the grievance was merely local, while in that of Cork Harbour it was national, and ought to be at once remedied.
said, that the people of Cork would never complain of the increase of local taxation to the amount of £1,000 a year, if the Government would expend £100,000 in making docks at Cork.
MR. P. O'BRIEN
said, the question of Government docks at Cork was entirely a national one; and if they were made there, enormous benefit would be conferred on the kingdom generally.
Vote agreed to; as was also—
(8.) £500, Medicines and Medical Stores, and—
(9.) £1,000, Rewards, Officers and Crew of Prometheus.
(10.) £4,977,200, Transport Service and Prisoners of War.
SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, that one of the most astounding matters in connection with the late war was the enormous sum voted for the Transport Service. He considered, also, that he had a right to complain that the Vote was not divided into two or three distinct heads. If so large a sum as that were voted in one lump, the Appropriation Act would be entirely useless, and the usual check on the improper expenditure of money removed. He could not at all understand how so large a sum was required, and he wished to know whether it was contemplated to purchase any of the transports. The sum of £5,000,000 was equal to the whole revenue of many kingdoms, and he was at a loss to know how it could be expended in that service alone. At all events it ought to be placed under one or two heads.
SIR CHARLES WOOD
said, he must beg to explain that the money was principally required for the hire of transports, and therefore was not susceptible of the division desired by the hon. Member. He had already explained the various items of which the Vote was made up.
SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, he was not at all satisfied by the explanations of the right hon. Baronet. He certainly should like to know why this Vote of nearly £5,000,000 could not be divided under two, three, or more heads?
SIR CHARLES WOOD
said, it was really impossible to effect any such division. The great bulk of the Vote was taken up with payments on account of transports which had been taken up at so much per month.
Vote agreed to.
(11.) £2,000,000, Expenses beyond Grants, Military and Naval Services.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Mr. FitzRoy, in the financial statement which I made to the House I reckoned upon a deficiency arising from the taxation being below the estimated expenditure, as calculated upon the Estimates for the military, naval, and civil services, as well as the charges upon the Consolidated Fund. That deficiency I calculated at somewhat less than £7,000,000 sterling. I proposed to supply that deficiency by a loan of £5,000,000, which has since been effected, and I also stated that in the event of the produce of the taxation not proving greater than I estimated, it might be necessary to recur to a further loan by Exchequer bonds or bills of £2,000,000 sterling. I hoped that by those means the deficiency of £7,000,000 would be supplied, but I likewise added, that that provision for the service of the year simply supplied the estimated deficiency, and made no allowance for any unforeseen defalcation of revenue or excess of expenditure. I stated at the same time that I had no reason to calculate upon any deficiency of revenue below that which I have mentioned, the estimates of revenue having been made on moderate and not on sanguine grounds; and I also stated that the Estimates for the naval and military service were framed on such a principle that they were, I considered, likely rather to exceed than to fall short of the actual expenditure for the year. Taking into account, however, the difficulty of calculating the expense of moving a great army from the Crimea, I ventured to intimate, and it is my opinion still, that it would not be prudent to leave the finances of the country without some margin to meet a possible excess of expenditure, and that it was my intention to ask the House for a Vote of Credit to the extent of £2,000,000, and also to enable me to cover that Vote of Credit by giving me the power of issuing Exchequer bonds or bills to meet an excess of expenditure which, under circumstances that we are unable at present to foresee, might possibly occur. I now ask for the assent of the Committee to a Vote of Credit not exceeding £2,000,000 sterling to defray the expenses beyond the ordinary grants for the years 1855–56 and 1856–57 for the military and naval services occasioned by the late war.
SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, he was certainly somewhat surprised at a demand for a Vote of Credit of £2,000,000, after the House had already sanctioned an expenditure of no less a sum than £77,000,000. If a further sum of £2,000,000 were required by the Government, why did they not come down with a demand for additional Ways and Means to that extent. He certainly saw no reason why the House of Commons should deprive itself of the exercise of its opinion as to matters of expenditure. There was not the slightest objection to paying any great account that might arise; but there was the strongest possible objection to the dangerous power that was now asked for. The principle upon which Votes of Credit were allowed was that of urgent necessity; but in the present instance no such justification had been or could be urged.
MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, he quite concurred in the observations of the hon. Member for Evesham (Sir H. Willoughby). Would the Chancellor of the Exchequer state whether this Vote would cover all the expenses of the war?
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I intended to state to the Committee that the Vote which I have proposed is a Vote taken simply from abundance of caution. It is not intended to cover any anticipated expenditure, and I may answer my hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams) by saying that, so far as the expenses consequent upon the war are concerned, such as bringing home the troops and other costs of the war, which can be made the subject of Estimate, they are independent of the £2,000,000 for which I now ask. This Vote is simply to meet any unexpected expenditure that may arise, but which I trust and expect will not arise. It has always been the practice of this House, when a large expenditure has been incurred, to intrust the Executive with the power over a fund of this kind to meet any unexpected expenditure. I can assure my hon. Friend and the Committee that we shall not relax in our efforts to bring the expenditure within the narrowest limits, and that this Vote of Credit will not encourage the Government in permitting any expenditure which they can by any possibility avoid.
said, he felt very unwilling to leave so large a sum of money at the discretion of the Government. If a necessity should arise for the Government having money, let them call Parliament together for that purpose. [Cries of "Divide, divide!"] Yes, he would say, let their attention be called to whatever question that might arise that necessitated any extraordinary outlay on the part of the Government. He would divide the Committee on the Vote if the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir H. Willoughby) would support him. If the Crown had its prerogatives, the people had their representatives, and they were there to discuss those grants of public money. It was not out of disrespect to the present Government that he started any difficulty to the Vote; but it was because he was uniformly opposed to Votes of Credit, and particularly at a juncture like the present.
said, he thought that the association of this Vote with any difficulties now supposed to exist in our foreign relations was an idea which ought not in common decency to be put forward at a moment like the present. He would recall to the recollections of the hon. Member for Sheffield that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his annual financial statement, announced then his intention to call upon the House for a Vote of this kind, and it was therefore quite unfair to mix up anything which might recently have occurred with the motives which led to the proposal of this Vote.
Vote agreed to.