Page images

the cost of the necessary outlay would not | ing to steam-vessels, and from a wooden be repaid? He had no doubt that a proper navy to an iron one, he would still mainaddition to the basin accommodation, if it tain that we should require a much did not repay the whole cost in a few years, larger extent of basin and graving dock would at any rate pay a very large interest accommodation than we had now. If on the outlay. There were plenty of docks we must maintain our naval superiority, in the country long and wide enough, but as all admitted that we must, then we the draught of water was not sufficient. must also provide dock accommodation. It might be sufficient if they took the stores It was what any man would do in his out-[Lord C. PAGET: Hear, hear!]-but own business-that was the test; and there was no time for that. He maintained, what was economical for commercial men that in order to work the navy economi- was economical for the country. He cally, this country ought to have basins was glad to hear that a dock was to be where all the necessary stores could be put built at Bermuda and another at Halifax, on board, and where the ships could be because if we were to have war with Ametaken in or out without lightening them. rica, it would not do to bring our vessels He had communicated with every public for repairs across the Atlantic to this and private dockowner in the country, and country. And the same remarks would he had no hesitation in saying that at this apply, in case of war with France, to the moment there were only two private grav- convenience of docks at Malta, where ing docks in the country that would take we were to have two. If docks were not in the Warrior, or any vessel of that class. provided now in time of peace, the result There was one at Birkenhead, a private would be that we should go into the matter one, that would take in the Warrior with when there was war, and in our haste all her stores on board, and there was we should spend three or four times as another at Southampton. On the Liver- much money as would be necessary at prepool side of the Mersey there was one sent. He believed that an expenditure large entrance to a dock, or rather it was of £200,000 a year for five or six years, a lock, that the Warrior could be taken would put the country in a safe condition into; but she could not lie there without as regarded the Channel fleet. stopping the commerce requiring to pass into and out of the dock. He did not deny that, in case of emergency, the vessel could be placed there to be examined. He had often done this himself; but vessels could not be allowed to lie there, or else the whole trade of the port would be stop-retary to the Admiralty, and had, by ped. The entrance to the Huskisson dock confounding the two subjects of docks at Liverpool was another of the same kind; and basins, completely mystified the debut as for regular graving docks to receive bate. In the Committee on Chatham the Warrior, there were but two in the Docks last year, of which he (Sir James country. Now, with regard to the ques- Elphinstone) was a member, Admiral tion of cost for additional basin accommo- Robinson was asked whether he considation, it would not be enormous if it dered there was sufficient dockyard acwere gone properly about. The graving commodation for the existing fleet; and he dock at Birkenhead that he had spoken of said certainly there was not, and added cost about £25,000, and the one at South- that he did not hesitate to say that the ampton £60,000. Taking the floating want of sufficient docks and basins was basins and docks at Birkenhead as a attended with national danger. The guide, he believed that the necessary growth of ships, he said, far exceeded the additional basin accommodation for the growth of docks and basins, although navy could be constructed for £25,000 great efforts during the last ten years had to £30,000 an acre; so that a sum of been made to keep pace with it. He also £1,000,000 or £1,200,000 ought to be stated that the creation of a steam fleet sufficient to double the present dock ac- rendered an immense amount of dock commodation. But if they were to go on accommodation indispensable. Admiral as they had done, spending £1,500,000 Robinson was then asked a question as to in patching and altering, they would be the extent of the basin and dockyard acvery little better off than they were at commodation in France; and he said the present. Looking at the change from sail- docks and basins in that country exceeded Mr. Laird

SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE said, that the Government had entirely altered their tone since last year with respect to the necessity for additional docks and basins. The noble Lord had spoken more like a Chancellor of the Exchequer than a Sec

two hundred and twenty acres, as opposed | mended basins, in which the ships might to forty acres of docks and basins in Eng- be refitted. If the ships could be docked, land, which included a basin at Deptford, the men employed would be able to live and another at Woolwich, which were near their friends, and would learn habits worthless for the purposes of large ships. of sobriety and good conduct, and be At Cherbourg alone there was a floating weaned from those irregularities and vices dock of fifty acres, and the whole harbour to which seamen were prone; and if this at Brest was a floating basin. The opinion country had more dock room, there would of the Surveyor of the Navy, and the not be the necessity which now existed evidence of Captain Washington, was in for sending their ships and men to Lisfavour of an increase in dock accommoda- bon in winter, to spend their money in tion; and upon their evidence the Com- a foreign country. He could not allow mittee of last year recommended that the the noble Lord the Secretary to the Addocks at Chatham should be enlarged; miralty to ride off upon the platitudes and in his view of the case, the new works and generalities with which he had there would cost the country £1,000,000 overlaid this subject during this debefore they were completed. Now, what bate, without making some observations was the position of Chatham in reference against the course pursued by the Adto this question? It was the opinion of miralty. With regard to the Colonies, he every sea-faring man, that if the fate of found there was no dock room at Calcutta the country should ever come to depend larger than would dock the Pylades, which upon the issue of a naval battle, that bat- he believed was a 22-gun ship. At Hongtle must take place in the Channel, and in Kong and Whampoa there was no dock, that case they ought to have a place near and at Bombay there was the dock in in which they could repair the ships which which all the old wooden ships had been might be disabled. Now, supposing six built. Then at Sydney there was not dock or eight of our ships to be disabled, room for a ship of more than 1,500 tons. what would be the use of our basins There was not, as he had been informed, at Chatham ? Actions in the present a single dock in India or New South day would not be like the actions of Wales which could take in the flag-ship former days, for with the improved ar- on the station if required. The noble tillery, two wooden vessels in close action Lord admitted there was no dock at Malta, would not last for many minutes; and Bermuda, or at Halifax, sufficient to take in the event of iron ships suffering, har- in the Warrior. Then where were those bours for their reception ought to be very docks of which he had spoken? He (Sir near at hand. He would look at this ques- James Elphinstone) did not know; and tion from the point of view of a ship- that being the state of the case, he should owner, and he would say that anything support the Motion of his right hon. more reckless or disgraceful than the sys- Friend, and he trusted the House would tem pursued by the admiralty in the man- hear from another Member of the Goagement of the dockyards could not be. vernment a more satisfactory account than In 1794 the East India Company were so the noble Lord had given them. impressed with the disadvantages of fitting in the stream, that the East India Docks were constructed, and in 1805 the West India Docks were made; and a great sav-a judicious expenditure of money in proing had resulted to all those shipowners viding dock and basin accommodation, a who had resorted to them-an improve- large amount would be saved to the pubment which had since been followed by lic. The present system of fitting, armevery mercantile community in the king-ing, provisioning, and storing our ships dom. As to repairing ships in the Ha- in the stream was utterly absurd; and moaze, it was well known that in some the sooner it was put an end to the weathers the men could not get off the better, which could only be done by havshore, or from the hulks in which they ing large and deep floating basins, with lived; and as to hulks, every Commis- ample quay accommodation. When he sion or Committee which had sat on the looked across the Channel, he found that subject of the dockyards and their ac- France had seen the necessity of abocommodation had denounced the system lishing the system; and the mercantile of hulks, and had recommended barracks marine of this country had also given it instead, and had also strongly recom- up, in consequence of the very large ex

CAPTAIN TALBOT said, he considered the question before the House not only one of efficiency, but of economy; because, by

pense it involved. He would suppose the | been the adoption of a patchwork and case-one which he said was not unlikely shifty system. The time had come when to occur of the Channel fleet comprising we must look ahead, and see whether we ten or a dozen Warriors, after cruising could not devise a large and comprehensive for a certain time, requiring to be refitted plan capable of extension to keep pace and re-coaled, and anchoring at Spithead with the requirements of the service. All for the purpose. What organization, he now admitted the necessity for additional should wish to know, was provided to dock and basin accommodation-the quesadmit of the object being carried into tion for consideration was, where that effect? The probability was that the accommodation should be provided. He ships would have to wait for a considera- was not prepared to express any very ble time for high water to take them into definite opinion upon that point; but, at Portsmouth Harbour, where no adequate the same time, he confessed he was surmeans were provided for placing coals or prised at the conclusion to which the provisions on board. The consequence Royal Commissioners had come. No one would be that the fleet would have to be could doubt, of course, that there should divided and the ships sent, some to Ply- be some dock and basin accommodation mouth, some to Chatham, others elsewhere, at Chatham; but he thought it would after a haphazard fashion, which he be unwise to spend any very large sum thought entirely inconsistent with the of money at that place. Chatham was due maintenance of our naval power. He reached through the most difficult part thought the House ought to enter into the of the Channel, and the Medway was discussion of the subject with enlarged and a narrow and tortuous river, presenting clear views; they should consider a proper serious obstacles to the progress of large and sufficient system for the accommodation ships; and a part of the plan approved of of the navy to be a matter which touched by the Commission was to expend £45,000 the honour and dignity of this country, in dredging that river-a sum, in his opiespecially as they had been told, on the nion, much more useful if used for the authority of Rear Admiral Robinson, the deepening of the entrance to Portsmouth Comptroller of the Navy, "that with pro- Harbour. Our docks and basins should be per dock and basin accommodation, one constructed where our ships were most ship would do the duty of two," and also likely to be employed, and where they "that the nation that could first repair could be got ready for sea with the least its damaged ships after an action, would possible delay. The French had conthereby at once double its force." He structed Cherbourg almost solely with the could not but admire the policy that intention of making it a fitting dock. had been adopted in France. The French After an engagement in the Channel their had long been impressed with the great fleet would be able to enter Cherbourg at importance of this subject, and had for all times of the tide, and when refitted it many years, and again quite recently, made would be ready at once to go to sea. Our large additions to their dock and basin fleet, on the contrary, would have to be accommodation; and he was afraid that dispersed all over the island, and would our exertions in that direction could not thus be liable to be taken in detail. He for a moment be compared to theirs. trusted that no reasonable expense would He was glad to hear, however, that the be grudged for improving our position in Government had, to some extent, carried this respect. Both efficiency and economy out the suggestions made by the hon. would be gained by a wise and liberal exMember for Birkenhead (Mr. Laird) last penditure of money in the construction of Session. In regard to foreign stations a new docks and basins. good deal of money would be saved in the end, and efficiency secured, by our having small establishments abroad where our ships could be refitted in the shortest possible space of time. By sending them home for repair we lost their services during many months, and, in addition, risked their being taken by the enemy in time of war. In his opinion, the great fault of the Admiralty for years past had Captain Talbot

MR. WHITBREAD did not intend to follow the hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth (Sir J. Elphinstone) through the whole of his speech, nor would he say more of the alarming picture he had drawn of the frightful and disgraceful state of demoralization into which the British navy had fallen, owing to the practice of fitting out vessels in the stream than that he did not believe it to be accurate. The hon.

Baronet, having settled the precise spot factories, and provided new accommodawhere the naval action big with the fate tion for the workmen and the staff. The of England was to be fought, had informed expense of that would be enormous; the House that, in consequence of the im- whereas the cost of altering existing provements made in modern artillery, a docks-such, for instance, as the dock at combat between a British ship and one Keyham-so as to enable them to accombelonging to the enemy would be so de-modate ships of the largest class, would cisive that for one of the vessels dock ac- be comparatively trifling. Something had commodation would be perfectly useless, been said by the last speaker against the while for the other it would not be re-selection of Chatham. That question was quired. He had also stated that the tone of considered before the present Government the Government had undergone a change came into office, and the right hon. Baroin regard to the increase of dock accom- net the Member for Droitwich (Sir J. modation since the publication of the Re- Pakington) had recorded his opinion that port of the Select Committee. He would Chatham was the best place which could like to know in what respect it was differ- be chosen as the site of large docks and ent. It would be recollected that the re- basins for the refitting of ships. It seemed commendation of the Committee was, that to be taken for granted that the decisive if more dock and basin accommodation were action must be fought just outside the Isle required, there was no place where it could of Wight. But, many years ago we had be better provided than at Chatham. The a large fleet in the Baltic. We might Government did not delay to act upon have a fleet there again, and he submitted that suggestion, but, on the contrary, sub- that for ships coming home from the Balmitted to the House a vote which would tic Chatham was, at least, as convenient enable it to construct such an establish a port as Portsmouth, or any other place ment at Chatham as would not only be in the Channel. A complaint had been superior to the best existing dock in Eng- made that the Government had not taken land, but equal to anything of the kind a sufficient Vote for the works at Chatin France. Moreover, the House had ham. He assured the House that the already sanctioned an extension of the amount of work was not to be measured, basin at Keyham, which it was intended in the first instance at any rate, by the to make large enough to admit vessels of sum put down in the Estimates. For the Warrior class; and in the Estimates some time to come the work at Chatham for the present year provision had been would consist almost exclusively of excamade for the construction of two more docks vation, and he need hardly say that it at Portsmouth, for the accommodation of would be done by convicts. the largest ships. He might state, further, that plans were now under consideration for providing a large extent of additional quay accommodation at Portsmouth, which, for all purposes of fitting out vessels, would be quite equal to basins. The the Government would be directed to hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Laird) the subject, although he confessed he had complained that for several years wished his right hon. Friend had been past the Admiralty had been patching up able to elicit still more distinctly someexisting establishments, with the view of thing like an intention to carry out this rendering them capable of accommodating great object hereafter. He was sorry, large vessels. Surely the House would however, to say, that although he hoped not join with the hon. Member in cen- the hon. Gentleman who spoke last was suring the Admiralty for pursuing so alive to the importance of the subject, wise a policy. The last instance of the the tone of the noble Lord's speech was kind was at Keyham, and in this year's rather more evasive than he liked to hear. Estimates they had taken the sum of If he were to render that speech into £6,000 for a further increase of those briefer and plainer English, it would docks. If the Admiralty had not taken amount to something like this:-"We the course of proposing the enlargement do not deny the importance of the quesof the existing docks, but had proposed tion, we do not deny that the subject to construct new ones, and for that they is pressing; we acknowledge that what must have found new sites, and built new you propose ought to be done.

SIR JOHN PAKINGTON thought the object his right hon. Friend had in view in raising this question would be sufficiently answered if he had reason to believe and hope that the serious attention of,


England cannot afford to do it." Now, being built. His noble Friend rather tried that was a question which the present to mystify the House in his statement as Government ought well to consider; for to the extent of dock accommodation the if there was any financial difficulty, he country at present possessed. Now, here could only observe that it arose from the was the Return which had been made on reckless manner in which they had thrown the subject, and what did it show? There away a portion of the resources of the were two columns. The first showed what country. It was for the House of Com- was the present dock accommodation, and mons to take care that our great naval the second what it would be when the arm should not be weakened by im- proposed alterations were carried out. The providence of that kind. The noble test laid down was the docks which would Lord appeared rather to evade the merits admit the Warrior, and the number of of the question, and imputed to his right days in each month in which that vessel hon. Friend a desire to promote extrava- could be docked at each of the Government gance; he even ventured to insinuate yards. He found it ran thus-Deptford, that his right hon. Friend had been guilty not at all; Woolwich, not at all; Chatof extravagance in former days with re- ham, not at all; and so on. Going down ference to Keyham dockyard. Now, he the column of Dockyards till he came to thought the country much indebted to Portsmouth, he found that was the only his right hon. Friend for having, when in dockyard where at present the Warrior office some years ago, originated the great could be docked at full tide on six days improvements which had been carried during the month. At Pembroke there out at Keyham. His noble Friend would were twenty-four feet of water, but the admit that it was impossible to refer to Warrior drew twenty-seven feet; and a higher authority on such a subject than when lightened, her guns and stores being the late Sir James Graham. Now, in removed, he believed they could not rethe first instance, when his right hon. duce her to draw only twenty-two feet, Friend brought forward the plan for en- so as to get her into that dock. Now, the larging Keyham dockyard, Sir James Gra- Warrior was afloat, the Black Prince was ham was strongly opposed to it; but at afloat, and they were adding to the navy a subsequent period, when Sir James Gra- as speedily as they could four other vesham was again at the head of the Admi- sels of that class. The question then arose ralty, he complimented his right hon. what docks had they to put them in? and Friend, acknowledged his original error, it appeared that at the present moment and said the country were greatly in- we had but one dock capable of receiving debted to him for what he had done; our largest iron-plated ships. This conand Sir James Graham himself proceeded sideration alone was enough to justify his to add to Keyham dockyard and enlarge right hon. Friend's remarks. Then as to the basins there. The noble Lord had the other column, which related to the taunted his right hon. Friend with being accommodation we should have when the the Palladio of the dockyards, and in- proposed alterations were carried outdulging his taste with colonnades and taking all the docks in England there pilasters; but the fact was, his right hon. would be only four, one of these being a Friend had nothing to do with the colon- second dock at Portsmouth, in respect to nades and pilasters at Keyham, to which which there was a somewhat important the noble Lord referred; these were added limitation in the words noted in the Reby a subsequent Board of Admiralty. turn, "any day when in the basin or But, after all, the real question was when entering the basin." Thus even the whether they ought not to provide dock prospective dock accommodation was reand basin accommodation according to the duced to three instead of four. proportions of the ships that were being to basin accommodation, it should not be built. That was a question of common forgotten that we were not standing still, sense. Who would think of buying a but retrograding. While increasing the horse when he had no stable, or a hand- size of our ships we were not only not some carriage when he had no coach- increasing, but actually diminishing, our house? No doubt, a stable or coach-house available basin accommodation. Our basin might be hired; but the requisite dock and accommodation, which a few years ago at basin accommodation could not be hired. Portsmouth would take in eight of our That accommodation, he repeated, should large ships, would now, from the increased be according to the proportions of the ships size of our ships, only accommodate four. Sir John Pakington

Then as

« PreviousContinue »